The Stresstive Season

I know, I know, but I just couldn’t resist it.

For me, the Festive Season is about being with family and friends – happy faces, twinkly lights, special food, connection.

What does it mean for you? Close your eyes and imagine your perfect Christmas. Now be aware of the feelings that image evokes, and what Christmas often turns into for you.

I love being with people I care about and making loved-ones happy with gifts they’ll enjoy. I love the special atmosphere that Christmas decorations create. And sharing good food with family and friends is one of life’s great pleasures. But that’s as far as it goes. I’m not too concerned about doing it perfectly, because I know the cost of attaining that perfection can be very high and striving for it can become more important than the reasons for doing the things in the first place.

Yet many of us do strive for perfection at any cost, and then Christmas = Stress. Preoccupation with how we, our homes and the food looks to our guests can often take the pleasure out of actually being with them.

Here’s the thing. There’s nothing wrong with wanting our home and table to be looking great when our guests arrive, nor with going to all the trouble of making the decorations and food ourselves from scratch, if that gives us joy. But if going to such lengths creates feelings of stress and resentment instead, and we can’t wait for it all to be over, maybe it’s time to check out why we’re doing it.

We spend increasing sums of money and time looking for the perfect gifts in order to give happiness, but how long will that happiness last? Studies show that even lottery winners return to their former levels of happiness, sometimes in as little as a month. So if winning the lottery won’t cut it, what chance do our presents stand? The trouble with material gifts is that after the novelty wears off, they become ‘ordinary’. Researchers have found that people enjoy greater wellbeing and value from life experiences than from material things. Their memory lives on.

The perfect Christmas doesn’t exist. Mine does, for me. And yours can for you, if you think it through. If putting on a feast for 20 with all the trimmings gives you joy, go for it. If you’d like to escape to a desert island but your extended family wants to visit, maybe you could negotiate dates to allow for some alone-time, shared responsibilities for food and decorations, and a cap on gift values.

This year my perfect Christmas will be spent celebrating the birth of another special baby, my son’s first child.

Merry Christmas!


PS – Are you too worried about what others think? Drop me a line below to find out how I can help.

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Staying sane under stress – even at Christmas!


For many people, Christmas is the most stressful time of the year. Overindulgence, overwork, overspending: the financial and emotional strain of trying to meet everyone’s expectations; having to spend time cooped up with annoying relatives; loneliness if you have no family or friends nearby … it all adds up. So here are some questions to help you. Given the time of year, I’m focusing on Christmas, but you can use the process below for any stressful situation.

Get clear on what you really want. Given your circumstances, what does your ideal Christmas look like? Take time to really visualize it.

What’s important to you about that? Are your values being honoured?

How do you want to feel on the day?

What intentions do you need to set in order to create the atmosphere you need?                              

What memories do you want to create?

What needs to be in place for these memories to materialize (this is where planning ahead comes in).


Now, imagine it’s Boxing Day. Looking back, ask yourself:

What worked? What didn’t?

What were the best moments? What are you proud of?

What was hard? What did you have to overcome?

What are you grateful for?

What did you need more / less of?

Knowing all that, what will you need to do differently to achieve your special day?

For some, the answer is to escape to a warm, sandy beach far away. But maybe you won’t have to. Let me know how it goes.


PS – if you’d like some help dealing with stress, contact me to discuss how I can help you.

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It’s just a habit

Have you noticed how, when we talk or think about habits, very often the word ‘bad’ is hovering somewhere in the background?

A habit is just something we consciously chose to do in the past, then repeated so often that we continue to do it without thinking. Habits can be useful: if we had to think about when and where to brush our teeth each day, chances are we’d never get round to it!

In with the new

If you want to create a new habit, it helps to be clear WHY – how will it add love / joy / wellbeing / success to your life? Remind yourself of your motivation frequently. It also helps to be accountable to someone – a friend, group or coach; often we’re prepared to let ourselves down but not someone else.

Start small

A small change is easier to start, (you could start one right now!), easier to keep up and easier to incorporate into your normal life. Try this one: SMILE before you open your eyes each morning.

Choose easy habits that you’re more likely to succeed at (and enjoy) to begin with. You’re building your habit skills as well as trust in yourself as someone who can create habits.

Practice makes perfect

Every time we do something new, we’re creating a new neural pathway in our brain. The more times we do it, the stronger that neural pathway becomes until eventually, (between 21 days and three months) we’ve created a habit.

Stick with it

No exceptions! ‘Just this once’ and before long it will be on the Habit Heap and you’ll end up losing faith in your ability to create habits that stick. But do plan ahead: if you know your routine will be changing, eg a house-move or major life event, decide in advance whether you’re going to put your habit on hold or change the way you go about it, so that it doesn’t become a failed habit.


Expect discomfort – whether you’re ending or starting a habit, it will feel strange at first

Easy does it – there’s no point in trying to do too much and then being overwhelmed

Create a cue – anchoring a new habit in the same place and time in your daily schedule will make it more likely to stick

Choose your habits well!

As you can see, I believe we can be masters rather than slaves of our habits. What habit would make a positive difference to your life? If you need a hand, let’s have a chat about how you could create powerful habits and enjoy life more.

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Unleash Your Creativity!

What would happen if you gave your creativity the space, time and permission it needed to thrive?

We are all born creative and creativity is an essential part of the world we live in. But many of us grow up with labels that convince us otherwise.

“He’s the artistic / musical / creative one in the family” can have a profound effect on siblings who grow up considering themselves to be less so. “She’s the academic one” can push a child into a high-flying career that stifles her creative expression.

Pablo Picasso said, “Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.”

As adults, juggling work, study, family responsibilities and other pressing commitments, creative pursuits can seem a luxury.

For some, it’s a question of confidence. Author Joseph Chilton Pearce said, “To live a creative life, we must lose our fear of being wrong.”

If we haven’t had much encouragement as children, we may feel self conscious about our artistic endeavours. If you are being creative in order to hang something in a gallery, you will probably never dare to lift a paint brush. But if painting is your personal creative expression, then there is huge freedom and an opportunity for more fulfillment in your life. (And if you turn out to be the next Picasso, well thank goodness you gave yourself permission to give it a try!)

Even practising artists can become uncreative – repeating what’s worked in the past rather than running the risk of creating something new that might not succeed.

So how can we get the creative flow going? Start by giving yourself small chunks of time in which to do whatever you enjoy. It doesn’t have to mean a change in lifestyle: 15 minutes twice a week is a great start.

Do something creative every day.

It takes practice to improve at anything, so give yourself permission to start where you are in order to get better at it.

I recommend working through Julia Cameron’s book,The Artist’s Way, for anyone who wants to live a more creative life. It unlocks your creativity in a process that includes writing morning pages, weekly readings, artist’s dates (a weekly date with your creative self) and weekly tasks.

If you’d like some company working through The Artist’s Way, because it’s more fun, or possibly, because you’ve tried it on your own and you know how hard it can be to stick to when things get in the way, why not join my next twelve-week course? We’re starting on Wednesday 10 September from 7:30 – 9pm in the Walton / Weybridge area.

And lastly:

What is your inner critic saying? (“You’ll never be good enough …”; “That’s a rubbish drawing / story / song …”) Ignore it. And do something creative.

Allow yourself playtime.

Don’t look for perfection – quality comes with practice.

If those around you are likely to belittle your early work, keep it to yourself until you become more confident.

Be creative


PS – As you can see, I believe everyone is creative. I work with people who want a hand overcoming blocks to their creativity or are struggling with confidence or self-belief. If that’s you, let’s have a chat about how you could design a more creative life for yourself.

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I’m coaching at the National Achievers Congress (NAC) at ExCel

I’m really looking forward to attending the National Achievers Congress at ExCel on Monday as one of the coaches on the Coaches Training Institute (CTI) stand offering free coaching sessions to delegates. With presentations by Anthony Robbins, Lord Alan Sugar and Sir Richard Branson over the three days, I’m sure there will be amazing people to coach and great learning from the presentations. We’re on Stand 13 around the speed networking bar, so if you’re going to the event, do drop in for a free coaching session. You can find out more about the NAC at Hope to see you there!

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Work / Life Balance

Free Work / Life Balance Workshop at Festival of Health and Wellbeing, Soroptimist International of Woking and District

With ever more ‘stuff’ to cram into each day, is it even possible to balance work and life any more? Join us from 10:15 to 11:00 in the Kemp Room at the HG Wells Conference & Event Centre, Woking, to discover what a well-balanced, fulfilled life looks like for YOU, and how to achieve it.

The Festival of Health and Wellbeing is organised by the Soroptimist International of Woking and District and will be opened by broadcaster and journalist, Beverley Turner. Admission to this event is free, with stalls, talks and workshops from 10am to 4pm. For more information visit

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Welcome to Inspiration!

Welcome to my new blogsite. Look out for my first proper blog, coming soon.

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Wild weeds of Weybridge

I’m fortunate to live in landscaped grounds, and that the front and back of my house is all glass, so I can feel that I’m surrounded by nature even when I’m indoors. The view from the front is beautiful – lawn, trees and shrubs, lovingly maintained by gardeners. The back garden, however, is another story.

We have to look after our own back gardens. Normally my trained eyes aim high towards the woods behind my garden, settle on trees and sky, follow birds and squirrels diving in and out of the branches, and I admire the vast beauty that nature provides for me.  Occasionally, though, I make the mistake of staring out into my garden and my gaze rests on the weeds and the brambles.

I do actually enjoy gardening but lately I’ve just decided it’s not a priority. So the garden has taken its life into its own hands and has thrived according to the laws of nature:  my brambles are definitely amongst the fittest to be found anywhere. My neighbours kindly referred to it as a wild garden, good for the birds and butterflies, and my conscience took refuge in that fact. But the reality is that it’s too wild and overgrown to enjoy sitting in. The interesting thing is that I can usually look at my garden without actually seeing it. It’s a great skill and protects me from feeling inadequate, lazy, and all the other negative labels I imagine visitors to my home silently pinning on me.

Every now and then I lose patience with my garden – or with myself, if I’m honest. Usually it starts when I’m taking out the rubbish and have to force my way to the back gate through the jungle. Before I know it, I’ve grabbed the gloves, secateurs and a fork and have started to cut and pull until I’m in a full-blooded, frenzied blitz on the brambles. I pour out all my energy until I’m exhausted and need to get back to my work. I can feel a rush of satisfaction – I’ve enjoyed the connection with nature, and the garden looks a bit better. But only compared to its previous state:  in reality, it’s still a mess and I know it. Worse still, I know it’s just a question of time before the weeds are back again, reaching for the sky, and my efforts will have been wasted. As long as I don’t do the work of digging deep into the soil and pulling up all the roots, they will always grow back. I’m just fooling myself.

Our lives are no different. We do a pretty good job of ignoring problem areas until they overwhelm us.

So, what are the brambles and weeds of your life? And what are you going to do about them?

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