One Year on in Full Self-Employment

The World of Self-Employment

A year has passed since I left the NHS after 34 years.  I can’t believe how quickly it has gone!  I already had Red Oak Coaching up and running for the past 12 years but it was always part time along with the hours I worked as an Occupational Therapist in mental health for the NHS.

I had lots of worries about leaving the NHS and working full time in my business.  I was concerned that I might feel really isolated, especially over the winter months, and miss the daily chat/support with my mental health colleagues.  Just having someone sitting alongside you at the desk was often reassuring when things became tough.  As a sole trader it was just me at my desk!  I learnt to engage a lot more on social media sites and to make sure I booked in time for coffee with friends.

Networking has also played a large part in reducing any of my fears of isolation.  Attending breakfast and lunch time events meant I could talk “business” – the aspirations, pitfalls and moans about working on your own.

I also increased my activities and seem to be playing a lot more golf as well as attending exercise classes.  It may come across that it’s all enjoyment and interests, but it is not!

The other worry for me was being structured and motivated throughout the week.  Yes, it was much more tempting in the summer to do gardening when the sun was shining but I have clear goals on what I want to achieve in my business and being part of a women’s business group has kept me on track.

I admit it has not always been plain sailing and there are some days when it is tough to become motivated and keep focussed.  These are the days when I prioritise just three tasks to do and always make sure I go out for a walk during the day.

My biggest concern leaving the NHS was the decrease in money.  I do have less money coming in but I just “cut my cloth accordingly”.  If I have lost out in money I have certainly gained in time, freedom and health.  I have less stress in my life, I choose how I spend my time and if there are deadlines it is because I have chosen them.  It’s a win-win situation.

So one year on in full self-employment and I just love it!  It’s been a step well worth taking and I can only see it becoming better and better with each passing year J

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This was the sound I heard most in Fiji.  The sound of hello and welcome from adults and children alike.

I was in Fiji for a two week volunteer project, living and working in a traditional Fijian village and helping out at the local kindergarten.

It was a short flight from New Zealand but the heat slapped you in the face on arriving at Nadi.  It was their winter season but still in the high 20s.

Dratabu, the village where I was staying, was about 10 minutes outside the main town of Nadi.  Nadi itself was a noisy, dusty and busy town full of shop owners encouraging you into their shop and home to the largest Hindu temple in the Southern Hemisphere.

By contrast Dratabu was quiet although a village of 500 people.  The houses were of all shapes and sizes made from concrete and tin.  There was a real sense of community governed by the Chief.  In the morning one of the head men would walk around the village shouting out instructions for the day such as clean the community hall, cut the grass in the cemetery or attend the health screening.

In the village women had to wear sulus ( a type of sarong) with your knees and shoulders covered.  You weren’t allowed to run or wear a heat, so as not to be higher than the chief.

My host family’s house had electricity but no running hot water, no shower (a bucket and bowl instead), no fridge, with cooking done outside on a wood fire.  Food was basic with mainly large quantities of carbohydrates such as rice, taro or cassava with a little meat but very rarely any vegetables.  Fruit was mainly paw paw and pineapple.  Although the house was kept clean there were the biggest cockroaches I ever saw!  I nicknamed them “tippy-tappies” for the sound they made across the floor at night!

The village kindergarten had two classrooms for 4-5 year olds catering for about 34 children.  However they didn’t always attend and may wander in well after 9am. Whilst waiting for everyone to arrive the children would entertain themselves by drawing on individual blackboards.  For some reason they loved my very simple drawings of cats and dogs!  The rest of the morning was very unstructured as there was no national work programme to follow and no specific routine.  Once a week, songs and rhymes were sung along with getting to know the sounds of the alphabet.  The children were divided into about 4 groups and given things to do such as playing with plasticine, threading beads or cutting our pictures.  A mid morning snack was had with the children bringing in from home often huge meals of rice, friend eggs, cold potato chips – again very little fruit or veg.

Ofter this it was play time outside, a beautiful setting with tyre swings and roundabouts and a tree to climb.  Health and Safety went out the window but it was great to see kids just being themselves.

Following this they would come in and have a ten minute rest on the floor before waiting to be collected by their parents.  At times the teacher would cut their nails, send notes to parents suggesting cleaning of wounds or treatment of scabies or to bring a handkerchief as they were full of colds (it was their winter).

For a few days there was a national theme of saying no to drugs and abuse.  The children cut out shapes of hands to stick on lollipop sticks and hand painted a banner.  We then marched with the older children to the community hall where the chief sat alongside guests and proceeded to sit through two hours of speeches.

The best bit was when the Fire Brigade arrived and the children could have a go at sitting on the fire engine.

The children were delightful, exuberate, noisy but often having a short attention span.  There were a few bright kids there but there were no specific development activities for them.

I was able to introduce a few additional activities but in a very simple format.  There is a quite a contrast in educational development between Fiji and Western Europe however Fijian kids have more freedom to explore and run around and be kids.

I found my time in Fiji to be challenging yet interesting and increased my appreciation of what I take for granted such as a mattress, a shower and good healthy food.  I loved the people of Fiji for their friendliness and passion for rugby and hope that their basic health care and education continues to improve for the following generations.



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Friendliness Down Under

Kia Ora

It was so good to return to New Zealand with my last visit being in 2000.  I had lived and worked there 27 years ago and it still felt like coming home.
The devastation of the Christchurch earthquakes 6 years ago was still very much in evidence in this beautiful garden city.  I cannot begin to imagine the trauma and the perpetual anxiety that people lived through with every consequent tremor.  To date there have been over 10,000 tremors since 2011, luckily most are not noticeable.
On travelling over the to the West Coast of the South Island I went back to where I used to live, Hokitika.  The beauty of the Southern Alps, clear running rivers and the Tasmin Sea was just stunning.  Hokitika has grown from a small town with one roundabout to a larger tourist place promoting their greenstone and scenery.  What hasn’t changed is the friendliness of people.  Everywhere you go – shops, cafes etc people are always willing to chat to you.
Staying up in the North Island in Waikato, wearing a red British Lions shirt always provoked conversation and gentle teasing!  People are interested in you and where you come from, conversations just happen with complete strangers. Once I had a conversation about water buffalo, of which I know very little!
I love the warmth of the Kiwis and although they can be tough in character are always wiling to help and are genuinely welcoming which only enhances my desire to return.
Maybe in the UK we have lost a little of that willingness to engage with others – too busy looking at our mobiles or just in a rush.  We know that a key aspect of good mental health is to engage with others be it fleeting or not.
I’m going to make an effort to keep the friendliness vibe going.  A small exchange of words may make a huge difference to someone’s day.
If you have experienced similar situations in other countries I’d love to hear from you.

Keep smiling and talking!!!

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The Panic Cycle

Over the past few weeks I’ve been working with clients as individuals and in groups who can get caught up in a panic cycle.  I’m not referring to full blown panic attacks or a clinically diagnosed panic disorder but low grade panic/stress that really hampers progress.

When we put off tasks or sit in front of something that we don’t want to do we are in a state of stress/panic and not at our absolute best.  I know that stress can be used in such a way to elicit peak performance as with sports people and performers.  I’m referring to the everyday thoughts and tasks that generate physiological changes in us that stop us doing what we want or even giving up.

A panic cycle related to wanting to lose weight is a great example.  I came across this from The Tapping Summit as explained by Jessica Ortner.

Step 1 – we panic about needing to lose weight

Step 2 – we create pressure and stress with self-criticism

Step 3 – the pressure leads us to take drastic action

Step 4 – after a few days we become tired and exhausted, resentful

Step 5 – we release the pressure by reverting to self-sabotage patterns and give up

And then the cycle begins again!

Although we may not always recognise that we are under stress or in a panic the physiological effects still occur with the release of hormones such as cortisol and adrenalin.

If we can put ourselves in a neutral space in our minds before attempting a difficult or unwanted task, or reduce the intensity of the emotion about something then we are able to think and function at a much more optimum level.

We can get to this neutral space through various ways such as mindfulness, breathing exercises, distraction, relaxation or tapping (emotional freedom technique) to name a few.

I use tapping before I start putting together a monthly newsletter.  At times it can feel like a real effort to know what to include in the content. The “panic” is about will it be good enough? So I sit and tap for a while to bring down the “panic” and put myself in a more comfortable and aware state – and it works!  I still have to do the newsletter but I’m less resentful and stressed about it.

Be aware of the panic cycles you may be in and give your mind and body a chance to come out of that cycle so you can perform even better.

If you have any further suggestions to reduce the “panic” then I would love to hear from you.


Warm wishes   Karen


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Tapping down the Stress Response

Recently I have increasingly been using the intervention of Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) or tapping.  I qualified in this treatment over 4 years ago and have been incorporating it within my holistic approach alongside coaching, NLP and Reiki.

However it seems to me that more people are becoming aware of this effective yet powerful approach and are keen to know more.

I liken it to the flow of traffic!  When we have clear roads with no hold ups the traffic flows smoothly but when there are roadworks, stop signs or too much traffic then the traffic slows down or even stops.  Our energy pathways or meridians are like this, when all is well our energy flows however when we are stressed, distressed or unwell our energy can become sluggish and blocked.

By tapping on the end points of the meridians we ease the congestion, the tapping clears the blockages and allows the energy channels to flow again.

So what is going on? Any negative thought, situation or trauma puts the brain on high alert and sets up a stress response within the amygdale, limbic system, deep inside the brain. This effect can also be triggered by similar situations and past threats.  By tapping on certain points the response is calmed and the brain learns that the situation is no longer threatening.  So EFT retrains the limbic response.

This is obviously only part of how EFT works as talking about the event is a crucial aspect of clearing the high intensity of the emotion.

My clients have used EFT for all sorts of different reasons from phobias to traumatic childhood events and the great thing is that they can continue to work in between our sessions on themselves by knowing how and where to tap.

There is a lot of information about EFT and I can recommend the following sites:-

The Tapping Solution

Gary Craig


If you would like to know more about how you can benefit from using EFT or Tapping book in a no obligation FREE Insight session with me here or join me in a workshop on using this tool for everyday life.

with warm wishes


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The Rise of Happiness

The latest survey recently came out with ratings for the “happiest” countries.  The Scandinavian countries once again coming out on top with Norway replacing Denmark at number one.  Although Britain had risen to 19th place it is still not a good indictment of our country.

Happiness is subjective but the fact that Denmark has consistently been in the top 3 over the past 5 years suggests they are doing something right as a nation.   One explanation is “hygge” pronounced “hoo-ga” with the closest explanation as being one of coziness.

The sense of being together and belonging creates coziness.  It’s when we allow ourselves to relax in a state that feels warm and comforting that we can recognise a sense of happiness.  These moments and opportunities do not always need money to be achieved.  In fact it has been proven that over the decades although our income has increased our levels of happiness have not.

It is our responsibility to seek out our own happiness and when we are in this emotional state we can affect other peoples’ levels of wellbeing and happiness too.

So how can we experience hygge?  First of all we have to be mindful to it.  Appreciate the moment; savour the sense of whatever we are doing in order to absorb those warm feelings.  If our minds are closed or focused on what’s not right or what is wrong then we will miss those times of happiness.  I have mentioned before about “destination addiction” – Andy Cope, if we are constantly thinking that we will be happy, relaxed, chilled only when it is Friday or on holiday that we are missing out on the present.

We can all make our own hygge.  Connect with people, whether that is family or friends, at home in the work place or out socially – talk to people.  It has been proven that being with people that are supportive, fun, encouraging greatly improves mental wellbeing.

Take up hobbies and do things just for fun.  Be a child again – put on the wellies and splash through puddles!

Here are a few of my hygge moments:-

Walking along the Pembrokeshire coastal path looking out over the Irish Sea.

Snuggling up to watch a good film on a dark and wet winter afternoon.

Being aware of the garden bursting into life in Spring.


Being part of a team, working together to achieve a goal.

The list can go on and on!  For the rest of the year seek out, be mindful and saviour your hygge moments.  Place them in your memory jar so you can recapture the feeling of happiness.

I would love to hear about your hygge moments.

Warm regards



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Decisions! Decisions! Decisions!

Everyday we are faced with making decisions from what to wear, can I stay in bed a bit longer to prioritizing tasks for the day.

Every decision we make has an outcome which will affect us but can easily affect others.  This can make it difficult at times to make decisions, the fear of the outcome.  Luckily I am not in the position to make life or death decisions as some people are but having worked in the NHS, I was faced with many decisions that affected peoples’ lives.

The small everyday decisions we make, we often don’t think too long or hard about because the impact upon making that decision is not too great.  Already today I have decided upon what time to get up, what type of breakfast to have and what work task to do first.  All of these would have just impacted upon myself with no great consequences.

It’s when we are faced with “bigger” decisions that we can hesitate or bury our head in the sand.  Mistakenly we can believe that if we do nothing then it will go away.  Sometimes this may happen but someone else makes the decision for you but then you’re stuck with not making that choice.  We can also put ourselves into a state of limbo – where nothing happens apart from frustration and worry building up.  Limbo can be a horrible place to be in, nothing changes or shifts and you get stuck there.  It is often said that it is much better to at least make a decision than none at all.

Our fears about possible consequences to our decisions are often assumptions and linked into our own belief system – “what if…….. I make a mistake, I’m wrong, they won’t like me?”  Some of these outcomes may happen but at least you have moved forward and learnt something from it.

In work/management situations a more cognitive approach is taken often without an emotional component in order to achieve an end result.  To give decision making a definition: “Decision making is the process of making choices by identifying a decision, gathering information, and assessing alternative resolutions”.

In these situations there are step-by step processes that can be adhered to:

7 Steps in Effective Decision Making

6 Steps in Decision Making process

When I work with my coaching clients the decisions to be made are often loaded with emotional content and the most effective way I have found to help clients through this process is to use 4 Outcome Questions.

I have used these questions over many years to enable my clients to broaden their thinking about the decision to be made.

Just by asking these four questions will raise awareness of the consequences of the decision and also identify what is really important.

Here they are:


¨ What would happen if you did make that change?


¨ What would happen if you didn’t make that change?


¨ What wouldn’t happen if you did make that change?


¨ What wouldn’t happen if you didn’t make that change?


They may seem simple but write down your answers to each and then go back and add more, think laterally and allow your subconscious to guide you.

At the end of this process you should have a clearer picture on what decision you are going to make.  Then the most important aspect is to act upon your decision, don’t leave it on paper or keep it in your head – DO IT! Whatever the consequences are at the very least you have taken action, stepped out of limbo land and learnt from the process.

If I can be of any further help in understanding how to apply this process please do not hesitate to contact me


Warm wishes








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