December Newsletter 2022

To view the latest news and updates from Mindset Pro, click on this link to read our December 2022 Newsletter

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Suicide Prevention Day Webinar

In the run up to Suicide Prevention Day, Ross held a webinar to talk about raising awareness and the things we can do to help reduce and prevent suicide. The full webinar is available to view following the link below.

Suicide Prevention Webinar by Ross McWilliam of Mindset Pro - YouTube

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Ross Speaks to Voice It - The VIP Podcast

Ross recently took part in a podcast with Voice It - The VIP Podcast who connect with businesses from all around the UK, talking about what they do, their journey and really tapping into what makes them tick.

In this episode Ross talks about his work in Mental Health and especially the Mental Health First Aid courses he runs both in person and on-line.

Listen to the full podcast here: The VIP Podcast | Voice It PR

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How to be an Effective Public Speaker and Enjoy It

I recently did a podcast on how to be an effective public speaker and enjoy it. This is available to listen to at the following link:
Password: XUGcACmi 

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Finding your place in life

The past few months have seen much change and challenge – something which Ross relishes. This ties into Ross’s philosophy of Sonoma Mindset, which is about finding your place in life, identifying your strengths, and taking on life and using every opportunity as a chance to grow.  It has served him well over the past 30 years, and it’s something Ross is keen to share with others.

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Stress and anxiety .. how to cope
In this video, Ross talks about stress and anxiety and shares some tips on how we can change our mindset and our relationship with them. Anxiety and stress affect us all differently but prolonged exposure to these emotions are detrimental to our emotional and physical health. Sometimes the hormones our bodies release during periods of stress including adrenaline and cortisone, can actually help us perform better but most often stress is perceived in a negative way. Having experienced multiple panic attacks and burnout Ross is all too familiar with the feelings of low efficiency, irritability and profound tiredness stress can cause. Ross shares how becoming more self-aware, building confidence, talking about our feelings and seeing these feelings as an opportunity rather than a threat can help. Learning how to get out of our comfort zone into our stretch zone whilst not allowing ourselves to enter the panic zone is key. View the video here: For a no-obligation chat about changing mindset and its relationship with stress either for yourself or your team speak to Ross on 07771 916 788 or email
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Corporate Mental Fitness In Action
Here Ross McWilliam and Jenny Pelling, Director of Apprenticeship Development and Diversity for Kaplan Financial, reflect on corporate mental fitness. Ross has been supporting Kaplan with personal development seminars for their apprentices and UK students. These seminars were initially introduced during lockdown to help support their delegate's mental health, offering practical guidance, tips and training on how to overcome setbacks and reach their full potential. These interactive workshops touched on subjects such as prioritising to avoid stress, imposter syndrome and confidence being a foundation for growth, managing conflict and how to set yourself up for the year ahead. During the video, Ross and Jenny discuss how they received invaluable feedback from delegates which allowed them to tailor subsequent sessions. Delegates were able to draw on advice and information from Ross allowing them to flourish. Watch the video here: For a no-obligation chat about mental fitness and personal development for yourself or your team, speak to Ross on 07771 916 788 or email
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Celebrating World Book Night
To celebrate World Book Night (23rd April 2022), Ross visited Pool House Primary School in Preston to donate some of his CUPPA journey books which aim to help young children develop a confident mindset, promote positivity, self-esteem, confidence, resilience and empathy but also encourage their love of reading. Ross believes all young people need a platform of belief, specific skills and supported guidance upon which to build future achievements, be they academic or otherwise. It's all part of Ross' philosophy of changing a million lives.
Head Teacher Julie Cole said "Huge thanks to Ross for the copies of his books he has donated to the school as part of World Book Night. They are a great read for adults and children and we use them as one of our primary resources in school when delivering PSHCE and Wellbeing".
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Improving Performance - For Individuals and Organisations
Ross McWilliam has been helping people improve performance for 30 years. 2022 has found us transitioning through a pandemic which has left many of us feeling low or lacking in confidence, but how do we emerge stronger and able to take advantage of life’s opportunities? In this 2 minute, video Ross shares how the Mind Armour approach looks at all aspects of personal development from mental health and well-being to emotional confidence, applied resilience, motivation and habits, goal setting and direction. This is a unique package delivered by Ross through audit, training and consolidation and designed to help individuals and organisations perform better in life and reach their full potential. Click here to watch: For a no-obligation chat about improving mindset and performance for yourself or your team speak to Ross on 07771 916 788 or email
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How to Perform In Stressful Situations
Ross McWilliam joins BBC Radio Lancashire’s Brett Davison and shares tips on performing in stressful situations. In this 12 minute recording Ross and Brett talk about the feeling you get when stepping out of your comfort zone; whether that’s delivering a speech, taking exams, attending an interview or any situation where there is a pressure to perform. Ross talks about his own experiences of failing exams at school and how he used that experience to go onto pass all his exams since. He shares some tips on revision, how to approach pressure in a different way, self-esteem, understanding the “why reason” and how to conquer the fear. These are valuable tips which can be applied to all situations where we have to perform. Click here to listen For a no obligation chat about improving mindset and performance for yourself or your team speak to Ross on 07771 916 788 or email
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Growing Together - Helping to Support and Nurture our Children

Children’s Mental Health Week 2022

The theme of Children’s Mental Health Week (7-11 February 2022) is Growing Together. In this Viewpoint article published by The Lancashire Post, Ross McWilliam shares some simple things we can do to support our children. They say statistics don’t lie, and currently, these portray a very negative picture of children’s mental health: 50 per cent of mental illness happens before age 14, and 75 per cent before age 18, with one in six children having a diagnosable mental health condition. If we then factor in the continuing impact of the pandemic, it is clear to see we are facing an enormous challenge, and probably a challenge we may have to face for many years to come. Read More (courtesy of Lancashire Post) Ross is a children’s author focussing on mental wellbeing; you can see his books here, including free stuff:
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New Year, New You or Just Accept Yourself
At the start of each New Year, many people look to make resolutions to change something about their life, to make positive adjustments for themselves and often for others. Celebrities also get caught up in this ‘New Year – New You’ approach: Music Mogul Simon Cowell aims to spend more time with his family and friends instead of the gym, Presenter Gabby Logan just wants to drink more water, Facebook Founder Mark Zuckerberg wants to read a recommended book every two weeks, and Athlete Desiree Henry aims to spend more time relaxing and switching off. So, what are the secrets to making and achieving a New You? Here are 5 key tips. 1 It may be worth considering that change can often happen quickly, like a triggering event such as a bereavement, that makes us change how we see ourselves and value others. Maybe it’s a critical health emergency that instantly propels us into a healthier lifestyle. However, often change happens slowly via small steps. Creating small, steady positive changes over time can often lead us to achieving our goals. So maybe aim small, and be realistic, and be consistent – don’t beat yourself up if you ‘fail’ at something – just get back on the plan as soon as possible. 2 It is helpful to understand how change happens. Below is the concept we can adopt, and it all starts with an awareness of a need to change. Once awareness is in place, we can start to unfreeze a poor behaviour (start the melting away process) and implement a new, better behaviour. Slowly over time, we can consolidate or refreeze these better behaviours, so they become our normal way of being. The initial key here is to be aware, and observe your: 1 Cues    2 Routines    3 Rewards An example of this in real life is trying to stop drinking. Your cues might be a certain time in the day, friends asking you to go for a drink, a need to escape a stress, being lonely, etc. Then, you need to identify what routine you go through ie drink to excess, drink to be sociable, drink between certain hours. Finally, how do you feel rewarded ie fully elated, elated initially, but down soon afterwards/next day, craving the next drink even more, or beating yourself up? Recognising your cue to drink is crucial, as soon as you do this, your routines are going to happen to satisfy your need. So, you need to hijack the drinking routine before it happens ie replace drinking with something that gives you a better, more sustainable reward. In Alcoholics Anonymous, 12 steps are vigorously followed, and this involves talking openly about what each person’s triggers are and the group suggesting better routines to follow. The group are non-judgmental and supportive, and recognise people might slip or fall, but are always willing to help give support. Every day they put awareness at the front of their consciousness. Another simple way to change this pattern of behaviour is to work backwards i.e if I am not feeling good after a drink, how can I introduce a better, more sustainable reward that does not involve drinking? Replacement or substitute the reward of drinking with the reward of something else such as exercise, socialising without drinking, or even limiting your drinking to set amounts, on set days? 3 Understand that willpower is finite and will not last forever – it needs to be re-charged. Leading Willpower authors Baumeister and Tierney, talk about five golden rules to improving and sustaining willpower. The first golden rule is to identify, or find, your Whypower – what is motivating your change? Once you understand this, your Willpower will increase…but you will still need to replenish it regularly. The second golden rule is not to deny yourself something forever – it will drain your Willpower. So have the chocolate, but maybe not so much, and not so often, but crucially enjoy it. The third golden rule is to have clear goals, but not too many goals, especially if there are conflicting goals ie a steep reduction in calories with an excessive exercise routine. The fourth rule is to build in support, either from close family and friends, or online. In each case you are also building in accountability with people holding you to account. The final fifth golden rule, is to build in rewards as this can supercharge your Whypower and therefore improve your Willpower. 4 Do not stop when you have a bad day, or indulge in a poor behaviour. You must keep your self-esteem intact and then continue to grow it – nobody is perfect and the word itself should be banned. We are all developing, growing and evolving and we need to constantly give ourselves permission to accept who we are and what we are trying to achieve. 5 Re-frame your past. Many people see themselves as past failures in something and they carry this baggage around with them, sometimes for a lifetime. Try and re-frame who you are and what you want to achieve by letting go of past negative experiences and remembering your previous good experiences. This constant counter-balancing is essential if we are to grow. Often in life, what we saw as failure, has been mis-interpreted by ourselves as we are always fault finding and looking for the negative scenario. We have over 6,000 thoughts a day, and nearly 70% are negative. We are species that is constantly assessing danger, and avoiding threats, so it’s in our genetic makeup to keep doing this! So as we enter the New Year why don’t you start giving yourself more credit and re-balance your negative thoughts – if you do this, there can only be one winner….you!   This also might be the starting point to not set any New Year resolutions and simply maintain all the good habits you are currently performing – it certainly takes the pressure off and could be a subtle way of accepting yourself? Ross McWilliam, has been developing people for over 30 years, and has helped change the lives of a million people. He helps people and organisations develop a powerful, positive mindset to unlock their potential and achieve their goals. Email for more details on how he can help you.
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Could you spot the signs and symptoms of burnout?
Mindset Pro’s Ross McWilliam has been supporting primary school teachers, helping them identify the signs and symptons of burnout. He has written a piece for Headteacher Update. The magazine, website and podcast is dedicated to primary school leadership teams, providing best practice, case studies, in depth information and advice and guidance to around 20,000 primary school teachers in the UK. Ross shares the signs and symptons of burnout and provides some useful tips for the magazine and website. The pandemic has heightened the pressure facing school leaders and teachers, making burn-out an even more clear and present danger. Mindset Pro’s wellbeing trainer and author Ross McWilliam offers some advice. Download the article here or see the article on Headteacher Update. Ross McWilliam, has been developing people for over 30 years, and has helped change the lives of a million people, is available for bespoke mental health training and speaking events on a range of wellbeing subjects. Email for more details on how he can help your organisation.
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Surviving Blue Monday or Thriving Despite It?
The third Monday in January has become known as Blue Monday, as this is what psychologists say is our nadir for being sad and pessimistic. The reason…..perhaps the expectations and excesses of Christmas, failed New Year’s resolutions, the cold days and long dark nights, being single, personal relationship changes, limited new employment opportunities, or even anything else you care to think of! But what if we could spin all this negativity around? Here are my 3 top tips to turn Blue Monday into Gold Monday: 1 Ignore, or better still, do not accept the negative label of Blue Monday! Instead of accepting the perceived or received status quo that Blue Monday is something to be dreaded, why don’t you switch your thinking and actions. Why not adopt a mindset that says I am going to do everything I can to turn Blue into Gold. Stanford University researcher, Alia Crum, talks about how we always seem to view stress as a bad thing, when in fact, we need some stress in our lives to perform better – it’s just about getting the balance of frequency, duration and intensity right. The same thinking can be applied to Blue Monday. Why not positively ‘attack’ Blue Monday with a cascade of positive thoughts and actions, like a tsunami of change. For example, this can be searching for that new job, as now is actually a great time to get a better job or even start a new career. Last Monday was called Massive Monday because so many employers were and are still, offering unprecedented numbers of jobs and careers! Alternatively, if you are feeling bloated and overweight from the Christmas excesses, why not see Blue Monday as the start of 348 days of opportunities to start turning the tide. 2 Develop New Year resolutions, or even ‘Maintenance Resolutions’ with Why Power Often, in a pique of energy, anger, frustration or even boredom, we can dream up exciting resolutions that can very quickly turn into a hassle at best, and a beastly burden, at worst. In some cases, your personal and professional credibility can even be put to the test of public scrutiny and accountability. According to Will Power experts, Baumeister and Tierney, a key factor in achieving any resolution is not to get motivated, but rather, the secret is to unearth your Why Power. You need to tap into your Why rather than your Will, as your Will is finite.  Why Power revolves around being logical and rational, and choosing goals which are achievable, necessary, longer term and even life enhancing or prolonging. When you start to understand that these goals aren’t just nice, but are necessary, then your Why motivation will kick in and stay in. Sure, there are going to be tough days and decisions which have to be made, but remember life is not ‘happy-clappy 24/7’. As a human species, we are programmed to seek out the negative in all situations, and out of 6,500 daily thoughts, up to 70% of these are negative – this revolves around our pre-programmed survival mindset. So, don’t take negative thoughts personally, just by being aware of this in itself, should give us all room for optimism! It may also be a smart idea to not even have any new resolutions as new resolutions can set us up to fail and therefore perpetuate a self-defeating philosophy. As an alternative, why not have Maintenance Resolutions ie just keep doing the things that have always brought you progress, success and happiness – you simply can’t fail. 3 Develop acceptance, gratitude and self-esteem to find love Without a nurturing of our own internal wellbeing, we can quickly see life as a big hassle, with simple activities and challenges turning into monster problems. We can even start to lose faith in ourselves. As a singleton entering 2022, and being wary of Blue Monday, it is easy to fall into the trap of seeing being single as a clear sign of personal failure to attract a mate. This need not be the case. If we can love ourselves first and foremost, then we are creating the foundation for others to love us. Invest in accepting who you are, be grateful for life and opportunities, and always remember, that your self-esteem, or self-worth, starts with you and only you can give permission for others to erode that. Be brave and bold as you approach Blue Monday, and you may just surprise yourself in the love stakes!

Click on the image below to view the video

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Granada Reports Mental Health Expert
I was delighted to appear on Granada Reports this week as a mental health expert in which I talked about avoiding burnout in the workplace. It’s so important to look out for the signs; changes in pattern behaviour such as sleeping, crying more, gastric problems and heart palpitations. In modern society, we need to be brave and learn to say when we don’t feel quite right. There are simple steps you can take if you feel you may be suffering from burnout or if you feel like you might be heading in that direction. See the full interview here
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PODCAST: Wellbeing in your studies
Ross recently delivered a podcast for his fantastic client Kaplan, discussing wellbeing in your studies. The podcast is available to listen to here: Kaplan's Learn Better podcast | Kaplan UK
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Ross celebrates new book launch at local primary school
Ross has recently launched his latest book ‘The Amazing Adventures of the Fabulous Alex, Roxy and Tiger’ which is aimed at teachers, parents and children and focuses on helping to support children on their learning journey. To celebrate, Ross visited Queens Drive Primary school, based in Fulwood, Lancashire to provide an interactive assembly to year four, five and six pupils, teachers and parents. Ross engaged with the audience with a reading from the book, a free prize draw and a fun discussion about positive mindset and resilience with tips for promoting communication skills, inner confidence and self-image.
Mark Noblet, Senior Leader at Queen’s Dive School said “Yet again, Ross has produced a book that will have great appeal to many children and combined this with engaging lessons about vital life skills. The three books are now the perfect trilogy for parents and children to enjoy together whilst providing messages that will last a lifetime.” Riley Butler (age 10) said "I can't wait to read the book. When I grow up I want to be an architect or a rugby player and I think resilience and confidence will really help me." The story follows Alex, Tiger and Roxy on their quest to help others find their potential in life, stop ecological disasters, end prejudices and injustices, and if they have time, save the world from a potential disaster!
The book also contains six one-minute videos which are accessed by a QR code in the book and shows readers how to develop themselves. Each video provides the key skills needed to find success, along with a measurement tool that will help children and adults identify strengths and areas for improvement. Above all, The Amazing Journey of the Fabulous Alex, Roxy and Tiger is a fun read and feel-good book, that takes you into an often-hidden world where different ways of communicating are explored.
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Third Release for Children’s Author and Mindset Professional Ross McWilliam
Ross McWilliam is launching his latest book ‘The Amazing Adventures of the Fabulous Alex, Roxy and Tiger’ which is aimed at teachers, parents and pupils and focuses on helping to support children on their learning journey. This feel-good book, which offers everyone hope, follows Alex, Tiger and Roxy on their quest to help others find their potential in life, stop ecological disasters, end prejudices and injustices, and if they have time, save the world from a potential disaster! The book also contains six one-minute videos which are accessed by a QR code in the book and shows readers how to develop themselves. Each video provides the key skills needed to find success, along with a measurement tool that will help children and adults identify strengths and areas for improvement. Above all, The Amazing Journey of the Fabulous Alex, Roxy and Tiger is a fun read, that takes you into an often-hidden world where different ways of communicating are explored. Prof Dr Ger Graus OBE, the Global Director of Education at KidZania commented: “The Amazing Journey of the Fabulous Alex, Roxy and Tiger is an excellent and most purposeful resource to use with young children, and their parents, as they collectively transition towards adulthood. This book really could be the passport to a richer, more fulfilling life for our precious children and young people.” Ross McWilliam adds, “This is my third book in which I write about how we can grow and support young people and their families. My books are in memory of my late parents, and young niece Danni, and are my attempt to not only make them proud but to also honour their legacy of being kind and helping others.” Ross McWilliam is a freelance speaker and mindset author with over 30 years of experience empowering people in business, education and sport. Ross has worked with over 1,500 schools and businesses and has a real passion for helping to develop and sustain professionals. He is an accredited Adult and Youth Mental Health Trainer with MHFA features frequently on regional and national media and speaks at various national educational conferences. ‘The Amazing Adventures of the Fabulous Alex, Roxy and Tiger’ is Ross’ third children’s book release following on from ‘The Amazing Journey of CUPPA’ and ‘The Amazing Journey of Katy Cupsworth, The Performance Warrior’ the latter of which was nominated for the Peoples Book Award earlier this year. Ross’ books teach children the important skills of teamwork, communication, resilience, leadership and developing their self-esteem and confidence. The book is available to purchase from the 10th of November 2021 at and on Amazon and Waterstone’s websites.
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Crossing The White Line

Is being a trainee professional footballer not only a poisoned chalice, but can it even be detrimental to mental health and well-being?

[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]The common image of a professional footballer is often one of fame, fortune and even hero-worship, sometimes long after the footballing career is over. It is perceived to be an exulted, almost exclusive position, that very few actually get to experience. After the playing days come to an inevitable end, many have also legitimately used football as a route to secure careers in football coaching and management. There are also countless cases of footballers who have used their football success to contribute to society as role models and ambassadors, not just for football, but also for many humanitarian and charity causes: David Beckham, Marcus Rashford, Paul Stewart, Sadio Mane, and Fabrice Muamba. Others have focused on non-football related careers, that although may not be perceived as glamorous, or even fashionable for an ex-pro, have nonetheless, given security; Marco Gabbiadini runs a bed and breakfast business, Simon Garner is a painter and decorator, Phillipe Albert operates a fruit and vegetable business - and there are many more examples of players successfully adapting to life after football (Planet Football, 2017) 17 ex-footballers with normal jobs: Planet Football These cases of success post-football, often go under the radar, as they are simply not newsworthy. These successes shouldn’t be ignored and are evidence of how ex-players have transitioned successfully back into everyday life and society. This ‘role model’ feedback and feedforward are also currently being implemented within the League Football Education (LFE) programme and is testament to how contemporary the thinking is within professional football these days. Yet for all its trappings, there can be a more sinister side to life as a footballer. Not only do the vast majority fail to become footballers, but a high percentage also encounter physical, psychological, emotional and financial difficulties. More than likely, as a result of these challenges, some players such as Michael Chopra, Lee Hughes, Keith Gillespie and Adam Johnson, have encountered prison. It may also be pertinent to allude to previous studies which have investigated the impact of heading the ball, not only for the potential of early onset of dementia (Dementia prevention, intervention, and care, 2020 Lancet Commission) but which may also have facilitated an associated trend in increased mental health disorders in depression and suicide. However, there is currently no clear evidence to suggest this does occur. In terms of suicide, documented cases directly attributed to football are difficult to identify, with only few cases making headlines, such is the case of ex Man City trainee Jeremy Whiston and Tottenham’s Josh Lyons. That is not to say clubs could do more. In fact, in the case of Jeremy Whiston, his parents clearly stated that Manchester City couldn’t have done anymore. More recently in March 2021, Lee Collins, Yeovil Town FC Captain, took his own life aged 32. Lee was described as the upbeat joker and leader in the dressing room and on the pitch. But behind this persona was a man who had alcohol and drug addiction issues and had gone through a traumatic relationship breakdown and separation. Education informs us that men under 40, who have alcohol/drugs dependency and have an inability to be vulnerable/talk are in a very high statistical category for suicide (MHFA England). With an increasing awareness of being proactive to assist player development, the LFE launched the Alumni Player Voice Initiative which aims to bring together past apprentices across EFL academies and provide the opportunity to share transition-related experiences, both in and out of football. This is an impressive and effective way to share learned ‘lived experiences’ in a way that can only be wholly beneficial to all those involved. I am sure as this initiative unfolds, its learning and received understanding will be modified to incorporate ever changing needs. So, what is behind this more sinister side to being a professional footballer? It may be that it has something to do with expectations linked to a high degree of failure making the grade, that lies behind some of these behaviours. The Professional Footballers' Association (PFA) estimates that each summer, about 700 players are released by their clubs, causing upset and uncertainty. "The biggest attrition rate is undoubtedly among young players," says Oshor Williams of the PFA's education department, which offers support and training to prepare them for a life outside professional football. Of those entering the game aged 16, two years down the line, 50% will be outside professional football. If we look at the same cohort at 21, the attrition rate is 75% or above. Most of these kids don't have a Plan B. It can be very unnerving to find yourself having to move into a completely different world." (BBC Sport, 2014) Premier League: What happens to footballers after being rejected? - BBC Sport) Other potentially erroneous non validated reports suggest this figure is higher - Ninety-eight per cent of players who become full-time scholars, aged 16, will be released or have dropped out of football entirely by the age of 21.This leaves just a 2% conversion rate. This almost creates a type of urban myth scenario, that says being a pro footballer is doomed to failure from the start. However, data from the Premier League and EFL for the current season of 20/21 show that actually 28.5% of those who were in the Apprenticeship Programme are still playing professional football, with historic trends over the last 5 years putting this at 30% (EFL Report, 2021). It seems the perceived reality does not match up to what is actually happening. Another example of potential unvalidated ‘data evidence’ features in the same inews 2021 article Mental health of released academy players is still a taboo subject, says football agent (  where Sam Cunningham talks about trainees feeling let down with their post football after care. In particular, former Fulham trainee Max Hodges talks about his experiences of bullying, racism and threatening behaviour which he had to experience before he was discarded at age 18. Again, however, this ‘data evidence’ is uncorroborated with other studies, and is anecdotal. What is needed though, is perhaps a specific and targeted interrogation of this so-called data by conducting more valid, immediate and long-term questionnaires to establish any possible trends in this type of reported behaviour. With the onset of the Covid Pandemic in 2020, and it’s continuing changeable impact on health, finance, career opportunities and aspirations, the plight of the trainee footballer might be under greater threat than had previously been anticipated. Already we are seeing clubs cut their playing budgets which means less staff, and probably lower wages for existing staff. Budgets for projects associated with player development, retention and future employment pathways might also be subject to negative impacts, although there are ring-fenced amounts that will be resilient to this change. Yet, within the middle of all this change, is the often stealthy impact of poor mental health on players’ performances, on and off the pitch. Given that players can enter the Academy System at 5 years of age, this opens up a whole new post pandemic ball game revolving around the emotional, psychological, and mental health needs of all would be professionals. At the younger end, young children now need even more awareness, knowledge, protection and practical strategies to develop their emotional and mental health literacy. Clubs have been developing this programme for some years now, and the pandemic has heightened awareness on the need to act and implement at speed. What is always needed though, is a consistent approach to mental health and emotional well-being, that links into existing programmes within schools, and between clubs, that also heavily includes parents and carers. This linked up approach must also integrate emotional well-being, which is often beyond the remit of some mental health training programmes. Older players, such as All Al Hamadi at Swansea City, talk about the pressures of being released and being unsure of the future. More pointedly, Ali Al Hamadi indicates that he felt let down by the club. and is unprepared for life beyond the white line. Given a lack of supporting anecdotal evidence, Ali Al Hamadi might be an exception rather than the rule, but his predicament might warrant further investigation, as per the case of Max Hodges above. It’s easy to pick out cases of negativity in terms of disenchantment, mental illness, psychological, physical and financial challenges – but the question is still the same. Is enough being done to support young trainees? Part of the solution is already in place via the consistent efforts of Premier League Education (Premier League), and the League Football Education (LFE), which is a successful and extremely effective partnership between the PFA and the EFL. Every trainee is taken through awareness and training in areas such as identity, belonging, managing aspirations, role modelling and overall personal development which includes bespoke mentoring. It is clear that the LFE Programme does enrich experiences, giving young players the tools that their peers did not have access to, and it ultimately helps them to embrace the journey, rather than focus on the destination. Is there a need for a more concerted, bespoke effort, to address the trainee needs, proactively and reactively? Moreover, has the pandemic provided us with an opportunity to do this? Can we use the pandemic to review current practices and upskill where necessary, all those involved in the education and development of our precious young charges? Effective interventions need to be constantly reviewed, as we are living in, and experiencing, a rapidly changing contemporary society. The needs and wants of our younger football generations need to be kept ahead of this change curve, with less judgment and more acceptance of these needs and wants. At the head of this change curve is mental health and well-being. Trainees at the start of their careers, are provided with non-football life skills, are made aware of how to manage expectations, and are provided with various aspects of personal development that includes some mental health training. Post playing days, the PFA implement an outstanding programme supporting ex-pro’s, a programme that often goes unnoticed. But can we do more to educate young trainees, and all those associated with their development, to be more aware of their own mental health, to be able to talk about their challenges, to even develop communication relationships where they can be totally vulnerable without fear of reprisal or sabotage. Are we upskilling their emotional literacy? In my work delivering national education training programmes, there are so many simple tools, knowledge ‘nuggets’ and key statistics which all younger people need to be aware of and which can be transmitted quickly and effectively. For trainees at least, we need to give them bespoke toolkits to initiate, develop and maximise their own personal well-being – taking a measure of personal responsibility in their development as a potential pro footballer, but also as a potential ex pro footballer. There is clearly a need, as society changes, to upskill all those associated with young trainees in areas of mental health and player well-being. Ex-players such as Clarke Carlisle, Tyrone Mings and countless others, who experienced and continue to experience, a series of mental health challenges, might well have benefitted from this type of programme. This mental health upskilling might well start with the concept of vulnerability which is often seen as weakness. Former four gold medal Olympian Michael Johnson talks about the fact that is now acceptable and therefore possible for athletes and other sports stars to talk about their own compromised mental health without it being seen as a weakness. Such cases in point are Simone Biles, Ben Stokes, Emma Radacanu, and Naomi Osaka. Away from sport, successful actor David Harewood talks about his challenges with Psychosis, a condition that he experienced at a young age. He eventually received treatment and made an excellent recovery, part of which was made possible by his increased awareness of risk factors and self-care strategies. What he does say is that an early educational awareness would have made him more aware of these risk factors. This may not have prevented him experiencing the condition, but it certainly would have ameliorated its effects and longevity. Linked to this, the whole arena of social media is fraught with immediate negativity, and long-term consequences that can impact the mental health of a trainee. The various football bodies are doing exceptional work educating and preparing the young players. This potential problem is not exclusively within the realm of football, as was seen in the recent case of historical racist and homophobic tweets by cricketer Ollie Robinson. Similarly, a recent, unfortunate comment, by Bolton Manager Ian Evatt, deriding his keeper for not being mentally strong, quickly backfired on hm and forced him into a hasty public apology. In terms of a broader programme of development, there is a post Covid urgency to continually upskill our young charges in new areas such accredited mental toughness, emotional confidence, growth mindset, listening skills, coping skills and strategies. We must keep managing their expectations and align this with the reality that less than 2% of trainee footballers actually make the grade. Ironically though, these training challenges might also provide an opportunity to develop another key life skill ie resilience. This is a skill that involves perseverance, adaptability and self-care. The trainee football arena can breed adversity, and with this, there may come the ability to thrive. Crucially, it is about a balance of being resilient and mentally tough, but with an equal dose of self-awareness, practical well-being toolkits and an ability to recognise when resilience and mental toughness are dominating at the dangerous expense of mental health and well-being. It is a learned skill to become aware of the link between the positives of positive performance stress, and how negative performance stress can be a result of too much frequency, intensity or duration of a stress. This awareness for the need to change to incorporate a more holistic approach to mental health and well-being is exemplified perfectly at Tottenham Hotspur who are currently searching to fill a new role – Mental Health and Emotional Well-being Manager. Maybe the journey to becoming a professional footballer should be a clear tandem approach, that is identified as a Mission Statement and is incorporated into football language. Rather than call it a ‘Football Scholarship’, should we not use the term ‘Dual Scholarship in Football and Life Education’, where each has equal weighting, where expectations are clearly laid out, training and learning time are equally split, especially in the formative years. This would put scholars under no false illusions about their training. The introduction of non-football work experience and non-playing football related experience might be a more realistic option for many. It is great to have expectations to reach the top, but along this journey, can we honestly say we are doing everything we can to ensure a transition beyond a professional football career, and often a career that may not even start?
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Mental Health and Psychology for the Rugby League Player in 2021
Read my recent article on Mental Health and Psychology for the Rugby League Player in 2021 on page 21 of Rugby Blindside. If you want Ross to work with your organisation to develop well-being resilience, become more aware of the impact of performance on well-being send an email for more information to Summer 2021 Issue - Rugby Blindside magazine by Oryx Media
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Want to know more about Ross? Have a look at his recent interview "Can you change your life?" with John Gilmore.
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Covid, Returning to Office Based Working and Managing Stress to Improve Performance
In these unique Covid times where we have faced, and are still facing, threats to our liberties, threats to our physical and mental health, threats to our livelihoods and even threats to our friendships, how do we survive and cope? Could we even actually use this current situation as a catalyst, to start to thrive and maximise performance in every aspect of our lives? The current picture is bleak. According to ONS, over 130,000 people have sadly lost their lives to Covid in the UK to date, (with global deaths accounting for nearly 4 million deaths) with long Covid cases above 1.1 million in the UK. Thousands of jobs have been lost or have just ceased to exist, especially within the hospitality and entertainment sectors, and cases of new mental health disorders have sky-rocketed, whilst existing mental health symptoms have, in many cases, become worse. Is there any hope on the horizon? The simple and short answer is yes, as not only shall we have hope, but we also possess the possibility to be pragmatic to effect positive change even within a pandemic. The vaccination programme has, almost overnight, been a huge success and has given us a high level of immunity and confidence that things can return to a ‘new normal.’ However, for some, what Covid has left is a legacy of doubt and a breeding ground for stress which could impact all aspects of life. So, how do we go about redressing this imbalance? Firstly, let’s look at the actual word stress. This word was first coined in the 1950’s by scientist Hans Selye who created it for a positive purpose. He argued that we need stress to help us in life – to get out of bed in the morning, to go to work, to perform at work, in sport, arts, music, to make new friends, and to provide for our families. However, when the frequency, intensity and duration of this stress becomes out of sync (or too much), whether that stress is real or perceived, we can quickly start to struggle emotionally and ultimately this can adversely affect our physical health. In simple terms, we struggle to cope. So, I believe a simple awareness that not all stress is bad, and it can actually help us produce better performances in life. Being aware of this can make stress become more of a supporting friend who makes you do stuff that you’d rather not do initially, but you know afterwards you are glad you did it! I certainly use this type of thinking and I even change the word stress. When I start to feel ‘stressed’ – I use the term ‘challenged’ as this suits my mindset better and I see this challenge as something good that needs to be overcome and achieved – it’s all part of my achievement orientation ie I like to, and need to, achieve and contribute. Secondly, It’s about recognising your levels of experience, motivation and expectation to get yourself into the performance mode where stress is fuelling you rather than hindering you. It is useful to look at the diagram of stress and performance to understand where you are. Too much stress (or challenge) can make you fatigue or Burnout, either immediately or in the long term. Equally, not enough stress (or challenge) can make you Rust-out and become bored, even apathetic. The trick is to keep yourself in the performance gap by awareness of how you are feeling, recognising the benefits and negatives of stress/challenge, taking care of your emotional and physical health needs, getting support where appropriate and being able to talk and share with others. I call this last factor the ability to be vulnerable. In practical terms, returning to the office workspace may be a stressful ordeal for some workers – we cannot judge anyone for this as we all have different lives and therefore a different view of, and experiences within, the world. As such, don’t impose your view of the world upon anyone, let people be who they are….safely! Be watchful of others in terms of their day to day behaviour and be a part of the solution and not the problem by offering support or not making negative comments about workspace expectations. Just being able to listen to someone else, allowing them to show their vulnerability, and maybe not fixing something, may in fact be the solution! In summary, here are my stress tips: 1 Be aware of a build up of stress in yourself – probably as a result of too much frequency, intensity or duration of stress. 2 Manipulate these variables to suit your mood, motivation and aspirations. 3 Start to see stress as a supportive friend who pushes you nicely to achieve things – maybe call it your challenge friend? 4 Recognise when you are in the performance zone, rather than the Rust out or Burnout zone. 5 Confide in trusted others to get an alternative perspective – it can help you see your challenge from another angle which can often be helpful.   Ross McWilliam is a freelance speaker, trainer and author with more than 30 years’ experience of developing people and organisations. He works with organisations such as EFL, NCS, IBM, Santander, NHS, and is a MHFA England Trainer in Youth & Adult Mental Health and has worked in over 1500 schools, colleges and businesses. He is also an author of various mindset books aimed at children and young professionals and works with large groups, or one to one coaching to improve performance. Email Business Website Book Website Tel 07771916788
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Creating a culture of wellbeing in your school
Wellbeing, mental health, and even resilience are the buzzwords that are at the forefront of everyone’s mind at the moment. The COVID pandemic has changed how we live, work and generally interact with each other. The school setting is no different from most other workplaces, except for one small detail – staff are always concerned for the emotional welfare of their children, and sometimes this concern can be to the detriment of their own emotional and physical health. Whilst this noble, even altruistic, approach is commendable, an exclusive focus on child welfare may make some school staff susceptible to challenges to their own mental health and emotional wellbeing. There must be a balance, as emotionally healthy staff are more able to provide an even more comprehensive well-being service to their charges. For many educational professionals the term ‘mental health’ itself conjures up an image of weakness, or a lack of emotional stability, and the very mention of mental health may suggest a negative deficiency that could slip into conscious or unconscious communication bias. Sadly, from my anecdotal experiences, there is also a gender bias, with many males not seeing the need for school wellbeing – with some even hanging onto the, almost prehistoric, notion that you just need to ‘suck it up’ and be more resilient. There is also the middle ground of professionals who see mental health and wellbeing as a simple solution – look after your own self, and take control, whether this is by using apps like Headspace or Calm, practising mindfulness, getting some exercise, having a decent diet, getting good sleep hygiene, or being connected. This approach, albeit drawn from a therapeutically-evidenced base, isn’t a strategy that will suit everyone – one mental health and well-being size does not fit all. A more intelligent and bespoke approach to organisational wellbeing is one that not only considers individual strategie but also looks at the impact of a considerate, gentle and holistic approach to improving collective wellbeing. Here are six key areas of this collective approach:
  • Growing a school culture of conscious and sub-conscious non-stigma, and the use of acceptable mental health language.
  • Development of self-awareness, and awareness in others.
  • Listening non-judgmentally rather than always trying to solve something with advice.
  • Asking questions which engage a colleague and show you care.
  • Signposting for independent support.
  • Collective acceptance and responsibility in forming a school positive mental health and wellbeing culture.
Growing a school culture of conscious and sub-conscious non stigma, and the use of acceptable mental health language Whether we know it or not, we could be perpetuating a negative stereotype of mental health. Worse still, this attitude could actually stop those in need accessing support and recovery. Everyone has mental health, with some having more or less mental health, so we simply need to be aware of any language, or non-verbal communication, that suggests somebody is less. Examples of non-stigma and positive language could be ‘Experiencing a mental health challenge’, ‘They are currently accessing support,’ ‘They have a current diagnosis of bipolar’ (or other specific condition), ‘Is there anything I can do to assist you?’ Development of self-awareness and awareness in others Take notice of how you are actually feeling – especially when you take off your professional hat, remove your resilience shield and set down your achievement orientation. Check in to your emotions, feelings and behaviours – what is driving each of these? In line with this, actively practice self-care by taking yourself away from your ‘stress’ points on a daily basis, either on your own or with others. Listening non-judgmentally rather than always trying to solve something with advice Try and listen to understand, rather than listen to interrupt by giving advice about how to fix things; often, it’s the process of just being listening to that is the solution. Everyone has been through a different pathway – and been exposed to various mental health risks and protective factors – so let’s not judge by our own standards. Asking questions which engage a colleague and show you care If we are going to ask questions, open and closed can both be equally effective. For example, using a closed question, if you simply ask, ‘Are you okay?’ the easiest response is ‘Yes’ – but this might not be true. Better to ask a different type of closed question such as, ‘Can I buy/make you coffee?’ which has an inference of sitting down together and chatting. Another example of a good open question might be ‘What can I do to assist you now? What would you like?’ Signposting for independent support This could be set up on a school online hub where all staff can add useful contacts, organisations, ideas and tips. Access can be gained anonymously. Collective acceptance and responsibility in forming a school positive mental health and wellbeing culture Identify this in the school mission statement, and on pupil and staff noticeboards. You can also create regular, independent wellbeing meetings – on or off site – staff mentoring/buddy systems and make accredited mental health a CPD focus. Miriam Alexander, an NHS consultant liaison psychiatrist writing in The Guardian (March 1st 2021) not only re-enforces the message of self-awareness, but also warns against the danger of almost ‘outing’ weaker staff members. She talks about being able to open up, without stigma, about the demands of dealing with this, seemingly never ending, COVID onslaught, where death and illness have, sadly, become an all too familiar daily sight. “It’s vital we create a work culture that encourages self-awareness rather than self-criticism,” she says. “There may well be individuals who are more susceptible to burnout, but they are not the ‘weaker’ ones; they’re the canaries in the coal mine telling us something is wrong with the system. The lesson is to improve the NHS to make it healthier for all of us.” There will be some staff members who are more liable to burnout before others, for various reasons that we as colleagues may not be aware of, such as their own exposure to historical risk and protective mental health factors. Equally, self-awareness must drive organisational culture, where a collective awareness of the needs of others must be recognised. I can relate to her viewpoint as, in my work accrediting mental health and wellbeing with NHS frontline staff in the northwest, I can clearly see there is not only a potential for burnout, but also a collective stigmatisation of those who do burnout. Not only must we be more aware of our own feelings, emotions and behaviours, we must also tune in to be being more aware of the needs of others. We must also not fall into the trap of keeping going, being super-resilient, as nobody can surely keep going forever without there being collateral damage to themselves or others. Even if we could be super resilient to every challenge in front of us, this warrior-type approach might set uncomfortable precedents and expectations for others to live up to. This is the individual and collective resilience caveat that must be respected. From leaders to the led, we must create a workplace culture that is gently receptive to potential warning signs of burnout and we must signpost, and make available, recovery pathways. Collectively, we must see mental health and wellbeing as a number one priority where the mantra must be ‘mental health non-stigma’. On a final, slightly lighter note, supposedly the world’s richest man, Jeff Bezos, knows a thing or two about growing a successful business empire. Yet, what many people might find surprising, is that he talks so much common sense about the way we emotionally categorise work and home life, and how personal energy can enhance collective energy. Bezos is disdainful of the metaphor ‘work-life balance’; he thinks it suggests a loss of one or the other, like a compromise. Rather, he suggests we should call it ‘work-life harmony’, where one positively fuels the other, like a symbiotic relationship. As a practical pointer, he suggests we think about the energy we create or take away when we enter a room of colleagues at work or family members at home! It might start off with us, but no person is an island, and so we must keep working collectively to secure good wellbeing and mental health, whether that be at work or at home. This post was originally written for and published by Ed-Excel. The original article can be viewed here: Creating a culture of wellbeing in your school | Edexec[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]
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Lancashire Business View Health and Wellbeing Conference
On April 8th, 2021 I was delighted to be a part of the Lancashire Business View Health and Wellbeing Conference. This event was organised to raise awareness of the importance of health and wellbeing in the workplace covering both physical and mental health discussions. The health and wellbeing of employees has never been a higher priority for businesses, and this event brought together a panel of key business experts to discuss health and wellbeing issues they face and how they have innovated to deal with challenges in this area and Lancashire’s health and wellbeing professionals to share their knowledge and advice on keeping workforces healthy and happy. With key themes of wellbeing strategies for remote and hybrid working, employee engagement, returning to work strategies and at work strategies the event provided excellent insight to business owners and managers on up-to-date issues. If you missed out the full event can be viewed here: Lancashire Health and Wellbeing Conference - YouTube
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How To Deal with Emotional and Business Change During Covid 19
1 The Change Curve Whenever we are faced with change it is often unexpected, and it is this aspect which can affect us emotionally, cognitively, mentally and physically. The Corona Virus Pandemic is a classic example of this unexpected change phenomena. Yet, how we react to change has been well documented. In 1969, Elizabeth Kubler-Ross create a ‘Grief Curve’ to explain the five stages of change we go through during grief. This model has since been adapted by business to identify the change management processes and it is entirely relevant when we look at the effects of the pandemic on people and business. Some people don’t actually get over the initial shock of the virus, and often ‘progress’ to living in denial. This is a view which has been levelled at many younger people who either don’t believe they will get it, or if they do, it won’t have a significant effect upon them. Another group of people might quickly move out of shock and denial, but hit a brick wall of frustration as their previous working habits, schedules and communications have changed, and may never go back to what they were. In some cases, this can lead to depression. Others may be initially shocked, but then quickly accept the situation and some even see it as an opportunity to improve things from before, to start afresh, create a new business order. This cohort quickly move along the curve and start to experiment with new ways of doing business, maybe using new technology like Zoom and Microsoft Teams to remotely communicate with work colleagues and new businesses. In fact, this new way of working may well then become part of a ‘new normal.’ Throughout all this change, the spotlight is also focused upon us individually. Our mental and emotional wellbeing may well be compromised, and we may struggle to come to terms with this potential threat to our own life, and the threat to our loved ones. This could even spiral out of control as we grasp for quick solutions and safe scenarios in our quest to find healthy ways exist. If this safety and security is established, our attention may turn to other aspects of our lives such as finances, work and fulfilment. This situation has been well documented by Stephen Covey in his book ‘The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People’ (1989) when he talks about circles of control, concern and influence. 2 Circles of Control, Concern & Influence Most people will have heard the cliché ‘worry about the things you can control, not those that you can’t’ and this is so simple, yet it can be so effective. Stephen Covey elaborated on this concept by talking about the three concentric circles ie control, concern and influence. The outer circle of concern involves things that are out of our control and we can waste time reacting to issues we can’t control such as the weather, people’s opinions, the news. The inner circle of control involves things that we can control, and we can be proactive using our resources to achieve better outcomes ie how we interpret people’s opinions about us, our attitudes and who we work for. The secret is to reduce the size of the worry factor of the circle of concern, and at the same time, increase the size of your potential positive factors in the circle of control. This in itself may be a relief and it helps you to focus on what you can change. To do this with even greater effectiveness, Covey suggested we create a circle between the circle of concern and the circle of control called the circle of influence. The idea being that there may well be some things that you are able to influence eg improving working relationships, understanding viewpoints of others, looking for the win-win situation. Thus, by being more proactive in the circle of influence, growth in this area is possible, and this, by its very nature, will decrease the size of the circle of concern. 3 Building Habits Maybe the first task might be to complete the three circles in the diagram above – create a checklist of activities that you can influence, and this may then lead to better general and specific habits. Secondly, we can often go wth our first reaction to a problem, and this may not always be appropriate or effective in solving the challenge. By identifying with the Kubler-Ross Curve, we can reflect about where we are in relation to the curve, with an intention to move along and upwards more quickly. To achieve this, do a little stock take audit of your daily thoughts and actions to find out exactly where you are on the curve. Thirdly, establish healthy and productive routines. By introducing structure to your day, you can map out your goals and objectives. However, there is a caveat, as by putting pressure on yourself to achieve in these uncertain times, where various restrictions are in place, your resolve and resilience may be compromised. So aim for more realistic goals and objectives, and reward yourself more often. Be prepared to flex and change these routines regularly as boredom and familiarity can lead to perceived failure. Fourthly, remember the four pillars of mental wellbeing ie 1 Regular Exercise, 2 Balanced Diet, 3 Good Sleep Hygiene and 4 Being Connected (online and with 2m face to face). Do these in various amounts each day and your mental health will be supplemented, rather than compromised. We talk about eating five fruit and vegetables a day, so perhaps we should be talking about taking five mental health actvities each day. Simple activities could be chosen from the list below:
  • Exercise – indoors or preferably outdoors
  • Gardening where you work outdoors, create a product, maybe work with others and you involve the sense of touch, smell, taste, sight and hearing
  • Talking, communicating and connecting with others – online socially and being able to be vulnerable with others ie sharing our fears
  • Sleep hygiene – regular night time sleeping times, no late eating, reduced or no alcohol, no blue light in bedroom, lower bedroom temperature and get outside during the day to increase your exposure to natural light which can aid night time sleeping
  • Diet that includes fruits and vegetables with a range of colours, less saturated fat or added sugars, smaller portions and probably less snacking between meals
  • Meditation such as mindfulness, yoga, pilates
  • Visualisation of goals and gratitude
  • Singing on your own or with a group or choir – singing releases the feel good hormone serotonin and can actually reduce our pain levels
  • Massage and smelling essential oils
  • Writing down and capturing your stresses in a stress bucket or even a journal
  • Finally, good habits are established via willpower, or should I say, whypower. We know that willpower is finite and even the people with great willpower can sometimes crack. So unearth your reasons why you want to create a new habit and this will sustain you for longer.
This post was originally written for and published by Lancashire Association of School Business Managers.
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Meeting the Challenge of Uncertain Times
Uncertainty caused by events such as Brexit and the coronavirus outbreak leads to a rise in day-to-day workplace stress anxiety, and other more significant mental health conditions like depression. The stress and anxiety we saw and experienced during the protracted Brexit negotiations now seems almost minor in comparison to the Coronavirus pandemic and its impact on our health and finances. As humans, we have an innate ability to sometimes catastrophise events by looking on the negative side, and in no time at all, we are facing an emotional rollercoaster of emotions that do not serve us well. So, what can be done when a crisis like coronavirus unfolds? The first step is awareness of what is actually happening right now and to stop catastrophising by imagining the worst-case scenario. Awareness means a rational and logical approach to your thinking based on expert views, and an acceptance that we are in a battle, but we are all in it together, which is the first positive thought we should be having each and every day. We can and will draw strength from each other’s beliefs and actions. This is true Community Spirit. Secondly, if we feed our mind with positive thoughts, these will feed more positive emotions which in turn will lead to more positive behaviours. The very nature of thinking, feeling and acting positively, precludes our minds from focusing on the negative outcomes. It builds our 100 billion neural pathways in our brains to search for positive outcomes, and that is aided by the secretion of more serotonin, the happy hormone. Conversely, if we focus on the negatives, stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol start being produced rapidly, and over time. this chemical imbalance will cause anxiety and the possibility of other mental health issues. We must not catastrophise events, we should be looking for the upsides, and equally, we should be ensuring we are acting safely within government health guidelines. If you are a leader of a business, it is vitally important that you model this positive belief. It might be tough at times, but great leaders always pull through. You may well have doubt, and negative thoughts from time to time, but your self-talk must address this immediately and you must empower others to feel valued and for them to be their best. A simple strategy to do this is to imagine the crisis has ended, and after all your actions, how will your business, family and friends view you? As someone who kept strong by being positive, and who empowered others to be their best, or someone who buckled quickly and let events take over and left everybody to fend for themselves? It is vitally important that beyond positive self-talk and leadership modelling, we create positive routines and structures that allow us to live one day at a time, and not focus too much on the future. Routines that include exercise, good diet, communications with understanding, but without judgment, and distraction time such as reading, watching a movie or enjoying a craft or hobby, are the cornerstones to navigating each day successfully. Try and be daily producers rather than solely consumers. This is the ability to ‘compartmentalise’ the day which means to not look at yesterday or tomorrow, but focus on what only can be achieved today. Of course, business planning is crucial, but at the onset, it should be about steadying the ship and reassuring the crew, then you can go to work on your forward strategies. If we can manage our stress, and be the model leader to others, then our ship will not only survive the crisis, but will thrive and be steered out of the storm into calmer waters. Many people can sail a ship in calm waters, but who can steer a ship through a storm? This post was originally written for and published by Intouch with Business.
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External and Internal Pressure to ‘Max Out’ Lockdown Time
Trauma Psychologist Alaa Hijazi's Facebook post has been viewed over 19,000 times. She seems to have struck a chord with many people when she identifies how many motivational commentators talk about ‘now is the time to improve yourself’ without understanding how this can backfire spectacularly, creating potentially trauma like symptoms, and even predisposing us to develop specific trauma conditions. Her post can be summarised: “If you don't come out of this with a new skill, you never lacked time, you lacked discipline. This cultural obsession with [capitalistic] 'productivity' and always spending time in a 'productive,' 'fruitful' way is absolutely maddening. What we need is more self-compassion, more gentle acceptance of all the difficult emotions coming up for us now, more focus on gentle ways to soothe ourselves and our pain and the pain of loved ones around us,……..making us feel worse about ourselves in the name of 'motivation.'" I can align myself with Alaa Hijazi's post, and do recognise the need to gently accept ourselves, accept our current emotions and not to focus too much on being obsessively productive. This is a period of reflection, almost like a personal stock take, and it can be an ideal time to recognise our progress in life, rather than denigrate all our achievements by wanting the elusive ‘more’ and ‘better’ life scenarios. But, I for one, do still see this Lockdown time as an opportunity to develop and grow ourselves, as long as we are balanced in how we use this time. We must be wary that there is a mental health caveat that is beginning to rear its head and it’s something many of us must be careful of. For me, this mental health caveat presents itself in terms of panic attacks. After almost 3 years of being panic attack free, I am now presenting with classic panic attack symptoms of racing and erratic pulse, breathlessness and an internal dialogue pressure to improve myself. This is a direct result of having Lockdown time to ‘forge ahead of the learning curve’ with personal and professional projects. So, I am learning now, even at nearly 60 years of age, to adopt a more balanced approach to this unique time. I still set daily goals, but am philosophical if I don’t achieve them. I don’t proverbially ‘beat myself up’ and simply accept that was how it went today. Examples of this balanced approach can be seen in my exercise routines which until recently, had been done almost regimentally in terms of duration, frequency and intensity. I am now working to understand how I feel each day, happily changing my exercise formula, and dare I say it, even taking days off! This has taken the pressure off myself emotionally, and I feel a new sense of freedom, empowerment and control. In terms of my business goals, I am only now beginning to realise that a constant push-push attitude almost inevitably results in feelings of frustration which feeds my internal anxiety, which for me, ultimately leads to panic attack symptoms. The term resilience, commonly known as not giving up, is often banded around at times of pressure and manifests itself in terms of statements such as ‘when the going gets tough the tough get going’…’man up’…’pain now, glory later.’ However, maybe a more holistic understanding of resilience is to be adaptable, to work out what works for you, to maybe step back before you step forward. I take comfort from other social media commentators, such as Lancashire Post Media Editor Blaise Tapp, who recognise that having more time does not mean that you are more productive – in fact, it can mean the exact opposite! Just by accepting this statement takes the guilt away for me. Even potentially more worrying, is the impact of parental well-meaning educational expectation and pressure on children to learn at home. We must keep balancing the opportunity to learn with the complementary viewpoint of being creative, trying new things and having plenty of fun. In conclusion, it really is about balance. Recognise the obvious and subtle pressure of Lockdown time, don’t push too hard for too long, take regular personal and professional stock takes, and develop routines that have flexibility built into them. Remember resilience is a double edged sword. If you can do this, then why not use your time to set your own gentler expectations for developing yourself personally and professionally? This post was originally written for and published by Bett. The original article can be viewed here: About Bett | Bett at ExCeL London, 20-22 January 2021 (
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