Category: Professional & Continuing Education

Why It’s So Difficult to Keep New Year’s Resolutions –and What You Should Do Instead

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Looking for ways to make and keep New Year’s Resolutions? The start of a new year is an excellent opportunity for reflection, evaluation, and recharging ourselves with the memories of all we have accomplished and learned during the last twelve months. This is also the perfect time to rethink, evaluate, and set new goals. In other words, it is the ideal time to build new habits and improve in many aspects of your life. So why do resolutions get such a bad rap?

We often struggle to keep our new year’s resolutions. Sometimes we get discouraged because setting resolutions can be easy but maintaining them and achieving them throughout the year can be tricky.  Still, setting a vision of what you want to accomplish during the new year can give us a clear map and guide us to a self-care plan. We must make time for ourselves to nurture our bodies and minds.

Why is it challenging to keep new year’s resolutions?

Often our resolutions are based on what we think we should do rather than what we really want to do or what is possible for us to do. We set goals that are impossible to achieve or that don’t align with our values. We may raise our expectations too high and wind up disappointed when we can’t meet them. Our brains are programmed to seek pleasure and avoid pain, so it is difficult to modify old habits that are hardwired, fulfill a purpose, and generate satisfaction, even if they are no longer serving us. It is important to remember that change is challenging and staying motivated and disciplined can take time. 

Nowadays, there are many distractions, and maintaining a focused mindset to prioritize our goals can feel like you are swimming upstream. Some distractions generate joy and pleasure (hello, social media!). In this case, we must be strong and determined to overcome them, knowing that achieving our long-term goals is more important and meaningful.

Being organized and choosing a day of the week to plan your schedule and think about what you need to do to accomplish your resolutions can be extremely useful. 

First, we must aim to set our sights on a longing or a dream that makes us want to achieve our goals. Then, set specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely or that will help us make progress towards our goal. Think about setting short-term goals and ask yourself how and when you will achieve them. Consider rewarding yourself for accomplishing small steps to keep you motivated. We must also learn to recognize our own beliefs that limit us; and for this, meeting with a counselor or a health and wellness coach can be of significant help

The best thing about a new beginning is to start again, rethink past behaviors and experiences, deepen something we already like, or try something new.

Aspects of your life that may be good places to focus a New Year’s resolution include

  • Moving your body for energy and flexibility
  • Feeling safe and comfortable in the places where you work and live
  • Stepping out of your comfort zone for personal development
  • Consumption of food and fluids for nourishment
  • Finding ways to rest and recharge
  • Relationships with family, friends, and coworkers
  • Increasing your connection to spirit and soul
  • Harnessing the power of the mind for healing

In many ways, looking back on the past helps us understand ourselves better and make positive progress forward. It also aids in identifying skills we already possess but may not be aware of. Because of this, it’s never too late to get to know yourself and determine what changes may be good for you.

MUIH’s Professional Continuing Education has designed a FREE and Ultimate Resilience Reset Journal that can help you calibrate and organize your life with different planning methods, meaningful reflections, build healthy habits, and help you succeed with your goals throughout the year.

To deepen your personal development and help others along their journeys, Maryland University of Integrative Health offers two complementary master’s degrees. Our Master of Arts in Health and Wellness Coaching prepares students to aid individuals in introspection, goal setting, behavioral change, accountability, and goal achievement. Our Master of Science in Health Promotion prepares you to design, implement, and manage community and workplace health education programs and/or identify community health barriers and advocate for community health initiatives.

From Burnout to Balance: Navigating Life’s Stressors Isn’t One-Size-Fits-All

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Interview with Beth Romanski, MUIH Director of Professional and Continuing Education (PCE), Integrative Health Coach and PCE Resilience Retreat Facilitator.

What does burnout look like?

“Burnout” was originally categorized as a workplace phenomenon that is a result of chronic workplace stress.  

According to a 2021 survey by Mental Health America, most employees are experiencing the early signs of burnout and 99 percent agreed workplace stress affects their mental health^1, so this is a widespread condition that has expanded to include aspects of both professional and personal life. 

There are various instruments to assess burnout, but generally the three dimensions of burnout are emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, and personal accomplishment.  Behavioral signs can include poor sleep, apathy, feeling isolated, being overly reactive; Emotional signs may be constant anxiety, fear, sadness, and irritability or anger; Cognitive signs can be exhibited by difficulty concentrating and over-analysis or rumination of events; and Physical signs can manifest in pain, chronic health conditions and fatigue. 

All of this can lead to increased mental distance, feelings of negativism or cynicism and reduced professional efficacy in one’s job.

More frequently, particularly during the pandemic, people were experiencing a state of “languishing” – the feeling of meh, bleh, fogginess, emptiness and lack of motivation and general malaise.  

What causes burnout?

There is no one “cause” for burnout – there can be a multitude of systemic conditions within our societal constructs and organizational structures that contribute to burnout.  

Burnout usually occurs from a slow build-up of chronic, unmanageable stress.  However, there is another form of burnout that is caused by work that is unrewarding.  Interestingly, the early signs of burnout are exhibited by excessive ambition, pushing yourself to work harder and neglect of self and personal needs.  

Avoiding Stress Isn’t the Answer…

Everyone responds to stress differently – and not all stress is necessarily “bad” – stress is a reality of life.  Rather than trying to avoid all stress or feeling like a failure if you experience stress, it may be more useful to find ways to understand our individual stress triggers and our limits to manage and adapt to stressful situations more proactively. As an Integrative Health Coach and through the training and coaching programs I facilitate through MUIH PCE, participants are guided to regain a state of equilibrium and ultimately flourishing by setting their individual wellness goals which can cover a wide variety of wellbeing domains (i.e., nutrition/nourishment, movement/physical activity, rest/recovery, play/creativity, self-reflection/spirituality, career/purpose, financial, relationships, environment, etc.).

Avoiding burnout can’t all be placed on the individual; employers need to take responsibility for their employees wellbeing to cultivate a culture of wellness with healthy employees, first by establishing structures that support wellbeing and by modeling healthy behaviors themselves (i.e., not sending work emails to employees on weekends).

How can someone recover from burnout?

There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to health, yet prioritizing your wellbeing is the first step. The term “resilience” is typically associated with bouncing back from stressful situations; but ideally, we can work towards the state of not having to “recover” from a continuous cycle of burnout to develop sustainable and proactive healthy habits. 

Start Where You Are…

This can involve creating your personal “menu” of self-care practices – ranging from 1–15-minute daily practices to longer practices of 1 hour to weekly or monthly.  Many of us feel guilty about prioritizing our health and feel like “self-care” is out of reach – so I prefer to redefine “care of self” to other terms like rejuvenation, renewing, recalibrating, resetting – or even setting healthy boundaries (i.e., not checking work on weekends or saying no to a volunteer project or removing non-essentials off our too full plate). Shifting our perspective focus on what we CAN control – our mindset – can be helpful when things seem overwhelming.  Practicing positive self-talk and self-awareness has been shown to enhance resiliency.  We can make small daily investments in our wellbeing bank, such as eating a healthy meal, prioritizing sleep, not checking work on weekends, playing a game, or getting together with a good friend.  As a Health Coach, I like to focus on progress, not perfection, and to give myself and others self-compassion along the way.  It takes time and practice and may not always be a linear process. If we do our best on any given day and start small with tiny actions, these daily little investments in our health add up to big results. Lastly, seeking support from others can be quite effective in facilitating sustainable behavior change to maintain healthy habits.  This can be friends, family, coworkers, a health coach, or a mental health provider.  We need to realize that taking a step back and realizing your limits is an act of courage and unless you prioritize your life, someone else will.

 

Ready to Invest in Your Wellbeing?

Download our FREE PCE Resilience Reset Journal and contact the MUIH Office of Professional and Continuing Education (PCE) at to discuss a customized Regaining Resilience training program for your team or organization! 

Blog Interview Bio:

Beth Romanski is an Integrative Nutrition Health Coach founder of MyHealthyTransitions Health Coaching and Co-Host of the Wellness Warriors Radio podcast and Diplomate of the American Institute of Stress.  Beth is Director of Professional and Continuing Education and adjunct faculty member at Maryland University of Integrative Health, a leading academic institution solely dedicated to integrative health programs.  

Beth understands first-hand the stress of work/life expectations and believes there’s no one-size-fits all when it comes to health.  Beth takes an educational and empowering approach to facilitate positive habits that support holistic wellbeing and sustainable results, with the mindset that “being healthy doesn’t have to be hard.”  

 

Learn more about MUIH PCE: www.muih.edu/ce

References:

Mental Health America. (2021). 2021 Mind The Workplace Report. Alexandria, VA. 

Lucangeli, D. SOS Joy Wanted. Psychiatria Danubina, 2021; Vol. 33, Suppl. 11, pp 42-43.

Overcoming Burnout and Building Resilience

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overcoming burnout

What does burnout resemble?

It is increasingly common to hear the word burnout among friends or colleagues. We have heard expressions such as “I’m about to have a break down”; “Today I feel burned out!”; “I quit my job because I was burned out”, among others, and we have wondered what people are trying to express or mean behind the word “burnout”.

The term “burnout” is understood as a consequence of chronic stress and is often related to disappointment, exhaustion, fatigue, over-stress, lack of passion, feeling in the wrong place, a type of suffering that can easily lead to impulsive decisions, complaining or a constant negative attitude.  

Professionals on burnout

In reference to the meaning of the word “burnout”, we can find quotes from famous people such as the Dalai Lama, who says: “When dealing with those who are suffering a lot, if you feel burnout setting in, if you feel demoralized and exhausted, it is better, for everyone’s sake, to withdraw and restore yourself. The point is to have a long-term perspective.”

Another interesting quote found is from Marissa Mayer, who was very influential in the development of Google, she mentioned, “I have a theory that burnout has to do with resentment. And you overcome it by knowing what it is that you’re giving up that makes you resentful.”

Susan Scott, author of Fierce Conversations: Achieving Success at Work and in Life One Conversation at a Time commented, “Burnout occurs, not because we are trying to solve problems, but because we have been trying to solve that problem over and over again.”

It is easy for everyone to construct a definition of burnout based on his or her own experience. However, psychologist Herbert J. Freudenberger, who was one of the first to develop a comprehensive study of “burnout”, defined it as a “state of mental and physical exhaustion caused by professional life, a consequence of severe stress.”

How do we know if we have burnout?

How can we know if we suffer from burnout? Burnouts manifest in different manners and there are different signs that allow us to identify them. Behavioral signs can include poor sleep, apathy, feeling isolated, and being overly reactive. Emotional signs may be constant anxiety, fear, sadness, and irritability or anger; difficulty concentrating, and over-analysis or rumination of events can exhibit Cognitive signs; and Physical signs can manifest in pain, chronic health conditions, and fatigue. Early signs of burnout are over-ambition, striving for more work, and neglect of self-care and personal needs.

All of this can lead to increased mental distance, feelings of negativism or cynicism, and reduced professional efficacy in one’s job.

What causes burnout?

There is no single “cause”, but burnout usually results from a slow accumulation of chronic, unmanageable stress. Chronic stress is the accumulation of micro-stressors, some examples are traffic jams during the commute to work, arguments with a partner, implicit bias and discrimination, unrealistic deadlines, negative comments from the boss, social media, TV news, overflowing email inbox, back-to-back Zoom meetings, insensitive comments, difficult conversations, chronic back pain, unexpected bills to pay, and many others.

Stress can be ambiguous and its meaning or what it represents may be different for each person, but stress can be defined as a “physical, mental, or emotional strain or tension,” or “a condition or feeling experienced when a person perceives that demands exceed the personal and social resources that the individual is able to mobilize.”

In our daily lives, we must deal with stressful and demanding situations. That is why, instead of trying to avoid stress, we must learn to find its triggers in order to better adapt and respond to stressful situations in a more proactive way.

Employers must take equal responsibility for the well-being of their employees and must address stress in the workplace. They must create an environment that reduces stress and provide their employees with tools to learn how to engage in healthier behaviors at work.

According to Harvard Business Review, there are 6 causes of burnout, or areas where you might experience imbalances such as workload (feeling overloaded), lack of control (lack of autonomy, access to resources), rewards (whether they match your amount of effort), community (how supportive the relationships around you are), fairness (receiving fair treatment), and values (similar to your leaders).

What is resilience?

We all have different coping mechanisms to deal with difficult situations or times when we have experienced burnout. As we learn more about ourselves and become more aware of how our minds and bodies respond, the positive choices we make will contribute to us developing resilience to stressful situations.

Today, we hear the word “resilience” more often. Sometimes we do not know what it stands for until we experience it. We also wonder what it means and where it applies. The impact of stress compromises health problems such as fatigue, appetite change (overeating/not eating), depression, anxiety, hormonal imbalances, insomnia, and high blood pressure, as well as other related health problems. When there is a problem, unfortunately, that is the time when we start looking for different health and wellness solutions. The acceptance of wanting to have a healthy lifestyle and live better makes us resilient and is a key factor to start thinking about self-care to improve our health and wellness.

The term “resilience” is bouncing back from stressful situations. Ideally, work towards the state of not having to “recover” from a continuous cycle of burnout. This will help to develop sustainable and proactive healthy habits. Small, specific actions add up to big results.

How can I create resilience?

Shifting our perspective to focus on what we CAN control – our mindset – can be helpful when things seem overwhelming. Practicing positive self-awareness has been shown to improve resilience. We can make small daily investments in our wellness bank, such as eating a healthy meal, prioritizing sleep, not checking work on the weekends, playing games, or meeting up with a good friend.

Focus on progress, not perfection, and give others and ourselves self-compassion along the way. If we try our best daily and start with small actions, these small investments can translate into big results. Finally, seeking support from others can be highly effective in facilitating sustainable behavior change to maintain healthy habits. These can be friends, family, co-workers, a health coach, or mental health professionals. You must realize that taking a step back, being aware of your limits is also an act of courage.

Ready to Invest in Your Wellbeing?

Download our FREE PCE Resilience Reset Journal and contact the MUIH Office of Professional and Continuing Education (PCE) at to discuss a customized Regaining Resilience training program for your team or organization! 

References:

Mental Health America. (2021). 2021 Mind The Workplace Report. Alexandria, VA. Lucangeli, D. SOS Joy Wanted. Psychiatria Danubina, 2021; Vol. 33, Suppl. 11, pp 42-43.

Contributor Bio:

Beth Romanski is an Integrative Nutrition Health Coach founder of MyHealthyTransitions Health Coaching and Co-Host of the Wellness Warriors Radio podcast and Diplomate of the American Institute of Stress. She is Director of Professional and Continuing Education and adjunct faculty member at Maryland University of Integrative Health, a leading academic institution solely dedicated to integrative health programs.

Beth understands first-hand the stress of work/life expectations and believes there’s no one-size-fits all when it comes to health. She takes an educational and empowering approach to facilitate positive habits that support holistic wellbeing and sustainable results. She believes the mindset that “being healthy doesn’t have to be hard.”

Learn more about MUIH PCE: www.muih.edu/ce

Meditation for Beginners

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meditation for beginners

Meditation for Beginners

The word meditation is an open door. There are different ways of practicing it, which can also be traced back to ancient rituals and philosophies. However, for the most part, they all serve the same purpose, namely to reach different states of consciousness and to live in the present moment. It increases well-being and develops a sense of fulfillment in life. Beginners in meditation will quickly see the results.

The practice of Yoga is conduit to meditation. The completely guided practice through asanas, breathing exercises, repetition of mantras, aims or prepares the different bodies (mind, body, and spirit) to reach states of meditation and awareness. When done repeatedly, it leads to a transformation that brings benefits in mental and physical aspects.

Let Go of Expectations

If you are just starting out, or want to try meditation, it is important to have no expectations, and never think about whether you are practicing well or not. It takes time to learn to relate to your mind, to your thoughts and to let them decant. It takes discipline to keep practicing. There are also different tools where you can help yourself. For example, today there are apps with guided meditations. Attending a yoga studio, meditations, even taking an online course on meditation, like MUIH Professional and Continuing Education’s Meditation for Everyone Masterclass, can help a little more to understand meditation. Over time you will experience, what suits you best and what you feel comfortable with, the journey itself is the goal, not the outcome.

How to Begin Meditation?

Create the habit of setting aside 30 minutes a day for meditation practice.

Create a comfortable space where you can sit and dedicate some time to yourself. Have a space to sit in silence, recognize, and learn your breath. Remember that the most important space to take care of is your inner space. Wear comfortable clothing.

Having cushions and a mat can create comfort. If you sit in meditation posture, make sure your hips are higher than your knees. You can keep your eyes closed, put your inner sight in the middle of your forehead, shoulders away from your ears, back straight, all these practices help you to concentrate on your breathing. Recognize the length of your inhalation and your exhalation.

Another common way to practice meditation is to go for a walk and begin to recognize your steps; where you’re looking, your breathing, what you hear and perceive. This is the beginning of building the foundation for mindful meditation practice.

Chanting mantras or repetitive prayers are also ways to focus and exercise your mind and empty it of thoughts. This exercise can help you to increase your concentration and be present in the moment.

What Do You Gain from Beginning Meditation?

The practice of meditation has many benefits, such as mental and physical changes. After a few sessions, it can reduce blood pressure, anxiety and depression, insomnia, and help the digestive system. Practicing meditation can be very helpful in the release of stress.

Start living mindfully and focus on the present moment. For example, savoring more when you eat, or simply looking at and appreciating nature. Your level of perspective on life will increase; this allos you to make better decisions.

Increase imagination and creativity. Discovering new hobbies, enjoying art, and finding new opportunities can be stimulated through meditation. It boosts productivity and helps you stay focused.

When you practice yoga, you also experience meditation and openness. It is a good discipline to allow negative emotions to pass by. This helps to eliminate blockages in your body to prevent future pain and emotional and physical imbalances. It relaxes and releases tensions in your muscles.

Meditation for beginners, and for everyone, is an empowering practice, it helps you cultivate acceptance, and with constant practice, your brain will be trained, and you will learn to cultivate patience, tolerance, and resilience. It will help you overcome and adapt to different challenges and situations in life.

With discipline, you learn to create an inner connection. This means that your intuition and sense of perspective will become more evident, developing the ability to listen to your inner self, following your calling or rediscovering your purpose, slightly redirected to achieve what you are meant to do or live in life.

The habit of daily meditation will help you develop the habit of self-care. Having time to listen to your inner voice, integrate your learning, create a sense of responsibility, and grow in many aspects of life.

Next Steps to Learning Meditation

For the next step, take a deep dive into a personal mindfulness and meditation practice while developing the teaching skills to share with others. To learn more about how to find a mindful Meditation practice for you and your clients and patients, join our online, self-paced Professional and Continuing Education (PCE) Meditation for Everyone Masterclass. Certified by the American Institute of Stress, this experiential course provides hands-on practice for a wide variety of meditation styles. You can incorporate these into your daily life or your clinical practice.

Learn more and enroll at https://ce.muih.edu/browse/ce/courses/meditation-for-everyone-masterclass! Explore all PCE offerings at www.muih.edu/ce