Pause for… // performance and perspective

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We often sit there watching TV, be it live sport, films, documentaries and more. In this modern day, we don’t even need to sit through the commercial breaks. We instead record and fast forward and we always know that if we need to step out the room, check on the kids, make a drink, we can always press pause! The joys of modern technology that gives us all that luxury for a moment in time. The same is true for radio and music thanks to Spotify and other well-known streaming services.

Pause or, the caesura is how we speak to each other, the rhythm of flow of conversation, the breath, you inhale and exhale, the break in poetry to experience its flow, the space in music to hear it flow. Pause is synonymous with rhythm and flow//don’t you know!

The pause button has been there since the 1960’s, before Netflix, Sky, Fox and Spotify. It had its own special button on our Walkmans, MP3 players and VHS recorders to keep the system operating whilst there was an intermittent stop. Now the pause is often is graced alongside the play button on our DVD’s, Washing Machines, iPods (if you still own one) and devices.

Its history in allowing us to pause performance in sport, documentaries, comedies, sitcoms and more has given us all the capacity to do more. Sport has seen the value in pausing games to analyse. Large screens were used to review, draw lines and circles, as people gathered to talk about the pause. It continues to permeate sport in various ways, some more successful than others and that success has a lot to do with the flow of the game so the right decisions are made and space is created for a momentary review.

Kevin Cashman, Global Leader in CEO & Executive Development at Korn Ferry was often asked by leaders “how can we step up to achieve more, to go to the next level?” He response surprised them all! He asked them to pause. This was met with all their reasons to do more, rather than pause more. He goes on to share that Andy Murray’s win over Djokovic after a 76 year wait for a male Grand Slam singles champion in the US Open final was down to him practising the pause, not just his serve — stepping back for perspective, awareness and transformative clarity to emerge. ¹

“If leaders today do not step back to gain perspective and to transcend the immediacies of life, we will continue to crash economically, personally, and collectively”. Kevin Cashman

Pause is part of life, we do it every day. The momentary gap between your inhale and exhale, which thankfully isn’t under your complete control, although its quality is often shifted closer to hyperventilation! Books by Nobel prize winners give power to the pause. Go and read The Brain and Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman’, or Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman to find out more.

When you carry on sprinting and panting through life you miss moments. Moments that you will never capture again, you can’t replay them like the TV. Moments you may regret when you lose your job, get sick, retire, move teams, more companies, lose good people. This relentless pace is unsustainable and I believe is one of the biggest causes of poor mental health we see, hear and experience today…

Before I had children, I identified with my work, my career at 100mph. My mantra then was “life is for living, cram it in”. When my daughter came along I then knew there was more to the constant treadmill that I lived in at the workplace, especially one with a value of ’speed’ and another one that’s talent programme was called ‘pace’! I began to see the natural ebb and flow of slowing down and what that created for me creatively, mentally, physically and emotionally. I returned to work some 10 months later and the frantic pace felt unnatural to me … because it was! 12-months on from returning I was diagnosed with cancer and that dished up a STOP button. On returning to work after treatment I knew the pace was something I could no longer sustain or wanted to even try and when everyone around you is sprinting you constantly feel left behind. It took some time to accept I was one of the few unconventional employee that valued reflection, perspective, time to open up my awareness to situations, tasks and people. A tortoise in a race full of many hares!

I have experimented with other ways of working that has given more natural rhythm and flow to the team and I. The change was palpable in a very short time period — the team’s higher energy was evident and our productivity soared. Respect for each other and our best times for creativity, decision making, deep work and more were considered. Lunch to recharge and refuel rather than refill and restart was honoured.

It’s time to give power to the pause, the natural ebb and flow, for if you continue sprinting and panting they will be no race alone.

“Don’t brag about your lightning pace, for Slow and Steady won the race!” The Tortoise and the Hare


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The Swallowed Scream

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Presence over pride

There is this stirring inside me that I’ve experienced for a few years now, it may have been there longer, just numbed or drowned out by the constant noise in my head and the distractions of the world we now live in.

I can’t even begin to describe what it is, yet I can tell you how it feels. It is an ache in my heart, a lump in my throat and a quickening of pace to get on with things. Yet, that quickening was also a longing for the person I lost along the way: for every time I said ’no’ inside, I said ‘yes’ out loud, in the moments I curled up, when I could have stayed open, for those times I went into hiding, when I could have shared the truth and all the times I ran away when I had the chance to stand still.

I’ve swallowed that lump too many times. You know that feeling you get at the back of your throat, the one ignored for politeness or personal pride. Except I got it wrong, rather than the lump, I should have swallowed my pride!

I’ve come from a strong line of women who’ve managed their difficult emotions, by concealing them. The overly used expressions I’ve grown up with “stop crying”, “don’t be a baby” and ones from the workplace over the years “you’re just too emotional”, “you need to toughen up to work here”, “can’t have you going off with stress”. These all had a significant influence on how I dealt with my emotions and continued to swallow and box them away.

Over the last few years I’ve had Acupuncture, Counselling, CBT, and Psychotherapy and it’s opened up places within me that have been locked tight for many years. I used CBT very successfully and yet the act of using a process also helped me distance myself from my emotional truth with remission. I continue to practice meditation and I’ve explored different techniques. I found myself in silence last August for 10-days wondering why the chaos inside ensued amidst the calm outside. Meditation showed me the truth inside and remains my cornerstone.

Then a day came, one I will remember for the rest of my life for truly practicing kindness to myself, within a coaching conversation. I was asked a powerful question that allowed me to honour the person I was during a terrifying time in my life. I had been sharing how my anxiety had been hustling me recently and how I had experienced panic attacks which had both surprised me and floored me after approx. 12 months without any. We explored why they and anxiety could be happening and we went deep into the discovery, rather than my own ability that kept me safe in the shallows. This is what I love and deeply appreciate about Danielle, my coach, I feel safe to go places within me, knowing that space is held safely.

Danielle had asked me a seemingly simple yet powerful question that I hadn’t even asked myself. Even as I write this now, I can feel the lump rising and the stalling as the words slip onto the keyboard “How did you feel when you were told you had cancer Ria?” I finally felt I acknowledged my whole feelings for the first time ever!

Soon after my diagnosis, I took to blogging as my therapy. The blogs were full of hope and were met with kind and well-intended comments that encouraged my inclination to silence the distressing feelings and share more about the other ones that were also present and positive — hope, mindfulness, and faith, with a more appealing picture to accompany it. At the time I recall a campaign #nomakeupselfie for cancer that also encouraged my desire to share my ‘I can beat this’ mantra I had in my head daily… it’s ultimately what got me through those the terrifying and awakening 3-weeks. The other distressing feelings were swallowed and squashed.

Those distressing feelings were deep deep shame, grief and painful loneliness which have all lingered at phases and stages since. As I sat there sharing those feelings with Danielle I felt my heart ache. It was and is time to honour those feelings and show one of the most important people in my life, my 5-year old daughter, that you can be brave and afraid at the same time. Feel it, not conceal it, as many of us learned during Frozen! It was time to swallow pride, not my own poison.

The day I was told that I had uterine cancer, changed me forever. I felt like I had been transported to another dimension, my own matrix and the loneliness ensued. I had no mother to turn to for the type of unconditional love only your mother can provide. I wanted to cry into her arms and hear her say “you will be okay”, but cancer had taken her many years previously.

I watched my daughter who was two years old at the time sleep that night. She had only just gone into a little cot bed and as I sat in the dark stroking her curly mass of blonde hair I wondered if I would ever share the moments my own mother had missed and more pressingly on my mind, would I still be here next month, next year. I so desperately wanted to cry in her room that night, but I didn’t know if the tears would end and the noise would wake her. I kept quiet and swallowed the tears inside.

When friends called to offer their support and say I would beat it, I really wanted to scream ”but what if I don’t. I’m so fucking petrified”. Instead, I showed my hopeful side. I preferred that part of me — it gave me strength. I swallowed the rest.

When I went for my MRI and CT scans I wanted to really slump by my dad’s knee and beg him not to let them take me. As the nurse walked me to the room, I turned to watch him walk in the other direction and the little girl in me wanted to scream “daddy please help me”. I was choked on my fear. I sat on that MRI machine and visualized those laser beams killing whatever cancer cells I had in me for the longest 30 minutes of my life. Thank goodness for my new practice, meditation and the words of Thich Nhat Hanh.

When I went in for life changing and saving surgery to remove cancer from my body I was wheeled down to the surgery room and all I wanted was a familiar hand to hold mine. I remember sobbing so hard because I knew what they were going to do would prevent any more chances to bring another baby into this world along with my own womanhood. I was deeply grateful for the gift I had with our own daughter and yet full of shame of what surgery meant for us all. I swallowed.

When I came around in recovery I was told I would enter menopause immediately. At that point of waking, I knew part of me had not returned. It was too painful to bear the reality of the situation. Anger took its place and started to grasp at me. I swallowed.

Months went by and I was told on many occasions how lucky I was. Lucky for not needing chemo, or radiotherapy, lucky to be here, lucky to catch it so soon. Told how women have hysterectomies every day and its common surgery. Reminded on many occasions that I cannot have children and my daughter will be an ‘only child’ and how challenging that must be. The guilt and shame piled on. I swallowed.

Those comments although meant well, were crushing. I didn’t feel lucky. I felt like something was out to get me. My scars were minor compared to the mental scars building inside me. I was crushed on the inside and the anger at times become too much to bear. I felt like I was burning inside, whilst wearing a smile on the outside.

For many months I went into hiding as much as possible from friends and family. My hiding came in many guises, from withdrawal, staying home, staying silent and also being a right little madam when that got boring. All of these versions of me was down to the shame, loneliness and grief I carried inside. I went through stages of wanting to physically run away and I found ways to make that happen in truth. When I realised I couldn’t run from it I started to punish my body by training hard, and withdrawing different food groups from my diet… anything that could give me control. That didn’t work either and the slippery slope continued until I started writing a suicide letter in my head on one too many occasions, putting the blame on people and places. I was petrified I would have such thoughts and more shame pilled up.

At that point, I couldn’t do it alone anymore and the Psychotherapy ramped up. I found myself in the woods, sat in my car trembling as I spoke to Jane a Mental Health Clinician. No one would hear me scream in the woods, but the scream was so big it was trapped within me. I will be eternally grateful to Jane and Munya, my Psychotherapists for their huge professional support at that time and to my husband, Gareth who has absolutely seen me at my worse and heard me say such heartbreaking words.

I feel grateful to have found a healthier lifestyle that continues to support me, because, despite all of those challenging emotions, I managed to hold down a job, functioned and at times flourished.

The return to work was a shock, post-surgery, the pace of work was like a constant sprint. The cultural norms of head down, back to back appointments/meetings, lunch on the run was prevalent then and still is now. After taking 7-months out earlier this year, to set up my own business, Well+, I’ve realised just how dangerous some of these ‘ways of working’ are to energy, creativity, flow, performance, relationships, and health.

We (Health and Wellbeing professionals) can all talk about what to do and why to do it… blah, blah, blah. The hard graft is showing up and practicing it. Leading the charge and going stealth with health by getting closer to the truth of what’s happening — sharing the good and challenging the bad, sad or mad practices.

This blog is wholeheartedly shared to acknowledge my own emotional story with a cancer diagnosis and remission, in addition to the change needed more than ever. More and more people are returning to work after illness, disease or loss and more needs to be done to support Leaders, Managers, HR Departments on how to support people back into all types of workplaces. I willingly will lead this charge! There is a mission in my remission after all!

Emotion is honest, raw and truthful — both the warm, fuzzy and dark and damp type. It needs motion, not stockpiling. What I know for sure and now finally accept is this is all ME — the light and dark. Without those lows, I wouldn’t recognize the highs. Without the pain, I wouldn’t recognize the joys. I am a human of wellbeing deep inside. We all are. It’s our natural state of being that we all deserve in work and life.

More than just the mind

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A wholehearted ode for unity


In this world we live in today, our heads are often leading the way

Is there no wonder they spin and break when our whole approach is to segregate

Matters of the mind can be dealt with here and bodily parts form an orderly queue there.

With a fiery head and a deflated heart, why do we keep on talking about the parts

Let’s share an exchange, go on a discovery, our mind and body is our ultimate destiny

Buckle up tight, wait for the emotion, its all part of your grandest ocean

The rise and fall of the body breath dictates our journey on this quest

Now use your eyes, your ears, your sense of smell, remember, stay here, just for now

Watch and wait, observe the flow, integration is the way to go

The well within you is the well within me,

It is the sum of our eternity.

Humans of Wellbeing

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We relinquished the knots and unpicked the ties that bound us thread by thread, layer upon layer. Those knots, aches, and pains we felt often, the tension in the shoulders, the ache in the back and the neurotic tendencies to control and self-preserve with that nagging voice in our head telling us we are not enough. The one that told us to do more, get more, consume, buy, repeat, repeat, repeat.

We let go!

We realized those knots and ties were mythical in our mind. We fabricated layers to fill our gaps with momentary stuff. We got distracted.

We let go!

Well-being is personal to each and every one of us. In this short human race called life, we come to learn that we cannot buy it. We are it! Being well is a possibility, a perspective, a place within us all.

We take a momentary pause. It is always there, the rise and fall of our belly, the subtle sensation of our breath as it passes our nostrils, the desire for our body to move, explore, the mind to create and sense and our hearts to love and share.

The moment we look within, we will find it. What do I seek? How will I know? What do I need? Now is the time to be curious, patient and trust.

In this short human race called life, we let go, we find our flow in becoming a human of well-being.

When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be. When I let go of what I have, I receive what I need.
–Lao Tzu

The Wilds Ones

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Nature lies within us all

The experience of being immersed in nature at its fullest is slowly beginning to teach me a lot about myself. The years of moving away from her, distancing and misaligning myself with the ebb and flow had taken its toll.

Over the last few years, following my ‘wake up’ call reminding me that life is not some dress rehearsal, or slumber to drift through, I’ve made some very different choices in life. The biggest decision came shortly after being diagnosed with cancer, within a few weeks our family home went up for sale. The practicalities of our decision made sense, yet it was the trees, golden fields, wild flowers and rolling hills that felt like a home that I needed to heal my sorrow and in time allow us all to flourish.

By the winter we were closing the door on one house and opening the door to the countryside and mother natures herself, who at that time had shed her leaves and settled into hibernation. I was starting to synchronise with her, without really knowing at the time.

What struck me in those early months was the sky by day and night! It looked so vast, and for the first time in my life, I noticed the sparkle of the stars in the dark sky, untouched by bright street lights. By day the birds would flutter and flap with intent, and as the evening drew closer, they would slow and quieten acknowledging day becoming night.

Over the course of those years, I have made unconscious choices that signalled to a more natural way of life. The garden was a blank canvas of grass, rolling into the surroundings of the rolling hills. We put up fences to give structure and boundaries, and I too started to recreate my own, when my mind was too loud, and darkness often graced it, I dug a garden path to help me find my way through. Chronic stress and anxiety plagued me in the summer, and I planted lavender to slow me down. I left the ‘corporate’ world in March of this year and started sowing seeds, seeds in my garden and new seeds that would help grow my own business.

Bare foot and bare faced a few months on, and the shock of coming out of the ‘corporate world’ that often dictates your rhythm of 9–5 was a shock to my system. For weeks I would sit at my kitchen table by 9 and work until 5. It was an interesting time for me to explore the pitfalls and positives of working in this way because now I had a choice: To work in the way I had always worked for 17 years or find a new way. I choose the latter with much resistance! I wanted a new rhythm and flow in the way of living and working and still, at this time I was unaware of how nature could guide me! I was drawn to the water, and for the first time in years, I started to swim. She works mysteriously, and I know now — I was finding my flow!

Each week I took to the water and swam up and down. In those moments I breathed deeper and made sense of what I wanted to do. Soon after I needed to find a new daily rhythm to compliment my flow, so I jumped on my bike and used the gears and pedals to guide me. My new working day started to unfold, and synchronicity emerged.

With a new rhythm and flow developing, I acknowledged the need to boost my inner belief and confidence that the work I am embarking on and dedicated to, like many others, is required by me too. There is room for us all.

As I begin to build a new a health movement in work and life for all those looking for another way, a healthier way, something bigger is needed to push me, support me and help me navigate how to land the change required.

The timing was perfect and over the course of a weekend I drove hours to the depths of Cornwall for a retreat ’The Wild Pause’ designed by Danielle Marchant, partnering with Ian Prickett, a well-respected Polar Explorer, who joined Sir Ranulph Fiennes, the world’s greatest living explorer, on the ‘Coldest Journey’ Expedition as the team’s engineer.

In my 38 years on this planet, I have never gone past my hips in the ocean — Yep that’s right! The deepest waters I have been in has been an indoor pool. As Danielle describes “… you will meet the wild one that lives inside of you. The silent risk taker, the inner rebel and the forgotten warrior”. I was ready to meet her (again) because now she was needed consistently and in a considerable way.

We ventured to the ocean, and for five hours we explored the coast line by Kayak and Stand Up Paddle (SUP) Boards. Being sat in a kayak felt relatively stable and comforting, yet the moment we were asked to switch over and head back, my legs trembled, and my body slumped. I choose the kneel down option initially while on the SUP board. Ian guided me and encouraged me to stand, and I realised my fear of standing in this vast ocean was no different to my fear of standing tall as a business owner and change-maker. Day one gave me perspective. The SUP was my stand point!

We gathered around the fire that evening, sharing stories and reflections of our day on the ocean and acknowledging the powerful lessons we learn in nature. Day two rolled in and we were all in for a surprise — two hours of coasteering. As we made our way to the rocks, I prayed my fingers and feet would always follow. Three-points of contact was the mantra in my head as we climbed, side stepped our way along. We got to our first ledge, and the height was relatively low, yet it was the depth of the ocean and the leap off that hustled my mind. I learned at that moment that when you take a leap, it is always more powerful to have cheerleaders and supportive faces around you. I looked down to see smiling faces beaming up and cheering me on, and I took my first leap!

Sinking, sinking, sinking in those few moments submerged in the unknown, not dissimilar to the feeling of following your heart and not knowing what will come of it. As I made my way back up to the water surface, I felt sheer exhilaration and pride. I can leap, and I will rise.

By complete immersion, I was beginning to tap into the wild one, the inner rebel, the forgotten warrior that Danielle had so eloquently described. Nature once again had supported me on a grand scale, and it does not surprise me to know that both earth and our bodies are approx. 70% water!

So if you have ventured this far in my blog and you too have lost your rhythm and flow and seeking to thrive, then turn to Mother Nature and let her guide you. Surround yourself with her and watch with care.

If you need flow, take to the water, if you are seeking rhythm, pay attention to the seasons, align to them and do something that has a rhythm. It may be playing music, banging a drum, taking a walk, bike ride, or a gentle run.

Be a wild one too!

My long term absence

By | Cancer, long term absence, Return to Work, Wellbeing, workplace | No Comments

The elephant in the workplace and it’s not a ‘fit note’

In this picture, I felt relieved and relaxed of the fact that I had got through the most testing and terrifying time in my entire life, with life still ahead of me and most importantly sharing it with the most important people in my world.

A few weeks before we flew off for this much-needed break post-surgery I had been given the ‘all clear’ ‘crystal clear’ by my wonderful consultant. He remains my hero for his speed to solve.

After the momentary pause away from work from the crappy day of my diagnosis, tests, more tests, surgery and recuperation from having pretty much my entire womanhood taken from me, I returned to the workplace. Isn’t hindsight such an excellent thing — What a big mistake the way I returned, turned out to be!

I hope that as you read this and should you be in a position to make some changes in your workplace that you feel compelled to do something different. From hereon in I will be candid with my personal experience of returning to the workplace as a cancer survivor.

Over the last few years, many workplaces have been more generous with maternity, paternity and long-term absence for their people which having benefitted from two of those I will be eternally grateful. Before cancer came along, I was proud of the fact that I had not had one single day off sick EVER. I just didn’t get ill that often and if I did I ‘worked from home’, of course — the modern day work around!

Along came the blessing of pregnancy and during my maternity leave, I found different ways, rewarding and joyful ways to spend my time each day with my daughter. Fast forward ten months later, returning to work after maternity leave and I was fortunate to have a network of new mums in my workplace and in my wider network to call upon for support, advice and a few guilty tears.

Then one sunny day I race off to my appointment with my daughter and husband in tow and BOOM. Enforced leave. I didn’t choose this leave. I didn’t want this absence. In fact, I remember vividly driving into my then workplace and just wanting to stay at work that day and pretend nothing had happened and get on with my job and my meetings for the rest of the day. I was lost. A complete lost soul, not knowing what to do, who to do it for and what would happen if I didn’t have much time left on this planet — What would I want to do with my time?

I went home reluctantly with my tail between my legs no longer sure of my place and purpose in this world to start to make sense of the shit storm. I use that term lightly! Kris Carr nailed it in her book ‘Crazy, Sexy Cancer Survivor’.

I’d crawl over broken glass to go back, but I know I can’t. So what should I do?

What happened over those weeks leading up to results, D-day and surgery were nothing short of amazing with complete and total support from family, friends, colleagues helping me deal with the shock. A few colleagues from work knew the real reasons I was away from work, and I did rely on that private network of individuals. I wanted it that way initially because I didn’t have the strength to deal with people’s responses following a few mixed experiences and I was still in shock myself not sure what the hell was happening. I have also been on the other side of trying to be there for someone diagnosed with cancer when my mum was diagnosed in 2001. It’s tricky to navigate because so many things don’t get communicated through fear!

I returned to work after 11 weeks and that day was probably one of my most humiliating and saddest days of my working career. It wasn’t until I parked up and walked in with my hubby, who thankfully worked there and ushered me across the large campus that I realised the overwhelming fear and shame rise. Walking into a huge open plan office, I could feel my cheeks starting to burn, and my skin starts to sweat. I wanted to hold on to my husband’s trouser leg, scream ‘please don’t leave me’ and go and hide under his desk, but that would have been a bit weird. I left him at the stairs and walked towards one of the free desks.

I sat down and kept my head down. I got out my things, and everything just felt different. Who was I kidding, I was never going to be the same person. I stared at my laptop and was hit by a comment from a colleague that had all the best intentions, but floored me with his sense of humour. I sobbed my heart out in the toilet to hide my embarrassed face. I wasn’t ready for work and work wasn’t ready for me.

My first day back was spent pretty much on my own. My team and the Management were out and busy in the throws of what it takes to work in a fast-paced organisation. My return to work was so different to my previous return to work after maternity. No immediate network in place to call upon that shared a similar experience.

As the week progressed I spent time with some brilliant and caring individuals who helped me navigate my return and the job I was returning to but really, truly and only now can I see I was numb, angry and totally pissed with my world. I had gone from my bubble at home feeling protected, looked after and safe, to walking into a hustling and bustling business with people who looked like they were working in their own crisis. I had walked from a personal crisis and pretty much stayed in that mode when I returned to work.

As the weeks and months passed, I continually tried to shoe-horn my energy into my role, yet continued to burn out. It felt, and this is my truth, which may differ from THE truth that I was avoided by some, perplexed by others and an anomaly that just didn’t make sense (I even recall someone saying to me I just don’t know anyone that has lived after cancer!). I was sensitive to how it felt to be back at work, and I sensed unease, discomfort and more. I was all over the place mentally and emotionally although tried telling myself and others I was fine! I was naive, not strong or bold enough to say what needed to be said. ’Survival mode’ in a person and workplace can create unprecedented actions in people!

Over the last few years, I have tried to make sense and consider what could be done differently. Here is my personal view of what needs to be said and shared for future survivors from all walks of illness and absence when they return to work because for some walking back into the workplace is like stepping into the arena finding your place in your new reality:

  • Talk to the person and ask how you can ensure their return to work is supported from the minute they arrive, until the minute they go home on that first day.
  • The person returning isn’t always the best place to give you advice on how to deal with their return due to the shock, or conscious or unconscious change they are inherently experiencing. Get Occupational Health involved from the outset to ensure a smooth transition and return to work plan is devised alongside their GP/Consultant. If you don’t have an Occupational Health Team, either speak to your Private Health providers to get direction or use the guidance from their GP.
  • Ask the person what has worked for them previously when they have had time away from work (holidays, paternity, maternity — often they will have some previous habits that can assist) and what would help them feel supported. This helps bring logic to the forefront of creating a plan and exploring what could work.
  • Encourage complete openness and communication from the outset and discuss the elephant in the room. I spent some time with an amazing leader last week who supported a colleague returning to work following cancer and treatment. They had a session with the whole team to discuss what happened, how the person was feeling and how they team felt welcoming them back etc.. I know different ways will work for different people, but by ignoring the elephant it will NOT make it go away. You will all feel so much better after it, and if you work in a big department it ends up being Chinese whispers, and often the person returning to work has a different outlook on life and something urgent for example, may no longer be urgent in their eyes!
  • Build a network in your business of survivors, patients and people impacted by illness and disease. It took me a while to find them, but when I had the opportunity to sit and talk with people that had been off with cancer, heart attacks, depression, bereavement we found an understanding that was hard to get with others that hadn’t experienced life after…..
  • Introduce Keeping in Touch days (KIT) for people on long term sickness, train managers how to communicate in what can feel like uncomfortable territory and keep that practice up when they return for the first few months. Four in five (87%) line managers are not given any training on how to support people with long term conditions including cancer[1], according to new research by Macmillan Cancer Support[2].
  • Read up on ‘Return to Work’ information for the particular illness/disease the person has. The NHS, charities such as Macmillian, Mind, British Heart Foundation, Cancer Research etc…
  • Be aware of the laws protecting you and the workplace from the Equality Act 2010 to Disability Discrimination Act 1995.

I would love to hear from any organisation that has practices in place to support people returning to work from long-term absence, or organisations that provide line manager support. Feel free to get in touch via


References from
1 Line managers surveyed were asked whether they had been given any training in how to support employees with long term conditions including cancer.
2 All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 1010 line managers. Fieldwork was undertaken between 5/25/2016–6/11/2016. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of line managers in the UK.



Leading ‘sustainable engagement’ in the workplace

By | Engagement, Leadership, productivity, Wellbeing | No Comments

The wealth of your business is reflected in the health of you!

If we take inspiration from successful sports teams, our natural aspirations to do well and be successful is something that is multifaceted and embedded into the daily habits and rhythm of life and should also come with a rule book, just like any sport!

The optimal performance of human beings is simple to communicate and share (the wisdom on social media), yet harder to achieve and embed in life.

Over the years many scientific and management studies have provided evidence on how to engage and motivate your people, build high performing teams, told us what to eat, do, think, say and why we should do it! However, with all the best-selling books, well-intentioned advice from experts, proven research, that often gets updated, we still find ourselves in an escalating health dilemma. We see more people in workplaces experiencing an energy crisis, there is an unease within various socio and economic ecosystems, and we are witnessing a decline in performance and productivity in some countries.

“In 2014, US workers worked the most hours per week, followed by Japan, Canada, and the UK. An overall downwards trend can be observed across countries for hours worked” (1)

So, we know more, do more, have more, fill our days working more, yet the very thing that we seek to become — successful, productive, healthy human beings, is moving further away at an unrelenting pace from the masses, or bare minimum sticking on autopilot.

The World Health Organisation predicts that workplace stress, depression and burnout will top the world’s most prevalent diseases by 2020.

Engaged people feel well. To be well and do well is a daily practice based on a few simple principles of moving, resting, recharging and reflecting. These need to be embraced by you and your team(s) at all levels in the workplace, with the ultimate intention to role model better and healthier ways of working and living, if you wish to create sustainable engagement from your people and a thriving workplace(2).

I get it. I do. You feel like you are on your own at times, striving, fighting back. You have targets to hit, costs to reduce, customers to serve, people to engage and motivate and policies and processes to simplify.

You find yourself racing from meeting to meeting, going faster on the road, treadmill, and barely taking a breath, and yet you crave more time to make better decisions, seek creative solutions, create white space in your diary to spend with high performing teams to have deep conversations and spend time with the people you serve — your customers. You don’t need to fight back! Where is the fight taking you? It’s the very shadow of the organisation that has become tired and drained of all energy. Start to conserve your energy for something much bigger. There is another way. A better way.

Don’t look back; you’re not going that way.

I invite you to join me and adopt new management practices into your workplace and re-write the rules.

Drawing on over a decade of leading research by the LSE with McKinsey & Company, Stanford University, and more recently other participants…Results have consistently shown a statistically significant correlation between good (management) practices and firm performance: well-run companies are in general more productive, profitable, and have higher sales growth than those with inferior practices. (1)

38,000 feet in the air on a flight back from Sydney I listened to the airline safety video expressing the need to ensure your oxygen mask is on before helping others. This is a great metaphor for optimal performance and being well, particularly when the majority of your daily journey is served in the workplace.

Create your + rule book for performance in an engaged workplace:

  • Develop your set of personal and professional rules that give a framework for each day and be consistent. It may be that all calls you take are standing. You value the energy and presence of your team, so in meetings, all phones are banned. You know the importance of good food to keep you energised, so you gather with colleagues and create the time just to eat.
  • When you prioritise your energy requirements to perform at your best, you, in turn, prioritise others.
  • Focus on the decisions you want to make and space (time and environment) required to make them, and in turn, you empower others to do the same.
  • Carve out white space in your diary to re-charge and re-focus daily and others will come to you with comprehensive and creative solutions

I’m not a deep expert in any area of health and wellbeing; I am a practitioner of wellness for sustainable human performance in work and life. An unconventional and former Human Resources (HR) professional who is moving further from the term ‘Human Resources’ to valuing that our place of work requires a ‘Human Performance’ team to support and enhance performance rather than supply the people! I am on a quest to find a better way of working and living, that is different to the current way because let’s be honest it isn’t working out that well!

sources: (1) The Power of Productivity Report, Dec 2016 by Dr Alexander Grous, London School of Economics and Political Science. (2) Workplace Wellness that Works by Laura Putnam

Why 10 days of silence felt loud!

By | Flow, Pause, productivity, Wellbeing | No Comments

I went for peace & became more productive

As I sat in the hall on the fourth day, you could hear a needle drop, yet in my head, the big band were only just getting started, and the constant beat of thoughts was creating a ripple effect of how I sat in stillness.
The decision to go was not something I took lightly. In fact, at the time I felt I was under immense pressure at work, experiencing daily panic attacks and suffering from chronic stress. On top of that, I was trying to be a great wife, mother and friend with barely enough energy for all. Something had to change. I went to learn, to change my mindset and to experience something that is rare — slowing down!

– You’re irresponsible; you won’t stick at this, you’re going crazy, you’re too trusting, run away, get out, get out, get out!

As I rolled into day six, the band was in full swing, and I wanted to throw in the towel, or cushion I had been perched on for 6 hours each day. I was distressed and confused. I had gone expecting to find peace through slowing down, yet it was, even more, louder in the slow lane. I scribbled frantically in the writing pad by the hall entrance to seek support from one the team. Within moments of writing it, I was approached and helped, Anna helped me make sense of what was going on in my mind, and at that moment the shift took place.

“You get to a place where you begin to be guided by something greater than yourself. You stop fighting and striving (indeed the need to expend this type of energy is often a strong indicator that you are not in flow and where you are meant to be) and instead, surrender to your higher purpose and be guided from there, allowing things to happen, trusting in source, focusing on your why and letting go of the how…”
― Wayne W. Dyer, The Shift: Taking Your Life from Ambition to Meaning

My inner dialogue that had been faint, yet humming in the background for years, often blurring into the hyperconnected web of life was now fully present and at maximum volume. It had my attention, and my role was to sit with it for the next four days and not react. Walk a little slower, explore this noise and create a new melody.

On day ten I stepped out the meditation hall with belief and relief. As I drove through the tranquil valley on the edge of the North York Moors National Park back home, the world looked and felt very different. My awareness within was now reflected in the outer world.

The days that following was about integrating back into the hustle and bustle of day to day life and at times, the overload of my senses. I did this gradually, yet the smell of paint fumes, to my surprise, was the hidden secret of those ten days in silence. I stood proudly in my newly decorated bedroom. What usually have taken two days had taken me half a day. I was surprised by the level of focus and flow, but not as surprised as my husband who thought I had got decorators in!

So when I need to boost my productivity, focus and flow, I minimise the distractions from the outer world and explore what is going on inside.

Being in the flow

By | Flow, Pause, Wellbeing | No Comments

Using our senses to navigate our way of being

Everything in life needs to flow. At this very moment you are in a natural relationship with the flow, and despite the flux, you naturally have the abilities to guide and choose your next move.

The flux can often become our crux of the very thing that allows us all flow.

Flow is undeniable in its energy and movement. Flow doesn’t need to force, push or try harder; it circulates, slides and glides while helping us make our strides. Flow is a natural state, a way of being, despite the pressures and stresses of life, full of endless possibilities and potential.

In many Eastern traditions, flow is a form of energy. From my studies in Yoga, the Sanskrit word and is derived from the root nad, which means “flow”, “motion”, or “vibration”. Identified in many Tantric texts, the human body consists of 72,000, or more nadis that provide universal energy (prana) to every cell in the human body. When the nadi system flows freely we are healthy and well, yet when it becomes weak and congested, we struggle with poor mental and physical health.

How is your flow? 

Are you working too hard? Tangled up in thoughts and to-do lists? Working daily to land that deal, or seek that decision, Do you feel fatigued by your day and often hijack your meals with coffee and snack bars (and that’s when you remember to eat!)?

It’s time to plug into your natural abilities and guide yourself back to the choices you always have:
– Choose an optimal choice that brings flow (e.g. set a daily routine for when you eat, sleep, etc…)
– Choose a suboptimal choice that forces, or diverts flow (e.g. eat on the move, or when you can squeeze it in, while sat at the desk of course!)
– Don’t make a choice and run the risk of becoming stuck

Now stand up and take a closer look our your window and notice the flow happening — traffic, people, nature, the time of day. Pause a little. What do you notice? Use all of your senses.

Next turn your attention to your resources — time, energy and money. Where are you investing these to support your flow, or where are you not? Your legacy to be well, feel well and do well in all aspects of your life is synonymous with your reality.

“Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them; that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like.”
― Lao Tzu

If you feel you’ve strayed from your flow, reached a transitional period in your life, or strive for better balance in work and life then invest in harmonising your natural rhythms first — sleep, eat, move and most importantly rest.
Your ability to recognise and change how you perform, make decisions, listen, focus and succeed are all based on your flow, except don’t find your flow, get in your flow.


Three steps to get into your flow:

  1. What do you love? Or what’s your ambition in life?
  2. Plot your daily rhythm – Grab a piece of paper and draw a horizontal time line from 6 am today, to 6 am the tomorrow, or use your calendar. Block out time for sleeping, eating, moving, resting and relaxing (note — relaxing is not sat in front of the TV every night! — let’s save that for another blog!)
  3. Now reflect on what resources (time, energy, money) you current invest in your dream, or ambition on a daily, or weekly basis and how much is achievable for you to do going forwards?

“The idea flow from the human spirit is absolutely unlimited. All you have to do is tap into that well. I don’t like to use the word efficiency. It’s creativity. It’s a belief that every person count”.

– Jack Welch

The Hopeless Wanderer

By | Being Present, Bereavement, Pause, Wellbeing | No Comments

The search and quest to find ‘me’ in my forest of thoughts

“You heard my voice I came out of the woods by choice
Shelter also gave their shade
But in the dark, I have no name”
– Hopeless Wanderer, by Mumford and Sons

Over 14 years ago my beautiful mum lost her battle to breast cancer and I sadly watched her slip away as she took her last breath. I took on the role of ‘be strong’ for everyone. I felt it was my duty to mum & my broken family. I became a serial perfectionist, control freak, strived for achievement no matter how much strain it put me under… And looking back now, hindsight is a great thing, I was the sole contributor to it all!

After an enlightening holiday to Australia in 2013, some nine years after my mums passing, I realised I had been running from bereavement for so long and only last week I was reminded of this when I listened to Prince Harry share his own personal experience of losing his mother and the impact it had on his own health. I must admit listening to him helped me appreciate that I am ‘normal’ and bereavement really has no timeline, textbook approach and differs for each and every one of us. Sometimes the pain of accepting it is too much to bear and no ‘bereavement curve’ is going to get you there quicker.

Over that long block of time in my life, I found it easier to distract myself, although I wasn’t aware that I was actually doing that for years. My distractions went from minimal chores to significant changes — moving house 3 months after mums passing (so we had a house big enough to host a family Christmas!), cramming work hours into my week until I was too exhausted to do anymore, fundraising and organising charity balls to bring something good out of the mess of losing my mother.

Like many people that lose a parent, you eventually arrive at significant family occasions where their physical presence is hugely missed and my wedding day, birth of our daughter, birthdays and ‘Mothers Day’ are moments when I have and still feel unsteady on my feet and mind, often wishing to embrace the moment and also get through the day/event as quickly as possible without tears of the special memory not being shared with her.

What are you running from, or what are you running to?

Wandering in Manly above the trees! — Sonia and I

This powerful question was left rattling around in my head and I got curious. In March 2016, on top of a mighty hill not far from Manly Wharf and for the first time in ten years, I got perspective, I slowed down, relaxed, ‘paused’, practised yoga, walked and spent deep quality time together as a family.

Three weeks allowed for this and I will always be eternally grateful for that opportunity to visit a beautiful country and the special memories I am left with and the rituals I have embedded into my life to this very day.

Each day I remind myself to be more present, to count my blessings, to be cool with the ‘lack of control’ with life! I’m by no means saying “I’ve cracked it”, I still have my wobbly days, but every day I try, and the days I don’t succeed, I notice and acknowledge it. After all, perfection is an unattainable goal and the moment I think I have ‘cracked it’ will probably be a sign that I stepped back into the woods again!

Notice, what you notice!

My family, friends, early morning meditation and yoga, walking, daily moments to pause and good food are the gifts to me each day to be well. Being well is a daily practice for us all.

Manly Beach — Beach Wandering!

As they say in Manly (well my brother does!) Live. Love. Smile — What great advice!