Manners and Mental Health

It is difficult to admit that I visited McDonald’s at midnight this past week, mostly because I am a long way from my teens and aware that the product quality may not be the best choice for my physical wellness. Nutritional value aside, I did not expect to experience such disdain for people, human disconnection and absolute dishonour at this giant retailer’s hands?

There was a day when manners were expected by everyone, especially every staff member employed by the Golden Arches conglomerate McDonald’s.

At fifteen, I appreciated the opportunity to be employed by this company, making it possible to afford food and housing at a very difficult time in my life. I recall being offered the job, but only, as the manager said “if you cut your hair“. Yes, I had fairly long hair in the mid-seventies and that was not considered appropriate for working in the food service industry. We were also required to use manners for every request. The front staff would call out; “Six Macs please” (twelve or twenty-four if it was busy) and, as a grill person, I was required to respond; “Laying six Macs thank you“. This was required for Macs, Fries, Quarterpounders and even the Filet-O-Fish. You may get a caution or two but manners were an essential part of the McDonald’s staffing philosophy. Essential meaning do it or you do not work here!

McDonald’s strives to offer the same experience at every store in every country so I hope what happened to us is not spreading globally. Still today, their Canadian website offers McDonald’s staffing vision (see below) of top quality service which is a direct contradiction to our experience;

“Our People Vision”

“At McDonald’s® Canada our People Vision is for our people to feel valued and proud to work here. In fact we aim to be the best employer in every one of our Canadian communities.”          https://www.mcdonalds.com/ca/en-ca/careers/our-people.html

Manners Optional ? – Ask Macdonald’s

So what did we experience and was it as bad as we think it was? You be the judge. Just after midnight we had the idea to get a cone so we pulled into the drive through at Crossroads McDonald’s – Weston Road and 401. It took nearly ten minutes to approach the ordering sign alone. Either we really wanted a cone or the fact we had not way to exit influenced or patience? When we arrived to order a really upbeat and friendly automated voice greeted us followed by silence. We asked “Are you there” with another half minute of silence broken through by what sounded like a very depressed young lady’s voice… “Yes, what do you want”. The reverberation and distortion in the speaker system was also unusually high.

We placed our order which was not responded to with a thank you that is so commonly spoken in retail and fast food services. The woman did not even say the usual “please pull up to the next window”? Ok, maybe she is just having a bad day? We then waited for ten more minutes to get to the window to pay. What happened next was appalling. The young girl opened the window, went out of her way to not make eye contact, reached out her hand for our money, took the money, gave the change and closed the window without a single word spoken or any semblance of kindness or caring. The young girl later opened the service window and handed us our food, closing the window again without saying one word during the entire interaction… no please, no apology for a twenty-five minute drive through wait and no thank you at all.

Am I making a big deal over something small or is this discourteous approach to retail becoming all too commonplace? I have experienced this at a number of places over that past few years. Are employers resigned to not expect their staff to great people politely, to use common courtesy and to act happy about their decision to shop at their stores? Is it too much effort to train staff due to high turnover in low or minimum wage workplaces? I think NOT!

When I was struggling as a young teen, I was angry, upset, frustrated to be living on my own and quite comfortable with being rude to others fairly regularly. I was in an “I don’t care” mode almost daily. I had more “Stinkin Thinkin” about myself and others, than probably any other time in my life, but, when the manager said “cut your hair” and “you must use manners consistently” I had a decision to make – eat or keep being rude. Nine months of following the courteous and polite requirements at McDonald’s (circa 1973) taught me the importance of manners. I had to “fake it to make it” for manners to become a real part of my life.  Eric Erikson identified this stage of personality development as the identity crisis.  Successful completion of this stage involves the young person’s development of a clearer understanding of who they are, relative to others, their likes and dislikes and their place in the world.  Erikson postulated that a failure during this stage would inevitably lead to role confusion.  Role confusion is certainly one of the factors in life that contributes to anxious and depressed mood.

I sure hope the management and owner(s) at Crossroads McDonald’s behave better manners than those staff last Thursday night. I have my doubts though as I have come to learn that staff often mimic or follow the way they are treated. Perhaps this is why www.Hiringtowin is listed right on their sales slip. Right on their careers web link below, they state;

Careers | McDonalds Canada – McDonald’s https://www.mcdonalds.com/ca/en-ca/careers.html

“We believe the best people in the world work right here.”

I believe, if McDonald’s management had not expected me to be polite during my middle teens I would not have been just like the staff I had the displeasure of meeting the other day. Sadly, I may likely have never realized the value of being polite, the impact that using manners has on how I feel and, possibly, I may have never grown to expect this from our children, colleagues and staff?

Being nice to one another is one major way we can improve our mental health. Research shows that being kind, altruistic and using of polite, personal gestures helps both the receiver and the sender feel happier and more satisfaction.

Manners matter McDonald’s and every other retailer out there. When you insist upon this you help staff and customers feel better. Please change your training expectations accordingly to foster improved overall wellness.

 

 

One Young Woman’s Journey Toward Change

There was a time in my life when I was feeling stuck and needed something new. I hated my job, I felt unfulfilled and completely unmotivated to do anything. Then I went to a fundraiser and met a yoga teacher who was promoting her studio and her energy and happiness was palpable! Now let me clarify, at this time I tolerated working out and I had tried yoga before and I sincerely disliked it! I thought for sure I would never try this again. However without thinking too much, I jumped in a class and tried it. My life transformed and I have found myself yet again.

Sometimes we need some transformation in our lives, we need to change to grow and feel again. When life feels the same everyday with no hope of growth, it can feel awful and terrifying! There were three things that this practise of yoga offered me that helped me in my transformation: physical activity, self-awareness and community. We know from several studies that physical activity (and yes this is a very physical practise of yoga!) can prevent physical diseases such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer, hypertension, obesity and osteoporosis (Warburton, Nichol & Bredin, 2006). However physical exercise and yoga in particular can also help with mental health issues related to self-esteem, mental fatigue, feelings of depression and anxiety (Taspinari, Bas Aslan, Agbuga and Taspinar, 2014). Not only was I now working out to improve my physical and mental health, but now because it was an exercise I connected with and enjoyed, it really helped me in a more meaningful way.

Opportunities for self-awareness are also built into this practise and in this studio. There are so many opportunities to learn about yourself and what you want! Besides the amazing self-awareness workshops available, the practise itself is meditative and helps you look at how you think, behave and feel in your life. With the yoga teachers’ kind words, accepting nature and words of wisdom they transform your practise from a work out to a chance for transformation.

And let’s talk about those people some more! The community of people within this studio are loving, funny, supportive, accepting and were a huge part of my ability to have the courage to transform my life. I took me a year but I was able to find my purpose again and find the courage and strength within me to transform my life. I had settled for a job that I was not happy in, felt no fulfillment in and was not in line with what I always wanted to do with my life. I have always wanted to counsel and support other people and with the support of this practise, studio and family I quit my full time job, went back to school and now have plans for my future that I’m excited about!

So in what areas of your life are you feeling stuck, lost or hopeless? How is this impacting your mental health, physical health, relationships and feelings about your future? What action will you take to take back your life and transform it? Yoga is just one method of transformation. It has worked for me and many others. The great part is that there are many other methods and journeys to transformation and growth.

There are so many things that can help people cope and regain a sense of themselves again – reading helpful books, counseling, reconnecting with friends and family, meditation or joining community groups. However, as I have always envisioned being a counselor and am now furthering my education to become a registered psychotherapist, I really believe and value the immense support and growth a therapist can help people find. A person’s struggles and journeys do not need to be handled alone. Talking with an empathetic, supportive and non-judgemental counsellor can truly change a person’s life and provide a means to transformation.

I encourage you to find your method of transformation today.  Contact us today!

 

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“Have a Snickers” as a decision maker?

There are often times when we make rash or quick decisions and when we look back on them we say, “Why did I do that?”or “Why did I eat that?”
Sometimes its because we’re bored, other times its because we are looking to fill a void or find a purpose. Life seems to be out of control sometimes and there is little we can do to influence world events but we can manage parts of our own life with a few tools.
There have been many times in my own life that I’d wished I had something to help me avoid my impulsive decisions that sometimes have had long lasting effects.

Often these regrets or poor choices can be avoided or managed better when we learn to  HALT. As we unpack the acronym HALT its easier to see how to effectively use this rather simple tool.

HALT stands for Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired

Usually when we make poor choices or decisions its because of one of these four triggers. It seems simplistic but there is some real wisdom in this small word HALT. By taking the time to figure out the reason we’re about to do something, we can usually avoid poorer choices.

Not every situation can be remedied by these four triggers but they are a great place to start. Taking the time to stop and think about these things before acting is an expansion of the “Count to 10” model. Using an acronym like HALT helps us to take a few seconds and try to identify the triggers for our behaviours.

Sometimes the slogan “Have a Snickers” (and many other ads too) actually works to get us to act and, at times, act quickly without thinking. Food is a great motivator and a great reward sometimes.  The Snicker bar slogan appeals to the fact that energy and nutrients in our system need to be replenished so our brains function properly.

Simply asking ourselves to use HALT as a checklist is an excellent tool. Ask yourself “Am I hungry (yes/no), angry (yes/no), lonely (yes/no), tired (yes/no)?”

If ‘hungry’ maybe something to eat or a simple glass of water can do wonders, ‘angry’ maybe stepping away from the situation to get a fuller perspective, ‘lonely’ maybe call a friend or help a neighbour, ‘tired’ maybe go to bed earlier or have a rest/nap.

Rather than being reactive, using new tools and existing ones, we can become more proactive at handling the inevitable challenges of life.  Consider how you may adapt this strategy for other challenging areas in your life? Play around with this acronym a little? Or, you may use the STOP one… Stop, (breathe) Think, Observe then Proceed?

Adding HALT to our ’emotional toolbox’ can better prepare us for a world that is unpredictable everyday.

Now you have read this… it is in your “tool box” or “on your hard drive”  🙂

For more assistance contact one of our counsellors today!

 

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What Really Does Addiction Mean Anyway?

Addictions impact so many people, upsetting lives and hurting loved ones. Worrying about ourselves and/or others being hooked on work, alcohol, money, drugs, sex, porn, food, cigarettes etc. is a widespread problem. Our focus unfortunately,  often becomes narrowly placed upon that “thing” that seems to be consuming so much of our attention, pulling our attention away from solutions and other important areas of life. As this narrow focus becomes increasingly magnified to a seemingly overwhelming level, negative thoughts increase as well; “This is just too far gone”, “I am awful”, “I’ll never stop THIS!”, “Why even try to stop?”

I think we are out of focus.  Our attention becomes on what not to do or on stopping something rather than on what to do and on action that can improve our situation.  I’m not entirely convinced one’s so-called ‘addiction’ is the real problem. Consider all the things in life we are not free to do because we’re spending so much of our effort, time and money on the addictive behaviour. What is being missed, unattended to and let go?  Now that seems, at least to me, to be the real tragedy; being a slave to a substance, a behaviour and even a way of thinking, not free to really enjoy life to the fullest.

Short changing our health and wellness, missing out on recreational, intellectual, spiritual and social growth options, failing to have time for those we love (e.g. children, spouses, family and friends) and severely limiting development of meaningful and satisfying relationships in favour of that one special ‘addiction’ is the real tragedy. 

What is yours? What robs you of a very important part of your life?

Did you know the term addiction came from the slave trade? Years ago, while working on a paper for the Canadian government, I discovered a book called “Drugs, Morality And The Law” (1994 by Steven Luper-Foy, Curtis Brown). The authors uncovered that the initial use of the term addicted was used when a slave was sold to a master. The slave was said to be addicted to or ‘tied to’ their master. Instantly,  I postulated that just as slaves have been freed, we too could find a way to become free from whatever addictive behaviour that is holding us back. I thought, maybe a little too simplistically, if we can be tied to something we could also be untied.

This is a completely different and more positive way of considering addiction than I grew up with. Many of us learned and were indoctrinated with the view that “once you’re addicted it is very, very difficult to quit”.  Not true!  There are many strategies and approaches that help people uncover the thinking and events that contribute to the development of their particular addiction. These include expanding awareness, realigning goals with core values and teaching new ways to override those thoughts and behaviours so that a healthier and more satisfying life can be enjoyed.

Just as ending slavery began with a shift in the consciousness, untying ourselves from addictions requires a process of cognitive uncovering, thought shifting and persistence. For some, a little coaching can help speed up the process and maintain success. If you’d like assistance becoming untied from an addictive behaviour in order to achieve a more fulfilling life, contact one of our counsellors today!

 

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Setting Healthy Boundaries?

When we get a first sight at our newborn child, we are overwhelmed with thoughts and feelings: feelings of love, joy, happiness, and excitement. Sometimes, we may anticipate fear, grief and worry. We may question how we keep this perfect little bundle in our arms perfect as a toddler, child, teenager, and adult. We ask how we might instil core values and life lessons so that our child does not make the same mistakes that we did.

We are excited to be a part of this perfect being’s growth and development but at the very same time, also nervous. We may sometimes feel that we have to give our child “everything”, however, is “everything” too much?  Tough to know when we are doing this for the first time 🙂

Setting healthy, appropriate boundaries with our children may be the best teaching/gift that parents can provide. When we create a balance in our disciplinary approach we improve the chances for healthier relationships.  We establish mutually respectful guidelines, clarity in communication and increased understanding of roles in the family.

Sometimes our own thoughts and feelings can make boundary settings difficult. “Will they (our children) hate me?” “I don’t want to be a bad parent.” “What if this doesn’t work?” “Is it too late to create a boundary now?” Our own upbringing or experiences growing up, left unattended to in our subconscious, may unknowingly influence our parenting approach in less than desirable ways.

Recognizing and responding to these inner thoughts in a healthy way is an important aspect to effective parenting.  Historic thoughts arising from time to time is normal, some serve to guide our path while others may actually block healthy development for us and out children. Learning about and practicing effective healthy boundary setting may not only offset feelings of uncertainty, but may surprisingly increase a more confident and relaxed approach to parenting.

Call us today to work on increasing parenting competency through increased awareness, skill sets and with the creation of effective boundaries for you and your family.

 


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Online Consideration: A Developing Art

With the advance of online chat, social media presence and virtual relationships, there seems to be an increase in discussion about the pros and cons our virtual interaction has on health and upon our social lives in general.

Are we giving up too much, lagging in social skill development, to gain the appearance of anonymity, a level of apparent safety as we hide behind firewalls and masked IP addresses? What cost to social health and wellness exists from online interactions and virtual relations which are all too often void of facial expression, tones and clarity of emotional context… no… emoticons don’t quite cut it 🙂 ? 

Are we exposing too much, “wink wink”, while revealing too little. What impact on our integrity and honesty does this relatively newer technology actually have? Imagine developing a relationship with someone with the following qualities. How well do you think it would go? You be the judge…

Potential Online Presentation of Self  (vs. Face-to-Face) 

Less inhibited – less restricted, freer to speak up?

Talk more, more open and opinionated online?

Revealing parts of self perhaps more impulsively?

Less protective or more protected?

Speech & tone absent or limited?

Harmful… risk factor?

Confused privacy boundaries?

Less or more accountability?

Can possibly be creeped, harassed, bothered more easily?

Cut out or cut off quickly, even immediately?

Hectic, rushed and more or less emotionally charged?

Missing much expression via face and tone?

Of course, many of us have heard stories of relationships developing online and those who have met one another, at least initially, with success. Steps can be taken to safeguard online activity beginning with limiting children to an hour or so per day. Additional time can be rewarded for additional involvement in other socially rewarding activities. These may include playing with friends, completion of homework, household chores or various hobbies such as sports, music, art etc..

Additional screen time may also be given in return for extracurricular reading and writing, math or whatever skill you feel your child requires extra effort in.  The formula may be one to two, so for fifteen more minutes of piano or English homework your child gets thirty more minutes online time whether gaming or accessing social media. This approach is best viewed as a “win-win”.

Getting children and adults involved in activities “offline” seems to require effort and I feel somewhat hypocritical as I sit here writing this blog post… lol 🙂 . Suffice it to say that attention to healthy child and family development requires a regular review of our online involvement, presentation and the development of integrity even in, perhaps especially in our “virtual world”.