Blog + Song A pairing of the written word.

May

 Photo credit : Erol Ahmed

Three Ways To Give Yourself A Brain Spa During Chaos

Three Ways To Give Yourself A Brain Spa During Chaos

Despite a whirlwind of thoughts in my head, I hadn’t been able to put them on paper in a sensical manner, because, as often happens, my brain was  flooded with negative thoughts about sharing my insights, for fear of them not being  smart, witty or academic enough for consumption.  And so, negative thoughts would ultimately win. You can imagine  my relief when I learned that the National Science Foundation’s 2005 research on  human thoughts found the average person has approximately 12,000 to 60,000 thoughts per day of which of which 80% were negative. Even more troubling, 95% of those thoughts were exactly the same repetitive thoughts as the day before. There was something comforting about that piece of troubling data: I was happy to learn that was not alone! If your negative nelly has hijacked your mind during this chaotic time, give these three options a try;

Breathe to a Beat

A two minute breathing activity to reduce stress. Inhale and count to 5. Hold your breath for two counts. Exhale and count to 7. Repeat. Research found that The 5-2-7 breathing pattern  reduced stress and improved decision making.

 

Take A (Brief) Walk On The Wildside

If you have the option to catch a few moments of fresh air, research has demonstrated that communing with nature has immense benefits on stress reduction. You don’t have to wander into a park, simply staring at the budding leaves or hugging a tree can do the trick.

 

Tune In

Apps such as Headspace, The Mindfulness App and Calm offer short bursts of meditation exercises known to reduce stress and anxiety. Your state of our mind has an impact on the quality of your life, and though you may not be able to get to a wellness center, what other ways  will you give yourself a brain spa this week in service of your sanity and well-being?

Hugs and joy

Article

Coaching Women on Living Their Best Lives

An article published on the Smith College website.

March

Time In Or How To Work From Home (Together) Without Burning Down The House

Best paired with Burning down the House by Talking Heads

He gave me the biggest grin. Our kitchen table was covered in a mound of books, chargers and chocolate wrappers. My orderly husband, still in his weekend sweats, had turned our kitchen table into his new office. I stood in disbelief. I work from home and typically curate my work experience with specific books and gadgets on that very table. I was left staring at the spot he’d left for me, which at best, could accommodate my air-pods.

As a work from home newbie, he clearly didn’t operate with the same office etiquette and that’s when I realized there was no way we were both going to work from home without burning down the house. I decided to activate the “Time In” Tool Kit in an attempt to bring a harmonious touch to our new co-working space;

Get dressed
even if you’re not going to the office. Your weekend favourites are meant for the …weekend…Not only will dressing for work help put you in an “office” mindset, your weekend favourite may not always be appropriate for those video calls you’ll likely have for the foreseeable future.

Express Yourself.
If you’re working from home in the company of others, ask for what you need, especially in small spaces. Is it a few minutes of silence, more coffee? Share what’s on your mind so that the day doesn’t become a torturous game of mind reading 101.

Prep your pomodoro.
It’s easy to get tangled in your keyboard for hours on end. If you were used to external cues to signal a break, try the pomodoro technique. Developed by Francisco Cirillo in the 1980’s, this time management method helps break down your tasks into intervals of 25 minutes followed by a 5-minute break.  Check out pomodoro apps for options.

Pace Your Place
Even if you might not get to your daily 10,000 steps, include a few healthy stretches. You’ll be pleased you did once summer wardrobes return.

Calm Your Head.
A recent collaborative study by researchers from Belgium, France and the Seychelles found that a two minute breathing exercise can help make better decisions. The 5-2-7 breathing pattern was found to improve decision making and reduced stress. Here’s how:

Inhale and count to 5. Hold your breath for two counts. Exhale and count to 7. Repeat.

Flee Your Fridge.
I have found myself flinging the fridge door open and doing a peek and ponder whilst not even a little bit hungry. Don’t treat your fridge like a long-lost friend; exercise the arm’s length rule. Before opening that door, ask yourself, what am I doing here? Am I actually hungry?

Dust Off Your Pressure Cooker.
Allow yourself to let off steam. Physical distancing, an unclear reality combined with the stress of being confined, is uncharted territory. It’s OK to let the pressure cooker whistle from time to time.

Keep office hours. Keep them as real as when you were commuting, avoid having work hours bleed late into the evening. Know when to switch off.

Hygge It Out.
“Hygge” derives from a sixteenth-century Norwegian term, hugga, meaning “to comfort” or “to console”. It is a Danish and Norwegian word for coziness, wellness and is also associated with gratitude, relaxation and togetherness. Whilst physical distancing is in full effect, in the comfort of your home, assuming everyone has washed their hands, take time to revel in each other’s company and “hygge” it out.

Time In is temporary –soon, you’ll be enjoying Time Out(doors) perhaps with renewed appreciation.

PS Since sharing this article with my husband, I’ve graduated to air-pods and laptop space at the kitchen table!

Hugs and joy

February

Lean out

(or how to network with ease)

Best paired with ‘I’m coming out’ Diana Ross

A version of this article first appeared in Forbes 11 February 2020

I was over an hour late. I stood outside the building, slightly mortified at showing up at an after work networking event at such an hour. I did a quick phone scan hoping for a last minute excuse…refresh. Nothing. I climbed the stairs, found the door, made a bee line for the bar for a comfort object to clutch whilst doing the nonchalant nod and mingle. If anyone has ever walked in solo, you know what that looks like….

It is safe to say that as a full time connector, I actually quite enjoy networking, except for the painful first few minutes where for some reason, one feels like a bit of an intruder even though a networking event is by default designed to bring all ‘intruders’ together in support of everyone’s personal agenda.
The uncomfortable aspect of networking comes up time and time again at my women’s career workshops and whilst women praise the networking facet of the day as one of the most enriching aspects, intentionally leaning out to expand one’s network seems to bring some level of discomfort, primarily because people don’t know how to go about it. Yet, it is an essential component of one’s continually evolving goals and aspirations.

According to new research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), women are more successful when they have a close network of other professional women—an “inner-circle”—on top of a strong connection to a general professional network. Having a close group of female connections can provide more than just an encouraging environment—it can be one of the best things you do for your personal and professional goals.
In addition, this research found that women with a high network centrality i.e women’s primary network in complement to their female dominated inner circle, had an expected job placement level that was 2.5 times greater than women with low network centrality and a male dominated inner circle.
Through these inner networks, women can benefit from superior access to information such as job openings, interviewing strategies and the like.
Armed with these insights, a search for the next in person networking opportunity should be high on your agenda. You simply can’t network effectively from the comfort of your phone.

If you find networking somewhat unpleasant, here are some suggestions for your consideration

1 Prep it like it’s hot. Bring your business cards, a pen, paper (see point 5 as to why this matters)
2. Voice Up. Pop a throat lozenge and stay hydrated. Part of networking is also using your vocal cords. People often tend to mumble as they mingle.
3. Arrive early. Benefit from a good seat, getting a lay of the land, enjoy more one on one time to connect.
4 Bring a friend. If you can’t go it alone, bring and ditch your friend – you need to expand your reach, so unglue yourself from your bestie for the duration of the event. Reward yourself with an after venue recap.
5 Let ET phone home. Leave your phone where it belongs, silenced in your bag. Make eye contact not phone contact
6 Opposites attract Approach your opposite: as a serial smiler I tend to gravitate to the smiling faces. Approach someone different than you /someone you might not typically gravitate to naturally.
7 Embrace open questions. Stuck for words, try open questions such as “What brings you here ?” What do you hope to get out of today? Focus on shared interests if you are at a loss for words
8 Sharing is caring. You also have contacts, how can you help someone else?
9. Get out. Give yourself an out, if in person networking is too trying for you. Know where the loos are should you need a break or a time out and /or give yourself permission to leave.
10 Cross pollinate, Find women across different fields to broaden your range and explore different fields. Random interactions can lead to new and broader networks.
11 Late is still a date (whist not recommended it can have benefits if you’re unable to get to the full event). At this point, people are relaxed, have already bonded with everyone, are usually happy to meet a new face, you only have a few mins left of the event.

The Feb 2019 HBR article “Men and women need different kinds of networks to succeed” underlined that women need dual networks and are best served with inner circles with minimal contacts in common.
This is where the magic happens. As witnessed at my Career “Boost Camps”, the inherent mix of individuals has meant that women have been able to offer each other insights outside of their typical perspective and viewpoints. Women need to maintain wide networks and informative inner circles.

Enlarging your network can greatly increase your success. Explore the power of social groups if in person is not an option

Where to lean out: in person or online ;
Ellevate Network https://www.ellevatenetwork.com/

Le Cru https://www.thecru.com/

The Now https://www.thenownyc.com/
LinkedIn (e.g. search “women’s professional network”
FB groups
And countless others (tip: google women’s networks)
Happy leaning out in service of your ever expanding outer circle of success
Point 10 was my tipping point. My late arrival led me, a few months later, to book my first speaking engagement at the upcoming Smith Women in Business ‘Power Up’ Conference, NYC, 24 April 2020.

Hugs and joy

January

Great and Full or How to Literally Have a Happy New Year

Best paired with “Happy” by Pharrell

I know when I feel great, I don’t always know when I am full, especially when devouring anything chocolate. However, I try (and often fail) to practice being consciously great and full ‘grateful’ each and every day. It is often easier to default to mulling over unpleasant aspects and experiences in our lives, especially as our brain is wired to pay attention to what may cause us harm. However, when we consciously look for a positive and uplifting moment in our day, it reroutes our attention to an instant that may have otherwise been ignored completely.

Robert Emmons, a leading scientific expert on gratitude explains that thankfulness is the affirmation of goodness as well as an acknowledgement of something outside of ourselves.
We know that gratitude has a multitude of positive effects: that it improves physical and mental wellbeing, stress relief as well as fueling feelings of self-esteem and compassion for others. Having an attitude of gratitude is grounding, it anchors you in reflecting on a moment that brings joy and personal satisfaction.

It is about a stronger positive connection with our environment, and an openness to acknowledging moments that we often miss. We are so busy being eternally connected that reveling in what makes us feel great and full is often overlooked. As the year gets underway, now is the time to make your New Year a happy one.
Here is how:

Jot it down Invest in a notebook and make it a daily habit to write down three things that made you feel “great” and give you a “full” heart. Research conducted at Indiana University (2015) found lasting positive effects on individuals who practiced daily written expressions of gratitude.
Share the love Pay it forward, let others know how much you appreciate them at work and play
Stop and sense When you a moment appears, hit pause and really feel what manifests for you.
May your year be filled with conscious happiness and “great fullness”

“Clap along if you feel like happiness is the truth” Happy

Joyfully yours

 

Resources: www.gratefulness.org

December

The Little Push That Could

The Little Push That Could (Or how to start to begin)
Suggested Song Pairing Push it by Salt-N-Pepa

There it was, sleek and pleasing to the eye. After months of nail-biting tweaking, my website was finally launched (tip: done is better than perfect). All I had to do was add a blog section to infuse it with my personality and thoughts on all things wonderful linked to lifelong learning, but then it happened…
A.k.a nothing happened.  For nine months. We know how much can happen in nine months…
I managed to artfully dodge my commitment to getting thoughts on paper and sharing content with an audience.

I had read countless posts on blogging and writing “how to, what to, not to, why to, when to” all providing invaluable information and advice, but I continued to squirm and sit on my hands, waiting for divine inspiration, until I discovered the little push that could.

Rather than start with the big idea of what to write about, I identified my accountability partner first and started writing after I had locked her into her new role.
This is what I did;

I set a deadline with marvelous Kera (accountability wing woman) I then submitted my draft of whatever topic I was researching, no matter what shape it was in. She would kindly review, comment and cheer me on. It was extremely helpful to be in conversation with someone who knew my goals and voice. I made some tweaks and filed it ready for posting. I wrote another post, she reviewed, cheered me on. Repeat. Simple enough yet so powerful.

Knowing that Kera was expecting my drafts on a given day gave me that little push. She was not there to judge but to keep me focused on sharing content and to be a buffer between me and my circling inner critic(s).

The Association for Talent Development (ATD) ran a study on accountability and found that you have a 65% chance of completing your goal if you commit to someone. If you have the opportunity to meet them in person, that increases your chance of success by up to 95%? Who would turn that down? Having Kera in my corner kept me on my tippy toes and am quite tall as it is! The benefits of this accountability approach are endless:
A guaranteed cheerleader in your corner; someone to encourage you; comment on your first piece, rejoice with you; share your victories with others; keep you motivated and on track.

If you have a project, idea, goal, vision in mind, something you want to get started, try this three fold approach;

Identify a cheerleader/wingperson, someone who is rooting for you, and book your first accountability appointment, ideally in person.

Explore the “what” of what you want by immersing yourself in the great outdoors. Nothing says inspiration like a “Walk on the wild side” (cue Lou Reed). A study by Stanford researchers found that walking improves creative inspiration by an average of 60%.

Use your accountability appointment as a gauge to take small steps every day toward your goal. Carve time daily for your project, dream, goal. There is no other magic formula than making space (even if only 5 mins a day) to let things come to being.

You most certainly do not, nor should you have it all figured out before you start anything you are looking to experience, your accountability partner can attest to that.
Let this be the little push that could…get you to the start of your next adventure.

Joyfully yours

 

For additional inspiration: https://medium.com/
Blogging tips: https://socialtriggers.com/

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