Floods, Tornados, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder?

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Information Have you wondered if Post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) could be affecting you or a loved one? Trauma symptoms may very well be affecting you, even if you have not experienced a life-threatening event, and even if you do not qualify for the diagnosis of PTSD.

First responders and survivors of catastrophic events are faced with the crisis of immediate survival and safety, and then coping with the aftermath on many levels. But there are also many people bearing emotional wounds who have been exposed to traumatic events on a smaller scale, but a diagnosis of PTSD doesn’t fit what happened to them. How would you know if treatment might helpful?

Mental health counselors will tell you that trauma events come in many forms –more than the monstrous or life-threatening ones. What kinds of symptoms or problems would we be looking for diagnosis and treatment of trauma-related symptoms?

As a counselor who often works with trauma-impacted individuals, there are various symptoms that might be noticeable:

- Overreaction is one common red flag. Do you find that in certain situations, your reaction is much more extreme than the situation called for? This overreaction might be in the form of avoidance, startle, anger, panic attack, or irrational fear. It will be associated with something associated with the troubling event.

- Onset of heightened arousal such as being verbally or physically aggressive, irritable, easily startled, or angry. This might also appear as anxiety.

- The onset of sleeping problems. This can be difficult to notice for a person suffering from pre-existing insomnia, but you may notice new problems with intrusive memories or thinking obsessively about that adverse event when trying to fall asleep or upon awakening during the night. Distressing nightmares associated with the event may also happen.

- Exaggerated negative beliefs about yourself and others can take over even though you might also recognize the thought is irrational. For example, “I’m a bad person” “I can’t be safe” “I’m not good enough” are beliefs that can affect other areas of living.

- The persistence of a negative mood that blocks out happiness, satisfaction, or loving feelings.

Here’s an example:

An employee at a care home for people with Alzheimer’s is knocked down by a patient who is angry about a change in routine. The worker, Jan, knows this is a symptom of the disease, and it was not a personal attack. Jan was caught off guard by the situation, but admits it wasn’t a big deal and was not injured beyond slight reddening of the skin. Jan was instructed to take a couple of days off work before returning. However, she finds that at the thought of returning, she becomes overwhelmed with strong, negative feelings and decides to call-in sick. On the day she plans to return to work, she become noticeably anxious, her heart is racing and she feels nervous just driving towards work. She feels embarrassed to talk about it with her co-workers because this was not an unusual situation in her field. After her shifts, she continues to think about what happened, especially at bed time, making it hard to fall asleep. Jan is affected by this assault even though it was not a serious threat to her life. If the problem persists, it could impact her employment.

What NOT to do after trauma

- If you are having troubling symptoms associated with bad things that have happened, be careful on coping with your distress:

- Substance abuse. Using alcohol or other drugs to help you sleep, or to decrease your level of distress can cause serious long-term problems.

- Avoidance of people or social activities. Recognize that part of the healing process is receiving support and connection to other people. When you isolate yourself too much to decrease your stress, you may have even more negative thoughts and feelings like sadness and fear.

- Working too much. This type of avoidance leads to poor self-care and social isolation.

Self-help and Coping

- Talk to others to give and receive support

- Relaxation methods such as yoga, meditation, breathing exercises, prayer, singing

- You can talk to your doctor about your symptoms, or see a counselor

For more information, here is an excellent self-help guide through the
Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration.
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12 Ways to Hack Your Productivity

Stress Free Time Management Time is precious. We only get a limited amount of it every day. So why is it so challenging for us to prioritize and effectively manage our time?

Certainly, there are better ways to be productive. To learn how to become more organized and better with time management, I talked with Bethanne Kronick, owner and CEO of Simplify Northwest, about how to prioritize tasks, get through email more efficiently, and ensure meetings are useful and productive for all involved. Here are some of our suggestions.

Start your morning right.

Having a plan is critical. Whether you prepare for the day ahead the night before or first thing every morning, you need to have dedicated time set aside to strategize and prioritize, Kronick says. “Ask yourself this question:
What three musts do I need to get done to feel good at the end of the day? Write those things down, put them on a sticky note. Stick it on your computer. Put it in your calendar. But use that as your focus for the day.”

If you don’t have a plan, it’s a lot easier to waste time between projects figuring out what to do next. And if you’ve been procrastinating on one of those duties, knock it out first. “It feels so good to get it done, and then you can fly through the rest of the day because you’ve gotten something done that you thought was going to be horrendous.”

Figure out what kind of calendar and scheduling tools work for you.

Not every planning tool will work for everyone. Some people prefer to keep all their schedules digital or on paper, while others like a mix of both. The medium doesn’t matter so long as it’s something you will actually use regularly.

Block out time by batching similar activities together.

Set aside specific times to check and respond to email, work on longer projects, and plan your schedule. (You have to plan the planning, too!)

Kronick encourages being realistic with this, leaving blocks of time for unexpected duties and breaks and “buffer time” between meetings and other scheduled events. She says you don’t want to get to lunch and think, “I didn’t get any of those things done that I had on my calendar because I was unrealistic.

If you have a say in scheduling meetings, leave some time between them.

Allow employees to debrief and collect their to-do lists and action items from one meeting before rushing off to another. And sending out agendas before meetings can help them run on time.
If you can work from home or somewhere else outside the office, schedule “out-of-office” time for buckling down on more time-consuming projects.

Lately, I’ve found it helpful to break some of my days in half, spending mornings in the office and afternoons working from home. That way, I can have meetings first, and people can find me for any last-minute needs. Then, I get to spend the second half of the day with my head down, working harder on projects that require my full attention. I block that at-home time off on my calendar so my colleagues know I won’t be responding to them right away during that time. It really cuts down on interruptions and distractions, and it ensures that I keep some time for my own projects. Can’t work from home? Kronick suggests finding an unused conference room in a quiet part of the office.

Listen on the Human Resources for Small Business Podcast:

Don’t let email control you!

There are numerous strategies you could try for managing your inbox. You could set certain blocks of time—maybe two or three each day, or, in more customer-service heavy roles, one per hour—to check email, instead of refreshing it constantly. The frequency doesn’t matter so much as setting a routine so you don’t live in your inbox all day long. You can communicate this to your team and your customers to keep them aware of your schedule and manage their expectations for your responses.

Try to gauge whether an in-person conversation or email exchange is better for the topic at hand.

Kronick’s rule of thumb is the three-volley rule: “If an email has gone back and forth more than three times trying to get an issue resolved, it’s just so much easier to pick up the phone or go talk to somebody face to face.” Keep track of the efficiency of your conversations so you know when to walk away from your keyboard and finish the chat in person.

Start your email subject line with a directive.

Kronick likes to use specific terms to start email subject lines when she’s asking for something. Words like “request,” “reminder,” “FYI,” and “urgent” give the recipient a rough idea of the nature of the email. If something is time-sensitive, include that in the subject line as well. It helps people keep track of their requests.

“For example,” she says, “with one of my assistants, I might say: 
Request: Needing workshop materials by Friday, May 19th. My eyes go to that email quickly because I know it’s time-sensitive.”

Manage your time spent on social media.

Social media is a given in most workplaces nowadays, but it shouldn’t burden your day. Kronick encourages the use of timers so you know exactly when to close the tab and work on something else. She also recommends adjusting notifications on your phone so it’s not buzzing and distracting you all day long.

Skip the multitasking.

Instead of splitting your attention between multiple things, separate your time so you can give each task your full attention. When we multitask, Kronick says, it takes us longer to complete tasks, we’re more likely to make mistakes, and our short-term memories suffer. It seems counterintuitive, but multitasking puts stress on our brains that ultimately reduces productivity.

Plan personal time, too.

Whether it’s a day off, a weekend away, or a lengthy vacation, it’s important to plan time away. If we don’t put those on our calendars, Kronick says, it’s easy to forget and work straight through them. She suggests doing this with exercise and daily personal duties, too, to make yourself a priority.

To maximize your time and energy, you have to take care of yourself.

The truth is, you can’t really be productive if you’re overly tired or working too much. Get enough sleep, eat nutritious food, exercise, and take breaks. Be kind to yourself!
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What Employers Need to Know About Substance Abuse

Support Group Did you know that substance use costs US employers $81 billion dollars a year, due to loss of productivity and attendance, accidents, theft, and rising healthcare costs? The National Survey on Drug Use and Health reported over seven million Americans struggled with a substance use disorder in 2014. Especially as a human resource professional, these numbers should demonstrate how important this issue can be. As organizations, there should be policies and procedures in place to handle substance use because the question is ‘when’ it happens, not ‘if’. Ongoing review and education is vital in being prepared for when you will need to deal with an employee who struggles with substance use.

Whether an employee is identified by self-referral, reasonable suspicion, or a drug-test, knowing what to tell the employee, what resources are available, and what your specific processes are is very important.

One crucial skill that HR professionals should possess is being able to ask an employee to take a reasonable suspicion drug screen as outlined by their organization’s policy. This can be a difficult and nerve-wracking process. By being educated about the signs and symptoms of use and planning how you would document them, you can feel more confident in addressing this issue with employees. How would you handle it if the employee cries uncontrollably? Or gets angry? Or threatens to sue you? By mentally thinking of scenarios and planning for how you would handle them, you essentially set yourself up to be more calm and resolved in following reasonable suspicion policy.

Consumer trends can also have an impact on your work environment. Do you know what ‘dabs’ are? Did you know that if an employee is vaping marijuana or using an e-cigarette, you might not be able to smell it? With marijuana becoming legal in more states, HR professionals should be up-to-date on marijuana education. Organizations are still allowed to prohibit marijuana use since it is still federally illegal. If your company falls into this category, it is important to continually educate employees that using marijuana is a violation of company policy.

As many of us know, people who deal with issues around their use of alcohol or drugs often become defensive and angry when confronted with their problem. Using neutral language is an important piece for dealing with employees about any issue, especially substance use. As HR, it is not your role to label, diagnose, or make assumptions about the employee. Your language should be neutral and objective. For instance, instead of saying, “You have an alcohol problem”, it would be more appropriate and useful to say, “I smell alcohol on your breath”. Using well thought-out language can help the process run smoother and with less defensiveness.

If you have questions or would like to know more about substance use in the workplace, join me on February 6th, 2018 for a free webinar called, “
Substance Abuse: What HR Professionals Need to Know and How to Address”. The webinar is designed specifically for HR professionals to discuss general drug and alcohol information, substance use impact in the workplace, policy and testing information, reasonable suspicion, and how to respectfully and efficiently address this issue with employees.

Register for the webinar here
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How to Turn “Busy” into “Productive” - Part 1 of 2

Busy to Productive - Part 1 It’s a New Year and for most people they’re reflecting on what they’d like to do differently going forward. If one of your goals is to slow down yet be more productive you’re not alone. Pay attention over the next few days to how people respond when you greet them and ask “how are you?” or “how have you been?” Notice how many of them include “busy” in their response. In our fast-paced American society, many people wear “busy” like a badge of honor. It’s true that many of us are “busy, busy, busy”, but are we really being productive? I believe the litmus test is to examine results. Are we getting the results we want? If not, then we might not be “busy” on the right things.

Here are a few ideas to help you turn your “busy” into “productive” and ensure you’re spending time on the activities that will yield results.

Know Your Objectives and Deliverables

Take a look at your job description if you have one that’s up to date. Take a look at your annual performance goals. What results are you responsible for producing in your firm? What objectives do you hope to achieve? What is important to you (and your boss)? When you are unclear on your destination, it’s difficult to determine the right direction or the path that will get you there. We can waste a lot of time spinning our wheels down the wrong road when we don’t know where we’re going. I was recently reminded of a funny line from the 1991 movie “City Slickers” where one of the characters says to another “we’re lost, but we’re making really good time”. Case in point.

Prioritize Your Tasks

Have a “to-do” list or task that’s 10 pages long? No wonder you’re so busy! It’s time to take a second and prioritize. Start small and pick the top three tasks you feel are of greatest priority for that day and focus your efforts on those. It is important to remember that when everything is a priority, nothing is a priority.

Pareto’s Principle tells us that we get 80 percent of our results from 20 percent of our activities. What are the 20 percent of tasks you can accomplish that will yield the highest results?

I like to suggest to clients that they take 10 minutes at the end of each day to plan for the next. Review your calendar so you know what appointments you have and review your task list so you can identify your priorities. By identifying your top priority for the following day, you can position yourself to hit the ground running.

First Things First

How do you start your day? Do you hop on email and then never get off? Many people do and then at 5:00 wonder where the day has gone. They fall into what I call “reactive mode” (reacting all day to emails, the phone, other people’s interruptions and requests, etc.) and don’t have time left to be proactive.
What’s important to you? What can you do first, to jumpstart your day? To pave the path to maximized productivity?

I love to exercise in the morning. Let me clarify – I don’t love to exercise, but I love to do it in the morning because I love the results. There’s the long-term health benefits, of course, but for me, there’s also the “I did it” feeling and the natural adrenaline rush I get right afterwards. This fires me up for the day and I’m ready to go. I know those days that I exercise in the morning, I’m much more productive. When I get into a rut and don’t get up to run or go to the gym for a number of days (or weeks) in a row, my energy level is negatively affected. This affects my productivity.

Another way to jumpstart your day is to get the most important thing you need to do all day done first. Steven Covey calls this “First things First”, and suggests that successful people make this a habit. I concur. What if, even before you get on email, you tackled the “number one” priority for the day? Accomplish, or make significant progress on the one task that will make the biggest difference in your personal or professional life. Imagine the feeling you’ll have when you get that done and there’s still much of the day in front of you! This strategy can give your day amazing momentum.

I also know myself well. I know that if I leave these things (exercise and a high priority task) until later in the day, I will likely not do them at all. I may procrastinate, fill my time with lower priority tasks, or come up with excuses as to why not to exercise or tackle that important thing until later (which never comes). Getting these things done first thing in the morning helps ensure that they happen, that they are out of the way and I can move on.  Author and speaker Brian Tracy calls this strategy “Eat a Frog for Breakfast” and even wrote a book on the concept. His idea is that if you had to eat a big, ugly frog on any given day, wouldn’t rather eat it in the morning for breakfast and get it out of the way than having it stare at you all day?

We’re not done with sharing tips on this topic but want to give you some time to give these few tips a try first.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of Turning “Busy” into “Productive”.
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How to Turn “Busy” into “Productive” - Part 2 of 2

Busy to Productive 2 We’re continuing our discussion around ideas to help you move from being less “busy” to more “productive” in the New Year. And just to recap in case you missed the first three tips: 1) Know your objectives and deliverables, 2) Prioritize your tasks, 3) First things first, jumpstarting your day.


Wondering what to do with the other 80 percent of your tasks? Challenge yourself to see which ones could be done by someone else. When you delegate those things on your list that someone else could do for you, you free up your time to do the high value, important tasks, that only you can do.

There are two primary reasons people don’t delegate more. One is that they believe it would be faster to just do it themselves. While there is an initial time investment made when you teach someone else to complete a task or process, the return is realized each time they do that task (instead of you). The other reason people don’t delegate involves a control issue. Have you ever heard someone say “if I want it done right, I better do it myself”? To relinquish control and feel good about it, take the following steps when you delegate:
1. Consider the skills needed to accomplish the task and find the right person for the job.
2. Be clear with the individual or individuals you are delegating to in regard to the task and your expectations.
3. Give the person an opportunity to ask question or clarify details.
4. Be specific about any deadlines involved and ask for updates on progress.
5. Check in periodically without micromanaging. Make yourself available to answer questions, especially the first time around.
6. Give feedback.

Say No

Take a look at your task list and see what “low value” tasks you can eliminate all together. Be thoughtful when you add something new to the list. Ensure that you consider what is already on your list before you say “yes” to new requests for your time or talents. Is the request in line with your priorities? Keep in mind that every time we say “yes” to something, we’re saying “no” to something else. For example, saying “yes” to that additional committee may mean saying “no” to making it home to dinner with your family. Saying “yes” to an additional project may mean saying “no” to something else on your plate. If the new request is coming from your boss and you feel it will overload you, ask him or her to help you prioritize the new task or project in relation to your current or ongoing projects.


Stop Multitasking. It doesn’t work as well as you think it does. Most people believe they can save time by trying to do two or three things at once.  Typical multitasking examples include: sending emails while on the phone, listening to a colleague while sorting mail, or making an unrelated list during a meeting.  While most people think they are being more productive, growing research shows that multitasking actually makes you less efficient and reduces brainpower to perform each task. 

The Journal of Experimental Psychology published a study showing that those who multitask are less effective than those who focus on one project at a time. More and more studies are coming out with evidence that multitasking is problematic.  According to, heavy multitaskers did worse on attention tests than non-multitaskers and the multitaskers were more easily distracted by irrelevant information. 

Some additional effects of multitasking are that it is linked to short term memory loss, it can induce a stress response that when prolonged can damage cells that form new memory, it can change your ability to concentrate or increase gaps in your attentiveness, and it can increase the chance of mistakes.

The primary skill we need to overcome multitasking is the ability to
FOCUS.  We also need to be able to handle interruptions and eliminate distractions.

Focus on one task at a time. This means doing something,
and thinking about what you’re doing at the same time. Periodically during the day ask yourself “what am I doing right now?”.  The task that you are working on “right now” should be the only thing that has your attention.  Eliminate distraction by silencing your phone, turning off email notifications, putting a “do not disturb” sign on your door, etc..  It is also important to have a clutter-free workspace, to minimize “shiny object distraction” which in turn will allow you to be more productive.

By employing these strategies, the next time someone inquires “how are you?”, you’ll be able to respond “great!”, knowing that you’re busy getting the important things done. Here’s to your productivity!
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Free Yourself from Sugar Dependence

Free from sugar dependence While there is much to celebrate as we start the new year, there may also be anxiety around resolutions to eat healthier or lose weight.

Most people have a love/hate relationship with sugar, and while sugar may taste wonderful, too much of it may cause both short and long-term health issues. There is no time like the present to become more mindful about the types and volume of sugar you are consuming. There’s no time like the present to reduce sugar in your diet and jumpstart your journey to a healthier lifestyle.

The average American’s diet is sixty percent processed and void of nutritional value. The Standard American Diet (SAD) is full of preservatives, dyes, salt and sugar…lots of sugar. The average American consumes 152 pounds of sugar each year! Most people are unaware of how much hidden sugar is in their food. You may find yourself overeating these types of foods, or thinking about them…all day long. It’s not your fault. There are chemical responses which happen when we eat sugar and we can get caught in a vicious cycle of the highs and lows of sugar consumption.

It’s important to understand the facts. Sugar is just as addicting as drugs like cocaine or nicotine. More specific, sugar is eight times more addicting than cocaine. The same chemicals released in your brain during drug use are released when you eat sugar. You feel bliss for a reason…dopamine. But as with drug use your brain begins to adjust and down-regulates the dopamine released, encouraging poor dietary choices which increase your chances of overeating, weight gain, and eventually chronic health issues like depression, diabetes and even cancer.

Are you ready to kick your sugar habit?

Crowd out cravings

Instead of a sugary treat substitute a healthy feel-good habit like exercise, meditation, reading, writing and/or getting out into nature. Each of these behaviors can assist with crowding out your cravings. Try some breathing techniques like 4-7-8 which bring copious amounts of oxygen to the brain. Dehydration can cause cravings so make certain to drink plenty of water.

Dark chocolate

Look for seventy percent or more cacao in your dark chocolate. However, if you need a “gateway” dark chocolate start with fifty percent and work your way up to a higher count. If you don’t like chocolate you can eat fruits like berries, but eat them with nuts or seeds to reduce a spike in blood sugar. Please avoid high-fructose corn syrup at all costs. HFCS is a man-made sweetener the body does not recognize so it takes three times longer for it to “process.” Since your body cannot process it like real food, consuming HFCS can lead to health issues such as fatty liver disease and decreased leptin. Leptin is the hormone that notifies the body when it’s full, which is why HFCS has been linked to weight gain and obesity.

Hidden sugar

If you must purchase processed food attempt to purchase items with two grams (or less) of sugar per serving. Avoid replacing sugar with chemical substitutes. Sugar-free items can be toxic to the body and only increase your negative health issues. Attempt to sweeten with spices like cinnamon, or a low-glycemic sweetener like 100% real and organic maple syrup.

If you feel like you’ve tried everything but you still feel “hooked” on sugar, consider a sugar cleanse program. There are some side effects to a sugar detox so you may want to seek out a health coach or naturopath who can assist with a successful and relapse-free transition.

Put your health as a priority. You will find once you start to make alternative choices your palate will change and the sugar you once thought you needed is a desire and belief system of the past. The short-term benefits are increased cognitive thinking and energy, weight loss, and a healthier gut. The long-term benefits are the reduction of chronic illness for both physical and mental health issues. Do your best not to be overwhelmed by the process and reach out for support from friends, family and health professionals when necessary. Taking the first step is the hardest, but appreciate yourself enough to make changes which will bring you the healthier lifestyle you desire and deserve!
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2017 At a Glance - The Most Requested EAP Service Revealed

Face to Face Counseling
Data from the behavioral health care industry is consistent year–over–year and the top requested Employee Assistance Program (EAP) service is…counseling. No surprise right? EAP's are historically known for offering counseling services. What we learned is not only do employees utilize the counseling services regularly, but they also prefer to meet face to face. The preference for in–person counseling is not due to lack of options. Time–crunched, multi–generational workplaces want more options to connect with EAP services which is why Cascade Centers offers phone, in–person, text, video chat and online chat sessions with a licensed counselor to engage with employees.

It's not a lack of options.

The data reveals that employees do still prefer a face to face connection with their counselor even though they have access to alternatives.  If employees prefer in–person counseling why do companies more often offer an EAP that only offers telephonic counseling?  Why should employees face barriers to accessing face to face counseling?  This is oftentimes the case when the EAP benefit offered is considered a “free” or “embedded” EAP.  Most disability carriers started to offer a “free” or “embedded” EAP to stand out among their competitors. Today most disability carriers now offer a free EAP, and sometimes that free option is sufficient. Employers lean towards a free EAP if they don't have a corporate culture that emphasizes mental health or there's not a high demand from employees. 

On the flip side, sometimes the free option doesn't align with the organization's goals or there is a higher level of support needed leaving companies to seek out a standalone EAP for a more robust benefit offering. Cascade Centers is a standalone EAP – we're not free but we offer more options. Standalone EAP access extends to all members of your household who may need in–person counseling, robust work/life/balance programs, legal support, or financial wellness services.One benefit of having a standalone EAP is the ability to collaborate with your dedicated account manager and customize your program. You even get access to utilization *reports. Customizing your program might range from integrating with your other benefit providers or finding new and creative ways to keep mental health top of mind all year long.  If you're interested in looking at the next generation of EAPs we'd like to hear from you!

Want access to more EAP data? Stay tuned for the launch of our annual benchmarking report, coming in 2018.

*Due to confidentiality, full utilization reports are available for groups of 75 and over
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