mental health

We MUST stop burying our children!

We MUST stop burying our children!

I've observed this heartbreaking trend, as well. In the past six months, four of my friends have lost boys to suicide. They were all in their twenties and struggling with depression. One of the moms likened it to swimming in the ocean. She said her son would be doing fine, until the undertow would catch him and drag him under.

How to find a job you LOVE (or learn to tolerate the one you have)

"I feel like a billionaire doing meaningful work and making an impact. I walk into a room and I feel like 'I've got the best job.'" My son heard these words recently in his office downtown. Can you imagine? It sounds like someone is LOVING their work! Most of us would kill (well, not actually kill because then we would end up in jail, despondent and depressed, and we'd be out of the job market altogether, so let me rephrase that) most of us would be THRILLED to love our work. How can we go from feeling apathetic or unhappy about our work, to excited and motivated? I'm talking about work on this health-related blog because every aspect of your life is related to your well-being! If your 40+ hour-a-week job is boring, uninspiring, and depressing, you will become bored, uninspired, and depressed. Here are tell-tale signs that your work is having a detrimental effect on your health:

  • you hit "snooze" an average of 5-7 times on workday mornings
  • you spend 45+ minutes playing games or scrolling social media sites in your office (or during meetings)
  • you "reward" yourself with junk food at the end of a long day
  • most of your conversations with family and friends boomerang back to your work frustrations
  • you are "too tired" to exercise, get together with friends, spend time with family

This is a short list. But if any of the above resonate with you, what next? Follow these "transportation" tips to move from a ho-hum job to a job that keeps you humming.

work-cartoons-15-ss1.Where do you want to go? You know how the GPS shows various routes to get to the same destination? If it's time to take a new route, you first need to identify where you want to end up. So make a "wish" list of where you'd like to be professionally. Don't just think about it; make it more tangible by writing it down. This is the first step in the job search journey. Stephen Covey says "Begin with the end in mind."

2. Keep moving and keep your eyes peeled.  Feeling stalled out, career-wise? Start your engine and get moving! Connect with friends in your field in other offices. Use LinkedIn or Google+. Let people know that you are interested in a change. And don't let age or stage make you feel stuck. As I was leaving one position for another, a colleague confided in me, "I'm too old. I can't move on." He was stalled out. I didn't believe his reasoning for a moment. (Plus he was around my age!) Some group, somewhere, needs your particular skill set. Keep your eyes open for that exit ramp.

3. Don't be afraid to switch tracks! My husband went from being a youth pastor at a church to an athletic director at a high school. Not an obvious segue, at first blush. My husband had to see the potential to transfer his experience in one field (no athletic pun intended) to one that seemed very different. Both positions required organization, planning, and, obviously, lots of love for and patience with teens. It's been a great fit!

Working out with B&S friends in Kenya!

4. Take the back road! Pursue your interests on the side and see what develops. Some hobbies can be parlayed into careers. I used to play the guitar just for fun. I played it at my kids' elementary school and for small groups here and there. I wasn't very good at it. But now I play in church every Sunday as the leader of a worship band. I used to exercise just for fun. Now I am a Regional Director for Body & Soul, an international fitness organization.I had NO clue I could get so far with my little hobbies. My hobbies have become my job-bies.

Until you can move on, how can you make your current job less miserable?

1. "Lean in." Not into the job, if you simply can't stand it. No, "lean in" to what you actually do enjoy about your work---it could be your co-workers, the actual work itself, or its proximity to a favorite restaurant. Whatever it is, "lean in" to that! Keep that on your mind when the negative bits start to dominate your thinking.

2. Become the "Invisible Girl" from Fantastic 4. I don't mean don't show up to work! I mean, imagine your private life as an impermeable bubble that your work life cannot puncture. This way, the toxic work environment or load cannot seep into your home life. How do you do this, in practical ways? Leave at the pre-determined time. Don't check email or answer the phone after hours. Do what you love best after five and on the weekends: take pictures, work out, watch movies, take a hike! IMG_3841Whatever you do, be present as you do it, setting the work aside in its own little separate bubble.

Are these thoughts helpful? I am currently loving my job-bies, so I am writing these tips from a happy place. Is anybody out there struggling, trying to get out of a bad situation? If so, please comment below and add your own thoughts to the discussion!


Five tips for a healthier mind and a happier heart

Just in time for Valentine's Day, a blog post about how to cultivate a healthy mind and happy heart! This is Thinking about thinking, Part II. You know that moment when you are driving to the boonies and your favorite radio station becomes more faint? Suddenly your song gets mashed up with a sports talk show. The music becomes garbled and static starts to set your teeth on edge. Our minds are a lot like that radio station. Static can interfere with the normal, beautiful music of life. Worries creep in. Anger. Resentment. Guilt. Obsessive or depressing thoughts. It could be a particular relationship that is fraught with tension, or a work or health issue that is apparently unresolvable. How do we avoid wallowing on thoughts that interfere with a peaceful, happy heart and a positive outlook? How do we fill our minds with good things?

  1. Guard your heart. We want to avoid getting that static in our heads in the first place. We need to protect our hearts from thoughts that drag us down (or move us in the wrong direction). This is why I won’t be going to see “Fifty shades of grey” this weekend. Images are powerful and difficult to erase. I like to eat the best food to fuel my body. Why would I want to let sordid images pollute my mind?    heartgate  Guarding my heart means being careful what I expose myself to. If/when I am tempted to go down a path that is unhelpful, I recruit “back up” guards: friends or family whom I can turn to for support and strength. Or I look for healthier, uplifting alternatives—exercise, an inspiring book or movie, connecting with friends who I know will lift me up.
  1. Be present. There’s a lot of buzz about mindfulness and awareness these days. I understand the hype. We can physically be in one place while our minds can be far, far away.

    This man isn't present. Even the humpback whale can't get his attention!

    If unhelpful thoughts or worries sneak past our “guarded heart”, how do we minimize the damage? One help is to focus on the here and now. I remember a few years back when I was troubled with a difficult relationship with a coworker. I was like a dog with a chew toy. My mind was going over and over the problem, puzzling over it. I’d drop it, only to pick it up again in short order. I learned a little trick that helped me get out of my head and into real life. I would remind myself of where I was and what I was doing. Literally. Even if I had to say it out loud. I would speak softly to myself: “I’m in the grocery store,” I’d say. “I’m buying oranges.” (Most people probably just thought I was on the phone.) It sounds silly but it was actually quite grounding. The worrying was getting me nowhere anyway. And it reminded me that there’s a lot of life going on right underneath my nose.

  1. Chabirdsnge the channel. Do you find certain thoughts are dogging you? Do you have a friend that makes you feel like dirt? Does a certain situation cause you stomachaches? Try to observe the relationship or problem from a detached perspective. What is troubling you? What is really going on? Stepping back a bit can help you to find new ways to relate or respond. You can’t very well change the channel if you think it’s the only one available. You need a fresh perspective to find alternatives to that channel. Look for people, situations, and places that lift you up rather than dragging you down.
  1. Look up. Looking up is also about perspective. What is our focus? On a cold, snowy day, for example, you can either gripe about the number on the thermometer or you can choose to be grateful about your warm home, a cup of soup, or an uplifting movie. Both things are true: it is bitterly cold and you also have what you need around you. Why focus on the bothersome thing? The first time I visited my husband’s grandmother after her move to assisted living, she said, “I have all of these nice people who take care of me here.” Her positivity blew me away. She may have been sad about leaving her home but she still chose to focus on what good was still around her. If we make a habit of this, we will find ourselves in a healthier place emotionally. And we will be better suited to help others look up, too. (And by the way, if you look up long enough, you may start to get a glimpse of the Giver of all those good gifts.)
  1. Persevere. Whatever you do, don’t let those persistent negative thoughts have the last word. When you screw up at work on a particular project, you will feel dejected and discouraged. Of course. Go ahead and let yourself feel it. (See Tip 2: be present.) Then, remind yourself that you can’t go back and fix it. Move on. Work harder (or smarter) on the next project. That failure does not define you. Set-backs will happen in life. You failed, but that doesn’t make you a failure. In "The War of Art: Break through the blocks and win your creative battles," author Steven Pressfield contrasts the person who sees himself as an amateur and the person who perceives himself as a professional. The professional, when confronted with setbacks and disappointments, perseveres. The amateur gives up. The professional shows up, time after time, after time, regardless of what the previous result was. Professionals put in the time and effort and may see no return for years. Don't let set backs set you permanently back. Keep perspective and persevere.

Perseverance May these tips help you move from hopeless to hopeful, from discouraged to grateful.  And have a happy and healthy Valentine's Day!