Empathy & Ethics

In nearly any professional (and even personal) situation, ethics and morals exist. Whether or not people acknowledge them is another story. In the workplace, in school, and many other places, there are moments or situations where ethics are practiced. But is empathy within ethics? According to a study [1], empathy contributes to proper ethics – especially in the workplace. Empathy contributes to the ability to identify and name emotions and the ability to see things from one’s perspective. Assuming these contributions, empathy and ethics can improve certain situations, such as unhealthy work environments.

Industrial/Organizational psychologists are usually your human resource agents in a given employer. They hire/train new employees, analyze employee behavior, implement policies and improvements, and ensure healthy workspace procedures. These are also the people with grounds to terminate employees with good reason. I/O psychologists can also be independent contractors that businesses hire to help them achieve specific goals or improvements. Since I/O psychologists are professionals, they have an understanding of the human psyche and behavior and can help implement proper changes to improve morale or something along those lines.

School psychologists can be your school guidance counselors or standalone professionals as a part of the school administration to support and implement mental health practices for students and teachers. They also help analyze student and teacher behavior to implement better learning/teaching plans.

These professionals understand that empathy can improve overall morale and ensure nothing unethical is taking place.

With mental health awareness on the rise, it’s imperative that we start integrating traits like empathy into the workplace. Another study [2] stated that untreated mental illness in the workplace costs the employer more money and negatively impacts productivity. Why not take a few steps towards normalizing the mental health conversation and allow empathy to be more human to the employees or students?

[1] Songhorian, S. (2019). The contribution of empathy to ethics. International Journal of Philosophical Studies, 27(2), 244-264.

[2] McHugh, T. L., Fraone, J. S., & Zachary Zhang. (2022). Mental Health in the New Workplace: A Culture Shift Toward Transparency and Empathy. Journal of Total Rewards, Q1, 8–21.

The Mental Health Crisis

Aside from the fact that more and more people realize the importance of proper self-care, including therapy, there is another aspect to this mental health crisis. Since more people want to seek help with their mental health, therapists and other psychological professionals struggle to keep up with and maintain the influx of clients. This means that some individuals are experiencing real difficulty getting in to see a professional to diagnose and prescribe medications that may help someone.

Some waiting periods for a primary appointment are weeks to months. As some might know, time is of the essence when it comes to mental health. We know now that children and teens are among the largest influx in numbers regarding the mental health discussion, as recent research has come out saying that more children and teens have opened up about their own emotional struggles, especially during the pandemic. Children who struggle with their will to live have been turned away from hospital psychiatric wards due to there not being enough beds to give them adequate care.

Aside from there not being enough space for patients, therapists are more overworked now than ever. Therapists, psychiatrists, psychologists, and all other licensed mental health professionals are feeling the fatigue of constantly working to ensure individuals are taken care of. It might sound crazy, but they are people and they experience burnout, fatigue, and mood instabilities, and more, just like everyone else. They just know how to adjust, but sometimes that means creating more boundaries between work and personal life – which means more waiting in the patient aspect.

So what are people supposed to do when they struggle with mental health but can’t get in to see a professional as soon as they’d like?

First, it’s always best to go ahead and make the appointment with the professional. Even if the next available appointment is six months away, schedule it – they might be able to move you up if there are cancellations. Second, get connected in any way to support. Check this website to sign up for a support group, get connected with a coach, or just reach out to me. Getting some support is half the battle. There are so many resources that can be used to regulate mental health episodes until professionals are able to get involved. Finally, if you or a loved one find themselves in a mental health emergency, don’t hesitate to call 988.

Stress: Why It Seems Like The Biggest Growth Of Our Lives

I grew up always being told “enjoy being a kid”, and by the time I grew up, the new saying was “adulting sucks”. However, I was that kid who constantly wished they were grown up, and even now as an adult, I would never go back to being a child. But – I do widely acknowledge the amount of chaos adulthood has, and with that chaos is this *cue sarcasm* AMAZING thing called STRESS. In my mind, I had admired adulthood for so long as a child that no matter what, I will always love being an adult. I can go into depth on this… over coffee sometime in the future. However, for the sake of this blog, I will be frank when I speak about the amount of stress that we must deal with now.

The American Psychological Association (2022) wrote an article about how stress is at such an all-time high that people agree that simple day-to-day tasks are simply adding to their pre-existing stress. More than a quarter of Americans are “so stressed they cannot function” (APA, 2022, para. 1). I mean, everyone is well-aware of what is currently taking place throughout the climates of all spheres, such as environmental, political, social, racial, etc. Now, add in the fact that we have current event (news) access so readily available at our fingertips 24/7. Our brains are being conditioned, inadvertently, to watch for new headlines – although, there are ways we can manage this! The point is that the issues going on all around us are HUGELY important issues. These are issues that impact our lives, especially our day-to-day lives. People genuinely feel like their lives do not matter in the eyes of the government, and we can see that rings true for many different, but “minority” demographics. So, yes, the amount of stress these days hits differently – and due to technology – it hits harder and faster than ever.

That is why we must prioritize self-care. Talk to a therapist, take an extra day off of work, buy yourself something special, meditate longer, do an extra yoga session – do something to benefit you first. Otherwise, the stress just keeps building. Take proactive steps to minimize stress by utilizing the Do Not Disturb functions on your devices. Set a period throughout the day to turn off all notifications to focus and be present in the moment. Some phones allow you to personalize your DND to allow specific people to contact you. So, if you’re worried about one specific person and you need to have contact for emergencies, then you can allow that call or text to come through. The point isn’t deletion, but minimalization. We’re minimizing our stress to a more manageable level.

What do you do to minimize stress?

American Psychological Association. (2022, October 19). More than a quarter of U. S. Adults say they’re so stressed they can’t function [Press release].

More Research on the Importance of Emotional Intelligence of Children

We already know that children’s mental health is important for many reasons. We know that personality development is based on genetics AND a child’s surrounding environment. One of the examples I’ve used in my education is Elon Musk, and how his personality makes sense based on where and how he grew up. (If you would like to check out what I had to say about Elon Musk and his personality development, you check it out here.) We also know that what happens during childhood can critically play out later in life.

If you’ve seen my previous blogs about integrating CBT into the classrooms, then you also understand the benefits that can come from utilizing emotional intelligence activities in the classroom. Emotional regulation plays a healthy part in growing up, maturing, and learning how to control our reactions in appropriate moments. Some children don’t receive adequate emotional care at home, and some parents are emotionally unavailable. Some parents aren’t even sure how to regulate their own emotions, and now their children suffer the brunt end of the stick because now these children suffer from intrusive thoughts, emotional outbursts, and tense social interactions.

A study from 2016 to 2019 confirmed that emotional regulation and inhibitory control (what controls emotional regulation) are established before children enter Pre-K or Pre-School. This fact supports the importance of proper mental health in children.

Two concepts influence emotional development: family practices and socioeconomic challenges. As I mentioned before, some children come to school from a home life that doesn’t acknowledge mental health or healthy mental practices. Additionally, those families might have distorted ways of communicating, the parents might be arguing/fighting frequently, there might be different hierarchal needs of their family, or the child might be disciplined for having emotion (as some families might look at emotions as a weakness, which we should know by now is a toxic trait). Being affected by poverty is another example of what can negatively influence emotional development. When we think of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, we know that if a child’s (or anyone for that matter) needs are not met, then they (as an individual) will not be able to reach self-actualization and development their own methodological thinking patterns.

Some children are negatively affected developmentally. Since children spend quite some time in the classroom, it is an opportunity to provide the necessary emotional support for those children. Classrooms are social contexts that allow for interpersonal and intrapersonal interactions and reactions. This supports better learning opportunities! Just remember what Albert Bandura mentioned about social cognitive learning theory: children learn from what they see and experience. Teachers are also secondary attachment figures! Children become used to their teachers almost as their second guardians because that’s the adult they likely spend most of their time with. Children often may feel safe enough to express their emotions with teachers due to this trusted bond. Lastly, inhibitory control is what is the underlying support to emotional regulation; in order to have adequate emotional regulation, inhibitory control must be established, but this usually happens before children even enter school – so ultimately, it relies on the parents.

The silver lining here is that by the time children enter school, they may have emotional issues. However, since they are children (and children are capable of learning and retaining knowledge), they can be influenced by proper emotional development activities in the classroom and with their teacher.

Check out the article that inspired this blog:

Alamos, P., Williford, A. P., Downer, J. T., & Turnbull, K. L. P. (2022). How does inhibitory control predict emotion regulation in preschool? The role of individual children’s interactions with teachers and peers. Developmental Psychology, 58(11), 2049-2063.

Anxiety & Depression Screenings for Children & Teens

We all remember me going over why CBT in classrooms is a good idea, but now there is new evidence on the benefits of screening for anxiety and depression in children and teens. Early intervention is key in these situations.

New research suggests that annual anxiety screening should start as early as 8 years old and end at 18 years old for children and teens with no diagnosed mental health condition with no signs or symptoms. Children and teens who are showing signs and symptoms should be assessed by a mental health professional or primary care physician to be referred as soon as possible.

We should already know by now that the statistics of children and teens with mental health complications are staggering now, but here’s a refresher: 8 in 100 children and teens met the criteria for an anxiety disorder in 2019 – this was BEFORE the pandemic, so the numbers are expected to be higher now. The CDC declared a youth mental health crisis in 2021 due to the increase in reported depressive symptoms in children and teens as well as a 44% increase in suicidal thoughts and behaviors among children and teens. Suicidal behaviors include things that may potentiate death. Untreated childhood anxiety can lead to an increased risk of worsening disorders and increased risk of depression. Only 1 in 5 children with a mental illness receive help.

The new guidelines suggest children with no signs or symptoms are screened by their primary care physician or family doctor during their annual wellness visits using the PHQ-9 scale (self-reported screen for depression) as well as the SCARED scale to screen for anxiety. The sole purpose is not for the child to be diagnosed by the PCP but to be referred to a mental health professional who may assist in therapy, treatment, or diagnosis if necessary.

What do you think of these new guidelines? Let me know in the comments.

Gut Health & Mental Health: It’s More Connected Than You Think

For years, we’ve been told that “we are what we eat” or that everything we put into our bodies matters. Our digestive system, our gut health, our microbiome – whatever you want to call it – plays such a major role in how efficiently our mental health functions, and I feel like this information is pretty important for the common public to have.

Our brain’s neurodevelopment depends on adequate communication from our gut’s microbiome – meaning our moods can be directly correlated to our gut health. Have you ever wondered why and how chocolate is an aphrodisiac? We eat chocolate and it makes us feel good, right? But it goes deep than that! We know that our digestive tract is meant to be its own environmental basis of processes to keep the human body functioning with calories, nutrients, and such. Our bodies also require maintenance, which requires us to ensure we’re eating proper foods tailored to our own personal needs. Sometimes, certain hormones or antibodies may increase or decrease and we notice that we feel off, sick, or just weird. These are examples of why gut health is important.

A large function of our immune system lies within the digestive system, essentially our gut. Our gut is also how we metabolize foods, medications, or anything we introduce to our bodies orally. Whatever we ingest, gets processed and metabolized by being absorbed through the intestine, stomach, or liver into our bloodstream and to our brain (and throughout our body). If we take acetaminophen for a headache, we get relief from its metabolization in our stomach and release its chemical properties to our bloodstream which leads to our brain. The same concept happens with our food! Are you following me now?

From a therapeutic standpoint, if we can get our gut health lined up with our needs, then it sets us up for success from that point forward.

Some research has shown that there is a connection between gut health and mental health as people with disorders such as Autism Spectrum Disorder or Schizophrenia have specific markers that show GI inflammation or other issues. In a separate study, it was found that probiotics decreased the likelihood of manic relapse in bipolar disorder patients.

It’s a new concept to consider, but it is a concept that has research to prove there is a valid connection. It’s just going to take time to get people to understand how we can use this knowledge to improve public health knowledge altogether.

Check out the links below for more information based on gut health and mental health:

Issues of the Pandemic

The pandemic taught us many things about ourselves, our relatives, close friends, society, and so much more. The main thing that I feel stuck out the most though – mental health. Included in the mental health aspect is socialization and the addition of digital socialization. Although, due to the timing of the pandemic, many people were much more logged into the 2020 election. People were stuck at home and had no choice but to pay attention to current events by watching or reading the news… the election was everywhere.

Since the pandemic was so life-changing for so many people, it made people wonder what was so different about this experience? We lived in a pandemic before in 2009, H1N1: Swine Flu. Because of the initial pandemic, many people didn’t think twice about COVID-19 once it became a thing of the society. However, once people began to be affected in ways that threatened their lives, people became much more aware of the changes taking place. One article mentioned that many became familiar with the emotion of precarity. Precarity is described as the differential distribution of a common human vulnerability, one where survival and well-being are non-negotiable. There was a prevalence of social insecurity as many people we forced to shelter-at-home, lockdown, or even quarantine. The interesting thing to me, however, is that once people became more familiar with the feeling of precarity, they began to see people and communities who were vulnerable, and those who were protected by society and politics. Eventually, this leads to distress, and ultimately, inspiration for action.

Work Issues

One of the main complaints from individuals affected in the workforce was job insecurity. Many people lost their jobs; they weren’t sure where their next paycheck would come from because many places had to close to the stopped economy.

Another issue was the adjustments needed to shift to remote work and remote learning. Some adults were affected by the sudden shift to zoom meetings, appointments, emails, and e-documents. Some people, especially in older communities, can experience some difficulty when trying to learn that technology can replace other modes of work. Some children were not given the proper time to acclimate to the new methods of learning.

Other issues such as work-life balance was an issue as most people were at home all the time, so they weren’t able to shift from work mode to home mode and be present within their families.

The future seemed unclear to many people as well, due to the inability to know when a vaccine was coming and how available it would be to the general population. [The study this is based on was taken during the Summer of 2020].

Some people were grateful to have kept their jobs, even if they seemed overworked and exhausted since there were people who had no control over whether they got to keep their jobs.

And finally, in terms of work issues, many people realized how much they cherished having personal time, especially to focus on mental health. Many people expressed a desire to be less work-focused.

Relationship Issues

Since many people were forced to stay home, many relationships faltered because of it. Many individuals were not emotionally equipped to handle being stuck inside with another individual, or they were not equipped to handle the level of communication that is usually healthy for these scenarios. Either way, some people were not able to salvage their relationships. Parent/child relationships also saw some issues as parents felt overwhelmed by the responsibility of ensuring their child was learning appropriately or the parents had essential jobs and the children were often home alone.

Social isolation became very difficult for some people. I can admit that at the beginning of the pandemic, I was deeply affected by the lockdown. I felt very closed-up, almost claustrophobic. I also lived alone in an apartment 500 miles from the nearest family, so I can understand how social isolation can make things difficult.

Many people wanted to seek more social and emotional support, and thankfully, the age of technology was able to provide society with apps that can make it easier to seek such support. Since people realized that social isolation was mentally exhausting, they realized that it made it hard to cope with mental illness symptoms.

For the people who were able to salvage or create relationships through the pandemic, they realized that relationships made it easier for them to get through the pandemic crisis. Socialization, even if it is zoom or some other video conferencing platform, also proved to be helpful for people who were unable to leave their homes.

Critical Consciousness

Another (very important) aspect to the pandemic was that many events happened in the midst of the pandemic. There was the George Floyd case which ignited riots all across the country. Even in Oklahoma City, there were riots where excessive force was used by the local police on people who followed the rules. This brought many realizations to the surface of social class privilege, awareness and experience with racial inequity, and attitudes and knowledge about government responsibilities. People were able to gather in numbers and make their voices heard. This was a key component to how the election turned out in 2020. There were many other events that subsequently happened after the election, but the pandemic gave the people the fuel and fire to see some real issues in society.

I think it speaks volumes when we need to take into consideration the many aspects that were brought to our attention during the pandemic. The only way to genuinely make those changes is by getting politically active, voting in elections (especially the midterms, like on November 8, 2022!), and volunteering for organizations that you feel passionate about. Proper control in politics will lead us to proper solutions to the social issues. Make your voice heard.

A Taste of Career Coaching

Remember back in Kindergarten when we were asked what we wanted to be when we grew up? Most of us said things like firefighters or rock stars. Maybe some of those kids actually grew up to be those things, and maybe some of them didn’t – and that’s okay. I wanted to be an actress at first, but I have some memories of saying I wanted to be a nurse, then I wanted to be a doctor, and many other things. What I also specifically remember is how much of an external influence I had when I expressed my ideas about potential occupations. At one time, I wanted to be a nurse, but I remember my mom wanting me to be a doctor.

Those external influences are usually what people experience when they start second-guessing if the profession they are going to school for is even what they really want. It becomes an “is this really what I want?” situation. The high expectations to become something that you don’t actually want to do forever is enough pressure from society to make people crumble into addiction, depression, or other mental health issues.

Why do we spend so much time worrying about what the world thinks?

Social psychology tells us that it is because it is ingrained in our DNA to want acceptance among our peers. It’s why so many people blindly follow a religious practice, political affiliation, or organization for so long – to be accepted by a community, even if you don’t actually agree with what they have to say. With that in mind, the culture you were raised in likely had specific actions expected from you as an individual in their community. For example, in some cultures, women are expected to get married, become mothers, forfeit higher education, and keep house. What if you didn’t want to become a mother? What if you wanted to become a doctor? This cultural expectation of you might make you feel short-changed, or robbed of attaining your own personal goals.

It’s possible that if you’ve lived in a culture-based society that you may have been stagnant in one profession that you felt pressured to get into, solely because your family wanted that for you, or your family refused to pay for your schooling unless you majored in what they wanted you to major in. It all fits into this topic.

So, what’s next?

The first step, if you are ready to make a career change, is to self-reflect. Grab a notebook or journal, and write down what motivates you (personally) to get up and work each day or what you want to motivate you. Write down what people, places, or things inspire you to push forward. Write down your interests and hobbies. Think about things that you can visualize seeing yourself doing professionally.

Once you have a solid idea written down, this can help you determine if you are ready for a shift in your career. Can you see yourself settling for what others want for you, or are you ready to take control and create the happiness you deserve?

Your self-worth isn’t measured by the validation of others. It’s measured by how you view yourself.

Here is how I can help

As a life coach, I can assist in career coaching. Since my mission is motivated by helping individuals find their inner peace and happiness, careers are a part of life and careers play into happiness – so here we are.

After our consultation and first session, we will have an established idea of what your career goals are, and I will organize a visual representation of options for achieving the career goal. Each option will provide a multitude of information on each step toward achieving the goal and will include mini-goals along the way to remind you that are making progress (some external validation is nice).

Depending on what option is chosen, I will help you step-by-step (seeking proper education, certification/licensure, resume writing, interview prep, etc). I will follow you until you achieve that goal and be available for your questions all throughout the process.

Remember: Finding your passion doesn’t have to be the hardest thing to achieve. I’m here to help!

If you are interested in life coaching sessions with me, head on over to Life Coaching Services to see what I have to offer.

Organizational Psychology: A New Idea for All Businesses

Okay, maybe not a new idea but a progressive one that doesn’t have to be such a taboo-like notion. Indeed, some of us have experience with a toxic workplace environment that made us question how the whole thing is being operated. It might have felt like HR didn’t do as much as they could have, or maybe you were wrongly terminated. It’s becoming a much bigger issue now, especially in non-progressive areas – but it’s not about being progressive; it’s about ethically and adequately running a business. Much falls on the leader’s understanding of organizational psychology when these things happen. A July 2022 article highlights the CEO of the American Psychological Association and his focus on running the organization through scientific research centered on organizational psychology. Due to this research, he figured out that one of the most common stressors within an organization is that employees are not involved enough in company decisions that impact their lives and jobs.

Employees need flexibility to thrive. At least that was reported when APA’s CEO issued surveys to the employees of the American Psychological Association. So, to remedy the problem and utilize this feedback, he instituted the idea of maximum flexibility. Essentially, if someone wants to work remotely – he lets them. To take it a step further, he also allows employees to relocate with their job. He’s also made it essential to collect regular feedback from employees.

Of course, there are downsides or adverse reactions to such ideas. Some felt like allowing employees to work from home would negatively impact APA members; however, less than 1% of employees ever come into the building at a given time. Operationally, that was not a concern. Thankfully, due to research over the pandemic, remote work has proven its ability to stay true to the APA mission.

So, here’s a takeaway:

  • Train management to promote health and well-being, particularly regarding mental health.
  • Increase options for where, when, and how employees work
  • Re-examine health insurance policies to include mental health coverage
  • Gather and utilize employee feedback
  • Take a critical look at equity, diversity, and inclusion policies
  • Develop programs and policies that support mental health

To take a deeper look into the above suggestions, check out APA’s Striving for mental health in the workplace page.

CBT in Classrooms

(TW: Brief mention of suicide and other mental health triggers)

Teachers are now beginning to see the importance of mental health check-ins within the classroom. Ten years ago, this concept would seem very invasive in children’s lives – but thanks to the pandemic and the usual progression of generations – mental health is now a big factor in everybody’s life. The point is to normalize these conversations; normalizing emotional communication. Emotional communication is necessary so that today’s generation of children is able to adequately process their emotions by acknowledging them head-on. Having mental health check-ins also helps the child get professional help quickly if there is a crisis. This is important as we already know how children’s mental health has been declining as it has been overlooked for too long.

Teachers: What are they doing?

Most teachers have prioritized mental health check-ins for the children, especially as of the 2022-2023 school year. It starts with just a small, 5-minute segment at the beginning of each day where the teacher will have some small activity to allow children to express themselves freely and safely, honestly without judgment. This is where children could feel safe enough to talk about suicidal ideations they may have if that is the case, since it is supposed to be a safe space. The teacher would be able to escalate the situation to a proper professional so the child can receive help.

If you’re a teacher and you’re interested in what you can do in your classrooms to benefit children’s mental health, check out the links here:

What can parents do to help?

Talk to your child’s teacher to see what they do for mental health check-ins every day, or if your school district allows time for teachers to create an activity. If not, recommend it or see what you can do to help them get started, perhaps – maybe – by sharing this blog with them. As a parent, you may also start by normalizing mental health conversations at home. Create a judgment-free zone or time period each day where your child can safely communicate with you, the parent. No matter how minute the issue or emotion may seem to you, it’s important to validate and acknowledge what your child is feeling so that they can be familiar with what that emotion is. This can create coping mechanisms for them as they get older and start experiencing new emotions.

Why does student mental health matter?

Teachers found that students were struggling academically UNTIL they acknowledged mental health struggles within the students. Without getting into the science of it, I will confirm that emotional health directly correlates to cognitive health. If someone is struggling mentally with emotional trauma or even common struggles, it can affect how they learn and if they are learning efficiently. Opening these conversations helps kids cope better with the struggles that we commonly see every day.

It’s a small change of routine that has greater potential outcome than not acknowledging the elephant in the room. Let children be safe enough to express their feelings. Their brains will thank you later. 🙂