Self-Care 101

By: Alissa (Disability Specialist & Guest Blogger)

Editor’s Note: Today’s post continues the collaboration we are doing with the Disability Resources office on the UMD Campus.

Hi there everyone, Alissa here from UMD Disability Resources returning to post some helpful tips on one of my favorite topics ever, SELF-CARE. You might be thinking, oh but I am so busy and I don’t really have time for self-care? Then chances are, you could probably really use some 😉 Ask yourself: “What have I done today that feels nourishing, supportive and inspiring for my well being, my joy?”

In this post, I am going to focus on some helpful self-care tips I like to practice along with other helpful tips that may be useful for yourself. Beginning to practice self-care, you need to remind yourself that you truly deserve it and you are WORTH it.

Self-care simply speaking is basically any set of practices that make you feel rejuvenated, relaxed, or nourished in either a physical, emotional, spiritual, or all of the above state of mind! Self-care is simply putting time aside to recharge in a way that is really meaningful and helpful to you and there are ton of different ways to do so.

For me personally, some of my favorite self-care activities are practicing mindfulness meditation, yoga, exercise, walking and playing with my dogs, taking a bubble bath, and simply curling up on the couch to watch some of my favorite tv shows.

One of the biggest hurdles to practicing self-care is basically figuring out what works for you as it is something we naturally don’t think about as much as other life duties and responsibilities. We need to make self-care a priority just as we do brushing our teeth or making our beds in the morning. Self-care should be a part of your daily routine. One way to think through a self-care plan is to ask yourself who, what, and where make you feel safe and supported.

Some other important questions to think about are: Who are the people that you can surround yourself with who will make you feel supported? What are some activities that you can do that bring you a sense of calm, and where are the places that you can go to feel safe and comfortable?

Here’s how to start your self-care practice:

  • Start Small. If you don’t already have a self-care regimen in place for yourself, remember to start small. Savor a cup of tea quietly, listen to your breath for 5 minutes each day, walk out in nature, take a bubble bath, or play with a pet. These can all be small, yet meaningful ways to take care of yourself.
  • Put Yourself First. You can’t give to others if you don’t first give to yourself. If you are wearing yourself ragged, you will be giving to others from a very fragile and sensitive place. It will likely be with agitation, frustration, fatigue, and even stress.
  • Adjust accordingly. Because self-care is not a one-size-fits-all reality, and individual needs vary, we have to be willing to adjust and readjust our needs and priorities along the way. Remember self-care is a practice that is ongoing, lifelong, and requires constant attention and intention. Some days will be easy, other days will feel impossible.

If you can do one thing (at minimum) every day that rejuvenates you, then these baby steps can really add up! I know you can do it! Always put yourself first and prioritize YOU. Self love is very important, you got this!

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Read other posts Alissa has written

 

Mental Health Conditions and Workplace Accommodations

By: Alissa (Disability Specialist & Guest Author)

Editor’s Note: Today’s post continues the year-long collaboration we are doing with the Disability Resources office on the UMD Campus.

Today on the blog, we are going to talk about three more common mental health conditions and what might be some reasonable workplace accommodations for each of those. Did you know that approximately 61.5 million Americans, one in four adults, experience a mental health impairment in a given year (National Alliance on Mental Illness, 2013)? One in seventeen individuals lives with a serious mental health impairment, such as schizophrenia, major depression, or bipolar disorder (National Institute of Mental Health, 2013). We see many different kinds of mental health conditions working in disability and higher education, but a majority of the conditions we primarily work with would be students with anxiety, depression, and/or different mood disorders.

There are a number of different functional areas that these conditions can impact such as concentration, attendance, focus, organization, memory, sleep, stress, handling emotions, fatigue, and coworker interactions just to name a few. The next few pieces of information are found on the Job Accommodation Network website and include many of those different areas that people with mental health conditions could be impacted in and what accommodations would help to reduce those barriers if need be.

Mental Health Reasonable Accommodation Ideas:

Concentration:

  • Reduce distractions in the work area:
    • Provide space enclosures, sound absorption panels, or a private office
    • Allow for use of white noise or environmental sound machines
    • Allow the employee to listen to soothing music
    • Plan for uninterrupted work time
  • Increase natural lighting or provide full spectrum lighting
  • Allow flexible work environment:
    • Flexible scheduling
    • Modified break schedule
    • Work from home/Flexi-place
  • Divide large assignments into smaller tasks and goals

Memory:

  • Provide written as well as verbal instructions
  • Provide written checklists
  • Use a wall calendar
  • Use a daily or weekly task list
  • Provide verbal prompts and reminders
  • Use electronic organizers, handheld devices, and /or apps
  • Provide a mentor for daily guidance
  • Provide reminders of important deadlines via e-mails, memos, and weekly supervision

Organization:

  • Use daily, weekly, and monthly task lists
  • Use calendar with automated reminders to highlight meetings and deadlines
  • Use electronic organizers, mobile devices, and/or apps
  • Divide large assignments into smaller tasks and goals

Time Management / Completing Tasks:

  • Make daily TO-DO lists and check items off as they are completed
  • Provide organizational tools such as electronic schedulers, recorders, software organizers, calendars, watches, and apps
  • Divide large assignments into smaller tasks and steps
  • Schedule weekly meetings with supervisor, manager, or mentor to determine if goals are being met

Stress / Emotions:

  • Encourage use of stress management techniques to deal with frustration
  • Allow the presence of a support animal
  • Allow telephone calls during work hours to doctors and others for needed support
  • Use a mentor or supervisor to alert the employee when his/her behavior is becoming unprofessional or inappropriate
  • Assign a supervisor, manager, or mentor to answer the employee’s questions
  • Restructure job to include only essential functions during times of stress
  • Refer to counseling, employee assistance programs (EAP)
  • Provide backup coverage for when the employee needs to take breaks
  • Allow flexible work environment

Panic Attacks:

  • Allow the employee to take a break and go to a place where s/he feels comfortable to use relaxation techniques or contact a support person
  • Identify and remove environmental triggers such as particular smells or noises
  • Allow the presence of a support animal

Sleep Disturbances:

  • Allow for a flexible start time
  • Combine regularly scheduled short breaks into one longer break
  • Provide a place for the employee to sleep during break
  • Allow the employee to work one consistent schedule
  • Provide a device such as a Doze Alert or other alarms to keep the employee alert
  • Increase natural lighting or provide full spectrum lighting

Fatigue:

  • Allow flexible work environment:
  • Provide a goal-oriented workload
  • Reduce or eliminate physical exertion and workplace stress
  • Implement ergonomic workstation design

Attendance:

  • Allow flexible work environment:
  • Provide straight shift or permanent schedule
  • Allow the employee to make up the time missed
  • Modify attendance policy
    • Example: count one occurrence for all PTSD-related absences

Coworker Interaction:

  • Encourage the employee to walk away from frustrating situations and confrontations
  • Allow the employee to work from home part-time
  • Provide partitions or closed doors to allow for privacy
  • Provide disability awareness training to coworkers and supervisors

All in all, it is good rule of thumb to remember that people with mental health conditions or disabilities are just as capable of completing  tasks and doing an amazing job at whatever they may be working on – as there sometimes is stigma around these conditions due to lack of understanding, judgment, and being uneducated on the topic of mental health. If you are curious about learning more there are many great resources available to you on the NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) website and Active Minds website about mental health conditions. Education, awareness, and understanding are key. We must not be afraid to talk openly about these conditions and encourage others to share their awesome stories. We all have something to say, so don’t be afraid to just simply listen.

Also read: #BulldogOnTheJob: Bri (she talks about experience with depression and anxiety and the impact those illnesses have on her professional life)

Read our other Disabilites in the Workplace posts.

Managing Mental Health in the Workplace

By: Alissa (Disability Specialist & Guest Author)

Editor’s Note: Today’s post continues the year-long collaboration we are doing with the Disability Resources office on the UMD Campus.

One of the biggest and most pressing topics in higher education at the moment is the mental health and wellbeing of our college students. It is estimated that around 1 in 3 students have or will experience a mental health condition during their academic career. Currently, our office serves the biggest population of students with mental health conditions compared to any other disability population and that number seems to be rising. With that growing population of students, many of them will, of course, be entering the workplace after graduation and we want our students to be as prepared as possible as this is a very common and normal thing to experience.

We all have mental health and we all need to take care of ourselves. So hopefully, this piece will give you some good tips on managing your mental health and stress better in the workplace and ultimately be as successful as possible.

Managing Mental Health

In this blog post, I will talk about 10 awesome and very helpful tips for better managing mental health and stress in the workplace and ultimately help you be more successful.

  • Know what you do well and your interests. What do you do well? What interests you? Your answers are important because the more you love your job, the more you will want to wake up and go into work every day. This is very important. The more your skills are needed, the more you’ll feel appreciated and valued by your co-workers which in turn will make you feel good. It is also helpful to know the things you need to or would like to improve on as well as this can be helpful.
  • Develop a good routine. Routines make everything much easier. Develop a routine for getting ready for work each morning so you start each day as productively as you are able to. To help you manage your time, use a weekly routine for at work and in your personal life. Make sure to include social time with friends, family, and possibly that cute little furbaby of yours.
  • Physical health is just as important. A healthy body contributes to a healthy mind. Going for walks or to the gym can be incorporated into your weekly routine. Involving your friends or making new ones is a great way to make it fun and a great stress reliever.
  • Stay organized. Being organized is a great way to reduce stress. Investing time thinking about how to organize your work is smart. Being on time and continuing to use a planner or calendar to keep track of your appointments is key. I am a huge fan of to-do lists as they can definitely keep you on track and way ahead of a deadline so you don’t get stressed out. Prioritizing things using post-it notes or highlighters for color coding is also beneficial. It takes practice to find out what tips and tools will work best for you.
  • Reward yourself. Work can be hard, so reward yourself. Buy yourself something special you have been wanting or go see a new movie. Take a break. You’ve totally earned it.
  • Take time for YOURSELF. Along with staying organized and rewarding yourself, an important way to reduce stress is to make time for relaxation and YOU TIME. Whatever it is that helps you calm down after a stressful day or week, keep it high up on your list of priorities. It is the best way to stay refreshed and motivated. These are often called coping skills so develop a good list of them and keep it available to you at all times!
  • Use resources available to you. There are some resources available to you which help level the playing field. These are just a few:
  • Surround yourself with positive people. Do not waste time and energy on people who bring you down. Research shows that positive people are more effective and happy, and so hanging out with positive people can help too. Having a strong support system can make all the difference at your place of employment and in your personal life as well.
  • Maintain a stable and organized work environment. Your physical work environment can have a huge impact on your mood. Things that help you through the day could be snacks, a good playlist and headphones, a warm sweater, a plant, a stress ball; really anything that will make you feel more comfortable throughout the day. Keeping a clean and orderly desk or workspace will help you focus on your work and present a professional image to coworkers.
  • Understand that nothing can be perfect. Some days will be harder than others and that is totally okay. You will have support as long as you reach out to people and use your resources. Some days will require a little more work than others. Don’t be discouraged. Stay confident – you’ve got a job to do. You can totally do it!

This information was adopted from: https://www.nami.org/About-NAMI/NAMI-News/10-Tips-for-Managing-Mental-Health-in-the-Workplac#sthash.g5By5UTw.dpuf

Other posts/resources about Disabilities in the Workplace

 

Self-Advocacy in the Workplace

By: Alissa (Disability Specialist & Guest Author)

Editor’s Note: Today’s post continues the year-long collaboration we are doing with the Disability Resources office on the UMD Campus.

One of the most important skills to learn if you are an individual with a learning difference or disability, whether that be physical or invisible, is how to be an advocate for yourself and be able to communicate effectively about your needs in whatever may be thesetting.

Self-advocacy is knowing what you want, what you need, what you do well, and what you may need assistance with doing. This also includes knowing your legal rights, what is best for you, and who to tell what information. Self-advocacy can empower people and give them the access they need to reasonable accommodations and strategies. Let’s talk more about what are some helpful tips for becoming a better self-advocate in the workplace.

First Steps

  1. Work hard and be as productive as possible. If your supervisor knows you are a hard worker and reliable, they will want to work together on figuring out what works best for you and can improve your performance even more. Make sure you do your best at all times and it will feel more comfortable approaching your supervisor about workplace accommodations as well.
  2. Represent yourself well and professionally. In order to show that you are a productive worker, there are usually expectations to follow at your workplace, such as: dressing nicely, getting to work on time or early, keeping on track of your work emails, being respectful and pleasant around coworkers, being helpful, being passionate about your work, asking questions to your supervisors, and keeping them informed of things going on.
  3. Be as helpful as possible! We can’t stress this enough! When anybody asks you to help out or do something, DO IT! Use this as a way to grow and opportunity to serve and help others. If other people feel supported by you, the more likely they will be there to give support to you when you need it as well. It always helps to work in a kind, supportive, and steady work environment.
  4. Be confident! The more you practice being assertive and working on being kind and compassionate to yourself, the more others can see that and feel comfortable coming to you with things and having you as a team member. Confidence is a skill that takes practice, work on that by bettering yourself and working on things you might not be as comfortable with and by getting feedback from supervisors.

self-advocacy-in-workplace

Next steps: What Accommodations are Right for YOU?

  1. First off, you should always be familiar with your legal rights as a person with a disability. Read through and research the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). When you are able to learn that the law really is on your side and here to help, this will help you to feel even more comfortable and confident when approaching supervisors about accommodations. Practicing these conversations is a good idea. You usually do not need to submit documentation when asking for workplace accommodations, but should have this available to you as employers can request that before actually providing the accommodation.
  2. Ask yourself these questions: Does your workplace have everything you need and does this increase your productivity? How well do you communicate with others, what are you most comfortable with and what are areas to improve on in this way? What are your main job duties and tasks? What do you need in order to be the most productive at your workplace? Always remember to focus on your strengths and what you do well.
  3. Be familiar with what accommodations are typically offered for individuals with your condition. A really good website to use is the Job Accommodation Network or askjan.org. This website lists different disabilities – physical, emotional, etc. It then lists examples of reasonable accommodations for each condition and ways to ask for or use these at your workplace. This is a great resource to turn to when you have questions and to better educate yourself and your employers as well. Feel free to check out the website at www.askjan.org or give them a call at 1-800-5267234.
  4. Make your request. Sometimes you do not even need to disclose your actual condition to your employer; there is so much new assistive technology that is constantly used by people with disabilities and without. The choice is yours on disclosing. Be comfortable deciding what you want to do and come up with your own suggestions and solutions before hand so you feel empowered.
  5. Follow up with your written accommodation request. This request should be brief and should also talk to the important information regarding your condition and the current need for accommodations. Make sure to talk about how these reasonable accommodations will assist you in meeting your workplace productivity and goals. If your accommodation request is denied, for whatever reason, continue to work with your supervisor and also with the HR department at your workplace to resolve the matter.

When your reasonable accommodations are approved, continue to use them well and to be productive in your place of employment. Continue to be helpful to your co-workers and supervisors and feel comfortable expressing how things are going. Remember, becoming a skilled self-advocate takes time, practice, and determination. Work hard and great things will come your way, we believe in you, Bulldogs!

Read other posts/resources about Disabilities in the Workplace

Photo source: Unsplash | Joanna Kosinska

Introducing Disability Resources

By: Alissa

Hi there! Did you know Career & Internship Services and Disability Resources at UMD are collaborating this year to bring you tons of cool and new information around the topic of disability in the workplace? Well, now you know!!! I am so excited to be a guest author this upcoming school year and maybe be able to teach you a thing or two about this topic. 😉 My name is Alissa Stainbrook and I am a Disability Specialist on campus working in the Office of Disability Resources. I am also a Licensed Social Worker and am just wrapping up the MSW program here at UMD. So I totally get what it’s like to be a student too….best of both worlds — working and education, am I right?!

20160902_121238
Alissa in her office.

Our office is a pretty awesome place. We are located in the Multicultural Center on campus as we consider disability a part of diversity and want to spread the awareness to others as well. Our office is here to ensure access for students with disabilities. What do we do here in DR you may ask? Well, our office does the following: coordinate academic accommodations, provide a testing location for students who need accommodations, work with students to coordinate access to other on-campus resources, and offer guidance & support.

What does DR do

Another important question we get asked is who does our office work with? 

  • Our office serves any students with documented disabilities who need to arrange academic accommodations for their classes. This includes students who have ADHD; Mental Health Conditions; Autism Spectrum Disorder; Acquired Brain Injury; Physical, Sensory, or Learning Disabilities.
  • Our office works to educate the campus community about access and disability related issues. We also work closely with UMD faculty and staff members.

This year DR and C&IS are teaming up to bring you a pretty awesome series around Disability in the Workplace. There are a number of topics we want to cover including: disclosing disability – when, how, and why; differences between disabilities and what accommodations are reasonable; how to ask for accommodations; how to be a better advocate for yourself; what resources are available to you; mental health and well being in the workplace; and personal stories of students who have graduated who have disabilities and are now working.

We cannot wait to chat with you and are totally open to any suggestions of other topics around disability in the workplace and what you want to know!

It is going to be a great year, all!

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Photo source: graphic 1