As a psychologist, my interest in perinatal mental health was born out of my experience of becoming a mother. It was not an easy transition for me. I was 38 when my first was born, 41 with my second. At times I felt my very atomic structure was being stretched to breaking. Some days I thought I would shatter to a million tear-drop shaped pieces.

Was I depressed? Some days. But not really.
Was I exhausted? You bet!
Was my relationship with my husband challenged? For sure!
But my love for my babies was never in doubt.

I look at this photo and marvel. So serene. My parenting journey was anything but serene, and yet here I am, calm, at peace, and so in love with my wee babe.
Life is full of contrasts. Light and dark. Tears and joy. Confidence and fear. Becoming a parent taught me so much about what I am capable of. Patience, compassion, empathy, courage, tenacity, joy.

Challenges stretch us. They let us know we’re alive. And above all they teach us. Life is like that. If we don’t step into the challenge, if we turn away from the difficult, what’s it all for?

Business is a lot like parenting, in so many ways. It stretches us and teaches us. It pulls us in all the directions, usually at once. The emotions are sharp and real and deep. The pride is equally so.

My passion for business coaching came out of my own 20-year journey as a business owner, coupled with being the latest generation of female business owners in my family. Like my children, my business has benefited greatly from the teachings of my grandmothers and all the life lessons I've picked up along the way.

Our businesses, like our children, are our legacy. They are the shining evidence that we were here.
So be proud of who you are and what you've achieved. Be proud of the way you rise to the challenge day after day after day. Be proud of the legacy you'll leave behind.

Be proud. You've earned it.

Much love,
Tess x

5 August 2021

  Acceptance Isn't the Same as Giving Up

As Victorians head back into lockdown tonight, and back to remote learning, remote working, it’s tempting to feel defeated. The strength we all need to draw on is that of acceptance for what is, rather than focusing on what can’t be.
Acceptance isn’t the same as giving up. It doesn’t mean throwing our hands in the air and yelling “fuck it” (although a good swear can help sometimes). Acceptance means drawing on our inner strength to be able to tolerate a difficult situation.

We don’t like the lockdown whiplash, but we can tolerate it. We can’t control it, or change it, but we can accept that it is what it is.

But it takes strength.

Wobbling in our strength is normal. Being scared that we won’t be able to tolerate it is normal. Dipping in and out of overwhelm is normal.
Acceptance includes being gentle on ourselves, acknowledging that we are human. Self-compassion is key.

Acceptance is like a muscle. We need to train it to be strong. Find a calm mental space, and from there identify what you can’t control. Let that stuff go. Then shift your focus onto the things you can control. Put your energy into those things.

To help find that calm mental space try this:

Take a few calming breaths.
Notice if you’re frowning.
Consciously relax your forehead.
Practice a gentle half-smile (like in this image).
Keep those gentle breaths and that half smile going under you feel lighter.
It helps.

We each have our own story about why another lockdown is devastating and intolerable. Focus on what you can control. Get help if you need it.
Be gentle on yourself. Be kind to each other.

Much love,
Tess x

Acceptance Isn't the Same as Giving Up

As Victorians head back into lockdown tonight, and back to remote learning, remote working, it’s tempting to feel defeated. The strength we all need to draw on is that of acceptance for what is, rather than focusing on what can’t be.
Acceptance isn’t the same as giving up. It doesn’t mean throwing our hands in the air and yelling “fuck it” (although a good swear can help sometimes).

Acceptance means drawing on our inner strength to be able to tolerate a difficult situation.

We don’t like the lockdown whiplash, but we can tolerate it. We can’t control it, or change it, but we can accept that it is what it is.

But it takes strength.

Wobbling in our strength is normal. Being scared that we won’t be able to tolerate it is normal. Dipping in and out of overwhelm is normal.

Acceptance includes being gentle on ourselves, acknowledging that we are human. Self-compassion is key.

Acceptance is like a muscle. We need to train it to be strong. Find a calm mental space, and from there identify what you can’t control. Let that stuff go. Then shift your focus onto the things you can control. Put your energy into those things.

To help find that calm mental space try this:

  • Take a few calming breaths.
  • Notice if you’re frowning.
  • Consciously relax your forehead.
  • Practice a gentle half-smile (like in this image).

Keep those gentle breaths and that half smile going under you feel lighter.
It helps.

We each have our own story about why another lockdown is devastating and intolerable. Focus on what you can control. Get help if you need it.

Be gentle on yourself. Be kind to each other.

Much love,
Tess x

Shout out to all my business-owning clients and colleagues, but especially those who've ever been called "difficult", "bossy", "intimidating", "opinionated", "ambitious", or had other leadership qualities weaponised against them. I hear ya!

We spend too much of our energy trying not to offend others, trying to keep everyone happy, and still somehow making all of the difficult decisions our businesses demand of us.

I've embraced my inner "difficult woman" over the years, firstly as a young woman inspired by my fabulously "difficult" mother-in-law, but more recently as a boss who has had to make the tough calls sometimes.

I've learned that my team functions better when I'm clear and decisive, even if they don't always like what I'm being clear and decisive about. Equally, I love them for feeling safe to disagree with me. Mutual trust and respect is what matters.

I've stopped worrying about being liked, and focus more on being respectful, inspiring, and providing strong leadership. And no, I don't need to be an arsehole to be a decisive leader.

Sure I can be difficult. Because I might disagree with you. Or I might have an idea that challenges YOUR comfort zone. Or because I don't tolerate non-constructive criticism, abuse, or judgement from those whose opinions don't matter.

I've found solidarity in working with other "difficult" leaders making the tough calls while also caring deeply for their staff, their clients, their families.
I've found unity in standing tall with others who won't let fear of judgement and criticism hold them back.

Because leadership is disruptive.
Inspiration is loud.
Change is often unpopular.
And these things make others feel uncomfortable.
And that's okay.

Love ya!
Tess x

*Mug from QVWC

31 July 2021

Many of you are in Lockdown right now, but whether you’re in lockdown or not, I know many of you, like me, are business owners wondering what the impact of this rolling chaos will be.

And many of you, like me, are separated from family and friends because of border closures, restrictions, or lockdowns.

Like me, I bet you have days where the sadness weighs down on your shoulders. Days where the tears just roll silently down your cheeks. Days where you feel suffocated by the seemingly unending stifling of our lives. Days where fear for older family members takes your breath away.

And some of you have already lost loved ones. Lost businesses. Lost jobs.

We’re all losing so very much. But we’re also trying so hard to keep our smiles bright and our chins up. And like me, you no doubt have days where the sun is shining and you can’t imagine why you felt so bad yesterday.

It’s a rollercoaster. For each of us it’s different, but the same.

It’s okay to call what you’re feeling grief, even if you feel unjustified to use that word. Even if you are “only” afraid of losing something or someone. As a psychologist, I have spoken to many, many people over the years about anticipatory grief.

It’s real.
It’s valid.
It’s okay if that’s what you’re feeling now.

So be gentle with yourself on your sad days. Do what brings you comfort and relief.

Fresh air, sunshine and flowers work for me. For you it might be something else. Calling a friend or watching a comedy.

Don’t let anyone make you wrong for feeling your feelings. They’re yours. They’re real. They’re valid. And, you’re not alone.

Much love,
Tess x

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Dr Tess Crawley

Tess is an Australian clinical and forensic psychologist with over 20 years' experience in such diverse areas as community mental health, the prison system, perinatal mental health, university lecturing, and private practice.

Tess has a PhD in clinical psychology, has published one business-related book and is in the midst of writing a second. She is also a former actor, which some say explains a lot! In fact, she met her husband of 30+ years while they were involved in a Melbourne stage production of Macbeth (also explains a lot!).

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When I was a kid growing up in Launceston, we didn't have much money. My dad was a carpenter, my step-mother a teacher. We made do, like most other families. On the odd occasion when we did have trips away, it was within an hour's drive and involved me sleeping in an annexe next to my grandmother's caravan or in a noisy tent somewhere cold. Getting there involved much sighing, and me whining "are we there yet?" every five minutes.

As we receive news today that Victoria's lockdown is to be extended another week, Adelaide enters lockdown tonight, and Greater Sydney's lockdown is yet to see a horizon, we can be forgiven for sighing an awful lot at the moment. Accompanied by much whining!

Normally I'm the one who finds the silver lining. But this week my mood has been rather dark. Which naturally leads me to wonder how you're doing!

As mental health professionals and small business owners, we carry the same burdens as the rest of the community while also carrying the mental load of keeping it all together for our staff and our clients.

It's exhausting, isn't it?

So this week I’ve cut myself some slack and tried to keep things as simple as possible.
Just reducing my inbox to less than 10 emails has felt like a major achievement! Only important meetings have made it into my diary, and I’m trying to get as much rest as I can.
I'm noticing the easy path to fatigue that lockdown brings to me, and I hope you're paying attention to what all this uncertainty and change is doing to you too. Whatever helps release the pressure for you, please do it.

Because no, we ain't there yet.

Much love,
Tess x

Shame doesn’t become you!

I can’t sleep, so rather than lie here and fret about tomorrow’s lockdown update, I am playing with the idea of shamelessness. As you do.

If shame is SUCH an awful feeling (which it is!), when did it become such a bad thing to be shameLESS?

I’m reminded of past experiences where others tried to shame me, tried to make me feel shameful. It worked for about five minutes, then I made a conscious, deliberate decision to be defiant in the face of shame.

This became a standard strategy and has helped me explore and grow. I called it defiance at the time, but it was really a constant striving for shamelessness.

We all have memories of past behaviour that we’re embarrassed by ... hello tequila, I’m looking at you ... or memories of harsh criticism from others that left us feeling small. The feelings are prickly, and sometimes we let them stick to us like buzzy burrs stick to our socks.

But we mustn’t let them.

Shame is wasted on you. Because you are not shameful. Your efforts are valiant. Even if they sometimes don’t work out the way you planned.

Don’t let shame grab your ankle when you’re trying something new. Don’t let it keep you small, hidden, afraid.

Shame is wasted on you.

Shame doesn’t become you.

Embrace shamelessness! Embrace your daring, your courage, your innovation.

You are brave.
You are bold.
You are shameless!

Much love,
Tess x

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Dr Tess Crawley

Tess is an Australian clinical and forensic psychologist with over 20 years' experience in such diverse areas as community mental health, the prison system, perinatal mental health, university lecturing, and private practice.

Tess has a PhD in clinical psychology, has published one business-related book and is in the midst of writing a second. She is also a former actor, which some say explains a lot! In fact, she met her husband of 30+ years while they were involved in a Melbourne stage production of Macbeth (also explains a lot!).

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Loosening the Reins

There’s an old horse riding saying that goes something like this: Loosen the reins to gain control. I‘ve often used this as an

analogy for team leadership.

I spent last week on horse camp with my son’s school. We were lucky enough to be led by incredible horse woman, Anne, and Tom, a classic dessert station horseman, with decades of experience training, wrangling and rodeoing (and enough “war” stories to curl your toes).

Tom taught me that I had the whole “loosen the reins” idea back to front.

I’d always thought the saying related to gentleness and being softer in my approach. People pleasing, in other words, which of course means a values conflict when we need to performance manage or dismiss staff. Kim Scott would call this “ruinous empathy”.

Tom said horses want only two things: consistency and release. Consistency in the directions or instructions we give them. And release of our pressure on the bit (via the reins) when they’ve got it right.

Sounds something like what our staff appreciate from us, doesn’t it? Consistency in direction and instructions, and release of pressure when they’re doing things right.
Tom doesn’t mean we let go of control though. He taught me how to have a firmer hold of the reins and still be able to release pressure. He taught me to direct a horse with a simple wriggle of my fingers on the reins, instead of yanking and kicking. He also taught me how to stop a runaway horse literally one-handed.

I’m likely to roll these concepts around for some time yet, but the idea of consistency and release fits so well with what Kim Scott calls “radical candour”, and it makes so much more sense to me now as an analogy for leadership, than simply “loosen the reins”.
A herd of horses is made up of individual horses each with its own back story, personality, likes and dislikes. Some members of the herd are great mates, others hate each other. Some will be the right fit for our journey, others won’t.

Just like members of your team.

We need to understand these nuances, retain firm control, and know WHEN to release pressure to make it all fly.
And as with most things, consistency is key.

Much love,
Tess

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Dr Tess Crawley

Tess is an Australian clinical and forensic psychologist with over 20 years' experience in such diverse areas as community mental health, the prison system, perinatal mental health, university lecturing, and private practice.

Tess has a PhD in clinical psychology, has published one business-related book and is in the midst of writing a second. She is also a former actor, which some say explains a lot! In fact, she met her husband of 30+ years while they were involved in a Melbourne stage production of Macbeth (also explains a lot!).

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As business owners we often expect ourselves to know everything at once. Worse, we fear that everyone else expects us to know everything too.

You know it’s unreasonable, but still you hold yourself to this unattainable standard.

How about this? What if, instead of expecting ourselves to be know-it-alls, we encouraged ourselves to be learn-it-alls?

And no I don’t mean know-it-alls-in-training.

Allow yourself to say “I don’t know”.

Give yourself permission to say “let me find out and get back to you”.
Invest in yourself and your business by getting some business coaching.

By openly being a constant learner (rather than trying to be the mythical all-knower), we model a growth mindset to our team members. And this helps them to acknowledge their own knowledge gaps and find ways to fill them.

So lighten up and give yourself room to grow. Adopting a learner stance is a big step towards building a healthy CEO mindset!

Much love,
Tess x

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Dr Tess Crawley

Tess is an Australian clinical and forensic psychologist with over 20 years' experience in such diverse areas as community mental health, the prison system, perinatal mental health, university lecturing, and private practice.

Tess has a PhD in clinical psychology, has published one business-related book and is in the midst of writing a second. She is also a former actor, which some say explains a lot! In fact, she met her husband of 30+ years while they were involved in a Melbourne stage production of Macbeth (also explains a lot!).

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8 April 2021

The other day I was talking to a friend about the struggle we've all faced this year in regards to prioritising self-care when we're all so bloody busy. The problem is, we all started the year with a deficit in our energy tank, and so of course we're feeling it more than usual this year. That nagging sense of things not being quite right within ourselves.

I confess to being my own worst enemy in this regard, and it's often why I tell my business coaching clients to "do what I say, not what I do". You see, I've been quite unwell over the past few weeks, and only have myself to blame. I had been neglecting myself woefully!

To be fair, I've had a pretty full-on start to the year. That's not unusual, it's been tough on everyone. My husband had been away for most of the year repairing flood damage to our Hobart house so we could list it for rent (after it had sat vacant for the past year due to border closures, etc). My kids both started new schools and I got stuck into new business activities. I was okay doing the parenting solo thing, and my kids seemed to be coping well too.

But then we had the snap lockdown.

It was only five days, but here in Melbourne being told it would "only be five days" didn't calm anyone's nerves. Many of us talk about the experience being 'retraumatising' after the lengthy lockdown we had last year. In fact, I don't think many of us realised just how traumatic it had all been until the snap lockdown happened. It was the beginning of the undoing for my kids and me. My husband wasn't here, so he didn't see or feel the impact of that brief lockdown, but I know many other Melbournites felt it too. We all started to crumble just a little bit more than we already were.

By mid-March my husband was back, but the kids and I were all at our wit's end. My youngest son had started struggling to cope with being away from home (school is at the end of our street) and since opted to return to homeschooling (something we did pre-covid). My husband and I struggled to be in each other's space after so much time apart (we're good now). My older son was trying to exert his independence more (which I celebrate). And I was push-push-pushing my way through it all. Juggling all the balls, holding in all the feelings, trying to keep a smile on my face. Telling everyone (including myself) "I'm fine, I'm just tired".

It's no wonder something snapped. And I suppose it's no wonder I missed the warning signs. I'd had dizzy spells, fatigue, sleep disturbances, teariness, and low appetite. I wasn't depressed but something was obviously wrong. And I kept pushing through it.

Not having learnt from my experience last year, I failed to consider that my flagging energy levels were linked to iron deficiency. And when I say deficiency, I mean iron levels that were UNDETECTABLE.

So now I'm sitting on my bed feeling drunk (that's the impact it has on me - constant wooziness and frequent word slurring) trying to read, trying to write, trying to settle on something, anything, but just unable to focus.

And all the while trying really hard not to feel like a complete idiot.

Because I have a business to run, clients to inspire, and family to support. I should know better. Right?

The feelings we all share as business owners run very deep. We feel such deep love (and sometimes deep loathing) for our businesses. We feel nagging worry and sometimes sheer terror when things aren't going well financially. We feel such exhilaration when someone asks to join our lovely team, and then feel incredible pain and sadness when much-loved team members decide it's time to move on, or worse, leave on bad terms. And of course, we feel such indescribable shame when we feel we've let the side down, stuffed up, or in some other way not been perfect.

So when I realised just how badly I'd let myself down in the self-care department, I felt so much guilt for not being available to support my team. I felt such embarrassment for not being a shining example to my clients of how to "have it all and do it all" (stupid I know). And if that wasn't enough, there was a deep sense of shame for not knowing better. Not being better. Not doing better. Not being perfect.

And this is the common ground we all tread. Trying to support ourselves, our families, and our businesses ... all on a single tank of energy. And an already depleted tank at that. All wrapped up in a blazing red bow called "unrelenting standards".

What I'm trying to say is, we all overlook our own needs from time to time. We all feel shame from time to time. We all work too hard from time to time. But it's not enough to keep pushing through it. It's not okay to just say I'll be fine. I WILL be fine, I just have to put up with this god awful feeling in my body until I can get my iron infusion on Monday. But the message is clear. And I hope it's clear to you too.

Take. Better. Care. Of. You.

Validate your needs.

Validate your feelings.

Listen to your body.

Stop putting yourself last.

Acknowledge the emotional load you're carrying, juggling all those balls. Acknowledge the physical toll that stress has on you. Acknowledge the exhaustion that accompanies that wild emotional roller coaster that we're all on.

Stop telling everyone "I'm fine, I'm just tired". Listen harder to yourself.

So if you're still tired after the Easter break, if you dreaded returning this week to the business that you feel so deeply about, what action are you prepared to take to rekindle your love affair with it? What changes, both within your business and within yourself, do you need to make?

You already know clinical burnout is real.

You understand physical burnout is real.

Management burnout is easily overlooked, but it is very bloody real too.

And the shame that comes with that can be crippling, so do whatever it takes to look after yourself better. (And yes, I'm talking to myself as much as I'm talking to you right now.)

Let yourself come up for air as often as you need. Let yourself take a moment to catch up with yourself and your needs. Let yourself take time.

Just let yourself.

Much love,

Tess x

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Dr Tess Crawley

Tess is an Australian clinical and forensic psychologist with over 20 years' experience in such diverse areas as community mental health, the prison system, perinatal mental health, university lecturing, and private practice.

Tess has a PhD in clinical psychology, has published one business-related book and is in the midst of writing a second. She is also a former actor, which some say explains a lot! In fact, she met her husband of 30+ years while they were involved in a Melbourne stage production of Macbeth (also explains a lot!).

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I’ve had many conversations with business owners who have asked variations on this question... By “giving away” our knowledge and expertise on social media, are we doing ourselves or our profession a disservice?

Short answer is no.

Longer answer is N-O.

“But how does that gel with charging my worth?” is usually the next question.

1. Charging your worth is about valuing the services you are selling in your business, valuing the time you’ve put into training in your profession, valuing your years of experience, valuing the financial risk you carry as a business owner, valuing the power of your reputation ... and not being afraid to charge for your services at a rate that is respectful of all of these things.

2. Giving it away ... Providing freely available content on social media or via your website (etc) is a great way to offer value to your broader community on a grand scale. You as an individual, even your business as a collection of individuals, can’t possibly service EVERY SINGLE PERSON on the planet ... but that’s exactly the potential you have on social media - providing freely available information that is helpful and potentially life-changing to every single person on the planet. That’s a feel-good thing, right?

3. AND by giving away so much of your knowledge and expertise and experience via blog posts, videos (or whatever floats your boat), you will feel more comfortable with charging appropriately for the more ‘bespoke’ services you offer to your direct clients. And those clients get to know your service and whether it’s likely to be right for them because they’ll have seen some of your free content. Win win!

4. BUT this does not mean you are a charity! Know the difference between 1:1, 1:Few, and 1:Many. Charge appropriately for the direct client-to-client or business-to-business work you do. Provide exciting (to you and your audience) free content to your broader community.

5. And most of all, have FUN with it. Be rebellious, be entertaining, be informative.

Much love,

Tess x

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Dr Tess Crawley

Tess is an Australian clinical and forensic psychologist with over 20 years' experience in such diverse areas as community mental health, the prison system, perinatal mental health, university lecturing, and private practice.

Tess has a PhD in clinical psychology, has published one business-related book and is in the midst of writing a second. She is also a former actor, which some say explains a lot! In fact, she met her husband of 30+ years while they were involved in a Melbourne stage production of Macbeth (also explains a lot!).

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