What Is a Codependent Relationship, and What Are the Signs I’m in One?

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January is National Codependency Month. But what, exactly, is codependency?

Codependency is a term that’s been around for decades, but is often misunderstood. In this article, we’ll explain what codependency is, how to tell if you’re currently in a codependent relationship, and what you can do to heal these patterns.

What is codependency?

Codependency is a concept that was originally used to describe the partner of someone with a substance use disorder (drug or alcohol addiction). Now, the term is used to describe any relationship that is characterized by one partner (the “sick” person) needing support, and the other partner pushing aside their own needs to take care of the other.

The partners are mutually reliant on each other – the “sick” person needs support, and the “caretaking” person needs to be needed.

Codependent relationships are unhealthy and damaging. These relationships have little to no boundaries. One partner depends almost entirely on the other, and the other person revolves their life around caring for their partner. The caretaking partner develops a “need to be needed,” and the two partners develop an unhealthy reliance on each other.

Although we tend to think of romantic or spousal relationships when we think of codependency, the truth is that any relationship can become codependent. For example, friendships, work relationships, and siblings can all be codependent relationships. 

An individual person can also develop a pattern of codependency and bring this pattern to every relationship they become involved in until they work on healing this pattern.

According to Mental Health America, some of the traits of codependency include:

  • Feeling overly responsible for the emotions and actions of others
  • Seeking out people they can “rescue” and confusing pity for love
  • Having an extreme need for approval from others
  • An inability to assert one’s own needs, and an unhealthy level of guilt when doing so
  • Having a hard time saying “no”
  • Having an intense fear of abandonment and an unhealthy reliance on their relationships
  • Chronic anger, which can be displayed through passive-aggressive behaviors
  • Having low self-esteem
  • Having a hard time identifying and expressing their own feelings and opinions
  • Difficulty adjusting to change
  • Trouble with healthy communication

When a person is in a codependent relationship, they start to lose sight of themselves. They give up everything in order to take care of their partner (who may be chemically addicted or experience another chronic illness) and they forget how to identify and stand up for their own needs.

Codependent people are not bad people. Codependency is always well-intentioned – you want to take care of your partner. But these patterns can become unhealthy and have lasting negative consequences on your self-image and mental health.

What are the signs of a codependent relationship?

You might be asking yourself, “How can I tell if I’m in a codependent relationship?” Not all toxic or unhappy relationships are codependent. Here are some signs that you are in a codependent relationship.

You feel like you need to “save” or “rescue” them

In healthy relationships, neither partner is focused on saving the other. If you are focused on the need to “rescue” your partner from whatever ailment they’re facing, then that may be a sign that your relationship has some codependent features. In addition, if you tend to be drawn to people who you can “rescue,” then this may be a sign that you have developed patterns of codependency that need to be addressed.

You swallow your feelings to avoid arguments

Many different factors can contribute to this. But if you constantly feel like you aren’t able to express yourself, especially when you disagree with your partner, then this could be a sign of a codependent relationship. You may feel like you can never say “no” to them, or that you always need to pretend to agree with them.

You feel responsible for them

Do you feel overly responsible for your partner? Do you feel like you need to manage their life for them, make important decisions on their behalf, or make excuses for them for others? For example, you might always feel like you need to call their boss when your partner is under-the-influence to explain their absence from work. You don’t trust them to take care of this themselves.

This feeling of over-responsibility for your partner may be a sign of codependency.

You can’t be alone

Many people who have developed patterns of codependency have a hard time being alone. You might feel overly reliant on your relationship (or other people), and become anxious when you don’t hear from your partner for a long time. Or you might find yourself jumping from one relationship to another. Codependency isn’t the only possible explanation for this, but it could be one reason why you have a hard time being alone.

You feel resentful toward your partner

In the beginning of a codependent relationship, it might seem like everything is great; You are happy to take care of your partner in whatever way they need. But as time passes, you may start to become resentful. You might feel like your partner takes and takes, while you give and give. It might start to feel like a one-sided relationship.

This could mean that your relationship has features of codependency.

You need to be needed

This is a core feature of codependency. You could feel like you only matter when other people need you. If others aren’t depending on you to take care of them, then what is your purpose in the world? This is a thinking pattern that’s been influenced by codependency. In reality, you matter in the world regardless of whether you’re needed or not.

How to recover from codependency

If you are or have been in a codependent relationship, then your mental health might be impacted. But just like you learned codependent patterns, you can unlearn them as well. Here are some ways you can heal from the impacts of codependency and develop healthy relationships.

  • Prioritize self-care over caring for your partner. It’s easier said than done, but try to remember that your own needs matter – and it’s important to intentionally set time aside to meet those needs.
  • Learn how to set, and keep, personal boundaries. Learning and practicing assertive communication skills can help with this.
  • Develop all types of relationships. Resist the urge to become overly dependent on one person. Practice allowing a variety of different connections to meet different needs in your life.

Mental health counseling has also helped many people heal from the past and learn new relationship patterns.

If you don’t have access to a therapist, then you can reach out to MINES, your Employee Assistance Program (EAP).  MINES & Associates provides free and confidential counseling, and our licensed counselors are available 24/7. You can talk to us about anything, including codependent relationships, and we will walk with you step by step to get through it. We are here for you!

To your wellbeing,

The MINES Team

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5 Evidence-Based Ways to Be Happier in 2023

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It’s National Hunt for Happiness Week, which is a time to dive deeper into and celebrate what makes us truly happy people.

Many mental health companies focus on “Blue January” this time of year, which research says is historically the month when we experience the highest rates of depression. This is an important conversation. 

But we at MINES believe that the conversation about mental health and well-being needs to revolve not only around what prevents us from being ill, but also around what promotes our wellness. What makes us, as humans, truly happy? When do we feel the most emotionally healthy? In what situations do we thrive, both personally and professionally?

In this article, we’ll take research from the field of positive psychology to give you 5 evidence-based tips on how to hunt for happiness, at home, and at work, in 2023.

Practice gratitude

“Be grateful” can sound like a meaningless cliche, but in reality, it’s one of the deepest and most impactful practices you can implement in your life.

Practicing gratitude doesn’t mean that you force yourself to feel happy about something that you’re upset about. Rather, it’s about shifting your focus onto the things that are going well in your life. And research shows that this can make a significant difference in your happiness levels.

One randomized controlled trial from 2003 instructed one participant group to keep a daily gratitude journal, another group to write about their hassles and annoyances, and a third group to simply write down the day’s events. The study found that the group who journaled about things they were grateful for experienced a higher mood, higher life satisfaction, and more optimism than the other two groups.

To start reaping the benefits of a gratitude practice for yourself, start by listing 3 to 5 things each day that made you smile. You can answer specific journaling prompts, such as:

  • Who was I happy to see at work today?
  • What or who made me laugh today?
  • If I had a bad day, what was one thing that made my day a little bit less bad?

Work on your relationships

Research also shows us that having healthy and strong relationships in your life can improve your happiness. But maintaining healthy relationships can be challenging. Thankfully, relationship and communication skills can be learned by anyone, and studies have found that improving your interpersonal skills can make you a happier person.

In one study, researchers measured a group of students’ happiness levels before and after receiving social skills training. They found that students’ happiness levels significantly improved after receiving the intervention.

Start with the people you already have in your life. How could these relationships improve? If you have a conflictual relationship at work, is there a way of resolving this situation this year? How can you develop close friendships both at work and outside of it?

Be more generous

Being more generous, kind, and giving more to charity all have been positively linked with happiness levels. In other words, research shows us that generous people tend to be happier.

Positive psychology researchers have found that practicing random acts of kindness can give you a boost in your mood, especially when you do multiple acts of kindness in one day. Other studies have also found that people who engage in prosocial behaviors, like volunteering or donating to charity, report higher levels of life satisfaction and overall well-being.

Try to practice this in your home or work life. Perform random acts of kindness for others without expecting anything in return. For example, you could:

  • Write a kind note of appreciation to a coworker
  • Bring in baked goods for your office
  • Reach out to a friend or colleague who is having a hard time
  • Spend one day a week volunteering with a local organization
  • Donating a portion of your paycheck

You may find that by giving in this way, you receive happiness in return.

Get moving

Physical exercise is one of the most positive things you can do for your overall mental health and well-being. Countless studies have found that physical activity helps reduce stress and increase happiness.

For example, one older study found that physical exercise was at least as effective as antidepressant medication in reducing depression symptoms (at 10 months follow-up). Another more recent meta-analysis determined that physical exercise has a significant effect on improving depression symptoms.

If you aren’t a natural athlete, start slow. Remember why exercising is important to you — to be a happier person, and any other benefits of exercise that you value — and write it somewhere that you can read it easily. Choose physical activities that you enjoy, like playing tennis, swimming, or going on a hike with your dog.

Start your day off right

One study examining the moods of customer service representatives found that people who started the day off right and got to work in a good mood or headspace were likely to stay that way throughout the day. Interactions with customers were more likely to enhance their good mood (rather than bring it down).

On the contrary, employees who “got up on the wrong side of the bed” and started their days in a bad mood didn’t tend to be able to get out of the funk, and even positive interactions with customers made them feel even worse.

What does this mean? That your mood before you go to work in the morning matters. Build a solid morning routine that incorporates evidence-based happiness boosts. For example, you might practice gratitude journaling, do a random act of kindness, or get some exercise in.

When you start work in a better mood, you’re bound to stay happier throughout your day.

Are you ready to commit to your happiness this year? MINES & Associates can help. We are a nationwide employee-assistance program (EAP) that offers 24/7 free and confidential counseling, on top of other wellness services like:

  • Legal and financial services
  • Professional wellness coaching
  • Wellness webinars
  • Parent coaching

We’re there for you when you need us. 

To Your Wellbeing,

The MINES Team

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How to Cope with the Holiday Blues

It’s the most wonderful time of the year – except for many people, it’s anything but.

If the holidays bring more stress than cheer for you, you’re not alone. The holidays are a time of year when obligations seem to pile up. You may have family gatherings to attend and shopping to complete. And if you’re working on top of that through the holidays, then life could quickly start feeling overwhelming this time of year.

The holidays may not be “stress-free” for anyone. But with these tips, you can make sure you’re protecting your mental well-being while you navigate all the challenges the season throws at you.

Here are 7 tips to cope with holiday stress both at work and at home.

1. Take a break

Some companies close down for the holidays. But even if your workplace doesn’t, you may want to consider the possibility of taking some time away. Taking a break can be a good way to intentionally slow down during this hectic time of year.

Talk to your supervisor about the possibility of taking some time away. If you work in a setting that’s busier than usual (and impossible to escape) during the holidays – such as in retail – you can still talk to your supervisor about when it might be possible for you to take some time off. Having a vacation to look forward to may help you get through the stress of the season.

There are also smaller, but still impactful, ways to take breaks that don’t require you to go on a lengthy vacation. For example, go out for a nice lunch instead of eating at your desk. Take the long, scenic way home from work. Practice a 5-minute mindfulness meditation.

2. Maintain boundaries with colleagues and family

Family gatherings are a joyful occasion for some, and a nerve-wracking one for others. The same goes for company parties. These are often times when loved ones and colleagues tend to push your personal boundaries. They might ask you personal questions you aren’t comfortable answering. Or they may expect you to take on more tasks (or attend more events) than you feel like you have the time and energy for.

Practice setting, and maintaining, personal boundaries with both colleagues and family members. Use assertive communication.

For example, you could decline your boss’ request to work overtime by saying something like: “I usually would be happy to support the team in this way. But I had set aside my evening to bake cookies with my daughter; it’s a tradition that’s really important to her. If there’s another way I can support the team, please let me know.”

3. Keep a routine

A big part of why the holidays are so stressful for so many of us is because our usual routines get disrupted. This has a big impact on important health behaviors like your sleep, eating, and exercise schedules.

It’s normal for these routines to be disrupted during the holidays. But as much as possible, try to keep your regular schedule. Getting 7 to 9 hours of restful sleep every night is especially important. Being sleep-deprived can you feel more stressed, anxious, and depressed than you already are. Physical exercise can also be a very effective tool to combat holiday stress.

The more you can stick to these regular self-care routines, the better.

4. Let go of perfection

Sometimes, holiday stress accumulates because of the pressure for everything to be perfect. There is so much pressure during the holidays to be “jolly” every minute of every day. A lot of us feel like we need to prepare a perfect holiday feast for our perfect families, just like a scene from a holiday greeting card.

This is far from reality – and this can be disappointing and stressful. This year, let go of the expectation of perfection. Understand that things will go wrong, and that’s okay. Focus on the things about the holiday season that are important to you, whether that’s family, spirituality, or giving back to the community. Allow yourself to let the rest go.

5. Plan ahead

One of the best ways to tackle holiday stress is to have a solid plan going into it. When you know what to expect, you may feel better prepared for the emotional and financial impact of the holidays.

Examples of helpful planning include:

  • Ask for days off in advance
  • Set a budget, and stick to it
  • Set aside specific days for shopping, baking, gift-wrapping, etc.
  • Prioritize work projects and schedule hours for “deep work”

6. Be careful of alcohol

For many families, alcohol is a big part of holiday gatherings. Many people may also drink more during the holidays to cope with the stress that this season brings.

This is completely understandable. At the same time, alcohol is closely linked to several mental health challenges, including depression, anxiety, and insomnia. Having a glass of wine after work probably won’t hurt, but excessive drinking may make you feel even more stressed. Be conscious of how much alcohol you’re consuming.

If you think you may have an addiction to alcohol, then professional treatment can help. You can locate substance abuse treatment near you by calling the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) helpline at 1-800-622-HELP.

7. Seek support

A counselor or a therapist can be a dependable source of support for you during the holidays. If you aren’t already working with a therapist, reach out to your company’s EAP (Employee Assistance Program). Your human resources department can connect you.

MINES & Associates’ EAP offers free and confidential counseling that’s available to you 24/7. Whatever you’re going through, we are here to help. In addition, we also offer financial, legal, and parenting support as well as professional wellness coaching. We can help you get through the holidays with your mental health intact!

A very Happy Holidays to you and your family from the MINES team.

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Sleep Better Knowing Your Finances Are Under Control

Guest article from MINES’ Trainer and Financial Coaching Partner Michelle Vullo

Often your sleep suffers when your finances weigh heavy on your mind. To reduce the financial stress that keeps you up at night, you can take small steps to take control of your money and reduce your financial stress.

  1. Create a budget and stick to it. Once you understand the numbers behind your income and outgo, you can keep an eye on how you’re doing. Although ignorance can be bliss in some areas of your life, when it comes to money management, not knowing where you stand can create anxiety and keep you up at night. A money coach can help you put together a realistic budget that you can live with.
  2. Prepare for emergencies. The more prepared you feel, the better you can sleep. Depending on your situation, fund your emergency fund until you have approximately six months’ worth of expenses saved in an easy-to-access account.
  3. Pay down balances to less than 30% of your credit card limits. When your credit card balances creep past 30% of your limit, your credit score starts to go down and can increase the price you pay for insurance and other expenses. Prioritize paying down your credit cards and sleep more soundly knowing you are taking control of your finances.
  4. Spend money intentionally. List the things, people, and experiences that you value most. Set priorities for your spending by cutting out those expenses that don’t make the list. If having coffee with a friend gives you joy, don’t cut coffee out. Instead, find something that provides less enjoyment to cut back on. Your days will become filled with positive, memorable experiences.
  5. Practice self-care around finances. Taking control of your finances can be powerful. Commit to spending just 10 minutes a day addressing your finances such as checking account balances, shopping for a lower credit card rate or a higher interest rate savings account, tracking your expenses, or even shopping for a less expensive internet provider. Listen to your favorite music and journal about your finances, learn one new thing a day by researching a term that you hear often but don’t quite understand, or even sign up for a personal finance class just for fun.
  6. Celebrate your wins. What’s measured improves. If your first priority is to pay your credit card off, put it in writing and/or tell your friends about your goal.  You can even write your balance on a large piece of paper and post it on your refrigerator and every time you make a payment, take pleasure in your progress by crossing out the old balance and writing in the new, lower balance. Your thoughts and stress levels around finances will improve along with your quality of sleep!
  7. Seek help. Utilize MINES’ Employee Assistance Program (EAP) financial counseling benefits for free assistance. Your EAP can connect you with a financial counselor to help you reduce your financial stress.

Improving your financial situation can help improve your sleep. If you would like assistance, contact MINES for free financial coaching.

To Your Wellbeing,

The MINES Team

Michelle Vullo, is an Accredited Financial Counselor with Enrich Finance. She provides free financial counseling sessions for employees eligible for MINES and Associates’ EAP services.

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Anti-Bullying Awareness: How Can We Stop Bullying in the Workplace?

Unfortunately, bullying in the workplace is all too common. Reports show that around a third of all American employees have been bullied at work. But what can we do to stop it?

This Anti-Bullying Awareness Week, MINES & Associates discusses the complexities of workplace bullying and how organizations can address it.

What does bullying in the workplace look like?

Bullying behaviors in the workplace can be covert or subtle. It’s important to notice the more subtle signs of bullying because they often go under the radar. Covert bullying, like calling people malicious names, may meet the legal definition of harassment (and could be punishable). But more subtle forms of bullying can be just as damaging.

The Harvard Business Review identified 15 different features of bullying behaviors that commonly arise in the workplace. These features categorize the goals, dimensions, and costs of workplace bullying.

The HBR’s 15 features of workplace bullying are:

Goal/Motivation

1. Hostile bullying: bullying that comes out of a personal feeling of dislike toward a person; things like screaming at someone, throwing things, spreading hatred about a colleague’s identity, lying to get someone fired due to personal hatred, and more

2. Instrumental bullying: bullying to achieve something more pragmatic; things like spreading rumors and lies about someone to gain their office space or get a promotion over them

Immediacy

3. Direct bullying: bullying done to someone’s face; physical harm, yelling, openly humiliating or blaming, etc.

4. Indirect bullying: bullying done behind someone’s back; spreading rumors, withholding important information, secretly sabotaging, etc.

Visibility

5. Overt; bullying that is more obvious, like calling people names, humiliating them in front of others, laughing at them, etc.

6. Covert; more subtle bullying like gaslighting, withholding important information, subtly blaming or humiliating them in the name of “workplace competition

Targeting

7. Downward bullying: the bully is a manager or boss and the victim is a subordinate (65% of cases)

8. Horizontal bullying: bullying between work peers

9. Upward bullying: bullying of the boss by subordinates

10. Mixed bullying: bullying goes in multiple directions

Costs

11. Physical: burnout, disability, calling out sick, fatigue

12. Psychological: mental health consequences like depression, anxiety, insomnia, and PTSD

13. Social: loss of reputation, friendships, networks, trust

14. Economic: potential loss of income for the employee

15. Organizational: the business also loses revenue and productivity, and may need to deal with legal and high employee turnover issues

On top of these features that can help you understand and categorize workplace bullying issues, it might also be helpful to know what, specifically, workplace bullying can look like. Some specific workplace bullying behaviors include:

  • Spreading lies or rumors about someone
  • Yelling at someone
  • Silencing someone during a meeting
  • Assigning an unnecessary amount of work to one person that you know they aren’t willing to take on
  • Unwarranted or undeserved punishment
  • Belittling someone
  • Making offensive jokes or comments
  • Purposely giving the wrong information so that someone fails
  • Deliberately impeding or sabotaging someone’s work
  • Excluding someone socially (like refusing to invite them to lunch with the whole team)
  • Placing impossible-to-meet deadlines or expectations on someone so that they fail
  • Constantly changing guidelines and projects to confuse someone
  • Underworking someone – not signing them any tasks and making them useless in the workplace
  • Talking about someone behind their back
  • Demoting someone for no real reason
  • Intruding on someone’s privacy (for example by reading through their emails)
  • Blocking applications for things (like training and events) that will help the person succeed

What can we do about workplace bullying?

According to a report by the Workplace Bullying Institute (WBI), most Americans feel that employers don’t respond positively to claims of workplace bullying. According to the report, 63% of respondents said that their employers either:

  • Encourage
  • Rationalize
  • Ignore
  • Deny
  • or Discount

Workplace bullying claims

It may be surprising to you that any employer would actively encourage workplace bullying. Sadly, this is more common than you may think. Some employers may feel like this type of behavior is necessary for fostering “healthy competition” in the workplace.

And unfortunately, only 6% of the report’s respondents said that the bullying came to an end due to actions taken by the employer. Over 65% of them said that the bullying only ended when they left the workplace, either “voluntarily” (to escape bullying) or forcibly.

The first step to ending workplace bullying may be for both employers and employees to let go of the idea that workplace bullying is healthy or beneficial in any way. As we discussed earlier, workplace bullying can have serious consequences for both the employee being bullied as well as the organization as a whole.

It’s also unhelpful to try to ignore, deny, discount, or otherwise sweep workplace bullying under the proverbial rug. Even if the behaviors don’t meet the legal definition of workplace harassment, you may lose a valuable employee, and the sense of trust in the workplace may be broken.

So what are some more positive approaches to workplace bullying claims?

The WBI states that positive reactions from the employer include acknowledgment, elimination, and condemnation of bullying.

  • Acknowledgment of bullying – First, acknowledge that it’s happening. If an employee comes to you with claims of workplace bullying, take them seriously – even when it’s a veteran senior employee being accused. Validate the victim’s feelings and let them know that you will investigate. In addition, the burden of proof should not be on the victim.
  • Elimination – There are many ways you could eliminate bullying in the workplace. Providing training on communication skills may be a good start. If the bullying is ongoing, the perpetrator themselves may need to be removed from the workplace. But wider changes may need to be made in order to eliminate the culture of bullying altogether. For example, you could use online co-creation tools to make it clear who was responsible for what (to avoid blame or credit-taking).
  • Condemnation – Make it clear that your workplace does not stand for bullying. Pay attention to subtle signs of covert or indirect bullying. Implementing a zero-tolerance policy is one example of condemnation. However, the WBI warns that such a policy in an organizational culture with a history of bullying will be ineffective. Changing such a culture requires extensive training and coaching.

What employees can do: Reach out to your EAP

If you are being bullied at work, then there are several ways you can approach it. Firstly, if it was a one-time incident, you may want to think about talking to your bully directly. You can communicate how you felt about the event and ask them not to repeat it.

However, many people feel uncomfortable talking directly to their bully, especially if the bullying has been going on for a long time. In these cases, you can talk to your direct manager or your Human Resources department to ask for support.

You can also contact your Employee Assistance Program (EAP) for emotional support. MINES & Associates provides free and confidential counseling, and our licensed counselors are available 24/7. You can talk to us about what you’re going through at work, and we guarantee that the information you give us will never be shared with your employer.

To Your Wellbeing,

– The MINES Team

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7 Ways to Develop a Mindset for Financial Success

Guest article from MINES’ Trainer and Financial Coaching Partner Michelle Vullo

A money mindset is an overarching attitude that you have about your finances. It guides your everyday financial decisions and it can have a big impact on your ability to achieve your goals.

The way to achieve stability and increase wealth may all come down to a healthy attitude toward money. When it comes to your finances, positive thinking really does matter. To create an optimistic financial mindset:

  1. Look for opportunities instead of seeing roadblocks – Recognize that each financial situation is temporary and fixable. They are not always easy to see but there are solutions to every financial issue. It usually just takes time and small changes to get even the toughest financial situation back on track.
  2. See the value of asking for help instead of struggling silently. Utilize Mines’ Employee Assistance Program (EAP) financial counseling benefits for free help. Your EAP can connect you with a financial counselor to coach you to get your finances in order. The financial coach can work with you to create a personalized plan outlining steps to get ahead such as establishing an emergency fund, paying down debt, boosting your credit score, and maximizing your retirement plan contributions.
  3. Create a money mantra and repeat it often. Make it positive, financially based, and simple, such as:
    • I am debt-free and financially stable.
    • There is always more than enough money in my life.
    • I have a positive relationship with money and know how to spend it wisely.
  4. Accept that even small steps create progress. Make one small change at a time such as finding small ways to spend less. Cancel subscriptions you don’t use, and compare pricing on cell phone plans, insurance, and other service packages. These small changes will help build momentum and change your mindset with actions that bring you closer to success.
  5. Address finances head-on. Don’t ignore financial statements, late notices, and bills because of fear. Call your creditors and talk with them before late charges and other fees are piled on.  The sooner you address the issue, the more solutions you will have.
  6. Spend money intentionally and focus on a financial balance. Spend money on only the things and people that you value most. Set priorities for your spending by cutting out those expenses that aren’t important to you. If having coffee with friends gives you joy, then keep going out for coffee. Find something that provides less enjoyment to cut back on.
  7. Take it one goal at a time. What’s measured improves. If your first priority is to pay your credit card off, put it in writing and/or tell your friends about your goal.  You can even write your balance on a large piece of paper and post it on your refrigerator and every time you make a payment, take pleasure in your progress by crossing out the old balance and writing in the new, lower balance.

Improving your financial mindset can bring you closer to financial success. If you would like assistance, contact Mines for free financial coaching.

To Your Wellbeing,

The MINES Team

Michelle Vullo, is an Accredited Financial Counselor with Enrich Finance. She provides free financial counseling sessions for employees eligible for MINES and Associates’ EAP services.

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National Alzheimer’s Awareness Month 2022

Guest article from MINES’ Trainer and Alzheimer’s/Dementia Expert JJ Jordan

It is hard to believe it is November already. This year has gone fast in some ways and yet has moved slowly for many of us who are anxious to fully emerge from pandemic concerns. The good news is that each November brings National Alzheimer’s Awareness Month, and this year is one for the history books in terms of research advances and hope! Our goal of a world without Alzheimer’s and other dementia is closer than ever. I am told my optimism about this topic is contagious so I hope this post will cause you to “catch” my enthusiasm as we head into the holiday season.

As a quick reminder, three of our four parents in my immediate family were diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and they lived for 16, 14, and 11 years with the disease. I vividly remember being caught off guard by the first of the three diagnoses, which all happened within an 18-month period. Of course, we had noticed some forgetfulness, but we had no idea of the journey our family would embark upon once we fully understood the ramifications of caring for three parents with this memory-robbing disease. When the third diagnosis was delivered, I knew that I needed to educate myself thoroughly on the topic. Who knew it would steer me toward a complete change of occupation where everything I do both professionally and philanthropically revolves around dementia.

As I fill you in on this year’s news, let me say once again that I have never been more optimistic than I am as I write this blog that the breakthrough is on the horizon. While covid slowed our progress by about a year due to pauses in some hands-on clinical trials, the big-brained women, and men in the fields of neurology and neuroscience were diligently working behind the scenes to continue the quest for treatments and risk-reduction tactics. And I would be remiss if I didn’t remind you right off the bat that when the breakthrough occurs, I will be throwing a party for the entire world so you will all be invited. Watch for your invitation!

Ready for this year’s amazing developments? (And of course, I will include my yearly disclaimer that I am not a physician, nor do I play one on TV, so without dispensing medical advice, I will impart knowledge that I have gained by attending multiple seminars each week and through my teaching and lectures. Here you go…

  • In the wake of last year’s accelerated approval by the FDA of aducanumab and the controversy regarding cost, efficacy, and side effects, September 2022 yielded the preliminary “reveal” of a very promising drug, lecanemab. I am excited. In fact, I just sat in on a discussion featuring eight of the nation’s top experts and the overwhelming takeaway is that this drug is proving to be better than aducanumab. The recent “tease” results show a 27% “slowing of cognitive worsening” for Alzheimer’s among the test groups of Mild Cognitive Impairment and early-stage patients. The side effects are less than with last year’s drug and while costs are yet to be determined, I am optimistic that the federal government will be impressed by the efficacy of this new drug and hopefully FDA approval and Medicare and Medicaid coverage will occur as early as the new year. Fingers crossed. The drug is an infusion treatment administered in a clinical setting. Full results of Phase III clinical trials will be revealed on November 29, so stay tuned!
  • This year could not have been more exciting in the gene arena. In February, 33 more genes were discovered that are connected to dementia, accounting for a total of 75. Think of it this way…I know you are all familiar with jigsaw puzzles after 2.5 years of Covid. (If someone had told me I would be home doing a jigsaw puzzle on a Saturday night in 2020, I wouldn’t have believed them!) Anyway, you can’t solve the puzzle without the edges being in place first and this recent discovery completes the edges of the Alzheimer’s/dementia puzzle. While we can’t clearly see the picture in the middle just yet, this breakthrough is significant.
  • Speaking of genes, another massive development this year was the August news regarding the discovery of the MGMT gene. That stands for 06-methylguanine DNA methyltransferase, (I expect applause when I rattle that one off in my dementia talks,) and it may very well be the explanation we have been looking for regarding why women are more susceptible to Alzheimer’s than men. Of course, with age as the number 1 risk factor, the fact that females live longer can explain some of our increased risk, but we have always known there was more to it than that. Women are more affected by the risk gene APOE4, but women get Alzheimer’s who do not carry the risk gene, so the MGMT gene discovery is big news. Work is underway on what this means in terms of prevention and treatment.
  • This year has shown an abundance of new approaches to figuring this out. Aside from drugs that target reducing amyloid beta and tau in the brain (brain proteins we all need to live, but that normally dissolve during sound natural sleep when toxic buildups occur), there are several innovative studies going on that are fascinating and ensure that we are not putting all our research “eggs” in one basket. A study around a procedure called TACS, “transcranial alternating current stimulation” is being conducted by an Alzheimer’s researcher who is exploring the effect of mild current stimulation to the brain which appears to improve memory for about a three-month period. I know this sounds a bit sci-fi but stay tuned on this one for sure. In addition, trials are continuing around intranasal insulin and the gut microbiome. Along with DNA research, it is a constantly expanding realm of investigation, further adding to my optimism that we will figure this out sooner than many of you might think.
  • Studies are now confirming that environmental factors like air pollution can contribute to the risk for cognitive decline, so long after Covid is in the rear-view mirror, I plan to hang onto some of my masks. I will always wear them when in Los Angeles and during fire season when there is ash and particulate in the air.
  • Watch for news in 2023 about blood tests for Alzheimer’s. They are already in use by a reputable lab in St. Louis and I am hopeful that FDA approval will make them a mainstream diagnostic tool, allowing us to adjust our lifestyle habits and seek treatment earlier than ever before.
  • We now know that 40% of our risk for Alzheimer’s/dementia is due to modifiable factors! This is the best news ever in that we have control over our lifestyle choices. 60% of our risk is due to non-modifiable factors like gender, age, and race, but knowing we can improve our odds of not getting dementia by making smart choices day in and day out is awesome news.

And I would be remiss if I didn’t share with you what I call “The Dementia Tens”. These are three lists of ten things everyone on the planet should know regarding Alzheimer’s and other dementias.

The Ten Warning Signs

  1. Memory loss that interferes with daily life
  2. Challenges with planning or problem solving
  3. Difficulties performing familiar tasks
  4. Confusion with time or place
  5. Visual and spatial issues
  6. Problems with words
  7. Misplacing things
  8. Decreased or poor judgment
  9. Withdrawal from work or social activities
  10. Changes in mood or personality

The Ten Risk Factors

  1. Age
  2. Health Factors (cholesterol, blood pressure, diabetes, inflammation)
  3. Lifestyle Factors (inactivity, poor diet, poor sleep, obesity, smoking, alcohol, stress)
  4. Family History
  5. Genetics
  6. Gender (2/3 of Alzheimer’s patients are women)
  7. Race/Ethnicity (African Americans are 2x more like to develop Alzheimer’s – Latinos 1.5 x
  8. Social Isolation
  9. Life Course Factors (childhood nutrition, rural vs urban healthcare, education, poverty
  10. Traumatic Brain Injury

The Ten Risk Reducers

  1. Exercise – Regular cardiovascular exercise is the closest thing we have to a silver bullet while we await a cure. Be sure to check with your doctor to make sure it is safe for your overall health.
  2. Diet – Adopt a Mediterranean-type diet high in vegetables, fruits, and lean proteins. Avoid salty, sugary, fatty, and fried foods, and limit red meat consumption. Blueberries are awesome for your brain!
  3. Sleep – Good sound, natural sleep is critical in allowing your brain to rid itself of toxins. Put your devices in another room, make it cool and dark, and discuss sleep issues with your doctor before taking sleep aids. If you are older, ask your doctor about avoiding a class of drugs called anticholinergics that may increase the risk for dementia.
  4. Heart and Inflammation Health – There is a correlation between dementia and cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and obesity. If it is good for your heart, it’s good for your brain! Air pollution affects your cardiovascular system so mask up as appropriate. Studies also show a correlation between cognitive issues and brain inflammation. Choose salmon, broccoli, walnuts, avocado, berries, and other anti-inflammatory foods in your diet. Discuss inoculations with your doctor to avoid viral illnesses which can increase neuroinflammation. Simply by getting your annual flu shots, studies show you may decrease your risk for dementia by up to 40%!
  5. Smoking/Alcohol – There is a direct correlation between Alzheimer’s disease and smoking. Enough said! If you drink alcohol, always practice moderation.
  6. Mental Health – Depression, stress, and other emotional conditions can negatively affect cognition. Discuss these with your doctor for treatment. Manage your stress through safe exercise, yoga, meditation, or music.
  7. Hearing/Sight Decline – There is an increase in Alzheimer’s/dementia among those with untreated hearing loss in middle to older age. Discuss hearing loss with your doctor. There should be no stigma regarding hearing devices! Treat cataracts and maintain good vision as you age. Your brain cannot process what you never heard or saw to begin with.
  8. Social Interaction – Involvement with others is critical for brain health. Socialize, (safely of course), by volunteering, taking dance lessons, and enjoying activities with family and friends.
  9. Continual Learning/Brain Engagement – Learn a new language, instrument, or hobby or take online classes. While not every brain game may have science behind it, (some do, some don’t – I do them all), exercise your brain through games, puzzles, and new challenges. Games of strategy and those that challenge your peripheral vision are best.
  10.  Helmets/Seatbelts – Always use your seatbelt and wear helmets when skiing, snowboarding, during contact sports, and while biking or riding a scooter. Protect your most precious and important asset, your brain!

As the year comes to a close, these past twelve months have been especially busy for me. I am in my seventh year as volunteer Community Chair for Dementia Friendly Denver, which is affiliated with Dementia Friendly America, a 2015 White House Conference on Aging program. We present a free one-hour virtual or in-person program for organizations and community groups called Dementia 101 + Reducing Your Risk, so to schedule those, you can contact me at dementiafriendlycolorado@gmail.com. I continue to volunteer with the Alzheimer’s Association, having completed a six-year term on their Board of Directors, and currently serve as their public policy ambassador to Capitol Hill, where I speak with congress about dementia research funding and legislation. Btw, you can access the Alzheimer’s Association 24/7 helpline at 800.272./3900 or refer to their website at alz.org to get connected to community resources and stay up on the latest news.

I am now teaching dementia curriculums at CU, DU, and AARP, and conduct “Brain Camp” in the summer through the Denver Public Library. I have also been a member of the Colorado Department of Health and Environment’s Dementia Advisory Committee for the past 18 months, where we have recently completed the creation of the State Alzheimer’s Plan and are now entering the implementation stage, so my days are full of purposeful dementia pursuits.

And I recently celebrated my eighth year on the Mines and Associates team providing Employee Assistance Plan Alzheimer’s/dementia coaching and corporate client group dementia training, so please reach out to me through Mines and Associates (800.873.7138) for help creating a family dementia plan, increasing your dementia knowledge, or honing your communication, interaction, and behavior caregiving skills. I stand ready to help you should your family be dealing with dementia issues.

Finally, in observance of National Alzheimer’s Awareness Month in November, let’s all pledge to take care of each other and of course, our brains. This Thanksgiving let’s be especially grateful for good health. In a highly charged political season and with plenty of things to worry about, one thing we can all agree upon is the goal of a world without Alzheimer’s. Please don’t forget to relax and enjoy your family and friends this holiday season and rest assured, the future in the field of Alzheimer’s/dementia has never been brighter.

To Your Wellbeing,

JJ Jordan – The MINES Team

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How to Reduce Mental Health Stigma in the Workplace

Mental health is one of the most common issues affecting workers today. Over 50% of people will be diagnosed with a mental illness at some point in their lives. That makes it almost certain that at least some people at your workplace are affected by mental health issues.

But we don’t hear people talking about mental health very often at work. This is because of stigma. Stigma can be very dangerous, and is often the culprit behind why people don’t get the mental health treatment they need. Mental illness is just as serious as physical illness. When left untreated, it could become severe and even fatal.

Especially if you hold a leadership position in your workplace, what you do and say has a big impact. You can use this influence to make strides toward moving your workplace away from mental health stigma.

Here are 6 strategies you can try.

What is stigma?

First of all, it’s important to understand what stigma is, and what it looks like in the workplace. Stigma can be broadly defined as a negative societal attitude about something, usually a group of people.

For example, leprosy, scabies, and sexually transmitted diseases are all examples of health conditions that have carried (or still carry) stigma. Other experiences and characteristics also carry stigma, like having been convicted of a felony in the past.

Although we’ve come a long way, mental health still carries a large stigma. This is especially true in the workplace. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, 8 in 10 workers say that shame and stigma prevent them from getting the help they need for a mental illness.

This is a serious conversation that we need to approach in our places of work. By doing your part to fight mental health stigma, you make it more likely that employees who need mental health support will get it.

6 strategies to fight mental health stigma at work

Each of us plays an important role when it comes to reducing mental health stigma in the workplace. Here are 6 strategies that people in different positions can use to help fight stigma one step at a time.

1. Create supportive mental health policies

It’s one thing to say that you support mental health awareness, and it’s another to show it through action. Creating and advocating for supportive policies around mental health is one of the most effective ways to make it clear to employees that you stand against mental health stigma.

Some policies to consider include:

  • Allowing people to take time off for mental health, no questions asked
  • Anti-discrimination policies for people with mental illness
  • Offering accommodations for mental health challenges
  • Allowing flexible working hours so people can take care of mental health needs
  • Ensuring that employees have healthcare benefits that include affordable mental health services

2. Share openly about mental health

Many people feel like they can’t share their mental health struggles at work. Part of this is because they don’t see anyone else sharing. Even though it isn’t implicitly stated, if no one ever talks about mental health, then it could become quietly understood that this isn’t a subject that’s appropriate to discuss in your workplace.

Challenge these types of unspoken rules by talking openly about mental health. If you feel stressed and burnt out, don’t be afraid to talk about it. Model for employees that it’s okay to do so.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that any person at work should be “dumping” all of their emotional struggles onto their colleagues. But people shouldn’t need to work so hard to hide the fact they’re struggling, either.

3. Speak up when you hear stigmatizing language

The words we use when talking about mental health matter. Societally, we often use mental health terms incorrectly without even thinking about it. For example, you might say that you’re “so OCD” because you need your desk to be organized. You might call a finicky printer “bipolar” because it works perfectly on some days and crashes on the next.

These might seem like harmless colloquial terms, but they further mental health stigma in damaging ways. Use mental health terms appropriately, and never as a joke. You may not be aware of anyone in your workplace who lives with these conditions, but you can never know which of your employees and/or their family members has a mental illness.

Learn about the correct terminology, and use person-centered language when it’s appropriate. Don’t be afraid to speak up and make gentle corrections when you hear others making unintentional (but hurtful) mistakes.

4. Create a mentorship program

As open as you try to be about mental health issues in the workplace, it’s important to understand that some people may just not feel comfortable talking about mental health with their manager or human resources staff. Creating a mentorship program can connect employees with more experienced mentors who can guide them both professionally and personally.

Mentorship is usually designed to help newer employees succeed in the workplace. A mentor can guide their mentee in terms of career and work-life balance. But they could also serve as a trusted person to who the mentee feels comfortable talking about mental health issues. The mentor could help the mentee navigate their mental health in the workplace.

5. Bring in a mental health professional

Lastly, consider bringing a mental health professional once a month to talk to your employees about mental health concerns. Even if you offer mental health benefits, like an Employee Assistance Program (EAP), people may feel too ashamed to access them. By bringing in a professional who is easily accessible, it might make it more likely that people will actually seek the help that they need.

You could work with community organizations or your EAP to find an appropriate mental health expert. A mental health expert can also assess your company culture and give you more tips on what you could do to reduce stigma.

6. Deliver training

People have different levels of exposure to topics surrounding mental health. It could be beneficial to deliver training about mental health awareness and stigma in the workplace. Training ensures that every employee has the same access to accurate and empathetic information about mental health.

Managers, in particular, should be trained so they know how to navigate employee mental health concerns when they come up.

Mental health awareness training could cover a broad range of subjects, like how to recognize signs of common mental health conditions and how to support struggling colleagues. Training also serves as an opportunity to open conversations around mental health, and send a clear message that your workplace is working to fight against stigma.

MINES and Associates offers workplace training on a variety of mental health and well-being topics.

If you need support or have any questions about your EAP services, please contact MINES at 1-800-873-7138 or email us at info@minesandassociates.com.

To Your Wellbeing

– The MINES Team

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How to Support a Colleague Living with Mental Illness

Mental illness is a lot more common than you may think — nearly 1 in 5 U.S. adults have been diagnosed with at least one mental illness. This means that it’s more likely than not, especially if you work at a large company, that at least one of your colleagues lives with a mental health condition.

Work is one of the biggest and most important areas of our lives. If your colleague lives with a mental illness, then symptoms might show up at work. They could also disclose their mental illness to you if you have a positive relationship. The way you react to them could make a huge difference in their life.

If you suspect, or know, that someone you work with has a mental illness, there are so many things you can do to support them.

Here are 6 ways that you can support a colleague living with mental illness.

1. Be open to the conversation

It can be a tricky situation to navigate if you suspect a colleague needs mental health support, but they don’t directly talk to you about it. You might not know if you should be the one to bring it up, or if you should wait for them to come to you.

In general, you can show that you’re open to having this conversation with them. This could mean expressing your views about mental health and your hope to increase awareness about it in the workplace. It may also mean bringing up your own mental health issues if you feel comfortable doing so.

You can also ask your colleague how they’re feeling. If you’ve noticed symptoms at work, you could gently let them know that you’re there to support them if they’re going through anything.

If your colleague denies that anything is wrong or avoids talking about it, there may not be much you can do. Continue leaving the door open for if and when they ever do feel ready.

2. Respect confidentiality

If a colleague confides in you about their mental illness, then assume that this information should be kept confidential — even if they don’t explicitly tell you so.

Although we’ve come a long way in terms of mental health stigma, it should be your colleague’s choice — and theirs alone — to decide whether they want others at your workplace to know about their mental illness.

There are a few exceptions to this rule, and that’s if you have a legitimate reason to believe that your colleague could be a danger to themselves or others. For example, if they’ve expressed to you that they want to hurt themselves or others at work, then you may need to let your manager or human resources department know.

3. Don’t label

Every person deserves the right to define their mental illness in their own way. If your colleague hasn’t specifically told you what their mental health diagnosis is, then avoid using any terms that refer to any diagnoses or labels.

For example, if your colleague has told you that they’ve been feeling low energy and sad, but haven’t used the word “depressed,” then you shouldn’t use that term, either. Focus on how they’ve told you they’re feeling, not on diagnoses or labels.

Other labels should be avoided altogether because they can be taken as offensive. Some of these labels include terms like “addict” or “alcoholic.” You should also make sure you’re using any mental health terms correctly. For example, if your colleague has told you that they have a psychotic disorder, do not refer to them as a “psychopath” — these are not the same thing.

4. Be understanding

Many people with mental illness show no signs of it at work. For others, keeping up with their regular work routine may start to become difficult when their symptoms are flaring up. You might notice that your colleague’s mental illness has begun to affect their work performance.

Be understanding of this. Focus on doing your own work, and supporting your colleague when you can. Try to be patient — your colleague’s mental health isn’t their choice.

5. Practice active listening

Active listening is a communication style that can help you to convey empathy and understanding. One of the key components of active listening is using reflections. Instead of giving your own thoughts or advice, allow your colleague to express how they feel — then reflect this back to them to communicate understanding.

For example, let’s say your colleague tells you, “I’ve been feeling so blah lately and I don’t know why.” Avoid giving unsolicited advice, like “You should go to the doctor. It could be a physical thing or it could be depression.” Instead, reflect: “It sounds like you’re feeling really low. What else are you feeling?”

Open questions like this one can invite your colleague to elaborate more on their experience.

Another important piece of active listening is non-verbal communication. Face the person as they’re talking to you. Turn away from any distractions like your email. Really focus on what your colleague is saying, instead of thinking about what you’re going to say next.

6. Encourage them to get support

If your colleague isn’t already connected to mental health support, then helping them find a specialist may be one of the most important ways that you can help them. If they’re ready to get help, work with them to look through your workplace insurance plan’s mental health provider directory. Going through insurance is one of the most affordable ways to get mental health treatment.

Your workplace may also have other mental health benefits, like an Employee Assistance Program, that can help your colleague.

Lastly, consider talking to your colleague about seeking support from supervisors or human resources. Again, this is their decision and their decision alone. But it may be a good idea to remind them that they won’t be eligible for accommodations or legal protections if your employer isn’t aware that they live with a mental illness.

To Your Wellbeing

– The MINES Team

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5 Ways to Get Ahead Financially

Guest article from MINES’ Trainer and Financial Coaching Partner Michelle Vullo

When it comes to your personal finances, getting and staying ahead is crucial. All too often, an unexpected bill, car repair, or even a trip to the vet with your pet can derail your best attempts to stay financially strong. Fortunately, there are workplace resources and steps you can take to get ahead financially so you’re prepared for whatever comes your way.

Utilize Mines’ Employee Assistance Program (EAP) financial counseling

benefits for free help. Your EAP can connect you with a financial counselor to coach you and help you to get your finances in order. The financial coach can work with you to create a personalized plan outlining steps to get ahead such as establishing an emergency fund, paying down debt, boosting your credit score, and maximizing your retirement plan contributions.

Establish an emergency fund. Experts suggest having between six and nine months’ worth of expenses saved in an easily accessible account in case of an emergency. To reach that goal, deposit a portion of your paycheck directly into your emergency account. Be sure to make a list of those ‘emergencies’ that justify using your emergency funds so that you don’t deplete your savings on ‘nice to have items’ and not true emergencies.

Many clients send money each month to their emergency savings account, but end up raiding those funds constantly for everyday expenses. If you find you need to withdraw your savings monthly, work with a financial coach to determine the ideal amount to add to your emergency savings account without sacrificing the money you need to make ends meet.

Pay down debt. Concentrate on one credit card at a time – the one with the highest interest rate – and make the minimum payments on all your other credit cards. Try to designate extra funds to pay down the credit card you are focused on, for example, when you get a raise at work, send those funds to pay down the credit card. Also, try forgoing dining out for one week and send the funds you saved directly to your highest interest credit card instead. You can make multiple payments to your credit cards throughout the month.

Boost your credit score. Well before you buy a car or a house, be sure that your credit score is the best it can be.  Although timely payments are crucial for a good credit score, your utilization rate (the balance as a percentage of your card’s credit limit) is also important. Try to keep each card’s utilization rate below 30% so that it doesn’t drag your credit score down. For other ways to boost your credit score, contact a financial coach for personal guidance.

Maximize retirement plan contributions. Increase your retirement savings now and you’ll reap the benefits when you retire. Be sure to contribute at least as much as your company’s retirement plan contribution match so that you don’t forfeit ‘free’ money. For extra retirement savings, consult with a financial coach to determine the best strategy for your situation.

Getting ahead financially can reduce your stress and provide peace of mind. If you would like assistance, contact Mines for free financial coaching.

To Your Wellbeing,

The MINES Team

Michelle Vullo, is an Accredited Financial Counselor with Enrich Finance. She provides free financial counseling sessions for employees eligible for MINES and Associates’ EAP services. Call MINES at (800) 873-7138 or visit online and request sessions with Michelle at Enrich.

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