Workplace Wellness – Ask for help

The following is an edited post from August 2018 originally entitled “Wellness Wednesday – Ask for help.” Since I am in the second week of my new job, it seems like a good reminder to myself! 

Do you find it hard to ask for help? 

I confess that this is something I am still need to practice. I was taught very well to always be helpful. But I did not often ask for help. And it can take me time to admit to myself when I need help, and to ask and receive it.

But asking for help can be a way to honor other people and allow them to connect with us in a meaningful way. Once I started thinking of it this way, it seemed that asking for help is actually like giving someone a gift. 

When we ask for help we indicate that we trust and respect another person. We express our belief in their capability. Most of the time, people who can help us are happy to help us. Think about the last time you responded to a request. Did you feel good about helping? Most of us do. (Unless the request is unreasonable or feels imposed, but that is another scenario).

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It can feel vulnerable to ask for help. We must admit we don’t have it all together, or we do not know something. I am starting to get over this as I realize we all need help from time to time. There is no shame in it, and potentially we deepen the connections in our relationships.

Sometimes we worry that if we ask, a person will say no and reject the request. I have found that if I ask sincerely and from a place of gratitude, more often than not, I receive help. It helps to be specific about the request and to always thank the giver.

I also learned that asking out loud is a better option than mentally projecting your requests to someone. This is truly OBVIOUS. And sometimes I have made the mistake of assuming others (like my husband) could read my mind and would know what I wanted. Nope. We must use our words, and express requests out loud. I realize not everyone here has grown up in passive-aggressive Minnesota where this tends not to be modeled.

Perhaps we want to stubbornly do things ourselves, and we feel a sense of failure if we ask for help. Perhaps we were taught that strong and capable people do not need help, or this is the message we absorbed in our youth. In any case, it is time let go of our fear and to embrace a new belief and a new practice!

WORKPLace wellness on wednesdays

Graciously asking for and receiving help is a practice that can enhance our relationships and allow us to focus on our strengths. If you are new to it, take it in stages, and start small. You may be surprised at what you discover and how much more capable you feel by inviting your community to be part of your success.

Next time you are struggling, know you are not alone. Use it as an invitation to ask a coworker for what you need or want. Be brave, and be thankful. We do not have to go it alone.

cristy@meximinnesota.com

 

 

Workplace Wellness – You have time

I am just coming out of my first two days at my new job, meeting people and learning more about what I have signed up to accomplish. It is exciting and exhilarating.

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My new work space at the University

It is also like one of my colleagues described it, “like drinking water from a fire hose.” There are a lot of new concepts to absorb, and research units to understand, training to complete, and meetings to schedule.

Over the lunch hour, I attended a session from the Office of the VP for Research on Vulnerable Populations. It was a fascinating look at the fact that researchers sometimes take a paternalistic perspective to protect research participants. But we do not always consider the injustice of excluding certain types of candidates for research, and how this may actually deny treatment alternatives.

Fascinating stuff. I can tell this job is going to challenge my thinking and open me up to new perspectives. I love that.

I also know that by the end of the day, around 4:45 p.m. after two full days of meetings, and a mini-celebration dinner with friends for my birthday on Monday, I was wiped. My brain felt worked and tired.

I considered pushing through and working longer. Then I opened my journal and opted for a short reflection on the day, old-fashioned pen and paper style. It helped clarify my thoughts and questions.

On the 12 minute walk to my car to begin the commute home, I considered what might be a helpful mantra, given a slight feeling of being overwhelmed by expectations. Ultimately I decided on “you have time.”

WORKPLace wellness on wednesdays

You have time to learn the new job (and it is okay that you don’t know everything you need to know/do in the first couple days)

You have time to get to know the department.

You have time to map out a strategy and plan.

You have time to absorb the information you need. You were hired because of your expertise, experience and capabilities, not because you know everything.

You have time to enlist the support you need to be successful.

After a few minutes of deep breathing and chanting this simple mantra to myself, it started to resonate in my body. I felt that familiar relaxation response, when my mind starts to believe what I am “feeding” it via conscious thoughts, and my body lets go of anxiety.

The next time you find yourself flipping into a mental script has you feeling overwhelmed, you might tell yourself that “you have time.” See what effect it has on your body, and your feelings. You have time.

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

 

Leaps of faith

“Trust in God, but tie your camel to a post.”

-Old Arabic proverb (trusting the internet on this attribution, please correct me if you know a more specific source).

Have you ever heard this one?

Even for those of us who have faith, it does not give us license to be naïve about our future. Leaping without a net might be okay if your family is wealthy or inclined to bail you out. But I live in the real world, and come from humble beginnings.

I made a leap last August, away from a corporate manager position and into a sabbatical, some forays into self-employment: coaching, science writing, and freelance consulting. I designed and delivered some workshops: Embody the Leader Within You and the Neuroscience of Resilience. I began yoga teacher training, and I am loving that experience. I started with about 6-8 months of living expenses put away, and I earned a little money here and there.

I realized back in February/March that this was not going to be a sustainable living for me, and that our reserve funds were rapidly dwindling. So I took a bridge loan of sorts and then headed back into looking for full-time gigs. Good thing my credit is excellent, and I foresaw the shortfall a few months before it became mission-critical. Also good thing that I spent 10 months before I left the previous job in serious preparation for this time away, putting away extra money and hiring coaches to position myself for a break. I do not take that privilege for granted.

tie your camel
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Though I will someday try a self-employment venture again, I was honored last week to accept a position at the University of Minnesota as a Program Manager in the Clinical and Translational Sciences Institute. I will begin on June 10th (my birthday!) and it feels like an amazing gift. As it turns out, the recruiter had contacted me originally on March 8th regarding this position. So it was about a 3-month period of messages back and forth, phone interviews, in person interviews, interacting with the hiring committee, and eventually the hiring manager (3 in person experiences).

I kept pursuing this one because I see it as a unique blend of an opportunity to build something new in an academic setting but at the same time apply my expertise in clinical research. At the same time, I had a hard time pursuing corporate positions, because I just do not see myself in that sort of role for now, so I did not bother.

Because I was having a positive experience with the interview process, I made a leap of faith and did not do much searching in the full-time realm for other jobs. I front-loaded my YTT studies, knowing that a full-time job may mean less time for focused study of yoga. And I am bringing my coaching practice to a mindful close while I allow lots of energy and time to learn the new job without too much distraction.

I am grateful that I took the leap, learned so much in the interim, and found myself a role that, though it pays less than my previous role in the corporate world, allows for a sustainable and regular income for my husband and me. It is on my “growth edge” and will stretch me in new ways. I am excited and a little nervous, as anyone might be in a new role. But I will embrace it. The faith I have developed in my own resilience serves me. And wherever the road bends next, I know I can meet the challenges ahead.

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

 

 

Belly breathing

The other morning I opted for a home yoga practice using the audio from a Yoga Teacher Training class that had been recorded for our use.

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Let me help you. I can be your sandbag.

The first practice called for a small sandbag to lay across our belly as we lay on our mat, to provide some sensory input to feel our diaphragmatic breath. I had no sandbag at home, so I used a small pillow to simulate at least the shape of a sandbag on my abdomen.

As I was considering whether I should place an order for such a thing, my big sandbag of a cat (Calvin) came up and draped himself across my belly, negating the need for that.

It’s hard to know why my cats find me so appealing when I practice yoga. I often think they like it when I am on the floor, practicing poses that get me closer to them. They also seem to understand that, after I practice yoga, my body seems to emit blissful energy and calm.

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I realize that is probably fairly anthropomorphic for me to interpret their behavior in that way. There is something about those long inhales and exhales, those full belly breaths that get me into a state of ease. So many of us get used to breath-holding in our daily lives, bracing against stress, or simply holding ourselves in with uncomfortable clothing, belts, braces or even neckties.

What if we learned to embrace that full belly breath and to stop “sucking it in”? Our bellies are made to expand during the inhale. When we only allow for chest breathing, we end up with tightness and muscle tension in our shoulders and our neck. Shallowness in our breath can result in confused and disoriented states of mind.

It took me not very long on a therapeutic spinal strip to realize there was a lot of chronically held tension held in my back and shoulders. Indeed I have to consciously bring my shoulders down when I notice the slight scrunch that seems to happen subtly or when I am at a keyboard, mentally focused and working.

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When are you gonna be done, Mom?

I am dismantling some of these patterns, and actively reminding myself in meditation and yoga to breathe fully. At the same I am learning to notice and slow down at more points throughout my day when I find my thoughts racing (and then usually notice the breath has followed). Then I consciously take in a few long inhales and exhales, bring myself back to the present and realize that my mind was caught up in a story about the future, or perhaps a regret about the past.

So simple, and yet so radical. Thank you, Calvin, for helping me sense and feel that breath deep into the belly. I know you do not struggle with this, and I appreciate re-learning this skill that we all master as infants and then forget.

cristy@meximinnesotana.com