Archive | Work Issues

Happiness is a Good Night’s Sleep

September/October 2017

The benefits of a good night’s sleep are too many to mention.  And, I’d like to highlight a big one for this article – happiness!

The National Sleep Foundation recommends adults (age 18 – 64) get 7-9 hours of sleep each night. Children and teenagers need more. 

If you ask most people what they want out of life – happiness is typically in the top 3.

Researchers have discovered a correlation between happiness and the amount of sleep a person gets each night.

Results of a recent study indicate that people who are “mostly happy” sleep 7+ hours at night. Those who reported the fewest hours of nightly sleep were the least happy, were more discontent in their relationships, worried more and had less gratitude in their life.

Another recent study, found that Sunday night is the most difficult night for people to get a restful night of sleep.

Steve Orma, a clinical psychologist and insomnia specialist, states that a disrupted sleep routine over the weekend is the biggest culprit for poor Sunday night sleep.

“Many people go to bed later on Friday and Saturday nights and then sleep in later on Saturday and Sunday mornings,” Orma states. “So, when they go to bed on Sunday night, they’re often just not tired. And then when they can’t sleep, they start to think about why they’re not sleeping, which only makes things worse.”

Sleep experts agree that job anxiety can be a huge culprit for sleep difficulties, including dread of upcoming meetings/projects, the long commute, fear of failure, anticipation of a negative boss/co-worker or feeling trapped.  

People who worry, ruminate, stew, hold resentments, feel guilt or overthink, also experience difficulties in the area of sleep.

TIPS FOR GETTING A GOOD NIGHT’S SLEEP

  • Maintain a regular wake-up time on the weekends.
  • Reduce/eliminate alcohol and caffeine consumption in the evening.
  • Pay attention to the worry/rumination that happens at night and address those stressors head-on. Reducing stress could lead to some pretty radical changes, e.g. job change, terminating a relationship or ending behaviors that create guilt/shame [drinking, gambling, cheating, anger, etc.].
  • Reduce any activities related to work or playing video games in the evening.
  • Use an essential oil to promote sleep, dabbing a little on the bottom of your feet or under your nose.  I purchase my essential oils from https://www.edensgarden.com/.  My 2 favorites for the evening routine are (1) Meditation (a peaceful blend of Lavender, Tangerine, Lemon, Clove Bud, Cedarwood and Chamomile) and (2) Lavender.
  • Incorporate a wind-down routine that is calming, enjoyable and relaxing.  Quieting the mind and inviting a sense of peace can truly nourish your soul and begin the gentle journey to sleep.
  • Avoid naps longer than 15 minutes, especially in the afternoon.
  • Use self-soothing phrases or prayers when anxiety/restlessness begins:
    • I’m ok.  I’m good enough.
    • I’m loved.
    • I’m fine exactly the way I am
    • I’m grateful for ________ and ______ and _______ and ______”
    • One day at a time – I’ll deal with that tomorrow.
    • “Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. ….”
  • Do not use sleep tracking devices.  A study by researchers at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago links sleep problems with the use of these devices. The devices can lead to a fixation or perfectionism related to the data and perpetuates the anxiety. 

“Sleep is that golden chain that ties health and our bodies together.”

~~ Thomas Dekker, English Dramatist, (1572-1632)

Continue Reading

Can You Unplug From Work?

October 2016

Studies show that more workers are taking work home.  Those that have Smartphones, spend an average of 5 hours each week on work-related emails during their personal time.

What’s even more surprising is the increasing trend to take less vacation time or to work while on vacation.  Two out of every 5 workers in the U.S. did not take a single day of vacation and about half of the U.S. workers did not use all of their vacation time.

These trends have been increasing steadily over the past 20 years.  Why?

Some of the trends are being fed by technology.  There is now a blur between “work time” and “free time”.  There is an expectation that people should be plugged into work because the technology is there to support that notion.

These trends are also fueled by fear.  One out of 4 workers have concerns that corporate restructuring or downsizing will negatively impact them in the next 5 years.  Therefore, these fears fuel the behavior of staying connected: “I will stay relevant, valuable and important in the organization by answering emails on the weekend.”

The over-connection and inability to unplug translates to stress, anxiety, resentment and guilt.  Constantly plugging into work takes away from family time, hobbies, relaxation and social enjoyment.

7 Tips to Unplug

  • Talk to co-workers face-face.  While at work, walk over to colleagues offices and speak to them the old fashioned way…. face-to-face.  Not only will you get more accomplished in your time – you will build more connection through the personal contact.  Having personal connections in the workplace makes work more fulfilling.
  • Take breaks from alerts.  You become one of Pavlov’s dogs when you immediately check your phone/text with every vibrate or ding.   Turn off notifications (including vibrate) on your desktop, laptop, tablet, and smartphone for your texts, emails and social media.
  • Implement an at-home policy.  Have a basket near the front door for visitors and guests to deposit their devices.  When it’s time for socializing and connection in your home – it’s time to disconnect from “other people”.
  • Set expectations while you’re away. Review with co-workers and your boss what needs to be done before you leave the office for a long weekend or vacation.  Remind those around you of your schedule and your inaccessibility during that time.  People will get used to the boundaries – they just need to know what they are.
  • Set the tone via your email auto-reply.  State your return date to the office and who can be contacted in the meantime.  Do not say that you’ll be checking email.
  • Name a “go-to”.   Ask a co-worker to cover for you if there are problems or questions while you are gone.  This will increase your ability to unplug.  Do the same for that person – both of you will have more enjoyable time away from the office.
  • Don’t bring it home.   I admit – this is hard! When you head out of work, make a point of turning off any work-related phones or emails. Instead, take time for yourself, friends and family.

Almost everything will work again
if you unplug it for a few minutes,
including you.

~~ Anne Lamott

Continue Reading

What’s Your Knee-Jerk Response?

March 2015

A Powerful Predictor of Workplace Stress

The world is full of danger and when people feel safe, they trust and cooperate. When they don’t, they waste time and energy defending themselves from each other.

We live most of our lives wired and wound up, rarely pausing to relax or unplug from the daily grind.  What are the consequences of your ever-hectic life?  When you are stressed at work, you lose natural qualities of communication, compassion, patience, cooperation and creativity.

Why are some people and organizations more innovative, more influential and more profitable than others? Why do some people naturally command greater loyalty?

Research shows that what you do with your knee-jerk reaction is key to workplace stress.

Business relationships are often rocky due to poor communication, misinterpretation of facts and pressurized environments. Mole hills become mountains and mistakes become disasters in the course of a day.

Whether you are the president of the company or the assistant who sets up the conference room — your communication style can have an enormous affect on others.

Knee Jerk Reactions that Create Stress:
Passive or Aggressive Communication
When you don’t proactively ask for what you want or need from your employees/boss – you are passively communicating. With a passive style, you don’t often share your true thoughts and feelings, especially if you think it will lead to conflict.  You aren’t direct and succinct during or after confrontation.

Passive communicators often believe they ‘aren’t good enough’ and that ‘other people are better’, and so you take the ‘one down’ position.  This creates resentment and long-term stress.  You might resort to sarcasm or gossip to indirectly communicate your feelings — neither are helpful.

If you use aggressive communication, you take the ‘one-up’ position. You might attack, belittle, blame, criticize and generally denigrate the other person to get what you want.

People who speak with an aggressive style tend to use the words,  ‘always’ and ‘never.’   For example, an aggressive communicator might say, “You never finish your reports on time. You’re always sloppy!”

You might think your aggressive style is direct and effective but it tears down feelings of equality. Trust, faith, safety and goodwill in your workplace relationships will erode.  People will eventually leave you or turn on you.

Reactions that Reduce Stress:
Assertive Communication
Assertive communication is a balanced communication style that privileges each voice in the conversation equally. An assertive communicator will freely and respectfully disclose their feelings, thoughts, wants and needs in a way that can be heard by the other.

The basis of assertive communication is to treat all people equally. You support yourself in having a perspective and a voice, and you also respect that your employee has a perspective and a voice that may be different from yours, but is just as valuable.

Assertive communicators use ‘I’ language to express their thoughts and feelings.

Assertive communicators will expect that differences will arise in their team and be prepared to move into difficult and anxiety-provoking discussions with a goal of equality and resolution.

An assertive communicator doesn’t blame others for how they feel which is an important distinction from the aggressive communicator who will often blame others for the way they are feeling.

How to Shift Your Knee Jerk Response

1. Take a breath or 2 or 3. Slow yourself down for the briefest of pauses—just enough time to subvert your default reaction. In that moment, notice your gut reaction. How do you tend to handle poor performance? Do you get angry? Stressed? Needy? Distant? Your goal is to give people what they need to perform, not what you need to release.

2. Decide on the outcome you want.  Be specific — maybe it’s improved performance. What does this particular person need in order to turn around this particular poor performance or failure? Maybe it’s help defining a stronger strategy, or brainstorming different tactics, or identifying what went right. Maybe they need to know you trust them, you’re on their side and that mistakes happen.

3. Choose a response that will achieve the outcome you want, rather than simply making your already obvious displeasure more obvious.

The added bonus in changing your knee-jerk response?  It will improve your marriage and personal relationships, as well.  An extra goody for you and everyone in your life.

Continue Reading

Goal Setting with Journaling: To Live Life Fully

January 2015

Sometimes you may feel stressed because you are not achieving things that are important to you or your focus seems to take you in the wrong direction. Daily stress and underlying tension can result from a lifestyle that doesn’t align with your values or goals.

Brain science has shown numerous benefits to journaling that include processing feelings and brainstorming solutions. This can not only relieve stress, but also help you attain goals by providing an opportunity to work through problems, find solutions, and keep from getting stuck in unhealthy patterns.

Use these goal setting journaling techniques to get in touch with your goals and align your priorities.

Personal & Professional Goal Setting with a Journal:

  1. Ask yourself – What do I really want – at my very core?  If you had a magic wand, what would you like to see included in your future? Ignoring the ideas of how you’ll get there, vividly imagine your ideal life, and what would be included in it. Begin to list the a couple changes and goals to go from ‘here to there.’
  2. Continue to dream and plan as you journal – and take small steps to begin a shift.  It might be as simple as taking a class that you think will get you closer to your dream job or scheduling an “informational interview” with someone who works in a profession that you’d like to move into.  Pat yourself on the back for success and work through frustration of setbacks.
  3. Make updates to your goals as they change with you. Sometimes the pursuit of one goal will lead to growth that will lead to the realization that a different direction would be better for you.
  4. Record gratitude.  It’s important to write about all the things for which you are grateful. This form of journaling can helps you develop the habit an “attitude of gratitude.”  This can decrease stress, increase awareness of how far you’ve come and help you realize progress.
  5. Acknowledge your emotions to create goals.  After moving to a different city – I realized I felt lonely.  So, I created a goal to find new friends, have more quality talk-time with old friend and put more fun into 2014.  By volunteering, taking some cooking classes and asking people to go out to coffee/lunch — my life changed dramatically in 1 year.  Now, I feel “filled up, included, connected and part of.”

As you write — and dream – and plan — and feel – then notice if there are any Inner Critics that come up.  An Inner Critic is that voice inside of you that may say things like, “You need to stay small.  You can’t do that.  You don’t deserve that.  You’re incapable of doing that. People will laugh at you if you try that.  You’re too old to make changes.  Give up.  Stop trying.  You’re defective.  What’s wrong with you?”

The Inner Critic – although its messages are harsh – those voices are actually trying to protect you in some way.  They are afraid of you trying something new or different – they are afraid you’ll get hurt or be judged or ridiculed or be unsafe in some way.
Inner Critics can block you from achieving your goals.  Inner Critics eventually lead to regret as time passes – “I wish I had tried that or done that – but now it’s too late.”

Record your Inner Critics (and journal about them!) as you hear them.   See if you can get an understanding of why they don’t want you to pursue something new/different.

A professional can help remove these blocks to set you on a path of freedom and more choices.

Journaling moves goals and the blockages from the unconscious to the conscious level.  Once conscious – you can begin to live a new life.

Continue Reading

Rough Day at the Office?

July 2014

Work stress has sky-rocketed but WHY?

Many reports indicate that the majority of companies aren’t replacing workers when they leave a job. Therefore, workloads have increased across the board without more pay. Monster reports that the top stressors are poor relations with the boss, low pay, long commutes and poor work-life balance.

There’s a condition that the Atlantic has dubbed “hyper-employment”.  Thanks to laptops and smart phones, we have the ability to be connected 24/7 which wipes us out physically and emotionally.

WORK-STRESS TIPS:

  • Get enough sleep since lack of sleep can leave you vulnerable to even more stress. When you’re well-rested, it’s much easier to keep your emotional balance, a key factor in coping with job and workplace stress.
  • Turn off work when you walk through the door at home. This will allow you to practice compartmentalizing work stress and focus on recharging your own batteries through improved family relationships.
  • Acknowledge your state of mind by sharing your experience of work-related stress with your spouse or friend. And if your spouse shares that they are stressed at work, try and listen with an open heart.
  • Reduce alcohol intake since alcohol temporarily reduces anxiety and worry, but too much can increase anxiety as it wears off.  Similarly, smoking when you’re feeling stressed and overwhelmed may seem calming, but nicotine is a powerful stimulant – leading to higher, not lower, levels of anxiety.

Take a small step today.

Continue Reading

Calming the Inner Critic

September 2013

You likely know it’s there and have some awareness of it.  The Inner Critic is that critical or shaming voice inside of your head that evaluates, criticizes, pushes, or critiques you.  It might tell you that you are not good enough or that you are too much.  It might be more global and say overarching things such as — you’re bad.

That Critic might push you to do/accomplish more  — feeling like a slavedriver.  Or, it might shame you after you’ve done something “wrong” such as making a mistake, eating too much or getting angry.  It might tell you that you’re too big, your needs aren’t important or that you are being a nuisance to others.

If you feel inadequate or awful about yourself — it’s time to focus on your Inner Critic.

I was recently reading the lovely work of Jay Early and Bonnie Weiss (Personal Growth Programs).  They have identified  7 types of Inner Critics:

TaskMaster pushes you very hard to accomplish a lot.  It wants you to work hard and be successful. It fears that you may be mediocre or lazy and will be judged a failure.  It drives you to work harder..

Perfectionist is all about quality of work — mistakes and flaws are not acceptable.  This Critic has high standards and it does not want you to be judged, rejected or criticized.

Underminer is very uncomfortable with risk.  It tries to undermine your self-confidence and self-esteem and wants you to stay small to avoid failing, being hurt, judged or rejected.

Molder doesn’t allow for individuality and wants you to fit a mold that comes from society, your family or culture.  It attacks you for not acting in a certain way and prevents your free expression.

Inner Controller tries to prevent pleasurable, decadent or addictive behavior that might not be good for you; overeating, drinking, sexual activity.
 It fears that you will get out of control.

Guilt-Tripper crushes your conscience for some specific action you have taken (or not taken).  It tries to protect you from repeating past mistakes by making sure you never feel free.

Destroyer depresses you, making pervasive attacks on your self-worth and shaming you. It makes you feel inherently flawed and not entitled to basic understanding/respect.

The question I hear most often in my therapy room is —  “Elizabeth, how do I get rid of that self-critical voice and feel better about myself?”  The good news is — you can.

As a start — just begin to notice when the Critic surfaces. Try journaling to begin to clearly hear the words of the Inner Critic without hating it or trying to get rid of it — but rather being interested in it.  Allow your memories to drift back to what was going on in your life when the Critic started to surface.

Ask the Critic some questions.  Why do you push me like that? What are you trying to do for me? What are you afraid would happen if you didn’t criticize/shame me?

My own Critic criticizes/shames me because it is afraid that I’ll fail.  That shaming voice inside my head pushes me to succeed.  It started in highschool when I realized that I could gain more love/attention from my parents with my success in school and sports.  The critical voice is afraid that if I fail — I’ll lose love from those around me.

When I was age 14, the Critic was helpful in pushing me to do well in those formative years of my life.  It was developmentally appropriate for my age and helped me set personal, educational and career goals.   Although, four decades later — that Critic has the potential of draining my energy and damaging my self-worth.  What do you notice about your Critic?

The first step with the Critic is to notice it.  Then the shift to soften it can begin.

Continue Reading

Type A’s & Stress

June 2013

There is no doubt that work is important in today’s society.  People who are hard workers and take their jobs seriously are often rewarded with promotions, bonuses and accolades from family, friends and the boss.  Our results-oriented culture admires people who produce – that makes sense.

However, hard work and success can actually become addictive.  Without even realizing it, a person driven by success begins to measure their personal worth by how much they get done and how successful they become.  Fearing failure and needing to experience the next success, a person may be driven — moving from one success to the next, faster and faster.

Often times, this personality trait is seen as early as grade school or high school.  It carries a badge of honor for the youngster to succeed in one or more areas, especially if it results in athletic and scholastic achievements.  Teachers, parents, coaches, friends – send the message that “you are somebody” as the child or adolescent begins to equate success to self-worth.

RESEARCH
In the 1950’s, two heart specialists – Rosenman and Friedman – developed the term, Type A.  They conducted an 8-year study of middle managers and executives and asked questions such as:
• Do you feel guilty if you use spare time to relax?
• Do you need to win in order to derive enjoyment from games and sports?
• Do you generally move, walk and eat rapidly?
• Do you often try to do more than one thing at a time?

Rosenman & Friedman described Type A behavior as competitive, ambitious, impatient and aggressive.  Type A’s tend to have a harrying sense of time urgency.  Individuals displaying this pattern seem to be engaged in a chronic, ceaseless and often fruitless struggle with themselves, with others, with circumstances, with time and sometimes with life itself.

RESULTS
Energetic and strong-willed Type A’s become caught in a self-made trap of attempting to hold everything together, trying to achieve greater success, negating the poetic and personal side of life and struggling to answer the question, “Has it been worth the price?” as marriages dissolve, their children grow distant or they are laid off from their beloved job. Type A’s are so focused on the destination – that they treat themselves like machines until they break down one way or another.

The first step is a candid self-appraisal.  How many of these beliefs do you hold?

  • I must always be competent.
  • I must get everything done on time.
  • I don’t have the limits of normal people.
  • I must work hard all the time.
  • I feel more valuable when I accomplish something.

The  second step is to begin to softly shift those beliefs.  You might find a phrase to say yourself several times a day that is meaningful to you:

  • I do not need to work harder than others.
  • I am a worthwhile person — separate from my work.
  • I am loved for who I am — not what I do..
  • I can rest.  I don’t have to do it all.
  • I do not have to control everything.

The  third step is consciously take time each day to slow down:

  • Take mini-breaks throughout the day (stretch, walk, eat lunch with someone).
  • Take deep breaths and relax your shoulders, neck, jaw, hands when you feel tension increasing.
  • Set a goal for what time you’ll leave at the end of the day — and stick to it.
  • Leave your briefcase at work.

I encourage you to reach out to a mentor, spiritual advisor or counselor if you are having trouble making changes by yourself.

I’m here if you need help.

Continue Reading

What the Heck is Stress Anyway?

May 2013

Even though it might not feel good, stress is a normal bodily response when you perceive a situation of threat. Stress readies our body for “fight or flight” – also called the stress response. There are several body functions that change when you are stressed – heart rate increases, sweat glands engage, digestion decreases, blood pressure increases. The body is trying to prepare you for a fight or to flee the situation.

Stress is a normal protection mechanism and is an aspect of healthy living when it’s in small, manageable doses. Minor levels of stress are effective in motivating you to study for an exam, focusing your efforts at work to prepare for a big meeting, to get out of the house to rake the leaves on a chilly Fall day and to take the kids shopping for new clothes the week before school starts.

The problem comes when you are in situations where stress is elevated over long periods of time – or stressful events occur frequently – or life hits you like a tidal wave. It’s at this point, that stress can cause damage – physically, emotionally and relationally.

The symptoms of stress overload and burnout are different for different people. If you experience some of the following – you might be in stress overload:

  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Irritation or anger
  • Fear and anxiety
  • Depression
  • Feelings of loneliness
  • Ongoing worry
  • Racing thoughts
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Difficulty in making decisions
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Chest pains
  • Frequent stomach problems or headaches
  • Nausea
  • Change in eating (too much or too little)
  • Difficulty sleeping or excessive sleeping
  • Using alcohol, drugs or smoking to relax
  • Excessive time in front of the TV or Internet
  • Engaging in activities you later regret (gambling, pornography, chat rooms)

It is always good to see your doctor for a full physical if you experience any of these problems to rule out any physical or medical reasons.

If you recognize that you’re getting burned out – it might be time to focus on stress management. It might be time to focus on you.

Peace be with you,
Elizabeth Galanti

 

Continue Reading