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Coaching, NLP and Excellence

Recently I have found myself using my Neuro-linguistic Programming (NLP) skills as I work with my clients and their anxiety around education and the workplace.

Exam pressure and anxiety regarding presenting have featured significantly in my coaching sessions over the last few months.

One of my favourite NLP tools is the ‘Circle of Excellence’ which enables people to increase their positive emotions, broaden their sense of possibilities and get them into the ‘right state’. By opening the mind it allows my clients to build new skills and resources and obtain success in what they want to achieve.

The Circle of Excellence is a basic self-anchoring process originally developed by Dr John Grinder, co-creator of NLP. It can be used to elicit, create and stabilise desired states by using an imaginary circle on the floor as a spatial anchor. It requires no tools or other kit so it can easily be created wherever the person maybe.

Here are five things I ask my clients to consider when using the ‘Circle of Excellence’ technique:

  • Know how you want to feel by asking yourself the question ‘How do I want to feel in my exam, presentation, rugby game’ (e.g focused, confident, calm, excited)
  • Design a ‘Circle’ that works for you as an anchor
  • Anchor your desired states
  • Test your anchor
  • Remember that your resource exists and use it

If you know of someone that would benefit from coaching and NLP then please contact me.

Have a great week in the sunshine.

Coaching Teenagers with OCD

Recently I have been working with several students that are affected by Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD).

OCD is a mental health disorder that can affect people of different age groups or walks of life where they get caught up in a circle of obsessive and compulsive behaviour. OCD can involve unwanted/intrusive thoughts, urges and images that can trigger intense and distressing feelings.

Types of obsession can be:

  • Fear of contamination – dirt, germs or mental contamination with uncomfortable feelings of internal uncleanliness
  • Religious, Relationship, Violent and Sexual intrusive thoughts or images- can be a fixation with a celebrity, the Devil and the number 666 or a person from a previous relationship
  • Fears/Worries related to order or symmetry – a fear that something bad will happen if everything is not exactly right or in the correct place or order.

Types of compulsion can be:

  • Rituals – excessive hand washing, arranging objects in a particular way
  • Checking – excessive checking that doors are locked, checking directions to somewhere over and over again
  • Correcting Thoughts – counting to a certain number before doing something or replacing an intrusive thought with a different image
  • Reassurance – repeatedly checking with people to confirm that everything is alright

In my experience of working with these students I have found the following to be very useful in assisting them to move forward with their OCD:

  • Listening and understanding what their fears and thoughts are about
  • Gently questioning them to find out what their triggers and symptoms are
  • Building their awareness of what happens to their thoughts and physiology when experiencing OCD
  • Finding out how they want to move forward and what will work specifically for them
  • Creating specific, realistic and time related goals that they can achieve
  • Managing change on a small and gradual scale that is not extreme to them and their world

People with OCD can get unwanted thoughts throughout the day which can be very distressing and affect their ability to socialise with others and concentrate on their studies or career.

Young people have told me that finding somebody they can trust and building an open relationship is vital if they are to change and improve their OCD.

If you know of someone that has OCD and would benefit from working with me then please get in touch.


X-Plan: Giving Young People A Way Out!

I read an interesting article recently by a guy called Bert Fulks who spends time with young people going through addiction recovery.

The subject he had written about really resonated with me as a youth coach and a parent.

He asked his young people a simple question: “How many of you have found yourself in a situation where things started happening that you were not comfortable with, but you stuck around mainly because you felt like you did not have a way out?”

They all raised their hands!

The situations they had found themselves in were to do with sex, drugs, alcohol and crime and usually when they were not ready for it.

Peer pressure and not wanting to be socially different pushed them into doing things they would not normally do. They said they felt cornered and there was no alternative. In some cases they were not where they had told their parents they were going so asking to be rescued was not an option. Drinking the alcohol or taking the drugs was an easier option than being in trouble with Mum and Dad.

This is where the “X-Plan” comes in and provides a young person with an ‘out.’ It is a simple but powerful plan that can provide a lifeline to our children at any time.

For example, if a young person is dropped off at a party and something comes up that makes them feel uncomfortable or they do not want to do it then all they have to do is text Mum or Dad a letter “X.” The person who receives the text rings the young person and follows a very specific conversation format, something like this:

(Parent) “Hello, something has come up and I have to come and get you right now.”

(Young Person) “What has happened?”

(Parent) “I will tell you when I get there. Be ready to leave as I am on my way.”

The young person tells the group they have to leave and that someone is coming to get them.

This provides the young person with a way out whilst not opening themselves up to social ridicule.

The critical part of the X-Plan once the young person has been removed from the situation is that they do not have to talk about what has happened. The choice is completely theirs as to whether they want to or not. Also there has to be an agreement that parents will pass no judgements and ask no questions about the situation. There has to be a  relationship of trust between all parties if this is to work effectively.

The only exception is that if the young person knows that someone is in danger then they have a moral obligation to speak up for their protection, no matter what it may cost them personally.

Coaching young people in school often means that we discuss the negative impact technology and social media has on our lives. In the case of the X-Plan it means we can use technology to help our children where we can and in a more positive way.

I feel that the X-Plan certainly offers young people an alternative option when difficult situations arise and a plan of action for parents to give  their children a way out.

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


Assisting Young People Through Grief

Coaching young people in schools means that occasionally I work with students that are experiencing grief. Last week at the Mental Health in Education Conference, Julia Samuel, author of ‘Grief Works’ stated that 1 in 9 children suffer grief from the death of a significant person in their life.  I had not realised just how many young people are affected.

In my experience of coaching young people through grief I have had success from:

  • Building trust
  • Giving them space so that they can release their emotions
  • Allowing them to express their grief in their own way
  • Offering them the opportunity to talk about what is worrying them
  • Listening actively to what they have to say
  • Talking about the real situation rather than protecting them from it
  • Giving them information to enable them to understand what is happening to them so that they can grieve
  • Taking them out of their classroom for a ‘walk and talk’ to change the environment
  • Doing something else with them like playing a game
  • Asking them how they want to be treated so that they have some choice and control in their life

Young people often tell me that they feel the truth and full facts are kept from them because adults feel they need to be protected. This can add to their confusion and frustration and does not help with their grieving process. In a lot of cases they tell me they feel isolated and disconnected.

Giving young people the choice of who they want around them to support them through grief is also very important. If there is no rapport or relationship of trust then young people will find it very difficult to open up and release the pain they are feeling inside.

Teachers can also play a big part in assisting young people in school who are grieving. Offering them space, time-outs, support, kindness and understanding can make a huge difference. Having a signal system to let teachers know they are struggling has certainly helped one of my students cope with being in the classroom. Just knowing that if things get too much they can go out without the rest of the class knowing they are struggling has made life easier and more manageable.

School pastoral teams can also help by recording key dates like anniversaries and birthdays to build school awareness regarding changes in a students behaviour around these sensitive times and to incorporate flexibility around work deadlines.

Family can also make a difference by talking about how grief is affecting them as they could be experiencing similar emotions. Discussing the change in the dynamics of a family when a key member disappears is a crucial part of the grieving process which can then lead to acceptance and loss of that person. Discussing how and what needs to change will assist in the restoration of the family’s natural equilibrium.

The main thing is that young people who are grieving need to feel connected with family, friends and school. Being able to let the pain out means they can then build the strength and resilience they need to carry on with their own life.

If you know of a person that is suffering from grief and would benefit from coaching then please contact me.


Mental Health in Education, The Next Steps…..

On Friday I attended the Mental Health in Education Conference in London which was organised by the International Positive Education Network (IPEN).

The day consisted of an array of inspirational speakers from a variety of backgrounds – from authors to clinicians. There were also some amazing trade stands offering a range of tools and techniques that could be used in schools to build character, self-confidence, personal awareness, regulate behaviour and foster optimism and resilience.

Sir Anthony Seldon was our chair for the day and he got things off to a mindful start by getting us to take a few deep breaths and bring ourselves into the present moment. He then went straight into a vibrant welcome and kick-started the programme of speakers.

Getting young people to ‘flourish’ in education was the theme of the day and not just in an academic sense! This was music to my ears as so many of my students tell me they do not feel valued when they are not academically minded.

The speakers covered topics such as:

  • Promoting good mental health for all
  • A happiness focus needs to be a goal for all schools
  • Nurturing students to flourish and succeed
  • Having a balanced approach around measurements, not just about academia
  • Life skills to be taught in school at least once a week possibly in the PHSE slot
  • All schools to have a wellbeing code that includes teachers, students and parents
  • More communication, support and connection between parents, students and teachers
  • Every school to have a senior teacher in charge of mental health
  • All teachers to have basic mental health training
  • Parents and teachers to encourage young people to have more of a sense of belonging around their education
  • Positive psychology advocates wellbeing and healthy mental health

The speakers of the day were:

The main points that I took away from the day are:

  • The core curriculum needs to include educating young people to develop healthy wellbeing, life satisfaction and happiness.
  • Shifting the focus in education to what students can do rather than what they can’t
  • Working with what fascinates and what is familiar with students to improve engagement in the classroom
  • Injecting more fun into education
  • Young people need to be taught about healthy mental health from a young age to help them develop optimism and reduce helplessness
  • Mental health prevention is better than cure and leads to less suffering and cost

Finally there were two other speakers who were my absolute favourites and they were Naomi Lea and George Fielding from the #iwill campaign.

Naomi spoke about her own struggle with panic and anxiety and said she had received fantastic support from Childline. She confirmed that being involved with the #iwill project and volunteering is what made the difference. It helped her to develop new skills, confidence  and overcome her anxiety. Standing up and being able to talk to us all on Friday at the conference was an amazing achievement, she was utterly inspirational.

George is a philosophy student and #iwill ambassador. He is also ‘on wheels’ as he puts it,  and a definite entertainer. He said that education does not encourage students to be individual or to learn from each other. He wants students to be who they want to be and be educated how they want to be educated and they need to shout for that change. He was passionate, inspiring and captivating, he brought tears of pride to my eyes and also had lots of us on our feet when he had finished.

Life has not been easy for George or Naomi and they have overcome their challenges whilst helping others and contributing to their communities. How amazing is that!

The event was rounded up on a fun note with Sir Anthony Seldon playing a clip of himself singing ‘Happy‘ by Pharrell Williams which was filmed at Wellington College, Berkshire, UK.

I had an awe-inspiring day listening to outstanding speakers and learning lots about how we can all make a difference to young people in education. I can’t wait to see what happens next regarding what the influential speakers from Friday’s event do to implement change around mental health in education.

If you were at the event on Friday I would love to hear your comments so please feel free to contact me.

Mental Health, the London Marathon and Making a Change…

Today has seen lots of amazing people cross the finish line of the 2017 London Marathon after months of planning, preparation and many hours of practice runs to achieve their hard earned goals.

Many were running to raise funds for charities like Cancer Research, British Liver Trust, Marie Curie, Breast Cancer, Diabetes UK and Heads Together.

It was great to see the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry presenting runners with their medals as well as raising awareness for mental health.

Heads Together is the Charity of the Year for the 2017 Virgin Money London Marathon which is spearheaded by the young royals. The charity provides frontline mental health support to young people whilst raising awareness and tackling stigma.

I am pleased to hear that mental health is being more talked about and I look forward to seeing what happens in the very near future to improve the lives of those who are suffering in silence.

Coaching teenagers with mental health disorders over the last 3 years has taught me that they often feel like they have nowhere to go, that nobody listens to them or that they have no choice or control over their lives. Sometimes the action they take in response to this lack of control can be a health damaging behaviour such as self-harm, eating disorders or even retracting from everyday life. I find just giving them some time to talk, listening to what they have to say and then assisting them in making changes, whatever they want that to be, can make all the difference.

Quite often the smallest change can make the biggest difference.

As I coach my students, they develop the skills to create specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time related goals for themselves, so that after our sessions have completed they can continue independently. They develop ability and control so there is no dependency on me.

Setting goals with my students is not so unlike setting a goal to run the London Marathon. Both require preparation, planning and lots of practice if success is to be achieved.

If you would like to know more about the coaching and mentoring work that I do in schools or you know a young person that is struggling in life, then please contact me.

10 Things A Parent Can Do to Help With Exam Stress!

This week I have been talking to my students about their experience and feelings as their exams get closer. Most of them talked about the increase in pressure and stress from school although some did say pressure and a lack of understanding at home can be a worry too. Here are some of the things they thought parents could do to assist them – mainly by having a calmer and more relaxing environment at home in the final run up to their exams:

  • Be active in their revision planning and preparation process
  • Put their revision timetable up where everyone can see it at home
  • Communicate with them before making social commitments or arrangements that involve them during their study leave and revision periods
  • Leave them  alone, don’t come into their room when they are working and respect their space, avoid breaking their concentration
  • Ease off on household chores
  • Organise fun things with them to break up intense revision sessions
  • Understand their stress levels and avoid/deflect provocation, especially with siblings
  • Offer to host a group study session followed by chill out time with friends, as individual study can be isolating and boring
  • Make their favourite foods so they have something to look forward to after long periods of revision
  • Hug them and be patient with them

I will certainly be taking their advice as my daughter goes into her final term before her ‘A’ Level examinations start in May.

There are so many great reasons as to why I love coaching young people, not only are they fun to work with, I learn from them too and they introduce me to great music and new technology. How amazing is that!

If you know of someone that is struggling in the run up to their exams and would benefit from some anxiety coaching then please contact me.

Autism Awareness Week- Coaching People to Understand!


No need to hide

In my coaching sessions this week I will be building awareness, donating money and assisting as many people as possible in learning more about Autism as part of World Autism Awareness Week (27 March – 2 April 2017)

The National Autistic Society states that at least 1 in 100 people in the UK have autism. Indifference and hostility towards autistic people and their families can lead to social isolation, mental illness and unhappy lives. Helping young people – and teachers – to understand autism will equip them to accept and empathise with autistic people.

In working with different education establishments, I hear regularly that staff have little or no specific training around autism and for me this is quite shocking. As our ability to diagnose autism spectrum conditions improves then perhaps autism training needs to be included as part of teacher training. If autism awareness and understanding was developed early on then new teaching staff would be better prepared for their classroom environment.

So many of my students with autism state that teachers, assistants and pupils do not understand them and think they are rude or weird.  Just getting people to understand, that eye contact is not easy and sensitivity around sound and noise levels can be disturbing, would be a start. Socialising, integrating into friendship groups and sensory perception are other areas that need to be developed so that young people with autism can experience a happier school life.

If you know of somebody that is struggling in school and would benefit from coaching/mentoring then please contact me.

And if you can, please get involved with World Autism Awareness Week.

Ruby Wax, Mental Health and Frazzled M&S Cafes

I was interested to see the article in The Guardian this week about a new initiative from M&S regarding mental health and their cafes–marks-and-spencer-frazzled-cafes

Having worked with young people and mental health over the last three years it is fantastic to see that more people are listening and getting involved in making a difference to those that are struggling.

I am passionate about coaching people to have a more confident, happy and successful life.  In my school work I see so many young people struggling with their mental health and well being who feel they are unable to talk about it or that nobody wants to listen.

I am pleased to see that large organisations like M&S want to get involved by offering opportunities for people to open up about their mental health and well being. If using celebrities like Ruby Wax raises the profile around mental health then surely it cannot be a bad thing.

If you know someone that is anxious or struggling in life and would benefit from life coaching then please contact me.

Do You Have an Anxious Exam Student?

Last week I received some fantastic feedback from a group of school students who had completed my Exam Anxiety Workshop. The comments were very positive and constructive and all the participants took something away that they felt would enable them to manage their stress levels in the run up to exams.

Some of the positive benefits reported back were:

  • Increasing their knowledge of anxiety and how it affects the human body
  • Identifying their specific triggers and symptoms
  • Receiving useful tips on things to do when anxious
  • Learning about distraction techniques
  • Finding out how to stay calm as pressure builds
  • Having music in the background whilst completing exercises
  • Getting different perspectives around anxiety
  • Having a workbook to take away and refer back to
  • Creating a support network and how to use it
  • Working collaboratively and sharing experiences

Finding out that they thought the  workshop was calming, relaxing and fun and that it was delivered in a friendly and interesting way is amazing feedback for me.  I also noted some very useful suggestions on how I can continue to improve the content, which I am currently implementing before my next workshop in the coming week.

As exam pressures and mental health issues increase it is parents and education providers that are constantly challenged to find more help and support for young people.  This is not an easy job especially with the reduction of government funding for schools that  is currently happening.

If you know a young person struggling with anxiety or you are part of an education establishment that would like me to come in to deliver my workshop then please contact me.