In the space of one crazy week last month, I had the pleasure of attending these fantastic events: Women’s Inspire Network (WIN) Conference; the Mental Health and Wellbeing Summit (MHWS); the Irish Positive Birth Conference (IPBC) and Unplug’s ‘Maximising Performance in a Distracted World’. What an eclectic mix of events I hear you say! But, are they really?
At the WIN event, I saw first-hand the benefit of women supporting women in business and the value of collaboration. The MHWS had strong themes of connection, inclusion, sharing experiences, and mental fitness. The IPBC saw talks on trust, support and the importance of strong networks – for mums, dads and health care professionals. And lastly, Aidan and Chris from Unplug reminded us of the importance of being present, both in and out of work.
Connection, Trust, Authenticity, Presence, Mental Fitness
– a holistic approach looking at the whole person...in work, in life, in times of vulnerability and times of strength -
I particularly enjoyed the fantastic talk by Prof. Jim Lucey on ‘Sing, Dance, Play and be Mindful’; and Dr. Eddie Murphy’s talk on how to keep well when we are well. I could have listened to Dr Nils Bergman all day, talking about the beginning of life; the baby’s environment and bonding and optimal brain development (where it all starts). The connection and authenticity at the Women's Inspire Network event was so apparent that I signed up as a member the very same day!
From a workplace perspective, I was delighted to hear John Ryan from Great Place to Work talk about the upcoming launch of a ‘Healthy Place to Work’. I was like a nodding dog listening to him talk about their new ‘holistic salutogenic framework for health’, comprising: purpose; mental resilience; connection; physical health…ridiculously excited! Add this to IBEC’s recent launch of their ‘KeepWell Mark’ for employers, and I think we are going to see some very exciting crux-addressing employer initiatives with time.
Across each of the events, there was reference to Carol Dweck and her work on growth and fixed mind-sets; that popular Maya Angelou quote about people remembering how you made them feel was mentioned here and there; and lots of great advice from experts in their field.
It was certainly a lot of food-for-thought in a short space of time...
While I was delighted to see healthy gender and age diversity at the MHWS, I was disappointed that there was no mention of maternal, paternal and infant mental health beyond a somewhat peripheral focus on ‘self-care’ for
parents mothers. Well over 60,000 babies are born in Ireland every year, and over 80% of women in Ireland have at least 1 child in their lifetime*. With 1 in 6 women and 1 in 10 men thought to suffer from post-natal depression and 12.7% of parents suffering from parental burnout, I would have thought it was worth a mention*. I learnt more on this topic from Mark Williams of Fathers Reaching Out from his short talk at the IPBC, then I did from the MHWS.
Why are we not supporting parents to keep well, both physically and mentally, through the significant life transition of bringing new life into the world, and empowering them to confidently raise their children? We should be working to set them up for success from the outset. If not because it’s the right thing to do…surely the national economic, societal and cost-saving benefits are obvious? Not to mention the individual business benefits where parents feature as a core demographic. And when it comes to addressing gender equality and mental well-being, do we really think telling women to set some boundaries and make sure to fit in some ‘me-time’ is going to cut-it….for women and men? Are our gender norms so deeply ingrained that we can’t see beyond this?
While my focus is largely in a workplace and gender inclusion perspective, I'm very interested in the wider societal and economic impacts of neglecting the people who are raising the next generation.
People often ask me why, in addition to being an Executive, Business & Personal Coach, I decided to work with expectant parents on planning their babies’ birthday. For me, it is all connected. Strength Within is about helping people successfully navigate change and to maximise their strength within – this is often about confidence and mental fitness, resilience and ability to adapt to changing circumstances. When it comes to pivotal moments in their life and career, I want them to look back on a positive experience – to know that they were listened to, and supported to make the decisions that are best for them given their unique set of circumstances. Working with expectant parents is a particular privilege for me as it meets people at the birth of new life, and often the birth of a mother and father. This is a vulnerable time of massive transition, and increasingly one of cultural and societal expectation overload.
In today’s world, we are often surrounded by a culture of fear and anxiety and this inevitably goes inward where we create our own stories of fear and anxiety. Add this to the continuous pace of change and it’s understandable that people often feel overwhelmed.
In the workplace context, in addition to helping successfully navigate change, I help employers to develop a culture of inclusiveness; I support employees to take ownership for their own performance and progressions; and I encourage both to develop a reciprocal relationship. All of my work is about creating headspace, helping people to understand what is important for them, to make a plan to achieve this, and to go confidently in the direction of their goals. And I love it! For me, this is congruence with my values, my connection, my authenticity and my presence in my life.
"tell me, what is it that you plan to do with your one wild and precious life", Mary Oliver
*Sources: CSO, OECD, WIN, Irish Times
Claire Flannery is the Founder and Owner of Strength Within coaching and consultancy, where she focuses on helping people create the headspace and mental clarity to discover, cultivate and maximise their strength within. She is a qualified Business Psychologist, Executive, Business & Personal Coach and Gentlebirth Instructor with over a decade of experience working in HR leadership in Financial Services. She is also a Mum to two small boys and has personal experience of successfully managing her career while preparing to transition out of, and back into, the workforce; and is passionate about helping people to successfully navigate the huge identity and life transition involved in starting and growing a family. As a large part of her work, she is privileged to work with women and their partners as they make their journey through pregnancy, birth and early parenting. Along with Coaching services, she runs Gentlebirth and Return-to-Work workshops in Dublin, Ireland.