Recovery + Renewal = Resiliency workshop

Napolean Hill: “Life either rides or is ridden. It never stands still. What choices you make determine whether one becomes the horse or the rider.”

This 2.5 hour open registration workshop is for you if you are experiencing emotions like frustration, irritation, anger, or fear more than you would like.

Learn how to develop smart strategies for increasing your resiliency in challenging situations.

Next session in 2015: Sept 25th 13.30 – 16.00 Leiderdorp

Program Fees: The fee for the 2.5 hour session is € 95,- pp including BTW/VAT, refreshments, workbook, and 4 weekly email coaching tips following the workshop.

Here is the RRR_registration_form. Once completed send this to me by email.

Personal Resiliency Sessions

In one-on-one Personal Resiliency Sessions of circa 1.5 hours you’ll receive practical, simple, yet very effective exercises and resiliency tips which you can easily implement in your daily life. You will gain more self-control over your emotions, learning how to:

recognize your stress triggers

increase your energy and vitality

neutralize the effects of the stress reactions

understand the body & mind implications of stress

transform your stress ‘on the spot’ anywhere, anytime

make more supportive choices in your life

What’s important to know is that it is not required that you share personal information about yourself. If it helps you to use specific examples in the coaching sessions then the decision to share will be yours. One-on-one fees: The fee for a 1.5 hour session is € 150,- pp including BTW/VAT, and 4 weekly email coaching tips following the session. Give yourself the gift of a vital, energetic life. You are worth it. Please contact me for more information. Creating Raves reviews can be found here.

Please leave a comment or question here below.

Recovery + Renewal = Stress Resiliency

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What would happen if you were to take your car on the highway, press the gas pedal to the floor and drive without slowing or stopping? I think we could make a safe bet that sooner or later, your car would run out of gas…at worst, you could possibly damage the engine.

That’s what we can loosely call a burnout. If we push ourselves to the maximum effort without slowing down, easing off the gas pedal regularly and stopping to refill our ‘gas tank’, then our bodies are going to be so stressed, they’ll have to say NO MORE!

This isn’t rocket science. With not enough fuel, rest and relaxation (especially from our thoughts), our bodies will force us to stop.

What is causing most of our stress?  According to 30 years of research from Dr. Derek Roger (one of the world’s leading researchers on stress and resilience), all stress comes down to something called rumination.

“Rumination is the mental process of thinking over and over about something, which happened either in the past or could happen in the future, and attaching negative emotion to it.

Ruminations about the future are associated with “what if this happens'” or “what if that happens.” Ruminations about the past replay, over and over, some awful experience you had and usually end with, “if only I had …” or “I should have done …””

See the full Wake UP white paper here

In last month’s posting, More Thoughts about Thoughts, I cited Dr. Robert Sapolsky, who has researched stress in humans for more than three decades.  He says that we are constantly bombarding our bodies with a stress reaction, not from any imminent physical danger but from the imagined danger our minds have created.

Add to that, the abuse that poor diet and lack of exercise contributes to what our bodies have to undergo, and it’s no wonder that stress reactions underlie an estimated 75 – 90 percent of all visits to primary care physicians in the U.S.A.

We need to become much more mindful about the quality of our thoughts. We need to stop creating fiction for ourselves. We need to start being kinder to ourselves.

Mindfulness and meditation have been shown to be successful in suspending judgmental  thoughts. Take time for reflection on a daily basis. Focus on just breathing – something so simple, yet so essential that we forget we’re doing it or how we should be doing it.

Don’t beat yourself up because you can’t shut down your thoughts. Our brains are made to produce thoughts. Last week, a participant in a training I was giving shared a metaphor. Trying to shut down our thoughts is like standing in the middle of a highway, flagging cars zooming at us at 100 km per hour from both directions in an attempt to stop. Your thoughts won’t stop (estimates say we have circa 42 per minute). However, you can find the peace that comes when you just sit on the side of the road and watch the cars go by. It’s all about non-judgment. Acceptance. Oeps, there is that thought again. Bye, bye.

Encourage your inner coach instead of letting your inner critic have all the ‘voice’ time. And when that inner critic does speak so loudly that you can’t ignore it, embrace it. After all, what is this voice? Only your subconscious doing its best to protect you – usually in a not very helpful way. So acknowledge this voice without beating yourself up. Go to a quiet place inside yourself and through reflection, you will find peace. That inner voice will become still because it knows (you know) that you’re taking care of yourself.

Just in case you need some more encouragement, check out this Forbes article: Stress Kills – Unless You Choose To Proactively Combat Its Harmful Effects


DISCover Engaging Communication – open registration

Communication is much more than the words exchanged: each of us has different behavior styles, filters and judgments which influence the effectiveness of our communication.

DISCover the power of different styles.  Connect – smarter and better. Develop smart strategies for dealing with stress. Communicate with more clarity. Give meaning to your interactions. Meet the challenges in your work, family and social life. Challenge yourself to engage others to the best of your ability.

This may come as a surprise to you: we don’t work in a vacuum. We (yes, you!) are surrounded by individuals with individual needs, objectives, and concepts.

Individual personalities often dictate the entire culture in a workplace. However, there needs to be balance. Everyone must feel comfortable sharing their opinions and ideas, and those individuals must also be willing to receive and process others’ ideas and revelations.

Often, the basis of such synergy stems from effective and productive interpersonal communications practices. Purposeful, constructive, communicative bridges must be built so that goals can be met and business strategies can progress and evolve.

Conflict, change, and stress are a regular part of everyday organizational life. The key to employee survival is resilience, the ability to bounce back after adversity. Being resilient doesn’t prevent tough challenges from happening, but it does provide individuals with the strength and wherewithal to recover and move on time and time again.

Developing resilience is a lot like engineering a building to withstand an earthquake. It requires a solid foundation and a flexible structure that won’t crack or crumble under pressure. In human terms, it translates into self-esteem, connections with others, mental agility, and effective coping strategies.

This workshop enables you to analyze the reflection you see staring back at yourself in the mirror in order to help you put your best foot forward. By putting your best foot forward you open the door for your colleague as well.

Workshop Objectives Learn how to create more effective (business) relationships by:

  • Recognizing different communication styles (including your own)
  • Understanding how they promote or frustrate clear communication
  • Understanding how stress impacts our ability to communicate
  • Understanding the various styles in your surroundings (family, organization)
  • Leveraging this knowledge through greater confidence

This basic 3 hour workshop blends an experiential presentation of communication concepts combined with knowledge. We present content of this topic from two different perspectives: behavioral styles and stress management.
About the Facilitators
The workshop is given by Mary Jane Roy, founding partner at Creating Waves and Caroline van Leuven, founding partner at Indivisible and director at Foundation Women in Society.
Click on the names for background information.

Practical Information

For individuals and companies.
Language: Dutch or English
Dates: November 10th 2015 from 13.00 – 16.00 in Leiderdorp
Costs: € 95,00 + VAT, drinks and handouts are included. For an in-company training please contact us.

More thoughts about thoughts

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Last year I wrote a newsletter article about thoughts.

The influence and power of the quality of our thoughts is such an important topic, that I decided to share more thoughts about thoughts with you.

Every day we are subjected to a huge dose of negativity and fear-based news. If it’s not the politicians with whom we’re upset, then it’s the crisis in the middle-east that has us reacting in anger and fear. The list of possibilities is endless. And as if this isn’t enough, we also endlessly play the blame and shame game. We either beat ourselves up over something that has or hasn’t happened or we’re blaming someone else for our problems.

Our thoughts create our reality and they also affect our physiology. So many wise people have shared this lesson with us. Robert Sapolsky who has researched stress in humans, says that we are constantly bombarding our bodies with a stress reaction, not from any imminent danger but from the imagined danger our minds have created.

“It isn’t what you have, or who you are, or where you are, or what you are doing that makes you happy or unhappy. It is what you think about.” Dale Carnegie 1888-1955, Author and Speaker

“Your living is determined not so much by what life brings to you as by the attitude you bring to life; not so much by what happens to you as by the way your mind looks at what happens.” Khalil Gibran 1883-1931, Artist, Poet, and Writer

“And every day, the world will drag you by the hand, yelling, “this is important! And this is important! You need to worry about this! And this! And this! And each day, it’s up to you to yank your hand back put it on your heart and say : “No. This is important” Iain Thomas

“As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he.” the Bible

I could go on and on sharing quotes from eminent writers, researchers and philosophers (sorry that I couldn’t find a wise woman quoting on this – they’re out there too!) but I think you get my point.

Start observing your thoughts. This is what mindfulness is all about. We think it’s something vague but actually it’s the most important thing you can do for yourself. Ask yourself: are my thoughts serving me or hindering me? What you focus on really does create your reality.

If they’re hindering you, then there is a good chance that not only are you not very happy but they’re also creating a toxic chemical soup mix in your body. This is at the root of so much physical and mental illness. And it’s something we do have control over. No-one can ‘force’ us to have a certain thought. But they can certainly influence you, if you let them.

By creating an awareness of our thoughts and by focusing on the positive aspects of our lives, we can rewire our brain to see and experience greater positivity.

Do the gratitude exercise as one step towards self-reflection and to creating a brain that is hardwired for positivity. You’ll be amazed at what an affect this will have for your emotional and physical state. Every day focus on 3 things that went well. Feel the gratefulness in your heart. Life is good.

A Reflective Moment

Photo by B. Farrell
I wonder why it seems important to step back at this time of year and reflect over what the year has brought… Somehow I’m drawn to doing this. Even though I know, as in the words of my husband, that ‘every day is the start of a new year’. By the way, believing this really makes New Year’s resolutions obsolete! I can start over every day.

There have been many wonderful moments this year as well as many challenging ‘mistakes’. Personal growth is definitely not a ‘one-stop shop’. It is an ongoing journey.

Many years ago I started on this journey and for the last seven, I haven’t looked back. In 2007 some fairly severe health issues prompted me to take a serious look at how I was (not) handling stressful situations. As I learned and have shared with you, we have the ability to choose our responses. In the words of Stephen R. Covey – we are ‘response-able’. We have the ability to re-set our brains, to trigger a relaxation mechanism in us that none of us have been taught existed. For those of you interested in knowing, this mechanism is called the Parasympathetic Nervous System.

It’s not always easy to practice what I preach: to stay calm, focus on the positive, be solution oriented, avoid the victim role, which by the way, I had gotten quite good at. I Ping-Pong back and forth between knowing what is good for me and still not always doing it.

What I do know is that it is becoming easier to recover quickly, to bounce back after a set-back. My awareness of those things that trigger a reaction in me is much stronger. I have many more peaceful moments than years ago. And I have learned how to live from my heart.

It hasn’t been and will never be, a magical wand effect. However, I do believe that if we can teach our (grand) children how to turn on their relaxation mechanism (and I don’t mean their lazy mechanism), then they will live a life that is less fraught with anger, frustration, irritation, and fear.

If I can give you some words of advice…of course I can give them to you but whether you’ll accept them or not is the BIG question…find a mentor. Find someone who ‘speaks’ to your heart. I have (had) a few of them: Stephen R. Covey, Brené Brown, Byron Katie, Deepak Chopra, Napolean Hill, Maya Angelou, Rick Hanson are just a few I will name here.

Find yours.

“If you want to be enlightened – be around those you can learn from.” Byron Katie

Develop Smart Strategies to Stress Less

Why do we all suffer so much? Why is there so much suffering in the world?

This past week I heard these questions in an interview with Dr. Mark Hyman M.D. It set me to thinking. What happens when we turn these two questions around: How can we thrive? How can we help create a world in which we all can thrive?

In many of the newsletters I’ve sent out over the past 3 plus years, I’ve covered various aspects of this. Somehow these two questions seem to capture the essence of what and why I love to share: developing smart strategies for stressing less.

So much of our behavior is learned and modelled. If that’s the case, then we can learn behavior that is more supportive. Behavior that helps us flourish.

Our brains do have a tendency towards negativity. It’s part of the survival mechanism left over from our primitive ancestors. We had to be constantly on the alert: watchful, assessing the dangers that might be around the next turn in the path. I’ve learned that it is why, as a young woman, I would often think to myself “why is it so easy to be negative, while I have to work to be positive?”.

But there is hope. As Dr. Rick Hanson, a neuropsychologist says: neurons that fire together, wire together. Simply knowing this is already a starting point for change. Start recognizing the patterns of your negative thoughts and to question them.

What you focus on grows. If you focus on the negativity in your life, you’re going to get more of it. Learn to focus on the good things. Be grateful for the slightest kindness someone shows. Respond to a person’s smile. Even if you don’t feel like smiling, just activating the facial muscles triggers a physiological response in your brain. You begin to feel better and to actually feel more like smiling. I think of it as a ‘fake it until you make it’ kind of behavior.

Stressful situations abound. What happens to you when you experience a stressful situation? Do you ruminate on it, mull it over, share it with others, keep it alive? Dr. Hyman mentioned another a pragmatic pearl I’ll share with you here: “Stress finds you. You have to go looking for relaxation.” So go looking for it. Be proactive. Find those things that will help you deal with your stress reaction; that will help make you more resilient to stressful triggers.

Exercise, proper nutrition, breathing effectively, calming music, a shake break, meditation, yoga, laughter, giving – these are just a few of the things that can help you recover from a stressful situation.

Don’t expect the bi-annual vacation or even the weekends to be enough. You need to look for things you can do daily to recover. Things that don’t have to cost a lot of time but have huge payoffs to feeling better.

Make a list for yourself. What are the things you enjoy doing that enhance your feeling of relaxation? Then when you have a fairly complete list, highlight those things that can be done ‘a la minute’. No preparation. No special requirements. You can just ‘be’.

Un-complicate your life and your thinking. Focus on what’s going well. Start rewiring your neural circuitry. It’s going to create a whole different ‘chemical soup mix’ in your body. You will flourish! Try it… you might just like it…

What’s in a smile?

It turns out … a lot! We can turn it up, and turn it on in a split second. It’s an instant pick-me-upper. I don’t feel like smiling, you say? Do it anyway. You will feel better. And if feeling better isn’t on your agenda, then do it to increase your creativity and your logical thinking!

Here’s what else we know about the simple gift of smiling.

It’s a two way street. Not only do we smile when we’re happy, we become happier when we smile. Your brain knows when the smile muscles are activated and can be ‘tricked’ into changing your chemical soup mix into one that has more ‘feel-good’ hormones  and neurotransmitters (like dopamine – the ‘reward’ hormone/neurotransmitter).

An experiment demonstrated this well. Three groups were shown cartoons. One group was holding a pencil in their mouth lengthwise, ‘forcing’ a smile. The second group held the pencil by the tip while pursing their lips, ‘forcing’ a sort of frown. The third group held the pencil in their hand. The first group rated the cartoons the funniest, the third group was somewhere in the middle and you guessed it – the second group with pursed lips rated the cartoons least funny.

Smiling also has a social consequence. When we smile, others around us tend to smile too. Even if our smile isn’t one of genuine happiness, we can feel better with smiling faces surrounding us! Listen to the experience of Alex Lickerman, M.D., who, during his first year of medical school, found himself wondering why most people don’t smile at people they don’t know. He realized that in order to smile genuinely at someone, he first needed to have a ‘real’ feeling for them. For him, smiling at strangers became a small exercise in compassion. He stated in this article: “The benefit of smiling accrues to me as well as to those at whom I’m smiling, however: studies have also shown that feeling just as often follows expression. That is, when we smile, it actually makes us happier, even, it turns out, if our smile is forced.”

Do you need more reasons to smile more often? The research is pretty definitive – a happy worker is a more productive worker. (Research by After building questionnaires, conducting focus groups and compiling results from 3,000 respondents in 79 countries, [the company’s] findings proved that happiness has a distinct advantage over unhappiness. “The happiest employees are 180% more energized than their less content colleagues, 155% happier with their jobs, 150% happier with life, 108% more engaged and 50% more motivated. Most staggeringly, they are 50% more productive too.”

Years ago my husband drew a frown on the ‘brow’ of a happy face stress ball. In meetings, when he was happy with the way things went, he didn’t have to say anything – he just held the ball up with the smiling face shining on everyone. When he wasn’t pleased with the way things were going, all he had to do was hold up the ‘upside down’ frown. He didn’t make it personal, he didn’t have to say a word. Each time he got a laugh from the group. Everyone knew this was a signal to start coming with new ideas. I must say, I still have this happy face ball on my desk. The frown is almost worn away…

Apparently, children smile and laugh up to 300 times per day. Adults, if we’re lucky, reach 15 times. So turn that frown upside down!

Please share your comments and questions in the comments section below.

Thoughts about Thoughts

“As he thinks, so he is; as he continues to think, so he remains.” ― James Allen As a Man Thinketh

Did you know that researchers have estimated we have between 8 and 42 thoughts per minute – upwards of 60,000 thoughts per day?

Did you know that of these thoughts circa 60 – 70 % are repetitive and of these repetitive thoughts, circa 70 – 80 % can have a negativity bias? That is – they are rooted in fear, anger or frustration. This negativity bias is stronger in some than in others. It is a primitive skill that was much needed 20,000 years ago to keep us alive, but not so much now.

Earlier this month, I had the great pleasure to hear Byron Katie speak at a full day workshop. For those of you who don’t know her, she is an American, who upon reaching the depths of depression after a ten-year spiral, realized that by believing her stressful thoughts, she suffered. When she questioned them, questioned their veracity as in, ‘is it true’ or perhaps more emphatically – ‘Is it ABSOLUTELY true’ – then her suffering stopped. She came to understand that hanging on to and believing in her thoughts was keeping her in a highly negative and energy draining state.

For more than 25 years she has been teaching ‘The Work’ . A series of simple questions that can and will alter your life, if you do the work that is. Here are some excerpts from what she shared that day, that I want to share with you. In some cases I might have missed a word or two but the essence of her meaning is intact.

“Why do we have worrying thoughts? Because we do!”

“The thought I’m thinking now is the only proof I’ve got. It’s only my proof when I believe it.”

“I can’t detach from what I’m thinking as long as I believe what I am thinking.”

“Identify your thoughts and question those thoughts.”

“Have you ever said something in the moment you believe is true, but maybe later didn’t believe it? Others do this too.”

“Thoughts are recycled – we all experience all of them – we pass them on as long as we believe them. They are not unique to you.” (She had just asked the audience if the thought believed by the person she was speaking with on stage, was one that we all had experienced – several hundred hands went up in the room)

“Don’t run the other person’s life from out of your own head.”

“I can’t know what another is feeling or thinking – it’s all projection.”

“Who would you be without that thought?” (my answer = FREE!)

“How do I react when I believe the thought ‘my children don’t listen to me’ ? With guilt, anger, punishment?”

“Welcome every opportunity for anger, frustration, etc. because it tells you there is still work to be done.”

“Angry human beings are frightened human beings but rather than offer them compassion we give them more of the same.”

“No-one can make me angry – what I’m believing about them is making me angry.”

“Don’t think for the other person – are you psychic?”

I hope these ‘tidbits’ have given you food for thought. There are many more I noted during the 6 hours she spoke. Remember to check in with yourself. Not all of your thoughts are always true. Question your thoughts and ask if they are REALLY true or are they based on fear or projection (assumptions).

As a teenager and young adult, I remember saying to myself (and others) “why is it so easy to be negative while I have to work at being positive?” Knowing what I do now, I understand why I had that thought and that belief. However, by repeating it and believing in it, I also understand that it ‘made’ it true for me.

Chronic negativity is energy draining. It drains our resources and our resourcefulness. Neural scientists have discovered in these last years that the brain is ‘plastic’. It is very adaptable. We can and do create new neural pathways until the day we die. Optimism can be learned and developed. I challenge you to do this.

To find out more about Byron Katie visit her website here. You can download a pdf file of the Four Questions here 

To subscribe to Creating coherent heart Waves newsletter please click here.

photo Mirjam Willaert

Please share your comments and questions in the comments section below.