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.
All posts tagged employee 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.
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.
We thought “Combating Work Stress” was a catchy title for this post, but combat itself is stressful. This topic came up recently because the three of us wrote a Continuing Education article about workplace bullying. We’ll post the link in the Media section once it’s published. Rather than discuss definitions and the statistical prevalence of various bullying behaviors, we devoted most of the paper to practical ways to increase wellness and resilience regardless of one’s workplace situation.
One useful method is to find camaraderie outside of work. For example, nurses tend to obtain support during bullying situations from their coworkers, which doesn’t work very well if gossip and rumors are the weapons of bullying. Social support is necessary to combat bullying and work stress, but how do you grow your own? Enter Meetup.com. It’s not a perfect solution, and the cost to run a Meetup group is embarrassing compared to free services such as Facebook groups. However, the site and app does allow people to find those in their geographic area with similar interests, whether that be yoga, theater, or in today’s example, writing. Nick recently published a book of medical satire and other short stories in collaboration with a dozen authors who are also in his Pensacola Meetup group.
The solution isn’t for someone to clutter the rest of their lives as an escape mechanism so they only have time to think about work at work. Staying ridiculously busy isn’t too different of a philosophy than drinking alcohol to (unsuccessfully) escape stressful situations. Some of us have jobs that do occasionally require preparedness that begins before work. Rather, maintain a healthy work-life balance. Remembering long term goals and keeping everything in perspective prevents us from spinning on the proverbial hamster wheel. This brings up the topic of mindfulness and living in the present. More on that next time.
Expanding wellness for employees is a noble and necessary task. Many large corporations we’ve visited post signs telling employees they can confidentially talk to someone in employee health about their problems and receive free psychiatric screening. It’s not that America’s workforce is routinely committing suicide or going postal over their jobs, but it’s difficult to attract good talent to replace those who couldn’t take it anymore and abruptly quit. The problem is that without a holistic approach, nothing changes. The treatment of dissatisfied employees is like typical pain management in this country: “Here’s a pill that will cover up your symptoms for a while, so leave us alone.”
Tweet: Dissatisfied employees are treated like pain management patients: Here’s a pill to cover up symptoms for a while–leave us alone. @Behavewellness
Although we are going to briefly talk about alternative medicine today, this isn’t one of those seemingly normal blog posts that suddenly disintegrate into calling all pharmaceuticals poisonous. They can and do work effectively as part of an overall plan for wellness. It’s important to note, however, that many antidepressants, anxiolytics, and other drugs meant to fix altered brain chemistry are primarily for symptoms with unknown etiology–meaning that you feel bad but it’s not linked to a specific situation in your life. Drill down to the root cause. Otherwise, you might accept a new job elsewhere, but your Zoloft is going with you.
So what is a holistic approach to taking care of yourself at work? Litigation, complaining to HR, and changing jobs aren’t always options, and they certainly won’t decrease stress in the short term. Medications potentially affecting alertness can decrease performance, so we’ve ruled out that approach as a magic bullet. It takes a combination of therapies and a philosophy that understands that physical, emotional, and spiritual aspects are all one: compartmentalizing work life doesn’t work long term.
With that in mind, read this article by one of our founders comparing complementary and alternative medicine to conventional philosophies. http://nursing.advanceweb.com/CE/TestCenter/Content.aspx?CourseID=1178&CreditID=1&CC=287295&sid=3835
Maybe a relaxing magnesium drink or Epsom salt bath will help you unwind better than the wine you’re dependent on. Perhaps probiotics and a better diet can level out your energy levels throughout the day better than multiple cups of coffee. For others, yoga and Eastern medicine provide an outlet for work stress, or corporate sport events like the one pictured below. We at BEHAVE Wellness are here for you, and unlike employee health, it’s not for the ultimate goal of making you as profitable as possible for the company. How do you keep yourself from becoming overburdened by work?
Bullying doesn’t necessarily take place when someone gets offended. After all, in today’s world, “offended” often means “have a different point of view.” Because different opinions exist to describe seemingly simple situations, it’s important to understand what bullying is. The Tim Field Foundation defines bullying as conduct that cannot be objectively justified by a reasonable code of conduct, and whose likely or actual cumulative effect is to threaten, undermine, constrain, humiliate or harm another person or their property, reputation, self-esteem, self-confidence or ability to perform.
The Workplace Bullying Institute calls it repeated, health-harming mistreatment by one or more people of an employee: abusive conduct which is verbal abuse, threats, intimidation, humiliation, work interference, sabotage, or a combination of any or all. Incivility or disrespect are more gentle synonyms for bullying, while horizontal violence and lateral violence refer to mistreatment from fellow coworkers or managers and supervisors.
Now let’s define another half dozen terms so you can tell if you’re being bullied. Actually, that’s not necessary because even when we couldn’t define it (probably around kindergarten), we’ve all known when we’ve been treated unfairly. As busy adults, sometimes we need to slow down to fully comprehend a hostile work situation. It’s more subtle because no one is throwing dodgeballs at your head and stealing lunch money.
Are you being bullied? Bullying takes on many forms in the workplace and signs and
symptoms vary. All of a “sudden” is your work not good enough? Are you accused of incompetence despite a history of objective excellence? Do you find yourself feeling sick to your stomach the night before work or obsess about work on your days off? If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, you may be in a bullying situation. Tell us your experiences in the comments. We’ll explain what do do next in a later post, but besides our website, the Workplace Bullying Institute is a wonderful reference.