COVID-19 Survival Guide: Patience

Ann StrombergAnn Stromberg, Emotional Wellness Counselor

Patience

“Patience is not the ability to wait, but the ability to keep a good attitude while waiting.” Joyce Meyer

In theory, the art of being patient appears to be the simple act of waiting for the desired results. The reality is patience is a hard skill to master. Patience is learning to take time to allow things to happen, and that is what makes it difficult. 

We live in a world of instant gratification. We have become accustomed to having the ability to get what we need with a few clicks on the computer or phone. Our devices keep us connected to everyone and everything in our lives. Most of us have lost our ability to be patient. We recognize the importance of patience and learning to delay gratification, and we spend hours teaching our children to be patient and gracious while waiting. Yet it is so easy to forget the skill we learned early in life.  

Taking the time to allow things to occur allows us to take time to think it through, to develop a strategy to meet the challenge ahead. Fine-tuning our patience skills takes effort and strength. We use patience to move through life in a more mindful state of being.  

Being mindful leads to more productive efforts when facing a challenging task. We are faced with impatient people every day, people rushing around unaware of the fact their surroundings. Impatient people are usually more irritable and difficult to be around, much like an inpatient child who has not mastered patience yet. Rushing through life typically leads to less productive activity and wastes more energy. 

Taking time to meet a challenge with a well thought out strategy usually helps us be more productive. Imagine the people you want to spend time with. Finding ways to strengthen our patience skills takes time and is a skill that we need to continue to cultivate as we move through life. It has been shown that people with strong patience skills have a more positive outlook on life, have less depression and anxiety, and overall better mental health. Patient people are more mindful and better at coping with challenges.  

Developing strategies for improving our patience starts with acknowledging the need to be patient. Being mindful of our abilities and limitations helps to keep our expectations realistic. When facing a challenge, take time to plan a strategy to move through the process. One big stumbling block we create for ourselves is placing an unrealistic time frame on our challenge. Regardless of the current task, making a career change, looking for a new position, or any challenge we face, look at your time frame, and extend the allotted time. Everything takes longer then we plan, and we always give ourselves too little time, and we become frustrated. 

Before beginning any project, take time to plan out each step and then go back and add time to each step. The additional time allows the task to be more enjoyable, and we are more mindful as we complete each step. There is never any disappointment when a project takes less time to complete than expected. Start today to evaluate your biggest challenge and take some time to look at each step and look for ways to create a more thoughtful and realistic time frame. Sometimes we need to slow down to get our desired results faster.

COVID-19 Survival Guide: Choosing Kindness

2020 has presented us with many challenges that test our patience and break our hearts. Once again, we as a society are faced with the disgusting practices of racism and social injustice. Hatred is a vile emotion that has been the source of suffering for citizens for decades. While we are not debating solutions here today, we can all agree change is necessary. Regardless of our own beliefs, there is a practice that makes sense for everyone in every situation, being kind. Choosing kindness over hatred is always a winning choice, plus it benefits the giver and the receiver.

Kindness is a teachable skill and with practice, it can become an easy strategy to navigate life. Kind acts can become a habit with time. The idea that kindness is contagious makes sense when examined socially and scientifically. There is a plethora of research that has been done that examines the benefits of being kind. One simple reason to choose kindness is that it makes us feel good to be kind. Research shows that acts of kindness send messages to the brain that trigger our feel-good endorphins, creating a helper’s high.

Helper’s high is similar to an exercise high. This release of endorphins helps to lower our stress hormones.

By choosing kindness we can help boost our mood, lengthen our life, and improve our well being. Positive well being is measured by having more positive emotions than negative and feeling satisfied in most areas of our life. Kindness is a powerful tool that we can choose every day to show others we care and to increase our well being!

Kindness is often defined as being friendly, generous, and compassionate. As well as behaving in a way that shows others you care about them. There are opportunities to choose kindness that surround us all through the day; we just need to pay attention. Typically we are moving mindlessly through our day. By incorporating some mindfulness (attention) to what is happening around us, we can begin to open our eyes to ways we can choose to be kind.

Simple acts of kindness may range from donating to someone in need to helping someone pick up the blueberries they dropped at the grocery. When we pay attention to our surroundings, we can begin to see opportunities to be helpful. Learning to be kind begins with being kind to ourselves when we fail or make mistakes. We can find self-awareness as we work to create a more mindful way of functioning.

There are always opportunities to be kind and be the best version of us. Challenge yourself to do a random act of kindness and notice what happens. Remember we can always choose to be kind. Kindness breaks down barriers and builds bridges. Choosing to be kind does not mean we have to love everyone we meet; we just need to be kind and respectful to all humans.

Making a simple choice to be kind throughout the day will help create positive energy and positive connections with others. As we all embrace kindness and respect in our daily interactions, we can begin to create the much-needed circle of love. Kindness is contagious; pass it on!

Ann Stromberg

Ann Stromberg, Emotional Wellness Counselor

COVID-19 Survival Guide: The Power of the Pause

Ann StrombergAnn Stromberg, Emotional Wellness Counselor

After spending so much time in self-quarantine and having downtime it may seem redundant to think about taking time to pause. Have you taken the time to pause and allow your mind to take a break? Spending time and allowing the mind to take some time off from our daily chatter creates a respite from the stressors in our current world. The chatter, Buddhists refer to this as the “monkey mind”, drives our mood usually without our conscious understanding. Elizabeth Gilbert in Eat, Pray, Love describes it as “My mind swings wildly through time, touching on dozens of ideas a minute, unharnessed and undisciplined”. Living in uncertain times allows for an increase in distractions and decreases our ability to focus.  

Pausing is taking time to tune out and be still. It is in this time when we slow down and listen to our thoughts that we gain insight into our deepest feelings and beliefs. So much of our belief system stems from our unconscious thought patterns often learned while we were young. The beliefs we internalized long ago are reinforced daily in our thoughts. Pausing is a simple strategy to connect to our deepest beliefs. Begin by setting aside a time to be present with your thoughts. Find a quiet space to be without distractions and interruptions. It may help to set a timer and always begin with a short time, just a few minutes. 

You will be able to extend the time as your comfort level grows. Allow your thoughts to surface and try to listen without reaction. No matter the thought or its validity, just acknowledge it without reaction. After your time is up, assess and reflect on the thoughts that were present. Is there a trend? Are the thoughts valid? Is there something to be learned from these thoughts? 

Continue to use your time to pause to evaluate your thoughts. Our evaluation of thoughts may identify some irrational thought patterns. We can use the information to determine if we are on the right track or if there may be some changes that are needed. The benefit of self-assessment is our ability to learn from our experiences through reflection. We can use our internal dialog to help us dispel incorrect thought patterns or to build on our positive experiences. As we grow in our ability to pause and reflect, our ability to resist judging ourselves will grow. We will be able to have a clear perspective of our thought patterns. Don Miguel Ruiz discusses in The Four Agreements the power of our words can lead us to happiness or misery. 

The power of our self-dialog is strong. Using the power of the pause will help to alleviate anxiety and stress as well. As we feel anxious or stressed, take time to stop and listen to the thoughts driving the emotions. Begin to assess these thoughts and ask “is this thought valid” and “can it be changed”. This strategy will help take control of anxiety and lessen our reaction. We can’t eliminate stress or anxiety but we can change our reaction to negative feelings by recognizing the source. If it is valid, we can take steps to correct and if it is not valid we can take steps to eliminate it. Every time we pause and reflect we build more control over where our thoughts lead us. Our efforts and energy go where our attention goes and creating a path towards our best life begin with a pause.

COVID-19 Survival Guide: Moving out of Quarantine

Ann StrombergAnn Stromberg, Emotional Wellness Counselor

Are you feeling ready to get back out into the workforce and soar or are you feeling less excited about the future? This new practice of working from home has left so many of us feeling isolated and out of touch with the world. For some, our old work position may have changed permanently, being furloughed or working a reduced schedule and this can create very stress-filled feelings. All the change and uncertainty we face may have started to erode our confidence in the future. The key to maintaining or boosting our self-esteem is to limit our negative self-talk and we have to become our own cheerleader!  We often limit ourselves by limiting our vision and we become exactly what we envision for ourselves. We understand the power of our thoughts on our mood and wellbeing, but often forget the power of our unconscious thoughts that drive us without our knowledge.  It is hard to outperform our self-image. Honestly, sometimes the biggest factor limiting our success is our inability to see our future as bright.

The possibilities are endless when we shift our thinking over to a positive self-image. If you are thinking that you have a positive vision of your potential: that is a great place to start. We can all take time to assess the level of our positive vision for our future. Allow yourself to take some time to sit down and assess your self-worth; it may take some time to determine your authentic beliefs. Write it down and really think about the language that you have chosen. Does it resonate with what you want or how you imagine your future? Remember, we often limit ourselves by our own beliefs. It doesn’t matter if your vision is spot on or not what you want, you can begin to shift the vision by completing a few simple exercises. We can begin by creating a list of our good qualities. This sounds so simple, but often really challenging when we are honest. The list may begin small, maybe one word but take time and let it grow. Start with one or two qualities and then try to build to ten, twenty, fifty, or as far as you can go!

This can be an ongoing process and updated as often as needed. Take time to examine what you have to offer, what qualities give you value as a person. What qualities make you valuable to an employer and add those to your list.  Then review your list frequently. If you are in the process of a job search, think about how these qualities can be translated into what you can offer an employer. Speak the words out loud. Stating what we believe really helps to embed it into our thought process. Begin to notice the language you are using in your mind, notice the tone your self-talk. If at anytime the negative or self-doubt starts to creep in, change that language immediately and replace it with something from your list. Again, state it out loud. Hearing the words will really help us to believe it! This process may have to be repeated frequently until you can truly embrace what you have to offer.

Regardless of where these past few months in quarantine have taken us, we can always take some time and examine our positive and negative behaviors. Gaining a confidence boost or just gaining clarity about our self-image and our vision for our future will benefit each of us. Take the positive self- growth journey and let all the possibilities unfold.

COVID-19 Survival Guide: Habits

Ann Stromberg

Ann Stromberg, Emotional Wellness Counselor

The biggest challenge most of us have faced during the pandemic is spending so much time at home. Being home has changed the way we work, the way we communicate, and the way we manage our lives. We are overloaded with information about the way COVID-19 is impacting us and that the impact is negative. It is time to make a shift and begin to boost our mood and create some good habits for  our own wellbeing. It takes approximately 21 days to create a habit and now we have the time.

Habits increase the speed and efficiency of ordinary tasks that we perform every day. For example, we can brush our teeth or drive to work with ease because it is a habit. If we didn’t have these habits we would be relearning simple tasks every time we needed to do them. Good habits help us through the day by making some necessary tasks automatic. The neuroplasticity of the brain makes it possible to train the brain just like we train our bodies with exercise. We can change our behavior by redirecting our attention to what we need. Creating a good habit can be just that simple, but it does require some effort. What steps could be implemented to increase our mindfulness, create habits of wellbeing, and increase our happiness?

Wellbeing is defined as a state of being comfortable, healthy, and happy. We all want to be less stressed, less rushed, and feel happier. We see strategies for a quick fix to wellbeing and happiness, but creating a habit of wellbeing takes some effort. What can be done so we can be more mindful or aware of our happiness level? Creating a habit of wellbeing can be cultivated with some simple steps and can be created in about three weeks. One of the fastest ways to increase our happiness is to create a gratitude habit. Gratitude is a term that has been used a lot and it almost sounds like a new trend. Gratitude has always been an important and quick way to boost our mood. Actually, it is impossible to be grateful and depressed at the same time. We can always find one thing we can be grateful for at any time when we look for it. When we make the effort to shift our attention to something that is beautiful or that makes us smile, gratitude can be found. Noticing simple things that give us a moment of pleasure, we can make that moment our opportunity to feel gratitude.  Gratitude is the best mood booster we have and it is always available. This pandemic has given us time to try and create a new habit. Challenge yourself to create gratitude habit during the next few weeks. Simply begin by setting a reminder to pause and find a reason the be grateful. Choose a time or place that is easy for you to see the reminder and make an effort to find gratitude at that moment. Another challenge would be to set a reminder on your phone every hour to take a gratitude break. Imagine feeling more happiness every hour of the day! Every time you take a gratitude break, pause, and notice how you feel. Repeat daily for 21 days! You may find that you are grateful you were able to create a new habit and you will be happier!  We all want to be healthy and happy, so let’s create a habit of wellbeing.

COVID-19 Survival Guide: Anxiety

Ann Stromberg

Ann Stromberg, Emotional Wellness Counselor

COVID-19 Survival Guide

We have been anxious to find out when we may get our “normal” lives back and now we know the first steps will begin this week. The gradual reopening of business will be good for the economy, something that is very needed. Reopening the state for business is a mix of excitement for our professional life and yet still terrifying for our personal life. If you have been socially distancing within the recommended guidelines, you have most likely spent the last 6 weeks quarantined at home. Spending time at home has created a sense of security and safety that has allowed us to avoid COVID-19. Leaving our safe cocoons to head out into a potential danger zone of germs creates a new level of anxiety. If you have ventured out at all during this quarantine, passing someone without a mask or not social distancing may have left you upset. Being angry with a stranger is very different than coming back to an office where co-workers may not adhere to the same standard of protection. We are going to open Ohio and find ourselves with a lot of new concerns about our safety and the behaviors of others. We head back to work with a new mode of operation and new stressors.

Anxiety is defined as having fear, sometimes irrational, with an excessive reaction that interferes with our daily functioning. COVID-19 is causing many people to feel anxious about their health and safety. Feeling anxious when there is a real threat is normal, we should be feeling anxious now. Spending many weeks confined at home with an uncertain end is a valid source of anxiety. Feeling anxious about reentering society in any manner is also a source of normal anxiety. Learning to manage our normal anxiety to keep it from becoming excessive begins with self-awareness. Becoming aware of our feelings can help manage anxious feelings. However, we need to acknowledge our concerns, because they help us remain safe. The anxious feelings are our brain’s way to help us avoid a dangerous situation. Under normal ciscumstances, returning to work should not feel dangerous, but this virus has us all feeling threatened.

Hopefully, we will all get back to work, and our “normal” lives, but it is clear the way we have functioned in the world will be changed. New situations tend to make us feel anxious because we feel a lack of control. Self-awareness is one of the best techniques to manage anxiety and find some control in each situation. Being self-aware can help cue you in that when something is not right. Self-awareness enhances our ability to take action to get back on track. If you notice you are feeling more nervous, irritable, notice difficulty sleeping or concentrating, it may be time to assess what you are feeling. Acknowledging your feelings is the first strategy to manage our reactions. Once we determine that we feel anxious we can take steps to correct the situation. Planning to go back to the workplace is important. We need to determine our comfort level so we can prepare for what we come back to. Allow for time to plan ahead, troubleshoot the things that cause you the most concern, and be ready with a plan and your own supplies. Some situations may require more advanced planning, for instance, having the protective supplies you need to feel confident in public. If returning to the workplace feels uncertain, take time to determine if it will be safe for you, and bring what you need for your peace of mind. We are all able to take control of our safety and health. We can return to our workplace and feel confident we are taking the precautions necessary for everyone’s safety.

COVID-19 Survival Guide: Keep Moving

Ann StrombergAnn Stromberg, Emotional Wellness Counselor

COVID-19 Survival Guide: Keep Moving

As we continue to social distance, work from home, and connect with others via zoom, it is encouraging to hear that there may be some light at the end of the tunnel. We are slowly learning when and how we may emerge from this pandemic. One thing we know for sure is the return to normal will most certainly be a new normal for most of us. There will still be restrictions and requirements for moving out of our homes and back into our lives.

We know we will be moving about very differently, but we will be moving. The benefits of movement and exercise are well documented. Volumes of research exist lauding the benefits of exercise as a protective and preventative prescription for what ails you. Exercise improves both our physical body and our mental health. Almost any physical and/or mental health condition can improve with exercise. As we are encouraged to stay home and be socially distant, it may take some creativity to maintain any type of exercise routine. The amazing benefits of moderate exercise can be achieved with as little as 30 minutes a day, and those 30 minutes do not have to be completed all at once. Moderate exercise can be different for each of us. Think of a moderate exercise as walking at a slightly faster pace. The talk test is a good way to judge your pace; you can find a pace that allows you to talk maintaining a sentence when moving. Finding a way to move in 5 or 10 minute increments can be sufficient to see improvement in health. Knowing that exercise can boost our mood, why not give it a try? Who doesn’t need a mood booster these days!

Let’s not get caught up on the word exercise. Exercise can be anything that you enjoy and that allows you to move your body such as walking, running, yoga, boot camp type exercise, taking the dog for a walk, or really any activity that allows you to move. These homebound days are the perfect time to create a habit of movement in your daily activities. Working from home can be tedious and challenging. Try taking movement breaks every hour. You can walk outside, do jumping jacks, burpees, crunches, march in place or anything you can do for 5 minutes every hour. Set a timer to remind yourself to get up and move for a few minutes to break up sitting all day. You can create a new healthy habit that you can take back to the office with you. Any exercise you choose can be beneficial, however, most studies stipulate moderate exercise is where the benefits begin. It may take some time to build up to a moderate-paced activity and that is part of the process. Take your time building a routine you can maintain.

Exercise will improve your mood and outlook. Exercise has been traced to improving brain performance, memory, and brain health. Exercise builds muscle and helps our brain too; there really is no reason not to find time to move our bodies. Challenge yourself to move for a few minutes a day and it will become a habit!

Want to learn more about habit building? Click here to read COVID-19 Survival Guide: Habits

COVID-19 Survival Guide: Meditation


Ann Stromberg
Ann Stromberg, Emotional Wellness Counselor

COVID-19 Survival Guide: Meditation

It’s good that we have found a new way to function at home and with family members present. Creating a new “normal” or way to manage our time may feel more challenging as these weeks crawl by. There are strategies to help cope with the challenges, distractions, and stress that we may feel now.

Let’s discuss the benefits of meditation. We are usually skeptical when meditation is mentioned, but let’s look deeper into the process and benefits. Meditation is a tool that enhances mindfulness and self-awareness. Meditation brings us into the present moment. The beauty of the present moment is that every situation is manageable when experienced one moment at a time. We create anxiety, worry, doubt, and stress when we are looking back into the past or into the future. Meditation allows us to keep us focused in the here and now and that is truly the only moment we can control. This does not mean that every moment will be pleasant and happy. There will always be times when our situation is uncomfortable or stressful. Learning to meditate helps us to learn to be comfortable with the uncomfortable. Meditation helps us to find peace in each moment through acknowledging and accepting a situation. We learn to experience our thoughts and feelings without reaction. As we meditate we acknowledge our thoughts and then let them go as we exhale. It is important to realize meditation takes effort and practice. It is best to start with a small dose; a minute or two at a time is a good start. Short meditations may be enough for you or you may need a longer practice. There are many ways to slow down enough to notice your thoughts and emotions and become comfortable in the moment.

One of the simplest places to start is with a short-guided meditation. Guided meditation is listening to someone to help you through a meditation. There are several apps with guided meditations; Calm and Insight Timer are both good places to look. Choose a short time to start and settle in and begin. The best way to start meditation is to find a place in your home where you can spend a few uninterrupted minutes. Move into a comfortable position, either seated or lying down. Close your eyes and take a few deep breaths. Begin to breathe in and out of the nose and start to follow the breath allowing your inhale and exhale to lengthen out a little. Settle into a comfortable breathing pattern. If you are listening to a guided meditation you will begin by being guided into the breath. Choose one that is a few minutes and when it is complete notice how you feel. Perhaps you may choose a word or a statement to inhale and exhale with, for example, “I am happy and healthy.” Continue to repeat the mantra over and over.

Another easy place to begin is walking meditation. Find a nice place for a walk. Unplug from any music or podcasts for this walk. As you walk listen to the sounds around you, really observe the beauty in nature and keep your attention focused on your surroundings. As you walk, breathe and observe the present moment, notice how you feel and hopefully, your mind has relaxed and enjoyed the release as well!

Try meditation for a few minutes this week and really take time to notice the way you feel afterward. Enjoy the blissful feeling of relaxation!

Professional Online Learning Opportunities

By Christine Olsen, MBA, Career Coach and Program Manager

How many times have we heard from our clients that they wish they had more time to brush up on skills or learn new topics or software applications relevant to their profession? Answer: too often.

Whatever their job status, they can make good use of their time at home learning to improve both soft and hard skills at no cost!
In addition to the popular LinkedIn Learning (was Lynda.com) which is offered to paying LinkedIn members, or free for the first 30 days of use, there are many other education options for those who want to enhance the basic academics (math, writing), or industry-specific related skills and knowledge, (SQL, Salesforce, project management, communication). Below are some recommended sites for you to explore. Let’s make social distancing productive by readying for career next steps!

Code Academy Dedicated specifically to teaching coding – how to write the code necessary to develop interactive websites using the most useful languages – HTML, CSS, JavaScript, jQuery, Python, Ruby, and PHP – and does it within the browser using interactive tools featuring a centralized dashboard where you can monitor your progress, plus organizes lessons into complete modules. This lets you learn an entire language without needing to pick the next course manually.

Open Culture Find hundreds of university courses without having to visit and search for each university’s own site. This is a very helpful resource with easy to browse categories for finding many courses in one area of study. Try Open Culture’s 1000 lectures, videos, and podcasts from universities around the world.

Coursera is one of the leading providers of massive open online courses (MOOCs) – it is a website that partners with universities and organizations around the world to bring a wide variety of topics and perspectives to one searchable database giving the site an extremely wide range of in-depth courses – some provide certificates of completion to recognize that you passed the class. This is a great place to enjoy learning in a structured classroom-style environment from home.

Kahn Academy is partnering with many post-secondary schools and curating many courses from around the web offering useable and impressive depth on many different subjects. The lectures are short and share a handful of information at a time but build on each other as you progress.

Udemy is a site that mixes free and paid course content – similar in concept to Coursera – but additionally allows users to build custom courses from lessons.

edX primarily focused on courses in math, the sciences, and engineering edX is a great option for free online education offering fully online courses from many different schools with teachers, discussion boards and quizzes primarily focused on courses in math, the sciences, and engineering.

MIT Open Courseware MIT Open Courseware is a treasure trove of the course material if you’re looking to learn more about science, computer and engineering topics. Massachusetts Institute of Technology, MIT is among the top universities for those subjects.

Stanford Online
Stanford Online offers self-paced and session-based courses. Some courses require iTunes, but most are completed in your web browser. Stanford Online is a great site for world-class courses, though the topics are somewhat limited.

Sites offering free online courses during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic which may be helpful to you and your family members!

Alison Explore resources from top universities

Academic Earth Get started with some coursework

Class Central Discover free online courses

COVID-19 Survival Guide: Self-Quarantine

Ann Stromberg

Ann Stromberg, Emotional Wellness Counselor

COVID-19 Self-Quarantine day # 857

It sure feels like we have been in quarantine for an eternity, but all joking aside this is a real test of our coping abilities. As our days run together, it becomes harder to know what day of the week it is! The longer we are quarantined, along with the daily changes to the “rules” of social distancing, the harder it is to feel positive that there is an end in sight. It is important now to continue to take care of ourselves and to find joy and happiness in each day. Keeping a schedule and remaining focused may feel more difficult, especially if your workload is decreasing. If that’s the case, create an opportunity to learn or do something new.

Our brain loves to learn; learning and doing new things are for the brain like exercise is for the physical body. Stimulating the brain is a great way to improve our brain health. It doesn’t matter what we learn or do, just by changing our routine we can stimulate brain activity. Simple things like changing where you sit at the dinner table or eating with your non-dominant hand can stimulate brain growth. If you are living with a houseful of people, make a game of it and have each person chose something to do that is different each day. Use the Internet! There are many opportunities for learning anything that piques your interest. These days at home may provide opportunities to have fun, be creative, or just expand your knowledge.

This week presents additional challenges as we enter Passover and Easter week. These holy days present challenges to the faithful all over the world as social distancing has forced most worship communities to close. Regardless of your tradition, it is likely this year it will be observed differently. Take time to find online options for community worship. Take time to connect with family by phone or set up a virtual celebration. Knowing this year’s observance will be different, identify the most important aspects and determine the best way for you to honor that tradition. Create a new normal this year and have fun! You may find that there are new ideas that you choose to keep when we all get back together.

Make this week the week you try something new, continue to spend time outside, and move your body. As this quarantine continues, staying productive at work may not be easy to do. Remember to do what you can, take breaks, find the thing to be grateful for, and practice kindness to yourself and others! Smile! Smiling improves our mood instantly! Being patient and kind is really needed now more than ever.

Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy.

          Thich Nhat Hanh