Making Sense of Work with Jean Balfour

Ep. #45 Play and Resilience at Work with Imogen Maresch

March 17, 2023 Imogen Maresch Season 2 Episode 45
Ep. #45 Play and Resilience at Work with Imogen Maresch
Making Sense of Work with Jean Balfour
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Making Sense of Work with Jean Balfour
Ep. #45 Play and Resilience at Work with Imogen Maresch
Mar 17, 2023 Season 2 Episode 45
Imogen Maresch

Resilience isn't just about persevering until we reach our breaking point. Sometimes, it's about taking a break and incorporating enjoyable activities, then it can be the perfect way to enhance our resilience.

Join Imogen Maresch, speaker, coach, and faculty member of Bailey Balfour's Certification programme in the latest episode of Making Sense of work. 

Jean and Imogen discuss: 

  • What does resilience mean
  • How does play connect to resilience
  • Using play at work and using play at coaching
  • How to encourage play at work and tap into it for our resilience

Meet Imogen
With a background in drama, 15+ years’ experience in learning and development, and a track record of high-profile leadership roles in both the private and public sectors, Imogen brings a unique perspective to the world of work. 

She holds an MBA from the University of Leicester and, through the pandemic, gained her Masters in Applied Positive Psychology and Coaching Psychology from the University of East London. Her research was exploring how playing an innovative online board game she developed supported people in lockdown to boost resilience. It was recently published in a leading international academic journal. We will hear more about this in the podcast. 

Imogen lives in London where she volunteers as a coach for several charities and has a long-standing reputation for hosting legendary games nights.

Experience an Introduction to our Coach Training Programmes with our Free Taster Course: https://courses.baileybalfour.com/course/coach-training-introduction

Sign up to our newsletter to learn more about upcoming programmes: https://baileybalfour.com/subscribe/

Show Notes Transcript

Resilience isn't just about persevering until we reach our breaking point. Sometimes, it's about taking a break and incorporating enjoyable activities, then it can be the perfect way to enhance our resilience.

Join Imogen Maresch, speaker, coach, and faculty member of Bailey Balfour's Certification programme in the latest episode of Making Sense of work. 

Jean and Imogen discuss: 

  • What does resilience mean
  • How does play connect to resilience
  • Using play at work and using play at coaching
  • How to encourage play at work and tap into it for our resilience

Meet Imogen
With a background in drama, 15+ years’ experience in learning and development, and a track record of high-profile leadership roles in both the private and public sectors, Imogen brings a unique perspective to the world of work. 

She holds an MBA from the University of Leicester and, through the pandemic, gained her Masters in Applied Positive Psychology and Coaching Psychology from the University of East London. Her research was exploring how playing an innovative online board game she developed supported people in lockdown to boost resilience. It was recently published in a leading international academic journal. We will hear more about this in the podcast. 

Imogen lives in London where she volunteers as a coach for several charities and has a long-standing reputation for hosting legendary games nights.

Experience an Introduction to our Coach Training Programmes with our Free Taster Course: https://courses.baileybalfour.com/course/coach-training-introduction

Sign up to our newsletter to learn more about upcoming programmes: https://baileybalfour.com/subscribe/

Jean:

Hi everyone, and welcome to Making Sense of Work Today. I am delighted to be joined by Imogen Maresh. Welcome Imogen.

Imogen:

Thank you, Jean. It's such a pleasure to be in conversation with you as always.

Jean:

Oh, good. I'm really looking forward to it. Before we dive into our conversation, a couple of messages from me. Firstly, just to say that if you would like to be kept up to date on podcast episodes or learn about our coach training programs, please go to bailey balfour.com to sign up to our newsletter. And also we're. Always grateful for any ratings or review. You can give the podcast, it really helps podcasts to spread to get the word out if you were able to do that. let me introduce Imogen. Imogen is an executive coach as well as being faculty on our coach training programs. She's also a playful facilitator. End resilience researcher and we are going to talk about that today. She's founder and managing director of the Presence of Mind Company, which provides coaching, training, and consultancy to individuals, teams, and leaders worldwide with a background in drama. and learning and development, and also a track record of high profile leadership roles in both the public and private sectors. Ima brings a unique perspective to the world of work. She holds an m MBA from the University of Lester, and then through the pandemic she gained her master's in applied Positive Psychology. And coaching psychology from the University of East London. Her research for her masters for her second masters was exploring how playing an innovative online board game she developed, supported people in lockdown to boost resilience. And this research was recently published in a leading international academic journal. And we're gonna hear more about all of this as we go along. Imogen lives in London where she volunteers as a coach for a number of charities and has a long standing reputation for hosting legendary game nights and I would also say singing Egen has an amazing voice and this has a great musical talent. Thank you so much, Egen for joining me today.

Imogen:

Thank you for that gorgeous introduction. it's lovely to hear that played back and isn't interesting when you hear that, that you notice, some of the things you forget in your own story. So it's lovely to hear that. Thank you.

Jean:

Well, all true. All true. How's work at the moment?

Imogen:

I would say it's really interesting. My work at the moment is really fulfilling. I think that's the main word, for me, and not overfilling actually. I think I have, when I sit where I am now and look back in my career, in my. Professional story so far, I think I do have a tendency to take on, not like quite high energy and there are definitely points where the pot has been overflowing. I remember many years ago talking to somebody who was describing my life and saying, wow, it feels a bit like you're running on a treadmill. And I said, it's kind of like I'm running on a treadmill but juggling at the same time. and that comes from being really passionate about lots of different things. Music, as you've mentioned, has been a really big part of my life all the way through, but also love of learning and wanting to make an impact in the work that I do. And, I'm really grateful for the fact, I feel like I've kind of curated a career that's got a sense of variety and balance, and it feels like it's really aligned with my values and the work that I really care about. So my day looks like a sort of mix of coaching, training, teaching on the coach certification program, but also speaking in organizations about the research I've been doing and my passion around resilience. and play in particular. So it's really, aligned very much with who I feel I am and where I am right now in my life, but it also has that space for those other aspects of myself and my life that are important, like my family and my pastimes.

Jean:

You are a living example of what you are, teaching and writing about, actually, because I'm hearing you say, first of all, at work, Actually is play for you. You get a lot of fun from your work and that you are holding this balance. I love the way you said it between having fulfilling work and overfilling your work and that I guess, is a bit of a key to resilience as well, to hold that balance and tension, which can be quite difficult for people who, like you have high energy and a lot of interest in things. You've, sort of alluded to this already, but when you have a really good day, what does that look like for you?

Imogen:

I think for me a really good day is about balancing my core needs, actually about what I want to, how I want to live in my life. And so one of those is about love of learning and, and that's my own and other people's, for me. Being able to support the growth of other people has been incredibly important. And it's been, a red thread, if you like, through my career, but also for myself. I'm a bit of a serial learner, as you know, and I do love to be. In a space where I'm finding new information, new ways to show up in the world, but also being around people who stimulate that within me. So whether it's doing a short course or whether taking on a master's program, for me that's been really important. So a good day for. Might be about reading something new or having a conversation with somebody that gives me a new insight, but also helping working with other people to help them discover what they can do differently, and what they might want to build on. But the second thing for me, the second core need is about connecting. I love to be around other people. I'm quite an extrovert. but I also really love to be in conversation. With others whether that's my peers, my friends, my family, but really, not spending the day on my own. So a good day for me is about creating that space to connect. And then of course, the final one is play to find some spaces for joy and, playful moments. I have a dog who we are complete lockdown cliche. We adopted a cockapoo during lockdown, which my children were over the moon about. And actually he has brought a huge amount of playful moments to our lives. And so for me, walking in the woods with our dog and having a moment to just be has been fantastic. So that needed to have space in my ideal day too.

Jean:

Thank you for sharing. There's a, piece that you are sharing and the way that you've positioned this about your core needs. And having those met in your ideal day, in a good day for you is really great way. I think. I'm gonna go away and think about that myself actually. What are my core needs and does my ideal day have those mets? So that's really helpful way of framing that. Thank you. I shared a bit about your career and your bio. Could you tell us how you came to be doing what you are doing now?

Imogen:

Yeah, of course. I often think of my career being a bit of a sort of jack of all trades, master of none. But of course, as you said, I've kind of majored on the getting the masters now. So, perhaps there's some area of specialism that's emerging. But my background originally, my first degree was in drama. And, I remember when I left university thinking, well, you know, that was fun, but I'm never gonna use that again. And I couldn't have been more wrong, really, because I think that a lot of the skills that you learn in an environment where you're learning drama, Give you some of those qualities that I've drawn on a lot through the rest of my career journeys. things like the ability to craft empathy for other characters or playing games to be able to get out of your comfort zone, and being really present. It's really challenging to be on stage if you're not truly present. so I think there's been really, important qualities and something I've been reflecting on more and more is that point about connection as well. That actually when you are in a performance with other people, as mostly you are, whether it's that you are singing or that you are, acting with others, something around being present with others and being really connected to other people so that you don't leave them hanging but you also anticipate and respond to what is happening in the moment. Something for me that's emerged about building those core skills early on. That's been really helpful. But then I left and went into the corporate world and, started working in, marketing agencies. And, I actually joined a startup in the mid nineties that was in, internet fulfillment, that big boom around contact centers and, people ordering stuff off the internet and calling contact centers. And that was my world for a while. and, it was really interesting because it was a startup. I ended up wearing multiple hats and, I was reflecting at one point at the age of about 23, I was in charge of the graduate program and found myself living in the company house on the golf course, a completely surreal experience. And, heading up the redesign of our contact center and choosing colors for the chairs. Very, very strange, but something really stood out for me there, which was that as a new manager, We had a fantastic head of HR who taught us coaching skills, so at the very tender age of my mid twenties as a new manager, I learned to coach and it was fantastic because it has really underpinned my approach as a leader all the way through. And then I went on to work in a number of different environments. I was a consultant with the Royal Navy for several years, helping them with their recruitment. and then I moved into central government and spent a couple of years in the civil service, the last of those with the cabinet office where I was leading, a big change program around employee engagement. And I guess that sense again of understanding and wanting to support people and their experience of work led me into learning and development in a more concentrated way. And we got the opportunity to move out to Asia and we moved to Singapore, and I was lucky enough to join the British Council and to join them in their professional development center, which was. Fabulous group of people who are really top of their game in terms of learning and development. And, I was training, and coaching people around leadership skills from emotional intelligence to executive presence. But I feel really fortunate that I was surrounded by people who also had a background unlike me in, English as a second language because, I think some of the skills that you gain in that training allow you to bring gameplay and play into your learning because it can be pretty stale to teach somebody the basics of grammar. And so these trainers were fantastic at bringing those concepts to life in really playful ways. So I feel like I did a lot of my play training around. People who were really great at that. and I got to a point where I would host these massive games in the foyer of our, offices where people were, you know, using ropes to tip sweeps into buckets or, you know, playing wheel, a fortune with a dice to the point that somebody wants pounded on the door of my training room to get me to be quiet.. And then, I decided to set up my own coaching and training practice. So I became a business owner for the first time. And, increasingly I began to really focus on this sort of strength based approach to how can we help people to cultivate the lives that they want, but also to build on their strengths, both as a leader, but as an individual in an organization. And I guess, Shepherd through my professional story, of course, is my personal story, which like for many of us, includes times of loss and trauma. in my mid twenties, lost my best friend very suddenly and that experience really, Changed the set point of my experience, I think through life, and was incredibly powerful. It rocked my world as it did to, but, and many, many others. And then more recently I lost a family member to suicide. And I think these experiences, when we experienced those moments, those really challenging moments, which. I would say the research says at least half of us have experienced a really significant, life traumatic event, but I would say it's probably a lot higher than that. I think, you know, many of us have experienced really challenging times and change even if it's invited, even if it's chosen. can be incredibly challenging for many, many people. And so I think that those experiences also helped crystallize for me my sense of focus, my sense of purpose around helping people to find ways to navigate through the inevitable difficulties of life, and to do that in a way that doesn't ignore or minimize our experience, but helps us to, in some way keep moving forward.

Jean:

It's amazing. thank you for sharing that. It's a very personal story and I guess I kind of believe that often our best work comes out of our own journey through life and work. And, what you are describing is that, it's been very much your personal journey, which has taken you on much learning, but has brought you to this moment, in this moment of thinking about. Resilience particularly, and thinking about play in the role that they play in US living meaningful lives and resilient lives.

Imogen:

Absolutely. And I talk a lot about this, idea of playful resilience, and I think that often when we think about resilience, we can often focus on, you know, making it very serious and feel very difficult. And actually, I almost want to turn that on its head and say that even in those really challenging times, finding ways to integrate play into our world can actually give us the lightness we need to be able to think. and spot those route that we might be able to take to support us in that moment. and I think giving ourselves permission to play even when it's challenging, even when it's difficult, doesn't take away in our negative or difficult, challenging experiences, actually helps us to build resources that we need to be able to move forward.

Jean:

How do you define play when you are talking about, so what does it mean to you?

Imogen:

A great question, and I think, there's a lot of different, definitions of play out there and I spent quite a bit of time thinking about what does play mean for me. And actually, you know, the definition is quite broad and quite varied, and there are lots of, academic definitions out there, but, I really propose that there are three building blocks of play. So for me, play is enjoyable. It creates feelings of enjoyment, entertainment, or amusement. I often say if it doesn't feel good, it probably isn't. Play second thing is it's engaging, you know, it's interactive and it's really absorbing. Often when people play, they describe that they lose sense of time, they become really deeply immersed in it. But I also think it's intrinsically motivating. So we choose to do it. The act of play is the purpose, if you like. And then the third area for me is that it's exploratory. There's elements of experimentation and improvisation within it. And so there might be rules that exist around it, but I think there's flexibility and spontaneity within those and that helps us to discover new roots, new ways, if you like. So for me it's those three things. It's enjoyable, it's engaging, and it's exploratory.

Jean:

Wow. and that can cover so much. It'd be a very personal, experience, I guess, for us that each of us will experience play as a very personal thing.

Imogen:

Absolutely. And in fact I created a model around this, which I call many ways to play, which is really looking at the fact that we are often have our own different ways of playing that are things that bring us joy. For me, I really like cognitive play, you know, so I'm not the person who's going to go out and do some sort of sporting challenge or even go outside and throw a ball around if I want to, let off some steam. But I love to get on Wordle and do a word puzzle. Or I might sit and play with ideas and sketch them out on a whiteboard and board games. I mean, I. Actually learned to play Marjong, when I was six years old with my family. So I'm a keen Marjong player and have been for many years, which moving to Singapore was fantastic because I got to play with more people. Although again, I then discovered that there are so many versions of Marjong and my Singaporean friends taught me. Singaporean Marjong has even expat marjong, if you can believe it. So with different rules all the way. But isn't that what makes it interesting that we have often different takes even on the same game? But for some people, building or climbing trees is something that they love to do. I think there's something also around pretend play or storytelling that we can bring out. So I like to think about cognitive and physical aspects, but also the very structured or reform ways that we can play. You talked about music. My husband's a drummer and as you said, I'm a trained singer and I think, you know, music can sometimes fit in the middle of that depending on the type of music that's being played. If we are playing very free form jazz or please, I can see a absolutely moving over into that free, less structured space. But, I think my husband would definitely say there's something very physical about music,

Jean:

I'm sure, especially if you're a drummer. I was also thinking for me, you know, what is it for me? But actually I'm never happier than when I am lounging about in a pool when it's warm. and so for me that would be a play. You know, I just kind of enjoy that, the freedom of water. I guess. It's kind of by medium and I hadn't really ever thought about it as being play, but it is, and it's a good resilience thing for me as well. So can I bring us on then to the connection that you've been researching, which is about the connection between resilience and play, and could you tell us a bit about that?

Imogen:

Yeah, absolutely. And I think it sort of goes to my journey of studying positive psychology and coaching psychology. and for me, I often think about positive psychology. it's sometimes the positive in that world where in that description can get a bad name that we think it's about always looking on the bright side. That's not really how positive psychology is. It's about understanding the full human experience. But I think it's best categorized as the science of wellbeing. So, A lot of the facts a lot of study around psychology, was traditionally focused on psychopathology. So what's trying to diagnose people who were mentally ill, and being able to then, of course help alleviate that suffering. So bring them to a space of neutrality, if you like. a lack of ill being. but actually, it came about through Martin Seligman who, I was absolutely blessed to be able to meet a few weeks ago in person, It was one of the most fabulous experiences and I kind of respect him with my book that was so thumbed and had post-its all through it and notes and comments in the margins and said, would you mind signing my book? And he was so gracious and. Said, oh yeah, come and sit down with me. And we looked through his book together, which was absolutely incredible. So Martin Seligman, who's an American psychologist, and an author and a researcher. When he was appointed, as president of the American Psychological Association, he made the argument that actually psychology shouldn't just be about. Fixing illness where most of that focus had been to date, but also should be about enhancing the wellbeing of the general population. So moving people from not just negative to neutral, but neutral to positive. So moving us along that journey Martin Selman did a lot of work, but also that is a, field within positive psychology is the study of resilience. and for me, when I look at the definitions or the research around resilience, there are so many, resilience is defined in so many different ways. In fact, one study found 122 different definitions of resilience exist. and I think that's partly the point is that Looks different All of us, I think. Yeah, absolutely. I think it's really personal and I think that, often what happens is that we can set it up as something that we are or we aren't. So we think of it as a trait. We're born with it or we are not, or it's something, a state that we can get to or I've achieved being a resilient person in some way. And I think that's really flawed. and a lot of the more recent research talks about actually resilience is a much more dynamic process where we are in the moment adapting to the demands of our environment and actually it's contextual. And that means that sometimes we might find it easier to access our resources that we need to be able to steer through those difficult, choppy waters. than we do in other circumstances. I might perhaps be able to exhibit my resilience really well in my home life, but really struggle in the a work or professional setting. And when I looked at the definitions, there was a lot around adapting to and bouncing back from adversity. And I think sometimes we think adapting means keeping going whatever the conditions, whereas. in my mind, resilience sometimes means steering a completely different course, or knowing that you even need to shore up and do some maintenance for a while. Take yourself outta the journey for a moment. And this bounce back, I think, again, implies that we return to the state we were in before we experienced that setback. And actually I often think, and the research supports this that often we are changed, we grow as a result of the challenges we face. For me, it's a much more dynamic concept. It isn't something we are or aren't. And one of the people that talks about this so beautifully is a researcher called Anne Maton who encapsulates this so gorgeously by saying that resilience is ordinary magic. It's something that we all have. We all do it day to day, moment to moment. And actually we often do it without noticing that we are being resilient, that we're exhibiting our resilience. So in my research I propose an A new definition, which is that resilience is a practice. It's about positively using resource. Ready for respond to and recover from challenge and adversity. And that means there's different stages that we can come at our resilience practice and we need to practice it. We need to do it day to day. We think about the difficulties we're gonna face. We think about what might come up, and we create. Our resources and our responses as best as we can in preparation for that. And then in the moment we stay really present to be able to adapt, knowing that actually it might be that we might want to change the direction we are heading in, or that we might need to actually find some ways to reach out for extra support. It's not just about keeping our heads down and keeping going. but also when we've been through those challenging times, knowing that it's both natural and human and necessary to spend some time recovering and be able to do that for ourselves in a way that is accepting and compassionate.

Jean:

and there's something in that recovery as well that's about. learning and about saying, okay, that was hard. What have I learned about myself? Where are my growth points? Through that journey of, dealing with resilience. As you were talking about that I was thinking, that it's life says, and here's another one, And so we have to create, you know, we have to work out what resilience looks like. In the presence of whatever is coming up for us in that time. And I really agree with you, this idea that there's no fixed idea of I am resilient or I'm not. Because for myself, I can be particularly resilient in certain circumstances and I'm not very resilient in other. Circumstances, or I'm learning to be, and that it's shifting and that it doesn't come with judgment. It comes with a, okay, this is an opportunity to learn. How can I deepen my resilience in this type of situation? So it's really, kind of iterative journey of discovery and learning and reflecting and growing.

Imogen:

Absolutely. I think that growth mindset piece is so important to it because I think there's also. Thinking about what have we already done, what have we already overcome and how did we go about that? And how might we therefore be able to build on that and draw on similar resources again? And when I talk about resources, I'm talking about. Are thinking how we're approaching it, but also are feeling how are we identifying our emotions in the moment? How are we finding strategies to shift that when we need to? And how are we savoring the good stuff? How are we helping to notice even in those really tricky times, the things that we're grateful for. So there's something around thinking and feeling, but there's also around doing and being. So there's something around the physical aspects of. Being in moments where actually we are sleeping well, we are giving ourselves the right nutrition, hydrating moving. We know the impact of being sedentary can have such an impact on the energy level that we have, but also our, ability to be able to respond when we need to. Flexibility movement for me, walking in the woods is my go-to strategy for resilience. But these things help to physically boost us and give us the energy to be able to, navigate through those difficult times. But there's also that piece around being tapping into what's meaningful for us, what are our values? What gives us a sense of purpose? What are our strengths? How can we draw on those? But also, connection. How can we connect with other people and be able to bring in that support when we need it?

Jean:

Where do you see play in this? Because there's a beautiful connection here, but can you draw that for us?

Imogen:

yeah, there is. And it's can feel a bit funny to talk about play in times of difficulty. Right. but actually, What we naturally do is reach for play when things get tough. You know, we do try and find ways, I think, to alleviate stress and anxiety and often reach for playful environments and I think what's interesting is we look at the animal kingdom, we see that. Animals who are under moderate levels of stress and anxiety do engage in more play. And I think that's also about not just wanting to survive, but also thrive. To connect that, create that connection with others and reach out for support. Play is a great opportunity to also practice responses, right? To do that in a safe environment and to be able to, find ways to be able to, role model or, have a go at seeing what would happen if we respond in certain ways. So there's something there around, practicing or rehearsal that can take place during play. for me there's really, and we saw this during the pandemic, which was where my research came from, that when we got into that, place, that really challenging place where we all started locking down and moving out of our offices and moving online. That actually what we, did was we reached for our games, we, started playing Zoom games with other people. We did quizzes online. We did scavenger hunts, or, you know, building things o collectively from our own spaces. And I think it showed that we really started to use play as a mechanism for connection. And so when I think about play, for me, there are three key areas that I think play helps promote that supports resilience. And those three are creativity, connection, and coping. And when we put ourselves in playful environments and we have just like resilience, we all have the capacity to play in our own way, whatever play looks like for us. But when we engage in the behavior or an activity of play, it can help us to be more creative. And there's lots of reasons from a neuroscience, thinking around the research around neuroscience that helps us understand why our brain is more able to find new solutions and be more creative in a play environment. But I think we can help to sort of see new possibilities when we play and we engage in a setting that brings us joy. but I think it carry on. Yeah.

Jean:

Well I was just gonna ask you a question about that, cuz I've been thinking a lot recently because I'm hearing a lot of people say. there's a, quite a bit of fear and worry in the system at the moment. People worried about their work and their jobs and a lot of pressure. And as we're recording this, you know, the markets are in a bit of turmoil, which I think has increased that sense of fear. And I'm curious about the link then, because I think when we are caught in that fear cycle, often actually, then we stop playing. We've become very serious. And what I'm hearing you say is that one of the coping mechanisms to use one of your, angles for it is actually to, to lean to Woods play. To lean to woods, having time together as a team or, you know, just messing around, going and playing pickleball if that's what you're playing or doing, whatever it is to kind of, release some of that worry, stress, and tension.

Imogen:

Yeah, absolutely. I think often when we feel that we don't have time to play, I think that's when we need to do it more

Jean:

Yeah.

Imogen:

because often it's the sense that we really need it. We have to find ways to be able to create space and downtime for ourselves because trying to exist at that kind of point of high delivery all the time is just a, a REIT to burnout out. I think that, you know, when I talk about coping, coping is about how we respond to the demands of our environment and when we are using strategies that might be keeping working long hours or, you know, drinking coffee to keep ourselves awake, so we can fit more into our life. these do take a toll on our body. They take a toll on our. Capacity for thinking and they take a toll on our emotions. And I think play can help us in that because when we play, we do activate systems in our bodies that help to counter anxiety and stress. You know, when we feel stressed, We start to, mobilize our own internal resources to respond to that stress. That means we are pumping oxygen or glucose around our body to fuel ourselves. We start to release neurochemicals and hormones like cortisol, which is a stress hormone. Uh, cortisol is a fabulous hormone for us because of the fact that it actually increases our alertness. It is what wakes us up in the morning. but of course, too much of it can actually have a really detrimental physical and psychological effect for us. So when we play, actually it helps us to discharge some of those chemicals and hormones, particularly if we are moving around. So a spontaneous movement that might be dancing around your kitchen, that's my favorite one to go to. throwing a ball in the air or jumping on a trampoline, these can help us to discharge that energy and kind of encourage the body system to reset. And I think what is interesting is some research is showing it's not just, and remember there are many ways to play that it's not just physical play that helps us to recover. You know, one study found that, doing visual art making for 45 minutes led to a reduction in cortisol. So I think that's a really powerful opportunity for us to. Craft the time to fit it in, in order to support ourselves, to keep going. and when we do play, because it's enjoyable, we release hormones and neurochemicals that help us to actually reset our system and help us to connect with others around us. Things like serotonin and oxytocin, which helps us to create trust and connection with others. so that those three areas of creativity, connection, and coping are really interlocked. Actually when we play, we deescalate our systems, but we're also at a set point where we can connect more with others around us. And I think it puts our brains in a space where we can be more creative to find other roots coping too.

Jean:

I think it's really interesting, this idea of. play being cognizant and I guess again, that's very personal, but actually I was just thinking of, I'm doing a writing course at the moment and I had to write a haiku, so of course I went into a complete panic about I can't possibly write a haiku. And then of course I wrote one and it felt playful. It felt really fun and something, and I was like, oh, this is interesting. So for me, this was like being forced to come out of my comfort space and do something. Nobody was gonna read it necessarily. I wrote one of our coaching May, maybe one day I'll share it. I can remember how I felt, what I was doing. It was like, it gave me a whole kick of energy and fun and enjoyment and, it was so interesting that, activity outside of my comfort zone became a play area, actually.

Imogen:

And I think, we often think that play has to be silly play. and there's a space for silliness. And actually I talk about how, you know, Maybe So one client that, I work with has a dressing up box So when you just need a feather bower to get through the day, you can pop one on, you know, and there are lots of things that we do to be playful in that way. And I talk about often it's putting this silly in resilience. there is a space for that. but I think play again can often be the things that we don't traditionally think of as playful. Playing with words, playing with language, constructing things with our minds, can be just as effective than building with our hands.

Jean:

Oh, fantastic image. Wow. I think you packed full with ideas about play and resilience in this connection. We're going to come to an end shortly, but I want to just ask you, you are faculty on our program and I'm really curious about what's the experience for you of, of teaching coaching? How is that for you?

Imogen:

I mean, for me, it's really interesting because coaching for me underpins it's not just, an activity. It's a way of being with other people and I think to support people to learn and apply and practice those skills in a supportive. Environment for me just doesn't help people to become better managers or leaders. It helps people become better people and better humans. Absolutely. and whilst that might sound grandiose, I think there is, we hear it all the time about people saying, wow, how I use this with my kids? I use this with my partner. I use this with my friends. I use this with myself. and I think that that is a pretty remarkable thing to play a small part in people's journey to discovering that way of being. I've been on the faculty of the program for four years now. I did my own training, as you know, many years ago with Bailey Balfour. So I feel like I have been through the program myself, so I can also reflect and bring my own experience. This is being a learner, but for me, I'm always a learner. I talk all the time in my mentor coaching groups in the workshops that I run about how. Every single time I learn something from the people that we teach, it's funny, I was talking about this the other day with a group. My children at school are told when they're doing their writing exercises, they're in their primary school and The teachers talk about mag pieing, so find language that you like and magpie and use it in your own work. and I'm always saying to people, wow, I'm gonna magi that and use that question in my own coaching because I hear the most amazing things. Our students come from such varied backgrounds, such fantastic leaders that bring their own experiences into their coaching practice. That means they shape it in their own way. So for me, it's just such a. Space Again, I took to the beginning about love of learning being one of my core needs, but for me it's a learning space that's so deeply engaging and also playful. you know, there's lots of times in the workshops that I run that I'll get people to run off and find an object that reflect a quality or skill, or to draw something out and share it with others. or to take part in an activity or use a technique. And I think these are ways that we can bring playfulness into our coaching too. And so it's been a real, honor really to be able to do that also in the teaching of coaching, to show people what might be possible.

Jean:

yeah. No, it's fun. it's that modeling of it, isn't it? As we draw to a close, I'm wondering if there's a book or a podcast a TED talk that you particularly love that you could share with us, and I can put a link to it in the show notes.

Imogen:

Yeah, I mean, there's lots of things as always. I have a stack of books that I surround myself with, and I usually have three or four books on the go at any one time. But, there's been a couple that have really stood out for me. one of them actually is a new book, my current book that I'm reading at the moment, which is called Transcend, and it's by Scott Barry Kaufman. And, it's a fabulous book, which is actually rethinking and extending actually the work of Maslow to think about how, we can use our knowledge of. Really what we need in life to, to be able to self-actualize and to be able to, find a sense of fulfillment. and what I love is in this model, he also uses this beautiful sailboat, metaphor. And anyone who knows me knows that the, game that I developed during lockdown for people to play online to help boost their resilience was called not all plain sailing. And, I love the metaphor of sailing and water. and so this really speaks to me in lots of ways. another book that actually I really enjoyed, comes from, the Samaritans and it's called How to Listen, it's a beautiful book about the qualities of listening and how we can help to give people our full attention. in a way that's really, truly supportive. and so that's a fabulous book that I've been dipping into, for a while.

Jean:

Hmm. Thank you. I will put links to both of those, both very practical and helpful books, I think in the show notes image. And thank you so much for sharing your incredible insights into resilience and play. I'm taking away a really fresh aspect of thinking about play. And how it plays such a, plays such an important role in our lives and, and in our resilience. And I'm so grateful to you for doing that research and for bringing it to life so beautifully today. Thank you.

Imogen:

You are very welcome. I think it's something that, you know, I talked about the before, during, and after they're ready for respondent and recover. and I think we are all on that journey, and I think being able to work out, what we might need in the moment and finding ways to work on our own practice is an ongoing journey of journeys. I think it's open to all of us. And, you know, remembering, I guess if there's one takeaway, it came up in my research. It's something I say often to people, but for me, you know, resilience isn't always. Keeping going until you break. Often it's taking a break so you can keep going, and so if that break can involve a bit of play, I think that's the sweet spot that we can exist in that can really help us boost our resilience and our wellbeing long term.

Jean:

Brilliant, brilliant. What a perfect place to end. Thank you so much.

Imogen:

Thank you, Jean.