Mind and Body are ONE

How well do you know your body and recognise the symptoms of  stress?

We all have pressure in our life, whether we are a small child, a teenager or adult; whether we are in a full-on job working all hours or out of work and worrying about it or looking after the kids all day.

As pressure builds, most of us respond and even find it exhilarating to have things to do, challenges and a sense of achievement. Our performance increases in line with the pressure for a while. However, as the graph below shows, your performance peaks and your peak will be unique to you. We can each manage a different amount of pressure and different types of pressure. Once you peak, performance plateaus and then decreases markedly and you suffer stress.




How do you know when you are stressed?

If you can’t sleep.



If you’re having trouble sleeping at night that is a sure sign of stress.

You need your sleep so that your body can function properly and recover ready for the next day. We all need different amounts of sleep but we do all need to switch off completely and relax for at least 5 hours.

If you’re getting ill all the time.


If you’re catching every bug going round, this is your immune system not being able to protect you because you’re run down and stressed.


If you’re getting irritable and snappy with your mates and your family.




If you can’t concentrate.



If you just can’t step back, prioritise and make good decisions.

This could include self-harming, drinking heavily, having indiscriminate sex, taking drugs or driving dangerously.

If you are experiencing any of these signs or several of them then you are not managing your stress and are already on the downward phase of the graph.

So how do we avoid this happening in the first place and what can you do about it right now.

  1. The first thing to do is to recognise the signs. Accept the situation as it is. This is feedback. These negative behaviours have a positive learning for you and you need to take action.
  2. You need to release the emotional aspect of the stress. You have perhaps suppressed these negative emotions; so express your frustration and your feelings of despair . A good way of doing this is to write down how you feel.

Talking about your feelings with others may help but you’ll find they give you their feelings back and their solutions. The solutions are within you. You have all the resources you need and you have the answers so get rid of all those unhelpful negative thoughts on paper. This is called ‘freefall writing’ and comes from the subconscious mind. It can be a great stress reliever.

You might  find it easier to express these feelings as a picture instead. Do what feels right for you.

  1. Now release the physical stress. Exercise is great for this. If you play a sport or like to go running then fit in an exercise break into your day. It gets the blood flowing, oxygen to your brain and a break for your eyes.
  2. The next stage is called ‘grounding’ and it means getting back in touch with yourself and what’s important to you. Do you have a favourite place to go or friends you haven’t seen for ages? Facebook and texting is all very well but it doesn’t replace the physical connection you experience with friends as you meet and have a laugh together.

These first four stages are the winding down cycle. The next four are about winding up.

  1. Have a sense of purpose. Remind yourself about what you’re doing this thing for. What will doing it mean to you and what you want to do in your life? What is important to you?

Sometimes we get on a treadmill without really thinking about where we are going. Where are you going?

  1. Set goals. Be clear about what you’re committing to. The more you are in control of your goals the more likely you are to achieve them and the less stress you will have.
  2. Make plans for how to achieve your goals and make priorities, make choices.
  3. This last stage is the ‘action’ stage and is about achieving what you want in life.

Notice where you are in the process at the moment and get back in touch with your mind and body. They are ‘one’ and how you feel in your mind is reflected in your body and vice versa.

Judy Bartkowiak is an NLP Master Practitioner and author of Teach Yourself:Be a happier parent with NLP. She offers one to one coaching either face to face or on the telephone and runs workshops either in the workplace or in local venues. She can be contacted on 01628 660618 or 07917 451245 or email judy@hitchamvale.co.uk


Mindfulness and writing

“Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way:

on purpose,

in the present moment, 

and non-judgmentally.”

Jon Kabat-Zinn



This is the first of a series of posts about mindfulness and writing. In this post I want to take you through a beginners guide to mindfulness so you can have a go before we add the writing dimension. First let me explain why I think mindfulness is an essential skill for writers. I wonder if like me you sometimes sit down at your computer and it seems like there are no thoughts in your mind at all. You feel empty of ideas and easily distracted by social media or suddenly remember you need to get something out of the freezer or hang up the washing. Other times the thoughts come thick and fast but all over the place with no structure or meaning, just random ideas. In these situations your mind is taking control.

Imagine your subconscious mind is like an elephant and your conscious mind is a rider on that elephant. How difficult is it going to be to turn the elephant in a different direction? If instead we can train our elephant then we have more chance of having some control. The analogy is particularly real because our unconscious mind is far bigger than the conscious mind and is processing thoughts all the time, millions of them. It can be helpful to label them. Mine can be ‘worrying thoughts’ about my kids or my elderly parents, ‘planning thoughts’ what I need to do later or things I must remember, ‘happy thoughts’ as I think about something nice,  can you label yours?

Some of these thoughts can be helpful, after all we need to remember to collect the dry cleaning or pick up some vegetables for supper. However, they don’t necessarily need to be in our mind right now as we start writing. Thoughts about the future or the past are also unhelpful. You can’t do anything about the past and the future is just that, the future. For your writing you need to be totally present with nothing else you need to be doing, nowhere else you need to be. Yes, in our non writing life we have things to sort out, fix, solve perhaps, but this isn’t what we need to do now. You just need to write. What I find helpful is to imagine I am at a bus stop and buses go past with destinations like ‘worrying about the kids’ or ‘thinking about what to give them for supper’ or ‘ have to clean the bathroom’ and I know if I get on any of those buses I will not write. I will have allowed myself to get distracted by thoughts. So I look at the bus and say “No I don’t want to get on that bus right now, you can drive on past because I’m where I need to be.” It’s about being aware of the distracting thought but waving it past because we don’t want it.






So here’s your first exercise. It’s a multi sensory one because writers like to be aware of all our senses when we write. It’s called mindful eating.

Take a raisin or a chocolate, something that has taste and smell.

Step 1. Visual. Hold the raisin in the palm of your hand and look at it with amazement and curiosity as if you’ve never seen one before. What do you notice? Look at it from different angles, from close up and further away, are there any features that take your eye? Can you imagine the country where it comes from? Can you imagine it growing, being picked, being packed?

Step 2. Touch. Turn it over in your palm and feel it on your skin. It may help to close your eyes so you can focus on the texture of the raisin. Use the finger of your other hand to gently touch the raisin. How does it feel? Does it remind you of anything?

Step 3. Sound. Put it to your ear. Does your raisin have a sound? If it did have a sound what sound would that be?

Step 3. Smell. Now raise it to your nose and smell it. What can you smell? Where do you feel the smell? Does it remind you of anything else? Smell can be very evocative, let the smell take you where your mind wants to travel.

Step 4. Touch. Put the raisin against your lips, what can you feel? Run it along your lip and then pop it in your mouth, on your tongue. What sensation do you get? Move it around your mouth. What is happening?

Step 5. Taste. You can eat it now! Slowly start to let your teeth bite into it and start to chew it. What is going on now? Where are you getting sensations as the saliva drips down the back of your throat. Where are you experiencing taste? How do you feel now that you have swallowed the raisin?


This exercise gives you the experience of living completely in the moment and becoming aware of your different senses as you do one single simple thing. It is mindful eating and you can apply this type of mindfulness to other things you do daily such as showering or brushing your hair, making a cup of tea and so on. That intense focus pushes thoughts from your mind but if you do find your attention wandering and find that thoughts are popping into your head then notice them and label them; worrying thought, planning, remembering or whatever they are. Then return to the exercise. There is nothing else you need to be doing. You are enough just as you are. There is nothing you need to fix or do.

Practice this every day and when you finish the practice, pick up your pen and paper and write. It doesn’t matter what you write, just write what you feel, what sensations you are experiencing in this very calm and quiet space you’ve created where you’ve found some room in your head because you’ve waved away those distracting thoughts.