Category Archives: Mindful Moment

Thanks for Attending “Relax for the Holidays” Open House

By Shannon Brodeur, SWEAT Coordinator

Faculty, staff, and students enjoyed our 3rd annual “Relax for the Holidays” open house on November 9. Attendees let go of stress with aromatherapy, yoga and relaxation, chocolate tasting and more.

WorkLife Connections and Employee Wellness would like to thank the following individuals and business for donating their time, expertise, and prizes:

  • Joan Kero, yoga instructor
  • Vicky Sleeman, Young Living Essential Oils
  • J. Jukuri Spa and Salon

Winner of the massage and sauna package from J. Jukuri Spa and Salon is Lorrie Graff, Office of Advancement.  Thank you to everyone who attended.


Knitting Can Create Mindful Spaces in Stressful Times

By Morgan Laajala, WorkLife Connections Intern

WorkLife Connections and Employee Wellness hosted a “Knitting for Wellness” Lunch and Learn on Wednesday, October 5 in Memorial Union Ballroom B3. The Lunch and Learn had a great turnout, with about 31 attendees. The presentation was given by Silke Feltz, a knitting enthusiast and Humanities PhD student.

Silke talked about Knitting at Michigan Tech, StreetKnits (an international knitting charity), how knitting can be beneficial to your mental health, and provided resources for other knitters. Studies have shown that regular knitting and similar

Silke Feltz, humanities PhD student, discusses the wellness benefits of knitting at the 10/05/16 Lunch & Learn.
Silke Feltz, humanities PhD student, discusses the wellness benefits of knitting at the 10/05/16 Lunch & Learn.

needle work activities produce benefits for knitters, including creating mindfulness, lowering blood pressure and heart rate, helping quit a bad habit, improving cognitive function, and increasing happiness. Silke loved sharing her passion with others, and said that doing the presentation “was like a spa treatment for [her] soul.”

When Silke is taking a break from PhD work, she enjoys walking her dog, spending time outside, doing yoga, and of course, knitting. She explained that even during her busiest days, she takes her knitting with her and will take five minute breaks between grading papers to knit. This helps her to keep calm, relax, and focus on the task at hand.

Silke’s advice to other knitters is to realize that it’s just like any other skill that requires practice and commitment. If you keep practicing, you will eventually be able to knit without even thinking about it. Most importantly, give it a try, commit to it, and don’t get frustrated.

If you would like to learn more about StreetKnits or donate needles, yarn, or knitwear, check out their Facebook page or e-mail streetknits2013@gmail.com. If you have questions for Silke, e-mail her at shfeltz@mtu.edu.

 


“Knitting for Wellness” Lunch and Learn

WorkLife Connections and Employee Wellness invite you to join them for a Lunch and Learn, “Knitting for Wellness,” from noon to 1 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 5 in Memorial Union Ballroom B3.

Did you know knitting has health benefits? Join Silke Feltz, knitting enthusiast and Humanities PhD student, to learn about resources, knitting at Michigan Tech and more. Novice and seasoned knitters are encouraged to attend.

Register at HuskyPAW, members may claim 100 bonus points for attending. Feel free to bring your lunch. Beverages will be provided. Email Shannon Brodeur with questions.


Intro to Qigong and Tai Chi Lunch and Learn

WorkLife Connections and Employee Wellness invite you to join them for an interactive Lunch & Learn with Darlene Basto, North Star Qigong and Tai Chi, from noon to 1 p.m. Tuesday, June 28 in Memorial Union Alumni Lounge A.

Interested in learning about Qigong and Tai Chi?  Find out how these ancient Chinese arts can help relieve stress by promoting circulation, balance, and alignment.  Wear comfortable clothing for an interactive demonstration.

Register here. HuskyPAW members may claim 100 bonus points for attending. Bring your lunch. Beverages will be provided. Email Shannon Brodeur with questions.


Don’t Let the Water get Stagnant: Tips for a Learning Organization

By Amelia Newman

We are an output society. Education has taught us this. From the time we start college, for instance, we push out assignments. One after another, just to get it done, whether we truly understand what we’re doing or not. A common phrase in the scholastic world is, “I’m good at BS-ing.”

So we morph to fit into a society that’s more about the doing than about the understanding. And so do our organizations. At some point many of us shut our brains down and are no longer learning new things, but rather going off of what we already know.

Therefore the question is raised: how do we mix up the stagnant water? How do we keep moving toward a culture of learning organizations? Here are a few tips that any one of us can either initiate or start practicing to help keep our schools and work environments moving in a healthy direction.

Tip 101:

Be question-friendly. Show that you can both be asked a question and can answer one for someone too. This is huge. Many people either in school or in the  workplace get stumped on something with a simple solution all because they are afraid to ask a question. We’re afraid to appear dumb in a smarter and smarter world. So laugh a little about your mistakes, and in the process say what you’ve learned. This will help a shy person feel that you are approachable and they may come and ask you a question.  Maybe there are even some things you’ve thought you should ask your boss recently, but then you told yourself,”No, I’ll just figure it out.” Well, why not go ahead and ask?

Tip 102:

Out with the old, in with the new. Talking about what’s new, trying out new fads, new technologies, and new health options can really help make the workplace more exciting. When a work culture is too sedentary, it does not encourage learning and change within the organization. But showing a co-worker how you utilize your android phone for organizing and planning, sharing how your new version of software has really improved your job, or how your new desk chair has really improved your back posture, can help your organization overall to stay up to date.

Tip 103:

Read books related to what you do. One can always improve and learn more. Have some fun with this and don’t treat it like a college textbook that you want to avoid. There are many good, creative books out there with tips for a healthy workplace, and you are a big part of what gives your organization its own culture.

Tip 104:

Inspiration is key. This is fundamental for other things such as a creativity, innovation, invention, etc., so do what it takes to stay inspired. Maybe it’s certain people in your life that inspire you, a nature photography hobby you do on the side, or traveling to a place you’ve never been. Whatever it is, take some time between your work and personal life to stay inspired.

Tip 105:

Take a break to recharge. This goes along with focusing on your breathing, especially when you’re stressed out. It also means taking care of you. If you’re like me, stress takes a huge toll on you mentally and physically. I find that when I’m especially stressed out, I’m sitting there not breathing well and not really learning anything in class or at work. If I try to work on something I have to do, I can’t focus. So I have to stop and recharge with something relaxing, in order to re-feed the brain.

We are real people with real lives who need to make real decisions that have important things at stake. We are not computers, simply calculating and functioning—though sometimes we may feel like it. Whatever the case, we all need to stop a little and recharge, taking a little thought for what we are doing.


Come “Relax for the Holidays” with WorkLife Connections & Employee Wellness

All faculty, staff, and students are invited to stop by the Memorial Union Ballroom B1 on Wednesday, November 18, any time between 11:30 AM to 1:30 PM. to attend an open-house style Lunch and Learn event, “Relax for the Holidays.”  Attending employees will earn 500 HuskyPAW points!

LunchandLearn-imgflyer
Relax for the Holidays Flyer

The “Relax for the Holidays Open House” will feature several relaxation stations, including chair massages with Christian Baker, Aromatherapy with Vicky Sleeman, Yoga and Guided Relaxation with Joan Kero, as well as a coloring station, bubble wrap popping and light therapy, and a chocolate station. Attendees will be eligible to enter a free drawing for one of three spa packages: two 30-minute Swedish Massages or a 30-minute infrared Sauna with Spa Shower from J. Jukuri Spa and Salon. Additional aromatherapy and other stress-relieving items will also be given away to attendees.

Bring your lunch and eat in our stress-free lunch environment, try out different relaxation techniques, and take a breather before the busy holiday schedules roll around. Tea and hot chocolate will be provided.

 


The Chill Chipmunk

The Chill ChipmunkWe’re told by our loved ones to take care of ourselves, but being able to actually do that is often a whole other story. Good intentions don’t always make it into action. We may get fresh fruits and vegetables from the store to make a vitamin-filled smoothie and then what happens? The fruits and veggies sit in the fridge and never make it to the blender. The same thing happens for the grand idea we had to make homemade soup when the weather turns cold. And then all of a sudden we’re sick and overwhelmed while our fruits and vegetables still sit in the fridge. We’re working hard, running errands, and still adding things to our agendas. And doing everything but taking care of ourselves.

I was watching a little chipmunk the other day. He was almost in my way on the sidewalk, so I stopped. He wasn’t running away as I inched closer, so I thought maybe he was injured or something. No, he was just chilling and eating his acorns, no worries! I had to laugh as I realized that to him, making sure he got his little meal was more important to him than responding to his fear and running way. Only once he had his cheeks stuffed did he scurry into his little tree burrow.

This makes me think, if the chipmunks can do it, can’t we? Can we just stop a little and take some time for our health and wellbeing?

A large part of mindfulness, I think, is being intentional. Take a break and don’t let the stress enter your break. The stress can wait a few minutes while you relax your pulse. And like the chipmunk, don’t let anything get in your way.


Meditating is Weird

meditateI am terrible at meditating: I don’t like to sit still, I fidget, I can’t keep my eyes closed, my mind tends to wander about and worry about the next thing on my calendar, and my legs just won’t twist into the pretzel-like lotus position if you paid me a million dollars to do it (although, I’d really try hard to get there if someone wanted to pay me that much to do it!). Meditating is weird. And, for me, it feels weird to meditate at work.

Mindfulness has become a buzzword among businesses and leaders in the last few years, and many businesses and organizations are incorporating mindfulness practices at work as a way to help their employees reduce stress and become more productive. When we hear the word, mindfulness, many of us (myself included) conjure images of workers in our business attire silently sitting in a dimly-lit room while struggling to balance in lotus position and sitting on those thin yoga mats, trying to meditate in silence while we struggle to keep our minds from wandering to our next task. Over the past year, however, I’ve learned that my imagination is very inaccurate when it comes to mindfulness at work.

What is mindfulness?

There are many definitions and descriptions of mindfulness. Simply put, to be mindful means to be aware of how you are experiencing the present moment.

For example, take a moment to focus on your physical self:

  • Right now, how is your posture? Check to see if you’re slouching over your computer or mobile device: are your shoulders hunched? are you looking downward at your mobile device? are you sliding down in your chair? are your legs crossed or are your feet both on the ground? Try repositioning your body so your posture is in alignment and your muscles relaxed.
  • How does your physical self feel? any soreness or stiffness in your neck or back? If so, maybe now is a good time to look away from your screen for a little bit and stand up to stretch your muscles a bit.
  • How’s your breathing? do you feel short of breath? are you feeling a little tired? While you’re standing, take a deep breath—as much as your lungs can hold—and exhale. Try this one or two more times.
  • How’s your thirst? would a drink of water make you feel better? do you have that dry feeling in your mouth that we are so good at ignoring? Since you’re standing, maybe it’s a good time to take a little walk to get a quick drink of water.

As we get absorbed in our work, it’s easy to let our bodies slump down and succumb to gravity. But it’s important to take some time throughout the day to allow ourselves to be aware of our bodies and how they are making us feel.

And this type of practice—simply running through the above physical inventory of our physical self, and adjusting our posture and breathing for a few minutes—is mindfulness. In fact, I like to think of it as taking a moment of self-care.

The Science of Mindfulness

Sure, mindfulness includes meditation or similar practices. This article published in Mindful magazine, Rewiring Your Emotions is a useful piece that provides some information about how mindful practices can help improve our neurological health. Ultimately, simple habits like this can help us to do well in all areas of our lives: work, home, hobbies, self.


Mindful Moment: How Do You Breathe?

How do you breathe? It’s not something we usually think about, yet it has an incredible influence on how we feel, both physically and mentally. Everything we do is powered by the oxygen we absorb when we breathe. Why we don’t take a few minutes every day to focus on breathing is beyond me. In fact, let’s do that right now. Stop reading, sit back in your chair and fill your lungs; really consider what your body is doing to draw air in. Hold that breath for a moment, and push it back out.

Done? Welcome back. First, I’m betting you’re feeling at least somewhat refreshed. Second, how were you breathing? Let me guess: your chest puffed out, your shoulders rose, and you pulled your stomach in as you inhaled, while everything relaxed as you exhaled. This is how we’re taught to breathe at a young age, so, for most people, this is the natural way to inhale and exhale. Unfortunately, we have all been lied to because this is entirely opposite to the way our bodies are predisposed to breathe.

The diaphragm is the major muscle involved in respiration, and it’s located right below the lungs near the solar plexus; this is the muscle responsible for expanding and compressing the lungs. The diaphragm stretches down toward the pelvis (which also pushes your abdomen out a little) to fill the lungs to the bottom and relaxes to its original position when you exhale. This is what the diaphragm is supposed to do. The way we are taught to breathe actually forces us to do the opposite: using the chest and neck muscles to expand and compress only the top lobes of the lungs. These muscles aren’t meant for continuous respiration and using them as such inevitably prevents us from filling our lungs to capacity. These upper body muscle tend to become overtired and distressed over time as well. Interesting, right?

If you ever watch an infant or a pet breathe, especially when they’re asleep, you can see their stomachs puff out because they breathe with their abdomens rather than their chests. Unfortunately, as we grow, we learn to breathe with our chest and tend to forget about abdominal breathing—unless we are taught otherwise. The good news is we can still re-learn how to breathe properly as adults. All it takes is spending a few minutes a day focusing on expanding the stomach and keeping the chest still while breathing. With consistent practice it can, again, become your body’s automatic breathing reflex. Breathing naturally has been shown to reduce the body’s stress responses, as opposed to chest breathing, which activates them and causes stress-related problems such as anxiety, hypertension, and headaches. So, if stress is bearing down on your shoulders and you’re feeling tense, try breathing with your diaphragm for a few minutes. It can do wonders for your well-being.