Category Archives: Care

Live Your Values Through Your Work

By Mellicia Marx, Founder of Poplin Style Direction and Friend of Simple Intentions

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Author Mellicia Marx pictured top left at the 2017 YouthCare Luncheon

Early in my career, I was drawn to public service and the nonprofit world. Why? It seemed obvious. Careers in these sectors were the best and perhaps, realistically, the only way to give back and make a difference in any significant or productive way. After all, making the world a better place is central to the job description. Later, I thought, corporate America could also offer the same opportunity, but only if you were able to land one of a company’s few corporate social responsibility roles.

Eventually, of course, I discovered that none of this was true. It turns out you can live your values no matter your industry; that you can have a meaningful impact on the people around you by nurturing your own strengths and sharing them with others. It can even benefit you in your career. And you don’t need to uproot your life to do this — really.

Now I’ve left non-profits and public service. I run my own small business as a personal stylist — I help women communicate who they truly are, using personal style as a lens. And it is by far the most rewarding job I’ve ever had. By providing clear guidelines to help a woman know what flatters her frame, and guidance about how to convey what makes her uniquely her, I plant a seed that helps her flourish in all aspects of her life. Especially gratifying is to work with a client a year or two after we first met, and to see how her life has been influenced by our work together. Peoples’ lives are being improved, or even transformed, by this work. And I can see it at close range, in a way I never could earlier in my career.

And yet, there’s more. In addition to my work with clients, I devote a great deal of my energy into my volunteer work with YouthCare, a Seattle-based nonprofit devoted to empower homeless youth ages 11–24 in my community. It’s a rewarding and rejuvenating part of my everyday life — and it presents yet another opportunity to channel my personal values into something meaningful and productive.

We all have the ability to seamlessly integrate our values into our work and life, with less effort than perhaps is common belief. And as I have learned first-hand, this not only makes a positive impact on your community but can propel your career or enhance your business in unexpected ways.

Leverage Your Expertise

What do you have to offer to your community? For starters, you are almost certainly an expert in something — most likely the thing that helps you put food on the table. What value do you create with your work? How could the community benefit from it? In my case, as a personal stylist I can help people with a problem we all experience, regardless of lifestyle, income, or even housing status — what am I going to wear today?

By partnering with YouthCare, I’ve made my expertise available to a segment of the population who, it turns out, can really benefit from it. Working together, we’ve created a styling session program for youth in YouthCare’s Barista Training Program. We teach them what clothing is appropriate for job interviews and the workplace, then help them “shop” from a boutique of quality clothes donated by the community — and my client base. It’s a successful, thriving community program that is really just an extension of the work I do every day with my clients.

Think about your own work. Do you have skills you take for granted, but that just might be incredibly advantageous to someone in need?

Identify Your Resources

Let’s face it: we live in a hectic world where time is at a premium. Maybe, given the pressures of your career and the time it takes up, volunteering is a separate, subordinate dream that you might eventually realize — in retirement. But it doesn’t have to be. In fact, you can actively benefit your career by way of volunteering.

In my case, I’ve found that by threading together my volunteering and my business, I have tangibly enhanced my clients’ customer experience. I offer each client the opportunity to donate her extraneous clothes after we have gone through the step of editing her closet. I take those pieces to YouthCare for our styling session program, and the organization sends tax information back to the client. It doesn’t stop there. I also invite clients to attend graduation ceremonies for the youth finishing up the Barista Training Program. There’s no obligation, just the chance to see the impact of their donated clothes on the lives of young people in our community. And I host tables at YouthCare’s annual luncheon (pictured above) and invite clients to attend — I regularly have over twenty attendees. Every once in a while, I share stories about youth on my blog and Instagram and tag clients who donate with a public thank you.

This approach is in line with my values, and is good for business in so many ways. Not long ago, I started working with a new client transitioning to female after she read my blog posts about working with transgender youth. I also have clients who reach out after our initial styling sessions because they have more clothes to donate; this allows me to stay connected with clients in the long term without needing to “sell” them something. And client surveys show that learning about my work in the community contributes to their choosing to work with my company.

Living my values not only enhanced my sense of fulfillment but helped build my business and brand – this can be true for anyone, regardless of job title.

Select Your Cause

Youth homelessness is particularly upsetting to me. These are just kids. They’re kids who didn’t have someone to help them buy their first car, or encourage them to take the SATs, or even help them choose their first bra or tie their first tie. They live a challenging and often dangerous life. But I’ve found that one afternoon of warmth and attention from our team can really shift the path for some of these kids. They know that someone, who is not paid to care, really does care. They know that there is no question too embarrassing to ask, and they know that when they leave they will not “look homeless” — something so many of them fear on a daily basis.

For you it might be the environment, or animal welfare, or social justice that fuels your passion. Think about causes that mean something to you. They might even be naturally aligned with the expertise you have to offer. Then do some research, find the organizations that are doing the best work in that field, and ask how you can help.

Yes, some jobs offer more flexibility than others to choose how one spends their time and resources. But it doesn’t take much. Every time you write a letter, make a call, or spend an hour with someone in need, you are positively contributing to your community — and maybe even your career.

 

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Treat Yourself Like You Would A Loved One

By Chelsea Elkins, Program & Marketing Manager

Why do we say or do things to ourselves that we would never in a million years say or do to someone else? Why do we treat our loved ones infinitely better than we treat ourselves?

Ultimately, it comes down to vegetables. Do parents force their children to eat vegetables because they want to share their deep, insatiable passion for the food group? Likely the answer is no. Parents incorporate vegetables into their children’s diets because it undeniably benefits their health. Why then do many parents neglect leafy greens in their own regiments as soon as their kids have left the nest? My guess is, whether consciously or sub-consciously, they simply do not believe their own health is as important as the health of their kids. A statement I’m sure their children would heatedly and wholeheartedly disagree with.

How we treat ourselves can easily become a source of conflict in relationships, especially if we witness a destructive, powerful habit in our loved one (even if these same habits are ones we are guilty of ourselves). Distressed and unsure of what to do we try to “fix”, conveniently forgetting that we cannot change another being, just as our loved ones cannot change us. We are powerless to help others unless they have chosen to help themselves first. The only thing we can fix, all that we can control is how we treat ourselves and how we treat those around us.

In other words, we must be role models. If we encourage certain habits in those we care most deeply about, we should make sure we are in the habit of doing those things ourselves. The opposite is also true. If we discourage a loved one from carrying out a particular action, odds are that is something we ourselves should avoid. Most of us would never berate our sibling for a solid week about losing out on a promotion at work. Nor would we brutally cut down a dear friend because she didn’t lose those 5 pounds before swimsuit season. And we probably, on most nights, wouldn’t pour a fifth beer down our sweet grandmother’s throat.

It is important to remember that just as we adore our loved ones, we are likewise the object of someone’s loving attention.

My suggestion is simple: Be gentle, take time, be conscious. Be as compassionate to yourself as you are to your 6-year-old niece when she falls and scrapes her knee. Treat your body, your mind, your spirit like you would your most precious loved one if they entrusted their care to you.

And perhaps those around you will follow suit.

 

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Stressed? How Herbal Remedies Can Help

By Katya Difani, Herbalist and Founder of Herban Wellness and Friend of Simple Intentions

We all experience stressStress_0713. How we experience, recognize, and address it (or not), is very individual to each of us.

However, there are some common ways that stress can affect the body. One of the most common reasons people come into a shop like mine seeking herbal remedies is for stress. My first question is always, what does that mean to you? How do you experience stress? Because, for most people, when they recognize themselves as “being stressed” it’s due to a sense of feeling overwhelmed, a description of anxiety, trouble quieting their mind, and/or shoulder and neck tension.

Rarely does anyone recognize long-term symptoms of stress, such as fatigue, trouble sleeping, low immune function (frequently getting colds or flus) as “being stressed.” Surely their body does! And the reason is that when we are responding to stressors such as a high work load with impending deadlines, tension in relationships, trying to fulfill many obligations, believing we should be able to “do it all” and say “yes” to everything, etc. it stimulates the “fight or flight response” in our body.

Basically, the hypothalamus sends a signal to the pituitary gland in the brain, which releases hormones that travel through the body and bind the adrenal glands (which sit atop the kidneys), and then signals them to release epinephrine and norepinephrine to respond to the stressor, activating the body into action. Cortisol is also often released in larger than “normal” amounts, as it is the long-term stress hormone (among its many other necessary functions). Anyway, not to get too involved in the physiology, the take-home is that the adrenal gland stimulation is meant to occur, but the theory goes that evolutionarily speaking, we should respond to a short-term stressor, then relax.

If we are continually producing stress hormones, this can cause all sorts of imbalances over time, including fatigue, increased inflammation, and a weakened immune system. Also, our nervous system gets called into high alert in response to these stimulating stress hormones, so it can make it harder for our bodies to relax and “unwind” at the end of the day, exacerbating the problem and leading to many of the common symptoms people associate with being stressed.

How herbs can help.

One of my favorite things about herbal medicine, and why I was drawn to it in the first place, is that there are a plethora of plants (made up of their many plant compounds) that can help support our bodies acutely and preventively. There are herbs that can help our bodies adapt better to stress that were coined as “adaptogens” in the 1970’s by Russian scientists, because of how they can prevent long term effects of stressors on the body, and how they can help our bodies recover from long-term or acute stress after the fact. When taken 2-3 times daily on a consistent basis (as a capsule, tincture, powder, or tea) for a month or more, these herbs such as Eleuthero (aka Siberian ginseng), Schisandra, and Ashwaganda, can help restore that Hypothalamus-Pituitary-Adrenal (HPA) axis function, and nourish the adrenal glands which have often been depleted because of overuse.

Many people notice increased and sustained energy throughout the day, better ability to fight infection, better sleep, and increased endurance (and much of this has been born out in clinical studies as well).

I like to combine these herbs with “nervines”, which calm and nourish the nervous system. Some of my favorite herbs include Lemon balm, Holy basil (aka Tulsi), and Passionflower for daytime or evening use.  Many of the nervines can help with symptoms of being “stressed out” by helping ease feelings of anxiety and tension, as well as helping to promote more restful sleep, with herbs such as Valerian root, Skullcap, and California poppy for a more sedating effect.

Ideally, we would nourish and support our bodies while undergoing periods of stress in our lives. This is an act of self-care that requires awareness. Along with utilizing stress-relieving techniques in daily life, herbal medicines can be another useful tool for managing, preventing, and recovering from the impacts of short-term and long-term stress on our bodies.

 

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The Power of Care at Work

By Sameer Bhangar, Simple Intentions Awareness Consultant

hands caringI met with someone this week who spoke about how much she admired her current leader, a Vice President in a large technology company. I was curious what she admired about him. She described him as a visionary, motivator, excellent communicator, and other goodness associated with capable leaders. She genuinely meant all of them.

Then she paused, and from a more heartfelt place added, “And he genuinely cares!”

This really struck me, that what appealed to her most about the leader of her group, someone she truly admired and respected, came down to his genuine care – for the vision, the work, and most of all, for the people on his team.

In my own experience leading team workshops, I often start by sharing my experience in technology along with my transition into team culture-related roles. I always plan on saying that for me, the underlying motivation for this transition is simply that I genuinely care. I care about how we bring our so-called authentic selves to work. I care about finding greater meaning at work.

What’s interesting is that I rarely actually say this. Something in me, in the moment, totally forgets to share this aspect about genuinely caring. Instead, I stick to the bullet points on my resume. I don’t know why, but sharing how I care about people’s well-being with a bunch of people I’m meeting for the first time feels vulnerable. And yet, the occasions when I do express how much I care – about the process, people, ups and downs, outcomes, learnings, conversation, all of it – it resonates with the group and brings us closer.

Considering this for yourself, I offer two questions:

  1. Do you genuinely care about what you’re working on and with whom you work?
    None of us will care one hundred percent of the time about every aspect of our role. But somewhere underneath the details, is there a thread of genuine care?
  2. If your answer is “yes,” then have you communicated this to those you serve? Do they know what you care about? If it feels uncomfortable to share this in a genuine way, you might be on the right track. It’s often our willingness to step into this discomfort and awkwardness that pushes us to deeper connection and ultimately stronger trust.

And if your answer is, “No, I don’t really care,” then what are you doing about it?

I wonder if what the industry often describes as burn-out, disempowerment, disengagement is in many ways a reflection of how much we truly care. In any case, it might be a useful place to start: If you find you no longer care about the people, project, company, or environment you’re in, then what is the conversation you need to have to create a shift for yourself? Over time, I believe we will all go through natural cycles of genuine caring and some levels of disinterest. The question is, are you aware of this and how are you including it in your thinking and conversations?

Just like the individual I met with last week, you may touch people more deeply with how much you genuinely care than how buttoned-up you are with the details of your vision and strategy.

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Detrimentally Altruistic

By Chelsea Elkins, Simple Intentions Marketing Manager

airplaneThe very definition of altruism reveals that this is a trait that is neither sustainable nor in our best interest. In fact, it seems to me that altruism is in direct opposition to self-compassion and can in fact be detrimental to both our physical and mental health.

To be clear, I am not suggesting that we stop supporting charitable causes or start refusing to give up our seat to the pregnant lady on the bus. On the contrary, I am the first to agree that a bit more kindness in the world would do wonders.

My intention with this post is to shine a light on a dangerous belief that many of us hold to be true: that it means more if we sacrifice something in order to help someone else.

I respectfully beg to differ.

The consequences of depriving ourselves can at first seem small compared to the good we perceive we’re doing. So what if we’ve been volunteered for overtime again? Who cares if we have to sacrifice another night out? In the words of my 3rd grade math teacher, “small things add up”. Eventually the consequences, which at first seem insignificant, can become, well, consequential. Furthermore, it is inevitable that we will eventually run out of altruistic steam if we are in a constant state of sacrifice.

I am suggesting that before being selfless we must be self-full. This means we must ensure we are nourishing ourselves both internally and externally. When we are full to the brim with self-compassion and care, it will cost us very little to generate the smallest or most breathtaking of beneficent acts to our fellow humans.

Airplane emergency procedure teaches this philosophy flawlessly – secure your own mask before assisting others. That concept makes perfect sense. Once you secure your own mask it will be infinitely easier to help others. Rather than fighting for oxygen, you’ll be thinking more clearly, and you’ll have more strength to offer.

When applied to life, however, this idea is a tough thing to swallow. Didn’t we learn at a young age that being a good person means putting others before ourselves? That only by being selfless, by being truly altruistic may we have any positive impact on the world? Though this belief has been relentlessly ingrained in me, I have come to the conclusion that not only is it false, but this way of thinking is also preventing us from leading the fullest and richest lives we are capable of.

Once we start taking care of ourselves by directing kindness and compassion inward, then lending a helping hand to others will not only be vastly meaningful, but also an almost effortless process.

There will be countless times in life when we’ll be called upon to assist others, loved ones and strangers, in putting on their metaphorical oxygen masks. My sincere hope is that we graciously provide a helping hand, that we assist others with their oxygen masks and hold their hands when they’re scared. I hope that we, as a global community, lift each other up after we fall.

But it is my deepest wish that we do not give up a part of ourselves to do this, that we can feel secure and unashamed when putting our own mask on first.

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