I’m pretty expert in the creation of stress, in fact my husband once said to me that I could get stressed opening a packet of crisps! He wasn’t wrong there either. I couldn’t literally get stressed about any situation, I constantly had adrenaline running through my veins and I felt like I couldn’t relax and settle.
Thankfully that isn’t the case now, but looking back stress and my experience of stress was a major factor in my burning out, and it’s not wonder as my body was going at a million miles an hour.
In this blog, I’d like to explore with you another way of looking at stress, one that I hope will shed some light on it for you.
And it starts with a thought.
When I was stressed, it was as if I had a stressed out narrator in my head, constantly telling me about whatever I was doing. Now we all ‘do stress’ slightly differently. Mine would be something like ‘i can’t believe I have to do this, I don’t have time for this, it wont work out well, I’ll get it wrong I really don’t have time, why is it always like this’ or something along those lines – and then it would always feel like it was on repeat, as it would go around and around in my head.
All the while while this was happening, my body was responding. I was getting more and more churned up about it, my adrenaline would be racing around my body. Which I would interpret that whatever I was thinking was right, so I would take more notice of the thinking, so the thinking would appear louder to me!
However, what was interesting, is that things were never as scary as my thinking had made them out to be! Do you find that? You get really stressed about something only to find that actually it works out really well!
Interesting isn’t it?
So what I started to see was that my thinking wasn’t as reliable as I thought it was. It felt urgent, and emotionally charged, but it wasn’t reliable as a gauge as to how things were going to work out. Because so often I kind of knew that I was going to be ok. Even in my stressed out lawyer days it was as though I had an internal stabiliser steadying me, while my head was going crazy. I didn’t know this, was actually a thing and I didn’t recognise it for what it was, but I remember it being there.
And we all have this, remember I’m not special, this is how we work. We all have access to this deeper knowing, we just so often don’t see it for what it is. But for me, it’s like the quiet voice that gets drowned out my the crazy, loud thinking, that we all get. However, it is the most under-utilised tool that we have in our psychological tool kit. The more we listen to this, the easier it is to navigate our lives, even when it appears to be stressful.
What I began to see more and more was that my thinking creates any experience that I want to experience. We can’t control the thoughts that pop into our head – and if you’ve ever tried to tell yourself to ‘calm down’ when you are stressed you know that all that does is lead to an internal war zone.
However, what I have found is that we can be more selective as to the ones that we interact with. I like to think of them like buses. One stress thought bus will come along, destination stress-ville, but I don’t have to get on it if I don’t want to, and left alone the thought bus will pass. It might be on a circular route and keep popping by, but it doesn’t mean that I have to get on it, I can keep on waving it on by and when I do another, fresh, thought bus will come by.
I began to see that the less I interacted with the stressful thinking the calmer my experience was. It was like adding something to the situation that I simply didn’t need, it wasn’t helpful in any way. The calmer I was the more able I was to think clearer, and in many ways come up with better solutions, make better decisions and on the whole life and business felt a lot easier.
Do you catch yourself thinking ‘there must be another way’? Are you fed up with life & business feeling so hard, where everything seems to be such a challenge? Are you sick of being constrained by the beliefs you have about yourself or what others may believe of you? Are you equally tired of outdated definitions of success, tired of being told you need to be more, have more?
And do you feel that you have tried EVERYTHING to simply be happy and content, to really feel that you re enough?
Welcome to the Business Revolution Podcast, with me, Andrea Morrison.
Listen in to discover what really lies behind reaching your innate potential, where I explore a simply, yet impactful, understanding (also known as the The Three Principles) that revolutionises these outdated ideas, beliefs and experiences.
Imagine the impact it would have on your life, your business, your work if you knew as a truth you had everything that you needed already within you and that being completely YOU was the key to your success.
The impact on your life and business by feeling innately confident, creative, resilient, happy and calm – in fact all the things that you seek – you already have – it’s just in this moment, you don’t think you do.
The impact of knowing how you can let go of stress, fear, worry and self doubt leaving you knowing that you can access your innate confidence, happiness, resilience, creativity and by freeing your mind you free your innate potential to enable you to create a business and life that you really love.
If you’ve enjoyed this podcast, please rate and review and also feel free to continue the conversation in my FREE Facebook community The Business Revolution.
One of the questions that I get asked a lot is how can i feel more confident about myself, how can I have more self belief, how do I get more confidence? More often than not, it crops up because there is something that we want to do, something that we want to achieve but we feel that we need confidence to do it, to achieve it – we might even talk about it being outside of our ‘comfort zone’
It’s such a shame that I can’t bottle it and sell it onto you, I’m sure if we could, it would fly off the shelves and I’d make a tonne of money! Buy the stark reality is that it isn’t a thing at all that can be bottled. However, this is good news because it gives us an impactful insight into what confidence really is, and more importantly what it isn’t.
One of the questions I often pose to clients is ‘what if you knew that you had all the confidence you needed already, what difference would that make?’ so often they are then able to rattle off a whole list of things that they would just get on and do.
The reality is of course, that you already have all the confidence that you need. You only have to look at a baby learning how to walk to know that innately within every single one of us is an unbreakable confidence to do seemingly impossible tasks, and often in the face of an adult audience who is laughing at you wobbly legs and top heavy bottom! That is in each and everyone of us, it’s at our core, one of our innate qualities.
So what happens then as we reach adulthood? How do we lose this supreme confidence that we had when we were younger? In truth, the way that I see it, is that we don’t lose it at all, it’s still there; but we get very good at doing, and believing, the doubtful thinking and this is what hides it away from view.
Often we start from a place of confidence and hope (our default if you like), but then the doubts flood in, the ‘what ifs’, the ‘this won’t work’, the ‘I’ve tried this before’ or ‘I’ll just get it wrong again’ and it’s this doubtful thinking that actually deflates us and gives the illusion that we’re not confident, that we don’t have confidence. So it’s not that we aren’t confident beings it’s that we are rather good at doing lots of doubtful thinking that we believe to be true!
Now this doubtful thinking can come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, it maybe that we’re trying to predict the future, which we aren’t terribly good at but it doesn’t stop us trying – you may catch yourself saying ‘this won’t work’ or ‘I won’t be any good’ or using a past experience to predict the future; however we simply don’t know because it hasn’t happened yet! Or another common thing we do as human beings is try to read people’s minds, we spend such a lot of time thinking about what other people are thinking, trying to guess whatever criticism we think they are going to level at us – when the reality is that we have no idea what they are thinking!
There are a whole range of doubtful thinking that we do, and this is simply a flavour, but ultimately, the bottom line is that so often our thinking simply doesn’t know about the reality that we are in, it’s simply some scary, doubtful, story and when we recognise it’s like we press a reset button and we go back to feeling ok, that quietly confident, hopeful person that we already were.
So we are now nearing the end of the first half term in our house, I know that some have already broken up and you are in the midst of the first school holiday! It’s a time that still initially evokes mixed feelings for me and I’m sure it may do for some of you as well.
As a working parent I am always striving for that impossible balance, to be there for my kids and also be there for my business, it was considerably harder when I was employed and more so when I was in practice as a Barrister. The balance just seemed so elusive and completely impossible, and though my children are older now, as the holidays loom that feeling of ‘how are we going to do this?’ can still linger.
Before I came to the understanding that I now share, I always felt so guilty about the school holidays, it was like I was squeezing in being a great mum with also doing a great job, two full time jobs in one life, a totally impossible task! I would look at others parents photos of great days out, mini breaks and other exciting trips and feel so guilty that my children were missing out. But on the other hand also trying to keep up with work and not feeling like I was on top of that either. To be honest, often it was a relief when they went back to school and we could all go back to our normal routine – but then of course I’d feel guilty about feeling like that too!
The reality of course was that my kids were absolutely fine and we always had a great time. They weren’t missing out, they weren’t unhappy, they didn’t feel like their friends had a better deal – that was all on me!
It’s a really funny thing guilt, because we all have different experiences of it, what one person may feel guilty about another one just doesn’t at all, and vice versa. We also do guilt very differently too, whenever I coach people about guilt it always varies from one person to another, some beat themselves up about something, some people will compare themselves to others, some will regret and wish they’d done something different.
That makes it really interesting, because we refer to it as a thing, as though it would be the same for everyone, but in truth it is a concept and something that is variable. This is really important when we first start to look at guilt, because when we start to see that it’s fluid in nature, we can catch a glimpse of what it really is.
As I see it now, what I was experiencing was guilty thinking, now that may be obvious, but as I understand it now, the thoughts we choose to engage with create our experience. I was choosing to engage with the guilty thoughts, to focus on them if you like, and in turn that gave me this very compelling feeling of guilt. I would then look for other things that I could feel guilty about, creating even more thinking and feeling about being guilty. And it all started with one single rogue thought.
Now we can’t stop rogue thoughts popping in our head, it’s part of being human, but left ignored they simply pass by. I often think of them like trains now. I’m there waiting at the station and a train comes by – I can choose to get on it or not, I can simply wait at the station for the next one, if I don’t want to go on that train. For me those guilt thoughts are exactly the same, I don’t have to get on the guilt thought train unless I want to – it really is my choice!
Happy Valentines Day! Apparently the first Valentine’s day was celebrated as far back as 496AD and was celebrated in remembrance of St Valentine, a priest who, in the third century, was sentenced to death after performing marriages in secret, as Emperor Claudius II had banned them stating married men made bad soldiers! He was then sentenced to death but fell in love with the gaoler’s daughter, he was executed on 14th February, having left a letter for her, signing it ‘from your Valentine’.
Sadly, after nearly 26 years of marriage, my Valentine days are in the past, or as I prefer to look at it, we celebrate our love all year around and not just on one day! However, the truth is it falls so near my own birthday that it almost seems unfair to expect to be spoilt even more!
It did get me thinking though, having a day to celebrate love is no bad thing, and what I’d like to do is put my own spin on Valentines day to make it relevant to everyone, not just those who are in those first flushes of a relationship!
As I see it, we all live with an Emperor Claudius, someone who is banishing love in our life, that believes living without it all makes us better people. The truth is, that having coached many people from all walks of life and background, the one thing that seems to run true of most people, is that the one person that we often fail to love, is ourselves!
It’s like, as humans, we have this ability to have a running commentary in our heads, constantly running ourselves down, criticising our every move, not putting our own needs first, for feeling guilty, doing things that we enjoy, telling ourselves that we’re too fat, too thin, too tall, too old, too young generally being completely unkind to ourselves – our own personal Emperor of self loathing and hater of love!
So this Valentine’s Day, if this is you, I would love for you to turn the tables and tell your Emperor to have well deserved day off! Take a day out to enjoy yourself, to do those things that you enjoy, to spoil yourself, to tell yourself how amazing you are, how you are perfect just the way that you are.
If you wish you can go one step further and buy yourself a present, take yourself out for lunch, or go to your favourite cafe. Treat yourself like you would a person who you really love. How often do we do that?
But above all, allow all the negative thoughts that you’ve ever had about yourself to pass, for this day, don’t allow yourself to entertain them or give them focus, it’s amazing what an impact it can have, giving yourself a day off from running yourself down. Imagine for a moment all of your thoughts about yourself, positive and negative, are lots of different colours, you can choose whatever colour you like to create the person that you are. For today, choose all the colours that create the best possible picture of yourself. If you wish, you can carry on doing this every day, but as a first step, simply focus on today.
You might have guessed over the years that I am passionate about Mental Health, and so it will come as no surprise that I’m chatting about Time to Talk Day, which is today – an opportunity to bring together the right ingredients to have a conversation about Mental Health. Even thought 1 in 4 people will suffer from Mental Health problems in our lives, it’s staggering to think that we still don’t want to talk about it openly and have so many stigmas and stereotypes about it.
Whilst, for obvious reasons, I don’t work in the field of Mental Health diagnoses, I do work in the field of Mental health that so many of do have experience of and I see this lack of openness first hand when I work with organisations. So often if I’m brought in to run workshops that deal with Mental health, depression, anxiety, stress, no one wants to raise their hand and sign up. However, if I create a workshop that is marketed as ‘reaching your potential, ditch the stress’ or something like that everyone wants to attend – even though the content will be the same! I get this, when I was in that space I would never have asked for help or gone on a public course with colleagues where I publicly admitted I wasn’t coping. I would have seen it as as such as such a failure, it’s such an admission that I couldn’t cope, that I was weak in some way. On the outside I had everything, the great career, the lovely house, the beautiful kids, the fairytale marriage. But inside, I felt like my world was crashing down around me, I’d cry myself to sleep because I was so unhappy, I didn’t see what everyone else saw. I felt that the reality was I was going to be found out at any moment, that my colleagues really didn’t think I was as good as I was, I had such a low opinion of myself and could only find fault. I have never experienced stress like I did during those years, I felt like I permanently in a state of flight or fight and the slightest thing would make me feel like i was being pushed over the edge.
But no one knew. Because I had perfected the art of putting on a brave face, the confident, capable women who could juggle everything and excel at everything that she did. So there was no way on this good earth that I’d sign up for a course that covered depression, anxiety, stress, because I couldn’t admit to myself or others that that is what I had.
I suppose that is why I’m on a bit of a mission to change this, to change how we respond to people who are in that space and how we can properly support them. To get to a point where we see this more as part of our human condition rather than a failure or flaw in their character, or something that needed to be fixed.
In my view, the first step, if there is someone in your life who is feeling like this, is to simply hold the space for them. Allow them to talk about how they feel, with no judgment, no solution, no responding to what they say, no trying to make sense of it and taking none of it to heart (certainly no ‘I didn’t know this was how you really felt!), and don’t take action on what they have said. We have an amazing capacity to self-right our own mental well-being, but so often when our heads are so full of negative, critical, unhelpful thinking, we can’t hear the one thing that we need. However, if we are allowed to offload, with a safe person, so often at the end, we feel better, the thinking doesn’t seem so powerful or make any sense, sometimes we can’t even believe that we have thought it! But importantly we know what it is that we need, it’s like we have an innate wisdom that comes through for us. It may not be the long term solution for that person, they may need more support, however, it is such a vital first positive step that we can all take to help those around us work towards achieving good mental health.
The other day as I was flicking through Facebook a post popped up that reminded me that it was 5 years ago that I wrote The Feel Good Factor in 30 days. It honestly doesn’t feel that long ago and what a journey I’ve had since!
However, it also reminded me that I launched to coincide with the most depressing day of the year – Blue Monday. Back in 2005, Dr Cliff Arnall, concluded that the third Monday in January was the ‘Bluest’ Monday of all based on his formula of low motivation levels, failed New Year resolutions, the end of Christmas and associated credit card bills arriving on the doormat, all culminating on the third Monday of January when depression reached its peak.
I have to say that before I looked to launch the book, I’d never heard of it, and never really felt particularly any more, or less, depressed on that day than I would on any other! However, I have noticed that generally speaking we do talk about January being the ‘worst month’ and how flat we feel after Christmas, how dark it still is, it’s like we all have it in for January in some way or another.
This got me thinking about how much we might be creating our experience of January, and maybe it’s getting a bit of a raw deal. As I’m writing this the sun is pouring into my studio, it’s a really bright and sunny day – a far cry from the gloominess that we often describe January to be. It made me wonder whether it was more about what we are focusing on rather than what perhaps it is.
Often when I deliver training I do a little game where I ask attendees to focus and remember everything in the room of a particular colour, I then ask them to close their eyes and recall everything that they have seen in their head. I then ask them to recall something of a completely different colour, something I didn’t ask them to look for before. It’s an exercise that they often find difficult to do. The reason being, and why I ask them to do it, is to show them that they only see what they look for. Our brains are bombarded with billions of bits of information per second but we only see a very small amount, it would literally grind to a halt if we took it all in! So we have to filter out the stuff we don’t need, and we get to choose what we see.
This made me think about Blue Monday, if it is suggested to us that it is Blue, in the same way that I suggest to my attendees that to look for a particular colour, then surely we are then on the look out for everything about that week, about the month that is blue, and we filter out anything that doesn’t fit that profile. So I wonder what would happen if we redefined January completely, we chose not to focus on the failed resolutions, or the credit card bills, but looked for all the things that made it an amazing month, just as amazing as all the others? Perhaps we focus on the bright winter sun, the fact that when you feel it on your skin it’s warm, or the bulbs that are pushing their way out of the soil, reminding you that spring is on it’s way. There really is an abundance of positivity out there, positivity that we’re simply not seeing…yet. But just because we haven’t seen it yet, doesn’t mean that it’s not there.
With the Christmas decorations down at the weekend it’s all looking a little bare now in the Morrison household and I have to say Christmas seems a little of a distant memory as I am back now at my desk, back to work – although I’m really fortunate that my ‘work’ never really seems like work as I enjoy it so much.
I do love to have time off as it gives me an opportunity to reflect and recharge, I find that when I’m in this space, often I come up with my best ideas for my business and have that sense of clarity that when I’m busy is easy to lose.
I suspect that is why for most of us the New Year is always a good time to set those good intentions for the future, as most of us have had time off to reflect on the past year and what we might want to achieve in the months to come.
However, holding onto that feeling can be tricky. I confess, to sometimes getting a little frustrated with how some days I can feel so motivated, connected, fired up full of energy as though I can conquer the world, yet other days I can hardly be motivated to make a cup of tea!
I am confident that this is a struggle that we all face, however, it does make keeping to those good intentions tricky as on those days when we don’t feel like it, how do we keep that momentum going, how do we not simply give up?
Over the years I’ve probably tried every single technique going to try to conquer this, but for me, I’ve boiled it down to two very simple things.
Firstly, understanding the nature of our thinking helped me enormously cut through all the ‘can’t be bothered to do it’ mantras that often occupy my head. Knowing that this is simply a thought in the moment, that is more than likely to pass, gives me the confidence to not take them quite as seriously as I used to. Coupled with having the unshakeable belief that the decisions that I make when I’m in that good space are the decisions that are right for me, are the things that I ‘can’ be bothered about, gives me the confidence if you like to look at those ‘can’t be bothered’ thoughts in a completely different light. It’s like really knowing that the sky is blue and a thought pops into your head that the sky is pink – well it would make no sense to believe it would it?
Secondly, now this is a technique, but I find it works so much better when you have seen the the above for yourself! I call it the 20 minute experiment. So if you have a thought that tells you that ‘you can’t be bothered’ or ‘you don’t feel like it’ or ‘maybe it won’t work, I was being a bit optimistic’ or whatever it is that is getting in your way, be curious about how true that is for 20 minutes. You know that you set whatever it was you want to do at a time when you felt grounded and confident that you could do it, you wanted to do it, but the thought that you are having in this moment that is telling you something different can be quite compelling – so give yourself 20 minutes to go do it anyway and see if at the end of the 20 minutes you still feel the same. If at the end of the 20 minutes you still feel the same, then maybe today isn’t the day you will do it, but I usually find that after 20 minutes, I’ve really got into what it was I wanted to do, and the rubbishy thought that was getting in the way has long since packed it’s bags and gone!