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Archive for the ‘health’ Category

Just finished reading Brene´ Brown’s book “The Gifts of Imperfection“, a great book by the way. One thing that really resonated with me came near the end when she talks about being cool and always in control. This has been a theme in my life, and having lived in DC for the past 10 years hasn’t helped to change that. This town is generally about being on guard, conforming, and keeping your silly side under wraps. No freak flags are flown here, at least none that I’ve seen.

article-2287524-18686F27000005DC-646_634x436Being cool, in the context of the book, is not particularly a good thing. We’re too cool when we’re afraid of looking silly in front of others by doing things like laughing too loudly, singing off-key, or dancing around like a fool.  On the other hand, we’re uncool when we can fully embrace our vulnerability in situations like these, and let our authentic selves come out – and in the process, not caring what others may think.

Brown tells a funny story about how she and her daughter were dancing in the shoe department at Nordstrom’s to a catchy song that was playing in the background. Even though other shoppers were shooting them judgmental looks, that didn’t stop them from freely expressing themselves. She writes, “When we value being cool and in control over granting ourselves the freedom to unleash the passionate, goofy, heartfelt and soulful expressions of who we are, we betray ourselves. When we consistently betray ourselves, we can expect to do the same to the people we love.”

Like anything else, being uncool is a process…and for me, a really “cool” place to get to!

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I thought I’d try some meditation tonight, the first I have in awhile. Since one of the main ideas behind meditation is to quiet the mind, I found this to be a challenging exercise to say the least! As an introvert, my mind is almost always going, always thinking – hard to just turn it off, or even to slow it down.  (I’m sure this is not uncommon, though, regardless of where people fall on the introvert/extrovert spectrum.) Those who meditate on a regular basis will tell you it’s perfectly natural, in the midst of it, for our brains to wander off and start thinking about day-to-day stuff, “to-do” lists, etc  when we’re supposed to be clearing the mind and focusing on just breathing. I found this happening to me tonight, but by the end being able to center myself.

meditationThe key is to be aware of when we go off track like that and to be able to bring ourselves back to a meditative state. It’s sort of a parallel for life if you think about it (no pun intended). It’s not as important the situation we’re in, but more so how we react to it and make the necessary adjustments that help determine success or failure.

And besides being a great mind-clearer, meditation is also a perfect stress-buster. For those interested in starting a mediation practice, search your local area for classes, pick up a dvd (like I did this week) and get started at home, or do a self-guided meditation wherever you are!

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I’ve been hearing a lot about the importance of moving around, and not sitting for too long at one time in the workplace. When you think about it, “extended inactivity” is an easy thing to avoid, but an equally easy thing to overlook. Given the super hectic multi-tasking manner in how many of us work these days, it’s no wonder we forget to get up, move around and get the blood flowing. This is a fundamental wellness area for all of us to pay attention to especially in light of the potential negative health consequences of ignoring it. Fortunately, more and more organizations are realizing the benefits of moving, and are encouraging their employees to do more of it. In fact, one company in Minnesota radically restructured how they hold meetings. Instead of sitting down at a conference table, they each walk on a treadmill. Now that’s what I call multi-tasking!

Sitting still for long periods of time has been linked to a variety of illnesses. Physical movement helps not only our circulation but also can increase energy levels, help us lose weight and causes the release of endorphins – those chemicals in the brain that are natural mood-boosters and stress-busters. It can also help us clear our minds, get the creative juices flowing and be more productive overall. I’m sure there are a whole host of benefits I’m forgetting to mention, but those are the ones that come immediately to mind. Organizations would be smart to encourage their employees’ wellness: it’s of course great for the employee, but also good for the organization in higher morale, less turnover, higher productivity and potentially lower health care costs.

For more on the subject, check out the book, Instant Recess: Building a Fit Nation 10 Minutes at a Time.

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As a career coach, I’ve been able to work with a wide variety of individuals and provide the tools necessary to get them to their next job/career. Along with the work I do with them on resumes, interviewing, networking, career direction, values, etc., part of my job is to be as encouraging and motivating as possible. As to be expected, job transition involves an emotional component, one where the job seeker often feels depressed or hopeless, or at the very least, discouraged and frustrated. Coaching is not psychotherapy, and coaches should not attempt to do therapy with a client. With that said, sometimes all a client needs is, like I said some extra encouragement and motivation.

In between coaching sessions, I recommend  that job seeking clients ask a close friend or family member to be their “support buddy”  – someone they can trust to check in with them every day (or every other day) to give an extra shot of encouragement. A little can go a long way. And if they can find someone who has been through a job transition or has been laid off in the past, even better (in terms of being able to relate.) I also think it’s important that a job seeker’s support network not only care about what he or she is going through and can appreciate the challenge of it, but also be able to express that to them.

Is there a job seeker in your life that you can lend a little moral support to?

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…for 10 minutes a day, that is. This is one of the many valuable tips that Richard Carlson mentions in his book, “Don’t Sweat The Small Stuff at Work.” Sounds simple enough, but probably not so simple for a lot of people who are on the go all day long, running from one meeting to the next, multi-tasking, working straight through their lunch hours, and so on and so forth. It’s no wonder why we’re so stressed at work. But taking just 10 minutes out of our day, each day to sit quietly, turn off our minds, breathe, meditate, and do absolutely nothing can be the stress-buster that’s needed. My advice to you is that if you can’t do a whole 10 minutes at a time, start with 3 minutes, then work your way up to 10. Find a quiet space, close your office door, turn out the lights, log out of email, silence your cell phone…whatever it takes, do it for a few minutes each workday. You may be shocked at how such a passive technique can help make a big difference. Besides stress reduction, a few minutes of doing nothing will likely result in increased productivity and will create a space for ideas and solutions to appear. Granted, the “art” of doing nothing will be easier for some than for others, and it may come down to just practicing it in order to get it right!

Check out this interesting article from fastcompany.com called, “What Happened to Downtime: The Extinction of Deep Thinking and Sacred Space.”

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By keeping cool, I’m not referring to battling the heat waves that have been so common this summer. I’m really talking about preventing the meltdowns that many people experience in the workplace. Nowadays, meltdowns are probably even more frequent due to the slow economy and more work being done by fewer workers. Office politics, overdemanding customers and unreasonable bosses are just a few other examples of things that can spark a meltdown. We can even find examples in the news recently: the Jet Blue flight attendant who told off an unruly and inconsiderate passenger on the PA system before making his escape down the airplane’s emergency slide.

Although a meltdown can feel good in the moment, it can also have more long-term negative consequences. So what can we do to calm down and avert one before it happens?

  • Breathe. Simple breathing exercises can do wonders. They the 4-7-8 exercise: breathe in through the nose for a count of 4. Hold for 7. Out through the mouth for 8. Repeat as necessary.
  • Smile. Even a fake smile can help lower stress levels and put us in a better frame of mind.
  • Feel your feet. By literally feeling our feet make contact with the ground, it helps us feel grounded, stable and supported and gets us out of our heads.

Check out The Way We’re Working Isn’t Working: The Four Forgotten Needs That Energize Great Performance for more ways to potentially avert employee meltdowns!

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I consider myself pretty good at deciphering food labels at the supermarket, though it does get tricky at times. Food marketers have a knack for making something sound more nutritious than it actually is. For example, a couple weeks ago at the Giant I saw this one brand of pancake syrup with “All Natural” on the front of the label, even though high fructose corn syrup was listed in the ingredients on the back. See how confusing (misleading) it can be?

But after reading In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto by Michael Pollan, I realized that there were still things I didn’t know. The book really helped me become more aware and make smarter choices at the supermarket. It’s a common-sense guide that gets back to the basics of food and nutrition, and distinguishes between food and what Pollan calls “food-like substances.” His overall philosophy boils down to seven words: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” Definitely an eye-opening book. I would recommend reading it before your next trip to the supermarket.

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