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A morning cup of calm

Updated: Nov 9, 2020

As part of our focus on resilience in lockdown, I sat down with Holly Casares from She Leads Change to hear about their Cup of Calm initiative.



I was really lucky - I guess I now consider myself as having been lucky - that I was living in China back during SARS. So during the lockdown, this year’s lockdown, I had some experience about what to expect, and this helped me take some steps early on to stay resilient and positive.

But even with my experience under my belt, for me and lots of other people, this year has been really challenging. The mental health aspects, the physical lack of mobility, there’ve been real struggles.

One of the things that we’ve been trying to do at Sharkey and Friends around the lockdown is finding stories of people that have been doing inspiring things to help each other through this difficult time.

When our director, Louisa Harris, recommended the Cup of Calm initiative that you had run for She Leads Change, it seemed amazing and I wanted to try and find out more.

I’ve been inspired by She Leads Change already for a while. I feel like Sharkey and Friends and She Leads Change are both trying to help people build skills to thrive in this new world. That mission alignment really made me excited to talk to you today.

Let’s dig in. Can you tell me a little about She Leads Change and how you got involved?


Absolutely. It’s funny because it can be so hard to define She Leads Change because so much of it is a feeling. But, I’m going to do my best to explain. It’s ultimately a social enterprise which was set up a couple of years ago in London. A group of women came together a couple of years ago in a very small flat and questioned their voice in the world. They all came from different backgrounds, different walks of life and raised questions around topics like voice and confidence. They were seeking different ways to bring their full selves into the world.

From that conversation, and multiple conversations afterwards, our flagship programme was developed. Our own programme designed to help women on their journey.

In terms of me becoming involved with She Leads Change, I actually attended that programme this time last year. I had been sent from my organization. I was working for a large organization in the city, and they asked me to attend the programme to test it out to see if it was something that women in the future might want to do. So I turned up, all suited and booted, having just had been at an event in my organization, and walked into this room of just women. That’s quite rare. You don’t often have an experience like that. I instantly started to doubt myself: Why am I so dressed up? Most of these people are wearing jeans! Oh they’re going to think you’re awful! That inner voice started and that’s how I knew that I was in the right place because loads of the programme was about quieting that voice and it was really quite life-changing for me.


So this year, lockdown came about and I imagine that was really challenging for your existing programmes and really challenging for your community. What was Cup of Calm about? Can you share a little bit about the programme ?


I can, and it’s such a joy to talk about it because I’m so proud of what we did.

You’re right, we were actually halfway through two of our programmes when lockdown was announced, so we had to take these face-to-face programmes virtual.

A huge part of our programme is about connection and energy and spending that face-to-face time with others. We thought, how on Earth are we going to make this virtual? How can we give the same experience? We worked really, really hard and I think we did a really good job bridging that gap.

Besides the two programmes already in motion, we knew also that we had a wider network of not just people who had attended our programmes, but friends of She Leads Change, we have a whole coaching network, and so on. There were many layers. We thought, well, we want to give something to our network. We wanted to be there to support our community during this uncertain time and we needed it too.

Ultimately, Cup of Calm was a 15-minute check-in weekday mornings. We’d meet together at 8:45am and the view had been to start the day with a Cup of Calm. We were trying to support people that maybe had roles that were meant to log on at 9am, so the idea was 8:45am, you start with us, we’re going to have some calm and an opportunity to center ourselves, and then you start with your day at 9am. That was the general idea.


Amazing, it sounds like a daily meditation. Lots of people have been talking about ways they’ve used meditation to help get through lockdown, about how they’ve been grounding themselves. It sounds like a bit like a collective group meditation? How did it go? I’m sure it was well-received.


It was hugely well-received. What was wonderful about it was that we established a following - we had regulars. I was there for nearly every one as I was hosting them and just seeing that other people that would drop in, people that we hadn’t seen for a while, it was a great opportunity for them to reconnect with the network. There were people who were brand new to She Leads Change as well, so that was a great opportunity for them to get to know us. There were alumni from previous programmes, a beautiful mix of men and women came in and joined. We had children sometimes, and all sorts of animals, which of course is something that we’re used to by now with working from home more.

We absolutely did meditation and some beautiful breathing work, and we had some great discussions. For example, we talked about hope, your circle of influence, stretching into possibility. The topics were really diverse and really different each day. We actually got guest facilitators in to facilitate, so it wasn’t just me every morning. We got our network to actually come in and co-create with us.


I’ve used the word inspiring so many times already, but the ways that your community mobilized for your own community is just really great. The way that different people were able to bring what they could to that and really get what they needed.

I’m wondering what’s next? Now that Cup of Calm is finished, although I still need a cup of calm every other day now, what’s on your agenda?


We have our programme, which just launched this week and is really exciting. The programme I was originally on, that I mentioned, called “Leading From Within.” We’ve got two cohorts. One started this week and one starts next week. And our “Collective Impact Programme ” actually starts tonight, which we’re running virtually as well. So we’ve got our programmes up and running, and we’re 100% virtual now. What’s been brilliant, as I’ve touched on before, is that we’re not just limited to London anymore. We now have a reach that goes into the UK, wider into Europe and worldwide. We’re actually attracting people from all over the globe to come and be with us, which is really special.


Thanks so much again for making the time to share about your work. It really feels like you are making a difference on a local level and now scaling that out to a much broader community. I have nothing but admiration and respect for all the work that you have done and look forward to hearing more.

Now that we’ve done this interview I’m looking next to some broader collaboration. We’ve got some coaches in the network focused on mens’ issues also so there might be some interesting intersections there.


Absolutely. We’d love to collaborate.


Great, well to be continued then. Thanks for the chat and have a great rest of the day.


You too, thank you so much. Bye!


Holly Casares is a coach with She Leads Change. Find out more at


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