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Can vulnerability lead to growth?

If the idea of being vulnerable or showing vulnerability fills you with dread, it is a great time to connect with this state of being.

Many of us struggle with this because it means that we are opening up that part of ourselves that we would prefer others didn’t see, those times when we struggle with our insecurities, admit that we aren’t coping or that we have thoughts or behaviours we would prefer not to share.

In competitive work settings it can feel like being vulnerable might create an opportunity to be overtaken, overlooked, scrutinised or judged. In many cases, this is not wrong. Would you rather be judged though for who you really are or a façade that doesn’t reflect you, your flawed, true self? When did it become not okay to show emotion in the office, convey your feelings or admit to not having all the answers? Imposter syndrome suggests that there are many of us who worry that we aren’t good enough for the job we have and it will be only a matter of time before we are exposed for the fraud we are. Because we haven’t practiced vulnerability, no one else knows our fears or what we are struggling with.

I was thrust into a leadership role in my early twenties, long before I was ready, without the tools to be effective and a nauseating inner fear that I would be a terrible leader. I didn’t have anyone who stood out as a role model at the time, so it was also hard to consider the type of leader I wanted to be or what I wanted to support in others or to grow myself. My solution to this at the time was to tell no one of my fears, internalise and dissect every decision I made, on my own and constantly berate myself for my missteps along the way. It was not a happy or fulfilling time. In fact, I got quite sick with a suspected stomach ulcer. It was literally and physically eating away at me. In hindsight, had I practiced vulnerability I could have reached out to get the help I needed. I know there would have been people willing to mentor me or coach me if only I’d asked.

The benefits of being vulnerable are that you get to know yourself better, to understand what drives you and what prevents you from doing things you would really like to do. If you open up to your fears then you create opportunities both within and outside yourself to deal with them. You also get to observe vulnerability in others and connect with this too. I worked with someone once who said, “I’m nervous, I’m not sure how to handle some of what might happen in this meeting, I need to know that you’ll be by my side to support me when the questions come.” How empowering is it to hear this? To know that someone else doesn’t have all the answers either, that they aren’t always infallible. People don’t always need us to help them find a solution they just need us to show compassion, to stand with them in solidarity and when the time comes to show vulnerability too because after it all it is this reciprocity of vulnerability that creates the deepest connections and leads to the greatest growth.

When do you feel vulnerable?
How do you deal with this?
Who are you vulnerable with?

Don’t forget to celebrate the small stuff

W e forget sometimes, to celebrate. We celebrate the ‘biggies’: a new life, a lifetime partnership, graduation, but how often do we take time to celebrate the little things? The little things that add up to big things, that make us happy, that move us forward.

I love the little celebrations the most. I’m big on it. I’m a bit of a cheerleader if I’m honest. Any opportunity to celebrate someone’s achievement, I’m in.

We have ice cream, special dinners, speeches, toasts, we write cards. We like to take the time to celebrate those things that matter, that someone has worked for. We know what it takes to set a goal and meet it. We know what it’s like to celebrate on your own and why not share the love, after all?

Not celebrating feels like deprivation or punishment to me because we are really then just withholding something from ourselves. We aren’t acknowledging what we’ve achieved, not recognising it for the effort we have given, and not owning it.intuitive_nature-47

If, like a lot of people, you grew up in an era where there was a diet of ‘not bads’ and ‘what’s next?’ you may not know this new diet of enjoying our food. It may seem foreign to pause after each meal and reflect on the preparation, the flavours, the joy of eating. It may seem a little over the top, a little self-indulgent, possibly even a little tiresome. Don’t be a Grinch.

Celebrating keeps us on track, it brings gratitude, helps us feel genuine joy for other people’s achievements when we know how hard they’ve worked. It helps us believe that things are worth working for, that the journey is as much fun as getting to the end, or winning or being recognised. We start to have an internal barometer for celebrations and it fills our tank.

Recently, we celebrated being a year on from a life-changing event for a special friend of ours. I’m so glad we did. It seems absurd to think we might not have. Reflecting on what happened and the changes of the last year it cemented my belief in celebrating the days and the moments and the milestones. This celebration created a new milestone and one filled with love and gratitude.

When was the last time you celebrated something?

Do you withhold the joy of celebrating?

The power of plants to increase attentiveness and wellbeing

T here is some interesting research about the benefits of being around plants – including increasing attentiveness, lowering blood pressure and increasing feelings of wellbeing. They can remind us that there is always growth, under the harshest of environments plants will often still thrive. They remind us to care about our environment and they make our air cleaner. On a simple level, I think they are pretty and make us smile. 

There is something nourishing about being in nature and nurturing plants definitely helps us feel connected.

I bumped into a friend today and she was telling me about a cool little local Grey Lynn business called Sill Life – beautifully sourced plants and hand made and hand painted pots, a great combination. The clinic is filled with gorgeous plants so it inspired me to create a similar environment at home. Now with three new plants in our house I can attest to feeling pretty good.

It’s easy to see why the guerilla gardening movement started and why it has such a following, there is some magic in transforming neglected and often bleak urban spaces in the dead of night with plants and flowers for people to wake up to. These days, the movement tends to be more about connecting people through gardening and bringing communities together to care for the gardens created which can only be a good thing.

Plants and gardening are often used as metaphors for life. People are described as blossoming or blooming (while pregnant). We put down roots, we reap what we sow. For me, the metaphor most aligned with craniosacral therapy is being grounded. When we feel grounded we have the foundation for health and growth.

To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow

Audrey Hepburn

Footnote: For anyone unsure about their ability to keep a plant alive, some of the easiest / hardiest plants to have indoors include spider, jade and succulent plants. Even I have managed to keep these guys in good shape.

 

Top 5 effective options in managing absence

The health and wellbeing of everyone in the workplace should be a key goal for all business.

People’s wellbeing is critical in its own right and a fundamental component of doing business in the workplace. New Zealand lost around 6.1 million working days to absence in 2012. Non-genuine sickness absence is believed to account for 5% of all working time lost to absence on average, at a cost of around $283m to the economy.

An absent employee typically costs their employer $837 a year including the salary cost of absent individuals and replacement costs (through temporary staff or overtime worked by other employees for example).

An absent employee typically costs their employer $837 a year.

How to manage absences – touch, pause, engage.

The most effective options for managing absence levels include high levels of employee engagement, flexible working and the line manager taking primary responsibility for managing absence. chart_wellness02

We also see rehabilitation plans (e.g. staged return to work) and health and wellbeing services or programmes featuring highly in the 2013 Wellness in the Workplace Survey.

Are corporate wellness programs important?

As a way to reduce absenteeism, many employers are recognising the need to have arrangements in place for improving employees’ wellbeing.

63.9% of businesses considered improving employee wellbeing to have some level of priority over the next 12 months, while over 90% considered this at least to be desirable. However, in relation to other priorities, only a quarter (25.2%) considered employee wellbeing a top priority. chart_wellness01

Views on employee wellbeing as a priority tend to reflect business size. Figure 15 below shows that while employee wellbeing is on the list of priorities for larger businesses, micro-small businesses see it as a desirable priority in the longer-term but not in the next 12 months.

Given the recent difficult economic climate, it is perhaps no surprise that for many enterprises other priorities take precedence over employee wellbeing. But as the economy improves, New Zealand’s long-term problem of finding staff with the right skill sets will self-evidently increase. Taking employee health and wellbeing seriously may help to entice new staff and discourage staff from leaving.

Unplugging, how to disconnect without getting lost

How often do we unplug? I mean, really disconnect, go off the grid, no social media, phones, emails? I hear people joke that when they have lost their mobile they feel like they have lost an arm, they don’t know what to do with themselves or that they feel lost.

With smartphones we have become hyper-connected in a way we haven’t before and we can sometimes be in a permanent state of partial attention

This has been well documented with some interesting research pointing to a corresponding increase in anxiety. I recently went out for dinner and while waiting for our meal, there were people at our table, checking out other Facebook posts and taking and uploading photos while we were sitting there. By the time the meal had finished there were ‘likes’ and comments from people present and absent. This is probably now commonplace. I remember when mobile phones the size of bricks became available and if someone took a call in a restaurant, the level of consternation from other diners was high.

Having conversations by text, by social media, by email is often the norm and it’s not unusual for colleagues in the same team or floor to email each other rather than chat. I often used to walk round to people’s desks and could sometimes feel a level of suspicion being aroused with a face to face conversation. Have we become so used to other forms of communication outside meetings that these meetings are perceived to be the ‘serious’ types? The relief on people’s faces when I would explain it was just quicker to chat rather than to send an email was often palpable.

Just as our phones can’t survive without being charged, I believe that we don’t thrive without unplugging regularly. Sure, we might have lots of energy, be well versed in late night emails and almost enjoy anticipating the next text or email BUT and here’s the thing, somewhere along the way there is the very really possibility that we lose perspective. We genuinely believe things are more urgent than they are, that we are more indispensable or important and worse, that not being connected is a huge risk. A risk to sales, to projects, to business and ultimately a risk of failure. When our stress levels rise and cortisol and adrenaline flood our body we are put in a state of arousal that is not sustainable. We can start to feel anxious, overwhelmed and stressed but as Dr Libby points out, emails are just emails. Real stress is a critically ill child or a redundancy or divorce. When communication overload feels like some of these other events it is time to unplug.

I acknowledge commercial realities but this can be accommodated through putting strategies in place to avoid being connected all the time. This can be as simple as changing your voicemail message letting people know when you are available or switching your phones or emails off over dinner or while on holiday. For those of you who are quietly scoffing at my naivety now would be a good time to acknowledge someone I know well in this space who leads a team in a consulting environment. When we go on holiday he switches his phone off, actually off for the duration of the holiday. He leaves a message directing people to his highly capable and competent team. He once had a client who complained that he wasn’t available after hours one particular day while he was looking after the kids and spoke negatively about why both parents shouldn’t work. He told the client that if he couldn’t appreciate his core values around family there were other people he could work with.

Have you unplugged recently? Would you, should you, could you?

What do you believe about your ability to heal

The way we think, feel and talk about our bodies and our health can have an impact on how we feel about our health issues, how we respond to them, how we recover from them and how we heal.
There is a lot of research about the impact of the power of the mind including positive psychology and neouroplasticity (The brain’s ability to reorganize itself by forming new neural connections throughout life.) I believe our inner beliefs about ourselves can also impact on our ability to heal.

Natural forces within us are the true healers of disease
Hipocrates

A couple of examples for you. We can sometimes believe an issue that we currently have, that we may have had for a long time will always plague us. We are hopeful of a minor improvement rather a wholesale change. People will talk about their dodgy back or their weak stomach. I have done it myself. I used to talk about my gammy sinuses as being my weak spot and I even believed that everyone had a ‘weak spot’. I never went anywhere without tissues and had regular painful sinus infections. I couldn’t actually imagine not having them I was so used to them. Another thing people sometimes talk about is the fear or expectation of health issues that may impact them in the future.

I am not negating hereditary factors for disease or the cycle of emotions that go with being sick and in pain and I have been there. Nor am I suggesting that if people just put a ‘smile on their dial’ their health problems will instantly go away. During our lives we may be exposed to an array of illnesses and injuries and health issues which will need a variety of supports and treatment.

What I am suggesting though is there is another way to think about ourselves and our health that will support us to recover, heal and thrive. This is not new or radical thinking but it does require another way of being. Helena Popovich an Australian Physician, author and speaker talks about the language we use in the healthcare system and how it can be overwhelming for some people. She describes how terms like, ‘eradicating the disease’ or ‘fighting infection’ can leave people feeling like their bodies are a battleground.

Finding health can be much more empowering. Recognising what is working well even when we are feeling terrible can be a huge relief, from having mobility to comfortably breathing and eating. Believing that we have the strength and inner health to face obstacles is vastly different from feeling like our bodies are failing us.

Sometimes we don’t have the head-space and sometimes we all need help to get started or to maintain our health. Craniosacral therapy creates the space for this using your body’s natural ability to heal or to feel balanced. Ultimately, our body is an amazing healing device and will go to great lenths to heal.

From Surviving to Thriving, a Thrivers Guide

“Surviving is important, thriving is elegant” Maya Angelou

When was the last time you felt like you were really thriving? You had a general sense of wellbeing and optimism and able to cope well with the demands of life?

Hopefully your answer is every day. If not, you’re not alone but my unwavering belief is that

we can all achieve greater balance within our bodies which has a profound impact at an individual level and on all those around us.

Firstly, I really wanted to thank you for your interest in my new venture as a Craniosacral Therapist. Now that I have been treating people for a while a common starting point for people is “I’ve been in pain for a number of weeks / months / years and nothing has worked. I’ve been referred to you so I’ll try something new.” Alternatively, people come because they have a sense that they could just ‘feel better’ and want some support to achieve this.

When I discuss a client’s history they are often in pain on a daily basis and that has become their ‘new normal.’ This has a significant impact on their life and general feelings of wellbeing as daily tasks become more challenging from exercising to shifting position on the couch. Anyone that knows me well knows that I love a challenge but the beauty of craniosacral therapy is that healing can occur in a very short space of time with tangible results for people so the results tend to speak for themselves. People are often surprised how quickly they start to feel better.

So what is craniosacral therapy? And how can it help you thrive?

The treatment works through identifying points of tension in the body and releasing these through light touch. While this may be hard to comprehend, it’s worth noting how quickly and easily we can also become unbalanced, often in a single moment or event.

For all of us, life has ups and downs which are both physical and emotional. In our crazy, hectic schedules we often fail to notice the impact of stress, illness and injury on our bodies as we ‘soldier on’ to ensure that our work, family and life commitments are met. As an example, a whiplash injury is overlooked as minor but can create a series of small compensations in the body. Over time, people may start to get headaches or lower back pain and can’t immediately pinpoint when they started. In addition, a stressful or emotional event can leave us feeling depleted long after the event has passed.

We often think of movement as an external expression, such as walking or running and don’t think so much about the movement that happens internally all the time, our digestion, our blood pumping, tissues expanding and contracting. When movement is reduced this can lead to pain or discomfort or a general feeling of being unbalanced or ‘out of whack.’ Craniosacral Therapy works to help restore this movement. When movement is restored we often feel so much better. Whether you are in pain or just want to feel balanced and thrive you could benefit from a treatment.

“Most people have no idea how good their body is designed to feel” Kevin Tredeau

I am now offering treatments at Intuitive Health in Ponsonby, Auckland. For more information please visit www.intuitivehealth.co.nz or If you are interested in booking an appointment please email me at emma@intuitivehealth.co.nz or call me on 021 62 60 62.

Why waiting and wanting is bad for your health

Dr Seuss was a great one to acknowledge we are often waiting.

Waiting for the fish to bite or waiting for wind to fly a kite.. or a better break or a string of pearls… or another chance. Everyone is just waiting.

What I know for sure is that waiting for opportunities or our luck to change is a sound antidote for happiness. We know that if we focus on what we haven’t got or what other people have that we don’t, it doesn’t illicit happiness. In fact, the opposite is true. I love the saying that ‘someone else is praying for the things that you have.’  It reminds us that whatever reality we are living in it may well be a parallel universe compared to someone else’s life.

Recently, our son broke his leg and we were initially told 12 weeks in a cast. A long time and a bit of an impediment for a six year old highly active, sporty kid to be in a full cast and wheelchair.  A lot of people we spoke to said ‘I bet you are all counting down the days’ which is a completely natural reaction and a place you can easily go BUT a sure fire way to put you in that waiting place.

What I have noticed is that while Flynn certainly had his moments of frustration, most of the time he adapted really well and focused on what he could do and how to enjoy life. That’s most kid’s natural response right? As adults, we are already two weeks ahead thinking about some future event and how we will manage or being annoyed at what we missed out on the week before. Flynn’s missed out on a few parties, he can’t play rugby or soccer (which took up 80 percent of his free time) but he can do heaps of other stuff. He knows it is only temporary and he’s making the most of the additional time playing yahtzee or watching sports on television with glee.

As adults, we’ve forgotten how to have this response, and yes, we undoubtedly have more responsibilities, burdens, commitments, conflicts but we can still think about our situation / health / wellbeing differently. Our bodies have a strong desire to be healthy, to find health or to get back to health. The ‘knowing’ and way to get there comes from inside us all but often we are often too busy, distracted or out of touch to recognise it. A parallel with the aviation industry (where I have come from) is that if you don’t put on your oxygen mask first you can’t help anyone else.

Taking care of ourselves, putting ourselves first and having some time to ‘be’ rather than ‘do’ will all support wellbeing. Changing the way we think can change the way we feel and yet, changing the way we feel can change the way we think too. It’s a vicious and virtuous circle when we are engaging with wellbeing and health. Craniosacral therapy is a whole systems approach that supports both physical and mental wellbeing and sometimes we all need a bit of support.

Get in touch!