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Catching Fireworks

Deborah Henry-Pollard: Creative Coaching


Visualisation for Well Being

Posted on 15 November, 2018 at 4:20 Comments comments (0)

I have written before about creating a vision for your future and how it can motivate you.

Visualisation is also a terrific tool to use in other circumstances. When I had panic attacks in the past, a tool I used to manage them has been a visualisation process learnt from Cognitive Behaviour Therapy. It is a displacement activity, taking you out of the immediate panic and giving you space to calm down.

You begin the process when you are unstressed. The idea is that you spend time (maybe a few sessions of 5 or 10 minutes) building up a strong picture of your ‘safe place’ so that if/when a stressful situation occurs, you can immediately switch into your fully imagined place. (For me, it is Venice.)

To build the picture:*


  • Start by getting comfortable in a quiet place where you won't be disturbed, and take a couple of minutes to focus on your breathing, close your eyes, become aware of any tension in your body, and let that tension go with each out-breath.
  • Imagine a place where you can feel calm, peaceful and safe. It may be a place you've been to before, somewhere you've dreamed about going to, somewhere you've seen a picture of, or just a peaceful place you can create in your mind’s eye.
  • Look around you in that place, notice the colours and shapes. What else do you notice?
  • Now notice the sounds that are around you, or perhaps the silence. Sounds far away and those nearer to you. Those that are more noticeable, and those that are more subtle.
  • Think about any smells you notice there.
  • Then focus on any skin sensations - the earth beneath you or whatever is supporting you in that place, the temperature, any movement of air, anything else you can touch.
  • Notice the pleasant physical sensations in your body whilst you enjoy this safe place.
  • Now whilst you're in your peaceful and safe place, you might choose to give it a name, whether one word or a phrase that you can use to bring that image back, anytime you need to.
  • You can choose to linger there a while, just enjoying the peacefulness and serenity. You can leave whenever you want to, just by opening your eyes and being aware of where you are now, and bringing yourself back to alertness in the 'here and now'.

It is a great and easy tool where you create your own experience of calm and which, even better, no-one can see you using. (Sometimes the fear of others seeing you having/dealing a panic attack can add to the stress, so a ‘secret’ tool is doubly beneficial.)

So, if ever you are with me in a stressful situation and I momentarily zone out, I am just taking in the Venetian air!


*(taken from http://www.getselfhelp.co.uk where you can also find many other useful CBT tools)


We've Got to be Kind

Posted on 2 August, 2018 at 8:35 Comments comments (0)

The concept of kindness has been popping up around me in the past few days.  I was introduced to a quote from Kurt Vonnegut's book, God Bless You, Mr Rosewater. "There's only one rule that I know of, babies, God damn it, you've got to be kind."  And there is a quote (attributed to various people) going around social media, "Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle."

Being kind is one of those concepts which could sound anodyne, a bit like "nice". But kindness in action is a powerful thing, for both the receiver and giver.

Many years ago, when I was very young and easily influenced, I started work in an office. On the first day, several people warned me about another member of staff.  She was, they said, moody, abrupt, humourless, rude and aloof. And this seemed to be true because although I didn't have much direct contact with her, I could see she was like that with everyone.  I was very intimidated - I was used to people being friendly - and being immature, when I did have to work with her, I would be abrupt first, as a defence mechanism. True to form, she was rude and snappy with me.

After a few times, and knowing I was going to have to be in a meeting with her the next day, I was feeling very anxious. Abrupt wasn't my default mode and it was very uncomfortable for me. I started thinking about how I had taken other peoples' word about her character as truth, before I had made my own decision. What would happen, I thought, if I approached her in a new way - being respectful and, yes, kind?

Initially, it didn't make much of a difference, but I persevered. Over time, her attitude towards me softened. Gradually we became, if not exactly friends, at least warm acquaintances. I treated her with kindness and surprise, surprise, she treated me the same. (She even became less frosty with other people in the office, although they were still too attached to their opinions of her to really loosen up.)

In time, she made passing mentions of a seriously ill husband and of her own tentative health. But you know what? Those hidden hard battles shouldn't matter.

We should be kind to each other just because we can.



Taking Time Out

Posted on 29 June, 2018 at 0:50 Comments comments (0)

I have a plethora of friends and contacts who are currently going to, returning from or planning holidays to the Seychelles, Crete, Cambodia, the Lake District…  Whether you are off to Bermuda or Brighton, or having a staycation, it is important to take some time out to recharge the batteries.  But if you are self employed, it is often hard to convince yourself that you can afford (either in time or money) to take time off. And if, like me, you really love what you do, it is difficult to notice how much you are working.

Now I have to confess at this point that I am not a great one for holidays in the formal sense. Two weeks sitting on a beach would a) burn my fair skin and b) bore me rigid. I’m also not one for long country walks - I like to know the countryside is there, but I don’t need to actually visit it. I am more of a city break, gallery type and even then, after about 4 days I get restless.

But what I am very good at doing is regularly blocking time out in my diary to definitely not work.  This could be a day or a weekend where, first and foremost, I turn off the phone, unplug the laptop and lock away the iPad.  If it is a cold, wet Sunday, I will snuggle down on the sofa with endless pots of tea and a pile of books and spend 12 hours in other peoples’ lives. (Crime fiction is a firm favourite of mine and the Inspector Montalbano books by Andrea Camilleri are particularly good for holiday reading - great plots plus endless descriptions of Italian food and locations which make you feel like you are really there!)

I often plan a ‘city break’ in my home town of London, meeting up with friends and spending the day like tourists, taking ourselves to places we don’t usually see in the hurly burly of working life.  (It also cuts out the time and expense of travel!)  We make it a rule not to talk about work and to have lots of tea!

The point is, whether you take a day or a couple of weeks, it is important to just kick back and take a complete break. It is very good for your well being and also your career - emptying your mind of work even for a few hours creates space for all those new ideas!


Posted on 13 June, 2018 at 0:00 Comments comments (0)

Dancing the Argentine Tango teaches me so much more than 'just' getting around a dance floor without falling over or treading on my partner's toes.

Having a repertoire of clever steps, an understanding of music, a good partner and a pair of snazzy shoes is all very nice.  However, the Argentine Tango is an improvised dance, depending on a collaboration and connection with your partner.  This could be someone with whom you dance frequently or who you have just met.  

You have to be focussed totally on what you as a couple are doing.  You have to listen to the music with your ears and to each others' movements with your bodies and your intention.  With there being no set choreography, the follower never knows what step they might be led and the leader can never assume that the follower will do exactly what was intended.  It is a conversation, dictated by the connection, the music and in a busy milonga, what else is happening on the floor.

The key to making the dance work is mindfulness, as in 'a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment' (oxforddictionaries).  If you want to dance well and have a lovely tango experience, when the music starts there is no room to think about the phone call you should have made this afternoon, the email you need to send first thing tomorrow or what to have for supper.  (Personally, I would even go so far as to say your mind shouldn't even be on the steps, where the follower is trying to second guess the leader or the leader is working out how they are going to get their newly learnt, killer move into the dance.) Attention and intention must be absolutely in the moment, with the dance flowing from the connection.  It has been described by some dancers as being like meditation.

The bottom line is that to dance tango beautifully, even if you only know two steps, you have to be totally committed to what you are doing and there is absolutely no room for multitasking.

A great lesson for every other area of our lives.