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Thinking Your Way To Building Resilience

1024 679 Stewart Brown


I had recently set up business on my own. I had been networking furiously to build awareness that I was open for business. This involved plenty of travel to meet with various contacts, some of whom I hoped would be interested in becoming a client.

One day I had set off a little late for a meeting about 30 miles away. The route there was a fast road and I was sure that I would make up the time. But, disaster struck halfway along my journey. Two lorries had collided and the road was completely blocked. Traffic had backed up. The road was too narrow to do a u-turn. In any event, the alternative route was way too long and I would definitely arrive late. To make matters worse, I didn’t have any phone reception.

My heart started pumping. My mind raced ahead. This was a really important meeting. If I gave the wrong impression by turning up late, any chance of business would be gone. My mind started transforming what had been a speculative meeting with no guarantee of work into the make or break meeting of my fledgling business. I imagined myself unable to pay the mortgage. You get the picture. I was in full panic mode.

In some ways, how I was feeling was not my fault. Hundreds of thousands of years of evolution of the human brain and body was to blame. I had gone into full on fight or flight survival mode. But the problem was that I couldn’t flee anywhere and there wasn’t anything obvious that I could fight!

“My heart started pumping. My mind raced ahead. This was a really important meeting. If I gave the wrong impression by turning up late, any chance of business would be gone.”

Our ability to think logically and strategically and to employ advanced emotions like empathy are all severely curtailed when we are experiencing stress symptoms.

So, What’s The Answer?

Resilience is how we respond to stress, how we bounce back or overcome adversity. The good news is that resilience can be taught. But it requires understanding on how and why we each respond to difficult events.

So, why doesn’t everyone descend into road rage at the first sign of a traffic jam? Why do some people seem to handle stress better than others? To answer this, we need to dig a little deeper, into the psychological perspective.

Many people believe that the event or stressor is the cause of the consequence. How often have you heard people say, “That guy really wound me up!” or “The deadline is really stressing me out!”

An alternative way of looking at the situation grew out of work by the eminent behavioural psychologist Dr. Albert Ellis. His A-B-C model suggests that the consequence is not caused by the event itself, but it comes about as a result of the beliefs that we hold about the event, which are often irrational beliefs.

In Ellis’s model, A is the activating event, B is the belief we hold (which causes the perception that the activating event is stressful) and C is the Consequence, how we respond. Perception is key here. If we perceive an event to be stressful, then we will start experiencing the biological responses to a stressful event.

What Influences Our Perception?

There are many factors that influence our perception, from attachments we form as children to defence mechanisms we adopt to protect ourselves from anxiety.

To explore the role that perception plays, let’s go back to my journey to that important meeting, which I told you about earlier. The accident between two lorries did not cause my tension. There was an important, albeit rapid, intervening step going on. And that step was my perception or belief about the entire situation. My thoughts about being late for the meeting, being unable to control the situation and what I thought the person who was meeting me would think as a result caused an unhealthy response in my brain. It triggered a stressful response. My emotional amygdala started dominating my thinking and overruling my rational frontal cortex. As cortisol and adrenaline flooded into my system, my thinking became more fuzzy and I imagined ever-worsening crises – such as becoming homeless. All as a result of the blocked road.

Now, unfortunately, to make matters more complicated, a number of our beliefs at the B stage of this A-B-C process are unconscious beliefs. I spend a large part of my time as an executive coach helping people to become aware of such unconscious beliefs, sometimes also known as cognitive distortions or ‘thinking errors’. Because if you are aware of something, you have the opportunity to make a choice. And that choice is whether to allow that thinking error to activate the response – ie. to allow stress to arise – or not; to choose a different response.

My experience is that lawyers are particularly prone to certain thinking errors, such as (and there are many more…):

• All or nothing: Thinking is black and white rather than shades of grey. “I have to get this 100% perfect. I always make this mistake. I’ll never get the hang of it.”
• I should/must/can’t: This is a big one. It refers to when we set unrealistic standards for ourselves. It can be really damaging. Examples include: “I should be able to cope with all this work.” “I must not make any mistakes.” “I can’t handle this.”
• Magnification: This involves blowing things out of all proportion. “I failed my promotion interview. My career is in ruins.” “We made a mistake. This is terrible.”

“Develop self-awareness of when you are starting to get stressed. For me, I started to lose my sense of humour, taking things too seriously and becoming snappy with others.”

How To Go About Building Resilience

Stress occurs when pressure exceeds our perceived ability to cope: This definition suggests that stress is caused by external factors, such as work pressures and deadlines. And internal factors, such as the attitudes that we have to deadlines, have a role to play that hinder our ability to cope.

1. Notice

Develop self-awareness of when you are starting to get stressed. For me, I started to lose my sense of humour, taking things too seriously and becoming snappy with others.

Notice it in your colleagues and offer to help them out. My former PA always used to say that if I had eaten a chocolate bar before 11am, then it was bad sign! And she would ask me if she could help with anything, move a meeting or delegate work to a team member.

2. Practice Better thinking

It may not always be practical or wise (from a career progression standpoint) to avoid activating events, like making presentations, altogether. Albert Ellis and Windy Dryden later (1987) extended the A-B-C model by adding two additional stages, D and E. And in their excellent and practical book How to Deal with Stress (Kogan Page: 2007), Stephen Palmer and Cary Cooper describe a further stage: F.

D: is to dispute the belief – in other words to alleviate stress by noticing and challenging your thinking. E: is creating an effective new strategy to deal with the activating event. And F is the Future Focus: what am I going to do differently going forwards based on what I have learnt about myself?

Now, I’m not underestimating how difficult it is to challenge stories in our head that we’ve held for some time – decades even! But there is always a way forward. Going back to my interrupted car journey to that ever-so-important meeting, I noticed that my thinking was skewed. So, I started to breathe slowly and deeply. I realised that I had been guilty of two massive thinking errors: I had obsessed about the importance of punctuality and how a professional ‘should’ behave and magnification: missing the meeting would not be the end of the world.

Clarity of thinking emerged as my cortisol levels dropped. I remembered that there was a pub close by. So, I parked my car on the verge, walked to the pub and used their landline to call my contact. He was running late and lived close to where we were due to meet. We came up with an alternative plan that I would call him when I was on the move again.

And with that, I returned to my car, turned on some music and chose to relax whilst I waited.

Stress and frustration

Are You Letting Ambition Get The Better Of You?

1024 683 Rachel Le Feuvre, Reset Button


Ambition often brings some tricky traits with it that you have to be mindful of.

1. Perfectionism. Many ambitious types are also big perfectionists. While this is good in many ways – attention to detail can drive success – it can also frequently hold people back. The fear of something not being quite good enough can lead all too often to nothing being done at all. I often see at the retreat how people are pushing themselves to be perfect, when really they already are: they just can’t see it. As human beings we have very high expectations of ourselves. Instead of being proud of who we are right now and the journey we are on, we tend to look constantly to the person we think we could be. At the retreat we encourage loving who you are right now.

2. Determination. The problem with having your heart set on one thing in particular is that you lose an amount of flexibility which is required for success. It’s good to have a clear idea of what you want, but if you are too focused on one goal you may blinker yourself and miss an obvious opportunity hanging right in front of your eyes. Yes, be like a dog with a bone, but remember there are also other bones, equally good, possibly even better than the one you’re so desperately clasping onto.

3. Disappointment. The ambitious can suffer from severe disappointment. In themselves. In others. In the world. They want so much that when things don’t work out it feels personal and soul-destroying. Ambitious people dream big, and the world needs these people, but they in turn need to control their aspirations. Strive for great things, but try to keep your expectations in line with reality and you’ll not go through the pain of disappointment. My motto in life (admittedly borrowed from a corporate slogan spotted on the wall at the easyJet headquarters when doing an advertising project for them years ago!) is ‘Underpromise and overdeliver’. Say you probably won’t be able to do something, then do it better than anyone could have ever expected – you will blow their minds!

4. Workaholism. Ambitious people are so compelled to succeed that they often don’t know when’s the right time to stop. It’s far too easy to burn out, to forget the importance of the work-life balance (believe me, I’ve been there). It’s really important to remember that life isn’t just about work. Make the most of every moment, of all the people around you who you love and who love you. One of the worst realisations possible is waking up feeling that your life has raced you by and you’ve missed what’s really important. Stop once in a while and take stock.

Stress and frustration


One of the principal elements of Reset Button is introducing people to Mindfulness, which in today’s busy world is fundamental to our wellbeing. It helps people slow down, decompress and rather than mindlessly following the goals they think will one day make them happy, instead allows them to choose the life they want to live today.



De-Stress Tips

1024 683 Rachel Le Feuvre, Reset Button


Stress itself is a naturally occurring state and it has good reason to exist. It pumps adrenalin around the body when we need it most: it helps us to be quick thinking and have fast reactions. Many of us report to work better when we are under stress. Stress isn’t something we should be too worried about, but we are. And this is the problem: we’re forgetting to allow the state of stress to come, do its job, but then to leave the body.

By getting stressed about being stressed, we’re holding on to it so tight that it’s building up and leaving behind all sorts of horrible toxins that we do not want or need in our body.

It’s fine to allow ourselves to be stressed occasionally, but we must remember to let it pass.

Give yourself the stress test right now:

How are your shoulders? Up or down? Could the muscles be a bit more comfy?

What about your tongue? Pushing against the top of your mouth or is it relaxed?


The best first stop to relieving stress is by becoming aware of it. Then learning ways to notice it but let it pass.

Associating new habits with old routines is an easy way to successfully integrate them into your life. So here are a few ideas for you:


1) Make your bed. Give yourself a few minutes in the morning and decide your intentions for the day as you straighten out the sheets. Shake the stress out of your shoulders as you shake the duvet out. Picture the blank canvas that is today. A new day. A day with great potential. Set out your plans to not allow stress to take over.
2) Have a mindful moment over your hot drink (or cold!). It’s an easy regular reminder to have a moment of self-awareness. Every hot drink, try to take in the following: the heat of the cup on your lips, the texture of the material, your breath as it passes your lips and hits the top of the liquid. Try and notice the connection between your hand and the cup, the heat that’s passing between them and then take a slow inhalation. Appreciate the scent, try and notice something in it that you haven’t noticed before. And as you breathe back out, relax, then take a sip.
3) Press ‘pause’ before you react. Most of us will think we don’t have time to pause. But you do. If you notice a strong emotion coming over you – bad news in the office, perhaps something hasn’t turned out how you hoped, you should try and stop yourself before you react. Be aware of what you are feeling as it passes over your body. Let it happen, it’s your body naturally reacting, but then let it leave before you finally make your response. Watching your feelings come and go allows them to actually go and helps you make less compulsive responses.
4) Walk to a meeting mindfully. Pay attention to where the soles of your feet are touching the ground and how that feels. Try and notice the air, the temperature, the weight and feel of your clothes. Connect with the ground as you go from A to B. It will clear your head and straighten your thoughts prior to the important presentation or session you are going to.
5) Smile more. Make a point of smiling every time you look in the mirror. Often when you least feel like smiling, it’s the most beneficial time to do it. Smiling triggers the release of the neurotransmitter dopamine, which makes us feel good. So just smile. Make a habit of it.

One of the reasons it’s good to regularly meditate is so that in moments when you need to de-stress you can turn to a five minute meditation and it will calm you greatly. However, if you do not have a regular practice, this is a very hard thing to do and could prove stressful in itself.

Instead, start by doing a small amount of meditation every day – preferably when you are relaxed. Over time you will be able to then turn to it in negative moments when you need to control your responses.


The Only Constant Is Change

1024 683 Clare Evans, Personal and Business Coach


Change is something that happens to us all at various stages in our lives. In the workplace, we change jobs, move teams, take on new work, learn new technology, go through mergers and acquisitions, it’s unavoidable.

Change is something that happens to us all at various stages in our lives. In the workplace, we change jobs, move teams, take on new work, learn new technology, go through mergers and acquisitions, it’s unavoidable.


Essentially there are six main stages to the change response curve:

1. Shock and Denial
When you first hear about the change you experience shock, denial, confusion, fear, numbness and blame. You will hear people say things like “I can’t believe this is happening”. They may appear cold, unemotional and not react when they first hear the news.

2. Anger/Resistance
This often follows on after the initial shock, either after a few days or quite quickly. There is a feeling of frustration, anxiety, irritation, embarrassment and shame. Wanting to take it out on someone else or blame someone for the situation you’re in – “They can’t do this to me.” Some people can get stuck in this stage for long periods of time.

3. Dialogue/Bargaining
As you come to terms with the new situation in which you now find yourself, you’re able to talk about what’s happening in a more rational and calm way. This is often the healing part of the process happens when you can discuss the impact and how you’re feeling. At this stage it helps to seek professional advice and support. People who have been through change and emotional upheaval find it helps to share their experience.

4. Depression
The bottom of the curve is when you feel a sense of overwhelm and helplessness. You may have no energy or motivation to do anything. You’re unable to function and many people will withdraw into themselves – both physically and mentally and may also switch off emotionally.

5. Acceptance
When you’re ready to move on you are more likely to accept what has happened. You’re able start to exploring new options and put plans in place for the future. It becomes easier to think more positively and this in itself has a beneficial effect in helping you move forward.

6. Return to normality
While complete ‘normality’ may not be possible, in some cases of loss or serious illness, once you have accepted the situation or found a solution it’s possible to move on. A new normal is achieved. You move forward to a more secure, meaningful and possibly better existence.


It’s possible to move forward and back through the various stages of the change curve as you adapt and deal with the impact of the change before being able to move forward permanently. You may pass through certain stages more quickly than others or get stuck on a particular stage (particularly stages 2-4).

People can get stuck at a particular stage because they don’t know how to move on. This can hold them back for months and even years – especially for changes such as a personal loss through death or divorce.

You can decide to be positive and take action when dealing with change. You’ll be able to cope better, take control and be less stressed. Reacting negatively is more likely to result in actively avoiding what’s happening, feeling out of control and more stressed.

Emotions are a natural part of the change process. Don’t be afraid to ask for help and support either from your partner, friends, colleagues or a professional, if you’re having trouble dealing with a significant change in your life.

Just because other people are not reacting in the same way or feeling the same things, doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong. What’s significant or stressful for you may not be significant to others.

The quicker and more positively you can cope with change and learn to deal with your emotions, the quicker you will be able to move on.



Dealing with Depression

954 1024 Susan Carr


“I feel depressed”

“I’m low”

“I’m down in the dumps”

“I’ve got the blues”

We may all describe feeling this way from time to time when dealing with life’s ups and downs but if you are feeling the same way for weeks on end or these symptoms come and go on a regular basis then you may be clinically depressed.


What is depression?

Depression is a mood disorder, which varies from person to person, however some of the common symptoms are listed below:

• Feeling low, restless or agitated
• Feeling prone to tearfulness
• Feel numb, empty and hopeless
• Feeling isolated and unable to relate to other people
• Feeling irritable or impatient
• Finding little or no pleasure in life
• Feeling helpless
• Feeling indecisive
• Feeling anxious or worried
• Experiencing a sense of unreality

• Forgetfulness
• Difficulty concentrating
• Guilt and shame
• Lack of self-confidence and/ or self-esteem
• Negative thinking patterns
• Suicidal thoughts

• Cessation of hobbies
• Avoiding social events
• Self-harm
• Low motivation
• Increased use of tobacco, alcohol or drugs

Physical symptoms
• Difficulty sleeping or sleeping more than usual
• Tiredness and lacking in energy
• Loss of appetite or over-eating
• Aches and pains

If you have experienced five or more of the above symptoms every day for two weeks then you may be depressed although for a formal diagnosis you should seek advice from you GP.

What causes depression?

There are a number of different causes of depression, although it is not always easy to pinpoint what has triggered an episode of depression and often people will say “I don’t know why I am feeling this way”. Some common causes are trauma, stress, loss, childhood experiences, biological conditions, side effects of medication, drug or alcohol use, genetics and chemical changes in the brain.

Ways to deal with depression

Just as there can be different causes for depression, there are also a number of different ways of dealing with depression. As noted above, it is quite common when feeling depressed to lose interest in hobbies and other activities that you enjoy and so a good starting point can be to try doing some of these again. Exercise, in particular, can be helpful in lifting mood and increasing activity levels.

Similarly, it is common to withdraw and so re-connecting with others can also help to improve your mood – even if it is not possible to meet in person, a phone call or text can help you to keep in touch with others.

Whilst self-care can go some way to helping with depression (eating healthily, getting a good night’s sleep, reducing alcohol and drug use) there are times when you may need additional support. Your GP may prescribe medication and there is now a wide range of anti-depressants available. There is also the option of talking therapy as an alternative or in addition to medication. Again there are a number of therapies available such as counselling, CBT, art therapy, and psychodynamic therapy to name but a few. Self-help groups may also be helpful in sharing how you feel and listening to the experiences of others.

The main thing is to recognise that you have a problem and that it is OK to ask for help. It is not a sign of weakness and trying to struggle on your own could make your depression worse.

If you or someone you know is affected by depression or you have any questions about depression then please contact me. If you are feeling suicidal then you can contact Samaritans (116 123) or attend your local Accident & Emergency department.