Why can’t we live free from expectations? Post-COVID, will we be crushed by workplace demands, and is spirituality the answer? We’re all familiar with generic, New-Age wellness programs. Vanilla approaches to truth rarely help those struggling with addiction, serious bullying, and other real issues. Nick talks to Hank the Sonic Shaman about all those uncomfortable topics, from Jesus and prayer to shamanism and mental health.
Is this another blog lauding Simone Biles and Naomi Osaka for prioritizing their mental health over athletic achievement? Nope. What about criticizing the work ethic of millennials whenever anything gets difficult? Also no. The focus and effort to become the best comes with a cost. The more we force-feed life scripts to celebrities we feel can champion our causes and beliefs, the less we can deal with nuance and complex issues that can’t be summarized in a tweet or headline.
Even if all the information is available (it never is), you don’t have to pick sides. Do you know anything about these women–not their accomplishments, but as people? Quickly choosing a side is how content on the Internet works. Algorithms calculate what outrages or motivates you, and feeds you only that, so you will view as many advertisements as possible until you tear yourself away from the screen to live in the real world. Neutral information giving you the space to formulate your own individual conclusions doesn’t have the captivating power of strong emotions. In the early years of the Internet, anonymity allowed people to say despicable things to those they didn’t agree with. Then they would log off the forum board, turn off their computer, and still have polite conversations in real life. It’s much harder to hide behind a screenname now, but instead of encouraging more civil behavior at work, church, and online, we’ve polarized ourselves into tiny tribes seeing every news story or political difference as an opportunity to define Us and Them.
Are Simone and Naomi oppressed women of color taking power back from sport organizations capitalizing on talents until they join the ranks of broken and used up athletes? Are they instead taking advantage of their celebrity when it suits them, but using excuses when it doesn’t? It was a busy July. Most recently, Simone said she was struggling with vertigo (which everyone was ok with), before pulling out of Olympic gymnastic events citing mental health concerns. After failing to appear at mandatory press conferences at the French Open, Naomi cited similar issues in deciding not to compete at all. Struggling with a hyper-extended knee, Giannis Antetokounmpo persevered in the NBA Finals, bringing glory to the Milwaukee Bucks and his home countries of Nigeria and Greece. There are much deeper narratives here, related to the employer/employee issues we’ve dealt with at BEHAVE Wellness for years.
Can we look unflinchingly at all sides of an issue? The above meme doesn’t reflect the reality of organizations and corporations committed to squeezing out every ounce of productivity possible. We try to withstand the pressure, reminding ourselves that we need to perform and earn the degree as an “amateur athlete”, or tenure, or the 401K, or a medal. It’s true that employees are understandably also less loyal in today’s culture. Gender norms still lead to men more often achieving themselves to death–in many anesthesia departments, it’s the male CRNAs offering to stay late and earn more money rather than going home to their families. Although NBA stars often have the power to whine until traded to another team if they wish, if Giannis had skipped the NBA finals because of anxiety or depression, Internet trolls would have a field day.
However, the answers aren’t as important. Simone and Naomi will be heroes or villains for those searching for characters in whatever self-serving story they want to promote. Everything that we stand for at BEHAVE Wellness should take the side of those prioritizing their own wellness above material success, right? But again, we dehumanize complex situations if Simone and Naomi are nothing more than talking points for a cause. The questions are more important–the realization that the issues of exploitation, responsibility, sacrifice and selfishness need addressed by all of us in our personal lives. Our judgment of others is irrelevant, though what offends us reveals us. We are all heroes and villains, because we are all imperfect humans, prone to mistakes and courage and fear and accomplishments woven together in this experience we call life.
Along with other accomplished nurse anesthetists, Nick and Shannon are presenting at a conference live on Instagram. Topics include finances, wellness, bullying, and strategies to accomplish one of our mantras: don’t graduate alone.
Don’t graduate alone has two parts. The first: graduate. All the activism and speaking your truth and resilience won’t matter without actually accomplishing your goal. The second: if you do graduate, but lose all the important relationships in your life in the process, it’s not a win. The whole point of navigating from nurse aide to registered nurse to advanced practice is an increased quality of life. For more on that, here’s a video about mental health strategies and relying on support systems appropriately.
Our topics also apply to entrepreneurship and disciplines where the challenges make traditional views of work-life balance untenable, so you’re more than welcome to join us and get your questions answered. Through the practices Shannon will teach us, students can better become steel snowflakes: intricate, individual, fully present, but with sharp edges that do not melt when faced with adversity. Nick’s steel snowflake theory emphasizes brutal self-reflection coupled with the grace to learn and make mistakes as we live an authentic life of meaning. We’ll also be teaching from the many resources we’ve developed at BEHAVE Wellness as we strike that balance between self-care and serving others. The conference is free, so be sure to invite your friends!
That’s it. That’s the post. I suppose we could talk about racial injustice and police brutality and abducted children and COVID best practice–it has been a while and all of those pressing topics are in our wheelhouse of bullying and oppression. But first, consider this, from the author of “Unoffendable: How Just One Change Can Make All of Life Better.”
We’ve posted before about nosy coworkers. As the research article (click the first picture) states, social media warps our ability to get to the true intent of what someone is saying. Some languages, like Greek, carry nuance and richness in the written word that give context. English does not, so we often misinterpret or define content in absolutes, without the buffer of tone and body language that allows humans to discuss difficult topics face to face, without exclamation points and canceling each other.
Does that mean we should tolerate racism or accept bullying from our fellow employees? No, but these are discussions best held bravely, in person, rather than an online forum for the entertainment of strangers. Each website has its own culture and context; Facebook and LinkedIn magnify awkwardness, analogous to farting in a cubicle, while Twitter seems to be the best for finding your own tribe believing Exactly the Right Things.
So that’s our advice. What do you think? The comment link is next to the inflammatory hashtags above. Are we all being used by political parties and movements, essentially decreasing their marketing budgets as we do their work for them and unfriend family members in the process? Is bullying worse in quasi-quarantine because the internet is so pervasive? In that case, deleting apps from your phone may be wise. That may also keep you from starting a conversation in your free time that will spill over to work relationships. After all, few people have a change of heart because someone used all caps and an angry emoji on the Internet.
How can you be more productive at work? This is a slight contrast to our regular message of taking care of yourself and opposing bullying, even if that means your boss will make a little less money from you. It’s sad but true that the more valuable of an employee you are, the more likely HR may actually do something. Awkward, I know, but optimizing performance by biohacking your brain is today’s topic.
Alleviant Health Centers of Akron and Delta Performance discuss optimizing health with nootropics, mineral supplements, healthy fats, and other biohacking techniques. More importantly, Nick and Dee investigate the awkward philosophy of self-improvement and emotional stability via chemical dependence.
Today’s teaching is about losing weight and not losing your mind during quarantine. How can we take ground and use our time wisely to get fit? Can we leverage the quiet to know our bodies and let them teach us how to stay healthy?
John Crist and Duplicity of Intention
Several days ago, reports surfaced that popular comedian John Crist isn’t as harmless and wholesome as the Christian persona he portrays–although perhaps the above .gif should have been a clue. Allegations of sexual manipulation, harassment and coercion, and what he admits as “destructive and sinful behavior” continue to come from multiple women.
At BEHAVE, we typically focus on bullying rather than sexual harassment. In many of these cases, opposing camps set up their preferred narratives and hashtags in advance, and the individual stories of exploitation become minefields riddled with casualties from the insensitive. But, this issue is especially important as we enter the holiday season. Stress increases, people let their guard down, and holiday parties combine alcohol and power imbalances. Just because you share a cubicle wall with that co-worker all year doesn’t mean you know and should trust them deeply.
That’s what we mean by the “duplicity of intention.” People may have much different goals than the ones they portray publicly. Although they felt weird about what was happening, several of the women involved with John Crist thought he wouldn’t do anything inappropriate. “What is your intention this evening?” might not be the smoothest start to a date, but it’s certainly something to keep in mind. We’re reminded of Malcolm Gladwell’s book “Blink,” which explains how sometimes we need to trust our gut to analyze a situation and form conclusions different from what our conscious mind can process. (For more about the conscious mind and the sense of self, see our previous post).
No Simple Solutions, But…
The answer is not to stand stiffly with pepper stray in hand at the first sign of an awkward social situation, nor is it to compartmentalize life into Tinder and non-Tinder (or non-Christian Mingle). The John Crist story documents numerous instances over many years. It seems that a majority of the woman expected to harmlessly flirt with a celebrity they admired. Because of the Christian culture shared with John Crist, they anticipated side rails, airbags–whatever metaphor best describes safety systems in place.
Pathetic as it sounds, we have to build our own guardrails, and we’re not speaking to potential victims only. Bosses, pastors, even social media personalities need to implement accountability systems they can’t thwart. What use is an ineffective boundary? If I fall, I want a sturdy nylon net to catch me, not a waffle fry from Chick-Fil-A. As we’ve seen, a false sense of security increases the chance for harm. Start with finding one person you can trust to call you out. There’s much more that we could add for the sake of completeness, but what are your thoughts?
Lastly, if someone has shown destructive patterns, believe them. Is your boss pushy, refusing to take no for an answer at work? Why would they be any different late at night when everyone else has left the office party? Don’t tolerate it. Before you give someone a second chance, wait to see a change in behavior. Otherwise…
Well, that’s a frightening sounding title. We talk so much at Behave Wellness about developing resilience to thrive in the rat race of corporate America. Even surviving work culture is all about Ego: self-promotion, achievement, resisting bullies, and self-care intense enough that the stress of work can’t follow you home. In cases of serious mental illness, the brain perpetually exists in survival mode, vigilant against any perceived threats (think PTSD) while trying to withstand the 9 to 5 one day at a time.
As most of you know, we’ve been instrumental in launching a clinic with counseling, psychiatry, and chronic pain services, Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (see our last post on anxiety), and ketamine in Akron, Ohio. We’ve become a resource for the opioid crisis in our city with our novel techniques, and continue to refine our protocols for the challenging patients we’re receiving from all over the state. That’s where ego dissolution comes in. Because mental illness requires so much…brain power, really, where can the mind go to find rest and solace? Many psychiatric medications take weeks to work, and by then many employees find themselves out of a job.
Increasingly, one answer seems to be disassociation. That’s how we, three nurse anesthetists, all started on this journey; besides decreasing inflammation and regulating glutamate so it nourishes the brain, ketamine is a dissociative anesthetic. Instead of slowing down breathing and brain activity like narcotics, ketamine simply uncouples the emotional centers of the brain from the here and now. Time slows or stops, vision and hearing become distorted, pain disappears, and synaptogenesis and neuroplasticity form new connections in the nervous system to replace cyclical pathways of pain, OCD, and depression.
Most of the literature reports these side effects as necessary to quickly and permanently change the brain’s neurochemistry, but the newest data takes it one step farther. Higher intensity and longer duration of ego dissolution relates to better outcomes in the toughest cases, meaning that a select group of patients should experience a complete out of body experience. This post shouldn’t be considered medical advice, by the way, because it’s a blog, and despite compelling, carefully conducted research, more studies are needed.
Psychedelics and Faith
Because of the years she spent in the Mexican desert becoming a yogi, our founder Shannon would consider oneness with the universe the key to transformation. The most fascinating concept in ego dissolution is of instantaneous healing via mystical and insightful quantum changes. From Nick’s background as a Pentecostal Christian, it’s not dissimilar from the intense, life-changing moment of salvation and other spiritual experiences. Faith is grounding, in a necessary way that orders our lives and provides meaning, but an authentic and solid belief system should withstand the notion that we are nothing but electrical signals trying to increase output of brain derived neurotrophic factor. Outside of a purely spiritual phenomenon, intravenous ketamine supervised by anesthesia professionals, with support from mental health experts, is the safest way to shift the mind this way.
But, just because something is safe doesn’t mean it should be done. In the Western world, we increasingly take it for granted that feeling bad should be avoided at all costs, even if the alternative is bankruptcy, medications with side effects, social stigma, or feeling even worse down the road. What quick fix will last me until tomorrow? This goes back to our point about resilience: through counseling, can we teach patients to sit with their pain, to acknowledge the darkness, to take the longer path towards more complete wellness? If not, they’re not excellent candidates for ketamine, because to them it’s just the Next Big Thing, like TikTok for some Silicon Valley entrepreneur desperately trying to grow a scraggly beard into something long enough to accidentally dip into a soy mocha.
What do you think? Does this conversation remind you of hippies (or at least Phil Jackson) trying too hard to find meaning in life? Could the psychiatric effects of drugs like ketamine just be the result of lifting the veil between what is seen and the deeper realities of existence? Cave paintings of herb and mushroom influenced “spirit walks” from prehistoric times show these aren’t new ideas. The challenge now is to use the latest research responsibly, keeping Ego in dissolution.
Before we begin, our thoughts and prayers are with the people of Virginia Beach, where an employee of the city’s public works department killed 11 people before police shot him. The same circuitous conversations about mental health, gun control, and maybe toxic work environments may fade before even the first funeral, but the frequency of these incidents doesn’t negate the tragedy for affected communities.
No one is Immune
We get anxious too, leaving work at the office or operating room only to find the stress following us home. Too bad it’s so difficult to learn new skills and change the world without stepping out of your comfort zone. The three of us here at BEHAVE Wellness are part of the team that launched Alleviant Health Centers in Akron about a month ago. It’s a lot easier to talk about creating an oasis of wellness for employees than it is to form a business with a team of experts capable of treating complex patients who’ve been let down by conventional therapies.
Zap it with Medical Technology
Whether situational anxiety or an actual anxiety diagnosis, cultural norms in this country dictate trying to get rid of it, preferably in the most advanced manner possible. It’s the same philosophy that leads to unnecessary heart catheterizations and removal of helpful organs.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with desiring a quick fix rather than trying to earn wellness through the hard work of dietary changes, exercise, and self care. Either approach brings up issues of worthiness and identity. Starting this week at Alleviant, we’re offering Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) for anxiety. Typically, insurance only covers a month’s worth of sessions in cases of treatment resistant depression. What we’ve quickly discovered is that the drug-less, pain-less technology is powerful and incredibly effective, but still works best in combination with a patient’s own efforts.
At the risk of resembling a “Top 10 Tips” clickbait article, we’ll list a few ways to reduce anxiety the three of us are using more than ever. Alone, each one may fail to move the needle, but shifting from a compartmentalized to a holistic approach is Step 1 to reduce anxiety. Feel free to leave a comment to learn more about Alleviant Health Centers or BEHAVE’s tools and workshops for corporate wellness!
Natural Anxiety Reducers
1. Probiotics. Seems unrelated, but we’ve seen dramatic differences due to this step in repairing the gut-brain connection. Herbal and mineral supplements decrease anxiety, but working with a qualified practitioner is best to find the right combination.
2. Eat right. In the same article, dietary changes reduced anxiety more than multi-strain, high quality probiotics.
3. Know your body. After all, although everyone knows sugar is bad and at least some exercise is good, we’re usually overwhelmed by the differing opinions about optimal lifestyle changes. Staying in tune with what the body wants answers questions such as, “Do I still feel good on this raw, plant-based diet three months in?”
4. Talk. Some people improve their self-awareness by talking to others. Find friends and family who can serve as a mirror to see what’s going on the inside. Professional counselors can also help sort through causes and solutions for anxiety.
5. Breathe. Several branches of alternative medicine focus on restoring the balance between the “fight or flight” and “rest and relax” portions of our nervous system. Slow, deep breaths allow the parasympathetic nervous system to regain control.
6. Cherish moments. Like dapples of sunshine reaching the forest floor, sometimes joy reappears. Live in these moments, not focusing on how long they will last or if we deserve it or the ten other things we should be doing with our time.
Healthcare is all about “critical thinking,” which occasionally prevents us from getting stuff done and actually healing patients. Click the picture to take our new course about communication and acting on properly processed information. That’s a major challenge at any workplace: removing the distorted lens of perception and seeing things as they are. Is the boss terrible, or does corporate culture just place that mantle of ineptitude on everyone in leadership? Are coworkers clear and brutally honest, or are you being bullied? And finally, do I really use phrases like “mantle of ineptitude” when internally asking myself questions? Yes.
Our last post discussed the importance of outside perspectives, but let me illustrate with a story how to achieve a more holistic viewpoint. I (Nick) rent out my house as part of the snowbird process. The final step will be driving 20 miles under the speed limit wherever I go. It’s surprisingly difficult to clean your house for others, because I’m used to my own mess. I mopped the floors and polished the furniture, but almost missed coffee stains on the kitchen cabinets. They’ve probably been there a while, but long ago my brain told my eyes, “There’s nothing to see here. Let’s concentrate on other things.” Take a step back and will your mind to see things for the first time. It may be an emotional undercurrent at the office, or an automatic response to a seemingly neutral stimulus, or even the way coworkers treat certain employees without apparent cause. Notice normal reactions and those that seem out of place. Culture is extremely powerful, especially during times of conflict, stress, and grief. I read a story today of a funeral home simultaneously hosting calling hours for an American–stoic, somber, whispers of dull platitudes such as “God needed an angel” and a Filipino–kids climbing around the casket, people talking loudly, etc. We revert to traditional ways of doing things, and it’s helpful to ask the simple question, “Why?” Why is the best for the patient, client or customer, and why do we think this way is the best way? None of us could work effectively turning over every stone inquisitively, but pick your battles and see what you uncover.
Latest and Greatest
Our new course isn’t the only project we’ve been working on. “Critical Doing” is certainly entertaining, especially the interactive videos filmed underwater in Greece and Florida (very relevant to the nursing process), during hurricanes, and while wandering around forests and crowded malls. We are starting a pain and mental health clinic in Akron, Ohio. We have about a dozen employees, and it’s past time to stop talking about corporate wellness and see if we can actual materialize our idealistic views. By putting employees first, we hope their joy will be contagious and lead to much better patient outcomes than the current cookie-cutter methods of care. We’ll continue to update you all on our progress, triumphs, and failures as we do our part to change the broken healthcare system and practice critical doing.