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Episode 46: Sarah Watson: the STILL method


Welcome to the Loved Called Gifted Podcast.  This is your place to come for musings about spirituality, identity, and purpose.

I’m your host, Catherine Cowell.



So I'm delighted today to be joined by Sarah Watson.


S: Thank you for inviting me.


C: So Sarah and I have been friends for quite a long time and we're part of the same women's Bible study group on a Tuesday morning.


And in our conversations, we've talked quite a bit about the fact that Sarah's involved in a new venture running something called the STILL course and has set up a new sort of organisation to help her to do that.


And I thought that there was some really interesting stuff involved in what you're doing, helping people with anxiety, primarily, and sort of helping people to kind of gain resilience and to live their lives.


Well, I don't know if that's a good way of putting it.


S: That's a very good summary, yes.


Yeah, very good summary, yes.




STILL stands for Stop, Talk, Imagine, Listen and Learn.


So there's five components of that.


C: So do you want to introduce yourself a little bit, Sarah?


S: Yes, I'm Sarah.


I've known Catherine for a very long time, over 25 years.


So we know each other socially, through church, through Bible groups, friends, just lots of different aspects really.


Our lives have crossed over many, many times over a long period of time.


So I'm married with three children who are all getting quite grown up now.


I worked as an occupational therapist for over 20 years, predominantly working in older people's mental health, a job which I loved.


And then when we had our third child, and due to my husband's work commitments and having three kids, I finished work.


So that was about 10 years ago.


So during that time, I've done quite a bit of volunteering.


So running toddlers groups, volunteering in food banks, just doing lots of stuff in our local community, running a home, doing stuff with the kids, which has been a real blessing most of the time.


So as the kids have got that bit older, I decided it was time really to do something for me, sort of – not a career necessarily, but to get me back on track in terms of finding something that I would really enjoy doing, that would probably pay a bit of money, but mainly just something for me to get involved in society again, really, and to do something that I knew I could develop and put my own stamp on.


C: Yeah.


So how did you come across the STILL method?


What was going on for you at that point?


S: My oldest is 18 now, my youngest daughter is 12.


And I got to the point where I was enjoying volunteering.


And I was thinking about quite a few different things I could do and get back into.


I think being a stay at home mum, I really enjoyed that.


But I felt as though I was almost shrinking back as a person.


And it wasn't that I was anxious or fearful or not doing stuff.


But when I look back at when I was working and managing a team, I was leading big meetings, attending ward rounds, seeing clients, managing human resources issues, doing big conferences and all sorts of things.


And I felt like I was very proactive and very confident at taking on new challenges.


And I got to a point where I felt I could do more than I was doing.


And I wasn't the sum of the four parts that I was made up of.


And I would be thinking, "Oh, I could do that. Or I could do that."


And then I just have a small voice in my head go, "But, oh, that's a big challenge.” Or, “but I can't do that because how would I pick the kids up from school?"


When COVID hit, I signed up to be part of the Royal Voluntary Service.


And I wanted to be a driver to go around and to pick up deliveries from supermarkets and to go out to local people.


So it meant in essence that whilst the kids were being homeschooled and different things, if there was an emergency or somebody locally needed food or medicine picking up, I really wanted to be a driver to go and help out.


And I don't think I ever managed a call because every time it came through, I was always doubting in my head thinking, "Oh my gosh, I don't know where this is going to be” or “what happens if."


And I really was, I think, quite disappointed in myself at the end of it because I thought I really wanted to do this, but I was making excuses and talking myself out of it many, many times.


C: So were you feeling that there was something going on besides the practicalities of there's lots to do?


S: I think that there was lots of things to do and I'm sure I could have organised it and fitted it in. I think I just felt I didn't want to overcommit myself. And then I ended up talking myself out of doing anything or taking things on in case it all went a bit pear-shaped and time overran and I couldn't pick the kids up. So I would think, "Oh, this is a really good idea. I could do this."


But then I'd almost talked myself out of it in my head because I was probably in quite a comfortable place where I knew things could work and be ordered and timely and I could do stuff at home and actually taking on a bigger challenge, particularly if I didn't know exactly what that would involve and how much time that would take up on my own.


It was easier in the end to just let it go by, but I sensed in myself a real sense of frustration that actually I want to take this on, but there always seemed to be a but or an excuse.


And that was happening over in quite a few different areas of my life.


And I just thought, ‘I really need to try and take control and get that back.’


And the business I've set up is called, the name of it…


I can remember one Tuesday morning offering a few different names to the group and I came up with the name Unshrinkable.


Back in church a long time ago, I can remember one of the topics we discussed and we prayed about as a group was, "We're not those who shrink back," from Hebrews 10 verse 39.


So as soon as I was coming up with different names, the name Unshrinkable really, really helped describe how I wanted to become.


And I didn't want to be someone who shrunk back and was less than I was capable of being.


So for me, this course was about not shrinking back and actually stepping out in faith, stepping out of my comfort zone and really getting back to be the person that I was capable of being.


C: Yeah.


I mean, I've managed a therapy team in the NHS too. And when you're in that situation, you sort of get used to dealing with the challenges, don't you?


S: Absolutely.


C: And there's a kind of, it does feel a little bit like a muscle that you build up in some ways, that something comes through the door.


S: Yes.


C: And you just kind of find it in yourself to get on with it.


And it sounds like you'd felt a bit like you'd lost that muscle to some extent.


C: I think that's a really good way of describing it, yes.


And I think as a mum of three active children, you do develop that muscle as well.


You're constantly responding to different demands in the home and kids being maybe ill or upset or homework or sports or friends coming around or, "Mum, can you just do this?"


So I think, again, that muscle that you've talked about of just responding to different things and different challenges, that also is being constantly developed and flexed because let's face it, being a mum of three kids and a wife in the home, that in itself is a big daily challenge just to get everything sorted out.


C: It is.


I'm reminded as you're talking of when I've done some keeping fit or getting fit.


And one of the things that really shocked me a few years ago is that I'd got quite good at running and then I decided I was going to do a triathlon.


And obviously you need to be able to cycle.


And I'd got to the point where I could run 10K and then I got my bike and I'd done like half a mile and my legs were aching.


And I'm like, "But I have used my legs!"


It's interesting, isn't it, how things can be kind of quite similar to each other but actually be requiring something a bit different.


So yes, I mean, not only have you got three kids, but you've just managed a major house renovation project.


You do lots.


And you do lots in the community as well.


But there was something, some part of you that you felt like you'd sort of...


S: I think the part, and I speak to a lot of mums, a lot of friends of mine, I think often as a mum where you've got your kids and a husband and maybe those who aren't working and have given up their job over time to become a stay-at-home mum, although this is not exclusively to them.


I think the part that you tend to put on the back burner is your own personal development because everybody else comes first.


And I think that's the way it should be, certainly the way in our home, that I haven't minded doing that.


That's been a real blessing to be able to do that.


But it felt as though as my kids got older and didn't need me so much, it almost felt like I'd got a bit of a...


I was in a cocoon, a bit of a world where putting me first and finding that personal development that I so easily offered to my kids and giving them all those opportunities, I almost felt a bit guilty for prioritising my own needs and my own development above my kids.


And I think that was the battle I had going on.


Whereas I thought, “if my kids had wanted to do this, I would have driven them there. I would have made the time. I would have made sure they'd gone to all the different sessions and help them to do it.”


But because it was me, something else always came ahead of that.


And I think I found that very difficult to then say, actually, if I'm going to do this STILL method course, which involved online learning, it was a diploma, and it was homework and extra things, I needed to carve out time, which meant I had to say no to the kids, or I had to say no to other stuff to make that happen.


But it felt quite a difficult process to prioritise that and say, if I'm going to move forward with this, but I've got to be on the front foot with this and not keep putting on the backburner.


Because things are in a real status quo, and they're never going to move on.


And that was quite a difficult process for me, having been a stay at home mum for 10 years odd.


C: What was the insight or the kind of the aha moments that helped you to step into that and to make this a priority and to carve out time for yourself?


S: There's two wonderful ladies who run quite a few courses with the STILL method around this area, Amanda and Karen. And they've got lottery funding to do a group down in Newcastle at the time.So in a cafe. 


Funnily enough, I was working at a local charity. And there was a girl who I was working with, who was really struggling with life at the moment. And when I read about this free anxiety management course over a period of six weeks, and I was talking to this lady in the charity who was going through a really tricky patch, and she was getting very anxious.


There was stuff going on for her and she'd really lost a lot of confidence.


And as these things often turn out, I was saying to her, “I think this is something that would really benefit you. I've read about this. I think this would actually really help you.”


So she didn't want to go on her own. So I agreed to go with her thinking, “actually, I probably know a lot of this stuff.”


I probably taught a lot of these relaxation and anxiety management principles, but it would be interesting just to go back because that was something I found very beneficial with a lot of patients.


So I went along and I really, really enjoyed the course and I gained a huge amount from it. The ladies running it were absolutely brilliant, but I loved the structure of it. I loved the variety of different tools and strategies that were given.


So it felt a bit like to me that when we finished the six weeks, you got a really good amount of support, but you came away with this toolbox of different strategies, a lot of which I was familiar with through my 20 years as an occupational therapist in mental health.


But I felt like they pulled out the good parts of it and made it very bespoke to each person.


So when I actually finished the course, I gave everybody a packet full of different mixed seeds and said, “if you plant these, then you'll get lots of different flowers all coming up because there's lots of different seeds there. And over time, if you nurture those and plant them in good soil and water them, they'll grow into beautiful flowers, flowers in bloom for your life.”


And that's how I felt at the end of this course was that I'd got this amazing toolkit with lots of different strategies, and you could pick and choose which ones that could apply to different situations in your life.


So for me, for example, one thing I'd become quite anxious about was driving, particularly long distances. Quite a long time ago, I was at work and turned right at a really busy crossroads, and a van was stopped to let me go, but there was another lane and a car smashed into the side of me. So I ended up, I wasn't hurt, but the car had a big dent in it and the other car was also damaged. But for a long time afterwards, I had a real fear and phobia of turning right, particularly if it was a busy road.


So for months and months afterwards, bearing in mind, I was an occupational therapist in the community and had to do a lot of driving. I got to the point where I wouldn't turn right if it was a busy road. So I would make my journeys go left and left and left, which when you're then having to submit a travel expense afterwards is not particularly helpful for work.


But I just thought, "Oh my gosh, I can't keep not turning right."


So that was an example of something within this course.


You could look at laddering and challenging that thinking and making it very bespoke to me.


By then I had overcome my fear of turning right.


But again, each person in the group had areas and particular aspects that they knew wasn't a major problem, but actually it was something that they wanted to overcome.


C: So do you want to tell us what laddering is?


S: My job as an occupational therapist is breaking activities down into small components.


So if you made a cup of tea, for example, with the patient, you wouldn't just focus on ‘make a cup of tea’.


You break it down into all those different components.


So fill the kettle, boil the kettle, get the cup out, get the milk, pour the milk into the jug or the cup, stir it.


So you'd actually break everything and every activity down into lots of different steps.


The idea being with laddering is you do exactly the same.


So if your fear is crossing over a bridge, for example, so the laddering then was looking at breaking that down into very small steps and each step you make sure that you are pushing forward a little bit, but you're always going to have a successful outcome.


So you're always going to have that positive reinforcement of I've done this little bit and then you stop and then the next bit I've done the first step plus a little bit more.


So it might be I've from a distance looked at the bridge would be step one.


Step two would be you go to stand at the bottom of the bridge and then you go back to carrying on.


Step three might be I'm going to go halfway across the bridge with someone.


Step four would be I'm going to go halfway across the bridge on my own.


Step five would be I'm going to go all the way across the bridge and step six would be I'm going to do that there and back.


The idea being with laddering, each stage that you go through, you're not getting to a point where you fail it and where you can't do it.


So each time you're building that feeling of “I've achieved this” and it's been a successful outcome until you actually do it and that becomes a normal habit.


So you're changing your mindset because each time you're achieving something and you're giving yourself that positive reinforcement of yeah, I can do this step by step.


C: So would you potentially combine that with some other anxiety management technique so that you're not scared when you're doing your first step?


S: Yes.


I mean that's where again the STILL method combines very practical control breathing.


It's looking at how you would relax.


It would be looking at perhaps tapping and the whole ethos behind the STILL method is get it out of your head and into your body.


I think often we're very good at having thoughts whirl around in our head for a bit, like this morning where you've just got a million and one things and actually not really ever dealing with that properly so that thought can just stay fixed and fixed in your head.


Your imagination can take over and all of a sudden you don't ever get rid of this thought and it just becomes bigger and bigger and takes more of a hold and then this as the saying goes, don't make a mountain out of a molehill.


What the STILL method looks at doing is trying to get that thought out of your head and into your body.


So it's got lots of movement, lots of activities, so lots of exercising really.


I'm quite an active person.


I'm not very good at sitting down and resting so for me just that physical activity of walking and moving around, pressing against a wall if you feel really anxious and angry, then look at putting your hands against a wall and pushing that anger and imagining that going into a wall so that your muscles and your arms are really really tense and your body's tense.


So when I was working we used a type of relaxation called Jacobson's relaxation where you tense and then you relax so you've got that contrast of feeling really tense and tight and horrible and everything hurts and really really feels incredibly tight and uncomfortable and then you're going to the other extreme of relaxing and just that complete contrast.


I always found that quite useful for me because it would help me to realise, actually, yes, I'm really tight across my neck and shoulders.


Other people find an imagery or imagining feeling relaxed or imagining if I was relaxed and I could do this successfully and without any fear, what would that be like.


So again say with your football teams if you're looking at what would success look like and how would we get through this big game.


So again within the STILL method, there's lots of different ways for people to deal with that anxiety, but again that's very personal and by having a lot of different ways of dealing with that people can then find what works for me.


I know the courses I've done some of the ladies and kids I've worked with have just gone 'oh wasn't sure about that one that was a bit weird' and then other people have ‘that really really worked and actually I could use that in class the next day’ or ‘I knew I'd got a difficult conversation later on that night so I could begin to plan what I was going to do and use some of those coping strategies as well’.


C: Yeah so that whole toolbox thing works really well.


It sounds to me, I was just reflecting that actually you were on this course and by the end of it you were handing out seeds to everybody else to remind them of what they were going to get from it.


So you were already in the process of thinking, ‘I'm going to do this’.


S: When I heard about the course one of my initial thoughts was, ‘if I like this course this could be something that I could then go and train and do, then let's see where this goes’ and then having done the course I could see myself like Karen and Amanda running these groups either in the community or going to see people at home or going into schools, because it's such a flexible course, whether it's done in a big organisation, it can be sort of concertina’d down into an away day for, say, half a day or something like that, so it's very flexible and the course is constantly being developed and tweaked to work in different environments and with different people.


So yes you're right when I finished the course I thought, ‘this is something I could do’ and what I liked is that in more of a counselling role you've got to think on your feet and come up with the answers which is great and there's certainly a role for that, but what I really liked about the STILL method and the course is that if you're then sharing with people these strategies and these techniques but you're empowering them to choose what works for them and they can then choose what's going to work in different circumstances, so actually you're then feeding that information to them and that creates a control in their life and that empowerment for them to make their own decisions.


C: That does sound quite a lot like what you did as an OT.


S: Yes.


C: So possibly what drew you to being an OT in the first place?


S: Yes, certainly the career as an OT actually came about from my careers teacher who said ‘don't do that, it's basket weaving’.


So it wasn't someone that I had a particular amount of respect for and I just decided ‘I think this sounds really good’ and I decided to do occupational therapy, which I've loved that as a career. And certainly a lot of those skills are very transferable and it does feel as though, particularly in the current climate, with the very much the focus on well-being and mental health post-Covid, our society at the moment it feels like there's a really big need out there for not necessarily just for people who are anxious, but for most people who would benefit from this type of skills really just to help them. It can be used to help people who are really struggling with their mental health or just a bit like an MOT on the car really, is an MOT of your mental health, just to make sure that everything is working as it should and running as well as it could be.




C: So you said that the STILL method was helpful for you, so what changed for you in your life having done it yourself?


S: There is a workbook that you go through, which is really useful because you can go back to the workbook and that's yours for all time, so the workbook really goes through the six weeks or the four weeks depending on which course you do, and how you use that, and then you can write down the different coping strategies, what really stands out in those sessions.


Often it's building on different strategies week on week, a bit like in the classroom with phonics you don't just do it once, you're going back in your times tables, you're relearning it, revisiting it, and then you're building on it week after week so that becomes a foundation for how you think.


What changed was that it just helped me to realise that I'm making decisions to avoid things or I'm talking myself out of things, and I think what the course did was just help me to go, ‘if I want to actually move this forward, I need to focus on this, I need to make it happen, and if it makes me feel a bit anxious or have to juggle my time and if it means I've got to reorganise my priorities, I need to not feel guilty about doing that and I need to feel confident that that's the right thing to do’.


C: Which goes back to part of what you'd realised entering this was that you were tending to make excuses for things.


S: Yes, yes.


C: On the one hand were very valid but on the other hand you could have decided to go ahead with something that you wanted to.


S: I mean the Bible talks about some do not shrink back and the hope for better things really, and I think I wanted to but actually putting it into practice seemed quite hard, because the busyness of life would just take that away, and I think it was just important to reevaluate and look at, as the kids got older I wanted to do something else and I wanted to give something back as well.


C: Yeah.


S: It was about looking at the skills that I've learnt through my lifetime and have equipped me to deal with difficult situations and how can I pass that on to other people, and again that was something I really wanted to do, which I felt was quite important for me to give that back to people, and a lot of conversations I was having with people, I just realised that I wasn't the only one feeling like that as well, and it would be quite exciting, but huge challenge for me to look at ‘how can I fit this in around my busy life, how can I make it work’ and add that on to what I was doing rather than taking it away.


C: Yeah and possibly reorganising some of what you're doing in your busy life.


S: Yes, yes.


I think sometimes we don't want to let go of things particularly when there's things which give you a role or a purpose and make you feel important, but sometimes those things have to go or be put to one side to make room for new things, but sometimes that process is quite hard to get to, and it's also ‘what do I get rid of, what do I keep, can I fit all these things together?’ and that again I think just takes a bit of time.


C: Yeah.


One of the things that really struck me about the STILL method as you were describing it is how sort of physical it is, and how practical it is, and I can see how that could work for quite a lot of different sorts of people.


S: Yes.


The course is actually designed by a man who is a wheelchair user himself who comes from a background of sort of social work and has worked in mental health, particularly he started off with those with autism.


So yes it can be used across a whole range of people so the course can easily be modified.


I end up going into school and doing it with a classroom of sort of six Y4 kids, so we needed a lot of space in the classroom, and I went in there one time and they'd spilt vinegar on the floor and the whole classroom stunk so they had to move all the desks a bit closer, and actually that particular session didn't work so well because there wasn't for these particular group of kids the same amount of space that they were used to.


So again I would say although you don't need a lot of room it's useful to have it.


C: If you're working with six lively kids you want a bit of space.


S: The more the better yes.


But having said that some of these activities you could do on a bus or you could do on the train or you could do at work in a meeting, but there's also, should you want to you know sort of stamp your feet or stretch and do different things, or you can use the different activities in this toolbox in a whole range of different situations, which means that you're not then having to think ‘oh I'm really stressed out now but I can't use this because people think I'm really really weird.’


Actually no, pick an activity where you can press your palms together and push against them and create that resistance in your arm muscles and no one will ever know what you're doing.


C: So what would you be doing that to help you with?


S: I think just about that tension in your muscles so if you feel particularly angry and you want to go and punch someone or punch a wall, obviously if you're in an environment where you can't do that – probably most environments! – but those feelings can be very strong that actually if you push against a wall or push your hands together, you're still getting that tension and that same feeling of energy and that **growls** into your hands, but you're pushing against each other so you're actually creating that resistance and then you can then use some of the imagery to calm yourself down.


I know with my own kids if they come in and they're absolutely full of energy and really wound up, if you say to them ‘sit down and relax’ it does not work, they need to get rid of that excess energy, so it's about finding a healthy way of doing that first and then later on you can talk to them and give them that calming down imagery. If you try to say to them when someone's full of excess energy and just needs to shout and scream and stamp or punch something ‘if you go just calm down it'll be fine’ it doesn't work, so this is about dealing and getting rid of the excess energy in the first place and helping yourself to reregulate and get to that point where you need to be, so that then you can have a conversation with people and then you can look at ‘right what were the triggers there? Let's go back over this. What could you do next time to help to have a more positive thoughts in your head so you don't get to that level of anger and that aggression that we've just seen in that explosion?’ Does that make sense?


C: Yeah it does, it does 


S: I'm certainly not saying you go around and punch people 


C: Yeah, that's really interesting. So if somebody wanted to find out about the STILL method, where would they go?


S: There is a website, so if you typed in the STILL method, there are different trained people working in that field up and down the country and in fact all over the world, that would be one way of actually accessing the STILL method and then you can find out if there's a local trained counsellor in your area who works in that


C: So if people are in sort of Stoke-on-Trent Staffordshire and they'd like to get in touch with you, so you've got an email address which we will put in the show notes


S: Yes that's brilliant, and then if people wanted to contact me personally and discuss further whether they think this is something that would help them 


C: Yeah and is this something that you can do online with people over zoom?


S: It is yes, yes, it has been done over zoom and different… on whatsapp and by any different means possible, so there are also on the STILL method website there are different free sessions that people can access as well, particularly for, say, parents of children, just so that you get a real taster of what the course involves, which I think is really helpful in that people then know what they're signing up to and they can see how that works. There are case studies, there are examples of how they work and the STILL method has helped different people, and those case studies give a real life stories of how different adults and children's lives have been changed through doing this as well.


C: So that 


S: Stop Talk Imagine Listen and Learn 


C: So that sounds like even just knowing that could help somebody to think about ‘how do I deal with this particular situation’


S: Yes it incorporates things like your cognitive behavioural therapy, neuro linguistic programming, just guided imagery, relaxation, self talk, all sorts of different components of different mental health strategies, even, you know, some self esteem, so those self help books. So yes, it's Stop, Talk, Imagine, Listen and Learn 


C: So if you were struggling, for example, to turn right…?


S: Yes then the Stop would be, stop and think about it and challenge ‘why is turning right a big problem?’ 


C: Yeah 


S: So the Talk is really talking to yourself and talking about ‘right what's going on in my own head?’ 


Imagine turning right with absolutely no problem at all 


So the Listen is then just listening to other people and listening to, again, what thoughts are in your head now?


And then Learn, let that become a habit, so you're actually looking at changing that mindset in your head and developing new habits, and you're learning then to change the way you think about turning right, for example, or crossing the bridge, or if kids have got SATs coming up, or a driving test, or an interview at work, and things like that, so it can be used in everyday life.


I think it could apply to everybody, which is the beauty of the course, and the course has been adapted in many different ways as well as shortened. It doesn't have to be the six week course of one hour a week, it could be, say, a couple of hours. So I know for examples, people have been going into schools around, say, year six and that transition to high school, and just doing work with kids there about ‘how are you going to deal with this situation?’ learning to be confident in who you are and to challenge those negative thoughts that come into your head, which we all have from time to time as well.


Because there's so many different components I do think everybody will find some areas which really really connect with them. There will be other areas where they think ‘no, I am not doing that, that does not work for me at all, not doing it, this bit is rubbish’, but I'm very confident that anybody who does the course would find some areas that they can really apply to their life, whether that be the day to day hard grind of life and just getting on, or those added stressful moments where they just think ‘right, I could really do with a bit of a booster just to get me through this difficult time’. 


People have been in situations where there's a lot of disruption at home, a lot of dysregulation, kids are not going to school, won't go in the shower, won't get dressed, won't eat; a lovely analogy that is used on the course is if you have a beach ball that's flat which has eight sections, if you start blowing up the beach ball you're not just inflating one section, you're actually inflating the whole ball, and all of those eight sections then become fuller and back to their original shape. So actually, often when you start working on one area in a person's life, the other areas which also have been affected and flattened and sort of traumatised as well, or working dysfunctionally, they also begin to come right as well.


C: Yeah, yeah, fab.


I'm wondering if there's anything else that feels important to talk about?


S: I think probably the message I've learned from this is just to move forward, and if you have a something that you want to aspire to, if God's given you a hope or a dream or something to work towards, I mean this has been probably a good four or five years where I've had a sense of ‘I want to do more than I'm doing, I want to be more than I currently am, and I know I'm capable of doing that’ but it's about finding that right timing and the right opportunity and it's just keeping keeping believing that that's possible, and looking for how you work towards that and not to give up that hope, really, as it says in Ephesians 3:20 “Now to him who is able to accomplish exceedingly abundantly above all that we can dare to ask or imagine according to the power that works within us” I can hope and dare to imagine great things for my life and the lives of those that I love, but I think sometimes we can get a little bit lost along that path, which is – so probably my message would be just if there's something that you feel is burning inside of you then look at ways you can make that happen, and it may not be that it happens immediately, or three or four years or ten years, however long that takes, just keep grasping onto that and keep believing that in the right time in the right way that that is still possible.


C: Yeah that kind of puts me back in mind of the laddering that you're talking about earlier, that taking something in little steps but kind of continuing to move towards it, can be really helpful.


S: Yes I mean if you're going to climb up a mountain, and I've done lots of walking and expeditions and things like that, you don't jump straight, you don't look at the top of the mountain and think ‘I've got to go up there’, you're taking it one step at a time and each time the top of that mountain is getting one step closer and it's very easy sometimes to look at the whole bigger task and become overwhelmed and think ‘I can't do this so I'm not even going to start’, whereas if you do it one step at a time, that end goal gets closer and closer, and each time you take a step forward that sense of pride and achievement inside of you is going to grow and grow and grow, and I think then you're more likely to first of all have a go at it, secondly succeed and not give up along the way, but also be really proud of yourself when you get there as well, and just that inspires other people then, I think, because they can see how much it means to you and that builds self-confidence and self-esteem and you know what, the next time there's another challenge you're much more likely to think ‘yeah I can do this.’


C: Yeah you were saying earlier that one of the things that happens is that people put aside their own personal growth as a priority and actually when you're at that point when your children don't need you so much it's quite discombobulating, isn't it, that you're sort of like ‘I've got used to putting everybody else's needs first and now and now I've got some space again’.


S: Yes and I think that can take a bit of time to get used to without feeling guilty almost, or without feeling ‘oh right, can I do this because I've always been used to putting the kids needs first and putting other people's needs first’ and again I think I speak to an awful lot of people and that's a really common problem, or when people retire and they're not working anymore and they've got all this time but they're so used to having something that dominates their life that all of a sudden they don't know how to put themselves and their needs back in the forefront again and it can be really really quite a disconcerting process to work that all through.


C: Are you discovering parts of yourself that you'd forgotten about?


S: I'm beginning to.


I think had we not done this big housing project I think I would have significantly more time than I do now but yes in terms of things that I've had to put by the wayside and leave to one side I'm enjoying say DIY and discovering new things.


We bought a second hand piano at home from an old church actually and one of my sons said the other day "Mum why did we get this piano because you hardly ever play it" and actually he's right but I'm hoping at some point to get it retuned and when I was much younger at school I used to play the piano and really enjoy that so that's something I'd like to get back, to designing cards and making cards and DIY painting and all these things.


Some have come more to the forefront recently than others through necessity and trying to get things finished but yes it feels like there's a time when I can probably go back and rediscover things that I used to enjoy doing, even just having time with friends and inviting friends over and things like that.


C: Brilliant.


Thank you ever so much Sarah, that's been really interesting.


S: Well thank you for having me over to talk to you as well.


C: You're welcome.



Hope you enjoyed this episode of the Loved Called Gifted podcast. If you’d like to get in touch, you can email You can find a transcript of this podcast at and that’s also the place to go if you’re interested in the Loved Called Gifted course or if you’d like to find out about spiritual direction or coaching.

Thank you for listening.


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