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.
“Everything is meaningless,” Solomon grumbled thousands of years before Rick and Morty became a hit show where characters scamper off to alternate universes to escape the devastation of their choices. The paradox of “everything matters” while “nothing matters” is uniquely compelling in the brittle social construct of today’s society (see Are you a Bullying Target or a Snowflake). We struggle to remember who we’re supposed to be mad at currently–McDonald’s, Dove, flag kneelers, or maybe the media for wasting our time with stories eventually revealed as fictional parables of our preferred narrative.
Enough abstract ramblings. On the show, Rick destroyed everything in his way to get a discontinued condiment from McDonald’s, just because he could. McDonald’s sensed a chance for cross promotion and quickly whipped up a batch, but ran out and had to turn away angry crowds of customers without Szechuan sauce at multiple locations. The gulf between a delightful idea and actually seeing it through usually takes care of these problems. We can all attest to that from fabulous events we promised we would attend on Facebook, but never left the house for when the moment came.
The relevance here is the haunting thirst for community in our culture. To the executives who’ve questioned the need for businesses like ours, this serves as an example for how badly people want to be on a team and share an experience with others. A fleeting moment of spontaneous joy is priceless, or at least the going price on eBay for one of those sauce packets.
On a side note, looks like eBay’s targeted ads want me to buy shampoo. Since no one’s actually offering $20,000, let’s get a more accurate picture and see current bids.
Wow, look how lucrative it can be to give someone a sense of belonging! That’s the message here, that whether out of sheer goodness or basic economics, fostering a sense of unity pays well.
Can you create that kind of culture at work? After all, when I was a traveling nurse, I noticed employees complained the same amount whether they were at a place with good teamwork or bad (I preferred the latter as the job security was unbeatable no matter how overpaid I was). Whether an employee or employer, tackle this problem in bite-sized chunks, inserting sauce packet sized pockets of joy and comradery where possible. High turnover? Plan fabulous parties for everyone who leaves. Loneliness and superficial relationships causing misunderstanding? No one will show up for events outside of work, so start by breaking the ice in the office, even if you have to buy Nerf guns from the dollar store.
I realize that many of the rubber band wars I started at various workplaces were unprofessional, but sometimes a polite, frigid work space is the enemy of teamwork. Yes, zero-tolerance policies against bullying may be necessary, but in an environment where people can relax and occasionally enjoy themselves, careless comments sting less. What do you think? Do you agree that, just like Rick, we can just live for a moment without scrutinizing how much it matters? Not all that time, I mean, and as long as we don’t destroy the universe.
Security does not bring joy. A full bank account does not equal peace in your soul. Much of what we advocate is holistic change on the inside to better cope with life struggles and work stress. However, setting your financial house in order lessens the risk of getting stuck in a toxic work environment with no way out. You can read the full post from Nick about preparing financially for the next step in your career at nurseeyeroll.com and follow our friend Kati (and us too, while you’re at it) on Facebook, Twitter, etc. More info is available in the book How to Succeed in Anesthesia School (And RN, PA, or Med School).
1. Live Poor
2. Get Grants
3. Consider Cheaper Schools
4. Invest Wisely
5. Explore Side Gigs
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.”
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?