LifeCraft Counseling & Coaching of Denver

wellness

Is anxiety hurting you at work or in your relationships?

Denver counselor Gideon Killion shares some insights about the impact of anxiety.

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We all have moments of anxiety in certain situations, whether it’s a performance review at work or waiting to hear the results of a medical test. But for some of us, it goes beyond that, with anxiety showing up much more often and in more ordinary situations. When it does, this kind of anxiety can have a real impact on your relationships and work (not to mention your ability to enjoy life). If this sounds like it might be you, you’re not alone. It’s estimated that 18% of Americans over 18 have experienced the effects of an anxiety disorder. Anxiety is something that I have struggled with, so I know what it’s like. I’d to share with you some of the signs of anxiety to watch out for, as well as what you can do to get a handle on it.

Signs of anxiety to watch out for

Here are some of the most common signs that anxiety is interfering with your optimal functioning. One or two of these experiences could be due to other factors, but if you find that multiple items are relevant to you right now, anxiety could be the culprit.

Things to watch for at work:

  • You have intrusive thoughts about your own shortcomings, in which any mistake becomes a catastrophe.
  • You avoid normal interactions with people, such as by procrastinating on returning voicemails.
  • You feel overwhelmed, “out of control,” or like you can’t cope with job expectations.
  • You are extremely nervous about meetings, presentations, etc., to the point of having physical symptoms (such as nausea) or being unable to participate.
  • You find yourself arriving late or leaving early in order to minimize the time spent at work.

Things to watch for in your close relationships:

  • You feel annoyed by or suspicious of the other person with no particular trigger, or your reaction seems out of proportion to what the other person has done.
  • You make excuses to be alone rather than with the other person (for example, saying that you don’t feel well or have to work late).
  • You are rarely able to relax with your partner or have fun together.
  • You are so focused on your own thoughts or worries that you feel emotionally disconnected from your partner.
  • You have feelings of dread or pessimism about the relationship, even though it has previously felt stable and supportive.

If several of these descriptions apply to your experience in a relationship or at work, you may be seeing the side effects of anxiety.

Things that Don’t Help When You’re Anxious

It may be hard to know what to do when anxious feelings come up. These are a few of the most common — but also least effective— responses to anxiety.

Ignoring it: For many people, the natural tendency in trying to cope with anxious feelings is to minimize or deny the problem. You may find yourself hoping that anxiety symptoms will just go away on their own. What often happens, though, is that trying to ignore anxiety can make it worse—either more frequent or more intense.

Isolating: A common side effect of anxiety is self-consciousness. You may worry that you’re acting strangely around others (or that they will guess how anxious you’re feeling). Although trying to stay away from others provides a short-term solution to this problem, isolating yourself can make coping with anxiety more difficult in the long term.

Self-medicating: It’s tempting to use alcohol or drugs to take the edge off your anxiety symptoms, but they come with their own problems, like dependency. There are healthier ways to address the problem.

Handling anxiety on your own

If mild anxiety is having a negative effect on relationships or causing problems at work, you may be able to counter it simply by providing yourself with in-the-moment techniques to reduce anxiety right away. Here are a few things that can be immediately useful at times when you notice you are feeling anxious:

Count blue things. It sounds ridiculous, but this simple trick can be very effective in calming your nervous system. Look around the room and silently identify each thing you see that’s blue: “the spine of a blue book, a blue highlighter, two people wearing blue shirts.” This technique works because it tricks your brain into shifting gears and focusing on a cognitive task.

Listen to the ticking of a clock or analog watch. This has a soothing effect for most people because a clock ticks at about the same speed as your own normal resting heart rate. You don’t even need an actual clock or watch—a virtual one will do. Search for “ticking clock” on YouTube, or download an app like G Clock that replicates the sound of the swinging pendulum of a grandfather clock.

Engage in proprioceptive actions. Proprioception refers to your own physical sense of your body in relation to the things around it. Thus, any action that involves proprioceptive input can help to calm your nervous system. This can be as simple as chewing gum, or as complex as playing a ball game like basketball or football in which your body comes in contact with the ball. Other simple proprioceptive techniques include squeezing a stress ball, pushing your palms against a wall, or eating a crunchy food like pretzels.

Getting help with your anxiety

When your anxious feelings don’t respond to the simple techniques listed above, or if you feel so anxious most of the time that you’re having difficulty functioning in your normal work and home routines, it’s a good idea to get professional help. Anxiety can be treated through counseling as well as through medication, or both.

A medical doctor, like your primary care physician, or a psychiatrist, can evaluate your symptoms and prescribe medication. It can take a few tries to get the right medication and the right dose, and all medications can have side-effects, so it’s important to stay in contact with your doctor during this process.

Counseling is also an effective treatment for anxiety, for most people. Simply talking to a counselor on a regular basis can be helpful for some people, but the treatment can also include things like uncovering subconscious thoughts and feelings, challenging or defusing intrusive thoughts, or practicing mindfulness and relaxation skills. If you are wondering whether counseling might be able to help you with your anxiety, I would be honored to talk to you. Please contact me and we’ll set up a free, 30-minute consultation at one of my Denver counseling locations.

How Hidden Depression Could Be Hurting Your Career

depressed-man-on-pc-looking-for-a-denver-counselorDenver counselor, coach, and therapist Gideon Killion shares some thoughts on the cost of undiagnosed depression.

Are you struggling to stay motivated at work? Have you been feeling physically or mentally tired or had difficulty concentrating? Do you have trouble making decisions or keeping track of important information at your job?

Career difficulties can arise for both external and internal reasons, but it’s important to ask yourself whether a psychological condition like depression could be the root cause.

If so, you’re not alone. The American Psychological Association estimates that based on 2013 data, up to 9% of adult men experience feelings of depression or anxiety on a daily basis. But depression and other mood disorders can be tricky to identify correctly on your own, given that men’s depression symptoms may not always include the “classic” elements such as sadness. Sometimes depression symptoms may also show up as physical indicators, such as digestive changes or simply feeling more tired than usual.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, depression in men can include some (but not necessarily all) of the following symptoms:

  • Feelings of emptiness, hopelessness, or anxiety
  • Unusual anger or irritability
  • Fatigue, either physical or mental
  • Difficulty focusing on work or trouble with short-term memory
  • Changes in sleep patterns or appetite
  • Physical pain, including headaches, digestive issues, or cramps
  • Reduced interest in activities that used to be pleasurable, including family life, hobbies, and sex
  • Difficulty functioning in everyday life, both at work and at home

Here are some of the ways that chronic depressed mood could negatively affect your day-to-day effectiveness at work and even have long-term consequences for your career.

Impact on Productivity

No one is at their best professionally when they’re struggling with depression. A chronically depressed mood makes it difficult to concentrate on detail work or keep track of important data. It can also lead to problems with time management, thanks to depression’s way of dulling your ability to make executive decisions and stay focused on one activity at a time. In a chaotic work environment with many interruptions, the irritability associated with depression may make it difficult to avoid blowing up at others.

No Motivation to Move Ahead

If you’re barely mustering the energy to show up on time and put one foot in front of he other, it makes sense that depression can put the brakes on a promising career. One of the hallmarks of major depressive disorder is the loss of interest in activities that you once enjoyed. When depression has sapped you of motivation to take on new responsibilities and seek opportunities to be promoted, it’s unlikely that you will move beyond your current rung on the career ladder. And the mental or even physical fatigue that comes with chronic depression can make small challenges seem insurmountable.

Cumulative Effects on Work Relationships

Depression can intensify some of the challenges of day-to-day work, such difficulty coping with tense co-worker dynamics or unexpected policy changes. Men who are depressed often find themselves withdrawing from peer interactions at work, leading them to feel increasingly more isolated.

Telling your boss—or not—is another challenge of depression in the workplace. It may feel good to be honest about your struggles and ask for specific accommodations, or you may be afraid to disclose this information to management.

Regardless of whether you decide to let your supervisor or co-workers know how being depressed has affected you at work, it can be helpful to connect with others outside the workplace who understand the struggle of coping with a mood disorder. Here in the Denver area, there are several Meetup.com groups focused on depression, including one called Freedom From Anxiety and Depression. There are also several structured support groups for people with depression in the Denver metro area; for details, see NAMI Colorado.

Sometimes chronic or severe symptoms of depression can require professional help in order to improve. If you need help with resources for counseling in Denver or specific ways to cope with depression, give me a call at (303) 952-0168, email me at gideon@lifecraftcounseling.net, or use my contact form.

How to Make Your Smartphone an Ally Instead of an Enemy

Denver counselor, therapist, and life coach Gideon Killion shares some thoughts on making technology work for you.

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If you’re like most people, you don’t go anywhere without your phone. Unfortunately, if you’re like most people, you have a love/hate relationship with it.

Smartphones can make our lives easier, more efficient, and more fun. They can also turn us into disengaged individuals who can’t look up from a screen to experience the world “in real life.”

For those of who struggle with this complex relationship, here’s some advice that has been effective for my coaching clients.

How to Let Your Phone Help You (Not Hurt You)

By making the most of what technology can offer you, it’s possible to turn your smartphone into a strong ally that support your values and goals. Here’s how:

  • Smartphones exist primarily for communicating with others, so find ways to use it in increasing quality time with friends and family. Have phone or video calls with family members who don’t live nearby. Get in touch with a local friend via text to set up a time for coffee or dinner. Or use your phone to sustain a long-running group email or text conversation.
  • Take advantage of smartphone apps that are designed to help you learn new habits, such as HabitBull, Loop Habit Tracker, or Fabulous. You can also use apps for specific types of activities, such as running, meditation, eating well, doing yoga, learning Mandarin, etc. Even the most basic reminder or timer app can be used to help you take a break from regular activities (especially sitting) to do things like taking a stretch break, drinking some water, checking in to be mindful of your current emotions, or making a call to a friend.
  • Use your phone to listen to books and podcasts while doing housework or driving. These mindless tasks can be enhanced by taking the opportunity to learn something new and connect with the world outside of your daily routine.

Don’t Let Your Smartphone Become Your Enemy

As you probably know, it’s easy to become addicted to the constant stimulation and distraction that your smartphone can offer. That’s because occurrences such getting an email notification or refreshing your social media feed to check for new posts can provide a dopamine rush in the brain—a pleasurable sensation that is comparable to the use of stimulant drugs.

And the idea of being away from your phone might be uncomfortable. In a 2015 study, researchers found that people who were separated from their iPhones for a few minutes actually experienced physical symptoms of anxiety, such as increased blood pressure.

If you don’t want to be dependent on your smartphone to get through your day, there are ways you can regain control:

  • Adjust your settings to turn off audio alerts for most things (other than emergency or weather alerts).
  • Decide which notifications are truly urgent for you, and which information you can wait to manually check at certain times during the day.
  • Set aside specific times of day to manually check voicemail, email, tweets, and so on.
  • Use a feed reader or news aggregator site to curate news from specific sources, then set a limit on how frequently you’ll look at it (and for how many minutes at a time).
  • Make a commitment to stay engaged with the physical world instead of always focusing attention on your phone. This is particularly important when you’re driving, biking, or walking across the street, when it’s not safe to be on your phone. It’s also important in most interactions with another human, when looking at your phone can come across as rude.

Smartphones can either help or hurt us. I believe that most people are happiest when they make conscious choices about how to use their phones and when to put them away. Remember, even when you’re waiting in line, sitting on a bus, or just out walking, there’s plenty out there in the real world to interact with—including other humans. Sometimes you might even use the opportunity to take a deep breath and relax.

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

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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.

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.

5 Factors that Lead to Loneliness

Denver counselor and coach Gideon Killion shares some ideas about loneliness and what to do about it.

denver-counseling-lonely-manThese days, a lot of people — particularly men — struggle with feeling lonely and disconnected. Sometimes loneliness can be a motivator to connect with new people, as when we change jobs or move to a new city. But for many people, loneliness is a chronic problem. We want close friends and meaningful relationships, but we don’t know how to go about finding and building them.

Aside from being a really uncomfortable emotional experience, loneliness also has negative health repercussions. A lack of close friends can contribute to both mental and physical health problems. One study of senior citizens found a tie between loneliness and the likelihood of developing dementia. Chronic feelings of loneliness have also been linked to heart disease and other serious health issues.

Almost everyone experiences periods of loneliness, but it’s helpful to identify the main factors in your particular situation. Which of these statements describe you?

  1. You have tons of friends, but you still feel lonely or like you don’t truly belong anywhere.

It’s common nowadays to have lots of superficial connections that we call “friends” and yet still be lonely. These friendships lack closeness. They are people who will do stuff with us, but not ones who actually care enough to ask how we’re doing. In the end, it’s the quality of friendships that matters most for your health, not quantity. Without close and meaningful friendships, we are emotionally isolated.

  1. You had devoted and emotional friendships as a kid, but your adult friendships aren’t as deep.

In the book “Deep Secrets,” Niobe Way explores the emotional intimacy that young boys often experience with peers—a connection we tend to lose in adulthood in favor of friendships that are activity-based but not emotionally significant. Much like the phenomenon of “work friends” that don’t remain friends after changing jobs, these activity-centered friendships tend to fade out when the shared activity is no longer a priority for both men.

  1. You have several close friends, but none of them are friends with each other.

Most people find that they have lots of one-to-one relationships with people who are not connected to each other. When our key friendships all happen independently, we are more likely to feel lonely. In contrast, when some or most of our closest friends are also friends with each other, we have a greater sense of belonging due to being part of a like-minded group.

  1. Most of your social interactions happen through social media—online, not in person.

The ubiquitous presence of smartphones in our lives means that we constantly have texts, email, Twitter, and Facebook at our fingertips, giving us the illusion of connection with others but in a very superficial way. We may feel as if we’re “connected” 24/7, but there may not be much substantial connection really happening. Meanwhile, we’re missing out on potential real-world connections all the time by never looking up from our phones.

  1. You’ve had successful romantic relationships, but you have no idea how to connect emotionally with male friends.

Our culture is incredibly focused on finding a mate, to the point that all of our energy goes into finding and keeping romantic or intimate relationships. This has taught us not to prioritize finding and keeping friends in the same way, so we haven’t really developed the skills it takes to maintain platonic friendships. Our culture has also made this more difficult by offering a limited notion of what it means to be a man. Many men constrain their expression of emotions with other men out of fear that they may be perceived as “unmanly” or gay. Unfortunately, this keeps us from being able to experience significant friendships in which we can support our male friends on an emotional level and receive that support from them in return. (This narrow understanding of manhood or manliness has many other negative effects both on men, whether gay or straight, and on society in general.)

These are some of the factors in modern life that can lead men to feel lonely. Some men are able to get unstuck from this pattern of aloneness on their own. But sometimes a long-term sense of loneliness can only be untangled with the help of a therapist or life coach as a trusted companion on the journey. Click here to learn about counseling and coaching for men in Denver, or here to learn more about all the services LifeCraft Counseling & Coaching offers men and women in Denver.

How to Find Fulfillment at Work
(Even When You Don’t Like Your Job)

Denver counselor and coach Gideon Killion shares some ideas about what to do when you don’t like your job.

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Are most people happy at work? The answer depends on who you ask. According to one 2016 study, about 88% of Americans surveyed felt satisfied in their jobs. On the other hand, a different survey in the same year found that only 49% reported satisfaction with their work situation.

In my Denver counseling practice, I meet a lot of people who are unhappy in their professional life. Some of them are not sure they are in the right career, while others believe they’re on the right general path but feel unsatisfied and unfulfilled in the day-to-day experience of their current job.

If you’re unhappy at work, you may not have the option of immediately leaving to find something better. But there are concrete steps that you can take to increase your sense of fulfillment.

Identify Your Purpose

One of the most important factors in job satisfaction is having a sense of purpose. It can be helpful to deliberately reflect on the ways that your daily job tasks benefit other people—including specific clients/customers, your co-workers, and society at large. Take a few minutes to think through this in writing, or discuss it with a friend. In addition to thinking about how your work benefits others, consider the ways in which it is personally meaningful to you. Then, see if you can distill all of these thoughts into one or two sentences, like a personal mission statement. You might choose to write these sentences on an index card and place it in your work area where you can see it each day as you arrive to begin your workday.

In his book “Drive,” Daniel Pink identifies purpose and mastery as two of the three key motivators in human behavior. Mastery, or becoming more skilled over time in a specific task, can be a significant influence on work satisfaction. What skills have you developed in your professional life that contribute to your sense of purpose at work? Consider how you might complete this sentence: “I am skilled at [significant job task], which helps others by…”

Improve the Big Picture by Tweaking Small Things

Sometimes, seemingly insignificant aspects of our work life can become obstacles to fulfillment. When we find a way to make even a small shift in these areas, there can be an exponential improvement in overall happiness in the work environment.

Consider these ideas for improving your work experience:

  • Think of the co-workers you enjoy the most. Look for small ways to connect with them, whether it’s a simple compliment or inviting them to have lunch together. Now, notice which co-workers you enjoy the least. For each one, decide whether it feels best to minimize your interactions with that person—which can be a healthy choice at times—or to actively reach out with a peace offering of some kind.
  • Set boundaries between your work life and your personal time. Commit to devoting your attention to work during your designated work hours, and then let go of work concerns as you transition from work to home. If your job allows, don’t bring work home or check any messages from work during your personal time.
  • If you’re allowed to customize your workspace, go crazy with it. Make yourself at home in your work environment as much as possible. On the other hand, if your employer has rules against personal items on the job, look for subtle or even secret ways to bring your personal life into your workspace. For example, if you play guitar on the weekend, you could keep a guitar pick in your pocket.
  • Build humor and a playful attitude into your workday. What about pulling up Spotify on your break and challenging the person in the next cubicle to a lip-sync contest? If your corporate culture doesn’t welcome outward expressions of humor, try finding subtle ways to remind yourself to lighten up—like wearing goofy socks, or using the reminder function on your phone to send yourself a funny message several times a day.

What do these suggestions have in common? They all focus on finding small ways to take control of your experience at work.

Create a Transition Plan

When the only thing that will significantly improve your experience at work is the vision of a future elsewhere, it’s time to make a plan. Identifying the steps toward finding a better job will provide a sense of hope for the future as you transition to a different employer that fits your current career needs.

One key to a successful transition plan is to consider how your current job can act as a bridge to something better. What skills in your work today can transfer to a different and more satisfying position later? What learning opportunities in today’s job can start you on the path to tomorrow’s new career?

Consider whether it might help to enlist a guide who can support you as you plan for the transition. Here at LifeCraft Counseling & Coaching in Denver, I help men and women find satisfying and fulfilling work that gives them a feeling of purpose every day. Request a free consult to find out more!

Why you should meditate – interview

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‘A for effort, ‘F’ for location.
credit: Nickolai Kashirin (CC 2.0)

I’ve been a follower of the web-zine BoingBoing.net for a long time. They’ve turned me on to a lot of cool things, one of which is another blog and recurring podcast, You Are Not So Smart. Back in October, YANSS did an episode on Mindfulness, interviewing author and meditation expert Michael Taft. After an intro that explains how this practice made its way from Eastern religion into American mainstream culture, Taft describes how mindfulness meditation can change our brains for the better, improving our ability to process difficult emotions, handle stress, focus on important tasks, and relate to other people, to name just a few benefits. (Despite the photo, the risks associated with meditating in the middle of a road probably outweigh most of the potential benefits.) Taft has a special interest in explaining meditation and mindfulness in terms of neuroscience, rather than eastern religion, philosophy, and mysticism.

Personally, I have practiced mindfulness meditation only sporadically over the past two years. Yet I can say that I have experienced some of the benefits noted above. I am more aware of the thoughts and emotions passing through my brain, but I also find that I am more able to quiet them, when I need to. After hearing this podcast, I went out and picked up a copy of Taft’s book, called The Mindful Geek, and made a decision to meditate more often and more consistently this year. I am still working on building the habit — never an easy task. I find it difficult to stop in the middle of a busy day — with all sorts of pressing tasks waiting to be completed — in order to just … sit … for 15 minutes. But I am going to keep trying, because I know it helps. If you have any meditation experiences, I would love to hear about them. Please share!

YANSS Blog entry and podcast episode on Mindfulness Meditation

Michael Taft’s Mindful Geek website