Don’t get ” stuffed” this Christmas

I’ve been doing a lot of sorting out at home recently and I do not know how we come to have so much “stuff” that we don’t really need. There are only 2 of us but we seem to have enough dinnerware just in case about 24  people descend upon us for dinner all at once! We don’t have the space for 24 but we have the plates, glasses and cutlery!

Then I started thinking, as I’m getting “my stuff” ready for charity that it’s the time of year when we buy each other morestuff “ we don’t need! And on top of that, we stress ourselves to the high heavens thinking about what that might be!

Now,  I am not being all bah humbug and suggesting we don’t show our love to each other. No. But here at InShineOut we always believe there is another way, a better way. All it requires is a little bit of thought. I’m opting for quality time together with family and friends. Doing something that we all love but don’t get a chance to do because we lead such busy lives. It could be a visit to a favourite restaurant, a trip to the theatre or spa, a walk in the forest or by the sea, whatever we fancy. It could just be our time and presence. We spend so much of our time glued to the mobile phone and not truly “present” with each other  The great thing about it is we won’t have to look for any space to store the “stuff” and it will be the gift that keeps on giving as we can recall the time in the years to come. So go on, give it a go and hopefully the only thing stuffed this Christmas is the turkey!!

Are you sitting(too)comfortably, then I shall begin

You may recall the children’s programme, Jackanory, where they would read stories and the starting point was to make sure you were sitting comfortably. Well I’m not about to read you a fairy story! I am going to use Goldilocks and the 3 bears to ask you whether you are sitting too comfortably or too uncomfortably in your life right now. Consider the impact on your current level of contentment and satisfaction.

Discomfort is a necessary part for your growth but too much or too little and you end up with the same feelings – burn out or rust out. You might need to slow down and do less or speed up and take action. This is where the Goldilocks formula comes in – not too much, not too little, just right.

So how do you know your “just right” amount? During my NLP accreditation, I came across Karl Rohnke’s comfort, stretch, panic model which can help you identify your “just right”. The comfort zone is the realm of predictability. It’s where we tend to operate on autopilot. It is a great place to rest and rebuild, but overstay your welcome here and your world begins to rust. The stretch zone is the zone of variety, new experiences and adventure. It’s where you learn and grow – mentally, physically and emotionally. How do you know you are in it? Well, the heart rate is up and you can imagine yourself doing it and enjoying it. It’s good to spend time here to build your skills and overcome your fears which ultimately grows your confidence. Finally, the panic zone, this is the realm of too much stress, distress. You can’t think straight and are gripped with overwhelming terror and heading towards burn-out.  You can get pushed or nudged into your panic zone which does not feel good. Others deliberately put themselves there as they thrive living on the edge. Having the choice is very different to being forced in there.

There is no good, bad, right or wrong. One person’s panic is another’s comfort. Speaking up in a meeting could set a person into panic while another would not even think twice about it. For some of you being busy could be comfortable while learning to relax and reflect could ironically be the stretch. It really is a very personal and dynamic thing. The key is to challenge yourself, choose to try new things to stretch yourself personally and professionally. Try asking yourself these questions to help you find your “just right” to increase your fulfilment levels

Where are you on the comfort continuum in your life right now and is this where you want to be? We all need some time in our comfort zone to rest, but are you recharging or heading towards rust out or burn out? What can you do to rebalance things?

I have spent the last 3 months setting stretch fitness goals to restore and rebuild myself back from illness. Just a few weeks ago, I managed a 15km hike in the mountains in Southern Spain. It was a lovely feeling of achievement and satisfaction. It was by no means a walk in the park, however, at Christmas if someone had suggested this it would have been firmly in my panic zone. Climbing a set of stairs was the stretch then!



Put your own oxygen mask on first….

maskRecently I have been thinking a lot about the topic of self care and why it is so difficult for many of us. We read everywhere about increasing levels of anxiety, obesity, lack of exercise, being over-committed and time poor, so it’s clear we need to pay more attention to ourselves. When I was diagnosed with cancer last year, I attended a workshop to help me cope. The ladies emphasised how important it would be to take care of myself this year and to do what I needed to fight this disease. People repeatedly said “this is your year, you look after your needs and let every else sort themselves out”. I remember thinking who on earth would need to be reminded to do that at such a difficult time in their life! The truth is I did struggle and serious illness or not, we all “forget” to look after ourselves. We all know how important it is, yet struggle so much with the act of doing it.

So why is this? Is it because when we are young we hear the word “selfish” more often in a negative context -“Don’t be selfish; it is good to share”. Perhaps we do it and are so wrecked with guilt that we don’t enjoy it! Or is it that we think we will get to it when everything or everyone else is sorted. The trouble is we never get to that place, particularly  in today’s crazy, full on world – busy lives, demanding jobs, kids, elderly parents, friends and family, social activities, plugged in 24/7, the list can go on. We eventually find ourselves exhausted, worn out and running on empty!

So that’s the problem, what’s the pill? Firstly I recommend you start putting yourself at the top of your to do list! Start thinking of these as acts of self love and essential rather than being selfish. A safety briefing on an aeroplane clearly tells you to secure your own oxygen mask before helping others around you (even your children). Then take the first step by identifying 1 thing you are  going to  start, stop or do more of in order to take care of yourself. It doesn’t have to be a big gesture or activity – have the cup of coffee, a relaxing soak in the bath, switch off your mobile, say no to 1 invite. As you read this you will already be thinking of lots of things you could do. Just pick one for now and do it regularly. You can form great habits just as well as bad habits. I know you don’t need permission from me and anyway I am busy listening to my own preaching! Please give yourself permission and  take a few moments to make the commitment. You will be glad you did. And at that moment when you are tempted to de-prioritise yourself again and fall back into your old way,  remember secure your own oxygen mask first …………! 




Let it flow!


I was all set this week to write a piece on taking care of yourself and why we struggle to do this when, out of the blue, the ugly reality of my treatment hit me full on. From seemingly nowhere this overwhelming sense of sadness and tiredness came over me and I couldn’t shake it off. I draw on a lot of strength and emotion to get through some of the days at the moment. Normally I “enjoy” getting ready to face the world and do my best to show up the best I can. Yesterday I was fed up with having to put in so much effort, mentally, physically and emotionally. It seemed that when I looked in the mirror the cancer was laughing at me, mocking me and asking me why do you bother?  Yes, my body is going through a lot and it shows.

I couldn’t brush it off with positive self talk, being grateful or reminding myself there are others worse off. It didn’t seem like I had any other choice except to let it all out. So I did, the floodgates opened and out it came. Like a torrential river, out poured all the emotions that had been building up while I was busy dealing with the treatment. My husband simply sat with me, held me through it and we let the river run its course. Someone once told me tears are a sign of healing. If this true I did a lot of healing yesterday!

After a while it ran dry and for all the things that cancer can do; like change your body, rob you of your hair, hijack your emotions there are things it cannot do. It cannot cripple our love, shatter our hope, silence my courage or conquer my spirit. By just accepting and expressing the feelings we were able to remind ourselves of that. Within the hour we were having a good laugh about the mess I had made of Rich’s good shorts with all my crying!

So why do I share this with you? For no other reason than to say it’s OK not to be OK.  Sometimes all the positive psychology is not enough when life is tough and throwing a lot of c**p your way. What you need to do is give voice to the emotions so that you are in control of them and not the other way around. Overtime the emotional scars left untreated can be as devastating as the physical ones. And also to encourage all of us to learn to be with someone in that moment without feeling the need to do or say anything. Trust me that is all they need. Sometimes this is the answer, release those emotions so that you can dust yourself down and get back in the fight again. In this roller coaster called life these days are just as real as the good days, in fact they are the true reflection of your strength.