Goal setting and achievement

Blog Post No. 50 (was No. 1 – Series B)

Posted on 4th May 2017 (Originally posted on 20th July 2016)

Copyright © Renata Taylor-Byrne 2016

Renata’s Coaching & Counselling blog: Why bother setting goals? Why not just go shopping instead – have a bit of retail therapy?

renata-taylor-byrne-lifestyle-coachPeople love to be distracted! Makeovers, new clothes, new cars or houses, holidays and other material goods or experiences can be very pleasurable distractions in the short term. But there is one big drawback which you’ll never hear about from the media.  Here it is:

# As human beings we get ‘habituatedto new things in our lives. This means that we get used to new things and the glow wears off very quickly, and we start to feel dissatisfied again.

Have you noticed how children quickly get used to having presents given to them? Have you noticed how soon you can adjust to new furniture, or a new car? Or a new relationship?

What a shame that is, after what they cost us!

Distractions are very poor substitutes for the achievement of meaningful goals!  Let me explain:

# Achieving goals is a deeply satisfying activity for humans, and research has shown that our brains release a feel-good hormone when we achieve them. We have that sense of achievement for the rest of our lives – no-one can take it away from us. Each time we remember it, we feel good and we know the hard work we had to do to achieve it.

Image result for image for brain tracey and goalsI have had the privilege for years of seeing the happiness and sense of achievement shine out of clients’ faces when they achieve their goals.  For example, I have helped many students to achieve their academic qualifications, at the end of a course which has been a tough battle for them; but they made it through! I was so proud of them, and they wisely took pictures at their presentation events so they could treasure the event for the rest of their lives and show them to their families.

That warm glow lasts for the rest of our lives! And you can’t buy it on Oxford Street or on any other high street in the UK or your local supermarket.

And this warm glow is experienced no matter whether your goal is related to your work, your home life, your relationships, your academic study, your hobbies, etc.

So how can we achieve our goals?

Athletes involved in sports or other areas of life have coaches to help them achieve their goals and win competitions. They know they can’t do it all on their own. They know the value of focus and constructive feedback, and how efficient and effective it can be.

But in ordinary life, people have just as many challenges, because they face the tasks of holding down a job, and/or raising a family, managing their relationships, and/or creating a career for themselves, handling health problems, caring for other family members, organising social events and many other tasks.

They also have information being bombarded at them, 24/7, from different directions. So it can be very easy to get confused and lose contact with themselves. That’s when hiring a coach/counsellor will help you focus on:

  • Where you are now in your life
  • What you specifically want to gain or change
  • What you can change and what you can’t
  • The specific steps you can take to improve your life
  • How to persist with taking those steps
  • Models and techniques you can learn to keep your head above water.
  • How to create the kind of life you want for yourself in the future.
Jim & Renata's logo
ABC Coaching and Counselling Services

The coach/counsellor uses their skills and training to help you create a better life. With their support and knowledge of how to release your potential, you get to step out of your daily routine and figure out where you are headed.  And, also to check out with yourself if this is what you really want.

You may want to change your job, or some aspect of your relationships, achieve further training, or take a searching look at where you are going in your life. With the help of a coach/counsellor you can identify the experiences you want and make changes which will last the rest of your life.

And the effects will last longer than the new hairdo or CD you bought, or that new mobile app you wanted. Your warm glow of achievement, when you achieve a valued goal, will be a treasured part of your life.  And remember – you can’t buy it at Sainsbury’s!

Do you want to give it a try and find out the truth for yourself? We are geared up to work with you to bring valued changes into your life, so contact us for help and support.

Best wishes,

Renata

Renata Taylor-Byrne

Email: renata@abc-counselling.org

01422 843 629

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Reduce stress – increase energy

Blog Post No. 48

1st May 2017

Copyright © Renata Taylor-Byrne 2017

Renata’s Coaching & Counselling blog: A star technique for saving your energy: Wiping the slate clean each day

Introduction

Every day we all are involved in the business of energy management, (physical and mental) whether we are aware of it or not, as we juggle different tasks, time pressures and negotiating with other people. We are all expected to engage in ‘multi-tasking’, which is actually virtually impossible, but the pressure of life is certainly intense.

1-Man-workingSo how, in such a demanding environment, do we manage our energy successfully? So that we optimise our productivity, but conserve our energy and protect our physical and mental health.

What I know is that if we don’t manage our energy carefully, we become the victim of burnout and stress, and unhappiness and ill health, and who wants that?

One successful energy-management strategy

Here is a great suggestion from Ralph Waldo Emerson:

Finish every day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in.

“This day is all that is good and fair. It is too dear, with its hopes and invitations, to waste a moment on yesterday”.

When I was a tutor in a college, I had a variety of challenges to face every day in my job, just like everyone else has to face in their jobs. I needed a very high energy level to keep going in the face of the challenges at work, and to adapt and adjust to the needs of the different learners I worked with.

To preserve my energy, so that I could face the following day’s work feeling refreshed, I developed a strategy that served me well for a long time and I want to pass it on to you.

Whiteboard-image-6Each day, at the end of the final teaching session, I would wipe the whiteboard clean of all the information that was on it, and I would remember all the outstanding events of the day, good and bad, and wipe them away in my mind at the same time.

I wiped away my hopes for successfully getting information across to people, and disappointments and mistakes.

This left my mind, and the whiteboard, empty and this action created a calm, white, clear mental space on which I could start anew, again, the following day. After all, I couldn’t change what I had done (or hadn’t managed to do). I could only learn from my experience.

I call this my ‘blank slate’ technique.

Goethe-2The other aspect of this approach was this: I was asserting my boundaries with my job. In other words, I was taking responsibility for managing upwards.  I was not allowing myself to develop ‘leaky boundaries’ through which outside forces could use up my precious reserves of energy!

The ‘Blank slate’ technique is a very powerful, effective visualisation process. It requires effort, determination and  insistence that ‘it’s over!’  But it works only if you work it!

Quality recovery time

Once we have finished work, (if we want to return to our work the following day with strength and vigour), we are then into ‘Quality recovery time’.

Swimming-athlete-3 Some years ago I found this idea was used by Olympic athletes. After they had been working on the skills they wanted to develop, then they needed time to rest and recover. The human body needs proper recovery for sustained and improved performance, for development, and even for preventing injuries.

For those athletes, the athletic skills practice time and the recovery time were a partnership – they were absolutely intertwined, if you wanted to become really accomplished in what you were doing. Their conviction was that, if you neglected your recovery time, your ability to sustain high levels of energy to achieve your goals would quickly run out.

Quality-recovery-4

Part of quality recovery time is mentally and physically completing the day’s work, whether paid or unpaid, and then moving into regeneration of our energy: getting the most nutritious food we can afford; having a decent night’s sleep; having a mental break; spending time with our loved ones; and generally recharging our batteries.

Boundaries between work and quality recovery time are essential, and people can be very vulnerable if they don’t create boundaries. Their employers will not do it for them: I recently read of an American estate agency that has moved into London, and insists that its staff answer their mobile phones in the middle of the night, if a client wanted to speak to them or make an enquiry about a house purchase.

The agency is proud of their customer service! What about the mental and physical health of their employees? This is arrant exploitation of people’s need for a job.

Far from being a good form of work/life balance, this employer is only interested in work/work imbalance.

Work-life-balance-7

Conclusion

If you want to have a good quality of life; to have real work/life balance; and to preserve your physical and mental health in the process, then there is no alternative but to create our own boundaries between work and recovery time.  This is also necessary if you want to be creative and productive in your work time!

Thinking back to my ‘blank slate’ (or ‘blank whiteboard’ technique), if you learn to use this technique at the end of each day, this will ensure that you don’t leak lots of energy away when you need to be into quality recovery time.

What you need to create is some physical representation that the end of the day’s work has arrived (like my cleaning of the white board).  An example would be creating a clear desk; or unplugging a piece of equipment; or putting your diary in a locked drawer; etc.

There is a lawyer in a novel by Charles Dickens who, when he got home after a day’s work, would spend a long time washing his hands, getting rid of the accumulations of the day’s work from his body and, symbolically, from his mind.

Reflection and leaky boundaries

Leaky-boundaries-image

Reflecting at regular intervals on how happy you are with your work/life balance will give you valuable clues as to whether you are managing your life energies in the best way for you.

If you are aware of leaky boundaries in your life, and are giving your energies away to others, (without your full consent), then you could consider the strengthening skills of assertiveness and negotiation.

Strengthening these skills will make you happier and more confident as you manage your life in the face of pressures from others (and pressure from your own Inner Critic).

Brene-brown

Contact me if you want to learn some very useful techniques for managing your energy for better work/life balance; for increased creativity and productivity.

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Best wishes,

Renata

Renata Taylor-Byrne

Lifestyle Coach-Counsellor

ABC Coaching-Counselling Division

Telephone: 01422 843 629

Email: renata@abc-counselling.org

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Handling conflict skilfully: Knowing your personal style…

Blog Post No. 47

12th April 2017

Copyright © Renata Taylor-Byrne 2017

Renata’s Coaching & Counselling blog: Handling conflict skilfully: Knowing your personal style…

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Introduction

The-Satir-modelIn this blog I am going to do a ‘rave review’ of a short and simple quiz that shows us how we handle conflict in our current relationships. Some quizzes don’t give us many insights about ourselves when we’re interacting with other people, but this one strikes me as giving us a clear mirror which shows us how we deal with pressure from others.

The quiz, created by Virginia Satir, outlines the five main ways of handling conflict with others. She created a system of conjoint-family-therapy, and was a pioneering therapist who showed that families play a significant part in the development of the problems of individuals, and that blaming individual family members for their problems was unfair, because the problems the client showed up with were learned and created in the family.

Understanding how we deal with conflict at the moment

The great thing about this quiz is that it shows you a range of patterns that people play out when they are dealing with interpersonal conflict. The strategies used vary from constructive to really unhelpful and ineffective.

If you complete the quiz below, and you look at your results, you’ll be able to see your current favourite approach, and how to change your behaviour if you are not happy with the result.

Here are the five ways of handling conflict which Satir identified:

The-conflict-styles

PLACATING – Pacifying, calming or appeasing behaviour. (Appeasing means to make someone calm and less hostile by giving in to their demands).

BLAMING – Holding someone to account, condemning or accusing them.

DISTRACTING – Diverting, changing the subject, cracking a joke for entertainment, etc.

COMPUTING – Assessing, analysing, and theorising about what you are experiencing.

LEVELLING – Being frank, open, honest, and above board. Telling the truth as you see it.

So this quiz tests how you react when life gets difficult: particularly during interpersonal conflict.

Your ‘blaming’ score shows how far you are liable to blame other people when under stress.  Your ‘placating’ score shows how much you tend to placate or appease.  Your ‘distracting’ score shows how much you tend to distract yourself and other people from the problems being presented.  Your ‘computing’ score shows how far you tend to cut off from your feelings.  Your ‘levelling’ score shows how far you tend to react creatively and flexibly.

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Here is the quiz: Read through this list of 20 statements.  Write down the statement number of any statement with which you strongly agree. (You will need these numbers to mark your resulting score).

Choose as many statements as you like from the list if you think they reflect you or your views.  You should choose at least seven statements.

  1. Conflict is something I try to reduce as soon as possible.
  2. If someone’s going to tell me something I don’t want to hear, I’ll quickly and smoothly try to change the subject.
  3. Conflict is healthy if it means the people involved solve a problem.
  4. It’s important that people know who’s responsible for a mistake.
  5. Catching people off-guard with a compliment is a good way to ease tension.
  6. I’ve been told I can be unemotional.
  7. I’ve been told that sometimes I let people take me for granted.
  8. I can get stressed but I try not to let it affect my life too much.
  9. Avoiding taking responsibility for my actions is a good way to shift blame.
  10. In the past, I have taken the blame for something when it wasn’t my fault.
  11. I can keep my head clear by distancing myself when those around me are getting edgy.
  12. Hopefully, people know that once a conflict with me is finished, we can then move on.
  13. I’ll fight my corner at all costs to make sure I can hold my head up high.
  14. I dislike being shouted at, so I’ll usually try to soothe the situation.
  15. If I’m clever and funny enough I can keep conflict at bay.
  16. If something bad happens, I cut off from my emotions; it feels safer to not let my guard down.
  17. I’m not scared to confront someone – but I do to do so without making the other person feel bad.
  18. Getting over-emotional during conflict is no way to solve problems.
  19. I have a long memory when it comes to remembering others who’ve crossed me in some way.
  20. If I’ve forgotten to do something I said I would, some ‘social flirting’ keeps people off my back.

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Now that you’ve chosen at least seven statements as being ones that you agree with, please draw a grid like the one below, and write in the numbers.  Then tick those numbers you’ve chosen above.

Here is the grid, containing a worked example.

1 3
7 9 11 8
10  13  15  16 12 
14  19 20  18 17
TOTAL   2 2  4  1 1
Interpersonal style PLACATING BLAMING DISTRACTING COMPUTING LEVELLING

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Scoring

Which column has the highest score?

The one with the highest score is your favourite strategy, followed by the next lowest number.

In the example in the grid above, we can see that  ‘distracting’ is the style most often chosen, followed by ‘placating’ and ‘blaming’.  So this person would be called ‘a distractor’, for shorthand description.

Satirs-five-freedomsVirginia Satir’s conflict categories:

When things get tough in our lives we choose one or more of these personality patterns. Here is more of an explanation of these styles of behaviour:

Placating

Step on a placator’s foot and they will be the one to apologise.  Placators know that peacemakers get blessed – or at least don’t get trashed.  And so a typical placatory will soothe, please and pacify.

More females than males tend to be placators. They tend to dislike disagreeing with people – even if they are being criticized.

The aim of the placator is to get others to be nice to them – and, as placators tend to be externally influenced, they’ll therefore probably go along with whatever the other person wants.  They’ll hold eye contact, smile a lot, and nonverbally ask for forgiveness.  They apologize a lot.

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Blaming

If a blamer steps on someone’s foot, they will expect the other person (whose foot they stepped on) to apologize. This is because a blamer’s classic move is to shift the responsibility away from themselves, and there are many ways of doing this: They can nag; they can sulk; they can shout; and they can hit out.  Or they can pretend that it’s not a problem and then launch a surprise attack a few hours later when everyone thinks the worst is over.

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Distracting

Did they step on someone’s foot? No. A distracter will state that they weren’t even there.  They’ll smile, or crack a joke, or say what lovely weather it is today, and do everything in order to deflect attention.  Their favourite phrase is this: ‘It wasn’t me’.

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Computing

When a ‘computer’ steps on someone’s foot, they simply won’t register the fact.  They are the one who just doesn’t seem to feel anything, and doesn’t respond emotionally to what’s happened.  They simply shut down their feelings – and can’t understand the suffering of others, if it is (or seems to be) illogical or irrational.  Or just plain ‘emotional’!

A computer style used by a person may seem like they are responding calmly to a crisis. But they are panicking just as much as anyone else.  It’s just that they are trying to handle their panic by cutting themselves off at the neck.  And actually, that’s just as bad an idea as placating, blaming or distracting, because they are missing out on the information or motivation their body is trying to give them.

So they will take action, but over-rationally.  They’ll respond, but insensitively.

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Communication-quoteLevelling

A leveller who steps on someone’s foot will notice.  Then they’ll move back.  Then they’ll ask if there’s anything they can do.  They won’t grovel, dump or look the other way – and they won’t cut off from their feelings.  They’ll be genuinely regretful – but unlike people who run the other four personality sub patterns, they   won’t go into a spiral of defensive responses.

So a leveller is going to be the one to hang in there under stress or in conflict, and simply get things sorted.  They will strike a balance between thinking and feeling – and that means that they will:

(a) Face up logically to the problem; and:

(b) Have the emotional energy to sort it out.

Whether at home or away, they’ll have the space to listen to other people, take into account everyone’s needs and find a solution.

Anyone who works with a leveller, marries a leveller, or has a leveller for a friend, therefore has an easy life.  They know exactly where they stand with a leveller, and consequently feel secure. They know that if any problems arise in their relationship then the leveller will tell them. (They will not whine, sulk, push the problem away or deny their feelings).

The bottom line is that the more positive your upbringing, the more likely you are to be a leveller. (Or you could have some corrective experiences, in social relationships or therapy, later in life).

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Learning to level

It might now be obvious that all of the ‘types’ could benefit from learning how to level with others: or to speak up and describe what is happening, and how they experience it.

Being a heavy-duty placator, blamer, computer or distracter isn’t a particularly good idea.  Not only do these personality sub-patterns feel uncomfortable to actually use, but they will not be appreciated by a boss, or by friends or close family.

First-Satir-callout

Of course, everyone runs a bit of the four more unhelpful personality sub-patterns, at least some of the time. This is not surprising, because we learn ways of behaving when we are young that seem to work. And at school, skills at maths and English and other subjects are rated much more highly than the ability to deal with people effectively and skilfully.

IQ (or the ability to take logic tests) is rated much higher than EQ (or the ability to read one’s own emotions; the emotions of others; and to communicate about both).  But when we’re an adult, the limitations of our lack of skill in handling conflict start to become much clearer. Virginia Satir’s therapeutic advice was to shift your behaviour towards helpful ‘levelling’.

Some tips

The limitations of the different ways of handling conflict will now be outlined:

  1. If you tend to be a placator:
  • You may think it’s a good sub pattern as it seems to smooth things over.
  • In fact, you won’t get what you want – plus you can drive people crazy by always apologising.

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  1. If you tend to be a blamer:
  • You may think it’s a good sub-pattern because at least no one shouts at you.
  • In fact, it alienates people – plus by shifting responsibility, you give away your power.
  • Instead, to move towards being a leveller, learn that the world’s not out to get you and that temper tantrums don’t work.

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  1. If you tend to be a distracter:
  • You may think it’s a good sub-pattern because it gets you off the hook.
  • In fact, you never get to face problems – plus you never take responsibility for things. (And taking responsibility is the first step in solving most of our problems!)
  • Instead, to move towards being a leveller, learn to face up to it when other people challenge you. Then either take their criticisms on board, or stand firm in believing you’re OK.

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  1. If you tend to be a computer:
  • You may think this is a good way to behave, because it keeps you clear of messy emotion.
  • In fact, you miss out by ignoring feelings – plus you may come across as hard hearted. If you cannot read another person’s emotions, then you cannot really understand them or communicate effectively with them.
  • Instead, to move towards being a leveller, allow yourself to pay more attention to what others are feeling; and take their emotions into account. (You might need some coaching in the labelling of emotions; and understanding how to manage them in yourself).

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Second-Satir-calloutLearning new behaviours

As you can see from the quiz above, the behaviour of someone who is a ‘leveller’ is the ideal style of communication that we can work towards, if we want to work well with other people, and have loving, healthy relationships.

But it ain’t easy! We never stop learning how to deal with people, and this quiz should help you to know the strengths and weaknesses of your personal style.

The ‘levelling’ approach reduces conflict; and also reduces stress in our bodies, because we are dealing with problems as they arise and are facing up to them.

The reality is that we can’t change other people – only ourselves! (And that, as you most likely know, is not easy!)

But we can earn our own self-respect – (which as Lord Roseberry said, is worth fourteen times more than the approval of other people) – and be a really good role model for our children and other people in our environment.

Virginia Satir’s model helps us see where we are operating from; and also what works and what doesn’t, when it comes to dealing with conflict constructively.

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Conclusion

In my opinion, this quiz, presented above, is very useful.  It raises our self-awareness, and gives us specific ways of behaving which are very useful for us if we spend a lot of time dealing with people in the work environment, or in our family life. These insights are very helpful for our own personal development, if we want to take on the challenge.

See what you think. Try the test out and see if it’s any use to you. Consider whether you could benefit from moving towards levelling.  And if I can help, you know where I am!

Best wishes

Renata

Renata Taylor-Byrne

Lifestyle Coach-Counsellor

ABC Coaching-Counselling Division

Telephone: 01422 843 629

Email: renata@abc-counselling.org

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Exercise for emotional and physical health

Blog Post No.7

Posted on 13th March 2017 – (Previously posted on 14th October 2015)

Copyright © Renata Taylor-Byrne 2015

Renata’s Coaching/Counselling blog: Why bother exercising? What’s the point?

Introduction:

In this blog I am going to explain why we gain so much from exercising, and how it can be very helpful for you in high pressure situations; and to briefly describe one type of exercise which you may not have come across before.

Humans are designed for a primitive lifestyle. We are designed by nature to go out hunting and keep warm, every day. We’re human animals, whose design has specifically developed to have daily exercise and activity as an essential part of our lifestyle.

Many of us in the UK no longer have to go out hunting for food. We can get the food we need from the supermarket, and warmth from a heating system, instead of searching for fuel for a fire.

But our bodies have specifically evolved (in the past) to go out and get what we need in order to survive. So we have to continue to provide our bodies with the daily physical exertion that is a built-in necessity, in order to function properly.

What happens if we don’t exercise?

If we don’t exercise, then, sadly, our muscles start to deteriorate.

Here is some information on this point: In only 24 hours of inactivity your muscle tone starts to deteriorate. Let a year go by without exercise and 50% of the health (and age control) benefits you may have gained from a lifetime of sport are lost!

Our minds also deteriorate from lack of exercise, because we do not have ‘separate’ minds, but rather we have a body-mind! Depression and anxiety will normally increase if (1) we experience stress, (2) we don’t exercise (to get rid of it), and (3) we do nothing else to reduce the stress hormones in our bodies.

But our bodies have evolved a natural way to deal with the stressors we face as we go out into the world every day. I mentioned in last week’s blog post that we have an immediate alerting mechanism called the ‘fight or flight’ response, designed by nature to protect us when we are faced with threats and dangers.

As soon as the danger is passed, the fight or flight response switches off, and our bodies switch into the ‘rest and digest’ mode. In this mode we go into recovery, unwind and relax; and our digestion returns to normal.

The problem is that many people don’t allow the ‘rest and digest’ process (of the parasympathetic branch of the nervous system) to do its job of slowly restoring the body back to normal.

A lot of people know more about the inside of their local supermarket than they do about their own body-mind and how it functions.

So they get stress, piled upon stress, piled upon stress, in their bodies (and minds). They don’t give their bodies time to recover, and end up feeling tired and strained all the time.

Stress hormones are reduced when you exercise

What exercise does is to help you to use up your stress hormones (of adrenaline and cortisol) which have been released in your body to help you fight the threat that your body-mind thinks it is facing. Our body tenses up in preparation for ‘fight ‘ or ‘flight’, and subsequent exercise helps the muscles use this energy up and also relaxes the muscles and lowers your heart rate and blood pressure as well.

Stress has negative effects upon your digestive system (such as ulceration); damage to your arteries (as platelets are released you’re your bloodstream); but it also pushes up your cholesterol level, and has a knock-on effect on weight-gain.

When you’re feeling stressed, your liver produces extra fuel (glycogen and glucose) for the ‘fight or flight’ response. At the same time, your liver’s cholesterol production increases. But exercise helps to remove this excess cholesterol, which helps with both your arterial system and your waistline (by reducing it).

Exercise makes us more resistant to stress because it protects us from the impact of cortisol (one of the major stress hormones). This means that we don’t get as wound-up by annoying events as we used to when we did not exercise. This is good news for those of us who get impatient sitting in a traffic jam, or waiting for significant others to finish a long and rambling description of their day! (Stress gets into everything and makes it worse!)

There are lots of benefits from exercising

Did you know that if you exercise for ten minutes (going out for a brisk walk; walking up stairs, etc.) that this will reduce your physical tension for up to four hours afterwards?

It’s important to understand how stress over-arouses your central nervous system, causing you to feel strained, irritable, and nervous; and making it difficult for you to think clearly (because of the cortisol filling your body-brain-mind).

These negative effects of stress are what make it difficult for you to engage in job interviews or exams, presentations or special events.  These kinds of events can be much less of an ordeal if your body is well rested and exercised.

If your body is less tense, the negative, self-frightening messages from your mind, about the forthcoming challenge, won’t be able to exert the same power over you.

The vicious circle of a tense (stressed) body responding with even more stress to an anticipated future event – which you see as a scary challenge – will be short-circuited to the degree that you exercise and relax. Relaxed muscles will reduce your stress level!

This is a fast and effective way to greater self-confidence!

Additional benefits

Research done with different populations shows that you have a 50% lower chance of developing bowel cancer if you exercise.

Exercise also reduces inflammation in the body; and much recent research suggests that all major illnesses begin as inflammation.  The mechanism of reduction here is that exercise strengthens the immune system, which then repairs damaged tissue and reduces and eliminates inflammation.

But what sort of exercise is right for you?

Different individuals thrive on different forms of exercise. It can involve a long search to find the sort of exercise that is really right for you. But exercise that you enjoy will help your body release feel-good hormones, called endorphins, which will quickly change your mood if you are feeling anxious or depressed. So try some different forms of exercise to find out what works best for you.

My favourite forms of exercise are as follows:

The first one is called ‘Chi-gong’ (or Qi Kung), and is a type of T’ai chi. It consists of very simple movements, which you do every day. If you go to China you will see people doing the exercises in the parks, in the early morning. (You can see a demonstration here: # Qigong – Chi Kung – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9qQKCB1At3k&feature=related)

The great thing about Chi-gong is its simplicity. No special equipment is needed, and you can quickly feel the benefits to your body. And millions of ordinary Chinese people can’t be wrong! J

My second favourite form of exercise is dancing, and the benefits to the body are very obvious – here’s a picture of Tao Porchon-Lynch. She does ballroom dancing (and entering competitions) along with being a yoga teacher:

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By the way, she’s 95, and she’s one of my top role models.

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Finally, here is a link to a great book which Jim and I reviewed, called ‘Spark’ about how exercise  affects our brains and improves mental performance and stimulates brain growth. www.abc-counselling.com/id373.html

I’ll finish with a quote from Dr John Ratey, who wrote ‘Spark’ with Eric Hagerman:

The better your fitness levels, the better your brain works’.

Ratey and Hargerman (2009, page 7)

They also mention that: ‘Population studies which have included tens of thousands of people of every age show that fitness levels relate directly to positive moods and lower levels of anxiety and stress’.

That’s all for now. Happy exercising!

Best wishes,

Renata

Renata Taylor-Byrne

Coach-Counsellor

The Coaching/Counselling Division

Renata4coaching@btinternet.com

01422 843 629

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Daily Resilience–boosters for you

Blog Post No. 46

31st March 2017

Copyright © Renata Taylor-Byrne 2017

Renata’s Coaching & Counselling blog: Daily resilience–boosters for you

Introduction

Do you want to be more resilient? To stand up to the pressures of your daily life more vigorously and powerfully and energetically?

Tennis-starIn this blog I am going to summarise some findings from research conducted on athletes, which can help us build our resilience in the face of all the hassles and challenges we can face at work each day.

An explanation of micro-resilience at work

Micro-book-coverBonnie St. John and Allen Haines wrote a book called ‘Micro-resilience’, and in it they summarise this research finding: Dr James Loehr (a sports psychologist) wanted to understand why there were hundreds of athletes who were on international tours, but there were only a few who regularly won the tournaments and trophies. He wanted to know what the difference was between these two sets of athletes.

Loehr put heart rate monitors on a selection of the two different sets of tennis players – the ‘winners’ and the ‘also ran’s’ – and discovered that the top tennis players were able to very speedily recover their energy and positive focus after having played shots.

As they were returning to the baseline in the tennis court, or to the side of the court, they used particular strategies to recover their energy, focus and motivation.

These top-players very quickly returned their heart rates to normal – much more quickly than their less successful competitors. Here was the crucial part of what Dr James Loehr learned:

The further he went down the list of seeded players, the more dramatic the differences were. Those at the bottom of the list (the less successful tennis players) employed none of these rejuvenating behaviours….”

“They stayed keyed up, tense and even distracted in the sixteen to twenty seconds that normally elapse between a point scored and the following serve.”

The power of ‘mini-recoveries’

He discovered that by the final set of a 3 hour tennis match, the player who had been using small, imperceptible ‘mini-recoveries’ in-between the points, was much more likely to succeed in the tennis game than the players who did not use such strategies.

So Dr Loehr created something called the ’16 second cure’ and this consists of focusing exercises and relaxation techniques that help the players, who are under intense pressure, to do the following things:

“…shake off mistakes, release tension, and project a positive image to their opponents…”

And this strategy has now been taught by tennis coaches throughout the world.

How this research finding can help people in all types of jobs

We can all use this research insight in any field of work.  Each day, any of us can experience periods of intense pressure, quiet times and a whole range of experiences in-between. We also have a constantly changing selection of people to deal with and respond to. How can we keep going so that we aren’t totally washed out by the end of the working day?

Power-of-full-engagment-coverDr James Loehr created the concept of the ‘executive athlete’ after these research findings, which he wrote about in his book ‘The Power of Full Engagement’ (2003) with T. Schwartz.

This very successful use of energy management strategies by athletes can be transferred to other working environments, if we adapt them appropriately.

Micro-resilience techniques to help us stay in control

If you experiment with using some of these strategies – listed below – to keep you going during the day, you will find that your energy level is higher and you won’t feel as drained.

I used these techniques during my career as a college tutor, and there are also techniques from Bonnie St. John and Allen Haines’s book. (Bear in mind that if you are working in exploitative work situations, you will need help from your union as well as these self-management strategies. The union’s specialist form of protection is necessary as it will be beyond your capacity to fully defend yourself if your energies are drained from: bullying management tactics; zero hours contracts; wages below the minimum wage, and/or unhealthy work environments).

Here is a little selection of just seven such strategies; and I teach many more to my coaching-counselling clients:

1. The Yoga ‘Death pose’

Picture-death-poseFirst, let us look at the ‘death pose’ from yoga practice.  This is an amazingly effective way to recharge your batteries, and is very good for your back. If you have you own office or there is a vacant room, simply lie on the floor for 10 minutes with a book (of, say, two inches thickness) under your head (as a ‘hard pillow’). Put your arms down by your sides. Clear your mind of any stress or strain, worry or preoccupation.  Breathe deeply into your belly, and relax.  Stay still, and close your eyes if you want to. Any ideas that arise in your mind should be gently brushed away.  After 10 minutes, very slowly sit up, and then stand up. This will refresh your body and mind at the same time.

Benefits-death-pose-callout

2.The  seated Tin Soldier/Rag Doll Relaxation Exercise

Whilst sitting at your desk, after about 30 or 40 minutes of intense concentration, you will need a break.  Sometimes you will need to get up and move around (as sedentary activity is very bad for you, physically and mentally!).  But sometimes you can relax while you are sitting down.  One way to do that is to use the ‘Tin soldier/Rag doll’ exercise.  This is how it goes:

Tense your body, arms, and face as much as possible for a couple of minutes. Really feel the tension in your body. Imagine you are made of tin, and are very stiff and unbending. (The ‘tin soldier’ phase).

Then slowly, slowly let all the tension drain out of your body, and change yourself into a rag doll. Feel yourself melt into the chair. Relax all your muscles – your thigh muscles, feet, arms, hands and fingers, stomach and jaw, and facial muscles.  Let your arms hang down by your sides.  Let your head fall, and your shoulder slump. (The ‘rag doll’ phase).

Sit with the feeling of complete relaxation for a few minutes (say, five or six).  This will be really good for your body and mind – to say nothing of your productivity, creativity and focus.  In the process, you will be switching on your ‘relaxation response’ which is (to get a bit technical) the parasympathetic branch of your nervous system.

3. Have a quick, healthy snack to boost your blood sugar level.

By eating a small amount of nuts and seeds (for example) you boost your blood sugar level which helps with willpower, and energy during late morning or late afternoon meetings or other challenges.

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4. Have a short walk

Get out of the building, to change your environment. Just a ten minute walk will put you in a different space (mentally), but in particular, it’s really valuable to get out at dinnertime (lunchtime).   You will feel mentally refreshed and have more energy for your work in the afternoon. Seeing trees and experiencing fresh air will boost your energy. Recent research shows that taking a stroll through a natural setting can boost performance on “tasks calling for sustained focus”: “Taking in the sights and sounds of nature appears to be especially beneficial for our minds.”

5. Write it Out!

If you’ve had a draining, difficult interaction with someone in work, and you are still reverberating from it, then when you are at your desk (or workstation), write down what happened and how you felt about it.  Writing it down will get it out of your head and give you a chance to cool down. Later you can then reflect on what happened.

(If you are unable to write anything down, simply name the emotions that you are going through, in your mind.)  This is a technique that is called “labelling” and there is a New England head teacher (whom St John and Haines describe in their book) who uses this technique when she has confrontations with parents and teachers.

“When she tried labelling, Kathleen noticed that it increased her sense of control. Now, unbeknownst to her guests, Kathleen’s notes during confrontational meetings not only cover action steps and follow-up items but also descriptions of her emotions during each encounter.”

Dr Daniel Amen, who is an expert on brain-scanning techniques, says: “Often, just naming a thought takes away its power”.

Or as Dr Daniel Siegel says: “You have to name it to tame it!”

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6. Using your sense of smell

Cinnamon

Scents are very powerful. Dr Joan Borysenko, who was one of the pioneers of  integrative medicine and worked at Harvard medical school, stated: “Certain scents can cut right through an emotional hijack. For example, cinnamon, vanilla and nutmeg.” These scents affect our limbic system and relax us very quickly. This finding was confirmed by Dr Daniel Amen, in his book ‘Change your brain, change your life’:

“Because your sense of smell goes directly to the deep limbic system, it is easy to see why smells can have such a powerful impact on our feeling states. The right smells likely cool the limbic system. Pleasing fragrances are like an anti-inflammatory”.

So, having small samples of spices, perfumes or sweets, in your work environment, which have really comforting associations for you, can give you a quick boost of energy.

hardcastle-crags

7. Images from nature can calm us down

Finally, having pictures of scenes from nature around us will have a beneficial effect on us, even if they are just on our screensaver or on a poster on the wall. Or in a frame on our desk or workstation.  Just looking at photos of nature in a quiet room can give us a greater mental boost than walking down a busy urban street.

Dr Marc Berman and researchers at the University of Michigan had participants take a break for 10 minutes in a quiet room to look at pictures of a nature scene or city street. They found that mental performance improved after the nature break, even though the images were  only on paper. Although the boost wasn’t as great as when participants actually took a walk among the trees, it was more effective than an actual city walk.

Conclusion

Balancing our stressful working days with micro-resilience techniques- like the seven outlined above – will make us happier, increase our energy, and improve the quality of our lives.

Why not experiment with them, and see if any of them work for you!

If I had more time and space I could teach lots more of this stuff to you.

Best wishes

Renata

Renata Taylor-Byrne

Lifestyle Coach-Counsellor

ABC Coaching-Counselling Division

Telephone: 01422 843 629

Email: renata@abc-counselling.org

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References

Loehr, J and Schwartz, T (2003) The Power of Full Engagement. New York. Simon and Shuster.

St John, Bonnie and Haines, Allen (2017) Micro-Resilience: Minor shifts for Major Boosts in Focus, Drive and Energy. London. Piatkus.

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Continue reading “Daily Resilience–boosters for you”

Ten reasons to get a lifestyle coach

Blog Post No. 45

22nd March 2017

Copyright © Renata Taylor-Byrne 2017

Renata’s Coaching & Counselling blog: Ten reasons why having a coach makes you stronger and happier

Introduction

RihannaI like lists, and I thought you might like to see this list I have created about the value of having a coach. Some people may well feel that they are not entitled to have a coach. I don’t think Rihanna, Britney Spears, Gwen Stefani, Serena Williams or Andy Murray would agree with them.

It may be difficult to believe that coaches can strengthen you in the face of your current problems, and get you on track in your life, or you may be convinced that having one won’t help you to make you happier or achieve your goals. But here’s a list of what they actually do for people:

When you have a coach

  1. You now have an ally – someone totally focussed on helping you identify the goals you want to achieve, or skills you want to develop, so that you can be much happier about what you are doing with your life. They provide a secure, benevolent mirror, to help you ground yourself in an ever-changing world. This immediately can be reassuring and reduce stress.
  2. They bring their skills and knowledge with them, and those assets are now available for you. You have the benefit of their years of experience and tried and tested learning strategies.
  3. They get you speaking about your vision for your life, or the changes you want, in a way which you can’t do very easily on your own. We find it very hard to “get out of our own minds” and see our lives objectively. A coach can help us do that.
  4. The coach has solved a lot of their own stress problems and can show you how you can make life less stressful for yourself.
  5. They listen to you and respect you in a way that you may not have experienced before. It’s like being a plant and suddenly the sunshine comes out, and you can feel yourself growing and getting stronger. That’s how I felt with two of the American Forum leaders who coached me as part of the Landmark Education courses. They were priceless experiences!
  6. Coaches tell you the truth about your skills and how you are utilizing them. Unlike your friends, they don’t need your approval, and have no reason refrain from being quite factual and scientific in their observations about your behaviours and attitudes. They tell it like it is. But they should always be constructive and supportive when giving feedback.
  7. At times, life can be very tough and we can forget the problems we have faced in the past and successfully overcome. We can become discouraged and lose hope.

But a coach is there to show you that your motivation can be re-energised in a flash, by reminding you of your successes in your life so far. They can also show you how your thinking may become one-sided, unscientific, and failing to acknowledge all the good things there are in life that can help you.

  1. A great coach will discourage you from being an escapist. They will spell out clearly the lifestyle choices that you will need to make to achieve your goals, and to become stronger mentally and physically, so that you have the energy to achieve them.
  2. Coaches research and analyse the latest information being released about how our brain works, new problem-solving strategies, how crucial nutrition and exercises to your mental and physical well-being, and how to protect yourself from social and environmental hazards.
  3. Your ‘Inner Critic’, if it is not controlled, can sap your energy and hijack your attempts to change your life for the better. Your coach can help you to become aware of it, and to develop ways of stopping it undermining your self-confidence and self-concept, and shrinking your life.

Renatas-coaching-div2That’s all for this week.

I hope you find a good coach to help you to become all that you could be.

Take care,

Renata

Renata Taylor-Byrne

Lifestyle Coach-Counsellor

ABC Coaching-Counselling Division

Telephone: 01422 843 629

Email: renata@abc-counselling.org

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Self-confidence through self-acceptance

Blog Post No. 44

17th March 2017

Copyright © Renata Taylor-Byrne 2017

Renata’s Coaching & Counselling blog: How to develop more self-confidence by accepting yourself exactly as you are

The Oxford dictionary definition of confidence is:

 “A feeling of trust in one’s abilities, qualities, and judgement”.

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Introduction

Confident-peopleMany of us would like to feel more self-confident than we are at the present moment, and in this blog I want to outline a simple technique which will increase your level of self-confidence, if you experiment with it.

What this technique will do is to bring about a change in your attitude towards yourself as you live your life, and as you perform all the necessary tasks that you have to do, in order to survive. Why don’t you give it a try and see if it changes your view of yourself?

The technique for greater self-confidence: ‘One conditional self-acceptance’

Ellis-video-imageIn the 1980’s, when I first came across Dr Albert Ellis’s concept of USA, (Unconditional Self-Acceptance), I thought that this was a very therapeutic way of helping people to stop giving themselves such a hard time when they failed or behaved poorly in work or in life. One of the ways in which people give themselves a hard time is this: They create lots of rules for themselves, like “I must achieve this goal!” Or “I must achieve highly in life!”  Or: “I must never fail in any way”.  And so on! In this kind of way, they can really upset themselves (and frequently do!) because they are not as rich/ talented/ skilled/ academically successful/perfect in all the areas that they want to be.

All around us we can see and hear people passing judgement on themselves, and this is an enormous waste of their vital life energy. (Except in one area, which is to do with morality.  It is important that we, and they, judge the quality of our moral actions, and refrain from harming others!)

Callout-5

Here is an example of such negative self-judgements: Many people have problems accepting themselves when they remember mistakes they made in the past, (as if they should be able to perform skills really well, immediately, without any failures or slipping back.  And as if they should be able to be perfect).

Our judgemental attitudes begin in early childhood.  Although we accept ourselves when we fall down when learning to walk, we then, sometime later, begin to fault ourselves when we fail to do something which is new to us.

School experiences are a case in point.  We can all remember examples of not being able to perform as well as others, in classrooms, and this can start the formation of a sense of ourselves as failures; and our abilities as lacking; or our skills as being not as good as other people. And by the time we are teenagers our self-concept can get fixed and set in stone in our minds.  We have learned to rate ourselves on the basis of our failing attempts to learn.

Albert Ellis taught that we should not rate our selves, but rather our behaviours, and to distinguish between ourselves and our behaviours.  In this way, we can preserve our good judgement of our self, and only criticize our behaviour or performance.

Callout-2For example, “I am not my mathematics ability (or my skiing ability; or my socializing ability).  I am an error-prone human, like all other humans.  And I have some areas of high skill and some areas of low skill development.  But my high skills do not make me Great!  And my low skills do not make me a Worm!
Ellis called this ‘unconditional acceptance’ of ourselves (or other people, or the world).

So unconditional self-acceptance of ourselves, in the context of our mistakes and imperfections, seemed to me to be a great idea, when I came across it in the 1980s.

But I hadn’t taken into account human nature. I had assumed that people would mostly behave morally and ethically towards each other. Therefore, it seemed to me to be okay to address a class of 15 or 20 individuals and tell them it was okay to accept themselves exactly the way they were (without realizing that at least one of them might be a serious criminal or amoral abuser of others!)

This was rather naïve of me, given that, according to Alexander Solzhenitsyn: The line between good and evil runs right down the centre of the human heart!

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Somewhere along the way, Dr Jim Byrne, who had agreed with me that Albert Ellis’s USA was a great idea, began to have second thoughts.  After examining and researching the full implications of unconditional self-acceptance, he came up with the concept of “One-conditional self-acceptance’, as he realised the flaw in Albert Ellis’s view that people should accept themselves unconditionally (without spotting that they should not do this in the case of immoral actions on their part). (See Byrne, 2010, in the References, below). Dr-Jim-Self-AcceptanceEllis’s USA approach, at least implicitly, and unfortunately, gives people permission to abuse others and to not feel bad about it afterwards.

So Dr Byrne proposed that we accept ourselves as imperfect humans. But we should not (and that is a moral should!) give ourselves permission to go out and behave badly or immorally towards others.

Jim distinguished between three areas of human activity as follows:

  1. Performance competence;
  2. Personal judgements;
  3. Moral/immoral actions.

His argument was this: It is perfectly reasonable, and indeed desirable, and certainly self-helping, to always accept yourself when you fail to perform competently; or you make poor personal judgements.  You should forgive yourself in these contexts, try again.

But with regard to item 3 above: moral and immoral actions; we owe it to our society to act morally, and to refrain from acting immorally.  And we morally must not accept ourselves as being okay if and when we behave immorally.

This means that you can practise the technique of accepting yourself as you are – an imperfect human, who makes mistakes occasionally just like everyone else. But you must not accept yourself as being okay when you act immorally!

Accepting yourself under one condition

So you can accept yourself as being totally okay on one condition – that you behave morally and ethically towards all other human beings. Treating others as you would wish them to treat you is the basic contract people have in a civilised society. It’s called following the ‘Golden rule’ and enables people to live together in a decent and safe way.

Why is giving yourself “One-conditional self-acceptance” an important factor in self-confidence? Because there are all sorts of skills which we are all learning, and practising, every day of our lives. And we inevitably make mistakes. Realistically there can only be a few skills that we are very, very competent at, in our lifetime.

Callout-4But in our cultures we will face criticism for our imperfections, as if we had to be perfect all the time. What nonsense – but it’s very powerful pressure. Just look at the pressure in the UK culture to look ‘good’! In 2015 (according to the British Association of Aesthetic plastic surgeons) 51,140 people had treatment to improve their appearance.

Most of those people could have kept their dignity, and their cash in their pockets, if they had practiced one-conditional self-acceptance.  (And we also know, from Maxwell Maltz (Psycho-Cybernetics, 1960), that having plastic surgery will not change your self-concept reliably [for a significant proportion of those surgery patients], because it’s our inner self-appraisal that affects how we feel about ourselves, and not our objective appearance.  For example, Marilyn Monroe thought she was ugly!)

However, we can learn to accept our physical appearance, even if it is ‘perfect’, by telling ourselves: “I am not my face.  I am not my nose.  I am not my balding head.  I am not my fat; I am not my skinniness; I am not my social skills.  I am not my socially disliked characteristics!”

We’ve got a moral responsibility to ourselves to reduce our contact with people who try to put us down, and destroy our sense of self-worth. But the most crucial factor in relation to our confidence is our own (one-conditional) self-acceptance of our imperfections.

“One-Conditional self-acceptance” – What does this mean in practice – in real life?

It means that if you make mistakes, you make mistakes. End of story. It doesn’t mean that you are a bad or evil person for having done so. Obviously you will need to apologize and make amends if the mistakes are very serious and (accidentally) harm others physically or emotionally. But as an imperfect human being, you are bound to make mistakes. We all do – all the time!

What happens if we don’t give ourselves permission to screw up in one way or another? Our resilience and physical energy will be badly affected. Albert Bandura stated in 1966:

There is no more devastating punishment than self-contempt.”
Psycho-CyberneticsRefusing to make allowances for our humanity and imperfections will wreck our confidence when we are trying to learn new skills.

Practising “One conditional self-acceptance” (OCSA) means that you have to extend compassion towards yourself. As the Buddha said:

Compassion that extends itself to others and not to yourself, is incomplete “.

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Taking action

Trying out this technique (OCSA) means that you have a much kinder and much more accepting attitude towards yourself when you make mistakes; form poor judgements; or act incompetently.

This helps you to feel much stronger when it comes to handling criticisms from other people (and internal criticism from your ‘Inner Critic’).

Callout-1If you practice this one-conditional acceptance approach to yourself, you will be taking a huge burden off yourself – one that you may not have realised you were carrying.

And guess what? If you have children, they will see you accepting your own humanity and imperfections, and not mentally beating yourself up for being imperfect.  And they will copy what you do, and accept themselves more. Do you remember the quote about what makes a great leader? “Example, example, example!“

How happy do you want your children to be?

This change of attitude towards yourself – of accepting yourself one-conditionally – will take time to become part of your approach to yourself as an imperfect human. (It can be very hard for us to accept ourselves when we make mistakes – especially when we screw up in front of other people).

Teaching is a very public job, and I found during my early teaching career, that making mistakes in front of others as I learned my job, was very challenging and emotionally threatening. But accepting my mistakes and learning from them really helped me to recover and keep my equilibrium, so I had the energy to keep learning and trying to improve my performance.

For these reasons, I strongly recommend practising “One-conditional self-acceptance” in your daily life and especially if you are learning any new skills, or have got problems in any of your relationships.

Callout-3.JPGCan you imagine how much less stressed you will feel, if you give yourself permission to be an imperfect driver? Or mother? Or husband? Or worker/professional? (So long as you are doing your best, and not acting immorally or unethically, or disregarding the possibility of harming others!)

This then gives you the mental space to realise that, if you wanted to, you could slowly learn new behaviours to improve your performance, and your judgements, but without your inner critic nagging away in the background.

This would amount to treating yourself with respect and consideration, just as you would treat your best friend if they were in the same situation, with undeveloped skills which they wanted to improve on.

If you experiment with this self-permission, this self-acceptance, you could find it a real life-changer!

That’s all for now,

Best wishes,

Renata

Renata Taylor-Byrne

Lifestyle Coach-Counsellor

The Coaching/Counselling Division

Renata4coaching@btinternet.com

01422 843 629

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References:

Byrne, J. (2010) Self-acceptance and other-acceptance in relation to competence and morality. E-CENT Paper No.2(c).  Hebden Bridge: The Institute for E-CENT.  Available online: https://ecent-institute.org/e-cent-articles-and-papers/

Maltz, Maxwell (1960). Psycho-Cybernetics. Simon & Schuster.

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