Today was the final day of 5 days workshop delivery and tomorrow I head off to India to work with a new client on developing an internal brand and culture strategy connected to 5-star service delivery. That is quite a mouthful and as I write this I realise that I must take some time and just refocus and relax my brain. It has been running on high voltage for the past week and now it seems to have just reverted to robot mode and repeat what it knows. During this workshop, we discussed the habitual mindset and how this can alter one’s perception of change. This week has shown me the importance of time to allow the brain to shut off and recharge as this ‘always on’ not only impacts health it also dulls forward thinking and creativity. I am sure it is much like how Buster felt the one time I saw him chase his tail. He did try for about 5 spins and then realised it was not for him. His active brain saw no sense in it and off he went in search of something to sniff or eat – got to love a beagle. I appreciate that some people find solitude in sameness and in routine and that is what makes us all unique in our own way. However, if I was to speak on my behalf and for others with dyslexia or with ways of thinking that need more autonomy and scope of creativity and change, it is important that we look at employees more as individuals. To be healthy we need to feed the body with the correct level of nutrients and hence the mind is equal in finding the right balance of workload. Over the next few months, I plan to monitor this more with myself between my need for sameness, creativity, exercise, social and me time. What I have truly recognised is just how out of balance I am in these 5 zones. It is like I live in excess in 1 or 2 of them till I drain the bucket and then I move to another and with excess, I drain the other. In order for my creative brain to find the nutrient that it needs to be happy and healthy, I must start to balance the filling and draining of these 5 areas with more conscious and forward-thinking strategy.
Mantra: Be kind to your creative brain
I was back in the training room again today and gave it all to the delegates as if it was for the first time. They are a lovely client. Being a private hospital empathy is naturally ingrained into many of the people as many commented on my commitment to maintaining my energy with each and every workshop. We all are able to pull out a little extra energy and hidden power when needed. Drive is directly connected to the purpose and it is within this that we find that little extra energy. However, overlaying this with Balance, when does one cross the threshold between drive and adrenaline and at what stage does this level become unhealthy? When I allowed myself to turn off in the evening I started to feel quite ill and exhausted. It was if my brain would not stop processing all that needed to be done but in a totally non-productive and unmeaningful way. I am a believer that the energy you give is the energy you receive. However, I want to remind myself again that this must be balanced with the amount of energy you give as some needs to be saved for myself. I keep coming back to one of our sessions where Martin mentioned the damage that the ‘always on’ has on the mind and body as I am now more clear on the impact. Organisations need to ensure that they find the balance with their staff workloads as in many cases the most driven to deliver on the higher purpose might also be at the most risk of burnout and stress-related illness. Even your super hero’s need a sidekick from time to time.
Mantra: Be more conscious of the drive threshold.
I think that I have moved into an interesting learning point within this 50-day challenge where all the will in the world does not allow me to do some of the healthy things that I want to do. The nature of my job means that today and for the next few days I just need to ride the wave and get stuff done. So I looked to the positive and the blessings that I should focus on as the ‘poor me’ self-dialogue only further perpetuates more stress and sense of growing mental fatigue. If left unchallenged these negative thoughts can dominate our perspective. So to find power during this busy time I must consciously remind myself that I love what I do. We have some amazing client work starting that I truly believe changes others’ lives and organisations for the better. It is in this sense of higher purpose that we find additional strength and a better mental state to approach the task that needs to be done. It is also important to remind myself that it is ok to push back if the workloads begin to impact our health. I appreciate that sometimes we do not have the luxury as we all get hit with periods of feast or famine and each of these needs their own management system in place. Each is to find balance and to ensure that wellness has a place in it. That is the theory but to be completely honest I am starting to see some cracks the more my personal energy drains and the more my approach to wellness is effected. My advice to all leaders is to be more conscious of these high-stress periods as if not careful you may just allow yourself to stay in that zone for too long and that is not good for you or those around you.
Mantra: Find time to refocus.
Not all habits are bad habits and today I repeated one of my good habits. Over the last few weeks I have used my early morning Saturdays to take Buster for a long walk on the common and meeting up with a good friend and his dog. Ahhh it is wonderful to see the two dogs together as they are the best buddies and shows the importance that relationships play in wellbeing. It is also great to see Buster running and running and running and running in circles playing and playing and chasing the ball and other dogs. It was clear that he was truly happy as he is an incredibly social dog. Being a beagle he has boundless energy that needs to be realised. He too is an office dog so I also have to ensure that he finds balance with his need to be active. Given the opportunity to do what he loves best – sniffing and exploring and sniffing from plant to pole. It is important to see the multi-facets of wellbeing and be reminded that all of our employees have different desires in how they achieve wellness. It is very important to ask our team what wellness means to them and how they can be better supported by the organisation in their desired approach to have a more balanced and healthy work environment. If I was to use Buster as an example of how I would build a wellness program that supports thoroughly their growth and development but also their mental state then I am sure it would be very complex as everyone has varying degrees of energy and social constructs. Recently I was a little worried that maybe Buster was getting a bit bored in the office as he was sleeping more than usual. Following a little research (thanks to Google) on how much a dog sleeps, it was very interesting to discover that what I was reading coincided with something that Martin had said. In respect to the difference between rest and relaxation, dogs have a very quick switch between the two as they can go from a sleeping state to up and active within seconds. If something grabs their attention they can easily return back to the relaxed state. This is something that humans struggle with as we are constantly on and constantly being challenged to work harder, be stronger, be happier and often don’t find a state of relaxation. Hence this is why mindfulness and meditation are so important to organisations as they give people the opportunity to try to find a better balance in the state of relaxation in order for them to better appreciate their move between states. I highly recommend this practice be introduced to most corporate environments with providing even just a dimly light yet comfortable quiet space where employees can go and de-stress to find their calm.
Mantra: take my mindful minute
Well, I’ve made my list and I’ve checked it twice and everything on it is definitely naughty and/or nice. I guess this sits with the eye of the beholder. I now have the areas that unconsciously call my name whenever I’m feeling stressed, tired, bored or basically low. Today I had a personal training session with Tom and I want to recognise the difference between my pre and post mindset. I have been really enjoying my sessions with Tom. I know that I dragged myself there as I had lots going on – however, I did leave much more alive and more invigorated. This is the message that I need to be sending myself before these sessions, as can you imagine if I entered positive just how much more I would get from the session. This has just hit on a big parallel for me looking at organisations and their internal communication, as it is their job to sell and promote wellbeing in such a manner that individuals embrace it. I think every learning facilitator has experienced the start of a training session and when asking the delegates why they have come, heard the “I was told I had to come” and that they were given no real information that would give them a positive perspective. Much like my internal dialogue is my own personal marketing influencer and sets the stage for how I feel about what is about to happen – the internal comms team must take more ownership on the part they play in promoting wellness and the various opportunities the organisation has available. These should be seen as employee benefits and utilised more to engage employees and build better communities and relationships. I am not getting the full benefits from Tom’s sessions if I am running in 5 minutes late – doing it and then rushing straight back to my desk. This might make my body a little stronger but my mind and spirit are not getting as much out of it. Hence a great internal wellness programme needs to be all encompassing from pre to post and engage employees in the entire journey like any other brand positioning. It needs actions, objectives, information and overarching vision. I need to stop seeing this as a collection of actions but an interwoven and interconnected balance of stimulus that works in harmony to make me stronger, healthier and happier
Mantra>: be my own marketer
Today was a very busy day as it seems like a lot of things are beginning to happen at Bridge. Coupled with the Balance program, it’s beginning to feel quite overwhelming. On one side I am very fortunate as this project is allowing me to meet many experts on wellness on a variety of subjects and I am learning a lot as I go, however, it is another area that requires my attention. In all of this, I am trying to find more personal balance with regards to wellbeing in my own workplace and daily life. Today I focused on my own resilience and how time pressures can really take its toll on our ability to perform at our best. During periods of such busy schedules, individuals must look at how we manage this workload and still maintain a focus on wellness. I am struggling to build this into my daily activity amongst all the other things I have to commit to – how do people do it? It is so easy to put this on the back burner as the demands of the workplace and others can easily take precedence. Today this was more evident. I had a long dialogue with myself about the things that I should do but I found myself falling back into the habit of putting work first and my health second. The areas that I committed to changing in my health fell by the wayside and I used all the energy to just stay on top of things. I can now see so much more clearly just how quickly the work-life balance can get lost if we do not ensure it plays an active part in our structured day. I am thinking that this is why we need to make the unequivocal commitment to ourselves to break through this barrier in order to give it the time to become part of our DNA. The focus on our wellbeing needs to be threaded into all areas of our lives so that it has strength in numbers and not just one hit wonders like I have been doing for years. I need to be kind to myself and managing this work/health balance needs to be my focus so that it has time to take root and become a new habit. Much like smoking, drinking too much, not going to the gym and negative thoughts find time in our lives – so can more positive influences. Coupled with humility and self-awareness there needs to be a more detailed plan to ensure the outcomes are achieved and health must take equal importance to other things on the ‘to do list’. Old habits are hard to break however, with the right support of others, the right mindset, a clear and agreed plan and a contract with self … umm yea that’s easy!! With all this coming together then we can eventually replace one habit for the other. I truly believe that I can overcome some of the bad habits that I have created by putting work commitments before my own health but it is easier said than done. This mindset shift without question is not going to be simple, as I do find myself falling back into work over health and at this stage of the balance program I feel that I am at breaking point to continue or slowly let it slip. I think I am probably at my most crucial time in needing the support of others because it’s very easy after 3 weeks to start falling backwards. I was given some great advice today and that was to make a list of the 10 things that I must focus on as then my unconscious mind has something to focus on and keep it close to remind my conscious brain of the barriers that I need to overcome. Every transformation needs structure and clear, actionable and transparent goals. To break through this barrier I have to remind myself that I am looking forward to taking on this challenge and it must find space in my busy day. Let’s see how we go…
Mantra: Put my health on the ‘to do list’
Today was a little bit of a slow day and something that I needed to own. Of course, we need to have some downtime time however what I have started to recognise in myself is just how destructive I have been to all three of my zones of mind, body and spirit. When left unmanaged I was not nourishing them appropriately and then one would have a knock on effect to the other, the balance between them lost. Falling back into my poor diet habits of just not to eating clearly sent my body into shock as it was enjoying its new diet. This is surprising as I have been feeling great after eating breakfast and a healthy lunch and a balanced dinner and today I did not eat until early evening(if that is what you’d call it), as I consumed two pieces of toast with cheese just before bed. Having explored my diet with Victoria this was one bad habit that I fell back on and the result was clearly not great for my motivation or my sleep. However, this time was slightly different as I chose to consciously feel the effects on my body and mind and I could see a negative correlation. This has been a pattern that I have been doing over the last couple of years blind to the real impact that it was causing. In my first consultation with Victoria, we discussed the importance of nourishment and what the right food brings to the bodies and the impact it has on our wellness. From my perspective, I often fall into bad habits just at the brink of introducing a new one that would benefit me. The question I have been challenged with is – why? I have worked on several organisational transformation programmes and found the answer in the people and businesses that I have worked with over the years and those of which have been challenged by change. Even though the current environment is not benefiting us, it offers comfort in the fact that we know what we know and we know what we get. So often we will either stay in or return to this behaviour as we draw comfort from it. In many cases, we will extend our reach just far enough to get to the edge of our comfort zone and then return home. As a species, I guess this is something we have been doing since our hunter and gatherer days and the early formation of cultures and communities. This cycle just repeats itself whether it be a single individual or a company – reinforcing my point that businesses behave like humans because they are driven by humans. My advice to organisations that want to embark on any transformation is to ensure that you choose the leaders to manage the change carefully as it takes an inspirational leader that is not challenged by risk and has the resilience and open mind to drive it through to the end and beyond.
Mantra: Feed my spirit with the foods I eat.
This week I’ve been really focusing on cleansing looking at toxins from the food that feeds my body, the self-talk that fills my head and to the relationships that I surround myself with. I have to say I really felt some toxins flowing through my body today following my session with Martin. This was two-fold as I believe that I let go of so much pent up stress and built-up negative energy during the session. I also then decided to go out and have a few drinks with some friends as this socialising is a very healthy thing to do but I think that the alcohol hit me harder today than normal. I only had two drinks and this is very much in support of a balanced approach to well-being however it is all about timing. Following any massage I have had in the past, I have always been told not to drink alcohol post the experience due to the fact that it can have some adverse effects. Well if a massage was a 5/10 on the Richter scale I would think the session with Martin would definitely be hitting an 8 or 9 in terms for releasing and opening up my body’s energy flow. Hence today I suffered the effects of a killer hangover coupled with the regret of – why did I do that, as I knew better. However, it’s very important for me to recognise that this is a 50-day challenge and it’s all about learning and experiencing new things and setting better and more appropriate limits and rules for myself in support of my own wellbeing. What these early days are showing me is that it is not about getting better and stronger every day as these early days are more about better understanding myself and what is currently working and not in my daily routine. It is all about resetting realistic expectations and guidelines. Also in my search to discover what balance really means to me and others, it reminds me that none of us are infallible. Striving for perfection only adds more stress as the fear of failure can impact on our effort and desire for success. Looking back at the 2017 Human Living Brand project, where I took on a dramatic transformation, the rules were very clear and for 30-days I followed them and I found it quite easy to follow because they were a no break clause. However that was not real life as it was not sustainable. Hence my advice to any organisation or leader that is involved in change or transformation is to slow it down, make it manageable and allow people the time to absorb the difference before moving on. It is also to listen to your people and check in regularly to better understand how they feel and the impact that change has on their wellbeing.
Mantra: Check in on myself and be honest about my feelings
It’s really hard to believe that we have now come to the end of week two and as I am looking back I must say that I believe that I am starting to make some small changes on various aspects of my own wellbeing and in that look forward to seeing how these connect to some of the bigger changes that I am looking to make in the world around me. Today I did my first body session with Martin and without question, it was not what I was expecting. I guess I had not appreciated just how much stress and various traumas I’ve been storing throughout my body and the impact this can have not only on its strength but on the way that I present myself. During the session, he worked with and on these stress points and muscle triggers and I can be clear, it was painful. However, it was also strange as the pain was greater in some areas than others and was more held by me than him applying excessive pressure. I did feel lighter and more open in both mind and body after the session and can start to see how all three of these areas (Mind, Body, Spirit) are so interwoven. That is not to say I am any closer to figuring this stuff out yet. At 51 I feel that I have to relearn so much after the last few years when I really stopped paying attention to my own wellbeing. The old analogy no pain no gain has some purpose here however I do appreciate that pain is not the point of this challenge. As I write this and continue to reflect back on the session with Martin as it has left me with a sense of calm. Also with a sense of confusion as it has seemingly released some deeper unconscious energies that I am unsure of. I am really not sure how it all connects together but I can definitely feel that something is happening and areas of my body are finally feeling a little more relaxed and maybe some of the confusion is due to the fact that I’ve just got used to not feeling this way – relaxed.
Mantra: keep an open mind
The first memory of the day was one of being very heavy headed. My sleeping pattern has definitely started to change and I’m sleeping deeper than I have in ages. The strange thing is I am not feeling that refreshed as it is taking me longer than normal to shake it off. I guess this is one of the things that I have to continuously remind myself about balance is that it is not a one-hit wonder cure and one that will just fix itself overnight. To balance anything it must wobble and move back and forth until it finally slows and comes to a rest. It is in this balancing act that we find the correct point when both sides are in harmony when each is supporting the other. This challenge to look at wellness both from a personal perspective and one of promoting better health within the workplace has been more demanding than I thought. Don’t get me wrong. I am enjoying it and starting to see the benefit however I am still struggling to manage to fit some parts into a busy diary. Just how do people do it? As at the moment, I am still trying to break away from old behaviours and make room for new ones and it is not so easy, but why? Today I had several conversations with individuals in an attempt to find out what others think wellness or wellbeing means in the context of being part of company culture. I had a variety of answers with some people thinking more from the aspect of the body while others directed it more toward mental health. Other conversations included diet and even relationships. At the end of the day, it is a combination of all of these things and I think that I have been managing myself in such an unkind way – I have more work than I thought to find balance with Balance. What I can say is that I believe that to be healthy an organisation must support its culture across all areas considered wellbeing. It is such a vast subject that companies must adopt a diverse approach that supports all of its employees and use a vision of a connected healthy workforce.
Mantra: don’t be hard on yourself!