Help Yourself! For Free!
Are you struggling with something personal that’s getting in the way of your work?
You’re not alone.
What’s helped me through some very challenging personal struggles and kept me above water as much as possible in my professional life, has been the process of active self reflection and journaling.
When I was younger my best friend told me that he noticed when something was bothering me, I liked to “roll in it” for awhile. For me, this meant not wanting to do much but think and write and talk about whatever it was, to uncover the reasons why and the way out of experiencing that discomfort in the future.
I now know that what I was trying to do was be a reflective learner.
5 Ways rolling in what’s bothering us can have negative affects on our ability to learn and help others.
- Interferes with Healthy Relationships. We retreat from lighthearted interactions with coworkers and friends because the more serious matters in our minds are hard to put down, and friends typically don’t enjoy being around us when our mind is stuck on what’s bothering us. This creates distance from peers who need us, and less support when we need it most.
- Prolongs Negative Mood & Limits Creativity. Rolling back and forth without end is called “ruminating”. Ruminating on something, like rolling on the grass until all that remains is dirt, digs in to neurotransmitter paths in our brains, causing negative thoughts to appear more often and be harder to ignore. More on rumination and brain science.
- Ineffective Memory & Ability to Learn. If we are prone to dissecting negative experiences, we may have underlying dysphoria or depression. This is not uncommon for those of us in the human services professions, as many of us are called to the field as a meaning-making response to lend purpose to our own suffering by helping others. If we find ourselves having “sticky thoughts” often, consider the lack of effectiveness in helping others during those times. Research shows us that our cognitive ability and functional memory can be affected by ruminating thoughts, meaning that we must take action with our reflective capacities in order to remain effective practitioners.
- Contributes to Negative Workplace Culture & Wasted Resources. When personal challenges or hurts happen at work, either due to higher sensitivity during times of personal stress, or working in a traumatic environment/culture, the impulse to retreat and ruminate can be overwhelmingly severe. This due to the need in many workplace cultures, to separate our personal and “professional” identities, resulting in less effective ways of coping like blaming, or suppressing emotions, versus compassionate re-appraisal. As Dr Robert Keegan states, “To an extent that we ourselves are only beginning to appreciate, most people at work, even in high-performing organizations, divert considerable energy every day to a second job that no one has hired them to do: preserving their reputations, putting their best selves forward, and hiding their inadequacies from others and themselves.We believe this is the single biggest cause of wasted resources in nearly every company today.”
- It doesn’t work. As a method of problem solving, rolling in the negative experience is not effective. It can push people away and create barriers to moving forward and learning from the experience. Instead of ruminating, self-reflection that empowers us to make meaning of an experience and learn from it can help us grow and move forward in a huge way.
Help Yourself! (to these Self Reflection & Journaling Activities!)
If you’re struggling with a personal relationship and need help strengthening your boundaries, increasing self-esteem, or moving beyond codependency, here are some activities that may help.
Reflection Activity- Needs and Wants
Article by Lindsay Walz, M.Ed. in Youth Development & Leadership, and survivor of the 35W bridge collapse, about self-care.
*Currently under construction and seeking contributions of what has worked for you! Join the discussion below!*