Day 10: Owning it!

Following on from yesterday I decided that today I would wake up with a much more conscious mind choosing my intentions for the day. So before even getting out of bed, I decided that I was going to do my 10-minute meditation. During this protected time, I made a conscious choice to really focus on the language that I use and the way in which my energy can project onto others. I have to say as the day continued I really did notice a difference not only in myself but also in the way others responded to me. As I tend to think that I am generally quite a happy person and very considerate of others, this focus must extend beyond my holding the door and saying thank you – two of my Canadian favourite past times. During this 50-day Balance: Mind|Body|Spirit challenge I have to continuously remind myself that this is a journey and things are going to be going well on some occasions and not so well on others. Trying to really focus on cleansing this week has been a lot more difficult than I thought having started the week by cleaning the office I would have ticked the box and had a fresh perspective for the week. However, just cleaning away some dust and some old paper in the office is only part of the fix. The toxic environment that impacts on our wellbeing can extend into relationships that we engage in all the way through self-talk and the way we speak to ourselves. This brings a new aspect to the understanding of the effect that the culture in which we work has a massive impact on our wellbeing. Healthy and supportive relationships at work can be make-or-break for many people. Hence my advice is to be more conscious of this and with this awareness, we should seek out those that support a more balanced approach through trust and positivity. Hence my decision to be more present today and seek out those that nourish my spirit and impact my wellbeing in a positive way. We must recognise that we have more power when we consciously control all the toxins that erode use. My advice to all leaders is to own this power and to stand up and put in place protection for their team to remove these from the environment.

Mantra: There is order in chaos

Day 9: The Difference a Day Brings

Having read back yesterday’s blog it seemed that I had got everything sorted and I was on a motivational and positive trajectory however today I seemed less happy and less motivated due to several challenging issues with work and a few personal ones to boot. I guess this is what we call real-life. Over the years I have done my fair share of detoxes whether that be a juice detox, a three-day detox, a five-day detox, as far as the 10-day detox and each time, in the end, I felt some benefit however the journey to that final day took many twists and turns. Each of these focuses on the body and clearing out the build-up of toxins such as alcohol and processed foods. This is a great parallel to any toxins be it food or people. Like this week I am focusing on cleansing and today it really extended far beyond just cleaning the office and making a work environment clean. It became evident that we must also consider our personal cleansing and that’s the cleansing of the stressors and the things that take us away from being the best version of ourselves. I think I am beginning to recognise through the challenge just how much pressure I put on myself to perform and also how much pressure I internalise as I am not very open to seeking the support of others when it comes to showing vulnerability. However, if I am to achieve a higher degree of wellness in my mind, body AND spirit it is very important that I focus just as much on my mind as I do my body simply because they are very interrelated. Today I began to look at many of my own internal feelings, behaviour patterns and the amount of stress that I internalise and with an external smile to let the world see that I am okay. When really behind-the-scenes the constant juggling of pressure seems to be greatly impacting my health and also my performance. Delving a little deeper into my body and spirit it is a labyrinth of crisscrossing connections and more so than I ever thought at the beginning of this project. The interconnection between these three areas is incredibly interwoven. The conclusion that I draw from this is that any organisation looking to increase employee wellness by developing an internal program must recognise the importance of this and to understand the vastness of the subject. As people, we are all different and it is crucial to engage the employee population to find out what wellbeing means to them and how they can be best supported on their own journey. There are so many facets to consider and a cookie cutter approach to employee wellbeing is not the answer. I don’t think there is a bowl of fruit or a ping/pong table big enough to quick fix me at the moment. All jokes aside, I never appreciated the depth of this subject as I, like many leaders, have only been looking at it from the surface.

Mantra: Breath and Relax, one step at a time

Day 8: Fruits of our Labour

It is hard to believe that we are already one week in and looking back… it has been a full one. It has been very interesting to put my own wellness under the conscious microscope as in doing this I can clearly see just how unkind I have been to myself in all three areas of mind, body and spirit. I am not 100% sure, which one was the first to fall but I think that it was my spirit. I just seemed to hit a wall in early 2018 and after a series of unforeseen events I see now that I went into survival mode and used most of my energy to just fight fires. It was in this constant state of flux and stress that I forgot to be kind to myself and look after my own mind, body and spirit and with a great deal of humility can say now I was not always OK. I lost balance and allowed the stress of the environment to rule over all three states leaving each somewhat starved of the nutrients that maintain a healthy state of mind. It was strange, as after the office cleansing that lighter energy stayed with me and from the moment I opened my eyes today I knew something small had shifted in me. It was like something had simply let go and it was not just one thing such as cleaning the office – it has been a combination of events, discussions, research and just ‘me’ time that seemed to make a little more sense as a collective than as a series of single events. This perspective was reinforced as I had a PT session with Tom. With residual bla di bla perspective, I was not that motivated beforehand as really had to squeeze it in on a busy day (old excuses) but and I was walking home after it and something seemed to happen in my brain and I felt just a little bit happier. It is really hard to explain but I felt another little shift. If I was to offer any advice or challenge to a busy leader: take charge of one goal or action that you have been meaning to do (make it small and manageable) that will make a change in your physical environment for the better and complete it – then take a moment and feel the feeling and spend time appreciating that you did it! You did not blame time, or meetings or others or or or. You took back some of the control in the world in which you reside.

Mantra: Just do it!

Day 7: Cleaning or Cleansing

In my follow up on my commitment to myself to take back more control over the things that I have the power to do I headed to the office to give it a good de-clutter and clean. It is so important that we consider the physical environment that we work in and the impact that this can have on mind-set and wellbeing. It is great to have an office dog but Buster can sure leave his mark if not maintained regularly. Also, I seem to collect lots of random paper and “I will get to that” piles scattered around all holding various forms of energy. Some pointless, some stressful, some important, some personal, some client focussed, some research, some forgotten about, but all holding my unconscious attention and linked to my energy. So in this one step forward I gave it a deep cleansing and purge and out went the old and the negative. So after four hours and several bags of now forgotten paper and “why do I have this” stuff I sat back and just was… I could seriously feel the difference and the room felt bigger and brighter – if that is possible. It is important if we are going to introduce new and exciting possibilities into our world then we need to clear away the old ‘stuff’ that no longer serves a purpose. Whether this is in the physical realm or in the poor habitual habits that we have formed over time as they all negatively impact on our wellness and mental health. However, it too goes beyond these and into the relationships that we surround ourselves with. When I am working with clients I often talk about the law of attraction in that when we are feeling low we attract and surround ourselves with like-minded people. However we have the same power when we take charge of the positive or more pure energy. You would think that throwing out a pile of old paper would be easier than ending or closing down a toxic relationship. However, when I played the mind video back of the office cleaning I found myself in constant dialogue coming up with all the reason to keep stuff even though I knew it would really not be missed as it served little purpose. Whether it be in stuff, habits or people it is hard to let go of the familiar even when they have a negative consequence to our wellness and mental health. That is why this is a journey and we need to seek the support of others and in their objectivity sits the perspective that we might have lost sight of. So if you plan to clean out your closet – it is best to do it with a trusted friend who says what they mean.

Mantra: The Energy we give is the Energy we receive

Day 6: Time Out or Time On

Today was a chance to just drop out and enjoy some downtime. However, I must say that after the week of better diet and more exercise it was evident today that I had more motivation to get up and out. Being completely honest, over the past several months I have used Saturdays as a hideaway day and shut off from the world. If binging on Netflix was an Olympic sport I was working towards the gold medal at record speed. Now that I am looking at my own wellness through a more conscious lens I can clearly see the link between my mindset, perspective and my energy. This is something that leaders and organisations need to consider when introducing a culture of wellness as it is not just one thing but a combination of factors that once all brought together will start to show early signs of a shift. We can have various ideas of what wellness and mental health means within the workplace however the common thread that must be considered is that it does need to be reviewed in the context of the environment and a more open and transparent dialogue started. I can openly say that many of the stresses of 2018 changed my perspective and as a result, my health suffered – however that is because I allowed it to happen. I cannot control everything in my work world but I forgot that I did have more conscious choices within my power. I also had the support of more people around me – I just need to reach out and say – I am not OK! It took the purpose of the Balance project to start my shift and take the small steps toward taking back more control and just in that I gained more power. So today was spent Buster walking on the common and meeting a friend for a pint and lots of laughs in a dog-friendly pub. Remember this is all about balance and yes a pint is Ok!

MantraLive and Laugh

Day 5: Masking and Faking Resilience

Today was one of the busiest days I have had in ages and it hit me out of nowhere. The day started with one call and then another and so on with each one taking longer than expected and each one putting me a little more behind schedule. However, it did highlight to me just how much my energy can turn on a dime as my low energy over the last few days was replaced with that of a more manic and frantic one. This was like a pendulum swinging from one direction to the other and after a full day like this, it can leave one very exhausted. Without question, it is the complete opposite of being balanced and is one of the areas that I personally wish to explore over this 50-day challenge. A very close friend of mine often reminds me that I need to find more balance in my energy in which I totally agree. I do find that mindfulness and meditation have gone some way to assist me in doing this better, as this has helped me slow the swing from depression to overtly positive and manic. This is something that I have had to deal with for many years and therefore can fully appreciate others that also have this impacting on their daily mental wellness. I see leaders from across all businesses running them self from meeting to meeting and have to begin to question the impact this has not only on their own well being but that of their productivity and ability to truly lead their team forward. It is very much easier to put on a mask and fake resilience but after a while, this does take its toll on our wellbeing and ability to successfully manage our ways through busy days or periods like this. I know that this is very early days in this challenge and this first week for me is very much about looking at my mind, body and spirit and how I am currently managing these areas and I have to say that I am slowly uncovering lots of core areas that I need to focus on and change.

Mantra: Mindful minute stop, relax, take a breath

Day 4: A Gift of Thirty Minutes

My low energy has definitely carried forward into the start of the day as I still felt a little exhausted and not very clear headed. I think what it has shown me is a little bit about my impatient approach to change and have forgotten that it works at a different pace to that of transformation. Ok I changed my diet (for two days) and have been eating well, I sat and talked about my inner feelings with a mindset coach (once), I have even worked hard for an hour in the gym – so why am I not fixed yet! I ticked all the boxes and all I feel is tired and more stressed. I had to remind myself that transformation is more of a journey and its special ingredients include perseverance, time, and patience, as it may be a slow burner to start with. However, something did happen today that gave me a sense of personal power as due to unforeseen circumstance Tom had to postpone our PT session until tomorrow. My first instinct was to just wait until then but then I decided that I too need to become my own wellness participant and decided to use that time as an opportunity to get off my ass and head to the pool for a quick swim. As leaders and employees, we must take more personal responsibility for our own wellness and health. It is just too easy to get caught in the next email or call or meeting or or or.. and forget to take some time for ourselves in whatever capacity. In 30 minutes I ticked two boxes in that I felt more clear headed but also a revived sense of accomplishment in the fact that I took the time and just did it. So find your special activity that you own, whether that be a short walk, a quiet coffee, a meditation, ten pages of a book, but own them and enjoy them as they are your 30-minute gift to self.

Mantra: Be Kind to Myself

The Nature of Change

It is a reality most of us aren’t very good at handling significant change in our lives. We do a fine job with minor changes and usually handling them easily. It’s the big changes, like redundancy, ill health and divorce, which are often thrust upon us and have a greater impact on our lives that we struggle with. These demand incredible energy, determination and time to manage, get used to and accept and can even need the help of others to cope with.

‘A change is as good as a rest’ describes our ability to manage and even enjoy most changes for a short time simply because we know it’s limited. Make the change permanent and we can perceive life as being hard going, even overwhelming, mentally, emotionally and physically.

There is also a misguided belief that change is somehow an ‘optional extra’ in life. We can keep things ‘the same’, ignoring change if we want to, whilst at some level knowing life moves on and change is guaranteed. This internal conflict creates a tension within us that makes the idea of change in our lives something we are fearful, even terrified, of and try to avoid. We project into the future and live in a world of fearful outcomes. As Mark Twain said, “I’ve lived through some terrible things in my life, some of which actually happened!” It’s no wonder many of us use lots of energy trying to keep things, everything, the same.

Change is an inevitability of life – like the sun rising, tides turning, death and taxes. It’s the scale of change, how it happens and your perception of change that is crucial to your overall wellbeing! Trying to ignore change is a fool’s errand.

Although it can be hard to cut old ties and leave behind the habits, places, and people you’ve become used and accustomed to, it’s always useful to remind yourself whilst familiarity is comforting it also breeds contempt and often for good reasons! Look at the life you are living now. Do you really want absolutely everything to stay the same? Are you certain all the things you are going to leave behind really that amazing and great?

We do like keeping things the same. Maybe we even love it. Stability is necessary for our survival. After all, part of the role of our ego is to protect us by keeping our patterns the same so we have the same results. The ‘what happened yesterday worked so let’s repeat it today’ approach. Too much of anything though is never good for us. We also need stimulation and challenge to thrive and grow otherwise we wither, become scared of new experiences and our world grows smaller and ever more fearful. Our comfort zone shrinks.

Isn’t it great news the ego can be fooled though and will quickly adopt new habits when you make the changes so that those new habits become the new safe zone to live your life from?

Despite some changes in your life being beyond your control and others within it, it’s how you see change and are able to respond to change that makes the difference to your life.

Along with change sometimes feeling overwhelming and taking time and effort to assimilate, it is also exciting, life-affirming and rewarding. It is an essential part of your life and how your comfort zone expands. By recognising the inevitability of change and embracing it you create the opportunities to experience life on your terms.

Like all new ways of seeing and experiencing the world, accepting and accommodating change as a natural part of the process of life takes time and effort. Getting used to enjoying the small changes of walking along a different street to work, buying your coffee from that new cafe that’s just opened or getting up ten minutes earlier than usual are places to start from. Your comfort zone grows and it’s at the edge of your comfort zone where the magic happens.

Time to change?

Martin Feaver, Contributor & Balance Team Expert
Martin is a Life-Coach and Therapist with over 30 years of experience, specialising in treating professionals through his unique philosophy of the Mind-Body Activation.

Creating a happy and healthy workforce

By Charley Maher, Managing Director, Bristol Wessex Billing Services

Charley Maher

I created a vision for ‘Health & Wellbeing’ for my business a year ago and since then, my team have exceeded my expectations in terms of what we have achieved.

BWBSL is jointly owned by Wessex Water and Bristol Water and are responsible for the customer journey for their 1.5 m customers across the South West. Their customers rely on BWBSL to provide them with an efficient and helpful service.

I knew that people were core to the success of the business and wanted to ensure that my team of 380 people were not only focused on providing an excellent service experience to customers but I also wanted to create initiatives to support a healthy and happy team to enable brilliant employee engagement.

Our health and wellbeing initiatives over the last year have touched everyone across the business.  Each month is themed and a key objective for the H&W charter is to ensure that my entire team are happy and healthy at work. Mental health is high on my agenda too.  Interestingly, I was really pleased to read that ‘Mental Health Awareness Week’ in 2016 focused on highlighting the impact of relationships on our mental health. The charity has asked people to commit to maintaining good relationships with friends, family and colleagues, which they believe is fundamental to our health and happiness.

We took this objective to a different level at BWBSL and set about creating stronger relationships in the workplace both within teams and cross-functionally.  New working groups and project teams were set up to pilot and launch the monthly health and wellbeing initiatives and in our recent employee engagement survey, there was overwhelming feedback from team members talking about improved relationships at work and how well team members support and help each other more than ever.  I also asked my learning and development team to design and launch a mental health awareness training programme, making it available to all team members.  This has received great feedback and increased levels of empathy demonstrated across the business.

The last year has been full of great achievements, in 2015 the business won ‘Best Place to Work’ at the UK Customer Experience Awards and earlier this year we were recognised with a total of four awards at the UK Employee Experience Awards, however, a happy and healthy, engaged team is by far the best achievement of all.

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