Engaging the Spirit in Corporate Wellness

The leadership of corporate wellness programs need to adopt a holistic approach as they consider wellness options for their employees.  A holistic approach engages and develops the whole employee and celebrates the multidimensionality of each person.  Physical, mental, emotional, spiritual components are ideally woven into a program to fully benefit the employees and the organization.

The spiritual component may seem surprising to many as something to include in corporate wellness, but let’s be honest… we don’t leave our spirits at home when we go to work.  According to Google definitions “the spirit is the nonphysical part of a person that is of emotion and character, the soul.”  To do so would be like coming to work incomplete and missing the part that makes us most unique.  Stressful environments can erode the soul, drawing us farther and farther away from who we are at the core.  We are at our personal best when we integrate and connect to our multidimensionality.  In doing so we have all our aspects available to us including:  intellect, creativity, passion, emotion, intuition, logic, natural flow and beyond.  An organization with spirited employees is a healthy, thriving and productive organization.

In many workplace climates stress is on the rise, with so many changes and uncertainty.  Incorporating mindfulness and stress management education in corporate wellness is beneficial to the employees, clients and the organization.  We must look at our organizations holistically and that includes incorporating the wellness of the employees.  Offering informational and inspirational wellness workshops that invigorate the mind, relax the body and feed the spirit are necessary in this day and age.

Valuing employees, those individuals who spend a great deal of their lives dedicated to the success and advancement of the organization, is beneficial to everyone involved.  Results may include: employee satisfaction; improved employee health and well-being; better customer service; increased productivity; decreased absenteeism; and better inter-staff relations.  Sure, holistic workshops are an investment but employees are worth investing in.

I recently “unplugged” by spending a few days in solitude at a yoga ashram in the mountains of Colorado.  One day while I was visiting there was a organization, Boulder County Public Health, that organized a full-day retreat for it’s employees.  I was surprised to be along side corporate employees who were doing yoga, meditating, eating nutritious food, and hiking together.  I spent part of my day observing and engaging with these employees.  It was most impressive to see what this outing was doing for the spirits of these employees.  The reason I visited the ashram was to rejuvenate, gain clarity and renew my spirit.  Of course, this adventure both educated and renewed the spirits of these employees.  It was simply brilliant and I thought about how much experiences like these could benefit every aspect of an organization and it’s employees.

In 2010 I taught Introduction to Mindfulness Meditation at a dozen social service agencies in Wichita, Kansas.  At the time very few understood or had experienced mindfulness meditation.  It was truly refreshing to employees as they opened to the new experience.  I have been offering stress management workshops that incorporate mindfulness meditation to professional caregivers and business professional for several years now.  There has been an increasing openness and interest in incorporating this highly effective stress reduction method into the lives of the people I instruct.  In 2010 it seemed very progressive and somewhat “out there” to many people.  In just a few years it has become acceptable and more “mainstream”.

I began Self-Care Specialists with mindfulness infused stress management course offerings that ended with the experience of mindfulness-based stress reduction exercises.  I continue to offer these fresh and progressive courses, but am expanding my course options to include mindfulness meditation retreats.  The Introduction to Mindfulness Meditation can be offered in a 2 or 3 hour course.  The Mindfulness Meditation Retreat is more extensive and is available in 4,5, or 6 hour time increments for a deeper immersion into the practice of mindfulness.  These courses include breath-work, guided imagery, gentle movement, awareness and healing exercises.  For course options for caregiving organizations http://selfcarespecialists.com/courses-caregiver/ and for corporate businesses http://selfcarespecialists.com/courses-professional/

We need a paradigm shift in which we include corporate wellness as an important aspect of the business.  Understanding that the likelihood of a sound, whole business increases as we invest in the wholeness of the individuals working for us.  Everyone benefits from a supportive work environment that encourages and invests in employee wellness.

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Misuse of Alcohol to Manage Stress

Under stressful circumstances many people turn to alcohol to help manage stress.  Alcoholic drinks are often consumed to “take off the edge” or “relax” after a long, hard day of work.  While this may seem to help in the moment, in reality it pushes the emotions one is experiencing below consciousness or awareness.  It is difficult to resolve emotion that has been repressed and can build up if the pattern of repression is habitual.  Repeated alcohol consumption to manage stress can lead to addiction, which can have severe consequences affecting every area of one’s life.

Those who are experiencing personal trauma and/or secondary trauma through their work, family relationships or socially may be especially vulnerable to misuse of alcohol in order to mask painful emotions.  The moments when an individual most feels like they need a drink are often the worst time for a drink.

It is a good practice to be mindful when you feel the urge to have a drink.  Good questions to ask yourself are “why do I feel the need to drink right now?” and “what activity could I engage in that would be better for my health?”  Examples of healthy alternatives can include exercise, mindfulness meditation, breathwork, taking a relaxing bath, journaling, or seeking support.

The ability to meet yourself where you are, regardless of how difficult it may seem in the moment, is a skill worth mastering.  If you don’t like where you are, it is a good indication that you need to do something different, nurture yourself and/or perhaps seek some support or assistance to work through the emotions brought on by stress.  This can be done by talking with a trusted friend, co-worker, life coach, support group or therapist.  More involved help may be necessary if you suspect an alcohol addiction.

I was facilitating a Compassion Stress Management course for professional caregivers last year and had a participant walk out in the middle of the class.  A few days later I received an email from this individual that something I said had inspired her to leave and find an Alcoholics Anonymous group that was meeting in that city (she was from out of town) immediately.  This was an excellent example of self-awareness, courage and doing what she found necessary to cultivate a healthier, addiction free lifestyle.

A link to the article “Workplace Stress as a Trigger for Addiction” has been included http://stepstorecovery.com/workplace-stress-addiction/  for those who are interested in reading about the link between stressful work environment and the use of drugs and alcohol to cope.  Additionally, it provides alternatives available to promote a healthy lifestyle.

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Reduce Your Chemical Load

There are many ways in which we overstress our bodies, including the chemical loads we place upon them. The human body seems to function best when it is cared for naturally, yet in today’s day and age we often overlook the unnatural products we use and the effect those have on our health.  Placing a large chemical burden on the body can reduce the effectiveness of its organs (ex. liver and kidneys), systems (ex. nervous, lymphatic, immune) and more…..potentially leading to imbalance and health problems.

Examples of the products we use and consume which often have chemicals include pesticides (used in the home and on our foods), cleaning supplies, laundry soap, fabric softener, products used on our skin (ex soap, shampoo, lotion), perfume/cologne and air freshener.

There are healthier versions or replacements of the above products which can be used.  There are “green” pesticide services, such as “Go Green” that use organic products such as peppermint or rosemary oil rather than harsh chemicals to rid your home of spiders and insects.  Certified organic food can be purchased that is free of pesticides often used in the growth and production process.  Meat that is labeled free of antibiotics and steroids is also available.  These foods can be purchased at a natural grocery store or in the natural foods section of the grocery store.  If you can’t afford to buy organic food or are unsure of where to begin, start by researching the “Dirty Dozen”, those foods that have been found to have the highest concentration of pesticides.

A mixture of distilled white vinegar and water can be used as a cleaning solution that has antibacterial and anti-fungal properties.  “Green” cleaning products are easy to find at the health food store or in the natural foods section of the grocery store.

“Free and clear” versions of laundry soap are preferable to those with fragrance and dyes.  These can easily be found wherever you usually purchase detergent and green versions are available at the natural grocery store.  Eliminating the use of fabric softener is best to avoid irritation and/or chemical exposure to the skin.  Natural soaps and sulfate-free shampoos are best for the skin and can be found in natural food stores.  Reducing or eliminating perfumes, colognes and air fresheners can also help to lighten your chemical load.  Essential oils can be used as a natural replacement of perfumes and air fresheners.

It is important to include methods of detoxification into your self-care regimen.  It is recommended that you seek the advice of your medical doctor, holistic doctor, or appropriate medical professional if you have questions regarding detoxification methods or beginning a new detoxifying regimen.  Some gentle methods of detoxification include eating greens on a regular bases, drinking plenty of filtered water, exercising to the point of perspiration several times a week, taking regular Epsom salt baths (add 2 cups of Epsom salt to a bath as warm as you are comfortable for 30 minutes), sitting in an infrared sauna (no longer than 30 minutes) and detoxifying foot baths.

Taking a natural approach to caring for your body is helpful to keep it functioning optimally.  Awareness regarding chemical exposure is a good place to start.  Fortunately, replacements and substitutions for products containing chemicals are readily available.  Going “green” or getting back to nature with your self-care is another great way to ease the stress put upon your body.

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Power Up with a Healthy Breakfast

It is often said that breakfast is the most important meal of the day.  Starting the day with nutritionally dense foods helps the body by providing energy, boosting metabolism, maintenance of healthy blood sugar levels and improves focus and concentration.   Breakfast with foods that are low on the glycemic index, high in fiber and combined with lean protein and good fats is sure to get your day off to a great start.

Smoothies are a nutritious treat to have with your breakfast.  Recipes for delicious smoothies are readily available on the internet or in cookbooks.  They can also be made quickly by combining fruits and vegetables without a recipe.  It is fun to stock up on fresh and frozen fruits/veggies and experiment to find tasty combinations.  I rarely use recipes for my smoothies and make them with a combination of approximately 50% fruit and 50% vegetables.  I mix the fruits and vegetables, with a small amount (1 cup) of water or almond milk, in the blender and serve.  The fruits I often use are blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, apple, kiwi, mango, banana, pineapple and avocado.  The vegetables I usually use are raw spinach, kale, cucumber, celery and carrots.  Adding herbs such as fresh ginger root, cilantro and parsley give the smoothie added flavor and health benefits.  The fruit naturally sweetens the smoothie, but if you like them on the sweet side adding pomegranate juice or a small amount of honey will help.  Adding 1 tbsp of ground flaxseed or chia seed is a great way to increase omega-3 fatty acids in the diet.

Omelettes made with vegetables such as spinach, onion, green pepper, red pepper and tomatoes are quick and nutritionally dense.  Eggs scrambled with sauteed onion and kale in extra virgin olive oil are tasty and delicious.  For a lean protein source turkey bacon or chicken sausage can be substituted for greasier pork counterparts.  Adding black beans, corn, tomatoes and cilantro to omelettes or scrambled eggs with salsa and/or guacamole can give them a great southwestern flavor.

Oatmeal, quinoa, and recipes made with almond flour (breads, muffins, quiches, etc.) are low on the glycemic index and pair nicely with lean protein for a hearty breakfast.  One of my favorite cookbooks, which is filled with delicious recipes, is The Gluten-Free Almond Flour Cookbook by Elana Amsterdam.

Cereals, granola bars and yogurt are often high in sugar, so it is wise to read the labels/ingredients of such breakfast foods prior to purchasing.  Additionally, fruit juices are high in sugar and can be substituted with low-sodium vegetable or tomato juice.

These are a few healthy breakfast ideas to get you started.  The time spent to prepare and eat a healthy breakfast each day will likely yield benefits such as feelings of well-being, improved clarity and concentration, enhanced performance, and beyond.  Every bite you take directly impacts the functioning of your body, so eating a nutritious breakfast is an investment of time worth making.

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Give Yourself a Break!

Taking breaks is helpful to avoid physical, mental and emotional exhaustion.  Awareness, self-permission and planning may be necessary to getting the break you need.  As humans, our bodies and minds need time for rest and rejuvenation in order to function optimally.  It is important to allow yourself to take breaks throughout the day, weekly and yearly.  While this may seem obvious, many people push themselves beyond what is healthy and don’t take the time necessary to rejuvenate.

Your body is an amazing source of information.  Having a connection with your body is helpful as it will signal you when it is time to step away from the pressures of life.  Connecting with your body requires awareness, or paying attention to how it feels.  For example, if you are at work and notice a feeling of tension in your shoulders and a sense of overwhelm, it would be a good time to leave your office and step outside for a few minutes.  If you notice feeling more tired than usual you may want to take a nap or allow for extra sleep at night until you feel revitalized or change your sleep patterns. I encourage you to be mindful of how you feel because it can give you information regarding what you need.  Ignoring the body’s signals can often lead to more serious situations, such as illness.

Breaks from work, responsibilities at home and from life’s pressures can have benefits such as improved health and wellness, reduced stress, shift in perspective, mental clarity and increased productivity.  Although taking breaks is an investment of time, the potential health benefits and efficiency gained are worth finding the time.

Giving yourself permission to take a break is often necessary as may seem as though there isn’t enough time in the day to accomplish all that needs to be done.  This can be especially important if the idea of taking a break makes you feel guilty, lazy or unproductive.  Repeating an affirmation in your mind, such as “it is okay for me to rest” might be helpful if you struggle with taking breaks.

A mid-day break or a lunch break is a great time to refresh and release stress of the morning by stepping away from your desk.  Many people work through lunch with the notion that it will increase their productivity.  In actuality, you may find that you return from the break with more clarity and energy, which can result in higher productivity.  In addition to eating lunch you may find the time to workout, spend some time outdoors or to run an errand that would give you more time for your evening activities.  Lunch with a co-worker or friend can be a wonderful opportunity to have fun and develop supportive relationships.  If taking lunch breaks is not encouraged at your workplace, taking a regular lunch break may be an opportunity to model effective self-care.  An improved attitude and higher productivity would certainly have everyone wondering what your secret is!

Taking a break, in the moment when you need, it advisable but not always practical.  I encourage you to find some time each day to rest and do something nurturing for yourself.  This may require some planning or can be done spontaneously when you see a window of time.  Good questions to ask yourself each day are “what breaks did I allow myself today?” and/or “what did I do for myself today?”  You will gain awareness of your habits through answering these questions daily.  From this place of awareness you can make the necessary changes to accommodate your needs for rejuvenation.

Scheduling time for rest and enjoyment each week is a good habit.  Setting aside a large portion of time or a day of rest each weekend can help you to refresh and maintain balance.  Additionally, taking vacation time each year can be restorative, aid in maintenance of a positive outlook and prevent burnout.  Scheduled time off can be beneficial whether you go on a trip or stay home.  Allowing yourself some time to do what you feel like doing in the moment can feel liberating and help release tension.

Taking breaks daily, weekly and yearly is good self-care practice.  Meeting your needs for rest, rejuvenation and fun can help to improve job satisfaction, prevent burnout and result in a better quality of life.  Enjoy taking a break for YOU today and every day!

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A New Year, A New You!

The new year is a great time to make changes within yourself and your life to reflect what you’d like to create. The first few months of the new year can have a spaciousness as the holidays have passed and there is often less to do during the winter months. Finding time to contemplate on what you’d like to create within yourself and your life, set goals, and plans to bring them into your reality can be a gift to yourself. Many people are more motivated for change at the beginning of a new year. If this is true for you, take advantage of the motivation, inspiration and sense of renewal. If not, taking a few smalls steps in the direction you want to head can help to get the ball rolling.

I encourage you to be very mindful of the activities you engage in and the habits/patterns you repeat. Taking an honest look at which aspects of your life are beneficial and which aspects are outdated or counterproductive can help you to decide what to continue with and what needs to go. We often engage in activities and habits that don’t serve us by habit and lack of awareness. As the saying goes, “If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you always got.” Putting intention and consciousness behind everything you do can yield powerful results.

The winter months are a great time to do some cleaning up and clearing from the outside-in. Many people have reported feeling lighter and more organized after doing some deep cleaning or getting rid of things that they no longer need or that no longer serve them.  It may be that positive feeling of accomplishment when such endeavors have been completed or the feeling of freedom from letting go.  Additionally, it feels great to donate those things we no longer want to someone who is in need.  It can take some motivation to get started on cleaning, clearing and organizing projects, but the benefits are well worth it.

We can also affect our external world by creating and clearing space internally.  Are there emotions, attachments, relationships, and/or habits within yourself that you would like to release?  Are there activities you still do that are no longer of benefit or people you spend time with that drain your energy or you no longer enjoy?  These questions are worth contemplating and if the answer is yes, now is a good time to release that which no longer serves you in order to create more spaciousness.

Perhaps time spent with a therapist or life coach could be beneficial.  It is possible that starting or improving upon your exercise regimen, bettering your current eating habits, taking up a new activity or spending time with a new friend might be enjoyable.  Making more space for yourself to take pause, contemplate and/or relax could be what you do with the additional space created.  We can sometimes feel resentful of the time and effort given to others when we are not spending enough time meeting our needs.  Self-awareness regarding personal needs and responding to those needs can help us to restore balance and peace within a busy life.

I encourage you to think on these things and put intention into what you want to keep, let go of and bring into your life.  It is helpful to evaluate that which is working well and no longer working in your life.  Contemplate on how you can make space and take action.  The new year is a great time to focus on a healthier you and the life you’d like to create!

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Relaxing Baths for Stress Relief

Relaxing baths are a great way to warm up and relax during the holiday season, winter months, or anytime.  Taking a bath upon arriving home from a stressful day of work can help to ease tension and restore peace prior to engaging in nightly activities with family and friends.  A bath taken nightly before heading off to bed can assist in deep, restful and rejuvenating sleep.

A good soak can be enhanced by adding 2 cups of epsom or sea salt to relax muscles, eliminate toxins and cleanse the energetic field of the body.  Adding a few drops of essential oils such as rose, sage, or lavender to your bath can create a nice aroma and have healing properties.

You can create a spa environment while taking a bath by dimming the lights and lighting candles.  Relaxation can be enhanced by listening to nature sounds such as ocean waves, waterfalls, rain, chirping birds, etc.  A bath is also a great time to listen to a guided meditation.  Click Here to enjoy the cleansing meditation, a meditation/visualization exercise on water that cultivates relaxation, letting go and energy renewal.

Taking some time out to luxuriate in a relaxing bath can be both stress relieving and nourishing.  Doing small things like this for yourself can feel like wonderful gifts of nurturing.

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We’re Expanding our Services!

We are excited to announce that we are expanding our services to include stress management training for business professionals.  Occupational stress is on the rise during these challenging times.  We are offering training that can benefit employees within multiple levels of the organization including, but not limited to:  leaders, managers, professionals, administrative support staff and interns.  View our course offerings for on-site training at http://selfcarespecialists.com/courses-professional/.

Some occupational stress is considered normal, however excessive stress can have an adverse impact on your productivity and negatively affect your physical and emotional health.  Although it is impossible to control everything in your work environment, it doesn’t mean that you are powerless, even when encountering difficult situations.

Occupational stress is a reality that the professional can counterbalance with effective self-care strategies.  Self-care has been linked to burnout prevention because it increases resiliency in the professional.  Handling stress well from the inside-out is essential for successfully navigating life’s challenges.  The goal of our courses is to provide each participant with awareness, inspiration, ideas and techniques to counterbalance stress encountered within both personal and professional life situations.

Having healthy employees contributes to a healthy organization.  Benefits for the organization that provide employees with stress management training can include better service, increased productivity, decreased absenteeism and better inter-staff relations.

Our blog postings are updated monthly and include information on occupation stress, professional fulfillment and self-care tips.  Please spread the news regarding our expanded services through Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/SelfCareSpecialists) and Twitter (https://twitter.com/SuzieCare).  We truly appreciate your support!

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It’s an Inside Job

It has been said that healing practitioners can only go as deep with their clients/patients as they are willing to go within themselves.  As caregiving professionals, we are trained in and spend a great deal of time assessing and healing others.  It is important to contemplate, look within and to work through personal issues such as unhealthy patterns of behavior, faulty belief systems and personal traumas.   The work can be difficult and require great vulnerability, but strength can be found within by working at such depth.

The greatest gift we can give to others is to live and work work from a place of wholeness found within ourselves.  The gifts we receive by doing our inner-work can include the ability to connect deeply with self and others, compassion, wisdom, intuition, clarity and an unwavering inner-compass.  As caregivers we have the honor and opportunity to touch the lives of everyone we come into contact  with.  It is our responsibility to be the best we can be when doing our work as caregivers.  Compassionate service can be increased when we have the ability to connect deeply with our heart and soul.

Utilizing counseling and therapy services, consulting with a life coach, meditation, yoga, spending time in nature, spiritual retreats, artistic expression and journaling are practices that can assist with personal discovery and healing.  When seeking outside help with your inner-journey it is important to find a professional who has has a commitment to both his/her inner-work and the healing of others.  One can guide others better from a place of personal experience and proficiency.  Enjoy the journey!

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Compassion Fatigue: Warning Signs and Symptoms

Symptoms of compassion fatigue can appear gradually or suddenly depending on the individual’s circumstances.  The Professional Quality of Life Scale (ProQOL) version 5 (2009) developed by Dr. Beth Hudnall-Stamm can be used to measure compassion satisfaction, burnout and secondary traumatic stress (compassion fatigue).  This self-assessment is available as a resource on our website.  Below you will find warning signs and symptoms of compassion fatigue according to Dr. Angela Panos.  If you experience compassion fatigue symptoms and/or have any concerns regarding your personal scores on the ProQOL you should consult with a physician or mental health professional.

Compassion Fatigue:  Warning Signs and Symptoms

  • Feeling estranged from others
  • Difficulty falling or staying asleep
  • Outbursts of anger or irritability with little provocation
  • Startling easily
  • While working with a victim thinking about violence or retribution against the person or person who was victimized
  • Experiencing intrusive thoughts or flashbacks of sessions with difficult clients or families
  • Feeling there is no one to talk with about highly stressful experiences
  • Working too hard for your own good
  • Frightened of things traumatized people and their families have said or done to you
  • Experience troubling dreams similar to a client of yours or their family
  • Suddenly and involuntarily recalling a frightening experience while working with a client
  • Preoccupied with a client or their family
  • Losing sleep over a client and their family’s traumatic experiences
  • Felt a sense of hopelessness associated with working with clients and their families
  • Have felt weak, tired, rundown as a result of your work as a caregiver
  • Unsuccessful / find it difficult to separate work life from personal life
  • Felt little compassion toward many of your co-workers
  • Thoughts that you are not succeeding at achieving your life goals
  • Feel you are working more for the money than for personal fulfillment
  • A sense of worthlessness / disillusionment / resentment associated with your work

Citations

Panos, A. Understanding and preventing compassion fatigue – A handout for professionals, Retrieved August 22, 2014 from http://www.giftfromwithin.org/html/prvntcf.html.

Stamm, B (2009).  Professional quality of life:  compassion satisfaction and fatigue subscales, R-IV (ProQol).  retrieved August 22, 2014 from http://www.proqol.org/ProQol_Test.html.

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