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JMcCasslinTherapist's Corner...
Dish Meditation

     We live in a hectic world, no doubt about it. Some of that craziness we create for ourselves by overloading our activities and duties. Another part of that craziness is due to technology. Another part is due to the expectations we perceive others have for us or dangers around us. Faster and faster, we want instant gratification. 
     Many mental health issues come from the stress in our lives - anxiety, depression, attention problems, to name a few. So how do we slow down?
     One of my college professors was big - like, BIG - into Eastern Psychology. He had mastered different martial arts. He meditated. He'd experienced acupuncture. He meditated through a six-hour hip replacement, even though the numbing drugs wore off after three hours.
     I remember him talking about a Master he met. He asked the Master a question (sorry, the exact question he asked escapes me). The Master replied "How do you wash dishes?"
     My professor laughed and said "As quickly as possible. I really don't like washing dishes."
     The Master replied "From now on, dishes should be part of your meditation. Pay attention to every detail. It is in the simple things that we find who we are. It is in the simple things that we must learn to find joy."
     My sister had a similar experience. She wasn't meditating or talking to some great Master from the East. Her husband had cancer and she was thrown into abnormal circumstances. She once confided "Dishes kept me sane. In my world, where everything was up in the air, dishes kept me grounded. It's the one normal thing I could do each day."
     So how do we slow down and take it all in? Vacations are one great way to experience new things. We pay attention to the beauty around us when we go somewhere new. We look with awe and we're inspired.
     However, vacations end. So then what? Back to the mundane, same-ole-same-ole lives we live. Right?
     Wrong.
     There is beauty all around us. Old things to see in a new way. Watch a toddler. I'm often reminded of the new-ness of the world through my toddler's eyes. However, like many adults, I shrug it off because I'm busy. I don't have time to examine that bug, to smell that flower, to...to...to...
     We do have time. Like meditating, we need to focus our energy. We need to focus on what is important. We need to slow down. We need to prioritize. Our jobs/chores/events/activities will be there even after we take a moment to take care of ourselves. They will still exist even after we stop to give thanks for what we have. They will survive us taking a moment to "smell the roses."
     It's in our deepest moments of anxiety, depression, and stress that we need to reconnect to our world. Not the "world" in the sense of the chaotic run-around, but rather, the literal world. We need to ground ourselves. Go for a walk. Watch the sunset. Look at that bug. Dance to the song on the radio. Hold hands with the person you love. Kiss your kids and take a moment to breathe them in. Take a long shower or soak in the bath.
     Do the dishes with love and joy. Know that you are blessed because you could feed your family, and those dishes are the proof.

~ Jessica McCaslin, Therapist

CHeadrick

Therapist's Corner...
Getting Through the Middle

     Music speaks to us in many ways. Have you ever heard of "Somewhere in the Middle" by Casting Crowns? Following are some of the lyrics:

Somewhere between the hot and the cold, Somewhere between the new and the old, Somewhere between who I am and who I used to be, Somewhere in the middle, You'll Find Me. Somewhere between the wrong and the right, Somewhere between the darkness and the light, Somewhere between who I was and who You're making me, Somewhere in the middle, You'll find me...Somewhere between the safety of the boat and the crashing waves...Somewhere between a whisper and a roar... Somewhere between contented peace and always wanting more.

     While the song is about a person's struggle with his/her Christian beliefs and the life-long challenge to choose right from wrong, just having heard the song made me aware of the many times that we find ourselves "somewhere in the middle" of choices and/or situations. We might find ourselves in the middle of such choices as what services to pursue for our child who struggles with learning disabilities or which path of higher education is best for us or one of our children, which vacation would be the best for our family at this time, or how to tackle a problem within our marriage.
     We may be waiting - to be married after getting engaged, between a military assignment and deployment, or between graduation and college, or for a job. Emotionally, we can also find ourselves "in the middle" - somewhere between sleeping excessively or not enough, feeling energized or exceptionally fatigued, feeling like life is "coming together" or feeling worthless or guilty. As the song says we may be, "somewhere between the safety of the boat and the crashing waves, and somewhere between contented peace and always wanting more."
     The major key to maintaining a sense of sanity in situations that tend to get us off balance is realizing that being somewhere in the middle of two realities is very normal - and a fact of life. It is not the "being in the middle" that makes us uncomfortable, but rather the way we have learned to interpret, take in, judge, and/or have expectations about the circumstances that put us into a feeling of panic. For example, when seeking services for your child with a learning disability, the panic-producing parts may include not understanding what the disability looks like from within the child (limitations, feelings, etc.), worrying about others making fun of him/her, having disagreements with those who provide the services, or being too close to the situation to see it objectively. Talking to someone we trust can help us identify what we need to learn more about, rethink the situation, or form different beliefs/opinions, and thus have a direction in which to move - helping us to feel less stuck.
     One of my mother's favorite sayings was "This, too, shall pass", and I have come to believe that she used it at those times when she was feeling overwhelmed. I think it gave her some emotional space within which to breathe and convince herself that she could "get through it" and maintain for the moment. Sometimes that "emotional space" moment, that moment in which we intentionally breathe, can make the difference between our ability to survive the challenge or be overtaken by it. Breathe several times, as deeply as you can, when you are feeling caught somewhere in the middle.
     Another maintenance tool that can be helpful is to review your gratitude list. This is a list that you have written over a period of time that serves as a reminder of those things you have been blessed with and have experienced in moments that you felt the "safety of the boat" and "contented peace." This reminder can help you get through the panic moment and strengthen your confidence in the abilities you have.
     These skills don't come naturally for many people. We need to practice skills. This is very true for learning to be more comfortable with the reality of "being in the middle," and I encourage you to practice the skills of 1) realizing it is a reality of life, 2) talking with someone who can help you process for your next step, 3) breathing often and deeply, and 4) reviewing your gratitude list slowly and thoughtfully to help you reach "contented peace." In the meantime, I hope that you can enjoy many wonderful and enriching moments and experiences during this time that is in the middle of spring and fall!

~ Carlene Headrick, Therapist

Lenz

From Our EAP...
Emotional Intelligence for Co-workers

     You may believe that your ability to be successful on the job is linked primarily to your IQ, but in recent years social science researchers have observed that workplace success is more dependent on emotional intelligence, or EI.
     EI is your ability to recognize and be aware of your emotions, to accurately perceive emotions in others, and to use this awareness to empower successful workplace relationships. Good EI promotes positive interactions with others and leads to more cooperation and a better ability to adapt to a changing work environment.

Examples of EI include . . .
     • Knowing that missing a deadline will have a negative impact on coworkers, and deciding to finish early in order to enhance goodwill
     • Sensing a coworker’s frustration, and inquiring about it rather than ignoring it
     • Knowing that your attitude affects others, and therefore choosing to display a pleasant demeanor despite the way you might actually feel
     • Sensing when there is a need to resolve tension between you and a coworker, and being proactive in initiating that discussion

Improving Your EI
     You can improve your EI by focusing on your feelings and those of others. Pay attention not just to what is said, but to tone of voice, nonverbal cues, and actions. Consider the most effective and suitable response to the message you perceive.

Challenges to Work On
     The ability to consciously decide how you react to certain emotions you experience is an EI skill called self-regulation. For example, self-regulation allows you to taper your response to provocations and incidents in the workplace to avoid an inappropriate emotional response that would cause you to lose control over the outcome.
     Try asking your supervisor or good friend about areas where you need improvement in self-regulation. Turn these into personal goals for change. Use a coach, a counselor, or your employee assistance program to help you develop strategies for tackling these habits. Check out the book titled The Emotional Intelligence Quick Book. It’s loaded with great exercises for personal change and improving EI.
     Do you frequently interrupt coworkers while they are talking? Do you pay more attention to your phone than to those speaking to you? What are some of your EI challenges?

Positively Influencing Others
     It is well known that attitudes—both positive and negative—are contagious. Appreciating this dynamic can help you become a positive force in your workplace. You may not feel your best every day, but remember this will empower you to intervene with negative feeling states. (Hint: To improve your attitude and be a positive influence, take care of yourself: get enough sleep, eat right, get daily exercise, and take appropriate time off from work to recharge and renew.)

Improve Your Empathy Reach
     Empathy is your ability to understand another person’s needs and the emotional state that person experiences regarding those needs, and then to respond appropriately. Improving your ability to empathize (your “empathic reach”) allows others to feel heard and prompts a give-and-take response from people that enhances relationships.
     Listening well and talking less is the key to improving your empathic reach. Helping others really feel heard is a learned skill. For example, if a coworker says, “Oh no, it’s raining outside,” don’t just say, “Yes, it is.” Instead, reach with empathy by saying, “Let’s hope it stops before your tennis match today. You’ve worked so hard to prepare for it.” This is an example of a more meaningful and relationship-building response.

EI is about People Skills
     Emotional intelligence is about people skills. Practice a bit of self-awareness, and believe in your ability to positively affect others and your organization. And be open to learning about areas where you can improve by listening to others, considering the feedback they provide, and acquiring new habits of positivity and self-regulation. This approach will add to your job satisfaction and happiness, and will promote a positive work culture for all.

~ Lana Lenz, EAP Coordinator (resource: Daniel Feerst, LISW-CP, WorkExcel.com)

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