Lessons from Lockdown #1

My last ‘live’ training was on March 10.
That is exactly 117 days ago (I did count).
I think that’s long enough to come up with some evaluation of what worked well to deal with the stress and overwhelm of this situation. Has it been a challenge? YES! I am not going to lie. Did I come out ok? YES!

Challenge #1

Everything went from ‘live’ to ‘online’. All courses had to be ‘zoomified’.
This was a lot of work. This is not just a matter of installing yourself in front of the computer. No… content needed to be adapted as well as the training methods, etc…
While I did/do not miss the commute to Brussels (not sure I want to go back…), this drastically changed my hours in front of the screen…

  • Trainings = zoom = screen
  • Meetings about the trainings = zoom = screen
  • Preparing the trainings = screen
  • Admin and mails = screen
  • (Checking in on friends = zoom = screen)


Spending a lot of time behind a screen is tiring.
Only interacting with people on a screen (sometimes even with their camera off) makes it much harder to really get the ‘full picture’ and is much more tiring for the brain.

My tip

Regular breaks (away from the screen) and ideally at least 1 longer break outside, in nature.
Even when the lockdown rules were still quite strict in Belgium, we were allowed to go for a walk. It was a bit unfortunate I live in a city and we were not allowed to take the care to go elsewhere but … there was always some ‘green’ to be found.
Walking in nature and opening your senses to what is going on around you is just what your brain needs after focusing on a screen for too long.
If on top of that, you make it a ‘slow’ walk, it kind of calms down your nervous system after all the stress you went through during the day.

If you want to know my other tips, make sure to stay tuned…

Stress management in times of a CRISIS

(view from my living room – thought it was fitting, given the circumstances…)


Most of you will know I’m a trainer specialised in (amongst others) stress management, resilience and burnout prevention.
I have a lot of tools and I try and walk my talk but… the current crisis has taught me that, in times like these, ‘even I’ sometimes need a reminder… And in case you do too: here are my tips.

Notice your stress

I consider myself to be rather practical, not very ‘panicky’…
Rationally I was dealing very well with the whole ‘confinement situation’.
However, I did notice some things:

  • When I was shopping 10 days ago, I reached for the candy near the check-out. And when I got home, I didn’t have my healthy lunch, I ate the candy and not just one, no… I had to finish the box.
    Normally I limit my sugar intake. It’s a choice and once you’re used to it, you don’t have too many cravings… But this ‘need’ for sugar told me there was stress in my body. And noticing it, helped me to address it.
  • At the beginning of last week, when I woke up to go the toilet and then got back to bed because it was too early to get up, I noticed some anxiousness. And even though I did go back to sleep, I had nightmares linked to the crisis situation. Again, this made me aware of the stress ‘in my system’ and … the necessity to address it.

How can you notice it too?

I got much better at noticing since I started to practice mindfulness.
It helped me to become more aware of my feelings, thoughts, physical sensations.
I helps me to ‘notice’ what I’m doing and this gives me a ‘choice’: I can choose to keep on doing it or I can choose NOT to do it.
#youalwayshaveachoice #YAHAC…


Why is it important to notice stress and to address it?

When dealing with a virus, a strong immunity system is vital. Guess what: when you are stressed, your adrenals produce more cortisol which has an impact on … your immunity system. So… managing your stress is good for your immunity.


Manage your stress

I’ve said it before, I have been reminded now so I’ll say it again: YOU are responsible for your stress management. While you can’t control what happens around you, you can decide how you deal with it.

Keep on breathing:
When your body goes into stress mode, a breathing technique can activate your parasympathetic nervous system and… calm you down
There are many different ones. I have been talking in the past about the ‘4-4-4-4-technique’, heart coherence, mindfulness. More information can be found in the articles on my website and in the videos on Facebook and Youtube.

Don’t believe everything you think:
It’s not what happens to you, it’s how you look at what happens to you. The virus doesn’t cause the stress. It’s your thoughts about the virus that cause the stress (bold statement, I know). Maybe now is a good time to do my free mini-course

Moving helps you to get back into your body (and not stay stuck in your mind). While I love walking in nature, this is no longer an option for everybody. But even when you are stuck in your apartment, move some furniture out of the way and do some exercise, or simply dance… Last week I danced a Nia-routine for an hour and my body and I loved it: I noticed I was smiling most of the time. I will definitely do it again. If you normally go the gym: find something online. There are so many things: exercise, yoga, dancing, … Even if you are working from home: have a short dance break: dance to 3 of your favourite songs (I already had one this morning…). You’ll be energised to return to your screen afterwards.

Last week I didn’t have a lot of structure. I had some meetings, I had some work but in between there was a lot of ‘nothing’ (and as a result too much television, social media, etc… – OOPS: as I write this, I just receive the message that my screen time was up 69% last week!!! This must and will go down this week). As from this week I will be more organised and structured. And yes, there will still be time for exercise, for reading, for fun things, for talking to friends and family… AND it will be a lot more structured.
It calms the mind.

Take care of yourself first so you can take care of others too. Think of the oxygen mask: you have to put on your own first so you can give one to your children. So take care of your own stress too, so you can deal better with other people’s stress…

The news:
While it’s important to have an update (change in the rules, etc…), I’ve chosen not to watch the news all day long. I usually watch it at 1 pm (and only part of it) and that’s enough. Notice how it make me feel. Does it reassure you? Does it make you feel more stressed? And decide what’s the best approach for you.

Social media:
While some messages are helpful and uplifting, others have the opposite effect. And even when there are a lot of uplifting ones: there is such a thing as too much screentime (see above!)


How do I plan to help:

  • I will offer ‘The truth about mindfulness’ for free as long as the ‘confinement’ lasts here in Belgium. For those who are not familiar with mindfulness, it can be the perfect way to start.
  • Since I don’t want to send too many mails, I will repost some old articles on social media. So if you want the information, it’s easier for you to find. (Facebook is probably a bit easier than Instagram for that). I’ve also included a lot of links in this article (you’re welcome! ;-D)
  • Working on your mindset is key. If you haven’t signed up for the free mini-course ‘Don’t believe everything you think!’ yet, this is the right time, trust me. And if you want, we can do a ‘group session’ next week. I will answer all your questions on FB. (For instance: on Monday I will answer the questions for day 1, on Tuesday for day 2, etc…)
  • If you’re done with all the free resources and you want to work on a specific issue: I offer virtual coaching.

If there is anything else you would like me to do: reply to this mail or send me a PM or DM on social media. And I’ll see what I can do.

Please feel free to pass this one to anybody who might need this…

Take care of yourself and stay safe and healthy!








The basic mindset for assertive behaviour

I have already been talking about this on social media for the past couple of days but now I would like to bring it together AND give you some examples.

Often people think that assertiveness is about techniques. I don’t really agree. I think techniques can help to formulate your message. However, if you don’t ‘think’ assertively, even these carefully crafted messages might come across aggressively or subassertively.

What is this ‘assertive mindset’?
I am OK / You are OK / WIN-WIN

I am OK
In order to be able to be assertive, you truly have to believe that you are OK.
You are good enough. You are competent enough. You are … enough.
This doesn’t mean you are perfect.
This doesn’t mean that you don’t make mistakes.
You do make mistakes and … even then, deep down, you are ok.
At identity level, you are ok.
If you don’t truly believe so, chances are that you are going to be subassertive: you’ll put the other person on a pedestal and you’ll accept everything he or she says. You might not even react at all and nobody might even know what you are thinking/feeling.
Other people might ‘hide’ their insecurity by overcompensating so they will behave in a defensive/aggressive way… Which will only provoke defensive/aggressive behaviour back…

On Friday I had a get together organized by one of the companies I work for. As a ‘gift’ we got an individual photoshoot. And we could use these photos for our own portfolio.
I was sick that week and I hadn’t slept that night (coughing, blowing my nose). When I arrived two hours (I had warned them in advance), it was almost immediately my turn.
It was ok but the photographer told me that I did look tired on most of the photos. I could not really argue with that.
As the day passed by, I started to get a bit more energy. And I thought: why not ask if I could get another go? The photographer was still there, working with my colleagues. In my pre-assertive period I would not have asked. I would have considered this to be my problem, not the photographer’s. ‘Don’t make a fuss’. Now I thought, ‘I can ask and she can say yes or no’… She said yes ;-D And I was quite pleased with myself.

You are OK
When I need to be assertive with you, I do not only need to find myself ok, but you too.
Unfortunately, this is not always so easy.
When do we find it the hardest to be assertive?
When we have to pass a ‘difficult’ message.
This could be giving negative feedback, saying no, safeguarding our boundaries…
Let’s have a look at giving negative feedback.
If I have to give negative feedback to you, I usually belief you did something ‘wrong’. And because I find it difficult to tell you, I typically wait too long. Up to the moment you really get on my nerves and… what bothered me at first, has evolved to something much bigger. Chances are that I don’t like you anymore and that when I finally start the conversation, I might be a bit ‘aggressive’.
It’s important to make a difference between the person himself (his identity) and his behaviour. The fact that a person did something which is not ‘OK’, does not mean that he or she is not OK.
I choose to believe that everybody is OK (although I’l admit that some people hide their OK-ness very well) and to focus on the specific behaviour when giving feedback. This helps to remain assertive (and for the other person not to get (too) defensive…)

Sometimes one of the participants in a course behaves in a ‘strange’ way. It’s very easy to react ‘automatically’: this is not ok! And to get defensive.
If I can manage to remain calm and just think ‘that was an interesting reaction’ instead of ‘what a strange person’ usually things work out very well. Sometimes I actively go looking for ‘positive things’ to outweigh the negative ones.

If I do NOT control my reaction, he would truly become a difficult participant… and I might start to change my behaviour as well… and not in a good way… And it could have an effect on the other participants as well.

When I go for assertive, authentic communication, I want to make the experience as WIN-WIN as possible for both parties.
Ideally nobody feels like the ‘loser’ at the end of the conversation because if that is the case, they might want to get ‘even’ next time.
So do know what’s important for you, without ‘imposing’ it on the other, because this could be ‘aggressive’. Listen to him/her to see if you can come up with something that could work for the both of you.
It’s this balance between knowing what you want AND remaining open to alternatives.

Example from a participant:
When I buy a car, it’s usually a ‘nearly new car’. I drive a hard bargain and I usually negotiate an excellent price. When it’s time to get my car serviced, I have to go to another garage. Because I’m afraid I will be charged a higher price (to compensate).

Do you see why? Because he (=the participant) went for WIN-LOSE and because he won, the other one inevitably lost and … this might play a part in future interactions. If the first interaction had been ‘win-win’, it would have been a different story.

Do you now understand what I mean by the assertive mindset? If you’ve really integrated this mindset. You don’t really need a technique. You attitude will be assertive.

This being said, it’s not always easy to think and behave this way 24/7, so… if you also want to use the techniques: be my guest! (I do too!)

If you would like to work on your assertiveness, check out my online training here.