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.
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.
If we had to describe BEHAVE Wellness in a word, it might not be “self-care”, but that would be high on the list, right after “attractive,” “effervescent,” and perhaps “intellect-searing genius.” An emotionally whole person who takes care of themselves doesn’t need us as often: it takes a truly toxic work culture or bullying relationship to require outside help. As our snowflake post revealed, living a life of offense makes compromise, teamwork, and tolerating weird people (including ourselves) a daily struggle. For further reading on self care, here‘s the article that inspired us, and check out our resources.
For both of our male readers, we should explain that a bath bomb is not a lethal explosive, but simply the evolution of the bubble bath. They come in different scents (not flavors: BEHAVE Wellness strongly discourages the practice of drinking bath water). Although they may feature the rich chocolate essence of bonbons, none of these scents are bacon, pine sap, or race car, so this concludes our explanation.
We believe self-care is an extension of the idea, “Pray not for lighter burdens, but stronger shoulders.” Simply put, some conflicts don’t have solutions or a trusted adult to hold your hand. Waiting around for everything to line up right or a joyful ambush from happiness is an exercise in stagnation, not patience. Among our other titles and roles, we’re all nurse anesthetists at BEHAVE Wellness, and do you know the medical term for stagnation? Gangrene. Self-care absolutely involves exquisite moments of bliss, inspiration, and pleasure. It is also enforcing boundaries that displease others and sometimes saying difficult words like, “I was wrong and I’m going to make this right.” Hmm, that’s not quite as singable as, “Let it go!”.
Before you cancel that massage and mud bath appointment, or throw away the decadent ice cream, this is not a post about austerity versus indulgence. We want to expand the definition of self-care, not limit it. It’s just that doing what’s best for yourself doesn’t always feel good. On occasion, it meets the needs of others at your expense. Fulfillment is a journey, not a destination. You may grasp fleeting moments of happiness if you pursue it with wild abandon, but in the meantime you’ll cause heartache for anyone in your path.
What self-care techniques work best for you? Is it yoga? Eating right and exercise? Serving others? A scheduled time of Netflix & Chill as sacred to you as a weekly Sabbath? Let us know in the comments.
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.
A Peculiar First Blog Post
This isn’t conventional. Normally, websites launch with vision statements, enthusiastic projections arching from today to the glorious future, moving personal stories, or at least a professional list of how indispensable they are. Instead, here’s a strange picture.
The truth is, some of us never grow up. I haven’t, obviously, but I’m referring to bullying behaviors not much different from picking on the weirdest kid in dodge ball. Unfortunately, knowing how to deal with these playground issues is much harder as adults. The bell won’t ring to signal the end of recess or PE. Retirement is a lot farther away than graduation from the sixth grade, especially if you find yourself constantly biting your tongue or bravely defending yourself from perceived attacks. So, what’s the best response?
Getting some friends together and beating up the bully would be hard to explain at your next job interview. Besides, responding with similar behavior would be visibly hypocritical. We can’t really tell the teachers about the problem, and there’s a reason one of our taglines here at BEHAVE Wellness is “Human Resources That Won’t Tell on You.”
What weapons do you use to fight bullying, targeting, and sabotage? Let me know in the comments–you might even find a satire story there based on the idea of basing work decisions on childish games. Even more formidable than a slightly deflated dodge ball (those sting more, you know) is knowledge. Know your policies, rights, and who you can trust. Find helpful resources such as the one you’re reading now, and get to know yourself. What makes you tick and what ticks you off? Conquering self-bullying tactics and toxic emotions is pivotal. Even if we’re only good at catching, or throwing, or dodging the ball, remember that recess is supposed to be fun, even in the corporate world.
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