STOP and Breathe


When was the last time you were able to sit back, allow your mind to be at ease and just breathe?

For me it feels like I was wrestling with getting the balance right in my life for ever; working long hours, juggling work projects and making rapid fire decisions to keep moving things forward in my business.

And yet, it wasn't that long ago that this picture was taken. In fact I have a series of me-time pictures taken throughout the year that disputes the image my mind is holding of a stressed out, over-whelmed work-a-lot. It amazes me how much our current reality impacts our ability to see our life as it is, in the moment, without judgement.

Taking time for reflection is something I do regularly. As a coach and trainer, I encourage the people I work with to invest in themselves by giving themselves the gift of time; time to show themselves a bit of kindness and self-care.

So I decided to S.T.O.P* and consider where this confusion of the mind was coming from and notice how I almost believed this story of busy-ness I was telling myself.

Step Back - The past few months have indeed been busy; good busy (if there is such a thing). I have loved every minute of it. A year ago my husband Raymy and I launched into the unknown by extending our Coach/Training business to include an Online Academy. This may have been deemed a bit fool-hardy given our conscious incompetence in all things digital however, we have been riding the wave and feeling exhilerated by the increasing interest and involvement of people from around the world in recent months.

Think - What has been going on these past few months?

As well as serving my coaching clients, supporting my online Life is... project, running a Community for Change group on Facebook, working with a self confessed Strategy Guru to redevelop our website and launch a new online initiative... I've been training coaches. Since June this year I have been engaged in that which I love doing - my raison d'etre - training two cohorts of aspiring coaches.

At Heriot Watt University (HWU) Raymy and I had the pleasure of working with a cohort of 20 enthusiastic delegates from HWU and Scottish Government. The thrill of encouraging and supporting new coaches as they grapple with the concepts of keeping their own agenda outside the conversation and holding space while their coachee sits in silence, thinking about thinking, is palpable.

The second cohort was an online group of coaches-in-training from various international locations, also wildly enthusiastic about their learning journeys and, also beginning in June this year. The online cohort was co-delivered with my new business partner, the very talented entrepreuner and excellent yet distant collaborator (now living in Bali), Alister Gray.

Alister shone like the brightest of stars on a cold, winter night when he participated in a coach training course that I ran in Edinburgh a few years ago. There was a synergy between us even then that told us both we would one day work together. That day has come and after delivering two online coach training programmes together we have set up our joint venture: Mindful Talent Coaching Academy with our first course being launched on 5th November, 2017.

Both training groups graduated at the start of November - hence the suggestion of over-whelm creeping in.

Organise my thoughts - For a few years now I have been doing two things that help to de-clutter my mindspace and help me re-focus: keeping a reflective journal and developing a daily mindfulness practice. I find that journaling enables me to record gratitudes, insights and let go of things I would otherwise try to remember and mindfulness helps to dampen the effects of the amygdala; stopping that emotional hijack every time I lose sight of my inner calm. If these strategies were not fully supporting my intention to stay mindfully present in my day-to-day, then I decided my mind needed a boost.

Just over a week ago, Alister concluded a 21 day series of Live Events on his Mindful Talent Facebook page. I attended most of the 7am sessions which included setting a daily intention and spending a few minutes in meditation on whatever theme he introduced for the day. This helped deepen my daily habit and re-activated my internal alarm clock. On day 22 of Alister's 21 day challenge(!) the group of attendees (that had been increasing daily) were honoured by a guest appearance by another Mindful Talent Team member, Stuart Sandeman, founder of Breath-pod. Stuart introduced us to introductory level breathing exercises that really helped to deepen my ability to relax and let go. A fantastic end to an equally amazing morning ritual (still available on the Mindful Talent Facebook page if you're interested).

Paul Gilbert, The Compassionate Mind Approach, 2012

Proceed (with caution) - Combining the benefits from daily journalling, the 21 day intention setting and Stuart's calming breathe experience, I was able to re-engage my cognitive functioning. Now I could proceed and stay more connected to the present moment. The emotional overload was now contained and in balance alongside my body's other systems (the drive, threat and soothing systems - Paul Gilbert's 3 Circles Model above). Once the threat (of over-whelm) has been aleviated and the balance has been regained, the reward function is activated; a sense that all is well with the world. Now that the heart - mind - body connection feels re-aligned, I find myself following Alister's suggestion to smile, and obligingly, a smile spreads across my face.

So, with all being well in the world, I can move forward, one day at a time, with an intention to STOP every now and then to check in with myself.

Michele Armstrong

Founder, Acorn principle Plus

Director, Mindful Talent Coaching Academy

You can connect with me on my Acorn Principle Plus - learn connect grow Facebook page or check out our website:

The Mindful Talent Coaching Academy that Alister and I are launching on 5th November 2017 can be seen here.

*The STOP tool was founded by Tim Gallwey (Inner Game of Work, 2002)

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