How to stay steady through the challenges of COVID 19. Includes resources for NHS staff and key workers

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As the Covid 19 impact continues into 2022, we find ourselves in a world that is increasingly unfamiliar and changing daily.

Key workers continue to work hard and NHS staff deliver expert care, working under immense and increasing pressures. An army of professionals and volunteers are working tirelessly to deliver the vaccine which is bringing hope for the future.

The rest of the country follows the constantly changing Government guidelines relating to different tiers and now a 3rd lockdown , in a combined effort to save lives

As well as a physical threat, many people are experiencing high levels of concern and anxiety about their own health and the health of family members as we deal with the uncertainty of this threat.

In the NHS many staff are again having to be redeployed, acquire new knowledge and learn new skills, making big changes in their working practices in order to care for patients and save lives.

All content in this article is relevant for NHS and key worker staff but some text which is italic is focused for them.

I worked for many years in the NHS, am proud to have trained and worked as a Nurse at St Bartholomew’s Hospital in London and, after a clinical career in surgical nursing moved into Education, becoming a Senior Lecturer in Nursing and Psychology. In my coaching practice, I enjoy enabling people to boost their success and wellbeing in life. I have a special interest and expertise in mindfulness, NLP and wellbeing, and in helping people feel calm and confident in challenging times, hence this topic. Please follow me on Instagram for more daily tips and to stay connected. Let me know how you are doing.

Below  you will find 9 key tips  and useful links to help you be grounded and steady and to regain a sense of steadiness in moments where it may seem elusive.

Understanding that anxiety is a normal response to threat. A brief summary.

Firstly, it’s OK to feel what you feel. We can be accepting of challenging emotions without being overwhelmed by them. There are many tips below to help with this

Understanding anxiety and fear can be a powerful tool in managing and in grounding ourselves. When we human beings are faced with a threat, it is a natural and biological response for the brain to generate a “fight or flight” response so that we can be prepared to run or defend ourselves against danger. This can be lifesaving in some acute situations but with chronic levels of uncertainty and stress, as many are experiencing in the current global situation, the stress response, whilst logical, can be long lasting and thus unhelpful.

Feeling continuously anxious and frightened, undermines our health and wellbeing as well as our ability to function.  For those in the NHS , needing to focus or learn new skills,  and function at a high level, working through a busy shift is it essential for effectiveness and for wellbeing that you are equipped to take steps to care for yourselves and manage state.

Feeling steadier and more grounded.

So, what can we do to feel steadier over the days, weeks and months to come as Covid 19 continues to affect our lives, whether at work as a key worker or perhaps in isolation or with restrictions on everyday life?

Thankfully, as history has taught us, we human beings are quick to learn and adaptable. When equipped with the right mindset and strategies we can boost our ability to maintain our equilibrium and wellbeing, in even the most unusual and extreme situations.

“You can’t stop the waves but you can learn to surf” Jon Kabat-Zinn

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Habits to develop

Read through the habits below. Celebrate what you are already doing and see where you can boost your wellbeing.

Focus your efforts on the habits where there is most work to be done or those that you feel will be most useful for you to develop.

1. Be self-aware and in tune with how you are feeling.

Knowing how you are in any given moment means that you can be proactive in using strategies to manage your mood and stay in control.

  • Stop and check in with how you are feeling.
  • If you feel unwell physically, follow current Government guidelines re testing and protocol, inform your employer if working, and get help from medical professionals.

If you feel uncertain, wobbly, anxious or overwhelmed, recognise that, don’t fight it but rather act as a kindly observer to your mood, as best you can and set a clear intention for how you want to feel moving forward. e.g. calmer, more confident, more in control, steadier, more grounded.

2. Be selective and limit your exposure to the news and social media and anxious conversations.

  • Choose a reliable and trusted source and check in once or twice a day as constant scrolling through varied news stories can lead to preoccupation and increase anxiety.
  • Limit social media use to that which is uplifting and positive. If it’s not, stop scrolling.
  • Be proactive in choosing which conversations you engage in. Focus on the optimistic and positive and on all that is being done to successfully fight the virus

3. Maintain and enhance your connection with others whilst you are at work, working from home, social distancing or in self-isolation.

  • We are social beings and maintaining social contact can reduce feelings of isolation and anxiety. This also applies to peers,  patients and relatives, for those in NHS settings.
  • If an NHS or key worker at work and busy, take time to pause and take breaks when able. If in PPE and communication is challenging, use body language, e.g. a thumbs up sign or a smile to connect with and support peers and patients. Check in on colleagues in between shifts to stay connected.
  • Stay connected with  friends and family through the wonders of technology.

Whilst in lockdown and when working from home:

  • Have a daily team video meeting and use video link to talk to colleagues during the day rather than emailing or messaging.
  • Plan in video chats with friends and boost your sense of connection with those you love.
  • Talk to your manager or to colleagues if you need support.

4. Be present and manage your thought patterns.

  • Our thoughts and the stories that we tell ourselves have a huge impact on how we feel and levels of anxiety tend to rise when we focus on possible difficulties or problems in the future.
  • Practice being an observer of your thoughts rather than getting caught up and carried away with them.
  • Notice your internal dialogue and be aware if you are using scary language, catastrophising or being overly negative in your thought patterns.
  • The more we creatively develop “what if stories” about problems that may arise, the more anxious we tend to become.
  • Remind yourself that these are stories and that more positive scenarios are possible.
  • Stay in the here and now as best you can and ground yourself in the present moment ( see below for a technique to help you to do this.
  • Be kind to yourself and talk to yourself as you would talk to a friend who needed reassurance and to feel calmer and more confident.
  • We can use mindful techniques to bring ourselves firmly back to the present moment e.g. feeling our feet on the solid floor or feeling the sensations of the breath, root us back in the here and now and help us to feel grounded.

5. Take a mindful breathing space when you need one and even if you don’t!

The Breathing Space is a key part of all mindfulness training. It is a very short (can be for 30 seconds or several minutes depending on time available) and helps to regain composure and a feeling of being centred and grounded.

For an audio recording of the breathing space from Oxford Mindfulness centre access

To create your own breathing space, follow these steps

Recognise that you need a breathing space

Step away from what you are doing if able or stand still with feet firmly planted on the ground.

Set an intention to be fully present 

Adjust and straighten your posture and notice sensations of connection to the floor or the chair supporting you. 

Do a quick sweep of what’s going on the inside, thoughts, feelings and body sensations e.g. tension or discomfort. As best you can be an observer of these rather than getting caught up in them. Have a gentle approach rather than judging… allow things to be as they are, kindly. 

Take 3 – 5 deep breaths in and out, or even just one if you are short of time.

Notice and track the sensations of the breath as it enters and leaves your body.

If the mind wanders (it probably will!) simply notice where it has gone and gently guide it back to the breath.

Expand your awareness to pay attention to the sensations of the body and boost a sense of grounding as you notice sensations of connection to the floor or the chair supporting you.

Notice the degree of calm and ease

Go back to what you need to do next, taking this feeling with you.

Another very quick way to gain composure and feel steadier is to set an intention and then focus all attention into the feet. The feet don’t join in story telling or experience anxiety, sadness, frustration or fear. Placing attention into the feet, noticing connection with ground is settling and steadying.

6. Be proactive, look after yourself and plan things that will lift your mood.

  • Be proactive in asking for practical or emotional support and help when you need it. This is a sign of strength and will give others permission to do the same.
  • Take charge of your internal chemistry. Boost feelgood hormones in the brain and body by doing things that make you smile: –
    • Get fresh air, take a walk in the fresh air or sit with a window open if unable to go out.
    • Eat a healthy diet
    • Stay hydrated both on and off shift if you are working.
    • Get enough rest. have downtime. rekindle or start hobbies. Use relaxation apps to help switch off.
    • If in isolation, start a project, read a book you’ve not had time to pick up.
    • Schedule calls with friends and family members who will help to boost good feelings.
    • Listen to music that lifts or calms you.

7. Tap into the many free resources available to help calm and manage your state.

There are so many. a few are listed below.

8. Practice gratitude.

There is growing evidence that gratitude aids wellbeing and happiness.

  • Keep a gratitude journal and write down at least one entry every day. Jotting this down before you go to sleep points the brain in a good direction for rest.
  • Stop for a moment and notice all the things that you appreciate that are still the same, unaffected by Covid19.

The dawn chorus and birdsong… Nature, budding trees and emerging blossom…. friendship, colleagues, laughter, the love of those close to us and our love for them. Kindness , I’m so grateful for this … there are so many examples of this at the moment, music, great films and box sets.

9. If working from home, establish a routine.

This, it would seem, will be, for many, and for now,  the new normal.

Take control. Get dressed for work. Set up a workstation. Organise the family if more workspaces are needed. Take breaks. Plan in social contact. Have a defined beginning and end to the working day. Be kind and tolerant of others also working from home, you may have to share space. Check out additional tips here.

In conclusion

I hope that this blog  is useful in helping you find ways to feel more grounded and steadier as the coronavirus experience unfolds. Remember this is just for now and will pass. Whether you are at home, providing a vital service through your job or through a volunteer role my hope is that there will be something of help to you. Please share.

The people of this country are grateful for all of the dedicated work that key workers are doing in the NHS, in education, and in other areas of society. We also want you to take care of yourselves as well as caring for us all. Continue reading “How to stay steady through the challenges of COVID 19. Includes resources for NHS staff and key workers”

The movies in your mind : Tips on how to get your imagination to work for you, rather than against you through skilled and purposeful visualisation!

“Imagination is everything.

It is the preview of life’s coming attractions”

Albert Einstein.

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Are you happy to leave your unique “preview” unscripted and unrehearsed or worse, let your brain run amok and generate negative previews that leave you fearful and disempowered?

Maybe sometimes it is totally appropriate and refreshing to arrive at a moment or situation in life without preparation but, at times, it’s good to take control. Using visualisation purposefully and acting as both the director and the star of our own internal movies is a proven way of shaping success and enhancing wellbeing.

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How can visualisation help to build success?

Way back, before some of you who are reading this were born, in the 1970’s; the Soviets started to use visualisation as part of sports training for competition. The technique is now widely used in sports. Top athletes and other sports elite use visualisation routinely in training to prepare for success. A quick search on the internet will provide many examples of sports stars past and present who harness the power of visualisation to boost their success.

“I never hit a shot, not even in practice, without having a very sharp and clear picture of taking the shot in my head”

Jack Nicklaus, world champion golfer

Advances in neuroscience and modern scanning technology can give us a clear picture of what is happening in the brain when we visualise. When we visualise in an “associated” way (where we are experiencing the scenario as if we were actually there) and become skilled in the technique, activities in the brain mirror the activities that occur when we are performing the same activity in real life. Motor control, perception, planning, perception, confidence and focus can all improve through the skilled use of visualisation.

In effect, it would seem that the brain cannot tell the difference, between a real and an associated, vividly imagined experience. The same neural pathways operate in both scenarios.

Thus, through skilled visualisation, we can create pathways within the brain that can be used and strengthened when we come to perform for real. This works whether you are an elite sports person or someone who wants to improve their ability in business situations.

By mentally rehearsing in this specialized way, we create “memories” of the visualised experience. When we come to the real situation, the brain has already prepared pathways that can help us perform effectively.

Let’s use a common situation that many people find challenging and which can cause stress and panic, as an example;- Public speaking. This will help me to outline some pitfalls of unplanned visualisation and describe the way to use visualisation positively, within a context that will, for many, make perfect sense!

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Many people,  are TERRIFIED of public speaking and want to build skills so that they can present information or address others with confidence and enjoyment. If this resonates, read on. If not, feel free to superimpose your preferred scenario over the next sections of content.

We will firstly explore how fear and terror can be generated within the wonderful brain.

How the brain and visualisation can work against us.

I remember many clients who have worked with me to build confidence and to overcome a terror of public speaking. From those may experiences, I have created an amalgamated case study.

Meet Peter: –

man with hand on temple looking at laptop

Peter is a 36-year-old  Director who has developed a full blow horror of public speaking. He has “managed” his fear by delegating to junior team members and thus avoided doing presentations for around four years. Up until recently this has worked well as a strategy.

The company that Peter works for is hosting a client conference in four weeks’ time. Peter has been told that he must present at the conference as senior clients are expecting him to do so. His own colleagues on the Board are expecting great things (remember, they have NO IDEA about Peter’s fear or previous strategy of avoidance).

Understanding Peter’s strategy for fear…

On working with Peter, I needed to elicit his strategy for generating high levels of panic and fear. This involved negative, critical, anxious, sarcastic and judgmental inner dialogue (for tips on how to manage this well see link to previous blog)  The still small voice within. A guide to mastering your inner voice…    Peter’s own internal voice, in a harsh and bullying tonality, was literally telling him that he was crap, ( with many more unpleasant expletives ) and that he would make a total mess of presenting. He naturally responded with aversion and fear.

He was not initially aware that he had been running an internal movie of the scenario but, we very quickly identified that he had, and he was shocked by it’s content. He had done an excellent job of scaring himself into full blown fear. Neither of us were surprised that he had avoided presenting up until now.

His imagination had, in fact, created a full-blown disaster movie.

black and white production scene take tool

It contained minute details such as;- tripping on his way to the front, forgetting and stumbling over his words, messing up the use of technology, having a dry mouth , losing his way within the content and blushing profusely. The audience, in his imagination, was unengaged, whispering rude comments about him and were clearly bored and restless as he spoke in a quiet and faltering voice. He imagined that people asked him questions that he couldn’t answer and laughed openly when he got stuck. In his “movie”, he was small and insignificant and the audience members huge with jeering and cruel faces.

This then was his brain’s strategy to, very expertly, generate a fear response to the perceived threat involved in presenting.

The key word is perceived as there was no historical or factual reason to believe that presenting would generate a threatening situation. His brain had created that threat, all on its own and the fearful response was part of the normal “fight or flight response” to threat. Flight in this case = avoidance of presenting.

Moving to confidence and success

We dealt with the unhelpful internal dialogue The still small voice within. A guide to mastering your inner voice… and then turned our attention to creating and installing a feelgood movie in place of the horror film that his creative “internal studio” had produced. He enjoyed using his imagination to visualise in a new and purposeful way  the presentation was a huge success!

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Peter now seeks every opportunity to present. he looks forward to doing so with excitement and anticipation. Here’s what we did…..

I will take you through the stages that I use with clients, in the activity that follows:-

Activity :- Step by step guide to using visualisation skillfully.

  1. Think of the situation where you want to feel more positive and confident e.g. the presentation.
  2. Close your eyes if possible to minimize distractions or if tricky to do so – softly defocus your eyes.
  3. Give some thought to how you want the situation to pan out in real life. Sketch out the details as if creatively scripting a positive scene for a movie.
  4. Close down any anxious or negative thoughts and focus on the way you want to “direct” the scene that will give the best outcomes. LINK to past blog for detail on closing down unhelpful thought patterns.The still small voice within. A guide to mastering your inner voice…
  5. Strengthen your emotional “state” ;- you can do this sitting or standing.
    • Adopt a positive posture with spine straight, head held high and feet squarely planted on the ground.
    • Smile! Or at least relax the face ( you may not have been aware of tension but it is good to let it go!)
    • Think of a time when you felt really confident. Bring this to mind and step back into that moment as if you were back there again, right now. ( this warms up your imagination and creativity!)
    • Enjoy and imagine doubling the confident feeling as you replay the memory.
    • Take a couple of deeper breaths and enjoy the centered and grounded feeling that you have generated.

6.  Now run the movie of the scene that you have decided to rehearse, in your mind’s    eye. Make sure all of the following criteria are covered:-

  • You are directing the movie according to the new script and scene outcomes so……… feel a sense of positive anticipation about how good it can be.
  • Imagine that you are both directing and starring in the scene and that it is an IMAX panoramic experience!.
  • Make sure that you are “associated” into the scene…..playing the role rather than watching yourself in the role – see through your own eyes, hear through your own ears and feel how good it feels to handle the situation JUST as you would dream to.
  • Make sure that the movie is in full and focused colour.
  • Add in sound – a personal power anthem works well in the background. Hear yourself speak and hear the positive responses and murmurings around you.

7. Have the scenario go really well with you being just as you want to be in that situation. Enjoy feeling confident and strong, capable and in control.

8. Then throw in a challenge and notice how you deal with it in this positive, confident and grounded state. It is important to throw in a challenge as your brain will learn how to deal with challenges should they arise. Brains generalize very well and whilst you can’t imagine every challenge, your brain will generalize the calm and confident way that you respond to them.

    • Have it go well.
    • Throw in a series of other challenges and meet each one with a calm, confident and positive response.
    • Play the scenario through right until the end in your imagination…… feeling positive and proud.

9. Think again about the situation you are preparing for…..

10. Notice what feels different and enjoy the differences that arise!

Repeat these 10 steps several times a day to build pathways and confidence and then enjoy the event when it happens in reality.

Moving forward

Using visualisation purposefully in this way helps to build confidence and wellbeing and is a routine practice for many successful people in the fields of business, sport, music and other performance fields. It can also be useful in family life as a rehearsal for situations where we want to be positively at our best.

Have fun, enjoy building your skills and please do let me know how you get on.

Please leave me a message if you have comments or requests for future blog content relating to building success and wellbeing.

Thank you

Bridget Clapham. Do visit my website and get in touch to share your experiences

Keeping Your Success and Wellbeing in Mind.

Why do you do what you do for a living? and ..why it matters!

Why do you do what you do – for a living?  What’s the point of reflecting upon this? Read on!

Let’s consider a continuum of related scenarios….Some people drift into certain fields and then wake up decades later asking themselves the above question and not finding a satisfactory answer. They may be “happy” enough with their job and role or they may feel they are simply treading water to pay the mortgage. At worst they feel trapped, hate their job and find the whole work arena stressful and unfulfilling.

Some people, on the other hand, are fortunate to be able to answer the question with relish and enthusiasm because, what they do for a living resonates brilliantly with their values and life purpose.

Where we are on this continuum, matters hugely on several levels. It affects our wellbeing and health, our family life and relationships and of course, our level of passion and our productivity and effectiveness.

If you are a leader, your answer affects not only you but all the people whom you lead and manage.

Whatever stage you are at in your career work proactively to ensure that what you do matches your values, and that you have a degree of purpose and passion for what you do for so many of your waking hours!

Simon Sinek in his, now legendary TED talk which, incidentally I would make compulsory viewing on ALL degree programmes, MBAs and Leadership Training, is essential viewing for leaders and those aspiring to lead.

I could write pages of prose explaining it but instead, I invite you to spend about 18 minutes of your time watching and listening to Simon Sinek

Click on this text to spend 18.04 minutes learning from the great Simon Sinek on TED

and then continue the learning by reflecting upon the following questions:-


  • Watch Simon Sinek TED talk and then reflect upon the following alone and , if a leader, with your leadership team!
  • What is your why?
  • What is the “why” of the company you work with and does it provide a good fit with your own?
  • Are you working where you are working because of their “why”?
  • Does your current role allow you to tap into and honour your why?
  • Do you recruit people to your organisation who “fit” and can strengthen your company’s why?
  • Do you sell your products or carry out your daily activities with your “why” in mind?
  • Is your “why” obvious to those whom you lead and work with?
  • Are you authentically leading people in a way that honours your own and your company’s “why”?
  • What questions does this generate for you?

If you have a great coach, this is a good exercise to work with. My clients love it and it generates lots of discussion and actions whenever I use it!

Let me know your thoughts after this exercise and if you have time to leave a comment on the blog, I would love to hear from you.

Until next time when I will share with you my personal “why”

Bridget Clapham

Leave a comment or feel free to email me direct via my website by clicking on this link!

The still small voice within. A guide to mastering your inner voice…

pexels-photo-164636.jpeg“The only tyrant I accept in the world
is the still small voice within me”
Mahatma Gandhi.

Maybe Gandhi “accepted” it because he realised that he had the power to change it…. Or perhaps he knew that he had the choice how much attention he actually paid to it?

So, what do we do with, if indeed we notice,  the still small voice within? Part of our development of EQ skills is to develop self awareness so, pay attention and notice your inner voice. Believe me, it is always with you!

Our inner dialogue or self-talk is hugely powerful and influences us in a powerful way, moment to moment. Our state in any moment is influenced hugely by what we are listening to and not just the words. The WAY we are talking to ourselves has more impact than the words we are listening to.

Years ago, when I was teaching communication skills to Health Care Professionals, I always emphasised the importance of tonality, pace, etc. as being crucial to the meaning of the message when communicating to another individual. When I began to run Corporate programmes about stress management and resilience, I did teach about self talk – and yet  I admit, initially, I focussed mainly on the what of what we are saying to ourselves. A little on the how, yet way too little.

It was, however, only when I sat in a room with several hundred others as an NLP Practitioner delegate, and learned from Richard Bandler about the power of submodalities, that the learning really took off for me!!

Those skill drills eliciting submodalities were so important. The exercises in changing them were truly lessons in driving the bus as Richard would say!

I am guessing that, at times, we can all identify with the tyrant concept that Ghandi referred to.

Sometimes that inner voice is anything BUT still and small. It can be downright loud, destructive, tyrannical even. It can certainly lead us to feelings of depression, guilt, anger, frustration, panic fear, anxiety and other states far removed from and overwhelmingly different from the happiness and freedom available within.

When we talk to ourselves in positive words matched with a positive tonality and get the pitch, volume and inner smile in the voice, boy does it feel different!

Much of my work with clients in and outside corporate land is around giving people tools with which to achieve more joy… one of those sets of tools is about managing their voice within!

Below is a summary of what they and I learn and practice!

Firstly to pay attention to and to notice how you are feeling and tune in to your inner voice as if tuning into a radio!!!

1. Notice the inner dialogue
2.  Pay attention to what it is saying
3.  Notice HOW you are hearing the voice, is it gentle soothing, encouraging and supportive or sarcastic, belittling, frightened or sad?
4.  Consider what that voice may be getting you to pay attention to and act upon? (Remember there will be a positive intention – tricky though it may be to discern!) .
5.  If the voice is useful and you are feeling great, keep going and do more of it! Ramp it up!
6.  If it isn’t getting you to feel the way you need to in the situation, take action.

After all, there isn’t really anyone there, just a set of neural pathways firing off – electrical activity represented as a voice.

For many clients, corporate and private, this image in itself is enough to get them to take control. They can picture a set off pathways and the electrical activity and imagine putting a block in, a “STOP” sign,  so that the pathway can’t fire off in the same way any more.


Easy to visualise and very effective.

If the voice persists, there are several techniques which, if you are a practitioner of NLP you will be aware of.

Case study

I often tell the story of a client called “Ryan” who learned how to have better conversations in his head with fabulous results for his happiness and achievement.

Ryan was 10 years old when I worked with him.

His father called me and told me that Ryan had a promising tennis career and yet had “lost all of his confidence”. He had become anxious, increasingly worried, and had become fearful about playing matches. Whilst he was fine in training, he had lost every match in recent weeks. Could I help?

I wanted first to elicit whether I was talking to a father who had sights set on a Grand Slam Title and whether Ryan was keen or reluctant to climb up the tennis ladder. A quick chat to Ryan convinced me. The young man LOVED his tennis and wanted to enjoy his matches and to win again.

Ryan and I worked together once and kept in touch by phone.

This young man had developed a very critical, frustrated, irritated, superior and aggressive inner voice.

“You are useless at Tennis, the other boy will be better than you, you will miss all your shots, you may as well give up, you’re a useless failure”

Those were just a few of the hypnotic suggestions he was bathing in on a daily basis!

He wanted to enjoy his tennis, feel happy confident and motivated to win with a lovely mix of excitement and anticipation before and during his matches.

He wanted the feeling of winning, success and celebration back!!

Mastering his inner voice was the key to him achieving his desired change. We did other things too yet the major shift came when he changed his inner dialogue!

I gave him several tools with which to do this. The one he liked best and used the most was imagining he was listening to a track on his Ipod and simply changing tracks!! After all, why would he listen to something that was making him feel bad!?

I then asked him to imagine tuning to a different track, an audio book yet that didn’t seem to help.

We had been talking about favourite Tennis players, TV shows, movies, etc., so I seized an idea (the client will always provide the answer!!)

I asked him to create his own inner confidence coachand to imagine what that person would say to him about his tennis… I suggested his favourite player and many times Grand Slam Champion (mistake Bridget, too directive, remember the rules!) and he said, very cutely……

“Do I have to have a tennis player?”

“No” I said, it’s your brain – you can have whoever you like.”

“I know who I will have,” he said suddenly and, as he did so his whole physiology changed. He sat up tall, smiled and I knew the change we were waiting for had happened!!!

“Who will you have then?” I asked.

“Mr T” he said!!! (What a fabulous coach strong, solid, confident and BIG!!!)

“Fantastic” I said – “A fabulous coach! After all he’s on the A team.”

Ryan who was on a roll then said “Is it OK if I have two?”

“Who else have you got on your team now then”I asked.

“Rocky“ grinned Ryan!!! And he got even taller – if that was possible!

I got him to close his eyes and imagine walking in court with Mr T on one side and Rocky on the other, with Eye of the Tiger blaring through the speakers and – job done!

We did some great visualisations, more work on building great states and then, off he went, head held high – and brimming with confidence and a great big smile.

He started to win his matches again and, whilst he may or may not become a Grand Slam Champion, he now has an idea and a sense of what it could feel like!!

Inner Tyrant to Inspirational Inner Coach in a short session!

Ryan’s story has inspired many of my adult clients both private, and at CEO and Director level in corporate land. Whilst the tyrant may well pop up from time to time, it’s good to remember who is in charge.

Is your own inner dialogue always helpful? If not, use the techniques I taught to Ryan and notice the difference. Message me about your experiences and do get in touch is you would like to know more.

Until Next time.


Mind your language – words matter!


Language is fascinating!  We are born without language and quickly gain an understanding of words spoken to us and around us, comprehending much before we even begin to use words ourselves.

We learn from parents, siblings, peers and from TV, radio and the vast array of social media that we become exposed to from an early age. At school we learn more formally and at some point are enlightened that there are different types of words that have different functions in our native language, whatever that may be. There are verbs, nouns, adjectives and a host of others. Words to describe things, words for things and words that are about doing things. We soak this up, becoming proficient ( mostly) in using a whole variety of words to communicate our thoughts, wants, needs, ideas and opinions.

Somewhere along the way we get used to using certain words that are, in effect, wrong, out of context – perhaps this is laziness but that debate can take place elsewhere!

One such example of this is something I hear regularly in my coaching practice as well as in the wider world. We are in the habit of using nouns instead of verbs – a habit that often contributes to becoming or being “stuck” in a problem.

Let’s take the following statement as an example

“Communication is appalling in our team”.

I guess we will all have an interpretation as to what this may mean. The tricky part comes when the individual wants to move forward and change “something” to improve the situation. The following statement is a common one.

“We all need to work on communication, it’s time it improved”

Whilst we stick with a noun – “communication” we have a problem. Firstly, there is actually no such thing – the definition of a noun in the Oxford Dictionaries is as follows :-

Noun :- a word ( other than a pronoun) used to identify any of a class of people, places or things.

Now can you see the problem – communication is not a thing – we cannot see it, pick it up, buy it or improve it because, in truth, it doesn’t exist. The person using the word communication is talking about something abstract and as such, is powerless to improve “it” because, quite simply, “it” doesn’t exist!  The brain, doesn’t really know what to do with this statement and so it is easy to remain “stuck”.

In order to work on this, it is necessary to change it back into a verb – a doing word. This requires ownership, action; and once we do this, “to communicate” becomes an activity that we can do in the same way or differently in order to improve.

As soon as I consider how “I communicate” with you and with the other individuals in my team, I have a range of choices as do you. Moving from a noun to a verb, is empowering and helps me take responsibility for the way in which I communicate with others.

I can explore options and plan to communicate differently. I can ask you the best way to communicate with you and you can tell me. We can both now be accountable and our actions and behaviours can be shaped into a way of communicating with each other that works more effectively!

Another example that I hear often is :-

“I will work on my relationship with ……. ( client, manager, mentor, partner, child )” :- Spotted it? Another noun where a verb will be so much more useful.   There is no such thing as a “relationship”.  I can’t see one, hold one, pick one up etc!

I can pontificate about a relationship with someone else to my heart’s content but until I take accountability and change my language to an action word, it is very tricky to change.   What I need to reflect upon and adapt, is the way that I relate to the other person and the way that we relate to each other.  It is here where I can experiment with my behaviour and be flexible to create change.

So, next time you are stuck with a problem, check that you have the right keyword. Check that there is a verb in the right place and if not, consider altering the language. Take out the noun and get ready for action by using a verb!

Until next time

Bridget Clapham

Boosting your happiness at work. Part one:- are you asking yourself the right questions?

How many people do you know who are happy at work? – (I fully realise that there are other factors influencing our feelings but for the next few minutes, lets focus on work.)

Yes, I know it’s a big question, you are reading lots about happiness at work on social media and it even makes the TV news. In a sense it’s too big, too nebulous – what does “happy” mean anyway?! Like me, you could be pondering that one all day so…..

Let me ask another question or two.

How many people do you know who talk about their job with passion, who wake up in the morning (well, most mornings anyway) and actually look forward to going to work with a sense of excitement and anticipation about what the day will bring?

Do you?

I know a few folks who fit into that category… but I know others of all ages, who often wake up with a cocktail of less welcome feelings spinning around inside. Such feelings can include, anxiety, panic, dread, depression, boredom and in some cases, such an overwhelming mixture of the above that they would and occasionally do, turn right back over and bed down for a duvet day. If this continues, wellbeing suffers and mental health problems can arise.

“So, if I want to be happier at work, what can I do about it?” I hear you say!

Firstly, if you are the person looking forward to work….celebrate that, and spread a little of your enthusiasm within your team.. although the chances are they’re pretty happy too, because you work in the same place. Culture is a key influencer on the happiness barometer!

1. Get curious

If, however, you are hiding under the duvet or starting to feel that that would be a preferred option on a regular basis, then you need to do some detective work. Channelling your inner detective is useful but be careful…. the type of questions you ask yourself are key to what you will learn and to how quickly you solve the mystery and move forward.

2. Have a go at this thought experiment.

Ask yourself the following questions. (In my experience, these are the questions that people ask,  as clients usually come to work with me having worked out all of the answers to them)

Be disciplined and only spend a few seconds on each response and then move on.

  • How do I feel? What emotions can I identify here?
  • What is wrong at work that is making me feel this way?
  • How long have I been feeling this bad for?
  • What are the main problems and who is responsible?
  • Whose fault is this and……
  • What should they be doing about it?

How do you feel when you ask yourself these questions? Better… or worse and more likely to hibernate?

3. Get curious in a different way with a new focus

Now….. wipe the slate clean, look around the room, look at something that makes you smile, ground yourself in the present moment, take a breath or two and ask yourself this new set of questions:-

  • What feelings do I notice when I breathe, focus inward and notice what is going on for me?
  • What are the work based triggers that are impacting so strongly on my mindset and feelings? ( useful to identify in relation to taking action)
  • How do I want to feel?
  • What would I like to happen at work, that would help me to feel more energised, happier and to get my spark back?
  • What CAN I actually do to begin to take control, feel more energised and get my spark back?
  • What one thing WILL I do today, that will start to make a positive difference?

How do you feel now? – Feedback strongly shows that the proactive and solution focused, second set of questions, help to empower people and inspire a more positive, optimistic and motivated approach to change. This relates to Emotional Intelligence so feel free to check back to this post for more on EQ Emotional Intelligence at Work. What’s it all about?

If you have done the thought experiment and noticed the positive impact of the second set of questions, follow through.

Do one thing differently every day and begin to notice the differences. Let me know your experiences. Either comment below or email me at .

Part two (look out for my next post), will explore some tried and tested examples of actions you can take to increase your happiness and wellbeing at work and in general.

Until next time…





Ten habits for getting the best from your 121’s at work … to improve fulfillment and productivity.

If your 121 meetings are productive, positive and play a crucial role in moving forward in happily achieving company vision than maybe you don’t need to read this.

If not, read on and see how helpful you find it!. Either way, do message me or comment to share your experiences whether they are of best practice, or of the more frustrating variety!

What’s the point of 121’s?

The weekly, fortnightly or monthly 121 between a manager and team member is a fabulous opportunity for celebration, problem solving, creating thinking, learning and development.

It’s a chance for a senior individual to meet with a junior individual to check progress in relation to projects, the day job and ultimately checking that all is well, people are confident and supported and that all activity is in line with achieving the team and company vision.

“What a great idea – a no brainer”……. I hear you say!

Why then do I hear so many people, in many different organisations saying “ It’s a waste of time” “ Don’t see the point of them” and “ Ah, yes, 121’s….well…..we always mean to have them but something always seems to get in the way” ?

What goes wrong?

Talking to many team members and managers across many businesses, it seems that very often,  the 121 meeting is a tick box affair with managers and staff, short of time and focused solely on checking progress and on correcting poor performance.   Closed and leading questions are common, such as “Now that new project, you’re all Ok with that aren’t you?” to which the team member is highly likely to say “Yes” even if this is far from the case!

These meetings, it would seem, when they do happen, are often squeezed in to a busy week and, for this and other reasons, neither participant is able to be fully present. Both parties often have their brains darting all over the place to past, present and future challenges and focus is thus affected.

Getting the best from the routine 121 meeting.

Having created space in your diary for a 121, how do you both get the most from the precious time that you are spending together?

Here are my ten recommendations for leaders, managers and individuals who are meeting for 121’s and want to make them worthwhile.

  1. Manage your Mindset. Take time before the meeting to breathe and create headspace. This will help you to park other thoughts, be more mindful, focus on the outcomes of the meeting and thus have a positive attitude and approach.
  2. Build your knowledge and awareness of EQ skills….and use them. Emotional Intelligence at Work. What’s it all about?
  3. Decide what you want to have achieved when you both leave the meeting and…. “begin with the end in mind” as Covey would advocate!
  4. Always agree upon two sets of outcomes when setting the agenda. Firstly:- A focus on WHAT is going on i.e. strategy, projects, progress and challenges. Secondly:- A focus on HOW the individual and manager are operating i.e. using great skills, identifying skills gaps, awareness of how much pressure the individual is under, and how they are feeling about workload and success levels. In this way you can identify skills objectives and how the individual can be supported to manage pressure and/or develop skills that are lacking.
  5. Work out a format for your meetings that works – this may be that you spend the first part of the meeting, however long with your attention on WHAT and the second part on HOW or…… cleverly combine the two using great coaching skills along the way.
  6. Be fully present for each other during the meeting – choose the right meeting space, put phones on silent, park other thoughts, boundary the time you will spend, focus and delve in!
  7. Celebrate successes since the last 121 and identify the skills that have used to achieve it. The individual may be able to mentor another team member who is looking to develop the same skills!  To praise or not to praise? That is the leadership question!
  8. Identify challenges and adopt a creative and problem solving approach to overcoming them. Remember that between you, you have many years of experience and a combined skill set that is phenomenal.
  9. When mistakes or errors have been made, adopt a case study approach so that you can reflect together, be creative and plan to incorporate learnings in the future.
  10. Leave the room with a SHARED understanding of what you have spoken about and agreed and of next steps. 

Suggested exercise for leaders and team members.

a) Talk through these 10 habits with your team member and benchmark yourselves against them.

b) Decide where you need to focus and go for it!  I have a feeling that the quality of your 121’s, your working relationship and your productivity will all benefit.

c) Reflect upon the changes you have made and adapt further if necessary.

Do let me know how you get on and please share this to others who may find it of value.

Until next time

Best wishes

Bridget Clapham. Executive Coach and Development Consultant

To praise or not to praise? That is the leadership question!

To praise or not to praise? I believe that the short answer is “praise”, but, if I leave it there, the blog post would be a tad short and probably not too useful, so, here are my further musings!

As those with a fundamental knowledge and understanding of human psychology know, what we human beings like, or rather need, is to be treated kindly, to feel valued, appreciated and loved. It is, quite simply, part of being the social creatures that we are!

When we get signals from others that this is the case such as when we are authentically treated kindly and  praised by someone, our amazing brains release fabulous hormones – chemicals such as serotonin and oxytocin. This gives us a feel-good hit and, quite simply, we feel good.

For those of you who are interested in the neurochemistry and neuroscience, serotonin is released when we feel proud or valued and oxytocin when people are kind to us and we feel liked or loved. N.B. Love, in a workplace and leadership as opposed to a romantic sense, is defined here as having a sense of appreciation for and closeness to others.

For a great explanation of the importance of these and other neurotransmitters read Simon Sinek “Leaders Eat Last” – link here to one of the many places where it is available :-

 So why is praise important? When we feel proud, valued and appreciated, our brains are running on great neurochemistry and we are more likely to feel positive, motivated, learn quickly, be creative and perform well.


So, as a leader and, in fact, as a human being, which of your behaviours will help your team or your peers or your own leaders to feel supported, proud and valued?

Lead in a way that cultivates a culture where praise and celebration at all levels,  are the hallmarks of your style as a team or organisation. Be strong and kind – they can blend well together!  Spread the praise around too….. after all, your peers and your own leaders have a right to their own great neurochemistry too. It can be lonely at the top – who praises the leaders?

Many leaders and managers wait for formal 121’s or even for appraisal time to deliver praise and positive feedback to employees. My question is – why wait?

As a manager,  you are with your team most days.  It follows therefore that most days there will be positive behaviours and minor or major successes that you can use to deliver authentic feedback to your staff. I believe that authentic, time relevant praise – that is specific to an individual, even better, specific to an individual’s action or behaviour is worth its weight in gold.

“What about the need to let people know about their mistakes and shortcomings?”  I hear some of you say…. Well, think about it. We do indeed all make mistakes and have development needs. I believe strongly that the development feedback, delivered kindly in the context of a culture of praise and success, will be more likely to generate change in the employee. In the following example, which employee is more likely to develop and thrive?

  1. The one who is told to improve and given feedback on all of the reasons why he or she is not making the grade and thus feels demoralised and undervalued?


2. The one who gets praised when he or she does well, is supported to develop in areas where improvement is needed and can work on making further improvements from a foundation of confidence and self-worth?

As an emotionally intelligent leader, and one who is keen to further develop EQ, you can tailor praise and feedback to suit the individual styles of team members. One style does not fit all! Experiment and ask for feedback on your feedback – it’s always useful.

Want to know more about the importance and value of praise and of helping people to feel important and valued? Here is a link to a great article highlighting research that supports the ideas within this blog post.

My recommendation, start to make praise and positive feedback part of everyday conversations and ……let me know what you notice.

Until next time


Part Two. Why do you do what you do? the importance of your “Why”.

What do you do? Where, how and when do you do it – and WHY?


“People don’t buy what you do, they buy “why” you do it” as Simon Sinek so eloquently explains.

If this doesn’t yet make sense, it may be that you missed last week’s blog on the importance of WHY we do what we do. At the end,  I said that I would post my personal “why” in the next post and so  in Part Two, I will be doing just that.

Firstly, you may want to refresh your understanding of Sinek’s work, which will mean a trip back to last week’s post. Here’s a quick link:-

If you are up to speed, let’s keep going!

One of the key points that Sinek and others make is that we are biological, chemical beings with complex neurology and, that we are driven to a great extent by our emotions.

Think of your own decisions- how often do you “sense check” a decision, or change one because the first one just didn’t feel quite right?


If, like me, the answer to those questions is “always and quite often ”, then what follows will make perfect sense to you!

“People don’t buy what you do, they buy “why” you do it”

To explain what you do, is fairly straightforward, most people can tell you that. When I work with leaders and team members, most can articulate clearly what they do both as an organisation and as an individual within it. Often ( if not engaged with their “why”, they will explain it as being quite dull!)

As Sinek explains, some people can also explain how they do what they do. This is a bit more interesting but still a fairly neutral narrative.( See Sinek’s Golden Circle as explained last week – worth exploring if you haven’t already!)

What my and actually every other human brain is actually looking for is to experience a chemical shift, a connection, an emotional response to what we are hearing.

This starts to happen when people talk about or indeed, from their “why”. This is when we are likely to connect with and truly “buy in” to what the other person is saying. It is our “why” – our authenticity to our values that gives clues as to who we really are and what really matters to us! This is what other human beings connect with.

Think about it, given the choice, which Dr would you connect with and want to be cared for by? :-

  1. a Dr who only went into Medicine because it is the family tradition and is competent but dreams of another career because she/he would actually rather have been a lawyer…..OR
  2. a Dr who is also competent AND whose practice is fully aligned with her or his true values of care, support, health, healing and wellbeing.

So, here is my offering , my attempt to communicate my “why”.

My Golden Circle

Why I do what I do:- I have a passion and total belief in EVERY person’s ability to learn, develop and achieve their own excellence in life, in a way that enables them to feel happy, well and fulfilled. I believe that it is possible for each person to enjoy the process of becoming the best they can be.

How I do what I do:- I apply  curiosity and a skilled and ever developing knowledge and understanding of people, human psychology, organisational psychology, behaviour, learning, education, coaching and neuroscience in my work with clients. I combine with a great toolkit of strategies and methodologies to enable my clients to work with me to achieve fabulous results.

What I do:- I coach people to be the best they can be (beautifully combining personal excellence, success and wellbeing as essential ingredients in the cocktail!)

Those who meet me, say that when I talk about “what” I do, I do it from my “why”.

Exercise :-

I highly recommend working out your personal Golden Circle and one for your organisation. It is an interesting process and is great for developing increased self awareness as well as sometimes revealing some unexpected insights!

There are some great resources to share the ideas about the Golden Circle here

Let me know how you get on!

Until next time.



Emotional Intelligence at Work. What’s it all about?

There’s a lot being written about EQ or Emotional Intelligence. It is said that having a high EQ is a greater indicator of our success than having a high IQ which in itself challenges many peoples’ belief systems.

If you are a manager, leader or team member and haven’t yet explored the positive benefits of working to raise EQ, I hope that this blog will give you a taste and hunger to learn more!

So, what is EQ and why is it important?

There are 4 main components ( 5 if you read Daniel Goleman’s work – he adds Motivation.) but let’s focus on the 4 below for now!

  1. Self Awareness – ability to be aware of own emotions in any given moment
  2. Self Management- ability to manage and alter own emotional state.
  3. Awareness of others- people’s perspective and emotions in any given moment
  4. Relationship management – Ability to build rapport, communicate and relate to others effectively in any given moment.

Reflective Learning Activity:-

I invite you to:-

  • Look back at the list of skills above and reflect upon your abilities in each for a moment or two.
  • Think about times when you do this and times when you don’t ( we ALL have those!)
  • Now think of yourself in an average day at work and consider how, upping your ability in each of the EQ skills, could enhance your experience and excellence!
  • What difference would being better at each skill make to how you behave and excel?

Moving on :- what is so important about emotional intelligence and what will increasing our EQ get for us?

We are each unique and social beings, as a species we thrive in groups and thus, at home and even more so at work, with very few exceptions, interact, on a daily basis, with a multitude of other totally unique human beings.

Being Emotional beings

We are also, thank goodness emotional beings as opposed to computers or robots, we each have a fully functioning emotional spectrum and a full range of feelings that vary throughout any given day, hour or even moment!

Part of the joy of my job is working with people to help them gain insight into how they create their emotions and how to manage them more effectively. These are the first stages of developing EQ. Following this, comes coaching on how to raise awareness of others and to communicate more effectively to get better outcomes more of the time!

So- more on the whole issue of emotions:-

If you could select a way to feel from a menu of emotions, these and more would all be on your list :-


  • Confident
  • Positive
  • Happy
  • Motivated
  • Excited
  • Joyful
  • Curious
  • Chilled
  • Calm
  • Relaxed
  • In control
  • Sad
  • Low
  • Frustrated
  • Annoyed
  • Stressed
  • Embarrassed
  • Hurt
  • Scared
  • Anxious

and many more…..

Rest assured, your very amazing brain, and mine, knows exactly how to create each and every one of the emotions on the menu…and a few more. You have a wonderful ability to generate the different neurochemicals that lead to different feelings and understanding this is key to developing EQ.

Quite clearly, the way that we feel in any given moment is going to impact hugely on how we filter and process information AND on how we respond, react and behave towards other human beings in your workplace or home.

(Remember at this point that all other human beings are all experiencing their own cocktail of emotions in any given moment.) This is what makes working together and communicating so interesting!

Think of a workplace scenario such as a meeting :-

If all human beings in your workplace scenario are feeling positive and are aware of self and others, can manage their state and are socially skilled – people will relate well to each other and generally be happier, functioning well and be more productive. Think what this means to wellbeing and team effectiveness at work!

If one or more of the human beings is low on EQ, feeling angry, fed up, low or anxious and NOT able to change it, oblivious their own and to the other person’s emotional state and socially unskilled, all the players will be left feeling negative and functioning below their best.

Building higher levels of EQ

When you stop to reflect on the above, it is clear that when we work on all four skills within the EQ model, we will be able to build and develop our EQ. This means that we will feel better more of the time AND be able to manage and change our state when necessary.

We will also be more aware of the emotional state of those around us, reflect on how THAT is affecting their behaviours in any given moment AND be skilled in establishing and maintaining rapport and relate well to others!

The joy of EQ is, that whilst we each have an existing level of EQ, we can enhance and develop our skills in each of the four areas. I work with many individuals and teams that do just that!

Until next time



For Executive Coaching

Contact me via  or email direct to to explore ways to enhance EQ and increase wellbeing and performance at individual, team and organisational levels.

Books and links

There are many. Here are just two from the selection available that will be of interest if you want to read more!

Emotional Intelligence 2.0 by Travis Bradberry and Jean Graves is excellent. In explaining EQ and giving some strategies for development.

Daniel Goleman Emotional Intelligence. Why it can matter more than IQ