What’s hiding in your garage? How do you let it go?

It’s spring again – the sun comes out and suddenly everything that has been hiding quietly away in the shadows of the dark winter months appears in the open.

flowering cherry jpg blog post www.keystepscoaching.com what's hiding in your garage

Where are your hiding places?

Indoors? Stacks of books, magazines, clothes that need to go to the charity bank….. or even the murky depths of kitchen cupboards, and the dates on cartons and tins.

The garden – if you have one? Dried up plants from last autumn, grass too long and wet to cut easily, dead leaves, (well, that’s my garden, yours is probably in much better shape.)

fallen leaves jpg www.keystepscoaching.com blog post Whats hiding in your garage

And as for the garage…

So cold in the winter that it is unbearable to go out there. Now the sun has come out, and a visit from friendly de-clutterer Hazel Dow emphasised the need for some major action out there. It all looks possible in the sunshine, with her encouragement:

“Just sort it into piles Jenny….. one to throw, one to sell, one for keeping.”

I know all this in my head, but actually doing it is another matter.

chaos jpg www.keystepscoaching.com blog post what's hiding in your garage

It can be overwhelming and stressful

My car used to live in there, but no more. I can walk carefully round a mountain in the centre which has accumulated over several years. When I am feeling proud of de-cluttering part of the house, I am faced with the question of where to put that stuff. It all goes into the garage of course, ready for that moment when I have the time, the energy and a warm day to move it on from there. I am sure that it quietly multiplies when my back is turned.

Where do you start?

Hazel helps you to let go of things emotionally as well as physically dealing with it, and even removing it to the tip if you need help. So if that is something you would like to consider, get in touch with her. http://www.freespace.me.uk/

My starting point

My starting point is in my mind – believing that I will get it done, one small step at a time. When I need practical help, I know who to ask.

wildflowers jpg www.keystepscoaching.com blog post whats hiding in your garage

And de-cluttering our mind is a whole other issue which needs a blog post all to itself.

©Jenny Cooper April 2015




Is chocolate a universal currency?

Do you think that chocolate has become a universal currency?

chocolate box variety of chocolates jpg in blog post Is chocolate a universal currency? www.keystepscoaching.com March 2015Chocolate comes in so many shapes, tastes and forms, even chocolate sculpture.

We buy it as gifts for someone we care about, know well or don’t know well.

As a way of saying: “Thank You”,  “Get well soon”, “Goodbye”, “I love you”, “Happy Birthday/Christmas/Easter/Valentine”. And even, “I can’t think what else to get you so here are some chocolates”.

There are definite chocolate seasons . . . Christmas, Valentine’s Day, and Easter.

chocolate easter eggs jpg blog post Is chocolate a universal currency? www.keystepscoaching.comAnd all year round, we snack on it, replace meals, eat it without thinking while watching TV. It gives us an emotional language too, to comfort ourselves when we feel stressed, miserable, depressed, bored or angry, and to tell others that we care about them, or feel romantic.

Chocolate was precious as gold

Back in the olden days, chocolate, in the form of cocoa beans, was so precious it was used for trading with, like gold. It was considered to be the food of the gods or of kings, and a treasured and valuable commodity.

Raw cocao beans jpg in blog post Is chocolate a universal currency? www.keystepscoaching.com March 2015These cocoa beans don’t look as appealing as the finished chocolate creations that we find in the shops today do they?

Chocolate and inflation

In 1981, Nico Colchester noted in the Financial Times that a Mars Bar is a useful measure of monetary inflation.

Modern chocolate itself shows definite signs of inflation. Instead of that valuable commodity of Inca times, the % of cocoa solids can be low, and the product is padded out with sugar and additional ingredients. I have even seen “chocolate flavoured” products. And white chocolate? Isn’t that the best oxymoron you ever heard?

Good news for chocoholics

You may be surprised to learn that chocolate has some important health benefits, like calming your mood, helping you to relax, feel happier, and improve your memory.

There is always a BUT!

Only the dark chocolate offers these benefits, at least 70% cocoa solids.

AND you will need to supplement your chocolate with other sources of magnesium, such as leafy green veges!

dark chocolate jpg in blog post Is chocolate a universal currency? www.keystepscoaching.com March 2015Save money too….

You only need a couple of squares a day of good dark chocolate to be satisfied and enjoy the health benefits.

You will avoid the health risks from eating large quantities of other chocolate products – such as dental problems, weight gain which can depress you, and possibly down the line, serious health conditions such as diabetes. It is the sugar that is addictive, making you want to eat more and more.

Stress and chocolate

It may be disappointing that a potential source of stress relief such as chocolate can have unwelcome effects. It can also be a challenge to change your preferences to the dark healthy chocolate.

It is possible though, and I have been working closely with Jenny Davison, of Active-Eat, on how we can modify the foods we eat to reduce our stress levels and feel better.

We have just put together a quick guide to get you started:

“Why do you reach for the chocolate when you feel anxious, upset, stressed, hungry or bored?”

It includes tips and helpful information, and Jenny D has created some delicious recipes for you, using the rich dark healthy chocolate.

To get your copy just click here

Enjoy your chocolate!

Jenny Cooper ©2015







If you don’t look after yourself who will?

February seems to have been a month of ‘Bugs’ – nearly everyone I know has been struggling to throw off winter coughs and colds, or worse.

cartoon pink bug in blog post If you don't look after yourself who will March 2015 Key Steps coaching.com

And I had one myself. It kept getting better – or so I thought, then came back again. Eventually I retired from the yo-yo game of “Good, today I’m better, I’ll just get on with ‘x’, go to a meeting, and then dash off and do ‘y’.”

Each time, the bug returned with a vengeance. So I became a lady of leisure for several days, resting and looking after myself, and withdrew from the world.

In bed with a fever cartoon in blog post If you don't look after yourself, who will? March 2015 Key Steps Coaching.comHas this happened to you as well?

This raises some questions:

We get messages that we MUST be posting things all the time on social media, we MUST be doing ‘This’ and ‘That’ for the ‘Other’ result.

Yes, sometimes that is true.

And no, at times it is more important to care for yourself and put your own well being first. Ultimately you will recover faster and return with more energy and focus.

Otherwise you can end up having enforced time off where you have more time than you want to do things, but no energy to do so.

Where does the pressure come from?

Where does all this pressure come from to keep going in spite of being unwell?

To not give our bodies the chance to repair and recuperate in the short-term and avoid long-term consequences of more serious illness?

It may seem something trivial today. You might feel some sort of hero or martyr to the cause to be keeping going no matter what. But there are costs – both health and financial, and they can lie in wait and jump out when you least expect them.

Pay into your ‘Health Account’ now


Pause on theatre curtains in blog post If you don't look after yourself who will? March 2015 Key Steps Coaching.com“All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players…”  William Shakespeare

So pay into your “Health Account” now, don’t get overdrawn. Take a Pause or Interval in your play, and do something to help you get well or keep well. Treat yourself to something, like a massage. What is your favourite treat?

wellness candles massage image in blog post March 2015 If you don't look after yourself who will? www.KeyStepsCoaching.comIf you don’t look after yourself who will?

What do you think, do you agree?

And what is one small thing you can do today to put your health and well-being at the top of your list?

©Jenny Cooper 2015 All rights reserved


Do you put off doing things?

Do you put off doing things?

Speaking as someone who could get a PhD in procrastination (if I ever got round to it), the whole issue is really fascinating.

Deadlines are a must for me to get things done, so making a To Do list really helps. But curiously, some things seem to keep falling off the end of the list. Does that happen to you?

It could be something simple that you dislike doing – fixing something or the ironing – and when you get around to it, it doesn’t take long and was easier than you expected.

Or it could be something that feels overwhelming and you don’t know where to begin. So you don’t or can’t.

Creativity and procrastination

Recently I came across an article or a comment about how taking five minutes a day doing something creative can help to break through that block of getting started and getting things done. I know that creativity has many benefits, but had not come across this specific one before.

The Five Minutes a Day Creativity Challenge

This was a chance to test out the theory. The idea is to do something creative – write, draw, sing, paint, dance, whatever you decide, for five minutes each day for a week.

5 minute continuous doodle jpg image by Jenny Cooper blog post Do You put off doing things? Key steps Coaching 29.11.14

5 minute continuous doodle Nov.2014

What happened?

I started out feeling as if five minutes was for ever, then once I got started, the time flew.

Doing something different each day got me looking around for ideas. Singing, drawing with my left hand, tearing strips of an old catalogue and weaving them together. When you have a time limit, you have to act quickly, be spontaneous and experimental. And the deadline of completing it in time to post on facebook before going to bed helped.

The results

It was a lot of fun! Not just creating things, but seeing what other people were doing and posting.

Most surprising: Some of those obstinate items on my To Do lists mysteriously got done!

The most overwhelming item has been lurking around in my To Do lists for several months, and felt like it was going to be in the Too Hard Basket for ever. It was important, but felt so impossible and confusing that everything else always seemed more urgent.

I can’t explain why it suddenly felt possible to sit at the computer and start tackling this particular task, nor why all sorts of pennies started dropping so that I could understand what to do, and do it.

Woven strips of paper jpg image Jenny Cooper blog post Do you put off doing things? keystepscoaching.com

Woven strips of paper

There was no apparent connection between the creative activities and this computer work. The block seemed to just melt away during this week.

Somehow the mountains of failing will-power, guilt, anxiety and feeling incompetent were all by-passed. Magic!

I’m hooked now… and going to continue with these little bursts of daily creativity.

And it isn’t just me. One friend who completed the whole week experienced similar powerful effects. You can check it out here Key Steps Coaching Facebook page.

Are you inspired to try a new way to get things done?

Just for a week, spend five minutes a day doing something creative.

Enjoy yourself, see what happens, then share below to inspire others.

Looking forward to hearing what you discover!


©Jenny Cooper 2014. All rights reserved.



The secret ingredient to creating effective change

So what is this secret ingredient to creating effective change?

Has it eluded you in the past? But the sense of being trapped in a cycle of pressure and busy-ness means you don’t have the energy to stop, think and discover what it is?

Quote by Einstein Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results

Continue reading

7 Steps to Stop Stress in its Tracks

Life is full of situations and people that are ready to press your STRESS buttons.

Image of word Stress, red lettering on black background


You can’t change them but you can use these 7 steps to stop stress in its tracks, and change your responses.


1. Know your stress triggers, what sets you off?

2. Shift your focus from “out there” to “in here”.

3. Be aware of your habitual response to stress:

a. Do you Fight – get angry, irritable, grit your teeth?

Image of red letter f for fight response to stress

b. Do you Flee – avoid it, run away, cry?

Image of capital F to flee from stress

c. Do you Freeze – like a rabbit in the headlights, can’t move, think or act?

Black F in circle, stress response of Freezing

When you know your default F response, you can take steps to change it.

4. Understand the costs of unresolved stress to your health and well-being.

Perhaps you already experience some of these: headaches, indigestion, insomnia, grumpy with loved ones.

Left unattended, you can end up with high blood pressure, damaged immune system and many other health problems, not to mention breakdown of relationships and inability to focus and be effective at work.

5. Take charge of your responses.

Learn and use simple strategies to change your response to stressful situations.

6. Do something just for you each day.

Take a few minutes to notice something beautiful, relaxing, or special.

Image of sunflower against sky

7. Be thankful for at least one thing each day.

Get a notebook and write it down.

Image of Stress relax sign posts

Here is a simple stress buster to get you started on No. 5.

Take three gentle deep breaths down into your abdomen when you are starting to feel stressed. (You can take more if you need to)

This simple activity switches off the stress response and helps you to pause and unwind, so that you can start to think more clearly.

And last but not least, SMILE.

Research shows that smiling boosts your happy hormones and lifts your mood. Have something around that helps you to smile on those challenging days – a picture, photo, something that amuses you.

photograph of a group of smiling children

How about a little extra help?

Now you are getting to grips with that stress, why not try a free weekly Unwind Top 2 Toe email. You can sign up here www.keystepscoaching.com

Do you have a favourite tip to de-stress that you would like to share? We would love to hear what helps, so please add it below, thanks.

Katrina Wood and I have developed a support programme for women who are juggling too many demands on their time and energy. We focus on simple, practical ways to de-stress so that participants can unwind and think clearly. Check out your7steppingstones.co.uk to learn more, and visit us on Facebook

© Jenny Cooper August 2014