What's your laughter and inclusive culture at work?

Most of us know that laughter is good for us. it makes us feel happy, elated and it creates a bond with the person we laugh with. Not at…

What is the laughter culture like at your work? Is it OK to laugh whilst in the office or do you get ‘looks’?

After talking to a few office workers and reading reports, it seems that the latter is more common. If you are busy laughing, you are not working and being productive.

This is not true. Research and experience shows that laughter helps creativity and productivity. Laughter helps the brain to relax and enjoy the moment which in turn helps a person to feel better and stronger to carry on with their less funny tasks.

How many times have you heard couples say ‘we don’t laugh together anymore! or not enough’?

Humour can save relationships when used appropriately. Sarcasm can also work but there is a fine line of being offensive rather than funny so be aware.

Some companies are aware of the use of humour and have acted on it by creating an environment where it’s allowed. There might be an area with games, a table tennis table and a humour board. What do you enjoy?

https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbescoachescouncil/2018/08/10/lead-with-laughter-how-humor-can-positively-transform-a-work-enviroment/#18d40ea15c94

Socialising is another important part of work life. In Sweden, FIKA is a big part of life at both work and privately.

Fika means; coffee and a sweet treat. In a lot of workplaces, people are allocated a day to provide the sweet treats or bread buns and cheese or pate for example. All staff has a fika break twice a day, usually around 10am and 3pm where they sit down for 10-15 min and chat. It creates belonging, familiarity, escape and a chance to get to know your work colleagues. After work is not for everyone, in particular parents who have to pick kids up, so fika provides this time for everyone to have an opportunity to socialise.

Even if it’s just one day a week that you manage to get everyone to sit down together, it’s better than not at all.

It improves mental heath and emotional awareness so what’s not to like?? I love it!!

https://inews.co.uk/inews-lifestyle/wellbeing/fika-coffee-break-work-swedish-uk-companies/

What can your company do? Is it a fun place to work? Does it need a change?

We’d love to know!

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The horrendous 'momo challenge' for kids...

My daughter (who works in child after-care) recently brought to my attention that there is a horrendous ‘momo challenge’ circulating that is hacking children’s online games like Peppa Pig, Fortnite and Youtube.

Primary schools are sending out warnings to parents as the craze seems to have arrived in the UK. Some are calling it a hoax, but hoax or not - if your child sees this is will most definitely be disturbing and potentially dangerous. I was horrified when I saw the video! It promotes self-harm, inflicting harm on others and even suicide in a series of threats to the viewer who has to ‘complete certain tasks otherwise momo will come and hurt them or their families’. The visual guides are extremely real and graphic.

2 thoughts instantly. What is becoming of our world that someone out there takes the time to come up with material like this; and our children are so vulnerable. Although the BBC News reported that ‘The UK Safer Internet Centre told the Guardian that it was "fake news", there are still unofficial copies with footage of "momo" that have been copied so children could end up seeing these unofficial uploads and be exposed to the distressing images’. Knowledge is key and it’s important to know what your children may see.

If you have not heard about this and you have younger or potentially vulnerable children, please do a bit of investigating. Then - most importantly - make sure your children know how dangerous this hack is. TALK TO YOUR CHILDREN. Help them to understand how to say NO to things that don’t sound or feel right.

Childline offer the following advice FOR KIDS: How to say no

1) Say it with confidence: Be assertive. It’s your choice and you don’t have to do something which makes you feel unsafe or uncomfortable.

2) Try not to judge them: By respecting their choices, they should respect yours.

3) Spend time with friends who can say ‘no’: It takes confidence and courage to say no to your friends. Spend time with other friends who also aren’t taking part.

4) Suggest something else to do: If you don’t feel comfortable doing what your friends are doing, suggest something else to do.

With internet safety there is lots we can do:-

Set up parental controls

  • Use ‘Parental controls’ to block upsetting or harmful content

  • they can also control how long and when they’re online, plus stop them downloading apps.

Talk to your children

  • Have regular conversations about what your child is doing online

  • Explore sites and apps together

  • Talk about what personal information they should share online

  • Create a family agreement about what behaviour is appropriate when they are online

Do your research

  • Check through websites your child is using

  • Change privacy settings

  • Turn OFF location sharing

I don’t want to advertise the momo site here - but google it or look at it on youtube so you know what your child may be exposed to.

It’s our responsibility to safeguard our children. Find out what you need to know and get it done.

Take a look at these sites for online safety help:-

Our Pact: https://www.producthunt.com/alternatives/ourpact

Site recommending apps: https://www.digitaltrends.com/mobile/best-parental-control-apps/

NSPCC: https://www.nspcc.org.uk/preventing-abuse/keeping-children-safe/online-safety/

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Phones and sleep

So, it’s been in the news lately about the connection between mobile phones and sleep deprivation.

In particular, it’s been concerning children and ensuring they get enough sleep which is a national problem, and was highlighted on the BBC news this morning.

We all need our sleep to function properly and children need it even more in order to allow their brains to develop the way it needs to.

There is lots of data and research as far as sleep goes and it’s being done for a reason; sleep deprivation is affecting people everywhere. It’s not just about individuals and their personal needs, it’s very much about us as a society.

Sleep deprivation affects our ability to function properly including concentrating whilst driving and working. Productivity is affected for both adults and children.

Here are the latest recommendations from https://www.sleepfoundation.org

Newborns (0-3 months): Sleep range narrowed to 14-17 hours each day (previously it was 12-18)

  • Infants (4-11 months): Sleep range widened two hours to 12-15 hours (previously it was 14-15)

  • Toddlers (1-2 years): Sleep range widened by one hour to 11-14 hours (previously it was 12-14)

  • Preschoolers (3-5): Sleep range widened by one hour to 10-13 hours (previously it was 11-13)

  • School age children (6-13): Sleep range widened by one hour to 9-11 hours (previously it was 10-11)

  • Teenagers (14-17): Sleep range widened by one hour to 8-10 hours (previously it was 8.5-9.5)

  • Younger adults (18-25): Sleep range is 7-9 hours (new age category)

  • Adults (26-64): Sleep range did not change and remains 7-9 hours

  • Older adults (65+): Sleep range is 7-8 hours (new age category)

There are a few variables as we do have different needs dependent on fitness levels, weight, health issues etc.

Overall though, we all need to sleep undisturbed to function and allow our brain to rest. This includes leaving phones turned off and preferably away from the bedroom. A child should never have a phone or any electronics in the bedroom as it makes it too easy to be reachable. My daughter was one of them a few years ago, she kept on getting messages from needy friends in the middle of the night and it disturbed her sleep badly. I had to step in and remove it and told her to tell her friends she has the worst mum in the world!

The need to be available 24/7 is creating a society that is unhealthy and stressful. What choices do we have? At what stage do we realise what this is doing to our health?

As parents, we are the adults and decision makers for our children when it comes to knowing what’s best for them. Dare to be the ‘worst parents in the world’ because that comes with being the loving, caring parents we need to be. Boundaries are necessary for a child to learn right from wrong and they will thank you later on!

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Perspective - an essential life skill!

My son is studying photography for GCSE and I was watching him work at the weekend and couldn’t quite believe the difference in what ‘I saw’ him photograph and what ‘he saw’ and produced through his camera. This got me thinking about perspective and how important it is with everything in life.

What lens do you use? What glasses do you wear when you look at something? Clear, tinted, shrinking, enlarging or do you see things in bi-focal? Do you swap your ‘outlook’ depending on what you’re looking at? If so, why?

When you are enmeshed in something, you cannot see the ‘wide angle’ of the situation and when you are removed it’s very hard to understand all the nuances, intricacies or emotions of the detail.

But how often are we able to digest all these angles, lenses and perspectives when we are faced with a situation or event? Where do we get the tools to navigate perspective successfully?

Perspective comes from having a personal opinion or view on something that has been moulded over time by your life experiences, values, thoughts, assumptions plus a whole lot of other factors like community, finances, environment etc.

In order to successfully develop relationships, communications and experiences for yourself it’s imperative to develop empathy and compassion for others. We often use the word ‘mindful’ of others to emphasise how important it is to both respect and acknowledge everyone’s thoughts and feelings in situations and not just your own.

On a parenting level, children will learn how to develop perspective if they grow up knowing that their thoughts, feelings and experiences are both understood, valued and respected by their parents. Make sure you constantly engage with your children and reflect their feelings back to them to let them know that they are noticed and that you are available to both help and support them.

In the workforce, you should be constantly mindful and aware of the different points of view that exist and to allow, acknowledge and respect those different perspectives. Sometimes this might mean that you need to take a break, take a breath, or take a long hard look at yourself to make sure that whatever glasses you are wearing are not tinting the situation.

Perspective is what brings diversity, inclusion and growth. Perspective allows for creativity and compromise and development. Perspective is a life skill that our children need to develop and we all need to encourage throughout our lives.

As you move through today, be mindful of what is influencing your perspective and how this differs from others.

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Envious or pleased?

I’ve been thinking of trolls on the web and bullies everywhere and wondering what causes their horrendous behaviour.

What makes someone behave in such a way towards others? What do they get out of it?

Self-esteem; Self-esteem is the way people think about themselves, and how worthwhile they feel. Psychologists use the word self-esteem to describe whether someone likes them self or not. ... Someone with low self-esteem might think that they are bad at things and worthless.

Now low self-esteem comes out in many different ways and bullying and trolling is one. This temporary ‘I am better than you, see how I was able to make you feel’ gives a lift and sense of achievement in its warped way.

By trolling and bullying a person has a purpose and thinks others might think they are clever. It’s all about how others perceive them, that is what makes them feel that temporary feeling of ‘good’ about themselves. Not for long though but once they started this behaviour, it’s hard to stop even when they know it’s wrong. Then the justifications start, ‘he deserves it’, ‘she asked for it’ , ‘they are scum’ etc. Because if it’s not justified, they are the ones who are wrong…

It’s a sad way of getting acknowledgement but if a person doesn’t get it anywhere else, that will do.

There is always a reason behind a persons behaviour and this is about significance and love; the need to be seen. When someone is a bully, they need help and support, just like the victims. I don’t condone this behaviour at all but I do feel sad for someone who inflicts this on someone else as inherently, we all want to be loved and significant.

The ability to feel genuinely pleased and happy for someone else is not something that always just happens. Most of us can have twinges of envy and ‘why not me’ thoughts. However, how far we allow those thoughts to go is a different matter. This is where we have a choice and can push away the negativity and think; ‘why not them?!’ ‘My turn might just come, good for you!!’.

Gratitude and contribution are two things that will make us feel good about our lot in life. No matter how difficult something might be, there will a silver lining somewhere. We just have to find it.

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The Millennials Challenge...

You may have heard these words being bandied about:  Baby boomers (if you were born between 1944 and 1964); Generation X (born between 1965 and 1979); Millennials (born between 1980 and 1994) and our new generation that is coming through, Generation Z (1995+).

The millennial generation is now firmly entrenched in the workforce and it’s predicted that by 2020 they will make up 35% of the global workforce with Gen Z making up 24%.  This means that by next year almost 60% of the workforce will consist of employees under the age of 40. 

Research indicates that millennials both present and face of a lot of challenges to the workforce and society.  They are a unique generation with more than 1/3 living at home with their parents with very few owning their own homes.  They are also much less likely to buy cars.

At work they prioritise work-life balance which some older generations tend to label as showing no work ethic.  Many millennials are self-employed or have additional business interests in addition to their main employment.  They tend to move jobs every 18 – 24 months and they do not have the same needs (long term stability) as their older employer/ees.  This has led to concerns over high employee turnover problems in organisations and the associated costs.

Employers today have the challenge of providing the right type of work environment for millennials as well as being able to take advantage of the strengths that millennials offer.  Statistically, they are usually good team players and good with diversity and inclusivity.  They are technology savvy and almost never ‘unplug’.  One solution that Companies offer millennials is the ability to work flexi-time or work remotely. 

Research shows that millennials prioritise constant feedback and are very goal-oriented with a strong sense of fair play.  They believe pay should be individual and not ‘role’ or ‘experience’ driven which can lead to complications with larger organisations with set tiered or banded employee categories.  Finally, millennials want to work for Companies with a social conscience and that they feel are making a difference.

So, to attract or retain millennials, it appears you need to develop an organisational culture of inclusivity, diversity, social responsibility and tolerance with a strong focus on pay and job culture!

Sounds simple right ???

Let the work and the conversations continue….

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Is the world different now?

Sunday was Holocaust Memorial Day, on which we remembered the millions of people murdered by the Nazis, and in the genocides since in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur.

Most of us know about this and spare a thought every now and then. What a horrendous thing to happen…

How different is the world today? Could this happen again in Europe??

I do wonder at times and it makes me sad to think how narrow minded and easily persuaded us humans are. Some more than others but generally most of us can get convinced of something that feels wrong to start with.

How can this be avoided? What do we need to stay strong in our beliefs and remain decent, caring human beings?

One thing I know is that parents have a massive influence on their children whether they like it or not. The way we bring our children up, show and teach them our values that influences them immensely.

By being role models, showing rather than saying, we teach our kids right from wrong.

This does not stop just because they become teenagers and don’t want to listen. It’s our job and responsibility to continue to be present and pay attention to what are children are doing, who they hang out with and who they ‘meet’ online.

  • Be a parent, not a friend.

  • Set boundaries and enforce them.

  • Be empathic to their problems.

  • Support the kids and listen without judging.

  • Again, be a ROLE MODEL.

We can if we try, and they are worth it!

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What colour do you feel?

I was sitting this weekend with my son as he put together a page in his photography portfolio on colour and we had a very interesting discussion about the different colours and how they represent people, moods, attitudes and feelings. It reminded me of when I had a ‘mood ring’ in my younger days and how I’d watch it change colour from day to day.

So what is colour and how does it work?

There are four psychological primary colours - red, blue, yellow and green. Each of them relate to the body, the mind and emotion and how these 3 elements are (or are not) balanced. The trick is to understand how these colours can how power over you and your emotions and how you can use them to your advantage.

The colour RED represents physicality.  Strength, energy, that ‘fight or flight’ reaction or in a negative way can suggest stress or even aggression.  Red often grabs our attention first which is why it is used with ‘stop’ traffic lights.  Red makes your pulse race faster (think love symbolised as a red heart).

BLUE refects intelligence, communication, trust and calm.  It makes us think of blue skies and releasing the mind.  It works with us on a mental (rather than a physical) level and is said to help with concentration.  However, too much blue can feel distant and even unemotional.

YELLOW is the colour of emotion and personality.  It demonstrates friendliness and creative impulses and optimism.  On a negative note it can be linked with emotional concerns such as anxiety and depression.  Using the right colour yellow will lift spirits and self-esteem and give the wearer/viewer confidence and a feeling of optimism.  Too much or the wrong tone can make you feel panic, fear and anxiety.

Finally, GREEN is about balance.  Green promotes nature, rest, peace and awareness and is often used to promote a sense of calm.  Too much green can suggest boredom and stagnation and being bland.

From these 4 primary colours comes a surge of ‘mixed’ hues that allow for a range of emotions, feelings and responses.  They are study in themselves.

Usually when we select colours to wear, paint a room, highlight a text, pick out an object it is done on a sub-conscious level, but there is always more behind the choice.  We are naturally drawn to certain colours and this can change depending on the way we are feeling, what we are trying to accomplish and the message we are wanting to relay.

So for today.  Have a look at the colour chart here and see which colour you naturally respond to.  What is your physical (body reaction), intellectual (what do you think), emotional (what do you feel) and psychological (how do you want to act) response to the colours.  Ask yourself why?

See how often this changes and when it changes.  Ask yourself why?

Colour can be a tool that you can use to build your self-esteem, your confidence.  It can help to portray a message to others subliminally or be part of a campaign with an objective to get a certain feeling or message across.

there are some different schools of thought eg DISC personality profiling that uses colour references as well as lots of additional reading available online about colour psychology and colour mood charts: https://www.verywellmind.com/color-psychology-2795824

Today I am wearing black and blue for a meeting, so I guess that makes me wanting to exude both power and trust!

How about you?

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What is really going on?

I hope you all had a good start to the new year and that life is going in the right direction.

Life can be tough at times and how we deal with it is different from one person to the other. Some bottle it up and don’t talk, some use alcohol or drugs to cope and others do talk and get help.

How do we know what works the best for us? Are we aware of what isn’t working?

We need to let anxiety and anger out at times. If we don’t, it builds up and might come out in a different, negative way like bad language, foul moods and aggression. Talking to a therapist or coach can help dealing with whatever goes on and how to change direction. It tends to be easier to talk to a neutral person who is non-judgemental.

There is always a reason behind a behaviour. We don’t always understand the connection ourselves and might need help to work it out. Our nearest and dearest sometimes know us better than we think and can support if we allow it.

One way to help is to ask questions in a sensitive way once things have cooled down. Reiterate that communication is important in order to understand and support.

What is stopping him/her talking?

If fear/ shame wasn’t an option, what would they say? What do they need right now?

Communication should always be top of the list at home, with friends and at work.

If you need help, feel unsure about something, feel sad and unable to cope; TALK!

There is always someone who will listen.

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New Year...New Story?

I’m not a big fan of New Year’s Resolutions, although I do remember them being quite fun conversation pieces in my youth…however, the start of a New Year is a great time for a bit of reflection and gratitude.

I don’t know about your year, but 2018 had an unhealthy amount of troubling times and health worries for a lot of people in my world. From cancer diagnosis, to sudden heart attacks, to crime stories and unfortunate accidents and fall down’s - it was starting to all be a bit too much. I’ve been truly humbled by a family member who has gone through very troubling health concerns who never once said ‘why me’. He argued, ‘why not me?’ A lesson for us all and a hard one to get your head around.

So what is my response? Instinctively, I want to curl up in a corner and hold my loved ones close to me and do my utmost to keep them safe. To bury my head in the sand and just ignore the world around me. Or, an alternative: Be honestly grateful for what I do have in the life.

So, as we start 2019 it’s a great time to take stock of your gratitudes and verbalise them. To start the new year fully intending to live each moment to your best. To be a citizen of this world and those around you and cut the strings of negativity from days past.

New perspective is within your control. It is something you can purposefully do and manage and it just takes a decision to change your thoughts; your self-talk; the stories you tell yourself. To re-write your mantra’s and excuses and wake yourself up to new opportunities, people and experiences.

So. Today. Focus on those things in your life that you can be grateful for. Say thank you. Thank whoever needs to hear it and don’t let moments pass. Our lives matter and it’s people and emotional connections that make the difference.

Start 2019 with a clean page and fill it with stories that matter.

HAPPY NEW YEAR !

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This Festive Season: We challenge you to....

The festive season is well and truly upon us and it is the perfect time of the year to challenge yourself to do something different - to be a bit different!

All around us are lights, music, shops and the lure of shopping. Parties are often in the diary and friends and family making plans to be together. So while the fun and festivities are taking place, we’d like to challenge you to challenge yourself. To use this festive season to do something different, to do something for others, to stretch yourself and tap into your altruistic self.

Our week’s challenge to you:-

Day 1: Do a household chore you don’t normally do (take out the rubbish / make supper)

Day 2: Speak to someone new (at the office, in your neighbourhood)

Day 3: Smile at THREE strangers (even if they don’t smile back)

Day 4: Let someone in front of you (in the car / at a door)

Day 5: Talk to the person serving you (at the tills / delivering post / in a restaurant)

Day 6: Give THREE honest compliments to someone

Day 7: Do a random act of kindness for a stranger. (eg: pay for their parking / help them carry their shopping)

Without challenge there is no change. Change is needed for growth.

Please let us know how you get on - we’d love to hear how it went and how you felt doing this challenge. Try and pay it forward and get others to join you….

Why not challenge us? We’d love it!

Leave us a comment!

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Connection and LinkedIn

Connections are all around us. To me connection is a positive word. It means I have a link with someone that, generally speaking, is a good one.

Some connections remain for a long time and others are shorter. They all have their purpose and that’s OK.

How do we connect with people today? It used to be mainly through school, friends, work or family.

Today’s connections are made in all sorts of ways. Social media, chat rooms, dating sites etc. LinkedIn is one.

I would like to know more about people I connect with, but how do I do it? At what stage does contacting someone via message or email become a nuisance? What is the LinkedIn etiquette?

We are all on LinkedIn for a reason. Why else would we make the effort to be on here otherwise?

I am here to connect with people and hopefully meet them to see who they are and what they do. My livelihood depends on making connections to get work. Being a small independent business is difficult but I love what we do. Making a difference to someone is a rewarding place to be. Even if only one person that attends a workshop learns and changes something in a positive way, it’s worth it.

What do other small companies do to get business? I know this is relevant to a lot of people!

Suggestions and thoughts are welcome!!

Please reply either in comments on LinkedIn or e-mail: ase@familyfocusuk.com

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This Can Happen....

Åse and I were very fortunate to be able to attend a mental health event in London last week called, This Can Happen. Tag lined, ‘Where Companies Address Mental Health in the Workplace’, over 750 people attended a day focused on making things happen!

One of the standout moments for me was when HRH The Duke of Cambridge joined a panel to share his own experience of mental health during his work with the Air Ambulance. This really highlighted how wide the net is flung with mental health affecting every single person in a variety of contexts and situations. His candor at how different stages of your life can produce different reactions to events really hit home. There is no ‘one size fits all’ or ‘box to tick’ to address mental health and this was really evident in the personal stories and discussions that were part of this event.

The more we talk about mental health, the more we chip away at the stigma around it and move towards a cultural shift in both organisations, communities and individuals. There is so much more talk taking place - such a fantastic change compared to even just a few years ago! Promoting open communication and genuine care and concern for each other is no longer the exception - but becoming the norm. Organisations are now getting serious about the business of mental health as part of their Corporate Strategies, but more importantly, they are really starting to care!

But what about us? What about those who are not working in big Corporates? What can we do? We need to care and communicate and to be part of the wave of movement where mental health and wellbeing are part of daily conversations. To be vigilant and mindful of ourselves and others and start our conversations with, ‘how are you feeling today?’ Ask twice: ‘how are you feeling today?’

One thing is certain. We can all make a difference, and together….THIS CAN HAPPEN!

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Happy Christmas??

Christmas is soon here and with that the days of loneliness will be even more obvious to some people around us. 
This time of year can mean different things to some of us. Sometimes it can be a great time and other times be both stressful and upsetting.
How do you feel when looking back on Christmas as a child?
What was it like? What do you remember the most?

It makes me think of my parents and siblings. My grandparents, aunt and cousins all joined us every year on Christmas Day.
Swedish Christmas is on the 24th and that was always such an exciting day as Santa came to the house, bringing gifts in his sack. The feeling of belonging and being part of this big, noisy, loving family is something I still carry with me, even after 34 years of living abroad!
I have realised that growing up with this was a privilege. So many others associate Christmas with fights, stress and unhappiness and it's heartbreaking hearing some stories.
How can we ensure that our children get to feel love and belonging?
Are there friends, colleagues or neighbours who don't have any family to be with? 

Christmas is about sharing and showing love. There is no need to lavish gifts on each other. Thinking back, most of us remember how something or someone made us feel, not what they gave us.
Give love, time, attention and caring. The rest is secondary.

Here are some ideas about contribution this Christmas:
-Volunteer your help
-Give gift bags to charities to hand out
-Invite someone new who might be on their own otherwise
-Limit the gifts you give to your kids
-Talk to them about giving and what it means and they can give some of their toys away instead
-Pay attention around you, be inclusive - make sure people in your workplace are included to the various events as some might not feel like they are welcome...

Wishing you all a peaceful and joyous time!

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What does family mean?

Following some recent conversations about our Company name ‘Family Focus UK’, Åse and I were prompted to pose a new question on our homepage…‘What does family mean?’

When we joined forces, Åse and I were both working predominantly with parenting and we were both extremely passionate about its importance and the family structure. We wanted to focus on this notion of ‘family’ - hence our choice of Company name, Family Focus UK.

However, the tremendous growth in the talk, publicity and awareness of mental health and wellbeing has morphed our work from a purely parenting focus to one that includes a wider scope of topics. So then. Do we change our Company name from ‘Family’ to ‘something else?’

Absolutely not! Because the word ‘family’ is no longer a singular explanation from an olde-worlde version of 2 parents and 2 children. Family has evolved over time to encompass so much more:

In the context of human society, a family is a group of people related either by consanguinity (recognised birth), affinity (marriage or other relationship) or co-existence

Members of the immediate family may include spouses, parents, brothers, sisters, sons, and daughters. Members of the extended family may include grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, nephews, nieces, and siblings-in-law

Family can relate to places of work or associates by proximity

In most societies, the family is the principal institution for the socialisation of children.

The word "family" can be used metaphorically to create more inclusive categories such as community, nationhood, global village and humanism

We believe that family is a lot more than your birth connections. Family is your community that you build around you. Your work colleagues, football club, your Church, your choir, your neighbours and school friends. Family is the unit you connect with that brings value to your life and gives you purpose. Family can be given to you with birth, or you can create it yourself by forming relationships and connections that matter.

So - who is your family? What are you doing to protect them and nurture them? Do they know that you consider them family? If so - show them!

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The invisible people

There are invisible people all around us. We might see them as we pass but we don’t SEE them.

At school, in the workplace, at the cafe, in a family… They are everywhere!

What makes someone invisible? Is it just in their own heads or is it as real for them as it was for Harry Potter whilst wearing the invisibility cloak?

I think the latter. In my work as a counsellor and coach, I come across people who feel on the outside of society and not seen. They are not noticed, not paid attention to and just ignored. What a horrible feeling that must be!

There is one client in particular that I have never forgotten. He was a man in his mid-20s and living in a bedsit. He said he had never been seen by his family and would just spend the time at home in his room, gaming and smoking weed. No interaction, no ‘How are you?’ or ‘Would you like dinner?’ Nothing. He said that no one cared and he might as well be invisible.

As a parent, that made me so sad for this lost boy. He needed love and attention in his life. That goes a long way to enable growing up.

There are of course lots of more people who feel like this and never seek help. The elderly in our country is a big group where isolation and loneliness is a big problem.

Why is this? What can we do to help?

This is where being a human and noticing others around us can help. Is there a child that rarely gets to play or get spoken to in your child’s class? Can your child engage with him or her?

Are there people in the office who rarely talk and engage with the rest? Why is that? Have you tried to connect?

In the adult world, we easily and often make assumptions and pass judgement on others without actually knowing them. Can this be the case with some of your work colleagues?

Inclusion is vital in the workplace and all around us.

Become aware of the people around us and be inclusive. Maybe there is a new friend nearby!

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People Matter!

I have just returned from a visit back ‘home’ to Cape Town where I’ve been reminded of what really matters.  And it is summed up in one word.  People. People who are family.  People who are friends.  And people who you have never seen before and will never see again.

The positive and vocal African welcome at the airport started a trip that was a humbling reminder of all that truly matters – connecting with people.

I always worry before ‘going home’.  Will I have to apologise for my lack of communication, my bad time management in that I never seem to keep in touch properly? Will I feel guilty that I’ve missed events and occasions and birthdays and I’ll never be able to make it up to my loved ones?  Guilt is a very real emotion for a lot of people – never more so than those living away from home.

And then, you see them and it’s as if time has stood still and you pick up exactly where you left off.  Conversations just seem to continue and the initial need to say ‘sorry for all I haven’t done’ – disappears.  Why is that?   

So much depends on the connections you have with people.  The relationships that you have established over time and the memories you have created.  If they are strong and intact then you will find that this solid foundation has not moved.  

So, this led me to consider the relationships around me now.  How much of a priority am I making the people in my life now?  I have had the privilege of moving over 9 times but with this comes a trail of people and friends left behind in different places that I want to prioritise, but find it very, very hard to find the time to do.  Am I forfeiting possibilities with people in the here and now by trying to maintain and hold onto connections from the past?  Is it physically possible to find the time, energy and resources to do both? 

Working parents also vocalise living with guilt that they are not spending enough time with their children and families. But working is a part of life and sets good examples for children on work ethic and responsibilities.

So what is the solution?

I believe the answer is being present in each and every situation and encounter with people as it happens.  Of connecting, focusing and being active in the moment so that the person (people) you are with both feels and knows that they are a priority for you.  If they matter, make sure they know it.  Make sure that the connection between you is one that builds layers each time you are together and that the moments have meaning for you both.

Every human being needs a purpose in life and no matter who you speak to, you will get a similar response.  A crucial sense of purpose that we all need is feeling connected to others and knowing that you matter to someone else.

So if someone matters to you - tell them.  Show them!  Make moments count and value your time and connections.  Don’t leave things unsaid and undone.  Live each day and be present in your life.   Build emotional blocks to give you (and them) a sense of purpose - which is a basic human need for us all.

People are a pivotal part of life and a privilege – make them a priority.

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Having it all?

I love podcasts and try to listen to different ones, recommendations from family and friends.

This morning whilst out walking, I listen to Pandora Sykes and Dolly Alderton’s High Low episode from 3 October where lots of interesting topics were discussed like Brett Kavanaugh and Having it all or not.

They talked about different views from women and the expectations that come with the various life choices we all have to make at times in our lives.

As a woman, it seems the choices are at times harder to make as the impact is still, generally, greater for a woman compared to a man. In particular the choice whether to have children or not.

What no woman can ever plan, is how life does change after having a child. We can plan certain things as much as we like; when and where to give birth, when to go back to work, childcare, sharing and being equal with our partners etc.

What we can’t plan is the emotional impact this massive change in our lives has. Not only have we got this little baby in our home, all of a sudden needing care and attention, but it also has it’s own mind and shows it early on. It might not be what I thought it was going to be like! Can I change my mind?! How on earth do I cope with this on my own? There is no manual to follow, only learning by doing.

Also, our partners might have different ideas about how to look after our child and that can become another problem to deal with. Not to mention mothers and mothers-in-law that might get involved and give advise whether we want it or not.

I think it’s important to talk and be open about fears, hopes and voice any concerns you might have. No matter how ‘silly’ they might sound, just say it! These are the things that brings us closer as couples and cements the relationship. Assumptions are the opposite and too many times, these are the things that break couples up! “I assumed she knew how I felt”, "He should know I want him to do this” etc.

The having it all is a myth as far as I am concerned. There is no such thing. You might have it all, but that does not mean “all” is good at all times. Life goes up and down and that is normal. Happiness is not a constant, it’s an emotion that comes and goes.

We all struggle at times and it’s not always what it seems…

Our children will grow up understanding that this is life and that’s OK. As long as there is love, understanding and empathy, we will survive and eventually thrive.

Talk to your partner, family and friends. Ask for help when you need it. Know that you are not alone! Even the HR department at work has humans working who also suffer at times!

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What is Wellbeing at home?

To follow up from the blog ‘What is wellbeing in the workplace?’ I thought I’d write about wellbeing at home and what it means.

The days of separating home and work life are gone as far as the wellbeing goes. What goes on at home affects us at work and the other way around. The impact on not only ourselves but our partners, children and others close to us can be immense.

The trick is to learn how to switch off. We have to make an effort to put our phones, tablets and/or laptops away for at least a few hours every evening and be present.

Not only to be present to our families but also ourselves. We tend to forget that we are the most important people in our lives because if we don’t look after ourselves, we can’t be totally there for others either. Think aircrafts and what we are told in case of an emergency: Always put your own mask on before helping anyone else!

Being present means talking to others without looking at a screen, eating together without any other distractions, going for walks and looking at nature, having an evening with friends and laughing together! Laughter is a great medicin!

One of the top health issues now is sleep deprivation. Far too many people don’t sleep the hours needed to function properly.

The increased risks range from the common cold to depression, dementia and a possible stroke or heart attack as well as obesity, cancer and diabetes.

If you get less then seven hours rest a night, the risk of damage to our physical or mental health is even more raised.

Are you looking after yourself? What is missing? What can you do differently?

Have a chat with your partner and/or friends to see what they do that might be of help.

There is a lot of help to get online and some great apps as well. Inform yourself and take action. Only you can make the change.

To quote a well known phone ad: It’s good to talk!!

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World Mental Health Day - 10th October 2018

We’d like to highlight the amazing work being done around the world to both prioritise and de-stigmatise mental health. World Mental Health Day tomorrow is about supporting each other and having conversations to enable and encourage open and honest dialogue around wellbeing and mental health.

The focus this year is particularly on young people, so Åse and I decided that we would go out and ask some young people (aged 14 - 26) their views on 2 questions. The first was:-

“what is the hardest thing about being a young person today?”

Answers included:

“… social media; social media; pressure of internet; social media; stress with school; stress with exams; social media; social media…”

It was interesting how little hesitation there was when they answered this question. It was absolutely, without doubt, social media that was seen as the hardest thing to cope with as a young person today. Next was stress. Our young people are feeling a lot of stress around school work and exams!

Our next question was:-

“What does Mental Health mean to you?”

Answers included:

“ …living behind a facade; anxiety and depression; not feeling good about yourself; not too sure exactly; something to do with how you’re feeling; not coping; not to be taken as a joke…”

With this question, there was less of a theme. Some responses showed they knew a bit, but not necessarily enough or didn’t feel confident to reply. There were a variety of answers.

What was encouraging was how open and honest the young people were in their responses and how they did not shy away from the questions. They certainly seemed to be aware of mental health although not necessarily as confident or unanimous in their replies..

So our job then would be to keep the mental health momentum that seems to be with young people today going. To keep the conversations flowing so that when they enter the workplace this type of conversation and relatability is standard practise.

And something else we can do. We can add our voice in support of World Mental Health Day by wearing a green ribbon or something green tomorrow, 10th October 2018.

If you feel it or think it….SAY IT!

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A Poll taken by the WorldMentalHealthDay showed how important awareness and education is!

A Poll taken by the WorldMentalHealthDay showed how important awareness and education is!