Back to Work….

Last week I was invited to Hatfield Police Station to attend a drop in maternity session for police service women who were pregnant and due to go on maternity or who were due to return.

Initially I was a little intimidated by stepping into a different culture but quickly recognised the public sector similarities, shared by the education sector, in which I work, and the NHS in which my husband works. What runs across all sectors is lack of funding, increased work load and a workforce that can feel threatened by constant change. The downside of that is an increase in stress and anxiety, often exacerbated by a culture in which people find it hard to admit when they are struggling.

For the women due to return from maternity leave their concerns were the following;

  • Lack of clarity about the job to which they were returning
  • How they could find childcare to accommodate irregular shift patterns
  • Concerns about the demanding nature of the job
  • Getting to grips with change that had occurred during their absence.

What particularly concerned the women was an absence of communication from their line managers, leaving them feeling undervalued and in the dark.

This maternity drop in session was exceptional within the area. The women were able to access support from an HR rep, a Unison rep, a Police well being officer and myself who had been invited as a coach specialising in this area. The women were encouraged to bring their babies, were warmly welcomed and made to feel comfortable. Significantly the day counted as one of their Keeping in Touch sessions, which they were happy to attend, while being invited to return to the workplace leaving the baby in childcare would be far less appealing.

As I spoke to the women there concerns were absolutely understandable but their requests quite simple and offer consideration for all employers-

  • Begin the discussion about work life balance early so that the women have time to make suitable childcare arrangements.
  • For the line manager to proactively make contact with the woman on maternity leave, solely for the purpose of keeping in touch.
  • For the woman returning to work to be assured that what she needs to do her job is in place, whether that be computer logins, police radios, doctors bleeps etc.
  • For the employer to offer keeping in touch sessions, which are just that, keeping in touch sessions in which the woman is welcome to bring her baby.

Surely it is worthwhile for an employer to accommodate these simple requests, rather than allowing women to return to the work place, being left to sink or swim and then reactively picking up the pieces resulting from lost work days as a result of stress and anxiety? Parents or not, we are all members of teams whether that be a family, a community or a work force. We have a shared interest and a joint responsibility to facilitate a smooth return to work, increasing staff retention and ensuring well being.

What are or were your main concerns about returning to work? What can employers do to facilitate this process?

If you have concerns about returning to work that you’d like to discuss. please get in touch here.

Five Ways to Create a Clear Vision

The practice of visualising or mentally rehearsing future events is a powerful one. As sports psychologists have known for years, the brain cannot distinguish between what is real and what is imagined therefore if you train your brain to visualise success in a given situation it will be primed and ready to deliver.

Visualisation comes naturally to some but less easily to others. The key is to practice this regularly and to find a form of visualisation that works for you.

In Hal Elrod’s The Miracle Morning, visualisation is one of the six key habits he suggests you practice each day.

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One method is to begin the morning by visualising your ideal day. This really helps to sharpen your focus on your priorities and get you primed for a calm and productive day. In my vision board workshops I take my clients on a journey through their day, from the moment they wake up the moment they go to sleep, visualising every aspect of the day from their environment, what they are eating, how they are spending their time and who they are with. This really helps my clients to set their intentions for making their vision boards and helps to put them in touch with what is really important.

Creating your own vision board is time well spent. Once you have set your intentions, selecting images and words that inspire you and represent what you want from your future is very powerful. As part of my morning routine I use my vision board, looking at each image, thinking about why I selected it and the emotions it produces. Again, this clear visualisation helps me to keep focused on my goals, on what is important and helps me set my intentions for the day as well as giving me the motivation to take action.

One tool I use with clients is the Future Pacing exercise. This works by first taking yourself back in time by five years and describing your life in the past tense. You then repeat the exercise in the present tense and finally take yourself five years into the future, still describing your life in the present tense. I’ve used this exercise with teenagers and this is incredibly powerful in helping them to understand how quickly time passes and that they what they are doing in the present will impact on what happens in the future. Similarly, using this exercise with mothers of very young children is impactful as it transports us to a life pre children when life was very different and projects us into the future, taking us out of the immediate and all encompassing moment of life with tiny children. As a tool to focus yourself on what really matters, this is a good one.

One of my favourite visualisations is by the amazing Gabby Bernstein. I often use this early in the morning and fills me with positive energy, ready for the day. Another excellent visualisation is from Tara Mohr’s Playing Big in which she uses a visualisation which projects you twenty years into the future, in which you visualise your future self and use them as a mentor to guide your actions in the present.

Finally in her confidence coaching CPD for The Coaching Academy the wonderful coach and trainer Pam Lidford teaches a visualisation to prepare you for an important event such as an interview or delivering a speech, in which you visualise approaching a confidence role model and request that you can borrow their outer body or protective shell, literally step into their shoes and visualise the event taking place in which all goes to plan.

Which of these visualisation techniques would you be prepared to try? Do you believe in the power of visualisation to create the future you desire.

My next vision board workshop details here

Group coaching programme including creating a clear vision, finding your core values see here

If you enjoyed this please come and join my wonderful coaching community here.

Five ways to January Joy!

This Monday, 15th January was dubbed Blue Monday, the most depressing day of the year. The press were already busy reminding us that last Monday was the most common day for people to initiate divorce proceedings and this week we face cold short drizzly days and the arrival of the post Christmas credit card bills. So how can we find some JOY in January?

January can be a difficult time and this post is not to deny those undergoing significant challenges. However, we get to choose how we feel and we have the power to change our state to focus on joy, rather than indulging our misery.

Here are Five quick ways to boost your state:

  1. Focus on Gratitude- even if it’s a tiny thing like your morning cup of tea, a warm bed or a smile from a colleague. Notice it, acknowledge it and appreciate it. This will make you feel better.
  2. Be around people. Whether it’s phoning a friend, making plans with friends or joining a new club or exercise class- being around people, having a chat or sharing an interest makes all the difference. This year I’ve joined my local Toastmasters group and met some lovely inspiring people. I’ve also joined a new yoga class and reconnected with an old colleague from many years ago.
  3. Take action- doing something gets you out of that stuck state. Start with something small and achievable- clearing out your purse, painting your nails, sorting out a drawer. Taking action gives us a sense of accomplishment and makes us feel good.
  4. Move your body- every day I do something to get me moving, even if it’s only for 10 minutes- yoga, The Body Coach and Fitness Blender are my favourites. Sometimes going for a walk outside just for 10 minutes is enough to change your state.
  5. Listen to something inspiring. My children love to put music on after dinner and dance around- It’s a great way to instantly feel joy! Watching something funny or reading or listening to something inspiring. I love Audible and always have an inspiring book on the go. There are also some great podcasts- Tony Robbins, Marie Forleo, Tim Ferriss are some of my favourites.

Reading is also a great way to change your mindset. My incredible friend was diagnosed with cancer in July, just a few months before she was due to get married. It was an incredibly tough, gruelling time but instead of allowing herself to be a victim, she vowed to find the positives and has published an inspiring blog entitled Finding the Joy in Cancer.

Another favourite book of mine is Victor Frank’s Man’s Search for Meaning. Frankl was imprisoned in Auschwitz during the Holocaust and living through the most unimaginable conditions he vowed to seek the good in his situation and set about helping others. His findings became the basis for modern psychotherapy. He states in the book:
Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.
Frankl’s message is that in ANY situation, we may not control the situation but we can ALWAYS control our response.

So over to you- what do you do to bring the JOY to January? Please share!

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Success habits and the power of a morning routine.

We’re nearly two weeks in to 2018 and you may be going strong with those resolutions or they may be starting to slip. The thing with resolutions is they require motivation and the thing with motivation is that after a while, it starts to wear off.

Just 5% of us actually stick to our resolutions.

So what’s the answer?

Jim Rohn, personal development guru has it here-
“Motivation is what gets you started. Habit is what keeps you going.”

The good news is it takes approximately 21 days to form a new habit so if you get started today, latest tomorrow, you can be well on your way to success by the end of the month.

What new habits do you want to acquire? What makes the biggest difference to how you feel and therefore how you perform during the day? For me it’s always exercise and meditation. These are what underpin my well being in body and mind and give me the resilience to deal with whatever the day brings. I use a habit tracker stuck to my fridge and tick it off every time I’ve taken action. I’d recommend starting small, with one or two habits, until you build your confidence and motivation and include a few more.

I read the brilliant Mel Robbins’ 5 Second Rule this summer. She encourages us to take action before we have had time to overthink: 5-4-3-2-1 ACTION. It’s also a great one for getting out of bed 5-4-3-2-1 and get up, without thinking or hitting the snooze button. Then get dressed and set your intentions for the day ahead.

Why first thing in the morning? I’m not naturally a morning person. I still feel that I have years of sleep to catch up on having had 3 children! But I am absolutely converted to the power of a morning routine-
If you take action first thing, NOTHING can get in your way. Exercise is done- no excuses. You’ve set your intentions for the day so that you can choose your focus, before people and e mails start to pull you in a hundred different directions.

Another compelling reason is that your will power decreases throughout the day. That’s why we’re more likely to be snacking on biscuits in the afternoon or our good intentions to exercise can disappear as the day goes on. But if you take action first thing, you can spend the rest of the day safe in the knowledge that you’ve taken care of yourself and you are ready for whatever the day brings.

The Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod offers a new and compelling structure to the morning routine using 6 aspects: Silence (Meditation); Affirmations; Visualisation; Exercise; Reading; Scribing (Writing). I’m a fan of all of these disciplines but previously they were scattered randomly across my morning routine. Now I get up at 6, dressed for exercise; do my routine and by 7 I’m ready for action and whatever the day brings. The kids are mostly compliant and generally leave me in peace until 7AM although my seven year old marched in this morning to inform me that I was doing my yoga pose COMPLETELY wrong!

So I’d love to hear from you, what is your morning routine? What habits do you have to ensure your day gets off to a great start?

 

 

Set yourself up for Success

2017 has been a game changer for me. In June I qualified as a Personal Performance Coach with The Coaching Academy and in November I gained my Coaching in Education qualification with distinction. I’ve set up my business and had the privilege of working with some wonderful clients.

I’m not saying this to blow my own trumpet but to encourage you to believe that change is possible. I’ve been a secondary school teacher for 16 years, I have three small children, and perhaps like you, I’ve spent the last decade focusing on survival as frankly there wasn’t time for anything else.

But this year, I’ve changed my beliefs, my attitudes and my daily habits and had an incredible year- I’ve pushed myself out of my comfort zone, made some amazing friends who have held me to a high standard and I’m energised and ready for more growth and challenge in the year ahead.

So what can I share with you?

Consistent action gets results and massive action gets massive results.
Have a plan and chip away at it every day. Be braver than you feel and take risks. Don’t be scared of failure- (FAIL is an acronym for First Attempt in Learning)

Get up early. For most successful people this means getting up early and setting intentions for the day before other people’s agendas take over. I get up at 6 and the first thing I do is write in my planner to record the things I’m grateful for and set my intentions for the day. First thing is when you’re likely to be most productive too. I’ve had to train the children to stay in their rooms until 7AM- we’re mostly successful with this and it means I have a bit of time to think and plan before I start meeting their breakfast orders!

Take care of your health. It’s so tempting to say we don’t have time to exercise, sleep or eat properly but getting those habits in place is so important to support mental and physical health. It’s super tough to exercise during these cold dark days but there are some great, free resources online. Check out Fitness Blender, The Body Coach, Yoga with Adrienne. Having a challenge or goal really helps keep me motivated to. In December I completed the 5K every day and excepting a couple of dangerously icy days this got me out every day, when I otherwise would have made excuses to stay in!

Get your daily habits sorted. Whatever it is that you need to do, commit to it on a daily basis. Whether it’s drinking enough water, exercise or getting control of your finances, commit to doing it on a daily basis. Use a habit tracker- mine is on my fridge or an app such as HabitHub.

Find your cheerleaders. Make sure you seek out the people who will cheer you on. This will keep you on track and accountable. I have business buddies to keep me on track, my coaching circle I meet on a monthly basis and my lovely school mums who keep me on track with exercise. Also investing in coaching has been an incredibly powerful way of identifying what holds me back and holding me to account.

Be future focused. Take yourself forward in time five years. What do you want to be doing? How do you want to be living? What do you need to commit to now in order to achieve that?

What are your goals for 2018? What are you prepared to do to make sure you succeed?

If you are ready to make a change get in touch to book a free discovery call coaching@sarahbramall.com

 

Top Tips For Busy Mums

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Never a dull moment.. this week we’ve been hit by the dreaded sickness bug and have been juggling a little more than usual. Christmas is fast approaching and rightly or wrongly much of the organisation falls to us so it’s more important than ever that we prioritise self care and make sure that instead of being frazzled, we can enjoy this special time.

So how can we make more time for ourselves?

We have busy lives: children, jobs, partners etc and we quite like to squeeze in a bit of a social life and exercise routine. Yet there are only 24 hours in the day- how can we make it work?

No magic bullets here but a few tips to make time for yourself and stay sane….

Get up early. Yes this is painful and maybe a step too far if you’re still up with tiny children in the night. But go to bed early and get up early. It’s worth it, I promise. 6- 7 AM is golden time for me. The children are supposed to stay in their rooms until 7. I get up, without looking at my phone, find my planner and write down my intentions for the day and what I’m grateful for. That’s it. I start the day in a positive frame of mind and clear about my MITs (Most Important Tasks). Check out Mel Robbins’ The Five Second Rule for more on this.

Next is exercise– You Tube is my friend and at the moment I’m doing HITT with Joe Wicks or Yoga with Adrienne. Anything else is then a bonus- Important footnote here- no 6AM starts at the weekend unless you really want to. Give yourself a break.

Responsibilities- this is tough. You probably have too many. Write a list of everything you can think of. Firstly what can you lose- will the kids survive on beans on toast mid week so you don’t have to cook? Whatever corners you can cut, do, for the sake of your sanity.

Next, delegate. Periodically if I present my husband with a list of all the to dos he generally has no idea how much there is to do and will generally raise his game in response. Similarly we’re always amazed that the kids can do way more than they let on and miraculously, when bribed with pocket money, can do all sorts of useful domestic tasks- woo hoo.

Cut the crap– whatever form this takes in your life- get rid. Cut out the rubbish TV (Not Motherland though!) and unfollow the negative voices on social media that drain you. Use the Pareto principle and write down the 20% of people who really matter to you and go all out for them but you don’t have to be all things to all people.

Remember that as a working mum you can’t do it all perfectly. Accept that good is good enough. Make sure you slow down and give yourself permission to focus on what really matters- your health, your relationships and your children.

Please share if you find this helpful and comment below: How do you make more time for yourself?

Bring Your People With You!

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Maya Angelou is my favourite poet. She was a great teacher and poet who had lived a challenging life as an African American woman and suffered all kinds of challenges and hardships. But as she went through life she accumulated wisdom and shared all that she had learned. By the end of her life Maya Angelou was a highly respected figure in the US and spoke at Barack Obama’s inauguration. She was also great friend and mentor to Oprah Winfrey, who spoke at her funeral.

Maya Angelou left us a lot but one key message I got from watching a BBC documentary about her life was this: Bring your people with you.

Think of the people who are no longer with you, those who have supported you or been kind to you. Carry the spirit of those people on your shoulders. When you walk into the room, carry them with you and that will imbue you with great confidence and self assurance. Anyone who has ever been kind to you, anyone who has ever believed in you, bring that with you in to the room.

What a powerful message.

November is a month of remembrance. As Catholics at the beginning of the month we celebrate the feast of All Souls. Later this week we will take part in remembrance services to commemorate those who died in the service of our country.

I’ve been very fortunate in my life as I have yet to experience significant bereavement and I know that many of you have experienced significant losses of a parent, a partner or a child so your understanding of this will be greater than mine. What I have experienced is support and kindness from amazing grandparents and friends who have now passed away.

Two of these people are my grandmother, my Nanna who passed away three years ago. Nanna had an incredible gift for making each one of us feel special and I know this feeling is shared by her five children, their partners, her grandchildren and great grandchildren. As well as setting an incredible example through her faith and love, she made it clear that she was incredibly proud of us and gave us the belief that we could do whatever we set our minds to.

The second person was a dear friend and colleague who also set an incredible example to others through the way he served and cared for the most vulnerable children in a large and challenging secondary school. I have had the privilege to work with many incredible people in my teaching career but Steve was exceptional. He was a great supporter and letter writer and would tell me and my colleagues in the early days of our careers that we were a force for good, that we must shine our lights brightly and that without doubt we made a difference to the children in our care. If everyone had cheerleaders like this we’d have no trouble retaining our young teachers.

When I’m coaching people to reach for their goals I ask my clients to dig in to their strengths, examples of past successes and the support and resources they have to give them the confidence to reach for their goals and the resilience to persevere in seeing it through.

And this is something you can use: think of the people in your life who have been kind to you, who have believed in you and bring your people with you.

Please share and let me know- whose spirit do you carry with you and what did they teach you?

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Let it Go!

Saying yes to happiness means learning to say no to things and people that stress you out. Thema Davis

At this time of year, the trees are shedding their leaves to make room for new growth in the spring. We need to do the same so where do we start?

Firstly let go of negative relationships. Stop spending your precious time with people who put you down, don’t support you in your dreams or drain your time and energy. Make the choice to walk away and invest your time in people who support you and lift you up. Obviously, I’m not advocating walking away from friends or family members who are going through a hard time. I’m talking about walking away from toxic or one sided relationships that don’t serve you.

Secondly look at the media you’re consuming. Unfollow the whingers and the haters on Facebook. Unsubscribe from the e mail clutter and don’t watch the news just before you go to bed if it leaves you feeling upset and drained. Do we need to engage with what’s going on in the world and contribute as global citizens? Of course. But not just before bed, if that doesn’t work for you.

Let go of stories from the past. I failed that exam so I’ll never be able to… And, while you’re at it, let go of whatever rubbish you picked up from your teachers or parents as a kid- you’re selfish/ lazy/ disorganised. Change that to a new positive belief and start gathering evidence to support it.

We’ve talked before about the inner critic- that little voice that plays inside your head, holding you back and putting you down. Silence that critic right now, and as Tara Mohr, suggests in her brilliant book, Playing Big, get in touch with your inner mentor and let he or her guide you instead.

And finally, responsibilities- make a list of them and identify any you can let go. Where can you lower your standards to make more time for the people and things that really matter?

You have one precious life. Find what no longer serves you and let it go.

I’d love to hear from you. What do you want more of? What are you willing to let go to make space for that?

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Connection, not perfection!

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So we’ve reached the end of half term and the children are back to school tomorrow. At the beginning of the week I vowed to focus on connection with the children and to let go of the quest for perfection, which, to be honest is just as well!

Ten years ago I was heavily pregnant with my eldest, deeply indoctrinated in the need for exclusive breast feeding, home made baby purees, baby signing and cloth nappies. And I duly set out to do my best, not forgetting the opinions of Gina Ford, subjecting him to baby Einstein etc.

This pressure for perfection starts early and as a first time but I fell for it: hook, line and sinker. Thankfully my youngest is now 3. I have three children, a job and a new business. The quest for perfection has long since left the building and let’s be honest, we’re all the happier for it.

But this pressure on parents to get it right is real and it affects us and our children. We are seeing an increasing crisis in our young children’s mental health and the reasons for this are complex but we know this has come alongside increasing pressure on our children to achieve the highest grades, make the ‘right’ career decisions very early, as the prospect of graduate debt looms over them, accompanied by the pressure to create and maintain a perfection on social media, in many cases 24/7.

As parents we contribute this by the desire to give our children the best by over scheduling them with sports clubs, music lessons and after school tuition, which although well intentioned, can lead to frazzled children who lack resilience because they don’t have the time they need to relax, get bored, figure things out for themselves and to play outside without adult supervision.

So what can we do?

I, as much as anyone, am a work in progress. Quite possibly the best thing I can do for my children is to chill the hell out and let them be.

In addition to that I’m trying to work on connection with the kids by talking to them and trying to actually listen. The wheel below is good for this:

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How many have you done in the last 24 hours? Each time your answer is ‘yes’ you have helped boost their confidence and made them feel secure.

Getting the children involved in making vision boards and using a gratitude jar has been great too.

And finally, helping them to identify their strengths and offering feedback when I catch them being good.

We’re far from perfect here- the boys are fighting over the remote and my daughter is pulling every trick she can think of to get another biscuit but I can say that after a week at home together without too many plans life is a little bit calmer and happier.

I love to hear what you think- what works well in your family?

 

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Vision Boards

Last Friday I was joined by some lovely ladies as we got together to make vision boards.

 

What is a vision board?

Essentially a collection of images and words or phrases of things you love in your life and would like to attract more of.

Why vision?
It’s so easy to keep moving from day to day without stopping to reflect on what’s really important. We can find ourselves caught up in others’s expectations of us and find that what we’ve spent our lives focusing on the wrong things, or as Steven Covey says in his book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People,

“It’s incredibly easy to get caught up in an activity trap, in the busy-ness of life, to work harder and harder at climbing the ladder of success only to discover it’s leaning against the wrong wall.”

The Law of Attraction
What you focus on you attract in to your life. So you want to make sure your focus is on what you want and not on what you don’t want. If you focus on feeling tired, ill etc, that’s what you’ll attract. If you focus on positivity and connection you’ll get more of that in your life.

Visualisation
We started with a visualisation of our ideal day, focusing on who we were with, what we were doing and the things that brought joy into our lives. This helped us to connect with our core values and purpose and formed a basis for what we wanted to focus on in our vision boards.

Vision Boards
We then used a variety of magazines to find images and text that attracted us. The process of sitting and creating is in itself therapeutic. Gradually the images were selected, collated and arranged on the page.

As the vision boards came to life I we could see a visual depiction of our individual hopes and dreams but there were definitely some common themes: to be great mothers and do our best for our children; a focus on health and well-being and career satisfaction. For some this is career change, a move in a new direction, a desire to give back and make a difference in the world and a desire for greater challenge and to fulfil potential and achieve career aspirations which may have been put on hold while caring for our children.

The most powerful part of the evening was the conversations that took place once the boards had ben created: our hopes and desires and finding the confidence to make a change and to live out our purpose.

My vision board is now hanging on my office wall and I know it will continue to inspire me, nudge me in the right direction and keep me going on days when I lack motivation and conviction.

This would be a great activity to do with the kids over half term or in the time between Christmas and New Year to reflect on what’s important and set intentions for the new year.

Some images below if you’d like to see….

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