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  1. Blog post - Beyond Fight Flight

    Your heart rate increases, your palms get sweaty, your attention becomes intensely focused on the danger….  It’s your body’s response to a physical threat, designed to keep you alive, and it’s not very pleasant.  Almost every stress-related book, article and website which I’ve read (and there have been a lot!) talks about fight-or-flight, examining its effects, and the potential damage they can do if that stress persists for too long.  But that’s only part of the story. 

    Very few of those resources explore how we've evolved beyond flight-or-flight – our alternative responses to stress, which can be altogether more helpful.  The challenge response is what you experience when that stress is about something which really matters.  The exam you want to pass, the presentation you want to ace, the setback you’re determined to bounce back from, the Olympic medal you want to win.

    Its biology is similar to fight-or-flight – your heart speeds up, your senses are heightened.  But your heart also beats more strongly and your blood vessels stay more open, so your whole system gets more oxygen, which increases your physical energy.  And it feels focused rather than fearful.   Top performers know how to channel this response – a sprinter stepping up to the start line for the Olympic 100m final, is not feeling calm and relaxed.  They have a really strong challenge response to the stress they’re under, and they use that stress to perform.

    Reframing those physical symptoms, to recognise them as helpful rather than disruptive, has been scientifically proven to improve performance in a range of stressful tasks, including public speaking and Maths tests.  And as well as improving your performance, it also increases your ability to learn and grow from that stress, even if it’s something you’d rather not have experienced. 

    So take a few minutes to reflect – what situations kick off your challenge response, and how does it help you to perform?  Because by being more aware, and ditching that all-stress-is-bad label, there might be ways that you can use that response to perform even better.

    Want to get more from your thinking?  To get my weekly tips and techniques go to  

  2. Blog Post - Mood Hoover

    Picture the scene….  You’ve just got into work, feeling good about the day ahead and ready to get started.  Then in walks that person.  The one who, no matter how hard you try to be optimistic, seems to find the downside of everything.  And suddenly the room seems a little darker.  Maybe you only need to see their name in your inbox for your stomach to knot slightly. 

    Do you have a mood hoover?  Someone who can make anything into a drama, or a monumental challenge.  Someone who can drain away a buoyant mood in seconds, leaving you feeling deflated….?

    Stopping them from making you feel bad doesn’t have to be complicated, and you don’t have to avoid the person.  

    I had a colleague whose whole life was ‘Woe is me’.  She liked to create the impression that she was tough and gutsy, but if complaining was a sport, she could compete for England; and she wasn’t easy to avoid.  I genuinely tried to be a supportive, friendly ear.  But it became quite frustrating to have every positive suggestion batted away like an irritating fly.  She wanted was attention, not support.  It became exhausting.  

    So after one particularly draining conversation, I took a few quiet minutes to ask my inner creative how best to have her not bother me.  Up she popped in my mind’s eye, but instead of being in the room with me, there she was on a big screen.  I could still clearly see and hear her, but she wasn’t there in person.  And I let it play for a while – seeing her in broadcast mode, completely unresponsive to anything I’d offered to the conversation.  My energy came right back up, and I felt so much better.

    And the next time I saw her?  All those negative effects were gone.  She was just a person, broadcasting.  Those few minutes imagining had completely changed the way I felt.  What will your creative come up with, to deflect the effects of your mood hoover?

    Want to get more from your thinking?  To get my weekly tips and techniques go to  

  3. Blog Post - To Do List

    A good list avoids the overload of thinking of too many things at once, so you can focus on what you’re doing AND get the satisfaction of crossing off each thing as it’s done.  BUT what if there’s something lurking which still doesn’t get done?  My warning signal is when a ‘to do’ gets transferred from one week’s list to the next.  Oh dear. 

    Because you start feeling guilty.  To resent that thing for still hanging around.  To find excuses for still not doing it.  That’s when it helps to tap into a bit of imagination.  If you’ve got a ‘To Do’ that’s been hanging around for a while, this might help….

  4. Blog Post - All-Knowing

    If you’re Derren Brown, reading someone’s mind is pretty useful.  But most of us are nowhere near that good at it, and trying to second guess what other people are thinking can get exhausting. 

    Gary had been wrestling with social anxiety for over a year.  He worried about what people might be thinking of him - he’d scan the room, looking for the slightest indicators, feeling like everyone was inwardly judging him.  It made him so anxious that it was easier to just stay home.  

    As we started to pick it apart, he realised that he’s not that important.  When he walked into a crowd of strangers he wasn’t the immediate focus of everyone’s attention, even if that’s how it felt.  So we worked out how to stop him projecting his own thoughts on to other people.  He imagined being inside an enormous bubble, completely transparent from the outside.  When someone gave him their attention – speaking with him, smiling (or even frowning), he’d notice.

    But his imaginary bubble had intelligence, and when he started to think for someone else, its inner surface became reflective.  He’d see a mental image of himself, reflected on that surface, setting a new mind pattern to notice when he was second-guessing someone else.  He saw that mind-image only a few times before the thinking-for-others stopped all by itself.  After many months of avoiding it, he got straight back to socialising with his friends, and never looked back.

    Want to get more from your thinking?  To get my weekly tips and techniques go to    

  5. Blog post - Notice Abuot

    Was it the spelling mistake?  Your attention’s naturally drawn to what’s not right.  Unfortunately, it’s probably the same with your experience of stress - you notice the stresses which make you uncomfortable, glossing over those which give you energy instead of draining it away.

    But not all stress is bad. 

    Our stress response evolved to get us to act, and though those action-prompting stresses might not be ones you’d have chosen, you often grow from them.  The things many people find most stressful – being a parent or a leader, running their own business, or supporting someone close through tough times – are the exact same experiences which give life the most meaning.  Because we only get stressed about what matters. 

    Trying to manage stress focuses you on the disruptive stresses, just like you focused on the mis-spelled word, skipping over all the others.  Unfortunately, by focusing your attention on the problem stresses, you’re likely to notice more of them, making you feel even more stressed.

    But that noticing effect can work in your favour too.  The more direct your attention towards what’s working, the more of those useful stresses you’ll start to notice.  It can put you back to feeling in control instead of on the ropes against whatever life’s throwing at you.  So what’s already working, and what could you tweak to get even more of it?

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