Melanie Ellis

Director of CPD, Dulwich College, Beijng China

The interview was held at the Abu Dhabi, International Conference INet, Hilton Hotel

Hello Melanie,
Thank you for making time for this interview!

Do you know the concept "vitality"?

I don't know it as a psychological concept, I know it as a word. It means health, dynamism, fullness and life to me.

What does that mean to you?

My vitality circle works as follows:
Physical vitality is first for me. If I don't feel physically fit it pours down to all other aspects. I don't have enough energy.
Social vitality feels very close to physical vitality. At times in stress I withdraw from social contacts as much as possible. I then feel as an unsocial person, but it requires a lot of energy to stay in contact.

If I am not emotionally vital it doesn't pour down to other elements for me. I can isolate that loss of energy and still have a lot of energy left for all other aspects.

Tai chi helps me to get my energy 'back in flow', it is a way for me to get more energized, starting with the physical aspect.

Can you tell me how your week looks like?

I work full time, from Monday till Friday from 8 o'clock until 5 o'clock in the afternoon. I don't stop for a break or for lunch except on Thursdays. On Thursday my colleagues and I have a lunch together. It is an important moment of my week. We talk about everything we want and take time for each other.
After work I cycle home, it takes about fifteen minutes. The physical exercise helps me to unwind from work.
Then I take care of our children till about 8 o'clock pm. After that I have about one and a half hour time that I can spend in various ways: to work, or as 'catch- up time' or as massage time (up the road there is a massage parlor where I go often).

Every Friday night my husband and I eat out, together as a couple.
Saturdays are dedicated to our family: we spend time with our children.
Than on Sunday we either work or give each other time or go on a day out as a family.

What kind of activities give you energy?

As I already mentioned before, Tai chi and massage gives me energy. They both are physical activities that energize my body.
Also a small time away from my children gives me energy. My children are two and five years old and are demanding. The small time -for about twenty minutes- break give me a sort of buffer from either work or home. For me it is important to have that break, it is the difference of 'just managing' or having fun with my children.

That's interesting, Melanie, can you describe that to me ?

Yes, I can tell when I am like that, like 'just doing the job'. I can feel it in my body. I am much more masculine, more directive. When the things I have to do become more the focus than my presence with my children.
It sounds as if I have masculine traits at work. That is necessary. As soon as there are targets it becomes a single movement in that direction. Masculine traits are sometimes helpful.
My husband takes more care of our children than I do. My husband and I have opposite roles during the day (he in the feminine energy/role and I in the masculine energy/role) sometimes it is complicated when two people have to change roles. we can't deal with it by averaging it out.

It reminds me of the 'round table sessions' I set up some years ago with professional women, Melanie. In that sessions a lot of time was spent discovering when and if women used 'masculine' or 'feminine' traits at work and what kind of effect it had on them in terms of energy.

What kind of activities drain your energy ?

Work can drain me. Especially the things I have to do instead of the things I am interested in. Marking is an example of a task I have to do, problem solving is something I am interested in.
Going to the supermarket is another activity that is draining.

Are you familiar with the "Work" by Byron Katie? She has a very interesting model in which you ask yourself four questions to come to a different mindset about an issue.

An activity that is not tiring or keeps you vital is something very different.

I agree, Melanie.

How is it for you as a woman in your line of work?

It is okay. Balance is appreciated in education. Take the following example: a while ago I was asked to sit on the senior leadership team because they needed female energy. I was very pleased of course. We (women) see things emotionally , more than most of our men would. Of course we also have emotionally literate men.

How do you keep fit?

By cycling, running when I can. I also swim with the children.

Does your organization have prevention programs for professionals to keep fit?

No, not the organization. You as an individual are responsible for that. For example we know a pilates teacher. But the organization doesn't have a program or something systematic.
In China in most places people practice 'shadow boxing'. It looks really great. Staff would go outside to do exercise and singing. It is a typical occurrence in Chinese businesses, so for example you see hair dressers and waiters join in. it is about getting your 'Chi energy' to flow.

Are you familiar with stress coping theories?

No not as a theory. In practice on a daily basis, yes.

What would help you to stay balanced?

More input in physical energy. I would like half an hour extra in a day, it would go to physical exercise because it does that for me. Time is such a significant factor. I am constantly aware of the time trade off. I am very very intolerant when my time is waisted, for example that is why I am doing this interview with you now instead of sitting in the conference room listening to that man.

Thank you for your time, Melanie!

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