As ek die effek van Reiki moet opsom, is dit dat Reiki altyd positiewe verandering sal teweeg bring. As jy ongelukkig is met iets, of dit nou jou fisiese liggaam, emosies, denke of geestelike groei is, is dit mos ‘n verbetering waarna jy soek. Jy wil hê dinge moet verander. En dit moenie slegter word nie, dit moet beter word. Nou-ja, dis wat Reiki sal doen: dit bring altyd positiewe verandering teweeg.
‘n Reiki behandeling kan help om genesing in die fisiese liggaam te bewerkstellig. Daar is verskeie wetenskaplike studies wat bewys dat Reiki pyn kan verlig en die liggaam kan help ontspan. In Engeland kan kanker pasiente Reiki behandeling kry as deel van die komplimentêre terapieë wat aan pasiënte aangebied word onder die NHS. Hierdie is nie net stories nie: ek het my Reiki Vlak 2 opleiding gedoen saam met die man wie se werk dit is om Reiki terapie sessies te bespreek vir ses hospitale in London. Hy wou self Reiki leer omdat die aanvraag vir Reiki onder kanker pasiente so groot is, dat hy nie altyd genoeg Reiki praktisyns gehad het nie en self wou inspring.
Kyk gerus ook na die werk van die The Centre For Reiki Research en die plasing op Natasja King Reiki gedateer 6 Oktober 2022 om meer te lees oor die Harvard Universiteit studie wat bewys dat Reiki verligting en genesing op die fisiese vlak kan bring.
In my Reiki praktyk kan ek met elke kliënt die emosionele helende effek van Reiki sien afspeel voor my oë. Ek word elke keer stom geslaan daardeur. Mense stap in vir hul eerste sessie en die trane sit maar vlak. Baie keer voel hulle bietjie depressief, sonder lewenslus, doelloos of gefrustreerd omdat die dinge in hul lewe net nie wil “vloei” nie. Dis dan wonderlik om te sien hoe iemand na net een sessie al ‘n merkbare verskil in hulle emosionele welstand kon voel. En na drie sessies het dinge al so verbeter dat nie ek, of my kliënt, stellig kan glo hoeveel beter hulle voel nie. Lewenslus is terug en hulle sien kans vir die lewe. Dis pragtig om te aanskou!
‘n Warrelwind van gedagtes wat net nie wil stil raak nie, onnodige bekommernisse oor die toekoms, terugspeel van gebeurtenisse of gesprekke uit die verlede, gewoontes wat mens net nie kan breek nie, of die onvermoë om gefokus te bly op een taak is ‘n paar van die dinge waarmee Reiki kan help. Baie van my kliënte vind dit moeilik om die harmonie tussen denke en emosies te vind. Dis ‘n algemene probleem vir duisende mense. Luister ek na my hart, of my kop? Die een sê dit, en die ander sê dat. Die merkwaardige uitwerking van Reiki op die emosionele vlak gaan vir my altyd hand aan hand met genesig op die intilektuele vlak. Om helder te kan dink, en uit die veg-of-vlug-reaksie te kan tree, is goud werd.
Die vierdie vlak waarop Reiki werk, is die geestelike vlak. Die grootste effek wat Reiki op die spirituele of geestelike vlak van ‘n persoon het, is dat dit geestelike groei fasiliteer. Dit maak nie saak watter geloof jy is, of watter naam jy gee aan jou Skepper nie, want Reiki is nie ‘n geloofstelsel nie. Dit is ‘n vorm van energiegenesing sonder enige godsdienstige affiliasies. (Ek het byvoorbeeld Christen kliënte wat voor ‘n Reiki-behandeling bid dat God die behandeling en my hande moet seën sodat die wil van God gedoen kan word.)
Reiki werk dus op die liggaam, denke, emosies en gees, en stimuleer die liggaam en siel om sy eie genesing te bewerkstellig. Vir meer informasie, en om ‘n Reiki behandeling te bespreek, kontak my gerus. Ek het my Reiki opleiding ontvang in Londen en is geregistreer as Reiki Master wat kan praktiseer en ander kan oplei in Reiki, by die UK Reiki Federation. Ek het ook ‘n agtergrond in life coaching.
You’ve probably given this question some thought at various stages of your life. You have a decision to make, you finally make the decision because it feels right, but your head says otherwise. Or your head is saying it’s right, and your heart says otherwise. Or you meet someone and you wonder if this person was sent to you by God. Sometimes you might even have an inner voice speaking to you about something but you don’t want to trust it completely because you wonder, am I having the thought, or am I being guided by God?
The test for discerning whether what you are feeling, experiencing or thinking is from God is: Does the thought contain joy, do the words contain truth, and is the feeling one of love.
Messages from God is always your Highest Thought, your Clearest Word, your Grandest Feeling. Your Highest Thought will contain joy, your Clearest Word will be the truth and your Grandest Feeling is love.
If you use joy, truth and love as your guide you can discern whether the message being sent to you, is from a Higher Source or not. Does the idea of changing jobs bring you joy? Does the advice you are being given resonate with you as the truth even when it is hard to hear, or contradictory to what you wish it to be? Do you feel at peace and love for yourself when you imagine yourself in the new job? If you can answer Yes, it’s Divinely inspired.
But even if the idea is your Highest Thought, the word is Clear and the feeling Grand, you still have free will to decide if you are going to act upon the Divine guidance or not. I’d like to invite you to trust yourself and to trust the Divine so much, that you will go ahead and act on that thought, feeling or word. If it has passed the joy-truth-love test, why hesitate? Yes it might be a bit scary, or outside your comfort zone, but you know it is going to be for your ultimate good because it comes from God.
God guides us with experiences, feelings and thoughts of joy, truth and love.
(The inspiration for this post is from the book Conversations with God, Book 1 by N.D. Walsch)
In a recent study of over 1000 people conducted by Reiki Master, Torsten A. Lange, it was shown that learning Reiki can change your life in the most profound way. My life is a testament to the positive changes that can happen when you learn Reiki, but now it has been shown that it happens to almost everyone! The statistics are just staggering! Nine out of 10 people who have learned Reiki would recommend learning Reiki to others and said that since learning Reiki their life has changed in a positive direction!
You can watch a video where Torsten (who just happens to be my Reiki Master) discusses the results of the study on his Reiki Revolution YouTube channel, episode 19 here.
When you are feeling low, overwhelmed, stressed or anxious it might seem impossible that you will ever feel good again. To go from stressed to happy, or anxious to carefree is a huge leap to make. So don’t try to feel good, just do what you can to make this moment better. Even while you are feeling on the low end of the emotional scale, there are less-than-good feelings that still feel better than where you are at now. Disappointed feels better than hopeless, guilt feels better than shame, anger feels better than fear. Don’t pressure yourself into feeling good when that feeling is a big leap from your current emotional state. Just do something to make you feel better. The answer might be as simple as listening to your favourite song, ending the telephone call, or recalling a happy memory.
Have you ever heard or read something and it hits you really hard? Sometimes it can even be a physical sensation where you lean back in your chair, you get chills on your scalp or your jaw drops. Or you say “that resonated with me” in response to a particularly insightful comment. That’s the vibration of truth. You felt it because it has an energetic frequency that literally resonated with your energy field. There’s a reason people call it a truth bomb – the energy of it will blow you away! Even when your mind says “no, this can’t be the truth. I don’t want to believe it”, or “I can’t believe it” because it goes against everything you have been told to believe, or chose to believe, about yourself or your life, the resonance of the truth is going to make itself known. So be discerning. Pay attention to your feelings and to what you feel in your body because it will let you know the truth of the matter.
We need only look to nature to understand what it is to live a life of abundance and how good it is to be proud of who you are. Look for instance at these yellow daisies growing along a coastal path in Mossel Bay. You notice and appreciate these pretty yellow flowers, any flower in fact, because they stand out against the green foliage. The yellow pops against the green, and the sheer number of flowers – the abundance of flowers – is what makes you take notice: that’s abundance and contrast on display.
You too can, and should, shine your light by contrasting to your environment. By standing out, you draw naturally to you what you need. Bees visit a flower, drawn in by the bright colour, pattern on the petals and the smell of sweet nectar. Without the bee, the flower will die without having fulfilled its purpose.
“But there’s more to pollination than sight and smell. There is also electricity in the air. Dominic Clarke and Heather Whitney from the University of Bristol have shown that bumblebees can sense the electric field that surrounds a flower….. “We found some videos showing that pollen literally jumps from the flower to the bee, as the bee approaches… even before it has landed,” says Robert. The bee may fly over to the flower but at close quarters, the flower also flies over to the bee.”
National Geographic article published 21 February 2013
Just as the flower’s energy field is drawing bees to it, the human energy body, the aura, is doing the same. It is drawing to it what it needs. Effortlessly. Beautifully. To attract pollinators the flower isn’t doing anything other than just being a flower. Bees go to the flower, not because the flower is calling the bee, and also not by actively doing anything. No, it just stands bright and proud and it knows who and what it is: a yellow daisy. It does not make excuses for being yellow or for being a daisy, and neither does it pretend to be what it is not. All flowers attract what they need and are appreciated for their individual beauty. The purple morning glory flowers are not any less pretty to look at just because it grows next to a yellow daisy. In fact they compliment each other. The yellow appears more vivid against the purple.
When you understand and fully grasp that you need only shine your light into this world, what you need to thrive, will be drawn to you. Be the beautiful, perfectly, divinely designed, unique you and allow what you require to thrive, to come to you.
What is it that make people want to sign up for a course, attend a workshop, get a qualification, or learn something brand new? I believe it’s curiosity + a drive to better yourself and/or others. When you go so far as to sign up to be taught by someone who knows more than you on the topic, that’s more than just being curious with a passing interest. There’s also a desire for change.
I’ve been curious about the duck-billed platypus – it’s a duck-otter combo that lays eggs! – but I’m not going to sign up for a degree in the Animal Sciences or fly to Australia to see one. On the other hand I was curious about energy healing and I did sign up for a Reiki course. The difference? A drive to better myself and to learn how to help others.
Reiki allows us to treat ourselves and to treat others. The Reiki kickstarts a healing process for the recipient, whether healing is needed on a physical, emotional, mental or spiritual level. That in and of itself is absolutely fantastic and the main reason for many – myself included – to have taken up Reiki.
But there is an added bonus to learning Reiki and it’s actually a big one: empowerment.
Having Reiki empowers you to raise your energetic vibration yourself. You can then choose to treat yourself or others. There is no middle-man involved, no deity that you need to ask permission of in order to affect healing. It’s as simple as placing your hands on your body to treat yourself, or to respond to someone’s request* for healing by placing your hands on them. Reiki starts to flow, and the healing process begins. That is hugely empowering and reminds us that we are so much more powerful than we have been made to believe. The moment you feel the heat in your hands you are reminded that we are all energy, we are all connected because we are made of the same “stuff” and we are all connected to Source energy.
Reiki also has no hierarchy – the Reiki energy flows through, and to, anyone who has intended to give or receive Reiki. Whether you are the CEO of a company, a stay-at-home-mom, a priest, or a Reiki Master with 20 years of experience, Reiki makes no distinction. The healing, positive energy is the same for everyone.
Learning Reiki is the expression of your desire, and the means, to bring about positive change.
*As a footnote: Just as much as Reiki is empowering, we also have to remember that we can’t force Reiki onto someone. Therein lies the lesson of letting go and allowing others to follow their own path and find their own way to healing. You might be tempted to go around giving everyone Reiki because you have been empowered to do so, but if they don’t ask you, or give their consent when you suggest it to them, Reiki should not be given. It’s like Uncle Ben said to Spiderman “With great power comes great responsibility”
The relationship between a Reiki Master and a Reiki Student is an important one which should not be taken lightly. Reiki Masters share a little bit of themselves with every student and we create lifelong bonds. You must therefore make sure that you will get along well and, for the lack of a better word, will be able to “gel”. In addition, there are a few background facts and technical points you may want to consider, and questions you will want to ask of the Reiki Master, before deciding whether or not to enroll in a Reiki training course. Here is a list of questions to ask the Reiki Master as suggested by the UK Reiki Federation, and my answers to those questions:
Question to ask the Reiki Master
What style of Reiki do they teach?
Usui style of Reiki in the Japanese and Western traditions
Do they have a lineage (similar to a family tree) that goes back to the founder of Reiki, Mikao Usui?
Yes. See it here. Each student also receives a copy of their lineage
Are attunements given in person? “Attunements” can be compared to spiritual blessings and is the most important aspect in the system of Reiki.
How many class contact/face to face hours are there.
Are there any additional hours required to be put in?
Do they provide you with a manual?
Do you have to do case studies (i.e. treatments), and if so how many?
Are they insured?
How long have they been practising Reiki?
How long have they been teaching Reiki?
Where are classes held and is there parking nearby?
At my home in Mossel Bay. There is ample off-street parking.
Are they a member of a professional Reiki organisation, if so which one?
Yes, the UK Reiki Federation as a Master Teacher member
Are there any things which you will need to purchase prior to training?
What are the requirements if any, for certification at the end of the course?
No additional requirements
What is the cost?
R2,370 per course
How long do they say a student should wait between Reiki courses and the three levels of Reiki?
I recommend at least 3 months between Reiki Level 1 and Level 2 (Practitioner), and at least 12 months between Reiki Level 1 and Level 3 (Master). These timescales are in line with UK Reiki Federation membership guidelines.
What if I still don’t know who to choose to teach me Reiki?
I would pick the person you like, and feel a connection with, over one with more experience, or over someone who is more well-known – as long as they are 1) qualified, 2) give attunements in person and 3) can show a clear unbroken lineage that goes back to Mikao Usui. Trust your intuition when choosing a Reiki Master. You can get a good sense of a the Reiki Master’s personality, their values and character by looking at their website and social media content.
For example, one of my students told me that she searched Google for a Reiki Course near Mossel Bay. The search brought up a few results but when she looked on my website her first thought was “This looks legit nice” and booked her Reiki Level 1 course with me. We got on very well, she had a fantastic two days learning Reiki, I loved teaching her and she is going to progress on to Reiki Level 2 with me as her Reiki Master.
The “legit nice” vibe she got from me through my website proved to be spot on 🙂
If you are in doubt, book a Reiki therapy session with the Reiki Master, call them to ask questions, or just meet them for a coffee and then decide if this is the person you would like to teach you Reiki.
A few weeks ago, I went zipping over treetops and over a waterfall suspended from cables, some 320 m long. Sounds scary? It was. But it was also the fastest way to learn what I am capable of and a great way to boost my confidence. I might have had shaky legs and a pounding heart, but I did it and feel mighty proud of myself. As I was zipping over big expanses of nothing, I realised that ziplining can teach you a lot about your attitude to life, goals, and problems.
Before I share those teachable moments from ziplining, let me explain what it is. A zipline is a thick cable strung between two cliffs that you “zip” across, with your hands above your head, hanging in a seated position from a harness. It’s not very fast, but it’s fast enough to make you nervous. What it definitely is, is high. I’m talking about ziplines over the treetops and seeing the horizon high.
I completed all 11 ziplines, but it really took a lot of guts and a few pep talks with myself along the way. I’m not an adrenaline junky at all (I skydived for my 10th wedding anniversary in Las Vegas, and I hated every second of it). So why would I put myself through the experience? Because I wanted to do something brand new and fun, and experience in a very real way the life philosophy that even if things are hard in the beginning, if you stick to it and master the technique, even the scary stuff should become fun. At least, that’s what I hoped with happen….
Turned out I was right. Here I am doing my final zipline. I’m enjoying myself! It DID get easier and more enjoyable!
The first two ziplines were terrifying; by the third one I had received enough feedback from guides to master the technique, by zipline four it became fun, and by the 11th zipline, I was so damn proud of myself.
This is what I learned from doing 11 ziplines in one afternoon.
In the orientation lesson, the guides tell you to hold on to the cable and lift your feet. I think this applies to achieving life goals as well. Whether your goal is to get to the other side of the crevice or a new job, don’t let go of the dream, lift your feet and get moving. If your feet stay planted on the ledge, even if you are looking ahead to the other side, you’re still not going to get there. Equally, if you lift your feet but you’re not attached to the goal, you’re not going to get there.
The other important part of the ziplining technique is to lightly hold onto the cable and allow your hand to slide along the cable – don’t grip it tightly. If you do, you will slow down your progress and risk getting stuck halfway. The cable is a guide, and your hand just slides along in case you need to break. It’s the same in life. You have to be okay with not being completely in control and allowing circumstances to guide you towards the goal. We so often want to control every single aspect of our plans – and others – on our way to our destination but in effect, you’re just slowing down the process until it eventually grinds to a halt and “leaves you hanging.” Yes, you might have to put on the brakes if it becomes clear that you are on the wrong path or things start going out of control, but you don’t want to be holding yourself back because you are “gripping” onto an outcome/process/way of doing things or an arbitrary timescale.
You’re likely to make a few mistakes at the beginning. Ziplining has a learning curve. That’s why John and I decided to do the mother of ziplining experiences for our first zipline because we knew that you would have to get the technique right in order to enjoy it. If you have 11 tries to perfect the technique, you’ll eventually nail it and will have an enjoyable experience. Same with life. New things take time to master, but once you do, it’s fun, and you get into the flow.
You have to be aware of what you’re doing wrong in order to change it. That includes listening to the people who know more than you and putting your ego aside. With ziplining, if you place your hands too close to the pulley and you’ll slide sidewise. Grip the cable too tightly, and you’ll slow down and risk not making it to the other side. Forget to pull up your legs, and you might kick the guide when he catches you. Self-awareness, even while you’re in a stressful situation, is needed so that you can adjust and improve.
It’s good to have fun! Life is about balance, and it’s important to offset work time with play time. Your head will be clearer, and you’ll feel more energised after a fun experience. Equally, you’ll be able to push through the work week if you know there’s something fun planned. A good rule is to ask yourself what would a 10-year old enjoy doing and give that a try.
Mix it up. Ziplining was my husband’s suggestion and not something I would have come up with as a fun experience, but it’s good to open yourself up to, and join in, what others think of as fun. New things can be fun. In fact, they’re usually the most fun.
Be bold, be brave, be you. These words were written on a poster in the ladies bathroom of Cape Canopy Tours. Never before did corny wording on a poster mean so much to me, or turn out to be so true. Go out there and do something bold to prove to yourself that you are brave. I highly recommend it. Who knows what you might learn about yourself in the process.
This is a blog post about spider dreams, feeling vulnerable, not setting boundaries, reading the right book at the right time, and the healing power of Reiki.
It started with a dream I had last night. I dreamt I was back in my childhood home as myself at my current age. I was having a shower, and a family member had driven up to the garage, honking the car horn for me to come out to greet them at the garage. I rushed out of the shower, half-dressed and still wet. I felt very vulnerable being so exposed, yet my actions were instinctive – I just ran out of the shower to heed the call. I then find myself in my childhood bedroom trying to escape through the window, but there is a spider web in front of each of the two window openings and the large central glass panel. In each spider web sits a spider. I wanted to kill the spiders but realised that if I were to spray insect killer on one web, it would reverberate to the others, and I wouldn’t be able to kill all three spiders at once. One or two might scurry away while I’m focused on one. The dream ended when I, as the dreamer, realised that this dream symbolises how trapped and vulnerable I feel when thinking of that person. The dream ended there.
When I told my husband about the dream, he pointed out something I had missed entirely. He said that anyone else would have finished their shower, dried themselves, dressed and only then left the bathroom, but I dropped everything immediately with no regard for myself. In other words, I have no boundaries when it comes to this person. The fact that I had not even realised that when analysing my dream was shocking to me. It didn’t even occur that my feelings of vulnerability in the dream were my own doing – I had jumped out of the shower in a state of panic just to please them, leaving myself exposed!
I mulled all of this over for a while, knowing that I had to get out of the web and start setting boundaries. I picked up the book I had been reading for the last two weeks: Reiki for Life by Penelope Quest. It was the first time in a week that I had time to read again and had completely forgotten where I had left off.
The chapter I was reading was “Using the Symbols with emotional and relationship issues”. The technique I was meant to read next was a self-treatment “for letting go of blocked feelings or unhealthy attachments”. I mean, really, how amazing! I know Reiki’s timing is always perfect, and we get what we need precisely when we need it. Still, every time I see evidence of that in my life, it’s just so amazing and fills me with so much gratitude and respect for this incredible Divinely Guided Energy.
For this self-treatment, Penelope Quest suggests that you include visualisation of something like a small cloud of grey energy, representing your emotions about the situation, being detached and floating up through your energy field to be released to be healed by Reiki. When I imagined the grey cloud, the words anger, resentment, and guilt came to me as the things I needed to release. I saw the grey cloud go higher and higher and eventually disappear, replaced by a beautiful clear blue sky. I felt so much lighter! The word “guilt” popping up for me was actually a surprise. I hadn’t consciously known that it was something I had to release – I was certainly aware that anger and resentment needed to go – which means that guilt was something that, on a much deeper level, the soul level, I knew it had to be released.
After the clear blue skies appeared in my vision, my hands, as if by themselves, moved to my heart chakra (hands on the heart chakra is not part of the technique described in the book), and after a few seconds of sending Reiki to my heart chakra these words came to me:
My heart is healed.
I cried for a little bit, but it wasn’t tears of sadness as much as it was of release and then happiness.
It feels wonderful to have finally fully let go of those deeply held negative feelings and the unhealthy attachment. I’ve been on a Reiki journey since obtaining Level 1 in April 2021, and I’m sure this experience is part of that journey towards becoming who I am meant to be.
You might have noticed that I have chosen the arum lily, also known as a calla lily, for my Coaching and Reiki Therapist business branding. There’s an interesting story behind this, which I’d like to share with you.
The process of receiving the four Reiki 1 attunements is known to start a physical and/or emotional detox in students that goes on for 21 days. I certainly experienced this on an emotional level. Many things from my past came to the surface, which I felt compelled to deal with, once and for all – thank you Reiki for pushing me into making changes! So much so that I sought help from a fantastic hypnotherapist, Alex Britton. All of my sessions with Alex were incredibly helpful, but one stands out; meeting my Inner Advisor. The concept of “meeting my intuitive side” was all new to me. Seeing my intuitive side in physical form was never something that I thought was possible. I’m very intuitive and I am guided by my intuition a lot, but I never thought that there may actually be an Inner Advisor personified, that I could go to to ask questions. With hypnosis, Alex asked me to imagine myself entering a cave where I will find my Inner Advisor. Alex guided me through the cave by asking me questions and directing me towards the place where I would meet my Inner Advisor.
My Inner Advisor turned out to be a beautiful lady in white clothing seated cross-legged in front of a pool of water.
When my therapist instructed me to ask her if she had a gift for me, my Advisor handed me a single white arum lily. I quickly understood what she was trying to tell me: keep things simple. To me the arum lily is the epitome of uncomplicated elegance. Indeed it’s what makes the flower so beautiful.
Out of all the things that were revelaed to me during that Inner Advisor hypnosis, it’s the symbolism of the arum lily that made the biggest impact on me.
Keep Things Simple:
I should continue to listen to my intuition – my Inner Advisor – and if I don’t understand what it is saying, just ask for clarification.
Ask for help – it’s much simpler to ask for help, than it is to try and do everything myself and in the process unnecessarily over complicate things for myself.
Break goals into small, simple steps
Keeping things simple and putting up resistance by overthinking and over complicating things, reminded me of “going downstream” and the Art of Allowing as explained in Esther & Jerry Hicks’ book Ask and it is Given:
The arum lily is now the symbol of Natasja King Coaching and Reiki. It’s a reminder for me that running a business, helping people, allowing Reiki to flow and my general outlook on life, should be the spiritual equivalent of this simple, pure and elegant flower.
In a beautiful example of synchronicity, I came upon pink arum lily plants at my local supermarket a few days ago. I stopped by to buy the Reiki Master with whom I studied Reiki 2, a plant as a thank you gift, only to find a vast display of arum lilies. I couldn’t believe it! I now have an arum lily right here in my living room.
I also found out that he arum lily is native to South Africa, which is where I grew up. In Afrikaans, we call it a “varkblom” which literally translates as “pig flower”. Not a very nice name for a flower, I know, but it’s called “varkblom” because the flower looks like a pig’s ear. The Afrikaans name aside, I think it’s quite poetic that a flower that grows wild and in abundance in the country of my birth, is now the symbol of simplicity that I use in my Life Coach and Reiki Therapist business.
As humans, we are able to experience our world thanks to our five senses. The eyes, nose, ears, tongue and skin are the ways in which we interact with what is going on around us. The world can however be very stressful. Listening to, or watching the news makes one worried. Seeing your boss’s angry face or hearing your child cry is not pleasant at all. You can’t always get away from the stressors that surround you, but you can use your five senses in a conscious way to help you cope better with worry, lift your spirits and boost your happiness.
Music can have a profound effect on our mood, by either enhancing how we already feel or by changing our mood completely. It’s not just music though. Hearing a seagull, even when it’s a seagull divebombing for your chips in Trafalgar Square, will immediately make you think of being at the beach. Or the relief and hope you feel the first time you hear a lawnmower after a long Winter – Spring is here!
The effect of music on our mood is fascinating. A group of researchers from Montreal found that listening to your favourite music releases dopamine which stimulates the two areas of the brain which respond to pleasurable stimuli. In other words, listening to your favourite songs can make you just as happy as getting a hug or eating something sweet. Another area of the brain activated by a feelgood song, is the cerebellum which triggers increased blood flow to the legs. Can’t keep your feet still when your song comes on the radio? That’s your cerebellum being activated.
Sound at a particular frequency can also be highly beneficial when you are trying to meditate, study or sleep. Meditation is a form of deep concentration, and of course, studying requires concentration too, but concentrating for long periods can be difficult. By monitoring the brain frequency of the masters of meditation, Buddhist monks, scientists were able to pinpoint the optimum frequency for meditation as the theta brainwave range. (Sleep is in the delta range, concentration in beta range and enhanced mood & relaxation is in the alpha range.) With brainwave entrainment using binaural beats, your brain matches the frequency of the sounds you are listening to. So, for instance, when you listen to binaural beats in the alpha range, you will feel more positive, and in the delta range, you will fall asleep more easily.
When you are struggling to concentrate on a piece of work and it’s making you feel frustrated, try listening to binaural beats specific for concentration. Look for binaural beat music on YouTube or Spotify and listen to it through earphones. It’s important that you use earphones because binaural beats rely on the fact that you hear two slightly different tones, one in each ear, and only when wearing earphones would you be able to pick up the slight difference in tone.
For an instant mood lift listen to “Don’t Stop Me Now” by Queen. It’s the UK’s happiest song. If you don’t especially like “Don’t Stop Me Now”, try “Mr Blue Sky” by Electric Light Orchestra. That’s the Netherland’s happiest song.
Body language experts tell us that wringing of the hands, stroking and touching of the neck are clear giveaways that you are anxious or worried. It’s our subconscious way of using touch to make us feel comforted. You may want to steer clear of these “tells” when you are trying to come across as cool, calm and collected – like when going for an interview – but if touch is the way our bodies naturally give us comfort, why not use it to our advantage?
During a massage, touch receptors are activated which releases oxytocin, a peptide that plays an important role in social bonding, trust and forming meaningful connections – no wonder it is sometimes referred to as the “cuddle chemical”. The release of oxytocin from massage can even provide consolation and comfort during periods of grief, as was shown in a study conducted by a Swedish palliative care provider. In the study, family members who had lost a loved one to cancer were offered hand or foot massages once a week for eight weeks. All the participants used the word “consolation” to describe how they felt after each massage.
Massaging your own hands work just as well. Self-administered shiatsu massage, a traditional Japanese massage of pressure points in the hand, helps relieve chronic pain to such a degree that patients in a study by the University of Alberta fell asleep and stayed asleep for longer periods, despite their chronic pain.
When you are struggling to fall asleep or feel stressed, give yourself a hand massage. A couple of massage techniques you could try is to rub and apply gentle pressure to the whole palm of your hand with the thumb of the other hand and/or to pull on each finger from base to tip gently. Do what feels natural and good for you. We know that the mere sensation of touch is already enough to increase the oxytocin levels, so whatever form your hand massage takes, is going to help.
If you have a pet, you are in luck. In a study of university students, it was found that just ten minutes of stroking an animal was enough to lower cortisol levels.
I often find myself craving Strawberry Nesquik when I’m feeling a bit low. I have a very vivid memory of sitting at the kitchen table, patiently waiting for Ouma to mix the pink powder into the tall glass of milk after a tough day at playschool. Forever the taste of ice-cold strawberry flavoured milk will be linked with Grandma and the feeling that everything will be okay. It’s no coincidence that many of our memories are linked to a taste experience. Researchers from the University of Haifa found a functional link between the brain region responsible for taste memory, and the area responsible for encoding the time and place. Food or drink can therefore be used as the trigger to help you recall a happy memory.
Now that a lot of us are working from home, why not use lunchtimes to lift your mood by eating (your version of) your favourite vacation meal. How about spicy couscous salad with fresh pomegranates to bring back memories of Morocco, halloumi in a wrap to remind you of Greece or an egg frittata to bring back memories of Italy.
Our central nervous system, the command centre of the human body, is made up of the spinal cord and brain. The brain is of course encased in the skull, but did you know that two parts of the brain sit outside of the skull – our eyes. That means that our sense of sight is generated by an organ that is an integral part of our central nervous system. No wonder that what we choose to look at, can have an immediate impact on our thoughts and emotions. An example of this can be seen in colour science. The colour red has been proven to improve our attention to detail by as much as 31%, whereas blue boosts creative thinking.
Colour can even affect our sense of taste. Researchers from Oxford University and the Polytechnic University of Valencia both conducted experiments on groups of 57 people each. Both teams found that the perceived flavour of hot chocolate improves when drunk from an orange or cream coloured mug. So, whether you’re Spanish or English, hot chocolate tastes more chocolatey from an orange or cream coloured mug.
Write down positive affirmations and place them where you see them often (post-it notes work very well). Positive affirmations are statements that you repeat to yourself to help you change the negative beliefs you hold. For instance, if you believe yourself to be weak, a positive affirmation could be “I am stronger than I think.” Even if you don’t consciously read the affirmation, your subconscious mind is still taking note. If you write it on a blue post-it note, it will also help you think more creatively and visualise how the stronger you would feel and act.
Wear bright colours to lift your spirits. Even something as small as swapping black socks for a pair with a colourful stripe can add a sense of fun and cheer you up every time you look at your feet. If you don’t want to wear bright colours, bring colour into your home with bright scatter cushions or towels.
And of course, if you love hot chocolate, you’ll love it even more when you sip from a cream or orange mug.
Of the five senses, our sense of smell has the strongest link to memory and emotion. That’s because the olfactory nerve is just two synapses away from the amygdala (responsible generating emotional responses) and three from the hippocampus (crucial for the formation of new memories). When it comes to our sense of smell and memory, it’s all about location, location, location. Not only do we link smell and memory very strongly, but studies have also shown that memories linked to smell are unlikely to be forgotten, and the memories are less likely to change over time.
Aromatherapy, which uses essential oils extracted from plants, is the perfect example of how fragrance can aid in emotional and physical wellbeing. The most commonly used essential oil in aromatherapy, lavender, has been proven to lower blood pressure and reduce anxiety even in those having surgery for wisdom teeth removal. Another study, which looked at the effect of the smell of rosemary oil on the nervous system, showed that smelling rosemary leads to enhance alertness, concentration and improved mood. The increase in alertness was supported by an increase in beta waves when measured with EEG.
Incorporate aromatherapy into your workday with the use of an aromatherapy diffuser. I have one on my desk that I use every day. My selection of essential oils depends on the type of work I’m doing. If I am feeling stressed or overwhelmed, I use lavender and sandalwood. To help me concentrate, I use rosemary. When I need an energy boost for the 4 PM slump, my go-to essential oils are nectarine or peppermint.
Spray perfume or put on aftershave, even if you are working from home. If it was part of your morning routine when we were all working in the office, the smell and the routine of applying perfume or aftershave, could help you feel grounded if working from home is something you find challenging.
Combine your senses
If we can use one sense to improve our mood, imagine what a combination can achieve!
Here are a few ways in which to combine your senses into one feelgood activity:
Touch and smell
Before you go to bed, spray a mixture of lavender, basil, juniper, and sweet marjoram essential oils on your pillow. This exact mixture of essential oils has been proven to enhance sleep. You can make a pillow spray by mixing the oils with water and a bit of salt (the salt acts as an emulsifier). Combine the pillow spray with a shiatsu hand massage, and you’ll be off to dreamland in no time.
Touch and sight
Instead of keeping photos in the Gallery of your phone or on Instagram, print them out, frame them and display the framed photos all around the house. Incorporate the sense of touch by picking up the frames and moving them around. Incorporate the sense of touch even more, by using the photos in creative activities like scrapbooking or collages.
Sight and smell
Sight does not have to be limited to actual images. When we vividly imagine something, it can instantly alter our mood. Say, for example you want to be a calm and confident public speaker. Employ visualisation techniques by imagining yourself on stage, speaking clearly and confidently to rapturous applause from the audience. To help you stay calm, inhale the smell of lavender essential oil while holding this image in your minds eye. That mental image will then be linked to the calming scent of lavender. Just before you go on the stage, all you would have to do is take a quick whiff of lavender and the mental image of yourself nailing the presentation will come flooding back.
Sight, smell, sound, taste and touch
Bring all five of your senses together in one glorious themed dinner party. Pick the holiday destination that holds the happiest memories for you and recreate it using all your senses. Play the traditional music of the country, ask guests to dress up, enjoy the smell of the food, make sure there are dishes you have to eat with your hands and of course, prepare the dishes that link back to your happiest holiday memories.
Our five senses are there to help us make sense of the world around us. Use them in conscious manner by choosing what you listen to, what you eat, what you look at, what you touch and what you smell. In this way, you five senses can become tools to help you feel happier and enjoy life.
This article first appeared in the January 2021 issue of Executive Support Magazine (previously Executive Secretary Magazine) a global training publication and must read for any administrative professional.
Apparently today, the third Monday of January, is the bluest Monday of them all. Apparently……
Blue Monday was created as a marketing gimmick. You don’t have to buy into it! Just as you don’t have to wait for Valentines Day to tell someone you love them. You also don’t have to wait until the weekend to do something fun (movies on a Wednesday evening anyone? Once lockdown is lifted of course).
The thing is, not every day is the same. Not everyone is the same. Not all jobs are the same. Not all countries are the same.
You, and your circumstances, are unique and you can decide to have a good day by making the best of the situation and finding something to appreciate.
May you have the sunniest of Mondays ever! Stick it to you Blue Monday!
Here’s a story about two cancelled holidays and a flexible working request. It’s also about giving up a need to control. Difficult. I know.
My husband and I were meant to go to Cyprus in May, and Croatia in June. A total of 15 days of sunshine, sea and a change of scenery. Instead, we, like so many others, were stuck indoors in the UK. When our holidays were cancelled, I cancelled my annual leave. This left me with a considerable amount of leave that I had to use up because I can only transfer a limited amount to the next year.
It felt like a waste to use the chunk of annual leave all at once. My solution was to take one leave day every week in October and November. I chose Wednesdays. Tuesday became fake-Friday and Wednesdays mini-Saturday. I used the Wednesdays to work on Natasja King Coaching. It was absolute bliss I tell you!
In December, I went back to working five days a week. I soon realised how much I valued those non-working Wednesdays, so I applied for flexible working last week.
The application was approved within a few days and without any hassle. Why? Because my bosses and HR knew how it would impact them (not at all, as it turned out) if I wasn’t logging on on Wednesdays because I had done it in October and November. Easy peasy.
Here’s where life gets crazy
I never thought that when my two holidays were cancelled, it would set in motion a series of events that would lead to Wednesdays being coaching day. All I knew was that cancelling holidays sucked and that I was waiting much too long for my EasyJet refund. There was no way I could have known that I would benefit so greatly from having a truckload of annual leave to use up while being stuck in the UK.
Around the same time that I was cancelling hotels, I was dreaming of building my coaching business. I wished that I could have more time to spend on coaching – which is precisely what a flexible working arrangement affords me. Only now, looking back, can I see the amazing sequence of events.
This is what I want you to take away from my story: you only need to have an idea of what you want. You don’t need to know how you will get it.
During a meditating last week, I had a vision of myself opening the door to a coaching client. I was in a bright and airy space. The walls were white panelling and natural light was flooding in. There was a desk and a blue sofa in this space. In the vision, I can also smell lavender that comes from the aromatherapy diffuser on the desk. I have a big smile on my face as I open the door to my client.
When I had this vision, part of me wanted to start asking questions: is this room in a house, or a separate building? Is it in a garden? If it’s a summer house, is it insulated? In which town is this room? Is there a toilet for my client to use and where did they park?
I am proud to say that I let those thoughts go and didn’t attempt to answer the questions.
(You can tell by the “quality” of the questions I was trying to answer, that I have quite a lot of experience in needing to control and to plan. About 30 years’ worth. Hence investing time in a meditation practise learning to let go and be in the Now. #workinprogress)
Can you see how attempting to answer those questions could have made me really tense and turned a beautiful vision into a source of anxiety?
If you have a vision of the perfect partner, house, job or anything else, just imagine what you need to imagine so that you can tap into the feeling of having it. Nothing more than that.
See the business card with your name and new job title and feel how proud you will feel of yourself when that card is yours – you don’t need to see the office address, company name, and the company logo.
See the body of your perfect partner, their smile, their clothes, standing in a place that has meaning to you and feel the joy and love when you are looking at each other – you don’t need to see the face in detail or know how you both got to that place.
What I have learned is that we don’t need to control the how, when and where. Our only job is to hold the vision and believe it will come true. Life will take care of the rest. Most of the time, we can’t even see that we are being expertly guided onto a path that will take us to the realisation of our dream. That’s a good thing. Because if we saw the whole path, we may want to take back control and we end up wandering into the bushes.
It was Boxing Day 2020, and I was doing pilates in my living room. I was ready to work off the Baileys, biscuits and brie and feeling very proud of myself for “showing up to the mat” as my yoga instructor used to say. The warm-up went okay, the bridges were doable, but I hit a wall when we got to the planks. I just couldn’t hold the plank. I managed about 3 (very breathless) counts on wobbly arms before I crashed to my knees. I was only 15 minutes in, and I was ready to give up. What the hell?! On Christmas Eve I was killing it, and now, 48 hours later I could barely lift my head, nevermind do a plank.
“Why am I struggling so much today?” I asked myself. The instructor had by now moved onto side planks (really, really?!) and I was giving it a go, but just turning onto my side was an effort. “What is wrong with me today? Why is this so difficult?” I asked myself. I started listing the things I had eaten on Christmas day to explain the reason for the lethargy. Then I thought it might be a hormonal thing. Or maybe it was because I waited too long in the day to start exercising. All of these thoughts made me feel guilty, sorry for myself and I wasn’t showing myself any love – gone was the pride I felt for showing up to the mat – and I felt less and less motivated by the minute. I was spiralling downward and getting very close to giving up.
Change the question
Suddenly I remembered the talk I had given to The Business Support Network on Stress Management, where I explained the ABC instant stress relief technique. The “A” stands for becoming Aware of the stress, “B” is using your Body and Breath to reduce the symptoms of stress, and the “C” stands for Change the question/focus. (The technique is great for relieving stress. You can listen to my talk for free here. I mention the ABC technique at 12 minutes in.)
To get through the pilates class, I needed to change the questions I were asking myself.
The brain loves answering questions. It’s what it does. So when you ask a disempowering question, you are going to start listing all the observations that are making you feel disempowered (and low, unmotivated and doubting yourself).
The solution is therefore to ask an empowering question so that you find the answers that will allow you to take back control.
In my post-Christmas pilates crisis, that meant I had to stop asking “Why is this workout so hard?” and instead ask “What can I do to get through this workout?”
With that one question, I took back control and stopped focusing on the past, all at once.
Just as my brain had shown me why I was struggling, it now started to show me the solution: take a break. Pause the video, rest a few seconds, press play again and keep going. It’s that easy.
While I was struggling, and focussing on the struggle, it was difficult for me to realise that the solution was as easy as taking a break. I thought I had to power through without stopping as I had done two days ago. But that was impossible because this time I had copious amounts of cheese in my system, so the challenge was different. I had to adapt, but not give up!
The formula for empowering questions
As long as the question contains the words “How” or “What” and “I”, it will generate enpowering answers for you. Questions that contain “Why” or “When” are going to generate disempowering answers.
When you try to find answers to disempowering questions…
When will I be able to afford my own place / find a new job / get married?
You list future situations that has to be different. Doing that is making you tense because your are trying to predict the future whilst standing in a place of lack.
What can I do to afford my own place / find a new job / get married?
Why can’t I afford my own place / get a new job / get married?
You list the things that are stopping you from having these things. Doing this makes you focus on the problem.
How could I improve my chances of getting my own place / finding a new job / getting married?
Why haven’t I heard back from the bank about the mortgage?
You list worst case scenarios and reasons for failure, possibly even pretending to read the mind of the mortgage approver.
How can I take my mind off the mortgage?
When will I be able to see my friends again?
You list future situations that has to be different. Doing that is making you tense because your are trying to predict the future whilst standing in a place of lack.
In what ways could I reach out to them now?
Why is this so hard?
You focus on what you think you did wrong before this moment, which will reduce self-confidence and motivation in the present moment.
What can I do to get through this?
Life provides us with every-day situations where we can learn to take back our power. On Boxing Day 2020 I was bloated, panting, groaning and sweaty on my livingroom floor; but I learned the lesson.
Look out for those opportunities to rephrase the questions you ask yourself. The more you notice them in the small ordinary moments, the easier it will be to do the same when greater challenges come your way.
Ever heard of the saying “When you assume, you make an ASS out of U and ME”? It’s a bit harsh, but it gets the message across: don’t assume anything about anyone.
I made an ass of myself just the other day when I was coaching a client. Okay, not while I was coaching (but jumping to conclusions certainly can easily happen during a coaching conversation), it happened afterwards.
It was our first session together, and the first time I had a client with this specific worry. Maybe I felt a bit out of my depth, perhaps I had self-doubt about my ability to help her, whatever the cause, I assumed that the session didn’t go that well. What lead me to believe my assumptions was that I didn’t get any goosebumps or the sense that we had made a significant breakthrough. (The week before I had seen two clients and both times I had goosebumps all over my arms, and they clearly had made breakthroughs. One client said those magic words “You know, I had never thought of that” whilst leaning back in her chair. The other had gone from slouched and a bit withdrawn, to smiling, sitting up straight and looking ten times more energized.)
This client, however, showed none of those signs. I assumed our session was okay-ish, but nothing special. Her eyes didn’t really light up, and I didn’t notice a change in her energy from when we started, to when we signed out of the Zoom meeting.
I record my coaching sessions. It’s an easy way of keeping record and why not take advantage of that feature of Zoom? My clients obviously know and agree to this. I do make notes of my thoughts and what I would like to follow up on next time, but it’s not necessary to go into detail in the written notes because I have the recording. The recordings are also a handy tool for me to analyse how I could have coached my client better. I can watch it back and see where I could have rephrased the question better, should have kept quiet or missed an opportunity to delve deeper.
Having assumed our session was a bit of a washout, I felt I definitely had to watch back this session! If I want to be a good coach, I have to be willing to learn.
Before I braced myself to watch the, what I assumed was a bad coaching session, I sent my client my usual Session Rating form. It’s something I do after every coaching session with every client. There are five statements, for instance, “I felt heard, understood and respected” and “Natasja’s approach and method suit me.” They would then score the answer from 0 (don’t agree at all) to 10 (totally agree).
My coachee returned this Session Rating form to me before I had a chance to watch the Zoom recording. She scored everything 10! In other words, the session was good, and she got value from it. Even more astonishing to me, was that she asked for a follow-up session to delve into something that had occurred to her the day after our session, while she was “processing” what we had spoken about.
And right there, I learned valuable coaching lessons:
breakthroughs can happen after the coaching session;
not feeling goosebumps doesn’t mean anything;
not everyone has expressive facial expressions or body language; and
don’t assume anything.
What saved this situation, was that I had asked the question: how did you find the coaching session? If I hadn’t asked for her feedback by way of the Session Rating, I would have kept on believing I had a dissatisfied client.
Truthbomb: it wasn’t easy to send her that Session Rating form. I was opening myself up to criticism, but… I didn’t chicken out. “It’s not a sign of failure Natasja, it’s a lesson to learn”, “Have a growth mindset, woman!” and most importantly, “Practice what you preach” are what I had to tell myself before I was able to hit send on the email.
Thank goodness I didn’t give in to a fear of failure and didn’t back out of asking for the feedback.
A week later, I was reading The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz. Imagine my surprise when I got to agreement number three: Don’t Make Assumptions.
That’s so true! If I had chosen not to send my client the Session Rating form – because I had assumed she would say the session was a total waste of her time and I was afraid of hearing that – I would have spent hours watching and re-watching the recording and wasted precious emotional energy on something I believed was the truth, when in fact it wasn’t. That’s a recipe for “big drama” and sleepless nights.
The moral of this story? Don’t assume anything, except for assuming you don’t know anything, in which case you ask questions so that you don’t have to assume.
To many people assertiveness is a thorny issue. It certainly was for me. When does standing up for myself and my needs, turn me into a manipulator? Or worse, a bully? Why is it difficult to say no to my colleagues but easier to a stranger? How do I stop my naturally empathetic nature from working against me and turning me into a pushover? Like I said – thorny issue.
People struggle with the concept of assertiveness because there is such a fine line between being aggressive and being assertive. If assertiveness is about standing up for yourself and your needs, how do you know that you are not being the aggressive one?
Take for example sharing an office with someone who insists on eating smelly food at their desk every day. Is it okay to ask that the person to be more considerate by going somewhere else to eat their boiled eggs and fish? What about their rights to eat what they want, where they want?
When you look at the definition of assertive and aggressive behaviour, it becomes much clearer:
Assertiveness is communicating without putting someone else down, while standing up for yourself. It requires you to state your wants and needs in a non-confrontational way, whilst still being considerate of the wants and needs of others.
Aggressive behaviour focuses on winning. You state your wants and needs but it comes from a place of selfishness and with only your own interest at heart.
In the smelly scenario I described, assertive behaviour would be to tell the person that you find the smell unpleasant. Assertive behaviour would then go on to suggest that the two of you try to reach a compromise. Aggressive behaviour would be to demand that the person stop eating boiled eggs all together. Passive behaviour is putting up with it day in and day out.
Passive behaviour and suppressing of anger, and the precursors to anger like irritation or frustration, are unhealthy practices with consequences for our self-esteem and health.
Have you ever felt angry at someone but only when they walk away do you remember all you wanted to say and berate yourself for not speaking your mind? When that happens you feel disappointed and maybe even angry at yourself. This affects your self-esteem and you struggle to be self-compassionate – all of which could lead to depression. Unexpressed negative energy can also show up in the body as anxiety, stress, skin rashes, tension headaches, digestive problems and could lead to substance abuse.
If you had only spoken up!
Here are a few ways in which you could learn to speak up for yourself and be more assertive:
Use “I” statements
Starting a sentence with “I” will remind you that you are in charge of how you feel. For example “I need”, “I want” or “I think”.
You of course need to pay attention to the words following the “I”- statement. “I feel hurt/angry/irritated because you acted like a jerk” is a blaming statement that will be seen as aggressive. By adding your thoughts (the person is a jerk) and not sticking to your feelings and how you want the situation to be different, you failed to communicate effectively. A better statement would be “I feel sad about the way you just spoke to me and I wish you would be more respectful.”
A good assertive statement always contains 1) an I-statement, 2) a detailed description of the troublesome situation which includes times and actions, and 3) what action you would like to stop or start.
When you are still new to being assertive, it can be challenging to know how to respond when your newly learned assertiveness requests are ignored. Here are three techniques you can try.
Broken record. Keep on repeating your assertive statement. For instance, “The smell of tuna is overpowering and making me feel nauseated” Briefly acknowledge the other person’s response and continue to repeat the broken-record statement calmly. For example “Yes, I know, and my point is [broken-record statement]“ or “Yes, and as I was saying [broken-record statement]” or “Yes, but [broken-record statement].
Defuse the situation by ignoring the person’s anger and delaying the discussion until they have calmed down. Set a time and then continue the conversation again at the set time. It’s pretty pointless trying to have a constructive conversation with someone who is stuck in their anger.
Don’t get caught up in their strong emotions. Acknowledge the person’s anger but then express your own as well. For instance, “I can see that you are annoyed. I hear you saying that you like tuna. However, the smell is overpowering and we have to share an office.”
Noticing unpleasant feelings early
When you become conscious of negative feelings as soon as they appear (e.g. as soon as the lunchbox comes out), instead of pretending that they don’t exist or pushing the feelings down, practice being assertive with the “lesser” negative emotions like irritation, before you reach the point of anger. On an emotional guidance scale (which you can download for free on the Freebies page) the negative emotions that could escalate into anger if not dealt with or expressed adequately, are, in order of worsening feelings, frustration and irritation, feeling overwhelmed, disappointment, doubt, worry, blame, and finally discouragement before anger sets in. If small frustrations and annoyances are expressed assertively, you will soon find it easier to be assertive day-to-day.
Use your body to help you
The way we hold our bodies can trick our minds into believing we are confident and strong, even when we feel the opposite:
Hold eye contact but don’t stare as this comes across as intimidating, and don’t let the eyes wander as this appears as if you are not listening;
Speak slowly, steadily and firmly;
Pull your shoulders back and sit up straight. This posture will make you feel in control of the situation. If the person you are speaking to is sitting, you should sit down as well. If they are standing, you should be standing. The idea is to not appear submissive, but you don’t want to appear aggressive either.
Tone of voice is critical to effective communication. Speak firmly and don’t shout or yell. Equally, if you make a statement that starts with “I feel angry …” but your voice is soft and timid, that’s a passive statement.
Being assertive might be difficult at first, but it can be learned. Practice being assertive with the small annoyances in your life and then as the assertive muscle grows, apply it to the bigger issues.
You’ve unpacked the dishwasher, reloaded the dishwasher, descaled the kettle, updated your Facebook status to say how shocked you are at the amount of limescale in the kettle, made a frothy coffee, posted a photo of the coffee on Instagram and liked every article in your LinkedIn feed. You tell yourself it’s because cleanliness is next to godliness, you need the caffeine and you should engage with your connections. But the real reason is you don’t want to reformat the tables in the 300-page prospectus. Sound familiar?
Here’s another scenario: I took three days to write this article because I had to allow the ideas to develop in my mind before I put pen to paper. Was I delaying or was I procrastinating?
True procrastinators know that they will feel better once the task that they have been dreading is completed, but despite this they still don’t make a start. By this definition, I was delaying because writing these types of articles is something I enjoy, not dread, and the delay is just part of my process. For procrastinators, there’s a disconnect and struggle between what they do and what they know they should be doing. It’s often a way of protecting oneself from experiencing unpleasant emotions, choosing instant gratification instead: Twitter versus the tediousness that is filing; Instagram versus the frustration of calling the insurance company; cyberstalking your high school crush instead of asking out the guy next door for fear of being rejected.
But there is hope for the procrastinator who is willing to change. Procrastination is not who you are; it’s what you (don’t) do. It’s a bad habit, and bad habits can be broken.
People in the habit of procrastinating generally do so in three major areas of life:
self-development (realising goals, e.g. career progression or finding a life partner);
personal maintenance (tasks that will make life easier, e.g. paying bills on time or medical check-ups); and
honouring commitments to others (keeping promises, sticking to deadlines).
Breaking a habit takes practice and willpower. I would suggest starting with the easier areas like personal maintenance and honouring commitments and then moving on to tackling life goals. When you can say no to Facebook and yes to doing your taxes, a journey of self-development will be a natural next step.
Here are six things you can do to break the procrastination habit:
1. Make a list
Make a list and put tasks that will take less than 5 minutes at the top. Ticking off these quick wins builds momentum and gives a sense of accomplishment. It will also release the feel-good hormone dopamine, which is exactly what you need to keep going until you have completed even the most boring of tasks. A word of warning though – if you easily fall into the YouTube vortex, don’t put “research next holiday destination” as the first item on your list (even if you tell yourself it will only take 5 minutes). Better choices for the quick wins would be “reply to Ann”, “call IT about printer” or “make dentist appointment”.
2. Don’t call it a to-do list
If you’re going to write out a list every day, you might as well include a positive affirmation. Instead of writing “To Do Today” at the top of the notepad, write “I Will Do These Things Today” or “I Am Going to Do These Things Today” in red, and then you highlight, underline and draw a circle around it so that it is the first thing you see when you look at the list. Positive and uplifting statements starting with “I will” or “I am” are incredibly powerful.
3. Break it down
Anxiety is a common cause of procrastination. If we perceive there to be a threat to our self-esteem as soon as we engage in the task, we will much rather put off taking action. Take not going on a diet as an example. You could be avoiding the diet because you fear you will fail to lose the weight or keep the weight off, or you think the people close to you will treat you differently when you are thinner, all of which lead to anxiety. A way to lessen the anxiety is to break a task down into smaller chunks. “Lose weight” becomes 1) calculate how many calories I need to consume daily; 2) find out the number of calories in a doughnut; 3) work out a sensible meal plan for a week; and 4) find a way to include one doughnut once a week into the meal plan.
You could even turn each of these steps into SMART goals, meaning they are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-Bound. This works particularly well for big projects and life goals.
4. Pay attention to the nagging
Ever noticed how the pile of filing seems to loom bigger and bigger the longer you wait to get started, and continues to be at the front of mind until you have dealt with it completely? This is called the Zeigarnik effect. It postulates that unfinished or interrupted tasks create a task-specific tension, and the unfinished task will continue to occupy the mind until it is completed. Therefore, as long as you can force yourself to make a start, the brain’s desire to finish will take over.
5. Just do it
It’s not just the Nike slogan; it’s science. Psychologists from the University of Konstanz in Germany found that when we think abstractly about a task, we are likely to procrastinate. By contrast, when we focus on the how, when and where of what we have to do, we are more likely to start right away. In other words, don’t overthink and try to discern the deeper meaning of taking your car for an MOT. Pick a garage, pick a date and take the car for an MOT.
6. Keep going
Don’t get distracted. Try the StayFocusd extension for Google Chrome that limits how much time you can spend on time-wasting (social media) websites. Once your allotted time is up, the sites are blocked for the rest of the day. When you feel yourself slipping into low energy and your mind wandering, essential oils of rosemary and orange in a diffuser work especially well to re-focus and re-energise. A change of scenery also helps; sit at a different desk or in a conference room with that pile of witness statements and leave your mobile with someone else. True story – I worked with a lawyer who did this when he couldn’t trust himself not to go onto Facebook. I know this because I had to keep his mobile.
Remember, you are not a procrastinator – you have a habit of procrastinating, and bad habits can be broken. Follow any, or all, of these six tips, and you can train yourself to be a machine of efficiency at work, at home and in life.
Last week I employed a freelancer from Kenya to help me with Natasja King Coaching. That’s a first for me. But when something means a lot to you, like launching yourself as a coach, you want things to be done right. There’s a lot on the line, and first impressions last!
I’ve never before thought of paying someone to do admin-y type things for me. I’m a PA and an “I’m sure I can figure this out for myself” kind of person. This time however, I really needed help. I was wasting valuable time on an email campaign in Mailchimp that I just couldn’t get to work the way I wanted it to. I work full-time, and my coaching business is a side hustle. Working from home and not having to commute certainly gave me back at least three hours daily, but it still wasn’t enough. And I was getting stressed out.
The clincher was when I received an email from Tide about their Member Perks. As a Tide business banking account holder, I get 20% off my first project with People Per Hour, the UK’s largest online freelancer marketplace. A freelancer to help me out with my project…… perfect!
For my free Feel Supported email course, I knew what I wanted to write, I knew how I wanted the emails to look, I designed the feature image for each email, I knew that I wanted to add downloadable content and that it had to drop into mailboxes every second day, but how? And with GDPR rules, I was petrified that I would accidentally send someone a Feel Supported email when they had only signed up to my newsletter. All of these worries dampen creativity. The mind is only really free to play and be curious if it isn’t bogged down with technical stuff (there is no better word than “stuff” for settings, preferences, coding and three hundred different ways of doing one thing.)
Freeing yourself from technical issues is why you get an expert to help you out. What is “stuff” to me, is an absolute no-brainer to someone else. So why wouldn’t I employ a freelance expert?
The MailChimp expert I employed, is the lovely Irene. View her PPH profile here.
Knowing that Irene was working on the technical bits of my Mailchimp campaign, was such a weight off my shoulders. In the few days it had taken Irene to work her magic, I submitted an idea to a magazine (which they accepted), I had a brainwave for marketing myself to an old contact with a vast reach, I watched Zoom recordings of talks I had given to capture my own words and use it as quotes for Instagram and LinkedIn, I wrote three – count it, three – blog posts and I had a great time designing content in Canva. All because I didn’t have to fiddle around with email automation.
Asking for help is not just critical for good mental health, it’s also hugely beneficial if you have your own business. It frees up your time to do the things you really care about and are good at.
My advice: employ a Virtual Assistant, get a freelancer from People Per Hour, or just put out a request for help on LinkedIn. In this time of furloughs and a slow job market, there are many experts out there just waiting to help you out.
If you want to try People Per Hour, use my referral and we’ll both get £30 credit in our PPH account.
And if you would also like a Tide business banking account (which is a fantastic!), use my referral code XEVY5J. Tide will give us each £50 when you open your account.
When it comes to self-care, this is the question you need to ask yourself.
You see, there is a danger when you hear people say that self-care is important, to confuse this with “spoiling yourself” with the one thing you love the most – even if it’s the one thing that you know is not good for you. In other words, using self-care as an excuse to indulge in your vices.
*Going for a smoke break to get away from your desk and have alone-time, is not self-care.
*Rewarding yourself with chocolate after a stressful day if you’re a diabetic, is not self-care.
*Buying a new colour nail varnish for your weekly manicure when you are trying to save money for a new kitchen, is not self-care.
The examples above do have elements of self-care: taking time for yourself and doing something you enjoy and that’s great, but you don’t want to fall back into, or start, a bad habit all in the name of self-care.
Self-care won’t teach you to value yourself, be kind to yourself, or re-energize you if you are going to feel guilty afterwards.
Go for a walk instead of a smoke break if you want alone-time, reward yourself with a handful of nuts instead of chocolates if you are diabetic, and do something that’s free if you are trying to save money.
Something I feel strongly about as a form of self-care is taking prescribed medication. If you have been prescribed medication for high blood pressure, anxiety, depression, diabetes, etc., then taking your medicines in the prescribed dosage and at the prescribed times, is 100% a form of self-care. Add to that an activity that will help you relax, and you have a great combination of mind-body activities to manage your illness.
When you consider starting a self-care routine (which I highly recommend!) ask yourself “Will this make me feel good or guilty?”. If the answer isn’t “Good”, find another way of taking care of yourself.