Emotions & Resilience

How to Use Visualisation and Perception to Redefine Anxiety

My tools involve making a map of your future, or using your imagination to create.

Despite beginning my journey down the self-development path in 2004, I didn’t know what the destination would look like. In fact, I really struggled to picture my future.

As a young adult, I had no career calling to me, and thus looking at job adverts was like looking over a menu where all of the food includes something I “don’t mind” and nothing I truly love. Nothing jumped out at me and I couldn’t make a choice.

The Map and Compass

It’s clear to me that without a direction, without any idea of where we want to be, we can be lost. Without a destination, we can’t access or even create a map.

So, I began to pick out future events I’d like to happen. I pictured me-in-five-years, and she had a house and was writing her novel. I couldn’t tell if the novels were her full or part-time work, but they existed in the future. It was a tiny sign to step towards.

Through knowing my novels were important enough to still be in my life in five years time, I learned the importance of devoting time to writing “in the now”. If I had stopped writing completely back in university, I wouldn’t be that “me-in-five-years” who is a writer. And I knew I want to be that future writer.

Our imagination is a wonderful tool in the journey of development. You can redefine your future by acting in certain ways now. And the best part is: no one can read your mind. So you can redefine life as it happens to you, too.

Imaginary Panic Weasels, Redefined

Ellie Di has written before about anxiety and worries as “the panic weasels”.

She once defined panic as: “a dozen weasels. Now put them in a dog crate. Now give them PopRocks and Coke, shake vigorously, and open the door. That’s what happens to my brain, my heart, and frankly, my whole day when overwhelm and stress meet in a shower of shit I just can’t handle.”

When I first read this idea, I found it charming. A way to re-define our mental state, a way to shift our perception.

But nowadays, when I experience panic or worry, being able to shift those thoughts into a mental image gives me a little control over my mental situation.

Enter the Ferrets

Thinking of a crate of weasels running around the safe space in my head, I get to work on my imagination. I sprinkle them with water until they hide in a corner. I put up cardboard barricades which led from the wall to the patio doors. I sent my ferrets after them. When they left, I tried to shut the doors, and when they tried to get back in, my imaginary cats guards the door.

I had no idea I had inner kitten and ferret guardians until Ellie gave me the tool to frame my anxiety as a weasel. But the imagery really works for me.

Think it’s a bit weird? I guess it is. But you’ve got nothing to lose by trying it. You can cultivate some lizard guardians if you’d prefer.

It’s Not Exactly Science…

But there is evidence that our brains can’t tell ‘reality’ from imagination.

When we watch a scary movie, we experience real fear.

When you imagine running into that person you like, you feel the butterflies in your stomach.

And when you see the panic as weasels, you can pick them up by their tails and chuck them out, or you can visualise ferrets chasing them away for you.

The calm that follows? It’s the brain’s way of saying “phew!” because the anxiety is gone from conscious thought.

And it’s in your control.


If you’re up for trying this, head over to grab the free mapping workbook bundle to craft your own system towards making progress on your personal quest, build up your own connections and feel fiercely resilient. You’ll also get monthly email updates and special list-only offers. Click here to sign up!

Reflection & Patterns

How to Train Your Brain Like you Would Teach a Child

A few years ago I worked for Children’s Services as a Family Support Worker. I taught boundary-setting skills, educated parents and schools on brain development, and essentially used all the brain-training hacks I’d learned in my degrees.

I didn’t have children at the time, but I was paid to support parents with… parenting.

Let’s say I met quite a bit of resistance, but I did my research and I knew my ‘stuff.’ My colleagues, with children of their own, or even just looking old enough to have children, were not questioned as I was. These days, I would let the results speak for themselves, but I’m a bit of a scholar. So instead, I did the research, and I quoted it at them.

But the more experience I have of living as a human being in this world, the more connections I see between the “how to parent” advice, and the neurobiology of a human thriving at *any age*… So many of those “hack your goals” or “habits of highly successful people” follows the same patterns of the behaviour I was trained to encourage as a support worker.

So. Let’s think about how this can be applied to brain-training in your life.

Applying the Lessons

For example, a key focus in parenting classes for toddlers and school-aged children is that of structure and routines: of giving the child some sense of stability and predictability.

No humans like uncertainty, and the way we slowly forget to give ourselves at least some semblance of structure always fascinates me.

Think about your general daily routines.


Do you have a ‘bedtime’ aim? Do you have meals around the same time? How about a set of tasks you do the same each morning to get ready for the day?

Yet, programming our bodies with these kinds of primers can be so helpful in feeling well, rested and balanced across our days.

Of course, we all have different levels of structure that works for us. Some people are night owls while others are morning larks, so it pays to reflect on which routines will best support you in your daily life.

Similarly, when you make goals, do you give yourself reminders, reward the positive actions, and review your progress regularly, like you would with a child’s sticker chart? Do you renew your commitment often? Because that seems to be one of the most common themes in the science of success.

Physical Space

Everything from setting daily routines to how we organise our physical space to can be applied to adults, and although the aspects often have different names, the concepts are often shared by highly successful people.

I’d like you to think about a pre-school classroom. If you’ve not seen one lately, any school setting from a movie should do the trick. 

What makes it easy for the children and teacher to navigate the space?

Often, there might be set “zones” for items. The dressing-up clothes are in a carpeted area in the corner, beside… you guessed it… the dressing up clothes.

In order to make things simple for a child, there are set rules and structure to their day:

  • Time for Dressing Up
  • Area to Dress-up In
  • Dressing up items kept in/near to that area
  • Defined end-point of Dressing up time
  • Expectation and clear space to put clothes away

Computer Simulations

I’m old enough to remember the original Sims video game, where you would ‘play god’ for some unsuspecting humans, choosing how they spend their days and trying to keep them healthy and happy (at least, most of the time).

One of the key understandings to make that game less stressful, if trying to keep everyone in a positive place, was the idea of flow in the house, which benefited the character’s energy levels.

In the kitchen, for example, I would follow the following order:
Fridge, workspace, cooker, workspace, workspace, sink, with the bin close-by.

Why does this matter?

Because if the simulated characters couldn’t do the next “task in their to-do list” it expended extra energy, and they became grumpy.

The typical ‘cooking’ act following the same steps:

1. Remove item from fridge

2. Chop items on work surface

3. Boil items in pan

4. Serve on plates (workspace 2)

5. Stand to eat/eat at table, then return to put dirty dishes beside sink (work space 3) or immediately wash up.

By organising the environment around my characters to follow their ‘flow’ of the tasks, I could keep them happier and more energised.

Flow is Important

We think about this with children, and with electronic people… why don’t we consider this idea for ourselves? Across the brain-training manuals, goal-setting worksheets and my neuroscience degrees, this wasn’t a clear area mentioned to consider.

How can we harness this?

  • Firstly, consider where you want to improve your flow, what aspect of brain-training you want to alter.
  • Place similar aspects together: put your gym bag by the door so you don’t forget it, or set a reminder to review your goals when you’d already be looking at your phone.
  • Consider how you arrange your physical and digital space. Re-arrange the furniture, if necessary, and watch how your sense of flow changes.


New to Map Your Potential? Welcome. Grab the free mapping workbook bundle to make progress on your personal quest, one step at a time. Build up your sense of fierce resilience, from 30-second mindful moments to managing imposter syndrome and dealing with overwhelm. You’ll also get monthly email updates and special list-only offers. Click here to sign up!

Creative Tools

On Soothing the Fear of Imposter Syndrome

Psst! At the end of this post is a link to my free worksheets on managing those imposter syndrome fears, so you can make progress on your personal quest.

As human beings, we worry. Our minds focus on the problems we might be faced with, and try desperately to do fix problems before they arise. We plan for conflict, or confusion. We question what we’re doing, and if it’s okay to be doing it. Especially when thinking about starting or transforming our lives or business.

That voice creeps in, sometimes amidst the excitement of expansion. At other times it lurks in the back of your mind as you stare up at the ceiling.

We ask ourselves “What do I have to offer?” or “Why would anyone trust me?” We worry “Can I really deliver what I promise? What if they don’t like my work, or feel cheated?”

The Imposter Syndrome

Fears of not being good enough, or feeling like an ‘imposter’ can change our behaviour from self-talk to the way we act. This often results in down-playing what we do, and missing out on opportunities.

Often people worry about not living up to a set expectation, fearing they actually can’t do what they’ve said they can, or just don’t know what to expect of a change.

But these thoughts are just that: thoughts.

And our thoughts are not facts.


And not only that, but we actually have some level of control over how we think and what we say to ourselves or other people. Let’s get started:

  1. What are you afraid of? Define the worry that is holding your fear hostage. When we know a specific concern, it’s much easier to really question it, and make a balanced judgement.
  2. Is this worry ‘real’? Ask yourself if there is some truth behind the concern. Have you let people down before, or received negative feedback that you haven’t analysed and made changes based on? What evidence is there behind the thoughts?
  3. Is there another side? Our thoughts do come from something, so it’s likely you found some evidence for that concern — but we often forget to look at the whole picture. What evidence do you have against the concern? Have you ever completed a task or created something that you didn’t feel ‘qualified’ for, and it didn’t go entirely wrong?
  4. If this worry came true, how bad would it be? Often the worries we have are quite out of proportion to the ‘realistic’ outcome. If the event were to go badly, or someone didn’t like it, would it really be as bad as you think?
  5. Balance it out. Use the evidence you’ve found to balance out the worry. “Although I may not be an expert, I can definitely help my client improve in this skill, which is all they are asking for.”

Our imposter worries come from a place of self-preservation. After all, we want to be liked, which is especially useful in business. We want our clients to be happy with our work to buy from us again!

Therefore, it’s good to remember that these concerns aren’t ‘bad thoughts trying to harm us’ but actually a tiny worried voice that just needs some reassurance.

And if we befriend that concern, taking on board the truths behind it, our mind becomes a uh more pleasant place to spend time.


Want to download the free worksheets on actually working through these Imposter Worries? Grab the free mapping workbook bundle to make progress on your personal quest, one step at a time. Youll also get monthly email updates and special list-only offers. Click here to sign up for the Managing Imposter Worries Worksheets! 
This post was originally published on Her HustleIt’s been refreshed and re-shared here for your enjoyment, with a link to it’s new companion worksheet.

Creative Tools

Why Creativity Matters, and How To Cultivate It

Creative thinking is a tricky thing to define. Some call it a skill; one that you either have or you don’t. Some say it requires inspiration, while others say it can be cultivated and “learnt”.

When I looked at creativity as a student, Einstein was viewed as a creative scientist, Leonardo da Vinci was seen to be a creative artist and composers like Mozart had their own version of creativity.

However, the definition is still hazy around the edges. Is creative art the same as creative science or even “innovative problem-solving?” Are engineers and mathematicians creative too?

What might the difference be between the Mona Lisa and the Theory of Relativity? Would you call one more creative than the other?

Despite these differences, two common aspects of defining a creative thought are purpose and novelty.

One of the purposes I can usually find for creativity is that it allows us to problem-solve. If you feel stressed and need solutions, or you’re faced with a new change, your creativity allows you to stand up to that event or situation, and find a way through it.

Therefore, nurturing our creativity is part of nurturing our resilience.

The Process

The scientific view of creativity and creative-thinking seems to have a short-fall in the literature. However, the explanations of some movement practises and anecdotal experience can give us a peek at the neuronal systems which support this event.

For those without a neuroscience degree, essentially, our brain is a bunch of wires which connect all areas to nearly all the other areas. However, the wires are not all linked to each other directly; but via many connections (i.e. A-B-C-D connects A-D, but there may not be any no wires from A to C or A to D directly).

In practices which utilise a mixture of skills, our brains can actually create these short-cuts and join areas which previously didn’t communicate at all, or only slowly (via ten little paths). This is where the “epiphanies” or new, creative ideas stem from: new or improved communication between parts of the brain that didn’t previous chat leads to insights we hadn’t previously accessed.

Connecting the Dots

Each time you act, neurons fire along the wires in your brain, and that path gets strengthened. For example, if you were to cross a field, you may find it slow-going. You trip over the molehills while falling down the surprise ditch and weave around the dog excrement and broken glass. It takes effort and time to watch out for danger and keep in line with your destination – a tiny gap in the fence at the other end which takes you onto the pavement.

After walking the route 5 days a week, for 2 years; the grass is flattened where you walk; the molehills are squashed down and you automatically hop over the ditch without even thinking. It takes you less time and energy to get across the field than it did before.

In your brain, there are little pulses of energy which travel down wires. In between two wires; there are ditches. If they use the same route enough; the neurotransmitter is increased; creating a kind-of bridge at the ditch so you save time; not even having to jump over it. The pulses slide down the wires instead of pushing through the bracken, so the whole journey is faster and more efficient.

So, creativity can aid our resilience: our ability to ‘bounce back’ from set-backs in our lives.

Want more creativity to flow your way? 

1. Do Things Together

The best way to connect your brain is to learn new things; or do things differently. Mix these up with something you find easy or is automated to draw on an already-existent connection.

So for me, brushing my teeth is an automated process. I don’t have to think about how to hold the brush or which tooth to brush next; it just happens. So, I can change the hand I hold the brush with to start changing my neurons. My balance is mediocre, so maybe I’ll stand on one leg throughout brushing my teeth too.  If that’s not your thing, what about re-learning the second language you took in school? Stick up a list of Irish verbs on the wall; and read them while brushing your teeth. (I did this every day for a year… “Go n-ithe an cat thú is go n-ithe an diabhal an cat!” is a useful phrase.)

2. Mix It Up

You want to mix the areas of the brain up; using a bit from each. So we have spatial, verbal, numerate, physical movement and visualisation/planning which all have their own areas.

This is why the above example uses movement (brushing teeth), spatial or balance (where my leg is in space), and verbal (second language learning), which will likely use visualisation if you visualise the action / object vividly.

3. Short but Strong

Do these mixed-up-items often, intensely, but for short bursts. And rest a lot between them. I brush my teeth 2 – 3 times a day, for 3 – 4 minutes each time.  That’s enough for a big change, and is more efficient (and less time-consuming) than spending two hours on one day each week doing it.

4. Keep Changing It Up

Once it becomes habit, switch it up! Keep that brain learning new routes! Move onto algebra equations and tap-dance or hold one arm out while brushing your teeth. Or waiting for the kettle to boil. Put 100 new Italian nouns up to learn on the wall by your bed.

How do you get creative?

New to Map Your Potential? Welcome. Grab the free mapping workbook bundle to make progress on your personal quest, one step at a time. From 30-second mindful moments to managing imposter syndrome and dealing with overwhelm: we’ve got you covered. You’ll also get monthly email updates and special list-only offers. Click here to sign up!

Creative Tools

Three Steps to Reach Effective Creative Energy

Being a creative soul can hold specific challenges. The skills used to keep creativity going mean we tend to analyse things, and notice patterns differently. Although this gives us part of our power, in creative endeavours, it can also mean that we get blocked in quite specific ways.

Whether you write stories, paint landscapes, write musical scores or choreograph dance moves; we all get blocked.

Commonly referred to as ‘writer’s block’, I know that all creative folk can experience that mental block which stifles our creativity. Some people find it helpful to push though – writing despite the lack of inspiration, while others feel that taking a bit of space from the project can let our mind settle down, and encourage the shy muse to appear.

1. Mindfulness

Whatever is blocking you, a few minutes of mindfulness can really help create some space for that mental block.

It can be as simple as closing your eyes taking a low, deep breath and connecting with your body. Feel the floor beneath you, and notice the sounds, temperature or smells around you. Just connect to this moment, for 10 seconds. If you can take a bit longer, do so.

Reconnecting with the moment gives our mind a chance to reconnect with ourselves.

I have a little bell sound on my phone which goes ding twice a day to remind me just to pause, and check in with myself. This really helps bring my mental energy back into focus.

Could you create a minute of mindfulness each day?

2. Check Your Story

Our own self-talk is a crucial part of how we perceive ourselves. How do you think about your creative journey? What obstacles have you overcome to reach where you are now? Sometimes it can be helpful to just ask yourself if your thoughts, if that self-talk is helpful right now.

Are you worrying about being good enough, or feeling like your work isn’t good enough?

Do you have those voices in your head saying you’ll never reach success, or wondering how you’re going to get out of your current rut?

Not every thought is a fact, and our thoughts CAN be controlled, to some extent.

It’s a great idea to just check in with the things we tell ourselves, particularly as, being creative thinkers, we often come up with elaborate possibilities which likely don’t have any evidence behind them: including negative thoughts about ourselves and our creations.

What story are you telling yourself? Is it entirely true, or could you re-frame it a little?

3. Permission to Stop

I’m currently committed to writing at least one word of new fiction a day, but sometimes allowing yourself a break from a project is the best action to ‘reset’ your creativity. To some extent, finding what works for you is key, but even between different projects, times of year or just your own mental state, different things will work for you.

The next time you feel blocked, take a day off and see how you feel about the project after a bit of a break. Let yourself brainstorm or put the project away for a few days and don’t let yourself think about it.

How much ‘downtime’ do you allow yourself from your creations, to let them percolate? 


New to Map Your Potential? Welcome. Grab the free mapping workbook bundle to make progress on your personal quest, one step at a time. From 30-second mindful moments to managing imposter syndrome and dealing with overwhelm: we’ve got you covered. You’ll also get monthly email updates and special list-only offers. Click here to sign up!