Four Ways to Make the Workday Smoother

Image Credit: Free Images.com


I absolutely love my work. I get to help people for a living, and work in an office full of upbeat, creative people who care about our patients and clients. But sometimes, I get a little burnt out. I feel the weight of others’ suffering, or get discouraged because I don’t meet some of my goals or my plans seem a long way from completion. The patient with the easy-to-treat problem does not improve, or the printer refuses to work when I absolutely need to print out a form.

In the natural health world, we often focus on the “soft skills” or actions that build health. Rather than recommend a dramatic treatment, we advise the people who come to see us to adopt simple strategies to give their minds and bodies room to grow health. I have adapted those strategies to my workday. Here are some tips that help me get back on track when discouragement sets in:

  1. Start with the right thoughts. Every morning, I read. A lot. I read sections from the Bible, articles on relationship and books on living your purpose and goals. Poetry, scripture, affirmations, inspirational books can also put you in a good frame of mind to start your day.
  2. Exercise. I am not a great athlete. For a long time, my health left me exhausted after even moderate exercise, and I’m only just now challenging the idea that I cannot do vigorous activities. But I know the importance of movement, both for physical health, and for emotional well-being. So I do lots of little exercise as often as I can. I wander around the neighborhood where I work and a local botanical garden. I stretch, or spend five minute intervals doing small muscle-building exercises. Not as much as I need to, yet, but I’m improving. And guess what I’ve noticed? The days I do more little intervals of exercise, the happier and more productive I am. 
  3. Meditate. Taking a moment or two to calm your mind will minimize anxiety, improve brain function and help you make more thoughtful decisions, improve your endocrine function, and help your heart health. Even if you only meditate for a minute every couple of hours, you will find yourself more calm and able to handle challenges more easily. This website has great one-minute meditations.
  4. Show gratitude. Thank the people around you for the wonderful things they do. Keep a gratitude journal. Look for things to enjoy and that make you thankful. Gratitude has tons of health benefits, and also encourages positive action. So jot down things that you appreciate. And tell those around you that you appreciate them–share the good feeling!

These four points are not rocket science, but they will keep you in a better mood. Burnout is hard to deal with and miserable to experience, so taking simple steps to prevent hating your daily routine makes sense. Please share your tips below.

Advertisements

Get Up And Boogie! Part 3 of The 5 Taxations: Excessive Lying Down

Photo Credit: vancity197

Not long ago, I started a series on The Five Taxations–five activities that wear out your system when done in excess. Here they are again:

Today’s post is on excessive lying down. I rarely complain about people lying down, because I strongly advocate napping and think most people get too little sleep. But I know people who lie down even when they’re not sleeping–to watch TV, read, or just hang out. 

Chinese medicine is a system that emphasizes balance. Our bodies are made for some movement, some rest, some intake of food, some spending of our energy.There are actually dangers to oversleeping, especially since a need to oversleep means you are not getting good quality sleep when you are awake. If you spend all your time lying down, you are not moving. The right level of movement contributes to creating qi in the body, acting like a generator. No movement, and your qi is diminished. You instead build stagnation–the qi you have and your blood become stuck more easily, leading to pain, digestive problems, and emotional distress. Our body fluids move better when we have regular movement–especially lymph fluid, which plays a part in circulation and immune system health.

If you are not prone to movement (pun entirely intended), whether from medical necessity or disinclination to exercise, preventing this taxation is still possible. Move whatever you have to move–feet, arms, head, neck–eyes, even just your rate of breathing if everything else is paralyzed. Don’t move too fast, or for too long at first–qi needs a chance to well up like a spring. Overdoing it early on will exhaust you and make it harder to continue. 

Enjoy moving–dance, stretch like a cat. Move slowly and really feel your muscles changing shape. Move quickly and enjoy the slight thrill of an increased heart beat. Move until you are slightly tired, and enjoy better sleep.

You will see some level of improvement–your breathing will be smoother, and if you do not have permanent injuries, you will be able to move farther and easier over time.

Enjoy your body’s ability to move. Don’t allow your body to stagnate from a lack of movement!

Life’s About Flow

Photo by Teresa Y Green

Flow. Some people call it the Zone, finding your groove, or moving forward. That wonderful, timeless feeling when you are in the middle of something and it’s going well. In Chinese medicine, we call it the free movement of Qi.

When you are in a state of Flow, you are content. You are not worried about tomorrow, you’re excited about today. You are in the moment, enjoying the immediacy of life because you are doing what you were meant to do.

There is plenty to read about reaching a state of flow, but the masters of flow are the creators of Chinese medicine. With qigong, acupuncture, herbal medicine and lifestyle tips, Chinese medicine has specialized in cultivating the feel of flow for thousands of years.

To have better FLOW, here are a few simple tips:

  • Move around. You don’t have to run marathons or have six-pack abs to get the benefits of exercise. Movement facilitates qi movement, whether it’s dancing to the radio or taking a long walk. Qi movement helps stress, lessens pain, and balances your entire body. Take the stairs, park a little farther away, and wiggle in the car while you sing to your favorite song.
  • Don’t squash emotions. In Chinese medicine, emotional upheaval is one of the causes of most illnesses. Having strong emotions you don’t process in some way will wreck your hormones, hurt your immune system, and rob you of sleep–which can contribute to anything from heart disease to obesity. If you find yourself often feeling sad, angry, or numb, you probably have something going on emotionally. Talk to a minister or therapist, write about it in a journal, or call your least crazy friend. Dealing with emotions as they come up will make your life calmer, and give you room to better enjoy the pleasant emotions of happiness, anticipation, and love.
  • Go outside. Nature is a. . .well. . .naturally healing place. Hearing birds sing, feeling the breeze on your face, and the ground under your feet reminds you that the world around you goes on whether your boss is mad at you or not. Looking at the stars can remind you that most of your problems are small. And looking at clouds connects you to your childhood sense of wonder.

Flow is my thing, and is a continual lifestyle challenge and goal. I can help you find more flow in your life. By looking at the whole picture–a holistic view–we can put the pieces of family, work, health, fun, home and hearth and everything in between together. If you feel like your life is out of balance or if you feel stuck, I can help. When you need other expertise, I have talented friends and colleagues for you to work with and learn from. If you have changes you’d like to make, give me a call or drop an email. I am eager to help.

Defeat Depression

Photo Credit: Neadeau

I spent most of my childhood and young adulthood depressed. Some of that time, seriously depressed. I didn’t know it; depression runs in my family. I thought it was normal to have a few weeks or months every year that I just toiled through, barely functioning. I didn’t realize that apathy, hopelessness, tears, aches, pains, and difficulty making decisions should not be constants in life.  I was not suicidal; I just wished–often and without telling anyone–that I could go to sleep and never wake up. I was so tired of fighting.

I’m not depressed now. I get down, and there are tendencies I may always fight, but I want to live. I have goals, things to do–and people I want to help. I’m not on any medication, and have used a multi-faceted approach to deal with depression at the first sign of trouble.

If you are depressed, do whatever it takes to get out of it. If your road to mental health involves medication, do it.  For some people it will be a temporary choice, for others a permanent one. Do whatever will let you share your gifts with the world.

Here are the things I have done and continue to do to fight depression:

  • Nutrition: It seems like common sense to me that you must have the right raw materials for your body to function properly. I specifically have targeted blood sugar as my problem area, with a special focus on my sensitivities–artificial ingredients and starches, especially corn. Other people have found that a lack of minerals can contribute to anxiety, or that nutrition related to brain or hormone function can be crucial. Everyone is different, so I’m not giving out a specific list of supplements–I suggest investing the time in reading on your own and finding a trusted healthcare provider who shares your view of nutrition to guide you.
  • Emotion / Mental balance:  I once heard a TV pop-psych guy tell a guest that she had a choice in how she responded to the things life threw at her. That idea–that I control my response to life–has been life-changing. Sometimes I don’t know how I can change my response, but knowing I can gives me the will to search for the tools I need. I use prayer to ask God for the insight to know how to respond as a mature adult, meditation to calm my mind so I take time to think things through, and work on my self-talk so I don’t tear myself apart for no reason. I also keep a “garbage in/garbage out” mentality. I monitor what I read, watch, and listen to, and try to only expose myself to things that are uplifting in some way.
  • Exercise: I am still perfecting this one, but I try to get outside and walk around as much as I can.  I also lift light weights, because the feeling of being able to pick up progressively heavier objects gives me a sense of power way out of proportion to the size of the things I lift. Feeling powerful and in control of life is a great antidote to depression.
  • Immediate triage: On the rare occasion when I fall into a depressive state, I act quickly. The beginning of February is always a hard time for me. My parents died on February 4th and 5th, six years apart. Every year, I get melancholy and go inward for a few weeks. Each year, I try harder to manage the emotions better. I allow myself a certain amount of wallowing–losing your family hurts, and it is natural to revisit that grief each year. I listen to sad music, reminisce, and take an afternoon or two to cry. But I also make sure I eat healthfully, get plenty of rest, and do nice things for myself. Because of my history, a short, natural cycle of feeling down can become a major depression, and I choose not to allow that to happen.

These steps have become part of my life. I don’t think of them as My Depression Prescription, at least not until I’m short a blog post for the week. Whether you struggle with depression, or have never had to deal with it, these are good activities to add into your life. Do you have any tips to keep an upbeat, emotionally mature attitude in your life?

    It’s All About Integrity

    Thanks to Krappweis for the photo.

    Twice a year, I do an inventory of my life. I look at what’s been working, what isn’t working, and what steps I can take to fix things. Reading that sentence, I am impressed at how proactive I am. The reality is not quite as nice.

    Until now, my inventories have been pretty informal. I’m a big-picture sort of gal, and coming up with all the specifics of how to track goals, and how to break down goals are not my strong points. So often, I know the general things that are better, or that need work, but the steps toward improvement are harder to make stick.

    I’ve let myself off the hook for years. “Play to my strengths,” I tell myself. “You’re doing your best,” I say encouragingly. I defined myself as organizationally challenged, so not meeting goals or having unrealistic timelines for accomplishments was just “me being me,” and therefore ok.

    This permitted mediocrity has become a little tiresome. Life is about living what I believe. I can do anything I put my mind to–maybe with some creative skirting around obstacles, and maybe with some unexpected side trips on the way–but my attitude and willingness to hold myself to high expectations are the keys to my success. Right now, true, I am not an organizational genius. I have no need to become someone who has every second pinned down, and a house so perfectly ordered I can do a magazine shoot with no warning. But I can streamline my life so that it works for me. And then I can better work for others.

    Living a life of integrity means you do what you believe. No compromise. If I’ve been given life as a blessing, I’m supposed to do something with it. I have to be striving for something. I have to move in the direction of my beliefs. Right now, issues in my life make it hard to be of service to my friends, family, and the world.  I’ve had enough.

    So starting now, I’m making new baselines. New levels that I have to meet to be ok with myself. I may change the standards as I tweak the system, but I won’t let the standards go. I won’t break appointments with myself for goal setting and evaluating without a true emergency. I will keep an up-to-date chart showing progress toward different goals. I will tackle laundry, bills, and other obnoxious parts of life at regular intervals because I hate falling behind. I will rest when I need to, and not feel guilty. There will be set exercise in my life, and there will be things I will not eat–starting now.

    I don’t like these new resolutions. But I hate seeing the person I want to be languishing. Years have passed. I’m not as young as I used to be. Time will run out someday. I’ve got things to do.

    How about you? Do you have goals you’ve let slide? Are they really important to you? If they aren’t important, throw them out. If they are, do whatever it takes to get to them. Life is too short to ignore your dreams.