Using an Employee Assistance Program

At a health conference I heard a woman talk about how the pressures of her job caused her so much stress that she cracked.

Before it gets to this point for you investigate whether your employer offers an Employee Assistance Program (EAP).

This is a free benefit you might have as the employee of a company. I have an Employee Assistance Program at my union job.

This service offers links to counseling services and could also give staff members financial help information to manage your money.

In 1991 when I worked at my first job I met with an EAP counselor to talk about finding a support group or group therapy.

Whether the stress you’re experiencing is mild or severe or work-related or caused outside of your job it could benefit you to talk with an EAP counselor.

They can direct you to available therapy and financial options where you live.

Employers benefit when they offer their workers an Employee Assistance Program.

An EAP can boost morale. It can also help staff members get help that helps us lead happier and healthier lives on and off the job.

It’s called an Employee Assistance Program.

Should you need or want this kind of help ask the person in your HR department if your employer offers an EAP.

In a coming blog entry I’ll talk about the findings of a longitudinal study of Sustained Employment Among People with Psychiatric Conditions.

The news is good for getting and keeping a job long-term.

In Praise of Union Jobs

Anyone who is leery of those of us who work in union jobs I dare say has bought into the divide-and-conquer tactics of the government.

I make the case for getting a union job as opposed to a job with a private employer.

My experience sheltering in place in the time of the COVID-19 outbreak in New York City gave me the idea to write in detail about the benefits of having a union job.

Not a lot of union jobs exist anymore because of the union-busting tactics of the government as well.

My job is a union job for city employees. While the library has shut down we are getting paychecks every two weeks.

Having a union job that offers a perk like automatic paychecks in a crisis can make the difference between affording to pay your rent or mortgage and going into debt just to be able to live.

In 2000 when I graduated library school I chose not to pursue a job in a library in a legal or corporate office.

Decades later I’m glad I choose to get a union library job.

With a union job your chance for a promotion isn’t linked to the whim of whether your supervisor is willing to give you that chance.

With a union job you often have a pension when you retire which is now rare for private business jobs.

With a union job you could have the benefit of signing up for a 403(b)–a retirement plan for nonprofit agencies that is like a 401(k) for private employers.

With a union job you might have the benefit of an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) to get counseling services and financial help information.

With a union job you could possibly be able to use free legal services to hire a real estate attorney or a lawyer who can help you create a will for free.

What’s not to like about a union job?

In New York City you can go on NYC.gov to find civil service and other government jobs.

The number-one benefit of having a union job is that you cannot summarily or capriciously be fired or laid off.

You have protections in place as a union worker.

In a coming blog entry I’m going to talk about the benefit of an Employee Assistance Program (EAP).

Engaging Your Mind in a Time of Crisis

While I’m no fan of the president who I’ve taken to calling Mr. Toupee over the years I’m impressed with one thing he said in a speech concerning life in the time of the CO-VID19 outbreak:

“All Americans including the young and healthy should engage in learning from home.”

It impresses me that a president who rules the country via Twitter fiats urged us to flex your mental muscles as a way to cope.

Not only did Staples deliver my ink and paper so I could continue my writing projects at home:

Amazon is set to deliver a book to my house.

Reading books and magazines would be in my estimation a productive use of our mental energy when we’re sheltering in place.

For you watching TV might be a pleasant way to pass the time when you’re sheltering in place. By all means continue to watch TV should this give you great joy.

Watching TV sitcoms all day on a good day is my version of a great way to dull my mind if not outright damage my mental health.

To keep my mind sharp and alert I’m reading a book one of my friends published last year.

Talking on the telephone to my family also helps me ride out this crisis.

Like I said the number-one act of healing for me has been to use the creative process to express myself.

So when the ink and paper runs out I’ll fire up the credit card and order new ink and toner from Staples.

We’ll get through this together.

Americans have always been resilient in the face of hardship.

Flexing your mental muscles?

I’m all for this as a game plan.

Eating Well in a Time of Crisis

Italians like I am eat to live more than we live to eat.

The Mediterranean Diet has been touted since the early 1990s as a healthful eating plan.

The number-one goal in a time of crisis as I see the goal is to keep up eating healthfully consistently every day.

From FreshDirect I order an organic CSA box of Lancaster Farms produce. It costs $39 and contains a mound of cheese and carton of eggs as well as 5 types of produce.

Either stopping eating or eating too much is the drawback in a time of crisis.

So far I’ve snacked my way through 3 bags of potato chips. Yes–you heard me right–3 bags of potato chips in 2 weeks.

I quickly threw out the 3rd bag of chips before it was all gone. The snacks are gone for good. And I won’t be ordering anymore chips at all from the online grocery.

Not bringing junk food into your house in the first place is the foolproof tactic for eating well in a time of crisis.

I’ve learned to cool it out with the chips and the pretzels.

Having breakfast lunch and dinner is imperative when you’re told to shelter in place indoors and not go out.

My goal is to have dinner before nine o’clock at night. Preferably by eight o’clock.

Eggs are great to have for breakfast.

Soup or salads are good to have for lunch.

Dinner can be as simple as turkey or chicken and a vegetable.

I was pleased to find out I could order healthful organic turkey burgers from FreshDirect online. They come in a 4-pack.

The CO-VID19 outbreak is no joke. Stay indoors when you must.

More to come in the next blog entry.

Safeguarding Mental Health in a Time of Crisis

I would like to be checked in on while I’m sheltering in place because of the CO-VID19 coronavirus outbreak. To have a person dial on the telephone to check in on me to see how I’m doing. This isn’t often possible for those of us who have flown the coop of the “mental health system.”

In this time of crisis though I’m at least able to talk to a therapist on the telephone which counts more in keeping me going.

Five days before businesses shut down in New York City I had the good fortune to be able to go to Best Buy in person and schedule the delivery of a new computer.

My old computer had crashed. I lost a number of files that couldn’t be retrieved. Luckily in January I had bought an external hard drive for $70 to transfer my folders and documents to.

I lead up with this introduction because it’s worth it when you can afford it to have a computer at home.

My mental health has improved because I’ve started typing up and editing and revising a work of fiction I want to publish.

Every day I sit at the computer working on this novel.

Engaging in the creative process whether it is by writing, sketching or painting, cooking a meal, or decorating your apartment can be a great way to safeguard your mental health.

This was how I healed from an illness: by using the creative process to express myself.

Always I recommend doing what gives you joy to inoculate from pain and hardship.

I’ve begun writing this new novel. I have 7 works of fiction I would like to publish in the coming years.

Writing in a journal–it can be dashing off your thoughts in a spiral-bound notebook–is another great tactic for riding out this hard time.

In the coming blog entry I’ll talk more about using other coping skills in a time of crisis.

Managing in the Time of CO-VID19 Outbreak

I want to talk about real matters that impact those of us who choose to get a job instead of solely collecting SSI or SSDI.

We should have cash on hand readily able to be taken out for an emergency. This “peace of mind” fund should be in an FDIC-insured account at a bank. This way you won’t lose your money if the financial institution falls on hard times.

Getting paid while we’re out of work might not be possible in the time of the CO-VID19 outbreak.

This is where I champion getting a union job like that at a public library. Chances are you will get paid even when the library shuts down because of a crisis like this one.

This might not be possible. This is where the peace of mind fund gives you the cash to weather the financial storm.

Pay yourself first to build up this money. Direct deposit into a savings or money-market account at your bank a set amount out of each paycheck. Do this before you debit money for anything else.

It’s called “paying yourself first.” Some experts and I do too recommend saving eight months of living expenses in an emergency fund. The more you have squirreled away the more peace of mind you’ll have.

Going to a bank when you’re told to shelter in place might not be a good idea. This is where having $100 cash in your wallet can help.

I think having $10 in singles, $20 in five-dollar bills, and the rest in twenties can be good to have on hand.

Using your credit card judiciously [paying the statement invoice off in full every month] you can order in restaurant food to be delivered.

FreshDirect online in New York City delivers groceries and household supplies to your front door.

The PeaPod delivery service is available elsewhere.

The FreshDirect website has had glitches. Yet so far I’ve been able to schedule a delivery once a week. You can tip the delivery person in cash. Or use the drop-down button to pay for the tip inside of your payment for the food.

In the time of CO-VID19 I specify a $9 tip online. The person arrives with gloves and a mask on. The boxes are left outside your front door.

You can order from FreshDirect in New York City. See PeaPod for others.

In the coming blog entry I will talk about mental hygiene which is so critical in a time of crisis like the one we’re living through today.

Setting Up a Home Gym

I’d like to round out the scope of competitive information to give readers in this blog.

To set up a home gym I recommend getting this equipment: A 36-inch foam roller. A set of 5-pound, 8-pound, and 10-pound dumbbells. (Use a set of 5-pounders to start. Or 2-pound dumbbells first if you’re out of shape. As your routine gets easier add the 8- and 10-pound sets.)

A 10- or 15-pound kettle bell. (I have 10- 15- and 20-pound kettle bells.)

A 10-pound body bar. (Start with a lower weight if you have to.)

A resistance band. Medicine ball. (I have a 12-pound ball.)

Gym equipment can be bought on Amazon. I bought the dumbbells and medicine ball at Modell’s as well as training t-shirts and pants. Get fitted for the right sneakers while you’re at it.

First: you might have to buy an exercise mat to cover a rug or carpet. I have a hardwood floor in my living room where I exercise regularly.

Watch YouTube to see the correct form for exercises.

What you can do at home:

Foam roller stretching and other stretches. Push-ups either regular or elevated from a coffee table.

Dumbbell exercises:

Pec flyes, bicep curl, kneeling bicep curl, chest press, lunges and squats, walking lunges, lateral raises, triceps kickback, chest press with squat, renegade row, one-arm row, briefcase row, calf raises, farmer’s walk, dumbbell bridges, lateral raises, alternating lateral and frontal raises, donkey kicks, fire hydrant kicks.

Kettle bell exercises:

Swings, goblet squats, curtsy pulse squats, side squats, one-leg dead lifts.

Body bar exercises:

Frontal raises, hip bridging from floor.

Core exercises:

Figure 4s, leg raises, bicycle crunches, alternating V-ups, Russian twists.

Other exercises:

Planks, disc slides knee-to-elbow, plank jacks with disc sliders, side plank with hip drop, wall sits, jumping jacks, medicine ball slams (on hardwood floor or mat), triceps dips off chair, butt kicks in place, high knees in place.

(Disc slider exercises can only be done on hardwood floors or an exercise mat. Cloth-side should face the floor.)

Buona Salute a Tutti

This is what Italians are telling everyone:

Buona Salute a Tutti–Good Health to All.

We are living through an exceptional time in the history of human civilization.

I recommend exercising, listening to the radio, reading a book, making art, writing in a journal, calling friends and family on the telephone, and watching or reading news from a trusted source.

It can be hell when you’re forced to isolate indoors in your apartment. Practicing what I call mental hygiene could help a person survive this challenge.

I’ve been ordering things online: a book to read; ink and paper for my computer; a sweater reduced to a ridiculously low cost.

Luckily in June I had set up a home gym. This was auspicious as on Monday the mayor of New York City shut down gyms. Along with bars, clubs, cafes and restaurants, museums, theaters, and arenas.

In the next blog entry I will talk about setting up a home gym.

Yes–I bought a lot of my equipment like a kettle bell and resistance band from Amazon.com.

Voyaging Part Two

I used to be 50.

“Fifty” could be a song title like “Seventeen” was by Sharon Von Etten.

I’m getting older and thinking of what I want to leave behind as a legacy to define my life’s work.

I will carry with me as a voyager on earth all the days of my life the message that everyone’s doing the best we can in whatever guise recovery comes to us.

I’ve witnessed how a person’s struggle can be hard and brave when they’re hanging on with all they’ve got.

We are all tasked with having empathy, because everyone we meet is facing a battle.

What you and I bring back from our voyages can cheer on the others coming after us.

The rowing towards wellness should be encouraged.

Ultimately, you and I need to have compassion for ourselves and others.

We’re voyagers on this sea.

I’m shooting towards 60. This impacts my thinking. We’re all of us if we’re lucky going to turn 60 someday.

Why spend one minute of our long lives judging and hating each other.

Love and forgiveness are the oars.

Each “souvenir” we bring back from our travels becomes a part of who we are.

We share what we’ve learned from other people and other cultures.

That is the ultimate purpose of voyaging: to come together as human beings living on earth to explore our humanity.

Voyaging Part One

The postcard shown above I hand-fashioned in the Creativity Lab at the Museum of Modern Art / MoMa. It took me about 15 minutes to choose the elements of the composition.

“Today I tried” reminded me of when I was the Health Guide at the HealthCentral schizophrenia website.

There the editorial team wrote: “The only real failure is the failure to try.”

That’s audacious telling people living with SZ this. Only:

Trying can be as simple as getting out of bed.

Or cooking yourself a meal. Or taking a shower.

It’s the effort that counts not the outcome.

Michael Jordan is quoted too:

“Don’t be afraid to fail. Be afraid not to try.”

This is the viaduct in recovery as I see it: to try, to risk, to fail, and to try again.

To understand that life is to be lived “one second at a time” as we do what it takes to live well in recovery.

For what is recovery if not an act of courage to continue?

Read your 12-Step books. Go for a walk in the neighborhood. Call a friend on the telephone. Paint or sketch.

Engage in healing modalities like these and other habits.

As long as you try, as long as you give something your best shot, there can be no shame if it doesn’t work out.

In the next blog entry I’ll write more about the idea of voyaging.