Category: Aspects

Aspects of well-being, part 10 – The Finale

Self-experimentation. This entire series, in it’s essence, revolves around this one topic. Yet it’s likely to be the shortest entry. Read on…

Self-experimentation is not as scary, or for that matter creepy, as it sounds. It’s simply how you figure out what works for you. I mean, this seems so intuitive doesn’t it? If you want to know if something is going to work, you need to try it. Right?

  • If we’re talking about trying a new way of interacting with your co-workers, or experimenting with a standing desk option, or adding some personalization to your cubicle – you have to try it to see if it’s going to work.
  • If it’s a change related to your eating habits, well that one’s really self-evident. Just try it.
  • Moving more takes practice, and time. You’ll want to try and give this one at least a month before judging its effectiveness for you.
  • Sleep, you see where this is going.

Experiment. Only you can decide if a change is working for you. Just remember to give each change enough time to truly be able to determine if it’s been effective and beneficial.

In each post in this series, I offer a couple of suggestions for behavior/habit changes that may help you navigate your day to day world. At the risk of sounding like a broken record (not to mention dating myself by knowing what that means), if you want to know if one of those suggestions will in fact help you – you have to be willing to try it out.

The best test subject for a lifestyle change you’re considering – is you. Don’t be afraid to fail. That’s not a bad word. You aren’t a failure, the change you tried is, so discard it and try another one. Each failure is in fact an amazing chance to learn something about yourself, to see what doesn’t work for you, and to tailor your next experiment in a way that will work better. For you.

After all, you’re the expert on you.*

 

 

*This actually segues into something I’ll cover soon, the idea of just what an “expert” is and why we give it so much credence.

Aspects of well-being, part 9

Routine.

Kind of broad and all encompassing, huh? I mean, all of the previous 8 parts of this series could be said to reduce down to “change your routine.” And that’s true. What I want to cover here is the broader idea of having a routine and how it can help with behavior and habit changes. I’d also like to dispel the common usage of the word routine to mean “boring,” mundane,” or “underwhelming.” Routines are an important part of our daily lives, and it’s time we realized and embraced that fact.

Think about your average day. How does it start? Chances are it’s something like this: alarm goes off > roll out of bed and hit the bathroom > brush teeth > shower > get dressed > grab coffee/breakfast > hit the road.

Guess what that is? That’s a routine.

Now let’s say that you want to change what you eat for breakfast. You’ve been grabbing an energy bar, recently you found out that they’re mostly sugar and you know that’s not the best way to start the day so you want to shift over to something more satiating. Since breakfast is smack in the middle of your morning routine, there’s an easy way to make this change. It’s called triggering.

A trigger can be nearly anything you do on a regular basis. In this example we’ll use getting dressed. Once you get dressed, your next stop is the kitchen for coffee and breakfast. If you want to change the behavior of breakfast, you associate it with the trigger of getting dressed so that when you hit the kitchen you’re ready for the new behavior of eating some eggs instead of an energy bar.

There’s a lot of discord among behavior experts on how long it takes for a new behavior to become a habit, with most zeroing in on somewhere around 30 days. So for one month, you use the trigger of getting dressed (or you can get more specific and use putting on your shoes, for example) to prime you for the new behavior of eating a good breakfast. The idea is that by the end of that month, you’ve dumped the energy bar habit in favor of a hearty breakfast of eggs.

Having this whole thing revolve around the fact that you have a morning routine is what makes this change possible. And the best part is routines are quite flexible. Let’s look at your mid afternoon break at work. Most people start to feel tired around 2-3 PM. Without getting into the specifics of why this happens and what you can do about it (saving that for a post of it’s own), let’s look at a way to change the outcome of this break.

Right now, you likely start to nod off over your keyboard. So you get up and head for the break room and a cup of coffee and/or a “treat” from the vending machine. These combine to give you the boost you think you need to make it through 5:00. Now, what do you think would happen if you used getting up from your desk as the trigger, and instead of the break room, you headed outside to walk around the block and followed that up with a glass of water from the watercooler? How much better would you feel, not only physically, but about yourself in general?

This improvement is possible because you have a routine in place that you can easily modify with triggering. This is a change process that anyone can use, to modify nearly any daily habit. Does it still take willpower? Of course. Is it easier than trying to change a behavior completely off the cuff? Of course. Might it be worth trying? I would say so.

Aspects of well-being, part 8

Sleep.

Seems like a topic without much controversy, right? I mean, we all know how to sleep…or do we?

Many of us in western societies have more dysfunction in this arena than you might first assume. We’ve become immune to seeing the effects of too little (or too low quality) sleep. Things like afternoon stupor (and subsequent hunt for sugar and/or caffeine), a daily fight with the alarm clock, the felt ‘need’ for caffeine before calling yourself ready to take on the day; and even some less obvious things like digestive troubles, increased troubled eating patterns, attention deficit behaviors (in all ages), and worsening symptoms of long term diseases like Type II Diabetes. All of these can be caused, or worsened, by not getting enough high quality sleep.

There’s an important distinction to make right off the bat, redefining what we call sleep as specifically high quality sleep. It may not be enough to lay in bed for 8 hours a night, if you’re not getting into the deeper sleep cycles, you’re likely not going to see the positive effects.

While there isn’t a consensus on all of the above, or below for that matter, what most sleep experts DO agree on is that most Americans could benefit from more sleep. They also agree on a handful of things we can all do to help facilitate this increase in high quality sleep. Controlling your sleep environment, distractions in the bedroom, and pre-bed screen time are 3 things you can try right now if you feel like you’re barely getting through the work day.

1) Sleep environment

This category includes light levels and temperature in the bedroom. You want your sleeping environment to be as dark as you can make it. If this means something as simple as installing a door sweep to block light coming in from the hall, do it. Consider blackout curtains if you live in a region with long days in the summer. If you don’t want to make that much of an investment until you know the effects, try tacking an extra blanket up for a few days first.

Turn your alarm clock away from your face so the light isn’t hitting you all night. Yes, even this small a light source can have an impact. Along the same lines, plug your phone in to charge…in another room. This eliminates several factors from the little blinking light to the temptation to check email one more time before bed.

As for temperature, most people sleep their best with the ambient temperature somewhere around 60. I realize that this may not be feasible for everyone. For example, I live in Seattle where nothing is air conditioned. To further confound things, my room doesn’t have a cross breeze, just one single window. Last night it was 79 in my room. I combated this as best I could using fans, including putting one in front of the window, raised up on a chair so it could pull in more of the cooling night air. In winter this is of course much easier, just set the thermostat a bit lower.

2) Distractions

I already mentioned keeping your cell phone away from your bed. Another distraction that is increasingly common is a TV. Watch TV in the living room. Or better, cut the cable and don’t watch network TV at all (this eliminates many additional distractions that are for another post). Laptops seem to enjoy migrating into bedrooms as well. Don’t let yours convince you that it’s OK to sit up in bed until all hours working on that draft memo, or checking email one last time. They can be tricky, so watch out.

Personally, I recommend even doing your pre-bed reading somewhere else. Save the bed for sleeping (and one other activity that is also best saved for another post).

3) Pre-bed screen time

This one causes a lot of people a lot of grief. Sleep experts have actually come to one of those rare consensuses on this one. Shut off all screens 1-2 hours before bedtime. this includes TV, computer, tablet, and phone. The sole exception is if you have an e-reader that uses e-ink, these don’t give off the blue light that disrupts sleep cycles, so they’re OK. I have a personal affinity for paper books, but that’s me.

If some amount of screen time is unavoidable, for whatever reason, consider investing in a pair of blue-blockers. These are glasses with orange lenses that cut the blue end of the light spectrum, helping your body get ready for sleep naturally and not faking it into thinking it’s still daylight. I know iOS devices (iPhones and iPads) have a new setting called Night Shift that does this for you.

These are 3 relatively simple areas of life that if adjusted appropriately can have a positive impact on your sleep cycles, and by extension the rest of your daily existence. I encourage everyone to try some of the suggestions above, give them at least a week before making adjustments or declaring it ineffective.

In the final two pieces of this series I’m going to look at routines and self-experimenting, both of which overlap with topics like sleep, so stay tuned. And in the meantime, here’s to better sleep!

Aspects of well-being, part 7

Movement

Or you can think of this aspect as ‘exercise’ if you prefer. I find that some words come with more baggage than I want to address in these posts, so I’ll be using ‘movement’ instead – since that’s truly the point – to move your body.

There are three types of movement I want to cover here, and all three are things that anyone of able body can find a way to do. There are, of course, ways to modify things for less-than-fully able bodies which are better left to medical professionals. I’ll outline each below, along with several suggestions of how they can be done to varying degrees of difficulty to show how adaptable they can be.

Move slowly, a bunch

I could have just said, “Walk,” since that’s the most common way to move around when you’re a biped. This can be accomplished by walking the dog, walking to the grocery store, strolling through the park. Swimming is a great activity for this one too, or riding your bike. The point isn’t HOW you move, it’s THAT you move. As much as you can get away with is fantastic, but if you twisted my arm to put a minimum on this I would say 20 minutes a day. That’s one good evening stroll with the dog, or walking around the block on lunch.

Move quickly, a bit

This one can be accomplished in myriad ways too. When you’re out for a walk, sprint one block. Or find a pickup game of ultimate to join. Or ride up that hill you usually bypass. Or just ride full out for 1/2 mile on your ride home from work. What’s important here is that you move all out for a few minutes, a couple of times per week. Everyday isn’t necessary, in fact giving yourself time to recover from all out sprints is recommended.

Lift stuff

Playing with the kids can count here, if they’re still small enough that you can lift them that is. Otherwise, find a rock in the yard, or a sandbag, or even a good size piece of firewood (if you’re lucky enough to have a wood burning fireplace). Then lift it. Then put it down. Then lift it again. Repeat until you’re tired.

Seriously, that’s it. Use good form* of course, but otherwise the point is to use your muscles and to put some weight on your load bearing bones.

There are some caveats I need to add here. First and foremost, I am not a licensed or certified exercise professional (any longer), nor am I a medical professional. Please don’t take these as prescriptive, they are simply recommendations. If you have any concerns about form, or intensity, please consult an appropriate professional. Second, these suggestions are meant to encourage general, overall health and well-being. If you are a competitive athlete, or in training for a specific event (marathon, mountain climb, etc) you will of course want to focus on those. Working with an exercise professional specific to your event is highly recommended.

Move slowly, a bunch

Move quickly, a bit

Lift stuff

I truly am saying it’s that easy. And before you say it, yes, I realize these 3 suggestions are broad and open ended. That’s intentional. I want to make it clear – what matters here is THAT you move, not HOW you move. As with other topics I feel can go much deeper, this post was intended as an intro – I’m happy to share my research, feel free to use the contact me page to get in touch.

 

 

* My role as wellness coach does not make me an exercise professional, that’s why I’m not going into details on just what ‘good form’ means. Please speak to a certified exercise pro if you have any concerns or questions.

Aspects of well-being, part 6

Really, this post relates to all habits. I want to zero in a bit on those that surround the act of nourishing our bodies, because this is often where I see the most dysfunction.

There are two things that you’ll need before addressing eating habits. These may seem simplistic or trite, but experience has shown me that without these two things, no attempt at changing a habit – particularly one as firmly established as an eating habit – will be successful.

First – you have to want to change the habit.

See, I told you it might sound simplistic, let me explain. Many people come to this topic because someone else told them they should make this or that change. Maybe a doctor told you something like “your knee wouldn’t hurt so much if you lost some weight” (yes, that one is from personal experience). Or your significant other made a disparaging comment about the way you grazed through the last potluck you attended. These type of comments are generally made with good intentions, however they just don’t help, do they?

If anything, I have found these comments lead us down the road the other direction, toward reinforcing the behavior rather than helping change it.

If you come to behavior change from a place like this, where your impetus is an unhelpful suggestion or disparaging comment – you’re not going to have any luck. This will sound strange, but I would suggest you NOT try to make any such changes at this point. The effect of trying and not succeeding can be more destructive than not trying the change in the first place. Wait a bit. Give the comment time to fade into the past.

Then, when YOU are ready, come back to the habit. Let’s take that second example, grazing your way through a potluck. Before the event, get yourself ready by SELF imposing some limits. Take a smaller plate, for example. The psychological effect of seeing a plate piled high makes you feel fuller when you finish that plate – even if it was a smaller, side size plate. If there are no small plates, try putting your cup on your plate to take up some space.

Another idea for this situation is to take a walk down the whole potluck table without a plate. Just scope out the choices so you know what to expect and aren’t taken by surprise when you find your favorite dish all the way at the end and pile an extra serving on top of your already full plate.

By setting the expectation going into the tempting situation, you can set yourself up for success – rather than falling into old habits and feeling bad about it for the rest of the weekend.

Second – Give it time.

This one elicits a lot of strong opinion. I mean, what does “time” mean in this context? A week? A month? 6 months? If you want a new habit to stick, you have to give it time to become part of your routine. Especially if you’re trying to replace an old habit with a new one, the part of your brain that craves routine needs time to replace one piece of that routine with the new one.

Some experts will say it takes 30 days for a new daily habit to stick. Others will tell you it’s 18 days. I’ve also seen 23 days (come on, 23? Where’d they get that one?) I’m not going to wade into this particular quagmire, if you want some resources I’m more than happy to share the reading I’ve done on this topic. My bottom line is a bit simpler and yet a bit more enigmatic – give it time.

It will help to focus on one habit at a time. Going back to our example of servings at that potluck, if you want to work on cutting serving size don’t also try to cut a food group. If you think you want to try an elimination diet (where you cut several food groups simultaneously, then re-add them one at a time to see if you react to something in particular) – this isn’t the time. Pick one. Either do the elimination diet now, and work on serving sizes later, or vice versa. Keeping it to one habit at a time leaves all of your willpower resources available to help you succeed at that one habit change.

This was a simplified and shortened take on what is in truth a much broader and deeper topic. In the future I’ll tackle it one piece at a time, for now if you can keep these two ideas in mind you’ll be well on your way to making the eating habit changes you want to make.

Aspects of Well-being, Part 5

Stress.

The word alone can cause, well, a stress reaction for folks.

I’m not going to tell you 10 ways to eliminate stress from your life, or how this simple method will help you…whatever. The reality is, stress happens. What matters is how you deal with that stress – both when it’s happening and in between bouts.

“It’s not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters.”
– Epictetus

I’ve used this quote before, and I interject it here because it says what I want to say – just more succinct (as a good stoic quote should). When stressors happen, the effect they have on you can be mitigated by one primary force…you.

If you freak out and run around like your hair is on fire, you’re succumbing to the stress and it’s having it’s way with your hormone levels.

If, on the other hand, you take a step back, take a deep breath or two and look at your situation from a fresh perspective – well now who’s in charge?

This second option, along with keeping the stress hormones at bay, has several things going for it. First, the act of pausing means you aren’t jumping in and acting without thought. Stress messes with your thinking, meaning your first knee-jerk reaction is likely NOT the best idea you’ll have all day.

Second, taking a couple of deep, intentional breaths does a couple of things to your benefit. The breaths slow your heartbeat, which was likely elevated as a result of your body’s fight or flight response to the initial stressor. They also serve to refocus your energy onto your breathing and off of the source of stress. This will lessen it’s impact on other processes going on, like your ability to think clearly.

And the last act in this three part drama is taking a fresh perspective on your situation. This allows you to see what’s going on as though it was happening to someone else, not you. By doing so, you can adopt a healthier view of things and ideally see a way through the stress induced (and inducing) fog.

Taking a look at your situation from a new perspective is not, in reality, the easiest task. It requires you to remove yourself from what’s going on, to see the stressor as a discrete thing happening ‘over there.’ Another way to think of this is that you’re using your innate empathy – on yourself.

When you’re talking to someone else and their story causes your empathetic response to kick in, you take on their emotions and feelings. You begin to truly FEEL what they’re feeling. When you turn this on yourself, you can begin to FEEL how you’re feeling in the same way you do for that other person.

This in turn aids in seeing your situation as an outsider – an interested third party.

In summary, stress happens. It’s how you respond to it that will determine whether you sink under the weight or swim off to a new solution. OK, that was a bit strained but you get my point. Take a moment the next time you feel a stress response starting, take a couple of breaths and see if you can shift your perspective.

I promise you just might see things more clearly.

Aspects of Well-being, Part 4

Last time we took a cursory look at office ergonomics and how they can affect overall well-being. Today I want to look at how the rest of your surroundings at work can have an impact. I’m talking about your actual, physical environment – be it an office, a cubicle, or a desk space in an open plan office. This can also relate to a home office, co-working space or coffee shop – wherever you do the bulk of your work.

I’m going to limit this discussion to a top 3 again, as yet again we have a topic here that can easily turn into a rabbit hole – one that may even include multiple dimensions.

First a question: do you know where you fall on the Introvert <=> Extrovert spectrum? This can have a major impact on your overall comfort at work, especially in today’s all too common “open plan office.” Extroverts thrive in a highly collaborative environment, with lots of action, coworkers stopping by constantly, always buzzing with energy – they draw their energy from others. Introverts on the other hand thrive in quiet. They need to be able to shut out all of those things the extroverts thrive on in order to focus on what they’re doing. This can lead to clashes in open plan office settings when the introverts in the room dive under headphones to escape the din.

No matter where you fall on the spectrum, there are things you can do make your work setting a better fit.

Tip #1: Adjust your work area to fit/display your personality. For example, the extrovert with a private office can leave their door open all the time. Some have gone a step farther and put a “welcome, come on in!” sign on the door. This lets everyone know that you’re always available for a collaboration or some small talk.

For the introvert stuck in an open setting, building up some permeable, yet easily visible barriers is a great option (run anything you want to try past your boss first, please). An example from my work life: I built some simple screens out of wood and handmade paper that extended the pony wall (~4′ high) separating me from my cube mates up to a better height. This offered some privacy and calmed things down for me. If you’re not up to the DIY option, there are 2′ tall shoji screens available from several outlets online.

Tip #2: Decorations. I know, this sounds superficial, however studies are showing that something as simple as a picture of the outdoors can actually lower stress hormone levels in office workers. Obviously a window that looked out on actual trees would be primo. A second first choice is an actual plant. There are many options that can thrive in a cube setting. If you’re not up to taking care of plants, and since most office workers don’t have the luxury of a nature view window – try pinning up a couple of shots of the great outdoors. Bonus points if you have pictures of the outdoors (sans humans) that are from places you’ve been. The added connection of having seen the location in person adds to the positive effects by tying in a pleasant memory.

Other than this, try to keep distracting knick-knacks and tchotchkes to a minimum.

Tip #3: Desktop clutter. While we’re talking about knick-knacks and other sundry distractions – most desks I see in my work as IT desktop support are…how shall I put this politely…well they’re a flippin’ mess.

Take 5 minutes when you get to work tomorrow and put away 10 things. Then dust the area of your desk that you can now see for the first time in (insert number of years at your current job)…Then, remove 10 things from your computer’s desktop. You can delete them or organize them, as long as they’re removed from your desktop. Most companies have security policies in place that say employees should be saving their files to a specific network location anyway, and as a bonus your files will now be backed up (big assumption here that your company has a backup plan in place).

There you have it, 3 easy steps you can take right now to start molding your work environment to better fit you and your personality. Next up, we’ll tackle the more general topic of daily stressors – from how to recognize them to how to lessen their impact on your well-being.

Aspects of Well-being, part 3

In the last installation of my series on Aspects of Well-being we talked about some general tips for keeping interactions between coworkers calm and on point. This week I’d like to touch on another important aspect of well-being and office life – ergonomics.

This is perhaps the most controversial topic in this series. Not because anyone would argue that ergonomics aren’t important – rather because everyone has their own idea of what “proper office ergonomics” is. And they often hold these ideas close to their hearts and can take great offense when they feel these ideas are under attack.

So in the interest of not starting a flame war or upsetting any trolls out there, let me start by saying that like most aspects of well-being – there is no One Size Fits All answer. My goal is for you to realize that if your back hurts at the end of the day, or if you’re inexplicably grumpy by early afternoon, you might benefit from trying some of the tips below and finding something that works better…for YOU.

Some of the most common physical complaints of office bound workers are lower back pain, carpal tunnel (or related) pain in the hands, nerve problems in the hands, and hip pain. The majority of these symptoms can be traced back to hours upon hours spent sitting, with both hands stretched in front of your body and closer together than the shoulders. In other words, hours spent sitting and typing (or mousing).

Now, I don’t know about you, I get pretty grumpy when my back hurts and I have tingling in my hand. So when I leave the office, I may end up taking it out on the first person I see, be it a loved one, a friend, or Mr/Ms Random on the street. In all of these cases, my physical issue has now spread and become an issue with my overall well-being by affecting my relationships. I’m grumpy and now I’ve ticked off my friend too. Lovely.

Tip 1: Move it or lose it.

Get up and walk every hour. It can be as simple as walking down the hall to the restroom, or to get a glass of water in the break room. Try to be out of your seat for at least 5 minutes every hour, even if all you can do is head down the hall and back, great. Do it. Take a few deep breaths and try to focus consciously on your posture, keeping your shoulders back and down and your hands swinging freely at your sides. This will keep your shoulders open and help stop the nerves that run through them from becoming impinged – which is what causes that tingling in the hands.

Tip 2: Mix it up.

Try working from the break room (if it’s quiet enough for you), or an empty conference room. Maybe there are bar height tables you can try standing at to work for 30 minutes. Any change in posture from your usual sitting pose can be beneficial. Take a walk at lunch instead of sitting at your desk the whole time. Eat outside if you can (watch out for birds and squirrels, they can be wiley when it comes to lunch theft).

Tip 3: Be a stand up person.

No post on office ergonomics these days is complete without a discussion of the standing desk. Personally, I use one and would never go back. Here’s the thing, my day job also involves a lot of walking. This means that I’m NOT standing in place for 8 hours a day – which can be just as bad for your health and well-being as sitting still. If you’re unsure, I can offer these additional tips:

Take it slow – start by standing for 10 minutes, then sit back down. Then in a week, try 20 minute stretches. Then 30 minutes, etc until you find the mix of standing and sitting that works. FOR YOU.

Experiment – there are $25 cardboard options out there now, so you can pull it out and try standing for a while, then fold it back up and take a seat. You don’t have to drop (or your company doesn’t have to) hundreds on powered sit/stand desks to see the benefits.

Eyes forward – Whether you’re sitting or standing, remember to keep your monitor directly in front of your eyes with your head neutral, and your keyboard at a height so that your elbows are bent at ~90 degrees.

There are many, many, many, many (get the hint here?) more tips out there. Like I said, this is a rabbit hole of a topic and in the interest of not losing readers I wanted to keep this to my top 3. I’m sure we’ll revisit this at a later date to go into more detail. Next up in this series on Aspects of Well-being – your work environment.

Aspects of Well-being, Part 2

In part 1 we looked at the power of feeling heard. Part 2 is the first of several that will look at ways to make your work life fit your values a little better, with the ultimate goal being to enjoy what you do all day. That said, let’s dive in –

Work Life – What is it and how do you make it bearable?

Well, frankly, the first step is to not look at it as something you have to change about yourself in order to better handle it. Most of us have to work to pay the bills, rent, eat, etc – so might the better option be to learn ways to make the work fit to your values, rather than changing your behavior to make the day “bearable?”

First suggestion – stop using phrases like “killing it,” “crushing it,” and “like a boss.”

These are all popular expressions right now, and all of them evidence a high level of aggression and excitement. These feelings and emotions activate your body’s stress reaction and send you into a spiral of elevated stress hormones. This is especially important to avoid if you’re in the ~50% of the population who lean toward the introvert end of the spectrum – as our bodies are less able to cope with these elevated hormone levels and can quickly go into shutdown.

These expressions are also rooted in the cultural norm of action, gregariousness and other outward signs of high emotion being required to accomplish – well – anything. The idea that in order to be successful you have to be a “go getter” or be outgoing all the time is firmly rooted in western business culture. So much so that to even question this norm is seen as aberrant and can lead to your coworkers looking at you sideways or your boss questioning your suitability for your position.

By keeping these expressions out of your daily lexicon you can, in your own quiet way, make an impact not only on your own day but on your coworkers day as well. Without them even knowing it. By using plain language to congratulate others on a job well done, you’re keeping the mood in the room at a calmer level. You’re helping everyone keep an even keel, to stay more able to think clearly without the effects of elevated cortisol coloring their every move.

Compare the following two expressions:

“YOU CRUSHED THAT PRESENTATION!”
(these expressions are always said emphatically, hence caps)

“That was some great work in there, you were well prepared and wowed the execs.”

The first will get your coworker riled up and excited, it just doesn’t tell them anything useful. They’ll go back to their desk feeling euphoric, then have a hard time focusing on their work. The second, in contrast, offers a compliment along with a specific thing that you feel your coworker did well. They’ll get the same self-esteem boost and feel just as good about their work, with the difference being that they’ll also be focused on that work, making it easier to stay on task. And for your part, you said what you wanted to say without affecting your own stress levels at all.

Second suggestion – Stop wearing stress like a badge of honor.

The act of simply talking about stressful things like lack of sleep, the fact that you haven’t had a vacation in 3 years, or how you put in 60 hours last week is seen by your body as actually doing these things. This sends the alert to your hormones again (the first time was when you actually did the thing you’re talking about), sending your cortisol through the roof and starting the cascading impact of stress on the rest of your systems.

No longer talking about these things is the first, baby, step on the path to cutting out the actual behaviors – which is the ultimate goal here. And again, by cutting these aspects of water cooler discussions, you’re also helping your coworkers to realize that they don’t have to brag about these things either. Start a discussion about something going on in your neighborhood, or if you know you all share an interest in a local sports team – talk about their roster changes. Or if you’re like me and know nothing about sportsball, talk about a book you’re reading. Any topic can redirect everyone’s energy away from stressful things and keep the room calmer and allow everyone to be more productive when they get back to work since their bodies won’t have to deal with the flood of hormones first.

These two suggestions are meant as starting points, not solutions in and of themselves. Give them a try for a week and see if you feel the difference in your work environment and coworker interactions. From there, I trust that you’ll be able to take it to the next step toward altering your work environment to better fit with your values and needs.

Next time, we open the bag of cats that is office ergonomics.

Aspects of Well-being, part 1

OK, the single most common question I get – by far – is “so what is wellness coaching?” And while I know I have a short definition up on the appropriately named “what is…wellness coaching” page, I wanted to take some time and go a little deeper. I’m fond of using the phrase ‘well-being’ rather than ‘wellness’ because for me, it’s about the whole being – body and mind – being well.

So let’s look at some of the aspects of well-being that coaching can address.

As a reminder, here’s the definition of coaching as provided by the International Coach Federation:

Coaching is partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential.

OK, so – wait what? I know, this is a decidedly NOT helpful definition. Let’s see if this post series can clear somethings up. For starters:

  • Coaching is about intuition
  • Coaching is about feeling
  • Coaching is about listening at a deep level, much deeper than most people are used to being listened to
  • And most importantly, it’s about YOU

The first aspect of well-being I want to talk about is – being heard.

This is something that a lot of people, I feel OK saying most people in fact, overlook when thinking about wellness. An example story from my life: I’m an introvert. Like 100%. All through high school, where students are rewarded for speaking out, being socially active and involved with extra-curricular activities and working in groups – well let’s just say I wasn’t feeling very heard by whatever definition. Then when I did offer a well thought out opinion or comment, it was most often glossed over for something one of the outgoing group members had said. Generally something quite similar to what I said, just said with a smile and lots of hand gestures instead of in my soft-spoken voice with lots of details and a couple of tangential thoughts thrown in for good measure. I ended up completing my senior year at a community college. I didn’t feel heard, instead I felt that my voice was getting lost in the background noise.

What inventions are we living without, what possibly life changing discoveries do we not know of – because the quiet kid who didn’t feel heard eventually stopped trying?

Feeling heard is empowering. In feeling that someone is listening TO YOU, your self-esteem gets a shot of adrenaline. The validation this simple act provides can be life altering. A student who feels heard may go to class the next day and have the courage of their convictions to stand by their ideas until they get that same feeling, deep down, that they’re being heard – not just listened to.

That feeling will then spread to other areas of an individuals life. Maybe they aren’t loving their job and want desperately to break free and change careers. It takes a lot of faith in yourself to make a change like that. Feeling heard and the self-confidence boost it provides may be all that was missing. Now they feel secure in their decision and take that leap into a more fulfilling career. Elsewhere, maybe someone is feeling self conscious about starting that running habit or joining the gym down the street. Now, thanks again to the self-confidence boost received from feeling heard they’re getting in shape for that half marathon their significant other wanted to sign up for. So now their relationship has also gotten a boost.

All that, from the seemingly simple act of someone listening deeply and truly hearing what they had to say.

Next time, we’ll dive into the rabbit hole of “work life.” Get ready, this is a deep one.