Decluttering helps us stay healthy in body and mind

A space to think: spring-cleaning the mind

Do we make space to think? Do we allow ourselves time to take a break, a walk, just sit for a few moments?  This week is Mental Health Awareness week and the slogan is “thriving or surviving”.  The Mental Health foundation has produced a useful pamphlet with useful ideas on how to “thrive” called “How To Look After your Mental Health”.

It includes ideas such as talking about your feelings, keeping active, asking for help and taking a break. Taking a break might mean a change of scene or pace, simply making space in our crowded lives.

The importance of making space became very apparent to me recently.

Normally I’m someone who keeps up to date with de-cluttering but over the last ten months this has not been the case.  A shoulder operation, followed by a knee problem that made it difficult to stand for any length of time meant that things started to slide. I was concentrating on physio, getting fit again and that took time.

However I started to notice my energy sapping as I looked at unread magazines, piles of paper, an overcrowded wardrobe. What had been left on the back burner now became a priority. I set to work more ruthlessly than in a normal de-clutter.  This got me thinking about the importance of creating space.

After a few days I noticed that not only was my physical space less cluttered but:

– my energy levels had improved

– I felt lighter and freer

– I was able to think more clearly

– I was more focused on goals

– I could prioritise about current projects and open my mind to new ones

– I felt excitement and optimism reawaken

It may seem a daunting prospect, to clear and sort and discard what no longer resonates or is of use but it can make all the difference.

React and Regret, Reflect and Correct: A Crucial Lesson for Emails and Social Media

After a full night’s sleep, I woke up today feeling pleasantly refreshed and calm.  Starting work, I opened emails that had come through, working out what needed attention in the near future and what was less urgent.

One email sprang out at me. Though friendly and well intentioned, it was misinformed, with expectations that I knew I would not be able to follow up. Immediately, I could feel my mood change to concern, agitation and annoyance.

My immediate response was to mutter angrily to myself and set to writing a reply there and then with a view to sending it with quick dispatch. This would help give relief to my uncomfortable feelings and establish clarity again.

A warning voice came to me, reminding me how important it is to resist going for the knee jerk response when working with others especially since I was not communicating with them face to face when I could respond more subtly to how they expressed themselves verbally and non-verbally. I risked adopting an aggressive, offended tone that would cause upset rather than help the situation. I had to hold back and leave some time and space in my mind to arrive at a considered and balanced response. A walk proved just the thing.

While I ambled along, I was able to regain my composure, think through how to phrase my email and relate my particular case to the wider impact that rushed and ill-considered messages are having in social media. It is all too easy to give way to visceral reactions when printing words on a machine and then throw them out into the ether with just one click. How immediately gratifying. Yet, how potentially damaging in the long run if we do not reflect first, taking into account the feelings and viewpoints of our recipients and applying some self-control.

Applying emotional intelligence in the workplace: how the Emotional Capital Record can help

Emotional intelligence relates to our ability to identify and manage emotions and the emotions of others.

As middle and senior leader working in the secondary school sector, I came to appreciate just how important it was if good working relations were to be maintained and I could avoid responding to people and difficult situations in a reactive state. It helped me stay optimistic when things were not going to plan and generate optimism in those around me as well as a sense of stability.

There were times, however, when I could feel the strain and would have welcomed the opportunity to work with someone impartial who could help me stay strong and positive, developing strategies to keep up morale and deal with an accumulation of challenges. It would have made all the difference to have support that helped me gauge how well I was coping, identifying areas of strength and areas for me to reflect on and improve.

Now, I have found such a tool which is proving very beneficial in my work as coach. Known as the Emotional Capital Record, it provides a scientifically rigorous yet supple and subtle means of helping leaders draw on emotional intelligence effectively and with deep insight.

To take full advantage of it, you are invited to complete an online assessment that captures how you are faring in five main areas of emotional intelligence: self-awareness; self-management; social skills; adaptability; social awareness (empathy). It is even more revealing if you have colleagues complete this as well as part of a 360 degree health-check.

The findings from the assessment you can then discuss in total confidence with a coach, making sense of them, teasing out the implications for your work practice and considering next steps. Further coaching support is available to help you implement and follow these through.

Walk the Talk Coaching is using this tool as a core element of the support it offers because it helps you and those you work with steer a strong, aspirational path through the good and the bad times.

Jenny Laney




Sometimes learning comes from unlikely sources. My recent experiences recovering from shoulder surgery are an example of this. I have been intrigued to observe how I dealt with my change of circumstances from a coaching perspective.

Surgery to repair torn ligaments and tendons has a very specific aftercare regime to ensure good healing and to minimise the possibility of a re-tear. This involved four weeks in a sling 24/7, not using the arm at all, except for very simple exercises several times a day.

Between weeks four and six I’ve started physio and am gradually weaning myself off the sling. At six weeks, dressing is still a little difficult, food preparation is a challenge, driving needs to wait for another ten days at least and I can only attempt light housework. (OK I’m not distraught about the last item!) I can only lift very light objects and it will be at least three months before I can lift any significant weight. Allaying frustration and staying patient from day to day is proving a challenge. I have had to find ways of adapting to my new circumstances.


Adaptability is crucial for staying positive and strong at times of upset. This might include changing routines, behaviours or ways of thinking. I like to think of myself as adaptable in each of these ways but my experience since the surgery has given me a new understanding of the term.

Knowing when to adapt

I have come to realise that adaptability and self-care don’t always work in harmony. The physiotherapist I saw before the operation was amazed at seeing my MRI scan. My movement was far greater than he would have thought possible from the extent of the damage. With a goal to continue using the arm, my adaptability had found ways of overcoming the injury. A more suitable goal would have been to find the necessary intervention much sooner so that the arm would have a chance to recover. A powerful lesson in self-care.

Accepting not fighting

Now that I have had a full operation, I am adapting to real constraints. After a lifetime of sleeping on my side, I am having to sleep on my back, with my arm carefully supported. The information from the hospital spoke of finding sleep “elusive” to begin with. An understatement! The best thing I can do is to accept rather than fight my discomfort until sleep takes over.

Changing my mind-set

It also helps if I keep my predicament in proportion. My challenges are minor compared to those that many people face. I can turn the constraints into a challenge and find inventive ways to carry out tasks with one hand as if playing a game.

Extending my comfort zone

An important part of coaching is extending our comfort zone as we take steps towards our goal. Steps that initially might seem frightening become easier in the process. I now have a new understanding of this concept as a result of my physiotherapy! Exercises that were painful or difficult the first time became easier over time. What felt difficult last week is now achieved with ease, well most of the time! I’ve recently overdone some of the exercises and suffered a small setback.

I was desperate to get out of the sling but when I initially started to stop using it I felt vulnerable and relieved when I put it on again.

Prioritising goals

My goal for the first month was to provide the best possible conditions for the shoulder to heal. It took me time to accept that I would need to prioritise this above other goals around walking and going to the gym, for example, or attending events in central London that involved rush hour crowds.


Instead, I had to concentrate more on simple everyday tasks such as showering, dressing and typing on a computer. I could not approach these tasks in a haphazard way but one at a time. An unexpected bonus was to realise the benefits of this methodical approach. Normally, I like to multi-task.

Being kind to myself

My goal now is to regain full motion of my arm. This is going to take time and I am learning not to rush or get cross with myself. In prioritising two physiotherapy appointments a week and exercises three times each day, other tasks are left undone. That is O.K. I do not have to feel guilty. I have to exercise the arm sufficiently to regain good movement at a pace that is challenging but does not compromise healing.

Step by Step

This involves small repeated steps. I’m reminded of occasions when I have attempted to move towards a goal too quickly, leaving out the small steps, taking big leaps and then panicking when I ended up way out of my comfort zone, scurrying back to a safe place, goal unaccomplished.

Hopefully with my learning over the last six weeks I will not repeat this.

How to Stay Motivated: A Lesson from Slimming World

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Over the last year or so I noticed that weight was creeping up on me to the point where I felt distinctly uncomfortable. A friend suggested I try Slimming World. “It’s guaranteed to work”, she assured me.

Now, some three and a half months later and some sixteen pounds lighter, I have to concede that she is right because not only have I lost weight but I know I can continue to do so if I remain determined. And this is quite something for me. All my adult life I have struggled with the bulge, going down a few kilos then up but never consistently seeing my weight decrease to a point where I felt healthy and good in my skin.

Three important factors have come together to explain how this has happened.


Coaching can help you exercise free will

Big Questions on BBC One yesterday morning posed the vexed question about how much we are able to exercise free will.  I was intrigued by the differing views.

Genes and environment came out as strong determining factors, bringing constraints to our lives that restrict the degree to which we can make decisions and choices.

A positive message that shone through for me, however, is that we can work through and beyond these constraints if we recognise them for what they are, reflect and believe that we can bring about improvements in our lives. This may not come easily, requiring perseverance and effort as we seek to change what are deeply ingrained assumptions and habits.READ MORE

Reflective Practice: A Balanced View of Setbacks

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If you look over the last week at what has gone well and not so well, it is more than likely that you will dwell on the low rather than the high points. You may even find yourself magnifying the low points with an inner voice telling you that you deserve no better because you are just not good enough.

While it is important to be self-critical so as to avoid complacency and a tendency to stagnate rather than seek to improve, this negative inner voice can be so out of proportion that it is destructive, lowering self-confidence, energy levels and your motivation to shine.READ MORE

Who’s Afraid of Ofsted?


Ofsted stands in a position of judgemental authority over the organisations it visits that can lead to some counter-productive behaviours and responses. It is important we are aware of these, approaching them from a balanced perspective and with assertive confidence.

This is a scenario you may recognise only too well:  you have a sense of nervous apprehension at the knowledge that Ofsted is to visit your organisation soon; you know that the effects it can have on morale can be potent; they can awake feelings ranging from elation and pride at a positive validation to shame and despondency if the inspectors find you seriously wanting.READ MORE

Take a walk – and find your creative flow…

Logo_Walkthetalkcoaching_square_2p5_2p5“The sum of the whole is this: walk and be happy; walk and be healthy. The best way to lengthen out our days is to walk steadily and with purpose.”

C. Dickens

That walking is good for us is widely acknowledged. Usually we hear about the physical benefits of walking – it helps us manage weight, stay fairly fit and reduce the risk of various chronic diseases.

But what about the mind? Have you ever noticed how walking brings clarity when your thoughts have got entangled and confused? Walking invites us to slow down and take stock of things instead of rushing from point to point. Our thoughts become clearer so that we are able to look at issues with fresh eyes and reach well considered decisions.READ MORE