A problem shared is a problem halved. It might be a cliché, but it's true. When you're not feeling yourself, talking things through with someone you trust can help lighten the load. It's the first step towards taking back control of your mental wellbeing. Why does talking help? Talking about something with another person allows you to see things from a different perspective. There could be another way of looking at your situation Talking aloud can help you make sense of a problem and clarify your thoughts and feelings. When we're just turning things over and over in our own heads it can be difficult to see what's really going on Another person may offer practical advice and solutions that you hadn't considered before The simple act of being listened to often has a big impact in itself. You'll feel less alone knowing that someone is there for you. You might even discover that you're not the only one who feels the way you do Sometimes just saying something aloud is immensely relieving. You may have been carrying something around in your head for a long time and talking about it can be like setting down a heavy load. You might notice your whole body relaxing as you start to talk Opening up to friends and family might encourage and empower others to do the same Talking openly about how you feel might seem awkward at first. Especially if you're not used to it. But it will get easier and become more natural the more you do it Who can you talk to? Friends and family are a great place to start. They may have already noticed that you're not quite yourself and asked if everything is ok. This can make starting a conversation a bit easier. Having said this, it's common for people to find it difficult to talk openly with friends and family, for lots of reasons. Often they're worried about upsetting people they care about, how their relationships might be affected or that they might be treated differently. And this can affect how honest and open you are about the reality of your situation. Sometimes it's easier to be more honest with someone you don't know. That's where counselling can help. Counselling, or talking therapy, is a chance for you to talk to someone who will listen without judgement. It offers you a safe space and dedicated time to talk openly about you. Your thoughts. Your feelings. And the real impact they have. A counsellor can offer an impartial perspective on what might be a very complex and intense situation. As someone who's not involved and with no personal agenda, they may be able to help you work through and understand things in ways that your friends and family can't. Ask us about counselling CA Support can arrange for you to work with a professional counsellor face-to-face, over the phone or online.  Take the first step You might have avoided opening up in the past, simply because you don't know where to start. How can you possibly articulate all the thoughts and feelings going round and round in your head? But there's no set script you have to follow, and no rush to get it all out at once. When you contact CA Support, our trained advisors will help you find the right words. And after that first step, you'll have the support of a professional counsellor to help you through the rest of the process. You won't be on your own. You can talk to an advisor in complete confidence, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Call us on 01 637 7342 to talk to one of the team. We are here for you. Article reproduced with the kind permission of CABA, the organisation providing lifelong support to ICAEW members, ACA students and their close family around the world.

Aug 08, 2019

We've all heard the old cliché that a problem shared is a problem halved. And it's a cliché for a reason. Talking about how we feel isn't always easy, but it's often the first step towards taking control of your wellbeing.  Why do we find it difficult to talk about our emotions? There are many reasons why we might struggle to open up about how we feel. Often we worry about upsetting the people we care about or causing them concern. At other times it's a fear of being judged or seen as weak that prevents us from being honest about how we feel. We might struggle to know how to articulate our emotions or who to talk to. Sometimes it's a combination of all of these things. No wonder many of us are hesitant to talk about our emotions.  What happens when you don't open up? Choosing to keep things bottled up may seem easier in the short term, but it can have negative consequences for your emotional and physical health.  Having something going round and round in your head makes it difficult to be present with the people around you. You're likely to withdraw from situations or conversations that might touch on whatever's causing you to feel the way you do. This creates a distance and misunderstanding between you and your friends, family and colleagues, which can weaken those important relationships.   Similarly, when you're overwhelmed and pre-occupied by your emotions, it's hard to focus and concentrate on other areas of your life such as work or study. You may find that your productivity or quality of work begins to suffer. All of this can lead to an increased level of stress, which can manifest in both behavioural and physical symptoms. Opening up to someone you trust could break this cycle. Why does talking help? Talking things through with someone else can help you see things from a different perspective.  Having to articulate your feelings to someone forces you to take a step back, helping you to see things more clearly. You'll be able to see patterns and have a better understanding of exactly what it is that's bothering you, and what you can do about it. Reaching out to someone you trust and asking them for help will strengthen your relationship with that person as you problem solve together. Even the simple act of being listened to will help you feel supported and less alone. These feelings of connection are essential to our sense of wellbeing. How do I start talking about my emotions? Even if you choose to open up to a close friend or family member, it can still feel awkward at first. Here are a few tips that could help. Pick the right time If you're feeling particularly angry about a situation, it's a good idea to wait until you feel calmer and initial feelings of anger have dissipated. This will make it easier to talk about the real issues clearly, rather than simply venting and lashing out, which can push people away and make you feel worse. If you're feeling nervous about opening up, it can also help to try talking when you're doing something else with that person, such as washing the dishes or walking the dog. This can make it seem less awkward and less of a 'big deal.' Find the right words Use a simple, neutral statement to start such as 'I feel...' or 'My concern is...'. This is less accusatory than saying 'You make me feel...'. It empowers you to take responsibility for your feelings and invites the other person to contribute constructively to the conversation, rather than being defensive. Talk about the positives too Talking about your feelings doesn't have to mean talking about negative things. Try talking to your friends and family about the positive feelings you have; when you're proud of them, grateful or want to share your success with them. Think of it as practice. The more open you are about your positive feelings with the people around you, the easier it will be to talk to them when you're not feeling as good. In addition, taking a moment to recognise the things that make you feel happy or are going well will boost your overall wellbeing, and help to strengthen your relationships. Reach out If you don't feel comfortable talking to a loved one, then talking to someone professional could help. Talking therapies or counselling provide you with a safe space in which to talk through your thoughts and feelings with someone independent and impartial. Counsellors are trained to help you process and explore your feelings and find practical ways of managing them. Counselling involves you being honest, open and participating in the conversation. Ultimately this is empowering although it can seem daunting at first. But there's no rush. The number of sessions you have will depend on your individual circumstances, and your counsellor will work with you to find the best path for you. Article reproduced with the kind permission of CABA, the organisation providing lifelong support to ICAEW members, ACA students and their close family around the world.

Jun 24, 2019

Could a nerve you’ve probably never heard of be the key to boosting your mood and reducing anxiety? Say ‘hello’ to your vagus nerve. What is it? Vagus means ‘wandering’. The vagus nerve is the longest cranial nerve in the body, starting at your brain and connecting to a host of organs including your gut, heart, liver, pancreas, gallbladders, kidneys, spleen and tongue. What does it do? Your vagus nerve is part of the parasympathetic nervous system, which helps you ‘rest and digest’. It helps to control body functions like your heart rate, digestion, breathing along with regulating your mood and emotions. How fit is your vagus nerve? Just like a muscle, when the vagus nerve is working well, it’s said to have good ‘tone’. Your heart speeds up a little when you inhale, slowing down a little when you exhale. The difference between those speeds is your HRV. A larger HRV indicates that your vagus nerve has good tone. Tone your vagus nerve: Singing Laughing Yoga Tai chi Humming Deep breathing Meditation Listening to music you enjoy Gentle to moderate exercise Getting a massage Eating probiotics Gargling Splashing your face with cold water Practice: deep breathing Set aside 5 minutes where you can be quiet without being disturbed. Lie down on your back with your hands on your abdomen. Bend your knees with your feet on the floor. Relax your elbows on to the floor. Close your eyes and notice your breathing without changing it on purpose. Focus on your navel and imagine your breath is moving your hands. Don’t push your breath to make your hands move. Just stay relaxed and focused on your breathing as it is. Article reproduced with the kind permission of CABA, the organisation providing lifelong support to ICAEW members, ACA students and their close family around the world.

Jun 24, 2019

As the saying goes, you have to love yourself to love others. Loving yourself means respecting yourself, accepting your flaws and the mistakes you’ve made, and seeing yourself as worthy of being loved by others. It also means looking after your wellbeing and not neglecting the things that make you feel happy and fulfilled. How to get started This is easier said than done though as many of us struggle to love and accept ourselves even for a few moments, let alone all the time.  So here are some tips to help get you started: Think about your strengths It may not always be easy, but try to concentrate on the things you do well rather than the things you don’t excel in or the mistakes you’ve made. In fact, try to consciously forgive yourself for your mistakes, especially if you find yourself thinking frequently about the poor choices you may have made. When you’re feeling positive, make a list of your strengths and keep it somewhere you’ll see it often and then go back to the list whenever you feel insecure about yourself.  Look after yourself Sometimes we work so hard at looking after others, we neglect our own wellbeing needs. But it’s important to eat healthily, to exercise and get plenty of sleep, and to take steps to look after our mental health. Start by doing one small thing a day that will help boost your mental or physical wellbeing – you don’t have to make radical changes all at once to reap big benefits. Stop comparing Try removing yourself from toxic friendships or from someone who demeans you and your achievements. Instead, surround yourself with positive and supportive people. These are the people who will help you feel good about yourself, as opposed to those who are over-critical and negative. Treat yourself like someone you love If you tend to be hard on yourself a lot of the time, try giving yourself a break and being kind rather than your harshest critic. Remind yourself that nobody is perfect, so you shouldn’t expect to be either. Think what you would do or say if a close friend needed some support, then try doing the same for yourself. Have a social media detox According to Entrepreneur.com the average person spends more than five years of their life on social media. Yet studies suggest using social media to such an extent can often cause stress, anxiety and low mood. This can be further highlighted when we use social media to compare ourselves to others. This can then lead to a feeling that we’re missing out. If you spend a lot of time on social media, it may be a good idea to do something about it. Try taking a complete break, or at least switch off your notifications to see if it helps you cut down on your social media use. Be selfish once in a while When you’re busy doing things for other people, you may forget to do things for yourself. But it’s okay to be selfish every now and then. Try doing just one little thing for yourself today that doesn’t involve making anyone else happy or tending to their needs. Article reproduced with the kind permission of CABA, the organisation providing lifelong support to ICAEW members, ACA students and their close family around the world.

Jun 21, 2019
Personal Development

Acknowledging our vulnerabilities and improving our self-awareness can allow us to succeed in our personal and professional lives. “What are your strengths and weaknesses” is a question frequently asked at interviews and one that interviewees are often least prepared to answer. While few have difficulty rhyming off strengths, describing one’s weaknesses or vulnerabilities is another matter. Doing so requires a level of disclosure that few of us are willing to make to ourselves, much less to others.  As Abraham Maslow, American psychologist who is known for creating Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, said, “We tend to be afraid of any knowledge that would cause us…to make us feel inferior, weak…We protect ourselves and our ideal image of ourselves by repression and similar defences”. However, research shows that vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity and change. We connect to others through vulnerabilities. They are key to our self-awareness and how we manage ourselves socially.  This article is designed to equip you with some means to identify and explore those vulnerabilities and improve your self-awareness.     Focus on the here and now Begin with noticing and self-reflecting. When interacting with others, you should slow yourself down and take notice of your emotions, thoughts and behaviours as situations unfold. Try to concentrate on what is happening to you in the moment. Studies show that we are able to concentrate on up to four voices at one time. One of those voices should be our own.  The ability to focus on the present can and should be practiced regularly by using mindfulness exercises. Mindfulness is simply concentrating on the present moment and focusing on one element to keep you in that moment, such as your breathing. Through mindfulness practice, we learn not to engage with passing thoughts but rather to observe them and take notice of recurring negative thoughts that may be affecting us. By practicing mindfulness privately, we develop skills that we can call on to ground ourselves when we feel stressed or unfocused. These skills help us to avoid being distracted by anticipatory thoughts and give us the ability to stay focused when circumstances demand.  Numerous apps are available to help develop or improve concentration skills. Headspace is one such option. Thinking errors How do we identify emotional or cognitive barriers to self-awareness? Be on the lookout for ‘thinking errors’ in your internal dialogues. These are harmful thinking patterns that may habitually hold us hostage so that we behave at the will of others or as victims of circumstance. Some examples of these include: ‘Awfulisation’: “That was the worst interview ever. I was awful.”; Blame-throwing: “It’s all his fault, he should have highlighted the difference.”; Demands: “He has to listen to me because this report is late”, “She should have pointed that out, she knew it was important.”; Extreme thinking: “she never listens”, “he’s always late” Globalising: “I failed my exam. That proves I’m a failure.”; Personalisation: “If I ask my manager for support, he’ll think I’m incompetent”. Such thinking errors should be intercepted and challenged by considering their usefulness. Are these beliefs helpful? Are they true? Is there evidence to support them?  Group dynamics While mindful meditation and self-reflection are useful tools for improving self-awareness, our reflection in other people is more informative. When working in a team, it is important to stay aware of how others react to our behaviours. Noticing such reactions provides us with valuable feedback. Active listening and observation can help us to recognise and then adjust any negative behaviours of our own.  A simple tool called the PFAT scan can help here. With it, we pay attention to: physical body reactions in other members of the group. Are they blushing, sweating, fidgeting, clenching their teeth or fists? others’ feelings suggested through their mannerisms or behaviours. Are they defensive, anxious, worried, bored, tense, challenged, or angry? the appearance of negative body language. Are they retreating or lunging forward? Are they stammering or yelling?; and  where their thoughts are focused. Are they speaking on task or are they defending their position, discrediting others, and redeeming themselves?    To gain greater insight into our relational habits, we should pay attention to group dynamics, focusing not only on how we think and what we observe but also on how we feel during teamwork or group work. Certain situations or people may trigger negative reactions within us. We may discover that what we are experiencing is the mirroring of past behavioural patterns seen in close family members. We should also seek feedback from trusted people seniors in your company and peers. Receiving such feedback openly and sharing our vulnerabilities can prove edifying. By accepting our vulnerabilities with reasonable self-compassion, we can start to accommodate them and to build on our strengths. March EI exercise Practice mindfulness and the reflective exercises described in this article.  Paul Price is is an Executive Coach at Dynamic Connections.

Mar 06, 2018
Personal Development

Don’t be known as the office gossip. Instead, cultivate a reputation as a ‘straight arrow’ with these seven simple tips. People love to talk; it’s one of those universal truths that you just have to accept. Professionals will always have clear boundaries, however, and in many cases express their frustrations and views outside the office with family and personal friends only. But even with the best of intentions, you can sometimes find yourself in the midst of a questionable conversation without even knowing how you got there! Whether you find yourself in such a conversation, or know that the office gossip wants to engage you in some office chit-chat, these tips will help you extricate yourself from the conversation or – if you’d rather deal with the situation head on – shut the office gossip down. 1. Get moving When the topic of conversation shifts from a project’s deadline to the annoying habits of the project manager, it’s no longer in the professional realm. In this scenario, the easiest solution is to make your excuses and leave. Something simple like: “Sorry, but I need to get back to my desk. I’ve a call in five minutes” removes you immediately and, if done on a recurring basis, gives the gossiper a clear but covert message that this isn’t a conversation you’re willing to have. 2. Pivot! Ross from Friends was a massive fan of the pivot, and it can be a great asset in the office too. When you’re drawn into an uncomfortable conversation, take the lead and steer it in a more professional direction. For example, if a colleague is moaning about his manager’s perceived obsession with one-to-one meetings, bring it back to a work-related task by saying something like: “Actually, that reminds me. I’ve been meaning to talk to Alfie about the production schedule. Have you seen him today?” This gives you the opportunity to change the topic of conversation in a gentle, subtle way. 3. Stay positive If walking away or changing the subject seems too genteel, challenge the gossiper’s accusations. Saying something along the lines of: “Oh I’m sure that was just a one-off. I’ve worked with Jane on several projects and never had a bad encounter with her” allows you to challenge the gossiper’s generalised assumption and also, raises the possibility that you are close to Jane in a professional capacity. In both cases, you’re refusing to be drawn into a negative conversation about a colleague, which is the desired outcome. 4. Look for the facts A more challenging approach involves dissecting the gossiper’s logic and rationale. Simple, probing questions such as “What led you to that conclusion?” can force the gossiper into the uncomfortable act of introspection – dissecting their own thoughts and actions rather than those of their colleagues. It also diminishes the power of broad-stroke statements, which gossipers usually expect to be taken as truth by their comrades in conversation. Once a gossiper has to justify their thoughts and statements, much of the fun evaporates and – with any luck – you will no longer be seen as an open ear or easy target. 5. Avoid trigger words Sometimes, we unthinkingly cultivate gossip by saying certain words or raising certain subjects that spark ire in the person you’re talking to. You will need to be aware of the broader office politics to avoid this unfortunate calamity, so be aware of what’s going on around you without getting involved. Know the people and issues causing ripples in your working environment and, to the greatest extent possible, avoid mentioning them. If you must discuss an emotive issue, use the tactics discussed above to steer the conversation and prevent it descending into farce. 6. Shine the spotlight It’s often said that people love talking about themselves. It’s their specialism, in a sense. So if you’re struggling to walk away, change the topic or challenge the gossiper, simply get them talking about themselves. This usually results in a more positive tone! It’s a variation of the pivot point above so listen carefully, plan your interjection and at the right time, bring the story back to your colleague. 7. Choose carefully Lastly, choose your work friends with care. While you might not partake in gossip, it can be easy for others to tar you with the same brush if you hang out with those who are widely known as the office gossips. It’s best to have a wide circle of professional acquaintances and maintain a professional distance, unless you know that you can trust the person 100%. You should also find positive role models, observe their behaviours and mimic them where appropriate. Associating with those who have positive reputations can protect you from becoming guilty by association. Conclusion As a Chartered Accountant, you are expected to hold yourself to the highest standards of ethics and integrity in all aspects of your working life. Sometimes it’s not possible to avoid those who revel in drama but even so, you have a duty – to yourself and the organisation you work for – to take pride in your professionalism and set a good example for those that follow. And don’t think it will go unnoticed. Those who can navigate office gossip without getting drawn in demonstrate a degree of nous and tact that employers look for in future leaders.

Nov 01, 2016