Friday, August 14, 2015

Wellness and Leadership go Hand in Hand

Most people who know me also know I operate between two universes that don't often collide.  I was always destined to be in business, I studied Business, I had my first serious job at 11 and always strived to be in the corporate world.  Driven and focus beyond words.
I've worked in many places around the world, jetting around like a road warrior for a large part of my career, travelling between NZ and Australia weekly for a number of years.

My other world, outside of my work has always been a constant for me.  My health and fitness.  Surprisingly, I was a terrible athlete at school.  Never picked first for any team.  Useless at athletics, tennis, hockey and netball, only excelling in one sport- table-tennis.  To be fair, I did represent North Harbour and Auckland in my teens and completed at national level for a few years alongside my brother.  I'm pretty sure thinking back that was to keep my mother happy as she used to also play!  Which is why some people may find it surprising that I am now a qualified personal trainer and group fitness instructor.

I've also had my fair share of health issues.  Over-dosing on Alcohol at the age of 15.  The overdose was so bad my heart stopped twice in the ambulance on the way to the hospital.  Then later in my early 30's I was stopped short in my tracks when I blew my back-out and had to have spinal surgery- a laminectomy and discectomy to be precise.

One thing I've always known is how important my health and fitness is to my career. 
As a CEO of a successful IT company and a previous corporate worker in various management roles, I've always known that to perform at the level I need to be at, I need to be alert, have energy and know how to control stress.  I do this be staying fit and eating well and getting the required amount of sleep and hydration.  I'm not perfect, no one is and I don't expect that from the people I train. 

I work on an 80/20 rule- as long as 80 percent of the time you are doing what you are supposed to with your nutrition, fitness, sleep and hydration then you are doing well.

Sounds like a dream right? Its not.
So how do I do it?  Here are my 10 key tips

It sounds boring, but one way I know I have the correct nutrition is I always have the same breakfast every day (except for Christmas day), which is porridge, skim milk and a banana.

Treat Fitness like your corporate job- make appointments- keep them- don't be late
Possibly sad but true.  Its too easy to make excuses if you don't actually comit to the appointments.  For me, I instruct fitness classes so I also stay fit - its pretty hard to get out of this form of exercise!  Also, I make dates with my fitness friends to go for a walk...and I stick to them as if its an important business meeting.  It works nearly every time (unless they cancel !).

Do it with friends or find some buddies who will
Its always easier to stay motivated when there are more than one of you doing something- you each keep each other accountable.  Currently I'm training for a walking half marathon- 3 of us go together.  When one sends me a text message saying its going to rain on our training day, I tell her to put her raincoat on and stop making excuses.

Understand your food and eat for fuel
I still have treats, lets be fair.  Today I had a chocolate bar- the first in probably a month.  BUT I'm also going to walk 22km tomorrow so I don't have to feel guilty about it.  I will also be ensuring that I eat good carbs tonight for fuel for tomorrow walk- veges and some protein and possibly some rice or pasta to keep me going.  Its the 80/20 rule again.  You can be bad, but just a small portion of the time.

Water Bottle- Always have one
I never had a blanket I dragged around as a kid, but my water bottle goes everywhere with me.  One thing I learnt in sports nutrition is that if you wee yellow, then you have not drunk enough.  If this happens, then I come back and drink a large amount from my bottle.  I would usually drink 1.5-2 litres of water per day.  I have one coffee in the morning and don't drink any other liquid other than water and a Friday diet ginger beer.  Liquids can hold a large amount of hidden calories.  Lets face it- I prefer the chocolate bar!

Fruit Box at work
I think we have probably done this for at least 10 years, possibly longer.  Every week in our IT company, we order fruit boxes which arrives on a Monday.  This means during the week when people are hungry, there are healthy snacks supplied by the company.  Who turns down free food?  At the end of the week, I take the left overs home if there are any and juice them for a weekend detox and fruit burst which I have after my marathon walking.

Incidental Exercise
A lot of people don't know about this one.  I always use this.  Incidental exercise is the additional exercise you can get in during the day without planning to exercise.  For example if you have a lift, never use it- take the stairs- you can burn energy and strengthen your legs in the process.  Go out for a walk at lunch time.  Park you car far away from the shops rather than right near the front door.  Mow the lawns (I love that one!)

Use Scales
Some people may disagree with me on this one but after being in Sales roles over the years, I know numbers drive people.  They also drive me. This morning I jumped on the scales and realised my weeks exercise efforts had dropped me 1.3 kg's.  Which is possibly too much in a week (hence the chocolate bar). But this also gives me an indication of where I am at and what my body is doing.  Marathon training speeds up your metabolic rate.  For a period after training you will be so hungry you may want to eat everything in site- this is your body adjusting to the extreme conditions.  It will be realising you are doing more and it thinks it needs more.  Then body then adjusts and dumps fat.  This needs to be carefully monitored along with fluid intake.  Sales tell you a lot, not just your weight, especially if you have body composition scales which I use with my training clients to show them BMI, Bone Density, Body Fat and Hydration.

Measure Progress with clothes
I keep telling my training clients this.  Sales are only one part of the equation.  If you want weight loss or weight gain.  Think about how you fee in your clothes.  Marathon training for example will tend to tone the legs and butt and your clothes get looser in these areas.  Upper body training will make your t-shirts feel tighter if you are trying to build muscle.

Get help when you need it- don't be proud
Over the past 2-3 years I've experienced terrible facial swelling in the mornings.  I put up with this for a long time before going to the doctor as it would often subside.  I did go to the doctor and have allergy tests and CT scans and no one could tell me what it was.  I finally went back to a different doctor and he discovered the cause- it was nasal polyps.  He gave me a prednisone based nasal spray to take twice a day and guess what.  Its more or less fixed the problem.  What a difference in how you feel.  Looking after our health and wellness is critical- even the little things can make a major difference on how you feel and perform at work or at play.

In summary, my health and wellness does impact my leadership.  When I'm not feeling great myself, it can reflect on the team.  If I have low energy, they can mirror my energy.  The way you personally feel will radiate through everything- your posture, mood and performance. 

Positive Wellness = Positive Leadership.
Go well and lead well!

Thursday, June 11, 2015

You too were once a business traveller virgin.....remember?

 Petrified.  My first business trip and that's how I felt.  I would have been about 22. Not excited, not anxious, but down right petrified.  I had to go to Wellington from Auckland.  OMG.  I had to actually drive, by myself to the airport, find the actual airport and then god forbid, I had to actually find a car-park at the airport (have you seen how crazy that place is?).  I then actually had to park, and do it in such a way that it was possible to pull the suitcase out of the backseat without damaging the cars next too me who parked too close (or was it me who parked to close?). 
Just thinking about that experience many years ago makes my heart race a few beats. I can look back and laugh now after almost filling a whole passport with entry stamps (those were the years).  I was even a sad person who used to COUNT my flights, when I got to 100 in under a year, it no longer seamed like a fun game!  I was so proud when Air New Zealand graduated me and took my Jade Airports card, to a Silver, then within months, up to Gold, and Finally the Nirvana of flying- to Gold Elite.  I even got free papers and seats at the front of the plane.  Year later, I had another proud moment, when I was demoted to a Jade Airpoints card again.  It meant I once again had my life back.  Thank you Air New Zealand!
My nightmare actually started in the car-park for my first ever business trip all those years ago... After working out how to find the airport, I was then confronted with working out in 30 seconds, with a queue of cars behind me, what parking options I should be taking.  Do I take a ticket and pay now?  How does all of this work?  I then realise that I'm actually not close enough to take a ticket and now cannot reverse back.  OMG.  Embarrassment.  Now I look like a real amateur. Open the door, get OUT of the car and pull the ticket OUT of the parking machine so I can get into the car park (Yes, I'm sure we've all been one of those morons at one point in our lives!).  Phew! To make matters worse, no one told me the airport was like some mini-city in itself with no street names and 2 lane roads! 
In my panic to work out how to get the closest park and make sure I was still actually in the car-park, I simply turned without looking, right into the front of a rather new looking BMW.  Hmmm.  I guess you can imagine that at 22, I did not have a BMW, in fact I don't think at the time I could even afford a BMW badge, let alone the real thing!  Now I was in a pickle.  I got out and apologised.  Thankfully the damage was not bad.  We exchanged numbers and I was constantly looking at my watch, heart racing that I would miss my first business flight.  What would my boss say?
I nursed my now damaged car into a car-park and realised the damage was not too bad.Still shaking, I embarked on the next part of the mission.  I had successfully completed Step One: Find The Airport.  I had not so successfully completed Step 2: Park the Car
Step Three: Remove Luggage from Car and Get Across Car Park   No one told me that there was also a knack to actually CARRYING everything from one end of the car park to the terminal, which from memory seamed like it was 2km away.  I also have this very vague memory at the time of borrowing a suitcase off my family which did not have wheels at the time.  Definitely a very rookie mistake. The laptop I had at the time, by itself would also definitely have exceeded the current in-flight baggage limit, and that's without the case or the power supply.  So now you can picture me, planning for every  eventuality.  Umbrella- check.  Warm Coat- Check.  Suitcase- Check.  Laptop - Check. Stacks of business papers- Check.  Book to read- Check. Sky-high- High-Heel Shoes - Check.  Killer Business Suit with tight Pencil Skirt - Check.
After staggering across the car park trying to look as elegant as one can with 25+ kg of luggage tottering across the great car-park abyss that is Auckland Airport Car-Park, I finally make it across the car-park to the terminal, even if it was not done in such an elegant way.  Step Three: Partially successful.
Step Four- Checking in.  All I had to do now was work out how to check in, then work out where the gate is (actually to be totally truthful I could not actually work out what a gate was at the time- it is an odd name don't you think?), and then I actually had get on the plane. 
I decided to use the "sheep philosophy" to check in.  All I should do was just follow everyone else.  Truthfully I remember feeling more like a possum in the headlights (but just wearing beautiful shoes).  Wow. The queues were long.  No electronic check-in back then!  I got up a rhythm after a while.  Put bag down, put sewing machine (opps- laptop) down, rest coat and umbrella on suitcase. Put handbag on top of suitcase.  Once you'd just finished that.  You'd then instantly repeat the exercise in reverse and move 2 paces forward. Then again, put bag down, put  laptop) down, rest coat and umbrella on suitcase. Put handbag on top of suitcase. After repeating the exercise 57 times, I also learnt how annoyed I would get with the person a few people in front of me not paying attention who would leave at least an 8 pace gap between them and the person in front, delaying the methodical rhythm the rest of the 140 of us had.  By this stage, I'd also worked out that I no longer needed to go to the gym that evening as my upper body work-out had concluded by the time I reached the check in counter.  Surprisingly, this step went smoothly and I was able to watch my suitcase disappear into the distance and be handed my boarding pass.  I remember how important I felt to see my name nicely printed on the boarding pass, until I saw with horror that boarding was in 15 minutes.  OMG.  What is a 'gate' and how do I find it in 10 minutes? Step Three: Moderate Success
Step Four- Finding The Gate.  I'm just pleased that I was quite a fit person back then, as by this stage I was near sprinting through the airport looking for any sign with the word 'Gate' on it.  I also never realised that wearing a pencil skirt is not a good thing to wear when moving at a fast pace with a laptop, handbag, umbrella and coat in tow.  So I found the sign that had my gate number on it.  I then had another odd experience.  For some reason, there was yet another journey.  The sign that said 'Gate x' was not actually the gate, and it was yet another 2km trek like the air-port car-park.  Cardio workout now completed, I arrived at what looked like a badly furnished waiting room.  Why can they not just call a gate a 'Waiting Lounge' - isn't that what it really is?  Looking at my watch I remember thinking at the time that it felt like I had been going for hours.  I looked at my watch- I think it was something like 6.45am.  OMG.  My day had not even started yet!!!
Too add to the terrifying feeling that I had at least another 12 hours ahead of me or more, I now had a panic on as I wasn't 100 percent sure I was actually in the right place.  I remember manoeuvring close to someone to try and take a peak at their boarding pass to make sure I was actually in the right place for the right flight.  Yes, I had actually worked it out.  A short 45 minutes later had me in a further panic that I had actually missed my flight.  I was then to find out that routine fibbing on a boarding pass about your boarding time is actually quite a standard thing and the fact they had printed on my boarding pass that I was boarding in 15 minutes was merely to ensure that I had an early morning cardio work-out and they were simply looking after my health. Finally the flight was called.  'Its now time to board flight xxx to Wellington'.  Step Four: Accomplished, just.
Step 5 - Surviving the Boarding Stampede.  What happened next was something that I recall being between a beautiful dance and a civilised stampede.  It was almost like being at school ' first one to the front of the line gets a gold star?'.  At this point I realised that there is actually a technique to this process, and I did not know it.  Apparently you need to be strategically positioned.  Preferably near the gate entrance and always in standing position.  You always need your laptop bag handle facing up for a quick pick-up and you must never have anything else in your hand other than your boarding pass.  Yet another Rookie error for me.  I swear in the time it took me to search my handbag for my boarding pass, pick up my umbrella, coat and laptop, the whole 'waiting longue' was in the queue except me, the pace was like a silent stampede.  Did I blink?  Wow.  I was clearly a virgin traveller.  I would have to take more notice on my return flight! Step Five: Success- narrowly avoided mass crushing.
Step 6 - Boarding the Plane
Finally boarding the plane, I discovered I was actually dyslexic, which was apparently a new discovery. Somehow when I looked at the seat numbers, I could not understand the little pictures- If I had a 'D' on my boarding pass- did that mean I was nearest the window or nearest the aisle?  Did the numbers mean I sat in front of the number or behind as they seamed to be off centre?  OMG.  I also realised that the smaller the number the better dressed people seamed to be and the more relaxed these people were.  Odd at the time to realise this.  My number seamed to be large, which also meant I would be right down the back of the plane.  I had a mind jog back to the check-in queue.  More stop - start.  Some people seamed to take forever to get into their seat.  How hard is it to simply put your bag in the locker and sit in your seat?  Apparently its not that easy so I found out, especially in a tight pencil skirt and a full baggage locker as you are almost the last person on the plane.  I remember thinking - by process of elimination, there is only a middle seat and a window seat left, I must be in the window seat as the other 2 letters are used.  At least I conquered my seat numbering dyslexia, even if was by process of elimination.  Step Six: Fail- personal space confrontation with unknown passengers.
Step 6 - Making Baggage Lockers Look Simple
When I realised there was hardly any room in the baggage locker I was a little puzzled with what to do.  I looked at my oversized laptop and coat and umbrella and looked again at the small hole left, knowing the whole process could end up with the guy in seat F gaining a broken neck.  Then from no- where, a hostess came and like some odd Houdini movie, somehow in the flash of an eye stuffed my luggage into the impossibly small space.  Wow- she must have learnt origami at a young age to know how to turn that manoeuvre! Step Six: Success: Someone else did it for me!
Step 7 - Actually sitting in your seat
To my horror and possibly to the man's delight in seats E and F, I then realised that my beautiful high heels and the tight pencil skirted me now had to work its way over to the window seat.  I looked at the others seated in my row and my second horror wave came over me.  They were not moving anywhere, they had their seatbelts buckled and I now had to perform some odd gymnastic like move to get past them.  I still hope to this day that it was mainly my hand-bag that was brushing against them, but I fear it was not.  I finally wedged myself into my seat before looking at them reading realising my book was not with me.  I am not going to get it, never, not now, it can stay there. 
It was at this point that I also realised I had also lost a battle I never knew I was participating in.  I now call it "Arm-Rest Ninja Battle".  What is up with that?  I sit down and the guy next to me is gripping onto his arm rest like his life depends on it, he pretends not to notice me sit down.  I look across the row.  OMG.  You have to be FAST around here. He was staking his real-estate alright.  "I see you one arm rest and may have to later raise you one annoying toilet break mate"...then we'll have round two of "Arm-Rest Ninja Battle "...and this time I will win!  Step Seven: Fail: "Arm Rest Battle Ninja" Final score- 2 to 'Guy in Brown Jacket, 0 to me, clearly I need a new technique.
Step 8 - Performing the Chicken-Wing Breakfast Dance
Way back when I was 22, they actually served food on every flight.  I know- can you believe they actually did that and you didn't have to pay!  Amazing.  Unfortunately the free food never came with any instructions as to how to consume it.  I never actually realised how important elbows were when eating or where they were positioned in space until I first had a meal on a plane.  When I picked up my first rather over-processed looking item, I then realised that I didn't know the "Chicken Wing Dance".  I elbowed the guy right next to me and had to apologise (However he had just beaten me at Arm-Rest Ninja Battle so quietly.... I didn't really feel that sorry for him).  Then I looked further across the other side of the aisle  at the others eating to realise that there bodies were twisted into some odd position like they were all wearing some invisible straight-jacket, many struggling to actually get their eating utensil to their mouth.  I almost couldn't stop starring it was so odd.  OMG. Now I had to work out how to do it.  I swear I dropped at least half my food as I struggled to work with the "Chicken Wing" rhythm with the guy next to me.  Should I lift my arm if he has his arm up and is poking food in his mouth or do I wait until he lowers it for the next go and I take my opportunity?  I was just no good at it- his rhythm was too hard to follow.  Perhaps I'll just have my orange juice instead.  Another rookie mistake.  No one mentions that the air-pressure changes and again their is actually a special way to open orange juice.  Who knew that there was actually a technique to opening water and orange juice? To make matters worse, much, much worse, someone also packages yoghurt in planes in the same way.  **&^$#.  So I open my orange juice and it was like a fire hydrant had gone off.  Orange Juice everywhere.  Again, I had to apologies to the guy next to me (I'm still not over Arm Rest Ninja Battle at this point but have spotted that his arm is no longer on his I starve and try and win round 3?).  It was becoming a habit and I think he possibly knew what was coming next as he strategically positioned his napkin a different way, I at first thought his manoeuvre was simply an Arm Rest Block- yet another tricky technique to stop me winning round 3....but...No.  He knew.  I didn't.  Yogurt time.  OMG.  You think the airline would learn!  Clearly I had not.  I couldn't even bring myself to say anything to the guy next to me this time, I didn't need to- he knew!  And dam it, he just won Arm Rest Battle Round 3 due to my exploding yogurt.  Will I never learn?  Its all about speed and precision.  Obviously.Step Seven: Fail: Not all food in mouth, nor did I master the Chicken Wing Dance.
Step 9 - Exit Stampede
Another odd phenomenon was getting off the plane.  Really, really odd.  We landed and I remember thinking OK, now I have to find my suitcase, where-ever that may be about now.  But then all of a sudden, literally as the plane stops moving and the seatbelt light went 'bong' - another odd stampede started.  Nearly everyone at the same time rushed to get out of their seat, madly grabbing luggage and vying for the best position again closet to the door.  I remember looking at these tall business men in suits in the middle seats half bent
over, half in and out of the aisle, like frozen statutes not able to move forward or backward.  The oddest thing was that it was at least 10 minutes before they could move.  Why the rush?  The doors were not even open.  Still to this day I do not understand this odd rule, yet I learnt how to play the game myself and follow the pack. What an odd thing to do!  But guess what. in all the excitement, I won Arm Rest Ninja Battle Round 4.  The other guy on the other side just looked at me and smiled, it was almost like I saw him mouth...."don't you realise, Arm Rest Ninja Battle time ends when the seat-belt sign goes off?"  I sat for my few minutes of bliss, feeling good for having my arm on that arm rest, even if just for a minute.  It may have even been the highlight of my flight!  Step Nine: Success- Even if I didn't know what was going on!
Step 10 - Meet the luggage eating 'cougars'
I decided that my day couldn't get any stranger until I saw my fellow travelling companions at the luggage carousel.  It was like they had turned into hungry luggage eating cougars, ready to strike at any moment.  It appeared to me that the people actually winning in this odd 'cougar' game were those with a trolley. They could simply 'shove' the trolley into a space that did not exist in the weird luggage circle we were not all part of.  The odd thing was that the luggage circle is simply not big enough to fit all of the luggage eating cougars around.  I saw Arm Rest Ninja Guy and decided that I would not tempt fate this time and stayed well away.  I realise I do value my body parts and felt with his tactics I could end up in a moon-boot before exiting the airport if I stood anywhere near him!  I did realise however, that to be a "luggage cougar" your primal side really had to show.  Become a cougar or an elephant- the choice is yours.  As soon as what I thought was luggage one cougar identified with came around, then there was an almighty 'pounce' to get the new piece of meat, which was actually just a suitcase.  It was an odd game which I stood and watched initially from a distance as I was actually too frightened to move into the circle of luggage.  I finally plucked up the courage and then realised that having a black suitcase is actually not a great plan. No one ever told me that for some reason everyone in the world shops at the same place, or so it seams.  I watch several cougars do the 'pounce', catch their meat and then decide the seasoning was a little off and actually returned the suitcase to the carousel.  OMG.  I do not want to do that- how embarrassing.  Finally I learn the pounce and drag my suitcase away from the other cougars.  Job done.  Step Ten: Success  (I just hope its actually my bag).  Too proud to look before exiting the airport.
Step 11 - Find a taxi in Wellington
Luggage in tow, I look out the doors to see nasty weather.  At least I have my coat and umbrella.  I felt quite proud of myself at this point.  The best I felt all day, despite it only being a touch after 8.00am.  I put my umbrella up and take two steps forward and I swear it was like I was Mary Poppins.  Apparently I was the only person in New Zealand that was unaware that Wellington Airport is actually a giant wind tunnel and as soon as you exit the safety of the terminal - its every man or woman for themselves.  I was blown, battered, cold and in search of a taxi.  I look across and I swear I had blurred vision.  There were at least 6 taxi drivers in identical cars, identical dress who all had an uncanny resemblance to each other, all beckoning me there way.  OMG.  Which one do I choose?  How do you choose
?  Stress. Another move I had yet to learn.  I just walked in a straight line across the road, that's how I picked.  I finally arrived at the Wellington office, luggage in tow and was glad just to be there, already exhausted and ready for a full day of work, it was just after 8.30am!
Step 11: Partial Success- now look like a wreck!
Step 12 - Accommodation
As odd as it may sound, you actually need to be told things about accommodation.  As a rookie business traveller, I was actually told about this, until other rookie travellers I have had working for me over the years.  Yes, you actually need to check in AND check out.  I have acutally been charged for an additional nights accommodation due to one of my rookie staff travelling who never knew you had to check out,.  They just left the key on the table and left!  Needless to say, when I finally got to my accommodation that night, I felt like I had done a 22 hour day.  When does anyone actually tell you that business travel is NOT actually FUN!
For all my years of travelling, I must say I have really loved every minute (almost), except for those times you bag doesn't turn up, your flights are horribly delayed or there is terrible air-turbulence.  After many years of being a road warrior, I try now to keep my travel to a more enjoyable level.  I leave you on this note, "may the force be with you Ninja- may all of your future battles of Arm Rest Ninja be fair and if they are not, learn to play dirty like I do".  Just raise the arm rest (if you can) and don't play at all!
Please comment and share your experiences of first time business travel- I'd love to hear them.


Thursday, May 28, 2015

How to stop your mind racing at night

Recently I was having a discussion with a Senior Executive about the fact his mind races while he is lying in bed trying to go to sleep, constantly thinking of what's going on and keeping him awake.
I used to have that problem too.  Don't get me wrong, I still have the odd sleepless night or two when the cat decides to sleep next to my head and starts to store,  or she finds a way to wedge herself either on top of my legs or some other equally uncomfortable location while I have drifted off.

Like most people in busy working jobs, as a CEO and Entrepreneur, my day is simply filled with things from phones ringing to appointment reminders to the constant barrage of emails coming in to staff discussions, staff meetings, meetings with suppliers and customers, sales proposals and more, in fact it hardly stops. 

I recently had my 'second life' collide with my Office life.  In my second life, I instruct Pilates and run Personal Training Sessions. I  have been formally trained on the art of Relaxation.  I had not personally known the art of 'Mindfulness" until trained myself and now I can simply apply this at anytime I need to relax.   I have even had people completely fall asleep in my Relaxation sessions to the point they were storing.  So what's the key - How do you stop your mind running and fall into a blissful sleep?

Firstly, Environment- Light.  You must have a darkened environment.  Turn the lights off if you are able, shut the blinds.  I have also learnt that even little lights from cell phone charger or heat-pumps or wireless adapters can cause issues with sleep.  Last night my husband said he did not sleep well because our heat-pump was on 'Patrol Setting' and the Blue light was on.  Blue light promotes energy- no wonder he couldn't sleep! 

Secondly, Environment- Noise. You must ensure that the room is a quiet as possible.  If you are highly sensitive to noise, its worth trying to teach yourself to relax with noise reducing headphone or put some relaxing music on (I usually download massage music- I have the Ultimate Massage Album. 

Thirdly, Body Position.  Ensure you are lying on your back with your arms by your side and palms facing up, your eyes closed.  You must also be warm.  Have a towel over you or if in bed, make sure you have blankets over you and you are comfortable with your hands by your side palms facing up

Forth, Breathing.  I teach Pilates breathing and I highly recommend it.  Firstly, Breath in through your nose and out through your mouth.  Repeat.  The breaths should be long and deep and your breath in must fill your lungs and your breath out must be one you can hear.  This will lower you heart rate and also circulate oxygen around the muscles  (if you don't believe me- next time you are on the cross trainer going at a huffy puffy pace, grab the heart rate sensors and start doing your Pilates breathing- your heart rate should lower between 5-10 beats per minute).  Keep the breathing going.  If your mind starts to wander, just focus back on the breathing- in through the nose and out through the mouth.

Fifth, Muscle Relaxing.  As you are lying down on your back, palms facing up doing your breathing, you must then start to relax your muscles.  You can do this by tensing the area and then relaxing in time with your breathing.  Start with the feet- tense as you breathe in and then release as you breathe out.  Ensure your focus is on your breathing. Then repeat for each area moving up the body- legs, up to your butt, then back and shoulders, arms and hands and then finally up to the head an neck.  Letting any and all tension go.  Maintain focus on your breathing and have awareness of how your inhale fills your lungs and your exhale releases the breath through the lungs and out through the mouth.   Then go right into your Visualisation as below or 4 questions.  Always maintaining your breathing- in through the nose and out through the mouth ensuring your eyes are closed.

Sixth, Visualisation Story OR Four Questions Technique.

Here is one of the visualisations I use in my Pilates sessions- its also one of my favourites.

I want you to imagine you are lying in a meadow full of green grass.  It is a beautiful sunny day.  You feel the sun on your face, You hear children laughing, dogs barking, the wind rustling the leaves of the trees.  The sky is bright blue above you with huge white puffy clouds.  You take a moment to choose the cloud that looks the best to you, you note its shape, its transparency and how its moving.  Ensure your whole focus is on that cloud. 
That cloud now gently starts floating lower towards hovers above you and gently drifts beside you.  It now slides underneath you.  You are now lying on that cloud.  You can't believe how warm, safe, relaxed and comfortable you feel.  That cloud now slowly starts lifting you up, just to the height you feel comfortable.  Beneath you, you have the most spectacular view, you see the meadow beneath you, the children playing and the trees swaying in the breeze.  You feel totally relaxed and peaceful.  Beyond the meadow, you shift your gaze to another meadow beyond.  That meadow is spectacular.  If is full of flowers of every colour and of every variety.  You pick the flower that looks best to you.  You notice its colour, its petals, how its moving and every detail about the flower,  Your whole focus is on that flower.  (Lie there for 2 mins simply visualising the flower from every angle).  Your cloud now slowly starts floating you back, over the meadow of flowers, your focus is still on your flower.  Your flower slowly starts fading into the distance as your cloud slowly floats you back over your meadow.  You lose sight of your flower as your cloud now gently starts lowering you down to the meadow.  You now gently touch down to the ground and are returned to a glorious relaxing peaceful state, or even sleep....

OR (for those really short on time :-) (or who can't relax during visualisation)

Ask yourself the following 4 questions:-

Who Am I?
This question should be answered by running through all of the roles you've played in a day. I normally run though, I'm a wife, I'm a daughter, I'm a chef, I'm a leader, I'm a counsellor and all of the things I've actually done in a day- you'd be amazed at how long the list will be!

What is my purpose?
For this one, you need to simply answer what you are here to do, perhaps its to be a loving wife or husband, it could be to protect and serve my kids, it could be to help others.  You will need to answer this question with your own purpose.

What do I want?
This is for you to decide.  Search deep for this one and think about the things you want- maybe its material things, perhaps its eternal happiness, or maybe its for someone who is sick to get well again...

What am I grateful for?
This is an important question- everyone can be grateful for at least one thing in a day, perhaps more.

By this stage, if your mind is still running, you may need to repeat the whole process again from start to finish until you get used to it.

I usually use the 4 questions if my mind is running and I just want to get to sleep.  These days I never get past question two and I'm asleep!

Hope this helps and sweet dreams! 
Let me know your thoughts on other techniques you've used...