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

Source:¹https://www.forbes.com/sites/kevincashman/2012/11/05/thepauseprinciple/#1d4f7a1f1f88

Originally published via www.thewellplusgroup.com

Anxiety Disorder

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Over the last two years, I’ve come to realise the psychological effects the cancer diagnosis had on me in March 2014. Physiologically changes took place immediately from surgery and the repercussions of surgery. Menopause sucked, it was distressing with no HRT, yet I learned a lot about what nourished me, versus depleted me during that time. (Nearly said period ! Ha!)

​I was caught in a whirlwind of big decisions and scary things happening in a matter of weeks; which I could never prepare myself for. My mind was storing it away for another day, though!

Since then, I’ve always strived to acknowledge my feelings, face into the pain and discomfort with the help of experts, especially after a huge & painful lesson learnt after 10 years, following my mum passing in 2004 – You can’t ignore pain, run away from negative emotions, bereavement; it stores up and eats away at you.

Despite being honest with myself on how I was feeling – good and bad, and I’ve truly experienced more moments of deeper joy since having cancer ( it kinda makes you extremely grateful for ALOT in life). I’ve also had this annoying crushing feeling of panic and anxiety that has continued to build up to points, more recently that are so debilitating and damn right scary. ​

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I’ve had some, what I call, ‘real‘ threats to my health, a colonoscopy to check for lynch syndrome, remission check-ups, a CT scan in 2015 and more recently bloody Dengue Fever BUT, it has also been brought on by less threatening places; like work, a mountaintop in New Zealand, driving to an appointment, walking along the tow path with a buggy, being around people (!), aeroplanes, a thunderstorm & so on… In my mind, I logically know there is nothing ‘life threatening’ about it, butthe ‘feeling‘ takes over and consumes me.

This is one of the most frustrating things about having an anxiety disorder; knowing as you’re freaking out that there’s no reason to be freaked out, but lacking the ability to shut the emotion down.(source:healthyplace.com)

Over the last 6 months, I’ve seen my anxiety disorder completely go off the scale due to a build up of stress, mainly generated by work and the pressure I was putting on myself. I’ve experienced the theory and it’s been true for me :
… over 70 % of your bodily systems are utilised during an anxiety disorderFinally I now understand why I’ve felt tired, drained and experienced pain and lethargy in my body. The cancer wasn’t back. It was anxiety. Anxiety is also known to ride shotgun with depression and those two have been a driving force in my life, whilst I’ve felt very much like the back seat driver, not listened to.

Thank goodness for a brilliantly CBT Therapist and a very supportive husband and family. I’ve slowly been able to piece back together the parts of me that have been vacant for many months now. I’m changing my paradigm when it comes to ‘stress’. I’m seeing it as a helpful positive tool to pay attention to, so it works in my favour more often than just at times of exercise.

Stress, like fat, sugar, gets a lot of attention and bad press. I too have been guilty of ‘dissing’ stress and how bad it can be. I almost became too fearful that stress = getting cancer again! Yep – welcome to the world of an anxiety disorder!

This interesting and stimulating talk on stress by Kelly McGonigal-How to make stress your friend, looks at why our thoughts about stress are so important to how we feel and deal with it.

_I’ve come to realise that I’ve actually suffered from degrees of high anxiety a lot throughout my life – always ‘on guard’ worrying the absolute worst was going to happen to me, or loved ones! It’s exhausting.

My first memory of this was when I was 6, or 7 years old and I was on a boat swing with my younger brother. I vividly remember saying to my brother “please don’t ever die and leave me!” Heavy stuff for a 6/7 yr old to have on her shoulders worrying about that !!

I’m learning that anxiety, through awareness can also transform into excitement…. Just like stress, anxiety can be beneficial, which has been another huge paradigm shift for me, knowing that I can use it to my advantage.

A great book by Dr Dave Alred MBE ‘The Pressure Principle’ summarises this beautifully with his ‘pressure principle model’.

So whilst I continue to hack through the ‘ugly zone’, the place where change and learning takes place and start to change learned habits and behaviours I’ve had all my life and foster the environment I’m in, which at times is unstable, I will now look at how both stress and anxiety can help me and just like my 7 year old self – call out my fears to others and as Dr Alred writes, conquer my fear of failure and obsession with outcomes.

​What I’ve learnt (so far):
1. Don’t suffer alone, reach out for help and get help. Others can help with their awareness
2. Awareness of your feelings and behaviours are the first steps to change
3. Change your perception by answering this question ‘how is this helping me now?’
4. Now – Be in the present! Mindfulness, meditation, affirmations are hugely powerful
5. Regain your power and know that so many people suffer from anxiety disorder too – athletes call it ‘performance anxiety’

OUR DEEPEST FEAR

“…Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is
that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that
most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous,
talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God.
Your playing small doesn’t serve the world. There’s nothing enlightened
about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are
all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory
of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And
as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people
permission to do the same. As we’re liberated from our own fear, our
presence automatically liberates others.”
~ From A RETURN TO LOVE by Marianne Williamson

The Vicious Little Flower

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For months I have been sat looking at this flower, plucking each petal with full attention. I knew this flower would never bloom again and I knew deep within me there was a little bud just waiting to be cultivated and nourished.

If Wellbeing was a choice, something we could pick each day, then everything and everyone encountered would fill our hearts with joy and in moments of darkness, we would know a light still shone. I wish this was a choice that was easy for each and every one of us, every day, but with 1 in 4 people that now suffer with a mental health problem this is a choice that can seem untouchable.

After months of psycho-therapy for anxiety and depression, I sit here reflecting on how far I have come with the help and support of an amazing team of professionals from Efficacy and Nuffield Health and some of the best friends and family a girl can have.

I have blogged about anxiety disorder, something that has been lurking in the shadows and tapping me on the shoulder for many years in a very subtle way. I have learnt that the more you bury emotions and thoughts, the more they begin to manifest themselves in challenging ways and it took two wonderful women in March, who I had connected with through work to spot the signs and get me help.

I almost don’t recognise the person I was back in May this year that sat in her CBT session and wrote, ‘There is no point being here’. Even writing that now brings a tear to my eye and yet it still took weeks after that sunny day in May to finally press the ‘pause’ button and heal my mind.

My weekly CBT sessions had focused on my anxiety over cancer and the fear of it coming back. After dengue fever in the March and tough times at work, it felt like I was no longer welcome in this world. My emotions and thoughts were spilling out of me and I withdrew from everything and most people I knew.

After months of panic attacks, constant anxiety and worry about life, relationships, health, work, I called a dear therapist, who helped me to take the brave step and finally put my hands in the air and surrender to the depression and anxiety. Suicidal thoughts and even writing the note in my head was the final straw…. I felt so frightened of life itself. I didn’t recognise the hands on the steering wheel shaking with panic as I drove away from work that July morning.

Physically, I suffered with stomach pains, constant sensations of nausea, lack of energy, binge eating, sugar craving and throat tightening. Emotionally, I was angry, upset, tearful and scared and thoughts to match.

I had choices, yet, the choice of complete wellbeing, still felt out of touch. I so passionately believed in wellbeing and it is the best professional role I have ever done in my life. I was truly practising wellness for mind, body and soul – I just hadn’t fully grasped it …. Have I ever really had wellbeing?

I continued to stare at my vicious little flower and a 10-day silent meditation retreat gives plenty of time and space to do that. It has been my biggest challenge and most brutal experience I have ever encountered sitting with my emotions and thoughts – I literally was scared of my own shadow.

Through my weekly CBT sessions we’ve explored childhood, belief patterns, traumas, relationships, emotions and behaviours. I have learnt that wellbeing is truly an inside job.

“Your outer world is a reflection of your inner world”

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Fast forward to now and after a transformational 10-day meditation experience, weekly CBT for 7 months and some EMDR (Eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing)  therapy I have finished picking the petals off my flower and I have awoken from my slumber. A new perspective on life, just like the eye of this Daisy.I have come to learn that my anxiety screams louder when I am off track, people pleasing, shrinking and compromising the very values and beliefs that make me who I am. Like physical exercise, I also appreciate I need to exercise my mind with the great CBT tools, mindfulness and meditation techniques I have learnt and surround myself with cheerleaders and spirited people I identify with.

I am deeply grateful for all the love, kindness and support I have had from a circle of people I had the courage to tell at the time. Thank you x


For further reading and support on mental health, please hook in with the following useful resources:

Professional Help and Support:
Efficacy – CBT Therapy 
Nuffield Health – Links to emotional wellness and resilience
Mind – Charity supporting mental health
Time to Change – Campaign to end mental health discrimination

Books:
The Well of Being – Jean Pierre Weil
The Chimp Paradox – Dr Steve Peters
Peace of Mind – Thich Nhat Hanh
Calm – Michael Acton Smith
Frazzled – Ruby Wax
The Pressure Principle – Dr Dave Alred
The Wisdom of Healing – David Simon, M.D
Reasons to Stay Alive – Matt Haig

Retreats and nourishing acts of kindness
Life by Danielle – Weekly tools, life coaching and retreats
​Traditional Yoga – Registered Charity that offer meditation weekends, retreats, resources and great tea!
Soulstice Wellbeing – A place to unwind, relax, enjoy a yogi tea and treat yourself to a class, or treatment