A Bit of Advice for Working from Home

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With coronavirus (COVID-19) becoming more widespread here in the United States, a lot of companies are telling their employees to work from home. If you’re one of them, and you don’t normally work from home, you might be struggling to create an office-friendly space at home.

I’m so thankful that the company I work for decided to try out remote work capabilities for the first time in their history to protect us from the virus. I work in a massive call center for an insurance company, and due to how close we all are to one another, illness burns its way through the building rather quickly.

I don’t have a dedicated workspace in my home. My boyfriend has a desk for his gaming computer, and we have a small dining room table that sometimes I’ll use for my laptop, but there really aren’t any quiet spaces. There’s always noise coming from outside or from other apartments, my cat begs for food and pets frequently, and my boyfriend pops in several times an hour to say hi. I’m not complaining about having kitty and spouse companionship, but they are distractions that draw my mind away from work.

I wanted to offer some advice for creating a better remote work environment with you guys, based on things that have worked really well for me this past week. If you have any advice that I haven’t mentioned, please share your wisdom with us down below!


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Now that my boyfriend has a new Nintendo Switch, I’ve commandeered his gaming computer and desk. What you see above is my current work station. (I had to blur some work-related things, so ignore that.) As soon as we decided this would be my work station for the next however-many weeks, I started making it mine.

Tip 1: Create a space you love.

I added candles, plants, some affirmation cards (the ones I have came from one of my Theraboxes, but these ones from Amazon are a great alternative), and a cat bed at my feet for when I have sleepy company. Basically, I made it mine. Being surrounded by things I love, like happy plants, framed photos, etc., automatically soothe my nerves when it comes time to clock in.

If you don’t have a desk, that’s no problem! Use your kitchen table, or even bring your laptop to bed. The same principle still applies: surround yourself with items that make you smile, and getting through your workday will seem like a piece of cake!

Tip 2: Ambient noise or music

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If you are working in a loud environment, ambient noise or your favorite music will definitely help you out. If the outside noise is still bothering you, you might want to invest in some noise-canceling headphones.

I’ve been listening to music, audiobooks, and podcasts, and it’s made my days go by so much quicker. Of course, it’s going to be hard to go back to the office eventually and not be able to listen to those things, but I’m loving it right now!

If you’re not a fan of listening, you could also pop Netflix on in the background and watch/listen to your favorite show or movie!

Tip 3: Take your breaks!

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One of the most important things I’ve learned during my work-from-home experience is that my mental health suffers when I don’t stick to my breaks. It’s easy to just sit at your desk during your lunch break, but actually standing up, walking around, interacting with your family or roommates, or walking outside will do your body and soul a greater service. We all know that it’s unhealthy to sit for long periods of time, and getting some good old’ vitamin D from the sun will only make you happier.

Tip 4: Stay connected

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One of the hardest parts of working from home (at least for extraverts) is the loneliness that comes with it. Most people are friends with many of their coworkers, and you lose that interaction working remotely. So stay connected! Create a group chat with your favorite co-workers, call friends when you’re on a break, Skype or facetime with people you love. I know it’s easy to become lonely during quarantine, but technology will help you connect to people.


So, those are the four pieces of advice that I can offer, and I hope they help. I’ll probably find more ways to make the situation better over the next week or so (my managers have no idea when we’re going back to the office), and I’ll definitely share them with you. What are your favorite ways to make working from home better? Let us know in the comments!




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Do You Have Job-Related Burnout?

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Note: This is a repost of an article from May 2019. I’m sharing it again because this is an important topic and something that I even need to remind myself of time and time again.

Feeling burned out at work is something that many of us will feel at one point or another. Our society forces us to work, mostly in jobs that mean nothing to us, for long hours, low pay, and mediocre benefits. It’s no wonder that people’s mental health can begin to decline in those circumstances.

According to the Mayo Clinic, burnout is defined as “a state of physical or emotional exhaustion that also involves a sense of reduced accomplishment and loss of personal identity.”

For years, burnout has been something that people have been experiencing with little support. Hopefully, that will change, however, as the World Health Organization now recognizes burnout as a legitimate medical diagnosis.

In their International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11), the WHO has added this definition of burnout:

Burn-out is a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed. It is characterized by three dimensions: 1) feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion; 2) increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job; and 3) reduced professional efficacy. Burn-out refers specifically to phenomena in the occupational context and should not be applied to describe experiences in other areas of life.

Having burnout become an official international diagnosis doesn’t mean that employers will start offering leave time or mental health days, however, so it’s important to recognize the symptoms of burnout yourself, and know how to practice self-care to lessen the effects.


How to Recognize Burnout

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Experiencing job-related burnout can manifest in a variety of symptoms, but here are a few to be on the lookout for:

  • becoming increasingly angry or cynical
  • dreading going in to work so much that it starts to physically make you feel sick
  • substance abuse to help you cope with a hard day, such as drinking too much when you get off work
  • feeling disillusioned or unsatisfied with your job
  • finding it harder and harder to concentrate
  • the thought of work or going into work causing you a great deal of stress or anxiety

Here’s an example of what to look out for from my own personal experience. I use to work in a mountain resort and spa. I worked there for years and enjoyed it, as I worked with amazing people, most of whom I’m still close friends with today. Over time, however, I started to lose interest in everything I was doing while on the clock. I was constantly stressed out, to the point where I would get terrible headaches or stomach-aches just at the thought of going into work. I stepped down from my leadership position to see if that would help, but I still felt the same cynicism and lack of interest. Then I realized, with the help of friends, that I was experiencing burnout.

I quit my job and started doing something new. Even though I wasn’t making as much money, I was a hundred times happier. I’ve started to realize that whenever I start making myself sick with anxiety at the very thought of going into work, or when I reach the point when I cannot say anything nice about my job, I need to be mindful of the symptoms of burnout, and take care of myself. It’s also usually a sign that I need to look for a new job.

The symptoms of burnout are going to be different for everyone. You know yourself better than anyone else, so trust your instincts on this.


How to Combat Burnout Symptoms

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The obvious answer to combatting burnout would be to find a new job. However, not everyone has that ability, especially in cities where the job market is terrible.

Here is some advice to help you manage the stress that burnout causes:

  • Talk to your supervisor or manager about how you’re feeling. They’re not going to fire you if you tell them that you’re unhappy. Hiring and training new employees costs a lot of money. Perhaps there’s a way you can transition to a role that would be more fun for you, or you can take on some added responsibilities that will make you more interested in what you’re doing.
  • Use your resources. Many companies, especially large ones, offer some form of employee counseling or help hotline. Don’t be afraid to utilize these resources! They’re almost always confidential.
  • Find a way to truly relax outside of work. One of the reasons burnout happens is that we feel as though our jobs are taking over our whole lives. It can certainly feel that way. To prevent this from happening, make sure that you’re setting aside time for a relaxing activity or something that makes you feel happy. This could be anything, from meditation to hiking to playing your favorite video game. Prioritize fun and relaxation.

Burnout is a very serious problem in our society, and I’m glad that the World Health Organization sees it that way.

Please get help if you’re feeling the symptoms of burnout. You don’t have to feel miserable. None of us deserve that.



Do you have any advice on dealing with the symptoms of burnout? Let us know in the comments.




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A Brief Guide to Mindfulness Meditation

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Meditation is a relatively easy and completely free activity that has an incredible effect on your moods, anxiety, and stress levels. I discovered this about a decade ago, during a challenging summer when I was really depressed and randomly picked up a few books on Buddhism and meditation to read.

A few years later, I found this wonderful meditation group on my university campus that I went to once a week. I had never received guided meditation before, and being in a relaxed atmosphere gave me a lot of positive space to grow my meditation practice.

Over the years since then, I kept up my meditation practice, until I moved to another state three years ago. Prior to that move, my practice had definitely been faltering. I had swung into another deep depression, and whenever I’m feeling that way I have trouble motivating myself to do even small tasks.

Meditation has been on my mind a lot recently because my mental health these past two or three months has been terrible. Even with anti-depressants and bipolar medication that is helping more than anything else I’ve taken, the stress of my job combined with general life stuff has had me feeling unmotivated and deeply unhappy.

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Which is why I’ve started meditating again. I wish I had never stopped, but it’s interesting to see how different my mind is during periods when I’ve meditated than when I haven’t. During long periods when I forgo meditation, I find that it takes less provocation to set off a panic attack or wild mood swings. However, when I meditate regularly, even when it’s just fifteen minutes a day, it’s obvious that I’m handling stress better, have more patience, and find myself having fewer high-anxiety days.

There are so many different ways to meditate, and how you meditate really comes down to what you get the most benefit from. I tend to focus mainly on mindfulness meditation, where I simply follow my breath. I’ve also used walking as a form of meditation, although that’s no longer possible where I live. Some people prefer guided meditation or meditating on an idea or feeling. There’s religious-based meditation and even people who use music or sports (such as running) to give them feelings similar to meditation.

Essentially, there’s no right or wrong way to meditate. 

Today, I want to give you guys a quick lesson on how I meditate. It’s very simple, although it isn’t always easy. The instructions below will lay out the basics for you, and I’ve provided some additional tips and advice afterward.


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A Simple Mindfulness Meditation Guide
For Beginners

First, start by finding a comfortable, quiet place to sit. It doesn’t have to be anywhere fancy, I usually meditate on my couch or floor. You can do it outside if you want, or in your bed. Just make yourself comfortable.

Set a timer for however long you want to meditate. I usually aim for 10-15 minutes per session, but you can do as little as five minutes or as much as an hour (or more). When you’re first starting out, I recommend keeping it to just 5-10 minutes, and then gradually increasing the time as you get more comfortable.

Now, you’re ready to start meditating! Close your eyes and begin to move your focus to your breath. Some people find this easier to do while silently saying corresponding words to yourself, such as “breathe in/breathe out” or counting your breaths until you get to ten and then starting over. Personally, I either focus on the rise and fall of my chest as I breathe or use the “breathe in/breathe out” method.

Any time a stray thought comes forward, just gently acknowledge it and go back to your breath. Try not to get frustrated when this happens – it’s inevitable. Even people who have been meditating for years have trouble keeping their thoughts entirely at bay.

When your timer goes off, slowly bring yourself out of your practice. I usually take a moment or two to appreciate how relaxed my body feels while slowly opening my eyes. Take as long as you can before getting up and carrying on with your day. Trust me, once you feel how relaxed your body is even after a short meditation session, you’ll want to!


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Things to Remember

  • There’s no need to get into a full-lotus position or sit in front of an altar of crystals or statues. For this kind of meditation, the only important thing is that you’re in a sitting position that you can comfortably maintain for the duration of your practice.
  • It’s okay if you can’t turn off your thoughts! Meditation isn’t easy and it takes years of practice to be able to empty your mind of all thoughts. I’ve been meditating for years and I still find random thoughts popping up every time I sit. When this happens, just acknowledge the thought and go back to your breath.
  • If it’s hard for you to focus on your breath, try guided meditations. There are tons of free resources! My favorite app is Headspace. You can also just search guided meditation on YouTube or find CDs at your local library. I’ve seen guided meditations for five minutes all the way up to a couple of hours. Find what works best for you.
  • While you can meditate anywhere, some people prefer to set up a little meditation area and find that it helps them maintain the habit. If you have space and think this will help, go for it! It’s easy to set up a nice meditation area. Grab some cushions, candles, plants, or whatever else reminds you of relaxation.
  • Most cities have meditation groups available, so if you’d like to find a meditation group or class, do a Google search of your area or check Meetup.com.
  • If you have pets, prepare to have them invade your personal space. Over the years, I’ve lived with cats and dogs and it never fails that once I sit down to meditate, they become fascinated and walk over to plop down into my lap or start sniffing at me. Just like those stray thoughts, try to ignore it!

As I said before, meditation is really important to me. If you give this lesson a shot, let me know if it worked for you! This is a topic that I love, so if you want to see more meditation lessons, just let me know!


Do you have a regular meditation practice? Tell me about it in the comments!




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Sugar-Free January – Week Two

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At the beginning of the month, I announced that I would be going sugar-free for the month of January in an attempt to detox a bit from all the sugar I’d starting eating. Last week, I shared my thoughts at the end of the first week, which can basically be summed up with: I noticed nothing different about myself, and I spent my nights dreaming about sweets.

Week two has been much easier. I haven’t been craving sweets as much, although walking into a grocery store is still a challenge. An interesting thing that’s happening is that I haven’t been nearly as hungry as I usually am. I’ve always been a snacker or grazer, eating small bits between meals. I also tend to eat when I’m bored, which I know isn’t healthy. This week, however, I’ve noticed that I’m no longer craving snacks between meals, and when I do eat I get full much faster.

Another change I’ve noticed is that my skin has started to clear up and is less oily. I had a feeling this would be one of the results of cutting out sugar, but I’m still very pleasantly pleased by it. When I was vegan and watching what I ate, I rarely ate sugar and white flour, and other mass-produced foods and my skin absolutely glowed during that period of my life. There was even one time that I was at a bar with one of my friends and a strange woman walked up to me to ask me what kind of skin care products I used to get my complexion. I’m not sure she believed me when I replied with “just some drugstore cleanser.”

Overall, at the end of the second week, I’m beginning to notice some positive changes, albeit slowly. I’m looking forward to seeing what week three brings.

Sugar-Free January – Week One

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Last week, I shared that I was participating in Sugar-Free January and that I would be posting weekly updates about my progress.

To sum the first week up, I’m craving all the sugar.

I had expected to have sugar cravings the first few days, but I wasn’t expecting to literally be dreaming about sugar. The third night of this challenge, I had a dream that I was sitting on my couch with a huge popcorn bowl, except it was filled with an assortment of candy. The entire dream was just me eating candy because my brain clearly hates me.

It’s also been challenging because, despite the holidays being over, I still find myself surrounded by decadent treats everywhere I am. While it’s been challenging to say no to everything, I’ve stuck with it.

The worst temptation I’ve had occurred during a trip to the grocery store. The particular store I was at had their sparkling waters directly across from their cookie selection, and while I was picking up some La Croix (which, by the way, is great for satisfying a sweet tooth without eating sugar!), I noticed that there was now a carrot cake Oreo flavor. Carrot cake is one of my favorite things in the world, and I bought it. While I’m not planning on trying them until next month, walking by them day after day has been challenging.

One of the positive things about this challenge is that I’m rediscovering my love of fruit. I’ve never been a fruit lover, but without being able to grab ice cream or a cookie when I’m craving something sweet, I’ve been gravitating towards fruit, especially bananas.

I haven’t noticed any changes in my skin, weight, or general feelings of wellness. Aside from the intense cravings I’ve had every day, I don’t feel different at all. However, even though I don’t feel different, I know that it’s having a positive effect on my overall health.

Sugar-Free January

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I have never been a sweet-tooth sort of person – I’ve always much preferred salty treats such as chips and pretzels. I could easily go weeks without consuming a piece of candy or a cookie. That has changed in the last couple of years, as I have found myself rediscovering my sweet tooth to the point where I have been consuming an unhealthy amount of added sugars.

Sugar is addictive and added sugar is dangerous to your health.

Over the past year, I’ve gained more weight than I’m comfortable with, and although sugar consumption is not the main reason for it, it’s definitely a contributing factor. I cannot currently change the fact that I have a desk job and sit or stand in one spot for ten hours per day, nor can I do much to alter the effects that the antidepressants I’m on can increase a person’s weight. However, I can control the amount of added sugar I consume on a daily basis.

Sugar has a lot of detrimental effects on your health, such as:

In modern American grocery stores, sugar can be very difficult to avoid. It’s in practically everything in one form or another, even foods you might not initially expect, such as salad dressing, marinara sauce, yogurt, granola, and cereal.

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Due to all of the negative effects that sugar is having on my body, and in order to get back to my previous state of being where I do not crave sweet foods every day, I will be giving up added sugars for the entire month of January.

What does that mean? For starters, no baked goods or candies. I’m not expecting to miss candy that much – I don’t consume a ton of it at this moment. Usually, when I am craving sweets, it’s in the form of ice cream, muffins, or pound cake.

I will also be cutting out things like sugary sauces and any yogurt or breakfast foods that have high sugar content.

What foods am I not giving up? Fruit! Even though some fruit does have high sugar content, it also contains fiber and water and tons of nutrients. I will be allowing myself to consume all the fruit I want. Granted, since it’s winter, that fruit will probably be frozen, but it’s still going to be delicious!

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If you want to join in this challenge with me, feel free to! I’ll be sharing weekly updates on how the challenge is going and if I notice any changes in my weight or skin. Let me know if you’re joining this challenge in the comments, or join the wider community with #sugarfreejanuary!

 

6 Ways to Help You Get a Better Night’s Sleep

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It seems like I’ve always had some kind of issue with sleeping. When I was a teenager it was sleep paralysis (which is absolutely terrifying). When I was in my early twenties I had long bouts of insomnia, and it my later twenties I would occasionally sleepwalk. The last few months, I have been having trouble with both falling asleep and staying asleep, which is one of the symptoms of my anxiety.

As a result, over the years I’ve learned a few tricks to help myself get a better night’s sleep.

Sleep is immensely important for several reasons, including:

  • it helps your brain function properly and improves your ability to learn
  • sleep gives your body time to repair your heart and blood vessels
  • it allows your body to control your hormones
  • people who are sleep deprived are more likely to be obese

Here are six tips to help you fall asleep and get the proper amount of rest that your body needs to function:

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1. Stick to a routine

According to the National Sleep Foundation, sticking to a consistent routine can help your body get used to falling asleep and waking up at certain times. This is definitely something that has helped me immensely, especially when I went from working third shift to having to get up for almost three months of 8am-4pm training shifts when I switched jobs. Most people need seven to eight hours of sleep a night, so figure out the hours you can devote to sleeping and stick to it for several weeks to see if it helps.

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2. Avoid blue light

Blue light comes from most of our modern-day electronics, and can seriously disrupt our ability to sleep well. Blue light tricks your brain into believing that it’s daytime, which affects your ability to fall asleep.

There are several ways to avoid blue light. The first is the most obvious – just turn off your phone, laptop, or whatever else you’re taking to bed with you. If that’s not an option, most newer electronics include a feature in your settings to block blue light. There are also glasses you can buy that blocks that light.

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3. Herbs, teas, and natural medicines

During my worst bout of insomnia in my late twenties, I felt like I tried almost everything to fall asleep, at one point resorting to taking a full dose of NyQuil Sleep even though I wasn’t sick (not something I recommend, by the way). Here are a few things that helped me the most:

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4. Keep Your Room Cool

Many people have trouble sleeping in rooms that are too warm, and there have even been studies done that showed that temperature can affect your quality of sleep more than noise. Everyone enjoys a different temperature, so find the right one for you and turn down your heat a bit at night.

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5. Have a pre-sleep routine

This goes hand in hand with the first tip of keeping a consistent sleep schedule. Creating an evening routine is one of my new year’s resolutions for 2019.

Experiment to make your routine your own. Some ideas that you can include:

  • journalling
  • meditation
  • relaxing yoga sequence
  • a hot bath
  • reading a book, preferably one that is physical in order to keep that blue light away
  • deep breathing
  • listening to relaxing music

There are endless ways to create an evening routine for yourself, so figure out what works for you.

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6. Exercise daily

Exercise is not only good for controlling your weight and making you stronger but it also allows you to get deeper and better sleep. That doesn’t mean that you need to go to a way-too-strenuous CrossFit session every single day, but try to include some kind of physical activity into your daily routine. Plus, exercising has so many other great benefits.


I hope these tips help you to get a good night’s sleep. I know all of these suggestions have improved the quality of my sleep over the years, and on those days I wake up after sleeping well, I notice all sorts of great benefits, including being more focused, more creative, and generally happier.

How do you get to sleep when you’re lying awake at night? Let me know in the comments!