The sun was shining on Ansty Hall Hotel in Coventry for the 5th Annual Women in Business Conference on Friday 9th June 2023. With a packed conference room the buzz began to build quickly as the attendees gathered to enjoy a full day of guest speakers, networking, activities, and refreshments.
Karen Heap, the founder of Socially Shared, kicked off proceedings with an introduction to the theme of the day – Mind Your Business. Mindfulness and mental health are prominent topics for business owners, and the line-up of expert speakers were primed to share their knowledge, skills, and strategies to help us get the most out of the day and theme.
The event sponsors were Andrea Rainsford, Josie Gammell, and Abbi Hoxley who introduced themselves, their businesses, and what they hoped to achieve from the day before the audience was introduced to the first speaker.
Speaker 1: Cathy Connan, Psychotherapist
That was the first question Cathy Connan asked the audience at the start of her Mental Health and Mindset talk. With our busy and demanding lives, we try to fit social activities, work, family, and leisure time in and then wonder why we burn out.
Cathy shared her personal burnout story and how vulnerable it made her feel. She spoke about the three goals she set for herself as she began working as a freelancer.
She was happy to confirm that she got her dog! Cathy also volunteered for over 6 years and ended up studying for a psychology degree. She knew what she wanted and she made it happen.
Returning back to her initial question, she talked about the rise of poor mental health and how we, as a society, see burnout as a new kind of normal. Our lives are full of chronic stressors.
Interestingly, stress-related disorders are more likely to be diagnosed as auto-immune diseases of which 70-80% impact women. We are pushing down our stress and carrying on rather than stopping to correct our unhealthy environments.
The stress on our mind and body begins to then manifest as a physical disease (dis-ease), for example, women with breast cancer show high levels of anger suppression.
To help ourselves, we must understand trauma. Cathy talked about two types of trauma to watch out for. Trauma with a capital T, and trauma with a small t.
T = an automatic response to specific, hurtful, distressing events.
t = we barely notice but it still has an impact on us.
Throughout our lives, we experience a mix of ‘big T and little t’ trauma, most of this coming from childhood patterning and our life script (what our parents and peers told us).
And back to that question again. What’s your normal?
Are you struggling, competing with yourself, dealing with anxiety, resentment, that cruel inner voice, or exhaustion?
Who comes first in your life?
There is nothing wrong with striving for growth in your personal and professional life, but not to the detriment of your physical and mental health.
Cathy asked the audience to reflect on the following questions:
- Do you know yourself? Do you listen to your gut?
- Do you know what’s okay for you? Do you say no?
- Are you where you want to be?
She closed her session with more encouragement to stay inquisitive about ourselves and more self-reflection.
- In important parts of your life, what are you not saying no to?
- What’s the impact of not saying no?
- What bodily symptoms are you ignoring?
- What are your hidden stories?
- Where did you learn these stories?
Speaker 2: Clare Hopkins, Metanoia Lifestyle
Our second speaker of the day was Clare, an area host for Socially Shared and a mental
health and wellbeing coach. Her talk focused on regaining our sense of self and purpose.
Clare began by sharing her personal journey to define her sense of self and find meaning in
her life. She was conflicted for a long time and felt lost – something many of the audience
could relate to.
That lack of direction has a huge impact on our physical and mental health. It’s exhausting trying to be somebody else rather than who you are meant to be. If that sounds familiar, Clare gave us a few common signs to watch out for:
- Feeling lost in life
- You are taken advantage of by others
- Low self-esteem and social anxiety
- Scattered priorities
- Unable to set goals
She referred to the various character roles played by actress Julia Roberts and how Clare has been able to resonate with each of these characters in her own life. Specifically, she talked about Runaway Bride where Julia Roberts’s character needs to discover herself in order to obtain what she truly wants.
Clare asked how many of us were gasping for air rather than asking for help. That’s how she felt in her own life and began asking herself, ‘How did I get here?’ She was blind to the warning signs and needed external validation that she was enough.
Are you a passive participant in your own life?
Self-awareness is vital if you want to regain your sense of self and purpose, otherwise, you will live a default life and only survive instead of thrive.
Clare told us the power to change is within all of us. Daily self-awareness is the easiest way to take action and create a more fulfilling life.
Develop daily reflective practices
- Get intentional with your time to create the life you want
- Spend time with people who see your potential as they are looking at you through a different lens.
She left us with a final quote.
“Have the courage to get intentional and live a life true to yourself, not the life you think others expect of you.”
Before we broke for a mid-morning refreshment break, sponsored by Sandra Garlick from Woman Who Achieves, we were treated to a mindful activity with Liz Paolone.
Liz talked about the fight or flight response that many of us experience on a day-to-day basis, but how it has changed over hundreds of years. In our society we are less likely to come face-to-face with a saber-tooth tiger than our ancestors and yet our fight or flight response is identical. The stress triggers we experience might include speaking in public (no spear necessary!) or the supermarket queue, but our unconscious mind reacts the same.
That inappropriate use of survival triggers (stress response) creates our diseases such as IBS, cancer, weight issues, and poor mental health.
Mindfulness is a fabulous way to calm those responses. Liz walked the audience through a calming meditation providing everyone with the tools to rewire their brains and release tension.
Following the refreshment break, we were introduced to Dishi Attwood, a Soroptimist and Director of Membership. Dishi entertained the audience with her humour and feel-good stories. Her passion for volunteering is palpable as she talked about the joy and warm glow you get from doing something for others.
“If you do good, you feel good,” she told us.
Dishi introduced the audience to Soroptomist International, an organisation of women inspiring action and transforming lives.If you are looking for a network with a cause then take a look at becoming a volunteer Soroptimist.
Speaker 3: Elizabeth Platt, Peak Performance Therapy & Coach
Elizabeth’s talk focused on learning how to stop apologising and how to own it. She introduced the audience to her mean inner critic, affectionately known as Negative Nelly.
Nelly is loud, bold, and brash. She is the voice that says “I can’t do this” and “Who do you think you are?”. She also comes with physical reactions such as that sensation of dread or fear in the pit of your stomach. The entire room knew Nelly!
Elizabeth wasn’t angry about Nelly, in fact, she explained how it was her who brought Nelly to life. She created Negative Nelly through her childhood, past encounters, and stories.
For years she had buried her true identity and worn a mask. She didn’t celebrate her accomplishments and successes because Nelly had always told her to “stop putting yourself out there.”
Negative Nelly had stopped Elizabeth from following her dreams. She was faithful and familiar. That is until Elizabeth began rewiring her brain to take back control.
Using a simple breathing exercise that regulates your nervous system, it is possible to quieten that inner voice. Elizabeth also uses hypnotherapy with her clients which is a fabulous tool to break down the barriers that hold you back. The mind is powerful.
Are you ready to leave Negative Nelly behind?
Elizabeth talked about the extensive studies and research done into clinical applications such as CBT and mental imagery to cope with difficult situations. These tools help you show up as a more confident version of yourself. She has used hypnotherapy and meditation herself to overcome disordered breathing, severe panic, and a breakdown.
She walked the audience through a visualisation exercise using a lemon as the subject, to show the power of the imagination. “Don’t compare your journey with others, focus on your own version of the story,” she told us.
Elizabeth shared an affirmation and encouraged us to repeat it three times whenever we may need it. “Every day, in every way, I’m thinking and behaving and feeling with more peace, positivity, calm, confidence, strength, and control.”
She closed her session with a final question.
You have two voices in your head, Negative Nelly and Positive Polly. Which one will you listen to?
Speaker 4: Dr. Hayley Poole, The Purple House Clinic
Hayley, a Chartered Clinical Psychologist, began her session by asking what stops us from reaching our full potential.
We all struggle with psychological barriers to success through our thoughts, feelings, behaviours, and how we overcome these barriers.
She asked the audience to reflect for a moment:
- Where are you now?
- Has anything got in the way of your success in business?
- Have you learned anything?
Which thoughts can you relate to?
I might fail
I’m not good enough
I might get found out
It has to be perfect
I’m not clever enough
I’m not brave enough
Which feelings can you relate to?
Fear and anxiety
Which behaviours can you relate to?
Fluff on a to-do list
Focusing on the negative
Not learning from mistakes
Lack of delegation
Saying yes to everything
Taking things personally
What contributes to these barriers for you?
Family scripts. Was independence encouraged by your parents or teachers?
Trauma history. Did this have an impact on the action you take?
Mental and physical health. Are you struggling with a disease?
Role models. Were you surrounded by strong women?
Previous successes and failures. How do people react and behave around you?
What tools can you use to overcome barriers?
Self-reflection. Where are you now and where do you want to be?
Managing your mindset
Just do it! Use role-play techniques or therapies such as EMDR
Goal setting. Set yourself small challenges.
Think about your inner critic. Can you change Negative Nelly to Positive Polly?
Buddy up with others. Accountability is key.
Coaching or mentoring. Get the support you need.
Therapy and psychoeducation.
Hayley asked the audience what the term mindset meant to them. She discussed how your mindset can determine what you focus on as well as your motivation. It affects your productivity, business relationships, and decision making.
Mindset comes from two primary sources; praising and labelling in early childhood. Many of the audience could relate to the latter.
Reframing your language can help with this.
Instead of telling a child “You’re smart” which labels them, instead, change the phrase to “If you work hard you can get smarter”. The child will be open to working hard in order to nourish a growth mindset instead of becoming fixed upon the label of already achieving that goal with no need to try.
The labels we give ourselves, such as “I’m no good with numbers” aren’t helpful to our mindset or personal development.
Nourish your growth mindset by learning from your mistakes and persisting through any setbacks. The key is using the right language such as ‘can, will do, might, or I’ll try’.
Focus on the journey and its value to you and start to incorporate the word YET into your self-talk – “I’m not good with numbers, yet!”
Pay attention to your words and thoughts and embrace your challenges as lessons. “I’m going to learn from this.”
Hayley then went on to talk about mental fitness and our ability to be proactive around mental health. She focused on the four pillars of mental fitness:
Emotion – self-acceptance and self-esteem
Social – enrichment and connections
Financial – feeling in control of your finances
Physical – sleep and exercise
Goal setting is a fabulous way to action the four pillars and identify something you want to accomplish. They give you direction, focus, and personal satisfaction. If you follow the SMART acronym you can set achievable goals, stay accountable, and see success.
Before setting your goals, Hayley advises you to review the following:
- What’s the why?
- Can you make your goal challenging yet realistic?
- Can you set long and short term goals?
- Is your goal specific?
- Is it flexible?
Hayley’s formula for living your most successful life is to set goals based on inspiration, definition, and motivation. Stop procrastinating and stop looking at success as a distant achievement. “It’s here now. Look at your small successes!”
When asked about their favourite takeaways from Hayley’s talk there were a few insightful comments:
“Listening to everyone else I realise I’m not alone on my journey.” Miranda Kihlstrom
“I’ve been focusing on the wrong stuff and missed those smaller successes.” Cirian Beddoes
“I’m going to stop taking someone else’s opinion as fact.” Wendy Garcarz
We then broke for a spectacular lunch sponsored by Wendy Garcarz, Micro Business Growth
Read PART TWO of our Conference Review on the Socially Shared Blog.
Interested in joining the Socially Shared Women’s Business Support Network? Our affordable annual membership is £99 and includes many benefits to help your business thrive.
Find out more via our website.
“By the far the best networking group I’ve been to. Expertly organised, incredibly friendly group with genuine support and the leaders are very well connected in the local business world with heaps of experience. Socially Shared is totally different from other networking groups I’ve attended; it’s whole ethos centres around LEARNING while networking and each session has a themed business topic like ‘knowing your customer’, ‘blog writing’, ‘time management’ etc which are really useful with a handy worksheet with all the tips to take away.” Stephanie Rix, Life’s Work Consulting.