Wednesday 25 October 2017

Hold down a career and be a successful parent

When you’re a parent, there’s a daily struggle of juggling two jobs - not to mention then spending time wondering whether you’re doing either to the best of your abilities! If you spend too much time at work, you worry that the children will suffer; too much time at home and there's the worry that our employers will notice and that our performance will suffer. In reality, being a parent and holding down a successful career need not be conflicting roles – success at one could actually help our ability to do the other.

What our concerns usually boil down to are that of time: having the time to do either role properly. To help with time management, we’ve compiled some simple organisational tips to tackle your time management and ease your daily juggling.


One of the reasons people feel guilty about being a working parent is because they fail to draw concrete boundaries between the two roles. Admittedly this usually presents itself as an inability to switch off from work when we are home – answering work calls during home time or answering emails which can easily wait for the next working day. The easiest way to do both our jobs better is to manage the divide between the two more clearly. That means telling the kids/childminder to only call if it’s an emergency and having an effective ‘clocking off’ time to enjoy family time.

Give yourself things to look forward to at home and at work

To redress the work/life balance – and ensure that we feel valued and motivated when doing both of our roles - it helps to build some small treats into every day to keep us focussed at work and make us feel as though we’re spending our time valuably when at home. This can be as simple as building in a proper lunch break at work, when we can relax and reflect or making a commitment to read to the children at bedtime.

Create a to-do list that leaves you feeling productive and fulfilled

Achievable schedules and realistic to-do lists are a working parent’s friend. Don’t try and do so much that it becomes overwhelming. Prioritise the important things and accept that you can’t do everything at once. A to-do list that can be successfully delivered – to both family and employer – helps us feel more fulfilled, rather than stressed and guilty. It will also help us to juggle without dropping any of the balls!

Be thankful

We appreciate that being a working parent can be hard but remember why you’re doing it. Being a working parent benefits everyone – ourselves included – so let’s focus on the positives and encourage our colleagues and kids to do the same!

Wednesday 11 October 2017

Facing your fears

Most of us have fears or phobias that stop us from achieving our full potential – we’re only human, after all. However, sometimes these issues can become problematic, getting in the way of our performance at work, or our enjoyment out of work.

The great news is that many fears and phobias can be overcome, if you want it badly enough. And rather than avoid the things that make you anxious, often the best thing to do is to expose yourself to them until you become desensitised to the fear they induce.

We’re not talking about jumping right in – it’s more a case of taking tiny steps, and gradually increasing the frequency of time and duration you expose yourself to whatever it is you fear, until you can manage your emotional responses better.

Let’s give you an example: you have a fear of presenting to large groups - you're not alone - many people do. So start off small. Agree to sit on a question panel, for example, or develop the presentation materials, but ask a member of your team to present. Once you feel comfortable doing that, agree to present for a short period of time at a small gathering until your confidence grows. Now, while we can’t guarantee that you will grow to love taking the stage in front of your peers, we can say that it won’t ignite the same feelings of fear any more, which means it won’t hold you back.

We have four tried and tested tricks to help you build up your exposure and face your fears.

Picture your success

Picture yourself doing exactly what it is you fear. In fact, go one step further, picture yourself being completely at ease while doing it. The trick is this: if you think you can – truly believe you can – you will. Be prepared to take the first step forward and plan your actions out step by step. Use the power of your mind to realise your success.

Remember the time you did it!

Often we are our own worst critic and that stops us from doing things. Strengthen your belief in yourself by reflecting on the last time you successfully overcame your fear. Forget about the feelings of anxiety that preceded your success and, rather, concentrate on the feelings of joy and elation when you’d done it. Relive that feeling, dwell on how good it made you feel. 

Seek inspiration from people you look up to

We’re all fallible and many of the world’s most successful people have overcome adversity to propel them forward. If you’re feeling anxious or plagued with self-doubt, do a quick google search on some of the people you find most inspirational. See how they overcame their fears and used it as a power for good. Use the success stories of others as the fuel you need to face your own fears. 

Only positive thoughts

Positive thoughts attract success. Instead of fearing the worst, train yourself to expect the best. Don’t give your fears the time to dwell in your mind – they will sap all of your energy. Focus on solutions, plan to succeed – and you will get there.

Tuesday 10 October 2017

Take a minute for World Mental Health Day

Today is World Mental Health Day and this year's focus is on mental health in the workplace.

Most people spend a large proportion of their lives at work, so it's important to ensure that you can find ways to cope with your workload and the environment you work in if you're going to have good mental health and wellbeing.

If you find your role stressful, it's worth sitting down and thinking about which tasks create stress for you. Remember that not everyone will find the same things stressful, and what one person finds motivating another may find overwhelming and stress inducing.

And stress is not really such a bad thing when it's doing it's job of protecting you from harm - it's our inbuilt response to danger and it really works - our bodies 'power up' ready to fight or run away from danger.  However, when we are exposed to stress inducing situations in the long term, stress can affect our mental and physical health, which is why keeping on top of stress is key. Stress is cumulative - in other words it's not just your job that can cause you to experience stress at work. Family problems, relationship issues, financial problems, moving house,
and illness can all add to the stress load and are more likely to result in you feeling stressed at work.

So what can you do to reduce the load and manage the stress?

Building in time for relaxation is the key to managing stress before it becomes a problem.

We've come up with some simple one minute exercises you can do at work to help stay on top of stress. The first one is below. We'll be adding more throughout today, so come back later to check for more tips.

1 Step outside for a minute 

One of the most important things you can do to support your mental health is to take a break and do a little bit (even a very little bit!) of exercise. This helps your mind switch off, even for a moment, which allows your adrenaline levels to reduce. The exercise will loosen your muscles and release some tension, and if you can face some gentle stretching this will be even more beneficial! Regular breaks and time outs can have a huge impact, giving you the ability to find perspective and feel less overwhelmed with things that are going on – reducing stress and improving your mood.

2 List the positives

Research has shown that people who keep a list, each day, of positive things that happened to them during that day find their mood improving and their general sense of well-being increasing. When things are difficult, and we feel under pressure, we can often lose perspective and forget about the good things that might be happening around us. So, take a minute to write down three positive thing that have happened in the last 24 hours – these could be an enjoyable chat with a friend, a beautiful view of the sun setting as you make your way home, reading a good book, sharing a funny moment with your child, etc. If you do this exercise daily, research would suggest you will find yourself feeling more positive and upbeat. Try it!

3 Face a fear

Anxiety is one of the biggest mental health problems faced by many people. We worry about many things, and this can reduce quality-of-life and create a burden that often feels difficult to let go of. So take a minute to tackle one fear (pick a minor one - it's only a minute after all!). Identify something you're worried about, and ask yourself the following questions:

 a) What is the actual likelihood that what I am feeling will happen in the way I think it might – does the evidence suggest this or not? Remember, most commonly we exaggerate to ourselves the awfulness and level of catastrophe that we would face if the thing we fear comes to pass! 

b) If what I fear did actually happen, how would I cope with it?  It's often really helpful to develop a clear and concrete plan as this allows you to feel more in control and also to challenge some of your assumptions that you couldn't cope. 

c) Chat to someone else – asking someone about whether they would deal with what you fear in the same way is often very helpful – it can provide perspective and give you an alternative viewpoint that you hadn't thought about.

4 Keep others in mind

People experiencing mental health difficulties often find it hard to talk about things, or even seek help. Take a minute to look around you, or to think about friends and family who may be having a hard time. Are there any people who you see or know who may have changed in recent times, perhaps seeming under pressure, more introverted, working harder, eating less (or more), drinking more alcohol, or neglecting themselves a little bit. Use your minute to think about others, and even to ask someone who may appear not themselves if they are okay. A question like that, followed by a cup of coffee and a chat, may mean your minute makes a huge amount of difference to somebody else.