We’re making great strides in conversations about mental health. But culturally, is it ok yet to feel really sad, lonely or angry and just say it?

For #mentalhealthawarenessweek2021 I have been talking about how I manage my mental and emotional resilience, and I shared how keeping an eye on my emotional health is as important as my physical health, to avoid problems developing. It got me thinking about the difference between mental and emotional health.

I feel we’ve become better at talking about our ‘mental health’. There have been a lot of public campaigns, and employers in particular have been better at offering support. I notice that my clients are better able to articulate mental health challenges like anxiety and depression. We’ve got better at using mental health language and it’s more acceptable culturally.

I’m wondering if the same can be said about emotions. I don’t know about you, but I think it’s so much harder to say “I feel really sad”; “I want to cry”; “I feel really angry all the time” or “I feel so lonely”. Even harder to say “I cannot/do not love myself”. It got me thinking about the culture I grew up in up North. Feelings weren’t really talked about. Everyone just got on with it. I remember my Grandma using the phrase “You Big Girl’s Blouse!” on many an occasion! Said with a chuckle, but the message still felt clear – stop crying and get on with it! And so from a young age, we’re taught that emotions don’t really need any attention, let alone any tenderness.

My experience is, many of my clients bring the same difficulty in talking about, or even feeling, their emotions. And so, when emotions aren’t paid much attention, they can build up. We might not recognise it as a mental health problem per se, but we might be feeling something like “Something’s not right”; “I’m not feeling myself”; “I don’t recognise myself at the moment”; or “I just feel down or hopeless”.

Sometimes, before we even really notice that something’s not right emotionally, we notice something else. Something more physical. Like unexplained bodily pain that lingers or becomes chronic, especially headaches, neck, shoulder and jaw pain; insomnia, restless sleep and/or feeling very tired all the time; a lack of energy; a lack of focus; forgetfulness; a change in our relationship with food, drink, or other substances. These can all be signs that our emotional health needs some attention – NOW! Of course, they can also be signs of something else, and a GP check-up is always a good idea, too.

I think we all too often ‘file difficult experiences and feelings away’, hoping that with time, they will settle down. We minimise and normalise. Of course, some of us do this with physical pain too, putting off that doctor’s appointment in the hope that the problem will go away. But my sense is that we do it a lot more with our emotional health. We just don’t give it much attention. And so, we might lose a job, experience bullying at work, lose someone we love, we might end a relationship, suffer illness, be in financial difficulty, go through difficulty conceiving, have a traumatic childbirth experience, not be able to conceive at all, be under work stress, have academic pressures, have relationship difficulties or get divorced. All of these everyday experiences, that stir up all sorts of emotions, that often get no attention at all. We just carry on.

What if we could notice those feelings earlier? What if we listened to them? What if we could allow them some space; feel the full impact of them; cry; sob; shout; stamp our feet? Why are we so afraid to do this? What are we fearing will happen? Are we afraid we may struggle to feel anything at all? Or might it be completely overwhelming once we open the floodgates? Are we afraid the feelings will never stop? In my experience, they do. The tears and the feelings come. And when they are acknowledged, with some warmth, they also subside. And yet, culturally, allowing this process to happen seems to be the hardest thing.

I think what I’d really like, and what I’m striving for more in my own relationships, is an ability to sit with difficult emotions. For us all be able to say to someone close “I feel really sad right now” and for the other person not to squirm, look away, look on the bright side, offer useful context or advice, or change the subject. Instead, to listen, with kindness and an open heart, to what that person feels. If someone else can bear what we are feeling, then maybe we can begin to bear it ourselves.

Why is Zoom Fatigue Worse for Women?

Some recent research by Stanford University in the States is showing that zoom fatigue is worse for women than for men. I’d be interested to know more about what might be contributing to this.

Personally, I know that I am working a lot harder emotionally on zoom, in terms of trying to make sure I hear, understand and connect with the person/people in front of me, working harder to read cues from others, and working harder to get myself across. Plus, when others dominate, I am working harder to find the space to bring myself in on zoom. 🤔 I wonder about the extent to which the same things are experienced by men. Because women generally speaking (not always!) have an ability to connect emotionally with others, does this result in more emotional input to counter the distancing effect of Zoom?

I have learnt to carefully manage the amount of Zoom calls I have on any one day. I’m fortunate that I can do this. If you work for an organisation, this is not necessarily feasible, and will be dictated by your organisational culture and your bosses attitude to being online. The fact that Jane Fraser, the chief executive of Citigroup, made a new workplace rule: no video calls on Fridays is music to my ears. It shows an understanding of the need for boundaries in order to manage her employees’ energy levels and fatigue, and a willingness to be responsive.

If you work for a less responsive organisation, you will need to consider what is within your sphere of influence. How can you reduce the amount of time you spend in meetings? Which meetings require your presence, and which ones desire your presence?

And if you find yourself drawing a blank in response to that question, or feeling like you have no influence at all, I invite you to challenge yourself to find at least one area of work where you can influence the amount of time you spend in online meetings. If you find yourself saying that you need to be in all of the meetings you are invited to, here is a question to reflect on:

What does is mean to me to relinquish involvement?

This question can help you to reflect on your drivers for being ‘so involved’, and consider how to redefine the boundaries around your levels of personal involvement.

#womeninleadership #womeninbusiness #womenatwork #genderdynamics #burnout #stress #mentalhealthatwork #mentalhealth #health #anxiety

Lasting change comes from the inside out, not the outside in

If you want to create lasting changes in the way you think, feel and behave, that needs to come from the inside, not the outside.

What do I mean by that?

Much of your personal and professional development will have probably come from skills development. And much of that learning will have been via a professional or expert teaching you ‘what to do’. And so when you feel out of your depth, lacking in confidence, insecure or de-skilled, I suspect your first thought is ‘what should I do?’

When you keep trying to ‘do’ something differently, using the skills or techniques you have learnt, or by continuously adding new skills and learning to your kitbag, but feel that you are never quite achieving the results you want, then skills are not the answer.

Learning and changing from the inside out involves a very different kind of learning and self-development. This type of self-development involves looking more closely at what specifically is hindering YOU. Because every single person is different and no-one thinks, feels and behaves in exactly the same way you do. And so this type of learning is very personal, and there is no one-size fits all. You cannot be given the answers or shown ‘the right way to do it’. Instead, it involves exploring your way of being in the world. Finding out what it is about your way of feeling, thinking and behaving that can cause you difficulty at work or in life more broadly.

This is changing from the inside out. This type of learning and self-development is longer-lasting, more profound and more impactful than any other kind of learning you can do. That’s because you are addressing the problem at its source, not trying to fix it by sticking a plaster over it. It is a unique solution for a unique being – YOU.

5 Ideas: Breaking through the Glass Ceiling

Women in Leadership how to break through the glass ceiling – Roffey Park Institute

I really like this article (click the link above) from Roffey Park Institute about how to break through the glass ceiling. Its first point is for women to get comfortable with ambition. I like this idea and so want it for myself and all of my women friends and colleagues. It made me wonder, what is it, that holds us back from fully engaging with our ambition? Funnily enough, I had the exact same conversation with my own coach this week. I had business ideas, plans, a mentor who was ready and willing to pour all of herself into me. And yet, my whole body seemed to be resisting this idea of pushing forwards and upwards. It felt very discombobulating! My mind was totally on board with what I thought I should be doing (mostly implementing other people’s ideas!), and that part of me felt raring to go. But my body was not fully on board, it was resisting, and it felt like a game of tug of war.

What do I mean by that? Well, in my body, I felt knotty, tight, tense, uncomfortable. Not raring to go. And every time I tried to take a step forwards, it was like walking through treacle. I was literally holding myself back. Something was not right. I felt it in every part of me. My head and my body were strangely misaligned, and it was really confusing. If I were still working in the corporate space, this could have caused me quite a lot of anxiety about how to work towards that promotion with prowess, when I felt quite literally paralysed.

What to do?

For me, ‘what to do’ is part of the problem, which my coach, who knows me well enough by now, was able to point out to me. When I’m uncertain, or don’t feel fully in control, I think ‘what can I do?’ Or, worse, ‘what should I do?’ This can lead me down a path of hyper-activity, should-dos and must-dos, as I try to solve my way out of the issue. Some of this is helpful. I am a VERY action-oriented person, and actions have served me very well in the past. They have taken me to places I have wanted to go. Sometimes, though, I end up back where I started, because I wasn’t paying attention to everything that was going on for me. I was paying attention to my comfort zone and habitual way of being – which for me, is DO SOMETHING!

Today, I decided to listen to my body – something I have been practising and getting better at. It holds valuable information about what’s really going on for me, and when I get stuck in my head and am going around in circles, I find a quiet, undisturbed spot (when I can – this will be much easier after March 8th!) and breathe deeply and begin to move into my body.

What does that even mean?

For me, moving into my body means slowing myself right down, breathing deeply for 5 minutes with my eyes closed, and checking in with what is happening inside my body. I liken this to swimming around inside myself, taking a good look around whilst I am there, touching things I think I can see, noticing colours or movements or sensations. Some sensations I can’t actually properly name – I can only describe them with metaphors, similes or adjectives. And I do this with a fascination, or a curiosity. Never with any judgement, or questions about why, or any rationalising. Just noticing what I am feeling within my body. Sounds weird, right? Imagine trying to describe something without saying what is actually is, and you’ll get the idea.


Well, because I am not a being made up of separate parts – mind and body. I am one system, mind and body. A whole being, and my bodily reaction to something tells me A LOT about what’s actually going on for me. I just very often fail to pay it enough attention and assume that my head tells me everything I need to know.

And then?

Well, for me, something special often happens as a result. From the sensations in my body, if I give them some space and time, feelings sometimes emerge. Sometimes they are quite intense. Sometimes they hard to get a hold of. I can often come away with a better sense of what is going on for me in relation to my ‘problem’. And sometimes it can take me a few days of being with these feelings to understand more fully what might be going on.

When I spoke to my coach later that day, I was much more in tune with my feelings of anxiety, my fears, my doubts – these were the feelings that were creating the treacle effect when I tried to move forwards. I was able to explore these openly with her (because I trust her a lot), and try to figure out what was really holding me back. It was a difficult conversation, because I had to admit to myself that there are some things that still scare the hell out of me. And that I don’t yet know how to work through those fears. But what I do know, is that working through those fears is part of my process. Everyone has a process. It’s how we experience our experiences, what happens when we experience things in life, and it’s unique to each and every one of us!

What having a process means, is that the advice we are given is not necessarily right or wrong, good or bad (except when it clearly is!). It’s how we react to it that’s important, because that will determine what happens next.

It’s one thing to be told ‘get comfy with ambition!’ and start planning the hell out of your life, goal-setting here, there, and everywhere. It’s another to really feel able to do it with confidence and whole-heartedness. Part of me loves the abundance of advice available to women these days. The other part of me knows from experience that with each piece of advice comes a personal process of reacting and feeling. I believe that it’s working through these personal reactions and feelings that is particularly helpful, and, more importantly, really needs some attention in order for the advice to hold any value for that person. That’s how I believe we get ourselves out of the treacle.

So, the next time you feel a tug of war inside yourself, try tuning into yourself, your body, and your deep inner emotions about what that issue really feels like for you. For me, that’s where the work is, and that’s where the progress is made. And you don’t need a coach for this, by the way. You can do this self-attunement work on your own and then write down your feelings. Get a nice notebook and make a regular thing of it. Over time, as you look back over your notes, you’ll start to see patterns and insights, and eventually, changes (subtle ones!).

Resilience in Leadership

Resilience is the latest buzzword in business, whether it’s about resilience at an organisational, team, or personal level. Everyone wants to know how to develop or strengthen it, and then sustain it. You might be wondering why it matters so much in business.

“More than education, more than experience, more than training, a person’s level of resilience will determine who succeeds and fails”

(Harvard Business Review Press)

Resilience gives people the ability to bounce back and keep going, whether it’s managing difficult relationships at work, coping with failures, or coming back from a career disaster. Whilst some people are just born resilient, for the rest of us, it can feel elusive. The good news is, resilience can be learnt. This involves looking at how you view yourself and your reality, making meaning from failures, learning how to manage difficult emotions, knowing how to recover, not just endure, and learning to be more resourceful.

My coaching programme will help you to emerge stronger from challenges and setbacks, helping you to withstand daily pressures and stresses. Contact me for a free consultation and discussion about how being more resilient could enhance your life.

#resilience #leadershipcoaching #leadershipdevelopment #emotionalintelligence #womeninleadership #executivecoaching #success #career

Managing Imposter Syndrome

Feeling like a fraud?

“Even though I got the promotion, I feel like it was through luck rather than ability, and I constantly feel like I am about to be found out. I feel like I have to work twice as hard as everyone else to make sure that never happens.”

If this sounds like something you find yourself saying to friends and family, or even colleagues, then this coaching programme is designed for you!

Imposter Syndrome is a psychological term, describing a set of thoughts, feelings and behaviours which amount to never feeling good enough, or feeling like you are about to be exposed as not good enough. And no amount of evidence, including work successes, promotions, qualifications or training ever seems to alter your way of thinking or feeling.

Plagued by insecurity and self-doubt, you overwork, strive for perfection, and push yourself harder than you really need to. It’s exhausting.

My coaching programme will help you to uncover the thoughts, feelings and beliefs that trap you in this negative mind-set. You will learn to see yourself differently, own your successes and start to let go of insecurity. As you become more comfortable with yourself, your mood will improve, which will have a knock-on effect in other areas of your life.

Contact me today for a free consultation. We will talk about how Imposter Syndrome is affecting your life, and discuss how my coaching can help you get a hold on it.

Insights from a Performance Manager

Insights from a Performance Manager

If you are going through a performance management process at work, this guide is for you. Packed full of tips and insider knowledge, I share my knowledge and experience as a performance manager with you.

#performanceimprovement #mentalhealthmatters #employeedevelopment #performancereview #personaldevelopment #confidence #performance #coaching #helpfultips #stressmanagement #guide #success #HR

man in brown long sleeved button up shirt standing while using gray laptop computer on brown wooden table beside woman in gray long sleeved shirt sitting
Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

Stop telling women to ‘be more confident’!

wonder woman

Every time I look at social media, I see another article, telling women to ‘know their worth’ and to ‘get confident’. It typically involves women ‘changing their narrative’, ‘faking it ‘til they make it’, or ‘being more confident to appear more competent’. Strategies galore to help you feel like Wonder Woman. Whilst I can appreciate the desire to offer some helpful solutions to women who are struggling with their confidence, particularly after a career break or significant promotion, I feel that these calls to ‘just be more’ something, do more harm than good.

The thing is, in my ten years of working with people experiencing low confidence, low self-esteem or anxiety, I have never met someone who has managed to ‘just be’ more anything. Especially not by ‘changing their narrative’. This idea that if we just change what we say to ourselves we will eventually feel different, doesn’t sit well with me. I am sure many psychologists will point to some research studies and evidence to prove to me that it does work. And yet when I work with clients, I experience that they feel more inadequate than ever when they are faced with others telling them how to be this or that. It minimises and invalidates how they really feel and suggests that there is a quick solution, if only they were smart enough to figure it out. It creates a lot of additional pressure.

Take my client Sarah, who returned to work as a DIrector in professional services after extended maternity leave, feeling low in confidence and anxious about her performance at work. Pretty much every time she spoke to her people manager at work, she was told to ‘be more confident’ and ‘just believe in herself’. After each one of those meetings she felt worse than ever, because it gave her the impression that confidence was just out there waiting to be discovered and harnessed, and that she must be doing something drastically wrong if she couldn’t do that. It was just one more thing she felt incapable of achieving. Instead of feeling buoyed up, she felt totally inadequate hearing her manager’s advice.

In our sessions we spent time really listening to her anxiety, hearing what it had to say, and accepting it for what it was. There were depths to it she had not anticipated and they went much deeper than just her return to work. We respected her anxiety, because it was telling her something important about herself. We didn’t look for quick fixes or solutions. There were no 10 steps to this or that. I didn’t once suggest she just changed her narrative. This was a slow and often painful process for Sarah. Some days she felt on top of the world after a session, some days she felt quite low. What I find important in my client work is always staying with where the client is – not trying to hurry them to a more ‘positive’ or ‘productive’ place. By really getting to know what it’s like to live in their world, I can get much closer to my clients and offer them the support they need in that moment.


I think it’s fair to say that eventually, Sarah even made friends with her anxiety. She had learnt to understand it on a much deeper level. There were other factors that contributed to Sarah’s growing confidence and lessening work-related anxiety: Supportive significant others, some high-quality feedback from someone senior at work, and several experiences at work that showed her what she was really capable of. It was a blend of positive support and experiences.
What I’ve learnt over the years, is that all feelings have a purpose. They tell us something really valuable. If you can take the time to explore those feelings with someone AND those feelings are heard, understood, and accepted for what they are, positive change can occur. This is my experience.

I would like to ask confident people to stop telling women who lack confidence or who experience work-related anxiety to ‘be more confident’. If anything, it signals that you don’t know how to support them in that difficult place. Yes, offer practical work-related solutions such as coaching, mentoring, buddying, feedback. But first, listen to how it feels for those individuals, because in my experience, being heard, understood and accepted is a better condition for personal growth than being told how you could be a better version of yourself.

Boundaries – the edge of effectiveness

Boundaries are about spheres of responsibility – defining where yours end and someone else’s start. Boundaries help you to manage your time, priorities, commitments, energy levels, health and emotions. Most of us never really think about boundaries – we just react, and as a result, our boundaries are loose, blurred and ineffective. If you are feeling stressed, powerless, guilty, angry, resentful, tired, burnt out, emotional or taken for granted, it’s very likely that you are not managing your own boundaries well enough.

Examples of poor boundaries are compulsive behaviour (spending, eating, drinking), constantly rescuing other people, taking on too much, feeling unable to say no, overwhelming yourself unnecessarily, mismanaging time or priorities, working excessive hours, taking work stress home, being responsible for other people’s stuff, never getting things done, crumbling under pressure from others, being responsible for your entire family, working to others’ expectations instead of your own.

Boundaries include responsibilities towards ourselves and to others. To be effective, boundaries must be intentional. They don’t just appear from nowhere. Sometimes we are manipulated or coerced into ignoring or flexing our boundaries. Sometimes by others, but very often, by ourselves. How often is your inner critic leading the way on when to say yes and when to say no? This is self-sabotage at its best.

In learning how to manage boundaries, it’s important to remember that you cannot change others. But you can change your own behaviour, including behaviour towards people who are draining you. Your approach to defining and managing boundaries was developed when you were young, and was influenced by a range of environmental factors, not limited to, but including
– a lack of limits at home
– excessive parental control
– inconsistent limits at home
– insecurity, hostility, or fear surrounding limit setting
– respect, clarity and consistency around limits
– trauma, such as illness, accidents, prolonged separation, abusive behaviour, death, family breakdown

As adults, lots of difficult-to-flex things are getting in the way of pro-actively managing your boundaries: your values, beliefs, attitudes, bad experiences, internal resistance, personality traits, levels of self-confidence and fear. Even our strengths, like being achievement focused, can be over-utilised with the result of poor boundary management. You can address and start to change the way you approach this issue.

Advances in neuroscience show us how our brain continues to fire new neural connections throughout our lives and this is great news if you want to change. By becoming more aware, more intentional, and by practising new behaviours consistently, you can alter how you behave and change your mind-set. The key thing is to find the right support.

Drawing new boundaries can be daunting and you may be worried about hurting other people’s feelings by starting to say no. Remember that hurting isn’t the same as harming. You may upset a few people initially, and this may take some time to work through. The longer-term benefit for your mental, emotional and physical health will outweigh this. You may also be concerned about how it will come across at work if you start changing your approach to managing your workload, your priorities and your working hours.


Don’t be worried. It’s adult, it’s healthy and it’s crucial. Drawing new boundaries doesn’t mean protesting loudly about your workload and risking losing your job. It does mean being realistic and not living in fear of your superiors or seeing ‘yes’ as a way to constantly win approval. If this is how you have felt compelled to operate, the issue is deeper-rooted and can be addressed with the right support, like coaching.
If you are in a leadership position, you should be considering your responsibility to your team as a role model for how to manage boundaries and well-being effectively.

Here are my tips for drawing new boundaries:
1. Reflect –
a. Understand your symptoms (feelings)
b. Identify where you are stuck in patterns
c. Be open to the truth about how you are self-sabotaging
d. Reflect on your motivators i.e. doing something out of guilt or joy
e. Consider the root causes

2. Visualise –
a. What change is needed?
b. What will the impact be if you can achieve it?
c. How will life be if things stay the same?

3. Plan –
a. Consider how you can achieve the change you most want
b. Plan the specific steps you will take
c. Consider points of compromise vs wholesale changes
d. Plan for self-sabotage
e. Include support – don’t rely on willpower alone!

4. Act –
a. Start with small, safe steps
b. Ask what others actually expect or need from you. Often the highest expectations are our own
c. If you are removing an unhealthy coping mechanism, like drinking, substitute with a new healthy one
d. Be consistent with new behaviour you’re trying out
e. Make yourself accountable to someone
f. Keep notes on your thoughts, feelings and behaviours
g. Make your new boundaries very visible to others – secret boundaries cause resentment and confusion!

5. Reflect –
a. Build in reflection time – behaviour doesn’t change overnight – keep working on it and thinking about what’s working/not working
b. Keep talking to supportive others


I am an Accredited Executive Coach and trainee psychotherapist. Based on my corporate and clinical experience, I have designed a coaching programme to target this specific problem. If you want to feel more in control, feel happier, and make better boundary decisions, contact me to discuss your goals and let me help you to change. Together we will
• Transform the way you think about and draw boundaries
• Work out where you are going wrong
• Learn to respect your own boundaries
• Create the balance you really want but are holding back from creating