Anxiety · Employee Concerns · Professional

How do I help an anxious employee?

So how do I deal with an employee with high anxiety? Particularly if I believe that anxiety is starting to negatively impact their work?

I have an employee I’m concerned about. Not a direct employee – I supervise the person who supervises this employee. Which makes it even trickier. My concerns are based on reports that I’m getting from this person’s manager. The employee’s anxiety has been a topic of concern since they were hired. We work with people diagnosed with serious mental illness who are often acutely sensitive to minor fluctuations in the moods and feelings of those around them. I think it is a type of survival mechanism many of our consumers develop – being aware of the moods of those around you can help you protect yourself (physically or emotionally). Our consumers are so vulnerable to abuse and mistreatment. I once worked with a consumer who was so sensitive to the tone and inflection in my voice that he could predict when I was getting sick 1-2 days before I noticed any symptoms. He would call the office and about 30 seconds into the conversation would ask if I was feeling ok. Inevitably, within a couple of days, I would start feeling bad. But, I digress.

Back to where I was going before – our consumers know when staff are anxious and sensing anxiety in a staff member can be a trigger for a consumer’s anxiety. We need to do everything we can to ensure a calm atmosphere in our programs to help our consumers maintain their recovery.

This employee experiences a high amount of anxiety. They express fear on a near-constant basis that something they did during his shift will result in them being fired. The employee has been with us for less than 6 months, so naturally there have been mistakes as they were becoming more familiar with our agency policies and procedures. This is expected as someone is learning a new job and hasn’t been a big deal. Frankly, compared to many other new employees, this person’s mistakes have been minor and infrequent.

However, whenever the supervisor brings up a mistake and talks about the way to do things differently in the future, this employee almost has a panic attack. They sweat profusely, their body shakes, and they have trouble talking. The supervisor has tried to be as sensitive as possible to this anxiety but we’re starting to feel that it impairs the employee’s ability to make solid decisions. The fear of losing their job has resulted in the employee sharing important information with his co-workers but not bringing it to his supervisor (out of fear he will get in trouble). This has resulted in an uncomfortable situation between the employee, their co-workers (who of course tell the supervisor when it is a concern about one of the consumers), and the program supervisor. It’s feels like a super-awkward game of telephone. It’s not healthy for the staff dynamics in the home.

So, my dilemma is this, at what point is this anxiety too much for our program? The employee has shared that they take medication for panic attacks so it sounds like they are getting treatment from somebody. As an agency we want to be understanding of someone’s symptoms and support them in getting symptom relief/learning to cope with them. I want to give this employee the opportunity to get their anxiety under control. We’re a pretty relaxed and tolerant program. We give our staff lots of feedback and opportunity to address any performance concerns. In addition, I understand what anxiety is like and I know sometimes it makes it hard for me to do everything I need to do at my job. Heck, at this point I have anxiety about THEIR anxiety which is making it difficult for me to focus on other aspects of my job. The program supervisor is working on getting the team on the same page and trying to reassure this anxious staff that their job is not in jeopardy (yet).

This employee has some important strengths and I think they could do well in our agency. But, if this anxiety continues to negatively impact other staff or we see if impact our consumers, then we will eventually need to let them go. Which will make me feel like a hypocrite. An unfeeling, unsympathetic hypocrite.

What would you do in this situation? Would love to hear some advice on this one.

Anxiety · Gym · Physical Health · Self-Care · Social Anxiety

Braving the gym

I almost let my anxiety run me out of the gym without working out this afternoon. But first, a little backstory.

First, I HATE GYMS. I think they are awful. I’ve yet to meet a gym that I felt comfortable at. So many people I don’t know, so much spandex, I sweat profusely, so much…everything. Did I mention I once passed out in my college gym while on a treadmill and broke my nose? I absolutely hate gyms. However, desperate times call for desperate measures. Over the summer I started jogging again both to lose some weight (the Freshman 15 is nothing compared to the Ph.D. 40) and to help with my stress level. I completed the Couch to 5K plan and kept up the jogging for 2-3X/week through the first couple weeks of the Fall semester.

Then, as usual when I’m stressed, my exercise (and self-care) inevitably trailed off until I wasn’t exercising at all. There was weight gain. I’m talking the kind of weight gain that keeps you from wearing 85% of your clothing (at this point, I’ve only got 4 outfits I can wear to work). I was eating sweets every day and using the drive thru with too much frequency. In addition to not looking great, I felt gross and uncomfortable in my clothes. I kept telling myself that when classes ended I would get back to jogging and yoga. Not surprisingly, when classes ended a few weeks ago, I did not start jogging (it’s cold!) or doing yoga at home.

I have a professional conference I’m presenting some of my research at in Washington, D.C. in mid-January. My first one so of course I’m anxious about the whole thing. It’s a requirement for school. Adding to that anxiety is concern (terror) about whether I’m going to have anything appropriate to wear. All my “professional” clothing is too tight. I don’t mean a little snug, I mean that it looks borderline obscene and rips if I try to sit down. I’m really strapped for cash, shelling out for this conference already added over $1000 to my credit card, so I really can’t afford to go out and buy a suit in a larger size.

That’s how I ended up with a gym membership. I knew I wouldn’t be able to make myself start jogging in the cold weather. So, I joined Planet Fitness because they are the least expensive gym in town (see above comment about lack of funds) and I’m desperate to lose weight so I can fit into my clothing. I broke down and did that on Friday (today is Monday). I’ve been each day since Friday (except Saturday – we helped a friend move which counted as my daily workout). The first couple of days weren’t too bad – I managed to find times that the gym was relatively empty. The physical set up is not great for me – I wish there was a set of stairs that didn’t require me to walk across an open floor to get to the second floor– the workout equipment on the second floor is less intimidating.

Today was very unpleasant. It was a bad day at work. I went to the gym as planned, changed into my workout clothes, and looked in the mirror (MISTAKE). I realized that, what was an appropriate workout shirt to wear outside in the August heat, showed more of my body than I was comfortable with now that I was inside of a building with a bunch of people I didn’t know. I wanted to put my regular clothes back on and run out of there. I almost did. It took me several minutes to convince myself to walk about of the locking room. The walk to the stairs was so uncomfortable – I felt that everyone was staring and judging me. Logically I know that most of the people in that gym didn’t give a flying **** about me or my clothing, but it felt as though they were all looking in my direction.

I managed to make it up the stairs and onto an elliptical machine in the corner. Which was fine until ten minutes later when two women started using other machines near me. I heard them and almost stopped my workout and ran back to the locker room. The idea of them being so close when I was feeling vulnerable because of my clothing and crappy day was a lot to handle. I didn’t fully do my cool down because I was so eager to get out of there. I called my sister before I left the locker room, so I didn’t have to make eye contact or interact with anyone on my way out.

So, obviously today was not a pleasant experience for me. However, I want to try to identify some positives in the situation to lessen the memory of my anxiety

1. Despite my mind and my body telling me to run away, I did not. Yay for
me!

2. I managed to walk across the open space to access the stairs to the
second floor…twice. Despite my fear and discomfort.

3. I was able to continue using the machine when surprised by other gym
patrons. My anxiety was present but did not prevent me from
accomplishing my goal.

Tomorrow, the real test comes. After such an unpleasant experience, will my anxiety convince me to skip tomorrow’s workout? It will be a battle between my desire for health and my desire to not be around people. Who will win?

As always, ending on happy doggie note. Check out the picture of the pup above. He’s so sweet when he sleeps.

Anxiety · Life Anxiety · Slowing down · Uncategorized

Slowing Down Is Almost Worse

Hello all! I know it’s been a while since I’ve written anything. As you can probably tell by my last post, life was pretty hectic for a while. There was family illness, work chaos, and school pressure. It took all of my energy to get out of bed and run from one responsibility to the next. I had no time or energy left over self-reflection (my mind/body were in survival mode). Things have calmed down for now (knock on wood) so I’m hoping posting can be a regular thing again.

As I mentioned, there was little time for me to think about myself or life over the past several months. In a way, there is something I find comfortable and familiar in being over-booked and stressed. I don’t always like it but I’ve felt like that so many times in my life that it is almost reassuring – I know how to be in survival mode. My path forward is always clear when life is like that. I just need to do whatever is necessary to make it to the next minute. I don’t have to think as much, it is almost like I turn part of that anxious brain off for a brief time. I know how to function as a stressed out individual. I’m not saying I like it. Nobody enjoys not sleeping, lack of exercise, and binge eating. It makes my body feel gross and then I stress more at the fact that I’m not taking care of myself.

BUT, honestly, sometimes not feeling overwhelmed and at the end of my rope is worse. I don’t know what to do when I’m not pulled in 50 different directions. If I’m not thinking about others then I have to pay attention to myself. It’s uncomfortable and unnerving to do that. I have to think about things that are going on in my mind and my body. I have to think about why I feel angry at people in my life that I care about. I have to think about why I don’t feel fulfilled or satisfied with some aspects of my life. I have to deal with an underlying desire for more in life, even though can’t identify what “more” I want. I have to face feelings that I am trapped in some ways. Trapped in a life of repetition, in a cycle of work -> home -> cook dinner -> watch TV -> sleep -> work again without end. It feels like I’m being smothered by monotony. There is no escape from this cycle because that’s just how life is – it’s how we survive.

I could go on and on, getting darker and darker in my thought process, but I’ll stop there. This is why I stay busy, this is why I take on too much, and this is why I over-extend myself. Because it’s easier to walk around thinking about how much I have to do than to thinking about some intangible thing (“more”) that I can neither define nor achieve. I’m aware that this desire for something is part of my anxiety – the opposite part side of being anxious about juggling a bunch of different responsibilities. I’m less familiar with this side of my anxiety – it’s particularly disconcerting. I’m looking forward to when an onslaught of responsibilities and problems return – at least I know what to do with all of that!

Last, but not least, check out the pictures of the pups at the top! They are rarely still enough for me to take a picture of all 3 but I lucked out the other morning. Just wanted to end this on a positive note!

Anxiety · Relationships

Significant Others & Anxiety

“Oh, you started a blog? Can I read it?”

NO!

I’m sitting here with a glass of wine (a rarity for me on a weekday) mulling over the above conversation and how odd it is that the person who should know the most about me/my anxiety is the person that I try the hardest to hide it from. My husband. With whom I do everything in my power NOT to talk about my mental health.

Admittedly, this is ridiculous. We live together, it’s pretty hard to hide when your mental health is not stellar from someone who is around you each night. He knows I experience anxiety, particularly social anxiety. It’s what keeps me from wanting to go hang out with our friends on the weekends, what causes me to decline attending his work events (for the first year his work teased him about not believing I was a real person – so now he keeps a picture of our wedding on his desk), what causes me to recoil every time he suggests traveling to see an old friend of his, and occasionally (not proud of this one) what, in the past, caused me to drink too much when I was around his friends to help me make it through an evening with people I barely knew. He’s pretty darn familiar with my anxiety. No doubt he’s been making excuses for years to explain my behavior.

Nevertheless, I prefer to pretend it doesn’t exist. I can talk about it in the abstract – that I have it, it’s often a problem, and these are the situations when it typically increases. But, for whatever reason, I can’t bring myself to point out my anxiety in the moment. It’s too hard for me to say “I feel really anxious today and I don’t know why” or “my anxiety made it really hard to do ___ today and I did/did not do what I needed to.”  Instead I use code words (I know they’re code words, I haven’t figured out if my husband does) like “I’m really tired,” “I don’t feel well,” or “It was just a tough day.”

I’m aware that this is poor communication on my part. If I had a client doing this I would urge them to work on their communication skills ASAP. I’ve made great strides since moving back to my hometown in talking to my parents and siblings openly about my anxiety (wish I could have done that as a teenager). I can talk to friends about it until I’m blue in the face. But, I hit this roadblock when I think about being brutally honest with my husband. Maybe it’s part of my own denial – if I can make him think that I’m ok then it’s easier to lie to myself when I’m struggling. Maybe I just don’t want to appear weak or needy to him. Whatever it is, it’s dysfunctional and I need to work on it. End of musings.

I’m including a picture of my puppy because he is too cute for words and it’s a happy way to end this post about my dysfunctional communication habits. Tell me he doesn’t have the sweetest face! He’s chilling in my big reading chair in my office, where he usually hangs out while I do my classwork each night. 

Loss

Loss – Personal and Professional

It has been a while since I’ve posted anything. My summer has mostly consisted of getting back into jogging (I’d like to say running but frankly it’s a slow jog that gives the other patrons of the park plenty of time to notice my sweaty, tomato-red face. It may look like I ran a marathon but I didn’t come close), building up my vegetable garden, procrastinating studying for my preliminary exams in August, and work. Things were going along with relatively few hiccups until about 3 weeks ago when my work world crashed and burned.

Three weeks ago today, I received a call from a fireman calling from my employee’s cell phone. One of my clients had passed away overnight (natural causes) and the employee who found the client was too distraught to speak to me on the phone. Naturally I called my supervisor and we all rushed to the program. As you can imagine that morning was a chaotic rush of communication with coroners, family members, employees, staffing agencies to cover staff time off for recovery, etc. After everyone left the program I cleaned the client’s room so that none of my staff would have to do it while they were grieving. Times like this are difficult in work settings because my reactions have to come last. First I have to support my clients with managing their emotions and then I have to support my staff with managing their emotions. Only once I was alone in the client’s room did I finally get to experience my emotions and have a nice cry.

I have lost clients before (my population dies, on average, 25 years earlier than the general population) and the loss of this client did not count as my most traumatic experience with client death. Nonetheless, I was very fond of the client we lost and had always felt a special connection with her. She was a client of mine in the job that I had before my current one. When she entered our program I met her family and realized that we were neighbors when I was a child. Due to the age difference between me and the client we didn’t know each other back then. However, it was very likely she saw me riding my bike or playing in the front yard at some point. The client had gone through some major struggles but had been doing wonderfully in the past several months. The family said the client was acting the way she did years ago when she was healthier. That made her death particularly poignant. To struggle for so long and work so hard to be healthy, only to pass away before getting the opportunity to fully enjoy your health is tragic. She had so much more to give the world.

Three weeks later my staff is still grieving her loss. The other client in the home has many questions and is struggling with being without roommates. The employee who found the client is having difficulty processing everything and has taken time off to cope with the experience. The program is just trying to stay above water. I’m struggling to reconcile two sides of myself: the social worker side who wants to be infinitely patient and understanding vs the administrative side of me who has to make sure that the remaining client is taken care of and the program continues to run as smoothly as possible. The temptation to treat your employees as clients is strong at times like this. The therapist in me wants to provide counseling and treatment but a good supervisor has to realize where the boundaries are. I can’t be their therapist – that is not my role in their lives. I can be supportive and understanding but the needs of the program also have to be kept in mind and balanced.

The loss of a client is never easy. I don’t know if our clients ever realize how much we care about them. I still think about some of my clients from my first social work job and worry about how they are doing. When a client passes away you always wonder – could I have done anything different that would have changed this outcome? The first client I lost nearly broke me – the circumstances surrounding the finding of that client’s body were horrible. I had trouble with flashbacks and intrusive thoughts for several months. I blamed myself for the death and was convinced I could have changed the outcome somehow if I had just been a better social worker, a stronger clinician, checked on the client more often, etc. Each time I lose a client, a part of me flashes back to the loss of that first client. It took me a long time, and help from some amazing supervisors, to heal from that experience.

Now I want to be the amazing supervisor who helps their employee through a traumatic experience. I’m worried I don’t have what it takes. I’m worried the program will continue to spiral down and I won’t be able to save it. I’m worried about a lot right now.

(Did I mention I have a massive 4 hour examination about statistics and research in 14 days and if I don’t pass it that I can’t continue with my doctoral program? No pressure)

Oh, and I’m making the featured image for this post my (still growing) puppy because he is silly and make me laugh. He is super long when he stretches out!

Social Anxiety · Uncategorized

Hiring New Employees – UGH

One of the most awkward parts of my job is when it becomes necessary to hire a new employee for one of my programs. Combing through resumes, contacting applicants to see if they meant to apply for the job or are interested in it (I get a lot of people who don’t read the job description), and managing to get them to show up for an interview is challenging and often annoying. That is not the worst part. The worst part is the interview process – so uncomfortable for me (no doubt also uncomfortable for the poor soul that I’m interviewing).

Let’s all agree that interviews are awkward for all involved. Both sides are sizing up the other to try to figure out if they will be able to work together. I’m looking for red flags to indicate this person won’t be a good fit at the agency while they’re scrutinizing me to figure out if I’m going to be somebody they wouldn’t be miserable working for. It’s an odd dynamic. While I’m evaluating them I’m simultaneously trying to sell them on our agency and why they want to work for us. That’s a problem because I’m not a good salesperson. I tried to sell those Cutco knives one summer in my teens and it was a disaster! My parents and sisters were the only ones who bought anything, mostly out of pity.

So here’s what typically happens when I interview someone. First, setting up the interview can be really challenging for me. Picking up the phone to call someone who sent me a resume creates a lot of anxiety for me. It’s one of those things that I try to do right before lunch or at the end of the day so that I can leave work soon after – that way if I feel embarrassed about my phone performance I don’t have to sit in the office and analyze the conversation for several hours. If I’m lucky then the person will be tech savvy and I can set something up over email – I love those! However, some of our positions tend to attract applicants who don’t have a lot of experience with computers so I can’t always rely on email for communication.

The day of the interview I’m often anxious when I wake up. I try to look a little nicer than usual (actually wear makeup, not wear jeans, etc.) to give myself a confidence boost. Sometimes I wear red because I once heard it was a “power color.” Whatever that means? I figure it can’t hurt the situation.

I’m so anxious while interviewing a potential employee. My throat gets dry and I drink so much water that the poor person I’m interviewing likely thinks I have a medical condition. My words get stuck in my throat and sometimes my voice cracks or does weird level/pitch changes against my will. I tend to get hot and sweat a little. The more anxious I get the more my sentences start to go in circles or just trail off because I don’t know what to say next. I repeat myself A LOT. I know, what a lovely visual – red faced, sweating, unable to get words out of my mouth (don’t forget my essential tremor so my hands are shaking), and gulping down multiple bottles of water. Wouldn’t you want to work for me?!

I will say that my interviewing skills are better than they used to be (yes, if you can imagine, my interviews were once MORE awkward). Lots of practice has resulted in a slight lessening of the anxiety and more comfort with some of the questions I have to ask (i.e. Can you pass a background check? What about 3? Can you pass a drug screen? How is your driving record?) I’m hopeful that in the future, with much more practice, my anxiety level during interviews will continue to decrease. My goal is to, one day, interview a potential employee without sweating or stammering. It’s a lofty goal, but I think I can do it.

Self-Care

Keeping It Together – Even When You Don’t Want To

I received some sad news this morning. A former client passed away over the weekend and the funeral is tomorrow. They left the agency several months ago because they needed a higher level of care. This is the second former client who has died in the last 30 days. Losing clients (even if they’re former, you will always think of them as your client) is never easy. As a social worker I’m privileged to be involved in intimate details of people’s lives. I wouldn’t be in this line of work if I didn’t care deeply about those I work with. A professional hazard is that you will inevitably lose each client – many will recover and move on (YAY), some will drop out and you’ll never hear from them again, and some will die before their time.

I work with individuals diagnosed with serious mental illness. They are vulnerable to homelessness, abuse, poverty, lack of access to nutritious food, unhealthy lifestyle habits (smoking, lack of exercise due to illness or because of fatigue from medications), etc. People with these diagnoses tend to die about 25 years sooner than the general population. This means that the death of a client in their 40s or 50s is not unusual.

One of the things that has made the deaths of the two clients this month so difficult is that I needed to support my staff and other clients with the grieving process while I also grieve. Today was a difficult day. First stop this morning was to tell the other clients and answer their questions to help them start to process their grief. The next job was notifying all the staff who worked with this person and supporting any of them who needed to talk. In addition, there was my regular workload. All of this had to happen while I was feeling quite sad and somewhat guilty that I hadn’t followed up with the former resident and visited them in the nursing home the way I intended.

I think that all of us, at some point in our daily lives, have needed to keep our own reactions in check in order to make sure thing get taken care of. Sometimes this must be done daily. So how do we keep it together when all we want to do is fall apart? Here are my suggestions:

  • Acknowledge your feelings – To the best of your ability in your situation acknowledge that you’re not feeling 100%. Depending on what’s been going on, a simple “I’m not at my best today” may be helpful. If you don’t feel comfortable saying this in your work environment then at least acknowledge it to yourself. Give yourself a break if you find that you’re not working as quickly or as accurately as usual. We all have off days. You are human, you’re allowed to not be perfect.

 

  • Talk it out – If you have someone you trust at work then go to them and ask if you can share some of your thoughts. Be mindful when choosing who to help you process thoughts or feeling. For example, I wouldn’t go to one of the staff I supervised to talk about feeling sad at the loss of this client because I’m supposed to be the one supporting them. I’m honest with staff about my feelings – I can tell them that I feel sad about the death of the former client but for a deeper exploration of my feelings I seek out either a supervisor or someone else in the company that I don’t supervise.

 

  • Set aside time to fully experience your emotions – I learned this from a former supervisor who specialized in treating other therapists. It is very useful when sitting with a client who is sharing tragic or horrifying personal details. If you’re in a situation where you can’t react the way you really want to (cry, scream, curse), then make yourself a promise. Identify a time later that day when you can react the way you want to and tell yourself that you can put those thoughts and feelings on hold until that time. The trick to this is that when the identified time comes, you MUST keep the promise you made to yourself and allow yourself to think whatever sad, negative, irrational thoughts that you ignored earlier. If you promise yourself a time to react, put your feelings on hold, and later don’t give yourself what you promised then you stifle your emotions which will impede healing or coping with whatever is going on. I find this one helpful when I have intrusive sad or anxious thoughts that are keeping me from doing my work. Once I tell myself I’m going to deal with those thoughts later in the day I’m able to refocus on what I need to do.

 

  • Take care of yourself – When you are struggling it is crucial to take good physical care of yourself. Your mind is already going through a lot, don’t make it also have to deal with a body that feels unhealthy. You may have the urge to eat ¾ of the birthday cake in the break room left over from yesterday’s celebration (been there, done that), but try to keep yourself to a regular-sized piece. Drink lots of water and minimize your caffeine intake. If possible, take a short walk during a lunch break. Eat whole fruits and vegetables. Try doing some gentle stretching.

As always, some (or none!) of my suggestions may be helpful or effective in your situation. I can only share the things that help me. I would love to hear ways other people make it through their day when it’s an extra struggle?

Physical Health · Self-Care · Social Anxiety

Summer Self-Care Plan

The past couple of weeks have been a roller coaster for me and my family. First there was the usual end of semester research papers to write. By the time my last paper is turned in, I am drained of mental and physical energy for at least a week. Several days after finishing my last research paper, my father experienced some health problems and spent 5 days in the hospital. The icing on the stress and anxiety cake was a bedbug scare at one of our programs at work. This series of stressful events left me in need of some serious self-care!

Over the past 6 months my self-care has gone down the drain. I became out of shape because all I did was work, study (sooo much sitting and staring at screens), and stress eat (so much stress eating). Now that it’s summer I’m determined to get back to feeling healthy again. My summer plan has 3 components:

  • Increase the amount of fresh fruits and vegetables I eat each day, preferably from my vegetable garden
  • Practice home yoga (Yoga with Adriene!) two times each week, a minimum of 30 minutes per session
  • Complete 8-week Couch to 5K training program

I discovered the Couch to 5K around 10 years ago and I have completed the program several times. It is basically what it sounds like – it takes you from “couch potato” to running a 5K through a series of run/walk intervals that gradually increase until you are able to run a 5K (3.1 miles). There are two different ways to do the program – time or distance.

  •  Time: You will run your interval based on a fixed amount of time (90 seconds, 3 minutes, etc). This means that your distance will    depend on your running speed. If you’re a slow runner (like me – I call what I do running but honestly, it’s more of a slow-to-medium speed jog) then you will probably not be running a full 5K in the 30 minutes that the program trains you for.
  • Distance: You will run your interval based on a fixed distance (1/8 mile, ½ mile, etc). This means that the time it takes to complete each interval depends on your speed. If you choose this route you may find that you take longer to complete each interval than is projected by the program.

I choose to run for time. I find it easier to bargain with myself (when I’m tired and want to stop) if I’m aiming for an amount of time. It’s easier to convince myself to keep my legs moving for a specific amount of time, even if it means my speed is super slow. I figure that as long as I’m technically moving (even at a snail’s pace) it counts as exercise.

If you decide to try the Couch to 5K, I recommend downloading one of the many Couch to 5K apps available in iOS or android. If you do not have a smartphone or don’t like exercising with one, you can print out the training program here and use a watch to time your intervals. I prefer to use an app because it provides a voice prompt that tells you when to run and when to walk. There a multiple apps to choose from. Just a heads up – some of them are only free for the first 2 weeks of running and then require an upgrade to access the remainder of the training program. If you’re like me and prefer to keep your apps free then you can download the C25K app from Zen Labs. There is an upgrade option but you can still access the entire basic training program with the free version.

C25K is an acceptable app – I won’t lie and say that it’s the prettiest one out there to use. The free version has ads which can be annoying and the app is a little clunky. It is persistent about prompting you to post everything to social media, something I see no reason to do. But, if that’s your thing then it’ll let you show your progress to your friends. It also lets you access your music library from the app. Alternately, you can use a different music app if you don’t want to listen to your library. I use Rock My Run (the free version, of course) and I love it!

I don’t run on sidewalks because it makes my social anxiety act up and I get distracted thinking about whether the people in cars are judging me (it’s not a pretty picture when I’m running – lots of sweat, bright red face, I probably look like I’m about to collapse). There is a park that I’ve been exercising and playing in since I was a child. It’s not very big – the running trail is only a mile so I end up making multiple laps.

The others I see in the park are mostly older people taking their dogs out for a leisurely stroll. Occasionally there is a little league baseball game in the park and I alter my running path. The steepest part of the path goes by the baseball bleachers and I don’t enjoy dodging parents and younger siblings during the hardest part of the run. The park does have a great swinging bench on top of one of the hills that looks over the park and the nearby houses, I like to sit there after my run is over and enjoy the view for a few minutes before I leave the park.

I’m happy to report that in the past week I have managed to run (ok, more like jog/walk) twice and have done yoga twice. I’m aiming to go for another “run” tomorrow. Wish me luck!

Uncategorized

First Guest Post – Learning from Dogs

The death of Zeke: A guest post.

via In memory of Zeke — Learning from Dogs

Hey everyone! Check out my first guest post over on Learning from Dogs. I write about the experience of losing our Rottweiler, Zeke, last year as well as the grief and healing that has occurred since. It’s not as sad as it sounds!

Though we could never replace Zeke (and would never try), we did get this bundle of cuteness in January so that we would be a 3 dog household again:

Pierce Bed

His name is Pierce, after the street my husband lived on when we first met. I’m sure I’ll mention Pierce and my other fuzzy creatures again at some point! Until then, you can learn more about them over on Learning from Dogs.

I promise I’ll have more content soon! This is the last week of the semester so it’s crunch time but after Friday at 5 pm I’ll be FREE for the summer (kinda….not really….it’s complicated)!

Education · Social Anxiety

Mental Health Awareness Month

May is mental health awareness month! I know we have a couple of days until that officially starts but no time like the present to delve into these things. This is a great time to take a few minutes and brush up on your mental health knowledge. Even if you are already knowledgeable about mental health (sometimes it feels like I have TOO much mental health knowledge, though I know there is no such thing) it can be helpful to seek out personal accounts of others’ struggles.

I find listening to the stories of others to be helpful in two ways:

1. Mental health concerns present in so many different ways. No two people experience things exactly the same. I find it incredibly interesting to hear about the variety of ways people can experience the same concerns. I feel it gives me a deeper understanding of the underlying causes of mental health concerns.

2. I find it validating to hear that others struggle with the same things I struggle with. Even though I objectively know that I am only one of many who experience anxiety, it is helpful to hear my thoughts and feelings echoed in the experiences of others. It brings me comfort and occasionally it gives me ideas about a new way to approach dealing with my anxiety.

I just found a page on Huffington Post with a compilation of articles on mental health. I expect that as the month of May gets started the list of articles and links there will grow. In addition, you can always check SAMHSA, one of my favorite websites for mental health information. You can even order some of their pamphlets and publications for free (including delivery) or download them. I have stacks of their publications at my office to share with employees or interns who want more information on a specific topic. Their information is great to share with family or friends (or anyone!) who want to know more about mental illness.

These are just a brief taste of what is out there to help those coping with mental health symptoms or trying to learn more about them. Over the month of May I will be sharing other online resources for mental health information. Right now, it’s been a REALLY long week and next week is looking to be even longer so I’m going to go practice some self-care for my own mental  health and work on my vegetable garden. The picture above is of my chives, who knew they were so pretty when they blossomed?!