Think Tank – Unconscious Bias

Unconscious biases are the underlying attitudes and stereotypes that people assign to another person or group without being aware of it. These biases affect how people interact with each other.

Do you feel you have been exposed to unconscious bias? At what cost? Are you aware of your own unconscious bias? During this Think Tank we will explore what we can constructively do when we are faced with unconscious bias directed at us, but also have an honest look at our own.

Join Khanyi Mthimunye & Vera Marbach on a group coaching whatsapp call to explore unconscious bias together.

Send a private message or email to vera@tt-tt.co.za to book your place and get details for payment. Suggested donation: R50.

If you cannot make this time on Saturday, could you make the earlier one at 11.30?

Think Tank – Unconscious Bias

Unconscious biases are the underlying attitudes and stereotypes that people assign to another person or group without being aware of it. These biases affect how people interact with each other.

Do you feel you have been exposed to unconscious bias? At what cost? Are you aware of your own unconscious bias? During this Think Tank we will explore what we can constructively do when we are faced with unconscious bias directed at us, but also have an honest look at our own.

Join Khanyi Mthimunye & Vera Marbach on a group coaching whatsapp call to explore unconscious bias together.

Send a private message or email to vera@tt-tt.co.za to book your place and get details for payment. Suggested donation: R50.

If you cannot make this time on Saturday, could you make the later one at 14.00?

Live in tension. Live intentionally.

A few days ago I was involved in a conversation where each person shared a phrase that has come up often in our lives, that carries a lot of our life philosophy in it. You guessed it, mine was “Live in tension. Live intentionally.”

I have come to realise that in some way or another there is always a level of tension in my life. The tension I live in has many different sources, some are easier to manage than others. (I want to just make a proviso here that I am not writing about living with chronic anxiety, PTSD and panic attacks. Please get professional help if that describes you.)

Sometimes this experience of tension can be related to choices I have to make. I have so many ideas but it is impossible to pursue them all. There are a number of people in my life with expectations of me that may conflict with my own priorities. There is only so much I can do with my time and resources.

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Integrating all aspects of YOU

While I was doing my coaching course, we were advised to focus on finding and developing our own niche as coaches. My thought process kept bringing me back to the term “integration” – a concept that has often featured in my life, in a number of ways.

I was first introduced to “integration” when, as an Occupational Therapy student in the nineties, we learnt about how better results are achieved when the two sides of our bodies and brains work together. Much more so, than when we rely on only one side. Integration can be defined as the process of combining two or more things in an effective way so that they form a unified whole that is more than merely the sum of its parts. Disintegration then is the loss of effectiveness, cohesion, strength – a process of fragmenting or falling apart. We experience disintegration when we feel overwhelmed by external and internal stressors and challenges, when our parts are not working together smoothly.

When we experience stressful circumstances, we often struggle with strong emotions like anger, pain, anxiety and fear. It feels like they are taking over our lives, and often we try to avoid dealing with them for as long as possible. However, suppressing them often results in an uncontrolled pressure-cooker effect: the pot boils over or even explodes, often when it is most inconvenient.

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Why journal?

The benefits  of journaling have come up often in the coaching courses I have been doing. It is seen to be such a good practice for us at this uncertain time in our history. So I asked a friend of mine, Kholofelo Zondo, who I consider an expert on the subject, to share some of her thoughts:

 

Journaling has been proven to be therapeutic and a great source for life management. It creates an environment for a paradigm shift, allowing the mind to open up to new ideas, dreams and possibilities.

Some of the benefits:

  • Living Life Mindfully

Journaling forces you to stop and reflect on seemingly minor events. Being mindful in a journal might make it easier to become more mindful in the moment. During the process of writing about your day and your interactions with others, you may notice a number of different things, e.g.:

–              Negative patterns repeating themselves in your thoughts and deeds.

–              Problems in your personal relationships.

–              Personal needs you haven’t been paying attention to.

–              Alternative ways of responding to stress.

***When people write down their feelings they’re making themselves more aware of what they’re doing and why they’re doing it.

  • Establishing a Positive Mind-set
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Nothing is exciting without a dance…

For a while I have been wanting to write something about exercise, but I am full of good intentions and little practical experience of regular exercise, so I have asked my friend Vivian Scheepers to do so instead. She is a better role model in terms of including exercise into her own routine and is passionate about children and the role exercise plays in a child’s life. She is currently teaching Sports and Gymnastics for ages 2 – 13 years and adult aerobic classes. In her own words:

Nothing is exciting without a dance…

Exercise defined:

  • Activity requiring physical effort, carried out to sustain or improve health and fitness.
  • Activity carried out for a specific purpose.

Some say it’s amazing, I feel good, look good and I want to know that my body is balanced with good eating habits and a good workout.

Yet, others say, “ Aargggh! Why would I do that to myself?”

Whatever your adult mind decides exercise can or cannot be, research demonstrates that it is very important for a child to be active and exercising regularly. It provides a good balance between a healthy mind and body. In fact, we have also learned that they exist together.

I grew up in a home where I was told exercise is not important. All I needed was to be smart and that needed brain power. Later, when I became a mother, I started to learn about gross and fine motor skills. What you do inside the classroom is as important as what you do outside the classroom. On discovering this new information, I realized no child should go without exercise, it should be part of their lives…. Because we all want healthy balanced individuals, right? Therefore, it should not be a choice, rather we should figure out what exercise we like and will continue to do.

As defined above, regardless of what exercise we do, it will require physical effort and is done for a specific purpose. So, how do we make it fun? Well, some of us like to dance, some like to play sports and others prefer strength & flexibility.

The pandemic has made many of us realize we can do this from the comfort of our homes.

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Living in Limbo

In a coaching conversation this week, I was told “life is a series of limbo situations”. If this is your experience, it means you know that you have survived previous episodes of limbo. What did you lean on to get through then? How could that be useful now?

In the midst of this limbo we find ourselves in, where so much is uncertain, it may be helpful to focus on the truths we do know.

We do not know when the corona epidemic will be under control, but we know that this too shall pass. Uncertainty in whatever form is an unavoidable part of our lived experience. It is uncomfortable, but it ends eventually. Knowledge is given, wars and pandemics end, and we move on, all be it as changed people.

Worrying feels like you have some control but actually often reduces the energy you have to improve the situation. What is the likelihood that the worst outcome will happen? We’re not all statisticians but often we overestimate the worst scenario and underestimate the many other possibilities, and as a result spend a lot of energy imagining and preparing for the unlikely. If we focus on making good choices in the areas that we have some control over, it can increase our energy to broaden our circle of influence. What are your uncertainty triggers? Sometimes we find ourselves on an ever tightening thought spiral of worst-case what-if scenarios, but sometimes we are influenced by what we expose ourselves to – social media, negative focus of news stories, rumours, speculations, fake news, only communicating with anxious friends. Emotions are just as infectious as viruses! What triggers can you limit?

Let’s explore our emotions a little. We know that suppressing our emotions long-term can make the situation worse. Internalising anxiety and stress can make you physically and mentally ill. It may feel uncomfortable, but it is wiser to allow yourself to experience those difficult emotions and investigate what is going on beneath them. This is where you will find the clues to what it is you need to change. These may be uncomfortable growth points, but they have the potential of bringing you to a place of blossoming joy. But give yourself grace – it may feel quite overwhelming. Don’t isolate yourself in response, we are already distant enough from each other. Reach out to someone you trust to walk this road with you.

We know that when we are in the thick of the problem, we have a limited view of the situation. We cannot see all the possibilities there are, because our vision has become narrowed by uncertainty. A bird’s eye view can reveal a more hopeful perspective, but sometimes we need someone else to listen to us and help us zoom out. What would we think about our own situation if we were watching it on a screen happening to someone else?

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In the zone

As adults we sometimes enthusiastically share our experiences of being “in the zone” or “in flow” – it’s a real blessing when we can say that those times are during our work time. We become unaware of time passing and the people around us, instead we feel really alive, loose ends seem to fall into place, and things are right in our world. When we come up for air, we feel we have achieved something really meaningful. When did you first feel this way – do you remember what you were doing?

I think one of the greatest learning opportunities for pre-schoolers happens when they are “in the zone”, so absorbed in playing that they become unaware of  their surroundings. As they become immersed in the activity in front of them, they inadvertently learn about size, colour, shapes, textures, differences & similarities, that objects fit into holes, what the world they inhabit feels like to their touch (and whether they like it or not), what effect they can have on their environment, how things fit together and don’t. On top of this, their brains have the opportunity to order their other daily experiences, and to assign some meaning to them.(Something we can all benefit from at this time!) Different kids have this experience with different activities. It can happen when children play with water, sand, mud, play dough, Lego, cars, dolls, building blocks, beads, crayons, books, paint, dress-up clothes, musical instruments, stones, kitchen utensils…It usually involves a child being drawn to a specific activity, and playing for some time on their own.

As parents we can feel pressurised to provide just the right kind of stimulation for our children to develop their perceptual skills, to read the right books to develop their language skills, to spend quality time with them to develop their emotional and relational skills…and all of these things are important. But sometimes our kids just need to be and not do something productive; to learn to entertain themselves, and not be entertained by us or a screen. How can we facilitate this?

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Grumpy on Social Media?

As I browse through some conversations on social media, I am noticing that there seem to be a lot of grumpy people out there, taking things personally, and attacking each other at the slightest provocation. I am going to assume that most of us who are active on social media are part of the group of workers who are not able to return to work under level 4 rules, and are therefore still spatial distancing at home, and isolated from most of the people we usually socialise with.

Three stages of reaction to prolonged isolation have been identified, as “a first stage of heightened anxiety, a second stage of settling down to routine marked by depression, and a third stage of anticipation marked by emotional outbursts, aggressiveness, and rowdy behaviour.” 1

At this stage many of us are experiencing powerful emotions like anxiety, frustration, impatience and fear around what the future holds for us. It is easy to become caught in an ever tightening spiral of increasing tension, and this makes it so much easier to bite off somebody else’s virtual head. Anger feels so much more powerful than depression and fear. There may even be an element of addiction to it. Long-term, where are these angry outbursts going to take us? Do we really want to go there?

I think we need to give ourselves and each other a good measure of grace as we honestly ask ourselves some hard questions:

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Joy in learning?!

With the lock down continuing longer than the school holidays, some of our children have already started schooling again. For others this is looming ahead. The possibility of a staggered return to school is being explored. For many of us as parents, our children’s schoolwork may feel like another burden we need to carry, another source of stress in our already busy, pressured lives. For others schoolwork will help to structure our family routine. For some this routine may feel boring. The question “how long this will continue?” hangs over us all. In these circumstances, the word joy does not seem to belong in the same sentence as learning. We know that schoolwork needs to be done, and for now this will be at home. Are there any choices we can make that will affect this situation? Let’s have a look at how we think about the subject…

Will you be schooling at home, non-schooling or home-schooling? To illustrate the difference I am sketching three exaggerated pictures.

The school at home picture is drawn with a ruler – lines, strict patterns and geometric shapes – taking the school structure and imprinting it on your home routine. The family gets ready for school as before. The only missing element is the school commute. School starts at approximately the same time as before. One subject follows the next. The time-keeping bell between periods rings in our heads. Perhaps there is an on-line teacher giving the lesson on zoom at a specific time. In other cases, the parent feels the pressure of morphing into a teacher themselves. Joy doesn’t have much space to grow here.

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