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Show up for your team without depleting yourself

You are doing a lot. 

As the world continues to shift around us, our commitments require a lot of energy.
The pandemic and the continued fight for racial justice serves as a reminder of the need for action on so many fronts.

So maybe you find yourself run down and tired at the end of the day. Maybe you find yourself on autopilot. Or perhaps you are cranking up the speed to stay ahead of the next change.

Wherever you find yourself, I know how much people depend on you.

When we are committed to creating positive community change, connection, inclusion and love in our work lives and at home, we are tasked with offering up our time and attention to others.

Your team needs you. Your coworkers need you. Your friends and family need you. People depend on you to show up every day and make space to plan and strategize with them. 

Everyone needs to be seen and supported. 

I know that when I am already at my max for energy and capacity figuring out just how to offer myself up can be a real struggle.

I promise you – you can have the energy you need and stay connected with people on your team (and in your life) at the same time.

Here is a simple checklist that can help you stay connected and be supportive of your team WHILE feeling less stress and more energy.

Before you dive in – take a grounding breath. (Inhale, exhale.) The key is simple, small, consistent check-ins with yourself and others. It just requires you to slow down a tiny bit.

  1. How is your own energy and capacity? What are you doing to boost your own capacity? Once you’ve given yourself a boost – you will experience more energy to do the work of supporting others.  
  2. Where can you carve out specific time out in your day for your own breathing room, and space for the people on your team?
  3. What everyday practices can you build into your workflow and conversations that allow you and others to understand each other better and communicate more readily?
  4. What open-ended and curious questions can you add to your repertoire that force you to slow down and listen deeply? (For example – “Can you tell me more about that?”, “Do you have ideas for what you want to try next?”) 
    (For example – “Can you tell me more about that?”, “Do you have ideas for what you want to try next?”)
  5. What simple actions can you (and others) take that actively demonstrate your support for your team and what structures can you build to allow your team members to support each other?
  6. What consistent gestures can you offer that weave in appreciation, acknowledgment and celebration with your team?

    (P.S. If you don’t work with a team sub out the word “team” for any person or small group of humans you are in a relationship with.)

Want a more detailed guide? I made one just for you here.

You’ll find that teamwork is more effective when people feel actively seen, acknowledged, and supported. As a leader, both you and your team will experience increased creativity, vision, and willingness to take risks once you take the time to tend to your team. You’ll encounter less harmful, unaddressed conflicts because trust, relationships and communication allow issues to surface. 

Over time, well-tended teams become more efficient and build capacity to problem solve, generate new ideas, and take on more responsibility… which eventually frees up your own energy.

When we are tired or pushed to the limit, we can miss the opportunities to nurture our relationships.

Take good care of yourself and find one easy way to check in with your people.

Rheanna SmithShow up for your team without depleting yourself
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How I am preparing before we open back up (it might not be what you expect)

Here, in the Pacific Northwest, flowers are beginning to peek up out of the ground. The days are getting longer. A smattering of them have been without rain. Which means there are less mud puddles. That means a lot less loads of wash for me to run. 🙂

Thankfully, some of my family have managed to get their Covid shots. In most places, infection rates are reducing as opposed to rising. 

I find myself thinking… perhaps I should be feeling more relief. More hope. 

Yet, I find myself sitting with a strange mix of emotions these last weeks. Here are the words that come to mind as I try to name them: exhaustion, wariness, nostalgia, sadness, hope, gratefulness, and grief. As we face the prospect of returning to gather in person, my hope and relief is mixed with powerful reminders of what family, friends and community have had to endure this past year – the loss of time spent together, the loss of jobs and security, the loss of loved ones. 

That’s when I begin to notice my posture of “just put your head down, Annie, get through it, push on.” This is not the first time in my life I’ve used this survival technique. It works. For a short time. But it takes a toll when I do it for long enough. 

You see, in order for me to “push through” I must also actively avoid feeling my own emotions – both negative and positive. That includes empathy, grief, tenderness, and gratefulness. This year provided me with moment-to-moment opportunities to both experience and avoid my feelings. Because of the intense magnifying glass our lives have been under this last year – I am noticing the moments I’ve avoided my feelings in order to simply “push through”.

The key for me moving towards hope and accessing my ability to open myself back up to people and public space, is to move myself from a posture of avoidance into a position of allowing myself to experience my own feelings. I am doing this now… ever so gently.

Here is how I am opening myself up to the feeling of hope and the learnings of the last year:

I am focusing especially on my feelings of grief and gratitude.

I am noticing in a specific way. It’s a technique coming out of mindfulness and Buddhism. 

I try to be aware of any feelings I may be experiencing in the moment. Then, I see if I can slow down and acknowledge the feeling, whatever it may be. It goes something like this:

“Hello there, sadness.” 
and 
“Whew, here it comes again… I’m missing someone…” 
and 
“Wow, I am so grateful for…”

I say to myself or (if appropriate) to those around me, just what it is that I am feeling.  I offer appreciations out loud when I am experiencing gratitude. 

I try to offer some variation of Valerie Kaur’s offering around grief if I am grieving with or because of something someone else is experiencing, “You are grieving, but you are not grieving alone. I am here with you.”

I let the feeling remain with me. Till the next one comes.

Then, I am practicing being quiet and present in the moment. (You know me – this is taking a lot of practice!)

This is not new information. It is centuries old and across traditions. However, there is a reason we continue to strive to learn it – it is hard work & it is life changing.

Here is what happens when I allow myself to notice & experience my emotions, especially grief and gratitude:

  • I experience more love and connection in my life, and less resentment.
  • I give love and acknowledgement to those I am with, allowing them the opportunity to feel loved and appreciated.
  • I can stay in the present moment, which reduces worry, anxiety, and fear of the future,
  • I feel human and notice the humanity in others.
  • When I notice gratitude – it expands and unearths more appreciation. Gratitude and appreciation can coexist with pain and grief.
  • I move through the emotions so that unexpected emotions are less likely to surface later, which reduces the harm I enact on myself and others.

It can be hard. 

I am still head down, barrel through at times. And that is okay.

However, the more I drop into my emotions and the lessons they point to, the more prepared I am to keep showing up as a human being.

As I practice feeling more, I process more of the incredible lessons and hard moments of the last few years. As I sit with the grief and the gratitude, I find myself learning how to be a better friend, partner, and teammate. I recognize that I have more capacity than I imagined. 

And that gives me hope.

What are you feeling right now?
What emotions are you paying attention to? 
What are they teaching you?

May we allow each other the space to feel as we enter a new time of transition.

Feelings and emotions too overwhelming right now? Here is a place to go for support: NAMI Hotline

Want more resources to support feeling your emotions, supporting others in their grief, and practicing gratitude? 

Here are a few offers:

See no stranger, Valarie Kaur, The People’s Inauguration  and other learnings
A guide to transition from winter to spring, Kirin Bhatti
Lama Rod Owens – Acknowledging emotions meditation
Tara Brach – Pause for Presence
Untamed, Glennon Doyle
Emotional Agility, Susan David

Need examples? Here is what this looks like in real-time:

Grief

  • I am feeling grief for the lost time with people I love.
  • It hits me in a pang in my chest.
  • I sit with it and I say to myself, “Whew there is that feeling of missing and loss.”
  • I send a message or call when I can to tell the person I miss that I love them.

Gratitude

  • There is always more to do in our house, with our child, in my work. It is easy to get bogged down.
  • I am practicing noticing when my family is actively working on supporting someone else in the house or helping with a household task (which is actually very often).
  • I try and see it in the moment or shortly after and let them know I am grateful for what they are doing and/or I am grateful for them.

Grief

  • I am feeling grief for the people I care about who have lost loved ones to Covid.
  • I am feeling grief when I hear stories of people who have lost loved ones, including their children because of hatred and violence.
  • I offer my love and feeling of grief in the form of a mediation. 
  • When I can I drop into the moment with the person or the story and practice listening not solving.
  • I look for actions I can take afterward, in response to the grief – learning more about the story, taking a direct action, and supporting a person or organization.
  • For individuals in my life I am grieving with, I look for simple ways I can show up in support (and ask them first).

Gratitude

  • I notice when my heart is welling up with tenderness. It can be when I watch Lino and Rob dance in the living room or play cars. It can be when Lino is creating a hilarious made-up scenario or when Rob or his sister Lisa is preparing a warm meal.
  • When I feel the tenderness rise up, I notice it if I can.
  • I set down what I was doing just for the moment and take a mental polaroid.
  • I say to myself “THIS” and I say to myself or out loud, “I see you, I appreciate you”


What are the ways you acknowledge grief and loss?
What are the ways you offer appreciation?


I’ve created a guide to help you move forward during this time. Grab the guide here.

Rheanna SmithHow I am preparing before we open back up (it might not be what you expect)
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4 doable steps to move toward a big (or small) transition in your work and life

Why, you may ask, am I offering up thoughts on making a big transition in a pandemic and during economic instability?

Many clients and friends are thinking about making large (and small) life transitions.

Multiple times a week I talk with someone about changing a career or finding a new way to do things.

The pandemic, the fight for justice for black and brown people, the economic uncertainty is causing many people to get clear on how they want to show up in the world and where they want to put their efforts.

And some of us are in the thick of the biggest challenges of our lives. There is little time to think of the next hour. If you are there, this first video could still offer a place to carve a little breathing room for what happens in a few years.

Check out these 4 doable steps to move toward a big (or small) transition in your work and life.

I’ve created this guide with all 4 steps as a resource for you.

Getting ready for a transition and not wanting to do it alone?

In a leadership position striving for positive community change and in support of justice for black and brown people?

I am starting 2 new Clear Harbor cohorts this February. One is specifically focused on leaders who are contemplating a career transition. 

Let’s chat – more info here and jump on my calendar to talk more.

Rheanna Smith4 doable steps to move toward a big (or small) transition in your work and life
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Simple ways to connect with each other, even virtually

Connections to each other are critical right now. All of us are experiencing a pandemic, along with many accompanying worries and struggles. 

We need each other.

And we can’t see each other… in person or up close. (And some of us are seeing a few people a LOT, up real close… all the time!)

I’ll be real, I fit less into a day than I used to. I am moving slow and I engage less. 

It makes sense that this is where I am at in this stage of a pandemic.

Yet it is a tricky place – less capacity and more need for humans and connection.

If you are like me, you need some new ways or simple reminders of how we can still connect with each other.

Here are a few from me + more ideas from awesome women in a business group I am a part of. (And looking for ways to be alone… I’ve got ideas for that too!)

Ways to connect with family & friends you live with:

  • Play cards, a Board game, do a craft or a puzzle… non-screen activities without high stakes
  • Set aside coffee dates or date nights and turn off the screens & any household tasks or to-do lists
  • Slow down a bit when you are doing things for those you live with – while cooking or making a pot of coffee, think about who you are doing it for, and the care you are offering them
  • Build a short, doable family ritual in the morning – a song you always listen to at the beginning of the day or a brief walk you take together

Connect with friends & family you aren’t seeing in person:

  • Set up longer video calls over dinner or over a morning with a cup of coffee in hand (Zoom, WhatsApp, Houseparty)
  • Send real snail mail – perhaps pictures you have doodled during a zoom call, look at these blank postcards my son & I are decorating. Have a few cards already stamped and ready to send
  • Send short voice texts with text messages or WhatsApp (quicker than texting and fun to receive)
  • Start a picture sending project via text with a friend or group (think of it as the original Instagram, right now I send a real picture of the chaos of our messy house to two friends every few days)
  • Create new groups in text to stay in touch with & give them fabulous labels
  • Play games long distance with friends & family (Jack Box, Psych! etc.)

Connect with your team & co-workers:

You may be with your co-workers or team all the time on Zoom, and some of you are in person in stressful high stakes situations with your co-workers. However, neither of these scenarios guarantee real connection. Take a minute when you can to connect in small ways outside of the immediate work and it will make the work less stressful.

  • Have a co-working day with folks on Zoom, hang out and get work done
  • Add a few enjoyable activities to video meetings like share & tell or playing “highlights” or check-in question (only takes a few minutes and slows down the nonstop work meeting vibe)
  • Set up opportunities for folks to discuss and work in small groups and pairs while on video calls (we can forget that smaller groups even virtually create deeper connection) 
  • Offer office hours on zoom for folks to drop in & ask any questions they have
  • Offer coffee hour on zoom for folks to drop in and connect or other optional group gatherings like games or a poetry writing session
  • Drop off small care packages at your team’s door
  • Check out these helpful reminder phrases to build connection on Zoom work calls
  • In-person (and virtual) – find one small appreciation and offer it to folks on your team, make it a practice to seek out one appreciation per day for a different co-worker

Connect with yourself!

It is quite possible you need time alone and a reminder that it is totally a-okay to burrow in when needed. It is OKAY!

  • Take a walk in the middle of a workday
  • Plug into your earbuds to do the dishes or household tasks and give the fam a heads up that you are checking out for a minute
  • Set aside 4 minutes a day to breathe in and out, use a timer and hide as needed (bathrooms & closets work great)
  • Slow down and make simple things you do already more of a ritual – the coffee making, the egg frying, the teeth brushing
  • Turn off the screens for a few minutes a day

It is OKAY to be less in touch & need to be alone. If you can, let the folks around you or in your community know what you need – you could offer a simple – “I know I have been out of touch, I care about you & just doing my best right now to keep my head above water.” Or to your in-house humans, “I love you and I need to grab some alone time to recharge.”

Feeling alone in your work or community? 

Reach out, send a text, and let someone know you need to talk.

May you find moments of connection with the people in your life and may you find moments of rest and quiet.

What else simple ways are you building connection with others?

Rheanna SmithSimple ways to connect with each other, even virtually
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The return from silence

I am back.

Well, that’s a bit of an exaggeration. I have been “back” at work since Elino (our little one) was about 4 months old. He is now almost 2 years old! But there’s a tension between our real life and our online life. In my online life, I’ve been quiet & internal, posting a picture every few months. A little picture of a baby hand reaching out to touch a tree on Instagram. A quick photo as a token of the changing seasons on Facebook. A close up of a very green salad made by a dear friend.

In my real life, over the last year and a half, I have been a full-time momma, a full-time business owner/consultant, and a full-time partner in life and work with Roberto.

I’ve been quiet for a few reasons.

One, I had a child. For a quite a while I walked through the world in a deep state of awe. That kind of sublime feeling is not easy to put to words.

But also… Donald Trump became our President.

Both powerful events are intertwined in my psyche. I brought a little being into the world who was so small and helpless. Here is a man who models the worst of what our country has to offer. He is a directly and indirectly responsible for crying babies being taken from parents, normalizing climate lies, violence & sexual assault, threatening the sanctity of free speech. He embraces criminals, dictators and corruption. He pits our country against itself. He is a manifestation of everything this country believes itself not to be but actually is.

The intersection of these two events caused me to pull in and regroup. I was experiencing beloved human nature born into the world and I was hearing people in our country call out for policies and practices that denied humanity. Now, if you feel differently, please email me. I would love to begin a thoughtful dialogue about it. Let me extend an offer of listening as best as I can.

So, that’s why I‘ve sometimes seemed quiet.

I wondered “What do I have to say in this time”? It’s question many of us ask, especially those of us living in positions of privilege. And yet for us to come together in this time of division, we need to be talking. Talking and listening. Listening a lot.

Yet soon after these events I had an amazing opportunity to work with The Food Empowerment Education Sustainability Team, FEEST on their new strategic plan to grow & deepen the movement for just food systems. We had lively meetings while Lino slept (and cried) in my lap. I facilitated meetings with Roberto – my husband, a FEEST founder and a phenomenal facilitator. I listened. The lines of my life blurred – personal and work and political could no longer stay in separate columns.

(To be inspired and amazed by what youth-led, creative, love centered, food-filled social change looks like CHECK OUT FEEST.)

I worked with Verity Credit Union as they explored the true meaning of community in their mission while vowing to be a financial institution that puts people and community first. This work changed my understanding of what institutions can be when they live through the right intentions. Their work serves as an example that a large system can imagine another way to be.

I facilitated with multiple organizations that are working to become more equitable in their work and missions & unpacking the ways they perpetuate institutional racism. I continued to support groups of people that gather together to figure out how to make changes in large structures, like our foster care system.

Maybe you have witnessed people working to make fundamental changes in how we are in community with each other during this time of divisions and hate?

Maybe you have also quieted your heart and begun to look more directly at who we are as human beings…

When I look closely at humanity right now I see the ugly, the inhumane ways we pull back to protect “our own”. I understand and feel more clearly this instinct to protect & enclose around those I love. I also see the ways we come into this world as small creatures with sweet coos and loud cries for help. I see how we rapidly find delight in this world. And how easily we come across frustration and loss. Passing my days with a toddler I am reminded of how I choose to see the world and how I choose to interact. Every day I see how we have so much to learn.

We can keep a small understanding of humanity and decide who is deserving of love and who is not.We can also expand our understanding of each other as essentially connected and recognize our mutual origins as helpless small humans. Each of us is capable of responding to the call of our time to be greater than “us” and “them” & to bridge the distance between you and me.

Here are questions you can ask yourself as you continue your journey toward creating a better world:

What are the ways you are remaining connected to the beauty and humanity of someone different than you – perhaps someone who votes different than you? Who believes something different than you?

What are you doing, even something small, to heal a wound that has been left in your community?

How are you listening to the cries around you? Want do people want? What do people need? What are people afraid of?

Leave your answers in the comments below so we can hear each other.
Or feel free to send me an email annie@vesselconsulting.org.

admin@annievonessenwebsite2015The return from silence
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Loosen your grip

Last month, I wrote that the things and people we love can cause us both joy and stress. I wrote that both connecting and disconnecting—engaging and disengaging—are healthy responses. Here is a simple practice that will help you reduce stress and increase joy.

Think about an area of stress in your life. It could be your work, a specific project, volunteer activities, a relationship, your kids. Remember, the people and activities we love can still bring us stress.

Look deeply: What is something within that area of stress that you enjoy? What are you grateful for?

Practice being mindful when you are involved in that area of stress. Consciously deepen your connection to the thing you enjoy.

For example, one of the areas of joy in my work is small client meetings and groups. I love this work! When I have the opportunity to be in a client meeting, I can stop and think to myself, “This is wonderful. I am so grateful for this moment.” I connect with that part of my work.

Now think again of that same area that causes stress in your life.

What is something within that activity, project, or relationship that you could disconnect from? What could you delegate, take less seriously, or worry about less?

In areas of our life that are very important we can become very attached to every single thing that is occurring, how it is happening, and the possible outcome. This increases the amount of stress we experience.

You can let go! Loosen your grip and release that vision of the “perfect” result, the “right way” of accomplishing your goal. Say goodbye to a few less important tasks.

For instance, my home is not as clean as I would love it to be, especially when we have guests. But I can’t be totally attached to this part of my home life. Other things are more important to me, and I love having guests, so I say to myself, “A quick, imperfect clean-up is better than not having guests at all.”

This week think of something you want to deepen your connection to, and something you want to actively disconnect from. I promise that doing both will reduce your stress.

Annie Von EssenLoosen your grip
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2 questions that cut back the stress

I have missed you!

I didn’t write a blog post last month because I was just beginning my first online class, ever!  In February, I launched a 7-week online version of my Room Next Door workshop and really wanted to give my full attention and support to the folks in my class.

My Room Next Door workshops and classes are all about what we can do to reduce stress in our lives and increase joy. Needless to say, I have been thinking about this a lot in the last few months!

Growing my business is a super exciting and joyful endeavor. I would not want to be doing anything else. But even though I love the work I do, launching new websites and new programs is not without its stress.

Many of the things that cause us stress also bring us joy. And if something is stressing us out, the solution is not always as simple as saying, “Just stop doing that thing. Do less of it.” Our jobs, our beloved volunteer projects, and our families can all bring us a lot of stress — but we cannot just quit all of them!

So how do you reduce the stress you feel in the midst of your full, busy life?
Here are two questions you can use.

Ask yourself, “What am I connecting to? What am I disconnecting from?”

What do I mean by connect and disconnect?

We are making connections all the time. We choose to engage with ideas and people. There are activities and projects we choose to experience and enjoy. You can think of the connections as moments where you have your hand open, palm up. Or perhaps you are high-fiving. You are energetically saying, “Yes, please!”

You are allowing the person, idea, or moment to connect with some part of you.

 

At the same time, there are things and people we are disconnecting from: experiences, feelings and thoughts we are not engaging with. Think of the disconnection as moments when your hand is positioned in a gesture that says, “Not right now.” You are mentally and emotionally unplugging.

Disengaging mindfully and from a place of love can be a powerful way to care for yourself. In fact, sometimes it’s the only way you can move forward and get the work done.

 

Next time: How to engage or disengage mindfully and with love.

admin@annievonessenwebsite20152 questions that cut back the stress
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Summer time is fun time — right?

This sunny Northwest summer is bringing with it a joyful and frenetic energy, and the last few months have been full!

My husband returned to Seattle after his first year of graduate school in a different city. I’ve been working with clients who are in the midst of major organizational changes. I’ve spent lots of time having fun with loved ones. The events in our nation continue to deliver reminders that the bright sunshine does not slow down hateful acts of violence.

Three forces are pulling me in opposite directions. The extra vitamin D induced energy has me wanting to get big things done and move my work forward. The sweet sunny days with my husband close by have me wanting to lie on a blanket by the water’s edge and read a book. And the local and global news reminds me daily that all things are not equal in this world. I’m aware that my safe, warm sun is not everyone’s experience and that if I want the world to be a kinder place I need to pay attention, learn more, and work for change.

How do you contend with different desires during the same season?

Enjoy where you are in each moment.

I have found myself watching little kids splashing in the waves at the beach, and suddenly thinking:  What should we do at that next planning meeting? I have jumped up to write a weekend packing list when I am right in the middle of writing content for my new website.

When I catch myself I say: Whoa, Annie! Where are you right this moment? I breathe deeply, and remind myself: Oh, yes! I have my toes in the sand and there is a sweet three-year-old tossing pebbles with a splash. No need to plan that meeting agenda until Monday.

When you discover that you’ve interrupted one moment with thoughts about your to-dos, take a breath. Remind yourself that this moment matters. You have time.

 

Big change and big projects do not happen on an exact timeline.

I am great at attaching arbitrary meanings to time, and then deciding that things must be done during that time — or else! I have built quite the robust set of summer projects. And guess what? Not all of them are going to get done this summer! I have already had to reconstruct my plan — more than once.

Yes we need timelines or things can drag on forever. However, overloading yourself with too many plans or unrealistic expectations causes a lot of additional stress. Remember that linear time is a helpful yet arbitrary parameter. It’s OK to reschedule some of your plans and even take a few big projects off your list.

 

Build time for the most important things.

It’s good to view time as flexible, but we all need schedules. I’ve learned that if I don’t build in specific time for the things that are critical, those things will not get done. My calendar is one of my most important tools!

Put the most important work, projects, and life events on your calendar and attend to them when your calendar tells you to. This applies to exercise, writing time, having dinner with family or friends, or a meeting at work. Setting time on your calendar for important events keeps projects moving forward and makes space for the things you need most. When you build everything in to your calendar it will also help you see visually if you are over doing it. (If you are cut something out.) And yes both of these things are true for me – my calendar helps me get things done AND things need to be flexible.

 

What about the sad, anger inducing things happening to our communities, here at home and far away?

Hold on to complexity.

I am allowing myself to have complex feelings. I can feel bliss and sadness on the same day. I do not need to run from the bliss because there is so much to be sad about. And I do not need to ignore the sadness because I am afraid it will take away the good feelings. I need both feelings. I can feel both.

 

Face the news. Keep trying.

When I feel guilty because of the opportunities, rights, and privileges I have, I remind myself that I can do something. To deny myself any joy because of all the harm in the world does no one any good. We need more joy. We need people to feel it and shine it out. At the same time, the guilt and sadness I feel is a reminder to not ignore my desire for the world to be a more equal place.

I remind myself that I am responsible for making that change happen. We all are. For me, taking responsibility means not shutting off the news, not turning away from the difficult conversations. It means examining the work I am doing and how it impacts others in good and negative ways and making changes in how I work.
These are a few of my thoughts on dealing with different wants and desires during this summer season.

How do you contend with different desires in the same season?

Post your thoughts in my comments below.

Annie Von EssenSummer time is fun time — right?
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Joy in your work day

Last week I wrote about enjoying your job, even when you’re working super hard. I talked about finding things you like about your work… Things that are fun… Things you do that you have always wanted to do and now you can!

Finding those things and taking time to enjoy them is important. Here is another technique for enjoying your work.

Build some joy into your’ work day.

Your moments of joy do not have to be related to the actual work at hand. Instead, this technique is all about figuring out how to fold a few things you really enjoy into your work day… and then have fun doing those things!

Here are a few examples:

Go for a walk in the middle of the day. Just 10 or 15 minutes — or longer if it’s possible. And enjoy it! You can walk alone or with co-workers. Either way can be fun, depending on the kind of day you are having.

Bring a lunch that you are really excited about eating. Really! Enjoy it.

Bring food to share with your co-workers. This could be cookies or fruit, or anything you enjoy. Share. Experience other people’s joy at having a treat at work. Enjoy their enjoyment!

Pay someone a compliment. Send a card or tell them in person. Say thank you! Then enjoy the moment when they feel joy.

Bring gorgeous summer flowers into your office. Look at them often. Enjoy their colors and intricate details.

Take a moment to ask yourself how you can bring joy and fun into your office space and your work.

Take it a step further: How can you bring this same intention for fun and enjoyment into your home?

Annie Von EssenJoy in your work day
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If you are not your work, what are you?

A few weeks ago I began a series about “making it work at work.”
In the first post, I wrote about a technique for finding your balance in the workplace: actually realizing that “you are not your work.”

Check this post out if you haven’t already. Your Not Your Work

Let’s back up.

Why would you be in need of this reminder in the first place?
Well, a lot of us work A LOT.
Even when we are not at work we fret about our work, we check emails, we answer calls.
We even dream about our work!
With technology and increased expectations and demands to get more done with less time and a smaller staff, we carry our work with us. And then the parents among us are never really away from the work of parenting. Combine parenting with a job and the result is competing priorities, almost all the time.

Sometimes it can feel like work is sitting right between our shoulder blades all day and into the night —a subtle pressure between the bones.

That’s a heavy weight. It can lead to no longer liking your job (if you liked it in the first place). It can grow into a sense of dread whenever you think about going to the office. You may find yourself teetering once the edge of burnout, which I will write about in future posts.

If you feel tired, overwhelmed and overloaded with work, you can begin to reduce the burden by reminding yourself – YOU ARE NOT YOUR WORK. (That’s pretty loud, I know.) This technique is critical to avoid becoming fed up with your work.

But if you already know you are not your work – then what are you?

Right now you might be saying,

“Really, Annie? What am I?”

I know this is a big existential question.
And yes, people have written about this for millennia.
And yes, when I ask myself this question I think,

“Whew – too big, too big!”

You don’t have to look at the question head on.
It’s OK to give it a sideways glance.
But it’s a question worth asking.
Who are you?

What are all the exquisite, powerful things that make you – YOU?

Think about your experiences, history, identity, heritage, choices.
Then think about what’s at the core: the solid uniqueness of you.

Here’s something you can do.

Try it in your head, in your journal, or even on a sticky note!
Say to yourself: “I am me. I am_____________.”
Fill in the blank at least 5 times with adjectives.
Be kind. The list could include things you are all
the time or just some of the time.

Here are a few of mine:

I am me. I am bright energy.
I am me. I am gentle.
I am me. I am generous.
I am me. I am small.
I am me. I am strong.

Now ask yourself:

“Besides my professional self, my parenting self, my care taking self, what do I love to do? What do I enjoy?”

Keep it sweet and simple. These do not have to be BIG ideas.

Here are a few of my answers:

I love to read, knit, cook, run, hike. I love to be with my friends, neighbors, and family. I love to be near water and in the green space behind our building. If you want to go deeper, you can think of a way you already nurture these other parts of yourself.

Take note.

Is there a way you can do something this week with your non-work self or your non-parent self?

Just one little thing. Give it 10 minutes or 30 minutes.

Maybe you already do these other things. You go for walks with friends, paint, write poetry, ride your bike. Shine a light on those things. Remember them at work and outside of work.
When work is looming, we need to remind ourselves that we DO have a life outside of work.
There may be beautiful parts of our lives and our lived experience already happening —we just need to notice and acknowledge them!

You are not your work.

You are so much more than your work.

You are YOU.

If you are feeling really DONE with your work and pushed beyond the limit, don’t worry.
You don’t have to stay forever.
In my next few posts, we’ll work on developing a strategy to help you make a bold switch.

In the meantime, here are a few more posts on finding balance in the workplace:

How to love the job you are in (or survive the job
you hate)

You are not your work
Invest in who you are – not what you do

Annie Von EssenIf you are not your work, what are you?
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