23 March 2020

How to avoid a “home” office meltdown – Six top tips for working from home

I heard on Sky News that the divorce rate is set to rocket as businesses and national governments are encouraging or compelling people (depending on which country you live in) to work from home.

It’s a reasonable prediction, as no one likes to be cooped up. We already know that the long Christmas holidays are renowned for bringing simmering marital tensions to boiling point. Now imagine the added tension of being cooped up where there are health scares, food shortages, money worries, or if someone has taken the last sheet of toilet roll! Seriously, though, that could be the spark that sends someone flying to the divorce court.

So in response to this and to offer some useful advice to help everyone (singles or unmarried couples too) to get through the crisis, here are my top tips for working from home, especially for those of you who have never done the homeworking thing before.

Create a scheduled routine

Librarians and monks aside, it’s an unusual situation to be working isolated in a very quiet room when you’ve been used to the clamour and social hubbub of a business environment, and motivation is crucial.

Your boss expects you to put in the hours during a normal day in the office, so the same trust applies when you shift your seat to another room, albeit your dining/bed/living room. You may not be under scrutiny, but using home working as a reason for avoidance is simply stealing from the petty-cash tin from a distance.

If you work 9 til 5 in the office, ensure you structure your work from 9 til 5 at home too. Maintain the same routine by writing a to-do list to keep you on track. By planning your time in advance, you will hit the important deadlines without becoming anxious or stressed.

Enjoy the benefits

Most of us spend around two hours of our working day commuting, more if you work in one of the major cities. Newcastle city centre workers can expect at least an hour a day on the commute even if they live on the city outskirts. Home Counties’ commuters can spend 3 hours just getting to their London office before they even sit at their desk.

This is therefore an ideal opportunity to use the hours you would normally spend commuting doing something really useful or healthy. You can waste it or make use of the extra time to refresh and reinvigorate, or study. You can exercise or prepare the ingredients for an extra tasty mid-week dinner.

Although it may be tempting to lie in bed longer instead of managing the extra time in positive action, self-improvement or studying, when normal office work resumes eventually—and it will— the old routine will hit you harder than ever before.

Another benefit is money saving. No petrol, train fares or parking costs to eat into your pay packet. Think how much money you are saving by not buying shop bought lunches and Costa coffees! You can also govern your day and complete jobs at home without taking days off, so you are not wasting your holiday time waiting for a delivery, plumber or repairman.

Make your workspace ‘worky’

You may think that working in your underwear or dressing gown, or hammering out a project on your laptop in bed propped up by pillows is a great idea; however, knowing many successful work-from-home entrepreneurs, this is quite the fairy-tale.

I recommend still dressing smartly as it helps foster a more professional mind-set – you might shun the stilettos or pinstripes, but avoid wearing your duvet like a poncho as you work.

It is vital you create a working zone that you can own as “workspace”. Even if this is your kitchen table or a wide windowsill in the living room. That space should be a surrogate work area and nothing else. Extra tip: Close the door or screen off your workplace if you can at night to separate it from home/leisure space.

Keep your break times sacrosanct

You may not always take visible breaks in your normal office; but enforced breaks are a legal requirement, so at home be legalistic on yourself and have scheduled time out. You could take a walk around the block, sit in the garden or on your balcony, or walk the dog (Government guidelines permitting). You will not only feel better, but work much more efficiently afterwards. Make yourself some tea, stroke the cat or hang some washing out, and be sure to eat a lunch too, perhaps outside, or certainly take a step away from your desk for a bit to clear your mind.

Don’t self-isolate to extremes

Okay, you may have been told to self-isolate, but that doesn’t mean you can’t chat to a neighbour from over the fence, or make a Facetime call to your pals, or even stroll to the park to greet another human being from a distance (Guidelines permitting). Social interaction is key for mental balance.

Anticipate the novelty wearing off

Joking apart, this ‘lockdown’ is quite a shock especially for those who live alone or the older generation. It is going to be a challenge. People who see their home as a retreat and all of a sudden are compelled to work from it will feel very strange. Self-motivation and organising yourself in such a different way takes effort. There are many distractions too like cats walking across your keyboard, people ringing the doorbell, and the temptation of procrastination…Hmmm, I’ll just water those plants; load the dishwasher; plump up the sofa cushions; have another snack…

Some of us remember the power cuts of the early 1970s during the coal strikes. It was cosy and exciting at first to have the house lit by candles, but it became tedious very quickly, especially on a Saturday night when the scheduled black out came just as Dr Who started.

This ‘new normal’ can be approached negatively or positively: It can threaten you and undermine you or you can embrace the opportunities home working brings.

It’s going to become very stressful if you are not mentally prepared for the longer haul, which it seems is what “the powers that be” are anticipating. Stay watchful and stockpile resilience for yourself, your families and your neighbourhood.

And if this time off work together is creating anxiety, stress or tension, please contact me – my service includes online support.

Please do look out for each other.

12 March 2020

Stockpiling “resilience”. Do you have the right mentality?

Environmental and physical threats to our person arrive in various guises – like flood or famine; war or exposure to violence; health problems and of course diseases like coronavirus, along with the social upheaval each entails.

We’ve all been aware of slightly bigger supermarket trolley loads in the last fortnight, predominantly swelled by toilet paper.

Personally, I grew up in an era when the mantra “Be Prepared” spoke of self-reliance and taking responsibility for yourself and your family rather than depending on other people or the government to look after you in a crisis. Margaret Thatcher was a famous advocate for gradual and restrained stockpiling when possible (having grown up during rationing). That is a sensible approach and prevents crazed panic buying and trolley rage from unprepared people.

“Out of Stock”

Taking responsibility for our “physical” wellbeing is second nature to most of us; we feed our families and ourselves as a daily priority and we budget for it, and as recent news proves, many of us anticipate interruption in the supply chain and make provision for it.

However, when it comes to dealing with our own psychological wellbeing, or spotting the signs of mental distress and someone barely coping—a friend or colleague perhaps—most of us have seriously bare shelves with “out of stock” signs everywhere.

Failure to adapt mentally

The mental health issues of relationship breakdown, a bitter divorce, unemployment and redundancy; problems in the family or at work, can lead to massive levels of internalised stress, anxiety and depression that can be as devastating to health as a lengthy famine or pandemic.

Traumatic change and events – an opportunity to learn and grow

We’re good at feeding our bellies, but most of us are shockingly inept at feeding our inner psyche with the right metaphorical nutrition and sustenance when a mental health or emotional crisis slam dunks us.

Of course it’s unhealthy to never experience any form of adversity; you won’t learn life lessons or know how resilient you are. It’s only when you’re faced with obstacles, stress, and other environmental threats that resilience, or the lack of it, emerges: Do you succumb or do you transcend?

Resilience enables success despite challenges

Some people are naturally more resilient to sudden change and stress just through their DNA. This manifests in being more optimistic and being able to roll with life’s punches without losing positivity. Everyone has a breaking point however, and sometimes a person’s mental reserves are completely overwhelmed during a prolonged period of chronic adversity. They may turn to drink, drugs or other dangerous addictions to cope.

Focusing on ‘change’ as a threat or viewing a traumatic event as a lasting problem makes you inflexible, and likely to be negatively affected.

Thankfully, “resilience” is a set of skills that can be taught, improving an individual’s ability to cope with unwelcome change whenever it arises, and to handle the stress it delivers.

By framing adversity as a challenge, you become more flexible and able to deal with it, move on, learn from it, and grow.

Essential mental stockpiling assets

As business coach and corporate trainer for Carol Barwick Learning and Development I  provide Hypno-coaching and a range of resilience-building training courses that allow people to access their subconscious mind and find the root cause of negative thinking patterns, stress and anxiety including what is holding them back from achieving their goals.

An inner stockpile to access when “positivity hunger” strikes

I believe that your approach to circumstances drives your achievements, therefore I have designed a toolkit of psychological techniques—a fully stocked larder of interventions you can take away with you when you hunger for self-assurance and encouragement, or when negativity strikes:

  • Effective breathing exercises to reduce stress and avoid panic attacks
  • Faster EFT “tapping” therapies – an alternative treatment for physical pain and emotional distress restoring energy balance via the body’s meridian points
  • Integral Eye Movement Therapy (IEMT) brings individuals more into the present moment and enables them to stay out of past negative experiences
  • Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) explores the connection and interaction between a person’s neurological processes, language and behaviour patterns and habits (‘programming’) learned through life experience, and makes positive changes
  • Emotional Intelligence (EI) skills help with emotional awareness, and the ability to identify, name and harness one’s own emotions, apply them to thinking and problem solving; managing and regulating one’s own emotions and helping others to do the same.

These proven methods not only help individuals transform their reaction to adversity, but when communicated on a corporate level enable leaders and managers to cultivate team-wide responses to stress when business challenges arise (particularly during times of corporate restructuring and change-management initiatives).

Bespoke for individuals and tailor made programmes for your business

I am passionate about the value my wide range of hypno-coaching assets brings to both private individuals and corporate teams, building resilience to stress, transforming difficult relationships, and promoting good health and wellbeing in the workplace and at home. See my full range of bespoke coaching and training packages here.

I have excellent testimonials from both public and private sector clients including those from Manufacturing, Housing, Retail, NHS, Fire & Rescue Service, Probation Service, government agencies and charities on a national basis.

For more information contact me.

12 February 2020

Coronavirus scare – Another headline for the daily panic

Let me be clear, Coronavirus (COVID-19) is real. There are real health risks and no-one can be certain of its overall effects around the world. That said – the news media love a good scare story, and Coronavirus ticks all their boxes. A news editor’s mantra of “If it bleeds it leads” is no truer than in the case of a juicy pandemic story.

So whilst there are real, practical measures that we can all take to protect ourselves, our families and colleagues, being whipped into a panic isn’t going to help. Fear is not a helpful emotion (unless you are being chased by a tiger).

I do not doubt the peril of this virus, which has already caused many deaths; however, as a health and wellbeing practitioner, I believe the media has unduly focused on panic style headlines when there are other societal issues destroying people’s lives every week:

Some humdinger social problems just as lethal as Coronavirus


Opioid addiction

Gambling crisis

Human trafficking and sexual abuse

Debt and loan-sharking

Homelessness and poverty

Toxic relationships and domestic violence (male and female)

Workplace stress and depression

Suicide crisis

Did you know that sixteen people kill themselves every day in the UK and 400,000 deaths each year in the EU are directly linked to obesity? A 2018 Labour Force Survey in the UK showed 15.4 million working days were lost to work-related stress, depression or anxiety in 2017/18.

The coronavirus health scare is great for selling papers without anyone really knowing the full details of the virus. The supposition in the media is whipping people into a frenzy. Rumours create panic, fear and anxiety.

The workplace can be a petri-dish of problems

Through training, coaching and mediation I see first-hand how scaremongering and rumours in the workplace, especially during periods of restructure, reorganisation and change, can create unnecessary anxiety and stress, often leading to a toxic office environment.

According to 2018 HSE statistics when it comes to the causes of work-related stress, depression or anxiety, workload pressures including tight deadlines and a lack of managerial support were the main issues (44 per cent of all cases). Other causes included bullying (13 per cent) and organisational changes at work (8 per cent). In total, 57 % of all working days lost to ill health were due to stress and anxiety making Absence Management a major issue/cost for UK business.

What is real and what is a rumour?

So when bad news and rumours hit the front page it’s useful to ask yourself, “Where’s the evidence? Where are the facts?” If it is true, then drill down and consider, “Does it affect me, does it apply to me? How do I feel? If you find yourself feeling anxious consider what you can do to reduce your anxiety.

My company, Carol Barwick Learning and Development (CBLD) Ltd specialises in tackling business and workplace challenges from a “behaviour” standpoint, and we use a powerful range of techniques and tools to help leadership and management. These include coaching, staff training, and mediation.

The five most common workplace issues I help managers deal with are:

Conflict and a toxic office

Toxic relationships and conflict in the workplace can poison everyone in the team. This is where effective mediation must be employed as soon as possible to avoid talent walking out of the door.


What are the real reasons for a person’s repeated absence? Is conflict or stress at work the problem? Can mediation or hypno-coaching help? If absenteeism is caused by personal issues how can you as a manager sensitively approach the person. What support systems are in place?


Aside from absenteeism, a common issue among well-intentioned people is coming to work sick. They do this because they fear being seen as slackers or worry about losing their job; however, such “presenteeism” is estimated to cost the UK economy £15.1billion every year, making it nearly double the cost of absenteeism. (https://workinmind.org/2019/10/17/presenteeism/)

Poorly people operate ineffectively causing failing sales or quality control mistakes as well as making other people sick, impacting productivity. What’s more, a person not operating at their optimal level creates a backlog for the rest of the team which can cause resentment and conflict.

Home problems

Juggling the demands of problems at home carry over into the workplace. Stress, anxiety and depression through a toxic relationship for example, can result in absenteeism and sickness.

Toxic relationships make you reframe how you see the world. It is like a creeping death—death of the old you. It is only in retrospect you know the impact it has.


Stress and anxiety at work or at home feed addictions such as alcohol, prescription drugs and food addictions. Knock-on effects such as hangovers, drowsiness and ineffectiveness result, because addicts operate less efficiently than fitter members of the team. Problem gambling is a particularly addictive scourge with easy access to online platforms endemic. Many thefts from the workplace link directly to gambling problems.

Prevention is better than cure. 

An obese person, problem gambler or functioning alcoholic may also have relationship stress with their spouse because they feel they have lost control and are not dealing with the elephant in their room.

The right prescription

Leaders and managers would be wise to identify and reduce the causes of stress and where possible support employees struggling to cope. This means using Emotional Intelligence and genuine empathy to deal promptly with issues like excessive workloads, conflict and bullying in the office, sensitively handling addiction issues and applying the right treatment.

I believe it is everyone’s personal duty to look after their own health before they knock on doctors’ or therapists’ doors demanding drugs, operations and treatment, though sensitivity is vital and the right support given by an emotionally intelligent manager or colleague at the right time can make all the difference.

React before it becomes a contagion

Carol Barwick Learning & Development (CBLD) Ltd provides valuable training to help managers spot signs of stress or conflict, providing bespoke solutions before negativity becomes a contagion. If managers take preventable precautions they can quickly limit the spread of a toxic situation. These include mediation along with easy and effective adjustments to inspire and motivate staff, and building resilience into the team at every level.  Uniquely my strategy includes hypno-coaching to develop mutual understanding and providing people with appropriate tools to control the situation.

A proven antidote

The results are remarkable, enabling people with different ways of working and different personalities to discover real cooperation; agreeing a contract going forward with the other person and reducing stress levels for everyone involved.

Contact me for more information.

P.S. I can’t stop myself from remembering “Corona orangeade” in the 1970s whenever I hear the Coronavirus mentioned on the news. Some of you “older folk” will remember the strapline: “Every bubble’s passed its fizzical”!

30 January 2020

The Curve Balls of Life May Include Tragedy

One thing Kobe Bryant’s tragic death has proven last week is whatever your status; rich or poor; obscure or famous; a tragedy can strike any one of us out of the blue.

We can barely imagine how devastating it was to hear the news directly, for his wife and surviving daughters—and let’s not forget the “seven other people” aboard who don’t enjoy the celebrity status and media focus.

Benjamin Mays, civil rights leader and mentor to Martin Luther King famously stated, “The tragedy of life is often not in our failure, but rather in our doing too little; not in our living above our ability, but rather in our living below our capacities.” Accordingly, Kobe Bryant’s family can be thankful that he lived his life like a giant of his game.

A very personal business

Grief and pain are unwelcome visitors, and as the nightly news proves, accidents and tragedy hit unpredictably like earthquakes, shaking us to our core. We all mourn in our own unique way. Most of us by middle age have experienced a death in the family; loss of a grandparent, parent, partner or sibling; some slowly through chronic illness or old age; perhaps addiction; others suddenly through a heart attack or stroke, or worse; suicide.

Life’s tragedies and crises are indeed numerous and they arrive at our door in many guises. Some are swift as an arrow; violent and bloody; while others are lumbering slow-motion behemoths, often more menacing because of their insidious, inexorable assault — we detect something bad is approaching, and in spite of the warnings, we are still stunned when eventually we face each other.

Crisis Checklist: The Top 25

As predictable as boardroom clichés, life’s problems, events and crises happen to all of us at some point, so being mentally (and physically) prepared is key.

Here’s a list of 25 of them (in rough chronological order from childhood to old age), many of which most of us experience in some form or another:

  1. Fear and phobia
  2. Abuse or neglect
  3. Bullying
  4. Accident and illness
  5. Parental break up
  6. Body image problems (acne, body shape, disfigurement etc.)
  7. Bereavement
  8. Broken-heartedness
  9. Exam stress
  10. Career anxiety
  11. Debt and financial stress
  12. Alcohol and drug abuse
  13. Gambling problems and other addictions
  14. Marriage and partnership issues
  15. Unemployment and redundancy
  16. Conflict with others (at home and at work)
  17. Jealousy and bitterness
  18. Criminality (and imprisonment)
  19. Sexual problems (impotence / frigidity)
  20. Divorce
  21. Loneliness
  22. Stress and trauma through natural disaster / war / PTSD
  23. Depression
  24. Suicidal inclinations
  25. Old age, dementia and death (fear of)

Problems are life’s “mental-muscle” builders

It’s a grim list because it can be a grim old world out there, but as a fully qualified Clinical Hypnotherapist and business leadership and management coach for Carol Barwick Learning and Development Ltd, I look at life’s problems, events and crises differently. I know that every single situation, however bleak, can be overcome and used as a stepping-stone to self-improvement, providing you are given the right tools and the right training.

A door of hope

Although tragedy and sudden change in life creates insecurity and brings on anxiety if we let the situation control us, we can use it to our advantage. Resistance to change happens because we fear the loss of something important to us such as status; power; control; privileges, and money—divorce or a death in the family can seriously affect finances causing a raft of other difficulties. Psychologists understand that unwelcome “change” delivers these seven reactions affecting self-esteem in a classic “roller coaster” curve:







New Confidence

Once the truth of a bad situation hits home, we get angry, confused and depressed until we reach a trough of crisis. Reaching rock bottom, we are forced to take back control by facing the issue(s) and developing new confidence, taking positive steps forward.

Tragedy therefore can be used as a source of strength. With the right outlook, our problems are useful learning experiences and “difficulties” are transformational in a positive way if we view them as challenges to make us stronger rather than insurmountable barricades.

Commit to a lifestyle shift

Finding a new job and improving your career is a pressing life problem for many. Perhaps you are in a role that under-utilises your skills and talents—it may be paying well, but is it affecting your mental health? There are few things more important than finding and following your passion. Sometimes you might consider changing jobs, or taking a leap of faith to start your own business.

Then again, you may love your job, but suddenly a new manager arrives and you find yourself in a “loaded relationship” which affects your self-esteem. Your sense of self is diminished or you feel devalued, harassed or even bullied.

It’s time for resilient change

Being aware of your negative thought patterns. Changing them is key to driving negativity out of your mind.

My company, Carol Barwick Learning and Development helps individuals, managers and leaders build resilience to challenging situations and morph them into positive outcomes. I have blended a range of powerful interventions including high impact hypnocoaching techniques, TFT (tapping meditation), NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming), (EI) Emotional Intelligence, and IEMT (Integral Eye Movement Technique) to develop self-awareness; engage a new perspective; improve confidence; and improve quality of life.

I also deliver a range of resilience training and motivational courses at all levels, to help you and your team navigate challenges using a range of tools and techniques along with practical demonstrations, to deliver wellbeing and performance at home or at work with recorded motivational messages to keep you from flagging if things get tough.

Walk in moccasins during dark times

My general advice? Be as kind to yourself as you are to others. Appreciate every day and treat everyone you meet respect and compassion. Eat well and find some exercise you enjoy. Ditch the junk food, excess alcohol and other addictive substances that poison and control you. The more we help ourselves, the better we feel and the less we need medical intervention. Although there’s no guarantees, at least you will lessen the likelihood that sudden tragedy will strike your health and you will be in a stronger position to deal with any curve balls that come your way.

For specific advice and hypnocoaching, please contact me for further information and testimonials.