5 tips for stress-busting Manic Mondays

5 tips for stress-busting Manic Mondays

One of the symptoms of an approaching nervous breakdown is the belief that one’s work is terribly important.  Bertrand Russell

So here’s the scene…

You want to be pounding your keyboard, but inspiration has fled and is apparently engaged in a passionate affair with someone you don’t know, because he hasn’t so much as texted for weeks now and you’re beginning to panic that you’ve broken up permanently.

There are several important phone calls to be made but you can’t bring yourself to pick up the phone… and then there’s that spreadsheet and the emails need checking and you’ve a vague recollection that something that’s probably very important needs doing today, but you can’t remember what. Your To-Do List is the size of a Victorian novel and you now feel more than slightly nauseous even though the fridge is calling you like a Siren and carefully pushing all the ultra-carbs right into your eye-line.

Welcome to my Manic Monday.

I’m not kidding. 

Well, maybe a little bit kidding, but not much.

Even therapists get stressed. Even yoga teachers get stressed. Even therapists who teach and practice yoga daily get stressed. But here’s a few tips that work for me and I pass to you. With love. Which is more powerful than chocolate. (Yes it is).

1. Stop.
Sounds counter intuitive, I know, but winning is a strategic game, not a 100 metre dash. Just 10-15 minutes engaged in another activity will change your brain state and give you a more than fighting chance. Being in a stressed state will not solve anything. Your brain is flooded with stress hormone rubbish. Taking time out and getting your head back together will shift that feeling.

2.  Step away from the fridge or wine rack
Do something calming that won’t give you a regret-over later. Take a walk, have a bath, do some yoga, smell the flowers in the garden, open the back door and feel the breeze, do some ironing if you like… Inspiration is a complete lightweight when it comes to cortisol (stress hormone), runs a mile and does not phone in. Try a 20 minute stroll and a ‘eureka’ moment may pop up. 

3. Power pose
Trapped in an office with no hope of escape? Bernie Clark, incredible Yin yoga teacher with a wickedly dry sense of humour, recommends what he calls The Superman Pose. You could quietly slide off to the loo and stand in a cubicle for a couple of minutes and no one would know you’re resetting your power buttons. You just adopt the stance of Superman in full cape-fluttering into the breeze mode. Two minutes of this and you’ll feel a great deal better, if not heroic. Simply stand tall, hands on hips, chest up and broad, nose lifted, noble chin raise if you find it comfortable. And breathe… Research has shown just two minutes of this cuts cortisol by 15%!

4. Square Breathe
There are many yoga breathing techniques for banishing stress and bringing calm and one of the easiest to practice is a basic breathing technique called Square Breathing. Entrepreneur Chris Reynolds of the Business Method Podcast recommends square breathing, and it is very easy. Chris says it stops the release of cortisol, brings you into a relaxed state and helps the body release positive neural chemicals. Your count is your choice, but this is not a competition so start by counting how long your natural inhale is. Say you breathe in for the count of 5 then hold your breath in for 5, exhale to the count of 5, hold the breath out for the count of 5. A few minutes of this (set your phone’s timer so you don’t rush) and you’ll feel the benefit.

5. Laugh!
Laughter Yoga is real. It began in Mumbai in 1995 and basically combines laughing with yoga (on purpose, not when you crash out of an asana). I’ve seen grown yogis quake in the face of Laughter Yoga and it’s not everyone’s cup of tea. It’s also not immediately available to you when you’re sitting at a desk. But the principle works. Watch your favourite comedian on YouTube for 10 minutes. A complete mood shifter. Do it!

And there are other delicious ways to shake off stress. Grab a hug or eight (your daily minimum, apparently), for an oxytocin boost. Get outside and drink in the sunlight that help top up your serotonin reserves.

These are my current favourite five. My walks now involve barefoot walking on grass which seems to be improving my energy levels no end (research to be done on this, leave it with me) but what are your top stress busters? Do you practice any of these already and do they work for you? Thoughts in the comments below, all ideas very gratefully received. Shared wisdom serves us all.


References and further information

Bernie Clark, Yin yoga teacher, on Power Poses and their gifts

Laughter Yoga people in the UK

Why hobbies are pure gold

Why hobbies are pure gold

Ever felt burned out? Sucked dry of ideas for your work?

My career path has taken many twists and turns over the years. And once or twice I’ve stumbled into the desert of depletion.

Perhaps you have too – or will do by the time you reach your Fifties and beyond without seeking to protect your creative mind as well as your body.

Ageing is a beautiful thing. Wisdom, patience and a strategic canniness for the long game are all strengths that come with career experience and maturity.

But get a creative hobby and you’ll develop superpowers that protect you from burnout, like invisible armour.

Why? Because you’ll develop anti-burnout skills and train your mind with regular, powerful exercises that create resilience, familiarise flow and immerse you in mindfulness exercises where you regularly step through fear and experience vulnerability. 

Want some of that?

But if you’re holding back because your first thought is ‘I can’t draw… I don’t have an artistic bone in my body, I’m not good enough to…’

You are missing the point.

It’s not about what you create. It’s about the process of creating. Think about that. It’s about the process. it’s not about the result, which you are already judging before you’ve even tried! It’s about the path to the result.

I come from a family where creativity is fully expressed.

My grandfather was a cooper – making wooden barrels from slats so tightly bound you could carry liquids without losing a drop. It was a craft that died in his lifetime  and so he completed his working days cutting aluminium but he made furniture for us while I was a child and he built me a magnificent dolls house. He also drew, specialising in roses.

My mother worked in a bank, mostly working on the tills and helping people better invest their savings. But her passion was creating clothes and occasionally her colleagues would pay her to whip up a vogue pattern creation. Even my English teacher had dresses by Barbara and she still creates  the occasional, but beautifully tailored jacket for herself, when the occasion calls her as she approaches her 80th year. She also paints and draws. 

I draw too. Unlike those two, I am not good at drawing. I did not somehow inherit their ‘talent’ but I know if I keep at it, I will get better. On Thursday nights I go to life drawing, a two hour battle with my attempts to recreate what I see on paper.

It is hard. And I mean like grandmaster chess hard. Drawing the human form makes your brain jump hoops like you can’t imagine. And then sketching to the clock – the drawing equivalent of speed chess! 

What it teaches you is to let go; let go of your perfectionism. Let go of fear. Let go of excuses. You jump and you jump fully, expecting to see something less than perfect at the end. And that is all part of the magic.

But there is more! Oh yes, hobbies are the gifts that keep on giving.

It’s been proven that a creative past time, that has NOTHING to do with your job, builds creative muscle and resilience. In these places bright sparks ignite, moments of ‘flow’ are experienced and they build and build and, with any luck, spill over into your working life too.

I love my creative non-work life so much I’ve taken up pottery. A passion from childhood. And I love that too. Mostly my creations have been exercises in the craft, although the odd pot has been a pleasant surprise. And now I’m learning to throw on the wheel, an extraordinary experience in using your hands as sensing, creative tools. The power of your touch. How you draw up the clay. A completely different way of ‘knowing’ and just try not being in the ‘Now’ when you’re drawing up clay.

But do not do what every entrepreneur suddenly gets the urge to do. Monetarise it. That, my dear reader, is the equivalent of cutting off the unicorn’s horn, cutting Aslan’s mane, biting the hand that is feeding you.

The well of creativity, the pool of beautiful, magical ideas lies in the space where you find time making. Not in the object itself.

It’s in the journey, not the destination. A bit like Life.

Photo by Kristopher Roller

Eight ways to beat burnout

Eight ways to beat burnout

‘We’re so engaged in doing things to achieve purposes of outer value that we forget that the inner value – the rapture that is associated with being alive – is what it is all about.’ – Jospeh Campbell

On the flip side of burnout out is a radical idea that challenges the very fabric of current cultural norms. Balanced living.

Sounds so simple, doesn’t it?

Yet the art of living a balanced life is not easy. It’s actually extraordinarily challenging. I Dare You, is the title of  the William H Danforth book that lays out this recipe for living.

First published in the 1930s, Danforth’s slim manifesto advocates the idea that each person has not one, but four lives to live: physical, mental, social and spiritual. The ingredients for life are a body, a brain, a heart and a soul, he would say. All four must grow in balance with each other.

Or what? Or else? I’m a questioner with a rebel streak who will poke about researching the life out of anything before it gets house room. But this idea makes absolute sense, even to deeply suspicious little old me.

Let’s look at the reality of life today.

We live in a world that highly values work. It’s gone beyond cult status. And I’m not saying work isn’t important, but how did it come to be the be-all-and-end-all in our lives? 

The industrial revolution changed the way we lived and prompted literature reflecting deep concerns for social wellbeing, from HG Wells to William Morris. But the social media revolution seems to have created fewer ripples of concern as the internet’s globalisation rips down old barriers of time zone or place. Maybe we’ve just got used to work obsessing in the century that has passed since News from Nowhere and The Time Machine were published.

We may point to books like the Four Hour Work Week, but who do you know who lives that life? Has the internet really freed us to live more – or do more? The Devil Wears Prada is as relevant today as it was 12 years ago. Probably more so because advances in tech mean we can have meetings and file share anytime and anyplace (with reliable wifi).

We are trained to value work beyond our body, beyond our Self, beyond love. Otherwise, how would all that work get done? Our ‘things’ based culture would collapse. Instagram would rustle to the sound of tumbleweed. Who would make everything? Who would buy everything? Who would ‘like’ everything?

Our world relies on our commitment to shackling our time to our work. And when we see our work as a vocation, then we are especially vulnerable to burnout. Because we’re trying to make the world better for others.

I know. I’ve done it. More than once.

According to Danforth, a balanced life looks like this…


Mine used to look more like this.


That rush that comes from doing more, achieving more, pushing further, giving more, receiving more… it is highly addictive. I used to suffer from the ‘disease to please’. Not any more. I now know myself. And my value.

Burnout is a hideous experience. Being stressed is bad enough; burnout is the inevitable crash of too many hours at the desk, too few laughing with friends, meditating in whatever activity inspires your connection with your soul Self and caring for your body in a nurturing, loving way.

Burnout has its own trinity: physical, mental and nervous exhaustion. Its symptoms can include uncontrollable emotional outbursts, disordered eating, drinking too much, poor sleep, foggy brain and thoughts of suicide are not uncommon.

If the thought ‘I know it’s not a solution, but dying right now, seems attractive’ bobs by, then it’s time to take action. Now. Nothing is that bad. Those thoughts are a big red flag, waving at you, telling you to recalibrate. Rebalance. Change. They are not an instruction, they are a flag. See the flag.

Why you are so vulnerable to burnout, likely lies in your past. Getting a deep understanding of why past events are no longer relevant to you is a key part of ensuring burnout never happens again. Rapid Transformational Therapy (RTT) is one way to very quickly get a deep understanding of where these behaviours originate and exactly why they are no longer relevant to your present. But other brands are available, as they say, and the counselling root is one. Psychotherapy  is another.

There are, of course, practical steps  to take which keep our four lives in balance with Danforth’s model.Here are eight habits to cultivate and enjoy.

Eight tips for Avoiding Burnout

Eat well
Good nutrition not only feeds your body, it feeds your brain. When you’re stressed your brain is flooded with the stress hormone, cortisol. It does not need buckets of caffeine mixed in with that. It does not need gallons of sugar. Stressed, wired and sugar-rushing is not going to make anything better. Your inner voice may be screaming for them, because you’re exhausted and miserable, but fresh vegetables, fruits, proteins and lots of water are the way. At least 80% of the time. (I may be a questioning rebel, but I’m also a realist).

Exercise can be as effective a treatment for depression as drugs. That is why time, every day, should be devoted to it. Walk, every day. Dance. Go to yoga. Walk to yoga. Do a sport or physical pastime that you enjoy and mix it up. Focus on having fun. If you need a personal trainer to chase you then get one, but make sure you’re not choosing another person to bully you – look for someone who makes you feel good about yourself.

Loving ourselves can be one of the hardest journeys we embark on, but also one of the most rewarding. Spend time being present with yourself in ways that nurture you. Be present with others and nurture them. Let in their love. Friends, family, lovers, pets, your community… get in there.

Laughter really is an incredible medicine. Watch funny films. Hang out with funny people. Go to comedy clubs. Laughter cuts down stress, can numb physical pain and aid learning ability! Laughter yoga is a real thing – chuckling, guffawing, snorting belly laughs work wonders.

Start with just 5 minutes a day. Everyone has 5 minutes.Set the timer on your phone and just go for it. There are a gazillion guided meditations out there and many, many apps. Just try it. It’s like learning to draw. It’s frustrating, but persistence will repay you a thousand fold. 

Have faith
If you have a spiritual practice, giving time to connecting with it is hugely nurturing for the mind and body. If you don’t and prayer feels alien to you, mantra can be extraordinarily calming. It brings the same calm, talking the mind away from its incessant chatter and towards nurturing thoughts. Mantra is a key part of yoga mediation and brings a deep connection to the breath, which, in turn fuels and calms the body and nervous system in other ways. Try the phrase ‘I Am Enough’. Very simple. Easy to take on board. Highly effective, if applied frequently.

Prioritise sleep
Exercising and eating well will help you sleep better. Turn your bedroom into a sleep haven. It should not resemble your living room. No TVs, laptops or mobile phones in the bedroom. I know, but all that light going to mess up your ability to fall asleep and stay asleep.

Watch less TV
Let go of the Netflix and wine before bedtime. Play cards, go for a walk, read books, play chess. Do the mind tasks that don’t involve passively staring at a screen will not only help your mind step away from the day, it strengthens the brain and has been shown to be effective in treating brain fog. So stop watching soaps and start doing sudokus. No laptop. No mobile. Leave the screen alone.

If you recognise any of the symptoms of burnout I describe in this post and would like help getting back to balance, do get in touch.



When anger bites

When anger bites

‘Holding on to anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.’
~ Buddha ~

If you have drinks on Friday nights, mentally praising the heavens for your two day pass … chances are there’s someone in your work place pushing you buttons.

If you spend your Sunday nights worrying about Monday, that’s another big clue.

Feel sick when you walk in the office or do you find yourself comfort eating to compensate for how you feel after a long day in their presence?

Does this person blame others when anything goes wrong? Is there shouting? Sulking? 

An atmosphere you could cut with a knife when you walk in the room?

Yes, sometimes the work can be dull, but if you’ve got a difficult boss or a colleague who’s a bully then you’re likely to feel anger at least some of the time.

Anger at the injustice.

Anger at the unfairness.

You might call it resentment. You might call it irritation. Especially if you’re a woman, because women are taught at an early age that anger isn’t an emotion you should be feeling.

If I had a pound for every time I was told not to be angry. It wasn’t ‘ladylike’…

But the problem with anger that doesn’t find an outlet is, it simmers…

It stays there in your body and it festers.

Anger is described as an intense feeling in response to feeling frustrated, hurt, disappointed, or threatened. Shame, inadequacy, fear and powerlessness can all be in there too.

And it can cause havoc in the body. A major anger episode can almost double your blood pressure, putting you at risk of stroke or heart attack. Science shows angry people have a 10% increased chance of having a heart attack. 

Your heart is pretty essential, so dealing effectively with anger is so much wiser.

5 keys to handling others’ anger

  1. Find somewhere to ground yourself. Decide on somewhere you can go, inside or outside, where you know you can take a break, get some space, and get clarity.
  2. Establish boundaries and stick to them. Decide what you won’t tolerate. Certain words. Actions. Tones. Know what your internal boundaries are too. Isolate the feeling, the shift physically that signals to you that someone’s anger is intolerable for you and be clear on what that is. Your boundaries are sacrosanct. They are yours. They are not to be compromised.
  3. Nurture yourself. Show yourself a lot of love. Sleep. Good diet. Self care that relaxes you – go for all of it.
  4. Articulate your own anger. Someone’s anger will always trigger yours. Make space to process it. Don’t hold it in. Find your own words for how you feel – journaling is excellent for this.
  5. Stop struggling. Accept what you can’t change. Look for what you can control. You’ll have a lot more success focusing on what is within your power.

5 keys to handling your own anger

  1. Ever heard that phrase: ‘You can be happy or you can be right? Which do you want?’ Your ego wants you to hang on to being right. The ego loves righteous indignation. But in a year from now, in 20 years from now, does it matter. Really? If it’s already happened, can you change the past?
  2. Don’t take it personally. This is just someone’s opinion. It’s not yours. You don’t own it. If you don’t like the look of it, don’t take it on. This is about them, not you.
  3. Let. It. Go ‘Why does this ALWAYS happen to me?’ ‘Why can’t I EVER get my own way?’ Welcome to life, lovely. No one, but no one gets what they want 100% of the time. But when you let go of the need to have everything go your way you’ll start to notice when it does. And extreme language does not help you. It just upsets you. Chill out.
  4. Be Mindful of what’s going on in your body. If I don’t get fed regularly I go from mildly grumpy to growling narkiness very quickly. Five mile hikes looking for the right restaurant do not bode well for my dining partner if I’m ravenous. So I plan ahead. I take snacks. Tiredness. Being too hot. Stress. They’re all anger triggers. Be aware.
  5. Connect to yourself. The more aware you are of your shifting emotions, the better you’ll be at expressing yourself and controlling your own reactions.

If you find emotions effect how you eat, you can join my free Me First Tribe, support group on FB where emotional over and under eaters have a safe, non judgemental space to connect and support each other.