A New Beginning: What Are You Noticing?

A New Beginning: What Are You Noticing?

How has 2021 started for you?

Do you feel the past few weeks have been a blur? Did you hit the ground running and feel like you haven’t stopped?

Or, perhaps you started the year more tentatively, preferring to move slowly, doing what you know and feel comfortable with. Wanting all of the uncertainty, stress and sadness associated with 2020 to disappear.

It’s interesting how each of us deal with uncertainty. Some of us stay busy and don’t take time to slow down so we can’t think too much. Others take it slow, really feel their emotions and proceed cautiously. Which category do you fit into? Or are you somewhere in between; some days moving at top speed and others feeling emotional and moving more slowly?

I’m one of the folks who “hit the ground running” and feel like I’ve “had my roller blades on” since January 4th.

Yesterday my body felt tired and stressed. I felt “wound up”. I finally listened and went for a walk in nature. I walked to the ocean’s edge and lay on a rock, soaking up the winter sun and feeling the tension in my body melt away into the rock, or so it seemed.

“Nature connects me with my soul.” That’s part of a faith statement I developed at a personal growth workshop years ago. Nature is such a great teacher and healer. I’m amazed when I walk by water or in a park or forest how relaxed I begin to feel. My stress just falls away. Do you relate?

There is a lot of evidence regarding the healing benefits of nature. This was brought home to us during COVID-19 when we saw air and water pollution levels go down within the first 6 weeks of lock-down.

How are you dealing with this ongoing pandemic? Are you able to get out in nature? If so, I encourage it and when you’re there, notice how you feel. Perhaps journal about it afterward. After the year we’ve all had, it’s important to be kind to our bodies.

Thinking of you and sending much love and healing energy your way!

How to Change from Driving and Striving to Thriving

How to Change from Driving and Striving to Thriving

Did you end 2019 feeling exhausted and burnt out? Did you set the intention that this year would be different, that you would take more time for you and to spend with friends and family? Are you finding that already you are slipping back into old patterns of taking work home in the evenings and working on weekends?

I understand. I’ve been there. Early in my childhood I internalized the belief that in order to be loved and valued I needed to perform and achieve. And so I kept doing that. Setting one goal, reaching it; then raising the bar and striving for the next one. Taking very little, if any time, between my accomplishments to celebrate; until I became exhausted and burned out.

What happens when we are driving and striving?

  • Our agendas are packed
  • We have little or no time for ourselves
  • When we are speaking with someone, often half of our brain is focused on them and the other half is focused on the next thing on our to-do list
  • We feel like there is so much to do and so little time
  • We focus on our goals and become so fixated on achieving them that we may miss out on other opportunities that come our way
  • We often feel tired on awakening
  • We may start to feel resentful, as we seem to be giving to everyone else, yet no one seems to be there to support us when we need it.

Do you relate? Living this way, constantly driving and striving, leads to adrenal fatigue, burnout, various types of cancer, and auto-immune disorders such as fibromyalgia and multiple sclerosis (for more details on burnout and what to do about it – https://pamela-thompson.com/how-to-know-if-youre-burning-out-what-to-do-about-it/). When we work night and day, our bodies don’t have time to return to homeostasis where we relax and rejuvenate ourselves. As stress hormones constantly surge through us, our organs eventually burn out.

What does thriving look and feel like?

  • We feel happy, healthy and grounded with a balance between “giving” and “receiving” and “doing” and “being”
  • We feel open to possibilities
  • We awaken feeling energized and excited about the day ahead
  • We spend time with people we care about
  • We feel connected to something greater than ourselves
  • We spend regular time in nature
  • We exercise regularly
  • We are grateful for the life we have
  • We are clear on our core values and live life in alignment with them.

Feel free to add your own descriptions to the lists above.

How do we move from driving and striving to thriving?

  • We learn to Listen to and trust in our body’s wisdom – The first step in getting out of our heads and into our bodies is a mindfulness technique called body scanning. On awakening, you begin scanning your body from the top of your head to the tips of your toes and noticing where there is any tension or discomfort. Then you breathe into these areas and set the intention to release any discomfort. Another mindfulness practice is mindfulness walking meditations. I encourage my clients to begin doing this 15 to 20 minutes a day, 3 times a week. It can be done at noon or during a break. Instead of taking a walk and thinking about the next thing on your plate or reflecting on a stressful conversation you had with a partner or team member, you focus on your senses. You feel the wind on your cheeks, you smell the salt sea air, you hear the birds singing, you see the beautiful vistas surrounding you. When thoughts come into your mind you view them as clouds floating by and let them pass, returning to focusing on one of your senses. When you do this, notice what you notice during the exercise, after and the cumulative effects.
  • When you are feeling stressed, Take deep breaths in through your nose and out through your mouth; making a sound as you breathe out. When you do this 3 or 4 times you release oxytocin, a hormone that relaxes you.
  • Each week block off in your calendar all of the things you commit to doing for yourself (that you enjoy). For me one of these is yoga 3 times a week at noon. It may be going to the gym 3 of 4 times a week after work. It may be meeting a friend or partner for lunch once a week.
  • Set firm boundaries. Learn to say no. This is important at work, and with family and friends.
  • Notice your energy levels and schedule your activities to capitalize on these. For example, if possible, do your creative work when you are naturally more creative. Schedule meetings after 10 am.
  • Spend regular time in nature; walking, hiking, cycling, kayaking … . Nature is therapeutic. Based on several decades of research, the Japanese have evidence to show that forest bathing/walking among trees reduces your heart rate, reduces your blood pressure and increases the number of natural killer cells your body produces. For more on the benefits of being in nature check out: https://pamela-thompson.com/how-you-can-benefit-from-nature-why-its-important/
  • Unplug from technology for at least 24 hours one day a week (e.g. on weekends) if possible
  • Celebrate your achievements, big and small.

It’s important to reach out for support to friends, family or a coach, as moving from driving and striving to thriving, IS a journey and it requires support from others.

For more practical tools and techniques to support you to be healthy, happy and grounded, I invite you to check out my book Learning to Dance with Life: A Guide for High Achieving Women – www.amazon.com/dp/B0145ZGDO2 that is backed up by evidence from neuroscience, eastern psychology and the health promoting and healing benefits of the arts. There is also a series of coaching questions woven throughout the book to support you to move from driving and striving to thriving.

I welcome strategies that you’ve found helpful in the comments below.

Lessons from a Changemaker: How to Prevent Burnout while Living Your Passion

Lessons from a Changemaker: How to Prevent Burnout while Living Your Passion

As a changemaker, you are passionate about making a positive difference in the world. You may have chosen a career as a helping professional, work for a non-profit or an international development agency. You may be an academic doing research focusing on improving the health of women and children or you may be CEO of a socially-responsible company. Whatever line of work you’re in, you feel “called” to it.

One of the challenges of being a changemaker is that we experience much joy from giving and sometimes may overextend ourselves by sitting on a number of volunteer boards, or by continually pushing through fatigue to finish that one last thing, rather than taking a break and listening to our bodies. Do you relate?

I understand. I’ve almost burnt out several times in my life. When we continually push ourselves without listening to our bodies, we run the risk of experiencing adrenal fatigue or burnout. Dr. James Wilson in his book Adrenal Fatigue The 21st Century Stress Syndrome notes that:

“adrenal fatigue occurs when the amount of stress [physical, psychological, emotional, infectious, environmental or a combination of these] overextends the capacity of the body (mediated by the adrenal [glands]) to compensate and recover from that stress or the combined stresses. Once this capacity to cope and recover is exceeded, some form of adrenal fatigue occurs. “ (p. 11)

While working in Afghanistan with the Ministry of Public Health, supporting them to develop their first strategic plan and building the capacity of internal teams to do planning, I got pneumonia twice within the first 6 months of living there. I recall being at the front of the room facilitating a national multi-stakeholder workshop with my team and feeling an incredible burning in my chest as I wrote on the flipchart. It wasn’t until I arrived home for a short break a week or so later and I felt really low in energy and on my husband’s suggestion I went to the doctor and was diagnosed with pneumonia the first time.

So how can you as a changemaker stay healthy, happy and grounded while making a positive difference in the world?

  • Connect with and learn to listen to and trust in your body’s wisdom. Our bodies are amazing receivers and transmitters of information. They always let us know if something is wrong. Body scanning is an excellent tool when we wish to increase awareness of our body and the messages it sends us. Tara Brach in her book Radical Acceptance: Embracing Your Life with the Heart of Buddha, walks you through a detailed body scan and explains its power.
  • Spend regular time in nature. Go for a short walk at lunch or walk in the park after work. Go for a hike with a partner, friend or family member. The Japanese have done longitudinal research to show that when we walk among trees it reduces our heart rate, reduces our blood pressure and increases the number of natural killer cells our bodies produce (e.g. strengthens our immune system).
  • Set strong boundaries. If someone asks you to participate in a new community activity (e.g. fundraise for a local charity) or add an extra project to your already “full plate” at work, learn to say “no”. As givers we often say “yes” without thinking about what we already have on our “to-do” lists. I encourage you when asked to do something new, to take several deep breaths, go inside your body and ask yourself the question: Will this bring me joy? Do I really want to do this? Do I have time for this? And if the answer is “no” practice saying “no” without feeling guilty.
  • Get 7 to 8 hours of sleep per night. Sleep heals and replenishes our bodies.
  • Unplug from digital devices for 60 to 90 minutes before going to sleep. Artificial light from screens increases alertness and suppresses the hormone melatonin by up to 22% negatively affecting sleep, performance and mood. [1]

If you’d like to learn more proven strategies for preventing burnout and staying healthy, happy and grounded while living your passion I invite you to check out my #1 best selling book on Amazon Learning to Dance with Life: A Guide for High Achieving Women. FYI, men find it useful as well J.  In the book I share 7 keys to what I call Creative Living. 7 keys to “consciously cultivating improved health, happiness, fulfillment and inner peace in your life.” Each key has powerful strategies and proven practices backed up by research from neuroscience, Eastern psychology and the health-promoting and healing benefits of the arts.

I’d love to hear from you what strategies you’ve found useful to prevent burnout and reduce the stress in your life. I welcome your comments and suggestions below.


[1] http://digitaldetox.org/manifesto/

Change & The Changemaker: How Can You Support Others to Embrace Change?

Change & The Changemaker: How Can You Support Others to Embrace Change?

As a heart-centered leader and/or changemaker, it is important to support others within your team and/or organization to embrace change. This may be easier said than done. Here are a few “tried and true” strategies.

  • Openly discuss upcoming changes; (e.g. new leadership, reorganization) and ask people to share how they are feeling about the changes
  • Communicate about the changes and openly discuss how they may impact you and your team
  • Ask how people would like to be supported during the change process. I so relate to Brene Brown’s work, the examples she shares in “Dare to Lead”, and the importance of scheduling “rumbling sessions” during times of uncertainty and change. For example;

“These changes are coming hard and fast, and I know there is a lot of anxiety … I want to spend the next forty-five minutes rumbling about how we’re all managing the changes” (p. 35).

  • Encourage those team members who are uncomfortable with change to start slowly and integrate small changes into their daily routines (e.g. drive to work a different way, when dressing if they usually put their right leg into their pants first, start with their left leg, try sleeping on the other side of the bed … . Change is like a muscle; the more you welcome change into your life, the easier it becomes. Ariane de Bonvoisin in “The First 30 Days – Your Guide to Making Any Change Easier” identifies six “change demons” and their antidotes. The six change demons are: fear, doubt, blame, guilt, shame and impatience. She explains that the change demons “help us navigate through change by alerting us if we are off course and encouraging us to choose a different emotion to help us get where we want to go.” (To learn more visit: https://pamela-thompson.com/can-reduce-fear-change-power-beliefs/)
  • View embracing change as a creative process that opens us up to new possibilities (a foundational belief of my “Art of Change Framework”- https://pamela-thompson.com/2017/10/), and speak with your team about the value of internalizing this belief.
  • Use the change process as an opportunity to be creative and innovative and create space and opportunities for team members to share innovative ideas. William and Susan Bridges in their book “Managing Transitions: Making the Most of Change” share some excellent examples of this.

I’d love to hear from you what strategies you’ve found effective to support others in your groups, teams and organizations to embrace change. I welcome your comments and ideas below.

Culling Again … Yet another Learning Experience!

Culling Again … Yet another Learning Experience!

I’m culling yet again! Less than two years ago my husband and I did a big downsize and moved from our dream home in the Okanagan Valley to a 2-bedroom rental apartment in Victoria. At that time I sold and gave away a lot of furniture, books, clothes …. When we moved from the rental apartment to our new townhome in late November, I culled yet again. Several months ago I committed to clearing out our Seacan (Big Steel Box) of remaining “bits and pieces” by the end of June this year. Now the pressure is on!

When I go through my boxes it feels like a life review. Recently I found a number of photos of my kids, friends, other members of my family and myself and had to make the tough decision about which ones to keep and which ones to throw away. I know that I could scan them all, but at this point in my life I don’t have the patience for that! Do your relate?

I’ve done a number of things throughout my life and have been going through courses I designed and taught; articles and documents I’ve written. On the one hand it’s felt good to realize what I’ve done, on the other I wonder how I used to accomplish what I did in a day. It’s a far cry from my current level of productivity!

I love books and have again gone through them and made decisions about which ones to give away. Some of them are in a “holding pattern” as I feel like I “should” read them again, but I question Is this a good reason to reread a book? Am I just afraid of letting go of more of my stuff?

So what am I learning from this experience? It’s teaching me to let go of things that no longer are of interest or bring me joy. It’s made me realize things that used to stir my passion, no longer do. My life has gradually switched from an almost total focus on activities involving my logical left-brain to a focus on my creative right brain and listening to my body; from a focus on achievement, to connection and creativity. It’s an interesting and yet at the same time, strange place to be. In the past I’ve always pretty well known the next step to take. Now I’m being asked to be patient, to create space and to notice what comes up. Have you ever been here? I also realize that when I let go, it opens the door for new people and possibilities to show up in my life. So I need to trust that I will be “shown the way”; all in good time.

Have you ever been in a “holding pattern” and wondered what your next step should be? What was that experience like for you? Have you culled your possessions recently or in the past? If so, what was that like for you?

I invite you to share your thoughts and experiences below, as that’s how we learn from each other. Until next time!