Archives For Shirley

Time to Talk

February 7, 2019 — Leave a comment

As a practising counsellor I feel I want to encourage people to have better conversations about mental health. But the phrase ‘time to talk’ is so well used now that I wonder what we mean by it.

I remember when I first returned to live in England how I had to concentrate on the person I was speaking to figure out when they were genuinely interested in what I was saying and when they were just being polite. The difference between the two and the subtlety with which it is communicated affects us all.

So perhaps we can: –

Decide that – it’s time to talk

Create space – to talk

Choose a time – to talk

Communicate a desire – to talk

Show up, listen, empathise and not judge.  The people we connect to will appreciate it.

Most of us spend large parts of our day multitasking; at home, whilst travelling, at work, in meetings, with family and with friends.

What if we could create time to listen to ourselves? Is our self-talk supporting us or hindering us?

We too need the non-judgemental supportive space we create for others.

Through one-to-one counselling and writing workshops I try to provide this space for others.

I also provide such time for myself as often as possible. Whether I am walking between appointments or having a relaxing bath I allow myself space to be mindfully present and listen to what is going on inside me.

Let’s find ways to really talk to each other and to actually listen to ourselves. Each of us deserves to be heard.

 

 

(First published in TODAY Magazine, no longer online)

I bought this book around the start of 2018 when I try to face the new year and make decisions about what I’d like to do the next twelve months. Like many of you, I acquire stuff. At some point we need to look at our stuff and whether they are adding to our happiness. Many studies show that happiness is not about stuff but relationships and experiences.  With this knowledge I stumbled upon this book and decided to buy it.

 

Having read Marie Kondo’s book, I think it could help you if you have too much or even if you feel you don’t have enough. She has created what she calls the KonMari Method of organising where she asks her clients to really look at and touch the stuff in their lives and see how they feel. Her basic advice is to keep the stuff that brings you joy. Of course there are exceptions such as insurance documents, appliance guarantees and simple tools.

 

So why bother to do this life audit? Well the theory is that once we’ve let go of things we are carrying from the past we can free ourselves to live fully in the present and become clearer about our priorities. I found myself agreeing with this quote:” the space in which we live should be for the person we are becoming, not for the person we were in the past”. I know this through my counselling work where I  support people in discovering the person they envision themselves to be.

 

So what does she promise you will achieve by tidying? From her decades of doing this work and her hundreds of clients she has come up with some findings:

  • Put your house in order and discover what you really want to do
  • Gain confidence in life through the magic of tidying
  • Less attachment to the past or anxiety about the future
  • Learn that you can do without
  • Your living space affects your body – lighter, cleaner, fitter
  • Being surrounded by things that bring you joy makes you happy

 

KonMari Method promises that by using her method of tidying you will only need to tidy once and this will free up more time for living. Certainly the constant light tidying is what made me pick up this book because I knew I needed an idea that went deeper.

 

The method encourages you to discard stuff that are not important and don’t bring joy.  She knows that if we start with sentimental items then we’ll get side-tracked so she offers an approach that leaves the sentimental items near the end of the process. Clothes, books and paperwork are tidied, then komono (misc items) and finally sentimental items such as gifts and photos. You’d have to buy the book to check out her detailed guidance, including using shoe boxes for storage and tips for organise your wardrobe so you can find anything easily. This book is not for you if you are content to be surrounded by things you can’t find and don’t bring you joy. I’ve just taken my first steps with this. Let me know what you think in the comments below.

 

Shirley Anstis

The miracles in nature

(First published in TODAY Magazine, no longer online)

I approach this review with some ambivalence. Like many of you I am exploring ways to live my best life and fulfil my potential. On the other hand, we can ask too much of ourselves and maybe we’re already doing enough. Read this review with your own life in mind so you can take from it what is helpful and leave what is not.

 

In the free video on his website the author speaks of how the financial crash of 2008 brought him to rock bottom and made him look at his life anew. In an attempt to study the lives of successful people, he stumbled upon their top habits. The book is essentially different ways of sharing these habits alongside research and case studies.

 

One of the challenges for me is the linking of these habits to early rising. The idea is that you carry out these 6 habits on rising every day, before breakfast, work or taking children to school! For many of us that requires a big shift in mindset and, getting to bed quite early the night before. Certainly, there are studies that show early rising helps us to be more efficient although late risers point to contradictory evidence.

 

What then are these six habits that you can do every day to help you achieve your potential? The author has chosen the  memorable mnemonic S.A.V.E.R.S. The letters stand for Silence, Affirmations, Visualisation, Exercise, Reading and Scribing. He believes that doing these daily improves discipline, clarity and personal development. He calls these life savers and they can support physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual development.

 

You may already do some of these. Many successful people exercise daily. Some of us may read from a religious text or another book. Reading is not just about reading on social media but choosing content to help steer our day. Silence can include things such as meditation and prayer. The benefits of scribing – or keeping a journal – is overwhelming and I can explore that another time.

 

Affirmations and visualisations are probably the least known aspects of these 6 habits although we now know that many successful Olympians use both. Affirmations are about replacing fear and worry with more positive thoughts. Visualisations are imagining the positive outcomes you desire. I came across visualisations on my counselling training and sometimes make use of these in individual and group sessions; they can be powerful.

 

The miracle morning is a simple idea. The author wants us to know that after a 30-day trial it will become a habit. One of my cheats is listening to audiobooks so I can listen on the move or whilst doing tasks. I know that one of my fellow counsellors sprinkles the habits throughout her day. You can also experiment in doing it for one minute each to total 6 minutes. It’s just another way to make small changes in your life. How does this sound to you?

 

Shirley Anstis

 

Many people would like to write a book, but few put in the effort to achieve this.  

Would you like to write your book?

Do you have a story to tell? Have you had interesting experiences in your life that others might enjoy reading about?

Have you witnessed things you’d like others to celebrate or avoid?

Do you have a message that you would like to put into the world? 

Writing Your Story

Come and meet local authors who have taken the plunge and written several books. You might be motivated to record your life story and gift it to family and friends or

publish your learnings for sale to the wider community. This could also be a way to demonstrate your expertise. You may want to share your passion for a particular place

or experience. The possibilities are endless, you decide your theme and focus.

Come and join several authors who will talk about their experience of writing their books. Our speakers include authors Una Chandler, Cecily Mwaniki, Keith Seville and

Shirley Anstis. You will also explore the steps you need to take to get your book completed. Join others on a similar journey and be encouraged in the process.

We begin where you are and help you plan the route ahead.

 

 

 

 

 

It is only for people with mental health problems

You may think that there are people who have mental health problems and others who do not, but the truth is that we all have mental health and any one of us could experiences challenges in this area. Mental health is on a continuum and during our lifetime we can be located on different positions as it is not a static thing. Of course, we can build up resilience but sometimes we break because we refuse to bend. Statistics in the U.K show that 1 in 4 of us will have a mental health challenge during our lifetime. If that is not you it will be someone you know.

It is only for those on the verge of a breakdown

Some people think they need to be on the verge of a breakdown to seek help but that is not so. Therapy allows you to explore the shape of the life you live and how that fits with who you feel you are on the inside. The mere fact of exploring this could be preventative and therefore make a breakdown much less likely to occur.

Everyone has mental health

 

Therapists only look backwards, never forwards

There is a view that therapists are only concerned with the clients’ childhood. Whilst childhood is important in many approaches there are some schools in therapy that create healing through being in the present or by focusing attention on finding solutions to the current problem and so create a better future. I practice an integrative approach which gives space to all of these time phases.

One size fits all

This imagines that all clients are the same and can be worked with in the same way. Yet every professional knows that their clients are different in small and important ways and in order to serve them well we need to be in tune with that diversity. Some clients might be on medication, some might be in support groups and others could be in full-time employment. We could all benefit from taking some time out to reflect on our life choices and consider making beneficial changes.

They’re all the same

People resistant to getting help or those believing they can’t be helped might turn to an experience where they tried to get help and it didn’t work out. This may even be second hand information because they had a friend who was not helped as expected. By imagining that all therapists are the same (not individual humans) they do not need to open themselves up to trying again and possibly finding someone that is a better match to their personality and story. If you choose a therapist in line with your world view, then you’re more likely to find a fit and build the trust required to explore the issues.

Do any of these misconceptions chime with you or do you have a few others not covered here? I’d love to know what you think so please leave a comment below

Daring Greatly by Brene Brown

DARING GREATLY

How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent and Lead

By Dr. Brené Brown

In this bestselling book Brené uses decades of human research to dispel the myth that vulnerability is a weakness. The blurb on the back of the book puts it like this – “Daring Greatly is the culmination of twelve years of ground-breaking social research …It is an invitation to be courageous; to show up and let ourselves be seen, even when there are no guarantees.” This is about showing up and letting ourselves be seen, imperfect though we are. She says that being vulnerable is not a choice. The choice is only how much we engage with our vulnerability, from courage and clarity of purpose on the one hand to fear and disconnection on the other.

All her research showed that those who dared to engage with their vulnerability lived more wholehearted or full lives. Her 10 guideposts for wholehearted living are:

  1. Letting go of what people think
  2. Letting go of perfectionism
  3. Letting go of numbing and powerlessness
  4. Cultivating gratitude and joy
  5. Cultivating intuition and trusting faith
  6. Letting go of comparison
  7. Letting go of exhaustion as a status symbol and productivity as self-worth
  8. Cultivating calm and stillness
  9. Cultivating meaningful work
  10. Cultivating Laughter, Song and Dance

The participants’ willingness to be vulnerable could be seen as the catalyst for their courage, compassion and connection. But why do so many of us find it difficult to engage with our vulnerability?

Brené uncovers many of the reasons and discusses these with research evidence, examples and anecdotes. For example, if we have been or expect to be shamed then we won’t risk being seen. If we’re only measured by what we know then we won’t reveal who we are. If we see being ordinary as shameful then we make up a bigger life for ourselves to feel worthy of love and belonging.  She spends some time talking about scarcity when we believe we are never – good/perfect/thin/rich/successful/smart – enough! So we’re caught in this space of comparing ourselves to others, feeling ashamed of who we are and then disengaging from meaningful relationships.

In this book Brené goes on to show that “to feel is to be vulnerable.” She defines vulnerability as “uncertainty, risk and emotional exposure”.

During her research she asks participants to share times when they felt vulnerable and these are a few of the responses: Standing up for myself, sharing an unpopular opinion, asking for help, starting my own business, saying “I love you” first, getting fired, falling in love, getting promoted and not knowing if I’m going to succeed, admitting I’m afraid, the first date after my divorce, being accountable and asking for forgiveness. For many it was about letting go of control, scary but liberating.

The book goes on to explore understanding and combating shame so that we are freer to be ourselves and the options become more than hide ourselves, please others or fight them. We are good at keeping busy, avoiding and numbing ourselves – most of the time we don’t know how we feel. She goes on to show how we can increase our feelings of worthiness, connection and belonging whilst combating feelings of shame. These are applied to men and women, couples, families and the workplace. I recommend this book if you would like to dare greatly and live a wholehearted life.

Shirley Anstis

 

 

 

This week

November 13, 2016
Autumnal walk

Autumnal walk

It’s been a challenging week for so many people in big and small ways. We’re all struggling to find our place in a rapidly changing and uncertain world. This is a good poem to return to again and again.

Desiderate

Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible, without surrender, be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others,
even to the dull and ignorant; they too have their story.

Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter,
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.

Keep interested in your own career, however humble;
it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs, for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;
many persons strive for high ideals,
and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be yourself. Especially do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love;
for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is as perennial as the grass.
Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.
But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.

Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself.
You are a child of the universe no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be.
And whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life,
keep peace with your soul. With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.
By Max Ehrmann

I love this time of year as we leave winter and step into spring. The temperature warms up and the sun seems brighter.

As the weather changes I tend to get lots of ideas of what I want to change and improve but I’m never sure where to start. This year it feels right that I focus on creating space by getting rid of what I no longer want, and making space for what I want more of. So often we seek better yet insist on staying connected to the “not good enough”.  Things can only gain hold where there is space to embed and grow.

springtime

If you’re anything like me you’ve probably held on to many more things than is ideal; whether that’s material possessions, people or ways of being. Could now be the right time for a change?

What opportunities are present for you now and what might you need to let go of to make these happen?

Do share your thoughts and ideas – I’d love to hear from you!

I was very excited to meet musician, songwriter and performer Denise Pearson to talk about her career and fantastic new album Imprint. You may recognise her from being part of the incredibly successful group Five Star. Sometimes referred to as the British Jacksons they had several hits in the 1980’s and 1990’s. The group was made up of Denise and her siblings Stedman, Doris, Lorraine and Delroy Pearson. Their father, renowned musician Buster Pearson, who played with Otis Redding, Wilson Pickett, Muddy Waters, Desmond Decker and Jimmy Cliff, was the initiating force and manager. From their first single “Problematic” in 1983 they captured the public imagination. In 1987 their No.1 album “Silk and Steel” saw them become the youngest group and first Black British group to top the UK Charts. The group had six top 10 singles and sold over 10 million albums worldwide. Both the group and Denise have been Grammy nominated.

Having taken time out to raise her family Denise has decided to return to the industry. It seems coming from such a close knit family made her want to create her own and she has valued being a hands-on mum to her son and daughter, now aged 19 and 18 respectively. The family lived in the USA from 1994-2007. I wanted to find out what sustains her and what its like for her returning to the industry now.

Denise Pearson

She attributes her staying power to “staying young at heart, exercising, eating good food, always working out and singing each day – yes singing is my passion”.

Her family were somewhat surprised when she decided to be a contestant on the BBC show: ‘The Voice’, since she might be expected to be a coach. She embraced the opportunity to reintroduce herself to 11 million viewers and was very pleased to meet Tom Jones. It was her cousin Paulette Pearson who reminded her that she could be a mum AND a singer and no longer had to choose. This decision inspired ‘I found my flow’ on the Imprint album.

After The Voice she got signed to Universal for six months then moved to Baronet Entertainment. She is very pleased that her Dad got to see her performance on The Voice and he was very proud of her. The whole family came round to watch it and celebrate. It was a big decision for her but she is really glad she did it and has no regrets.

Her route back into the industry started once she was introduced to music publishing company Phrased Differently. Denise attended their writers’ retreats in Gothenburg where she met Jessie J and Charlie Dore who wrote the hit ‘Refuse To Dance’ for Celine Dion. This then led to her performing in Thriller Live at the Lyric Theatre followed by its European and World Tour. Performances in Respect La Diva (Whitney Houston and Maria Carey songs) at the Garrick theatre would follow and this would eventually lead to her participation in The Voice.

What was it like for her performing in the theatre? She agrees it was challenging in many ways.

DP: Learning to act, lots of changes of costume in speedy time. I was sweating in my sequins and diamantes falling off from all the dancing. It requires lots of stamina. You’ve got to think ahead but still remain in the moment.

For a brief period In Los Angeles Denise was in a band called Tre’sor (three girls who are sure of themselves) but the collaboration didn’t really work. How is she finding performing as a solo artist now?

DP: When I did Thriller there were some solo parts so I could ease myself back into it. Also, on The Jacksons’ Unity Tour I performed with two other dancers. Now it’s just me but I am loving it because I love the material of the new album. Once I have that feeling inside – you can do anything once you love what you do. I am very happy being a solo artist now.

As well as being a solo artist she’s also had to adjust to not having her father around as manager or mentor since he passed away. He died in October 2012 and she went on The Jacksons’ tour in November 2012. After that she went straight into pantomime – playing Cinderella in Milton Keynes. She recalls “I had to learn lines, open the show, and that kept me busy through Christmas and New Year. Then I stopped moving and it all came back”.

What’s it like for her to be making music and performing without his guidance? She shares that “It’s different. Nowadays you have to build your profile and get the record companies interested. I love the writing, singing and being in the studio but I am quite a private person outside of that. Dad contributed so much to our career through his experience and wisdom and we were blessed to have that. I still remember some of what he used to say but I do have good guidance around too from Baronet Entertainment.”

Denise’s latest album – Imprint- is a great collection of well-crafted tunes covering pop, rock and R’n’B genres. I wanted to know how it all comes together?

For Denise “Everything just fitted. I did want that acoustic sound. ‘Kiss and Tell’ is a kind of 1960’s tune. Then ‘Freak Dance’ came about and it just matched with ‘Kiss and Tell’. Even in Five Star I would be the one writing the rock tracks or the RnB tracks.”

During her time in Five Star songwriting and musical arrangements were part of what Denise did so this was not new to her. Nevertheless her Gothenburg retreats helped to create the right space for this. She did the retreat “three times, one week each time. ‘Kiss and Tell’, ‘Here I AM’, and ‘Close To Nowhere’ all came out of those retreats. Normally I would sit in the room, write and produce myself so I was wondering how I would cope with live writing with a track guy, a melodist and me as lyricist and melodist in the room. But I did it and it was wonderful – just bouncing off each other.”

Denise seems quite a private person and I wondered what it was like for her to share so much of her life in her songs. She thinks that “if you write about life people relate to it because we’re all living, loving, hurting and happy so I think when you write about your own personal experiences or feelings there’s always someone out there who can relate to it so I like singing from the heart, it’s true”.

The songs have great melodies and are beautifully sung. I suggest that Imprint is as unique to her as her fingerprint, a sort of personal stamp of who she is now and she goes on to say, “It was the perfect title, my personal journey, a part of me. The words to the title song ‘Imprint’ are exactly how I feel about my dad. Holly Lemar, Olly Jacobs and I wrote it. You can get away as easily as you think but your impact and a connection remains. With ‘Freefall’ it’s about finding love and being in love for the first time and letting go, even if it’s a rollercoaster.”

I wondered if she saw going on BBC’s The Voice as a similar leap of faith captured in the single ‘Freefall’.

DP: Yes I think the braveness of it is similar. I get that from my mum who is very courageous and was always at the school for Sted … always there to fight his corner. Even at 5 feet 2 inches! All 3 girls are strong Pearson women.”

I picked out a few of the words in her songs such as “moon… stars… heavens… redeeming.. believing..” – and wondered how that fitted into her world view. She is not religious “but I was always spiritual, I believe in God and try to do the right thing.” Our conversation reminds her of a Jehovah Witness lady called Jenny who used to come round to their home when she was a child and their mother would make them sit and listen to her.

So, with my counsellor hat on I see the album as a journey of finding herself, coming into Denise – what does she think?

DP: Well I think it’s made me stronger as I go out and sing. I was so nervous and unsure of myself at the start in a way but when I listened to the master version I was so pleased with it. I think I’m getting to know me more.

I could not conclude our interview without asking about her experience on tour with The Jacksons. Denise gets the giggles as she remembers how privileged she felt having “front row seats to the daily sound check. Wonderful! It was a dream come true.” It seems that like all siblings they have their individual characteristics with Marlon bringing humour, Jermaine using his charm, Jackie being a beautiful dresser and Tito having the business awareness.

Did it bring back memories of touring with her family? DP: I remember my dad saying we should all stick together. We have had money and mansions and lost it, but as long as we had the family it didn’t matter what went up and down.

Denise was a great interviewee and answered all my questions honestly. When I asked how she recharged herself she did not hesitate to share her love of cartoons and her daily watching of these. Of course she keeps up with the grown up news as well but I couldn’t help but see it as a wonderful antidote to all the terrible global news we hear regularly. Films such as Frozen, Despicable Me, and Toy Story come highly recommended. Exercise, singing and chores are other parts of her daily routine when she is at home.

And is there any truth about her crashing an expensive car as a child? With much laughter Denise responds, “Yes, I did crash the Lamborghini into the Ferrari as a child.” She was in their driveway.

We speak more of her touring with Billy Ocean and how his Caribbean music mixes with her pop/rock/r’n’b tracks. She tells me about the set she used with him.

DP: I open with Kiss and Tell which is 1960’s, then I Found My flow which is jazzy, then Freefall, Chic is pop, then the Five Star medley: Can’t Wait Another Minute, Rain or Shine, System Addict and Higher Love. So there is variation in mine and they mix well.

With her knowledge of quality music over a long time I wanted to know which artists she enjoys and who she would collaborate with. Denise loves listening to India Arie, for her empowering words and her melodies. She also enjoys Nat King Cole, early Mariah Carey, early Celine Dion, and Whitney Houston. With regards to collaborations she would love to work with India Arie, Lionel Richie and was a little giddy at the thought of working with Smokey Robinson (ooh ah)

A lot has been said about women in pop recently: how they present themselves and how they are treated in the industry and in the press – I wonder how she feels about this.

DP: It’s a fickle business and can drive you crazy so you need to stand back and see what you’re putting out there. I’ll always stand by something I’ll be proud of and remain fully clothed. You can be rebellious in different ways.

Denise looks great so I wanted to know about her fitness and beauty regime. Her approach is around enjoying her life, relaxing when she can and sometimes staying in to recoup her energy. She does not wear makeup at home, which gives her skin a chance to breathe. She exercises to keep her weight down, uses cocoa butter on face, makes homemade soups, drinks lots of herbal tea, eats lots of vegetables and passes on sugar.

So, what’s next for Denise?

She wants to keep singing, making music and putting it out. If she retires she’d like to write words and melodies for adverts and other artists. She is inspired by the great melodies of the 1980’s and admires truly talented artists like: Whitney Houston, Luther Vandross, Mariah Carey and Stevie Wonder. Given the chance she would like to make a record in the vein of Connie Francis, Patsy Cline and Brenda Lee – 1960’s artists.

Whatever she does I get the sense Denise is motivated to do her best. “Oh yes” she says, “I will do my best. Easy does not register in my life.”

It was lovely to spend a couple hours with Denise Pearson and find out more about this successful and talented lady. Now that she’s found her flow I anticipate many more albums and tours. You can find out more on http://www.denisepearsonmusic.com and order Imprint on iTunes.

Shirley Anstis