Tag Archives: health

Making the Shift: An Evening Ritual

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Making the Shift: An Evening Ritual

harmony-1229893_1920In a recent post I discussed the value of a morning ritual to support focus, creativity, and peace. I have found that a brief evening ritual can support the transition from work to home.

Working in community mental health care can be challenging and sometimes stressful. It is important to set aside the content of the day and leave it in the office so that you can be fully present at home with family and friends.

I first recognized the need for an end of the day ritual when I was providing mental health services to children and families in their homes. I often ended my day at a client’s home before beginning the commute home.

On my hour long drive, I would find myself processing the contents of client sessions, planning my work for the next day, and reformulating treatment plans. I would arrive home worn out and mentally still at work.

After several months of my commute, I noticed a ramshackle barn about halfway between home and work. The old red barn had started to crumble and nature was doing its best to reclaim the space. Vines grew through the building, up and out of holes that had developed in the roof. I first noticed the barn when the vines began to flower in the spring. Hundreds of tiny white flowers blanketed the roof of the barn.

That ramshackle barn in the middle of nowhere became the trigger for my first evening ritual.

Rituals require structure to be effective and I created a simple rule that cared for my budding ritual. Each night as I traveled home from work, I allowed my mind to process and wander through all the sessions, meetings, and tasks of the day. However, when the old barn came in sight, all thoughts of work were relegated to the back of my mind and I turned my focus to the tasks of my life. My mind began to make dinner plans, consider the route for walking the dog, think about weeding the garden, and creating a list of things to pack on my upcoming vacation. If work thoughts crept in, they were shooed away and I refocused on personal thoughts and plans.

A couple of years ago, I made a shift in my work to clinic based treatment. This has created a number of changes in my life including eliminating a lengthy commute. However, with the loss of the commute also came the loss of my evening ritual.

My new ritual is just as simple, but takes place before I leave the office for the day. Each night after the last client has left, I straighten my office so that it is ready for the first client the next day. Chairs are realigned, toys replaced on shelves, and the markers and colored pencils are sorted back into their cups on the art table. I gather my personal belongings to take home and clear my desk of everything except my notebook. Taking a couple of centering breaths, I consider any tasks or ideas that I want to follow up on the next day and jot them in the notebook before returning it to the desk drawer. Having cleared my mind, I pull the cord on the lamp to turn out the light, lock the door and step out of my office door into my personal life.

A WARM Morning Ritual

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IMG_0409Those who know me well are cognizant that I do not naturally lean towards rituals, habits and organization. I thrive in creativity and fluidity.

However, in my professional practice, I have discovered the value of daily rituals. I have come to discover that well planned rituals can create smooth transitions from home life to professional life and back again.

My morning ritual has metamorphosed over the years and settled into a simple four part practice: WARM.

Write

Julia Cameron, author of The Artist’s Way encourages a daily writing practice she calls “Morning Pages.” Part journal, part mind-dump, these three pages of long hand writing help to clear the mind of all the extraneous information, fears and concerns. It creates a clear space to begin the day.

Affirmations

Affirmations are an effective way to focus our intentions for our lives and our work. They support healthy change affecting mind, body, and spirit. I use a combination of 2-3 affirmation statements each day which correspond with my desired growth in my professional life, personal life, and physical health. Affirmations can be modified as needed to support current goals.

Read

Knowledge is power. While working to establish the University of Virginia in 1817, Thomas Jefferson wrote “that knowledge is power, that knowledge is safety, and tht knowledge is happiness.” Reading a variety of materials increases knowledge. I encourage reading of professional journals, novels, literature, non-fiction, meditations, spiritual texts, and more. An additional benefit, according to the University of Sussex, is that just 6 minutes of reading per day can reduce stress levels by 68%.

Meditate

Meditation reduces stress, increases clarity and creativity, as well as increasing mindfulness and tolerance. Meditation does not have to be a complicated process. There are numerous articles and books written on beginning meditation, but a couple of simple ways to get started is by setting aside five minutes to focus on deep breathing, listen calming music and focus on one element of the music, or combine with affirmation work by focusing on your affirmation with each breath.

Take some time this week and begin to develop or refine your own morning routine. Add or change one element at a time to make sustainable changes. Feel free to comment below on your current morning ritual or on the impact of any changes you make.

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.

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.

2017: The Search for Wellness

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2017: The Search for Wellness

The New Year’s festivities have wrapped up and like everyone else, I am beginning to slide back into that normal routine that existed before the holidays. Laundry, work, writing, groceries, the to do list has changed considerably from two weeks ago when it read: wrap gifts, make pie, find holly.

It’s time to pack up the Christmas ornaments and slide them back into the back of the closet for the next eleven months. It’s time to start the new year, with its mixture of hope and fear.

Like many, I have set intentions instead of resolutions as resolutions are often dissolved by mid February. Intentions have a way of moving us forward without us even realizing that we have moved.

It has become my practice to set my intentions for the year by choosing a single focus word. More on how to choose a focus word can be found at OneWord.com or MyOneWord.org and also at OneWord365.com.

And so this year, I begin the search for Wellness. In my search for wellness for myself and my community, I plan to explore the many dimensions of wellness including emotional, physical, social, intellectual, occupational and spiritual.

Many times I have heard “begin as you want to finish.” So, let’s begin strong.

Looking Upward and Onward

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Looking Upward and Onward

Winter often seems as if it is a time of death. Darkness and cold envelop us in the winter. But, underneath the seeming bleakness new life is stirring, ready to burst out at the slightest hint of sunshine.