Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 27 October 2020

Day in the life: Dubai counsellor has truly positive mindset

Helen Williams, the director of LifeWorks in Dubai, a centre that focuses on personal development, says she never needs to unwind after the working day because she is never wound up - something she credits to practising mindfulness.
Helen Williams, founded LifeWorks, a counselling centre in Dubai that helps with personal development. Reem Mohammed / The National
Helen Williams, founded LifeWorks, a counselling centre in Dubai that helps with personal development. Reem Mohammed / The National

Helen Williams is the director of LifeWorks in Dubai – a centre focusing on personal development. Ms Williams, who is from New Zealand, has 40 years of experience as a counsellor. The 66-year-old was voted Emirates Woman of the Year in 2014 for her visionary work in the field of personal development in the UAE. Ms Williams opened LifeWorks in 2010 with her daughter, Carmen Benton, and lives in Tecom, Dubai.


I wake up and I meditate for an hour. I’ve been practising mindfulness for about 25 years; I advocate it so much because it enables people to stay with what is actually happening in the present instead of getting caught up in the story of their lives. Daily meditation is part of this process, as well as paying attention to the present moment by noticing the breath throughout the day.


I have breakfast. Because I eat a plant-based diet, I use my NutriBullet first thing in the morning. I juice various vegetables and fruits – my favourite combination is spinach, carrot, cucumber, orange and apple.


I catch up on emails and try to Skype my children who live in New Zealand and Australia. I have four children; my eldest is in Dubai, I have a son and a daughter living in Australia, and one daughter in New Zealand. I also have four grandchildren, so Skype is a big part of my life, as I talk to them all as often as I can.


I’m at LifeWorks by this time so that I can have my morning meetings with my daughter Carmen, our operations manager Mette Thorsen, and the administration team. We typically discuss the enrolments that we have for our courses, the workshops being taught that day, and what resources we need to have ready. I also discuss what talks I’m due to give in the community during the week. Our workshops run daily, and can be attended in large groups, small groups, as couples, or on a one-to-one basis. We teach everything from mindfulness meditation to stress management, compassionate communication and anger management.


I begin to see clients. The main things people come to see me about are anxiety, worry and stress. This is followed by grief and loss. Underpinning all of this is our apparent inability to support ourselves emotionally. When expatriates move to the UAE, they lose the support network that they had in the form of their families, and often discover that they haven’t learnt any techniques of comfort with which to support themselves. I’ve found that people in this situation can go one of two ways: they either come and seek help and grow, or they get addicted to various things – shopping, work, relationships – which results in them seeking comfort from external sources rather than arriving at strength from their own internal source.

12 noon

This is when I have lunch. Manik, a wonderful Sri Lankan lady who does a lot of our cleaning and groundwork, cooks for me. She makes me delicious salads for lunch and dinner. After I’ve eaten, I go for a 15-minute walk to move my body before answering emails and reconnecting with my staff.


I see more clients. People often come to me thinking of stress as a problem that needs to be solved, and I help them see that stress comes about because of the way we think about it. If you learn to look at how you’re thinking, which is what mindfulness is about, then you can discover how to deal with what you perceive as a problem. Most just say that they feel stressed and put a full stop at the end of the sentence. But if we start to say “I feel stressed because I’m anxious, because I can’t do what I’m here to do,” we can see that fear, anxiety and worry are at the root of it.


I have my dinner at the centre and then go for another walk. At 7pm, I begin teaching workshops. This is usually a mindfulness or meditation workshop – our most popular courses. I’ve had people write in our feedback forms that these workshops have changed their lives. Mindfulness is central to how we teach at the centre.


Our workshops finish and I head straight home. I don’t need to unwind, as I’m never wound up. My days are glorious and I love every minute of them. I sit and write notes on what I’ve done during the day, answer some emails, then have a cup of tea and do some knitting. I also listen to music or play the piano. I like a broad range of music, but some favourites are Van Morrison and various classical music. I have Saturdays and Sundays off work. Saturday is my play day; I spend time with my grandson, Jamie, who is nine, and my daughter. We swim, go for walks and go out for dinner.


I’m asleep. I like to get seven hours’ sleep so that I can meditate in the morning.


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Updated: January 9, 2016 04:00 AM

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