Employee Engagement: Giving a Sh*t About your Job and your Company

Haven’t Won the Jackpot Yet?

At this point, it’s pretty clear I’m not going to win Powerball or Mega Millions or even five bucks on a scratch ticket. I’m going to have to continue to work for a living. It seems unjust, I know, but that’s the way it is.

I’ve been trying to come up with ways that I can become more engaged with my job and company. I sell headsets for a living – like the ones you see the operators wearing on late-night commercials when they say “Operators are standing by.” I sell a LOT of headsets. My quota is over $2M annually. Believe me… that’s a lot of headsets.

Remarkably, I didn’t dream of being a headset salesperson when I was growing up. I dreamed of becoming a teacher, but I got my Master’s in Elementary and Special Ed, and then I couldn’t afford to teach and pay for three kids in daycare. As Grandma Hazel used to say, “It’s not right, but it’s so.”

I’m a good employee; I always make “President’s Club” for achieving 100% of quota annually. I’m not a great employee, though. For example, I’m writing this during business hours. I have plenty to do, but my motivation is at the bottom of the pit of despair.

Why wouldn’t making a good living, a decent wage, be enough to motivate me every day? I guess it should. I should also be extremely grateful that I have a job with health insurance, dental insurance, and a 401K matching program. Without my job, my family and I would be in big trouble. Someimes the threat of losing your job isn’t enough to make you really care. It would certainly make you show up, but it’s not going to make you put your best foot forward. I want to be motivated. I want to be productive. I want to truly care about my job.

I’ve been doing a little digging around to find out how employees become engaged with their jobs and companies and thought I’d share a few nuggets of inspiration. I’ve listed five ideas for employers and then five ideas for employees.

What is an Engaged Employee?

First, I should explain that “engaged” means more than “happy.” An engaged employee will go the extra mile – just because. An engaged employee is motivated and productive.

Walk around your office for a minute. Take a gander at your coworkers. How many of them look engaged? Here’s a scary statistic: about 17% of employees are engaged in their work. That means, if you look at a workstation containing 5 people, 4 of them will be watching YouTube or surfing social media or daydreaming about the lottery or… (sigh)… writing a blog. That’s so sad — for the company and for the employee. The one person who’s engaged is probably generating 90% of the revenue/productivity for the group.

How Do Companies Engage Their Employees?

So, you want 100% of your employees to be engaged and productive? Here are five ideas for employers.

  1. Physical Proximity. Remote work is the trend right now. Working from home or on the road is good for your work-life balance, eliminates commuting time, and increases productivity by decreasing interruptions from colleagues. It also makes for a solitary existence. Why should I really care about my colleague who works in California whom I’ve met twice? If you have a remote team, you are going to have to work hard to make sure that it’s really a “team.” That means spending more time together than on weekly staff-meeting calls. Find ways to physically bring your team together. If that’s impossible, find reasons for them to all be together on the phone or a video call for very informal sessions where they can just chat. Bringing teammates together forms a sense of compassion for one another that wouldn’t otherwise exist.
  2. Talk about something other than work. People crave caring. People who feel like they’re cared for at work will have an emotional investment and interest in seeing the company succeed. We spend more time with coworkers than we do with our own children. Rather than encouraging a sweat-shop mentality where people just punch in, do their job, and punch out, try to develop a family mentality — one in which colleagues will look out for each others’ wellbeing.
  3. Make sure your employees know exactly what you want them to do. What does your employees’ success look like? If your end-game is to increase sales, what are some measurable goals you can develop together to achieve that increase? Have the employee put some skin in the game, though. Allow them to work with you to develop the goals. Goals should include steps that the employee can check off their to-do list every day and which will lead to their success.  During my review, my boss suggested that I work to clean up my pipeline. I would love to see an example of a clean pipeline. I would love to know the specific steps I can take on a daily basis to keep my pipeline clean. Would you like to see me set an activity so I touch base with each account on a bi-weekly basis? What makes a pipeline clean? How can I better estimate the size of the sales and the timeframe in which they’ll close? Give me specific examples so I can focus on tackling some piece of that goal every day.
  4. Find out what motivates each of your employees. It’s easy to say that money is a good incentive, but there’s something more that they want to earn. There’s something more that’s important to them. Ask them to really think about it and let you know. It sounds funny to suggest having everyone read “The Five Love Languages” by Gary Chapman, but it might help them discover what fills their emotional tank. You can even just have them take the quiz here. Be prepared, though. They might all have different answers, and you need to be able to come up with rewards that suit each individual on your team.
  5. Say thank you. So simple, and yet, so rarely done. Write it in a note; it’ll mean more.

 

How can employees develop their own sense of engagement? Here are five ideas for the employees’ side of the coin.

 

  1. Get up and get grateful. Before you even get out of bed, lie there for just a second and be grateful for any part of your job. Are you grateful that you have a coworker who’s funny? Are you grateful that you’re getting paid today? Are you grateful that you get to go out for sushi at lunch time? There has to be something — at least one thing — that you’re grateful for at work.
  2. Look good. Putting on a nice outfit or spending a few minutes to polish your shoes is actually tied to higher self-esteem. If you don’t want to upgrade your clothes, just put a smile on your face when you walk into the office. People who smile are more attractive. When you look good, you feel better.
  3. Think about where you want to be in your company (or in another company.) What does that position look like? What skills will you need to get there? What type of person holds that job? What qualities make them successful there? Write those qualities on sticky notes and pop them up around your desk. “Creative.” “Analytical.” “Relationship-focused.” “Collaborative.” Make it your life’s mission that others perceive those qualities in you.
  4. Organize your day. Ever tried using a bullet journal? It’s a great way to keep track of anything and everything. It’s a task-list, a calendar, and a journal all in one. I combine both work and personal life in my bullet journal. Not sure if that’s how it’s supposed to be, but it works for me. Think about what your manager’s image is of the perfect employee. What specific steps can you take to get there? Write ’em down and mark them off as you accomplish them. Kendra from “The Lazy Genius” has a good guide to creating and using a basic bullet journal. Find a link to her site here.
  5. Get in the zone. Have you ever had a day where you sat down in the morning and the next thing you knew it was time for lunch? You were in the zone. It’s much easier to get in the zone when you’re busy. Open your bullet journal, put on a great noise-cancelling headset (see what I did there?), and do the first task. The longer it takes you to get settled and going in the morning, the harder it is to get into the zone. Go in, say hi to your friends, sit down, and get going. Tell yourself that you’ll get up at 11 to step away from it all. If you have a “Darrell” who wants you to go buy a lottery ticket with him, tell him that you’ll go at 11. Pretend that the president of the company is coming to your desk at 10:45 to inspect all that you’ve done during the morning. You want to impress her. Get in the zone and get ‘er done.

Employee engagement leads to lower turnover, higher productivity, higher customer loyalty, lower number of sick days, and a more positive office environment. Do a little more research and find a way to engage your employees and yourself. Do you have more ideas about how to engage? Please leave them in comments below. Thanks!

Judge and Judgment

Like many Americans, I spent the morning fixated on the testimony given by Dr. Christine Blasey Ford and the afternoon mesmerized by Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s rebuttal. Part of the reason I was so transfixed is that I was sexually assaulted during the fall of my freshman year in college. I’m not going to talk about my attack, mostly because, 34 years later, I still can’t bring myself to think about it – let alone write about it. I didn’t say a word when it happened, and I didn’t say a word for probably ten more years when I finally told my husband. Very few people know about it… my therapist, some very close friends, and my daughters. That suppressed trauma came back to the surface when my daughters started going to college. I found myself crying – constantly – because I was so worried that it would happen to them, too. Sending them off to school was tearing me apart.  I decided to tell them a very vague abbreviated version of the story as a cautionary tale. I told them that nine hundred and ninety-nine out of a thousand guys are perfectly safe, but there’s going to be one… One who looks normal on the outside, may belong to a fraternity, play lacrosse, or be an excellent student; but whom, under the right conditions (a late night after too many drinks), becomes a monster. Make sure you always always always leave a party with a friend. Never abandon a friend, and never let them abandon you. Find someone who will have your back, and you take care of them just the same.

I watched Dr. Blasey Ford tell the story of her assault and the consequent post-traumatic stress she still experiences. The entire time I was watching (in awe of her unfathomable strength and courage), I was trying to picture myself in the same situation. Frankly, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have said a word – despite my “civic duty.” Her entire life is upside down because she came forward. I didn’t have the guts to say anything 34 years ago; I can’t imagine it would be any easier today. I was so sure that I would tell the police or go to court, and the whole thing would be turned around. I would be the one defending everything from what I wore that night to how much I’d had to drink to how hard I tried to stop him.  I pictured myself on trial.  “If there was no music on downstairs, why do you think no one could hear you calling for help?” For 34 years, I’ve cursed my cowardice and prayed fervently that my fear and inaction didn’t result in another woman’s (or women’s) trauma. How many times did he get away with it, just because he could? I’ve also fantasized about having him on the witness stand, attempting to defend his indefensible actions. All of these years later, I relish the image of him sitting there in his suit and tie, sweat pouring down his face, in front of his wife and friends, twisting.

Why on earth should someone be punished for something they did so long ago? After all of this time, isn’t it just water under the bridge? Hasn’t he proven himself to be an upstanding citizen? Hasn’t he proven himself to be one of the most upstanding citizens in the entire country? That was just kids’ stuff. He was drunk. He didn’t go all the way. It doesn’t count.

What would you say if your daughter were the victim? Would it count then? Even a little bit?

I love that women are finding our voices and attempting to put an end to this injustice. I worry, though, that people (men and women) are developing emotional calluses around the subject. I have seen more than one man roll his eyes at the mention of the #metoo movement. I know they’re hoping this is just a phase. They’re thinking that this is like being gluten-free. It seems okay, but we’ll be back to normal before too long. I’m hoping it’s just the beginning. I’m hoping my granddaughters (and grandsons – I get that this goes both ways) grow up in a world where they’re safe and their words are both heard and respected.

My daughter’s college showed a magnificent short animated video to students during orientation. In the video, the narrator is explaining that having sex is a lot like having tea together. You can offer your friend some tea, but if they don’t like tea, or don’t feel like drinking tea at that moment, you are not allowed to pour the tea down their throat. A person can say they’d like some tea; but, if they change their mind – even after you went ahead and made the tea – you’re not allowed to pour it down their throat. Similarly, someone who is passed out cannot tell you whether or not they’d like tea, so you may not pour it down their throat. It gets the message across very clearly. Sex is something that must be agreed upon and consented to by both parties.

I watched the whole hearing, and they are both credible. I happen to believe Dr. Blasey Ford, but I fully recognize that I am biased. The situation is horrible for everyone concerned. Of course, the situation’s already been horrible for 34 years for one of them. I hope that the senators dwell on the testimony they heard and vote according to conscience rather than party lines.

 

The Break

I didn’t know what my dream looked like. I’d read about visualization…. “You have to see your dream if you really want it to come to fruition.” I saw flashes of it – images of the Eiffel Tower and my feet on a beach, but I couldn’t picture what my perfect daily life would look like. I guess the only thing I knew for sure was that the dream didn’t involve 2 hours of commuting time, sitting at a desk for 9 hours, dragging myself home to make dinner for myself and my very-unhappy daughter, scooping the cat litter, or crawling into bed alone.

I had been working at the same job for 4 and a half years – selling headsets. It wasn’t a bad job, as jobs go… I worked with nice people and was paid a fair wage. They had a 401K match and tuition reimbursement. If a person wanted to work in an office, they would have been entirely satisfied.

I didn’t want to do it anymore, though. I found myself unable to get out of bed in the morning, dreading the day that lay ahead. It wasn’t normal depression. I was stuck.

I started thinking about why I felt so stuck, so tied to a job that I felt like I was the caged tiger, my zookeeper-boss watching my every move, her cattle-prod at the ready. I’m sure other people felt trapped in the job, too, but no one ever discussed it. I never once heard a coworker complain that they needed to get out – to be free.

The reason was so clear. FEAR. I was petrified of leaving, because I was terrified that I wouldn’t be able to support my kids, my cats, or myself. If I didn’t have a steady paycheck coming in, I was going to let the WHOLE WORLD down. The conflict between my secret yearnings and my expectations was a full-blown, life-long, Ultimate Fight Night. I didn’t have any problem when the world put these responsibilities on my shoulders. I accepted the expectations and responsibilities as the next step in life’s process. I even  added to those burdens myself. I thought, “only someone who was completely immature, selfish, and irresponsible would live outside these tidy boundaries.”

I have gossiped about people who’ve walked away from their jobs as if they were shooting heroin in the alley.  I’ve judged them and condemned them to serve a life sentence in the little box in my mind labeled “disgraceful.” I have talked to other people about them and said the words: “how could they?” I have pitied their partners and their children. Not once have I ever wished them success.

If they were successful having moved outside the envelope, then the only thing holding me back from doing the same thing was me.

I can’t tell you how long I might have stayed in status-quo-land. I probably could have made it through another 15 years and then retired with some piddly little retirement fund and moved to a condo in Boca, but my daughter unwittingly became the catalyst for the biggest life-change I would experience.

Jillian is a magnificent girl. She is everything – truly everything – that a mom could want in a daughter. She’s loving, smart, evolved, beautiful, hilarious, and just plain good. She stands up for the things that mean something to her. She supports her friends. She challenges herself every day to become a better person. She challenges me to become a better person.

It wasn’t all-at-once, but I saw her start to fall apart about a year ago. She hated being the last one left at home, the only one left to navigate the chasm between ex-spouses she called “mom and dad.” Her sisters had both moved away, one to Boston and one to college in Vermont. I knew it was wearing on her. She would grudgingly pack her bags to get ready for “Dad’s nights,” not because he was a problem (he was a problem, but that’s another story), but because she had to pack her worldly belongings twice a week – every week – and move to another home.

She had a great job at a farm stand with a bunch of other people who, like her, came from broken homes and slightly fucked-up lives. They worked together, played together, and made their own family. I realized she was spending extra hours at the farm. She would be there after closing and never seemed in a hurry to get home. Her grades started to suffer which led to further depression and anxiety. In her entire life, she’d never gotten any grade lower than an A minus. The classes were hard, though. She was taking a bunch of AP and Honors classes, and she couldn’t slide through them like she’d been able to do in the past.

A lot of things happened and a lot of things changed over the course of the last year, but her inability to reach the level of academic perfection she’d set for herself never subsided. When they announced the Class of 2019’s top-ten students, and her name wasn’t on the list, she was devastated. This time she wasn’t bouncing back. I was afraid that her lightbulb had finally burned out. How can you continue to make that big an effort if you’re not going to end up being the best?

Before you start judging me, please know that I told her the same thing that I’ve said throughout her whole life. “Your grades are fantastic and I couldn’t be more proud. The only thing that matters to me is your physical, mental, and emotional health.”

The thought hit me like rubber hitting the road. I needed to put my life where my mouth was. I needed to stop saying this stuff to her and start showing her that I meant what I said.

Making a huge change at the beginning of her senior year wasn’t easy. She was bound and determined to get into a great liberal arts college. What would they say if she withdrew from her high school in October of her senior year? What about the AP classes she wouldn’t be able to finish? AP Psych, AP Gov, AP Spanish, AP Anatomy…? How would a college look at that? How badly would she be penalized?

Could we have an adventure that was cool enough and academically-enriching enough to allow her to qualify through the rigorous admissions process? Or would I just end up looking like another one of those hippy-freak home-schooling moms? What if they thought I’d withdrawn her because I was a religious zealot who didn’t want her to attend a school that taught about safe sex? I was worried about what other people thought, but not as worried as I was about Jillian.

I went online and looked into homeschooling. The idea seemed preposterous to me. I didn’t know how to teach Calculus – or any other subject for that matter. Who did I think I was? Except, guess what? I wasn’t the first person to home school a high-school student. There were so many options, so many programs, so much potential.

It was time to start thinking specifically about my dream. What did I want my life to look like on a daily basis? What did I want for Jillian? I could live with less, but not a lot less. I mean, I didn’t have cable, what more could I give up? I didn’t want to move to a yurt, no matter how much money it would save me. A personal bonus for me (go big or stay home) would be to go someplace warmer – a place without boots or shovels or snowplows. I wanted to start somewhere new, but I didn’t want to isolate Jillian. I wanted her to have friends and activities – a real teenage life without the stress and drama.

I started thinking about how I could create that life for her. How could she start over in a new place where she didn’t know anyone or know where to find the best coffee-house? I realized that she didn’t need to start over. We weren’t talking about a lot of time before graduation. Her real new start would be when she went to college. I was looking for an interim place. It would be temporary for her and permanent for me. She’d need some friends, though, and it’s difficult to make friends your age if you’re not enrolled in school. But it’s not too hard to make friends if you have a job doing something that you love and you’re working with people who are also doing what they love. With the flexibility of homeschooling, she’d be able to get a job during typical school hours. She’d be able to get a job at the best coffee-house in town. She’d probably also get a discount. Killing all the birds with one stone.

And what about me? What was I going to do? I really mulled this over. I was making so many changes and there was so little security. I held fast to the fact that I felt very certain that my decision was the best I’d ever made. My job, however, was one thing that didn’t need to be rushed. I needed to keep my job and work remotely. That would give me time to figure out how to homeschool and  provide me with a paycheck.

First things first. Where were we going? My friend, Lisa, has a house in Hilton Head, SC. I’ve been down to visit and loved the area. It was much warmer, but not crazy-Florida-warmer, and the beach was a stone’s throw away. I saved a search in Zillow: condo, townhouse, single-family house, garage, 2+ bedrooms, 1+ baths, under $300,000. I didn’t want to throw money away on rent anymore. I wanted to buy something, and do it quickly before I quit my job and ruined my credit.

The house popped up in the search that very day. It was just what I wanted and it was just the right price. I sent Lisa a note to make sure I wasn’t moving to the ghetto of Hilton Head, and she confirmed that it was a great area. Turns out, it’s hard to go wrong in that community.

I called my boss and told her my idea. She confirmed that, although the company couldn’t pay for relocation, they would allow me to work remotely.

I went to the high school and sat with the vice principal to discuss homeschooling. The paperwork was easier than I could have ever imagined. She was able to sign up for VLACs (online learning) classes and take most of her classes remotely.

Once I knew this could really happen, I met with my bank and got pre-approved for a mortgage. I called the realtor and made an offer. Sight-unseen.  Closing date: December first.

I called my landlord and invited him over for coffee. I didn’t have a lease, so we were operating on a month-to-month basis. I was nervous about giving him the news, but he understood, and my 60-day notice was official.

The funny thing about fear is that it isn’t real. It’s a dream you have in your head. It’s no more powerful than excitement or happiness or peace. You’re writing the story of your life and you can change it up to be fun or challenging or, yes, scary. You’re writing it. Make it turn out the way you’ve always dreamed it would be. Every morning you wake up and choose what your life will look like on that day. Most of us have become complacent. We’re too tired or overwhelmed or bored to think of anything different when we wake up. “Today’s going to be just like yesterday, with the same stressors, the same funny moments, and the same food for lunch. I’m not going to change, because this is how I’ve done it before. Even though I’m not particularly happy, I’m safe. It’s always worked in the past, and it’ll work again today.” We let the fear – that made-up feeling – dictate how we’re going to act and how we’re going to live our lives.

I’m no different, no better no worse, than anyone else. I just let the bigger fear – the fear that my daughter would drown – outweigh the fear I had of rocking our little boat. What I began to understand, is what fear-itself is afraid of. Fear fears action. Fear loves complacency. Fear loves watching people get stuck – in jobs, in relationships, in life. Fear hates it when you wake up and say, “I’m going to do my very best today. I’m going to challenge myself to move beyond my status quo. I’m going to write a different story for myself.”

I’m still not sure what my ultimate happiness looks like, but my vision is becoming clearer. It involves action and proximity to a beach and a daughter who is confident and healthy. It’s a fuzzy vision, but I’m pretty sure it looks a lot like where I am right now.

 

Mrs. Bed

I love my bed more than is natural. Have you ever heard about people who fall in love with inanimate objects? I saw a video once about a man in Japan who fell in love with a doll. He’d dress her up, take her out to dinner, and order her a drink. He pushed her around in a wheel chair and dressed her appropriately for the weather. She was a true companion for him, and he clearly loved her enough to withstand sidelong glances and snickers from passersby.

There are people who take it further than that, though, people who fall in love with their refrigerator or their garage door opener. “Objectum-sexuality “is the term which refers to intense feelings of love, emotional attachment, and sometimes sexual attraction to things.  In 1979, a Swedish woman married the Berlin Wall. In 2006, a woman named Erika Eiffel married… can you guess? (Last name is a big hint.) You are actually free to marry whomever or whatever you want to marry. Will the state recognize it as a legal marriage? Sorry. You can’t marry your lawnmower and have your accountant complete your taxes as “married, filing jointly.”

My bed and I are not getting married. We’re still just dating, but we are definitely sleeping together.

I think I got off on a tangent there…

What I really meant to say is that I love to sleep. I particularly love to sleep in my bed. It’s so comfortable, and the blankets are just the right thickness, and the 25-year old sheets are super soft. I recognize that it doesn’t actually speak words, but it surely calls to me. It’s worse in the morning, right after I slap the snooze button on the alarm clock. (I have absolutely NO romantic feelings about my alarm clock.)

“Come back to me…….”

I have a really nice bullet journal. Someday I’ll write about that, but not today. Part of the bullet journal is a habit-tracker. That may sound adolescent, but it makes me feel intensely proud to check the boxes off when I’ve completed a task. My morning routine is right there – written in ink on paper. I know that I need to get out of bed at 6am in order to leave the house by 7. I know that as well as I know my name. I just can’t. I’ve never been able to. It’s a lifelong struggle.

I bargain with myself. Maybe if I don’t shave my legs, I can save 4 minutes. If I buy lunch in the cafeteria, it’ll cost me $11, but I can save 3 minutes packing. I’ll scoop the kitty litter the moment I walk in the door after work. There’s another 2 minutes. Before you know it, I’ve convinced myself that I can spare a 9-minute snooze.

Then the alarm goes off again.

I can hear the whispering, ever so gently, coaxing me.

“Come back to me…..”

And I do it. I’m so weak. I’ll be lying there with my eyes closed thinking about what else I could possibly cut out. Makeup! That’s five minutes right there! I’ll just put it on in the car… Maybe I can be four minutes late to work. Would they really notice?

The only way to save myself is to make the bed right away. Once it’s made, it’s made. I’m certainly not going to get back in it at that point. I’m crazy, but I’m no fool. It’s uncanny though, as I pull up the sheets and adjust the pillows, I could swear I hear a muffled whisper…”Come back to me…..”

 

Dealing with Seasonal Affective Disorder: Coping Strategies

Can you smell the pumpkin lattés in the air? For so many people, especially in New England, fall is the most wonderful time of year.

I get it! It’s beautiful. Watching all the leaves change to crimson and gold and drift to the ground, feeling the first hint of chill in the air, fresh apples from the farm stand, high-school football games, getting your cute sweaters back out of the storage bin; it really is a fabulous couple of weeks… until the snow starts to fly again. I just find it depressing.

What is Seasonal Affective Disorder?

Like nearly 10% of the overall population, I have Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD.) I actually dislike the acronym, because I feel like it makes the whole thing seem insignificant. This isn’t “sad” like when someone finishes the pint of ice cream you bought for yourself. This “SAD” is a pervasive depression, excessive sleepiness, and/or increased appetite that sets in when the light starts to fade in the autumn. SAD isn’t a diagnosis in itself, it’s a subtype of Major Depressive Disorder; the difference between “depression” and “SAD” is that SAD generally recurs and subsides annually. For me, it usually peaks at about Christmastime, just when you’re supposed to be at your absolute cheeriest, and goes away at about the time we turn the clocks forward in the spring.

I’m not a doctor, nor do I play one on TV.

Before you read any further, please understand that I’m not a mental health professional. If you feel like you might have Seasonal Affective Disorder, or any other kind of depression, please contact a licensed therapist to help you with a formal diagnosis and treatment options. Here is a link to Psychology Today’s search bar, so you can find a local therapist. Even the most effective solutions to SAD need to be coupled with therapy. Your therapist can also talk with you about whether or not it makes sense to do a short-term antidepressant therapy. This article, however, focuses on a few non-pharmacological options.

So… What are my options?

Check your Vitamin D level

My doctor told me that it’s virtually impossible for people who live north of Florida to get enough Vitamin D in the fall/winter months without taking a supplement. There’s just not enough natural sunlight. Parker, Brotchie, and Graham (2017) completed an empirical study that showed a correlation between Vitamin-D deficiency and depression.  They also state that taking a supplement helped to alleviate the problem. I had a blood test done which measured my Vitamin D levels and, indeed, it was pretty far below normal. I started taking a supplement about 3 weeks ago, so I can’t provide any feedback yet on whether or not it helps me, but I’m throwing it out there, because it may help you. Have a conversation with your doctor. If he/she recommends it, have a blood test to determine your Vitamin D levels. If you are deficient, the recommendation is 1000 IU daily to bring you up to the right level and then maintain it (Parker, Brotchie, & Graham 2017). You can find Vitamin D-3 at your pharmacy, or if you prefer, you can click the image below to order it on Amazon:

 

Get a Happy Light!

A literature review study in the Journal of Affective Disorders discussed the link between lack of light and depression. In their findings, the researchers determined that Bright Light Therapy is another tool to put in your back pocket. This is pretty straight forward. You’re not getting enough sunlight, so you’re going to have fake it. I purchased a full-spectrum therapy light and use it daily. I make a cup of coffee and read in front of the light (about 12″ away from my face) for about a half hour. The one I bought (featured below) has a timer on it and will shut off automatically after 30 mins.  I find this to be extremely energizing and can definitely see a difference in the way I feel on the days I use it and the days I don’t.

This is an Aura Day Light Therapy Lamp, 10,000 Lux of Bright Light White with Adjustable Lux Dial And Timer- 100% UV Free{2 Year Warranty Includes Bulb and Lamp}

Try to make just one or two lifestyle changes

Finally, I found a terrific list of lifestyle changes in a 2017 article by Laura G. Leahy. These are all great suggestions that could really make a difference.

Develop sleep hygiene habits:
* Adapt regular sleep and wake times
* Minimize blue light from television and electronic devices within 2 hours of sleep
* Maintain the bedroom at a comfortable temperature
* Avoid caffeine and alcohol, which disrupt restorative sleep
* Wake using a light to simulate dawn, as opposed to an alarm
Incorporate daily walks or outdoor activity, even on cloudy days
Incorporate aerobic exercise, approximately 30 minutes per day
Maintain a healthy diet without succumbing to increased carbohydrate cravings
Rearrange the indoor environment to maximize natural light from windows
Increase indoor lighting, especially full-spectrum light
Minimize stress through relaxation and meditation exercises
Make an effort to maintain social connections

You’ve got this!

One of the most important things I can tell you, though, is that you will feel better eventually. Don’t let yourself spiral down into the pit of despair… Know that there really is a “light” at the end of this tunnel!

*I am a member of Amazon Associates. That means that I will receive a small comission from sales of products purchased through the links on this page. I have tried and would recommend every item I post.
References
Leahy, L. G. (2017). Overcoming seasonal affective disorder. Journal of Psychosocial Nursing & Mental Health Services, 55(11), 10-14. doi:http://dx.doi.org.ezproxy.snhu.edu/10.3928/02793695-20171016-03

Menculini, G., Verdolini, N., Murru, A., Pacchiarotti, I., Volpe, U., Cervino, A., & … Tortorella, A. (2018). Review article: Depressive mood and circadian rhythms disturbances as outcomes of seasonal affective disorder treatment: A systematic review. Journal Of Affective Disorders241608-626. doi:10.1016/j.jad.2018.08.071

Parker, G. B., Brotchie, H., & Graham, R. K. (2017). Vitamin D and depression. Journal Of Affective Disorders, 20856-61. doi:10.1016/j.jad.2016.08.082

 

Please Sign Here (I Have a Package for You)

I’m a delivery addict. I have other kinds of addictions, too, but this is the most appropriate one to blog about.

I want to blame it on Amazon Prime for making it soooo darn easy to tap my phone screen and get a “prize,” but I’m sure there are millions of Prime members who know how to control themselves. Instead, I’m going to blame  on Mr. Rogers. That sweet, kind, warm, gentle man never got overly excited by anything.

…EXCEPT when Mr. McFeeley rang the bell.

Oh my! Such a thrill when Mr. McFeeley would briskly enter the Rogers’s home with his latest speedy delivery! What did Mr. McFeeley have in his box today? A penny whistle? A turtle? Tickets to the Red Sox? (I don’t think he ever delivered Red Sox tickets, but I didn’t see every episode, so I don’t know for sure.)

Seeing those packages arrive, delivered by such an efficient and professional postal carrier really got my motor running. I wanted a speedy delivery, too.

I’ve taken to online-ordering every single thing that I don’t want to carry home from the grocery store. That includes multi-packs of Charmin, cases of sparkling water, a pack of gum, and more organizational supplies than I’ll bet you knew existed. (I really really want to be an organized person. So far, however, the organizational supplies generally sit in a corner mocking me.) The best thing to get delivered to your house, though, is kitty litter. That stuff weighs a ton. It’s a virtual miracle – practically magic — that they’ll just drop it at my door.

I’ve taken it too far, though.

Now, I’m tying my level of happiness to the package waiting on the steps. God forbid there’s nothing there. It sends me into a depressive spiral.

The other day I was on Facebook, and I came across an ad for an interactive video chat, treat dispenser, aromatherapy, game, and pet-to-parent messaging system.

PetChatz
(I added the link in case, unlike me, you don’t have to start a GoFundMe page in order to purchase these.)

I can’t honestly figure out if I want this as badly as I think I want it. I mean, really, how fun would it be to have your pets call you at work so you can dispense a treat for them? Right? I did share it with my daughters, because I love to have them revel in my total craziness.

I sent them the picture above with the caption “MUST HAVE.”

The eldest wrote back and said, “Hahahahaha.”

The youngest (and only one left living at home with me) wrote and said, “Oh my God. This is too much. But I’m sure that Mom will have an Amazon Prime box arrive within 2 business days with this in it.”

I laughed out loud at my desk. All by myself. She knows me really well.

I should end this post with some kind of lesson about “going minimalist” or “not needing things to make you happy” or “getting control of your spending before it controls you,” but I’m not ready. And, after all, the first step is admitting that you have a problem. √

The Mouse Jiggler: Working From Home

This morning I woke up and part of my tooth had fallen off in the night. This is clearly not something that happens to a young person, so I’m pretty certain that I must either be old or have some fatal enamel-related disease.

I immediately called the dentist to try to schedule an appointment, but they were fully booked today and tomorrow, out of the office Monday and Tuesday, and would have to call me back when they have an opening. This is disturbing to me. I’m not a vain person — really — but this is not okay. It’s a work-from-home day.

I love that we live in a time where working from home is an option for so many people. I sell headsets for a living, so I know that more and more companies are going with a computer-based telephone system like Skype for Business. This allows people to log into their virtual office in virtually any location with WiFi.

Don’t get me wrong. There are a lot of benefits to working in our office. There’s a free fitness center downstairs (if you’re so inclined), a nice break room with free coffee and cold brew, and access to colleagues who have answers to any problems you encounter. It’s a 50-minute commute for me, though, and I’m loathe to do it on a daily basis. Additionally, there are numerous distractions in the office. My biggest distraction of late is Darrell. He’s like a little hyper puppy: really cute and sometimes really annoying.

So, working from home has a lot of advantages: no commute, no distractions, no Darrell. It does, however, come with its own set of challenges. First of all, the refrigerator is never more than 10 feet away. Secondly, I have a cat who loves to play fetch (for real), and he doesn’t like to be ignored when he drops his fake mouse at my feet. Finally, bed. Oh my… how nice it is to take an afternoon snooze. It just feels so decadent and delicious!

But how, you ask, could one get away with a little nigh-night mid workday? Mouse Jiggler. There are a bunch of apps that you can download that will continuously move your mouse, so it appears that you’re online and working furiously. (You can also buy a physical mouse jiggler on Amazon.)

My friend, Chad, told me about the mouse jiggler three years ago.

“Chad! What were you doing online at 6:00am?”

“I just threw my mouse jiggler on and hopped in the shower. Needed to get my full eight hours in before I leave the office at 2.”

I know. It’s not right. It’s like fraud or theft or espionage or something, but here’s how I see it. If I weren’t napping at home with my mouse jiggler on, I’d be walking to Dunkin’ Donuts with Darrell to buy scratch tickets. In the end, the nap is going to benefit me, my customers, my colleagues, my cat, and my world. I’m going to be a happier, healthier person because of it! The scratch ticket’s not getting me anywhere except maybe debtor’s prison.

I don’t often jeopardize my job…but when I do, I do it with Mouse Jiggler. (I think that’s an ad for something, but I can’t remember what.)

The dentist never returned my call, so it looks like tomorrow’s another work-from-home day!