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28/Sep/2017

Kerry Foster wrote an excellent blog, Best Practice: Is Your Injured Worker With A Psych Injury Too Sick To Work?’, summarizing two compelling articles: ‘Is your patient too sick to work?’ by Dr.’s Gregory Couser and Gabrielle Melin of the Department of Psychiatry and Psychology at the Mayo Graduate School of Medicine Rochester; and ‘If Work Makes People with Mental Illness Sick, What Do Unemployment, Poverty, and Social Isolation Cause?’ by Joe Marrone and Ed Golowka from the Institute for Community Inclusion in Portland.  Foster and the authors of these articles have, in our opinion, hit the mark on the topic of staying off work due to psychological illness or difficulties.  We have been working with a population of individuals who are off work due to chronic mental and/or somatic health difficulties for many years and the trends we see are directly in line with what these authors are speaking of.

First of all, when we meet with clients for our initial assessment and we ask them what led up to their leave from work, they start off by listing the stressful events and/or the limiting symptoms, and then go on to say that when they met with their doctor, their doctor suggested that they take some time off work to recover.  In many cases, through going off work, the client has now eliminated from their life a key part of their identity or role in this world.  They have deleted the human interaction that may have accompanied their job, they have opened the door to possible financial pressures and isolation, and they have closed the door to productivity, financial contribution to the family, and maybe even a sense of accomplishment and purpose that they may have once obtained from their job.  They have also now entered the mindset that the difficulties they are facing and their work cannot co-exist, and that they must wait until they feel better in order to do their job.  The problems here are that with chronic conditions, the individual may in fact never feel completely better with symptoms at times persisting regardless of treatment. It is the case that until these individuals resume working and actually immerse themselves into their work environment again, they will never be able to learn how to allow their difficulties and their work to exist simultaneously.    Whether it was a decision made independently, or one made by their doctor, it is often one that can hinder a client’s recovery rather than encourage it.

The next problem that arises is that as people continue to sit at home waiting to feel better enough to return to work, the time keeps passing, the challenges continue to exist or become even worse, and the idea that they are disabled from doing their job gets further and further reinforced.  Often times, when we see clients who have been off work for two years or more, we are automatically faced with additional challenges in helping them Portrait of an upset businessman at desk in office. Businessmanget back to work, primarily because this notion and conditioned belief that their symptoms and work cannot co-exist has been carved into their minds.  The earlier clients are referred to us, the better results we see.  If we see clients at the point that they go off work, or even when they are still working but are having challenges, we can work with them to learn how to manage and cope with their difficulties in such a way that they do not have to give up a pivotal part of their life.  We can provide strategies to manage their difficulties while AT WORK, and can teach them how to address and deal with issues as they arise.  Furthermore, we can help them identify the value that their work brings to their life.   Even if someone does not go into work every day thinking I LOVE MY JOB, we can often still help them identify what it is about working that is meaningful to them – whether it is financial security, status, sense of accomplishment, financial contribution within the family, setting an example for their children, the ability to live a comfortable lifestyle, or the means to keep their family healthy – there is rarely an empty response.  From there, the client may notice that in being off work, they are moving away from that value rather than towards it, which is causing additional suffering to their already quite full plate of difficulties.

Early intervention is important, but is not always granted.  There are a number of reasons for this, but one that I will discuss is the issue of individuals needing to feel that they CAN open up early on and that they will be heard.  In order for early intervention to be possible, it is essential that the individual suffering feels that they have someone they can open up to as soon as they start to notice their struggles so that they can be dealt with immediately rather than allowing them to persist and likely bring on additional suffering.  Workplaces need to create open and inviting environments that make employees feel comfortable to speak up about their difficulties and to receive the support needed, rather than having to go off work to deal with things in the privacy of their own home.

At JMA we offer intervention services to individuals at any stage, whether they are still working and are struggling or whether they have gone off work and are looking for help to get back on track.  If you, or someone you know could use some support and guidance towards getting back to where you want to be, please do not hesitate to get in touch with us.  We are also able to provide educational programs to employers about mental health at work and about how to best support your employees if they approach you with challenges they are experiencing to lessen the risk of prolonged disability.

Kerry Foster’s full blog is available here: Best Practice: Is Your Injured Worker with a Psych Injury Too Sick to Work?

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References

Crouser, Gregory, P. & Melin, Gabrielle, J. (2006). Is your patient too sick to work? Current Psychiatry 5(9):17-25.

Foster, Kerry. (2014, April). Best Practice: Is Your Injured Worker with a Psych Injury Too Sick to Work? Retrieved from https://activeohs.com.au/best-practice-2/best-practice-is-your-injured-worker-with-a-psych-injury-too-sick-to-work.

Marrone, Joe & Golowka, Ed. (2000). If Work Makes People with Mental Illness Sick, What Do Unemployment, Poverty, and Social Isolation Cause? Speaking Out (Psychiatric Rehabilitation Journal) 23(2): 187-193.



The Mondays:             A phrase used to describe someone that has a bad mood when he or she                                                       comes to work or school on Monday.

case-of-the-mondays

We’ve all been there.  It’s Sunday evening, and that inkling of the new workweek beginning in a few hours has crept in.  Maybe you feel sad that the weekend has ended, maybe you feel anxious about the to-do list for the week ahead.  Even if you love your job, the start of the work week for many of us comes with mixed emotions and often a case of “The Mondays”.

If you have seen the movie Office Space, you may be able to relate the monotony of the waking up to the screaming alarm clock on Monday morning and not wanting to leave the comfort of your bed.  In fact, you might argue that a case of “The Mondays” is natural.  From an evolutionary standpoint, we have been conditioned to seek out problems as a means to protect ourselves from danger.  So it is somewhat natural to seek out what’s wrong and focus on it; however, it is more likely that when thinking about the start of the workweek, this become less of a protective mechanism, and will likely make it more difficult to be happy.  The good news is that you can train your brain to shift to a more positive perspective.

Below are some simple tips to help you beat the Sunday Blues and set a good tone for the work week ahead and hopefully cope with a case of “The Mondays”.

Make Sundays enjoyable.

One of the worst things you can do is to end Sunday in a stressed-out mindset, sleep poorly, and start the workweek off on the wrong foot.

Instead, this Sunday, plan to do the Monday preparations earlier on in the day.  Organize laundry, choose your outfit, iron and pack your lunch in the morning.  If needed, review your work calendar and address emails before 5:00 p.m. on Sundays.  That way, you can take some time in the afternoon or evening to do one or two things you actually enjoy.  Watch a favourite show, plan a movie night, make a meal you will look forward to, spend quality time with family and/or friends, go for a walk or practice some yoga – anything that you enjoy doing.

 Studies have found that when we have something positive to anticipate, we feel better and more optimistic[1].  By simply re-structuring your Sunday to complete the to-do list items earlier on in the day, you are setting the stage to not feel as rushed and finish the day with an enjoyable activity.

Be Present.

Our minds are very good at wandering.  Maybe it is during your commute into work, or perhaps while sitting at your desk, you may find your mind wandering to the deadline later in the week, or the meeting in a few hours.  Rather than letting it distract you or stress you out, take a mindful moment and practice being present.  Tune into your breath, notice your surroundings, and take a moment to reconnect.  When we do tasks mindfully, we increase our attention and focus, minimize our risk of errors and you may actually find yourself becoming more efficient at work!

Reward Yourself.

One way to make “The Mondays” better is to treat yourself to something at the end of the day.  It doesn’t have to be extravagant or take much effort, but by practicing a little self-care you can give yourself a pat on the back for tackling the first day of the week!

Why not spend some time:

  • Reading for 10 minutes in your favorite chair.
  • Make a cup of your favorite tea and savor it for a few minutes.
  • Listen to music you enjoy (this is one that helps me with my commute home).
  • Do some yoga or stretches.
  • Draw a bath.
  • Really anything that would be a little treat that you can reward yourself with.

 End the Day With a Grateful Pause.

If you read our blog on Gratitude a few weeks ago you know how valuable this practice can be. Since many of us are rushing from point A to point B, you may feel like you simply do not have the time for this.  The best way to do this is to connect it to something you already do.  Try to think of something good that happened during the day before starting your car for your commute home or before you put the key in the door as you arrive home or while cooking or even while brushing your teeth before bed.

All the above are good habits to adopt to help manage stress after the weekend (and especially after a holiday).  Start by trying out a few of the above strategies to take back your Sunday and find a cure for a case of “The Mondays”’.

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[1] Van Boven & Ashworth (2007).  Journal Of Experimental Psychology.  https://www.psychologies.co.uk/self/life-lab-experiment-mind-2.html


17/Feb/2017

I would like you to imagine a scale, not the scale that we stand on in the bathroom, but a balance scale with a load on either side.  Now I want you to imagine that on one side of that scale is work (career, job, work-related responsibilities), and on the other side is life (lifestyle, health, pleasure, family, leisure time).  I don’t necessarily like the common terminology of ‘work-life’ balance because I feel it separates work from life, where, for many of us, work is a very large part of our ‘life’.  However, for our purpose here, let’s keep things simple and use the word ‘life’ to represent all that defines our life outside of work.

Most of us struggle to find work-life balance.  We have so much piled on the work side weighing us down that it may consume us and we may even feel that we are buried underneath it all.  Now go back to the mental image of the scale and picture the work scale filled with all your papers, notebooks, appointments on your calendar, your phone, your computer, and all your responsibilities – of course it is heavy!!  It is perfectly normal for this side to be heavy, but it is when the life side doesn’t meet or exceed this weight, that problems will arise.

So how do we keep the scale balanced?  How do we make time for what matters to us in both areas?  How do we make sure that we are not neglecting one side at the costly expense of the other?

Here are some simple strategies…

ASK YOURSELF

Ask yourself some important questions…

  • Do you cancel plans with friends because you are too busy with work?desk
  • Do you feel like you spend as much time doing leisure activities as you do working?
  • Do you often work after hours?
  • Do you think about work as you are trying to fall asleep or do you worry about work-related problems while you are at home?
  • Do you feel that your conversations with friends and family are mostly about work?
  • Do you skip some vacation days because there is just too much to get done?
  • Does your work and income define you?
  • Do you feel that you have to be perfect at work?
  • Do your friends or family complain that you work too much?
  • Do you feel that you have no ‘me’ time because of work?
  • Does your social circle exist only at work?
  • Do you feel that you cannot leave any task for the next day?
  • Do you feel too tired from work to do anything afterwards?

If you answered YES to any or some of these questions, the work side of your scale may have become too heavy, and may be outweighing the life side, therefore, it is time to take a deeper look into what matters to you most and set goals to maintain balance.

The first step is awareness achieved by noticing when the scale is off balance, and deciding what actions will  create the equilibrium that you need.

jumpingTRY THIS…

NOTICE.  Identify what is important to you in each area, and then notice where you are at with respect to living a life that balances those values.

Starting with work, write down 3-5 work-related values. (i.e. commitment, team work, etc.)

Now, take a moment to think about how closely you are living out each of those values at work (on a scale from 0-not at all to 10-completely); Write down your score.

Do the same for the life side.  Write down 3-5 life(style)-related values (i.e. enjoyment, quality time with family, etc.) and now give yourself a score from 0 to 10 in how well you feel you are living out those values.

SET GOALS

If you find that either of your scores are not where you would like them to be, see if you can set goals that will help you increase that score.  For example, on a 10 point scale with 10 being excellent, if you scored 5 in the life domain, what actions could you take to move you closer to a 10?  Could you dedicate more of your time to family or friends?  Could you make a commitment to not answering work emails in the evening when you are at home with your family?  Can you schedule more leisure-type activities into your calendar the way you would schedule work meetings?  If you scored 10/10 with respect to your work related values, that’s great, as long as having a perfect score in this area is not at the cost of pursuing values in your personal life.


I leave you with a simple, yet very important question.  What does work-life balance mean to you?  We may not all define it in the same way, and so it is important to identify what it means to YOU personally.

Here are some responses I got when I asked friends, family, and colleagues this same question:

“Work-life balance is not having my work intrude on my personal life and having the freedom to come and go as I need to.  It means not being tied to my desk.” -Vicky

“Work-life balance is the ability to prioritize one’s personal time as we do our work time – recognizing that it is as important if not more.” – Anton

“Work-life balance means trying to complete my 40 hour work week as efficiently and effectively as possible so that I can enjoy my time outside of those 40 hours with the ones I love or doing the things I care about.  I think there are times we all have to be flexible, as from time to time, work may require something more from us, but to me, as long as this is the exception and not the rule, you can still establish a healthy work-life balance.” – Kathryn

‘’It means having the flexibility to do the things I love.  More time not working in the summer so I can garden.  Fridays off so that I can have a “me” day.  I don’t mind working on a Saturday or Sunday at times because it is uninterrupted work time.  I also don’t mind working early in the morning and sometimes in the evening.  Being able to flex my schedule to spend time with grandchildren is crucial.  Having time to travel and unwind.  Work is also very important to me so at times it is the priority.’’ – Janet

“To me, work-life balance means giving my all and being the best person I can be at both work and home.  It means making compromises and sometimes choosing one over the other temporarily in certain situations.  It means taking care of myself so I can give to both areas, and noticing the signs when I feel like I’m burning out.’’ – Kayleen

“Work life balance means making time for the important things in life outside of work hours.  I really love the quote “you cannot pour from an empty cup”.  It reminds me that self-care is important and in order to do my best at work, I need to take part in other activities that fill me in other ways.  For me, that means taking time for walks, working out, practicing yoga, spending time with family and friends and cooking/baking.” – Stephanie

Whenever you notice that you are struggling to maintain a work-life balance and feel that you are missing out on important parts of your life because work has taken over, try some of these strategies to get you back to the balance you desire.  If you are having a hard time using these strategies or if they are simply not working for you, consult a friend, family member, or even a professional because losing balance in your life can lead to psychological, social, and even physical consequences.  We at J Marlin and Associates Inc. offer private, on-on-one counselling services for anyone looking for help with creating and maintaining a balance in their lives, and living in accordance with what matters most to them.


Contact us at info@jmarlinandassociates.com or 905-317-8890 if you are interested in hearing more about the services we provide.

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J Marlin and Associates Inc. offers Cognitive Behavioural Therapy services to help individuals increase their sense of vitality, well-being, and fulfillment.

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