April only: use promo code TALES15-424 to save 15% off Traditional Tales books and sets. Click here to shop now!

During the month of August, the Employee Engagement Team will be sending out daily health and wellness tips to all team members. These tips will be communicated through our new Employee Health and Wellness Slack channel in addition to being posted here!  

Mental Health Monday | Tune Up Tuesday | Walk It Out/Stay Hydrated with Water Wednesday | Thoughtful Thursday | Fruits & Veggies Friday


 

Mental Health Monday

August 28, 2023

Managing Workplace Stress

 

While many of us need a certain level of stress to achieve peak performance, too much stress can take its toll, increasing the risk of job burnout, anxiety, depression, insomnia, hypertension, and frequent illnesses.

What is stress?

Stress is the physical or emotional tension that stems from demanding circumstances. Some kinds of stress are positive and short-term, for example competing in sports or learning a new skill. Stress has negative effects—or may last longer—when we feel pressure over circumstances we can’t control, or when too many stressful situations are happening at once. Uncontrolled stress can take a toll on our health and wellbeing.

What issues and situations can cause stress at work and outside of work?

Productivity expectations: High workloads, long hours, strict schedules, poor environmental conditions, not having the right tools for the job, and individual performance goals may make you feel you can’t meet the demands of your job.

Company performance: If production, sales, or profit goals are not met, you might anticipate layoffs, salary freezes or reduced growth opportunities.

24/7 connectivity: Email, cell phones and other workplace technology can make it difficult to separate home and work life.

Personal life: You are trying to balance family and work obligations, including meeting the needs of your spouse, children, parents, and friends, maintaining a social life and contributing to the community.

Health issues: You might be dealing with your own or a family member’s chronic health problem.

Just one or two of these stressful situations might be manageable, but when too many occur at once, it can affect your health, your ability to succeed at work and your self-esteem.

Organizations can help create a less stressful work environment by applying the following practices:

  • Allow workers to have some control over their schedules.
  • Include their input in decision making.
  • Balance responsibility with the authority necessary to complete the task.
  • Set reasonable limits and timelines.
  • Remember to recognize a job well done.
  • Provide resources to help balance work/home issues, such as employee assistance programs.
  • Continually review policies, processes and methods of organizing and distributing work; make sure they are fair and effective.

Employees can better manage workplace stress by implementing the following:

  • Think about the stressful situation and find a solution. Talk to your manager, your doctor, a family member, or friend about what’s causing your stress.
  • Determine the source of the stress; if it can’t be removed from your life, learn to cope by developing a systematic and rational way of thinking through the situation and taking control by figuring out options to better handle the problem.
  • Seek professional help; use employee assistance programs or participate in special therapy that can teach ways to better manage the problems that are causing stress.
  • Get enough sleep. For most adults, sleeping 7–9 hours a night, every night, helps restore your mental and physical energy.
  • Eat healthy food and healthy portions. Fresh fruits and vegetables, lean protein (either meat or plant based), and whole grain foods like oatmeal should make up most of your diet. Sugary, fried, salty, or processed foods can complicate health issues like diabetes and heart disease, so eat them rarely or not at all.
  • Exercise for 30 minutes a day. This can be as simple as taking your dog for a long walk or going on a bike ride with the kids. Keep moving.
  • Leave your work at work. Remote workers are advised to adopt small rituals that divide work from your personal life such as shutting down their computers and making sure they end their workday in accordance with their work schedule.
  • Volunteer time and services; doing something for others can help a person forget their own problems and increase self-esteem.
  • Learn to express your feelings—you don’t have to face problems alone.
  • Learn to say “no.”

Of course, we will never completely remove stress from our lives, but by identifying and managing stressors, we can help ourselves maintain a positive and healthy lifestyle, loving life with all our hearts.

[Source & Image Credit: National Safety Council]

 

August 21, 2023

Learn to Love Yourself

Love is expressed in a variety of ways with our families, friends, and loved ones.  However, there is one relationship we often overlook and dismiss: the relationship with ourselves. More often than not, many of us struggle to offer ourselves the same love, kindness, and compassion that we share with those around us.  This impacts not only our vital sense of belonging, but also our mental health and wellbeing.

As we contemplate the meaning and value of self-love, we need to keep this thought in mind: Our first relationship is with ourself and it is the foundation of relationships with others.

Self-love enables us to live in alignment with our values, make healthy choices, and to be our true and authentic selves. Confidence, self-respect, self-worth, and self-love are all interconnected. As we deepen in love for ourselves, we can deepen the love we share with others.

What Is Self-Love?

Self-love is having regard for our own well-being and contentment according to the American Psychological Association.  The Brain and Behavior Research Foundation also affirms that self-love comes from actions that support physical, psychological, and spiritual growth. 

Oftentimes, self-sacrifice seems to be a societal indicator of being a “good person,” but that rendering discredits the value of self-love and its functionality of helping us share our full selves with the world. When our needs are met, we can be our best selves, and thus, self-love should be a daily activity in which we check in with ourselves and treat ourselves the way we treat loved ones.

How to Practice Self-Love

It’s important to understand that the practice of self-love is as unique as every individual human being.  We all have particular desires and needs. In guiding us along our journey of mental health and wellbeing, here are various ways to incorporate self-love into our lifestyle. 

Prioritize Your Well-Being and Mental Health 

Our physical and mental health are directly correlated and how we feel physically influences how we feel mentally and emotionally. When we begin loving and caring for our body, we’re directly and positively influencing our mental health, too.  For example, regular exercise has a positive impact on our overall health because it decreases cortisol, the stress hormone in your body.

Embrace Self-Compassion  

When we acknowledge our mistakes and accept our imperfections with kindness and without judgment, we exhibit self-compassion. Dr. Kristin Neff’s definition of self-compassion includes three components:

  • Self-kindness: feeling kindness toward ourselves rather than judgment, criticism, or shame
  • Common humanity: recognizing we are part of a common humanity as everyone makes mistakes rather than viewing ourselves as isolated beings unworthy of love and belonging
  • Mindfulness: viewing mistakes mindfully by having a perspective and not over-identifying with our failings

Don’t Compare Yourself to Other People 

Social comparisons and competition can at times motivate us, but more often than not, it diminishes us by causing stress, anxiety, guilt, and shame. 

Set Boundaries  

Drawing boundary lines helps with stress management. Sometimes we have to say 'no' at work or to our families to preserve our energy. Recognize your needs and carve out time to be thoughtful about yourself by setting boundaries.

Forgive Yourself

Cultivate ways to stop self-loathing in any form. Forgive yourself for your past mistakes and find ways to heal. To incorporate self-love in your daily life, don’t dwell upon past mistakes and regrets. 

Surround Yourself with Supportive, Loving people  

Having social support is vital. Invest your time and energy into relationships with your family, friends, and community, allowing yourself to receive care and support from them.  And, of course, let go of toxic, draining, and one-way friendships. Fortify yourself with healthy interactions and people who believe in you, champion you, and support you in becoming more of who you are and want to be, not less. 

Change a Negative Mindset

Positive thinking doesn’t mean ignoring problems. It means choosing to have a positive outlook as an approach to life that includes gratitude and many possibilities. Holding onto and fixating on anger and hatred towards ourselves and others can be damaging to our mental and emotional wellbeing. 

Therefore, say kind things to yourself to boost your self-esteem and reduce social fears. Remind yourself that you’re a kind person doing your best and focus upon things that are uplifting and that you are grateful.

By cultivating and incorporating these practices into our lives, we will remember to honor the power and beauty of self-love and its impact upon our mental health and wellbeing.

 

August 14, 2023

Welcome to another edition of Mental Health Monday!

Mental health

Last week, I shared some easy ways to give your mental health a boost. Hopefully you were able to try a few out! Today we’ll be switching gears, and highlighting some symptoms of poor mental health.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) is a great resource for those who may be struggling with mental illness. Here are a few warning signs they say to look for:

    • Avoiding friends and social activities
    • Feeling excessively sad or low
    • Inability to carry out daily activities or handle daily problems and stress
    • Extreme mood changes, including uncontrollable “highs” or feelings of euphoria

If you are struggling with mental illness, remember you’re not alone. There are many local resources available, which many people turn to (myself included 🙂). Knowing the signs of mental illness isn’t always easy, but it’s worth learning. After all, it could save lives.

[Image credit: Law.com]

 

August 7, 2023

Happy Monday PVB!

As we know all too well, Mondays aren’t always easy to adjust to. That’s why this August I’ll be highlighting the importance of mental health with Mental Health Mondays! Every Monday, I’ll be providing tips, tricks, and more ways to make the start of the week a little bit brighter! 

You might be wondering why mental health is so important. Think about it this way, your mind and your body are heavily intertwined. According to the CDC, poor mental health can lead to physical problems, and poor physical health can lead to mental health issues. That explains why I feel so bad after I lay on the couch all day!

Improving your mental health doesn’t have to be a big challenge. This article from Mental Health America has 31 simple activities to try out that you can do in minutes! Something as simple as snuggling with a pet or smiling at a stranger can be a huge mood booster.

[Image credit: Lively Scout for LA Times]  

 

Tune Up Tuesday

August 29, 2023

There is a legend of a magical spring that provides eternal youth to those who drink from or bathe in its waters, and this legend has been around for centuries. From Japan to the Caribbean there are tales of enchanted pools and rivers that reverse the aging process and prolong life. Many expeditions have been launched, many swashbuckling adventurers have gone looking for this alleged fountain of youth. But alas, it has never been found.

However, I propose to you that what evidence we do have at our fingertips regarding prolonging life and reversing signs of aging, can be found in the effects of exercise on our bodies. The more we move, the younger our bodies remain. 

Earlier this year Medical News Today called exercise a drug-free “polypill” that benefits nearly everyone! Here’s some science behind it: Exercise may turn back the clock in muscle fibers by promoting the “epigenetic reprogramming” of chromosomes in the cells’ nuclei. In other words, exercise can trigger a crazy kind of re-programming of muscle fibers to a more youthful state! Now if that doesn’t sound like a fountain of youth, I am not sure what does! Does it matter if you are 17 or 70? Ummm, not really. Exercise at any age will reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, Parkinson’s, and the very dreaded Alzheimer’s. If you want to slow your [aging] roll, consistent exercise is one of the best ways to do it. Here’s a little more fascinating science: After examining data from more than 5,800 adults ages 20–84, a Brigham Young University exercise science professor discovered that adults who ran a minimum of 30–40 minutes, five days a week, had an almost nine-year “biological aging advantage.” So stop calling your treadmill the deadmill! It is in fact, just the opposite!

Now stop reading and get moving! Your own fountain of youth awaits you!

[Source: Medical News Today / Image from Lucas Cranach (the elder)]

 

August 22, 2023

I used to work with a guy named Klaus who believed that exercising was actually bad for good health. He said the more you exercise, the more you risk injury, and that exercising outdoors exposed you to allergens and insect bites. It might sound crazy but is there any truth in what Klaus was saying? Perhaps a better question is: Can too much exercise hurt you? 

Experts will tell you that moderate intensity should be your goal. You want to push yourself, but not to the point of bodily harm. Rest is important too. Your body needs recovery time. Here are some telltale signs that you might be overdoing it: 

  • Feeling tired or depressed or anxious
  • Feeling like your limbs weigh a ton
  • Getting more colds
  • Having trouble sleeping
  • Feeling touchy or testy
  • Dreading your workout
  • Developing repetitive motion injuries 

Whether your workout regimen is chair yoga during the workday or sprinting around Shelburne Falls with Marie, remember to:

  • Drink enough water…or coconut water, or a power drink with electrolytes
  • Get enough sleep
  • Exercise smart in extreme temps
  • Cut back when you don’t feel well
  • Eat well and enough to sustain your program 

Listen to what your body is telling you and accept that you have your own anatomical specialness that might mean what works for Peter, Paul or Mary quite possibly won’t work for you. As Tom Brady says, Focus on prehab not rehab

But what about Klaus, poor fellow. Last I heard, he had begun to brave the pollen and mosquitos in order to add daily walking to his schedule. He’s probably not in danger of overtraining and I wish him well!

Have you ever pushed yourself too hard while exercising? Tell us what you did and how you led yourself to recovery! By the way, don’t forget you are invited to check in with Glen and the warehouse crew to see what exercises they regularly incorporate into the workday.

https://www.rush.edu/news/are-you-overexercising
http://www.c25k.com/
https://www.babobotanicals.com/blogs/news/kids-exercise (This one is for kids.)

 

August 15, 2023

Let’s talk brains. Everyone knows that physical fitness strengthens your body, promoting strong muscles and bones, helping to prevent disease, but what about your brain? Does your morning walk or last night’s boogie fest with your ten-year-old do anything for the ol' noodle? As it turns out, the answer is a resounding yes, it does a whole lot. When you engage in physical activity it increases blood flow to the brain, and good blood flow delivers all the nutrients required for the brain to effectively do its job. BOOYA! A neuroscientist might tell you this has to do with neurotropic factors and synaptogenesis, but let’s not get bogged down in vocabulary. 

Exercise can also help manage stress by stimulating the release of endorphins that act on opiate receptors in the brain, but again, there is no need to get technical. Suffice it to say that if you want or need a sensation of bliss or euphoria, physical exercise is one way to get it. A body in motion can, in short, increase your capacity for joy! Think of the release of those biochemicals as a bubble bath for your brain! Your brain will be in heaven right in your own head. And that will make you one happy camper indeed. Even if you are not camping. 

How long does it take for the bubble bath to begin? As little as ten minutes, so you needn’t be LeBron or Serena to secure these brainy benefits!

Here are some office friendly exercises:

https://www.healthline.com/health/fitness/office-exercises
https://www.verywellfit.com/best-stretches-for-office-workers-1231153
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vXfghJrlt1o
https://blog.fitbit.com/desk-exercises/ (This one has a “Secret Desk Workout”)

Did you know we have exercises designed for office and remote workers in our PVB Safety Manual? Ask Glen for details!

[Sources: "How exercise affects the brain," by Grace McGregor; "Five surprising ways exercise changes your brain," by Kelly McGonigal]

 

August 8, 2023

Have you ever found yourself bouncing around from gym to gym or program to program trying to find the right one? If in theory you really want to work out, but struggle to keep the practice going, it could be you just haven’t found the right fit! Maybe you thought you’d love the rebounder and three days in discovered it was the most boring thing you’d ever done. Or it hurt your ankles…. Or you didn’t realize how much you hate hopping! The truth is, finding a program or a place to exercise can be complicated! Don’t beat yourself up if you struggle to get into the groove (and stay there). Like a lot of other things we do, it takes time to find what works, and to establish a pattern in your behavior. Think of the marathon runner: not a single one of them just woke up one day and ran a marathon. Or even a few miles. Working out is like a relationship: your soulmate might be elusive…but is probably out there somewhere. (Or maybe you found it, only to find yourself with the seven year itch!)  Bottom line is this: if you want to exercise regularly and enjoyably, you absolutely can. So be patient in your endeavor to find the perfect routine!

Here are some websites and places that I recommend with two thumbs up! If you have any you love, please share! 

One final note: No gym? No time? Glen says the warehouse team exercises regularly through the work week. Give these stretches a whirl to get started!

[Image credits: stockking on Freepik and Skyline Chiropractic]

 

August 1, 2023

Today is Tune Up Tuesday and that means the day’s tips will be zeroing in on the benefits of staying physically active. The information presented here will be yours to read and implement, or to mull over, or to ignore completely! Tune Up Tuesday is about feeling good about doing stuff and moving your body….and also knowing when to take a break and rest. There are so many different ways to be active. Maybe a few of the ideas presented will work for you.

Benefits of Swimming
 

Since it’s summer around here, I wanted to start first with swimming!! Swimming was first introduced at the Olympics in 1896 but you sure don’t need to be an Olympian to reap the benefits of this watery sport. Swimming strengthens the heart and lungs, can improve exercise-induced asthma, and burns more calories than running. Don’t like laps? Try treading water! It’s an excellent cardio workout and is gentle on the knees and other joints. The colder the water the more refreshing! HaHaHaHa! Brrrr! (Cozy wetsuit, anyone?)

But let’s define “swimming” here loosely. Just MOVING in water is a wonderful way to soothe frayed nerves (try floating), or get a good work-out in (try resistance running!).

 

P.S.  Let’s say you hate getting wet. You can still enjoy time in the water and put your muscles to work. How? Why in a boat of course! The benefits of paddling are extraordinary! Check out this website to learn more.

[Image credit: Metro Physio]

  

Walk It Out/Stay Hydrated with Water Wednesday

August 30, 2023

Welcome to the final installment of Walk it Out/Stay Hydrated with Water Wednesday!

Well folks, here we are. We’ve made it to the final week of August, and with that, the final Wellness Wednesday. Please, save your tissues for the end of the article. After a very long, very rainy summer, fall is now just around the corner. Maybe you’re like me, and you’ve already started consuming every pumpkin spice-flavored product under the sun. But maybe you’re in need of a little fall-themed motivation (with a wellness-inspired twist!). Then you’re in luck, because this week I’ll be sharing some fabulous places to go for a walk this fall!

Kicking things off with my personal favorite, we have the Quabbin Reservoir! As Massachusetts's largest inland body of water, the Quabbin covers 39 square miles with 181 miles of shoreline.

Now that’s a lot of space to walk! The Quabbin is a great place for those looking to take a more leisurely stroll, and a great place to go leaf peeping as well!

Now if you’re in the mood for a hike, look no further than Mount Greylock in Adams, Mass.! At 3,491 feet, you’ll want to remember your hiking boots. On a clear day, visitors can see as far as 90 miles away. Can you imagine 90 miles of beautiful fall foliage? It’s a fall lover's dream come true.

Finally we have Mount Tom State Reservation, a go-to fall destination. Besides being known for its breathtaking views, Mt. Tom is also one of Massachusetts's premier locations for bird watching! The great thing about the reservation is its mix of walkable options. Not in the mood for a mountain hike? Not to worry! The reservation offers 22 miles of trails for those looking for a more relaxed walk.

To find more places beyond the Western Massachusetts area, here’s a great resource from AllTrails: https://www.alltrails.com/. Simply type in your location and it will highlight a variety of places to walk/hike this fall! 

Of course, no Wellness Wednesday is complete without a reminder to hydrate! While you’re out walking this season, try this delicious recipe for fall-themed water! Not only is it hydrating, but it’s the perfect way to get you in the fall spirit. All you’ll need is: 

  • 1 sliced apple
  • 1 sliced plum
  • 1 sliced pear
  • 2-3 cinnamon sticks
  • Lots of water!

Combine all the ingredients in a pitcher with ice and there you have it, the perfect fall drink!

[Image credit: iStock]

 

August 23, 2023

We hear a lot about electrolytes and needing and replacing them. So, what exactly are electrolytes anyway?

Electrolytes are essential minerals like sodium, calcium, and potassium that are vital to many key functions in the body. They regulate muscle contractions, keep you hydrated, and control nervous system function.  

Electrolytes are 'lost' through excessive sweating, urine, vomiting and diarrhea. Most people have a perfectly fine balance of electrolytes and PLAIN water does the trick of hydrating you. True electrolyte deficiency can be diagnosed from a blood test that measures electrolyte imbalance, so this is not something you should try to diagnose or treat on your own. If you have had a particularly sweaty workout or are dealing with a stomach bug, you might want to consider a brief electrolyte replacement at home such as the standard Gatorade or Pedialyte, coconut water, or tablets, but you should not be on any long-term replacement without a doctor's advice. There is such a thing as getting TOO MANY electrolytes which can cause heart, kidney and other issues.   

There are certain conditions that can throw off your electrolyte balance like burns, cancer, heart failure or high blood pressure, eating disorders, kidney disease, liver disease and substance abuse disorders. Medications like antibiotics, chemotherapy, corticosteroids and diuretics and laxatives can affect electrolyte levels too.  

The symptoms of an imbalance can include confusion and irritability, fatigue, headaches, irregular or fast heart rate, muscle cramps, muscle spasms or weakness, nausea, vomiting, and numbness/tingling in limbs, fingers, and toes.    

As you can see, electrolytes are a bit of delicate balance and very personal to your own body. If you suspect you have a true imbalance due to any of the factors or symptoms, please consult with your physician to see if if a regular replacement regiment is right for you. If you are walking around in the heat for a day and sweating excessively, you can certainly have a Gatorade or two, but just know drinks like that also contain a lot of sugar so you aren't getting a true electrolyte infusion. Coconut water or some other pure form is probably better for a quick boost. And then, you can go back to regular water, and lots of it, to help get you back to normal!! Plain water is always best for keeping your body happy and healthy.  

If you haven't gone for a walk yet, please do! 

 

August 16, 2023

Welcome to the next installment of Walking and Water Wednesday!

Counting steps

Have you been counting your steps? Many people these days have some sort of watch or app that counts steps for them. How much is enough? This article from the Mayo Clinic might help you sort it out. Everyone has a different level of fitness so if you are counting steps, don't make your goal SO HIGH that you can never meet it and then feel defeated. Literal BABY STEPS. There are important takeaways in this article like how much walking should you do per week? The recommendation is 150 minutes PER WEEK, which you can break down in many ways over the course of the week.

There are also fun tips in the article for making your walk count! Such as using pet walking time to count towards your steps, doing a 'walking meeting' for those of you working in-person, and parking further away in the parking lot to get some extra steps in.

Water

If counting your steps becomes too overwhelming, stressful, or feels like you are setting yourself up for disappointment—then don't do it! It's more important you move rather than track. I've done both. It depends how accountable you want to be TO YOURSELF. Sometimes it can be fun to get family members, friends, etc. on a tracker too for some friendly competition to keep each other accountable. This is a 'choose your own adventure.' Getting your exercise should never make you feel bad or guilty, so do what feels best for YOU.

Speaking of, are you drinking that water? If you are, great job!! If you aren't, go take a sip NOW. Your joints and bones are craving it. Next time we will talk about electrolytes and why they matter.

 

August 9, 2023

Welcome to the second edition of Walk it Out/Stay Hydrated with Water Wednesday!

 

Walking

Hopefully you are continuing to walk on a regular basis to keep things moving and improve mental health. Walking in some form a few times a week can make you feel so much better! If you haven't walked yet today, consider taking your 15 minute or lunch break to get those legs moving. Make sure you challenge yourself while walking—whether you change terrain (slight hills or inclines), use hand weights, or just go a teeeny bit further than you did last time. Your body will thank you!

As I said last week—if you are unable to walk for any number of reasons, there are plenty of other exercises you can do to just keep up your physical strength and mobility. You can find some here,  or by doing some other simple searches online or videos on YouTube for people with limited mobility. Limited mobility does NOT have to be a stigma and it does not mean you cannot exercise. You just have to find things your body can personally handle. There is an account I follow on Instagram called inclusivemovement_. It has videos for exercise and mobility for beginners, seniors, and more. Sometimes when I haven't moved in a while and I want to start out simple and not feel the pressure of a huge workout, I go there to just get active again. It takes a few tries of regularly doing something to make it a habit, so try to incorporate it into your life on purpose as much as you can.

Fruit-infused water

Now on to water!! I hope you have started to be mindful about how much you are taking in a day or taking a water/walk/movement break to combine these two important things. As promised, here is a link to some delicious recipes for fruit-infused water if plain old water isn't doing it for you. Another thing I like to do is to take some juice that I like and mix it half with juice and half with water so that you aren't getting the full sugar and calories of the juice, but you are getting just a touch of flavor to liven things up. You can try that with any of your favorite juices. My personal favorite is Newman's Own Mango Tango—so refreshing and it has hints of pineapple, mango, and passionfruit. A well-hydrated body will be great for your mind, all of the systems in your body to operate, and your skin.

 

August 2, 2023

Walking with water

Welcome to Walk It Out/Stay Hydrated with Water Wednesday

Walking is a great way to get your body moving and it's low impact so most people can do it! Benefits include improving digestion, releasing endorphins, and keeping your muscles and joints from stiffening up.  

This article from Prevention online provides 15 Benefits of Walking, so what is stopping you? Taking a walk doesn't have to be a long and drawn out endeavor, even 15 minutes can do the trick for your body mind and spirit. Next week I will provide resources for if mobility is an issue—what can you do instead?

P.S. Make sure you are drinking water today! Hydration is super important, especially during these hot summer months. Remember when you were told to drink 8 glasses per day? Guess what? That number has increased. The new daily recommendation is 15.5 cups for men and 11.5 cups for women. If you have trouble remembering to drink and how much, you can consider getting one of those handy water bottles that actually has measurements on the sides and set a water/movement reminder for yourself on your phone or other device. You can kill two birds at once with this one—take a drink and take a couple of steps!

Next time we can also give tips for if you HATE drinking water to spice it up a bit. Your total fluid intake doesn't just have to be water—you can count other things you are drinking or even fruit like WATERmelon. Just don't include things which DEHYDRATE you like coffee, tea, alcohol, or other caffeinated beverages.

 

Thoughtful Thursday

August 31, 2023

Welcome to the final edition of Thoughtful Thursday. We hope that you have enjoyed these series of articles the Employee Engagement team put together for the month of August. We are now in the final days of summer and are looking forward to our beautiful New England fall season.

5 Ways to Be a More Thoughtful Colleague

1. Encourage

Encouraging your colleagues in their endeavors, rather than being in competition with them, is an inspiring way to be at work.  We don’t have to be cut throat or out for ourselves to do well at work; encouraging and supporting your colleagues really does pay dividends and enhances your day to day experience of work to boot. Treat your colleagues as you would like to be treated.

2. Listen

True listening is a real skill and something most of us could do with developing to some degree, in and out of the workplace. Practice your listening skills with your co-workers and notice the presumptions that you make about your co-workers and about what they say and do. It is easy to fall into bad habits and feel like you know what they are going to say or how they are going to react. We all know how refreshing and empowering it is when someone really listens to us; be that for other people.

3. Be Self-Aware

Being self-aware helps you to be more conscious of your behaviors and reactions and the impact that they have on those around you. Do you talk too much? Have a tendency to interrupt others when they are speaking? Have angry outbursts when things are not going your own way? Avoid answering a question directly? Being self-aware isn’t about punishing yourself or making yourself feel bad; it is about being aware of your strengths and weaknesses and being responsible for the impact you have on those around you. If you have a supportive manager or mentor, you could use your appraisals as ways to work on being self-aware at work and ask for useful feedback. It is easy to feel like your work place would be better if others changed, but what changes can you make? We really can only change ourselves.

4. Be Generous

Being generous helps to create an environment of kindness and trust around you. If this is missing in your workplace, where could you be more generous at work? Maybe you could cut your colleague some slack when they are stressed? Not take things as personally. Help a co-worker out with the project they are doing? Put past issues where they belong? Bring tasty snacks to share? There are many ways to be generous; see what you can do to bring more generosity into your workplace.

5. Include

There are many ways that people can feel excluded at work, ranging from feeling out of the loop with management to feeling that they are not part of the team.

Where could you include your colleagues more at work? If you are a manager, keeping colleagues in the loop about issues that affect them is one way to do this. Arranging a social gathering for everyone in the team or asking all your colleagues to join in informal drinks after work is another way. Put yourself in your colleagues’ shoes and imagine ways that you could help them to feel more part of the team. This can be a challenging but useful practice if you yourself are feeling excluded. Focusing on how you can help others often helps you to reach out and be proactive in your work relationships.

[Article credit: Jen Smith, JOBACLE / Image credits: The Fruitful Toolbox & Psychology Today]

 

August 24, 2023

Life-changing moments start here 

Few of us are immune to the frustrations and challenges of daily life—family problems, conflicts at work, illness, stress over money. When we get depressed or anxious, experts may recommend medication and/or therapy. But a newly emerging school of thought suggests that a simple, age-old principle may be part of both the prevention and the cure: Help others to help yourself.

There’s no shortage of research showing that people who give time, money, or support to others are more likely to be happy and satisfied with their lives—and less likely to be depressed. Could helping others be the key to weathering the inevitable storms of life?

Why doing good works

These results may seem surprising, especially since our culture tends to associate happiness with getting something. Why should we humans be programmed to respond so positively to giving?

“As Darwin noted, group selection played a strong rule in human evolution. If something like helping benefits the group, it will be associated with pleasure and happiness,” explains Stephen Post, Ph.D., a research professor of bioethics at Case Western Reserve University who co-authored the book Why Good Things Happen to Good People with Jill Neimark.

While evolution may have primed us to feel good from giving, it may not be the only reason helping others makes us feel better. Since depression, anxiety, and stress involve a high degree of focus on the self, focusing on the needs of others literally helps shift our thinking.

“When you’re experiencing compassion, benevolence, and kindness, they push aside the negative emotions,” says Post. “One of the best ways to overcome stress is to do something to help someone else.”

Even better, feeling good and doing good can combine to create a positive feedback loop, where doing good helps us to feel good and feeling good also makes us more likely to do good.

“Numerous studies have found that happy people are more helpful,” says Dr. David Myers, a social psychologist at Hope College and author of The Pursuit of Happiness. “Those who’ve just found money in a phone booth are more likely to help a passerby with dropped papers. Those who feel successful are more likely to volunteer as a tutor.”

How to help others—and yourself

Incorporating kindness into your daily life isn’t difficult. Here are five easy things you can do to help others—and yourself:

  • Volunteer. Research shows that people who volunteer just two hours per week (about 100 hours per year) have better physical health and are less depressed. To find volunteer opportunities in your area, visit Volunteer Match or contact your local church or school.
  • Informally offer help to family, friends, and neighbors. Lend a needed tool, bring dinner to someone who’s sick, feed pets for neighbors on vacation, or offer a ride to someone who lacks a car.
  • Donate. It doesn’t have to be a lot of money. Toss change into coffee cans at cash registers or support local organizations by buying a raffle ticket. Look for opportunities to give within your means. You’ll help make the world a better place and make yourself feel better too.
  • Listen. Sometimes all others need is someone to lend a sympathetic ear to make them feel heard, cared for and loved.
  • Make other people (and yourself) smile. The easiest way to make other people happy is to act happy yourself, even if it’s not how you feel. “Sometimes we can act ourselves into a way of thinking,” says Myers. “So like the old song says, ‘Put on a happy face.’ Talk as if you have self-esteem and are outgoing and optimistic. Going through the motions can awaken the emotions.”

Building Habits takes time

Science suggests that repeating behaviors over a 30 day period helps build them into habits that can naturally guide your actions going forward.

[Article credit: GO–CDC / Image credits: The Happy Broadcast & Healthshots]

 

August 17, 2023

Welcome to our third edition of Thoughtful Thursday. In this article, we learn that thoughtfulness is good for your health! Try to find some time in your day today to help someone, and notice if you feel a sense of happiness from doing so. We can all work on developing and improving our ability to be a thoughtful person.

What does being thoughtful mean?

Circling hands

Thoughtfulness is one of many positive human traits. It enables us to strengthen relationships and live more meaningfully alongside others. And although the act of being thoughtful is rooted in doing things for others, it has the surprising gift of being amazingly good for our own health too.

When we are being thoughtful it also means we are showing other positive qualities towards others such as:

              • Consideration
              • Helpfulness
              • Friendliness
              • Kindness
              • Understanding

But what makes being thoughtful distinctive from other positive traits, is that it means more than just being nice to someone. Arguably, anyone can be nice on a surface level. But being thoughtful goes a lot deeper.

If you think about it, the very act of being thoughtful means someone has to actively notice people around them, reflect on situations and pay attention to others’ needs. And then they are choosing to respond in a loving and kind way to someone else.

What are the benefits of being thoughtful?

Helpers High

The obvious benefits of being thoughtful are the fact that we can improve our existing and new relationships. Because being thoughtful simply means we are showing that we care.

And for both relationships and friendships to work, this is a particularly important thing to show.

Being thoughtful can also really impact us personally. Interestingly, there is a term coined ‘helpers high’ which explains how helping others makes us feel better and improves our physical and mental health.

The ‘high’ element of the phrase refers to the dopamine rush we experience when we are kind, which is a hormone strongly associated with happiness.

When we are thoughtful towards others the hormone oxytocin is also released in the body. This is known to reduce blood pressure and inflammation, both of which can contribute to serious health conditions.

The production of oxytocin has also been linked to increasing trust in humans. Again, this highlights the positive impact of thoughtfulness in promoting quality social interactions.

Not only that, but these acts of kindness can boost levels of serotonin. Serotonin is a powerful chemical that is responsible for mood regulation, memory, brain function, and general well-being.

[Article credit: Tracking Happiness / Image credits: Psychology Today & The Happy Broadcast]

 

August 10, 2023

2 Tips to Being Kinder at Work

Practice radical self-care.

Self-care

It can be challenging to remember that being kind to others must begin with being kind to ourselves. You may believe that self-care is an indulgent practice — but it’s not. When your well-being suffers, so does your performance at work. If you burn out and have nothing left to contribute, it may also impact those around you. The best way to be a valuable, thoughtful team member is to be disciplined about your own wellness — your physical, emotional, and mental well-being.

A starting point for practicing self-care at work is understanding and managing your workload so that both you and your manager have a clear sense of your priorities. This can help you set boundaries when needed. Perhaps this looks like not responding to non-urgent emails outside of traditional work hours or asking your manager to help you organize your to-do list so that you’re focusing on the most important tasks (rather than everything at once). Maybe, it’s taking a sick or mental health day to recharge. Taking time for yourself before you’re depleted is essential to self-care and to your ability to show kindness to others.

Reach out with intention.

Kindness

With remote work, social connections don’t always occur as organically as they used to. So, we must be intentional about establishing and sustaining them. Make plans to meet virtually or, even better, in person with your colleagues. Ask about their pets, their recent move, or their family. Most importantly, practice active listening. Showing someone that you genuinely care about what they have to say is an impactful display of kindness. You can do this by repeating back what they say to you in your own words to make sure you understand their message, or by asking thoughtful follow up questions. When someone is shown that care, they’re more likely to give it to others, further fostering a culture of kindness.

[Article credit: Harvard Business Review / Image credit: Specialized Therapy]

 

August 3, 2023

A simple act of kindness creates another act of kindness which creates another and another and so on.

Good morning

Acknowledge those around you. Just a simple “good morning” with a big smile can brighten somebody’s day. Ask your co-workers how they are and what plans they have for the evening. Show an interest in what they are saying and listen to their response! You may gain a new friend out of it and it will make them feel important too.

Kindness graphic

Consider the needs of others. If you know somebody is struggling at work, or is looking a bit stressed or upset, then offer your help. Being generous and considering other people’s needs will help to create an environment of kindness and trust around you. We should all treat our colleagues as you would like to be treated yourself.

Self-awareness archetypes

Be more self-aware. Try to be conscious of your behaviors and reactions and the impact they have on others. Listen to your gut feeling—if you aren’t sure about saying or doing something without offending then don’t do it. Being aware of your strengths and weaknesses will make you a better person to be around.

[Image credit: Jennifer Nurick]

Nice work

Give compliments. If a colleague does something well, tell them. It will boost their confidence and give them a sense of achievement. Then when you do something well you might get some positive feedback in return. And we all know how nice it is to have compliments—especially for boosting morale and motivation.

Thoughtfulness is one of many positive human traits. It enables us to strengthen relationships and live more meaningfully alongside others. And although the act of being thoughtful is rooted in doing things for others, it has the surprising gift of being amazingly good for our own health too.

[Article credit: The Works Recruitment]

 

Fruits & Veggies Friday

August 25, 2023

Happy Fruits and Veggies Day!

We have some great local farms that not only do they work hard day in and day out. They also create some fun events for families to take advantage of.

Here are a list of some amazing farms to check out:

  • Dickinson Farm in Granby
  • Outlook Farm in Westhampton
  • Red Fire Farm in Granby
  • Mckinstry Market Garden in Chicopee
  • Randall's Farm and Greenhouse in Ludlow

Also as we transition into fall there are some great places to pick your own apples as well as pumpkins:

  • Echo Hill in Monson
  • Roundhill Orchards in Southampton
  • Kosinski Farms in Westfield
  • McCrays in South Hadley

Just think of all those fall favorite recipes with all these amazing apples and pumpkins!

 

August 18, 2023

Friday is Fruits and Veggies day!

Everyone should be having at least 5 portions of a variety of fruits and vegetables every day. An adult portion of fruits and vegetables is 80g.

Here are some examples of servings:

[Image credit: American Heart Association]

Getting those servings could be as easy as adding berries to your cereal in the morning, replacing a snack with an apple.  Enjoying a smoothie on a hot day.  Making stir fry for dinner.

Planning your healthy snacks will also help you resist the temptation of sugary foods in between meals. 

Benefits of eating the minimum of 400g of fruit and veggies a day include a lower risk of serious health problems, such as heart disease, stroke and some types of cancer.

 

August 11, 2023

Here are some fun recipes to create for a summer night get together: 

Grilled Shiitake and Asparagus Tacos

Ingredients

1 bunch asparagus
2 (4 oz) pkgs shiitake mushrooms
¼ cup olive oil
½ tsp ground chipotle chile powder
1 tsp garlic powder
1 lime
½ cup fresh cilantro
12 small corn tortillas
½ prepared guacamole
Hot sauce, for serving 

STEP 1. Trim bottom inch from the asparagus. Remove stems from the mushrooms.

STEP 2. Heat a large grill pan on high. In a large baking dish, combine the oil, chipotle powder, garlic powder, and salt. Add the asparagus and toss until well coated. Place the asparagus in grill pan, leaving any excess oil in dish, and cook 5 minutes, until tender, turning occasionally. Transfer to cutting board.

STEP 3. While asparagus cooks, to baking dish with remaining oil, add mushrooms and toss until well coated. Place mushrooms on grill and cook 4–5 minutes, until grill marks appear, turning once halfway through. Transfer to cutting board.

STEP 4. Cut asparagus into 2-inch pieces. Thinly slice mushrooms. Cut the lime into small wedges. Chop the cilantro.

STEP 5. Wrap the tortillas in a damp paper towel and microwave 1 minute. Serve asparagus and mushrooms in tortillas with lime and top with guacamole, cilantro, and hot sauce. 

NUTRITIONAL INFO: Per serving: 372 calories, 22g gat, 5g saturated fat, 0mg cholesterol, 120mg sodium, 41g carbohydrate, 8g fiber, 3g sugar, 7g protein

  

Peach Caprese Salad

Ingredients

2 ripe peaches or nectarines, cut into ½-inch-thick wedges
1 pint charry or grape tomatoes, halved
½ cup fresh corn kernels
¼ small sweet onion, thinly sliced
8 oz fresh mozzarella, torn into pieces
1 Tbsp olive oil
Salt and pepper
2 cups baby arugula
½ cup fresh basil, torn into pieces 

STEP 1. In large bowl, toss peaches, tomatoes, corn, onion, and mozzarella with olive oil and ½ tsp each sale and pepper. Let sit 5 minutes.

STEP 2.  Fold in arugula and basil, then transfer to platter. 

NUTRITIONAL INFO: Per serving: 290 calories, 20.5g fat (9g saturated), 285mg sodium, 16g carbohydrate, 3g fiber, 12g protein

 

August 4, 2023

Farmers market

 

Our summer season is in full swing so get out to your local farmers markets and enjoy the locally grown fruits and vegetables! Visit this link to learn more about all the local markets and their hours of operation.