Anxiety and depression in autumn

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Autumn is definitely – and definitively – here. There’s no mistaking the change in seasons with the darker evenings and the rain pouring down the windows in recent days.  Are you starting to feel a little less lighthearted without the sunshine? Maybe you’re finding it just that little bit harder to get up in the mornings – or that your motivation is a bit more difficult to come by. Well, if that’s so you’re not alone. September, for example, is officially one of the most challenging months of the year for all of us. Anxiety and depression can be triggered by the change in seasons and the colder, darker times can start to feel like a long haul.


Why is September such a struggle?


NHS research established that one in three adults aged 16-74 already suffers from a condition such as anxiety or depression. In the summer when the sun is shining and there is plenty of scope for spending time outside this can lessen. Which is why September often feels like a big shock, even to those who don’t already have mental health issues to deal with.


We tend to spend more time indoors, leading to less exposure to natural sunlight, less activity and sometimes more hours alone. SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder), for example, is very common at this time of year. According to Dr Arun Thiyagarajan, Medical Director at Bupa Health Clinics, “The exact cause of SAD isn’t fully understood, but the main theory is that a lack of sunlight might affect a part of the brain called the hypothalamus working properly, which may affect the production of serotonin, the hormone that affects our mood, appetite and sleep. The lack of sunlight and lower serotonin levels can lead to feelings of depression.”


September 2019 – time for change?


I’ve just come back from a trip to the French Alps, which involved a lot of lovely food and views – and a lot of walking. And I’ve been speaking to friends recently who have spent the summer learning to surf or wake board, even trying horse riding for the first time. As a result, it occurred to me that this kind of commitment we make to physical activity outside during the summer months might offer one potential solution for combating anxiety and depression in the winter too.


  • The NHS now ‘prescribes’ exercise for depression – NICE guidelines suggest about 3 sessions a week, lasting about 45 minutes to 1 hour, over 10 to 14 weeks.
  • One review of studies investigating the effect of exercise on depression found that 90% reported antidepressant effects
  • Being outside, especially in nature, decreases stress – one study found that “every green environment improved both self-esteem and mood”


Try something new this autumn


Exercise has a lot of positive benefits for high blood pressure, obesity and osteoporosis and can reduce the risk of premature mortality. But in the context of anxiety and depression it’s perhaps the comfort zone challenge – and getting outside – that are the most valuable elements. Trying something new can help to build confidence and make you more open to new challenges. So, this autumn, why not start a new type of outdoor exercise that is outside of your comfort zone and see how much better you feel as your confidence grows. I’d recommend:


  • Surfing – the Wave Project carried out a study that found surfing has a positive impact on mental health and the Navy is even look into it now as a way to help manage PTSD.
  • Wake boarding – Hampshire has some excellent wake boarding facilities, such as the South Coast Wake Park.
  • Walking – we walk every day but a long ramble, for example through the New Forest, could lead you to new sights and achievements
  • Tennis – this racquet sport isn’t just for the summer you can play all year round and there are different options, such as walking tennis, for different abilities
  • Cycling – there are plenty of cycle routes in Hampshire and many places to organise bike hire such as Bespoke Biking.
  • Skiing – it’s fantastic physical activity and stimulating for both body and mind – there are ski slopes in Guildford and Aldershot if you can’t get to the Alps


There’s no reason why we have to retreat and hibernate in winter – in fact we could all benefit from getting out and being more active this year.








Brexit – it’s time. How can we cope?

By In the newsNo Comments

Brexit. If there is one word that no one wants to hear – and yet which is everywhere – it’s this one. I’m not sure that the UK could be in a worse position to exit the EU right now with incredible uncertainty, political infighting and upheaval and a great deal of hostility from those involved in negotiations about avoiding a No Deal. And yet, the exit date approaches. It’s easy to feel as individuals like we are completely at the mercy of those around the negotiating table in this situation and that can cause a great deal of anxiety. So, what can we do to cope in these rather troubled times?


Come together


There is nothing like turning to your community at moments like these to reinforce a sense of belonging and positivity. So, if you’re feeling isolated with your Brexit anxiety I’d recommend getting out into the community and joining in. You might volunteer locally, just catch up with old friends, do some business networking or come to my Friday morning coaching drop-ins at Open House Deli and say hello.


Opt for short-term planning


It’s always good to have long-term goals but right now it’s important that these aren’t set in stone. No one really knows what’s going to happen after 31st October, both in terms of how professional prospects might be affected and how all our personal lives will be impacted. Will there be enough food? Are we going to run out of medical supplies? While the logical adult in me assumes that someone, somewhere is taking care of all these details there is still the flicker of “what if they’re not?” If you’re getting the same kinds of feelings then this is a great time to focus on short-term needs and short-term planning. Set your goals and objectives up to 31st October and be prepared to be fairly fluid after that.


Be flexible


Uncertainty is difficult to deal with but probably one of the worst ways to attempt to cope is to try and lock down events, people, objectives and ideas. It makes much more sense to be open to adjusting as Brexit unfolds and resetting your course depending on the challenges that arise and the opportunities that may exist. And that’s another thing that’s important to consider – Brexit may not be all doom and gloom. For some there are bound to be fantastic opportunities and if you’re ready to adapt then you can make the most of any that come your way.


Get some support


My coaching services are designed exactly for moments like this – to support you in finding the right path and tackling uncertainties with grace and grit. I can help you to work productively even in the most challenging of environments and give you the tools to hold yourself accountable so that you can continue to navigate in the right direction despite choppy waters.


Brexit is coming. But, with the right approach, we can all cope with its uncertainties and perhaps even emerge on the other side to a brighter future too.


Welcoming the Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness

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A couple of weeks ago it felt like summer was well and truly over. Although we were only in mid-September, lashing rain and falling temperatures were more reminiscent of winter than the autumn warmth we should have been enjoying. While temperatures have righted themselves a little now it has got darker as the days shorten which has triggered the inevitable thoughts about – new terms, fresh starts and the “season of mists and mellow fruitfulness.”


It was Keats who wrote To Autumn, the poem from which that line comes. He actually penned it here in the area around Winchester – it was inspired by a walk he took around the city, perhaps in the Water Meadows or to the top of St Catherine’s Hill. The poem is always a reminder for me to embrace, as opposed to fear, coming change.


Seasonal upheavals


Autumn is traditionally a time when things shift, whether it’s starting a new school term of just coping with the transition to the colder months. This year we have a lot of added upheaval and uncertainty to deal with too, particularly around Brexit and what it could mean. On an even more serious note, and just sticking with the focus on weather, climate change is  frequently on people’s minds now, especially as the summer has been warmer than usual. And this year set records – according to Time, July 2019 was the hottest July and the hottest month on record globally since temperature records began. Experts say this is entirely due to climate change, which is a worrying fact to take into the new season.


The only constant is change


But, no matter how you feel about change, it is inevitable. And that makes it essential to find ways to cope. If you, like me, were shocked by the impact that the sudden change in weather had on you in August, you’ll know only too well how even the most seemingly small changes can affect everything, from motivation to your daily happiness level. I personally felt a touch of S.A.D and rather hard done by, as if I hadn’t yet had my quota of sunshine and warmth for the year. Many of us resist change because we assume it will result in the loss of something of value or that we won’t be able to adapt – so how to you condition yourself to cope?


Tools for coping with change


I recently heard a quote attributed to the painter Vincent Van Gogh – “great things are done by a series of small things brought together” – and I feel like this provides a firm foundation for coping with the change that the autumn season can bring. Here’s how:


  • Set goals for your time between now and Christmas – look ahead and get excited about what you want to achieve
  • Define achievable steps for reaching those goals – following the “series of small things” approach is incredibly effective
  • Embrace change as an opportunity – it can take a shift in mindset but we can come to see change as a positive
  • Work with a coach to find ways to navigate change – if you’re struggling with the idea of going it alone, a coach can provide support and guidance so that you can start creating the life you want before the year is out


As autumn approaches it’s time to embrace this season of mellow fruitfulness, to allow transition to feel natural and to start planning for what the future might bring. After all, change may be scary but it’s also ripe with opportunity.


Lessons we can learn from festival season

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Festivals are something of a tradition during the summer in the UK. Whether you’ve been to Glastonbury or Latitude or you danced in the rain and the sun at Winchestival, going to a festival can be a wonderful experience and a lot of fun. However, I believe that it’s not just a good time that festivals offer – there are some other lessons that we can learn from festival season that will translate into valuable ideas for the rest of the year too.


Being with your tribe


When you find the right festival for you there is an inescapable sense that you’ve found your tribe. These might be people with similar tastes in music, ecological outlook or who also love a vegan feast. A tribe is not necessarily your circle of friends – it is a much broader concept than that and you don’t need to have a life history with these people. Your tribe is made up of individuals who add something to your life and when you find them – maybe watching the sunrise or chatting over a festival beer – your life will be enriched as a result.


Community matters


Festivals spring up for just a few days, maybe a week, but when they do they create an instant community. Everything you need is there within that space and you really feel part of something. There is a great lesson here as to the importance of belonging and making the most of your local resources. Support in your immediate area could come from a variety of different places, such as community groups or a local coach like me.


Laughing it off


Anyone who has been to a UK festival will no doubt have had an experience at some point that involved a lot of rain – and mud. Maybe your tent was completely washed away or you spent an entire weekend covered in cowpats. I think this shows how important it is to have a sense of humour in life. Things don’t always go to plan but the most resilient people are able to smile, have some fun and let it go even when the rain is pouring down and your socks are wet.


Learning and knowledge


Festivals can also be a hotbed of new experiences, from music you haven’t heard before to comedy or discussion that raises topics that are new to you. In fact, a festival can feel like a complete immersion in new ideas and trigger all sorts of innovation and creativity as a result. This is something that can be translated into life outside of festivals – focusing on ongoing learning and knowledge is key to a satisfying life.


Leaving the screen behind


You might take some photos and upload a few social media posts but most of us don’t spend entire festivals on our phones or behind a laptop. That could be because festival tickets are expensive and we want to get value from them – or maybe it’s because devices just run out of juice. And what then? Well, you get to experience that wonderful liberation of what it’s like to be without devices for hours, or even days, and how this could benefit your life outside the festival too.


Getting outside your comfort zone


Festivals can be challenging, from being in a space with thousands of other people, to trying to remember to pack everything and coping with toilet queues. But this is a great lesson in the benefits of getting outside your comfort zone and how much more confident and open this can make you feel as a result. From getting a taste of it at a festival you can carry it forward as a regular habit in real life.


Festivals are fabulous, fun and a great way to make memories – and they also have plenty to teach us about how to live better too.

Climate emergency – where are all the coaches?

By In the newsNo Comments

The coaching community is not the most obvious candidate for blame when it comes to events like the financial crisis, Brexit or climate change. And yet, after many of these ‘emergencies’ there have been mutterings along the lines of ‘where were all the business coaches at such an essential time’? It’s true that the coaching community could have done more to provide support and guidance but many of these events were so extreme no one saw them coming.


Climate change is the exception – we know that things are bad. Even the government is on board with the urgency, as the UK parliament officially declared a climate emergency in May this year. And there is evidence of this state of affairs all around; the oceans are warmer, the ice sheets have shrunk, sea levels are rising and we’re seeing increasing numbers of extreme weather events. The Indonesian government is even being forced to move its capital from Jakarta because the city is sinking at a rate of 25cm per year thanks to rising sea levels and land subsidence.


Green priorities are business priorities


Having spent my early career working within big organisations such as Total and BAA I know just how easy it is to overlook eco objectives when there are other priorities, from revenue growth to increasing product market share. That’s also the case with many corporate clients I’ve worked with since.  However, I believe that these don’t have to be mutually exclusive – working with a coach can enable your business to develop a response to climate change and a more socially responsible approach that doesn’t impede, but rather works in tandem with, stellar growth.


Carbon neutral by 2030?


Declarations of climate emergency have been made all over this year, from officials in New York to the Public and Commercial Services Union. However, there is no single definition of what this means – and how we should be responding to the challenge. Many towns and cities in the UK have defined this as going carbon neutral by 2030 and some councils are seeking to reduce carbon emissions by 80% by 2050. But how can we respond as individuals and what can organisations do to contribute?


  • Re-evaluate the way your business deals with waste
  • Find ways to conserve energy within the office
  • Run training for staff and management
  • Aim for a paperless office
  • Support environmentally friendly vendors (e.g. renewable energy providers)
  • Introduce a policy of reuse to reduce waste
  • Encourage car sharing and more sustainable transport choices
  • Integrate climate-first thinking into your business culture


Raising the topic in conversation


The above list is a fairly generic set of ideas that any business can use to start responding to the climate emergency. For many people, whether you are an employee or a business owner, the key challenge is often getting climate issues onto the agenda in your organisation. Levels of awareness can be low and getting the discussion started is the crucial first step towards tangible change.


Business coaching can provide the support and guidance you need to start opening up the discussion around this topic, examining your own personal response and raising awareness in your place of work. With this in mind, I can help you to develop a strategy for asking the right questions, creating a space for discussion and gently informing those who don’t have all the facts.


Coaching is a great way to streamline and dig into your response to the current climate emergency and to start taking steps towards making a real, valuable contribution to combating climate change. The coaching community is entirely behind those who want to make a difference and ready and willing to help.

Slow down and reflect this summer – your autumn could be your best ever if you do

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This one was written back in the summer, but it still resonates into the autumn.

Did you know that taking a holiday could really improve your health? Multiple studies have been carried out over the years looking at the impact of holidays on human health. Most have found that holidays are highly beneficial. Two studies (Eaker et al., 1992; Gump & Matthews, 2000) established that holidays can help to reduce the risk of heart attacks and premature coronary death. Another identified that people who take regular holidays tend to be healthier in general. Despite this, many of us find time off from work difficult to manage – the build up to departure date can be stressful and there is all sorts of guilt associated with time spent on a sun lounger with a cocktail (or climbing a mountain or cycling through France etc). So how can you get the most from all your experiences this past summer? Well, a different approach – and the support of a coach – might help.


Taking stock during your time off


Whether you had a staycation to make the most of your garden or headed off to hotter climes, taking a pause to reflect on your experiences is the perfect moment for review. Key questions to ask as you look back include:


  • What has the year been like for you so far – what challenges have you faced and have you achieved your goals?
  • How is the current political or economic climate affecting your business – and likely to do so in the coming months (e.g. Brexit)
  • What do you want your life in this change of season to look like?
  • What challenges are currently presented by the people in your life?
  • What goals do you want to set for the rest of the year?


A joint endeavour to discover new thinking


Many people find this type of self-examination difficult to do alone – which is where coaching can provide a genuine opportunity to discover fresh perspectives and a new way of thinking. You may have a particular goal in mind for autumn that you’d like some help to achieve – or simply feel that you want to move on from old patterns and outdated thought processes and find a different approach to apply when the seasons change. Through a meeting or a series of meetings, we can work together to make use of this precious seasonal downtime to unlock a new way of thinking that delivers more focus and energy and brings you closer to achieving your goals. In this way we can help to sustain the benefits of holiday time into the autumn and beyond too.


And if you’re not going on holiday…


A city like Winchester is a beautiful place to be in the summer months. Evenings and weekends provide a wealth of ways to enjoy this time of year, from wandering through the water meadows to a post-work drink in a sunny pub garden. Even if you’re not planning a big summer break it’s still essential to stop and smell those summer roses, make sure you take the time to slow down and notice the changes happening around you in the natural and human world. You might call it ‘mindfulness’ or you could describe it as the art of living – however you look at it there are plenty of benefits to slowing down and reflecting a little when the weather is hot.


Whatever your plans this summer, take a moment with me to help you make the most of your reflections. I’ll gently guide, and facilitate the time, working with you – and alongside you – to help you capture your insights and transform them into intentions and actions for the rest of the year ahead. Summer is a precious season, not just for holiday experiences but for insights too – together we can work to transform these into long lasting positive change.




Take time to work ‘on’ your business rather than ‘in’ it

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Being an entrepreneur frequently means working without a template. Individual circumstances are always unique and, a result, one very common question is “am I doing this right?” This often arises in the context of day-to-day operations and the change in perspective that is required to move from working “in” the business to “on” it. Although it’s a transition that people often struggle with it’s also an essential shift to make. Otherwise, further down the line you may feel that – despite years of investment of time and money -, rather than growing a business, you’ve actually just been doing a job.


Doing a job vs. running a business


Doing a job, working within a business, is a key function but if you’re an entrepreneur it’s a trap. You may be used to being part of a wider infrastructure in a former role as an employee but it’s essential to break out of that mindset if you’re truly focused on success for your enterprise. Of course, this can take time. In the early stages there may not be much of a business to work on and all your time and energy may be spent working in it to build credibility, reputation and customer base. However, once a measure of stability is achieved it’s vital to begin consciously moving from working “in” the business to “on” the business. So, where do you start?


Four key questions


Although every situation is different there are four key questions that can help most owners to identify where they are in terms of working “in” or “on” the business.


  1. Do you spend time planning? Working on the business means being its visionary, setting objectives and measuring and managing progress. This will necessarily involve an in-depth business plan but also ongoing strategising, such as regular forecasting and a 90-day plan, and setting metrics to quantify growth.
  2. Could your business survive without you? If the answer is no then you are still very much integral to its day-to-day running and stuck within it. Although it can take time to get to this stage, the ultimate goal should be an enterprise that will still thrive even if you choose to take a step back.
  3. Are you creating strategies? Two of the most crucial are marketing and recruitment. Defining the way that your business recruits and the type of team it builds will be key to growth and the culture you create. Equally essential is investing in, and defining, marketing strategy that will build reputation and drive sales. Both are key perspectives that someone working “in” the business simply won’t have.
  4. Are you doing every task within every role? Delegation sets entrepreneurs free – if you’re micromanaging every single function then you’re stuck within the business. You’re also placing restrictions on what the business itself can achieve, as it will only grow as far as your own individual limits.


If you find yourself stuck “in” the business don’t panic. The perspective shift required to help you move to the next level is within reach. The support of a business coach, someone like me, can help you to identify the unique ways in which you may have been holding yourself, and the business, back and to start breaking free of old habits.


“Alone, we can do so little; together, we can do so much” – Helen Keller

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Local coaching for local people


“Alone, we can do so little; together, we can do so much” – Helen Keller


We hear a lot in the news these days about the negative impact of our work on our health. According to the Health and Safety Executive, in 2017/18 stress, depression or anxiety accounted for 44% of all work-related ill health cases and 57% of all working days lost due to ill health. Whether you are freelance, an entrepreneur or working for someone else, we are all susceptible to the stresses and strains of trying to make a living and create purpose in our lives. Feeling alone and unsupported in these challenges can be devastating to growth and progress.


Coaching – developing grace and grit


Navigating a career path – whatever it is – often feels lonely and stressful. Truly thriving at work takes time, practice and the right support. That’s why coaching is for everyone, whatever your stage in life, work situation and whatever your goals. It requires a combination of grace and grit to push through some of life’s most challenging circumstances and relentlessly pursue a vision of what you want your professional future to be. Working with a coach has many very tangible benefits, including:


  • Building confidence
  • Unlocking potential
  • Promoting clearer thinking
  • Providing essential perspective
  • Overcoming unconscious incompetence
  • Honing leadership ability
  • Improving emotional intelligence, self awareness and empathy


How does it work?


The best coaching style is relaxed but effective – a good coach will work alongside you to identify how you can do your job to the best of your ability and to start identifying clear goals for your future. There is also an element of accountability involved – a good coach won’t collude with you to avoid the tough decisions or the difficult moments but, instead, will enable you to hold yourself accountable for your words and actions. Crucially, you’ll always feel as if you have someone on your side, which can be an essential part of the process if you’re buckling under the weight of work stress or just feeling the lack of direction in your life.


Local coaching for local people


Community is a powerful concept – local knowledge, understanding and connections are incredibly valuable. Winchester, and its surrounding area, is a unique location with a local business community that encompasses everyone, from start-ups and innovators, to executives and professionals travelling to London to work. Grace Coaching has been developed to help foster connection via local coaching, for local people, by local people. The idea is that coaching is convenient, on your doorstep and plugged in to where you live.


I believe that working with a coach locally creates invaluable opportunities to define direction, to get to the root of issues such as stress and to help you to take the next steps towards thriving at work. If you’d like to experience a coaching taster – or find out more – you’ll find me – along with my colleague coach Jo Ibbott – holding a weekly drop in session at Open House Deli – 8–9.30 every Friday. Come and say hi and find out how much more you could do with a local coach on your side.






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Nobody said it was easy

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Yesterday was International Women’s Day. There were so many stories around to highlight how much we can celebrate in 2018. We are though, as part of our society at large, all a work in progress and there is much more we can do, women and men, to help and encourage each other. I was reminded yesterday that nobody said it was going to be easy.  Read More