Written by, Bernie Dyme, AM, LCSW
“Oh no, not again,” I said to my wife. It seems that another year has passed and it’s Oscar time. About 3 weeks ago, we began the process of watching all of the Oscar nominated movies so we would be ready for the big show. I must admit that although I enjoy the movies, the actual Academy Awards show does not get me all that excited. It used to, but it has become too much fluff and (sorry) fashion, a subject that doesn’t interest me much.
So, I did what I do every year and began the marathon of movie-going. But this year I was pleasantly surprised by both the movies and the actual Academy Awards show. Not only were the movies relevant but many of them dealt with mental health or related issues. Now, anyone who has read my blog posts in the past should be aware of my constant push to bring mental health issues to the forefront, especially in the workplace. Well, this year many of the movies did just that. Here are the movies and what they dealt with:
- “The Imitation Game“ was about Alan Turing who broke the code that contributed to the Allies beating the Nazis in WWII. But a bigger part of the story is that he was prosecuted for being a homosexual which was a criminal act in Britain and subsequently lead to his suicide.
- “Whiplash“, a very intense movie dealing with the relationship between a sadistic, overcritical music teacher at a famous music conservatory and his students who he is very abusive to. The movie focuses on his relationship with an ambitious young percussion student and the mental anguish that he causes him. Again, suicide is mentioned (but I won’t tell too much as you might not have seen the movie yet.) Suffice it to say that although the music is outstanding, the movie hits some very painful notes.
- “Birdman also called The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance“ is a movie about an actor trying to recreate his career while having to struggle with his self-esteem, and comes to grips with a failed family while dealing with a daughter who is fresh out of rehab and another look at suicide.
- “The Theory of Everything“ looks at the life of Stephen Hawkings as he deals with a degenerative disease, ALS, and while showing remarkable strength and resilience, has to deal with all of the emotional ordeals that accompany such a disease.
- “Still Alice”, which is the story of a very accomplished professor dealing with Alzheimer’s disease and the effects on her and her family. Suicide again comes up.
- “Boyhood” is a movie about a family that goes through a divorce and the effects it has on the family. It deals with divorce, blended families, domestic violence and the trials and tribulations of adolescence to name a few things.
Seeing this batch of movies surprised me but I was still not looking forward to the Oscar show. However, I was pleasantly surprised. At the show, Dana Perry, who won an Academy award for Best Documentary Short Subject for Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1″, mentioned her son’s suicide and stated directly that we should all talk about suicide. Yes, we should and thank you Dana Perry for putting that out there for millions of viewers all over the world to see. Maybe this will open the door a bit more.
Finally, Graham Moore won the award for The Imitation Game and in his acceptance speech told everyone of how at 16 years old, he tried to kill himself because he felt weird and different. He then made a declarative plea for all to have tolerance for those who are different and keep hope up when feeling down.
All good stuff if it begins a process of opening the door and letting out the secrets we keep about mental illness. This can only help those who are reluctant or ashamed of admitting their emotional or mental health concerns and who therefore don’t ask for help. It can also help us all deal with acceptance of differences and tolerance in lifestyles unlike our own, be they sexual orientation, religion or national origin.
If you or someone you know is in need of help, please talk to someone or encourage others to get help. Employers, work to create a culture that allows and encourages others to do just that. And if you need any help in doing this, feel free to contact me or anyone on the Perspectives Ltd team and I will be glad to get you the resources necessary to help.
Written by: Terry Cahill Vice President of Sales and Marketing, Principal
The struggle to balance work, family, and finances is commonly referred to in articles about employee stress, often with a mention of Employee Assistance Programs (EAP) and how they can help employees balance their lives. However, these issues apply just as surely to college and university students. Some may think of college/university days as carefree, but many students are juggling jobs and family pressures along with academic responsibilities. This is especially true with returning undergraduates or graduate students. Student Assistance Programs, similar to EAP’s, provide students with the resources and support they need to succeed.
Over the past six months, Perspectives has implemented three Student Assistance Programs (SAP) to assist students who are juggling academic, family and financial pressures. These SAP’s vary depending on the student body’s needs. Students who are attending mainly online curriculum receive support through 24/7 phone counseling and online resources. Students who spend a great deal of time on campus, such as medical students, are often supported with on-site counseling staff. Regardless of program model, most SAP programs include:
- Unlimited toll-free 24/7 access to masters-level counselors to students for counseling and to leaders for crisis intervention and appointment scheduling
- Assessment, goal-focused counseling, referral (where appropriate for psychiatric, child care, elder care, financial, legal and other services) and follow up for free for students
- Unlimited access to robust online services, including but not limited to online skill building courses, online mental health and assessments, WorkLife webinars, financial calculators, child/elder care databases in addition to content for emotional well-being, and wellness
- Collaborative relationships with college/university leadership, such as Deans and Student Support Services in order to communicate the availability of the SAP and consult around specific student cases that may need to be referred to SAP
- Program promotion through appropriate channels, including delivery of student orientations, participation in the student health/wellness committees, participation in appropriate college/university events
- Provision of onsite/webinar/online WorkLife/Wellness seminars in stress management, managing finances, time management and other seminars designed to support student success
- Provision of Critical Incident Stress Debriefing groups for students in the event of uncommon unpredictable traumatic events
Employees aren’t the only people who sometimes need support in balancing their various responsibilities. College and university students can sometimes use support as well. To get more information on SAP’s, feel free to contact Terry Cahill or visit, www.perspectivesltd.com for more information.
Written by: Jonathan Eisler Director of Perspectives Organizational Consulting Group
When our internal newsletter went around last week, I was happily surprised when I saw that my two-year anniversary had just passed. Two years already? Wow, I guess it’s true when they say “time flies when you’re having fun.” If you’ve been keeping up with my past posts here, you’re well aware that seeing others happy is a big driver for me, but after the reminder in last week’s newsletter, I took some time over the weekend to reflect on why these past two years have been ‘fun’ for me.
Throughout this reflection, three salient points surfaced as to the drivers of my happiness during these past couple of years:
- Being a part of an organization that aligns with my personal values
Since day one at Perspectives, I’ve appreciated the fact that our focus is always on the best outcomes for our clients vs. simply how they can use what we offer in-house and that it’s completely acceptable to refer prospects/clients out. I’ve witnessed the fact that Perspectives’ goal is to establish and maintain long-term relationships with our clients vs. strictly focusing on short-term gains. Both of these approaches align with my core values of selflessly supporting others while not getting blinded by shortsightedness.
- The opportunity for continual development and growth
Complacency, or “drifting,” is an idea/concept/approach that I have never been able to relate to. So thankfully the continually changing landscape of the client work that I am involved in fosters exposure to new challenges and opportunities that require collaboration, innovation and assimilation of new information.
- Seeing the impact of the work I do
The consultants that I collaborate with and the clients that we serve provide daily reminders of the impact that I am a part of. For example, we’re privileged to have witnessed a department cut their turnover in half by helping them revamp their on-boarding process. Recently I heard that a Director who had been put on a performance improvement plan (PIP) has now been promoted to a VP position following coaching services we provided. And whether getting the news that an education institution was able to retain specific accreditation credentials, and therefore $40+ million in revenue, as a result of an initiative we facilitated to revamp the culture within a department or knowing that a client HR Department is now being able to better focus on strategic initiatives given the reduction in tactical management questions they’ve received following our Front Line Supervisor Training Program, I am continually reminded that what I do is for something so much bigger than myself, my department or even my employer.
While the explanation behind the above points is definitely personal, the three drivers they relate to are universal. Time and time again we’ve seen organizational performance skyrocket when employers understand these concepts and take the time to bring the right people on board, ensure employees have opportunities to grow personally and professionally and directly link the work of each employee to the mission, or output, of the organization.
Do you want your organization, department or team to perform at a higher level than they currently are? If your employees don’t feel an affinity to your organization perhaps your approach to recruiting, selection or on-boarding needs revisiting. If your retention is not what you’d like it to be, maybe your people need some stretch assignments, cross-training or professional development opportunities (it’s not always about career ladders). If engagement, innovation or initiative is lacking, take time to speak with your people about why your company exists and explore with them how their responsibilities are directly linked to the desired end goal.
Take the time to assess how you and your organization are doing in relation to these three drivers of employee happiness. If you’re not responsible for others at your company, take responsibility for yourself and sit down with your supervisor to discuss where you fall in relation to these drivers. Trust me; the return will totally justify the investment in the long run for you as the employee and the organization as the employer.
Smart people learn from their experiences and wise people learn from others, so take these three lessons that this one guy learned over the past two years and watch time fly as fun is fostered!
To get more information regarding anything discussed here, email Jonathan Eisler at JEisler@perspectivesltd.com or visit https://www.perspectivesltd.com/knowledgecenter/perspectives-organizational-consulting-group.aspx.
Written by: Bernie Dyme
I recently went to see my doctor and while sitting in the waiting room overheard a conversation behind the reception window. One of the physicians in the practice was having a very loud conversation with the receptionist about how she made a mistake that he wasn’t pleased with, and he was letting her know in no uncertain terms what a lousy employee she was. He didn’t seem to mind that his voice was loud enough that everyone in the waiting room (and it was quite full) could hear. When the physician’s tirade ended and he left the area, the receptionist got up and ran out of the area crying. I later found out that this behavior was very common and although the physician was widely respected in his field of practice, he had a history of this kind of disruptive behavior. I felt like I was watching the TV series “House” with Hugh Laurie; only this was real life.
I was mortified and felt bad for the receptionist. Unfortunately, there are some physicians who behave this way. Thank G-d there aren’t too many of them, but they can do a great deal of damage to their co-workers, patients, the medical profession and overall morale. The Joint Commission which accredits health care organizations and programs came out with a definition of disruptive physician behavior in 2009. It “consists of a practice pattern of personality traits that interferes with the physician’s effective clinical performance…The disruptive behaviors negatively impact the persons with whom the physician interacts.” The Federation of State Medical Boards (FSMB) also talked about the importance of addressing this behavior.
However, it isn’t that easy to address as times have changed. It used to be acceptable for physicians to act in an authoritarian fashion. Now though, many healthcare organizations are working on creating cultures in which everyone respects everyone else. A multi-faceted approach is what works. This includes:
- Setting policies and guidelines across the organization for respect and making clear that disruptive and disrespectful behavior will not be tolerated
- Teaching leaders and department chairs how to identify disruptive behavior and providing constructive confrontation with those who are being disruptive
- Providing disruptive physician coaching/counseling with professionals who focus on changing the behavior but have expertise in coaching, psychological counseling and HR
- Developing systems of accountability by the organization and leaders to insure that the old negative behaviors are not repeated
Perspectives works with organizations to help them effectively deal with these disruptive physicians and where there is a concerted and systematic program in place, has seen very positive and sustainable results. Many of these physicians are excellent physicians who need to learn to behave in a more productive manner. With a successful outcome, everyone benefits. The physician can be more productive and learn better methods for dealing with his stress. The organization gets a fully engaged physician who is more productive, less likely to cause pain and/or litigation and who enhances the reputation of the facility.
If you would like more information regarding Disruptive Professionals, please visit https://www.perspectivesltd.com/disruptive-professional-coaching.aspx or https://www.perspectivesltd.com/.
Written by: Adria Passey
On January 15, 2015, the CDC announced that having received this year’s flu vaccine reduces your chances of going to the doctor for flu symptoms by just 23%. The reason this year’s vaccine is less effective is because the flu virus is constantly mutating, making it difficult to keep up with the most virulent strains. According to the CDC, vaccine effectiveness has ranged from just 10% to as high as 60% in the last 10 years.
So for those of us who can’t avoid stores, public transportation and going to work for the rest of the winter – and that would be nearly all of us – what should we do?
Some of the obvious ways to stay healthy and strong are things we have heard a thousand times before: Don’t smoke! Don’t drink too much alcohol. Eat more fruits and veggies (potato chips are not veggies)! Exercise. So we try to do all these things, get the flu shot and sometimes we still get sick with the flu.
The flu is most dangerous for those with weak or compromised immune systems, so your best bet may be to boost yours. Stress might be weakening your immune system because stress causes our bodies to release cortisol, a remnant of the fight-or-flight response, and too much cortisol actively suppresses our immunity. As Dr. Jacob Teitelbaum explains to Peg Moline at the Chicago Tribune, “This process is meant to protect us during life-threatening situations, so it shunts your body’s resources away from immunity and toward quick production of adrenaline and energy.”
Perhaps handling stress better might make us healthier, and if this flu season is as bad as the CDC predicts, we should do anything we can to help ourselves. According to Moline, here are some ways to combat stress:
- Listen to music. It’s good for your body, and your brain!
- Do yoga. This ancient physical and mental discipline has many benefits, from increased flexibility to suppression of cortisol.
- Go to bed. Try to get 8 hours of sleep a night – the less you get the less effective your immune system is at fighting off infections.
Some of these tips may only mean the flu will be less severe if you do catch it, but even that can be a real help when you are feeling low. In the meantime, wash your hands!
Written by: Colleen O’Brien, LPC
“Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.” – Dr. Seuss US author & illustrator (1904 – 1991)
Recently one of my clients said that she can tell me how she feels, she can tell her friends how she feels, but she can’t tell the men in her life how she feels. I’ve heard this before and have had experience with similar feelings myself. Whether it’s the man or woman in our lives, our family, our colleagues, or someone else, sometimes we don’t say what we think or how we feel.
There are a variety of reasons why we do not say what we think or how we feel – we simply do not want to, it will make the situation awkward, we don’t feel empowered to say what we wish we could, it’s uncomfortable, it might hurt the other person’s feelings, etc. The reason why we hold back in self-expression can help us determine if it’s important to make a change. For example, if we simply do not want to express ourselves when we hold back then there is no problem (unless we are rationalizing, see below). But if we do not feel empowered to say what we wish we could say, there may be a problem.
The need to express ourselves will vary depending on several factors, including the importance of the relationship and how passionate we are about the topic being discussed. Sometimes it is appropriate to leave the internal dialogue in our heads. Other times, it is important for our self-esteem and/or our relationships to disclose our thoughts and feelings (and to pay attention to how they are received.) If we are not sure if we should express ourselves or not, how do we make this decision?
Sometimes we are not sure if expressing ourselves is the right thing to do. Other times we make the decision to suppress and then rationalize to feel better about the choice we made. Either way, our behaviors or our bodies may send us signals to let us know when we are not happy with our decision. These signals can include:
- Fatigue or withdrawal from others
- Racing thoughts or nervousness
- Increased use of alcohol or other substance
- Over eating
- Constant analyzing
- Constant exercising
- Watching television all the time
- A lump comes and goes in our throats
- Digestive issues, including IBS
- Pain in the body unexplained by medical reasons
If we continue to suppress ourselves when we know we would feel better expressing ourselves, our self-esteem and/or our relationships suffer. Suppression in these cases does not allow the other person to see us as we are and could reinforce a false belief that we are not desirable as we are. These situations can contribute to feelings of low self-esteem. In addition, if we are in a healthy relationship of give and take, we can sacrifice the quality of that relationship when we sacrifice expressing our thoughts and feelings.
So next time you find yourself suppressing your thoughts and feelings, ask yourself why you are making (or made) that choice. If you find yourself experiencing regret of some sort, or any of the symptoms above, know that you can use that information to spark healthy change! If you are not sure how to go about making that change, a clinician who specializes in behavioral health or your EAP can help.
Written by Robin Contreras, PCPC Counselor
As the days get shorter, many people find themselves feeling sad. You might feel blue around the winter holidays, or get into a slump after the fun and festivities have ended. Some people have more serious mood changes year after year especially into the fall and winter when there tends to be less natural sunlight.
Winter blues is a general term, not a medical diagnosis. It is fairly common and it is more mild than serious. It usually clears up on it’s own in a fairly short amount of time. The “winter blues” are often linked to something specific, such as stressful holidays or reminders of absent loved ones.
Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is different. It is a well defined clinical diagnosis that is related to the shortening of daylight hours. It interferes with daily functioning over a significant period of time. Seasonal Affective Disorder affects up to 5 percent of the population. It is linked to a reduction in light exposure from shorter days and gray skies, which is thought to cause a chemical imbalance in the brain. A key feature of SAD is that it follows a regular pattern. It appears each year as the seasons change and end during the spring or summer.
If you have SAD, you may:
- Feel sad, grumpy, moody, irritable, or anxious
- Lose interest in your usual activities
- Problems getting along with other people
- Hypersensitivity to rejection
- Eat more and crave carbohydrates, such as bread and pasta
- Gain Weight
- Sleep more but still feel tired, Low energy
- Have trouble concentrating
Symptoms come and go at about the same time each year. Most people with SAD start to have symptoms in September or October and feel better by April or May.
How is SAD diagnosed?
It can sometimes be hard to tell the difference between SAD and other types of depression because many of the symptoms are the same. To diagnose SAD, your doctor will ask if:
- You have been depressed during the same season and have gotten better when the seasons changed for at least 2 years in a row.
- You have symptoms that often occur with SAD, such as being very hungry (especially craving carbohydrates), gaining weight, and sleeping more than usual.
- A close relative—a parent, brother, or sister—has had SAD.
Since SAD season is upon us (October – April), here are some personal tips that might help with seasonal depression.
Lift your Mood
Get outside. Take a long walk, eat lunch at a nearby park, and go ice skating or simply sit on a bench and soak up the sun. Even on cold or cloudy days, outdoor light can help — especially if you spend some time outside within two hours of getting up in the morning.
Make your environment sunnier and brighter. Open blinds, trim tree branches that block sunlight or add skylights to your home. Sit closer to bright windows while at home or in the office.
Exercise regularly. Exercise and other types of physical activity help relieve stress and anxiety, both of which can increase SAD symptoms. Being more fit can make you feel better about yourself, too, which can lift your mood.
Try to spend time with other people and confide in a trusted friend or relative
Eat nutritious foods and avoid the carbohydrates like cookies and candies.
Be patient. You won’t suddenly “snap out of” depression. Your mood will improve gradually.
An antidepressant drug may prove effective in reducing or eliminating SAD symptoms.
If you have thoughts of suicide, get help right away. Call the toll-free National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. For more information, visit www.perspectivesltd.com.
Written by: Jonathan Eisler Director of Perspectives Organizational Consulting Group
In a recent Wall Street Journal article titled ‘Why Everything You Think About Aging May Be Wrong,’ it was shown that 6 commonly held myths about getting older actually only pertain to <10% of the aging population. Overall, the myths relate to the common misconception that as “we age, life becomes less enjoyable and satisfying”.
After reading the reality that debunks the 6 myths, I was struck by the fact that all of us, regardless of age, have the opportunity to live fuller and more satisfying lives today as a result of wisdom that experience imparts on others.
As we charge into 2015, let’s explore the 6 ‘truths’ that lead the aging, at least 90% of them, to fully engage life and see what applications there may be for our happiness today, regardless of our age.
- Myth: Depression is More Prevalent in Old Age
- Reality – Numerous studies show that older adults tend to be happier, less anxious, less angry and tend to adapt well to their circumstances. This is because as people age, they tend to prioritize emotional meaning and satisfaction, giving them an incentive to see the good more than the bad.
- Application for All – Stay mindful of what you’re focusing on and cognizant of the emotional response evoked.
- Myth: Cognitive Decline is Inevitable
- Reality – Research has shown that when younger people had negative stereotypes about aging, over 38 years their cognitive decline was 30% greater than those with less negative views.
- Application for All – Focus on the future you want, not the one you’re afraid of.
- Myth: Older Workers Are Less Productive
- Reality – This stereotype has been perpetuated by the assumption that younger workers are more adaptable, when in reality, no relationship has been found between age and job performance.
- Application for All – Always look at what is needed for the moment and see who is best fit for the task.
- Myth: Loneliness is More Likely
- Reality – Until about age 50, most people add to their social networks. After that, they eliminate people they feel less close to and maximize interactions with “close partners who are more emotionally satisfying,” says Prof. Carstensen
- Application for All – Take time to quantify the value your relationships add to your life. Yep, I’m suggesting developing a scale of meaningfulness and then rank ordering your relationships…or something along those lines though not necessarily as explicit. Then make time to focus on nurturing the relationships that add to vs. subtract from the quality of your day and life.
- Myth: Creativity Declines with Age
- Reality – Creativity around problem solving, think ‘conceptual’ artists, typically peaks earlier in life, but creativity with things that involve accumulated knowledge, think ‘experimental’ artists, typically peaks later.
- Application for All – While younger, make it a point to step outside of what comes natural and stretch your comfort zone while consciously ‘strengthening’ your imagination through exercise thereof so the decline is lessened with age. As we age, do the same by exercising your imagination rather than relying solely on ‘experience.’
- More Exercise is Better
- Reality – With exercise, there is always a point of diminishing returns.
- Application for All – Establish exercise habits today that keep you limber, your muscles active and your cardiovascular system operating efficiently.
Since smart people learn from their own experiences and wise people learn from other’s, let’s all resolve to be a bit wiser in 2015 and learn from what aging can teach us in regards to living an engaged, fulfilled and happier life!
Written by: Sara DePasquale
With the end of 2014 approaching, we thought we’d take a look back and review some of our favorite blog posts from the year. These blog posts were written by Perspectives staff with the idea to inspire workplaces and provide leadership insights for human resources specialists, C-suite executives and other management professionals that impact the workplace.
If you haven’t already, take a look back with us on some of our most popular and favorite blog posts of 2014! What are your favorites?
- The Power of Perception
- Caregiving: The Sandwich Generation
- Perspectives’ Top 10 Tips on Creating a Happy Workplace
- Helping Responders Who Help Us
- FMLA/EAP: What’s the connection?
Do you want to get more blogs on a specific topic in 2015? Let us know by emailing Sara DePasquale at email@example.com.
Written by: Lindsey Patrick, Counselor Intern, Perspectives EAP
For many of us, November and December are the months of Thanksgiving and several religiously-based holidays. This time of year is usually devoted to family and gifts, both given and received. In the preparation for different activities and events, it is easy to lose sight of why we celebrate a day of thanks and why we exchange gifts. The two common threads, regardless of religious/spiritual affiliation or lack thereof, are gratitude and charity.
Gratitude is a concept heavily researched in the field of positive psychology. Active expression of gratitude is positively correlated with increased happiness and helps focus thoughts toward positive emotions, experiences and relationships. It has been my experience, though, that expressing gratitude does not come as naturally to people as one may think. It is easy for somebody to tell a loved one to “be grateful” or “count your blessings.” However, some people need to be taught how to be effectively gracious.
I will always remember an assignment one of my graduate school professors gave to us (and gives to her therapy clients) which was to keep a gratitude journal. Keep a written list of things for which you are grateful (big and small; tangible and intangible). Each night, add one more item to that list. Let this be the last task of your day so you go to sleep thinking of this list. Review the growing list each morning so you begin your day with positivity. This is a simple and quick task to begin shifting your mind from the mundane to the great.
When I think about charity, I think of people who make Forbes Magazine’s list of Most Generous People in America. How can I possibly live up to these people with my limited resources? How can an average person realistically fulfill this seemingly large and amazing concept of charity? For me, I conceptualize charity in a smaller way than others. I entered the counseling profession not with the notion of changing the world, but with the hope of having an impact on a small amount of people and making the small piece of the world in which I do exist, a better place. This helps make the enormous concept of charity more realistic for me.
What can you do?
Some ideas for giving charity are…
- Placing the change from your morning coffee in the Salvation Army tins around town
- Leaving a dollar bill or two taped to the office vending machine with an anonymous note saying “Have a treat on me”
- Calling a friend who is struggling to say “I am here if you need anything”
- Paying for the coffee of the person behind you in the Starbucks drive-thru
Charity does not have to take the form of a large donation to an organization. Small and random acts of kindness can have a big impact.
So in this spirit, I challenge you to list 10 things for which you are grateful. I also challenge you to do 5 random acts of kindness between now and the end of the year. You may be surprised to find the amount of personal satisfaction you can gain by actively practicing gratitude and charity.