LifeCraft Counseling & Coaching of Denver

Archive for January 2017

Workplace Stress: Is the Office Rat Race Bothering You?

Workplace Stress

Workplace StressFor many aggressive and driven individuals, the workplace is like a second home. It is where you feel supported and valued. A healthy workplace motivates employees, inspiring you to be better and to achieve greatness in your chosen field.

There are times, however, when the struggle for wealth and recognition creates an unhealthy work environment which adds to your stress. This takes a toll on your psychological health and general well-being, affecting not only your productivity but the business’ bottom line, as well. This stress may develop into a mental health risk.

Common Mental Health Problems

Around 40 million Americans – or one in five adults – struggle with mental health conditions. Mental health problems among the youth have also worsened, with incidences of youth depression increasing from 8.5% in 2011 to 11.1% in 2014, according to the community-based nonprofit organization Mental Health America.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition shares that anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are the most common mental health disorders affecting employees. One study found that depression ranked first among five health problems which cost companies a hefty amount of money on medical and pharmacy expenses.

Avoiding the Stigma

A study published by the Harvard Health Publications acknowledges the fact that mental health disorders in the workplace are often unrecognized and untreated. This is understandable as employees are reluctant to seek treatment because of the stigma that comes with the condition. While the symptoms go unnoticed, the effects are often tangible, such as the sudden and significant decrease in productivity.

Some companies and studies use the World Health Organization’s Health and Work Performance Questionnaire to gauge the mental health situation in an office. This research tool asks employees certain questions, such as how many days they call in sick for work, and assesses their performance at work.

Mental health problems are no longer isolated cases and may affect any gender, race, and socioeconomic status. Or they could be triggered by workplace stress. If you often feel under the weather due to the rat race you’re in, there are services you can access to help you deal with office struggles and other issues. At LifeCraft Counseling, LLC, we offer therapy and counseling in Denver to help you cope with challenges.

Contact us now for more information or to schedule your consultation.

How to Make Friends and Amp Up Your Social Life

Denver life coach, counselor, and therapist Gideon Killion shares some thoughts about make friends and improve your relationships.

Modern life can feel really lonely sometimes. It seems like we’re connected 24/7 to social media and our phones, but somehow that doesn’t always translate into a sense of being truly connected with others.

If you’re feeling a social disconnect and want to forge new friendships in real life, you may not be exactly sure how to begin. Here are some suggestions to get you started meeting new people.

snowshoe-conversation_denver_life_coachConnect through Shared Interests

One of the most effective ways to make like-minded friends is to pursue an interest or hobby that involves other people. Whether you’re into foosball tournaments, car shows, or martial arts, there’s sure to be a group or event near you. Or you could take a class to try out a new skill, like improv or beginning guitar. I learned the hard way that many people are put off or intimidated by direct invitations to become friends. But friendships develop naturally when you’re doing things together.

Ask Questions

When you find yourself in a social situation and aren’t sure what to say to someone, it always helps to get curious about them. Most people enjoy talking about themselves. Look for clues in their conversations about what they’re interested in, what they like to do, and what’s important to them so that you have an idea of where to start. If there are no clues offered, ask open-ended questions such as, “What do you do for work?” Then encourage them to provide more detail by asking a follow-up question like, “How’d you end up in that career?”

Build In Time to Meet People

We have a tendency to over-schedule ourselves these days, always rushing to the next meeting or errand. This makes it unlikely that we’ll have time for genuine interactions with anyone outside our usual sphere of work and home. You can change this by deliberately building in time around your activities so that you can meet and talk to people. Arrive early for appointments so that you have an opportunity to chat with someone in the waiting room. When you’re planning a trip to the gym or the grocery store, schedule some cushion time before and after so that you can start up a conversation if the chance arises.

Listen More, Talk Less

adults-socializing_denver_counselor

In a one-on-one conversation, it’s ideal to be talking about 40% of the time. This is the perfect ratio because it means you’re mostly listening, but you’re also doing enough sharing of your own that the other person can get to know you. If you find yourself talking more than this in a conversation with a new acquaintance, you can shift the balance by asking them a question.

Keep It Positive

Do as little complaining, criticizing, or arguing as you can. It’s also a good idea to keep sarcasm or dark humor to a minimum until you really get to know someone. (This is a place I often over do it!) Even when you do know someone, it’s wise to keep it balanced. Most people want to spend time with someone who is pleasant and positive overall. If you make someone uncomfortable by going too negative, they may avoid hanging out with you in the future.

Share Things Slowly

It’s great to find friends we can be honest with about things that are difficult. On the other hand, it’s tempting to dive in way too soon. Do share your troubles, but wait until you’ve developed some trust. Plan to share at first in small doses, and try to give the other person the chance to do the same with you. It should feel like an even exchange, and the amount of detail or heavy emotion you share is generally going to be comparable to the length of time you’ve known someone.

Pay Your Own Way

This is a simple one, but it’s one that many people overlook, and it’s powerful. In short, always pay your fair share at restaurants, parties, and so on. People will remember if you don’t. Along the same lines, it may feel awkward to new acquaintances if you offer to pick up the check, since the social norm is to stay on equal footing with people you don’t know well. The safest tactic is to expect that everyone will split the bill.

Check Your Skills

If you’re not sure whether your behavior may be a little off, ask for feedback about your social skills from people you know and trust. Tell them you’re looking for constructive criticism so that you can improve anything that might be scaring off new friends.

Remember that It’s Hard for Everyone

Sometimes socializing is just going to feel awkward. Those awkward moments don’t mean you’re doing it wrong; they just mean you’re human. It happens to everyone, even folks who are good at it.

If you think you might need more in-depth assistance with social skills or other friendship issues, give me a call to learn whether counseling or coaching at one of my Denver offices would be able to help. I’ve spent a lot of time and energy learning (sometimes the hard way) how we make and keep friends, and I’d love to share what I’ve learned with you. Contact me to arrange a free consultation and find out how I can help.

This is your brain on politics

Denver counselor, therapist, and life coach, Gideon Killion, shares some thoughts about the ways our brains skew our thinking.

funny-man-thinking-about-finding-a-denver-counselorLike many people, on Friday I watched the inauguration of President Trump. And like many people, I am very much wondering what the next four years are going to be like.

Studying psychology and working as a counselor has changed the way I see politics, especially the way in which we, as a nation, seem to be so divided. (Actually, there is a good argument to be made that the US is made up of not one nation but several. If you’re curious, check out the book American Nations, by Colin Woodard.)

Our brains distort the way we perceive reality

Before, I would have blamed it purely on differences in issues and values, but now I believe that our divisions actually have a lot to do with something we all have in common — the fact that our brains distort the way we perceive reality.

These are called cognitive distortions, and we’re all susceptible to them. Here’s an example: once you form an opinion, your brain — without asking or telling you — starts looking for and emphasizing information that supports your position, and it starts discounting or ignoring evidence against it. This particular distortion is known as confirmation bias. Research shows that the more you care about an issue, the stronger this distortion is.

No-one is immune

We also all share an instinct for tribalism. We have a strong tendency to see the world in terms of us vs. them: to see the group with which we identify, whether it’s a political party, a religion, a nation, or a race, as good, and to see the others as bad.

When you combine tribalism with cognitive distortion, it’s no wonder that we so often and easily divide into Left and Right and wonder how the other side could possibly see the world so differently. And so we draw the conclusion that they must be stupid, misinformed, or ill-intentioned.

Heading into a new presidential era, my hope for my country is that more and more people will become aware of how all of our brains distort our perception of the world, particularly the things we care most about. I hope more people — myself included — will make a habit of looking for and challenging these distortions in our own thinking, not just in those of the people we disagree with.

Of course, being rather cynical, I’m not holding my breath.

But if you want to learn more about our tendency for irrationality and skewed perceptions, I highly recommend the excellent website and blog, You Are Not So Smart.

I would also recommend reading any of the following great books:

Ariely has some great Ted talks, here: https://www.ted.com/talks?sort=newest&q=dan+ariely

… as does Gilbert, here: https://www.ted.com/talks?q=dan+gilbert&sort=newest

… and Kahneman, here: https://www.ted.com/talks?q=kahneman&sort=newest

I would love to know what you think about this topic!

How to Make New Year’s Resolutions That Lead to Real Change

Gideon Killion, a therapist, coach, and counselor in Denver, Colorado, offers some thoughts about New Year’s resolutions that work.

Funny man eating a donut.It’s natural to feel drawn toward change and growth at this time of year. For many people, the New Year offers an opportunity to turn the page and have a fresh start.

But with all the advice out there about forming new habits, setting “SMART goals,” and motivating yourself, it can be confusing to know how to begin. I’d like to share an insight about how to shift behavior patterns. It’s my belief that New Year’s resolutions usually fall flat, not because we fail to try hard enough, but because the goals we’ve set are lacking adequate support. It helps to have intent as a support framework.

Trying to force a new outcome can feel like an uphill battle, unless you determine a specific intention to support your goal. That’s because goals are set in the future, but what actually gets you to that finish line is the choice you make right now, in each moment. Intent helps you to identify which choices of today will help you reach your future goal.

Another way of looking at intent is that it allows you to clarify your values. Goals define “what” you want to accomplish; intent helps you understand “why” (the motivation for change). Goals are detail-focused, but intent provides the big-picture view of how your goals will get you where you want to go.

So here’s an example:

Goal: I will write one chapter of my novel by January 21st.
Intent: I am embracing a daily writing practice.

See the difference? The intent, which is focused in the present, provides the framework and mindset that supports the goal, which is placed in the future.
With this distinction in mind, here is my practical advice for creating real change in your life.Woman stretching in a tracksuit

1. Recognize that goals require sacrifices, and make your goal proportional to your willingness to endure sacrifice.

One of the most common mistakes people make with New Year’s resolutions is trying to go from zero to 60. Moving from inaction to full-on commitment is usually unsustainable because it’s just too painful to make the personal sacrifice required.
Using intention as a framework can help. If your goal is to do a cardio workout twice a week but you hate gyms, the personal sacrifice of submitting to an unpleasant environment may be too painful over the long term. Reflecting on the intent behind your goal can help you find a way to adjust the pain meter so that a smaller sacrifice is required. If your intent is “choosing to move more and sit less,” you could reconsider whether enduring the gym is the only way to get a cardio workout. What about playing Ultimate Frisbee with friends on Saturdays and going for a run with a friend on Thursdays?

2. Consider making a series of small achievable changes that together add up to something bigger.

Checking in with your intent every day can spark small changes that add up, over time, to a significant behavioral shift. The key is to focus on things that are easily achievable—just one step removed from what you’re already doing. In the case of “choosing to move more and sit less,” you might set a few related small goals that get you moving just a little more than before. If you’re famous for finding the closest possible parking spot, try parking one row over. Always take the elevator to the 4th floor? Decide that you’ll take the stairs to the 2nd floor and ride up from there. It’s true that one tiny change by itself doesn’t make much of a dent in your activity level. But several tiny changes can easily become new habits, and you can continue shifting your behavior in small increments until one day you find that you’ve made a major shift.

3. Don’t try to change behaviors without adjusting the supporting context.

When you try to create change in an environment that doesn’t support change, it won’t stick. The best way to address this problem is to come up with a structure for success—a plan that’s big enough to handle the change you want to make. The most effective plan will be one that anticipates setbacks and includes rewards for progress. That’s because you’re human: you will make mistakes, and you will be more committed to a plan that gives you positive feedback in the form of small rewards.

Scott Adams, the guy who created Dilbert, suggests that goals don’t produce changes, but rather systems do. For any goal he’s wanted to reach, he has put in place a system that is calculated to produce that result. I think “system” is an extension of intent—a thought-out plan for manifesting an intention on a consistent and in-the-moment basis.

And here’s the best part: when your resolution is based on a framework of intent, it’s more likely to produce beneficial and healthy changes even if you don’t reach the specific goal.

If you’re looking to create big or small changes in your life but aren’t sure how to take the next step, you might need a coach or counselor to walk you through it. Give me a call today, ask for a consult at one of my Denver locations, and learn more about how I can help.