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The Beauty Within a Blue Zone Lifestyle

Beauty Within the Blue Zone Have you ever considered living beyond the age of 100? If you answered yes, you’ve more than likely considered how to incorporate holistic health practices into your lifestyle. Most of us are searching for health and happiness, but we may also receive mixed messages on how to achieve success. For anyone searching to incorporate health and wellness for longevity consider looking into the study of Blue Zones. Blue Zones are areas in the world where pockets of communities have the highest percentages of centenarians (people over 100 years old). Through the Blue Zone Project there is considerable scientific documentation which reveals there isn’t one practice creating longevity, but a collective lifestyle that includes physical activity, nutrient-dense food, emotionally fulfilling social circles, spiritual/religious purpose, and stress reduction practices.
 
In 2005, Dan Buettner first wrote about Blue Zones in
National Geographic. The article titled “The Secrets to a Long Life” was followed by several New York Times bestselling books by Buettner. Each book delves deeper into the study and developing initiatives of Blue Zones and the Blue Zone Project. Buettner’s work originated from scientific studies by Gianni Pes and Michel Poulain, outlined in the Journal of Experimental Gerontology

There are several communities which have been identified by Buettner’s Blue Zone Project. These communities understand the importance of incorporating holistic practices into their lifestyle. Communities including Okinawa Japan, Sardinia Italy, Nicoya Costa Rica, Ikaria Greece, and Loma Linda California are examples of locations around the world where people are living the longest, and are also experiencing a higher sense of fulfillment during their lifetime. 

As part of Buettner’s Blue Zone Project, numerous cities in the U.S. are taking part in a study to incorporate Blue Zone initiatives into their communities. You can also create micro-communities in your work or home environments. The basics of a Blue Zone are a nutrient-dense diet (mostly plant based), physical activity/movement, reducing stress and increasing self-care, social interaction/support, and spiritual or religious purpose. Here are a few ways in which the Blue Zone Project suggests you can start to incorporate Blue Zone practices into your micro-community.
 
Create or join a Blue Zone Project Moai  

A moai (mow-eye) is a special group which creates a ten-week connection commitment. This can be anything from a nature walk to community dinner. Whatever speaks to the group and creates connections. 

Attend a Purpose Workshop 

People with purpose live up to seven years longer than those who do not. Volunteer with an organization that speaks to you. When we volunteer we help people in need. Studies have shown when we help others we feel good about who we are.

Learn more about Blue Zones

Consider incorporating Blue Zone practices into your family or workplace. Spreading the word about this lifestyle provides others with knowledge and powerful tools for better health and wellness.
 
You can use this Blue Zone Project Personal Checklist to assist with incorporating a Blue Zone mentality into your own lifestyle. Select five actions that you can complete within the next six months.
 
1. Walking shoes in plain sight. A natural movement nudge.

2. Adopt a dog. People with dogs are more active, and pets add longevity to our lives.

3. De-tech. Remove technology from your bedroom (as part of your sleep-hygiene program), and as many rooms as possible to help reduce mindless eating and encourage an active mindset.

4. Meditation/quiet/prayer space. Designated space to de-stress and encourage self-care.

5. Attend plant-based cooking class. Learn about the value of nutrients and real food.

6. Garden or join community garden. Stress reduction, nutrient dense food cultivation and community involvement.

7. Schedule weekly happy hour with friends. Remember balance when consuming alcohol

8. Talk about getting older. Preparation and action can help families come together and reduce stress of the unknown. Visit mydirectives.com for more information.

9. Join faith-based organization. People who belong to this type of community live 4-14 years longer than those who do not.
 
However you choose to move forward taking the time to be mindful about the world around you and how you wish to move through it is powerful action for greater good. You may find these tools create new thought process and belief systems. The benefits will be increased energy, quality relationships, fulfilling purpose and increased well-being to support your healthier lifestyle.
 
For more information about the Blue Zone Project visit, bluezonesproject.com.
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Why You Should Engage Employees with Company-Sponsored Community Service

Community Service More and more employers are encouraging their staff members to volunteer together. Giving back can be a wonderful opportunity for team building, and it can be an engaging, fun, meaningful way to spend a weekend or a workday. But company-sponsored community service events aren’t just good for your employees; they’re good for your business, too. Here are six reasons why you should be engaging your team with opportunities to volunteer, and some advice on how to get started.

Volunteering lets you reaffirm your company’s values and beliefs.

Practice what you preach. While you can’t expect to choose an organization that means the most to every single employee at your company, you can use volunteering as an opportunity to back up your company’s overall values. If housing is important to your company, volunteer with Habitat for Humanity. If you’re passionate about empowering women in the workplace, try Dress for Success. If you work with a bunch of animal lovers, arrange for teams to volunteer together at local shelters. You can, of course, work with multiple organizations, but you should choose to donate your time to groups that excite your employees and connect to your company’s mission, if possible.

It encourages your employees to use skills and creativity they don’t often get to use in the workplace.

Volunteering allows people to come out of their everyday roles and get creative, says Rhonda Meadows, Senior HR Business Partner at Xenium HR and founder of nonprofit organizations  Project Lemonade and Bridge Meadows. It allows your team to express the gifts they have beyond number-crunching, gifts that often go unnoticed in corporate settings.

While preparing for volunteer events, Meadows says employees regularly offer skills she’d never have expected, like singing lessons and woodworking. Employees often welcome the chance to show different sides of themselves, as being recognized for their unique skills helps them feel like they matter to the company. This also allows employees to get to know each other better.

It’s a huge marketing opportunity.

Don’t feel guilty for showing off how you give back. According to a 2013 report from Cone Communications and Echo Research, 82 percent of consumers consider corporate social responsibility when they’re deciding what to buy and where to shop. If you are giving back to your community, you should be celebrating that publicly. People are more likely to feel an affinity for a brand or company that’s connected to their community.

“Publicize it, promote it, because that’s what the consumer wants,” Meadows says. “If that’s what consumers want, then that’s what you do, but it’s not just about the money or sales. It’s still about what’s in your heart, what employees care about, and ways that they can give back.”

It instills loyalty in your company from your staff, too.

When you consider what is important to your employees, and listen to the purposes they want to serve, they’re more likely to stick with you. Giving back instills loyalty in your team because it shows them the company isn’t only concerned about the bottom line. Your employees are more likely to support you vocally if they feel like they’re working for a company that cares.

It can have an enormous impact on nonprofit organizations, and that makes volunteers feel good.

Many of us have given back monetarily, written checks to organizations that matter to us. But time is a more limited resource, and as a result, it’s generally what smaller organizations lack. Plus, when you give your time, it’s easier to see your direct impact. “There was an older man that was volunteering at Project Lemonade, and when he left one night, he said, ‘Rhonda, Project Lemonade is the paycheck for my soul.’” Meadows says. “And that has totally stuck with me, because writing a check, putting numbers on a piece of paper, there’s no meaning behind that. When you see kids’ faces, when you see the happiness in their eyes, you feel good all over. It’s a lasting impression.”

It improves morale and productivity.

This applies to every other point on this list. Giving your employees a chance to be creative, engaging them beyond their workplace duties, providing a sense of meaning and accomplishment—all of that improves morale, Meadows says. “When people are happy about what they do and about the company they work for, they’re going to work harder and smarter. The more you can engage and interact with your people about what they’re passionate about, about their mission to give back to the community, and take that on as an organization, you’re going to have happier people. You’re going to have more productive people.”

So many people want to start volunteering but don’t know where to look, she adds. Providing the opportunity as a company helps narrow down the sea of choices and gives your employees a broader sense of purpose.

If you’re ready to start a volunteer project at your company, Meadows says your first step is to decide whether you’re offering paid time to participate. More and more companies are including volunteer time in benefits packages, and you should consider how much the project is worth to you—and to your staff—when making this decision. Remember that more people are likely to take part in a volunteer event if they’re considered on the clock while chipping in and if it occurs during normal work hours

Then, Meadows suggests opening a dialogue with your employees and asking how they want to help the community. To be truly meaningful, and to get higher attendance at these events, volunteer efforts must grow from company-wide support.
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Sleep Hygiene - Lifestyle Practices to Encourage Healthy Sleep Patterns for Overall Well-Being

Many people suffer from the harmful effects of disrupted or sleepless nights. Poor sleep patterns have been linked to numerous health issues, both immediate and long-term. These health issues include reduced cognitive thinking, depression, heart disease, obesity, and increased inflammation in the body.

A few simple lifestyle changes can greatly increase your chances of quality, sleep-filled nights. Creating a positive sleep hygiene regimen will set you on a successful path for better physical and mental health.

Sleep hygiene begins during the day

Many things you do during the day can disrupt your quality of sleep. Drinking caffeine late in the day disrupts sleep patterns, including caffeinated sodas, teas, and energy drinks. Avoid eating late at night. If your body is sending energy to your digestive tract it isn’t at rest. Eat lighter meals earlier in the evening (a minimum of two hours prior to your bedtime). No exercise or late evening exercise also affects sleep patterns. Regular exercise promotes continuous sleep, while late night workouts energize the body and brain instead of signaling quiet time.

Additional tip
: Consuming too much alcohol late at night may also hinder sleep, along with nicotine use and particular prescription drugs.

Set your bedtime (same time each night)

It is very important to sleep as close to eight hours a night as possible. We are all busy, but most of us understand that anything important is worth setting time aside to do. Quality sleep qualifies as very important. If you find yourself getting distracted, set an alarm and stick to it. Put aside the laundry, dishes, last email, TV, and prioritize. This regimen includes weekends (as best you can).

Additional tip
: Start with a thirty minute bedtime regimen and build up to one hour.

Turn off your technology

This is an issue for most people (I get it). Try to remember the TV, Smartphone, Internet, and Kindle signal your body to be awake and alert. The light, noise and energy directed at you while using these items encourage your brain and body to be ready to react instead of directing it to prepare for a night of rest. To retrain your brain and body you first need to train your mindset. As part of your regimen, turn off your tech thirty minutes prior to your bedtime (build up to one hour). This will signal to the brain and body it’s time to “power down.” Keep your bedroom free of technology. This space should be reserved for restoration of your mind and body.

Additional tip
: Keep your bedroom clear of clutter and work-related materials to encourage a stress-free mindset.

Take a warm shower or bath


Beyond the basics of washing your face and brushing your teeth, a warm shower or bath can be extremely comforting and help physically and mentally wash the day away. Calming aromas to encourage sleep include lavender, jasmine, and sandalwood. These scents can be included in your cleansers, soaks and essential oils.

Additional tip
: Soft music and candles can increase the relaxation and prep your body for a blissful night of sleep.

Meditation

If you don’t currently have a meditation practice because you don’t have the time, attention span, or mentality, take a moment to rethink what meditation can do for you. As defined, meditation is a practice of mind “self-regulation.” There are many different styles of meditation, so find what works for you. It can be as simple as focusing on your breath or sensing how each body part feels. You do not have to devote hours of your time to meditation. The purpose is to be calm, quiet and fully present.

Additional tip: If you still don’t think you have a meditation practice in your future, consider breathing exercises. Simple deep breathing drives oxygen rich blood to the brain and is extremely relaxing. 4–7–8 breathing is an easy way to get started.

Consistent, quality sleep is within your power to create. Take the time to commit to a sleep hygiene practice. Your mind and body will thank you with the gift of better health and well-being.
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The Constant Debate - Rent vs. Own

Home Ownership Landlady ruling your life? Maybe it’s time to take the plunge and call your own shots! Should you buy or should you move into another rental? This is a question most of us will likely face in our lives. For most potential homebuyers, the debate of when to move from renting to owning is one of the hardest decisions outside FINDING their actual new home. Investing in the purchase of a new home is a big commitment, both on the financial and timescale. But, rent in major metropolitan areas continues to rise, putting pressure on those looking to make financial investments that make sense for their personal situation. If you’re trying to figure out your next move, here’s some important questions to explore before you take the leap:

What’s the rent situation in your area? If you live in a major metropolitan area, there is a risk that rents will continue to rise year-over-year and price you out financially.

What is your financial situation? Your financial and credit situation doesn’t have to be perfect, especially if you are a first-time homebuyer. But just like other major financial situations, it’s important to see if there are areas to improve (i.e. paying down debt from credit cards or student loans) that will weigh on your finances as you rent or buy.

How long are you going to stay? If you are planning to stay in the same region and you can see yourself moving into a home for around five years, buying your own home could be a great option to consider.

What’s the cost of homeownership? When you purchase a home, the cost of ownership and repairs are all on your shoulders. That means you have to factor in future repair costs, especially if you purchase a house that needs a little TLC. The average home owner should figure on spending 1-3% of the home’s value each year on property maintenance.

How much savings is needed? Renting requires some savings. You’ll need enough to cover the first month’s rent and any required deposits. To buy a home, there are some fantastic low and zero down options available, depending on your qualifications and the area you wish to live in. You may be able to take advantage of FHA’s 3.5% low down payment loan that are very popular with first time and second time home buyers. There are also down payment assistance programs and down payment grant programs available in many areas.

There are some people who have not purchased homes because they are uncomfortable taking on the obligation of a mortgage. Everyone should realize, however, that unless you are living with your parents rent-free, you are paying a mortgage –
either yours or your landlord’s.

As
Entrepreneur Magazine, a premier source for small business, explained in their article, “12 Practical Steps to Getting Rich”:

“While renting on a temporary basis isn’t terrible, you should most certainly own the roof over your head if you’re serious about your finances. It won’t make you rich overnight, but by renting, you’re paying someone else’s mortgage. In effect, you’re making someone else rich.”

Christina Boyle, Senior Vice President and head of the Single-Family Sales & Relationship Management organization at Freddie Mac, explains another benefit of securing a mortgage as opposed to paying rent:

“With a 30-year fixed rate mortgage, you’ll have the certainty & stability of knowing what your mortgage payment will be for the next 30 years – unlike rents which will continue to rise over the next three decades.”

As an owner, your mortgage payment is a form of ‘forced savings’ which allows you to build equity in your home that you can tap into later in life. As a renter, you can be guaranteed your landlord is the person building that equity.

Interest rates, while they have recently increased, are still at historic lows, making it one of the best times to secure a mortgage and make a move into your dream home. Freddie Mac’s latest report shows that rates across the country were at 4.4%: http://www.freddiemac.com/pmms/


Bottom Line

Whether you are looking for a primary residence for the first time, or want to move up to your dream home, or are considering a vacation home on the shore, now may be the time to buy. You best bet is to understand your goals, know the numbers, create a plan and find out where you are at now. Talking with a mortgage lender is a great way to start. The mortgage lender can help you understand what price range and loan programs you qualify for today, how much cash you would need and can also let you know if there is anything you should focus on improving or adjusting within your personal finances which could help you secure the most favorable mortgage terms when you find that perfect home.

Potential buyers considering making the switch from renting to buying should engage an experienced home loan professional who can talk through the right financial topics and future plans. The first step is to reach out to us so we can get you connected with your employee home ownership program.

Don’t Forget - As part of your EAP benefits through Cascade Centers, you have access to the Advantage Home Plus program which can help you get connected to trusted industry professionals such as mortgage professionals to help you explore your options. They will give potential buyers an analysis they can use to determine if they should keep renting or start looking for that dream home.
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Floods, Tornados, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder?

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Information Have you wondered if Post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) could be affecting you or a loved one? Trauma symptoms may very well be affecting you, even if you have not experienced a life-threatening event, and even if you do not qualify for the diagnosis of PTSD.

First responders and survivors of catastrophic events are faced with the crisis of immediate survival and safety, and then coping with the aftermath on many levels. But there are also many people bearing emotional wounds who have been exposed to traumatic events on a smaller scale, but a diagnosis of PTSD doesn’t fit what happened to them. How would you know if treatment might helpful?

Mental health counselors will tell you that trauma events come in many forms –more than the monstrous or life-threatening ones. What kinds of symptoms or problems would we be looking for diagnosis and treatment of trauma-related symptoms?

As a counselor who often works with trauma-impacted individuals, there are various symptoms that might be noticeable:

- Overreaction is one common red flag. Do you find that in certain situations, your reaction is much more extreme than the situation called for? This overreaction might be in the form of avoidance, startle, anger, panic attack, or irrational fear. It will be associated with something associated with the troubling event.

- Onset of heightened arousal such as being verbally or physically aggressive, irritable, easily startled, or angry. This might also appear as anxiety.

- The onset of sleeping problems. This can be difficult to notice for a person suffering from pre-existing insomnia, but you may notice new problems with intrusive memories or thinking obsessively about that adverse event when trying to fall asleep or upon awakening during the night. Distressing nightmares associated with the event may also happen.

- Exaggerated negative beliefs about yourself and others can take over even though you might also recognize the thought is irrational. For example, “I’m a bad person” “I can’t be safe” “I’m not good enough” are beliefs that can affect other areas of living.

- The persistence of a negative mood that blocks out happiness, satisfaction, or loving feelings.

Here’s an example:

An employee at a care home for people with Alzheimer’s is knocked down by a patient who is angry about a change in routine. The worker, Jan, knows this is a symptom of the disease, and it was not a personal attack. Jan was caught off guard by the situation, but admits it wasn’t a big deal and was not injured beyond slight reddening of the skin. Jan was instructed to take a couple of days off work before returning. However, she finds that at the thought of returning, she becomes overwhelmed with strong, negative feelings and decides to call-in sick. On the day she plans to return to work, she become noticeably anxious, her heart is racing and she feels nervous just driving towards work. She feels embarrassed to talk about it with her co-workers because this was not an unusual situation in her field. After her shifts, she continues to think about what happened, especially at bed time, making it hard to fall asleep. Jan is affected by this assault even though it was not a serious threat to her life. If the problem persists, it could impact her employment.

What NOT to do after trauma

- If you are having troubling symptoms associated with bad things that have happened, be careful on coping with your distress:

- Substance abuse. Using alcohol or other drugs to help you sleep, or to decrease your level of distress can cause serious long-term problems.

- Avoidance of people or social activities. Recognize that part of the healing process is receiving support and connection to other people. When you isolate yourself too much to decrease your stress, you may have even more negative thoughts and feelings like sadness and fear.

- Working too much. This type of avoidance leads to poor self-care and social isolation.

Self-help and Coping

- Talk to others to give and receive support

- Relaxation methods such as yoga, meditation, breathing exercises, prayer, singing

- You can talk to your doctor about your symptoms, or see a counselor

For more information, here is an excellent self-help guide through the
Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration.
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12 Ways to Hack Your Productivity

Stress Free Time Management Time is precious. We only get a limited amount of it every day. So why is it so challenging for us to prioritize and effectively manage our time?

Certainly, there are better ways to be productive. To learn how to become more organized and better with time management, I talked with Bethanne Kronick, owner and CEO of Simplify Northwest, about how to prioritize tasks, get through email more efficiently, and ensure meetings are useful and productive for all involved. Here are some of our suggestions.

Start your morning right.

Having a plan is critical. Whether you prepare for the day ahead the night before or first thing every morning, you need to have dedicated time set aside to strategize and prioritize, Kronick says. “Ask yourself this question:
What three musts do I need to get done to feel good at the end of the day? Write those things down, put them on a sticky note. Stick it on your computer. Put it in your calendar. But use that as your focus for the day.”

If you don’t have a plan, it’s a lot easier to waste time between projects figuring out what to do next. And if you’ve been procrastinating on one of those duties, knock it out first. “It feels so good to get it done, and then you can fly through the rest of the day because you’ve gotten something done that you thought was going to be horrendous.”

Figure out what kind of calendar and scheduling tools work for you.

Not every planning tool will work for everyone. Some people prefer to keep all their schedules digital or on paper, while others like a mix of both. The medium doesn’t matter so long as it’s something you will actually use regularly.

Block out time by batching similar activities together.

Set aside specific times to check and respond to email, work on longer projects, and plan your schedule. (You have to plan the planning, too!)

Kronick encourages being realistic with this, leaving blocks of time for unexpected duties and breaks and “buffer time” between meetings and other scheduled events. She says you don’t want to get to lunch and think, “I didn’t get any of those things done that I had on my calendar because I was unrealistic.

If you have a say in scheduling meetings, leave some time between them.

Allow employees to debrief and collect their to-do lists and action items from one meeting before rushing off to another. And sending out agendas before meetings can help them run on time.
If you can work from home or somewhere else outside the office, schedule “out-of-office” time for buckling down on more time-consuming projects.

Lately, I’ve found it helpful to break some of my days in half, spending mornings in the office and afternoons working from home. That way, I can have meetings first, and people can find me for any last-minute needs. Then, I get to spend the second half of the day with my head down, working harder on projects that require my full attention. I block that at-home time off on my calendar so my colleagues know I won’t be responding to them right away during that time. It really cuts down on interruptions and distractions, and it ensures that I keep some time for my own projects. Can’t work from home? Kronick suggests finding an unused conference room in a quiet part of the office.

Listen on the Human Resources for Small Business Podcast: http://www.xeniumhr.com/blog/wellness/time-management/#.WoMzJainGUk

Don’t let email control you!

There are numerous strategies you could try for managing your inbox. You could set certain blocks of time—maybe two or three each day, or, in more customer-service heavy roles, one per hour—to check email, instead of refreshing it constantly. The frequency doesn’t matter so much as setting a routine so you don’t live in your inbox all day long. You can communicate this to your team and your customers to keep them aware of your schedule and manage their expectations for your responses.

Try to gauge whether an in-person conversation or email exchange is better for the topic at hand.

Kronick’s rule of thumb is the three-volley rule: “If an email has gone back and forth more than three times trying to get an issue resolved, it’s just so much easier to pick up the phone or go talk to somebody face to face.” Keep track of the efficiency of your conversations so you know when to walk away from your keyboard and finish the chat in person.

Start your email subject line with a directive.


Kronick likes to use specific terms to start email subject lines when she’s asking for something. Words like “request,” “reminder,” “FYI,” and “urgent” give the recipient a rough idea of the nature of the email. If something is time-sensitive, include that in the subject line as well. It helps people keep track of their requests.

“For example,” she says, “with one of my assistants, I might say: 
Request: Needing workshop materials by Friday, May 19th. My eyes go to that email quickly because I know it’s time-sensitive.”

Manage your time spent on social media.

Social media is a given in most workplaces nowadays, but it shouldn’t burden your day. Kronick encourages the use of timers so you know exactly when to close the tab and work on something else. She also recommends adjusting notifications on your phone so it’s not buzzing and distracting you all day long.

Skip the multitasking.

Instead of splitting your attention between multiple things, separate your time so you can give each task your full attention. When we multitask, Kronick says, it takes us longer to complete tasks, we’re more likely to make mistakes, and our short-term memories suffer. It seems counterintuitive, but multitasking puts stress on our brains that ultimately reduces productivity.

Plan personal time, too.

Whether it’s a day off, a weekend away, or a lengthy vacation, it’s important to plan time away. If we don’t put those on our calendars, Kronick says, it’s easy to forget and work straight through them. She suggests doing this with exercise and daily personal duties, too, to make yourself a priority.

To maximize your time and energy, you have to take care of yourself.

The truth is, you can’t really be productive if you’re overly tired or working too much. Get enough sleep, eat nutritious food, exercise, and take breaks. Be kind to yourself!
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What Employers Need to Know About Substance Abuse

Support Group Did you know that substance use costs US employers $81 billion dollars a year, due to loss of productivity and attendance, accidents, theft, and rising healthcare costs? The National Survey on Drug Use and Health reported over seven million Americans struggled with a substance use disorder in 2014. Especially as a human resource professional, these numbers should demonstrate how important this issue can be. As organizations, there should be policies and procedures in place to handle substance use because the question is ‘when’ it happens, not ‘if’. Ongoing review and education is vital in being prepared for when you will need to deal with an employee who struggles with substance use.

Whether an employee is identified by self-referral, reasonable suspicion, or a drug-test, knowing what to tell the employee, what resources are available, and what your specific processes are is very important.

One crucial skill that HR professionals should possess is being able to ask an employee to take a reasonable suspicion drug screen as outlined by their organization’s policy. This can be a difficult and nerve-wracking process. By being educated about the signs and symptoms of use and planning how you would document them, you can feel more confident in addressing this issue with employees. How would you handle it if the employee cries uncontrollably? Or gets angry? Or threatens to sue you? By mentally thinking of scenarios and planning for how you would handle them, you essentially set yourself up to be more calm and resolved in following reasonable suspicion policy.

Consumer trends can also have an impact on your work environment. Do you know what ‘dabs’ are? Did you know that if an employee is vaping marijuana or using an e-cigarette, you might not be able to smell it? With marijuana becoming legal in more states, HR professionals should be up-to-date on marijuana education. Organizations are still allowed to prohibit marijuana use since it is still federally illegal. If your company falls into this category, it is important to continually educate employees that using marijuana is a violation of company policy.

As many of us know, people who deal with issues around their use of alcohol or drugs often become defensive and angry when confronted with their problem. Using neutral language is an important piece for dealing with employees about any issue, especially substance use. As HR, it is not your role to label, diagnose, or make assumptions about the employee. Your language should be neutral and objective. For instance, instead of saying, “You have an alcohol problem”, it would be more appropriate and useful to say, “I smell alcohol on your breath”. Using well thought-out language can help the process run smoother and with less defensiveness.

If you have questions or would like to know more about substance use in the workplace, join me on February 6th, 2018 for a free webinar called, “
Substance Abuse: What HR Professionals Need to Know and How to Address”. The webinar is designed specifically for HR professionals to discuss general drug and alcohol information, substance use impact in the workplace, policy and testing information, reasonable suspicion, and how to respectfully and efficiently address this issue with employees.

Register for the webinar here
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How to Turn “Busy” into “Productive” - Part 1 of 2

Busy to Productive - Part 1 It’s a New Year and for most people they’re reflecting on what they’d like to do differently going forward. If one of your goals is to slow down yet be more productive you’re not alone. Pay attention over the next few days to how people respond when you greet them and ask “how are you?” or “how have you been?” Notice how many of them include “busy” in their response. In our fast-paced American society, many people wear “busy” like a badge of honor. It’s true that many of us are “busy, busy, busy”, but are we really being productive? I believe the litmus test is to examine results. Are we getting the results we want? If not, then we might not be “busy” on the right things.

Here are a few ideas to help you turn your “busy” into “productive” and ensure you’re spending time on the activities that will yield results.

Know Your Objectives and Deliverables

Take a look at your job description if you have one that’s up to date. Take a look at your annual performance goals. What results are you responsible for producing in your firm? What objectives do you hope to achieve? What is important to you (and your boss)? When you are unclear on your destination, it’s difficult to determine the right direction or the path that will get you there. We can waste a lot of time spinning our wheels down the wrong road when we don’t know where we’re going. I was recently reminded of a funny line from the 1991 movie “City Slickers” where one of the characters says to another “we’re lost, but we’re making really good time”. Case in point.

Prioritize Your Tasks

Have a “to-do” list or task that’s 10 pages long? No wonder you’re so busy! It’s time to take a second and prioritize. Start small and pick the top three tasks you feel are of greatest priority for that day and focus your efforts on those. It is important to remember that when everything is a priority, nothing is a priority.

Pareto’s Principle tells us that we get 80 percent of our results from 20 percent of our activities. What are the 20 percent of tasks you can accomplish that will yield the highest results?

I like to suggest to clients that they take 10 minutes at the end of each day to plan for the next. Review your calendar so you know what appointments you have and review your task list so you can identify your priorities. By identifying your top priority for the following day, you can position yourself to hit the ground running.

First Things First

How do you start your day? Do you hop on email and then never get off? Many people do and then at 5:00 wonder where the day has gone. They fall into what I call “reactive mode” (reacting all day to emails, the phone, other people’s interruptions and requests, etc.) and don’t have time left to be proactive.
What’s important to you? What can you do first, to jumpstart your day? To pave the path to maximized productivity?

I love to exercise in the morning. Let me clarify – I don’t love to exercise, but I love to do it in the morning because I love the results. There’s the long-term health benefits, of course, but for me, there’s also the “I did it” feeling and the natural adrenaline rush I get right afterwards. This fires me up for the day and I’m ready to go. I know those days that I exercise in the morning, I’m much more productive. When I get into a rut and don’t get up to run or go to the gym for a number of days (or weeks) in a row, my energy level is negatively affected. This affects my productivity.

Another way to jumpstart your day is to get the most important thing you need to do all day done first. Steven Covey calls this “First things First”, and suggests that successful people make this a habit. I concur. What if, even before you get on email, you tackled the “number one” priority for the day? Accomplish, or make significant progress on the one task that will make the biggest difference in your personal or professional life. Imagine the feeling you’ll have when you get that done and there’s still much of the day in front of you! This strategy can give your day amazing momentum.

I also know myself well. I know that if I leave these things (exercise and a high priority task) until later in the day, I will likely not do them at all. I may procrastinate, fill my time with lower priority tasks, or come up with excuses as to why not to exercise or tackle that important thing until later (which never comes). Getting these things done first thing in the morning helps ensure that they happen, that they are out of the way and I can move on.  Author and speaker Brian Tracy calls this strategy “Eat a Frog for Breakfast” and even wrote a book on the concept. His idea is that if you had to eat a big, ugly frog on any given day, wouldn’t rather eat it in the morning for breakfast and get it out of the way than having it stare at you all day?

We’re not done with sharing tips on this topic but want to give you some time to give these few tips a try first.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of Turning “Busy” into “Productive”.
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How to Turn “Busy” into “Productive” - Part 2 of 2

Busy to Productive 2 We’re continuing our discussion around ideas to help you move from being less “busy” to more “productive” in the New Year. And just to recap in case you missed the first three tips: 1) Know your objectives and deliverables, 2) Prioritize your tasks, 3) First things first, jumpstarting your day.

Delegate

Wondering what to do with the other 80 percent of your tasks? Challenge yourself to see which ones could be done by someone else. When you delegate those things on your list that someone else could do for you, you free up your time to do the high value, important tasks, that only you can do.

There are two primary reasons people don’t delegate more. One is that they believe it would be faster to just do it themselves. While there is an initial time investment made when you teach someone else to complete a task or process, the return is realized each time they do that task (instead of you). The other reason people don’t delegate involves a control issue. Have you ever heard someone say “if I want it done right, I better do it myself”? To relinquish control and feel good about it, take the following steps when you delegate:
1. Consider the skills needed to accomplish the task and find the right person for the job.
2. Be clear with the individual or individuals you are delegating to in regard to the task and your expectations.
3. Give the person an opportunity to ask question or clarify details.
4. Be specific about any deadlines involved and ask for updates on progress.
5. Check in periodically without micromanaging. Make yourself available to answer questions, especially the first time around.
6. Give feedback.

Say No

Take a look at your task list and see what “low value” tasks you can eliminate all together. Be thoughtful when you add something new to the list. Ensure that you consider what is already on your list before you say “yes” to new requests for your time or talents. Is the request in line with your priorities? Keep in mind that every time we say “yes” to something, we’re saying “no” to something else. For example, saying “yes” to that additional committee may mean saying “no” to making it home to dinner with your family. Saying “yes” to an additional project may mean saying “no” to something else on your plate. If the new request is coming from your boss and you feel it will overload you, ask him or her to help you prioritize the new task or project in relation to your current or ongoing projects.

Focus

Stop Multitasking. It doesn’t work as well as you think it does. Most people believe they can save time by trying to do two or three things at once.  Typical multitasking examples include: sending emails while on the phone, listening to a colleague while sorting mail, or making an unrelated list during a meeting.  While most people think they are being more productive, growing research shows that multitasking actually makes you less efficient and reduces brainpower to perform each task. 

The Journal of Experimental Psychology published a study showing that those who multitask are less effective than those who focus on one project at a time. More and more studies are coming out with evidence that multitasking is problematic.  According to CNN.com, heavy multitaskers did worse on attention tests than non-multitaskers and the multitaskers were more easily distracted by irrelevant information. 

Some additional effects of multitasking are that it is linked to short term memory loss, it can induce a stress response that when prolonged can damage cells that form new memory, it can change your ability to concentrate or increase gaps in your attentiveness, and it can increase the chance of mistakes.

The primary skill we need to overcome multitasking is the ability to
FOCUS.  We also need to be able to handle interruptions and eliminate distractions.

Focus on one task at a time. This means doing something,
and thinking about what you’re doing at the same time. Periodically during the day ask yourself “what am I doing right now?”.  The task that you are working on “right now” should be the only thing that has your attention.  Eliminate distraction by silencing your phone, turning off email notifications, putting a “do not disturb” sign on your door, etc..  It is also important to have a clutter-free workspace, to minimize “shiny object distraction” which in turn will allow you to be more productive.

By employing these strategies, the next time someone inquires “how are you?”, you’ll be able to respond “great!”, knowing that you’re busy getting the important things done. Here’s to your productivity!
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Free Yourself from Sugar Dependence

Free from sugar dependence While there is much to celebrate as we start the new year, there may also be anxiety around resolutions to eat healthier or lose weight.

Most people have a love/hate relationship with sugar, and while sugar may taste wonderful, too much of it may cause both short and long-term health issues. There is no time like the present to become more mindful about the types and volume of sugar you are consuming. There’s no time like the present to reduce sugar in your diet and jumpstart your journey to a healthier lifestyle.

The average American’s diet is sixty percent processed and void of nutritional value. The Standard American Diet (SAD) is full of preservatives, dyes, salt and sugar…lots of sugar. The average American consumes 152 pounds of sugar each year! Most people are unaware of how much hidden sugar is in their food. You may find yourself overeating these types of foods, or thinking about them…all day long. It’s not your fault. There are chemical responses which happen when we eat sugar and we can get caught in a vicious cycle of the highs and lows of sugar consumption.

It’s important to understand the facts. Sugar is just as addicting as drugs like cocaine or nicotine. More specific, sugar is eight times more addicting than cocaine. The same chemicals released in your brain during drug use are released when you eat sugar. You feel bliss for a reason…dopamine. But as with drug use your brain begins to adjust and down-regulates the dopamine released, encouraging poor dietary choices which increase your chances of overeating, weight gain, and eventually chronic health issues like depression, diabetes and even cancer.

Are you ready to kick your sugar habit?

Crowd out cravings

Instead of a sugary treat substitute a healthy feel-good habit like exercise, meditation, reading, writing and/or getting out into nature. Each of these behaviors can assist with crowding out your cravings. Try some breathing techniques like 4-7-8 which bring copious amounts of oxygen to the brain. Dehydration can cause cravings so make certain to drink plenty of water.

Dark chocolate

Look for seventy percent or more cacao in your dark chocolate. However, if you need a “gateway” dark chocolate start with fifty percent and work your way up to a higher count. If you don’t like chocolate you can eat fruits like berries, but eat them with nuts or seeds to reduce a spike in blood sugar. Please avoid high-fructose corn syrup at all costs. HFCS is a man-made sweetener the body does not recognize so it takes three times longer for it to “process.” Since your body cannot process it like real food, consuming HFCS can lead to health issues such as fatty liver disease and decreased leptin. Leptin is the hormone that notifies the body when it’s full, which is why HFCS has been linked to weight gain and obesity.

Hidden sugar

If you must purchase processed food attempt to purchase items with two grams (or less) of sugar per serving. Avoid replacing sugar with chemical substitutes. Sugar-free items can be toxic to the body and only increase your negative health issues. Attempt to sweeten with spices like cinnamon, or a low-glycemic sweetener like 100% real and organic maple syrup.


If you feel like you’ve tried everything but you still feel “hooked” on sugar, consider a sugar cleanse program. There are some side effects to a sugar detox so you may want to seek out a health coach or naturopath who can assist with a successful and relapse-free transition.

Put your health as a priority. You will find once you start to make alternative choices your palate will change and the sugar you once thought you needed is a desire and belief system of the past. The short-term benefits are increased cognitive thinking and energy, weight loss, and a healthier gut. The long-term benefits are the reduction of chronic illness for both physical and mental health issues. Do your best not to be overwhelmed by the process and reach out for support from friends, family and health professionals when necessary. Taking the first step is the hardest, but appreciate yourself enough to make changes which will bring you the healthier lifestyle you desire and deserve!
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