• Well-Being

    Loneliness and Social Well-Being

    Does loneliness mean you are missing meaningful connections with others?

    Social Well-Being

    According to Health Insurer Cigna’s 2018 U.S. Loneliness Index, 46% of Americans feel lonely sometimes or always. 47% feel left out sometimes or always. 43% feel isolated from others. Moreover, 43% feel like they don’t experience companionship, or their relationships lack meaning.

    Technology plays a role in the epidemic of loneliness. However, according to the report it’s not the defining factor in whether a person feels their relationships have meaning. The true defining factors are our connections to each other in real life.

    Combating loneliness

    One way that we can combat loneliness in America is to reach out to others, instead of waiting for them to reach out to us. We can help those we think may be experiencing loneliness or isolation. This can be difficult though. We can feel a certain amount of anxiety-producing stress when reaching out. In addition, people in general do not want to be perceived as weak or imperfect, so they often suffer in silence.

    Reach out to others

    We are primarily responsible for our own well-being. However, we often find this difficult, because of our perceptions of the world, and fear of how the world will perceive us. We are social creatures by nature. We have a need to be with others for a sense of security and belonging. When we lose that connection, it’s easy to withdraw into ourselves, rather than seeking out others. We need to remember to recognize the humanness in each other. In addition, we need to help those who may be having difficulty asking for help.

    Not all alone are lonely

    Yet, we must remember that not all people who are alone are lonely. Some people choose to spend time by themselves sometimes. That doesn’t mean they’re lonely. Loneliness is subjective and is only an issue if it has a negative effect on the person’s sense of well-being.

  • Well-Being

    Incivility: The New Workplace Normal

    Incivility exists all around: at work, at home, at sporting events, at church, and really anywhere other people congregate. You  can get blindsided by it, leaving you wondering how to respond.

    What Is Incivility?

    In a nutshell, personal incivility means treating another person discourteously and disrespectfully. Often harm is implied or intended. In other words, it means a refusal or neglect to acknowledge the other as an equal sovereign person.

    Moreover, incivility can lead to behavior deviating even further from the bounds of acceptability. Uncivil behavior can ultimately expand to violence, bullying, gaslighting, and narcissistic, sociopathic, or psychopathic behavior. As the latter behaviors can stem from mental illnesses, they tend to be at the extremes of behavior. Not all incivility necessarily leads to them.

    It isn’t always a person

    In addition to person-to-person incivility, corporate cultures as well as social and/or political systems can be characterized by incivility. Once uncivil behavior is tolerated without consistent controls and appropriate consequences being placed on it, corporate culture can degenerate into a system where employees feel disempowered, isolated, and demeaned.

    Politics and religion…

    In political systems, incivility can change the tenor of the discussion from one of considering the issues to one of disrespecting dissenting voices. In city councils, county commissions, state and federal agencies, community action groups, non-profits, and more, where healthy, informed disagreement forms the foundation of progress and growth, civil discussion becomes impossible.

    Name-calling and mud-slinging

    This leads to a breakdown of productive conversations. Divisive behaviors like name-calling, mud-slinging, undermining, slandering/character assassination, ignoring, and others occur. These behaviors deepen the divisions and solidify the sense of separation among the people involved.

    Who Practices Incivility?

    Everyone is uncivil sometimes. You have probably cut off others as they speak, said unkind things, gossiped, or engaged in other boorish behaviors once in a while. This can result from feelings of weakness, insecurity, or vulnerability. Maybe you’re under a lot of stress, or you’re angry for reasons outside the present environment. Perhaps you feel threatened by someone. You might feel the other has done something to deserve incivility from you.

    Maybe life has been just plain difficult recently – and you’re being discourteous or disrespectful with those around you who may not deserve to be treated this way.

    Is it a pattern, or a single instance?

    Until it becomes a pattern for an individual, it’s just an unfortunate incident. Hopefully it can be set right with proper actions.

    Often the chronically uncivil person feels entitled but believes he doesn’t receive proper respect. He often has an unhealthy need to control others. Chronically uncivil people may also have a desire to humiliate others or make them feel vulnerable. Moreover, he is often a bully, engaging in uncivil behaviors when he isn’t bullying.

    What to Do in the Face of Incivility

    The first step to responding to uncivil behavior is to realize that incivility reflects on the person being uncivil. It has nothing to do with you. You may simply be the first person to interact with her after an unhappy incident with someone else. She may be transferring her feelings of frustration and irritation onto you. It’s possible she may not even realize she’s doing it.

    If You Are Dealing with a Friend or Acquaintance

    Incivility can bring up your defenses. The hurt or anger from uncivil behavior can drive you to retaliate. Before taking an action you might regret, step back and put your emotions on ice for a moment. Ask yourself if this kind of behavior is habitual from this person; if it isn’t, take a deep breath and ignore it. There may be extenuating circumstances.

    If this behavior is typical of this person, consider putting some emotional distance between you and her. Do not respond in kind, as it will do nothing to resolve the situation. Instead, make it a point to spend a few minutes evaluating how much future interaction you want with this person. Decide how you will handle it, knowing that incivility is the norm with this individual.

    If You Are Dealing with a Family Member

    This situation can be very difficult, because so many emotions are interwoven into familial relationships. You can’t just walk away from family. You must find a way to deflect the chronic uncivil behavior without getting drawn into the drama and negativity.

    Learn to recognize the reactions that chronic incivility creates in you. Identify the physical stress responses – for example, tightness in your stomach, or tension in your neck and shoulders – and the related conditions – nausea or heartburn, or a headache. When you feel these things happening, you almost always have an emotional reaction, too – anxiety, anger, fear – that lead you to engage the other person in ways that are not in your best interest.

    Respond by choice, don’t react by habit

    Once you recognize the physical signs of stress, you can make a decision to pause. Step back and choose not to engage with them in their incivility.

    It’s truly hard to learn to do this, especially since chronic incivility leads to habitual responses. You may believe you have no choice over the emotions you feel. Perhaps you’re not even consciously aware of the physical sensations that accompany your emotions. You can’t control the emotions, sensations, or thoughts; they just happen. You can control what you do next.

    Do nothing

    And next, do nothing. Choose not to respond in kind. If you feel the need to reply, say something that deflects their incivility past you. Don’t engage them or accept blame. Instead, say something like, “I’m sorry you feel that way. Let’s talk again when you’re not so upset.”

    Family problems frequently continue unchanged for years or even decades. Family members all become accustomed to playing their roles. Everyone does and says the same things every time, and nothing ever changes. Next time, don’t play your role.

    If You Are Dealing with a Co-Worker

    In this case, ignore the emotions being expressed and remain calm. If he brought up a relevant topic, then address the topic, not the emotion. Be mindful to keep yourself separate from the emotions being expressed by the other person. Do not reciprocate anger or frustration. It doesn’t help to resolve the situation.

    Express understanding not blame

    The uncivil person may demand that you acknowledge his emotion. Tell him you understand why he feels frustrated or angry by retelling back to him, in your own words, the situation that caused him to be upset. Tell him that you’d like to help resolve the matter – if that’s something you are in a position to do and it’s appropriate. If it isn’t something you ought to be doing, then simply express understanding and leave it at that.

    Your responsibility is to yourself. You cannot change the uncivil person, nor can you control her behavior. You can only control yourself. Remind yourself that incivility directed at you is a reflection of the uncivil person, not a reflection of you.

    If You Are Dealing with a Subordinate

    Create company and even departmental guidelines for dealing with incivility. However, attempting to force a chronically uncivil person to be compliant does not cause them to make an inward change. Instead, it may drive them to find surreptitious ways to be disruptive and uncivil. This can make the problem harder to track and to manage.

    When dealing with chronic incivility from a specific employee, consequences must be enforced evenly and consistently. Consequences include corrective actions up to and including termination from employment. All employees need to know that uncivil behavior toward others will not be tolerated.

    A culture of respect

    Creating a culture of respect and courtesy takes consistent work. Nevertheless, everyone involved in the effort benefits. Ultimately, employee morale and productivity will rise. Innovation and efficiency also improve. The number of employee sick days drop, as do the number of employees who look for other work and leave. Finally, when each person feels valued for his or her contribution, she feels confident to do her job to the best of her ability, looking for ways to do better.

    It Isn’t Easy

    But nothing worth doing is easy. Take these steps to start:

    • learn to deflect incivility.
    • stop buying into it.
    • stop retaliating.
    • listen to what they say. Reply to the topic without reacting to or addressing the incivility.
    • keep our emotions out of the conversation.
    • avoid internalizing uncivil words and behavior.
    • realize that incivility is an attribute of the person engaging in uncivil behavior.
    • recognize that we don’t have to change the behavior or the person. That’s not for us to do.

    Refuse to engage

    In conclusion, if we, even once, turn incivility aside and refuse to engage with the uncivil person on his terms, we change our relationships. In addition, if we respond with calmness and civility – no matter how the other person reacts to that calmness – we create a better future for ourselves, and maybe for those we love, too.

    #butterflyphoenix #incivility #love #keepcalmandrespond

  • Personal Development

    Hygge and Lagom: The Key to Contentment

    Hygge lagom comfort
    Comfort and conviviality in just the right amount.

    What my Great-Aunt Dagmar knew about hygge and lagom,  and why you might want to know about them, too.

    ‘Hygge’ and ‘lagom’ are Danish words, and the Danes have built their entire culture around these ideas. In addition, the concepts characterize most of Scandinavia as well as France to one degree or another. The concepts describe a worldview, a mindset that colors the way one sees everything and goes about life.

    Books have been written about hygge (not so much about lagom) because the concept encompasses so much. But it really applies to every area of life. ‘Hygge’ means a sense of coziness  and pleasant warmth, finding comfort and fulfillment, indulging in beautiful experiences of togetherness, and feeling satisfied with just the right amount of everything. Socioculturally, it means warm friendships and family relationships, hospitality, conviviality, and loving joyful tolerance toward all.

    Quality bests quantity

    My Aunt Dagmar first taught me these ideas when I was a very young child. Whenever I went to her house, she served me hot milk with a splash of coffee or tea and a spicy cookie or two. Some of my earliest memories are of sitting on pillows on her comfortable dining chair, watching her hold her delicate china teacup and trying to do the same with mine.

    When we drank our tea, she told me that one or two small butter cookies with cardamom, ginger, and just a touch of sugar were indulgences to be savored slowly and in the company of people we love – far better than eating an entire box of mediocre cookies alone.

    She was right.

    hygge lagom rose
    Much sensory pleasure, but ephemeral in duration.

    She always prepared indulgent food, she grew award-winning roses in her Minnesota garden, she walked barefoot with me in the stream behind her house. But she always had “just enough”, never too much. Ultimately, she was living the ideas of hygge and lagom, immersing herself in comfort and pleasure, in just the right amounts.

    With regard to food, this concept is the real reason behind the so-called French Paradox. Many theories have been put forward about why the French people traditionally have eaten rich indulgent foods yet have stayed slim and healthy.

    Fill your senses, not just your stomach

    It isn’t the wine, or the fresh fruits, or the fresh air. The French understand the value of slowing down to prepare delicious foods, and to eat them leisurely with family and friends.

    The wine, fresh fruit, and fresh air add to the pleasure. But it’s the appreciation of the complete sensory and emotional experience of eating well, together with people who mean something to us, that fulfills our deep needs for companionship, security, and meaning.

    Because this gives us a sense of physical and emotional satisfaction from our food, we don’t need to continue eating to feel good.

    Mindfulness is key

    Mindfulness is key, being present and actively experiencing what we’re doing: cooking, eating, playing with our children, driving, visiting, working. Above all, life is about our experiences. So often we fail to be present in our lives, physically there but mentally abroad; we need to buy the mug and the T-shirt because we missed the experience.

    Certainly, that realization was the greatest gift my Aunt Da gave me (other than her unconditional love and encouragement): she reminded me to appreciate the present moment — to experience deeply with all my senses whatever I was doing — by living that way herself, and by sharing her experiences with me.

    So today I try to incorporate that mindful attitude toward my family and friends, spending time doing pleasant things with people I love; toward food and cooking, immersing myself in preparing wonderful comfort foods; toward gardening, tending my (non-award-winning) roses and herbs in the garden; and, remembering, most of the time anyway,  to be mindfully here in the present moment.

  • Well-Being

    Summer Vacation Self-Care

    Take time just to be and to experience what’s around you.

    Personal Well-Being

    The warmth of the summer sun creates the perfect setting for summer self-care. It’s the time of the year when many people are out and about among the masses. We’re on the beaches, in the woods, and on planes, trains, and automobiles, traveling to the homes of our families and friends, or to vacation destinations.

    Summer can be stressful, especially when traveling. Even more so when you have children – toddlers or teens. The key is to remember that there is a difference between taking a trip and a vacation. A trip entails a lot of pre-planning, coordination, packing, unpacking, and re-packing, itineraries to be followed, and scheduling of everything you want to do and see. It feels a bit stressful just thinking about it.

    Even if you are traveling to a vacation destination, you are still on vacation once you get there. Ask yourself: What is really important? Will you regret not seeing this or that for the rest of your days if you don’t actually see it? What is the purpose of your vacation? Are you going just to get away from work? If that’s the case, keep the decision-making to a minimum while vacationing. We get away from our work to relax and recharge. If your vacation is filled with decisions, isn’t it the same as working?

    Take a cue from your kids when it comes to vacations. They splash in the water, or just sit around watching people (or their phones, which should be kept to a minimum on vacation) and just be. Have you ever noticed that kids whine the most when their sessions of “just being” are interrupted?

    The important thing is to know why you are doing what you are doing. Is it adding joy and value to your vacation; or is it adding stress? Are you having to make too many decisions, or struggling with the kids to get them going? Seeing every major attraction in a tourist destination isn’t necessarily the best plan. Take time to see the little things that the place has to offer. Visit with the local shopkeepers. Check out a couple of museums. Slow down and enjoy the place where you are, as it is. Learn about the local culture, and just be.