Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Wellness Wednesday: {Overview of Work}

First I'd like to say- Happy Leap Year Day! :) I hope you enjoy it since it only comes around once every 4 years.

Welcome back to Wellness Wednesday, a fun mid-week look at the areas of wellness in our lives. To remind you, in talking about wellness I'm discussing the positive factors in life that help protect us from the events of life. Wellness is therefore not about the absence of the negative, but the presence of the positive. Remember that I am using the Wheel of Wellness to show the various factors of wellness in our lives.

After introducing the ideas behind work & leisure last week, today we'll be looking in more detail at the factor of "work" in our lives.

Myers & Sweeney define "work" the following way:

Activity that contributes to the well-being of self and others: perception of adequacy of financial resources (financial freedom), job satisfaction, feeling that one’s skills are used, perception of work overload, role conflict, role ambiguity (i.e., psychological job security), participation in decision making (i.e., feeling appreciated), satisfaction with relationships in the job setting

The continue by saying "People who view their career as a calling tend to experience the highest work satisfaction. Feelings of competence in work tasks also have a positive effect on life satisfaction, and work experiences and work outcomes are consistently and positively related to self-reported emotional well-being" (Myers & Sweeney, 2005, p. 26)*.

Given that we spend a large percentage of our waking hours at work, our jobs can deeply impact our overall health and wellness. Obviously if you are in a place where you are being attacked, intimidated, or simply not supported, this will start to wear on your health. If you aren't in a safe work environment (emotionally, verbally, mentally, physically), this will start to bring down your overall health and wellness, and it is perhaps not the best place for you to be at. Do you have skills that you feel might be used better at your job? Talk to your boss about it! Use your skills in the best way you can, and your work will be more enjoyable and efficient.

Can you develop healthy, supportive, and fun relationships at your job? Sometimes it's hard to enjoy work when others around you are negative, do you have healthy coping skills to deal with it? It's frustrating to feel like we'll be nagged or attacked when we walk into work, but we cannot change those people. All we can do is deal with ourselves, and we still have the power to keep ourselves healthy.

A few questions to get you thinking:

  1. Do you feel like your skills and abilities are being used at the job you are at?
  2. Do you feel supported by your co-workers or boss?
  3. How can you develop healthy coping skills to deal with negative people at your workplace?
  4. Do you have a sense of control over at least some areas of your work?
  5. Is your job well defined? 
  6. If you job isn't well defined, is there a way that you can get a more clear and detailed description of your job, role, and responsibilities?
  7. Are you respected in the workplace?
Now it's your turn!
What skills do you feel are most used in your workplace? What's your favorite thing about your job? What is one healthy way that you deal with the stress of your job? 

*From: Myers & Sweeney (2005). Counseling for Wellness: Theory, Research, and Practice

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

How To Help A Friend Through A Breakup... {Part 1}

Breakups can be tough, not only for the person, but for that individual's friends and family. Not only might you also be grieving the loss of that person to some extent (i.e.- now you have to "pick sides", or perhaps a siblings significant other had been in your life for many years as well), but you might feel somewhat out of control. You cannot fix your loved ones broken heart, and you can’t make things “ok” for them. However, you can be a great source and love and support for that individual.

It’s important to remember that going through a break up can be an intense time of grieving for the individual. The individual has lost someone important to them, as well as losing their future with that person. It takes time to process the relationship and grieve it.

Here are a few important steps that you can take to help:
  •  Remember that you can’t be the one to fix the broken heart. Only time and the things that the individual does or doesn’t do can heal it. If you try too hard to fix it, you’ll likely frustrate the individual and make them more annoyed and agitated.
  • Be patient and understanding. After a few weeks, and can get frustrating to hear the same complaints from the individual. Perhaps we might feel that things aren’t getting better quickly enough. Helping to normalize that this is a process that takes time can be very helpful to the individual. Don’t try to shame or guilt them into “getting back to normal”.
  •   Be a safe place for the individual to talk and process. It’s healthy for the individual to communicate their feelings and needs to those they feel are safe. Listening in a non-judgmental way is incredibly important. Ask if the individual would like advice before you give it. If the individual feels that you’re always ready with a simple answer to their problems, they may not feel that you are a safe person to disclose information to.
  • Avoid cliché phrases. Statements like “you’re better off”, “there are other people out there for you”, “your ex was a loser”, “everything happens for a reason”, and other similar phrases are more hurtful than helpful.
This post is part of a larger series on surviving a breakup. Check in throughout the next few weeks for more posts on the topic!

Now it's your turn!
What was the best or worst thing that someone said to you when you were going through a breakup? Has a breakup ever been hard on you when you weren't one of the two primary parties involved? 


Monday, February 27, 2012

Thankfulness Project Monday

"Gratefulness is the key to a happy life that we hold in our hands, because if we are not grateful, then no matter how much we have we will not be happy- because we will always want to have something else or something more." - Brother David Steindl-Rast

An interesting quote to get you all thinking this morning. So here are some of the things I'm feeling grateful for on this Monday morning.

  • The Oscars! I've been a fan of Oscar Sunday for many many years. I love the anticipation when I wake up that morning, as I begin to prep food for the little get together I host every year, when people are walking the red carpet, and during the actual show itself. It's a little thing to look forward to, but adds a bit of excitement and joy to my life. It's the little things, right?
  • My work schedule: I'm a fan of my work schedule right now. Not only do I have a full load of clients, but I have some free time to work on other things, such as researching and writing. I've found a great balance at work, and I like it!
  • Chips and salsa. Delicious. Absolutely delicious. I love sweet things in life, but I REALLY love salty things, and this does the trick. I eat a little bit of chips and salsa at least half of the days of the week. 
  • Pictures from vacations: Sometimes when it's cold, gray, or I'm having a bad day, it really lifts my spirits to go through some pictures from some of my favorite vacations, and remember the good memories from that time. 
  • Old episodes of The Office. I have most of the seasons on DVDs, and sometimes I really enjoy whipping them out and watching a few episodes. I always laugh, and they bring a smile to my face. Plus, I enjoy watching awkwardness happen, and Michael certainly is awkward!
Now it's your turn:
What are you thankful for today? Is there a TV show you like to watch when you need a good laugh? Did you watch The Oscars? What were your thoughts?

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Wellness Wednesday: {Life Task 3: Work & Leisure}

Welcome back to Wellness Wednesday, a mid-week look at various factors of wellness in our lives. Wellness isn't so much about the absence of the negative or illness in our lives, but the presence of positive factors that lead to health in our lives. This takes intentional work and focus, but leads us to a place of being a healthy and flourishing individual. Remember that I am using the Wheel of Wellness to discuss wellness:

I've already discussed Life Task 1 (Spirituality) and Life Task 2 (Self-Direction), and today I'll be moving on to Life Task 3 (Work & Leisure). Today's post will be an introduction, and I will break it down and discuss in more detail in future posts.

Myers & Sweeney define this life task the following way:

Activities and tasks essential to personal well-being and social living, including: work & leisure

How's that for a short and sweet definition? Let's look a bit further at what they meant.

"Work & leisure provide opportunities for pleasurable experiences that are intrinsically satisfying and provide a sense of accomplishment. They challenge or engage our senses, skills, and interests, frequently absorbing us in activities in a state of consciousness called flow (Csikszentmihalyi, 2000). This is an optimal state in which an individual loses awareness of self and time while being highly engaged in the task at hand. Excitement and joy are enhanced while anxiety and boredom are minimized" (Myers & Sweeney, 2005, p. 25-26).

Have you ever experienced "flow" in your work? Have you experienced those moments where you lose track of time and are deeply engaged in what you are doing? This could be either at work (place of employment) or in your hobbies and free time.
A few questions to start asking yourself as we prepare for a deeper discussion on work & leisure:

  1. Is work intrinsically satisfying to you?
  2. Does your work or hobbies you are engaged in provide a sense of accomplishment in your life?
  3. Is there an activity or dream you would like to pursue that you feel would provide a sense of accomplishment, use your skills, or absorb you in that activity?
  4. What keeps you from pursuing those dreams in your work or leisure time? 
  5. How might you be a more healthy individual if work was intrinsically satisfying?
  6. How might you increase those times of "flow" in your life?
Now it's your turn:
What're some of your favorite hobbies? What activities do you get the highest sense of accomplishment from in life? Is there something you would like to pursue but haven't allowed yourself to at this point? What is it? 

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The Benefits Of The Winter Seasons In Our Lives

If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant: if we did
not sometimes taste of adversity, prosperity would not be so welcome.
- Charlotte Bronte
Winter can be a struggle, can't it? Although this year has been a little different then many years (warmer temperature, more sun, etc...), winter can still be a bit of a drag. For those who experience some degree of seasonal affective disorder, it can be even more difficult. For more information on that, check out the following posts:
Surviving The Winter Blues

Last year I wrote a post entitled Is There Hope In Winter? I'd like to discuss again a point I brought up in that post. While many of us don't love winter, it provides an interesting reminder and lesson for our lives. While winter is a long, dark, tiresome, or sad period of our lives, we go through it confident that spring will come once again. With it, spring will bring sunshine, new life, flowers, birds chirping, and a heightened mood. The seasons mirror an important lesson for our lives. The winter allows us to learn how to survive unpleasant situations while having hope that spring will come, and with it will come joy once again. When we hit times of adversity, like winter, we feel distress, notice our mood decreases, and feel like the light in our lives decreases. Adversity doesn't last forever, just like winter. Following times of adversity and grief comes the signs of spring, slowly and surely creeping into our lives again. 

There is hope. Whether it's the weather, a tough situation, adversity, pain, or grief- spring will come. Joy will return. 

Now it's your turn!
How do you allow the hope of spring to get you through winter or times of adversity in life? What's your favorite season?

Monday, February 20, 2012

Thankfulness Project Monday

"There is a calmness to a life lived in gratitude, a quiet joy."
-Ralph H. Blum

I love the phrase "a quiet joy". Sometimes we search after the next "big loud joy" in our lives (vacations, time of work or school, visits with friends, etc...), but we don't take time to experience the quiet joys in our lives. What if we took the time to focus in on the quiet joys of our every day lives- the smiles of others, the smells of food cooking, the sounds of birds chirping, or the joy of helping someone else out? How might that change us?

Here are a few of the quiet joys from my week that I am thankful for:

  • The sound of birds chirping: This isn't a sound I expect to hear in mid-February, but when I woke up this morning I heard them chirping outside my window. I paused for a few moments and allowed myself to enjoy the sound that I so often take for granted in my life. 
  • The smell of coffee brewing: I love starting my morning off with a hot cup of coffee, and the smell perks me up, especially on chilly mornings. I have to admit that most of the time I'm guilty of not  pausing to enjoy this little moment of the day. 
  • Sunshine! I'm so thankful that this winter has been sunnier then usual. Even on chilly days the feel of sunshine beating down of me is fantastic. 
  • Music: Music has the ability to deeply move the soul. It can lift our spirit, transport us back in time, and motivate us to keep going. Music is powerful and enjoyable, and I'm glad that it exists!
  • Conversations with family and friends: Sometimes they are planned, sometimes they are unplanned. Either way- I love them! It obviously takes time and intentional effort to reach out to those around us, but it's worth it. 
I challenge each of you to be on the lookout for the "quiet joys" in your life throughout the next week. Pause and notice the sights, sounds, and feelings around you as you live your daily life. 

Now it's your turn!
What makes it difficult to notice the "quiet joys" in your life? What are you thankful for today? 

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Love is...

"Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails...And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love."
~1 Corinthians 13

This passage has always stood out to me. What if we each loved others this way? What if we could let go of our hurried, envious, boastful, proud selves and loved others? Of course we are imperfect people living in an imperfect world, which means that we can't love others perfectly. But we can take steps in our ability to love others (and ourself!) well. 

Last year's post on Valentine's day post may be a helpful read. It discusses Love as a function of wellness. You can see it here

Now it's your turn:
Is there a characteristic of love that is easy for you? What's one of the hardest things (i.e. patience, not easily angered, etc...). Do you have any plans today.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Thankfulness Project Monday

"There is a calmness to a life lived in gratitude, a quiet joy."
-Ralph A. Blum

I'll be honest. I'm tired tonight (it's Sunday night as I type this). I've had a really busy and excitingly fun weekend, and it's worn me out. This weeks list of what I'm thankful for will be short and sweet, but it doesn't mean I'm feeling any less thankful! 

  • Sleep: This week was busy and fun, but it included a lot of late nights and early mornings. I'm feeling really tired right now, and looking forward to my nights of sleep over the next couple nights. I'm thankful for sleep, and how it allows us to be a healthy, well functioning individual. 
  • A time to think about love: I know some people get frustrated if they are single this time of year. You know what? It's OK! This time of the year is a great reminder to focus on those you love, and how you love them. This includes friends, family, AND YOURSELF. Although I don't love the hallmark holiday so much, I do enjoy the reminder of loving those around us. 
  • The opportunity to do what I love to do: While I was originally thinking about this in terms of my job, I guess it reaches much more then that. I'm thankful for my job, as well as getting to engage in hobbies that I enjoy.
  • Sports games on the weekend: FUN! It's a chance to get out and cheer and enjoy time with others. I love watching them:)
  • Good food: I had quite a bit of that this weekend too. Yummm. 
Simple list, but I'm still feeling thankful today. 

Now it's your turn!
What are you feeling thankful for today? Do you catch up on sleep on the weekends, or do you usually find yourself more sleep deprived by the end of it?

Friday, February 10, 2012

Friday Favorites

Favorite Tiny Delight of the Week
Cleaning! Most of us do some amount of cleaning each week (I hope!), but sometimes it's good to do a more then average type of cleaning... you know, the type of cleaning that goes above and beyond what you usually do. The type of cleaning that involves throwing things out. The type of cleaning that involves organizing (or maybe re-organizing) things. I know, it's not quite spring yet, but who says that a little bit of spring cleaning can't come early this year? I love my house feeling a bit lighter and more put together. I guess the extra sun this weather has helped my levels of motivation? 

Favorite Quote of the Week
"The way to gain a good reputation is to endeavor to be what you desire to be." -Socrates

Favorite Post By Someone Else
Changes in the Brain Resulting From Anorexia - This is a great post that succinctly summarizes how the brain changes, or at least some common denominators in the brain, when an individual has struggled with anorexia. It's a quick read and will help increase your understanding! Check it out! 

Favorite Past Post
Loving Myself, Loving Others- I wrote this post right about this time last year as a sort of response to some thoughts on Valentine's Day. Please check this post out and figure out some next steps towards loving yourself better! 

Favorite Search Term
  • guinea pig cooking
  • cognitive distortions catastrophizing 
  • distortion of identity
  • don't play the victim
  • let's break stress

Now it's your turn!
What's one of your favorites from the week? Do you do one big "spring cleaning" each year or do you break it into sections? 

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Wellness Wednesday: {A Review Of Life Task 2}

Welcome back to Wellness Wednesday, a fun mid-week look at the areas of wellness in our lives. To remind you, in talking about wellness I'm discussing the positive factors in life that help protect us from the events of life. Wellness is therefore not about the absence of the negative, but the presence of the positive. I just finished talking about the 2nd (out of 5) life tasks, and I thought this would be a good time for us to review these components.

Life Task 2 is made up of 12 subtasks:

A few questions to get you thinking:
  1. What is your greatest area of strength? 
  2. How does this strength further your overall wellness?
  3. What are your greatest areas of improvement?
  4. What is one step in each of these areas that you can take to help improve those areas? 
  5. How does your overall wellness in nutrition affect your stress management?
  6. What's one new healthy coping skill that you could implement?
It's interesting to think about how the health in one area of our life affects our health in another (either positively or negatively). It's important to regularly evaluate how each of the areas of our wellness is currently impacting us. 

Now it's your turn!
What are your thoughts on wellness in your life? What areas are easier to be healthy in, and what areas are a little more difficult? 

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Surviving The Winter Blues

Many of us notice a decrease in mood in the winter, even if we don't experience Seasonal Affective Disorder. While it can be difficult to motivate yourself or feel happy in a day, there are things that we can do to help get us through the winter blues.

  • Participate In A Hobby: A hobby can be beneficial to decrease overall stress, can increase enjoyment, and give us something to look forward to. It can help increase our motivation and allow us to feel a sense of accomplishment. Each of these things is important for helping us feel better when we have the "winter blues". 
  • Plan Fun Activities: Having an event to look forward to helps to perk us up a bit and can get us excited and motivated! This provides laughter, enjoyment, fun, and social support. Sometimes when we feel down, having something fun to look forward to at the end of the week can help motivate and "get you through" that week. 
  • Exercise: I know, I know. I think many of us get sick of being told to move. However, there's a reason that people talk about it so much. It's healthy, impacts multiple areas of wellness, and really does help! Even getting outside and going on a walk with friends can be helpful!
  • Volunteer: Getting outside of ourselves can be helpful in increasing our mood. If you have the time, find a place you can volunteer. Some places you can go for 1-2 hours one time, or you could find a place to volunteer a few hours a week! 
  • Get out of the house: Walk around the mall, read at a coffee shop, hang out with friends, go to a club or religious service. The temptation when mood goes down is to isolate. Isolation is the fuel for depression, so resist the urge to lock yourself in your room for days on end. 
  • Laugh! Whether it's with friends, watching a funny TV show, or looking at funny pictures online, laughter is healthy. Do it often:) 
  • Light Therapy:I've talked about this before, but using a light can help increase mood. Talk to your doctor before using one, however, as it could make mania worse in those who struggle with bipolar disorder. (you can find out more about this treatment here)
These are just a few of the things that have been helpful for me over the years in getting through the gray and gloomy months of winter. For more information on the "winter blues" or seasonal affective disorder, check out the other posts from this series:

Now it's your turn!
How do you survive the winter blues? What's your favorite hobby? 

Monday, February 6, 2012

Thankfulness Project Monday

"It is greatfulness which makes the soul great." -Abraham Joshua Heschel

There was something about this quote that really stood out to me, and I've been saving it for a couple weeks for a thankfulness posts. So, here you go:) The more I practice regular thankfulness and gratitude, the more I believe this is an important component of being a healthy individual. I continue to challenge each of you to add this to your daily or weekly habits!

That being said, here are a few things I'm feeling thankful for today:

  • Time with someone I dearly love: This past week I got to spend time with someone that I deeply care about and don't get to see very often. Time with people like this is so precious to me, and I try to live moment to moment in the days I have. 
  • Exercise: Throughout my day I look forward to pounding everything out on the treadmill, elliptical, or bike. It's time to process my day before I get home, and I'm almost always in a better mood when I'm done. I'm thankful I have access to equipment to work out in the winter months. 
  • Twitter Chats: There's numerous twitter chats for just about any subject you can think of on twitter. It's a great way to connect with people who have similar interests, and gain some knowledge or be challenged in different ways. Take some time to figure out if there are any twitter chats that might be fun for you to participate in throughout the week!
  • Almond Milk: Lactose free and full of calcium, this is quickly becoming one of my favorite drinks. I'm not a fan of drinking milk, but I actually look forward to a cup of this milk. Have you ever tried it?
  • Salsa: LOVE. If it's mango or peach, I'm gonna love it even more. I crave this almost every time I work out, and absolutely love eating it. Salsa is a constant exercise in self control for me!

Now it's your turn: 
What are you feeling thankful for today? Have you ever tried almond milk? What twitter chats do you participate in throughout the week?

Friday, February 3, 2012

Friday Favorites

Favorite Tiny Delight of the Week
This awesome weather. I think I could simply leave it at that, because this weather has been really amazing. Coming off a few weeks of talking about Seasonal Affective Disorder, it's funny that the weather across the country has been unusually warm. The sun shining every day has been a welcome change to the gloomy and gray weather that is typical of January and February. 

Favorite Quote of the Week
"Character may be manifested in the great moments, but it is made in the small ones." -Phillips Brooks

Favorite Past Post
When Tomorrow Comes - a post about how we use our day. I love the quote that is included in this post!

Favorite Search Term
  • jokes about pinterest
  • cauliflower sweet potato
  • types of wellness
  • black and white thoughts
  • boundary wheel in counseling

This post is short and sweet today. I'm out enjoying the nice weather:)

Now it's your turn!
Has the weather been unusually nice for you this week? What events in your life have developed character?

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Treatments For Seasonal Affective Disorder

Continuing on with my discussion on Seasonal Affective Disorder, today I'll be talking about how to treat it. There are a number of ways to treat seasonal affective disorder. Like traditional depression, a combination of medication and therapy may be incredibly helpful.
In regards to therapy, the following steps will likely be discussed:

Another step that can be taken to help treat Seasonal Affective Disorder is the use of light therapy (also known as phototherapy). In this type of therapy "you sit a few feet from a specialized light therapy box so that you're exposed to bright light. Light therapy mimics outdoor light and appears to cause a change in brain chemicals linked to mood" (source). An important side note- the light therapy, while helpful, can increase symptoms for those who have bipolar disorder. Please talk to your doctor before purchasing a box!

In the morning while getting ready, eating breakfast, or reading, you can turn on the light and let it hit your eyes. This will mimic the sun and not only help wake you up in the morning, but will help change the levels of chemicals and hormones in your body that will regulate mood, among other things! Some insurance companies will help cover the costs of this, so talk to your doctor! For anyone living in a place with little sunlight in the winter, this can be a great asset to overall health and a feeling of wellness in life! 

As with depression, there are other lifestyle and environmental changes you can make to help aid in treating this disorder. Keep blinds open to allow for light (even if it isn't sunny outside) to fill your house. Get out and move. With depression that's generally one of the last things you want to do, but getting outside and moving can greatly help overall mood. Surrounding yourself with good social supports and not isolating is also incredibly important. 

Now it's your turn:
Have you ever heard of light therapy before? What steps do you take in the winter to keep your mood up? 

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Wellness Wednesday: {Cultural Identity}

Welcome back to Wellness Wednesday! For more information on the Wheel of Wellness, you can check out my wellness page, which includes every past "Wellness Wednesday" post! Remember that wellness isn't the absence of the negative, but the presence of the positive in our lives.
Remember that I'm using the Wheel of Wellness to help visualize health in life:

Alright, after today's post we'll have finally made it through all of Life Task 2 of the Wheel of Wellness. So, today we move on to the final subtask of Life Task 2: Cultural Identity!

Myers & Sweeney define this subtask the following way:

Satisfaction with one’s cultural identity, feeling supported in one’s culture, valuing relationships with people of many cultures, transcendence of cultural identity, competency to cope with stress of cultural identity

When most people start listing dimensions of wellness, this is not one that is often mentioned. However, I think it's an important component of wellness, and once again I'm happy that Myers & Sweeney have included this in the dimensions of Wellness. Myers & Sweeney say the following about cultural identity: "cultural identity incorporates racial identity, acculturation, and an appreciation for the unique aspects of one's culture and is positively related to well-being. It is a positive personal strength that enhances growth and development across the life span" (Myers & Sweeney, 2005, p. 25). Of course our views on most things in life are in some way influenced by our culture as well.

For many Caucasians, it can feel like we don't have a culture, or at least culture the way that some other groups of people experience culture. For those of you who feel that way, here's an idea of how to connect with culture:

  • Determine what countries your ancestors come from. Do a bit of research to figure out what the beliefs, habits, and holidays of those cultures are.
  • Match these values, beliefs, or habits with your own life to see what has trickled down from these cultures. 
  • Is there a way that you can incorporate your country of origin's celebrations into your life here? This can help you gain an appreciation of other cultures, all while gaining knowledge and having fun! 
Once you go looking for it, it's interesting how many things we do that come from other cultures. 

And a few questions to get you thinking:
  1. Are there things you can do to learn more about other cultures and gain an appreciation of them?
  2. How can you increase your knowledge of your own culture?
  3. What can you do to interact with people from other cultures? How can you "get outside yourself"? 
  4. Have you ever felt unappreciated or discriminated against because of your culture?
  5. If you experience stress due to your cultural identity, what steps can you take to keep yourself healthy? 
Now it's your turn:
Do you feel you have a culture? How can you increase your appreciation of both your own culture and of the cultures around you?

* Myers & Sweeney. Counseling For Wellness: Theory, Research, and Practice. (2005).