How mindfulness can help you relax

Scientific studies provide evidence for both the mental and physical benefits of mindfulness. Just as exercising regularly helps your body and mind become healthier and helps you feel good, regular mindfulness practice can prevent and treat chronic stress and other mental health difficulties such as anxiety and depression. I first started to practice mindfulness when living in Qatar at a really awesome course run at Yama Yoga studios with a beautiful woman, a mindfulness and Yoga teacher called Jacki. She taught me the art of acceptance, to breath and to live in the moment. It really did help me during my expat life, the ups and the downs.

Living in a more mindful way also helps you feel less controlled by your thoughts, enhance relationships, and become more focused which, overall, leads to a healthier, happier, more fulfilled life.

Becoming more mindful
Here are three practical activities to help you to slow down and connect more with the here and now:

1. Connect with your senses
Slow down and acknowledge your surroundings. As you make the journey home from work, look around you. What do you notice now that you didn’t see before? When you get home, take five minutes to lie down on the sofa and listen to your favourite piece of music. Savour your evening meal by eating it slowly and really taste the flavours.

2. Let it go
Mindfulness is about observing without judgement and being compassionate to yourself. Next time you start to feel stressed or negative thoughts come to your mind, treat them as if they were clouds in the sky passing through, observe them as they drift past you, without holding on to them and let them go.

3. Listen to your body
When you’re stressed and uptight, your breathing becomes shallow and you hold tension in your muscles, such as your stomach or shoulders. Becoming aware of and turning your attention to each area of your body allows you to release some of that tension. Check in with your body; where are you holding on to tightness? Can you release some of the tension through your breathing?

Take the time to practice these mindful activities and notice the difference they make to your wellbeing. Through paying more attention to the present moment and accepting your individual thoughts, you can more fully experience and enjoy your life and improve your levels of happiness and well-being.

One Minute of Mindfulness

STOP. LOOK. LISTENboat

Stop, look and listen. Three simple words used to teach children to cross the road safely. Keeping them safe and out of danger.

More recently I’ve been using these three words to help keep my body and mind ‘safe’. To relax when I feel tension, to calm my  mind when it starts racing or simply when I need to take ‘time out’.

For years, I’ve been interested in mindfulness. Having learnt the theory around the health benefits, attended workshops and practiced at home, it’s something I really enjoy and benefit from. However, it’s not always easy to dedicate every day to practise and sometimes life just takes over.

Despite not practising it every day, the skills I’ve learned have become part of my everyday life and it’s taught me greater awareness about myself, how way my body reacts to situations, as well as ways to release stress or tension. I’ve found a way to use it anytime, anywhere, any place, and wanted to share it with you. The wonderful thing about mindfulness is that there is no ‘right’ way to do it. It’s essentially just being.

This exercise can take as little as 1 minute or as long as you like. Practice at home and use it when you need that extra bit of help in the outside world.

Stop, Look, Listen:stop

STOP.

Stop what you are doing for a moment and notice your breathing. Is it rapid and shallow or deep and slow? Take a moment to turn your attention and begin counting your breaths. Close your eyes if it helps. If you notice you are counting quickly, see if you can focus on one long inhale or exhale. Don’t worry if you can’t get past one or two, notice if your mind has strayed from counting, and allow it to focus back on your breathing. There is no right or wrong, just begin to notice your breath. Placing a hand on your stomach and feeling the rise and fall of each breath can also help.

LOOK.

Look all around you and acknowledge your surroundings. What can you see, your hands, your feet, the ground, a chair, a flower, or anything at all you notice. What do you notice now that you didn’t see before. Don’t force it, just observe. If it feels silly to do this, that’s ok, smile and accept that.

LISTEN

Listen to your body. Turn your attention to each area of your body. Are your muscles tight? Do you need to relax your face or move your neck? Can you feel your fingers and toes? What happens if you try to wiggle them? Does the sensation change as you continue to breathe in long inhalations and exhalations? Whatever sensation you are feeling, try to let it happen without resistance.

Remember to breathe and allow whatever comes up for you to  just be what it is. Take in this moment for a few seconds.

And there you have it.  An easy to remember mindfulness exercise you can take anywhere with you. No need for a fancy yoga mat or meditation CD. Just three simple words: Stop, Look, Listen.

If you want to find out more about mindfulness, (click here) and watch this great 10 minute clip by Andy Puddicombe. It’s a great introduction to the approach, or see if there is a local class or group you can join.

Over to you

What helps you when you feel stress or tension? Have you tried mindfulness or meditation? What have you learnt from this practise? If you’re thinking about trying it, what’s holding you back from giving it a go?

PS Pass it on

Found this article useful? Leave a comment below and let me know. Please feel free to share it on Facebook or email or whichever social media site is your friend.

love & laughter

Sarah x

 

 

 

3 ways to let go

‘Let it go, let it go.’ background_dandeliion

I’m guessing you’ve heard the song ‘Let it go’, from the Disney film ‘Frozen’ by now. If you’ve been in hiding, don’t worry I’ll use a few of the lyrics in this blog to keep you in the loop. I’m not usually one for this type of music, but this one has really resonated with me. Yes, it’s cheesy and yes it’s from a kid’s film but the words are surprisingly powerful. It’s actually become a mantra for me that I sing in my head, for example when I’m driving and someone cuts me up, when I’m ‘perfecting’ a piece of writing or when I catch myself mulling over a past event or hurtful conversation.

The lyrics in this song remind me of some of the things I teach my clients about letting go and allowing themselves to be free.

Changing our behaviour and moving on can hurt and feel uncomfortable, we are creatures of habit, and we feel safe when we do things that are familiar. That’s often why people who want to change something or do something different in their lives take months (or years) before they do anything about it. It’s useful to understand why we hold onto things, even when they are creating unhappiness and pain, and it’s helpful to think about what we need to let go of, so we are free to move onto better things.

Here’s 3 things to let go of…

1)      Let go of your past

‘I’m never going back, the past is in the past’

Letting go doesn’t mean giving up, it doesn’t mean it never happened, it means letting go of the struggle. For many of us it means forgiving. Most of us resist the idea of forgiveness because we believe that forgiving means condoning the hurtful behaviour, but this isn’t the case. Carrying around with you resentment and anger from things that happened in your past is toxic for you. It weighs you down. It’s like carrying a big heavy rucksack, reminding you of the pain, making you struggle, preventing you from moving forward, from living your life. We all have ‘baggage’, and it’s up to us to check in how much we are willing to keep carrying around, or to choose to lighten the load and free ourselves towards a better future.

2)      Let go of your limiting beliefs

‘The fears that once controlled me can’t get to me at all’

We all have beliefs about who we think we are and our view of the world. We generally have learnt these as a child and they develop as we experience life. For many of us, we have beliefs that don’t serve us.  By that I mean, they’re not helpful and ultimately they hold us back from being truly happy. Many of us hold the belief that we are not ‘good enough’. A good enough mum, wife, dad, writer, friend, (the list goes on).

Start to become aware of your own limiting beliefs, often we distort information to support the limiting belief. Look for alternatives to any limiting beliefs you may hold and begin to challenge them by looking for examples that you are ‘good enough’.

3)      Let go of your need to be perfect.

‘The perfect girl is gone’

Now this is one that is constant work in progress for me and it’s probably one of the hardest for most of my clients. It often comes down to our deepest fear of being loved.

Despite our imperfections, everyone is worthy of love.  In the words of Brene Brown ‘You are enough, just as you are right now.’ hearts

Living a happy and fulfilling life isn’t about being perfect, it’s learning about yourself and accepting who you are. It’s about being courageous enough to let go of the past and move onto a brighter future.

I’ll finish with this line in the song that I love:

‘It’s time to see what I can do, to test the limits and break through, no right, no wrong, no rules for me I’m free! ’

Over to you..

What is it time to let go of in your life right now? What is holding on to this costing you? What pain is it causing you? How is it impacting on the relationships most important to you?

How would it feel to finally let go of this? What would life be like if you weren’t carrying around this with you anymore? Take some time today to reflect and think about something you know you’ve been holding onto for too long.

PS Pass it on

Found this article useful? Leave a comment below and let me know. Please feel free to share it on Facebook or email or whichever social media site is your friend.

love & laughter

Sarah x

 

 

 

 

How to find some clarity when you’re feeling stuck.

stuckLost. Empty. Stuck.

Just a few of the words I’d use to describe how I was feeling just over one year ago having just started my expat life.

Being woken up at the start of the week by my husband’s alarm clock, watching him get ready and go to work, knowing I had a whole 5 days ahead of me of nothingness, was quite frankly a scary place to be.

The feeling of dread would appear soon after I heard the door close behind him. What the hell am I going to do now? I used to lie there fighting with the little voice inside my head that was telling me to pull back the covers and stay in the comfort and safety of my bed.

Some days would be easier than others, Sundays were OK because I told myself it was a day of rest. I would give myself permission to watch TV and have a ‘lazy day’. Thursdays became the new Friday with only one day to go until the weekend. The rest of the week dragged on and was mostly spent searching the internet for jobs that didn’t seem to exist and re-writing my CV to fit any job that sounded remotely normal.

I was like an excited puppy when my husband walked through the door, asking him about his day, who he had seen, what he had eaten, what life outside my holding space was like. I felt like I was in limbo, stuck in space, time whizzing past outside, yet my life moving ever so slowly inside. It was painful.

I knew I couldn’t carry on this way. I had left behind a good job, friends, family. I was wasting away my talents, my joy for life, and it was weighing me down. But I just didn’t know what to do.

I knew what I didn’t want. I knew I couldn’t stay locked inside the house all day like Rapunzel waiting for her hair to grow to be set free. I knew that this was not the life I wanted. I knew something had to change.  But I just didn’t know what to do.

Unsure of what I did want, how I could use my skills in other ways, I felt like I was standing at a crossroads with no map. I was completely lost.sign

A year on however, the scene is a very different.

I found my map. And it allowed me to figure out what I wanted, how I want to live my life, and which direction to set off in.

I could not be happier doing what I do and I know that I am living my life on purpose. I am very much living my life by my own rules and feeling in control.

So, how did I find my direction?

I thought about what advice I would offer if a client or close friend came to me with this problem.

It began with one simple action. I wrote down on a piece of paper what my ideal life looked like. I started off in the future (20 years’ time) and worked my way back, 10 years, 5 years, 1 year, 6 months, next week.  This simple action allowed me to connect with my heart and listen to what I really wanted. It really was the first step to finding my direction and creating a positive change to my situation.

If you’re feeling stuck and don’t know which way to turn, this exercise is a great starting place for gaining some clarity:

Action:

1) Grab a pen and paper

2) What does your ideal life look like? Write it down in as much detail as possible. What you spend your days doing/how you feel/ who you spend time with.

Get creative- draw pictures/ cut out images from magazines and create a mood board or scrap book if you are a creative/visual person.crayon

3) Now look at your notes. When it comes down to it, what do you really want in your life? What type of activities do you want to be doing? How could you start working towards this today? Pick out what’s most important to you and set yourself a goal…something to work towards and take action.

It’s easy to feel helpless and restricted when you’re living as an expat, when things can feel out of your control (weather/ where you live/ cultural differences) but think about the things you do have choice and control over. I truly believe that everyone has the power to create change in their lives – it’s often just a case of clarifying your vision, being brave and taking the first step.

Over to you…

Have you been in this situation and now feel more clear about what you want?

Are you currently feeling stuck and need some help finding your way?

Leave a comment below and let me know

PS Pass it on

Found this article useful? Then please feel free to share it on Facebook or email or whichever social media site is your friend.

love & laughter

Sarah x

 

 

How to restore your identity when you’re a ‘trailing’ expat

‘I don’t know who I am anymore’ sad

I hear this often and it’s how most of us can feel without a job role to define us. Before I arrived in my new country I didn’t need to think about who I was. I didn’t think about what hobbies I might have or enjoy. I didn’t go to networking events to meet potential employers or meet new friends. I didn’t think about changing my career. I didn’t think about what I was really passionate about.

I went to work. I got paid. Everything was fine.

I was in my day to day routine. I enjoyed my job, not everything about it, but it gave me a purpose, a routine, I enjoyed the company of my work colleagues and our Friday lunch breaks, and most days I came home with a sense of achievement.

It wasn’t all rosy but it made me feel ‘normal’ and things were just fine.

When we moved to live abroad, things quickly went from being ‘fine’ to ‘not fine’ (I’m being polite here). I quickly became the ‘wife’ not ‘Sarah the psychologist’ or ‘Sarah from the Pilates class’. Just Sarah, Pierre’s expat wife’. Even when I opened my wallet I was reminded of my old self, my old work ID card read, ‘Dr Sarah Lawson’, sitting next to my new ID card and my new title ‘House Wife’. I felt I’d lost myself.

One of the biggest fears I hear of being an ‘accompanying expat’, is losing your identity.  Without a job to define our ‘title’ and give us a sense of purpose, most of us feel lost and this can quickly spiral into feelings of low self-esteem and low mood. Much of our self-esteem and personal identity is connected to our professional skills and financial independence.id

Now a year on and I can look back at my experience as a positive one. Taking time out from working has been really beneficial for me both personally and professionally. I am so grateful for the new opportunities that moving abroad has given me. It’s given me time to reflect on myself and all aspects of my life, not just my job. It’s also allowed me to create a career that I am passionate about and love. I won’t lie, it’s not been a smooth ride, but it’s certainly taught me a lot about myself and has highlighted the strengths I have, as well as learning new ones.

So, what do you do when you don’t have a ‘job role’ to define you?

Here are 3 ways to help:

1)      Who are you?

Most of us use our job title to define who we are, what we do and what’s important to us. When we meet people for the first time, the first thing we ask is ‘what do you do?’ However, it doesn’t necessarily have to be that way. Just because many of us have spent years doing one thing over and over, it becomes who we are and that’s not so healthy either. Having a balanced life and view of different aspects of our self can add to a much more positive view of our self and identity.

Grab a pen and paper and complete the sentence,
‘I am…… (a wife, a good friend, an artists, a dancer’). Keep going until you have at least 15 different ‘titles’ that describe you. Think about the different areas of your life: family/ hobbies / spiritual or religious beliefs. When we look at the different aspects of our life, we see we are so much more than we think.

2)   Think about who you want to be. Our identity is interchangeable, it’s not fixed. What we think and focus on effects how we feel and what we do. Use the time out of work to think about the kind of person you want to be. What kinds of things would that person be spending their time doing, with whom? What type of music would they be listening to? What job would they be doing? I’m not talking about reinventing yourself, but most of us at some point in our life lose sight of who we are. By thinking about what kind of person you want to be, helps you see the areas you are already those things (great), areas you may need to work at and a focus of where you are going.

3)      Get busy. Depending on the job role you’re looking for and the country you are living in, there can be issues that can delay getting into a job quickly, such as visas, permits to work or finding a job that fits you.  Not having a job can feel strange because without it there is no routine to the day. Yet most people don’t actually enjoy every aspect of their job, but it’s what they get from it. For most of us it’s about connection and growth. Connecting with others (colleagues, clients) and growing through learning or developing skills. Think about your previous job role and what it gave you.

Write down the things you got from your job, what needs was this role meeting? Are there other ways to achieve these ‘unmet needs’ now? Perhaps your needs have changed and your values are different now? Attending networking events is a great way to speak to other people in a ‘semi-professional’ environment, attending a class to learn something new, paperpenvolunteering is also another great way to meet new people and feel a sense of achievement (whilst also helping others too). Set yourself a daily routine (no matter how small) and stick to it.

It can be really frustrating not working, especially when you have been used to it for many years. Think, how you can best use this time to do the things you’ve always wanted or things you’d love to learn but have never had the chance to do it. Use this precious time to invest in yourself and your life.

Interested in finding out more about yourself, who you are and what you want out of life? Contact me to find out more or book in a coaching session.

Over to you….

Are you new to expat life and currently working out what your new life has in store for you?

Have you been in this situation and now your life looks very different?

Do you want to share with others your own journey and experience?

Leave a comment below and let me know

PS Pass it on

Found this article useful? Then please feel free to share it on Facebook or email or whichever social media site is your friend.

love & laughter

Sarah x

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What the heck is Life Coaching?

What the heck is life coaching?life coaching

Whilst at a friend’s party a few weeks ago I was talking to a couple I hadn’t met before. Not long into the conversation, she asked me what I do for a job. I replied, the two simple words ‘Life Coaching’ and before I could go on to describe my job in more detail, he blurted out ‘what the heck is life coaching? I don’t need someone to tell me how to live my life’. To which I smiled, and said ‘that’s great, because I don’t tell anybody how to live their life’.

It’s not the first time somebody has misunderstood my role. It gets even worse when I tell people I am also a trained psychologist. I then, in their eyes, become ‘someone who reads their mind’. But we won’t go into that now (and my supernatural powers).

So, this blog is designed to demystify for you, ‘what the heck is life coaching?’

If you separate the two words ‘life’ and ‘coaching’, they are pretty easy words to describe, without confusing them with some other meaning. But stick them together and it’s a whole different ball game.

The confusion may be down to the fact that there is no formal training to working as a life coach, ‘life coach’ is not a protected title, and there is no regulation. Which means anyone can call themselves a ‘life coach’ and make up the rules as they go along (and unfortunately some do).

It’s not all bad, there are many skilled and credible, professional life coaches, but as a potential client you have to do your own research. Always ask the coach what their training and experience is. There are some amazing coaches out there, who, everyday are helping people reignite their spark, become unstuck, reach their goals and live a more fulfilling and successful life.

So, what is life coaching?

The International Coaching Federation (ICF) defines coaching as ‘ partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential.’

There are so many different types of ‘coaching’, which maybe one of the reasons that makes the term misunderstood. As well as coaches who work within a certain niche. I, for example, work with accompanying expats (women and men who have accompanied their partner for their job abroad). Trailing or accompanying (I prefer ‘travelling’) expats are my ‘tribe’, the people I love to work with the most, since I am also one myself.

There are also many different approaches to coach training, from a quick online course to more structured, work shop based ICF accredited training courses (like this one I have attended and highly recommend by Empower World based in Qatar).

There are coaches who have a background in business and do executive or leadership coaching. Coaches who have experience in nutrition and work as health coaches. There are also psychologists (like me) who use their training and background in psychology and encompass this with life coaching techniques. Whilst there are many similarities and differences between coaching and therapy, there is a distinction. I do not take on clients for life coaching where therapy or counselling is more suitable for their needs.

What life coaching isn’t

Life coaching isn’t about telling people how to live their life. In fact, I rarely offer advice to clients, unless it’s something I think will really benefit them, and even then I ask their permission to give my guidance. That’s because asking clients questions and allowing them to come up with their own solutions means that change is more likely to happen, and also more likely to stick, since the human brain responds much more effectively when it arrives at its own conclusions.

I commit myself to being an effective coach by supporting and encouraging my clients and I truly want the best for them. However, I am not a cheerleader. cheerleaderYou won’t find me on the side lines waving my ‘pom-poms’.  I will work alongside you, ask you questions to help open your mind and  support and empower you. I am positive and optimistic about uncovering my clients potential and passions, in a more ‘down to earth’ way.

Is coaching right for me?

‘Isn’t life coaching a bit airy-fairy, a bit ‘out there’?

This is a comment I sometimes get from people. Many great leaders, creative people and of course sports people use coaches. Coaching is for people who want something to change, they want help getting unstuck or to take their life to the next level. They know there is so much more out there.

‘Therapy’ is often the first thing people think of when their life isn’t going according to plan. When people are stressed or feeling frustrated or confused about their life and its direction. However, depending on what you need or what you want will depend whether therapy or coaching is right for you.cloud

Unlike most traditional therapies or counselling, the focus on coaching is in the future and the present, not the past. It recognises the past, but the main focus is in the now. We cannot change what has happened in the past but we can change how we think and feel and what we do in this very moment. All we have is the gift of now.

Coaching can help you become better equipped to deal with every day challenges, to see the world from a different perspective and to feel more in control of where life is going. It’s powerful, empowering and certainly life changing.

Want to know more and experience life coaching first hand? Contact me to book in a session.

Over to you…

Are you looking for a change in your life or situation?

Do you dream about something better, but don’t know how to achieve it?

Are you feeling stuck and don’t know what to do next?

Have you found life coaching useful and want to share your experience to help others?

Leave a comment below and let me know..

love & laughter,

Sarah

PS Pass it on

Found this article useful? Then please feel free to share it on Facebook or email or whichever social media site is your friend.