Tag Archives: work

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.

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.

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.