Posted By Linda Roszak Burton,
Thursday, April 11, 2019
Updated: Tuesday, May 7, 2019
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When you read the phrase, gratitude for caregivers, what meaning do you apply? Is it a patient expressing gratitude to their caregiver for care and compassion shown to them during a recent health scare or recovery from an illness? Or, do you interpret it as an element of a positive and healthy work culture, where leaders and caregivers express gratitude to each other and their patients—genuinely, frequently, and value-based?
The good news is that it can, and based on research, needs to be interpreted both ways! We would assert that gratitude isn’t limited to any particular individual, profession, setting, or industry. Current research demonstrates that when gratitude is practiced, expressed, and received, the benefits are undeniable, significant, and multifaceted.
The POWER of gratitude:
- Promotes healing, strengthens our immune system, lowers blood pressure, reduces symptoms of illness, and increases pain thresholds;
- Motivates philanthropic giving. Being grateful has been found to make us more charitable and giving of our time, treasure, and talents;
- Creates resilience by fostering greater mental, emotional, and physical health and well-being, for both the caregiver and patient;
- Improves employee engagement by recognizing the value and contributions of coworkers;
- Generates more positive social behaviors, buffering against negativity-bias, bolstering civility, respect, and broadening our attention to positive emotions.
To read more about these benefits go to Discovering the Health and Wellness Benefits of Gratitude
A Remedy for Burnout
A Google search on the subject of burnout yields 114,000,000 results and counting! Job burnout as defined by the Mayo Clinic is a special type of work-related stress - a state of physical or emotional exhaustion (EE), a sense of reduced personal accomplishment (PA), and a loss of personal identity or depersonalization (DP). This widely accepted definition and the prevalence of burnout in healthcare has given us staggering and sometimes shocking statistics about the negative impact on individuals, teams, and organizations. Even more astounding are studies linking burnout to physician suicides, a higher rate of emotional exhaustion in as much as one-third of all US nurses, and the association between burnout and poor patient safety and quality outcomes, including mortality.
In a 2018 article in STAT, comes an even more disturbing reference to burnout…moral injury! First used to describe soldiers’ responses to their actions in war is now linked to “physicians being unable to provide high-quality care and healing in the context of healthcare.”
The Journal of Nursing Management, recently published a scoping review using the terms gratitude and health professionals. This scoping review consisted of synthesizing and thematically analyzing existing evidence regarding gratitude in healthcare relationships with the specific focus on patients and families expressing gratitude to their health professional. Health professionals were defined as physicians, nurses, patient care teams, and other healthcare providers. This broad review of existing knowledge included empirical and non-empirical literature and was not focused on evaluating the quality of research studies.
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In this particular study, expressions of gratitude from patients and family members to their health professional indicated a positive impact on caregiver well-being, stress reduction, and a possible reduction in symptoms and consequences of burnout. In addition, this review suggests gratitude from patients and families could contribute to “motivation and retention among health professionals, and when nurtured, is associated with a healthy work environment.”
An article on physician burnout in the Family Practice Management Journal identified practicing gratitude and offering resilience training as potential burnout interventions. Additionally, a mental technique of reframing negative events was recognized as helpful when dealing with burnout. Articles published in the NeuroLeadership Journal suggests reframing or re-contextualizing the way we think about a situation as an approach to minimize a negative emotional impact. Reframing is also defined as a “cognitive reappraisal” of ideas and emotions with more positive alternatives.
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Similar to the scoping review in the Journal of Nursing Management, a research article in Frontiers in Psychology looked at the positive effect of patient gratitude and support on nurses’ burnout. Of the findings, when support and gratitude was expressed by patients to nurses, improvements were seen in one or more of the dimensions of burnout: emotional exhaustion (EE); personal accomplishment (PA); and depersonalization (DP).
Another important study highlighting the positive impact of gratitude on organizational wellness is from the International Journal of Workplace Health Management. This study showed that gratitude was found to be a consistent predictor of these outcomes among nurses:
- Less exhaustion and less cynicism;
- More proactive behaviors;
- Higher rating of the health and safety climate;
- Higher job satisfaction;
- Fewer absences due to illness.
Additionally, The Greater Good Science Center published an article recognizing several healthcare organizations that have turned to this innovative remedy of gratitude to reduce burnout. Healthcare organizations such as Sutter Health, Kaiser Permanente, and Scripps Health have instituted programming to cultivate gratitude as part of their healthy work cultures.
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Finally, perhaps the best way to wrap-up these insights and findings comes from research done by the National Research Corporation/NRC Health and Accordant Philanthropy. When asked what influenced their feelings of gratitude during a healthcare experience, thirty percent of participants said gratitude was spurred by the compassion, empathy, or kindness of caregivers. Similarly, when asked what would most likely make them feel grateful to caregivers, forty-one percent of the study participants indicated feeling genuinely cared about as a person.
Findings from these studies and others highlight the “perfect timing” for greater focus and attention to the important role gratitude plays in our healthcare settings.
What one action can you take, personally, to tap into your own gratitude circuitry and that of your coworkers?
What learning opportunities can your organization or department initiate to promote gratitude as a cultural imperative?
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Linda Roszak Burton
provides brain-based coaching and training programs to help healthcare organizations, their leaders and teams emerge stronger, more knowledgeable, and engaged for greater success and satisfaction. As a leadership coach, Linda utilizes the latest research and evidence-based practices from positive psychology, gratitude, and neuroscience to help her clients be at their best in todays stressful and overwhelming work environments. In addition, she supports various research initiatives and is currently conducting research on gratitude interventions for creating greater health and well-being for health care employees.
Posted By Michelle Kelly,
Tuesday, March 26, 2019
Updated: Tuesday, May 7, 2019
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A plant-based diet will change your life for the better. Your digestion will improve, you’ll have natural energy, you’ll sleep better, and you’ll fight disease. Vegetables, nuts, fruits, and legumes nourish the human body because humans are designed to eat these food groups. Ingesting animal products will do more harm than good. All animal products are mucus forming and are acidic. If the mucus goes to your nostrils, it is called sinusitis. If the mucus goes to your bronchial tube, it is called bronchitis. If the mucus goes to the lungs, it is called pneumonia. If the mucus goes to the prostate gland, it called prostatitis. If the mucus goes to the uterus it is called endometriosis and can also lead to a yeast infection. Disease grows in an acidic body. If you keep your body alkaline, you are less prone to sickness. Eating a plant-based diet ensures an alkalinized PH balance. Food is medicine— your body is not a tomb.
Along with adopting a vegan diet, it is a good idea to go gluten-free as well. Gluten is a gut killer. It causes inflammation in the gut which leads to depression, constipation, headaches, anemia, nausea, and severe bloating. In fact, the healthier and more natural you eat, your body will no longer tolerate food that does not nourish your body. Quinoa is a better substitute for bread. It’s an ancient grain superfood. It is packed with all nine essential amino acids. It lowers cholesterol, glucose levels, and keeps your red blood cells healthy.
Eating a plant-based diet heals the human body from the inside out. It is unnecessary for animals to be killed for humans to ingest their secretions and flesh when it simply causes disease. Eating healthy and exercising regularly – even if it’s walking – will keep your body thriving. It’s important to remember cancer, acne, eczema, inflammatory diseases, diabetes, high blood pressure, dementia, arthritis, osteoporosis, obesity, a shorter life span, and so many more health issues are caused by the consumption of animal products.
is a freelance writer from NYC. She writes about health + wellness, holistic healing, animal activism, and fiction.
Posted By Sabrina Walasek,
Monday, March 25, 2019
Updated: Tuesday, May 7, 2019
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In honor of March, I decided that rather than searching fields of green for four-leaf clover I would turn inward to identify my own lucky charms. We all know that acknowledging what is good in life is helpful and healthful. Sometimes, though, it’s just hard to muster up the effort to put our full attention on it. This is especially true as we careen through our daily routine, checking off tasks and dealing with the mundane.
To liven up my gratitude practice, I decided to try a new approach and I shared it with my women’s mindfulness circle. I encourage you to give it a try. (This was practiced at the end of the day.)
Feeling lucky can be a part of any experience. It’s a frame of mind that acknowledges the gift of each moment of each day, no matter the circumstance. It’s a path to feeling comfort, joy, gratitude, or resolve in what is. Tonight we will practice this.
Without explanation, simply state something you feel lucky about. Take whatever comes to mind, without overthinking it. Complete the statement, “I feel lucky that _____.” or “I am lucky to have ______.” Say it out loud. Notice how that makes you feel. (We were in a group, but if you want to do this alone, I still encourage you to say it out loud. It makes it more real.)
We are going to do a ten-minute meditation with a focus. Imagine you are replaying your day as if it were a movie. As you revisit different aspects of the day in your mind’s memory, stop and acknowledge people or things along the way you may have taken for granted, but in observing them from this vantage point, you feel gratitude. Take a moment to silently say, “I’m lucky that ______.”
Remember not to force the feeling of gratitude; simply allow yourself to relive the moments and see what naturally bubbles up and gives you joy or appreciation. If you encounter something that was negative, consider if it might have been a gift. Perhaps there is something you’ve learned from the experience that will help you along your life path.
Whatever comes up, go with it — let it flow through you. If your mind starts to wander, notice and bring it back to the place you left off or go to the breath until you can step back onto the path.
(Set timer for 10 minutes)
After the meditation, I was pleasantly surprised to hear that this exercise worked well for the women in my group. Several of them shared that when they had arrived that evening they were not feeling particularly uplifted; they were experiencing the residuals of a pretty crummy day. Most admitted that they had not noticed a single “good” thing about their day. To their delight, the practice completely changed their outlook. Upon review, they realized many gold nuggets of life that they were taking for granted.
Another takeaway from the meditation was that it has a more profound impact on the rest of the evening. The level of relaxation in the faces and bodies of the attendees was noticeable. The coherence of the group was more solid. The women commented on how much better they felt about their day and their life. It was that simple, a pivot in their point of view.
Image courtesy of the National Institute of
Mental Health (NIMH) [Public domain]
The Greater Good Science Center in Berkeley conducted a study to see how gratitude affected people who were undergoing counseling. They had some participants write gratitude letters for three weeks while others documented their negative experiences or did not write at all. The findings, using an fMRI scanner, showed that those who wrote gratitude letters showed more activation in the medial prefrontal cortex, the area responsible for human social cognition and behavior. Even more exciting was that there was still evidence of its effect three months later.
From my experience, the positive mental shift that comes from a gratitude practice does not necessarily require writing one's thoughts or sharing them in with others (though these are both perfectly fine options). All that is required is a few minutes of quiet and a positive lens. This month, we called our lens “lucky.” I can’t help but wonder what our world would be like if everyone could take some time at the end of the day to sit with their family, colleagues, friends, or whomever and notice that their day was one filled with lucky charms.
has twenty years of learning and program design expertise that has covered multiple subjects for learners of all ages. Her love of travel and adventure led her to Colombia where she built an English language fluency and literacy program for Colegio Canadiense, a private k-12 school with 1,200 students.
As a veteran meditator, Sabrina spends her free time as a mindfulness practitioner and delves into all things related to mind-body wellness. She has led a women’s mindfulness group for over a year and recently designed 16 social-emotional mindfulness workshops for 250 middle school students in Toronto under her brand HumanKindClub. Her website is www.mindfulspaces.org.
Posted By Ruth Kelly,
Thursday, March 14, 2019
Updated: Tuesday, May 7, 2019
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Scarlett O’Hara, the leading protagonist of Margaret Mitchells’s epic Gone with the Wind, was arguably one of the most iconic characters of American cinema. She was charming, manipulative, vain, spoiled and captivating. However, swept up in the backdrop of the American Civil War this Southern belle discovered attributes and qualities she never knew she possessed. She exhibited fortitude, ingenuity, determination, courage, tenacity, and above all resilience – the ability to bounce back and keep going in the face of adversity. Her steely spirit was epitomised in her “As God is my witness …” monologue where fist clenched she vows that life will not break her and that she will survive at any cost. The theme of resilience is central to the development of this feisty heroine and it is a concept that has gathered significant momentum in recent years as a means of learning and recovering from life’s challenges and setbacks – our mental and emotional elasticity.
What is Resilience?
The Harvard Business review defines resilience as “the ability to recover from setbacks, adapt well to change, and keep going in the face of adversity” - including trauma or significant stress. Resilience is not only the ability to weather a difficulty, but also to emerge from it stronger and better prepared to face new challenges in the future. In the corporate world, resilience has gained significant impetus because business leaders increasingly recognize that resilient employees are more likely to recover quicker from an adverse situation and that resilient teams build competitive advantage and growth opportunities. At its core, resilience means "bouncing back" from difficult experiences and finding the intrinsic drive, motivation, and wherewithal to achieve your goals in turbulent times. In other words, “resilience is the capacity to adapt successfully in the presence of risk and adversity” (Jensen and Fraser, 2005).
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (2015) defines individual resilience as the ability to withstand, adapt to, and recover from adversity and stress. In essence, resilience implies maintaining or returning to one’s original state of mental health or well-being or achieving a more mature and developed state of well-being through the employment of effective strategies and techniques. Perhaps resilience is really the capacity to weather difficulties and embrace the changes that adversity demands – a deeper wisdom forged through complex and uncertain times. As K. Neycha Herford founder and CEO of The ReMixed Life™ states “resilience is an unwavering rebelliousness to bet on the best while navigating the worst”.
What constitutes resilience?
The positive psychology movement founded by Professor Martin Seligman is the scientific study of the strengths that enable individuals and communities to thrive. The Penn Resilience Program offered by the Positive Psychology Center at the University of Pennsylvania includes a set of 21 empirically validated skills that build cognitive and emotional fitness and strength of character. Fundamentally, the Program identifies a number of elements that are integral to building resilience:
- Self-Awareness – the ability to pay attention to your thoughts, emotions, behaviours and physiological reactions.
- Self-Regulation – the ability to change one’s thoughts, emotions, behaviours and physiology in the service of a desired outcome.
- Mental Agility – the ability to look at situations from multiple perspectives and to think creatively and flexibly.
- Strengths of Character – the ability to use one’s top strengths to engage authentically, overcome challenges and create a life aligned with one’s values.
- Connection – the ability to build and maintain strong, trusting relationships.
- Optimism – the ability to notice and expect the positive, to focus on what you can control and to take purposeful action.
Derek Mowbray of the Wellbeing and Performance Group UK proposes a ‘Resilient and Adaptive Person Development Framework’ with 3 spheres of personal control:
- Over oneself – self-awareness, self-confidence, vision and determination.
Someone who is self-aware is more likely to empathize with others and understand what motivates them.
- Over responses to events – problem solving skills, organization.
This control is rooted in the ability to negotiate effectively with others and to persuade others to consider alternate viewpoints and approaches.
- Over responses to people – relationships and personal interactions.
This control is rooted in organizing oneself in chaotic situations. Someone who has the ability to organize themselves in chaotic situations also has the ability to be flexible and adaptable.
Mowbray identifies the following characteristics of resilient people:
- Enthusiasm for life and work.
- Capacity to see the future and “go for it”.
- Capacity to cope with threatening events and distress.
- Attitude towards life and work that is positive, full of energy and determination.
- Capacity to see the options, and to adapt effectively to meet and overcome challenges.
George A. Bonanno (professor of clinical psychology at Teachers College, Columbia University, U.S.A) in an interview in The New Yorker believes that one of the central elements of resilience is perception. In other words, it depends on whether we view an event as traumatic or as an opportunity to learn and grow. This is subjective and relative i.e. what one person might experience as overwhelming for another might be an opportunity to extend their personal boundaries and develop as an individual.
It is agreed throughout the literature on resilience that it is a multi-dimensional concept. However, current research identifies a number of factors that are consistent with resilient people (Brown, 2010):
- They are resourceful and have good problem solving skills.
- They are more likely to seek help.
- They believe that they can do something that will help them to manage their feelings and to cope.
- They have social support available to them.
- They are connected with others, such as family and friends.
- They are flexible, adapt to new and different situations and learn from experience, including mistakes and triumphs.
Women and Resilience
“You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them.” - Maya Angelou
Are women more resilient than men? In Gone with The Wind, Margaret Mitchell created a leading female character whose sheer tenacity and strength triumphed over unimaginable adversity. She epitomized a resilient spirit which resonated with Rhett Butler’s words to her that “hardships make or break people”. Scarlett had more than just strength of character and survival instinct though. She was strategic and not afraid to employ creativity and tactics to achieve her goals. Even though GWTW is fiction, research suggests that when the going gets tough women are in fact more resilient than men. In an article published in Nature (January 2019) researchers at the University of Southern Denmark in Odense studied seven populations that endured famine, epidemics or enslavement. The researchers found that during crises, girls and women lived longer than their male counterparts. Research by Andy Scharlach, a UC Berkeley professor of aging and director of its Center for the Advanced Study of Aging Services has shown that women generally retain far more resilience as they age than men. One of the reasons, Scharlach suggests, is that women develop richer social networks than men that are not as work bound, and not as sports bound, or activity bound.
Between 2009 and 2010 Accenture conducted a global online and telephone survey of 524 senior executives from medium to large companies in 20 countries. Women Leaders and Resilience: Perspectives from the C-Suite sought to identify the value executives give to resilience as a senior primary quality of leadership. These leaders view women as slightly more resilient than men ‒ 53% reported women are very to extremely resilient ‒ 51% reported men are very to extremely resilient.
Another study conducted in the UK Tough at the Top: new rules of resilience for women’s leadership success (2014) found that although both women and men define resilience in similar terms, they talk about the experience of resilience at work in different ways. Women, more often than men, talk about vulnerability when they describe what it means to be resilient. Also, more women than men equate resilience with the need to suppress their emotions at work. This suggests that women look at their likely career path and assume they will have to increasingly ‘toughen up’ to get to the top. Simply acknowledging that this is happening and encouraging senior women and men to speak out about their own experiences of vulnerability in climbing the corporate ladder could go a long way to countering this view.
However, the assumption that toughness alone will propel a woman’s professional rise is erroneous. True resilience means being strategic as well as strong. It means showing ingenuity and imagination in overcoming challenges as well as demonstrating enough self-belief to look at setbacks not as failures but as opportunities to learn from the mistakes and grow. Perhaps, as many sociologists believe, women have had to fight harder for respect and equality so therefore had no alternative but to develop resilience. Also, it has been more acceptable for women to exhibit emotional vulnerability while men traditionally have had to portray a ‘stiff upper lip’. Perhaps straddling vulnerability and strength simultaneously builds empathy and compassion in women – essential building blocks of resilience. As the poet and civil rights activist Maya Angelou writes in her essay ‘In All Ways a Woman’ women must be ‘tough’ as well as ‘tender’ and “the woman warrior who is armed with wit and courage will be among the first to celebrate victory”.
The good news is that the capacity for resilience is not a static trait in either men or women but rather it is a skill that can be developed and mastered. The following are suggestions for putting resilience to work for you.
- Thoughts are Things - sometimes our deep held beliefs and thinking patterns can be counter-productive. Listen to your thoughts and identify the language you use with yourself when faced with a challenge. Is your self-talk supportive or critical? Is it limiting or empowering? By beginning to understand the power of your thoughts you begin to understand how they create not just your present experiences but also your future ones.
- View Setbacks as Opportunities for Growth – this might sound a little Pollyanna-esque. However, by seeing the positive in our failures and setbacks, by looking at what we did incorrectly and what we might do differently in the future and by being willing to learn, grow and develop we avoid the futility of self-flagellation and instead empower ourselves to move towards the future with fresh knowledge, perspective and confidence. Patience and tolerance, especially of ourselves, is key.
- Social Scaffolding – surround yourself with people who support and care for you. By building strong social networks you are cocooning yourself in a web of sustenance and encouragement which will ultimately assist you in weathering life’s storms.
- It’s OK not to be OK – sometimes when the going gets tough we need to be frank with ourselves about how we’re feeling, to honestly assess and appraise the situation and to work out the best strategy for moving forward. Owning and addressing our vulnerabilities is a sign of strength, not weakness. This applies to both men and women.
- Accountability and Responsibility – taking responsibility for ourselves and our actions is key to resilience. Blaming others for our failures or handing over our power by ‘allowing’ others to make us feel bad about ourselves in disempowering and emotionally draining. Good self-esteem and self-belief help build a certain imperviousness to the opinions, good and bad, of others.
- Change is inevitable - Charles Darwin said that the species most likely to survive is not the most intelligent or the strongest but ‘the one that is most adaptable to change’. By learning to be flexible and to embrace the complexities and uncertainties of life we are more inclined to ‘flow’ with the process of life.
- Rest and Recharge – resilience does not equate with endurance. It might be a cliché but there is truth in the old adage ‘work, rest and play’. Get the balance right.
Resilience in the Workplace
- Mindfulness – is gaining increasing impetus and recognition as a means of addressing a number of stress and cognitive related issues in the work place. Mindfulness has been found to boost judgement accuracy and insight related problem solving (Kiken, 2011) and enhances cognitive flexibility (Malinowski and Moore, 2009). MRI scans show that after an eight-week course of mindfulness practice, the brain’s “fight or flight” centre, the amygdala – which initiates the stress response, appears to shrink.
- Response flexibility – Budgets are tight, projects get negative feedback and clients are challenging – all these things are enough to test anyone. It is important to cultivate enough self-awareness to be able to respond to rather than react to situations or people. The ability to pause, reflect, deliberate, consider possibilities and choose wisely is critical to building workplace resilience.
- Innovate and set new goals – personal innovation means investing in and developing your own knowledge and talents. Continuing Personal Development courses are a productive way of expanding your knowledge base. Night classes are a creative way to develop your hobbies and personal interests and to build a social network. Always set new personal goals or milestones.
- Work-Life Balance – it is critical to balance work demands with your personal life. Seeing family and friends, socialising, travelling, exercising etc. - doing the things that enrich you is essential to a happy and fulfilling life.
- Good work networks – what supports are available in your workplace? Are you in a position to make positive changes in your team or organistion? Here are some ideas of what you can do:
- Encourage management to make a commitment to mental health and wellness initiatives to create a healthy psychological environment.
- Simple ergonomics such as creating a healthy workspace i.e. lighting, suitable workstations and chairs etc. as well as taking breaks to stretch your body and fingers can all make a huge difference to wellbeing.
- Building good social networks at work i.e. team building days, nights out etc. Positive relationships at work boost employee engagement and productivity.
- Healthy eating options at work. Lunch time yoga classes or even donning the trainers and going for a walk are all positive actions to boost workplace resilience.
In summary, resilience is a multi-modal dynamic concept which embraces physiological and psychological elements. Resilience means more than just ‘bouncing back’ – it means strategically adapting to and responding to change, adversity and uncertainty and emerging from the process with new perspective, strength and insight. One of the certainties of life is uncertainty and there will inevitably be obstacles and setbacks to challenge even the most resolute of us. However, by deliberately developing resilience we can equip ourselves with essential skills, approaches, and mindsets to navigate even the most turbulent times. The important thing is to keep going to remember that ‘after all, tomorrow is another day’.
R – reflect on your values.
E – everybody has setbacks.
S – stay connected.
I – invest in yourself personally and professionally.
L – learn healthy and supportive habits and behaviours.
I – identify your strengths, talents and skills.
E – engage with tolerance and compassion.
N – nurture mind, body and spirit.
C – cultivate a positive expectant mindset.
E – express gratitude.
Brown, B. (2010) The Gifts of Imperfection, Your Guide to a Wholehearted Life, Hazelden, Center City, Minnesota.
Jensen, J.M. and Fraser, M.W. (2005) A Risk and Resilience Framework for Child, Youth, and Family Policy, in Social Policy for Children and Families: A Risk and Resilience Perspective, Sage Publications: Thousand Oaks, CA.
Kiken, L.G (2011) Mindfulness Increases Positive Judgments and Reduces Negativity Bias, Social Psychological and Personality Science, 2(4), 425-431.
Moore, A., & Malinowski, P. (2009). Meditation, Mindfulness and Cognitive Flexibility, Consciousness and Cognition, 18, 176-186.
Strengthening Personal Resilience – a programme to improve performance Derek Mowbray July 2012 Management Advisory Service www.mas.org.uk
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (2015). Individual Resilience, Public Health and Medical Emergency Support for a National Prepared, Retrieved from http://www.phe.gov/Preparedness/planning/abc/Pages/individual-resilience.aspx
is a researcher and nutrition and wellness adviser. She holds a Ph.D in science from the University of Limerick, Ireland, as well as advanced diplomas in Nutrition and Weight Management and Emotional Freedom Techniques. She is a qualified Stress Management Coach and is currently self-employed at Essence Wellness which offers a range of services to private clients as well as the corporate sector including Corporate Wellness Programmes which cover nutrition, stress management and resilience building. She is a regular blogger to wellness websites in Ireland and is also a fully qualified Bio-energy therapist and Reiki Master.
Posted By Sabrina Walasek,
Wednesday, February 20, 2019
Updated: Tuesday, May 7, 2019
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Some people are steady-as-they-go types. I’m prone to trying new things. And the power of making my own choices somehow made it all feel less risky—until the day it didn’t.
Twice, my husband and I left our jobs and home to spend a year traversing the globe. In 2010, we moved to Colombia and ended up spending four amazing years there. And when we returned to the States, I jumped right back into the flow, working on a creative project with awesome people. Life was good!
Then, that company suddenly closed shop.
I decided to pursue a personal passion instead. I tried several strategies to gain entry into my desired industry, but I was met with obstacles each time. My previously sure-footed faith failed me. Life didn’t flow; it wobbled. I became tentative, questioning every decision I made.
According to the Cleveland Clinic experiencing big changes or too many within a brief time period can create a perception that we are not in control of important events. This perception contributes to low self-esteem and even the development of anxiety or depression.
When a single change throws us off kilter, it often doesn’t take us long to regain “control.” But when we’re knocked off our foundation, it takes patience and self-compassion to truly right ourselves.
Balance can be restored. Here are the steps I took.
Changing Thoughts Changes Reality
First, I paid attention to my thoughts and words. Yep, I was brooding on my “failed” career pivot and being really hard on myself. There is a saying, “Where attention goes, energy flows.” I was succumbing to negativity and dismissing the greatness in my life.
I noticed one word in particular was warping my reality: “should.” The negative power of that word was subversively affecting my sense of self:
- I should be making more money (I’m a loser).
- I should have a larger network (I’m unimportant).
- I should be more dedicated (I’m lazy).
- I should be more skilled (I’m irrelevant).
- I should stick to what I know (I’m foolish).
According to Psychology Today, the word “should” undermines our ability to do what we want to do and causes a host of negative feelings: blame, guilt, anxiety, stress.
- Using “should” with ourselves is disempowering.
- Using “should” toward others provokes anger and resentment.
Once I realized all this, I vowed to stop using the word “should” — which was harder than I thought. It’s surprising how often “should” is used in conversation.
To break this “bad” habit, I started replacing “should” with “could” or “want to.” For example, “I should network more” feels obligatory. If I don’t, I fail. (Plus, it goads me into rebellion.) Changing to, “I could network more” means it’s my choice. This small adjustment helped me realize I was in control of much of my daily experience.
Notice how often you use “should.” What reaction does it conjure? Would it feel different if you tried “could” or “want to” instead?
Another strategy was to stop taking things personally and instead get curious. Instead of jumping to conclusions, I took the time to sit with my life’s roadblocks to gain perspective. I got quiet, took deep breaths, and asked myself: “What if this struggle is critical to my journey and my personal growth?”
To be less judgmental and more curious, I contemplate these questions:
- What would my compassionate self say to my critical self?
- Could any positives develop from this experience?
- How does the struggle make me a better person?
Struggles are essential. They provide us with new perspective. Often, that “wrong turn” steers us to new and positive possibilities. Obstacles remind us to let go of the urge to control everything.
The next time you find yourself in a tug-o-war with life, stop and consider the underlying gift. Be kind to yourself and see if you can identify the value the experience may bring, even if it’s simply how to avoid something similar in the future.
Six Dimensions of Wellness
Lastly, instead of obsessing on my profession pathos, my course reset involved taking on a well-rounded approach to assessing my life. I selected The Six Dimensions of Wellness, developed by Dr. Bill Hettler of the National Wellness Institute. The six dimensions of life examined in this tool are:
In my assessment, I acknowledged the positives I experience in each area. Turns out, I am flourishing in many dimensions of life. Who knew?
Discovering this has helped me build energy and motivation to take on the areas of my life that score lower. It helped me see how I can weave my passion into the different dimensions of wellness. I realized I could enjoy life until the universe is ready to open the right door for me, which it did about a week after I “let go.” Out of the blue, a paid opportunity came to me with more ease than I could have imagined.
When we dwell on negativity, everything in and around us is impacted. By looking for the positives, we embody more balance and strength. We are able to see how rich and multi-dimensional our lives are. Seeing these bountiful parts helps to offset the struggling parts.
Review the six dimensions and list all the positives that make up your reality. Embrace the abundance. If you feel there is an area that could use a boost to keep life more balanced, explore steps you “could” take to fill in gaps.
Find Your Flow
Through awareness, mindful speech (to ourselves and others), contemplation, and self-compassion, we can steady ourselves when the unexpected hits. The “bad” stuff will always still happen — but when we get clear, curious, and positive, we keep on flowing.
Sabrina Walasek is a long-time educator and lover of exploration and learning. She has traveled to more than 50 countries, embracing humanity and nurturing her sense of curiosity. She facilitates a monthly mindful women's circle and is a contributor to Whole Life Challenge's blog. Her website is www.mindfulspaces.org
Posted By Pam Loch,
Wednesday, February 13, 2019
Updated: Tuesday, May 7, 2019
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Following the Brexit vote, it is reported that some 330 000 of non-British workers are considering leaving the UK, with many having already made the move back home. While the impact of these staff shortages on the NHS has been well documented, the changing recruitment landscape is set to negatively affect a number of businesses in Britain, particularly within the hospitality industry. HR managers are having to adapt to these changing demographics, and are starting to place greater emphasis on wellbeing initiatives in order to prevent staff turnover over the coming years.
The recruitment challenges faced by the hospitality sector
The hospitality sector is the fifth largest employer in the UK, employing approximately 4.5 million people. However, maintaining this status may not be easy, especially in the next year. In 2017 just over half of the industry’s workers (53%) were British. With the staff shortages anticipated due to Brexit, this statistic is concerning when you consider that the hospitality sector is anticipated to need to recruit 1.3 million workers by 2024.
Both staff retention and recruitment are just some of the challenges facing the hospitality sector over the coming years, and for an industry that has historically relied upon non-British workers for its success, it is not surprising that 1 in 5 managers have reported a higher level of difficulty in recruiting staff in the last 12 months. In fact, 16% of businesses do not believe that they will fulfill staffing requirements with British workers by next year.
While the statistics paint a relatively bleak picture, there are proactive steps that HR managers and employers can take in order to retain and attract talent. HR policies and strategies that take into account a variety of wellbeing initiatives have been shown to not only have a positive impact on the health and happiness of employees, but also a correlation on the quality of service that hotels and restaurants provide to their customers.
Mental health in the hospitality sector
It is reported that 70% of British hospitality workers feel overworked, and 45% will take time off due to stress at some point in their career. With a persistent narrative surrounding stress and stress-related illnesses that it’s all “part of the job," it can become difficult to change the stigma surrounding mental health struggles brought on by working conditions - particularly when workers simply learn to live with issues such as:
Fatigue: There are a number of causes for fatigue, particularly in businesses where night work is often mandatory, such as hotels. It is widely known that when circadian rhythms are interrupted, sleep during the day becomes extremely difficult.
Furthermore, even in circumstances where night work is not required, long days and physical labour are a feature of many hospitality sectors, which only increases fatigue when adequate rest isn’t given.
Anxiety: In an industry in which pay is often hourly, the fear of financial repercussions from injuries and sick leave can lead to increased levels of stress and anxiety.
Additionally, the daily expectation of potentially dealing with customers who may conduct themselves with rudeness or arrogance can also be a contributing factor to stress for a number of employees.
Depression: A recent study by the Centre for Psychological Research at the University of Derby, suggests that depression amongst hospitality workers can be influenced by a lack of motivation in the workplace, or what they refer to as ‘external motivation.'
In other words, the motivation to work comes not from personal or ‘internal’ interest in the task, but external influences such as “I need to earn money”. This disconnect can not only impact the mental wellbeing of staff, but can also contribute to decreased productivity, absenteeism and high employee turnover.
Effective communication is often the first step
Tackling the complexities of mental health undoubtedly requires effective communication between both employer and employee. However a recent study revealed that 44% of UK hospitality workers would not come to a colleague if they felt they had a mental health problem, and in the case of absenteeism, 38% of workers were afraid to tell their boss that stress and/or mental health was their reason for time taken off work.
Perhaps more surprising is that 90% of hospitality workers believe that being prone to stress and anxiety would affect or hinder their career progression, and 40% believed it was their personal responsibility to deal with any work-related stress or mental health problems. In the most extreme cases, staff members who came forward with serious mental health complaints have, at times, been met with the insinuation that they should resign for the good of the company.
While society, the media and organizations have done much to tackle the stigma of mental health, there are still concerns that by being open about the challenges we all face from time to time, there is still the possibility that it can seriously impact our career and long term financial security.
Creating an environment in which communication between management and staff is actively encouraged is therefore vital for a healthy workplace. Motivating staff to come forward in a secure environment where they feel comfortable to express their views, requests and grievances creates an environment in which workers feel valued, and are better equipped to perform their roles.
The link between physical and mental health
Hospitality is often linked with physical work, including walking long distances, running and carrying in all sorts of conditions. Although the nature of this sort of work cannot be changed, it is important to ensure your staff are physically healthy. For example:
- Frequent wellness checks not only provide employees with an insight into their own health, but allows employers to take proactive steps in order to minimize the risk of absences from work through ill-health.
- Try to ensure that staff take adequate breaks at the appropriate times, and finding cover for the remaining staff, even during peak times.
- If you provide free meals to employees (particularly pertinent in the restaurant sector) try to provide healthy options in order to maintain high levels of performance, productivity and wellbeing.
- Provide adequate equipment and uniform for your staff members for all weather conditions so that they are as comfortable and as safe as possible.
- Providing out of work activities can encourage staff members to lead a healthy lifestyle, while also fostering a sense of unity and team spirit. This might include access to a gym (if available on site), team sports, regular group meditation and/or yoga sessions.
Support and Respect
The psychological effects (https://click.booking.com/features/2018/06/12/prioritising-staff-welfare-hospitality/) of dealing with rude or even discriminatory customers are just some of the challenges faced by employees within the hospitality industry. We’ve all heard the axiom “the customer is always right” and in such a competitive market, it is understandable that companies are highly motivated by customer opinion, and the effect this can have on profits and brand reputation.
As a result there can be a disproportionately high value placed on customers, as opposed to the opinions of staff that are responsible for serving them. However what’s more difficult to quantify is the impact that unhappy employees can have on the overall success of a business, particularly when they feel unsupported.
Unfortunately, 52.2% of hospitality workers have actually considered leaving their place of work due to a lack of support. The constant pressure from managers on their staff to maintain the outward appearance of happiness in the face of all kinds of customer attitudes, increases the feeling of discontent and the lack of a support structure.
However, there are a variety of policies and procedures that if correctly implemented, can ensure that both employers and employees can benefit from an environment that fosters mutual support and respect.
One of the easiest ways to encourage support is through the standardization of procedures concerning customer complaints. By ensuring every member of staff adheres to uniformed company protocols, this can reduce any ambiguity on how a particular situation should be dealt with. This in turn can minimize staff members from feeling undermined by managers in situations that could be deemed subjective.
Creating staff incentives and rewards can also be a great way to engage staff members, increase productivity, and ease any interpersonal tensions at work. By encouraging cooperation where employees work towards a common goal, tensions can gradually be eased through collaboration and teamwork.
Wellbeing isn’t just a legal duty
Employers have a duty of care to their employees, which means that they should take steps in order to ensure their health, safety and wellbeing. However tackling mental health conditions such as anxiety, depression and stress, should not be simply considered as a legal duty; it can be a key factor in building trust between staff and management, reinforcing an organization’s commitment to its employees.
It’s not always easy however, and often requires advice, guidance or training from individuals qualified to deal with complex and often serious issues. In circumstances where you may not have the resources or experience to deal with mental health conditions, it may be advisable to seek external help to ensure your staff have the appropriate level of support they need.
For many, particularly young people about to enter the workplace for the first time, the fast-paced and emotionally-charged environments produced by some hospitality sectors can create a negative stigma surrounding these types of industries. As a result, a growing number of people have decided against a career in hospitality. As society becomes increasingly concerned with the effects of mental health, it seems that a greater understanding of what wellbeing in the workplace truly means may be the key to meeting the growing need for hospitality staff.
Pam Loch is a writer interested in both physical and mental wellbeing in the workplace. Her interests have led her to become the Managing Director of Loch Associates Group, who are experts in Employment Law, HR Management and Health & Safety. She works with both employers and staff to ensure wellbeing in the workplace.
Posted By Lisa Medley,
Friday, February 8, 2019
Updated: Tuesday, May 7, 2019
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I didn't feel like it.
I wasn't beating up on myself for not going.
I wasn't judging myself for being "lazy."
I wasn't shoulding on myself.
I usually go to a step aerobics class (yes, it still exists!) on Tuesday mornings. I love it! I get to sweat from every pore of my body, my brain gets to work out too as it is keeping up with the choreography of steps, and I don't have to create anything; I just show up and do what the teacher tells me to do.
This morning however, I checked in with my body and my energy and wasn't feeling it. This kind of class takes at least 75% energy in the tank and I didn't have it. I had worked on a deadline driven project over the weekend — not my norm, and it happens sometimes — with a headache that comes on from time to time (ladies, you know what I mean), and was needing to slap on a quasi-sunny "good morning!" to my son as I shuffle around getting him off to the bus stop in 17 degree weather.
Instead of going to class, I went back to bed. I asked my body what it FELT like doing and that was the reply. I have been practicing being kind to my body long enough that I can trust that when I listen to its needs and respond, I feel better. I don't have to "figure it out" or think my way though feeling better; I FEEL my way to feeling better.
My body tells me the truth of my internal experience. Without should’s, shame, or pressure to meet impossible expectations from the outside world.
Your body does too. Imagine the freedom of tuning into your internal state and having your inner voice be enough. Embodying the truth that YOU ARE ENOUGH.
How are you FEELING in this very moment? What does your body need to feel good, even better? Even an incremental step, an eye dropper amount of action, a micro movement
Without the need to please anybody except yourself.
Without the guilt of so-called "selfish."
Without the external have to's.
With full on permission.
For your body.
For your life.
For your best self.
Let me know how it goes!
Liberate Your Light,
Lisa Medley, MA serves as a Wellbeing and Body Intelligence Expert. She supports her clients to cultivate positive relationships with their body for sustainable inside-out wellbeing. Lisa believes in reintegrating the body and its wisdom to support the evolution of our divine human potential. Learn more at SoulisticArts.com. Check out her new Instagram page as well: @soulisticarts.
Posted By NWI,
Friday, February 8, 2019
Updated: Tuesday, May 7, 2019
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Meta Commerse, MA, MFA, CWP
Meta is a wellness practitioner using the indigenous modality of story medicine. She grew up in Chicago, Illinois among activists, teachers and writers of poetry and music during the Civil Rights and Black Arts movements of the 1960s and ‘70s. There, her life was shaped by a strong activist tradition. It was equally influenced by domestic violence that taught her to resist, to imagine and seek something better for herself and her family, and that compelled her to move away from systematic silence.
Starting her wellness career as a body worker, a path of learning opened up before her. She learned about the mind-body connection where the body’s state tends to reflect that of the mind. She took a holistic approach to her work focusing on clients in chronic pain. Newly pain-free, most of the women in her practice began spontaneously sharing untold stories of trauma. These stories stunned Meta who felt unprepared to hear them, but listened out of respect. Listening to them eventually reminded her that she had an untold story of her own.
By 1992, Meta made a commitment to heal her life and soon enrolled in a six-month group for women survivors. That group offered her a community conversation in which to see the brokenness that can result from child sexual abuse. She was able to feel the old emotion she had carried in silence for so long, and later looked for a more extensive, holistic program to continue the work. Finding none, she developed one of her own.
In 1994, with much community support, Meta launched a program for women in Atlanta, Georgia, where she offered it for the next ten years. During that time, she returned to school to explore the problem of violence. She became a teacher committed to helping more people with what she was learning. She learned to see domestic violence as a problem extending far beyond private homes, that it knows no borders and has no limit. It can appear between two people or two nations. She learned that domestic violence is a public health problem impacting lives in personal and public spaces. That domestic violence is a spiritual problem that has wounded the spirit and soul of humanity throughout history. It can be spoken in words or imposed through systems. It can impact the lives of vulnerable people, of men, women, children seeking asylum, or of people denied the care they need. Ultimately, the more she understood about domestic violence, the more she knew about peace.
Meta studied with gifted teachers, especially one who frequently drew from quantum physics. One of his axioms helped her approach the problem of violence with more intention and to see it more clearly. He taught, “Inherent in every problem are the mechanics for its solution.” To her, this meant that persistent study of a problem points the way to an answer. Finally, within the increasing random violence in our country, she learned to recognize the roots of chronic pain and to see violence as rooted in pain. This pain seeks an outlet. Sometimes we direct our pain at ourselves, in various forms such as depression or addiction. Sometimes we direct our pain at others as in bullying or other forms of personal offense. Imagine every perpetrator, every tyrant being driven by such pain! Meta sees this pain as the energy of our untold stories, (of individuals and of communities). Now she asks her students a few key questions: “Do you know your story?” “Do you know its value?” “What have you done with your pain?” She also learned that this medicine was the way of our ancestors, learning how they used sacred memory, words and story, to teach, heal, and generate deep change.
Today, Meta lives and works as an independent scholar in Asheville, North Carolina. In her groups, classes, readings, and performances, she demonstrates the power of story. Now she knows that through healing work, peace — the principle of harmlessness — will indeed return to the human heart. Teaching this medicine, she writes across genre exactly as her own story medicine emerged. She teaches the value of story to her students exactly as life proved the value of her story. She knows that personal healing and wellness is the beginning spark of community healing and wellness. She learned in her early experiences of struggle, activism, and violence all that she needed in order to seek wholeness and to teach peace. She is grateful for these lessons.
Meta speaks about story medicine wherever she is called. Contact Meta at email@example.com, or storymedicineworldwide.com.
Posted By NWI,
Friday, February 8, 2019
Updated: Tuesday, May 7, 2019
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On February 5, 2019, NWI member Michele Mariscal launched her new book Growing Through Grief: The Alchemy of Healing From Loss.
Getting beyond a loss is never easy; the pain can feel as if it will never end. Growing Through Grief helps grievers bring hope back into their lives and provides actionable steps for healing. Whether you’re experiencing new grief or feeling the pain of a loss from long ago, you’ll find encouragement and support in this book. If you know someone who’s grieving and can’t seem to move forward, this book can be a beautiful gift. It is available on Amazon and Kindle.
Growing Through Grief
Posted By Rich Morris,
Thursday, January 17, 2019
Updated: Tuesday, May 7, 2019
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My academic background is in exercise physiology, and I have taught Health continuously at the college level since 1979 at four different institutions. My primary title during those years, however, was NCAA swimming coach. Coaching swimming is an extremely technical endeavor. Biomechanical analysis of technique, combined with a thorough understanding of anatomy, kinesiology, and physiology help a coach prepare athletes for amazing feats. But no matter how well trained an athlete is, the mind can help or hurt their performance. One of the all-time great coaches, Dr. James Councilman, said:
“Give similar top swimmers to three different coaches. One, an expert in the physiology of training, another in the biomechanics of stroke, and the last one an expert in sport psychology, the third coach’s athlete will win every time.”
And so, coaches such as myself schooled in the physical, studied even harder how to motivate and sustain an athlete’s spirit. What kept me in the sport for so long was the ever-changing science of performance. Years ago, we all learned that yoga and mindfulness can help an athlete. Some coaches ignored the studies, some embraced them, but most of us tried to work it into our schedule like so much weight lifting.
Here is a picture of my team practicing yoga and mindfulness techniques before practice. The yoga instructor was thrilled by the response, all the athletes seemed to love it. But let’s dig into that a bit. Some of the athletes loved the fact that yoga was taking away pool time. Others appreciated the opportunity to center themselves and relieve the day’s stress. Out of the nearly 40 athletes, maybe 3 or 4 actually improved as an athlete by really using the skills they were learning.
And so my journey continued. From a physiologist’s standpoint, I understood clearly how increasing circulation cleared the stress hormones and benefited any training. From a fledgling psychological standpoint, I could see and feel the benefits of self-monitoring emotions and accepting them, moving into seeking alternative perspectives without judgment, allowing for changing attitudes. But I couldn’t teach it by sticking to the curriculum or practice schedule, there seemed to be a big piece missing.
For over twenty years I have given a clinical survey on Locus of Control as a pre-test to all of my classes. Julian Rotter’s research into how we perceive the control in our lives, be it external such as fate, divine intervention or luck, vs internal through mindful choices, understanding and accepting the consequences before deciding, intrigued me, so I studied it further. The fascinating thing about this was no matter where you fall in the continuum, you truly accept that as reality. If you are worried about a test or project next week, there can be a huge paradigm change caused by a very subtle shift in perception. A more external person gives the test power and control over their life. The date of the test, the professor’s demeanor, the amount of material covered, all are cause for concern. The more internal person sees the test as a thing and is more concerned with their own attitude towards that thing. Studying the material, of course, is paramount, but the truly internal person has been studying all along, talking to the professor after class when clarification was needed, doing the readings and participating in class. For them, the control comes from personal preparation. Not just the material covered, but also eating correctly, taking study breaks to clear their mind, getting rest and exercise to keep circulation going, a holistic approach to success.
From a physiological perspective, stress is the release of hormones causing predictable changes in the body as a result of reacting to a stressor. For the more external person, the test is stress. It causes the release of the hormones, therefore the reaction is predictable. To the more internal person, mindful of alternative perspectives, the test is a stressor. Assess the difficulty, plan your response, control the level of hormones released. Take time and effort to clear the hormones as you prepare. As Viktor Frankl wrote,
“Between stimulus and response, there lies a space. In that space is a choice. In that choice lies our growth and our freedom.”
Does the test represent stress or a stressor to you? That, to me, is where mindfulness training has to start. Behavioral psychology has always reinforced the behavior after the action. And the fact is it works, people can be manipulated by reinforcing desired behavior. In my classes, I try to get students to experience that moment of clarity brought on by a mindful decision. Take that extra beat before reacting, breath, seek alternatives without judgment. Then make a decision understanding the reinforcement will come as a result of your choice; not luck, chance or powerful others. You chose the consequence. Subtle, but so powerful.
Richard Morris has a degree in Exercise Physiology from UCF and a Masters from UTC in health and Physical Education. Richard has served as a floor exercise leader and adult fitness director at private clubs. In 1990 he served as Orange County, Florida's first wellness coordinator and developed "Wellworks" wellness programming for over 7,000 employees. He currently serves as Director of Health Education at Rollins College, where he has taught and coached for nearly 30 years. He and his wife Lisa have two children and three grandchildren.