Positivity in the Workplace

Positivity in the Workplace: Mental Health Techniques for the Company and the Employees

Debbie Lyn Toomey, RN, CIPP

Health and Happiness Specialist™

Author of the Happiness Result

Negative effects of stress on mental health at work are rising. No industry is spared. Finding ways to maintain mental health while trying to meet the demands at work is a global issue. The downward spiral effect of this problem has been shown to impact organizations’ bottom lines and employees’ work and well-being. The impact of stress on mental health affects overall health. Major cities in the U.S. are aware of the burden of stress in certain professions and are able to directly correlate medical emergencies with workplace stress.

The World Health Organization (WHO), states that workers who suffer from depression and anxiety are costing companies time and money. Globally, companies are collectively losing trillions of dollars annually due to the negative effects of poor mental health and mental illness. Fortunately, companies like Google, have recognized this problem and have implemented mindfulness programs to help reduce employees stress and increase their focus and productivity. Companies are beginning to do their job to take care of their employees.

While not all companies can afford robust employee health and well-being programs, there are actions that both organizations and employees can take to create a healthier workplace environment. Many studies have shown that positivity in the workplace initiatives create happy, healthy, and engaged employees who are more productive and remain in the company longer.  Positive psychology, the science of happiness, optimum human potential and flourishing, offers many simple, yet powerful skills that protect and buffer the harmful effects of stress. Positive psychology consultants combine a number of research proven techniques and offer practical and unique approaches to team dynamics and development.

Companies who offer creative and personalized ways to cultivate meaningful connections boost their employees’ spirit and well-being. Some of these no-cost initiatives can be mentorship, appreciation and recognition, forgiveness, and kindness. These techniques can be transformative to the culture of any organization. As companies do their job to shift the atmosphere, employees have their role to play as well.

Employees have a responsibility to take time for self-care that preserves and strengthens their mental health. While some healthy habits can be done at home such as getting proper amount of sleep and exercises, other skills can be done in the midst of their busy day. Within the field of positive psychology are an array of powerful, proven skill sets that boosts health and well-being. Some of the techniques that come from the sciences, such as mindfulness, self-compassion, and gratitude, all lead to the road of happiness and well-being. But it is up to the employee to learn and establish their own wellness practice before, during, and after work so that they can nourish their body and mind.

Researchers have found that positive emotions broaden and build people’s ability to produce and create. These researchers argue that happiness is not the only positive emotion; there is a range that includes gratitude, joy, hope, and so much more. Within each positive emotion are skill sets that employees can cultivate to improve and strengthen their mental health.

Employees can take an active role in their mental health. It begins with the thoughts that they choose to focus on. Thoughts that ruminate in the mind are distracting and draining on the energy which ultimately impacts concentration, communication, and performance. Human beings have a negativity bias that allows negative experiences, thoughts, and emotions to stick and stay in the mind for a long time. A recommended way to handle negativity is with positivity. In fact, a three to one positivity to negativity ratio is needed. Knowing about our tendencies towards a negativity bias can help individuals take proactive actions to release them.

There is much to be said about how positivity in the workplace can protect and strengthen overall health. Companies and employees both have to take responsibility for the atmosphere and attitudes. As organizations realize the cost of a negative work environment on its employees’ mental health and take actions to improve culture, employees must also do their part. Mental health is a shared responsibility for both the company and its employees.

To learn how to add more positivity in your workplace, contact me at info@HealthandHappinessSpecialist.com. I would be happy to work with you and your group.

Bounce Back Stronger – Resiliency Skills for Today’s Busy People

Bounce Back Stronger – Resiliency Skills for Today’s Busy People

Debbie Lyn Toomey, RN, CIPP
Author of The Happiness Result

Do you remember the Weebles toys?

I used to love these egg-shaped wobbly toys that never seemed to fall down despite how many times I tried to knock them down. These toys to came to mind when I was preparing for my presentation on resiliency for a group of emergency medical service (EMS) professionals. EMS professionals are at risk for burnout and compassion fatigue due to the nature of their work with trauma and human tragedy. That was why I was asked to teach them about resiliency and ways to bounce back stronger so that they could learn how to manage their stress and increase their sense of well-being.

What’s Resilience?

Even though we are not EMS professionals, it is still important for us to learn about resilience and how to cultivate skills that can help us live a healthier and happier life.

What is resilience? According to the Merriam Webster dictionary, it is “the capability of a strained body to recover its size and shape after deformation caused especially by compressive stress” and “an ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change.”

Are you resilient?

Do you remember the last time you bounced back from adversity?

What did you do to move on with your life?

Three Skills

While we have our own resilience set point, there is always room for growth. The more we learn about ways to navigate through life’s ups and downs, the better prepared we are for the next time we are tested. In this article, I will share three simple resiliency skills that can help you become a victor, instead of a victim. The practices are mindful breathing, self-compassion break, and gratitude.

  1. Mindful breathing – This simple yet powerful tool that can help you feel grounded and centered when you feel defeated from life. Mindful breathing can help nourish your body and brain so that you can take the time you need to respond properly instead of reacting too quickly.
  1. Self-compassion break – This Kristen Neff self-compassion exercise encourages a person to lean into their suffering and start treating themselves with kindness. Neff suggests saying these three phrases.

“This is a moment of suffering.”

“Suffering is a part of life.”

“May I be kind to myself in this moment.”

  1. Gratitude – This powerful practice boosts happiness instantly. This skill helps elevate the spirit during times when it is needed the most. Asking yourself what went well helps the mind to focus on the good rather than the bad. The more you concentrate on and savor the good that has happened, the quicker you can bounce back stronger.

Contact Me

The next time you feel upset, try these three resiliency skills until you feel better. The more you practice these techniques the more you can be like the Weebles toys who wobble and don’t fall down. If you need more support on how to cultivate resiliency skills contact me for coaching at info@HealthandHappinessSpecialist.com.

Two Self-care Tips for Airline Travel

Two Self-care Tips for Airline Travel

By Debbie Lyn Toomey, RN, author of The Happiness Result

Hurry up!

And…

Wait.

Are the four words that best describe airplane travel. While some people like to hurry up and get to the airport early, there are others who like to get there right on time. I like to be an early bird, and I don’t mind waiting once I am all checked it. I bring reading and writing activities to help me pass the time.

Business Trips

My business trip last week was unusual because it was back to back. I drove home for two hours, from one trip, and got home with just enough time to restock my carry-on luggage with fresh clothes before my flight. I was speaking at the Trauma Conference in Lexington, Kentucky the following day and my plan was to get to my hotel by dinner. My check in at the airport was uneventful and I found a nice seat to plant myself before I boarded.

Change of Plans

At the boarding area, I amused myself by watching a movie on Amazon Prime. Everything was going great until I looked up at the departure time for the flight and noticed that my first flight was going to be 10 minutes late. I didn’t think much of it until I noticed a group of people started to congregate in front of the flight screen as if watching a suspense movie. I got curious and looked at the screen and immediately knew why they were glued to it. The 10-minute delay had changed to 40 minutes. YIKES! Normally, this kind of waiting did not bother me, but in this instance, it did because this delay could mean that I would miss my connecting flight to Kentucky.

Hurried and Waited

I didn’t give up. I was still going to make a run for it when the plane landed, just in case my connecting flight was delayed, as well. As soon as my plane landed, I grabbed my carry on and ran and ran and ran. I didn’t stop even though there were signs along the airport that notified the passengers how long the walk was from one gate to the other. My walk was 15 minutes long because my plane was at the other side of the airport. As you can imagine, I did not make it.

Water and Walked

I had a three hour wait for the next connecting flight, and I decided to give myself some much-needed time for self-care. I filled up my empty water bottle and drank my water as I walked around the airport. I made the most of it. Since I woke up at 4:00am that morning, all I was focused on was getting to my destination. I had forgotten to take care of myself by drinking my usual amount of water and getting in my 10,000 steps. In hindsight, using my three hour wait to hydrate and walk made a big difference. Even though I felt tired, I was happy that I was able to get in my typical amount of fluids and steps. What an adventure! Needless to say, I slept well that night. When I woke up the following day, I felt ready to speak at the conference.

Self-care Matters

Self-care is important especially when you are travelling. As we all know, while the thought of travelling can be fun and exciting, it can also be very tiring and stressful. Be sure to take good care of yourself during this time. My suggestion is to keep hydrated with water and walk around to circulate the blood in your system. These two self-care tips can help you stay healthy and happy during your trip. Take care and safe travels to you and yours.

Contact Me

To learn more ways to add happiness and self-care techniques into your busy life, visit my website www.healthandhappinessspecialist.com. If you need a speaker for your next event, contact me at debbielyn@healthandhappinessspecialist.com. I speak on topics of happiness, mindfulness, and gratitude for positivity, peak performance, and inner peace.

Top Five 2018 Tips for Healthy and Happy Holidays

Top Five 2018 Tips for Healthy and Happy Holidays
by Debbie Lyn Toomey RN, Author of The Happiness Result


I love the holidays, don’t you?

Have you started your holiday shopping yet? I have. I started last August.

Why?

Why not. (smile)

I am a planner and love to stay on top of my holiday shopping so that I don’t feel pressured to do it at the last minute. I hate feeling overwhelmed by doing something that I love. There’s no fun in that at all. Just in case you are starting to feel panicky that the holidays are around the corner, don’t worry. I got your back! I have taken regifting into a whole new level by giving you the top five 2018 tips that I sent you this year. I hope that this small package of practical tools can help you have a healthier and happier holiday season.

Drum roll, please…

Starting from the bottom. Here they are.

Tip # 5 Self-Compassion (April, 2018) – Give yourself kindness, love, and compassion this holiday season. If you had goals that you did not reach this year, give yourself a break and allow them to be goals for 2019. Instead of reflecting on what you didn’t achieve this year, think about the goals that you did reach. Give yourself a pat on the back and a hug for all that you have achieved this year.

Tip # 4 List (May, 2018) – The best way to have a successful day is by planning ahead. Creating a wish list of things-to-do can become overwhelming. Once you have allowed yourself to go crazy writing down your items. Look at them again and ask yourself which ones you will really do that day. Asking yourself this powerful question is a game-changer. You’ll be happy to see your list go from daunting to doable.

Tip # 3 “I Get to” vs. “I Have to” (March, 2018) – It’s amazing how quickly our attitude and experience changes when we switch inner talk from “I have to” to “I get to”. This simple and strategic change can help you do something that you didn’t feel like doing to doing it with more gusto.

Tip # 2 Gratitude (June, 2018) – One of the quickest ways to boost your happiness is through gratitude. Gratitude can help you clear the holiday blues by thinking about all that you have such as, clothes on your back, a friend to talk to, or food in your fridge. If you can’t think of what to be grateful for, then you are not looking hard enough.

Tip # 1 Contentment (October, 2018) – If you don’t feel like striving for a holly jolly holiday this year, don’t worry. Try going for contentment instead. There is great peace, grace, and blessings when you are feeling content. Think of activities, people, places, and food that can bring about contentment for yourself. Try doing something different for yourself every week and notice how you feel.

I hope you enjoyed these regifting tips. I know I will. They’re fantastic reminders for anyone who can get caught up in hustle and bustle of the season. If you find a practice that you like, continue it for 30 days. That way you can ring in the new year on healthier and happier note.

C’mon, Get Happy

If you need coaching to help you reach more goals, contact me at info@HealthandHappinessSpecialist.com. If you are looking for a book that can bring about many happiness results, get a copy of my book, The Happiness Result – More time, More health, More love, More success. Go to www.TheHappinessResult.com to purchase your copy today.

Happy Holidays to you and yours!

Much love,

An Overlooked Fall Prevention Tip for the Aging Adults

An Overlooked Fall Prevention Tip for the Aging Adults

Debbie Lyn Toomey RN, CIPP

 Author of The Happiness Result

 

 

Do you remember the last time you fell and got up quickly?

While most people instinctively get up as soon as they fall, seniors are not so fortunate. Many aging people have a difficult time getting up after they have fallen because they are too weak or they’ve injured themselves.

It’s Staggering!

Falls are the leading cause of nonfatal and fatal unintentional injuries by people age 65 and up (CDC, 2016). According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention there were 27,000 seniors that died as the result of falling in 2014. Further, 1 in 4 elderly report that they have fallen. This number is staggering!

Changing Body

Our body is always changing. The population that is impacted the most are the elderly. As we age, we unfortunately get slower, more frail, and weaker making it more and more difficult “to do the things that we used to do.” For these reasons and many others, it’s no wonder that the elderly develop a fear of falling.

Fear of Falling

While the physical factors that I just mentioned may contribute to a senior’s fear of falling, there is also a mental factor. The belief that falling is inevitable. This powerful fear also contributes to falling. The more someone is afraid of falling, the less they want to move around. The less active they are, the more deconditioned they become. The weaker they are, the higher likelihood is that they will fall. In other words, the fear of falling becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy!

My Dad

My 83-year-old father got into the habit of walking with a cane. It happened as a result of needing an easy-to-use device to help him move around due to swelling of his legs. Soon enough, he became dependent on the cane and lost his confidence in walking without it. Even though, the swelling stopped and his leg condition improved, he still held on to that cane for fear that he might fall without it.

Ask the Doctor

During one of his doctor visits, I suggested that he ask his physician for a physical therapy consult so that he could strengthen his body and build endurance. After weeks of exercises with his physical therapist, my dad became stronger and steadier. He’s become more active and more confident about his ability to move around by himself without a cane. It worked!

 Physical Therapy

What’s a physical therapist? It’s a highly trained licensed health care professional whose job it is to “help patients reduce pain and improve or restore mobility”, according to the American Physical Therapy Association. Depending on your needs, a physical therapist may be able to work with you to a point that you may be able to reduce your pain medication needs or even avoid surgery all together.

 Overlooked

There are several fall prevention tips that are useful and practical. However, the one that is not often used is requesting one’s doctor for a physical therapy consult. I believe it’s an overlooked and underutilized specialty for prevention because it is usually associated with rehabilitation. It’s worth noting that physical therapy has an important place in fall prevention. It’s not to say that aging adults should not join a gym or an exercise group. Of course, they should. As long as they have the consent of their doctor.

Prevention Tip

If you know a senior who is afraid of falling, one of the best tips is to inform that person that he or she can ask their primary care physician for physical therapy. This request will notify their doctor of their concern and will make it a part of their routine evaluation every visit. If physical therapy is not indicated, then ask for information on an exercise program that can improve their condition.

National Awareness

The first day of the Fall season has been named Falls Prevention Day. This year, it is September 22, 2018 in order to bring increased awareness and education to the seriousness of falls for the aging population. To find out more about resources for the elderly, contact your local Council on Aging.

It’s good to note that while the elderly do fall, it doesn’t have to be a part of aging. There are many ways to prevent it from happening.

Contact Me

It’s never too late to set goals for yourself, no matter how old you are. If you need professional coaching on how to live a healthy and happy life, contact me at info@HealthandHappinessSpecialist.com.

Happiness and Workplace Bullying

Happiness and Workplace Bullying

Debbie Lyn Toomey, RN, CIPP
Author of The Happiness Result


Have you ever been bullied?

Whether your answer is yes or no, this article is worth the read because you or someone you know may find it useful.

People of all ages can fall prey to bullying. While we typically hear of incidents of bullying on school grounds, little is mentioned about bullying that occurs in the workplace. Since August is “Don’t be a Bully Month,” it’s the perfect time to bring more awareness around this insidious and silent issue.

Bullied

Workplace bullying is toxic. It creates an unhappy and unhealthy environment. Workplace bullying effects not only the victim, but also the witnesses, and eventually the organization. The closest incident that I have experienced of being bullied (lateral violence) was when a nursing colleague complained about me and challenged my nursing practice in front of other nurses. It came unexpectedly and it shook me to the core. I couldn’t focus on my work after that because I was consumed with feelings of anger, betrayal, disappointment, and so much more!

Unhappy

Needless to say, I was not happy due to the unprofessional treatment that had just occurred. I’ve never been treated like that before! I always strived to be kind, thoughtful, and helpful to everyone. I always went out of my way to support that nurse because she always complained about something unfortunate in her personal life.
What is workplace bullying?

Workplace bullying is any act of incivility, disrespect, and mistreatment to another at work. In its most severe form it can become violent. Damages from such unprofessional and inappropriate actions can cause psychological injury, physical injury, or death.


CDC

According to the CDC, professionals who are at most risk for fatal violence in the workplace are people in sales, protective services, and transportation. On the other hand, professionals in the health care and social services are at risk for nonfatal violence that results in sick days or leave of absences.

Workplace bullying is real and should not be normalized or dismissed by any employers.

Happiness

Here are some ways to help you rise above this negativity and reclaim your happiness at work.

• Breathe and regain your composure. If the bullying behavior is out of character for this person, you can give them the benefit of the doubt. Maybe, he or she is going through a negative personal event.

• Talk to a close friend to get validation about the situation. Be sure to have allies where you work.

• Approach and talk to the person that caused you to be upset. Relay back to him or her what they did and share how it made you feel. Tell him or her that you will not tolerate that kind of behavior.

• If the person, repeats this behavior, be bold. Stand up for yourself. Know that your efforts will contribute to creating safe, supportive, and happy work environment.

• Talk with your manager or Employee Assistance Program department for assistance.


Speaking Up

As for me, what worked after being humiliated by a nursing colleague was to confront her face to face. After talking with my husband about how shocked and upset I was, I mustered up the courage and the words to explain to her what she did and how she made me feel. Further, I told her to never to treat me like that again. And it worked! After that moment, that nurse left me alone and became more courteous. I was so proud and happy with myself for speaking up!

It is important to avoid toxic and harmful behavior from escalating by speaking out and standing up for yourself. You should never feel that you have to be subjected to any sort to bullying from anyone. You have the right to be happy and feel supported at work so that you can perform your duties.

Need Help?

I hope you never have to experience workplace bullying, but if you do, never feel you have to put up with that kind of behavior. You have a choice to either take it or leave it. If you do decide to take it, be sure to give it back and stand your ground.

If you need coaching to gain more happiness in your life, contact me at info@healthandhappinessspecialist.com.

Mindfulness and Injury Prevention

Mindfulness and Injury Prevention
By Debbie Lyn Toomey, RN, author of The Happiness Result

What does mindfulness have to do with injury prevention?

Almost everything!

Most accidents are preventable.

For example, have you ever tripped and fallen because your mind was elsewhere and you were not paying attention to what was in front of you? 

Or have you ever closed the door on your finger because you were stressed and overwhelmed from what you have to do.  

Or have you ever hit another car “by accident” because you were distracted.

As a Mindfulness practitioner and injury prevention professional, I tripped and fell on my hands and knees recently. It happened during a hike. My husband was pointing out another possible hiking trail to me to and before you know it … BOOM! I was on my hands and knees on the dirt and old fallen leaves. Instead of paying attention to where I was going, I looked away. I should have stopped and looked at what my husband was showing me. Doing this would have allowed me to appreciate the other path while maintaining my footing on the hiking trail. In other words, I should have been more mindful. If I was, I wouldn’t have the bruise on my right knee right now.

What is Mindfulness?

Mindfulness is purposely paying attention to whatever it is you are doing, seeing, and feeling -without judgement. Some say that it is being in the present moment or being in the “now.” Mindfulness is a research proven practice that can be taught to both the young and the old. 

Why is it important when it comes to injury prevention?

Mindfulness, when applied in the workplace setting, can reduce work-related injuries tremendously. When stress goes up, our ability to concentrate goes down. Stress from many factors such as lack of staffing, lack of team support, lack of time, and lack of self-care time impacts concentration that can increase the risk of mindless actions that can impact the health and safety of the worker and those around them.

Likewise, mindfulness, when taught to high school athletes, can help reduce sports related injuries, such as traumatic brain injury. When mindfulness is practiced as a daily habit, it has a self-regulatory way of helping the person feel more in control, more centered, and calmer. All traits that are important during any games.

What’s a good mindfulness tip for people on the go?

Next time you catch your mind running around like crazy or even jumping around from one thought to another, stop and take 3 slow deep breaths to get back to the present. Reclaiming your sense of presence through breathing is an easy and powerful skill that anyone can develop no matter how old they are.

Need more support?

If you need coaching on how to add more mindfulness into your life, contact me at info@healthandhappinessspecialist.com. If you need a great summer book to read, get my book, The Happiness Result. You can get my book on www.TheHappinessResult.com. 

Appreciate the Good: Five Reasons to Start a Gratitude Practice

Appreciate the Good: Five Reasons to Start a Gratitude Practice
By Debbie Lyn Toomey, RN, CIPP

 

 

Next week in the United States, Thanksgiving will be celebrated. Thanksgiving symbolizes the start of the holiday season. Thanksgiving is a special day when Americans give thanks. This special holiday feeds the body with delicious food and the heart with sincerity. While it feels good to give thanks on that day, giving thanks daily will make us feel better in the long run. One of my favorite sayings when I was studying Positive Psychology was from professor and author, Tal Ben-Shahar: “when you appreciate the good, the good appreciates.”

What is gratitude?

Gratitude is more than an attitude or saying thanks. It’s a science that has been proven to have significant benefits. Robert Emmons, considered the father of the science of gratitude defines gratitude as, “a felt sense of wonder, thankfulness and appreciation for life.” This definition opens us to endless opportunities to be grateful. The challenge is remembering to do it every day, especially during the tough times.

Why is it important?

The best way to start the exercise is to know why it is important and how it can benefit you. Here are 5 reasons that caught my attention and inspired me to begin adding the gratitude practice into my life.

1. Resilience – Gratitude fosters resilience. A 2003 study found that gratitude was the main contributor to resilience following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack in New York.

2. Relationships – Gratitude is the antidote for failed non-abusive relationships. A studyfound that couples who express gratitude for each other are motivated to maintain their relationship with each other.

3. REM – Gratitude before bedtime helps with sleep. A study in the Applied Psychology: Health and Well-being found that 15 minutes of writing in a gratitude journal before sleep promotes better sleep.

4. Rich – Gratitude cancels out envy. According to Robert Emmons, gratitude blocks toxic emotions such as envy, regret, and depression because gratitude makes you feel rich and feel you have more than enough.

5. Rejoice – Gratitude is linked to a happiness booster according to Harvard University study. If you need a quick way to cheer up, start listing some things you are grateful for to turn your emotions around.

I hope one or all of these reasons inspired you to begin a gratitude practice. If you have one already, thank you. If not, try any one of these techniques.

1. Journal – Start a gratitude journal. This was the first gratitude exercise that I did and it helped me during the good and the bad times of my life. This exercise trained my brain to look for the good in all situations. It was extremely helpful when I was coping with my mother’s three cancer journeys.

2. WWW? – What Went Well? Is a question that helped me teach my husband and three boys the practice of gratitude without being too “mushy”. This question has helped me and my family cultivate the practice of gratitude. Next time you are with your friend or family ask, “What went well?” and notice all the goodness that come out of this powerful question.

3. Walk – As you walk from one place to another, find as many objects to be grateful for. This helps increase my level of energy and happiness when I feel tired or anxious. It can definitely turn your “frown upside down.”

4. Jar – Collect moments of gratitude in a jar. This is a great practice for you and your group. This exercise is a positivity booster and it’s fun to watch as the gratitude fills the jar. Reading gratitude from the gratitude jar is another way to deepen relationships in the group and improve communication.

5. Letter – Writing a gratitude letter to someone you love and has greatly influenced you is a proven gratitude technique that has shown to create lasting positive emotions. Once you write your gratitude letter, deliver the letter in person and read the letter to that special someone.

Thank you for reading this article. I hope that it has inspired you enough to begin a gratitude practice. Try one of the gratitude practices that I shared with you for the next 30 days and watch your appreciation grow.

I am grateful for…

This year I have so much to be grateful for. Besides my awesome family and friends, I am grateful for publishing my coloring book, The Happiness Result Art Therapy Coloring Book – Express & Enjoy Yourself. This book is going to be available next week on my website, www.TheHappinessResult.com.

Also, I am grateful for doing my first online course called, Therapeutic Arts: Art Therapy Based Practice for Self-care, Self- healing, and Mindfulness. This is terrific course that I created with master trainer and colleague, Patrick Howell. Here’s the link for you to get your special price and immediate access to the course https://www.udemy.com/artstherapycourse/?couponCode=NEWSLETTER.

Lastly, I am grateful for you and your continued support and interest in my health and happiness message.

Thank you!

Art Heals: Express Yourself and Reduce Stress with Art

Art Heals: Express Yourself and Reduce Stress with Art

by Debbie Lyn Toomey


Ever have a terrifying nightmare from childhood that sneaks up on you?

Similar to the usual “falling” dream that some people have, I have one that I call the “Tidal Wave” dream and it happened last weekend. Thanks to art, I was able to rise above the lingering feelings of dread. By drawing and coloring, I literally “drew” out the feelings of uncertainty that stayed with me all morning long.

Nightmare

I hadn’t had this type of nightmare in a long time. I was confused as to why it occurred again. Frankly, I thought I was over that type of dream a long time ago! The last time I had the “Tidal Wave” dream I woke up happy! I was so proud of myself because, instead of being swallowed up by the Statue of Liberty size wave, I was riding the wave with a big smile on my face boldly going where ever it took me.

Transformed

I woke up feeling transformed. That was about 5 years ago when I started to feel more confident and clear about my life’s work (the big “W” work/life purpose one). That was around the time when I started my company Ultimate Healing Journey, LLC, a company focused on motivating and coaching today’s busy people with happiness and mindfulness skills to fuel their success. It was an exciting time!

Wave

Why did the wave dream came back? That dream first occurred when I was much younger; when I didn’t feel strong or sure of myself. Back then, this tsunami size wave would come out of nowhere and swallow me up causing me to gasp for air and fight for my life. I hated that sinking feeling of fright that always stayed with me for days. Although, the Tidal Wave in my recent dream disappeared way before it got to me (thank God!), it still shook me up.

Morning

I thought I was done with this dream! I wondered what could have brought it on. At breakfast, I told me family about it. I always encouraged my family to share their nightmares because I feel it was a good way to chase the nightmares away. In other words, the dark always disappears in the light.

River

After breakfast, my family and I took advantage of an unusually dry and cool August morning and went for a walk down along the Neponset River. The nice day and the cool breeze made it a great day for boaters and fishermen to be out on the relaxing waters. It was such a beautiful scene to watch. I really enjoyed that walk.

Tsunami

Later that day, I found myself sitting at my desk with a blank white piece of paper and a pencil. I decided to draw. The image I started with was the Tidal Wave. It took up 95% of my paper! At the bottom of the page was a tiny stick figure of me as if looking up at the gigantic body of water. I was taken aback when I saw it right in front of me. As I colored this all-consuming wave with my light blue colored marker my breathing soon became fast and shallow. It brought up feelings of frustration and powerlessness and of being overwhelmed! It was strange (and interesting) how my kindergarten looking drawing reflected how I’ve been feeling for the last few weeks.

Stress

The last few weeks have been tiring and tough for me. I did my best to stay afloat of what was going on. I had self-imposed stress such as creating the coloring book companion for my book and trying to get my mindfulness study approved. I also had other stressors that were beyond my control which included dealing with a strange water leak that happened on my birthday and having to go without my car for 2 weeks, helping my 79-year-old mother after having total knee replacement surgery, coping with the fact that my oldest son was ready to move out of our house, and helping my nervous 12-year-old son get excited for his week-long boy scout camping.

Depressed

Thank goodness it wasn’t a typically month for me. Despite my self-care routine of yoga, mindfulness meditation, and gratitude practice, I still felt down and depressed. I hadn’t felt like this in a long time. This became clear as I looked at my finished drawing.

Peace

I decided to draw the image that I saw during my morning walk. On a separate piece of white paper, I drew the river and the boats that were on the water. I found peace in that piece. I outlined the bench that my husband and I sat on and added the shrubs and flowers that were at the river’s edge. As I colored, a deep and soothing breath filled my lungs. It made me smile. Although, my art work was far from being a Renoir filled with pastels and pretty color, it was a relaxing work of art! I noticed my breathing change. It was slower and deeper. There was nothing stressful about my drawing. Then, I took another step.

Feelings

I compared both pictures. I noticed how different they were and how they made me feel. Then, I wrote down on one side of the Tidal Wave picture how the image made me feel. I wrote down my stressors and what caused me sadness. As I listed them, I was surprised at how many I had. The more I wrote, the more my head nodded with agreement.

Balance

I did the same thing with my other drawing. In that one, I wrote down how it made me feel. I wrote that I wanted to have balance, fun, and time to relax and be with my family. Then, I wrote down I how I would like to feel. A couple of ideas came to mind. One was to simplify and slow down my calendar. I created a schedule that included activities and projects that I needed and wanted to do. I made sure I allowed for extra time to rest and have fun. Another idea was to invite my parents over for a homemade pizza dinner so we can see each other and catch up.

Tides

These two drawings were such an eye opener for me. While they were opposites, they gave me an important insight into my internal and downward turbulence. This visual expressive exercise healed me! It freed up so much of what I was feeling in such an innocent and tangible way. I highly recommend this exercise to anyone who is feeling stressed. While a nightmare was the motivator behind my experience, you can start doing this now to determine how you are feeling.

Express

Allow art to heal you from your pain and reduce your stress. All you have to do is express yourself. According to the American Art Therapy Association, art is a form of therapy that helps people “explore their feelings, reconcile emotional conflicts, foster self-awareness, manage behavior and addictions, develop social skills, improve reality orientation, reduce anxiety, and increase self-esteem.” Don’t let the simplicity of this practice fool you. Art heals and you don’t have to have any artistic talent for it to help you. Any expressive medium can help you such as clay, paint, wood, music, dance, photography, etc.

Benefits

There are many studies that show the beneficial effects of art for healing, stress reduction, and personal growth. Art as form of therapy has helped people with ADD/ADHD, Autism Spectrum, Age management, Abuse, PTSD, Cancer, and so much more. Art as a form of therapy is found in many settings such as: hospitals, wellness studios, schools, and home. While it is becoming more widely used, it is always recommended for people with mental health problems to seek professional advice before undergoing any sort of treatment.

How?

For those of you who are not under the supervision and care of mental health professionals, there are simple ways to get started. Here’s how you can express yourself and reduce your stress with art.

1. Choose: Pick the expressive art medium that you like and start creating. Allow the medium to move you.

2. Compare: Do a comparison. Have a before and after version of how you are feeling. It could be a past vs. present or bad vs. good version.

3. Clarity: Accept the different feelings that come up and view them with no judgement. This will help you to avoid clouding your mind with any self-limiting or more negative thoughts.

4. Control: Notice how much a sense of calm, control and confidence comes to you with this exercise.

5. Create: Be creative in how you do this practice. Make this practice your own.

Happiness

Go forth and express yourself through art. You will be surprise at just how much better you will feel afterwards. A great way to get started is by coloring and to help you along, The Happiness Result Art Therapy Coloring book will be available to you by the end of the summer. Coloring books have been proven to calm the mind and reduce stress. It’s a great way to combine art with mindfulness. To learn more about its companion book, The Happiness Result. More time, More health, More love, More success go to www.TheHappinessResult.com.

Class

Master trainer and coach Patrick Howell and I are going to be offering an introductory online course on this topic soon. Please stay tuned for more information on this unique and fascinating art therapy class.

This Job Made Me Fat! 10 Tips to Manage Your Workplace Stress

This Job Made Me Fat!

10 Tips to Manage Your Workplace Stress
By Debbie Lyn Toomey

PSST, between you and me, have you gained weight since you started working?

I did. It happened when I worked as a fulltime nurse many years ago. I gained 20 pounds, but fortunately I found ways to get rid of the weight. I blamed my weight gain from the chronic stress I was experiencing. Back then, I had to work different shifts with varying work schedules. I developed crazy eating habits. The busier and more overwhelmed I got, the less healthy I ate at work and the more I ate at home. Emotional hunger took over and I ate comfort food to help me feel better about myself and how I did at work. The bottom line, the more I had on my plate at work, the wider my waist line got!

Emotional Hunger

What is emotional hunger? In a nutshell, it’s eating to comfort the suffering that is experienced within. Unlike physical hunger where the stomach is empty, emotional hunger feeds the feelings of stress or emptiness inside. Regardless of the distress, comfort food or drinks are used to “nurse” and ease the discomfort. Job stress can lead to weight gain. In fact, research has shown that workplace stress is linked to unhealthy lifestyle habits that lead to smoking, obesity, and lack of exercise.

On the Go

As a staff nurse, I had no eating pattern because of the nature of my job. I worked day and evening shifts. I worked every other weekend and some holidays. My work shifts ranged from eight to sixteen hours depending on the week. When I worked, I had little time to eat or enjoy my meal. I was constantly on the go and in demand. I found solace in the fact that I could always get a decent meal and snack when I got home no matter how late it was. The heavier I got, the more I took comfort in hiding my growing weight by wearing loose fitting and unstructured scrubs.

We All Have It

Workplace stress is real and escalating. Job demands are high in all industries, not just health care. According to a survey that Career Builder, did amongst 3,031 workers ages 18 and over, 2 out of 5 workers have gained weigh in their current job due to stress. Let’s be real, there will be days when we have to shorten our breaks or eat on the run to get a big project done but that doesn’t have to be the way to operate all the time.

10 Simple Ways to Manage Weight from Stress

Although stress levels are up, there are many techniques that we can use to help us feel good and look good at work.

Here are 10 simple ways to manage your weight despite workplace stress.

1. Drink the recommended 8-10 glasses of water a day. Hydration is important for our brain and body. Water increases the performance of our brain. Have a water bottle with you in the office.

2. Jot down your big and small wins during the day. This will make you feel good about yourself. This will help you focus on the good things that you’ve done during the day.

3. Pack your food the night before and plan on high protein snacks. Protein bars and nuts work really well to curb the appetite. Pack more for busy days.

4. Walk as much as you can at work. Take the stairs and park far away from your building. Ask a colleague to be your lunchtime walking buddy.

5. Listen to relaxing music or music that enhances attention at work. This will help keep your stress at bay and make you more productive.

6. Put chewing gum in your mouth instead of high calorie or fattening food. Chewing gum helps with focus.

7. Notice the triggers that make you upset and stressed at work. The more you recognize them the better you can avoid them or prepare yourself ahead of time.

8. Sleep. The more sleep, the merrier you will be. If you can, try taking a 10minute power nap from time to time.

9. Talk with a close friend and vent. Don’t let your stress eat away at you. Find someone you can trust.

10. Eat your meals. Although there might be days when a meal is a handful of nuts and a bag of carrots, be grateful and acknowledge them as your meal so that you don’t feel deprived and feel you can eat extra portions later on the day.

I hope these suggestions help you keep your cool and your weight under control in the midst of your busy days at work. To learn more about how you or your team can manage your stress, contact me at INFO@HEALTHANDHAPPINESSSPECIALIST.COM to learn how I can help you. Here’s to your health, happiness, and success!