Curing motorway rage one tip at a time

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At a friend’s birthday dinner this week the conversation turned to the anger-inducing traffic jams on the M1. This conversation concerned me for two reasons. Firstly that the content of conversions are no longer limited to drink related stories or the latest gossip on who was dating who – a sign that my friends and I are no longer frolicking in our mid twenties. But also that something so mundane and frequent can turn our daily commute into 50 minutes of hell (sometimes a whole 95 – damn motorway maintenance) and ruin the half hour afterwards as we let our boiling blood return to normal. We all reflected on the hours we’ve wasted at the end of a stressful journey getting over the ordeal.

I appreciate that short of inventing the hover board (I mean actual ones like in Back to the Future, not those new skateboards with free moving wheels that light up and pretend to hover) I cannot help you bypass traffic or make the actual commute shorter, but I can share a few tips which should speed up the recovery time so you don’t take it out on your partner/family/colleagues.

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The circles we reside in

circlesI’ve been thinking a lot recently about the importance of surrounding yourself with good people who make you want to be a better person. I don’t necessarily mean Googleing nobel prize winners and camping outside their Kensington mansion houses (though that can’t hurt). I’m talking more about the natural osmosis that goes on when you spend time with driven, positive people.

This year 5 of my good friends have got amazing new jobs or gone for and got promotions, and I don’t think that’s a coincidence. It’s not been a matter of the green eyed monster or through a fear of being left behind, and indeed the fact most of them were 8-9 years into a career makes change all the more inevitable. But I really believe being in a circle of motivated people who recognise the good in the world and are prepared to so something to make more of it spreads a rather contagious desire to do the same.

It’s very easy in an office environment to get sucked into moaning and grumbling about systems, senior management or annoying peers. It’s reassuring to know others feel the same on a bad day, and it’s probably easier to bond over shared annoyances than individual successes.

I’m sure we all have friends who we have to be in the right mood to pick up a phone call from because you know 45 minutes later you’ll be exhausted from listening to their negative drivel. A scroll through your Facebook feed and you’re likely to come across far more Moaning Minnies than Joyful Johns. And without realising, constantly reading their whines can suck the happy out of you. Don’t even get me started on watching Eastenders!

But in the same way we can get depressed and down watching the 10 o clock news we can also get uplifted by hearing or reading good news stories.

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Who cries on their yoga mat?

imageI cried at yoga class tonight. Actual wet tears dropped down my face as I lay in (insert awesome yogi sounding name) pose for the final few minutes of the lesson. Maybe it was the opening of the hip joints that released the emotions. Maybe it was an extension of my hangover after an epic hen weekend. Maybe it was because it was the first moment of being still and mindful for far too long.

Every morning I wake up and battle with the snooze button until I have to rush showering, gulping down my first coffee of the day and powering it to the station. If I can get a seat I’ll start the working day on the tube and then work an intense day with perhaps a few minutes to buy lunch in the middle (who has time for a weekly shop and packed lunches?!).

Because I believe life is for living and am a massive extrovert (which actually means I get my energy from being around other people) I tend to pack my evenings with seeing some of the awesome people in my life before making the awful sin of spending a final few waking moments scrolling up through social media channels before I finally get some shut eye. At the weekends I play (too hard) at hen weekends and weddings and 30th birthday celebrations.

This is not me reaching out for sympathy (indeed I know most people who are attracted to my posts tend to live very similar lives) and I’m not writing this down as a ‘day in the life of’ style article (which I bloody love reading in Stylist magazine if I can’t get a seat on the tube and am forced to have a few minutes to spare). My point is, it is so easy to jam-pack so much stuff in to life that it can take being forced to stop and be centred on a yoga mat to realise what’s going on behind the scenes.

On my mat today (it’s not actually mine, I’ve never dedicated a few minutes to buying my own – it’s on the ever growing to do list) I wasn’t sad. In fact I wasn’t focusing on any thought in particular (my fabulous teacher encourages us to clear our minds and be Continue reading

You are not a fraud!!!

FraudSometimes I feel like I’m just biding my time until I’m caught out and my employers realise I haven’t got a clue what I’m doing. I feel like a fraudster waiting to be busted. As if my days of winging it are drawing to a close.

Recently I was in a board room in my fancy nancy new office surrounded by all the hugely ambitious power women in my company. Though I left this meeting delighted I’d just about held my own, I spent way too much of it wondering why I’d been invited and how to craft my perfectly valid contributions. If only I’d spent more time ‘in the room’ giving my input than thinking about how unworthy my input was, I’d probably have given far more bang for my buck as an employee.

Reassuringly, having had many a client and friend tell me they frequently feel the same, I knew this wasn’t unique to me. So this week I decided to take some time to think about this feeling, when it most typically comes and what we can do about it.

For my friend Jim, this feeling often rears its unhelpful head when contributions to a conversation have to be based on gut instinct rather than solid fact. I would describe Jim as a rational person, someone who in NLP circles would be described as ‘Audio Digital’ in preference. This type of person likes to think things through and work out a route before taking the first step. They need to have all the facts before they can be confident in their decision. So that totally makes sense that in a meeting without the figures, Jim would feel ill-equipped to comment.

Why would you want to ruin your own day?

Why would you want to ruin your own day?I work near London Bridge and every day it gets a tad busy in rush hour. At least once a week I see two people who aren’t looking where they are going (usually one head in the Evening Standard and the other on their phone) bump into each other. There is usually the exchange of a few choice words, some blame pointing and then once the gesticulating has stopped an uncomfortably long stare over the shoulder as they eventually part ways. I often wonder how long it takes for these pent up people to get over this encounter, and then this week I had the pleasure of an entire journey home to North London with one half of the starring cast of such a show. We’ll call him Sid.

Sid was the phone zombie of the two, and right by the escalator that goes up to the View at the Shard, bumped right into…. let’s say Paul. Paul had in fact done nothing wrong, he’d skilfully woven his way through the commuters like a pin ball to the incredibly deep voiced ES paper distributor to claim his copy. Sid on the other hand was so focussed on a black and yellow web page on his iPhone (my bet is BBC Sport) that he did not see Paul’s nifty manoeuvre and walked straight into him. After the classic exchange I described earlier, Sid eventually made progress towards the Northern Line platform with a frown so deep in his forehead I wondered if the train might actually come travelling down there instead of the track. That line did not loosen up the entire journey, in fact by the time we went through Tufnell Park (and stopped even though the station was closed, why do they do that?!) Sid had worked himself up so much he made Uma Thurman in Kill Bill look like Mr Happy.

As the train came over ground at East Finchley, Sid made a call to Mrs Sid, recalled the whole incident and exclaimed ‘well I was in a perfectly fine mood until that blind (let’s say ‘twit’ to keep this blog PG rated) smashed into me’. I wondered at this point what Sid would say to me if I shared with him the wisdom someone wise once told me: “no one else can ruin your day, unless you let them”. I made the call that perhaps it wasn’t the right time to share this wisdom with Sid, but instead thought I’d take inspiration from Mr Mad and share what I was told with you guys.

Other people can put their problems on you, take their stress out on you, tell you who dies in the Game of Thrones episode you recorded to watch the next day or bump into you in the station, and yes that’s a bit crappy of them, but it is completely in your hands how you respond to that. You could stew on it all day, let it bubble up inside you and be the colleague from hell for the rest of the week if you want, or you can accept that no matter how annoyed you get, what happened happened and you getting pent up will only result in you ruining your own day. You choose how you respond to such stimuli, and the more you practice not letting it hijack your day, the easier you’ll find it.

Of all the London Bridge bumps, I imagine the aftermath varies in length from a split second to a whole journey home (and probably a few hours longer as Sid then takes it out on Mrs Sid, who then snaps at mini Sid and everyone goes to bed in a grump). But in each instance, the person who was subject to the bump would have chosen how long they let it bother them for.

So next time someone royally peeves you, take a second to think about how long you want it to bother you for. Sometimes you may want to give it a few minutes of glory, but that’s in your control. I challenge you to consciously stop your strop short next time and see how much better you feel knowing you chose for it not to ruin your day.

Contrary to popular belief, Snap doesn’t have the power, you do. Claim back your day and save your anger for the things and people that really deserve it (like the writers of Game of Thrones who kill off your favourite character!)

Until next time…

Were you hypnotised by my last post?

pocket watchIf you read my last post it is likely you will have had a nostalgic few minutes reminiscing about rolling down grassy hills in your school uniform, reveling in the memory of your patent Clarke’s shoes or recalling those long summer nights creating dens and cycling around the block.

If, like me, you weren’t allowed a pair of patent shoes, you might have regressed to that pigtailed little brat, pouting because you still remember how desperately you wanted them and how nothing else in the world at that time was so desirable. If you recalled the long lunch hour in the playground, you might once again have been able to smell the fresh cut grass or the wood chip at the bottom of the slide (hopefully those and not the smell of school dinners!).

And whilst you read those words and your mind started to bring to the front all those childhood memories, you will have experienced a state of trance. That’s right, despite the distinct lack of a swinging pocket watch or the click of any magic fingers, you went in and out of possibly more than one trance state as your mind wove its way back to those memories.

I thought I would therefore take this post as an opportunity to share a bit more about trance states and how, rather than a deep, mysterious state of mind that relinquishes you of control, trance is in fact a state of mind that you experience each and every day.  Continue reading

Regain the longlost summers of your childhood

Rocking the summer of '88

Rocking the summer of ’87

Now I wasn’t quite around in the summer of ’69 but when I was a child the summers certainly seemed to last forever and I do fondly look back on them as the best days of my life. So whilst in the shower this morning, mid shaving routine which makes all grown women resent summer dresses and being born a female, I got to wondering what it was about childhood summers that made them so great and so stress free.

Here are a few ways to reclaim those happy days to make more of the summer of ’15 (not quite so catchy!).

1. The school uniform

As a 20-something (I can still claim membership to this category for a further 4.5 months!) one of the stresses of summer is the colourful, skin-bearing, accessorised, never ending wardrobe we (and the magazines) expect us to own. Summer mornings are therefore spent cross-legged on the floor surrounded by piles of unsuitable outfits as we scorn the sunshine and desperately cry for the 3rd time that week “I have nothing to wear!” As a primary school child, that was never a problem. That little checked summer dress or grey shorts and polo shirt were thrown on, accessorised with a dashing pair of bright white socks and, if you were a girl, and a really lucky one at that, a pair of those patent Clarke’s shoes with the keyhole in the sole. This school uniform was liberating (not that we appreciated it at the time), as it meant we woke up in the morning and knew exactly what we were going to wear. No faffing around trying on outfits in a sleepy daze when you should have left 10 minutes ago. So how to reclaim this liberation – get your outfit ready the night before (shoes and accessories included) and have it laid out ready to put on in the morning. Voila, a much more pleasant breakfast time with more time to spend thinking about the daisy chains you’ll be making at lunch! Continue reading

Press the off switch!

Work off switch

Ending your working day on a completed task will help you switch off

So, apparently almost three quarters of employed folk struggle to disengage with work after leaving the office/classroom/studio/station/(insert your own place of work if not specified). According to those clever clogs at the Office for National Statistics, there is something in the region of 30 million people in employment in the UK, so when you work out how many of us struggle to switch off you can see where we have a problem! So, this blog article is a step in the direction of a UK who can press that giant off switch and enjoy some down time.

But first, why is this important? Well, there’s the sleep disturbance, fatigue, negativity, heart problems, alienation of friends and partners, inability to perform at work, lack of sex-drive… oh, and the fact that talking about work all night long (Lionel Richie style) will frankly bore everyone you know senseless.

So, here are your tips from Gaffa Tape for the Mind for switching off after work.

Ever heard of the The Zeigarnik Effect? Probably not, but you will be familiar with the phenomenon of the cliff-hanger. Think of The Italian Job, Inception and Batman Begins; all of these films keep you wanting more because they just aren’t quite finished yet. It’s the same with work; if you start a task and don’t quite finish it, it will play on your mind all night long, like 28 Weeks Later did after you first watched it. Incompletion is a hindrance on putting something to the back of your mind. Your mind thinks it is worth investing on thoughts of unfinished tasks as it knows you will go back to them, so it plays around in your head all night. Try, therefore, to end your working day on a completed task. This may mean considering which tasks are worth starting at 4.57pm. Continue reading