Informa Markets

Author Bio ▼

Charlotte Geoghegan is Event Manager for Safety & Health Expo and SHP at Informa Markets. She is responsible for content, strategy and sales of physical events and digital products. She is also an active member of the Women in Health and Safety committee.Before Charlotte went into this role she was Head of Content for the Safety & Health Expo, SHP, IFSEC, FIREX and the Facilities Show. She joined Informa (previously UBM) in 2015.Charlotte has spent 10 years in media & events and her academic background is in modern foreign languages. You can find her on LinkedIn here
August 12, 2022

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Women in Health and Safety

Gail Grace on how to create a confident, successful and happy work-life balance

SHP hears from Gail Grace, a work-life balance coach discussing work-life balance as a mother and having confidence in yourself in the workplace. Gail’s earlier career includes being a Contract and Training Team Leader, she then spent 10 years in a commercial painting and decorating firm and was promoted up the ranks from a Surveyor to Branch Manager. Gail focuses on the importance of self-care and prioritising your health and well-being.

This interview is part of a series for Women in Health and Safety. As a member of the committee our goal is to amplify the voices of women in the profession. Some of the topics covered affect women more than men. Some are deeply personal. It’s our belief that we bring our whole selves to work and therefore should be able to talk about all sorts of issues that affect us, day-to-day, in a work setting.

Two things have struck me throughout this series. 1) We all have so much in common. 2) People are often very willing to open up, if they’re given a safe opportunity to do so with someone who is willing to listen without judgement. So, my hope is that issues discussed in this series resonate with readers, perhaps making some feel less alone, perhaps even giving some the confidence to share their own stories. I also hope readers will be encouraged to check in on colleagues, talk about the whole selves we bring to work and be there to listen.

Read more from this Women in Health and Safety interview series.

How does looking after your well-being, positively impact your career and home life?

While my work as a coach focuses on helping working mums in particular, I believe with a passion that all of us need to make sure we’re making ourselves as much of a priority as we can. When you take time to prioritise your mental, emotional and physical health and well-being, it impacts absolutely everything in your life, in a positive way. And that’s the main message I talk about in my work.

Self-doubt and mindset in the workplace
Although I‘m now a coach, I worked for nearly 15 years in the construction industry. I loved many aspects of my career but I found that the more I got promoted, the more difficult things became for me.
After receiving a promotion, that I had actually been working towards for some time, I really started to struggle with a lot of self-doubt. I thought I wasn’t good enough. I was comparing myself a lot to the people I worked with and just saw myself as very different from anyone successful around me. I was convinced that the reason I was finding it so hard, was because I wasn’t as good as everyone else.
Through a chance conversation, I employed a coach. In my eyes I wanted her to help me be better at my job and that would solve all of my problems. Actually, in working with my coach, I realised that being better wasn’t the solution. I was good at what I did, I just had a lot of negative self-talk and a lot of self-doubt. I was putting myself down at every opportunity, rather than seeing my strengths or recognising what I’d actually achieved.

Deciding to switch career
Through working with my coach, I realised that maybe this job wasn’t quite the role for me, in the way it was at that time. I decided to leave, with no job to go to, a mortgage to pay and no idea where my life was headed but with a knowledge that I wanted something that made me feel better or differently to the way I was feeling. I was looking for something, I just didn’t know what that was.
In the meantime, I kept working with my coach and soon realised how burnout and unhappy I’d become. My mental, emotional and physical health was suffering and I had to find ways to look after myself better. Sometimes we get so caught up in achievement, pushing forward and giving to others that we don’t realise how much we’re suffering.
I also realised that every time I spoke to my coach, I came off the phone and said to my husband, “She’s got the best job in the world. Imagine watching people develop and grow and being able to help them make changes that have so much impact.” This was what I needed! I looked into coaching and soon became a qualified Personal Development Coach and NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming) Practitioner. Both of these qualifications and courses showed me more about my new found interest for understanding how our minds work, and how reprogramming our minds can serve and support us better.
Work-life balance and not feeling like a good enough mum
Shortly after qualifying to become a coach, I had two babies in 18 months. Quickly I realised that being a mum whilst running my own business, was just as stressful as being a high flyer in the corporate world. One of my biggest struggles was work-life balance. I was also repeating some old patterns of putting myself down and telling myself I wasn’t a good enough mum. I also felt a lot of guilt about my work life balance and the choices I was making.
Everyone’s expectations and priorities seemed to come before my own and I was starting to struggle again. I recognised I was feeling overwhelmed and burnt-out again and I was worried that another meltdown was around the corner. At that point, I really started to look into self-care. I wanted to understand what it was, how I could do it and what benefit it could bring to me, my family, my business and my clients.
Through talking to other mums at the time, I realised that I wasn’t the only mum pushing myself down the to do list and struggling to look after myself.
Coaching for mums on work-life balance
Although I started off my coaching business by helping women increase their confidence in the corporate world, I discovered I could use my expertise and recent life experience to really focus on helping mums achieve a positive work-life balance and supporting them to overcome huge mindset blocks like ‘mum guilt’. I had worked a lot on myself, my mindset and my well-being and found a place where I knew I was happy, felt in control, had a stronger mindset than I had in years and felt more balanced than I’d felt in a long time. I also saw that the more time and effort I put into helping myself, the easier my life was and the more fun I was having at work and with my young family.
Now I run a program called “Burnout to Balance”, which helps working mums to create their own version of a happy and healthy work-life balance. It’s about pushing themselves up the priority list and using mindset and self care to achieve the same benefits that I saw.
Finding time when you feel you have none
One of the main barriers working mums tend to come up against when wanting to prioritise their well-being is feeling like they don’t have enough time. Actually, our relationship with time is fascinating, when you really look at it.
For example, if you were trying to finish off a work email and your child came running up to you and said, ‘I want to play’ you’d probably automatically say “I haven’t got time right now, maybe later.” But if they came running up to you, because they’d fallen over and cut themselves, you would drop everything to help them. Really, time is about priorities. The difficulty comes when you have so many priorities to juggle, it’s hard to know what to put down, when.
Whilst we think that we have our priorities set in the only way possible, sometimes it’s not the case. The first thing I do with my clients is look at the way they’re spending their time and how they could make changes to help themselves. It’s amazing how much time you can create when you start asking yourself the difficult questions we find easier to avoid.
Redefining your identity and confidence building
There are several times through our lives when we might feel like our identity is changing, evolving and developing. Maybe a marriage, a promotion or a change in careers. When we have kids we can also find ourselves going into “mum mode” and can start to lose our identity. Then when we go back to work we flip between being “mum” and being “at work”. We can easily forget about who we are as an individual. This is really important for me when it comes to self-care, finding that identity again, because what we enjoy and love about life is linked to who we are as a person. If we’re not recognising who that person is, we can’t possibly be doing things to make ourselves happy.
As well as losing our identity, we can also take a huge knock to our confidence when we become a mum or step away from the work place for a while. Being a mum, especially if you’re working as well, can easily result in you feeling like you’re not handling everything as well as you think you could be.
The first thing to consider with confidence is your mindset and internal talk. What are you saying to yourself inside your head? Are you telling yourself constantly that you’re not good enough? Are you doubting yourself or questioning yourself? All of that on repeat, even subconsciously, eats away at you all the time. I know I struggled with this a lot.
There are loads of great, in-depth tools for building confidence, but here’s a quick one. First, catch yourself using negative self talk. Become really aware of what you’re saying to yourself. Then ask yourself, ‘Is this true?’, so instead of just getting caught in that loop of telling yourself you’re not good at something, really start to question yourself, ‘Is this a true statement about me? Where’s the evidence? What evidence do I have to the contrary?’ And finally, flip the negative for a positive statement about yourself. Now, unfortunately, this is not a quick fix. It does take time, repetition and practice but tell yourself, at as many opportunities as possible, a positive belief about yourself. For example – I am a good mum who’s doing the absolute best I can.
Feeling lonely in the corporate world and as a mum
When I was in the corporate world, I was convinced that I was the only person going through what I was going through. I think that was a combination of the fact that there weren’t many other women in my position in my industry and when I did look around, everyone else seemed to “have it all together”. I think that can be the same in the corporate world or as a mum. You easily compare yourself to other people and everyone else seems to have it a bit more together than you do.
You must remember though, you’re only seeing a certain part of the story. You’re seeing everyone’s highlights or brave face on, you’re not necessarily seeing the struggles that they’re having too. And I think networking groups like Women in Safety & Health and Women in Rail, which I was also a part of, are so crucial to that. If you can be brave enough to say you’re struggling, you may suddenly find a lot of people you’re talking to saying, ‘me too’. It feels so much less isolating when you know that there are other people going through something similar to you.
Making changes and quick win self-care tips to incorporate into your day-to-day life
Feeling better, happier, or more confident won’t come from making the odd change here and there. It’s about learning and bringing in tools you can use every single day and that you can use in the moment, when things are feeling tough. But a lot of those tools don’t have to take a lot of time. Here are a few well-being quick wins, you can incorporate today.
We breathe every day, we don’t even think about it. But in just changing the pattern of our breath, we can help reduce stress and overwhelm. So whether that’s in a meeting or when your kids are having a meltdown, try doing a 4-4-8 breath. You breathe in for four counts, hold for four counts and then breathe out for eight counts. It doesn’t take you any extra time, but that elongated out-breath is telling your nervous system to calm down. It takes you out of that fight-flight mode and brings you an immediate sense of calm.
Also try to get outside as much as possible. It’s so good for our mental health and well-being. Even if it’s just a 10 minute walk around the block, the fresh air, change of scenery and even gently moving our body can be so beneficial.
It’s great to take a good look at all of your habits – your exercise, how well you sleep, what you eat, how much time you spend scrolling on your phone – as well as the quality of your relationships and how much fun you have in your life. Ask yourself are these supporting or benefitting me as much as I’d like?
As I say to the clients on my “Burnout to Balance” programme, this isn’t about creating another long to-do list you’re never going to get on top of. I work with my clients to incorporate small, manageable well-being tools and practises which result in huge breakthroughs. They go from stressed, overwhelmed and burnt-out to having more control over their lives, becoming more successful in their careers and achieving more balance, more happiness and having more fun in their family lives.
If you’d like to find out more please visit: or email: [email protected]

For more information about the Women in Health and Safety network see our hub page here.

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Read more from this Women in Health & Safety interview series.

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1 year ago

Interestingly I am the first to comment upon on this article. I can full well imagine how important it is for working women to strike a good life work balance just as it is extremely important for men. My ex wife chose to stay at home to look after our daughter as she grew up but it often left me out of the loop of family life 5 days a week as I would leave for the office before my daughter woke up and she would be asleep in bed when I returned after a long 12 hour day. That… Read more »