Press Pause

‘Sometimes the simplest and best use of our will is to drop it all and just walk out from under everything that is covering us, even if only for an hour or so—just walk out from under the webs we’ve spun, the tasks we’ve assumed, the problems we have to solve. They’ll be there when we get back, and maybe some of them will fall apart without our worry to hold them up.’
~ Mark Nepo

Photo Courtesy of Teddy Kelley on Unsplash

Work Colleagues or Friends, Employer or Family?

Business exists to make money. When all is well employees have work, but if the business loses contracts, or work runs out, job redundancies can occur, even to long-term employees.

Some companies promote a culture of belonging to a family, and some employees form relationships  they perceive as friendship with colleagues.

What does an employee experience when he or she is made redundant? Some see it as an opportunity, a new chapter or new beginning, while others experience emotional distress. For employees who see themselves as valued, loyal members of a company family, the level of distress can be quite high. If they also perceive work colleagues as friends, and those relationships drop away following redundancy, distress worsens.Consider your job and the culture of the company you work for. Have you misinterpreted what being part of the company family means, or made a flawed interpretation of what constitutes friendship in the workplace? Do you socialise with management and peers on a regular basis outside of work? Will you continue to be part of the company family once you are made redundant? If the answer is no, then they’re not and never were family or friends in the normal sense. Quite simply they always were employer and work colleagues; respected, liked and valued, but still work based only. The true meaning of family and friends lies at the heart of your life, those 24/7 relationships with people who are there in good times and the not so good, year in year out.

What are you doing to improve yourself?

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If you were asked this common question at interview, ‘what have you done to improve yourself in the last twelve months’, would you be able to give a winning answer?   If you are not value adding to your qualifications, knowledge, skills and experience, you run the risk of getting left behind, especially in a competitive market.

Using your own initiative, have you undertaken additional training or upgraded qualifications recently?  Do you put your hand up for training when it is offered through your employer?  Time and personal budgets can be tight, so don’t underestimate the free options of volunteering or seeking out a mentor as commitments that may be well received at interview.

Returning to work following a bereavement

candles-209157_640One of the challenges in life most people experience is returning to work when recently bereaved.   A loss can come in many forms, the physical loss of a loved one including miscarriage, breakdown in a relationship or loss of home or property in difficult circumstances.  Sometimes, you, the bereaved person, feel naturally vulnerable and experience anxiety or stress about facing colleagues.  Much of the reason for this lies in worrying you will be asked questions about what has occurred with fears it may trigger a loss of emotional control.

Some of our colleagues will respond to our loss with a simple touch of the hand on our shoulder, others with quiet words of condolence.  But then there is the person who will want to know every detail, whether or not you want to talk about it.

One way to handle unwanted questions about your loss on your return to work is to prepare a simple response, a polite line that will set a boundary and deflect any further questions.   The night before you return to work, choose and practise your words. Use your prepared response where necessary and repeat if needed.

Grief is an individual and often private experience. Take care of yourself at this time by setting your chosen boundaries.

Birds – strident noise or something else?

bird-220327_640 - CopyIt’s all a matter of perspective isn’t it?

I live in a 100 year old cottage on a reasonably busy street, just down a hill from a treed reserve. When I first moved here, the traffic and noise of the birds felt unbearable. Within three months the traffic noise had faded into the background, but not so the birds. Dawn, dusk and at times during the night, they exclaim loudly as they go about their work. Cockatoos frenzied, noisily devouring all that is edible in a tree then swarming upwards as they move on to the next. A choir of birds chortling, chattering and warbling to each other; and, in an interval of quiet, the sole, sweet call of the bellbird is heard.

It took a while, but the birds have become an integral part of my daily life and I miss them, when on occasion they become eerily quiet if there are bushfires or an approaching storm.

No longer intolerable, the birds have for me, come to reflect the normalcy of everyday life and relationships; cockatoos strident and demanding, other birds, just like any family, friends or workmates talking and laughing, and the bellbird, a quiet, sweet voice in the background, encouraging us to pause, reminding us what life is all about.

Stressing Out? S.T.O.P

stop-98937_640Most people experience stress at some period in their lives and if the stress goes on for too long it may have negative consequences on health. Elisha Goldstein’s article on managing stress, describes a really simple but useful technique for responding to stress in a positive way. Taking time to regularly use the technique so that it becomes part of your self–care could assist in the management of your overall long term health. Just click on the link for an outline of the technique which only takes a moment to do …..  http://www.mindful.org/mindful-magazine/stressing-out-stop

We are all made of data…

To paraphrase a song by Moby: “We are all made of data.”  All of those bits and bytes of information trail that we leave behind on Google and Facebook can paint a picture for potential employers to follow.

I have worked in the alcohol and other drugs treatment sector since 1998.  In more recent years I have become interested in how social networks can be used by the alcohol and other drugs treatment sector to support learning and advocacy.  My forays into the world of internet and drugs has lead me to a very important conclusion: that people buy and sell drugs online, they talk about alcohol and other drugs online and they take pictures and movies of themselves while intoxicated and post them online.

Drugs and employment has been a contentious issue since the introduction of workplace drug testing.  While ideally any such programs are designed to ensure that an individual’s use of alcohol and/or other drugs does not interfere with workplace safety, testing programs do not measure impairment,  they instead measure whether somebody has been exposed to a drug or not over a period of time.  This last statement may be the most important part of the picture.  While most employers primary concern is about workplace safety, there are many who are unwilling to employ somebody who uses drugs regardless of whether this impacts upon work performance or not.

Drug testing is an expensive process and is done at the cost of employers.  It should not be surprising then to find that some employers are seeking to screen potential employees through cheaper methods.  One such way that they can do this is by spending a little time investigating a potential employee’s social media footprint.

Have you ever done a Google search on yourself?  What about a Google image search?  If a prospective employer was to do the same what would they find?

Some Tips

So what can you do?  I’ve listed below 5 tips for protecting the privacy of your online identity

  1. The golden rule – Don’t post anything online that you wouldn’t be prepared to say or do in public.
  2. Be mindful of friend requests from unknown people.  There are two reasons for this.  The first is that the person requesting may be a prospective employer undertaking some research.  Secondly some people use social media to promote products that you may not wish to be associated with.  (Think of a Facebook timeline filled with spam selling Viagra).
  3. Be aware that it may not be content that you have posted that could potentially foul up a job application.  (E.g. Do any of your friends love to take photos at a party and then post them to Facebook?)  If some does post something that may be damaging, then ask them to take it down.  Preferably approach the person offline or via email, after all you don’t want to create a larger footprint regarding the offending media.
  4. Unless it is specific to the job, providing details of your Facebook and/or other social network accounts as part of your CV is not recommended.
  5. When using social networks like Facebook, Twitter, or Google+ make sure that you understand how the privacy settings work.

Finding out about privacy settings

If you want to find out more about how you can change the privacy settings on Facebook, Twitter or Google+, I have provided some links below.

Facebook Privacy

Privacy on Twitter

Google+ Privacy

Matt Gleeson has worked in the alcohol and other drugs sector since 1998 in a variety of roles. An advocate of life-long learning, consumer participation and harm reduction, Matt currently writes the blog Stonetree Harm Reduction, a website about the intersection of harm reduction and social media. 

Appreciation Vs Gratitude

gratitudeHow much of who and what we have in our lives is often taken for granted. It is just there; that is, until something goes wrong. In these moments of something going wrong, we are given the opportunity to truly understand just how important certain people, circumstances and possessions are in our lives.

Every morning when I switch on the tap in the shower, hot water flows freely and I don’t really give any thought to the process that takes place to allow that to happen. It just happens.That is until a major fire at the gas plant means that we are placed on limited gas supply for months and months.  Hot water is no longer taken for granted it is now appreciated.   There are so many examples from our lives that we can all give where similar circumstances arise.

We often see articles written about keeping a gratitude journal. Not a bad idea providing that those things we are being grateful for are first appreciated because they have been experienced; otherwise the journal could just become repetitive statements with little meaning or limited emotion.

The Oxford Dictionary defines appreciation as: “recognition and enjoyment of the good qualities of someone or something”. Origin: late Middle English: from French appréciation, from late Latin appretiatio(n-), from the verb appretiare ‘set at a price, appraise’.

The Oxford Dictionary defines gratitude as: “the quality of being thankful”.  Origin: late Middle English: from Old French, or from mediaeval Latin gratitudo, from Latin gratus ‘pleasing, thankful’.

In my humble opinion, appreciation and gratitude although being close relatives, are not one in the same thing. To be truly grateful, we must have recognition or awareness, (appreciation), of the value of someone or something before we can then give thanks (gratitude).

The art of gratitude then, begins with appreciation…………

Reflections on Grief and Loss

I watched a program on TV recently that examined the subject of grief and how people coped when someone they love died.  It was an interesting program, in that it highlighted the different ways in which people approached living with that loss, but for me, one thing was missing.  It made no reference to the fact that grief does not only apply to the physical loss of a person, it also applies to the loss of anything we cherish or hold dear, all those people or things we are attached to.  As we go through life we may experience a whole range of increasingly challenging losses including the death of our parents, siblings or friends, job redundancies, loss of possessions to family violence, damage to property and possessions through fire or flood; ill health or ageing bodies change quality of life, spousal affairs damage or destroy relationship trust; the list goes on……..

As human beings, the experience of loss can occur quite early in life; for instance, a child losing a beloved pet.  While rituals play a part in expressing grief and processing the loss, in no way do they cancel out the sadness felt, sometimes for an extended period of time.  If you reflect on your life journey to date, you will find it peppered with losses, large and small and yet it is something we don’t talk about much in our western society.

In an east meets west approach to grief, where and when possible, we can use mindfulness to sit and be fully present with our sadness and allow it to just be.  In doing so, the grief is not denied, suppressed or pushed away, but experienced fully.  In meeting the loss in this way, we can over time effectively resolve it.  For some people, if the loss is overwhelming, then seeking the assistance of a practitioner may help them through the process.

Whatever our age or station in life, at some point in our life journey, grief and loss will be part of our human experience.  No one person is exempt.  Queen Elizabeth II, on the death of her mother stated; “grief is the price we pay for love” – a beautifully poignant expression to reflect upon.

Who’s Really Listening?

601It is intriguing in this age of modern technology where so many of us are joined at the hip with our mobile phones, laptop computers and numerous other communication devices, that one would consider asking the question, who’s really listening? Sit on a street bench and watch the world go by and you will observe people juggling a number of conversations all at the same time; face to face, on mobiles or laptop computers.  Sometimes when family or friends phone me I am at the computer and I have recently become aware that often I am sending emails or surfing the net while talking.

So in these situations, who is giving and who is receiving total attention, who is listening fully; and if we are not giving our full attention or listening, what is the impact of that on the people involved? Apart from the obvious fact that it is just plain rude, what message does it send to the person who is trying to speak to us?  Does it say that we don’t care about them enough or we haven’t got time for them?

Long experience has shown me that people want to feel heard and they also want to feel accepted, so is listening fully then not an important part of nurturing relationships and promoting well-being?

Since I have become aware that I am as guilty as anyone else of not giving my full attention, I have been making a concerted effort to move away from the computer and any other distractions when talking on the phone. I would love to be able to say that my change in approach is working 100% but I still have some way to go!

Technology has brought us wonderful opportunities including providing us with multiple frameworks for communication, so I am not arguing the benefits. I am simply asking, have we lost the art of focusing on and listening to the person speaking to us one on one; and if so, what is the cost of that? What do you think? How well do you really listen?