Category Archives: wellness

6 Ways to Survive the Dog Days of Summer

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sun-622740_1920.jpgAugust has arrived and brought extreme heat to the Pacific Northwest. We are not accustomed to triple digit temperatures in this region of the country. There is evidence that extreme temperatures can affect mood, and high heat can increase aggression. According to research, intergroup conflicts increase by 14% while interpersonal violence increases 4% during peak heat cycles.

So, how do you keep your cool when heat strikes?

  1. Slow Down – Reduce the number of tasks and appointments to the minimum to allow time to move from task to task at an easy pace. Rushing increases stress and body temperature.
  2. Stay Inside – If you are particularly sensitive to heat, stay in as much as possible. If you don’t have access to air conditioning, keep shades and curtains closed, avoiding upper floors as much as possible. Remember heat rises.
  3. Drink Plenty of Fluids – We all need water for health benefits, but during hot weather we need extra fluids to replace what is lost through perspiration. Avoid dehydrating beverages such as caffeinated drinks and alcohol and increase consumption of water and iced herbal teas.
  4. Wear White – Wear white or lighter colored clothing which reflects the heat instead of black or darker shades which tend to absorb the heat.
  5. Eat Lightly – Eat smaller portions more frequently through the day to reduce strain on digestion. Avoid eating large meals.
  6. Cool Down Fast – Even with good intentions, we can sometimes over do it and end up overheated. To cool down fast, apply ice packs, cool compresses or cold water to the pulse spots on your body which brings down the temperature of your blood vessels and lowers your overall body temperature. Areas of focus included the neck, inner wrists, back of knees, ankles, top of feet, temples, inside bend of elbows, and inner thighs.

The impact of weather on mood can be reduced significantly by being flexible. Have backup plans for activities to do inside on hot days such as going to the movies or engaging in hobbies. Or, plan water related activities such as swimming or going to the beach and save hiking for the more temperate days.

A Cup Full of Self-Compassion: Kindness Challenge Reflection

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Is your cup half empty or half full?

More important than how full is your cup, is WHAT is your cup filled with? There have been times in my life where my cup has been filled with negative thoughts, poor self image, and painful memories. When our cups are filled with negativity, self-compassion is impossible. Anything can become a weapon to tear away at our spirit.

Anyone who has travelled by air has hear the flight attendants give the standard safety message:

“Should the cabin experience sudden pressure loss, stay calm and listen for instructions from the cabin crew. Oxygen masks will drop down from above your seat. Place the mask over your mouth and nose, like this. Pull the strap to tighten it. Please make sure that your own mask is on first before helping those seated next to you.”

The message is clear. If you don’t have anything to give, you can’t be of help to anyone else.

I have found that in order to give of myself to clients, family, and friends, I must consistently check the status of my cup and purposely fill it with love and compassion. Taking time to care for my body, mind, and spirit is a necessity. And so is forgiving myself for the days when I am not my best self.

Those days that I don’t get everything done that I thought I should or when I said something that I later regretted, aren’t who I am. Compassion includes gifting myself the same compassion that I would offer someone else. I acknowledge my strengths and my weaknesses. I forgive myself. I care for myself. And when I do, my cup is filled with love and compassion which can freely flow out to those around me.

Kindness Challenge

This post is from Week 1 of the 2017 Kindness Challenge. For more information or to view other participants’ submissions, please click here.

Kindness Challenge Reflection: Self-Love

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Self-love can be a difficult thing to find when you have spent your life feeling “less than.” A history of traumatic events can lead a person to erect a concrete wall around their heart. Love for others is difficult, but love of self can become nearly impossible.

Short of breaking out a jack hammer, how do we overcome the negative thoughts and emotions that hold us back from loving ourselves?

Get to know yourself

Who are you really? What do you like? What are you really good at? Imagine all the questions that you would ask a person you’ve just met and want to get to know better.

I am a writer, a therapist, a sister, a traveler, and an activist. I am friendly, funny, curious and sometimes silly. I like coffee (and tea), fluffy dogs, and the beach.

Take responsibility for your life

Wherever you are today is where you are today. While you cannot change what has happened to you in the past, you can take full responsibility for the choices you make today. Your decisions today are not the fault of your parents, teachers and others that shaped your early life.

Begin a path of healing by seeking out respected therapists, clergy, or healers who can support you in taking responsibility. Create a circle of friends who will hold you accountable to your choices.

Set and maintain clear boundaries

Loving yourself means protecting yourself. Teach others how to treat you by setting clear boundaries. Practice saying “no” to events, activities, or requests for help that don’t fit in your schedule or interfere with self-care or important relationships.

Nurture yourself

Most children have caring adults devoted to cuddle, nurse, teach, and play with them. These loving adult relationships fill the heart and nurture the soul. As an adult, the responsibility to receive nurturing falls on you.

Create a list of enjoyable and soothing activities to try. Some ideas? Take a walk early in the morning before the neighborhood wakes up, slip into a warm bath with scented bath salts, savor a piece of dark chocolate alongside your favorite coffee, or slip into your favorite pajamas and fluffy socks before curling up on the couch to read.

Manage your health

Taking time to manage your health creates more time to enjoy your life. Loving yourself includes taking yourself to the doctor and dentist, taking medications on time, eating healthy foods, and getting adequate physical activity.

Create personal affirmations

Like anything else, learning to love ourselves is a process. Affirmations are a beautiful way to help us remain focused on the path we have chosen. Create your affirmation by thinking about what you want to manifest in your life.

Not sure where to start? Spend some time writing in your journal about how you want your life to be. While you are working on your own personal affirmation, practice one of these:

  • I am deserving of love.
  • I am at peace with my past and enjoy a life of balance and harmony.
  • I love myself; I am growing and healing everyday.

Several years ago, I spent a day writing a personal affirmation. I had been on a retreat that inspired me to accept myself and begin to thrive. Each year since, I have revised the affirmation so that it continues to be my guide. Below is my current version:

My life is an adventure and I seek new experiences.

I do not put off doing something until “later.”

I live my life to the fullest everyday.

I am healthy, beautiful and fit: I spend time doing rather than watching.

I am a warrior: I control the direction of my life.

I can accomplish what I set out to do.

I love myself and deserve to be treated well.

Kindness Challenge

This post is from Week 1 of the 2017 Kindness Challenge. For more information or to view other participants’ submissions, please click here.

Creating a Personal Occupational Wellness Plan

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planning-620299_1280Creating wellness in our lives is simple, but not always easy. Our work life is often overlooked when considering self-improvement. Developing a plan to incorporate wellness into our work requires time for self reflection.

Find a quiet space and make yourself comfortable. Take out a pen and paper and set aside an hour or two to contemplate the following questions. Write down any thoughts that come to mind without editing them.

  1. Am I doing work that matters to me?
  2. What do I set aside to work on career activities (Example: family activities, health care, exercise, spiritual practices, etc.)
  3. What part of my work brings me deep satisfaction?
  4.  Do I have the tools and education to do my work well?
  5. Why did I choose this work?
  6. What do I want to achieve professionally this year?

During your reflection, you may have come to some conclusions about changes you may need to make in your career path. If so, begin working on a plan to shift your career in the direction that you want to move, but continue to work to improve wellness in your current situation.

Personal Occupational Wellness Plan

  1. Plan your day the night before

Steven Covey, author of 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, had it right when he encouraged the habit of “Begin with the end in mind.” In an era where technology is a ready distraction, having a plan to accomplish daily tasks and minimize disruptions from email, telephone calls and drop-in visitors. Take 5-10 minutes before you leave for the day to review your task list. Note 3-5 priorities for the next day. Then review your appointment schedule and carve out time to complete your most important tasks.

  1. Reset your workspace before you leave work

Clear off your desk, straighten furniture, wash your coffee cup. Place items where they belong so that when you enter your workspace in the morning, it is fresh and ready for action.

  1. Start the day with a ritual

Create a morning ritual for work. A simple ritual would be to sit at your desk with your cup of coffee or tea, turn on the desk lamp, take three deep breaths and repeat your affirmation for the day, take three more deep breaths before turning on the computer and viewing the first order of business.

  1. Complete a priority task first

Schedule some time at the beginning of your day to complete at least one of the high priority tasks that you identified the night before. Checking that item off the list right away increases motivation and frees up mental energy.

  1. Take breaks throughout the day

First, eat lunch every day away from your desk. Even if you don’t have enough time to leave the office, take your lunch to the employee lounge. This reduces the temptation to continue to work through lunch and provides an opportunity to interact with coworkers.

Second, take mini breaks every hour. Americans sit too much and it is hard on the body and bad for health. Stand up and stretch for one minute or walk to furthest restroom. Refill your water bottle in the employee lounge or take a quick walk around the building.

  1. Fuel your body

Pack healthy snacks to nosh on throughout the day. Keep packets of nuts, protein bars, and dried fruit in your desk for quick boosts of energy. Keep a water bottle on your desk to refill throughout the day to stay hydrated.

  1. Leave on time

In truth, very few things can’t be left until the next day. When you reach the end of your scheduled work day, take a few minutes to plan for tomorrow and reset your office, then turn off the lights and leave the office. Spend the evening building relationships, engaging in creative endeavors, exercising, writing, reading, and whatever else brings you joy.

A Mindful Valentine’s Day

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{Photo taken at Chihuly Garden and Glass, Seattle, Washington 2017}

 

Valentine’s Day is often filled with hearts, flowers and high expectations. A recent visit to the Chihuly Garden and Glass exhibit in Seattle reminded me of the complexity of relationships. Like this chandelier art piece, life swirls and changes. The deeper you look into your life, the more you see.

Take a few minutes to focus on the picture above. Still yourself and notice the changing shapes and colors.

Be mindful today and go out in love.

 

Creating a Culture of Wellness: Occupational Wellness (Part 2)

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img_0244A few weeks ago, I wrote about Creating a Culture of Wellness in your life. Part one focused on improving emotional wellness.  Today’s post will explore the concept of occupational wellness.

University of California, Riverside defines occupational wellness as:

“the ability to achieve a balance between work and leisure time, addressing workplace stress and building relationships with coworkers. It focuses on our search for a calling and involves exploring various career options and finding where you fit.”

In my pre-therapist life, I worked in real estate marketing. I dreaded going to work. I spent most of my days working on tasks that I didn’t enjoy and wasn’t certain that they mattered to anyone except my supervisor. I worked long hours, spent little time with my family and drank more lattes in one day than anyone should drink.

Then in 2001, the book Good to Great came out and blew through corporate America like a Kansas tornado. My manager was no exception. One day he came into my office and asked me one of the most popular questions that percolated from that book: “Are you in the right seat on the bus?” My answer bubbled up before I had a chance to contemplate it. “I’m not sure that I’m even on the right bus.” Within two years of that conversation, I had left corporate America and entered the world of non-profit social work.

In short, occupational wellness is about loving what you do, doing what you love and loving yourself along the way. Here are a few questions to help you determine your level of occupational wellness.

1.   Do you enjoy going to work most days?

Is heading to work, just the next thing on your daily to do list, or do you start dreading the beginning of the work week on Sunday morning? Are you wasting your downtime lamenting how much you detest your job

2.  When you leave work, do you continue to think about clients, tasks or paperwork into the evening?

Do you find yourself thinking about the difficult client or the unsigned contract while your partner is talking to you? Do characters in your favorite television program remind you of clients or coworkers.

3.  Do you regularly work more than your scheduled work week.

Are you regularly scheduling an afterhours appointment because there was no other time to fit them in? Or do you stay just a few minutes late daily to catch up on routine paperwork, phone calls, and emails?

4.  Do you feel that your workload is manageable?

Do you cringe when you open your daily schedule and see your client load? Do you wonder if you are going to be able to eat lunch today? Or when you might use the restroom?

5.  Do you have at least one coworker that you can discuss non work related topics with over lunch or a break?

Is there someone you can talk to about anything other than your difficult clients, frustrating supervisors, overbooked schedule, etc.? Can you talk to others about books, family, hiking, or other personal interests.

6.  Do you feel that you can go to your supervisor or a coworker for guidance with a work-related problem?

Does the thought of asking for help strike fear in your heart or do you feel that your supervisor and coworkers are available for support and guidance?

7.  Do you feel that your work matters?

Is what you do important to somebody? When you think about the work that you do, do you have a sense of accomplishment?

Americans generally spend more than one-third of their waking hours engaged in occupational activities. During the work week, this is often more time than we spend with our friends and families. If you feel uncomfortable with your answers to the above questions, it is likely time for you to develop an occupational wellness plan for your life. Watch for an upcoming post: Creating a Personal Occupational Wellness Plan.

Take a Walk on the Mindful Side: Visual Imagery

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It’s been a tough day. There is too much going on and your emotions feel frayed. At this moment, you would like nothing better than to get away from it all. However, you only have a few minutes to decompress. So you decide to revisit your favorite place without leaving your current space.

A Peace of the Forest

Taking a deep breath, you close your eyes and settle yourself comfortably in your chair. Your feet are planted on the floor and you can feel the connection to the earth.

Taking another deep breath, you visualize walking through the entrance to your favorite park. There is a brick and metal arch that you walk through, pausing to feel the texture of the brick that has been in this place for over 100 years. The bricks feel warm to the touch and you feel the sun warming the back of your hand.

As you pass through the arch, the sun becomes filtered by the branches of the old growth trees that fill the park. The sidewalk comes to an end and you find yourself on a well groomed path covered in bark chips. You slow and take a deep breath, savoring the smell of the pines.

Your feet are quiet, there is barely a rustle to be heard as you walk along.

Soon you reach a place where the trail splits into four directions and you pause to choose which way to go.

You take a deep breath as you consider which of the four paths to take.

Breath in, breath out.

Breath in, breath out.

Breath in, breath out.

Breath in, breath out.

You feel calm and the peace that being in nature brings and you make your decision easily.

As you begin moving forward, you feel confident in your choice.

The path narrows and winds through a heavily wooded area. Scents of pine and damp earth fill your senses. You can hear squirrels and chipmunks running through the branches of the trees and birds calling back and forth to each other.

As you approach a bend in the path, a new sound begins to tease your ears. A soft trickle. The sound of water.

Around the corner, the forest opens up to a small creek which whispers quietly as it passes over rocks in the river bed.

A large flat rock sits on the edge of the stream and you climb up. As you sit, you can feel the warmth of the sun on your face and the solid warmth of the rock underneath.

Breathing deeply, you imagine breathing in the peace from this moment in time and breathing out any worries that you have carried with you into the forest.

Breath in, breath out.

Breath in, breath out.

Breath in, breath out.

Breath in, breath out.

After a time, the sun begins to fade and you stand and begin your journey back. As you pass through the woods and to the intersection of the paths and then to the metal and brick arch that frames the entrance to the park, you notice that you still carry with you the sense of peace that you found on your journey.

7 Ways to Have More Fun Everyday

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Life is hard sometimes. We work, attend school, home repairs, shopping, shuttle children, go to the gym, clean the toilet, attend community meetings and repeat it all again tomorrow. Without conscious effort, life can become an endless to do list that we are simultaneously checking off and expanding.

What we need is a little bit of fun!

Fun: noun

1 : someone or something that provides amusement or enjoyment <the twins were fun to have around> <picnics are great fun>

2 : a good time : AMUSEMENT, ENJOYMENT <have fun> <plays cards just for fun>*

Imagine that you are cooking dinner day after day and the only seasonings you have are salt and pepper. Not bad, but kind of boring. Then one night you open up the cupboard and there is a small jar of curry powder. Wowza!  Dinner has just become much more interesting.

“The opposite of play is not work it is depression.” ~ Brian Sutton-Smith, The National Institute for Play

Adding a bit of fun into your day is a simple way to boost mood and energy. The science backs me up here. The sillier it feels, the more it boosts mood.

  1. Sing in the shower or in your car.

Hit play on your favorite playlist and belt it out with the music. Are you “All About the Bass?” Or do you want to “Whip it, Whip it good?”

  1. Color

Adult coloring books are all the rage right now. You can pick them up at your local bookstore or local discount store. Tuck one in your tote and pull it out when you have a few minutes between appointments or during your lunch break. Keep colored pens in your bag and use them to take notes rather than the standard blue or black. A reminder to call the doctor is more interesting in lime green.

  1. Dance Around

On hold with the cable company?  Dance.  Blow drying your hair in the morning?  Dance.  Can’t sit still any longer? Dance.  Take a dance class at your local community center. Classes range from Hip Hop to ballet to belly dance. Get moving.

  1. Learn Something New

Try out a free app like Duolingo and learn Norwegian or Swahili or Klingon. Take a music class and learn to play the ukulele or the trumpet.

  1. Write

Make up a story and write it down. Make it as crazy and unpredictable as you can.

  1. Smile More

Smile at yourself in the mirror. Smile at the person you pass on the street when you go to get a cup of coffee. Smile at the grocery store clerk, the bank teller, the person in the car next to you at the light. The average adult smiles 15 or fewer times per day. How many times can you smile?

  1. Embrace Your Quirks

Is there something that others point out to you as, well, a little bit different?  Embrace it.  Love pine cones? Keep a small basket of pine cones in your reading area or your office. Love purple? Wear it every Monday. (PS: This is one of my quirks!) Love travel?  Frame and hang a map from your favorite trip above your desk.

I’m always looking for more ways to incorporate fun into my life and the life of my clients. Do you have a favorite fun manifesting activity?  Let me know in the comments below.

 

*  Definition from: http://www.wordcentral.com/cgi-bin/student?book=Student&va=fun

3 Ways to Improve Wellness Today

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Small steps forward are more productive than immobility.

The last few weeks, the Pacific Northwest has been hit by several unusual weather events. Many areas of the country are accustomed to dealing with snow and ice and life continues to move forward, albeit a bit more slowly. In Oregon, anything resembling a white flake in the sky is cause to shut down schools and send people running to the grocery store in a panic. You must stock up now for Snowpocolypse 2017.

Tens of thousands of people become immobile. People cancel medical and mental health appointments. They hole up in their homes, drinking hot chocolate and hoping that the weather will return to normal by tomorrow and secretly praying for another snow day.

Choosing wellness means choosing to move forward, even with the smallest of steps. In fact, experience shows us that small steps are usually more sustainable than giant leaps forward.

Wellness is the fruit of planning and commitment to the plan. You must make time to create wellness in your life:

to think

to play

to do

Think

Slow down. Stress and burnout is fueled by over action. Take time each day to simply think. Develop a daily ritual which includes meditation, prayer and journaling. Read deeply and widely about many subjects. Give yourself time to reflect on your reading, your wellness, your relationships, and your community.

Time to think gives you space to work through problems, generate ideas and just be.

Play

Play and fun are the fuel of creativity. Dance, sing, skip, exercise and move your body daily. Draw, paint, color, cook, and dream. Take vacations, travel to cities and countries that you haven’t visited before. Attend community theater, poetry readings, and art gallery receptions.

Fill you mind and body with color, light and energy.

Do

Create a plan to accomplish the tasks on your wellness plan, to build relationships, manage self- care, and achieve your career goals. Use a planner or bullet journal and identify 2-3 tasks that you can accomplish each day to move you closer to your wellness goals.

Mind Over Stress: One Minute Mindfulness Activities

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Stress happens to the best of us. There are pressures at work and at home. Daily meditation and mindfulness practices help to reduce overall stress and anxiety and support focus. Sometimes, however, you just need a quick reset to get grounded. Below are seven of my favorite mindfulness activities that can help you to regain balance.

  1. Paced breathing

Find a quiet spot where you can sit comfortably with your feet on the floor. Close your eyes or focus on an immovable object in the room. Take a deep breath in for six counts, filling your belly. Hold the breath for four counts and then breath out for eight counts. Repeat 4-5 times.

  1. Visual Imagery

Close your eyes and take a deep breath. Imagine you are in your favorite place. It could be the beach, your garden, on a mountain top, anywhere that you find peace. Notice the sounds and smells of your favorite place. The temperature? Is it cold or warm? Look around at the things that makes this your peaceful place. Take a deep breath and slowly open your eyes.

  1. Progressive Muscle Relaxation

Sit or lay down in a comfortable space. Close your eyes and take a couple of deep breaths. Beginning at your toes, tighten your muscles and hold for 5-10 seconds and then release. Continue to your calves, thighs, abdomen, chest, shoulders, and face. Tense your muscles, hold and release.

  1. 3 Senses

Your senses ground you to this place and this time. Look around the room and notice three things that you can see. Then identify three things that you can hear. Finally, notice three things that you can smell.

  1. Cup of Tea

This activity may take a bit longer than a minute if you need to heat the water, but is well worth it. Choose a tea of your liking and breath in the scent. Slowly pour hot water over tea in a cup. Notice the change in aroma. Hold the cup with both hands, absorbing the warmth as the tea steeps. Focus on each step in the process of making the tea.

  1. Candle Watching

The light of fire is mesmerizing. Light a candle and focus on its flame for one minute. Notice the way it flickers in the air. See the changes in color from the center to the outside of the flame. Extinguish the flame and notice the scent that remains on the air.

  1. Eating Mindfully

Need a chocolate fix? Chocolate is a great stressbuster, especially if you take time to eat it mindfully. The goal is to eat the chocolate as slowly as possible. Open the wrapper slowly, inhale the aroma of the rich chocolate. Take a small bite and focus on how the chocolate melts on your tongue, filling your mouth with smooth sweetness.