Best of Two Worlds: JVS Career Services Helps Client Leverage Past Experience to Gain New Position and Cultivate Skills

“I had no idea what to do,” said Michael Hoffman after he lost his job in July of 2020, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. “My resume was 20 years old and I never had to look for a job before—my two previous jobs found me.”

Hoffman said he tried a few things on his own, “but I wasn’t at all organized. I thought it would work like it did before—I just tell somebody I was looking for a job and they would point me to one.”

That’s when a friend recommended he start attending the free webinars for job-seekers from JVS Career Services. “I started to go to those, and that became part of the schedule I made for myself,” Hoffman said. “Having that to look forward to every Monday afternoon gave me something to focus on.”

Hoffman explained it was through those webinars that he learned the basics of finding a career in the 21st century. “I found out the things I learned in the 90s are outdated, and what was standard practice then would make me look out of touch now,” he said.

Eventually he took advantage of JVS Career Services’ offer of a free career coach to anyone who had lost their job due to COVID-19. “Brian Kerstine was my coach, and he was very helpful in getting me more focused,” Hoffman said. “He looked over my resume, set up practice interviews, and helped me polish my networking skills. He also helped me set goals—one of which was to send out 12 applications between each of our visits.”

Hoffman said Kerstine really pushed him out of his comfort zone and helped him apply for jobs that he normally wouldn’t. “Michael had skills that he didn’t know he had—we helped him discover those skills,” said Kerstine.

Kerstine recalls when he first encouraged Hoffman to apply for that position, it took some convincing. “He kept telling me that he wasn’t an analyst, and I had to point out to him his transferable skills that did qualify him for the role.”

“There’s no doubt in my mind,” said Hoffman, “that without the help I got from the team at JVS Career Services, I would still be unemployed.”

“The job I have now,” Hoffman said, “I never would have applied for without JVS Career Services understanding the talent I had within me—talent I didn’t even know I had. Long story short, I ended up in a position that is the best of two worlds. I had previously been in marketing research, and my new position is a marketing position. So I’m learning that role, but am also heading up the marketing research that will assist us with our marketing. So I get to do a little bit of what I know, and then I’m learning new stuff, too. I’ve even done a little analysis of market research that we’ve done in-house. So I can now say, ‘Yes, I can analyze data, too!’”

JVS Career Services helped Hoffman find his competitive edge, and expand the scope of his job search, while helping him articulate the skill set he had already developed. Hoffman believes that without JVS Career Services’ expertise, he would still be floundering; clumsily trying to network, while neglecting the scope of positions for which he was qualified. “I’m certain I would still be looking for work. Brian and the JVS Career Services team kept me focused,” Hoffman insisted. “They pushed me. Then, when I started having success, and going on interviews, that encouraged me; it showed me that I was doing something right—that people saw something in me and wanted to talk to me. That success keeps you going.”

Hoffman has already encouraged a few of his former colleagues to reach out to JVS Career Services. “About a dozen of us lost our jobs this summer,” he reflected. “And I’ve told them about my experience. I can’t recommend it enough. Brian was like my coach, teacher, and boss—all rolled in to one. Everyone at JVS Career Services was always very helpful, and very willing to give advice.”

To learn more about the wide variety of services JVS Career Services provides, please visit their website at: jvscareers.org.

Covid-19 Survival Guide: The Season of Hope

Ann Stromberg

By Ann Stromberg, Emotional Wellness Counselor

Hope is an emotional state that we have all experienced at one time or another. It is a trait inherent in everyone, and we all possess unique levels of hopefulness. Hope has several definitions: a feeling of expectation, the desire for a certain thing to happen, and wanting something to happen.

While we all have different levels of hope inherently, it is something we can increase with our beliefs and actions. Hope is also an important driver of positive emotion and happiness! We all need to see the future as full of potential during every stage of our lives.

Hope is a future-oriented belief system rooted in the belief that our dreams can become reality. One of the greatest times in life when hope is present is the changing of the seasons, especially winter into spring. Did you notice a positive shift in your outlook over the past week as we shed the mountains of snow and enjoyed some beautiful sunshine? It’s almost impossible not to feel a mood boost as we anticipate the onset of spring, perhaps more in 2021 than ever before!

The opportunity to head outdoors to enjoy all the beauty of spring along with the potential to socialize again naturally creates hope for our future. Being hopeful enhances our performance in all areas of life from academics and sports to career and relationships. Hope is closely related to optimism and happiness, and it’s essential in a positive mindset.

One phenomenon of the pandemic has been a loss of hopefulness due to social isolation, anxiety, and uncertainty about the future. If you have noticed that your level of hopefulness has been strained or reduced due to the events of the past year, there are strategies to help increase your hopefulness and happiness. The energy of the change of seasons is the perfect time to start! To begin to cultivate hope, you need to start with self-awareness.

Pay attention to your thoughts and ask yourself, does this belief help me? If the answer is that it does not, then take steps to change that belief and commit to it. Often just acknowledging the faulty belief is enough to make a shift. Create a list of reasons why the belief is false to help to create a new mindset for yourself. Writing a new story about our life and our life’s journey allows for the potential to create a hopeful future. Visualizing a positive future is essential for growth, along with the belief we can accomplish it. The belief we can do something creates hope and has the bonus of improving our brain health!

Growth is always good, it not always easy but it is good. Our belief that we can try something regardless of the outcome is key to maintaining a growth mindset. A boost in self-esteem occurs through our efforts to try and to work toward a goal. Honestly, is there anyone that can’t benefit from a boost in self-esteem?

To achieve change and to create a more optimistic, hopeful future also requires good self-care to maintain the incredible body and brain we are given. Movement, good nutrition, and good sleep not only help us feel better but also boost our immune system. Although creating good habits can be hard, it is so important to our well-being. There is no reason to make wellness a chore, a good balance is the 80/20 rule, which means 80% of the time you are focused on wellness you will utilize our good habits, and 20% of the time we allow for some time off without guilt.

Our mind, body, and soul are so deeply connected that when one area falls out of balance the rest falls out of balance too. It is easier to feel happy and hopeful when we feel good physically. If some of your good habits have taken a back seat during the winter, let the shift to spring be the reason to clean things up. Take advantage of the positive energy of the season to enjoy a new hopeful, optimistic way of life.

If you’re having trouble developing good habits, check out this Covid-19 Survival Guide: Habits post for inspiration.

Talent Acquisition for Nonprofits

A critical component of any successful talent management strategy is a strong plan. For many nonprofits, talent acquisition efforts are limited to placing ads, sifting through resumes, interviewing, and ultimately hiring and hoping for the best. To ensure your nonprofit is making the right hire, serious time should be given to developing an acquisition plan designed to attract qualified candidates, and effectively assess those candidates for skill and cultural fit. Here are four things your talent acquisition strategy could be missing:

Strong Employee Value Proposition

Have you defined your organization’s employee value proposition (EVP) in a way that clearly defines the value, rewards, and benefits your employees enjoy? Effective EVPs are simple, focused statements that summarize why someone would want to work with your organization.

To create an EVP, compile data from Employee Engagement, Onboarding, and Exit surveys. Work to identify key trends from these three types of employee/company interactions. This information might touch on the benefits your employees value, aspects of the workplace culture that help them succeed, or simply what they enjoy about working in your organization.

Strategic Sourcing

Are you placing ads on Indeed or LinkedIn and thinking that’s all there is to it? Or are you carefully targeting candidates on industry-specific or function-specific career sites? Strategically and proactively sourcing a talent pool for your organization’s current and future positions is paramount to building a robust and successful talent pipeline.

Review the data you’ve received from hiring sources to determine where you’re finding the best applicants. Review the resumes of current high-performing employees to revisit their backgrounds. Think back to where you found them, then use that information to streamline which sources you use for your latest searches.

A Candidate-Driven Focus

A positive candidate experience can be the difference between a failing talent acquisition strategy and one that routinely delivers excellent hires. To stay competitive, your organization needs to think about what applicants want; what will turn them off; what will attract them and encourage company loyalty; and what will result in the candidate selecting your organization over others.

It’s a good idea to stay in close contact with your applicants. Collect feedback from those who have been through the application process, and gather information on their attitudes toward your organization. You’ll want to ask what they thought of your particular application process, as well as what they think you could improve upon.

Culture

Review the vision for your workplace culture. Do you value having a group of employees who know, like, and trust each other? Is your company a place where employees feel valued and supported? Are there mechanisms in place to help employees work through difficulties? Are you striving to create an environment where work-life balance is prioritized? And finally, it’s a good idea to ask: what defines your company’s culture? Once you arrive at a fair and truthful answer, do everything you can to achieve it.

It can be hard developing your organization’s talent acquisition on your own. That’s where the expert help of JVS Career Services can come in. To learn about the wide variety of executive services JVS Career Services provides to Nonprofits, click here.

The Impact of Covid-19 on the Job Market

By Peter Landesman, Senior Business Development Manager

The most recent report from the US Labor Department shows that the US unemployment rate fell slightly to 6.3 percent in January 2021. Translating that number to individuals, at least 10.1 million persons are currently unemployed.

The most recent report from the US Labor Department shows that the US unemployment rate fell slightly to 6.3 percent in January 2021. Translating that number to individuals, at least 10.1 million persons are currently unemployed.

Although this is much lower than the rate in April 2020 (14.8 percent), unemployment is well above the pre-COVID levels of February 2020, when the rate was 3.5 percent. 

This data serves as a type of counterweight to the most recent report from the Labor Department’s Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS), which indicates that there are nearly 6.5 million job vacancies in the country. Job vacancy increases were seen in professional and business services, transportation, warehousing, utilities, and nondurable goods manufacturing. Decreases were reported in accommodation and food services.

While this kind of information might be easier to parse and analyze when one is not directly affected, it is harder for those who have lost a job and are actively looking for work. What are some options for today’s workers seeking employment?

Gap Jobs or Side Hustles

The loss of regular income can be traumatizing. Although many workers can qualify for unemployment benefits, the benefits may not be enough to cover basic living expenses. Some workers elect to take a “gap job” as a way to generate income while looking for a more suitable opportunity.

It is easier for those workers to seek jobs in high-demand sectors, where employers often offer fast-track or even immediate employment. Examples include retail, warehouse, financial services, and call center or customer service work.

Some workers take advantage of their gap job by leveraging their access to employee-only intranets, which can expose one to career opportunities that may not be posted on public sites, such as LinkedIn or Indeed.

Still, others take on side hustles—such as driving for Uber or DoorDash—during those times when they aren’t specifically looking for a job. 

Remote Positions 

Many workers do not feel comfortable working on-site during the pandemic. It’s now possible to search for remote jobs, which often means that job seekers can work for employers that are not located near them. This significantly increases the number of job opportunities, as the search area now becomes nationwide, or even worldwide, in scope. Local employers might also offer remote opportunities that have the potential to become on-site jobs once it is safe for that to happen.

Career Pivot

Some workers may want to consider changing or pivoting in their careers. Perhaps they feel that their industry will recover too slowly from the pandemic, or will not recover at all. Acquiring new skills, or enhancing existing skills, usually requires training.

One option is to investigate training opportunities offered through The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act. In Ohio, these grants, which help underwrite or defray the costs of the training, are administered on a county-by-county basis through OhioMeansJobs Centers.

Forge Ahead With a Traditional Job Search

For workers who have been laid off or furloughed due to COVID-19, seeking a similar job in one’s field is often the most appealing choice, and there are plenty of employers with open positions they need to fill. However, for those who worked in industries hardest hit by the pandemic, such as hospitality and restaurants, exploring options beyond your chosen field might be a wise course.

Job seekers who have the skills and the experience for available jobs can still face challenges, due to the greater competition for those open positions. Of course, candidates who have the ability and desire to network; candidates who can convert strong resumes into interviews; and candidates who excel in those interviews will always have an advantage. 

Fortunately, the education and training needed to acquire these skills are precisely what JVS Career Services is offering through their Career Success Package. To learn more about the wide variety of services JVS Career Services provides, please click here.

JVS Career Services Scholarship Programs Open for Applications

“College was something that I was kind of worried about how to pay for,” said Ohio State University senior Ashley Schlaeger. “I knew my parents would help me a little bit, but having the scholarship going in to college really helped me financially. It’s also helped me to keep my grades up, because one of the requirements is that you have a GPA of 3.0 or above.”

Since 1955, The Jewish Federation of Cincinnati Hilb Scholarship has been providing need-based financial assistance to students in the Cincinnati Jewish community.

“The Hilb Scholarship Fund is committed to making funds available for students who want to further their education after high school, and adults who want additional education and training,” said JVS Career Services CEO, Joni Burton. 

Gus Hilb established the Hilb Scholarship Fund at the Jewish Federation of Cincinnati in 1955 in honor of his parents, Mannis and Yetta Hilb, and since its inception it has been administered by JVS Career Services.

“Not only has the Hilb Scholarship been an immense financial help, but it has encouraged me to work to my full potential in all of my courses,” said Alex Katz, a senior at the University of Cincinnati. “I had a low GPA in high school, and I didn’t participate in many clubs or sports. I was lucky to have JVS Career Services take a chance on me.”

Katz continued, “I’m looking forward to what’s in store for me after graduation, and thanks to the skills I’ve gained over the past four years, I’m optimistic about my future. I would like to thank JVS Career Services from the bottom of my heart.”

For the 2020-2021 academic year, 83 Hilb scholarships, totaling more than $200,000, were awarded.

“I love watching the students succeed, and getting to know each of them individually,” said Kasey Rouse, Scholarship Coordinator at JVS Career Services. “I love that I have the chance to make a difference in so many lives.”

The Hilb Scholarship isn’t the only opportunity available to students. These additional funds are also available to students who complete the Hilb scholarship application: the Anne and George Heldman Family Scholarship Fund, the Saidel Award, the Guthman Award, the Graff Award, and the Weiss Award.

Another fund available is the Weiland Scholarship, which is open to Jewish residents of the Greater Cincinnati area who are attending Cincinnati State Technical and Community College. This fund is available through a separate application that is open throughout the year.

The last day to submit an application for the Hilb scholarship for the 2021-2022 academic year is May 1st, 2021. Students interested in applying must set up an appointment for an interview with the scholarship coordinator. You can learn more here.

Scholarship assistance is just one of the many services that JVS Career Services offers to students. The agency also works with students on career coaching, resume writing, networking, and interviewing skills all free of charge.  As students approach the end of their schooling, JVS Career Services helps students find internships or jobs after graduation. JVS Career Services is dedicated to helping students get the most out of their college careers, and will be there with them throughout their professional life.

How JVS Career Services is Helping Dan Rapp Get Back to Work

“My JVS Career Services career coach was Dedra, and she was brave when I was not,” remembered Dan Rapp. “She was confident when I felt insecure and her moxie was transferred to me. That really made a big difference in how I felt waking up each morning, how I went about my day and how I felt when I was lying in bed at night.”

Dan lost his job at the beginning of the COVID-19 lockdown and said he felt a sense of embarrassment about that. “When you’re laid off you’re just off balance, you’re not yourself.” Dan said he was at first reluctant to tell friends, family, and former coworkers that he was looking for work. “Then I realized getting laid off is not a unique experience. Almost everyone at some point will lose a job. There’s nothing to be embarrassed about,” and with that, Dan contacted JVS Career Services.

“Dedra and the staff at JVS Career Services really helped ground me and helped me work through some of the emotional distress and discomfort of not having a paycheck for the first time in 25 years.”

Because of the COVID-19 restrictions, JVS Career Services has moved its career coaching entirely online and over the phone. It is also hosting a number of free webinars to help job seekers, like Dan, improve their job seeking skills. “I took a really great workshop on how to get your LinkedIn page optimized so recruiters can find you more easily and find your skills more easily. That was really important to me.”

As for finding work when you’re unable to leave the house Dan said that has been an interesting experience, “I’ve always been a big networker, and for me, not being able to go out and have coffee or lunch has been hard, but JVS Career Services taught me how to move those networking meetings online. They made sure that I understood how to dress, what backdrop to have, and how to navigate this kind of networking versus in person networking.”

He said when he first lost his job he felt like he was missing out on a large cultural shift, “everyone is in Zoom, or Microsoft Teams, or any number of digital collaboration platforms, and I felt a little bit like I was on the outside looking in. Not only had I lost my job, but now I was missing out on the opportunity to learn this new way of communicating and doing business.”

Dan said that’s another reason doing digital networking is important; it keeps him involved and active with new technology.

“My advice for people who may have just been recently laid off is don’t panic. That’s easier said than done, but JVS Career Services is here to help you. Also, quickly start looking into filing for unemployment. JVS Career Services can help you with that, too. They understand the system, they understand how it works and they can walk you through it so that your income doesn’t go from whatever it was to zero.”

He said the most important piece of advice he can give anyone is, “there’s no shame in asking for help. Let JVS Career Services help you. Being laid off happens to almost everybody and is not unique to you. It feels unique to you because it’s personal and it’s happening right now. And if it’s happening during Corona virus, it’s feeling extra weighty, but there is help out there for you so just accept it and use it and listen to it.”

JVS Career Services is currently offering free virtual career coaching sessions to anyone experiencing hardship due to COVID-19. To get in touch and start your process, contact JVS or reach out by phone at 513-936-9675.

From Novice to Ace: How Mastering Video Interviews Helped Land Jeffrey a New Job

“Being laid off due to COVID-19 was a struggle,” recalled Jeffrey Goodman. “Conducting virtual interviews–I was totally out of my element. I had never been on a video call before. I didn’t even know how to change my name in the corner.”

But Jeffrey was able to master the art of video interviews thanks to the career coaches at JVS Career Services. “They were really able to help me out, and turn a negative into a positive.”

He was first connected with JVS Career Services while he was in college through a workshop for Cincinnati Hillel at the University of Cincinnati. Jeffrey said he then reached out to us after he was furloughed and ultimately laid off due to the pandemic.

All of Jeffrey’s career coaching was done over phone and video calls to help maintain social distancing. “That was something brand new that I had never done before that I had zero experience in, and we did mock interviews over video calls. We knew what the general questions I was going to be asked were, so they helped me form my responses. It was great to practice and get comfortable with what I was going to say during a real interview.”

Jeffrey said the mock interviews went beyond just preparing responses but, “how to be in the center of the frame, how to be professional, what I should wear.”

All of his hard work paid off and led to him earning the job he’s always wanted. “Take the career coaches’ advice, but don’t expect them to do the work for you. They are there to help guide you, but it’s still up to you do look for positions and get the interview. Working with them definitely made my chances of getting the job go up.”

“They were really able to help me out, and turn a negative into a positive,” said Jeffrey.

JVS Career Services is currently offering free virtual career coaching sessions to anyone experiencing hardship due to COVID-19. To get in touch and start your process, contact JVS or reach out by phone at 513-936-9675.

JVS Career Services Announces New Board Leaders During 2020 Annual Meeting

“Frequently, we discuss and measure what we do in very tactical terms,” said JVS Career Services’ new board chair, Denis Joseph. “We talk about running scholarship and internship programs. We talk about coaching job seekers. We talk about recruiting for organizations inside and outside of the Jewish community. And many other things.”

During JVS Career Services’ Annual Meeting, which was held virtually over a video call on June 22nd, Joseph was approved as the new board chair. For the last 80 years, JVS Career Services (JVSCS) has been helping connect Cincinnati residents with careers they love. However, Joseph wants to continue to push the organization to innovate and reinvent itself. “I want to invite us to view this work in even more strategic terms,” he said, “because when we view it just a bit differently, our stakeholders will see that the potential impact is greater than they imagined, and it may even inspire us to go about doing the work in ways that lead to more powerful outcomes.”

COVID-19 has forced JVSCS to reflect and look for new ways to reach its clients during a time of unprecedented unemployment. “As the demand for our services continues to grow, we’ve been able to swiftly realign our business structure to put a greater focus on job seeker services and career coaching,” said JVS Career Services’ CEO Joni Burton.

As part of that realignment, JVSCS is offering online seminars that give hundreds of community members access to the organization’s professional career coaches. “The number of participants taking part in our virtual programming continues to increase,” said Burton. “And we are actively preparing to help more individuals, as needs will likely escalate in the near future.”

Currently, more than 1,100 clients and program participants are working with JVS Career Services, an increase of 32% from this time last year. This number includes people who have been laid off and those who fear they may soon be laid off.

“While the way we currently talk about the mission and vision at JVSCS is centered on employment, we are actually helping create a stronger workforce in our community,” said Joseph. “The value creation from our work is exponential. The people filling the jobs are the ones allowing organizations to offer new services, build new locations, launch new projects, acquire new accounts, innovate, turn themselves around, and grow.”

Joseph went on to say that identifying “high octane” talent and helping companies develop that talent makes JVSCS a catalyst for economic renewal in the Cincinnati area, and with record unemployment due to COVID-19, that role is more important now than ever.

For the past two years, Joseph has served as JVSCS vice chair under Lori Frischer, whose term as board chair has come to an end. “Without Lori and the rest of the leadership team, we couldn’t have pivoted with the speed and agility we did this spring to deal with the COVID-19 outbreak,” Joseph said. “It was an impressive feat, but it once again put on display the competencies that differentiate JVS Career Services from other organizations.”

Looking back over her two years of leadership, Burton noted that Frischer often pushed her to make hard decisions. “I could always count on Lori for her direct communication, and to challenge me to be a better leader,” she said.  “Two years went by quickly, but Lori’s impact on JVS Career Services will continue to be felt; she helped us obtain our three-year grant from The Jewish Foundation, which will help us build the organization.”

A new executive board was approved during the meeting. It includes Joseph as board chair, Vallie Freeman as vice-chair, Ryan Silverman as treasurer, and Leon Seserman as secretary. Other board members also include Frischer as immediate past chair, Robert Oestreicher as previous past chair, and Sandy Kaltman, Mickey Fishman, Howard Kaplan, Alan Brown, and Jamie Rosen as managers.

JVS Career Services is proud to point out that Joseph, Frischer, and Freeman are members of the prestigious and selective Wexner Heritage Program. Founded in 1985, this program helps educate up-and-coming Jewish community leaders in the history, thought, texts, and contemporary leadership challenges of the Jewish People. It is through this training that JVSCS hopes to create strong, Jewish community leaders to take our community into the future.

The outgoing board members, who are: Jess Davidson, Adam Baker, Nina Loftspring, and Jeffrey Stern, were also recognized for their work and dedication.

“I would like to share how proud I am to be a part of an organization whose importance to the community has never been as great as it is today,” said Frischer. “Our intentional focus on jobs and careers from internships to second-acts are our driving force.”

With a future driven by COVID-19 uncertainty, JVS Career Services may be needed now more than ever. With strong and passionate leadership, and an organizational willingness to embrace change and innovation, JVSCS stands ready to meet whatever challenges are coming, and to continue to help Cincinnati residents connect with careers they love.

“We’re going to keep doing what keeps us great, and deal with the challenges that arrive,” said Joseph. “We’re going to seize the opportunities to make this agency a driver of important initiatives in Jewish Cincinnati.”

COVID-19 Survival Guide: Fighting Fatigue

Ann StrombergAnn Stromberg, Emotional Wellness Counselor

COVID-19 Fatigue is real!

We have been quarantined for almost five months now, and COVID-19 quarantine is an abnormal way of life. COVID-19 fatigue is the feeling of exhaustion, frustration, and disillusionment due to the pandemic. Frustration builds as people continue to react differently to the precautionary measures suggested for all of us. If you have been following all the recommendations, wearing a mask when out and sheltering in place, it is maddening to see so many choosing to do as they please.

The daily reports are even more distressing now, considering some cities are stepping back and closing up again. All of this is occurring without any clear knowledge of how long we will be facing these pandemic challenges. Considering all of this, you may be wondering if we will ever return to some version of normalcy. Facing an unknown situation is stressful and usually resolved when we get the situation under control.

How do we find control in a pandemic with so many unknowns? These prolonged feelings of uncertainty create chronic stress in our bodies. Chronic stress can feel very different from acute stress, like an accident or a sudden traumatic event. Chronic stress can wear us down physically and mentally slowly and sometimes without our knowledge.

Our body’s response to stress has not changed much through evolution even though our way of life has changed, our nervous system is still on the lookout for survival. In a nutshell, when the nervous system signals our body there is danger all of our flight or fight response will activate, and the other systems not needed for survival, are suppressed until the threat is over. Once the body receives the message we are safe, our nervous system tells our body to relax and return to normal functioning. Our thinking brain is turned off until the danger has passed, creating a decline in our executive functions. Chronic stress keeps our survival mode turned on, and this causes us to remain on high alert.

When we are chronically stressed, we lose the ability to think as clearly as possible. It suppresses our immune system, interferes with our sleep cycle, and eventually, our body gives up trying to regulate itself, and the stress response takes over. It doesn’t matter if we are working from home, looking for a new position, or making a career change. We can’t perform at our peak levels if our brain is not fully tuned in. We all want to do our best, and we need peak brain performance!

We do know how to live in balance and how to be our best selves, and we know it takes some effort to put our well being first. We have learned that abnormal is the new normal, and we are feeling tired of being at home. When we began to quarantine in March, it was novel, and we jumped in ready to charge through until we returned to our usual activities. As our time at home has grown well beyond what any of us expected, it may seem more challenging now to get motivated to do anything. This is the feeling of fatigue that is affecting a lot of us now. There are strategies to combat this fatigue and to re energize our daily routine. You can talk about how you feel, especially if you are quarantining with others. Talking with others may help to normalize some of the feelings you are all having.

Try to accept this new normal for what it is. We don’t have to like it, but accepting that we can’t change it ourselves can reduce frustration. Try getting up and moving. It’s hard to find a physical or emotional issue that exercise doesn’t help to improve. Try setting a schedule for your day, and don’t make it so rigid that you are bound to fail. Create small blocks of time to help your daily progress, including the time to get outside, move around, spend time with family, and block off the time you need to be working. Be sure to be gracious to yourself if the schedule gets derailed, it can always be fixed the next day.

Start setting a time to go to bed and a time to wake up. Keeping your sleep schedule regular will help you get a restful night of sleep, and our body needs time to rest and repair to allow our nervous system to regulate. Make an effort to stay connected with friends and family, in whatever manner is available to you now even a phone call strengthens our social connections. Find time every day for gratitude. No matter what our challenges are, we can always find gratitude. Let’s all remain healthy and hopeful so we can move past this COVID-19 pandemic as soon as possible.

COVID-19 Survival Guide: Beliefs and Character

Ann StrombergAnn Stromberg, Emotional Wellness Counselor

Beliefs and Character

We have all felt the uncertainty of our world during the past few months. How do you respond to uncertainty? Do you feel anxious or in total control? Our deep beliefs influence our response to difficult challenges. Our belief system influences our biological and emotional responses to all situations we encounter, both positive and negative. Our beliefs also influence our character, the qualities we show the world, and the way we experience life.  

You have likely heard the concept that our inside influences our outside, what we show the world. This is not a new concept, but one that is worth review. Consider that 95% of our behavior is controlled by our subconscious mind outside our conscious awareness. Our subconscious mind allows us to do ordinary daily activities without using a lot of consciousness. An example of how we allow the subconscious mind to lead would be driving and realizing we were not paying attention to the route but still reached the destination. We can use our brainpower for more challenging tasks and learning. Most of the decisions we make with our conscious mind. However, our subconscious mind drives most of our behavior. 

We still blame outside influences if we are not happy with the results, not recognizing our limiting beliefs. Our subconscious beliefs are based on what we internalized as children. Dr. Bruce Lipton in The Biology of Belief says we can use positive affirmations to confirm our intelligence, but if our subconscious messages we received were that we are dumb or worthless, that will always override our affirmations. 

Outside of our awareness, our subconscious mind overrides our conscious thought. These beliefs that we internalize early in life are our deep belief system, and our mind wants to protect them. Our body’s natural protection system will naturally override the growth system, so it is a challenge to shift these deep beliefs. The protection system is linked to our body’s stress response to challenges. Our bodies cannot be stressed and have a positive growth at the same time.

As you know, there are many techniques to build our self-awareness and to notice the signs of our distress within us. Frequently when our thoughts, feelings, and actions are not aligned, it will manifest in physical symptoms, a stress response. We can use mindfulness to begin to notice when the stress response that has developed, usually with physical symptoms. Slowing down and paying attention to our thoughts and feelings allows us to tune into the subconscious thoughts. 

As we gain awareness of our beliefs, we can begin to align them and our actions, diminishing the distress within us. Our character brings together our mental and moral qualities, and these should align with our beliefs and behaviors. Some believe we are born with characteristics that make us who we are. However, the positive character can be cultivated and grown by our conscious thoughts and behavior. We can develop our character by doing things that align with our belief system. Our beliefs help to shape our character, and growth occurs when we are humble and teachable. Service to others also builds character.   

The beauty of this complex physical and emotional balance we strive to achieve is that we are in control of our health and well being. Our beliefs do become our biology, and yet we can create our best selves. We must take time to assess our thoughts and feelings by slowing down and listening to our bodies. Find the technique that best fits you, meditation, prayer, sitting quietly, anything that allows for introspection. We can find peace in knowing we can grow and change as necessary, creating our best self with a strong character.

Your beliefs become your thoughts

Your thoughts become your words

Your words become your actions

Your actions become your values

Your values become your destiny

Mahatma Gandhi