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Emerton SeanneTherapist’s Corner...Making Connections

     What does a group of 4th graders on a field trip to MIT to make Quiz Boards have in common with a group of female attorneys in Uzbekistan attending a training on gender inequality issues? On the surface, not much. I had the opportunity to be present for both of these occasions within the last month. The field trip as a chaperone for my grandson’s class, the Uzbekistan trip as a presenter through a democracy building group called Regional Dialogue, through the State Department.
     While an observer in both of these new-to-me environments, I was aware of my own neurons firing and making new connections. I was out of my comfort zone in each situation, forcing me to be more present to pay attention. I accompanied the 4th graders on a city bus from their school in Cambridge, Massachusetts to MIT…not a long ride but full of interesting people and situations. The teacher prepared them well and many had had this experience before. Yet, they had to pay attention or be abandoned at a bus stop. No one was holding their hand. They showed up, listened with fairly good patience as the MIT professor spent the day walking them through each step of building their own electrical Quiz Board. All 14 students walked out at the end of the day with a fully functional Quiz Board, based on their own questions and answers. It was no easy task and required tenacity. Their pride in the finished product was visible. The professor encouraged them to really “own” their work. They chose to pay attention, because they were motivated, seeing what was in it for them (and there was some peer pressure plus it was fun…and highly satisfying for them.)
     We all make connections better when we get what’s in it for us and when we feel safe, even if outside the comfort zone. That allows us to take risks, including risking failing. Internally and externally, we make connections better if we get out of our comfort zones and challenge ourselves.
     The female attorneys in Uzbekistan showed up with curiosity and some trepidation since the presentation was on work/life balance as a professional woman in their country as well as skills to manage the discrimination they face by virtue of being a female professional. (They still have arranged marriages, live with the husband’s parents and commonly work 12 hour days, all while being expected to do the traditional “woman’s work” when they are home). This was a two-day training facilitated by a panel of four of us, the other three being attorneys. They don’t have my profession in Uzbekistan so they had never met a marriage and family therapist. I spoke on skills for resiliency and self care. They were thirsty for more. They asked astute questions and made interesting connections to their own lives and culture. This was tricky business for a myriad of reasons. I respect their core resiliency already as educated women in their culture. I respect that they like their culture and discovered that they feel proud of it and actually feel quite fortunate. It was also tricky because we used a Russian/English translator in real time, who was amazing, yet I was cautious about the quality of translation. We did small group work with these women presenting questions to help generate strategies. They expressed a great deal of gratitude for the opportunity to use their voices and to be heard. They came back the next day with deepened insight and gratitude for the opportunity we created for them to make their own connections generating solutions specific to them. They expressed that they could now better manage their energy with the tools presented. These women showed up, were fully present and chose to see what was in it for them as they became aware of how to manage effectively what was possible.
     In Boston and in Uzbekistan,I showed up with my complete self, present for both of these opportunities and motivated to do what I could in each situation, meeting them where they were. That made each of these experiences rich in expanding my world. Yet I tend toward self consciousness and anxiety in new situations. I’ve had to train myself to “let it go” and accept what is. Sometimes I do better than at other times with that. I’ve become accustomed to taking a “one down” at the risk of appearing totally clueless. I’m not above asking “stupid” questions of complete strangers…even those that speak no English. I find people are most often gracious and generous and truly seem happy to help. I practice self talk such as, “I can do this!” and “I’ve done hard things before and survived.” When I fall on my face, I try to practice self compassion rather than beating myself up by saying, “It’s okay Seanne.” And I try to consistently take an attitude of curiosity such as “What I am supposed to learn from this?”
     I’m always grateful for these kind of experiences, even if it is out of my comfort zone. We don’t have to travel to get out of our comfort zones. We can each watch for opportunity to expand our mental and emotional horizons…as well as our physical and spiritual horizons. Ask yourself, what’s in it for you? Then make a plan. Then just do it! Here’s to making connections that help you grow, expand your world and bring you the kind of deep satisfaction that only such experiences can.

~ Seanne Emerton, Founder/Therapist

LenzTips from Our  EAP...Sleep: Productivity and You

     Tired? Welcome to the club. A recent study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention finds that almost one third of American adults get less than seven hours of sleep per night. Despite all the talk of “work-life balance,” for many of us the easiest thing to ditch when our schedules start bursting at the seams with family and work-related responsibilities is sleep. Burning the Midnight Oil
     According to experts, adults need between seven and nine hours of sleep per night. Skipping even an hour of needed rest can carry significant costs, including:
• Difficulty learning and retaining info
• Difficulty processing complex info
• Delayed reaction time
• Poor judgment
• Irritability
• Impatience
• Negativity
• Fatigue
• Poor reflexes
• Decreased concentration
• Diminished self-control
     When you take these factors into consideration, it’s easy to see how skimping on your shut-eye is the last thing you want to do. Your best, most productive work almost always comes when you’re well rested.
Keys to a Good Night’s Rest
• Maintain a regular sleep schedule. Instead of sleeping in on weekends to compensate for lost
sleep, try going to bed an hour or two earlier at night and keeping this schedule all week long.
• Use your bed only for sleeping. This will help train your body to fall asleep quickly when you tuck in for the night.
• Keep your room dark.
• Don’t exercise too close to bedtime. The resulting endorphin release will energize you and keep you awake.
• Use “white noise” such as a fan to dampen outside noise.
• Lower the thermostat. Studies show that a cooler temperature helps create more restful sleep. Go as low as you can while still remaining comfortable.
• Avoid caffeine in the evening. Half the caffeine you consume will still be in your body six hours later.
• Don’t use alcohol to excess. Having a few drinks may help you go to sleep, but it will also disrupt your sleep cycle, leaving you tired in the morning.
• Invest in a good mattress. Mattresses stop offering the right amount of support after about ten years.
• Shut out negativity. If television news causes you stress and worry, then skip that late newscast and do something that relaxes you instead.
The Power of Napping 
     When all else fails, grab a pillow and snooze a bit during the day. Recent studies suggest that a nap as short as just ten minutes can boost mental alertness and productivity for hours.
     Don’t buy into the idea that napping is lazy. Cultures all over the world build nap time right into their workdays. Famous nap takers include Albert Einstein, Winston Churchill, and Johannes Brahms.
Beating the Busy Bug
     The most common excuse people give for not getting enough sleep is that they’re simply too busy. Here’s the bottom line: You simply can’t live a rich, happy, and productive life when you’re stumbling around like a zombie due to lack of sleep.
     If the daily grind is overwhelming your schedule, it’s time to start eliminating all but your highest priorities and obligations and carving out some extra time for a good night’s rest. Start small and try going to bed ten minutes earlier each night until you’re getting a full eight hours of sleep.
     Once you get there, maintain this schedule for a week and take note of the difference in your mood, energy level, and productivity. Chances are, you’ll feel like a new person.

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

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