| 4 Minute Read |

I’ve recently noticed how dull jewellery becomes if it’s not worn and is just stuck in a box.

I finally had my first outing recently to celebrate my parent’s anniversary. Having an excuse to get dressed up, I thought I’d give my now very dull jewellery a clean. I didn’t expect such a minor task to provide me with such considerable insight!

As I sat in my room with my favourite music on, my aromatherapy mister puffing out stress-reducing oils and with no rush to be anywhere soon, I became totally engrossed in what I was doing. In that moment, I realised I had a sense of wellbeing and happiness, something I hadn’t felt for many months. I caught myself just smiling. My sparkle was emerging along with the sparkle on my rings! I simply hadn’t quite appreciated how “blah” I’d been feeling for so long. It wasn’t just the jewellery that had become dull.

As we emerge from the heaviness of the pandemic, each of us around the world will be at different stages, and I’m acutely aware that too many are still very much in the thick of it. Whether you’re emerging out from under all this or the light at the end of the tunnel still seems a little further away, I want to share something with you which might help you understand how you could be feeling right now or prepare for you something you may feel in the future.

Let’s go back to the “blah” that I mentioned earlier. For many months I’ve been functioning through hectic work schedules and long days across many timezones. Supporting my daughter through her final exams at school – the results critical to the next steps in her life. Helping ageing parents with health challenges and hospital appointments. I have also been trying to do enough housework to avoid my house becoming a bio-hazard zone, all whilst providing sustenance through nutritious meals!!! The “blah”, when not on full adrenalin, has been very real. It felt like the ‘Friday Faceplant’ had re-entered my life again… however, this time it was different. This time I found an explanation.

Adam Grant is an organisational psychologist I’ve come across many times and always really loved his work. This spring, in his recent article, he really NAILED the explanation of what so many of us are experiencing. I have never been sent the same article by so many people, from so many countries, in the space of just a few days… It clearly resonated strongly with them all and with a powerful “Oh my god, this is me!” response. That was my reaction too.

Adam captured so powerfully what many of us were experiencing but didn’t have a name for.

It’s the neglected middle child of mental health. It’s the void between depression and flourishing — the absence of well-being. You don’t have symptoms of mental illness, but you’re not the picture of mental health either. You’re not functioning at full capacity.

The name he gave to what so many of us were feeling was LANGUISHING.

I don’t know about you, but I much prefer describing myself as languishing versus blah! In the poetic vision of my languishing, I imagine there’s a chaise lounge and parlour involved (picture a scene from Jane Austen). But with blah, all I picture is Crocs and trousers with an elasticated waist (both of which I love and have a place in my life).

Having a name now for what I was experiencing was strangely comforting, but how do we tackle it to find a way through and out? One recommendation from Adam Grant is to find a way to get into “flow”, this is when you’re distracted from all the noise in your life, and you lose track of time. My jewellery cleaning gave me that space to create that spark of happiness that I felt. Reading a good book can do it too, also taking a walk in nature, knitting, gardening … if it absorbs you, it will help.

Another recommendation is uninterrupted time – I can vouch for the power of this even though it happened accidentally. Recently, I had just finished work, and my phone completely froze! I could do NOTHING to it – couldn’t switch off to reset, nothing at all. The initial horror was genuine… I’m on my phone all the time. It turned out to be a gift from the universe. As I waited for my phone to completely lose battery power so I could reset it, conversely, my own battery was being recharged. Whilst this digital detox was accidental, it provided me with a valuable lesson – I need more “digital disconnection” to allow me to get into the right flow state.

I hope you find the article and its definition as helpful as I did. More importantly, I hope you can find little ways to get into your own flow, so you can shift from Blah to Bling. Simply notice what takes you into that space, and do as much of it as you can! ❤️

Next Steps

For more of Adam Grant’s wisdom click here.

| 3 Minute Read |

Last year I asked a question in one of my articles – “Can you really set boundaries without feeling like a bitch?

I had some interesting conversations with people after posing this question – and I also thought that badass was so much better a description than bitch. I’m not going to get into the gender debate that I believe lives in the topic of boundaries for today – but we’ll maybe come back to that one in the future!

What got me thinking about boundaries again was a recent family health situation – requiring much more reactive than pro-active boundaries.

I noticed that I could be a wee bit triggered under certain stressful conditions – probably a control thing. At times, it can feel as though I’m channelling Lady Grantham’s character from the Downton Abbey TV show. However, I remained very polite – there a definite shift towards frosty.

Once the immediate stress had passed, I got curious… What triggered me to get my Lady Grantham on? On a dog walk in the woods with my mind wandering, I had a lightbulb moment. In one of my most stressful life situations a few years ago, I recalled the baseline ask I put to my now ex-husband to help navigate the divorce. “There are only two things I ask of you: Don’t take me for granted, and be kind”. That was it. Not a huge ask – but they were table stakes. Absolute deal breakers.

It seems that these two asks are still my table stakes – in particular when there is a lack of kindness being shown by someone else. Whether intentional or not, a lack of kindness will set off all of my boundary alarms – particularly if I’m already at the edge of my stress capacity. Enter Lady Grantham!

Sound familiar? You will have your own “table stakes” – it’s a very personal thing. As long as you express them and ask for what you need, there should be no difficulty for someone with good intentions to respond and adapt.

There’s the key folks – good intentions. I’ve seen a mix when it comes to this. When I’ve had a friend giving unsolicited advice or guidance, and I’ve had up my hand to say, “This is actually making me feel worse, I don’t think this is what I need right now”… or know they are a real friend – a kind friend when their response is “I’m so sorry, what do you need right now?”

It’s one thing to know what’s needed, another to learn how to do that, but what happens when you try to put that into action?

Boundaries must have a purpose. When you have a clear ‘why,’ it makes the creation of boundaries far simpler -though not necessarily always easy.

You can create boundaries kindly – the earlier, the better. If you wait until you are frayed, exhausted and potentially resentful, then it can be a much less kind and potentially damaging conversation, and the intent is not to cause harm. In the same way that you don’t want to set yourself on fire to keep someone else warm; equally, you don’t necessarily want to be unreasonable or rude with others.

I qualify that statement with the following caveat… If this is the umpteenth time you’ve had a conversation with someone to ask the same thing, and it’s yet to be respected, it seems that invoking a bit of Lady Grantham might then be the right approach, somewhat firmer and edgier than an initial request might be!

The relief at that moment is inexplicable – I’ve experienced it many times in recent years, which is when you KNOW how blessed you are with your loved ones.

Slightly more challenging is the hurt, offended reaction where it becomes all about the other person. That is not someone starting from kindness and doesn’t suggest they really care about you. Particularly in a moment, they KNOW is stressful. A polite closing of that particular call or conversation and simply stepping away is the best advice I can give you in that moment.

The badass boundary moment recently enabled me to deal with a very stressful and challenging situation. You get laser focussed on priorities when your loved ones are at risk and rely on you to be the strong and dependable one.

The trick is to look after yourself in the same way when you’re not in crisis. A little bit of Lady Grantham’s steely determination may be perfect for unlocking your own brand of badass.

So how well do you know yourself – for me, it’s “don’t take me for granted and be kind”… what’s you’re boundary hard line?

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We all have times in our lives when we’re much more motivated than others. In recent weeks I’ve spoken to many people who are really struggling with their motivation. I count myself among their numbers.

As I sit down with my orange juice on a Saturday morning to write, my first thought is, “How do I make sure this article isn’t really annoying to read?”. In my hunt for my mojo, particularly over the last couple of weeks, I’ve found many sources of inspiration and motivation VERY irritating.

“Life is like exercise; the harder it is, the stronger you become.”

“A negative mind will not give you a positive life.”

“Do something today that your future self will thank you for.”

Oh, bugger off! I’m pretty sure my future self would bitch-slap me if she could get her hands on me. I just don’t have the energy to do what she needs. There was a time when I would have been hashtagging the hell out of things like this. So where did my mojo go? 

What I think I’m beginning to understand, this week in particular, is that the exhaustion that many of us feel right now is very, very real. Although I’ve been struggling with my mojo for some time now, the months of lockdown have been particularly difficult. What keeps knocking me back over again? There is no doubt the menopause is kicking my arse like an angry army sergeant, and I still have to watch for occasional post-burnout blips. But that can’t be the whole story…

I have “pockets” of motivation, but I’m noticing that although these pockets are great, they are taking much more energy than usual, so there’s very little motivation left over. I’ve been grateful to be doing work I really enjoy, and every week I get to meet new leaders and teams which often gives me an extra shot of motivation. Although it does just feel like a sugar-high and it doesn’t usually last beyond the end of the working day. 

It can feel like the energy is really in and out. You know that feeling when you’ve got a loose cable on a lamp, and when you move the cable to a certain angle you can get full power, but it only takes a slight nudge for it to lose power and the light goes out? That’s what motivation feels like for me right now.  But just like the dodgy cable, where is the disconnect? I’ve not got the answer, but I do have some ideas. 

Three weeks ago, I began a course in Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction. A long-held wish which I’ve been able to realise thanks to lockdown putting classes online (silver linings). I have never needed to search for the mojo to attend these classes – no matter how tired I’ve felt – and it’s helping me notice so much. No definitive answer, but a lot of clues to follow up. Here’s what I’ve noticed.

I’d stopped listening to music. Not sure when or why. As I restarted, it is definitely rebooting something for me. As I write this, I’m listening to the Hamilton soundtrack, and it’s like someone is injecting me with caffeine.

I keep comparing myself to what I used to be able to do. There was a time where I was a bit of a fitness bad-ass… now it’s rather more ‘saggy-ass’. That comparison is wildly unhelpful. Looking back hasn’t been helpful – instead, I think I need to simply start where I am and begin to move forward. Behave like a beginner just starting out.

Looking outside for motivation can be helpful – I’ll often be inspired by the stories of others, though sometimes it can turn into a stick to beat myself with. I need to find the inspiration in myself – which takes me to my final point. 

If there is no goal, it’s harder to keep going on the low energy days. I’ve just been trying to get through each week and my to-do list. I realised this week I’ve not had a big enough goal pulling me on for quite some time. Could this be a big part of the answer? Is it that simple?

The gym I’m part of has a very strong community focus. Our gym owner and amazing coach Ross (at Caber Fitness) has put us in teams over lockdown and given us challenges each week. There is always a blend of movement, social and lifestyle. Some weeks I’m all over it, the past two weeks I’ve just not been up for it.

This week’s lifestyle challenge has definitely sparked something for me… and may give me one of the ways I can get consistent power to that “lamp” which keeps going on and off.   

“Write down a goal for the next 12 months and how you are going to start working towards it.”  

As much as I want to help the team win the challenge – it’s not really the points being awarded that’s motivating me here, it’s the thought that I might get my mojo back.  

So, let’s see where this takes me… I’m going to put on some great music for my dog walk this morning, be mindful about the movement of the walk and pay attention to how being in nature feels. When I come back, I’ll sit down with a coffee, write out my goal and how I will start working towards it. 

This week I’d love to hear back from you on ideas on how you find your mojo? Is there anything you’ve done which gets you back up again when you feel knocked down? I look forward to hearing from you and sharing our journeys. Maybe we can motivate each other! 

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A story about shame… You might already be shifting uncomfortably in your seat or considering swiping past. We just don’t talk about it enough. The reality is, we all experience shame of some kind and what enables it to grow is secrecy and silence. Not talking about it, is like shame fertiliser.

First of all, let’s differentiate between guilt and shame. Guilt is something we feel when we think “I’ve done something bad”. Shame is what we feel when we think “I am bad”. Very different. I first began to understand shame when I read Brené Brown’s Gifts of Imperfection (one of my game-changing books you’ll find in the review section).

Grace means that all your mistakes now serve a purpose instead of serving shame.

Shame erodes your self-esteem over time; it may be triggered by many different things but is fuelled by secrecy, silence and judgement. As I was reading the book, and doing a lot of other work to address unhealthy habits in my life, I realised that I had inadvertently created a bit of a “Shame Sh!tshow”. The “not good enough” story was being fed regularly by a great deal of judgement in my life at the time. House not clean enough, not a good enough mother, not thin enough, not clever enough, not a good enough wife… just generally NOT ENOUGH. Sound familiar?

When the “Shame Sh!tshow” is in full flow, you generally don’t feel worthy of anything good in your life. This is the space where addictions can begin to show up – thankfully the most damaging I get is crisps and chocolate, although honestly, I can do enough harm with just those two.

I’m sure you’re wondering, how do you break the silence? Especially if it has been going on for a very long time. When I first found myself in a safe space to open up, I was a good 15 years into my silence. Initially, I only scratched the surface – I didn’t get to the issues that were at the absolute core. You need a non-judgmental space – that’s vital. If you trust someone and break your silence only to be met by judgement and lack of empathy, it’s almost worse than if you’d never opened up at all.

I was lucky to get some professional counselling through an Employee Assistance Programme at work. I think it was the first time I really opened up properly and could see clearly how secrecy and silence had kept me in a truly awful “Shame Sh!tshow”. The path out of it was genuinely liberating though. I’ve always deeply admired people who could own and share their stories. I think it’s why I’ve loved the Oprah show from way back when. The stories would often really inspire me, what I didn’t realise is that a common theme among people who practice shame resilience is that they own and share their stories.

If secrecy is shame fertiliser, then honesty is the weed killer (sorry, I have been doing a lot of gardening recently!). To quote Brené Brown “Honest conversations about shame can change the way we live, love, parent, work and build relationships.”

Once I’d made the initial breakthrough on shame–it actually released A LOT of pushed down anger, so it wasn’t all unicorns and rainbows on day one–I did have to work out what to do with future shame. The advice from Brené Brown is simple:

  1. Know what triggers shame for you
  2. Reality check the messages – imperfect does not mean inadequate!
  3. Tell your story to someone you trust
  4. Talk about shame – actually use the word!

This approach works – if you remember to follow it. I recently had a trigger at work that I missed, and I went off into some “Shame Sh!tshow” stories… it really affected me for a few days then I caught myself and got out of the funk. You have to keep an eye on it, it’s not a once and done thing.

What are you keeping secret and silent that may be fuelling shame? As shame grows, so too does the fear, find a safe and trusting place to open up. If you break the silence, you will break the shame cycle.