Creative Communication with your kids

How often do you ask your children how their day has gone only to meet an underwhelming response of ‘fine’? As a mum of two primary school aged children and a step mum of two teenagers, I know it happens more often than we’d like.
Here are some fun ways to open the conversation and encourage more interaction with your children.

Pose the question with choices
When you greet your kids ask them the following question: –
Have you had an incredible day, a fantastic day or a truly amazing day?
Giving them three positive choices will not only provide an alternative response to ‘fine’, it will help your children to think about the positive things that have happened during the day. Once they provide an answer ask them why by saying ‘What made it so incredible/fantastic or truly amazing? And then, very importantly, be interested. Listen very carefully to the responses and acknowledge you are listening by asking follow-up questions.

Practice gratitude as a family
Sit together at dinner and implement a new routine centred around gratitude. Ask your child/ children what they are thankful for about their day and role-model how to do this by sharing your own thoughts too. Focus on little things such as seeing a rainbow or hearing the birds singing as well as achievements and time with loved ones. Help little ones to understand that there is much to be grateful for outside of material things and use the premise of gratitude to open conversation.

Be Superheroes
Research by social psychologist Amy Cuddy proves that if you stand in the stance of your favourite superhero (such as hands on hips and chin up like Super girl), for a few minutes before a test, exam, performance or interview, your ability to perform rises substantially. Share this idea with your children and have fun practicing the poses together. Remind them that they can use their super-hero pose anytime they need it either before school starts or even during the break times. Ask them which superhero they have been today and how using the pose helped. Let them know if you have used it too.

Have Worry Time
Often children carry anxiety or worries about little things that if shared won’t seem quite so bad. Having an outlet for this is effective so implement worry time and ask your children regularly if they need to use it. Have a quiet place in the home for worry time and if you have more than one child, make this an individual activity. Spend just ten minutes as and when required and always acknowledge your children’s worries as valid, however small they may seem to you. Encourage your child to come up with solutions rather than offering your own by asking questions such as ‘what could you do about that?’ or ‘what would you like to happen?’.

Amazeballs Score
At the end of school, ask your little one how they would rate the day on a scale of 1-10 if 1 is ‘boring’ and 10 is ‘amazeballs’. When they provide a rating ask them what made today that score. If they scored their day with a 5 ask them what would need to be different to make it a 7 or 8 and how could they make that happen.

My article was featured in Mother and Baby – December 18

If you would like to help your children stay positive check out my new journal for 6-10 year olds, The Happy Path, hereHappy-Path-Journal-ad

12 ways to keep the balance this Christmas

The festive season is here and many of us will relate the that dreaded feeling every January when we feel as stuffed than the Christmas Turkey due to weeks of over-indulgence.
This year let’s tackle the festive season another way by follow these principles to ensure we don’t end up bursting at the seams.
1. Have one, not a dozen. The tubs of brightly wrapped chocolates are easy to dip into but with each one containing approx. 50 calories it’s not a good idea for the waistline. An extra 500 calories per day over one week means a 1lb gain on the scales.
2. Alternate alcoholic drinks with glasses of water. It cuts the calories and dilutes the hangover.
3. Aim to eat healthily on the days in between Christmas and New Year. It doesn’t have to be a ten-day food fest.
4. Go easy on the food shopping. We IMG_2280often over-stock on calorie laden treats and this leads us to easily overeat.
5. Don’t buy chocolates, crisps and biscuits too early in the season. So many people break into the boxes early in December simply because they are in the cupboard.
6. Avoid anything ‘beige’ when eating from buffet tables. Opt for colourful veggies with hummus, lean proteins and fruit kebabs rather than sausage rolls, scotch eggs and vol au vents.
7. Opt for a lean breakfast such as scrambled eggs with salmon. Do you really need to eat fat laden croissants on Christmas morning?
8. Limit the extras. Christmas lunch can be reasonably healthy if you pile your plate high with turkey and vegetables and limit the more fattening options like roast potatoes, pigs in blankets and stuffing.
9. Have a little of what you fancy. Discard the pastry lids on mince pies, have a spoon of trifle or a sliver of cake rather than huge portions. You get the taste whilst limiting the calories.
10. Keep moving, get out for long walks or a morning run over the festive season to burn off some of the extra fuel.
11. Donate food to a food bank. If you get gifts of chocolate or biscuits or have food left over donating it keeps the inches from your hips and benefits those in need
12. Think 80/20. If you keep 80% of your eating in line with a healthy diet and enjoy treats 20% of the time you will start 2019 the right way.
As featured in the December issue of My Weekly

Are you waiting to be found out?

You have an amazing job, a great salary and your boss thinks that the sun shines out of every fibre of your being and so why are you convinced that the only reason you have reached these dizzy heights is due to pure serendipitous luck. It can’t possibly be due to your talent or capability and so you spend most days feeling like a swan swimming, lurking in the shadows waiting to be found out. It’s almost as if the self-doubt disables your ability and you are left questioning everything you do.

Am I good enough?

Is she better than me?

Am I going to mess this up?

Does this strike a chord? If yes, you could be suffering with Imposter Syndrome, a psychological phenomenon first identified in 1978 by psychologists Pauline Clance and Suzanne Imes. And you certainly won’t be alone as it is estimated that some 70% of successful people have experienced the syndrome.

It often effects high achievers and/or perfectionists, who set huge goals and high expectations for themselves. Failure to reach these mammoth targets can result in feeling strong feelings of self-doubt and anxiety plus thoughts that they are not as capable as their peers. Imposter Syndrome can also impact experts such as Surgeons, Engineers or Barristers, who feel a weight of responsibility to know everything. This can lead them to worry about being exposed as inexperienced or not having the answers.

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Imposter Syndrome can stifle natural talent and create difficult working cultures as those suffering fail to be themselves, hiding their true- and best-selves. Imposters often require a stamp of approval from leaders and rarely celebrate successes. They can demand too much from those who work with and for them.

I believe the route out of Imposter Syndrome includes five things.

Acknowledge the Facts
You have the qualifications and/or experience to do the job and therefore you are credible. You were recruited to do the role by HR specialists and/or leaders who know their stuff. What makes you think you know better than them?

Celebrate your Successes
Stop and smell the roses you planted. Celebrate everything you achieve, however small. Write them down, give yourself a pat on the back and revel for at least a moment before moving on the next.

Accept your own stamp of approval
Learn to accept your own validation as the highest honour. You don’t need constant praise and recognition from external sources if you see your own validation as the holy grail. This act of self-respect will help you develop a higher level of self-worth

Reframe the thoughts
When the wicked inner critic tells you that you are not good enough, not clever enough, a fraud, reframe the thought to the positive opposite. Repeat this opposite several times so to drown out the inner critic and train the unconscious mind to think differently.

Get cool with being vulnerable
This is the ultimate superpower for those suffering with imposter syndrome. Be comfortable with asking for help or saying, ‘I don’t know’. Share your insecurities and how you feel. You don’t have to have all the answers and you certainly don’t have to be perfect. Your vulnerability is your secret weapon. Use it.

This article was featured in Healthy Magazine in Nov 18 – I love that my writing is getting out there.

My blog is currently up for an award so if you have a moment please find Self Love Ninja on the list and click the heart symbol here

Don’t sweat the small stuff

As the festive season gets closer, the Christmas trees start popping up and the buzz of excitement starts to build, so too does the level of stress.  It seems to ooze from the pores of passers-by as they go about their day, hustling, tutting and bustling around the busy shops and markets.  The never ending ‘to do’ list, battle for the last car-parking space and hunt for this year’s ‘must have’ children’s toy seems to create a sense of frenzy that leaves many of us feeling frazzled.

Yesterday I found myself in a state of flux as I tried in vein to articulate the department I required on one of those voice activated call direction services.  Oh my goodness, how difficult can it be to say the words ‘refunds and exchanges’. I’m from Bolton, and whilst this makes my accent slightly more difficult to detect, I’m not from Timbuktu.  I recorded my own audio book so it really can’t be that bad can it? According to the phone system, yes it is!  Try as I might, no amount of repetition was going to make me understood.

I found myself having an argument with my mobile phone and could almost see the steam coming out from my ears!  Have you ever been there?  I caught myself doing it and then on realising how completely ridiculous it was, I proceeded to laugh at myself.

Being a person who likes everything done at record pace and with as little pain as possible, an automated phone system is never going to fill me with joy.  My lovely husband usually takes on this type of task for me as he knows how frustrated I become.

And herein lies the lesson.  Stop sweating the small stuff.  When we have a lot on our plates it’s often the small frustrations or interruptions to the flow that can send us over the edge.  In the grand scheme of things though, is it really worth the energy that we gift to it? We have to do it and so why wrap it up in so much negativity?  This only serves to make us feel worse.

How are we able to tackle the big tasks, the ones that take thought, consideration, planning, effort and graft and do them well and yet something like smashing a glass or pouring milk all over the counter can lead to us berating ourselves and/or others (or in my case a ROBOT).

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Whilst the small things cause us inconvenience, it’s not life or death and we won’t give it a second thought tomorrow and so ask yourself,  is your reaction justified?  Is it really worth getting worked up over little things that don’t matter? The logical answer is most definitely not.

Next time you find your blood starting to boil over something insignificant, STOP.  Take a deep breath and ask yourself why you are getting so mad.  Take another deep breath, and laugh, and then deal with the problem to solve, getting on with putting it right calmly.

One of the ways to put small stresses into perspective is to practice daily gratitude.  Every day focus on one or two things that you are grateful for and write these down.  You could even write them in the Self-Love-Ninja Journal which is available Here

Keep on keeping on, be calm, be in control and don’t let your blood boil over things that aren’t worthy.

Suck it up, Buttercup

Suck it up isn’t a term you expect to find on a self-love blog and to be fair it’s not a term I use regularly but right now it’s relevant both to me and to my clients. The reason I say this is because I have a goal.  What I refer to as a MAD (Mammoth And Demanding) goal. Many of my clients have MAD goals too.

The thing I have discovered about MAD goals, particularly personal ones as opposed to those we set at work, is they take a LOT of effort, like a lotta lot of effort.  There’s no magic fairy dust when it comes to MAD goals.  Well, maybe there’s a sprinkling from the Universe but aside from that, we’re on our own.  MAD goals take relentless consistency, focus and passion and they often mean we need to do things we just don’t like doing.  And that right there is where we run into trouble.

At work we get paid to hit targets, deliver objectives and achieve the mission.  There’s a reward, a pot of gold and maybe even a thank you from the boss (maybe) and so we get on with things we don’t like doing because it’s our job and we get paid for it.  I’d rather stick pins in my eyes than crunch data, yet in my previous role as a business consultant, crunch data I did, because it was part of the job and I couldn’t let my clients down.

In contrast when we set personal MAD goals, there’s no monthly pay packet, no thank yous and no appraisals with the boss.  We have to do it because we WANT to do it, because we know that when we achieve it, it will feel better than any monetary reward.  The difficulty is, convincing ourselves that the reward will be sweet when we’re faced with the tasks we truly dislike.  In this instance, we can be brilliant at letting ourselves down, throwing in the towel and blaming the fact that it’s just too hard.

Yep! MAD goals are hard.  Achieving them is hard.  Doing things we don’t like doing is hard.  BUT, if these things help us get to the destination, surely they are worth digging deep for?  And if we already have a blueprint for doing things we dislike in a work capacity, we have proven we are capable of doing so.  So what’s the excuse for not transferring this amazing skill to suck it up and get on with to our personal endeavours too?

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Let me provide an example.  In May this year, I blew the cobwebs off my kettlebells which I had conveniently ignored for over a year and decided to give them another whirl. Kettlebell sport is tough and pretty demanding on the body.  Flinging 14kg plus lumps of iron above your head multiple times is not easy.  In my previous blog you will have read that I managed to bag a silver medal in the EKA British Open Championship Pentathlon.

Now I make no bones of the fact that I am fiercely competitive and so I came away from the championships wanting to take it further.  A few weeks later the MAD goal was set.  I will qualify for the England Kettlebell Marathon Team by lifting a 16kg bell at least 360 times in 30 minutes and then I’ll represent England at the International Kettlebell Marathon Federation European Championships which take place in Paris in May 2019.  For someone that has been overweight and unfit for most of her adult life, it’s a pretty MAD goal.

I love kettlebell lifting and whilst the training is tough, I enjoy it, it’s not something I dislike.  So what’s my point? Where’s the pain?

Well, I have to keep my cardio fitness at a decent level in order to have the stamina to keep lifting for 30 minutes.  I also need mental strength because 15 minutes into the marathon my body is willing me to drop the bell.  So how do I kill both birds with one stone? By running!

I really don’t like running.  I’ve tried it many times.  I find it mind numbingly boring and hard, even with an audio book blaring in my ears.  I have to will myself to set off and will myself even harder to keep going. And so it’s pretty crazy to decide that to achieve my MAD goal I’ll need to run 10km a week.  Decide that I have however and I’ll get it done through gritted teeth because it will help me achieve the outcome I desire.  It will help me win my place on the England team.  When it’s freezing, raining and dark outside, I will do it anyway.

The same principle applied when I was losing weight.  If I wanted to drop the pounds I needed to do things I didn’t like doing, like saying no to cake, chocolate and pizza for over a year.

Doing things we don’t like doing is par for the course and if it helps us grow, flourish and fulfil our desires it’s surely worth it?  So we’ll conclude as we started with the fabulous term that is Suck it up, Buttercup!

Check out the Mindset Mentor offering on my website here

 

 

 

Visualising success

We are highly skilled experts at focussing on the things we don’t want and our unconscious mind is trained to pick up on this, making us think of nothing else.  Try not to think of a gorilla and you’ll find it’s the first thing that pops into your head.

I recently started seriously engaging in kettlebell sport.  It’s something I have been talking about doing for over a year but kept finding excuses as to why I couldn’t do it.  Truth is I was scared.  The top kettlebell athletes in the UK were lifting weight way beyond my current capability and though my trainer insisted I could reach those dizzy heights, I was convinced I would fail and so here’s were I placed my focus and rather than get stuck into training, I procrastinated.

The fear of failing was holding me back and I couldn’t see a vision of me succeeding. I was stuck and continued to ignore the group of shiny kettlebells in my garage every time I went in there to workout.

It took a trip to a kettlebell competition to give me the courage to start training.  The atmosphere was incredible and whilst there were athletes lifting some crazy weights, there were many who were there to lift a personal best, in competition with themselves.

I wanted to give it a go and so I engaged in the training, starting at the end of May 2018.  It was gruelling but within a few months I’d progressed from lifting 12kg & 14kg bells to lifting 16k & 18kg bells for prolonged periods.

A kettlebell pentathlon competition was on the horizon in October 2018.  The pentathlon discipline incorporates five different lifts, each done for 6 minutes with five minutes of rest between each lift. There is a maximum number of reps for each type of lift and you score points based on the kilograms you lift and the number of reps completed with correct form. I signed up for the competition alongside my 8 year old daughter and my husband who were both training too.

My trainer, Del Wilson was amazing and devised a programme that would accelerate my lifting capability.  I, on the other hand, had other ideas.  Del suggested I was capable of lifting heavier weights because I was achieving maximum reps well before the final whistle in all of my training sets.  I’d created a mental block which told me that if I increased my weights and didn’t achieve max reps that wasn’t a good idea.  Each time I attempted this and failed to reach the max reps I would feel like I hadn’t succeeded and it would set me back. I couldn’t grasp the fact the maximum repetition number wasn’t necessarily the target.  Too many years in a corporate environment played a role in this I’m sure.

Two things happened to bring about change..

I’d completed a full pentathlon in a training setting and scored 1019 points, a great score overall. The weights I’d used in the training set were comfortable and I was able to max out in terms of reps.  This gave me confidence to keep going and yet I knew it wasn’t a medal winning performance. To get one, I’d need to break out of the comfort zone and increase the kilograms I was lifting.  It took some good old ‘management information’ or ‘data’ to help me break out.  A pentathlon scoring calculator allowed me to see how many points I would score if I increased the weights but dropped several reps.  I could score more points that I did with the lesser weights.  It was my ‘a ha’ moment and I realised I could do it.

The next thing was a photo on Del Wilson’s Instagram (@kettlebelldel) of the medals for the competition.  I suddenly had my eyes on the prize and my competitive side kicked in. I wanted a medal and I started to visualise myself wearing one.  I was focussing on succeeding, visualising it with emotional intensity and there was no doubt in my mind that I would gain one of those medals.

These two incidents happened in the week before the competition and so I decided to increase my weight for cleans from 18kg to 20kg and my weight for jerks from 16kg to 18kg. I went into the competition having not completed a full 6 minute set with the new weights but I believed I could do it.

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I did it with ease and finished each set ahead of time and with MAX REPS which of course tells me I could have pushed even harder.  I bagged a silver medal, scoring a PB of 1119, a full 100 points increase on my previous PB.  I was graciously beaten by a seasoned kettlebell lifter and former champ who has inspired me to carry on.

One of the best moments of the day was watching my eight year old daughter, Coral gain a gold medal.  Whilst she was the only junior female, she had said in advance she wanted to ‘win’ a medal rather than get one by proxy for being the only competitor.  She submitted her targets in advance and asked that she only be awarded a medal if she exceeding them.  She smashed it and I am so immensely proud of her. My husband gained a bronze medal in his category so it was a real family affair, supported by our friends, Kate, Kathy and Andy who provided some amazing cheer-leading.

I am now so inspired, I have set some new sights.  This time on qualifying for the England team in a new discipline of Kettlebell Marathon.  30 minutes of continuous lifting with a 16kg bell.  I am learning from my experience and fully focussing on what I want to achieve rather than worrying about what I might not.

There’s a lesson for us all in that. x

I offer mindset coaching for those wanting to connect with their best-selves.. Find out more her

Have you heard yourself?

The voice of self-doubt; The inner-critic; The nagging voice inside my head. Call it what you will, the key thing is that everybody has one, even those who appear to ooze confidence and poise.

I like to refer to my own inner-critic as Miss. Meddler, largely because she’s an expert at meddling in my affairs. I can guarantee that just as I am about the step out of my comfort zone, take a risk, wear a new dress or say something in a meeting, she is there, ready and willing to stop me in my tracks and pull me right back into the safety zone.

If you take a moment to tune into your own Miss. Meddler you may hear her saying anything from ‘you look fat today’ to ‘your colleagues think you’re useless.’ The words are usually incredibly hurtful, and it is easy to accept them as truths, after all the words are coming from you, aren’t they? But, you wouldn’t tell a friend she is ugly or tell your boss he’s useless, would you? So maybe this voice isn’t yours after all.

And herein lies the opportunity. You can decide to ignore what you hear. Yes, it really is that simple. The inner-critic resides in the conscious mind, it’s an anti-self that aims to stop you from acting in your best-interest. Armed with this knowledge, you can treat your Miss. Meddler like an annoying Aunt who constantly tells you what you should and shouldn’t do. You can respect that Miss. Meddler has an opinion, and then dismiss it as ‘unhelpful and not required’.

Once you make the decision not to listen to the negative ramblings of your inner-critic, it’s remarkable how much quieter she becomes. You can go one step further and tap into the powerhouse that is your unconscious mind. This is where the magic happens. The unconscious mind wants the absolute best for you and will encourage you to succeed at all costs. It thrives on positivity so spend time feeding it inspiring thoughts and words. The trick here is to ‘believe it until you become it.’ Even if you are doubting your ability, tell your unconscious mind that you can. If you hear Miss. Meddler say you are stupid, ignore her and say the opposite out loud. Tell yourself over and over that you are Enough, and you will become Enough.

For more tips and tricks for handling your inner-critic and developing self-compassion check out Angela’s new book, Enough.