A Different Approach to Failure

We all know what it’s like to make New Year’s resolutions and we all know how it feels to fail. What follows is usually a period (sometimes a long one) of self-criticism and hopelessness (“I’ll never lose that weight!” or “I’ll never be able to run a marathon!”).

However, self-criticism never helps keep resolutions; it just makes you feel unhappy and annoyed, mostly at yourself.  And so you either give up and go get Baskin Robbins or you throw away your running shoes.

There is a third option: Relax and work on accepting yourself. There are good reasons to relax about your lack of resolve.  As you may have heard in the past few years, it has been discovered that our brains can be re-molded. Repeated self-criticism can literally shape brain pathways into patterns that sustain negativity while self-acceptance can reinforce more positive ways of thinking.

In addition, anytime we fight an issue in our lives the thing we’re fighting has a way of fighting back, i.e. what we resist, persists. It brings up another fact that has been true for many, many years: All the resolving in the universe can’t conquer our emotions.

Therefore, the bottom line is that taking a forgiving approach to any failure puts us precisely in the place of kindness and acceptance where positive changes are the easiest. It doesn’t mean that this process will be easy, which is why it’s called “re-solution” rather than “solution.” Know that you’ll have to re-do, resolving the same problem over and over. But each time you go through the process you get more strength, more practice, and more wisdom about what works for you.  If you don’t succeed, the failure will help you find the upside so that you can re-solve the issue better next time.

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May is Mental Health Month

We often hear the clinical terms used by doctors and other professionals to identify the symptoms of mental illnesses, but if someone hasn’t gone through it, would they know how to recognize it?

So often, clinical terms don’t do justice to what life with a mental illness feels like. We know that two people with the same diagnosis can experience the same symptom and describe it in very different ways. Understanding the signs of a mental illness and identifying how it can feel can be confusing—and sometimes can contribute to ongoing silence or hesitation to get help.

It’s important for people to talk about how it feels to live with a mental illness. We know that mental illnesses are common and treatable, and help is available. But not everyone knows what to look for when they are going through those early stages, and many simply experience symptoms differently. We all need to speak up early—Before Stage 4—and in real, relatable terms so that people do not feel isolated and alone.

This May is Mental Health Month and raising awareness of the importance of speaking up about mental health, and asking individuals to share what life with a mental illness feels like by tagging social media posts with #mentalillnessfeelslike. Posting with our hashtag is a way to speak up, to share your point of view with people who may be struggling to explain what they are going through—and to help others figure out if they too are showing signs of a mental illness.

Life with a Mental Illness is meant to help remove the shame and stigma of speaking out, so that more people can be comfortable coming out of the shadows and seeking the help they need. Whether you are in Stage 1 and just learning about those early symptoms, or are dealing with what it means to be in Stage 4, sharing how it feels can be part of your recovery.

Mental illnesses are real and recovery is always the goal, and that the best prospects for recovery come when we act Before Stage 4 (B4Stage4).

Addressing mental illnesses B4Stage4 means more than burying feelings and refusing to talk about them, and waiting for symptoms to clear up on their own. B4Stage4 means more than wishing that mental health problems aren’t real, and hoping that they will never get worse. B4Stage4 means more than thinking that someone on the edge of a crisis will always pull himself or herself back without our help, and praying that someone else will intervene before a crisis occurs.

B4Stage4 means, in part, talking about what mental illnesses feel like, and then acting on that information. It means giving voice to feelings and fears, and to hopes and dreams. It means empowering people as agents of their own recovery. And it means changing the trajectories of our own lives for the better, and helping those we love change theirs. So let’s talk about what life with a mental illness feels like, to voice what we are feeling, and so others can know they are not alone.

 

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May is Mental Health Month – Take it Day by Day Calendar

Believe you can and you’re half way there – Theodore Roosevelt.

May is Mental Health Month. Use this calendar to focus on a healthy strategy each day to improve your overall well-being.

Mental Health  Month 2016 Poster-Calendar

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Anger – Are You Acting Out Your Child or Adult Self

Everyone has times when they are angry. You know the feeling: thoughts are crowding out any rational response to events taking place, feelings of being ready to explode, hot all over, and possibly a need to run or take a swipe at something or someone!

All of these are symptoms of when we are experiencing anger, however not the crux of the anger. Think about a time you experienced anger. Were you by yourself or with others? Were you thinking about something that was happening at the moment or in the past? Was your anger expression at a person general in nature?

Most of us express anger when an event is happening, and it is when there is something going on that challenges one of our core values or beliefs about our self or someone we care about. Typically anger isn’t about a “thing,” but rather about our connection to that “thing.” We personalize our response and then it becomes about us. Let’s look at an example of how this plays out.

John and Mary purchased a new home in the fall and this spring work for hours on their yard, pulling weeds, mulching and planting shrubs and flowers. They are exhausted, yet very proud of their hard labor to add their personalities to their new house. Later that evening Mary’s older sister comes over for a cook out, and states, “Let me know when are you going to work on your yard, I have some starts of perennial flowers for you.”

Now, there are a couple choices here:

  1. Become indignant and reply with, “What do you mean? We have worked for two days, and you haven’t even noticed!!!!”
  2. Remain calm and say, “Oh that is so kind of you. Yes, we are very interested in adding color to our yard, come look at what we have done so far.”

The first response is driven from the reaction of feeling personally attacked, and de-valued. Your big sister has just dismissed all of the work you have done, and treated you like you don’t have a responsible thought or action, just like she always did when you were growing up. Jumping to this conclusion is steeped in old “FOO stuff,” translated, Family of Origin Stuff. It originated in early days, and you still carry the feeling and thoughts of being ten. You have jumped to a conclusion that you are being criticized, rather than clarifying what your heard. You dismiss the fact that she has noticed you were working on the yard because she offers some plants. What she doesn’t say is, “When you work in your yard again…”, or “Wow, nice yard!” Without clarifying you are immediately in your default zone of age 10.

The second choice for a response has no emotion embedded. You express appreciation of her offer, and then direct her to see what you have accomplished.

What happened here, you ask? Lots! The first response is one built from the de-valued younger child, and then comes out of the adult’s mouth. How often we do this, depends on how many hot buttons we have from earlier life experiences. We blame the other person instead of paying attention with an open mind and not running old material through our reactions first. Sometimes we need to go through several reactions until we find one that isn’t a “default.”

Next time you notice you are reacting to something someone says, your goal will be to stop and check your “FOO stuff.” You just might find you are reacting out of your ten year old self, and not your adult self.

To discuss this or other topics that get in the way of being who you want to be, call SOLUTIONS – Your EAP.

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Tools to End Workplace Bullying

Before we explore workplace bullying and how to deal with it, it is important to clear up any misunderstandings you or others might have about it. In the case of workplace bullying, knowledge is power.

Myths about Workplace Bullying Debunked

There is no such thing as workplace bullying. When we think about “workplace bullying,” most of us think about the schoolyard and not about the workplace. However, workplace bullying is very real, and its destructive effects are also very real. Should anyone try to tell you that you are not being bullied because, in their mind, that’s not something that happens to adults at work, tell them that 20+ years of research on workplace bullying says otherwise. Research has indicated that 50% of the population is being bullied, and in some cases even as much as 75%. The Workplace Bullying Institute has found that bullying is four times more prevalent than illegal forms of discrimination. Bullying is NOT illegal by the way. All of these numbers point to one thing: bullying at work is real and it’s widespread.

Bullying is no big deal. Research has associated bullying with many psychological problems, including feeling helpless, decreased self-esteem, poor morale, feelings of inadequacy, depression, and conflict with co-workers and family as a result of what’s happening at work. Bullying can also lead to Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and even suicide. This points to one thing: bullying is a big deal, and it hurts.

Bullying is just a personality conflict between two people. A personality conflict occurs when two people disagree on something. It affects primarily – and sometimes exclusively – those two individuals. Bullying, on the other hand, affects the employees, co-workers, the workplace, and its leaders. Unfortunately most of the time managers do nothing to help – or they are the ones bullying employees – hence targets and bystanders lose respect for them, which drives down the quality of work. To create a healthy work environment, managers need the direction and support of the organization’s top leaders.

This points to one thing: ignoring bullying creates an atmosphere in which it thrives. “Hey, if this guy did it and got away with it why shouldn’t I?”

Targets have a performance issue and are accusing their boss of being too tough. Unfortunately, this is the belief of many human resource managers who refuse to see what’s really happening, or don’t understand the nature of workplace bullying. It would be a lie to say that targets of workplace bullying are never poor performers, but there is an appropriate way of confronting poor performance (including contacting the EAP), and there is an unacceptable, and bullying way of dealing with poor performance. This points to one thing: Bullying bosses yell and get frustrated when someone isn’t working up to their standards. This is ineffective and not beneficial to anyone, including the company.

Tools to End Bullying

This section describes some practical strategies that a target should find useful when dealing with his or her nemesis.

Acknowledge and name the problem. The first step in dealing with aggressive and damaging behavior in the workplace is to acknowledge that there is a problem and give it a name. Some people feel that “bullying” is a childish name and are reluctant to use it in describing adult behaviors. The bottom line is, however, that it is important to give the behaviors a name; and since we are dealing with actions that are intended to humiliate, belittle, manipulate, or intimidate others, “bullying” is the perfect (and widely accepted) term to describe them collectively. Finding the language to describe your situation is important because language allows you to understand what is really going on. This is an important first step in the process of overcoming bullying at work.

Confront the individual. A word of caution: Confronting an aggressive person can backfire. The bully may see this as an attack and increase the abusive behavior. If you confront this person in front of others it may be seen as disrespectful, but if you do it one-on-one you do not have any witnesses. So confront, do so assertively, but avoid blaming or finger-pointing. Stay calm; be professional. If the other person responds with aggression, say, “Jim, I’m not here to argue. I just want you to stop _____ (insert unwanted behavior here). I treat you with respect, and I expect the same from you. Jim, starting today, please refrain from ___________”

Notice several things here: We’ve used the individual’s name several times. Using a person’s first name is a form of assertiveness. It puts a person on the spot and usually gets the individual to take notice and actually listen. (Think about the old trick parents use when they catch their children doing something wrong: They call them by their first, middle, and last name because it gets their attention and implies dominance. The same thing applies here).

Avoid name-calling. Even though it is important to recognize what’s going on – you are being bullied at work – it is also vital to understand that you are facing a human being who is not a bully but rather a person adopting bullying behaviors. Saying, “he is a bully” actually gives the individual more power over you because in your mind you are accepting that you are facing a person whose every interaction with you will be negative. “He is bullying me” is a subtle but powerful shift in your situation. Now you have made the claim that this person is demonstrating an undesired behavior, and you can perhaps change it. You might think, “Who cares how I say it! He makes me feel bad, I’m stressed and scared!” But these language nuances are part of the first steps in taking control of how you are treated at work.

Focus on yourself and your actions, not on the bullying. We tend to focus a lot on bullies when we are being harassed by them, almost obsessively in some cases. This is allowing the bully to win because instead of focusing on how to overcome bullying, you are spending too much time on how bad this individual makes you feel. Try to focus on yourself, your work, your own behavior, and how well you’re doing. Make a conscious choice to push the bullying out of your mind. It’s easy to say that our thoughts and emotions are not a choice, but that isn’t true. You have control over what you think about; what you think about does not have control over you. Understanding that will help take control of how you feel, and you’ll be able to face your bullying co-worker.

Take control of your response to the bullying behavior. Remain professional, do a great job all of the time, and disregard attempts to bring you down. You deserve respect in your workplace, but you are responsible for garnering that respect and for projecting a confident and “don’t screw with me” image to everyone around you. That means you should command respect for your work and professionalism while at the same time treating everyone the same way, including the person bullying you. Consider the story of a man whose airplane was shot down during a deployment. For three days he floated in the ocean, and he had two options; succumb to his circumstances and think about dying, or focus his thoughts on survival. He chose to think about living, and he was eventually rescued. He claims he is a much better person as a result of this experience. He is more positive, a better leader, and more appreciative of his life. Had he thought about dying, the outcome would’ve been different. He likely could have talked himself into giving up and may have died before he was rescued. Rather than being more positive, he would’ve been negative and unhappy, and possibly even suffered from PTSD. Remember, you can’t always control other people or the situation you’re in, but you do have control over your thoughts and your reactions.

Use “you” language. Assertiveness experts usually say that you’re supposed to use “I” language such as, “I don’t like it when you use that tone of voice with me.” But that doesn’t tend to work with bullies. Their attitude is, “I don’t care if you don’t like my tone!” Or they’ll launch a more aggressive attack to get you to back off with something like, “Stop being so dramatic!” So instead of, “I don’t like the way you treat me” as you might normally say, try, “You need to work on treating others more professionally.” This makes the person accountable for his/her own actions. One word of warning: Avoid passing judgment. Saying something like, “You are crazy” does not hold a bully accountable; it only fuels the fire.

Deflect criticism. Criticism hurts, but while we can’t control over the person doing the criticizing, we do have control over how we react. We can learn how to avoid “taking it in” or allowing it to become a part of how you view yourself. When this person has gone on a criticizing rampage, chances are everyone has just stood there and taken it. You, on the other hand, can break this cycle by asking questions. Specifically, ask questions that seek more information about the issue and force the critical person to come up with a goal. A conversion might go something like this: Criticizer: “You keep doing that report wrong! How is it that you keep passing the employee evaluations year after year?! I can’t be the only one who thinks you’re an idiot.” You: “I assume the goal is to have the report done right. Calling me names is not going to help. Tell me exactly what I am doing wrong, mistake by mistake, and that way future reports will be up to your standards. I’m not asking you to do my job but to make it clear what you need me to do differently.”

By Catherine Mattice (published in the April 2016 EA Report Brown Bagger in the Employee Assistance Report)

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Building Good Co-worker Relationships

Like family, we can’t always choose our co-workers. But we can choose to work as harmoniously as possible by focusing on key behaviors that promote good relationships and foster a workplace that everyone can enjoy. Take an inventory on what you feel you do well, and what you want to work on.

Use effective communication
Communication is a key ingredient in any relationship, but professionally, your job depends on it.  It can be the difference between productivity, promotion, and maintaining positive morale. To build good communication patterns at work, consider these tips:

  • Be an active listener. The more you are talking, the less you are listening. Take a breath. Refrain from evaluating the other’s words until they have finished, observe non-verbal cues, reflect back what the person is saying, and ask questions to clarify and gather further meaning. Being interested and present shows the receiver that you are intently trying to listen and understand.
  • Be clear. If you are providing direction or feedback, make sure you deliver your message in a way that the person can receive it based on their communication style – both verbal and written. Also consider whether the person responds best or appreciates follow-up with email, phone, IM, face-to-face or combination of communication outlets.
  • Don’t assume. Ask the person if they understand, have questions, or need more clarification. There is nothing worse than walking away from a conversation with no more understanding than when you began.
  • In general, improve communication by not interrupting or cutting the person off, filling silences and not giving the other space to formulate thoughts, abruptly changing the subject without responding to what they have said, finishing their sentences, or summarizing what you think they are going to say.

Avoid negativity – this is just clutter
Negativity – whether you are griping about work, gossiping, over-sharing, being offensive (inappropriate jokes, name-calling, etc.), or being critical – is a morale buster. This negativity can affect your co-worker relationships by decreasing trust, motivation, and satisfaction in the workplace. Choose to have a positive attitude. If there are legitimate concerns, find the best and healthiest way to address them.

Respect other people’s time
Not everyone is on your time timetable. Be courteous of others during the workday by: not hovering outside one’s office/cubicle while they are on the phone or in a meeting, asking someone if they have time to talk rather than assuming it is a good time for them, respecting one’s breaks or lunchtime (this doesn’t indicate someone is free), and unless it is an emergency or part of the job, keeping communication to work hours (pinging someone with emails all night increases stress and does not promote work/life balance).

Don’t pass the buck
We are humans, which means, we will make mistakes. How we handle mistakes is what is important. Be fair: don’t try to hide mistakes or shift the blame to avoid responsibility. Keep to the facts, own your part, and let others explain themselves. No one wants to feel like they got thrown under the bus. Take the opportunity to acknowledge the mistake, problem-solve, and prevent future occurrences.

Be reliable
Everyone’s role in the organization is important, and many times interdependent. Doing your job well, meeting expectations, and heeding deadlines will help build a team environment and assure that everyone is fully committed to not only doing their job, but being thoughtful of what others need to do theirs.

Show respect
When both you and your co-workers feel respected, you are better able to handle differences, appreciate work habits, avoid negative discussions, and be willing to share knowledge and help each other accomplish tasks. Reinforcing to a co-worker that they are doing a great job or you appreciate their help goes a long way. Everyone likes a compliment. Feeling appreciated by your peers builds a sense of value and motivates employees to show up and continue good work.

Cope with conflict
Unfortunately conflict can occur anywhere, especially at work. Avoiding conflict or not effectively addressing conflict can be a burden to all involved. Work with those involved to identify the conflict, what contributes to the conflict, and possible resolutions. If you handle it well, you can build a new sense of resiliency among co-workers. Make sure to address issues when emotions have simmered and discuss in a setting that is appropriate.

To build better relationships with your co-workers, identify at least one item to start improving on, and build from there where needed.

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Being Happy at Work Doesn’t Have to Be Work

There are only 24 hours in a day, and we spend a big chunk of that at work. Sometimes our work even spills into our time at home. Achieving that work/life balance can be challenging, but being productive and happy at work is a good start. There are steps you can take every day to improve your work life and here are some tips:

Choose to be happy
Sound easy? Well, some may debate this, but you can choose to be happy. Maybe not all aspects of work make you happy, but if you refrain from dwelling on what you do not enjoy, it gives you time to focus on what you do – from the mission of the organization, to good co-workers, flexibility, new opportunities, benefits, etc.  Start looking at happiness as a choice, not just a reaction, and see how your perceptions may change.

Find meaning, a sense of purpose
Every job has a purpose and contributes to the organizational goals. Even if you don’t feel appreciated or feel no one notices your effort, take some time to do your own reflection. Write down who relies on you, who you help, what you have learned, the good you promote, and see how you might look at your role with more meaning.

Take a breath
Whether you are overwhelmed with the amount of work you have to do or someone is pushing your buttons, taking a timeout can help you regroup. Learning relaxation techniques can relieve tension, help you regain focus, and make you feel better overall. A few techniques to try include:

  • Practice deep breathing. Slowly inhale through your nose, feeling the breath start in your abdomen and work its way to the top of your head. Reverse the process as you exhale through your mouth. Repeat several times. This is a great way to reduce stress because when you breathe deeply, it sends a message to your brain to calm down and relax.
  • Get moving. Engaging in physical exercise can reduce stress, improve mood, increase energy levels, and boost brain power during the workday. And so take a walk (get outside if you can), do some stretching exercises (maybe your favorite yoga pose), and get creative by doing walking meetings or standing during a conference call (maybe add in some squats or walking in place).
  • Do mindfulness meditation. Being mindful is purposely paying attention to what is going on in the present moment without passing judgment on it. In formal practice, you can find a quiet place to sit upright and follow your breath as it naturally flows in and out without controlling or forcing it. You can observe your thoughts and emotions, but let them pass without judgment, and simply return to your breathing. More informally, you can use mindfulness to transition from one task to the next, taking a few breaths before answering the phone, sending an email, talking to your co-worker, or entering a meeting. This gives you time to direct your full attention to the task at hand and be fully present in the moment.

Take frequent breaks to stay on task
Taking a break several times a day can help you stay on task and be more productive. Set a reminder to take a 5 minute break 5 times a day to clear out any distractions (especially the bombardment of electronic streams of information) and identify if you are still on task. Productivity levels are higher when focusing on one task at a time. For those of you who believe multitasking is more effective, it is not, and it is likely taking you more time to finish the tasks at hand than if you focus on one at a time.

Do what you dread first
When you find yourself procrastinating that dreaded task, it ends up hovering over you all day. This leaves you distracted and may impact your ability to get the most out of your workday. And so prioritize your tasks based on those tasks you dread and those you don’t. Consider completing the tasks you dread first so that the rest of your day may seem lighter.

Avoid negativity
Negativity can be contagious. To keep your positive attitude and be happy at work, avoid negative conversations, gossip, or those negative Nellies and Neds. It will make a big difference in remaining positive, as well as being a positive influence on others.

Ask for feedback frequently
Sometimes we can let uncertainty fuel our anxiety and stress at work. Instead of wondering how your boss feels about your work, if you are taking the right direction on a new project, or unsure of how recent changes may affect you, set up regular meetings with your superior and don’t be afraid to ask questions or ask for feedback. It could be a quick and easy way to settle the unsettled.

Take charge of your professional development
Take a class, learn a new skill, volunteer for a project at work. Continuing to challenge yourself not only can help you at your job, but it can help sharpen cognitive skills and add a new sense of accomplishment.

Don’t forget to smile and laugh
Smiling and laughing releases endorphins which increases happiness and lowers stress levels. Whether you feel like it or not, you still get the benefits if you take these positive actions. So start now and crack a smile!

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Safety Tips for the Holidays

The following safety tips are intended to help protect you from theft, fraud or other criminal activity. Pay attention when expecting packages, doing holiday shopping, traveling, putting out your trash, and holiday weather.

Holiday Safety Tips

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Avoid Holiday Traps: Increase the Spirit, Not the Stress

Do you remember how you felt last holiday season? Were you filled with holiday cheer? Did you feel a lot of stress? Or did you feel lonely and sad?

We all experience the holidays differently. If you are part of the group that is filled with cheer, then you are likely looking forward to the season. If you feel the holidays are becoming harder to enjoy, then the sights, sounds, and smells of the holidays probably have you in anticipation.

To prepare yourself for a more positive holiday season, avoid the many holiday traps. Start by identifying two to three things that you believe most contribute to your holiday stress or blues and take an alternative approach this season with these tips.

Holiday Trap:  The Overextender, The Procrastinator

Holiday stress is no stranger to the individual who overextends oneself or the one who procrastinates. Whether you are a procrastinator or an overextender, the same principles are important for both personalities: Time Management.

Keep a regular schedule
Big disruptions in your regular schedule can compound stress. Grab your calendar now and list holiday tasks that you can fit into your existing routine. Making a list of what takes the most time can help you pace yourself during the holiday season and incorporate one big task at a time. Starting early will be vital.

Prioritize
Schedule your priorities: Prioritize what needs to be done, give it a timeline, and assign to a person. You don’t need to go at it alone. If you need to meet weekly to see if everyone is doing their part, then do so. What causes stress for many is that they feel like the majority of the responsibilities fall upon them. Spread it out, ask for help.

Make plans and avoid hectic schedules
Remember, you don’t have to fit EVERYTHING in and you can say no. Determine which events are the most special, and which ones are not so important. After you review and make your list of plans, put your calendar of events on the refrigerator. If the calendar looks too full, it probably is. Re-evaluate and get a schedule that doesn’t make your heart race.

Have realistic expectations
Everyone has a different idea of what the holidays should look like and feel like. Finding the best present, getting compliments for the dinner you cooked, hoping your house wins the community decorating contest, or wishing for that “perfect” holiday can bring on undue stress. Give yourself a break by being more focused on the overall joy of the season, not just monotonous details.

Holiday Trap: Financial Blues

Holidays may include going to events, buying presents, hosting dinners for family and friends, traveling out of town, etc. And what does this all translate into = MONEY. Going into the holiday season financially blind, could put a strain on your bank account.

Set a Budget: You don’t need to break the bank
Determine ahead of time how much money you will devote to the holidays.  Consider all expenses that go into the preparation, planning, and even recovery from the various events and gatherings (hostess gifts, teacher gifts, holiday cards and postage, shipping costs, gift boxes, wrapping paper, the tree, decorations, etc.).  Start planning and saving now – and stick to your budget.

Limit credit card use
Credit cards can tempt you to break the budget and spend what you don’t have. Put cash in envelopes and mark each for its purpose – presents, food, travel, etc. If there is no cash left in the respective envelope, you have hit your budget.  If you have to use a credit card, determine what amount is acceptable and that can be paid off within the next couple of statement cycles.

Don’t buy impulsively
Impulse buying is made easy by retailers.  Fight the marketing ploys by making a list of presents you need and don’t go beyond this list. Just because you see something else that you know they would love, or it is on sale, doesn’t mean you have to buy it. Stick to your list.

Bargain shop
Extra time spent looking for sales could mean extra money in your wallet. Shopping early and planning around sales can help. Search for coupons or promotional codes

Be creative
Make your own gifts – photo album, recipe book, ornaments, or maybe it is handing something down. Offer the gift of time: Your services could be very valuable to someone (babysitting, pet sitting, errands). Families that who may continue to grow might start drawing names for gift giving or start pooling resources to buy gifts for friends or family.

Holiday Trap: Forgoing Healthy Eating and Exercising

Holidays may not be the time to go on a weight loss program, but you can be mindful of what you are eating and how often you are eating. Although more food tends to be lurking at home and at work during the holidays, you can have a plan to not go overboard. Use these tips to stay on track.

Things to avoid:

  • Eating so fast and going back for seconds and thirds
  • Eating like every day is a holiday – consuming anything you want all day and everyday
  • Eating too much of one food group, especially those carbs and sugars that can weigh you down
  • Taking plenty of stimulants
  • Not exercising
  • Added calories (dressings, gravies, sweets)

Tips for healthier holidays:

  • Be mindful of the foods you’re eating
  • Allow yourself 20-30 minutes to eat your meal before going back for seconds
  • Enjoy holiday foods on the specific holiday
  • Choose foods you most enjoy, skip those you don’t
  • Decrease caffeine, sugar, nicotine, and other stimulants
  • Watch portion sizes
  • Have healthy snacks available
  • Be mindful of all or nothing thinking
  • Incorporate physical activity (sign up for a race, be active with the family, wear a fitbit) 

Holiday Trap: Bah Humbug

Not everyone is full of cheer during the holidays. Some are dealing with the loss of loved ones or not having family around. Others face family conflict or holiday disappointment. But the holidays don’t have to be bah humbug.

Don’t isolate
Having feelings of sadness or loneliness may lead some to isolate. But whether you are dealing with loss or don’t have family around, you don’t have to be alone during the holidays. Commit to attending events (RSVP early and buy tickets) where you can be surrounded by people who care about you or take advantage of holiday events where you can meet new people. Seek out new experiences or revisit holiday activities that have given you joy in the past. Find out who else may be alone this holiday season and form your own holiday get together.  Consider volunteering and helping others who are in need.

Keep your expectations in check
Real life is not like the movies or pictures in magazines. We can easily be disappointed when we have such high expectations for the holidays. Review your expectations – are they yours or someone else’s? Is this picture still feasible or have things changed? You might check in with others – maybe you are focusing on things that are no longer important to others. Do yourself a favor and take a ‘good enough’ approach this year.

Don’t invite conflict
You’ve heard of the saying, “You can’t pick your family.”  For some, holiday gatherings can lead to dread. Remember, the holidays aren’t a time to talk about controversial things or rehash old wounds. If you are afraid these wounds might be reopened, talk to your family members involved and agree to not discuss during the holidays. If you are struggling to please everyone, make sure you are upfront about your plans (especially if you have to share your time between several families). And remember to pick your battles and know when you need a break. If you know Aunt Ida is going to make a comment again – have your polite response ready so you are not caught off guard.

If you can, the holidays are a great time forgive and let go.

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Are Your Workplace Habits Affecting Your Productivity?

With increasing demands at work and having to do more with less, it is important to stay focused and productive. And although technology can make our lives easier, it also can tie us down and interfere with our thought processes. So what workplace habits help us be more productive, and which workplace habits hurt us?  First, identify a common feeling(s) that you have at work and then look at behaviors that are contributing to those feelings and to your productivity levels.

Do any of these sound familiar?
I have writer’s block
I can’t think
I can’t focus

If you said yes, check your technology patterns.
In this digital age, being tied to technology can affect our ability to stay focused on work goals. Studies have shown that when we are constantly bombarded with several streams of electronic information – juggling e-mail, instant messaging, reading blogs, interacting on social media and other incoming information – it undermines our brain’s ability to focus because we are unable to filter out what’s irrelevant to the task at hand. This failure to filter means we are slowed down by the irrelevant information resulting in decreased efficiency during the day.

What can you do?
Step away and unplug for 5 minutes, 5 times a day. This may help you revive creativity, focus better, and increase thought processes.

Do you ever feel this way?
I feel so unproductive
What did I even get done today
I’ve started so many things, but haven’t finished one thing

If you said yes, ask yourself if you are trying to multi-task.
When we have so much to do, multi-tasking seems to be the key to functioning most days. But research shows that the brain’s capacity for processing more than one task simultaneously is sharply limited. We might think that we are multi-tasking, but in reality, our brain is rapidly switching its attention resources back and forth from one task to another.

This doesn’t mean that you can’t walk and chew gum, but in general, tasks that require some mental processing seem to be handled sequentially by the brain, not simultaneously. Studies actually suggest that it takes the brain up to 50 percent more time to do two task at once vs. one at a time.

What can you do?
Try to work on one task at a time, giving that task your full attention. Start with 15 minute intervals. To monitor your productivity level, write a to-do list and mark off tasks one at a time and see if you feel more productive at the end of day than when you are so called multi-tasking.

Does this describe your particular day?
I have so much to do
How am I going to get all this done
Where do I start

If you said yes, then take a look at how you schedule your day.
With your task list growing and no more hours in the day, you can easily become overwhelmed and not know even where to begin.  Everything is important, isn’t it!

Stephen Covey shares, “The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.”  Essentially, Mr. Covey is suggesting that if it’s important, it must be scheduled just like an important meeting. Otherwise, you run the risk of it not getting done, or at least not on time.

What can you do?
Take time each morning to plan your day. Start with a simple to do list, identifying your two most critical tasks and allocate prime brain time to them. If one task will take 2 hours, schedule that in your day just like an appointment. Keep in mind deadlines, how much time to complete a task, and what time of day you feel most productive. This well help organize your priorities and have a scheduled plan to tackle them.

Do you ever say this to yourself?
I don’t feel challenged
I don’t get excited to come to work
I ‘m forgetting or slowing down

If you said yes, ask yourself if you are stuck in routine.
Sometimes we feel most comfortable in routines, but it is not always best for our minds or our morale. When thoughts, conversations, and activities become routine, our brain gets bored and goes backward. You might have noticed that your productivity has slowed, you are less creative, maybe even forgetful. Remember that changing it up is good for the brain.

What should you do?
Take on a new task at work, volunteer for an upcoming project or assignment, learn a new software program, or cross-train with colleagues. Don’t be scared of change or a new challenge – your brain will thank you for it.

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