All posts by Kathrine Smith

Pressure and Stress – Is there a Difference?

It’s that time of year where lots of young people start to feel the pressure as GCSE and A Level exams start to become a reality and the clock starts ticking.

Coaching my students in this final stretch is always challenging and pressure and stress are words that regularly feature. What I do know is that the current school environment is very different to when I was at secondary school. The pressure on young people today to do well and achieve excellent grades is phenomenal. I agree that some of this can come from teachers and parents but it can also come from the young person themselves.

Pressure from social media, a competitive job market and high property prices were not something that I had to contend with, but they are certainly prominent in today’s environment.

Self-awareness and understanding are the main areas that I coach my students on to enable them to develop strength and resilience so that they can flourish as they progress through their education.

Knowing the difference between pressure and stress means they can then select the most effective tools and strategies from their toolbox in order to maintain a balanced life.

Pressure is what young people feel when they have deadlines and goals regarding coursework and exams. This pressure can be managed and is under their control as long as they:

  • Understand what sort of student they are, what makes them tick and what works for them
  • Completely understand what is required of them
  • Use specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-related goals
  • Use the 3 P’s – Planning, Preparation and Practice
  • Maintain a good work/fun balance
  • Remove interruptions (social media, phones and technology) so that they can stay focused

When stressed my students experience a lack of control and the fear of the unknown can be rather daunting. Quite often they are not sure what is required of them and they feel anxious and overwhelmed which can lower productivity and output. When stressed, the body releases a hormone called cortisol which reduces brain activity affecting attention span, concentration and can lead to short-term memory loss. Maintaining a manageable stress level is crucial if young people are to succeed in their exams.

If you know a young person that is feeling stressed about school and exams, and it is affecting their productivity and well-being then please contact me.

Communication and Children’s Mental Health Week

This week is children’s mental health week which runs from 5-11 February 2018.

Many charities are getting involved to raise awareness around mental health and where young people can go to get help.

You can find lots of information at Place2Be so why not have a look and get involved.

A significant part of my coaching work involves working with young people who are struggling in life. This can be for a variety of reasons and very often it relates to their mental health.

Offering young people a safe, familiar and comfortable environment to talk is very important if they are to open up about their worries and fears.  Once they start to talk then it is vital that we listen actively and allow them to speak without interrupting.

Assisting them in taking small, gradual  steps within their own limits is how I encourage them to move forward. My job is to help them remove the obstacles that get in the way of them achieving what they want to do.

If you know a young person that is struggling in life and would benefit from life coaching then please contact me.

Reflection and Direction for 2018

Happy 2018 Everybody and I hope you all had a great time over the holidays. I had a fantastic time with friends and family and it was lovely to have my daughter home from university as I had not seen her for several months.

This week I have returned to school to my coaching students and it has been amazing to hear all about their celebrations and the fun they have had. Many of them have already thought about what they want to achieve this year and have started to work on their goals and timelines.

January is definitely a time for reflection. It has been interesting to look back over the past year and acknowledge the things that I have achieved and the fun I have had with family and friends. It certainly gives me food for thought regarding what I want to do this year.

If I look back over the last four years since I set up SimplyPositive, it is unbelievable how my business has grown in so many different directions. When I first started I mainly coached students in school on a one to one basis. Over the last couple of years my work has organically grown where I now also:

  • Lead group workshops
  • Work with teaching staff
  • Visit students at home
  • Work with parents

I am excited to see what 2018 holds for both me and my clients and who knows where we will end up over the year.

If you know of anyone that is struggling with anxiety, motivation or is stuck in a rut and would benefit from life coaching, then please contact me.

Emotional Intelligence for Primary School Children

I love a bit of variety and this week I have not only been coaching, I have also been working with staff from local primary schools about ways in which they can help to increase Emotional Intelligence (EQ) in younger children.

The staff learnt about the four main components of EQ:

  • Self-Awareness
  • Self-Management
  • Social Awareness
  • Relationship Management

We looked at simple strategies and mindful activities that could be done in the classroom to encourage young people to talk about how they are feeling and different ways of expressing their emotions.

Emotions play a big part in the choices and decisions young people make. Not being able to express how they feel on a particular day can also lead to poor choices and decisions which in turn can mean them experiencing more negative emotions like anger, frustration and confusion.

Building emotional intelligence as early as possible means that young people have more understanding about life especially regarding how they feel and the choices and actions they take. EQ encourages young people to be resilient so that they can bounce back when things do not always go to plan.

Combine EQ with a growth-mindset and some Mindfulness and a young person has the main ingredients to create a happy, contented and successful life.

If you know of teaching staff or a young person that would benefit from life coaching then please contact me.


Coaching ‘Looked After Children’

Over the years my school coaching work has given me the opportunity to work with many young people from very varied backgrounds. I have had some of the most humbling experiences when working with ‘Looked After Children’.

A looked after child is a young person who can be:

  • Subject to an interim care order
  • Accommodated by the local authority
  • On a full care order or emergency protection order
  • Remanded by a court into local authority accommodation or youth detention accommodation

These young people have often had a very challenging start to life. Most of them have had little guidance, support, consistency or stability in their lives. Many have been exposed to physical/mental abuse, neglect, abandonment or things they should never have to see at such a young age.

Stability and consistency is something that most of my looked after students would choose given the chance. It is very common to find out that they have had multiple foster placements and social workers.

What I have noticed as I work with young people who are looked after is that they are outstanding at being resilient, flexible and open-minded. Their ability to bounce back when life is tough just astounds me.

Many of them go on to be volunteers or ambassadors working with youth charities and organisations. By sharing their experience they help to refine and improve processes and assist other looked after children as they go through a similar experience to themselves.

My work with these young people is both heart-breaking and mind blowing when you learn what they have had to deal with at a very early age. I find the maturity, strength and resilience with these students is simply amazing and I feel very honoured to have the opportunity to work with them and make a difference to their lives.

If you know of a young person that is struggling in life and would benefit from life coaching then please contact me.

Mind-Maps, Collaboration and Fun For Anxiety Awareness

Young people are so amazing to work with and their ideas and approach to life can be so inspirational and innovative.

Whenever I do an anxiety workshop in school, I always come away learning something new from my students.

Their enthusiasm and willingness to share their experiences means that everyone always leaves with something to think about or do at a later date.

Their facial expression, body language and tonality is so infectious. The way that they want to capture their experiences is also very interesting and we use a variety of different methods from:

  • Lists
  • Mind-Maps
  • Drawings
  • Verbal Communication

Working collaboratively with other students of a similar age means that they feel less inhibited and more able to share their personal experiences.

On this workshop I had assistance from an older student who had also suffered from anxiety. My year 11 students appreciated hearing about their anxiety journey and what had worked for them to keep stress levels down. They also enjoyed my older student taking part in their group exercises and supporting them through the workshop.

The student feedback from my workshops is positive and by building their self-awareness, creating a toolbox of coping strategies and identifying their support network most of them reduce their anxiety significantly.

If you know of a young person that is struggling with anxiety around school/exams or on a personal basis, or a group of students that would benefit from my anxiety workshop then please contact me.

Substances, Young People and Education

As my coaching work develops so does my exposure to young people who are struggling with illegal substances.

The issues young people are having can be from the effects of personal use or indirectly by means of increased worry, stress or anxiety for a friend who is taking a substance.

In my experience I have found that most young people have not done their research around the substance they have decided to take and the effects it has on their body and cognitive function.

Having more information and coaching can help them to make a more informed decision as to whether this is something that is beneficial to them and their life.

There are a number of informative websites that young people can go to and find out more information:

Looking at some of my student feedback and what has been most effective has been:

  • Having someone that listens
  • Being able to talk without being judged
  • Feeling supported
  • Access to useful information
  • Not being told what to do

My coaching sessions enable young people to evaluate their current situation and then explore what they might want to change. We then put plans and strategies into place for them to achieve their goals and move them forward. Quite often just shifting their focus and making a small change can make a huge difference.

If you know of a young person that is struggling in life and would benefit from life coaching then please contact me.

Building Positive Relationships

This weekend I have been spending time with the Action for Children charity.

The charity has three voluntary roles which are:

  • Independent Visitors Service – To visit, advise, counsel and befriend a young person in a residential care or foster home
  • Advocate Service – Advocates support young people to ensure their thoughts, wishes and feelings are heard when decisions are being made about their futures
  • Mentor Service – To give young people in need an outlet for their feelings, a positive role model and an opportunity to strengthen coping mechanisms

Over the course of the weekend I was introduced to some young people and the volunteers who work with them. It was amazing to find out that they had been together for many years. Watching them together was fascinating and learning how they had built their relationship based on respect, trust and fun was both heart warming and inspirational.

If you know of a young person that is struggling and would benefit from life coaching or would like to know more about the voluntary work that I do then please contact me.

Positive Education For A Flourishing Life

I had such an awesome day in London last Friday attending the Next Steps For Wellbeing in Education Conference with The International Positive Education Network (IPEN).

There was an array of influential guest speakers and Sir Anthony Seldon – University of Buckingham was our chair for the day.

The list of speakers included:

The message that came across from all the parties was the need to promote the teaching of character, resilience and well-being throughout our education system.

The ambassadors from #iwill and The Amy Winehouse Foundation were amazing and their performances were stunning. It just goes to show how doing something different and helping others can significantly improve the mental health of young people.

Young people need to be equipped with knowledge and life skills so that they can flourish in life. The purpose of IPEN is to:

  • Reform policy
  • Change educational practices
  • Support collaboration

There were also exhibitor stands with different offerings to assist education establishments to prepare the young people of today for tomorrow’s world. I purchased some strength cards from ‘At My Best’ and look forward to using these with my coaching students this week.

The head of year 8 from one of my coaching schools also came with me and it was interesting to see her reaction and opinions regarding the speakers. She had never been to anything like it before and took lots of useful information away with her to share with colleagues back at school.

The day was finished off with a very entertaining talk from Ruby Wax. Through the art of comedy she highlighted the importance of raising mental health awareness and how we can assist young people in getting the help and support they need. Amazing how we learn so much more when things are fun.

What I learnt from the conference is that schools need to be:

  • Both proactive and reactive
  • Connected with their students
  • Working on prevention rather than cure
  • Attentive to the well being of their staff not just the students
  • Developing a whole school approach including teaching staff, students, parents and governors

I have taken so much valuable information away from last Friday and my aim is to share this with my students. There is nothing better than seeing them happy, resilient and flourishing in life.

If you know of a young person who is struggling in life and would benefit from life coaching then please contact me.

Embracing Change and Building Resilience

My life has changed significantly over this last week as my daughter left home and started university.

The house seems very empty and my husband and I have found ourselves back on our own after 18 years of noise, fun and laughter.

On reflection I am content in the way that I have dealt with this odd and challenging week and I look forward to seeing what the future holds.

I found myself having to focus on my self-awareness. Drawing from my coaching experience, positivity, growth mindset and Mindfulness skills, has enabled me to balance my emotions, work on my resilience and come through the week with a smile on my face.

I have also managed to get more work done and keep my concentration levels without the very loud music!

I have decided to embrace the change and look at this as an opportunity to spend more time with my husband and friends. Having fun and doing the things that make me happy will certainly keep me busy and help me bounce back and focus on what I have got rather than what I am missing.

One final thing that the change this week has highlighted for me is gratitude . Our home lives are so busy these days and quite often we can miss the simple things in life. I have been more aware of people holding doors open, smiling and communicating with me.

And, the final things are the ones at home from the little notes, the cups of tea, the laughter, the support, the patience and the quality time, so thank you to my amazing husband for just being you!

Bring on next week and I am excited to see what happens and what I can achieve.

If you know someone who needs assistance with managing change or achieving goals then please contact me.