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Know When to Take a Mental Health Day

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A woman’s tweet about a sick day “to focus on my mental health,” and her boss’s response, spark discussion about depression on the job

Can a subjective decision on taking a mental health day off be quantified? Can you bring some level of objectivity into the decision? eMindLog does exactly that for stress, anxiety and depression.  

Mental health is not a monolithic concept. It can be broken into its components parts of emotions, thoughts and behaviors. When emotions like anxiety, anger, sadness and lack of pleasure are intense, they become the drivers of thoughts and actions. The process and content of thinking becomes captive to the emotion, and one largely loses the ability to modulate the emotion. Behaviors become compelling, automatic and conditioned to the emotion. These experiences are interlinked and can be given numbers that categorize them into mild, moderate or severe, guiding a decision on whether to take a mental health day. 

Taking a mental health day permits lowering ones emotional tone, giving thoughts greater control and behaviors capable of being chosen. It prevents actions at work that may have negative consequences as colleagues fix their perceptions of you and what they can expect. 

Register and try eMindLog – it’s free to users at eMindLog.com.

 

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Why is monotasking so important?

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Do you ever get interrupted and forget what you were working on or lose your train of thought? Well, you’re not the only one. In an age where we spend the majority of our time in front of a computer or device (and in lots of cases, many devices), it’s easy to get distracted and lose all focus. We live in a world where being able to multitask is a sought after skill. While being able to multitask is great, it’s often the case that the tasks at hand don’t receive the full focus necessary to complete them well.

Multitasking is like being a jack of all trade but a master of none. It definitely has it’s place in our lives but true focus on a single item at a time is fading from our everyday lives as we are increasingly distracted by the fast pace at which new information is presented. Monotasking is important because it allows to to fully focus on what we are working on and making sure it is completed.

You’re probably wondering, “What is monotasking?”

Monotasking also known as single-tasking, is the practice of dedicating oneself to a given task and minimizing potential interruptions until the task is completed or a significant period of time has elapsed.

For monotasking to work, the rule of thumb is to complete tasks sequentially, working through the items at hand one-by-one not moving to the next one until sufficient time has passed or the task is completed. Your brain was wired for deep and innovative thinking, but that’s impossible to achieve if you’re trying to make it go in two or more directions at once.

Three tips for monotasking are:

  1. Give your brain some down time.
    Get some fresh air, for example, or just look out the window. Taking a break will help make room for your next inspired idea because a halt in constant thinking slows the mind’s rhythms to allow more innovative “aha” moments.
  2. Focus deeply, without distraction.
    Silence your phone, turn off your email and try to perform just one task at a time.
  3. Make a to-do list.
    Then identify your top two priorities for the day and make sure they are accomplished above all else.

It’s also important to remember that monotasking should be utilized outside of work, as it will help you in all aspects of your life.

Switching from multitasking to monotasking seems like a big undertaking. Jo Chunyan, Intuition Coach & Graphic Designer, has created a useful like of 13 reminders for single-tasking. Try using some of these reminders to streamline your day. Then see how monotasking affects your mood, creativity, and ability to focus.

13 Reminders for Single Tasking

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6 Ways to Combat Anxiety and Speak Up at Work

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workplace-1245776_1920Meetings at work can be an uncomfortable environment – many professionals feel this way. It may be because you’re shy, introverted, or you absorb more by listening to others in the room. You may also choose to defer to the leaders at the table.

It’s not just the environment, it may also be the situation. Is there someone in the meeting that always dominates the conversation not letting others get a word in edgewise? Whatever the case may be, sitting through another meeting frozen or inactive is a terrible feeling.

In order to get ahead it is often important that your voice be heard. You’ve prepped for the meeting, you’ve done your research, and now it’s time for you to be an active participant. Below are some simple strategies you can implement in your next meeting to help ease the anxiety and make yourself heard.

  1. Banish Pre-Meeting Jitters
    Instead of interpreting your jitters (shaky hands, stomach doing somersaults, etc) as a sign that you’re inadequate, or not up to the task a hand, Stanford psychologist Kelly McGonigal suggests befriending your stress response, re-framing it as a sign you’re ready for action and prepared to bring your best to the meeting.
  2. Ease Into It
    Rather than arriving right before a meeting starts, head in early to familiarize yourself with the space and settle in. If your meeting is a teleconference, use this time to get comfortable with webinar controls, your mic, and webcam. As colleagues arrive, focus on making conversation with one or two people at a time which can feel socially fulfilling while also being less overwhelming.
  3. Commit to Speaking Early
    It typically gets harder to enter the conversation as a meeting progresses. The longer you wait, the more your anxiety increases. Growth often comes from discomfort, so push yourself to to speak up early. Set a simple strategy to say something in the first 10 to 15 minutes of the meeting. It can be welcoming the attendees, presenting your main argument, asking a question, or offering an opinion on a new business proposal.
  4. Use Your Strengths When Speaking Up
    You don’t have to be the loudest in the room. Even the soft-spoken can still make an impact by backing up a coworker’s comment with a simple, “Great idea! I can see that working really well.”You can also focus on asking powerful questions. Especially if you consider yourself an introvert, you’re likely very observant, which gives you an edge when it comes to posing the kind of thought-provoking questions that haven’t crossed your colleagues’ minds quite yet.

    Another way powerful way to increase your impact and visibility even after the meeting wraps is by following up with an email to your boss summarizing key points raised, or better yet, providing a proposal for a new project sparked by the conversation. You’ll build up a reputation as someone who makes useful contributions and you’ll come to everyone’s mind more quickly when promotion time comes around. More importantly, you’ll gain confidence in yourself.

  5. Be the One to Take Action on “Next Steps”
    Did something come up in the meeting that could use more research? Commit to taking on something for the next meeting. It shows you have initiative and that you’re interested and invested in your organization.This is a great example of employing a pre-commitment device, a habit formation technique you can use to nudge yourself towards behaviors you desire. You’ve committed yourself — now you’ll be more motivated and likely to follow through.
  6. Challenge Your Beliefs About Contributing
    Many people’s leadership instincts may not have been nurtured to their full potential in childhood, and subconscious insecurities can seep into our behavior to this day when it comes to speaking up. So how do you overcome old, outdated scripts holding you back from feeling confident about speaking up? It requires a deep-dive into your presumptions about self-worth and speaking up.

    Growing up, what were you told about standing out? Were you given the message by your parents, teachers, and community that you could be whatever you wanted, or did you internalize concepts such as, “People won’t like you if you try to stand out”? If you find yourself easily devastated by real or imagined negative feedback when you express your ideas, consider that you may be reverting back to an immature identity when your self-esteem was more contingent on other people’s (especially that of authority figures’) opinions.

    When you have a point to make yet find undermining thoughts creeping in, thank your inner-critic for trying to do it’s job by keeping you protected. Fear can signal you’re saying something of significance. Seize the moment. Stop playing small. Remember, you’re part of your organization because you’re qualified, you’re effective, and you matter.

    You’ve got a lot to offer — now it’s time to let everyone know it.

This content was originally published on The World of Psychology by Melanie Wilding, LMSW

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3 Ways Music Creates a Positive Mood Change

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Have you ever felt stuck in an emotional state that you couldn’t break free from? Music may be able to help you change your mood.

Think of your mind as a radio. Sometimes we might get stuck on a certain song or station, hearing the same thing over and over. If you’ve experienced this kind of rumination or thought-looping before, you know it is an unwelcome and negative cycle. When this happens, anything that helps us to switch to a different channel can provide emotional relief.

music-791631_1920
We may start listening to negative messages that have been internalized and deeply ingrained within our minds, (consciously or unconsciously) playing them on repeat. The good news, however, is that we actually have the power to shift our thinking. We have the ability to bring ourselves away from the destructive noise of our own cognitive distortions and into the sweet sounds of serenity.

Music can be a useful tool in helping to turn down volume on the (often irrational) song or story that’s being played incessantly. While muting the unpleasant tracks we’re so accustomed to hearing in our minds and boosting the sound on some uplifting tunes, our favorite music automatically becomes a natural mood enhancer.

  1. Plug Back In: When we feel disconnected or burnt out, listening music can help us to feel more grounded and aligned — physically, mentally, emotionally and even spiritually. When we feel inspired or uplifted by the sound or the lyrics of a song, it can result in a truly profound experience. When we are moved by the music we hear, we gain a greater understanding about ourselves. With that comes the ability to foster a better sense of connection to other people and the world around us.
  2. Flip the Switch: Much like meditation, putting on our favorite song or playlist can take our minds out of the vicious cycle of regret, worry, or fear, and help us to refocus our attention on the sound and rhythm of the song, even if just for a short while. Almost instantaneously, we have the ability to bring our minds away from the trap of its constant mental chatter, and into states of present moment awareness and enlivened being.
  3. stage-1531427_1920Feel the Beat: The mind and body are connected. Music often makes us want to move, inspiring us to dance or exercise. This helps release endorphins and serotonin in the brain, so we feel better and adopt a naturally more positive outlook. Combining music with movement is a potent way to improve your mood with the potential for long lasting effects.

Each of us may have different taste in music, but we all crave many of the same things, including happiness and belonging. Music can help us strengthen the bond we have with ourselves, and ultimately, with each other. While listening to our favorite music in solitude may be the perfect antidote, some people find that the energy and vibrations that abound at live music shows are powerfully therapeutic. No matter where you are, it’s important to remember, that if you’re feeling a particular emotion, you are surrounded by human beings everywhere who have felt that same emotion before.

Find the music that works for you and put this to the test.

 

This article was originally published in World of Psychology by Julia Lehrman, LCSW, RYT

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New Research: How Mindfulness Can Help Reduce Worry

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nothing-1820481_1920When you’re worried, concentrating on anything can be difficult.

A new study suggests that specific forms of mindfulness techniques can be particularly useful for reducing repetitive and intrusive negative thoughts that frequently occur in anxiety and depression.

Conducted by the University of Southampton, UK and Bournemouth University, UK, the randomized study of 77 participants examined the impact of three types of mindfulness techniques on the frequency of intrusive negative thoughts and measured subjective anxiety levels.

The most effective technique for reducing the frequency of negative thoughts was a guided acceptance-based mindfulness meditation. The general principle behind acceptance-based meditations is that you allow thoughts to come into your mind, observe, acknowledge, and make room for them rather than attempt to struggle with them. This principle of acceptance has been formalized into a type of therapy called acceptance and commitment therapy. You can practice acceptance techniques at home on your own through guided meditations that encourage acceptance. The following script was used for the acceptance based guided meditation in the study:

Direct your attention inwardly…notice thoughts, emotions, physical sensations…any other kinds of experiences as they show up in the field of your awareness…sitting and noticing what’s here, right now, for you…Each time you become aware of a private experience, such as a thought, or a feeling…turning your attention towards it, acknowledging it, maybe labeling it…and as best you can, letting things be as they are…making space for your experiences.

The second mindfulness technique studied was an attention-based breath meditation which focuses attention on the breath. Breath awareness was slightly less effective than acceptance based mindfulness but still helpful. Below is the guided meditation used in the study:

Become aware of the sensation of breathing…noticing where in the body the physical sensations of breathing are vivid for you, right now…choosing one place to follow the breath…making a decision to stay with this place…bringing your attention and your curiosity to each breath…Feeling the moment-by-moment physical sensations as you breathe in and breathe out. And each time you notice your attention has wandered, gently bringing your attention back to the breath and the sensations in your body.

Finally, the third mindfulness technique, which was the least effective in reducing the frequency of negative thoughts, was progressive muscle relaxation (PMR). Progressive muscle relaxation directs you to focus your attention on different muscles in the body and guides you to tense and then relax these muscles.

There are a couple of important things to keep in mind. First, you might not feel better or less anxious after completing a mindfulness meditation, but it could be helping you worry less. Second, sticking to a consistent practice is important. Studies have shown that regular practice is important for lasting changes and has been proven to lower anxiety.

eMindLog™ can help you track how worried you are over time, allowing you to see if a mindfulness practice is helping and also help you identify worry triggers. Check it out and sign up for your free account today.

 

This article was originally posted on Urban Survival by Marlynn Wei M.D., J.D.

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6 Reasons Why Having a Pet is Good for Your Health

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little-girl-with-puppy                                     hide-and-seek-kitten

We do so much for our pets. We wake up in the middle of the night to take them out, we organize our schedules around them, and let’s be honest, they are a great distraction and so much fun to be around. But the great thing about our pets is they they also do so much for us in return. If you don’t already have one, or you just want a good reminder of why you love yours, here are 6 reasons why having a pet is good for your health:

  1. Walking Your Pet

Dog walking is an excellent preventative measure against heart disease. It’s a low-risk and low-intensity exercise, helping to slim your waistline while you soak up some vitamin D. To reduce the risk of heart disease, a minimum of 150 minutes of walk per week is recommended – that’s roughly 22 minutes a day.

2. Pet Your Animal
bulldog-puppy-in-womans-arms

The act of petting can relax a reduce stress levels due to the body’s release of oxytocin, a hormone linked to emotional bonding. The owner and pet release oxytocin, which stabilizes a sense of calmness between the two.

“The simple act of petting an animal is known to cause a person’s blood pressure to drop.”  – Alan Beck, ScD., Director of the Center for the Human-Animal Bond at Purdue University

3. Companionship

According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, pet ownership among single people has increased by 17% in the last 6 years. Pets provide companionship to individuals who live by themselves; the study suggests that singles are more likely to see their pets as family members because of the amount of support their companionship provides.

4. Socialization

Pet owners often have the urge to socialize with other pet owners. Studies have shown that it is easier to meet people if you have a dog. These animals are often seen (and used) as social icebreakers that used as a prop, stir up conversation with others.dogs-at-the-beach

5. Boost Mood

Pet ownership can boost self-esteem and self-worth. According to the British Medical Journal, playing with your pet can raise levels of serotonin dopamine and decrease cortisol. The elderly are shown to reap the benefits of pet ownership. In a survey of Elderly Pet Owners Regarding the Benefits of their Pets:

95% said they talk to their pet each day

82% said owning a pet made them feel better when they were sad

65% said petting or caressing their pet made them feel better

57% said they told their fears and worries to their pet

6. Increase Longevity

People with pets live a happier, healthier, and longer life. Researchers found that patients discharged from a coronary care unit and who had pets at home, had a better survival rate for the next year compared to those who did not. For patients, the thought of having a pet provided, which, results show, could be associated with higher life expectancy.

If you already have a pet, go out and play with it – you’ll reap the benefits in the long run. If you don’t have a pet, volunteering at your local humane society allows you to reao the benefits of having a pet without the resonsibilities and it does some good in your community.

 

See more at Medical Daily

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