Archive for the ‘Health’ category

Finding your purpose at work

November 2, 2021

Recently, my co-worker informed me that she needed to a medical leave of absence for three weeks. At first I felt overwhelmed. I didn’t know how we could finish our daily work and year-end projects.

Then I took some deep breaths. I had just attended a “Purpose Workshop” led by Cyrus Howe of Blue Zones Hawaii, which helped me shift my thinking. My co-worker’s time off could be a way for me to get “back to basics” and prioritize what’s important. It could even be a “break” from more stressful responsibilities. Instead of a hardship, it could be an opportunity.

Blue Zones describes purpose as “the inward intent that drives our outward actions.”

Our lives are a constant “life spiral” of triggering events and life changes that can knock us off course. Purpose is what helps make choices and take action to create the next stage of life.

Purpose = Gifts + Passions + Values. “You heed your purpose when you offer your gifts in service to something you are passionate about in an environment that is consistent with your core values.”

We started by identifying our gifts from a set of 52 “Calling Card Statements” – the things that we do best and the things we do when we enter a state of “flow” and get lost in a task. Identifying our gifts can help us identify new opportunities when we lose a job, are considering a career change, retire, or choose a volunteer opportunity. For example, Analyzing Information, Empowering Others, Designing Things, Healing Wounds, Getting Things Right, and Fixing Things.

Each of the statements describe “callings” in six broad areas: Investigative, Enterprising, Artistic, Social, Structured, and Realistic. And each of the statements are open to your interpretation. So if you enjoy telling jokes, you could interpret it as Adding Humor, Bringing Joy, Shaping Environments, or any number of statements. The hardest part was narrowing down the statements to the five that resonated most with me.

We spent a little time considering what we are passionate about. It’s helpful to ask yourself, “Where do you spend your time and money on?”

Then Cyrus asked us to think about the people who can be our “Purpose Sounding Board.” People who live with purpose can’t do it alone, he told us. We need people who can help us clarify and commit to our purpose. We need committed listeners, role models, catalysts, and thinking partners – people who will support and call us out when we are not living with purpose.

And finally we put it all together with a Purpose Statement: With my gifts of (Calling Cards #2-5), I am here to (Calling Card #1) for the benefit of (how you wish to share your gifts).

Here is my draft purpose statement: With my gifts of creating things, building trust, making things work, and making connections, I am here to build relationships for the benefit of helping people feel resilient and empowered.

The statement resonates with me right now, and will help me get through the coming weeks with hope and optimism.

You can sign up for a free Purpose Workshop with Blue Zones Hawaii and reflect on your purpose in life and work.

What is your purpose? How has it helped you get through challenging times? Are there actions you can take right now to strengthen your purpose?

A month of giving and three awareness walks

August 31, 2021

Everyone needs kindness, strength, and compassion.  

The COVID-19 pandemic has been tough on every one of us. We’re all struggling and watching other people struggle. You are not alone and you can make an impact on someone else’s life, even if you never meet them and they never know your name.

September is Suicide Prevention and Awareness Month. It’s a month to raise awareness about the warning signs of suicide, spread hope, and advocate for mental health care.

You can participate in a month of giving and help raise awareness for physical health, mental health, and welfare issues at three virtual walk in Hawai‘i:

Foodland Give Aloha

During September 2021, Foodland Maika’i members can make donations up to $249 to Hawaii nonprofits at any Foodland, Foodland Farms, or Sak-n-Save, or online at Foodland.com. Foodland Give Aloha, an Annual Community Matching Gifts Program, was created in 1999 to honor Foodland’s founder, Maurice J. “Sully” Sullivan and continue his legacy of giving back to the community. Since the program began in 1999, a total of more than $34.4 million has been raised for Hawaii’s charities. #FoodlandGiveAloha #GiveAloha

Visitor Industry Charity Walk

From August 30 through September 12, 2021, walk with the Hawai`i Lodging & Tourism Association and their members to help build a better, healthier Hawai`i for all of us. The Charity Walk gives everyone a chance to raise money for Hawai`i’s charities. In 2019, Hawai‘i raised more than $500,00 to make Hawai‘i stronger and healthier. This year, the walk is virtual, and you can download an app to track your steps and keep connected. #CharityWalkBECAUSE #CharityWalkKauai #MauiCharityWalk #CharityWalkHawaiiIsland #CharityWalkOahu

Out of the Darkness Virtual Walk

On September 18, 2021, acknowledge the ways in which suicide and mental illness have affected our lives and the lives of those we love. Join the Hawai’i Out of the Darkness Virtual Walk and walk for remembrance, hope, and support. Every dollar you raise through the Out of the Darkness Walks allows AFSP to invest in life-saving research, education, advocacy, and support for those impacted by suicide. @afsphawaii #TogetherToFightSuicide

NAMIWalks Your Way

On October 9, 2021, do a virtual walk “your way,” meaning you choose what you want to do on event day to raise awareness about mental health and help reduce the stigma of mental illness. Join a team or create your own team on NAMIWalks Hawai‘i Your Way. Then choose your creativity: on walk day, you can walk 7,000 steps, plan a craft day with the kids, hold a virtual bake-off, or practice self-care with a favorite hobby. Together we can make a difference for people affected by mental illness. #NotAlone

Do you know someone who is struggling right now? If yes, what is one thing you can do to help them? What are you passionate about changing? How do you take care of yourself?

Asking “Where does it hurt?” not “Why?”

August 24, 2021

“All cultures, since the beginning of time, have had to deal with suicidality,” said Dr. Bonnie Goldstein, LCSW during a webinar, “Managing Hopelessness, Helplessness, and Despair with Our Younger Clients.” The presentation was part of the virtual 2021 Suicide Prevention Summit, sponsored by the Mental Health Academy.

Two things struck me about her presentation.

The first thing I learned is that that we don’t know why. And for most of us, “Why?” is the wrong question.

We may know risk factors for suicide. We may know warning signs of suicide, which are similar to signs of depression. We may understand that talking about suicide will not encourage suicide.

However, according to Dr. Goldstein, “Research shows that people actively experiencing some form of suicidality cannot give a clear or intelligible account of what is going on for them at the moment” (emphasis added).

The right questions to ask, Dr. Goldstein said, are “Where does it hurt?” and “How can I help you?”

Be curious. Ask questions about what about they are feeling physically, because it can lead to talking about how they feel emotionally.

The second thing I learned is that our bodies reflect our trauma and attachment history. More than that, our bodies can determine our behavior and influence our emotions. For example,

  • Posture: Are your shoulders straight or slumped over? Do you feel assertive or helpless?
  • Eye contact: Are you looking at people when you speak or are you avoiding eye contact?
  • Mobilizing: Is your body frozen or are you moving freely? Are you engaged in the conversation or shut down?
  • Boundaries: How close or far away are you from other people? Do you keep physical barriers (crossed arms, a table, a backpack) between you and others or you are open to people?

This is the “Somatic Narrative.” We can start listening to other people’s body language – and to our own. We can help people feel physically safe by respecting what their body is telling us, and help people feel emotionally safe by asking questions.

By connecting with people, we can help create a buffer against hopelessness and psychological pain.

What is your body telling you right now about how you are feeling? How does your body react in joyful situations and in tense situations? Do you know someone right now whose body is telling you that they are in psychological pain?

“Perception is Everything” by Victor Armstrong MSW

August 10, 2021

Perception is our way of regarding, understanding or interpreting something. It’s the way that we make sense of the world. Some of it comes from our innate characteristics (our disposition or personality) and some of it comes from lived experience (what we have learned through experience).

If you are a person of color walking at night, and a police car follows behind you, flashes its lights, and someone emerges from the car, what do you expect to happen?

Victor Armstrong, MSW shared this true experience during a webinar, “Perception is Everything: Stigma, Mental Health, & Suicide in Historically Marginalized Communities.” It was part of the virtual 2021 Suicide Prevention Summit, sponsored by the Mental Health Academy.

The answer was unexpected: a fox had been following Armstrong. The police officer wanted to make sure that Armstrong was aware of the fox and was following the fox to make sure it wasn’t rabid.

It was a memorable introduction to Armstrong’s talk about perception and implicit bias.

But what if your perception is incomplete or flawed? What if you are finishing someone else’s story based on your own perception? That’s implicit bias, our perception and expectation of the world.

Imagine you are a man washing your hands in the men’s restroom. A woman comes into the restroom, looks confused, and you gently explain that this is the men’s restroom. A second woman comes into the restroom, looks confused, and you again gently explain that this is the men’s restroom. Upon leaving the restroom, you look at the sign on the door, and realize that this is in fact the woman’s restroom.

Armstrong shared this story, also true, and then spoke directly to mental health professionals, arguing that implicit bias is woven into the fabric of behavioral health. He said that implicit bias influences our ability to engage in truly person-centered care – and our ability to interact with others.

How can you connect with or help someone if you don’t acknowledge, understand, or accept their perception of their life as a person of color?

“For a black man growing up in a society where men and boys of color disproportionately have negative outcomes when involved with law enforcement,” Armstrong said, “his vigilance in everyday life may be perceived as a natural consequence of racial profiling by a provider of color.”  But it may be perceived as paranoia and suspicion by someone who doesn’t understand his perception of the world.

What we can see and interpret is influenced by our experience and our perception.

A compelling speaker, Armstrong ended his talk with his moving essay-poem, “Do You Hear What I Hear?” It is an eloquent contrast of lived experiences in the United States.

“When you listen to what’s in the ground, buried in the soil of America, do you hear what I hear?”

How can you become aware of your own implicit biases about other people? What perception of the world do you want others to understand or acknowledge about you?

Writing a gratitude poem

July 13, 2021

Saturday morning, I gave myself a gift of time to be creative.

I attended a webinar, “Creative Coping: Poetry” with Destiny Sharion, MSW (@destinysharion87), who was part of the slam team that represented Hawai’i at the National Poetry Slam Competition in 2017 and 2018. The webinar was hosted by Samaritan Counseling Center Hawaii and NAMI Hawaii.

Sharion said that poetry can facilitate mental health, wellness, and healing.

Writing and poetry can help us reflect on our experiences, validate our feelings, and promote self-disclosure (receptive/perceptive). By identifying what we feel, we can start to understand why we feel it and how we can encourage healing.

It can help us tell our story and give us a sensory connection with our emotions (expressive/creative). Sharing our story can help us connect with other people and show

And it can help us express meaning and purpose (symbolic/ceremonial). Through prayer, eulogy, and storytelling, we can make sense of the world around us and events out of our control.

Sharion revealed that gratitude can help us alleviate anxiety and promote mental and emotional well-being. She encouraged us to write our own gratitude list poem, which can be spoken like a mantra to remind us of our blessings.

The poem starts with, “Today and always, I express my infinite gratitude for…”

Then write down three things we are grateful for, explain why we’re grateful for them, and thank each thing, individually.

The poem ends with, “Today and always, I am infinitely grateful you are here.”

Some poems followed the list, others varied the format or added more imagery. Here is what I wrote:

Today and always, I express my infinite gratitude for my family, for accepting me as I am and being my champions. Thank you, family.

Today and always, I express my infinite gratitude for my body, for giving me freedom of movement, independence, and connection to others. Thank you, body.

Today and always, I express my infinite gratitude for home, providing me with shelter, safety, and belonging. Thank you, home.

Today and always, I am infinitely grateful you are here.

Writing and sharing poetry, listening to people express themselves freely and honestly, is a beautiful way to start the day.

What three things are you grateful for today? What does poetry reveal about your thoughts and emotions?