Occupational Wellness: Use a Grain of Salt.

Often I will link an article that I found/was sent to me when I do these posts but as I was looking through my Blog Post Ideas bookmark and opening all these articles I bookmarked, I realized I wasn’t excited to write about anything. And I wanted to challenge myself why. All the posts I was looking at writing about were these dos and don’ts posts for occupational related stuffz. And I realized that everything was sort of rubbing me the wrong way because you need to take these all with a grain of salt.

There was one article about being a ball buster and as I was skimming through it to see if this was something that I would want to blog about, there was something that caught my attention. Something about being cold is better than being hot. And I realized that it depends on what the culture of your organization is. I work in a very…”soft” skill dominated environment meaning that the majority of people there have counseling degrees. Being cold and hard doesn’t work as well as being warm and friendly in this particular environment. But in other environments, it does.

So with all the posts that I do, take this with you as you read. It depends. It all depends. There is no absolute answer. These are just some articles or blog posts that can spark a thought that you can use in your own way. Whether it is about money, fitness, work, or spiritual, it all depends.

Intellectual Wellness: College.

So, I know that it is the beginning of the month and I usually do a check-in, but for February, can I just not? Well…I mean it is my blog so really I can do whatever…but. Ok, so I’ll confess. February=crazy. Crazy, crazy, crazy. A ton of stuff happened and I kept super busy all month long. So that means A.) I didn’t finish a book this month (crap) and  B.) my goals were definitely pushed on the back burner as I just do whatever I can to keep afloat during this month. February just happens to be when things get crazy with work. I also found out that I will be transitioning my role a bit, which just brings it’s own slew of happenings. So all of that is just why…I’m just not going to do a full recap on the month. It was crazy. It was busy. It was stressful. It was February. But now it’s March, so let’s get on with it, shall we?

So I am admittedly someone who loves to watch YouTube while I get ready. And I’m not always into watching an entire show on Netflix because sometimes I just need 10 minutes of a little some something and I just find that I often gravitate towards YouTube to watch (er have background noise…) while I get ready in the morning. I recently stumbled upon this video by ClothesEncounter which just gives a run down of the 1o things she learned in college beyond you know, the actual content of her courses. Naturally, I find my inspiration from other people’s work because I’m not very creative and I heavily rely on others ideas…anyway. You know what’s coming.

Background info:  I went a 4 year university (graduated in 3 1/2) and got my BA in Psychology w/ a certificate in Industrial and Organizational Psychology. I then went on to grad school for 2 years and got my MS in Industrial and Organizational Psychology. So here are my tips/TIL from college.

1.) As annoying as it is to have to take those general education/core classes, just do it and make the most out of it. Because I took Intro to Psych as a freshman, I actually found my major. And that story really isn’t that uncommon.

2.) Don’t get so caught up in the, “I’m a psych major so what career and I going to go into with a psych degree?” (especially for those of you in the Liberal Arts and Sciences majors). Start thinking about what knowledge, skills, and abilities (or for those I/O-ers reading this, KSAs) you are gaining from school. How can you apply your education to a career? Look at it broader and look at the big picture. Remove your blinders and think more broadly.

3.) Intern! Oh god if there is one thing that i regret from college is not being more involved on campus and not ever interning anywhere. There are interns in my office now and they are just so much better off than I ever was. Just intern. Just do it. Regardless of whether or not you get paid. Intern.

4.) Study abroad. I also really regret never taking the opportunity to study abroad. I regret this so much. There really isn’t ever another time in your life for this opportunity. Start researching it, start putting away money for it, and seriously, go do it.

5.) Speaking of research, freaking research financial aid and scholarships. Seriously. Become a master of your finances before you even start college. Know exactly what you are signing before you sign it and if you don’t know, make an appointment with a financial aid counselor or student legal services or with a banker locally. Know what you are getting yourself into. Be willing to look at the bigger picture.

6.) Planning. This is something that I got to be a pro at in grad school. Every Sunday night, I would go through my syllabuses and map out my week. I would make to-do lists of what I needed to accomplish every single day. What exactly would I need to read every single day so that come the weekend, I didn’t have 100s of pages of research articles to cram in. And then I made a to-do list for every single day. It seems excessive, but did it ever save my bootay in grad school. Then every night, I would watch the Daily Show and re-evaluate my to-do list. If there was any extra projects that needed to get added or if I ran out of time that day…I made a master plan on Sunday and re-evaluated every night to make sure I got everything done and did it in a way that I could retain the information.

7.) While you are planning out your days, make time for stress relief. For me, this was gym time. I forced myself to the gym in grad school even though I didn’t think that I had time for it. But taking an hour a day to step away from the books and shut my brain off was seriously the best thing for me. I then got the point where I would pack my gym clothes when I left for the day and park in the gym’s parking lot so I had to walk to the gym to go home. And if I already had my gym clothes with me…might as well just go ahead and work out, right? Right.

8.) Learn from setbacks. I don’t like to call them failures. But yeah…failures/setbacks are going to happen. That’s life. Give yourself a day to be upset and frustrated (either right after the fact or later on). But figure out what went wrong and why and how you can make sure that failure doesn’t happen again.

9.) Take advantage of being a college student. That doesn’t mean to use it as an excuse to get wasted and drunk every weekend (take it from me, you don’t have to and that’s not the norm – if you don’t feel comfortable doing that and your friends are constantly pressuring you to do that even after you say no, they aren’t your friends). That means, student discounts and free services. Often, you get a student discount for things like your gym but there are also stores that offer student discounts and you can sometimes get concert tickets for student discounts. Don’t be afraid to either research or ask. The worst they can say is no. Also, universities tend to have tons of free services like financial aid counseling, legal help (yup, that usually means your taxes!), and even mental health counseling in addition to all the free t-shirts and key chains. You are essentially paying for everything with your tuition so you might as well use it up.

10.) Friends. The people you meet in college are the greatest people. I’m still close with a few people and I love them dearly. They are people who I will be friends with for my entire life. But at the same time, there are people who you will meet, love, and then lose contact with. Don’t be sad for these friendships. Remember them fondly. And for the people who are bad influences on you, remember them with the lesson.

You learn a lot in college. And pretty much none of my TIL have anything to do with class. But college is more than just class. For a lot of people, it is the first time being out on their own. You are expected to learn a ton from class but you will also be learning a world of things about yourself.

Mental Wellness: The Winter Blues

Generally speaking, I always knew that the winter blues existed and that they were a thing, but I never knew anything more about them beyond just that basic knowledge. My sophomore year of my undergrad, I was in an Elements of Weather class and we had an opportunity for extra credit. I was one of those college kids that jumped for joy for extra credit. The assignment was to write a paper linking your major and the class. So I was sitting there thinking, “how in the world am I supposed to write a paper that links psychology with weather? Well, luckily my professor required his approval on the papers. So I went up there and told him that I wanted to do the extra credit, but I am a psychology major…he then introduced me to SAD. Or Seasonal Affective Disorder. Or, the winter blues.

The winter blues/SAD are just that. With the days being shorter and shorter (up until the winter equinox) and the “miserable” weather of cold, snow, ice, and general just annoyance with the winter season actually has a negative effect on your affect (fingers crossed I used those right…). This article by HuffPo details not only how winter can effect your mood, but also how different seasons can influence your mood.

So my question…is knowledge power? Have you ever noticed that after you find out about something, all of a sudden it is more prominent in your life? I know that I knew about the winter blues, but I never remember being super down during winter or experiencing any depression, but after I wrote that paper about SAD, I am more aware of how I feel down during the winter months. Does anyone else have this same experience?

Spiritual Wellness: For Good.

I’ve mentioned a few times that I am working on a side consulting project. Last week, I had to express my religious views, which for those of you that don’t already know, I am not religious. By choice, I do not believe in a higher being or an all knowing force. (Read:  that absolutely does not mean that I do not respect those that have chosen to be religious. The overwhelming majority of my closest friends and family are religious.) One of my main hangups with religion and one that I have spoken about in great detail with religious friends is the sense of hypocrisy that seems to go with religion. “Love all…except this certain demographic”…it always feels like, to me, that someone or some group is getting persecuted because they aren’t in the “selected” group.

I find religion fascinating. Some of my favorite conversations are simply learning about religion and having respectful conversations about differing views. One of my nearest and dearest best friends is Mormon and I remember visiting her in Alaska and asking her and her now husband about their religion and just simply wanting to learn about it. Not because I was interested in becoming Mormon, but because I wanted to learn about her religion. I follow the Dalai Lama on twitter, not because I am Buddhist or interested in becoming Buddhist, but because I am fascinated by him and his religion and want to learn more. But at the same time, I cringe at the thought of placing my life in someone else’s hands. I see friends all the time with status updates about putting a decision in whoever they believe in’s hands.

The summer in between my freshman and sophomore year of undergrad, I took a few college classes at a community college. One of my classes was a psych class and almost immediately my professor recognized that I have a very strong internal locus of control (meaning I control my actions and what happens in life; my success are a direct result of the work that I have done). We actually took locus of control test in his psych class and when we finished, he immediately asked me what my score was. It was a 3. Low scores indicate an internal locus of control. Upon hearing my score he said, “I figured it was around that range.” (Side note:  apparently doctors tend to score in the 10 and under range for this) (also if you are interested in taking the survey, you can HERE)

The point of this is that, even though I find religion fascinating, I will never be a religious person, and that is ok. But respecting others that are religious is important. And I believe to my core that religion is something that should support good things and not something that people use to persecute others. But I know that’s not the case.

Occupational Wellness: Are Your Expectations Accurate?

I’m going to take a second and just do a quick pat on my back for multiple reasons, one being that I got the September Gallup Business Journal email yesterday and I’m already doing a post on it, Good work Vanessa, good work! 

There are a couple of interesting articles in this month’s newsletter, but one that caught my eye immediately is by Susan Sorenson and Keri Garman, More Educated, Less Engaged. This article looks at engagement from different workers based on their education. For me looking at it, the numbers are that crazy. 34% of workers w/ less than a High School Diploma are engaged in their jobs versus 28% of workers who have a college degree who are engaged in their job. Given that not earning a high school diploma is vastly different than earning a 4 year college degree (or being gifted one, that’s a rant for a different day), the numbers just aren’t that different or surprising to me.

U.S. Engagement Levels by Education

I mean, if you look at the numbers of workers who are not engaged, that is a little more wide spread vs. workers who are engaged. But there just aren’t any shockingly huge number differences. I suppose the real shock in this article is that you would think if you went and got your high school diploma, went through college and got your bachelor’s AND then went ahead and got your master’s (or higher) degree and 56% of those people aren’t engaged in their work? You went through all that schooling and spent all that money and you don’t even like your job? I guess that is where the big kicker is. Especially given that (and the article touches on this as well) that in America, it is pretty well accepted that if you want to make a nice living, you get at least a college education. In certain departments too, (say psychology) if you want to use your degree, you HAVE to get advanced education. Period.

So perhaps the shock value isn’t necessarily in the numbers, but it is in what you put into those numbers. And it is perhaps what your expectations were of the work you put in. Perhaps people who go on and get a postgraduate degree expect that they are going to be working a job that they love and they find out that isn’t necessarily true. If you think about people who don’t have a high school diploma, perhaps their expectations of their work life are more accurate versus those who have gone and gotten the education.


Intellectual Wellness: Setting SMART Goals

Yesterday‘s blog post I mentioned setting SMART goals. Today, I will go into more detail on how to set these types of goals. I learned about SMART goals in grad school. Part of my practicum was to set two SMART goals for myself at the beginning of the semester. We set these goals and then created action logs to document how we were accomplishing these goals. By the end of the semester, we were required to reflect of the process and if we accomplished our goal. I was looking through my stuff last night to prep for this blog post and I want to point out a couple of things before I get into the nitty gritty of setting SMART goals.

First off, be willing to re-evaluate the goal and action plan. One of my goals was to be a better listener in class. But I realized by midterm that I was concentrating so much on listening during class to the discussion, that I was not participating or adding to the discussion. I needed to re-evaluate my action plan to make sure that I was listening but also contributing in class. Feedback helped me realize this.

Second, SMART goals are tricky. In theory they seem really easy to set…but setting a really good SMART goal that is detailed enough in the action plan but easy enough to adjust as needed…it’s difficult. Everyone in my class required a little extra help from our practicum supervisor in refining their SMART goal.

That being said, I’m not an expert in setting SMART goals, but I do think they are a great way to get started. Ok, let’s get into it shall we?

SMART goals = Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time Bound

Specific:  your goal needs to be specific. “I want to be a better listener” isn’t specific enough. “I want to be a better listener in class to better contribute to class discussion” still isn’t really specific, but it is a move in the right direction.

Measurable:  you need to have a way that you can measure your progress. Listening (which is probably a bad example-I should have used a running goal because that is easier…oh well) is difficult to measure. You could operationally define what you think listening is and determine how much % you listen now and what you would want to be at. It’s also hard because listening is probably a skill that is quality of listening over quantity of listening. You can document after class and give yourself a rating of how well you think you were doing listening and reflect on why that is. Don’t be afraid to ask for feedback on your goal from others as well.

Achievable:  this plus the realistic (next) are really important. You want to set yourself up for success but while also pushing yourself. Setting a goal that is actually an achievable goal (screw it, I’m going to lump them both into this category because honestly…I don’t see a big difference in these two. I think they go hand-in-hand) and realistic goal helps you keep motivated to actually accomplish that goal. If you said “I want to spend 90% of class time listening” … well that might not be achievable or realistic especially if you are also graded on class participation. At some point in time you need to make sure that you are listening efficiently  but not just sitting there doing nothing. An easier example of this is if you have never run a mile before, you can’t say I’m going to run a marathon next week. That’s not achievable or realistic. But you could say I’m going to run a mile next week and plot out what that would look like.

The tricky part about setting these goals is that they have to be achievable but also challenging. We talked about Yerkes-Dodson law a lot in my cognition class and that’s how I imagine goals as well. That inverted U shape. You want to be at the top of that where it is the most motivating and challenging. If you go too challenging then you drop in your motivation and you no longer feel like you can accomplish the goal. It’s tricky. Which is why it is really good to make sure that you are able to re-evaluate your goals. I like to do this by setting some small milestones to check in w/ goals (I also term these as small wins so it helps keep me motivated throughout the process…it’s always nice to have that feeling of accomplishment)

Lastly, the goals need to be time-bound. When do you want to accomplish this goal? Yesterday I mentioned a year…so what goal do you have that you want to accomplish in a year?

Generally speaking, I think setting one good long term goal w/ the SMART goals criteria is great. Within that, you can create an action plan…by 3 months where do you want to be in your progress? At that time, you could re-evaluate as well. Is this working for me? Is it too challenging? Not challenging enough? How is my motivation? What I am doing well? What I am I struggling with? Make sure you dedicate some time at least every couple of months to re-evaluate. I do the same thing when I consult. I do small updates and meetings to make sure what I am working on is what the client wants and everything is running well. If it isn’t, what changes need to be made? What do I need to be doing differently? By doing this frequently and having quick meetings, a small problem gets fixed right away as opposed to manifesting into I have completed the project and it wasn’t what they were expecting.

Are SMART goals something you would be interested in setting? Do you already use them? If so, how? Share your thoughts w/ me in the comments below about SMART goals! You can also find me on Facebook and Twitter or email me at wellnessblogging@outlook.com

Mental Wellness: The Power of Reframing.

Reframing is easily one of my favorite concepts that I learned in grad school. While we learned about it in the context of consulting with organizations or companies, the ideas and principles can be applied to your personal life as well.

Unfortunately, when I moved from Kentucky back to Iowa after grad school, I recycled all of my journal articles and I’m having a world of time coming up w/ the research to cite. But just know this isn’t my original idea and I’m pretty sure Schneider is the back bone of this. Mainly b/c Schneider is the back bone of ALL org development/culture research. Seriously. Big name. I drooled a little tiny bit when I sat in on his panel discussion at SIOP in San Diego.

Ok, enough of me fan girl-ing a researcher (I know, I know, nerd alert). Back to reframing.

Reframing. Is. Magnificent. We first started talking about it in my org change and culture class and I just LOVED this concept. I like to use it in my everyday life as a way of taking criticisms and making them into learning opportunities. I have been really working to make reframing negativity as a positive learning opportunity. It’s difficult to immediately hear something negative or go through a negative event and be able to BAM automatically change it into a positive learning experience, I’m not saying it’s easy. But I think it is fascinating and a good way to work on switching negative thinking.

Try working on reframing this weekend. I sometimes dread cleaning my apartment. I just flat out don’t want to. I would rather be outside or really anything besides cleaning. But I try to reframe this mundane and boring task to not think about as something I have to do, but something that when it is done makes me happy. I love having a nice, clean apartment. I don’t like dealing with clutter everywhere. I did this when I started following a blog called “Unfuck your habitat”. It basically advocates for getting stuff done at night that way when you wake up in the morning you just have to grab your lunch and head out the door. When I started doing this, I despised having to wash my dishes at night and pick out my outfit for the day and what not. But instead of thinking about how much I hated doing that and it was preventing me from getting to bed earlier, I reframed that task. By “un-effing” my habitat at night, I was making my mornings less stressful and setting the tone for my entire day. It is now just habit for me to make sure I’m ready for the next day before I go to bed.

These are two really easy examples of reframing. The more complex you get into the task or thought, the harder it is and the longer it takes for the reframing to settle in. But it is worth giving a shot and seeing how you can change your thinking around.