Blog Posts

June 17, 2019

Importance of Work-Life Balance

In the last blog post, I wrote about the fine line between workaholism and merely being passionate about one's work. Although we make an effort to purposely quit things to achieve greater wellness (such as smoking or drinking), we rarely see work as a potentially harmful and destructive activity.

In the last blog post, I wrote about the fine line between workaholism and merely being passionate about one's work. Although we make an effort to purposely quit things to achieve greater wellness (such as smoking or drinking), we rarely see work as a potentially harmful and destructive activity.

In our increasingly competitive world, I think many of us feel that in order to be successful and keep our job, we must spend more hours actively working and continuously increasing our output. We begin to find ourselves off-kilter and out of balance. It results in burn out, illness, strained relationships, depression, anxiety, and the list goes on.

Unless we experience a crisis or the situation is dire, we usually don't quit or change jobs to improve our wellness. Although our work environment may be less than ideal, even harmful or toxic to our health, we tend to stick it out.

Of course, in our world today jobs can be tough to come by. As well, we live in a society where work, work, work is the norm and the reluctance to quit is understandable. The importance and necessity of working hard has been ingrained in many of us.

The benefits of working (paid or unpaid) extend beyond the financial. It also allows us to connect both socially and professionally and it forms a big part of our self-identity. The reality is that our identities are often closely tied to what we do for a living. It's no wonder that quitting a job (even one that might not be healthy for us) creates some anxiety, concern and self-doubt.

Although many people would love the option to quit work or retire, that might not be their current reality....so what can be done? Could you investigate the option for a more flexible work schedule (such as working a longer 4 days instead of 5) or job sharing to reduce the total workload? Another idea to consider may be paying someone to take on one of the tasks that burden you (such as lawn/snow removal or house cleaning) and eliminating consumption that adds little value to your life.

Can you set a time for yourself each day when you stop checking work messages and emails (or decide you will check during weekdays but weekends are off limit)? How are you spending your holidays...are you even taking them? What do you stand to gain, or lose, by not fully taking your allocated work holidays? When you are away from work can you focus on and enjoy other activities?

I would suggest that you reflect on your life, to think about what's most important to you and your family, and to decide what you might need to 'quit' to improve your total wellness. Why wait until you experience a crisis or your health suffers!? What can you do now to improve your work situation and overall wellness?

Moving you forward, WLS

June 10, 2019

Working 9 to 5...or 8...or 10

**Blog repost**

Years ago I read an article found in Canadian Business magazine entitled, "Surefire Ways to Spot a Workaholic" (Laura Cameron). Here, the author discusses the interesting distinction between a person who is a work addict versus someone who just works a lot. This seems like a very fine and blurry line! It's as relevant today as it was then, so I'm reposting my blog post.

One of the individuals interviewed for this article spoke about the mentality that exists in our North American society, where employees who work excessively are congratulated and rewarded for being more involved and dedicated. As well, a study was referenced that was conducted by psychology researchers at Wayne State University in Detroit. They wanted to find out if particular personality traits could link one to 'workaholism' and were interested in seeing if further identifying these traits would be useful to managers in determining whether an employee is fuelled by "passion" or by "self-centered compulsion'. Interestingly, this study showed that many of the characteristics exhibited by participants with workaholic tendencies were not conducive to productive work habits. Some workaholics expect perfection of both themselves and of others, as well as being poor at delegation, because sharing the workload poses a problem for them. Compulsive work habits are not necessarily effective work habits. Spending unnecessary time trying to produce perfect work, or possibly creating more work than is actually required, may not be productive.

Researchers determined that what motivates a workaholic differs from the source of motivation for a person who merely enjoys working. They state that a workaholic "works because their sense of self-worth is tied to the output, not because they're genuinely passionate about their profession or their contribution to the team." The study's lead researcher believes that these results will help managers to identify workaholic employees.

A Canadian psychology professor, who also contributed to the article, thinks that in an interview situation a manager will be able to detect signs of workaholism because of the "narrowness of focus on self and worth." I’d be interested in reading further his opinion on this. As an interview is a somewhat artificial and self-centered situation, you spend the majority of time focusing on yourself and essentially selling yourself (your personality, ability, skills etc) to the interviewers. Are there specific statements or indicators that should raise red flags and cause concern for employers?

As well, in a short interview, is it truly possible to accurately make the distinction between a workaholic exhibiting negative traits and a person who just enjoys working a lot? Even if some level of distinction can be made, what manager wants to turn down a potentially hard working, dedicated, productive, gem of an employee because they may get too involved in their work (for the wrong, internal reasons)....how sure must a manager be that s/he is making this accurate and fine-line distinction before making the call?

I suppose what this article does show us are some of the reasons why the cycle of 'workaholism' continues in our society. If we continue to reward excessive work behaviours, without making a distinction between the healthy and the unhealthy ones, we are encouraging the very behaviours that stand to hurt us all in the end.

Your thoughts? Moving you forward, WLS

May 27, 2019

Stress Less (continued...)

In my previous post, I outlined some tips for stress reduction.  Here are a few more ideas to consider...I hope you'll find them useful!

  • Try to focus on the task at hand. Put it into context, as being one step that must be completed in order to bring you closer to achieving your end goal (I'm assuming here that a goal setting process has already taken place). What often happens is that we think about our looming deadline and become overwhelmed. It becomes so daunting and seemingly insurmountable that we begin to doubt our abilities. Suddenly the small (do-able) steps are forgotten and we experience fear and frustration. So try to concentrate on the present. What can you do right now, today, to bring you one step closer to where you want to be?
  • Be conscious of the stressors in your life and plan ahead for your calming (escape) plan. This isn't negative, it's smart. Whether it is work/traffic/kids/family/other that causes you stress, become aware and think in advance as to how you're going to keep your cool. Even if you can't avoid the instinctual reaction that may arise when you encounter this stressor, you can minimize its impact by thinking ahead.
  • Similarly, find ways to STOP for a minute and just breathe. What this 'STOP' looks like will be unique to each of you. What you find effective may not be effective for someone else. Here's one possibility....If visualization is something that you feel works well to relax you, close your eyes and imagine (with as much detail as possible) a place that you find calming. Picture yourself there, just taking in the surroundings and breathe.....

Beautifully said by Etty Hillesum, "Sometimes the most important thing in a whole day is the rest we take between two deep breaths".

Moving you forward, WLS.

May 20, 2019

Stress Less!

Self-help books and magazine articles tell us. Our doctor and/or natural health care practitioners tell us. Chronic stress can be a major problem. It can exhaust us and make us sick - both physically and mentally.

So what can we do to stress less? Because this issue is so prevalent and important, justifiably it is given much attention in the media and within the health care context. At the risk of repeating popular advice, here are some tips to stress less!

Let's start with some of the more commonly given advice. The following points cannot be stressed enough (no pun intended....)

  • Maintain a healthy diet - try not to go overboard in either direction, as balance is key.
  • Try to get a few minutes of sunlight each day. Apart from giving you that hit of Vitamin D, it'll also help to brighten your mood.
  • Strive to get an adequate amount of sleep each night.
  • Grow and maintain a strong network of support and lead a passion-filled life (where your interests and passions are reflected in the way in which you spend your time).

What else??

  • In terms of work stress, some experts advocate that in order to experience less stress, you should tackle the jobs that you dislike first. The logic is that in doing so, you'll get the 'worst' tasks out of the way and can then move on to more enjoyable projects. Other experts advise that you start your day doing a task that you enjoy as it is uplifting and will put you in a positive frame of mind. I would suggest that you explore both methods to determine which is ideal for you. Pay attention to both your emotional state and your productivity levels. Which approach maximizes both?
  • The procrastination factor - We think that in avoiding a dreaded task, we'll also avoid the stress that tackling it will cause. Unfortunately, procrastination just makes it worse. Why? It can confirm our thoughts that the task is too daunting and we can't do it; it feeds our fears of failure; it makes the task seem more overwhelming, especially if in procrastinating we end up panicking last minute to complete it. It can also create a harmful mindset....one that works against you and your goals.

Check back for a continuation of this post, with more tips for stress reduction....

In the meantime, I'd love to hear what works well for you!

Moving you forward, WLS.

December 10, 2018

Take a Deep Breath

Last week, I had a chat with a good friend. During our conversation, when we found ourselves talking about the Christmas season I began to hear panic in her voice. She spoke faster and faster as she discussed the cooking and baking and family gatherings and holiday-party-attending and gift buying issues. I absolutely love this season, but goodness it can be stressful!!

Even if you don't celebrate the holiday, you can hopefully relate to this post...to the sheer craziness that the month of December can evoke. So, how can we enjoy this "most wonderful time of the year" with less stress, less emotional turmoil and more joy, peace and...calm?

Lets take a look at 2 things, pressures and expectations. These can result from internal thoughts and/or external influences. Sometimes, we're truly our own worst enemies. We expect ourselves to: decorate like Martha Stewart, make 20 different holiday dishes (without burning any of them), find the perfect gifts, and the list goes on and on.

You can't do it all. Or maybe you can, but there's a good chance that your body and mind are going to feel the feel the impact. Look at your to-do list and prioritize. What's the cake and what's the icing...so to speak.

If you feel over scheduled with holiday events, remember that your own health and sanity is paramount. Everyone is extremely busy and people will understand. If you can, drop in and stay for a short while, or alternatively, thank them for their kind invitation but decline and offer to get together in the New Year when life slows down. In short, stretching yourself thin and stressing yourself out will not benefit you nor the people around you. Ask for help when needed and learn to say no when necessary.This is not an easy thing to do and something that I am continuing to work on myself.

Another important consideration is your own health and well-being. With life in fast-forward mode, we can find ourselves out of sync with regular routines that keep us level. Sleeping, eating, meditating and exercising patterns change quickly and our bodies and minds struggle to adjust. This also applies to other members of our family, such as our children and spouse...and even the pets! As much as possible, attempt to keep up a normal 'routine'. Try your hardest to keep yourself balanced and practice being kind to yourself. Really. It matters.

Lastly, I think that at some level we begin to believe that the holiday season is one that should resemble the picturesque scene on the front of boxed cards. That it should have happy families, perfect gifts, smiling children and incredible food. It is difficult to match this level of perfection...and is it even realistic for us to want to? As well, the unspoken expectation in those holiday songs, stories, movies etc. that the holidays are a time of togetherness and love can be heartbreaking to those who are experiencing loss, loneliness, and heartbreak. Having expectations for ourselves is a good thing....but searching for what is truly important for each of us is the most important thing. What the holiday means to me is most likely not what it means to you. We have different interests, beliefs and customs. But I ask you to go back to the source...is it religion, or family, or a sense of peace and good will? Try to focus on the true meaning of the season to you and your family, and look at the rest of it as window dressing....pretty decorations on a strongly rooted tree.

Seasons Greetings and best wishes for health and happiness.

Moving you forward, WLS

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