Practicing Mindfulness in the Workplace

Many of us have heard the buzz around mindfulness and how it can change our attitudes toward our daily lives. But what does it look like in practice when adapted to the workplace? To find out, I spoke with Pearl Waldorf, a licensed professional counselor in Portland, Oregon, about mindfulness at work and how it can affect our productivity.

What is mindfulness?

Waldorf defines mindfulness as “a capacity we all have to pay attention to what’s happening right here, right now, in the present moment.” Being mindful includes, for example, putting your phone away while talking to someone.

Many people tend to confuse mindfulness with meditation, Waldorf says. But meditation is a specific task, whereas mindfulness is a general day-to-day mindset. Meditation can support mindfulness, but they are not one and the same.

What is mindfulness in the context of work?

When we’re stressed, Waldorf says, we often become frustrated and disengaged. When we practice mindfulness, we recognize those feelings and our reactions to them. Mindfulness in an office setting requires us to be in tune with what we’re feeling so we can make better decisions regarding our work.

There are two basic mindfulness brain states we find in the workplace, Waldorf says. The first is execution, which occurs when we’re focused on one particular task. In this brain state, we are great at analyzing and evaluating problems. It’s the brain state we think of most when we think of work, as it’s more closely related to task management and completion. It’s that “flow” we experience when we work hard on a project all afternoon and only realize later that many hours have gone by. We can cultivate this capacity to focus, Waldorf says, to make sure distractions aren’t pulling us away from our priorities. In the workplace, this often means turning off email notifications and keeping our phones out of sight.

The other is what Waldorf calls receptivity. This brain state has more to do with stepping back and looking at the big picture. This pause from execution is what allows us to take a break to find satisfaction from our work, which is what keeps a lot of us engaged in it over time, she says.

“The reason these pause moments are so important is that those kind of a-has, the insights, the deep connections we can make around what’s really important in our work lives—that kind of clarity happens when we’re in an open receptive state,” Waldorf says.

Waldorf also says many of us naturally find ourselves in one brain state much more often than the other. Someone who struggles with execution, for example, may be inundated with lots of ideas and feel bursts of creativity. But they likely have a hard time finding the focus to get the work done. They can feel overwhelmed and disorganized and unsure of their priorities.

Someone who struggles with the receptive state is more likely to experience that hyper-work mode more often. That extended, laser-sharp focus leads to exhaustion quickly, as these people don’t take time to process accomplishments and acknowledge the ends of long-term projects.

How can we cultivate mindfulness at work?

Waldorf suggests starting with a simple awareness practice to encourage mindfulness at work. “Ask yourself:
How do I feel? How is this going for me?” If you’re always answering that you feel stressed, overwhelmed, disengaged, or frustrated, then you know you have a bigger problem to address.

But in general, the practices that will help depend greatly on where you find yourself on the mindfulness spectrum—from execution to receptivity—more often. To enhance execution, Waldorf suggests “focused attention practices.” A simple one involves taking a moment to pause and close your eyes, focusing on your breath. Naturally, we’ll get distracted here, she says. But when we do, we call our attention right back to the breath. Over time, even if we do this just five minutes per day, we’ll find it easier to focus on our breath longer.

Exercises that support receptivity are known as “open awareness practices.” Instead of finding intense focus here, the goal is to “open the aperture,” as Waldorf puts it, and take in what’s around us. Again we close our eyes, but instead of focusing inward, we focus on the sounds around us. If we start to get distracted by interpreting what we hear—conversations between colleagues, for example—she encourages going outside to sit somewhere quiet where there is no language, only cars going by and wind rustling through trees.

Ultimately, being mindful is about routinely checking in with yourself throughout your day and taking note of your current state. From there, we can do practices that engage whichever space we feel like we’re lacking at that moment. “Just being able to pause at some point during our day and notice our experience is very, very powerful,” Waldorf says. Even if that check-in shows just how stressed we feel, recognizing it gives us a chance to make a conscious decision on how to respond to that stress.

Why should we encourage mindfulness in the workplace?

“We want our employees to be responding to the challenges in the workplace as opposed to reacting to them,” Waldorf says. “So many of our problems in the workplace come out of reactivity.” Mindfulness supports time for a pause, she adds, in which we can thoughtfully respond instead. This is much better for our relationships, which are crucial at work.

Mindfulness is also an important wellness tool, she says. Employees who are more in tune with themselves are more aware of the kind of support they need.
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How to Take the Stress Out of Asking for What You Want

Girl Scout Have you ever felt anxious or stressed out asking for what you want? Does the fear of rejection or looking bad hold you back from landing that sale, asking for a date, or requesting a raise? If so, you are not alone.

In 2012, I spoke at NTEN's Nonprofit Technology Conference. While in Washington DC, I stayed with my friends Heather and Neal. Each morning as we were enjoying breakfast together, their 10 year old daughter, Kendall, was a radiant ball of energy, sunshine, and curiosity.

However, on my last morning with them, Kendall, was strangely quiet, reserved and melancholy. I asked her, "Kendall, what's going on? Why do you seem different today? Why are you not your cheerful self?"

With a sad look, she responded, "Well I am in scouts and I have to go sell cookies today. I don't like doing it because I get rejected most of the time. People tell me they are watching their weight or they already have some or some other excuse."

I responded, "Wow, I totally understand. Being rejected doesn't feel good at all."

I paused for a moment and asked her, "Hey, how much are a box cookies?" She replied, "They are $4 a box." I reached for my wallet and pulled out a $20 bill, handed it to her, and said "I'll take 5 boxes!"

With a surprised look, she asked "Really?" I said "Yes, however I don't eat cookies, so what I would like for you to do is to take each box and give them to 5 different people you’ve never met before." Kendall immediately leaped out of her chair and ran to her mom to share her excitement," Mom, we get to give cookies away!” The transformation in her was amazing.

As her excitement settled down, I said "So Kendall, here is why I want you to give the cookies away. I want you to know what it's like to generously give, to see it in people's eye, to feel their genuine appreciation, and to hear that you have made a difference for them. I want you do this 5 times so that you truly know the joys of giving. Then once you do, instead of asking others if they would like to buy some cookies, I'd like you to ask them this.

Is there someone in your life you really care about? If so, I'd like to help you make their day by giving them a box of cookies." Her eyes lit up with excitement again ready to try out this new approach.

How can you create an opportunity for someone else to give that aligns with what you most desire? Most of the stress related to asking for something comes from a fear of judgement and a fear of rejection of who we are. This subconsciously triggers our worst nightmare of losing love, losing respect, and losing belonging, which threatens our survival. Allowing stress like this continue over time impacts our self-esteem, our self-confidence which can lead to burnout.

When we reframe a situation, where we become a catalyst of good rather than the subject of consideration, we empower ourselves regardless of the response from others.

Whether you are asking for a customer testimonial, asking for help, or asking for a promotion, remember that someone is waiting for your invitation to give.
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Optimizing Health at Any Age

Optimizing Health at Any Age People age 50 to 70 are currently reshaping how we define aging. Many of these trailblazers have maintained regular exercise, good nutrition and reduced stress throughout adulthood as part of their healthy lifestyle commitment. These healthy habits are directly associated with vitality and longevity. Unfortunately, there are people who experience illness early in life. Chronic illness, social pressures and media messages can create a negative perception around aging, and may cause some people to perceive aging as a painful process which must be endured instead of celebrating what a long and healthy life can reveal.

Change is inevitable and happening at an accelerated rate. Since each generation has its own set of experiences, each generation will define its reality unlike the one before it. David Harry Stewart writes about aging wisely, and has a key point to remember about aging. Our current attitudes about aging are relevant to how people lived 20 to 30 years ago. This has nothing to do with our current reality. Stewart reminds us perspectives continually change. In 300 BC, when Alexander the Great was at his most powerful, the head of his personal guard was 65. Attitudes during this historical time reflect aging was not focused on illness or decline, but hard work and purpose.

Take a moment to consider your attitudes regarding aging, and how you may want to modify your choices and behaviors for improved health and well-being.

Physical Movement
Using your body isn’t defined by the gym or previous perceptions of how to “get fit.” Consider something you love that is physical. If you’re not a fan of the gym get outdoors to walk, run, and hike. Stretch or do yoga at home first thing in the morning. Kickbox your stress away after work. Any physical activity which increases your heart rate and encourages strength training for bone density is good for you. Strength training doesn’t automatically mean lifting weights. Tai Chi, yoga, racket sports and golf are considered in the realm of load-bearing activities. Reinvent your idea of a workout and make it work for you!

Much of the negative perception about aging is around what it does to our physical appearance. Remember, past perceptions have nothing to do with your current environment. People who embrace their age and celebrate it openly exude confidence. At the age of 36 Shalane Flannagan became a NYC marathon winner. Hugh Jackman is 49 and still does his own movie stunts. Christy Brinkley is currently 64 and still graces the pages of major beauty magazines. Wang Deshun is a male runway model, who at 82 is part of a growing trend in the fashion industry to redefine what beauty looks like, including vitality at any age. Find inspiration which makes you feel good about your own personal journey. Remember, everyone else’s opinion of your “appearance experience” isn’t relevant.

A nutrient dense diet is essential for longevity. The biggest food trend in 2018 is predicted to be veganism, but a meatless diet may seem intimidating to the average carnivore. Longevity and a meatless (or mostly plant-based) diet isn’t a new health industry topic. Scientists have been studying Blue Zone cultures for years. These cultures have the largest concentration of centenarians and live on a mostly plant-based diet. If you’re not ready to reduce your animal product intake, focus your efforts on avoiding processed foods. Eat real, clean, nutrient-dense food which is organic, non-GMO, and free of hormones. Don’t forget to drink lots of H2O! Our bodies are made up of 60 percent water, so it’s no wonder water helps act as a major component for most parts of our body, including encouraging a youthful appearance.

For anyone who thinks longevity isn’t linked to sleep, think again. 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, stroke, obesity, and increased inflammation in the body. Make it your goal to get seven to eight hours of sleep a night. If you are finding it difficult to consistently achieve this goal, consider implementing a sleep hygiene program as part of your healthy lifestyle.

Emotional Well-being and Purpose
Most people do not take the time to consider the connection between their physical health and their mindset regarding the future and aging in general. Some retirees are looking at their next phase of life with dread, as they do not know what their purpose will be. Oregon State University recently conducted a study led by Chenkai Wu. This study concluded mortality rates drop 11 percent when people retire after age 65 and worked at least one year past retirement. It is never too late to change careers, become an entrepreneur, or devote yourself to a new cause. Be curious…create and cultivate what you want to contribute to the world around you.

As you move closer to your next birthday search for how you can truly celebrate your life and share your gifts with others. We are individually accountable to create, shape and celebrate our own life and the lives around us. Aging is part of that creation, and when we move into that space with positivity and courage we will discover we can be amazing at any age.
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The Business of Happy Employees: How to Create a Company Culture That’s More Human, Less Resources

Happy Employees Hiring great employees is only half of the secret to success. The other half? Keeping them happy.

Proof of Productivity

Want to get the best performance out of your staff? Marketwatch reports that happier employees are 10% more productive than their disillusioned counterparts, confirming that employee wellness is vital to your company’s bottom line.

However, the article stresses that measurable analytics aren’t the only element of the workplace that should be addressed. The less quantifiable aspects of work, such as the benefits of collaboration or the freedom of creativity can be determining factors in positive growth.

So, how do you run the day-to-day functions of a business or organization while simultaneously working on employee engagement? It’s not as difficult as it sounds. Below you’ll find a few tried-and-true ideas that have contributed to the success of some of the world’s most recognized brands.

Likeable Leaders

Employees want to feel invested in their work and a great leader can help achieve that. A recent report conducted by Indeed sites that top-rated senior leaders possess great listening skills, set fair and achievable goals, help people learn from their mistakes, assist with workload management and have a supportive attitude.

So, how do you find and retain these kinds of leaders?

-- Start fresh (when they’re hired or promoted) with new manager training.
-- Set clear expectations regarding employee engagement.
-- Keep their skill set sharp by having executives host a manager seminar of their own (as a refresher course for more seasoned employees).
-- Make leadership skills training a regular occurrence.
-- Emphasize the importance of honesty and trust.

Fashionable Feedback

It can be difficult for employees to stay motivated when a review cycle happens on an annual basis. Instead, create a culture of ongoing feedback.

Many have trouble with “hard conversations” and conflict resolution, but both of those could happen less often (or not at all) with clear and present communication along the way. The Office of Personnel Management stresses the importance of timeliness in dealing with employee issues, noting “If improvement needs to be made in their performance, the sooner they find out about it the sooner they can correct the problem.”

This may seem like a no-brainer, but many organizations struggle with the sensitivity associated with offering feedback and delay the conversation until it’s too late.

Some leaders schedule one-on-one chats with their direct reports on a weekly basis to overcome this; others have regular touch-base team meetings in a group setting. Many even take it further designating a “safe space” section of the office where any employees can go to solve problems without the fear of judgment. Do what works best for your environment, and always be receptive to feedback. Progress is a two-way street.

Real-Time Recognition

In addition to course-correcting errors, staff members should be celebrated for their achievements on a regular basis. In fact, according to a Gallup analysis, employee recognition increases productivity and loyalty, which results in greater retention.

Employees who feel valued stick around, so why not build that validation into your company culture? During employee on-boarding, ask how your new hires prefer to be recognized. Do they enjoy gift cards to their favorite restaurants? Would they prefer to bank hours for extra time off? Or does the presentation of an award in front of their peers appeal to them more than anything monetary?

Rewards can be as simple as a verbal “thank you” for how much you appreciate their hard work or a free cup of coffee from their favorite shop. Recognition doesn’t have to be complex, it just has to be sincere.

Fun and Games

Many may envision “trust falls” at an outdoor retreat when team building exercises are brought up, but in reality getting the group together for some silly fun can break down social barriers and promote a happier company culture.

Who could forget the Office Olympics episode of
The Office? The idea caught on with such rapid fire in real corporations that there are now Pinterest boards dedicated to game ideas and third-party companies that will host the games for you!

Granted, not every activity has to be that elaborate, but getting your team out of their comfort zone can work psychological wonders in the workplace.

Healthy Equals Happy

Employee wellness programs may seem like a passing trend, but their results indicate that they’re here to stay. Wellsteps reports that companies benefit from implementing such programs by way of reduced health care costs, increased productivity and reduced absenteeism.

Because the practice is gaining popularity, it’s not just a solution designed for big-box corporations. There are several options out there for startups and mom-and-pop shops. In fact, employee health and wellness is becoming one of the most popular small business employee benefits currently offered because companies can create them a la carte.

Examples of DIY wellness program ideas include:

-- On-site yoga classes
-- Healthy snack breaks (think veggie trays vs. doughnuts)
-- Weight loss challenges
-- Sponsored flu shots
-- Lunchtime meditations

The possibilities in the pursuit of employee happiness are limitless. If you’re unsure where to start, give your team an informal survey and hear their suggestions. Getting their feedback will give you insight into their preferences and give them reassurance that you’re listening.
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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 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,
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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.


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.

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%:

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:

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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