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Taking care of yourself by asking for help

Sometimes the same thing seems to pop up again and again within a short period of time. It might be coincidence, or it could be that I am just particular aware of that thing.

At the moment that thing is about help – especially help in connection with mental challenges.

 

Two weeks ago, it was #MentalHealthAwarenessWeek in England, and a lot of tweets appeared concerning this.

This is an area that matters a lot to me. A lot of people living with mental health problems including me, and in many cases, it is a taboo; we don’t talk about it as if it disappears when we don’t talk about it.

It won’t.

In fact, it might get stronger.

 

By talking about it and being aware of it, we can start addressing the problems and taking care of the people, who suffer from problems. And equally important, we can start working on good mental health.

I talk about taking care of others, and I believe, we can all help each other. We also need to take care of ourselves, but boy can that be hard. It is so much easier to take care of others; to see how others can help themselves and care for themselves.

 

I am getting better at it; I have not worked much this year as I was getting exhausted last year doing too many things; awesome things, but never the less too many.

I am not that good at saying no to awesome things 🙂

So, this year I mostly rested, try to eat healthier, drink more water; I might even start this exercise thing.

 

Still, I have fluctuated a lot and have felt quite down at times. Doubting myself, and my abilities as an agile coach and as a person. Feeling lost, feeling exhausted despite sleep, and I am struggling to find my energy and my joy.

 

And then I ask for help. Sometimes the help I need is that someone listens to me, sometimes I need something active I can do, some advice. Like when I asked on Twitter about how other people find energy.

Mostly I need someone to care enough to listen. I am in the lucky position to have a bunch of good friends who help me. Who encourages without judging and who cares for me.

 

One of my friends sends me pictures 2-3 times a week; pictures of his two cats sleeping to encourage me to rest 🙂

 

Another place where mental health popped up was in conversations with friends. At the moment I have a few friends, who are in a fragile mental state and who have been wise enough to reach out.

 

So, I also help people. Since I suffer from depressions, struggle with self-worth and imposter syndrome, not to mention had two burnouts myself, I know a lot about what not to do, and what to do to prevent it. Or at least I know what works for me, and some tips & tricks besides that. Some need me to listen, some need encouragement, and some need advice.

Not only because they are stressed, but also because they may have had a shitty day at work, a lot of things on their mind, lack of confidence, etc.

We all need emotional support once in a while <3

 

A specific tool I use is something I call “Getting permission from someone else.”

As mentioned earlier we often know how to take care of other and not ourselves. And part of that for me is to allow myself to do the thing that would help me right now. Often that means saying no to someone or something, and I have problems doing that as I begin to feel I am being a bad person.

For example, when I am really stressed, I do see the signals, but I am not yet able to stop. And luckily, I have a friend, I can call and say “please give me permission to cancel x.” Like in late 2014, where I had to cancel a talk at a conference. It was almost two months before, so the conference had plenty of time to find a new speaker, and still, it felt like I was letting the conference down. So, I got his permission to cancel.

I don’t really need his permission, as I am a grown woman – but it helps, and that is what matters.

At the moment, I am one of my friend’s “permission slip.” We talked about her taking breaks and taking care of herself. Saying no to meetings, and pulling a bit back at work. She knows it is necessary and yet it feels hard.

I so know that feeling; it feels like you are not doing enough, almost like you are cheating.

So, when she feels bad, I am her safety line. She calls me and gets permission to care for herself.

 

Most of us know we need to take care of ourselves; when we fly, the staff say, “remember to secure your own oxygen mask before aiding others.” Yet we find it hard to do.

We need to take care of ourselves, and sometimes asking for help is the best way of doing that.

When was the last time, you asked for help to take care of yourself?

You are worth it.

This post was first published as a guest post on http://marcloeffler.eu/2017/05/30/taking-care-of-yourself-by-asking-for-help/?lang=en

Guest Blog: Glitter on the Day Job

Today I got lots of curious looks from the people noticing my newest gadget: a butterfly glitter tattoo on my arm. And odd it is, wearing a child’s decorative art as an adult, isn’t it? After all we have to do serious work here, right? And we need to be efficient. And produce solutions that work in this reality. Within time and within budget. Solutions that create revenue.

Okay, so we have advanced from a working model where people are nothing but resources. And we tolerate enjoyment at the workplace – because we acknowledge that it makes people more motivated and maybe that pays in to the primary goal of making money that every company has. Might also prove useful as people tend to get diseases as burn-out more and more often these days.

But a glitter tattoo? That surely is going too far, right? I mean, imagine how the world would be if everyone focused on whatever gave them inspiration. Just because they found it beautiful. People not working because they have to and doing what they are told. But freely following their own creativity and bringing forward their topic by heart. Imagine the happiness they’d share in their breaks and the inspiration they’d exchange. Imagine the energy buzzing in this “working sandpit”. The enthusiasm that would find its way into the products they created.

Well… actually that is a world I would like to work in. It is the world I lived in last weekend at the Agile Coach Camp Germany 2017 (which is also where I got the awesome tattoo). Yes, we need to focus also on what it takes to survive. As people and as a company. But is this such a contradiction? I think it isn’t. And that’s also what several empirical approaches suggest, e.g. the Agile Manifesto or this study of the Social Market Foundation.

That is why I’m wearing my glitter tattoos with pride and with joy. They are an anchor in daily life, inspiring me and reminding me of what the world can be like. If we only want it.

 

Guest Blog by Anke Maerz

Anke Maerz started to work as a Scrum Master in 2014. Really getting involved with the agile mindset, she is now persuing appreciation, vulnerability and wholeheartedness with her teams and with the world.

Why it took me so long to make my playpplication

So for play4agile we are asked to make a playpplication (application to play: clever, right?)
See here what a playpplication is

Some things are just so important that you have to do what it takes to get to that goal – and play4agile is that important.

Basically I hate doing playpplications – so why am I doing this?

My big problem is that whenever someone asks me to do something creative or make art, I totally freeze; my brain goes into lalalallala mode and pretends not to hear me. It almost feels like a physical barriere.

2015 was the first year that we were asked to make a playpplication – not only that, but a video… Brain panicked totally; I struggled with it so long and even considered not to go. I never filmed myself, I have never made a video, and I have no clue about how I even get a video from my phone to anywhere..

I really struggled – torn between going home to my play4agile and making a video – luckily my friends Sam and Karen decided that I had to go and made a video for me with the help of Steve. And even watching them was hard to do.

So why now?

You might be thinking “but now you are in the organisor team, so we do we have to make a playpplication this year?”.

Well I am not alone in the organisor team 😉
And to be honest, I still hate making one

So why?

  1. This time you can choose, so it is not limited to video
  2. There is no quality criteria, so anything goes (as you can see from this)
  3. You do not have to make it public (which might scare some away)
  4. And I do like the idea of people needing to make an effort to get in, so we get people, who are truly interested.

So this is my playpplication:

Because it is my agile family, my wonderful Rückersbach, my play4agile, my eventbrite – I have no choice, I have to go..

 

First created as a page, now a post 🙂

She/hers/her

Today I attended a talk with a new friend that I met at GOTO Amsterdam, Michael Brunton-Spall. (Twitter profile).

He was giving a great talk about security and agile, but that is besides the point of this blog.

What struck me was his introduction, where he said his name, what he did and that his pronouns were He/His/Him. I liked it, but couldn’t but my finger on why.

I have several trans friends and I do my best to always use their proper pronouns. I do sometimes forget when I have known them before the transition, but I try.

And I have seen twitter profile where people state their pronouns, but never heard someone in the non-virtual world introduce himself, themselves, or herself this way.

So after the talk, I asked Michael: “Why did you use your pronouns when introducing yourselves?”

He told me that many trans feel compelled to explain their pronouns and this is one of the few things he can do as a white-cis-male to help normalise gender awareness and to open peoples mind to the possibility that those may not have been his pronouns.

I never considered this. I like the idea and it feels like something that is easy to do, and could mean a lot to a bunch of people. So I am strongly considering to start doing this.

My only worry is: what would trans people think about me white-cis-female doing this? Would they feel offended? Would they appreciate it? Would it help them?

 

What do you think?

Update:

One of my friends showed me this page on pronouns, so if you want to look more, check out this: Gender Pronouns

 

Do you take care of yourself?

IMG_2878

Do you take care of yourself?

I very often don’t…

I love to give talks that matter. And while I love agile and retrospectives to bits, these are not my favourite talks to give.

Don’t misunderstand me: I like giving them, they do matter, they are important, and they may (or may not) influence the way we/you work.

There are just things that matter even more. It matters how we feel, how we treat others, how we treat ourselves, how to take care.

I find that my most powerful talk is about stress and depression with various subtitles like “how love for your work can kill/hurt you” and the softer “and what you can do about it”.

I am prone to stress; I have been struck down twice and both times with a severe depression, which I suffer from, and get worse when I am stressed. As I talk openly about this, I discovered just how many have problems with stress and related diseases. And they did not talk about it! It was a hidden disease… Yes many people talked about being stressed and busy, but not the ones who where really hit by it.

So I decided to submit a talk. I was sure no one would accept it. The organizer of one of the best agile conferences, Chris McDermott at Lean Agile Scotland, decided to give me a chance. And the room was crammed – I think the room had chairs for 40 but there must have been 60-70 people in there…

It is one of the most powerful talks I have ever given (see it here); at least I am told that; I have yet to see it.

I have since given it three times. Every single time, at least one person comes up to me and thanks me; tell me that they will seek professional help – every time! And the video impacts people too. It is a really important subject.

This year at Agile Lean Scotland 2015 a guy came up to me and said “I just wanted to thank you for your talk last year. It really helped me and my wife”.

Now this may sound like a post to blow my own trumpet; and yes the talk makes me proud; if I can reach just one single person and make them go for help, I succeeded.

But this post is not about that.

This post is about how hard it is for me to take care of myself and how good I am at hiding it – even to myself.

I know a lot about this topic; I know what to do; I know what to do to care for myself; I am just missing one tiny bit: I am not able to do it for myself – yet (I hope it is yet).

I have been tired for a while and a few people did make remarks about this at lascot15, but I was coughing and not sleeping well, so that was my excuse. It was also my excuse to myself.

It wasn’t until I came home and expressed worry about a friend that I really saw my own state. He said: I worry more about you; you seem out of balance; not much, just glitches here and there…

And WHAM it hit me… I am out of balance. I am not in a good place; I have cared to much for others and not enough for me.

I recalled some of the signs I now know about, but did not see in the moment:
Invading a good friend’s personal space – something I am usually really careful about – and good at sensing boundaries (if I must say so myself). In this case he had to point this out to me.
Hugging a person that is not a hugger (When I realised, and we talked about he said: it is like some people don’t like spiders, and slowly they are able to get closer and closer to them.. that is hugs to me)
Feeling overwhelmed and not totally present.
Crying several times.
Shopping a lot – an easy superficial way of taking care of myself – not very effective 🙂

Now I am home for a bit and totally flat – feeling like I can hardly walk up my stairs.

Next thing is to rest and to get up and running again. And I will.

The point is: I did not see this until someone pointed it out and until I was able to let totally go with no plans.

So my question to you is:
Are you taking care of yourself?

A story about a story

This is a story about telling a story, and the impact it had on me. Actually it is a story about three stories.

Prologue

For a long time I have had an interest in storytelling. The first time I heard about it, a light bulb went off in my head ”so that is what I do, when I teach – I tell stories”.

And in July I went to a storytelling workshop with Tobias Mayer in London. Truth be told, I had not looked at the content; I had just been following Tobias on twitter for a while and thought it would be nice meeting him, I love stories, I had the time, I had two bucket list items in London, and my friend Daniel was going. So why not 🙂

 

Act one: On the way to a story

The morning came; Daniel and I met to take the tube to the workshop. At the endpoint, we stopped to look at a map to find directions. Almost immediately a homeless guy selling ”The Big Issue” came over to ask if he could help us. We gladly accepted the help, and I bought an issue of The Big Issue before we left. Daniel also gave the nice guy some money. Before we left the homeless man complimented me on my blue hair, which reminded me of the homeless guy at my local supermarket selling “Hus forbi”.

We arrived at the workshop and soon it started. After a while it was time to create the first stories. We were all told to tell the story of how we got to the workshop. And off course we needed some twist; something to make it interesting.

 

Act two: The first story

I decided to put in the part about meeting the homeless guy at the tube. First of all he was very helpful and it told me something about Daniel. We had met a few times at agile events and knew each other from twitter, but not that well, and I was glad to see that he also gave the guy money – it somehow confirmed that we had some of the same values.

The way I tell stories is that I know the big picture and often the red line, but I do not know exactly which words will come out of my mouth.

I volunteered to tell my story and when I came to the part about being complimented about my blue hair and being reminded about the homeless guy back, I added something like “which very few people do in Denmark; quite the opposite: you need to fit in”.

And that part really struck people. That somehow that homeless guy at home respected me and acknowledged me for being me. When they pointed that out, it clicked in my brain and I almost cried. I had realised just how much it meant to me that that this one guy acknowledged and accepted me.

 

Act three: The second story

As I came home and the story settled, it became more and more obvious to me just how much this homeless guy’s remarks means to me. I have been the odd one out most of my life. I longed to be acknowledged for who I was instead of being pushed to fit in.

When I found my agile tribe in Germany, I started to let go of that and began having the courage to be myself. I got a lot more self-worth and did stuff that I wanted to do. Like getting the blue hair.

And I thought that I did not need other’s acknowledgments any more. But I do; or at least it matters.

I decided to talk to the homeless guy and went by the supermarket several times, before I managed to meet him. I waited until he was alone and went over to him saying: “This might sound silly, but I would like to tell you a story about a story”. And I told him how much his words matter to me and how I found out

His smile became wider and wider, and he spontaneously gave me a big hug and said “Wow that is the most amazing start of a day one could have” (paraphrased in English):)

So we introduced ourselves and talked for at least half an hour.

 

Act Four: The third story

It turns out that he sees it as part of his life to bring some smile and joy into other people’s lives. He is very aware of this and especially when someone stands out or look like they have it difficult. As an example he said that there is a Danish woman who converted to Islam and is now wearing a nihab; he makes sure to always greet her because so many look down in what she did; she needs it more than others.

We agreed that life is all about communication and relations. How even design is about communication (His current book was “The design of everyday things”)

I try not to judge people by appearance and yet I was surprised about the depth of our talk. I was surprised that someone with seemingly few resources has the energy to brighten other people’s day 🙂

We talked about how you connect instantly to some people and not to others; we discussed if this is about energies and the different frequencies of that.

We discussed many things 🙂

We talked about I do, and my choices to not work fulltime and then go to conferences. We talked about what being rich is, and he said that he had a philosophy on that: “Wealth is not about having money: it is about having what you need at the moment you need it. It doesn’t matter if it is dry clothes, food or something else” (paraphrased in English)

Totally not what I expected when my day started – and after another hug, I went on my way home with joy in my heart.

 

Epilogue

So why am I writing this?

First reason: I came home from my talk with my new friends and felt like I was exploding with happiness.

Second reason: If someone does something that matters to you, tell them.

Third reason: Never judge people by their appearance.

Fourth reason: Have the courage to be yourself. You are perfect with all your imperfections.

Fifth: Do something for others that matter a little to you, but a lot to someone else. It can be a smile, holding the door, giving a ride, saying something nice. It matters more than you think.