Stress, Performance & Quality of Life

There is a really fine balance to strike between a model being simple enough to understand and being oversimplified.

Which is why this image will keep evolving.

I have been playing with causal models for a couple of months (yes, I'm a nerd, deal with it), looking to build a graphic representation of how external and psychological stressors affect performance quality of life.

When you get into full stress response causal models it gets very complex very fast.

You know, with all them hormones and neurotransmitters buzzing around?

That's something I wanted to avoid, because that level of detail is not necessary for the changes that I want to encourage.

No, we just need a clear illustration of the impacts of real world stuff that we see and experience on a daily basis, on other real world stuff.

(Of course all the physiological and psychological stuff is real too, but you know exactly what I'm getting at)

If we want to effect change in how stress impacts individual wellbeing and...

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Individual Level Solutions vs Systemic Action for Wellbeing

After a couple of years in her current job, Chloe is finding that the workload is wearing her down. She knew it would be a high-pressure role, that’s the nature of the industry, but it’s still taking its toll. When she spoke to her line manager, she was directed towards some possible things that would help manage her stress more effectively. She started going to the gym regularly, and it has helped a little… but the workload hasn’t changed, so it’s not fixed the problem at hand. It’s still meeting after meeting, with little time to catch up on real work. Instead of being able to thrive and do her best work, Chloe feels like she’s drowning a little more each day.

Jonathan has a similar issue, but due to a chronic physical condition he feels like the gym isn’t an option for him. His partner suggested that he try mindfulness, and the company he works for has an app subscription to help with it. He’s been doing it for a few weeks,...

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SI 013: Three things you can do TODAY

It's February, which means it's spring, right? RIGHT?!!

As I write this message to you, the sun is streaming in through my office window and I feel hopeful that warmer weather is on its way...

But the weather, like many things, is outside my control.

What is within my control?

My actions.

Look, I know your current state of health and wellness is not all down to you.

You have been affected by external stuff... chance, environment, other people's decisions and actions... and this has had an impact on your wellbeing.

But the thing is, you can't control that stuff so there isn't much use in dwelling on it (other than to learn from it)

So what can you do?

Here are three things you can do right now to start making a positive difference to your wellbeing:



Get up from wherever you are, and have a stroll, or stretch, or do some press ups, or dance around - whatever is accessible to (and enjoyable for) you.

It really doesn't matter what it is, just move your body for five...

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SI 012: Have you slipped up yet?

Happy New Year! 

Okay, okay, I'm a bit late to the party on this one...

But January is a pretty hectic time for me, so getting going on new projects at the start of the year is not the best idea.

Jan 1st is a family day, to celebrate the New Year. I'm a bigger fan of NYD than NYE.

Jan 4th the kids went back to school, so before that date we're still wayyyy out of routine.

But then that week is only 3 days, and most of that is catching up with what I missed while offline for 2.5 weeks, plus finishing off my university coursework which was due in on Monday 9th and Thursday 12th.

The week after that was a write off, because it was my birthday on Tuesday 10th and then I was away in Bristol for a couple of days, so again no projects could be started in earnest.

But then I had two exams on Monday 16th and Thursday 19th, so I was in last-minute cram mode - and Saturday 21st was my youngest daughter's 8th birthday - no time for new projects.

And so it continues...

I'm just getting...

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SI 011: Fitness is a personal journey

It's funny, isn't it, how often we end up following the paths of others because they appear to have achieved what we want?

Granted, we can learn from the successes of others, and what actions they took.

But the glaring problem is no two people are alike.

No two people have had the same experiences, have the same abilities, the same understanding, or the same circumstances.

We may attempt to emulate someone who is where we want to be, but unless we allow for flexibility and adaptability around our own needs, limitations and responsibility, we cannot hope to make progress.

Comparing ourselves to others is rarely a healthy thing to do, but it's nigh on impossible to quit completely.

My advice to you this week?

Try to have the self awareness to clock when you're comparing yourself to other people, and remind yourself that you're never comparing to the full picture.

And when you're looking to achieve goals similar to other people, look for the lessons but don't assume that you can...

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SI 010: Progress over perfection

We humans are an odd bunch...

No matter how many times we are reminded that perfection is an unobtainable ideal, we still find ourselves in pursuit.

The result?

Frustration when it doesn't go our way.

Things happen which derail our plans, which pisses us off and we end up throwing in the towel.

In any endeavour, be it fitness and wellbeing, career, relationships, or anything else, the concept of perfection is a barrier between us and consistent progress.

If we focus in on making slight improvements instead... (wait, that would be a great name for a newsletter) ...we are far more likely to see ground being gained.

Think of it this way, which option is better:


1. A perfect on-paper plan, with a goal of perfection, which you can stick to for a maximum of about 4.5 days


2. An imperfect plan which only makes small changes, but you can maintain indefinitely


Which of those will lead to better results in the end?

Pretty obvious now, right?

An added bonus of the second...

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SI 009: Riding the rollercoaster

Perhaps we have fallen into a trap...

The trap of labelling any difficult emotion or low mood as being a 'mental health problem'.

Is it really?

Is feeling sad really a sign that you're unwell?

Should we strive for happiness in every moment?

There are two sides to this, and they act in a cyclical fashion - feeding off each other.

One is the constant promotion of happiness as being aspirational. The idea that we should feel joy and pleasure all the time, or at least as much as possible.

The other is the pathologising of low mood and so-called 'negative emotions' such as anger, envy, frustration, worry, and so on.

The more we believe one, the more we believe the other... on and on, ad infinitum.

This week I felt a range of these unpleasant emotions: low mood, despondency, frustration, worry, and more.

Does this mean I'm unwell?

It wasn't enjoyable, sure. But it doesn't mean something is broken.

It just means I'm a human being.

My concern around this is that more and more people are...

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SI 008: Ever felt like you just can't do it?

I think we all feel that way sometimes...

In fact, I feel like it on a pretty regular basis.

To be totally honest, a recent example is how I've felt with this newsletter.

For the past month I've been avoiding it for one clear reason:

I didn't think I could do it.

That single thought paralysed me.

What was the point in writing one email when I'd already missed a week here and there?

Wouldn't everyone think I'm a joke for not being consistent?

It would probably just be better to sack it off entirely, right?

This morning I woke up with the realisation that this is one of the biggest barriers to anyone trying to change their habits and lifestyle.

The need to be perfect.

The need to get it just right, or 'I WON'T BOTHER AT ALL!'

I'd fallen into a trap which I knew was there.

But I'm human too, see?

Our brains are complex buggers, and they are just trying to keep us safe.

Except in this case it isn't safety from real danger, just safety from the judgement of others.

(which can sometimes...

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SI 007: I missed a week...

I missed a week...

Last Saturday I didn't send you an email.

But I thought progress was all about consistency?

Well, yes and no.

Consistency up to a point, I would say.

I have seen people who are adamant about doing 100 consecutive days in the gym, for example.

Or the 75HARD programme, which you might have heard of.

(If you haven't, then it's essentially a 75-day hardcore programme of strict diet, no alcohol, 2x 45 min workouts per day, one of which must be outdoors, and a few other things)

This type of consistency may well work for some people.

If that's you, I applaud you.

But these people are in the minority.

Last week, I was not well.

I had a few days dealing with a flare up of my fibromyalgia.

So that meant intense and enduring pain, high levels of fatigue, brain fog, loss of balance, and all kinds of other fun stuff.

So I stripped my activity back to basics.

I still worked with my clients, I still posted social media content, I nourished my body, prioritised rest and recovery,...

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SI 006: Life changes, and priorities change

Life is never static.

As we go through our respective journeys, we grow and develop.

We change physically, mentally, emotionally...

Our environment changes, our families change, our friends change, our work changes.

So why do we attempt to keep our fitness and wellbeing goals the same?

You won't be alone if at least some of your health and fitness goals are rooted in reclaiming a past sense of yourself.

Huge swathes of fitness marketing revolve around youthfulness, either in appearance or performance.

Getting back your pre-pregnancy body.

Being as athletic as you were at 20.

Tightening and toning up, regaining what you thought was lost forever.

Now, don't get me wrong, good fitness and wellbeing habits do have anti-aging (or even aging-reversal) effects - resistance training (such as lifting weights) for example can have some really tremendous results on a cellular level.

But is it detrimental to have this goal of time-travel at the core of our fitness activities?

Because, let's be...

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