Sunday, February 14, 2021



In all my years of working with emotions and stress, this last year has been the most bizarre. However, no matter how strange the circumstances or how unnerving our experiences, we are still the same human beings with the same brains and biology, and the importance of understanding and managing our own emotions remains unchanged. 


In the first lockdown I created a video of ten tips for dealing with anxiety, fear, overwhelm and other stress-producing emotions. As vaccine roll-outs and numbers going down create a light of hope, our emotions are no longer as fear-driven. However, after experiencing such a disturbing and for many, traumatic year, our resilience has been sorely tested and our emotions are just as, if not more stress-producing. So, the tips apply equally; they are all practical and they work. The video is still available on my Youtube channel here.


Regardless of which unpleasant emotions you may have felt or be feeling, consider changing your view of those emotions as negative, instead letting go of any judgment of your emotions.

To help with this, here are some statements to ponder and even apply, and for some, a few reminders to help you and your loved ones emotionally with the next months of 2021 – whatever those months may bring!


‘Negative’ Feelings Don’t Exist

Actually, there are no ‘negative’ emotions, because all emotions are ‘messages’ and meant to serve a purpose. Your fears and negative conditioning (from the past and often from childhood) are what judge your feelings as negative or unwanted. Whenever this occurs, you can feel disconnected and disempowered,

Through becoming open to exploring and understanding another view of your emotions, you can recognize how each “negative” feeling you experience is actually giving you information that’s meant to inform and guide you, often to make a change or to tune into someone else’s perspective.


Let Go and BE with Your Feelings

A typical way most of us try to deal with our negative emotions is to resist them - try to control, rise above, ignore, or somehow free ourselves from them- all of which are actually dissociating actions. 

While it is natural to want to distance ourselves from what we don’t like, when we do, we also disconnect from the self-criticism or shame we subconsciously may feel about ourselves, which then leads us to begin justifying why we feel the way we do, including blaming others or external circumstances. Ironically, this will keep us increasingly attached to the painful emotion and can create an endless loop of distress.


You Can Choose What You Feel

However, once you identify and name what you feel, you can instead make the choice to breathe with it and allow the anxious ‘voice’ of that negative emotion to fully surface Then write it all down. By writing down the emotion messages, your inner critic will ‘feel heard’, which means the mental chatter will dramatically reduce and may even dissolve completely. 


Listen to the Wisdom of Your Uncomfortable Feeling

Once you have allowed the unpleasant mental chatter to feel heard, your innate wisdom will have the chance to surface. Shift your focus to your heart area and breathe slowly, lengthening the exhale. Ask yourself: What does my inner wisdom want to say? What is my emotion trying to show me? Whatever comes to you, write it down. It may be something you can act on – in which case, do!


No Lockdown on Connection!

Moving through your own emotions in this way, makes it easier to reach out to others, (through whatever means you have in these strange times!), and there is no lockdown on emotional connection with others! 


A silver lining that seems to have appeared from the gloominess of this pandemic, at least for many of my clients and I’m sure others, is an improved ‘work-life balance’ as many are spending less time working and travelling, and more time with family or finding ways to ‘connect’ (flowers, phone calls, even letter writing!) 


Connecting with other people, -whether on screen with friends or loved ones, or just a smile with your eyes to the postman-, is one of the most important, healing, and helpful application of emotional mastery. From a neuroscience perspective, connecting with others (even just in a phone call) will release the neuropeptide oxytocin, also known as the ‘bonding hormone’.  This downregulates feelings of distress even in ‘micro-moments’ of connection. Since our emotional health and ability to manage all the current stress is irrevocably linked to our immune system and ability to fight disease, ….  well, enough said!


Stay safe and well – and may your connections become easier and easier!




Sunday, July 5, 2020


Coming out of this strange state of ‘lockdown’, not knowing whether we’ll be ‘sent back into it again’ or able to keep moving into a more familiar state of being and living, the significance of the brain and how our past experiences have ‘wired’ us for resilience, becomes key.

As I have mentioned in Blogs before, the part of the brain often referred to as the Executive Brain, that top-heavy front part called the Pre Frontal Cortex, defines us as humans. It is gradually developed from birth up to the age of about 24, and is shaped to a great degree based on our experiences (and responses to them), and to the 'programming' we receive. This part of the brain gives us a multitude of abilities, including contributing significantly to our 
resilience and our abilities to;
  • Stay calm under pressure and manage fear
  • Manage our impulses
  • Motivate ourselves – be able to generate positive emotions under stress and stay on course, even with setbacks
  • Adapt and be flexible – be able to roll with the punches
  • Have transparency – act from our values rather than just having a trendy vision statement
  • Develop Emotional intelligence – to understand and self-regulate our emotions in order to gain the best, most insightful perspective
  • Have ‘big-picture’ insight –to be aware of the present, look backward at the past, and have a vision of the future, simultaneously (mental time-travel J)
  • Feel empathy – be able to step into someone else’s shoes and see their viewpoint without your own agenda getting in the way
  •  Become attuned to other people – ultimately making them more likely to feel trusting and loyal towards us
  • Act according to values and ethics – imagining and in-acting the greater good, above and beyond our own personal satisfaction
  • Trust intuition – be able to process gut feeling and heart-felt sense and use in an appropriate way to inform decisions

Of course we’re not necessarily automatically good at any of these – for most of us it takes a bit of effort and quite frequently, a lot of work! SO what are the most recent findings that can make all this easier, to both understand and apply?

1. First of all, your personal (and professional) growth work can change your brain! 
It can be helpful to know that neuroscience and psychology have significant overlaps with each other as well as with ancient contemplative practices – (Mindfulness being a ‘modern’ version and the most commonly quoted). When you apply techniques such as the Applied Emotional Mastery (AEM) techniques and practices, you are not only helping yourself and your actions or relationships short-term, you are also actually changing the very structure of your brain, thereby impacting your life long-term. Neuroscientists can now shows us clearly that repeated emotional and mental activity entail repetition of neural (brain) activity which builds actual neural structures. It is said that neurons that fire together, wire together. This means that the more you for example feel compassion for yourself and others, the more you will be inclined to feel compassionate in situations when you previously might have found it difficult. Conversely, the more you allow yourself to feel put upon or resentful (and justify feeling that way), the more hardwired this becomes and the more predisposed you become to feeling this way in response to a variety of situations.

2. Secondly, all humans have a bias towards negativity. (It’s not just you!) Our ancestors, trying to survive cave life, would understandably place more importance on avoiding sticks than pursuing carrots. The result is that our brains are wired to pay most attention to anything that feels even remotely threatening or disturbing. In our memory bank there is a preferential ‘coding’ that makes us learn faster from pain than pleasure and be more motivated by fear of loss than by desire for gain. (This explains a lot!)

To make positive changes that give lasting benefit and become permanent traits it is not quite enough to merely think positively. We need to download it – (think of it as just like installing or downloading a program onto your computer versus just viewing a link) – and that involves emotions. To ‘download’ or install anything positive requires both repetition and prolonged experience, allowing the integration of the ‘new’ emotional experience or perspective in your brain to become traits –the desired change to become ‘hardwired’– making increased resilience, inner strength, and other desired qualities permanent.

SO: here’s a couple of tips/reminders to help you install an increased state of well-being:

A short, 5 minute meditation integrated into your daily routine (you can find several in the Multi-media section of our website or on our YouTube channel) will activate the ‘Executive’ circuits in the brain.

To recover from too many stress-hormones and build resilience, we need to generate those hormones that give us a much-needed balance, including endorphins. We do this best by RELISHING the good feelings and experiences we have. When you are enjoying something, savour it. The longer you keep that feeling of appreciation or relishing going, the more the neurons keep firing together and the more chance there is of the neurons wiring together. For example, on your way to work and enjoying the blue sky and sunshine, keep enjoying it. Stop your wandering mind by bringing it back to how good it feels to really appreciate the sunny morning, RELISH AND ABSORB THE GOOD FEELING!  Install it!

Stay safe and well!  - and may your self-mastery increase by the day J

Sunday, February 16, 2020


I am endlessly fascinated by that playing football is considered a training ground for leadership, but raising children isn’t.” So said political analyst Dee Dee Myers and indeed, this is a fascinating observation because leadership and parenting are possibly the two roles that are most similar in requirements for success.

Take a well-known quote about parenting; “There are two lasting bequests we can give our children; one is roots and the other is wings.” Replace the word children with employees and it holds equal value. Or a quote about leadership: “Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. Once you’re a leader, success is all about growing others.” Replace ‘leader’ with parent’ and again, snap!

Recognising our influence on those we lead or guide is the key to both parenting and leadership – and we influence both children and employees on several levels, three in fact. First of all, with what we do and what we say.  If what we say isn’t consistent with what we do, most of us can recognise that we create confusion and incoherence. In other words, we know that the old maxim “do what I say, not what I do!” is obsolete and doesn’t work. Whatever we say, especially to anyone we have influence over –a child or an employee– needs to be followed up by action that is congruent with our spoken words. If not, the result is a loss of respect - with often dire consequences. As if this isn’t challenging enough, there is a third element to take into consideration, and that is how we feel.

When what we feel is inconsistent with either of the other two, it will influence our thinking and our behaviour, no matter how controlled we think we are! It will also be picked up by the other person, and we can never fully know just how sensitive he or she is. The result? Insecurities and a sense of in-authenticity will begin to permeate the relationship, - whether that relationship is with your child, employee or indeed with anyone.

The key to avoiding this –or resolving it if you think you are already inconsistent– is to first ensure you are fully aware of what you are feeling, of any underlying emotions, and then manage those emotions so that they either a) become consistent with your outward communication OR b) if appropriate, you find a positive way to align your actions with your true feelings.

This is obviously, for most of us, easier said than done! Personally, I found it to be a huge challenge early on in life and went through many years of searching and working on myself to gain my own emotional mastery (I’m still ‘a work in progress’!) Raising my own daughter as well as running several companies, it has never ceased to amaze me that such an important life-skill is not given us at the same time as we learn ‘please’, ‘thank-you’, and reading and writing.

As a result, I have made it my life’s mission to help others, especially those who lead, guide and raise others, to learn to identify, understand and manage emotions – their own and those they influence. And the core skills and abilities are the same for both leaders and parents!

Fortunately, I get plenty of help from the copious amounts of relatively recent research findings, from both neuroscience and decades of studies in psychology, evidence that consistently shows just how significant managing our emotions –developing our emotional intelligence– is to not only our own success, but also to our capacity for positively influencing others and for successful, healthy, sustainable relationships, be they with our children, those we lead, or anyone we wish to make a positive difference to!

Wednesday, July 31, 2019


             We don’t listen. Really, we don’t. Listening requires us to be fully present, and if there is one thing that seems to have become increasingly difficult to do, it’s to be fully present, and therefore to fully listen. In her book Alone Together, researcher and psychologist Sherry Turkle shares her findings that children are complaining more about parents not listening to them than they have ever done. The increased pressures of life appear to have shortened our attention spans significantly, reducing our ability to focus on just one thing at a time. If someone who is speaking to us doesn’t get straight to the point we lose interest and pull out our phone ‘just to check’; we check our devices for social media updates or emails if the film we’re watching has a lull in it, and we text while we’re giving our child instructions on their schedule, all the while convincing ourselves that we are really good at multitasking, when what we are actually getting good at, is doing nothing very well. 

            While we have gained convenience and an ease of connecting that we couldn’t even dream of a generation ago, we seem to be losing the ability for being fully present with someone, for giving all our attention to listening and understanding so that the person feels heard and felt. The erosion of this ability is taking its toll on all relationships, but especially our relationships with our children.

            The breakdown of listening as an ability or skill is also evident inside our own minds where we are ‘multitasking’ while supposedly listening to someone. Although we hear what is being said, we are simultaneously assessing the part that resonated most, even judging it, and framing our own reply while a multitude of other thoughts that have nothing at all to do with the conversation are running rampant in our head; what we’re having for dinner, the traffic report, the shopping list we forgot, the missed phone call and all the emails we have to write as soon as we can get back to our device. I certainly cannot listen successfully in this way, nor can anyone else I have ever met, yet we all continue to attempt to listen and multitask simultaneously as if it were actually possible, then wonder why we have so many misunderstandings and challenges in our communications and capacity to understand each other.

            To truly listen requires attention, willingness to place our own issues aside, and respect. It requires that we give the speaker (even if she is just a toddler) our full and focused attentiveness, that we are willing to untether ourselves from any agenda we might have while we listen, and that we respect the speaker enough to consider his or her expressions seriously. Unfortunately, because this doesn’t happen much today, we experience and witness endless frustrations, misinterpretations, misunderstandings, disagreements, arguments and conflicts in every area of life on an extraordinary, and I would posit unmatched, level.  In families, corporations, organisations, groups, and relationships of every kind, the failure to listen well is rampant and regrettably also forms the basis of assumptions that underlie many important decisions that are made on all levels of society –assumptions that were made because we didn’t take the time, nor did we have the focus, to listen well.

            Learning to listen well and be fully present is a critical skill, and one that we need to give a lot more priority to developing, more now than ever. Learning to master our own emotions is key. The more we are masters of our own emotional state –in other words, the better we can manage our own feelings and stress– the better equipped we are to listen and understand others, especially our children well. It is a significant gain that results from developing the self-awareness and capacity for self-management that is emotional intelligence, and that Applied Emotional Mastery facilitates.

Saturday, March 30, 2019

ARE WE HARDWIRED FOR FOMO - or is it a choice?

We are hard-wired for connection. Recent findings show that when we feel social pain – a snub, a rejection or an unkind word – our emotional experience is as real as physical pain. Unfortunately, in our so-called Western culture we tend to venerate independence, often rejecting the notion of connecting with and relying on one another for emotional well-being – the very connection we are wired to need. But the findings are irrefutable: we are wired to be social beings, and that means interdependence.

What we mean by ‘wired’ is that there is a network of neurons in the brain that facilitates our connection with each other. It is biological. This neural network was discovered by psychiatrist and neurologist Constantin von Economo in 1926 as part of his research into neuroanatomy. He discovered two unusually long neurons in the prefrontal cortex (front of the brain), and that these neurons extend all the way into the gut. There they inform our instinctive social responses, such as when we automatically respond to cues like a smile of recognition or a familiar voice, a scowl of displeasure or a cry of pain.

This neural network also drives out need for social connection and acknowledgment, which brings me to the all too prevalent FOMO (fear of missing out). Although there are many theories as to why our current-day internet use – particularly social media – appears to be so addictive, this neural network we all have, suggests that it’s not the internet per se that is addictive, but the compulsion to connect, to avoid feeling alone, excluded, or out of the loop. The resulting anxiety that appears to becoming a problem we cannot ignore, is driven by this primal drive to connect and essentially have our existence recognised by others. Social media is feeding this instinct with instantaneous reward (or not) that keeps us checking in with increasing frequency such that we never get to fully recover before we feel the need to check again. This is the addictive cycle that, although originally stemming from a perfectly natural neural wiring, becomes imbalanced, perpetuating anxiety and stress – sadly much of which is the result of imagined rejection.

Combatting this by giving more priority to actual human connection will go some way to restoring the balance. All ‘in person’ contact with other human beings triggers biochemical responses, at every level of our bodies and brains. Electrically and chemically. Both the heart and the brain picks up signals as well as transmitting them. Within 12 feet of another person, our bodies start to pick up emotional energy from another person, layered by our own beliefs, memories, judgments and narratives we imagine, based on how we ourselves are feeling. In less than a millisecond we determine whether we feel defensive towards the person or trust the person, and whether he or she may add value to the interaction or conversation we are about to embark upon.

This ‘real-life’ way is how we are designed to connect and to develop relationships and (hopefully) healthy interdependences. Fully present, focused interaction, appreciating and savouring our connection with the other person, releases endorphins which counteract the addictive quick-fix reward-dopamine cycle, creating more balance and quality of relationship. Our capacity to ‘tune in’ to others, in person, also helps us to empathise and generate compassion and other balancing and self-regulating emotions that make us more fully present with those very connections we yearn for. The result is a healthier, happier and actually considerably more connected life.

A few practical tips:

Check the ‘Social’ in Screen-Time: 99% of the time, the reason for checking social media frequently is that, deep down, you just want to connect. Remind yourself of this each time you reach for your device; the connections you make there are largely superficial. Pause and ask yourself whether it will bring you closer to or further away from real-life connections?

Hacking real-life connection: Can your next use of social media be to foster your real-life relationships (i.e. arranging to meet for a coffee, or organise a gathering?) Try to avoid passively scanning feeds or engaging in social comparisons. Instead, explore how you can use technology more to deepen real-life connections: to spread happiness, gratitude, compassion, and the well-being that comes from in-person communication.

Check-in with Yourself: Throughout your day, at regular intervals, (for example whenever you reach for your phone) take your attention into your body and ask yourself what you feel. Identify the emotion, and the associated tension or felt sense. Let your body ‘tell you’.

Let it Be: Allow yourself to identify a feeling-word or an image to describe your body’s sensation. Accept it, and breathe into it. And only then, let it go – exhale and allow the tension to drop away. Then ask yourself if the emotion is telling you something you need to act on or maybe it’s not working for you? Do you need to change the way you feel (rather than escaping from it into technology)?

Choose it or ‘Lose it’: Use technology to help you choose how you feel rather than allowing tech to control you. Sign up for apps that help you get centred and activate that inner smile: Headspace is a good one to start with, as are the HeartMath apps, and Happify. Better still, use a journal and pen and write to process your emotions and thoughts.

The Real 5-2 Fast; a list of tips such as these cannot exist without the suggestion to take a technology fast. There is so much evidence now to show that regularly disconnecting from tech is good for your health and happiness that I will not elaborate much. Suffice it to say studies show it can improve your concentration, reduce stress and anxiety, and increase your overall well-being and mental health. Try giving yourself limits such as no devices by the table or in the bedroom. Better yet, turn them all off at the weekend, so you get 2 social-media-free days for every 5 you use! I promise you, it will make a significant improvement to your well-being and the well-being of all your connections and relationships.