Helen McGillivray is a psychological therapist with over 28 years of clinical experience, including 14 years providing psychological therapies. She specialises in Acceptance and Commitment Therapy and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. Helen is accredited with

The BACBP, the leading organisation for cognitive and behavioural therapies in the UK.

In this blog, Helen tells us about her personal experience of taking the plunge every morning into the sea and how she stays true to her values.

Living my life in clear sight my values matters to me!

Life sure as hell is uncertain and often challenging, but I try and live more from my heart and less from my head. Accepting that in order to be adventurous, strong, courageous and bold in my actions means that unpleasant experiences may arise. Connecting with the world around me serves as a reminder that I am part of something way bigger than my own experiences and keeps me on track (some of the time).

Moving from Edinburgh to a remote village in NW Highland‘s of Scotland in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic was a challenge, life is on hold. Without any effort, a group of likeminded fierce and fabulous women met at a local early morning yoga class (pre 2nd lockdown), and magic happened. Every morning for the past few months, when the alarm goes off, despite it being cold (freezing), I get up, pull on some warm, easy to "put on in a hurry" clothes, and make my way down through the village to the woods to the secluded white shore.

Cautiously undressing next to the rock where the freezing wind chill brings to mind some familiar thoughts “what the hell are you doing”you could have stayed in bed, you have a busy day ahead” but knowing what's ahead, I keep going. One foot, then the other into freezing cold water. The urge to just walk back out is very present “who in their right mind”. The icy cold sea water shocks my body and the thoughts shout "you don't need to do this" and I want to stop. But I take a nice slow breath in, look ahead at the beautiful pink sky, the snow on the hills or the morning fishing boats heading out to sea for their daily catch. I breathe a longer more mindful breath, tell myself "you've got this" and slowly glide in.

Connecting with something much bigger than my experience, an eco system, something to nurture, and it feels exhilarating

A really pleasant tingling sensation surrounds my body, accompanied by a real sense of pride, for willingly putting myself in the North Sea. On the more challenging days I discovered that singing 80s pop classic‘s helps. I stay in just until my neoprene glove covered hands begin to feel that "funny" way, sometimes not very long at all. As I leave the water and my whole body as red as a lobster (must be good for the circulation), I notice I am smiling it feels brilliant!- so worth the effort.

Ready to take on the day and the challenges ahead feeling pleased with myself for showing up. Even on the most bitterly cold days I have NEVER regretted a swim but, I have and do often regret pressing snooze on my alarm and scrolling mindlessly on my phone.

These cold plunges into the North sea illustrate that there are actions we can take towards being the person we want to be. If my anxious mind had it‘s way I would of course have more comfortable and less challenging mornings BUT, I would never have these exhilarating experiences.

In order to feel BRILL just go ahead feel the chill.....

Cara de Lange is the Founder and CEO of Softer Success, x-Googler, Wellbeing & burnout consultant, Change maker, Learning and Development specialist, Author of Softer Success, Mental Health advocate.

In this blog, Cara explains what burn out is, what the signs are that you're becoming burnt out, and some top tips to avoid it.

This last year has seen many people working from home for extended periods of time. For some more than a year! We have adjusted to video calls and working in different set ups, some more comfortable than others.

The pressure of work has continued, and for some the work load has increased. Without the ‘switch off’ time of a commute, many are using that time for extra work or keep working late into the evening.

The feelings of always ‘switched’ on and not able to disconnect can contribute to feelings of tiredness, fatigue and even burnout.

But what is burnout really?

The World Health Organisation defines burnout as

"a syndrome conceptualised as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.

The symptoms of burnout are:

  • A continuous feeling of exhaustion or lack of energy

  • Negative feelings and a distancing from the job role

  • A reduction in professional efficacy.

As well as the three recognised symptoms of burnout, there are a few other signs that may indicate you are heading towards burnout. Things to look out for include a general dissatisfaction with your working environment; regular headaches, stomach aches or issues with your digestion; a constant lack of energy; insomnia and a lack of motivation in all areas of life.

The good news is that there are plenty of things you can do to help prevent yourself from reaching that burnout stage. If your work is becoming increasingly stressful, then it may be time to talk to your manager or HR department about making some changes. Perhaps you need to reduce your hours or rearrange your schedule to allow for a little more breathing space. Discuss your feelings and try to work out a plan to stop yourself from reaching burnout. We can help you with that too, find out more details below.

Here are some useful ways to help you manage your stress and prevent burnout.

1. Keep work out of sight

When you finish work – put all your work stuff (laptop, notebook etc) away in a drawer or cupboard. Out of sight really can help to make it out of mind!

2. Choose how you speak to yourself

If you tell yourself you are burned out; the brain will go ‘ok I am burned out then’ and you will feel more tired. What about using positive phrases such as 'I feel tired but I am working on ways to gain more energy' or 'I feel calm and have more energy every day'. Write out some positive affirmations and put them in places where you can easily read them and remind yourself during the day.

3. Get outdoors

Nature nurtures – trees are healing. Take yourself outside and do some forest bathing. Walking amongst trees can reduce stress and tiredness. Alternatively, get your feet on the grass for a few minutes a day.

4. Take meaningful quick breaks

When working, make sure to take regular breaks in between meetings and tasks. At Softer Success we advocate micro wellness – super short 60 second breaks that give your mind and body a rest. Something as simple as taking a deep breath before you join that next meeting, give your toes a wriggle and feel your palms.

5. Stop wearing the 'burnout badge of honour'

We are all human and deserve to rest and recover. Get a sleep schedule in place that ensures you get a full 7-9 hours a night and clean up your diet so that you no longer need to rely on sugar and caffeinated products to help you get motivated.

Try these tips for a few weeks and you will soon notice a change.

If you would like to find out more about how to prevent burnout, contact us:

Helen McGillivray is a psychological therapist with over 28 years of clinical experience, including 14 years providing psychological therapies. She specialises in Acceptance and Commitment Therapy and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. Helen is accredited with

The BACBP, the leading organisation for cognitive and behavioural therapies in the UK.

In this blog, Helen explores our nervous system, what our automatic responses look like, and how we can work towards slowing down and recovering.

As restrictions ease how do you feel?

It might be helpful to pay attention to our finely tuned system

Moving towards normal life after this extended period in lockdown will stir up many thoughts and feelings. Our finely tuned nervous systems have certainly been put through their paces, and will continue to provide useful information as we navigate the months ahead.

The Automatic Nervous System consists of two parts:

  • The sympathetic nervous system - fight or flight

  • The parasympathetic nervous system - rest and digest

Our sympathetic nervous system, prepares the body for a perceived threat or danger, commonly referred to as fight or flight. This efficiently prepares our body to act quickly to the threat by generally making us more alert and able to react, and much less able to be reasoned and rational. The flight or fight response kicks in automatically. Feeling your mouth dry up and your heart racing just before you’re about to give a big presentation – this usually happens in response to thoughts, and although its unpleasant, it can be helpful.

Obviously this response is key to survival of our species, but the less time spent in fight or flight mode, the better.

Prolonged and repetitive stress can take a toll on our body. If you can become more conscious of the way that your body reacts to stress, it will pay enormous dividends.

Our parasympathetic nervous system -rest and digest- has an equally important role in our health. This is the body’s way of slowing down and recovering, which is important to lead a healthy, sustained life balance. Rest and digest response doesn’t happen automatically, which is why awareness of our body and how we respond and react, enables us to take steps to slow down a little and be kind to ourselves.

When we activate the rest and digest response, the body responds in various ways:

  • Saliva is increased

  • Digestive enzymes are released

  • Heart rate decreases

  • Muscles relax

  • Energy is conserved

This function seems even more important in today’s pandemic and threatening world. Anything we can do to tone down our “fight or flight” response and promote “rest and digest” mode is worth the effort.

Deep breathing exercises are helpful as they can stimulate the parasympathetic system to tell it “all is safe and well”. Mindfulness is a tool which, with regular practice, will help us to notice “mind threats” and become more aware of physical sensations in our body. We can learn to pause, shift our awareness and take a step back – like a pressing reset button.

Find practices that work for you within the OK Positive app. Whatever it is, pay close attention to your feelings and thoughts in moments of calm, and try to recreate that mental and physical state (e.g. slower breath) whenever threat is detected.

Thank you very much to Marina Moreno for providing the image for this blog.