Here at Skybound we pride ourselves on always evolving, and our Christmas traditions are no different. Departing from the conventional December ‘Christmas Party,’ and post-pandemic, we have embraced in-person team meetings infused with a festive flavour in late November. This year was different again as we hosted a ‘Wellbeing Weekend’ under the twinkly Christmas lights of Cwrt Bleddyn Hotel and Spa.
The focus of the weekend was on staff wellbeing, and the application of Acceptance and Commitment Training (ACT) for our own mental health and wellbeing. The days were filled with various relaxing activities on offer and the opportunity to take part in a range of ACT-based exercises, facilitated by the fabulous Nic Hooper. Encouraging everyone to stay on-site for the entire weekend ensured accessibility to everything on offer and enabled us to connect with colleagues from all over the country. This meant that evening entertainment also had to be considered.
Friday evening unfolded with lively board games and conversations, and I’m sure you won’t be surprised to hear that it got a little competitive at times! Saturday needed a bigger event, and what better than a Variety Show as a Saturday Night entertainment treat?!
This Variety Show came with a little twist, the performers were none other than Skybound team members, with each Skybounder being invited to perform their ‘hidden talent’ for everyone to enjoy! As you can imagine, this did become quite the topic of conversation in the months leading up to ‘The Weekend’ with lots of thoughts and emotions about the upcoming performance, and my heart rate certainly spiked as I stepped on stage ready to start the ‘Skybound Willingness Variety Talent Show’.
The variety on show was INCREDIBLE, and talents included a range of musical performances, dance routines, athletic feats, hula hooping, balloon modelling, crafting and baking. Some Skybounders purposefully spent time learning a new skill so that they could perform, like Natalie and Carys learning to play the recorder, Meg with her balloon models, and Ellie taking up the yo-yo. Others took a skill that they already had and pushed themselves out of their comfort zone – crocheting and balloon modelling are impressive enough in their own right, imagine doing them blindfolded or in a yoga pose like Veronika and Gabby!
We were treated to diverse dances, from Sophie’s ballet to Rashmi’s Bollywood and multilingual songs, including a rendition of ‘Happy Birthday’ in British Sign Language, Wajeeha’s traditional song in Urdu, and Ruth’s German song accompanying her baking talent. We even had 3 original Skybound songs written specifically for the show! A Skybound Serenade that Olivia performed on the guitar, a Skybound Rap from Ken, and a Parody of an old Skybound karaoke ‘favourite’ from myself – leading to Megan Moss (who had earlier demonstrated a talent that only she could do thanks to the magnetic powers of her cochlear implants) learning the concept of being out of tune! Amazingly, that’s only a small selection of what was shared on the night.
While the show brought lots of joy and entertainment, the true purpose was for everyone to experience a moment of being outside their comfort zones. For us to have an opportunity to willingly feel emotions including anxiety or nervousness, thoughts of ‘I can’t do this’ and the bodily sensations including the increased heart rate or the dread in the pit of the stomach, while moving forward towards a common value. Everyone’s comfort zone boundary started at a different point, we had some who had not performed in front of an audience since their school concert days, and others who enjoyed the spotlight. To reflect this, there was also variety in the presentation of the performances with everyone able to ask for the audience to close their eyes or go beyond a curtain partition at the back of the room, to those up on the stage with the microphone such as Princess with her kickboxing demonstration in ‘How to stay safe in a dark alley’ or Sarah having us all follow her outside to experience the full effect of the LED Poi in the darkness.
Stepping outside our comfort zone to experience new things is a big part of experiencing vitality, which contributes towards wellbeing. There was also an opportunity for some perspective taking and creating an experience that we can return to as part of our work on a daily basis. We are often asking our clients, parents, and others that we work with to step outside their comfort zones too as part of a desensitisation programme or when following a Behaviour Support Plan and teaching new or different skills. We might not be asking them to step onto a stage, but we are asking that they are willing to have the uncomfortable thoughts and feel the uncomfortable feelings while doing something with us that doesn’t feel great in the moment and will move towards a value in the longer term. We also understand that everyone has a different starting point, and one small step forwards from that starting point is a great achievement towards your values.