Category Archives: Occupational

Occupational wellness is a journey that involves preparing and making use of your gifts, skills, and talents in order to gain purpose, happiness, and enrichment in your life. As you travel towards occupational wellness, choose a career that is consistent with your personal values, interests, and beliefs. On your journey, you will begin to value the importance of not only your own personal gratification, but also your contribution to the well-being of your co-workers. The choice of profession, job satisfaction, career ambitions, and job performance are all-important components to your path. By following your chosen course and developing the skills that will make you valuable, you are working towards total occupational wellness.

Weed 2.0

A few weeks ago I wrote about the use and abuse of marijuana, and I learned a lot about how popular the drug has become. What you may not know is that last week we did an outreach project in the Memorial Union about marijuana. I was surprised at the questions we received and the controversy we heard about the drug from the students. One of the questions that caught me off guard was, “what are the long-term effects of marijuana use if you’re not smoking it, just eating it?” I honestly have never even thought about this before, so I started to do some research and here’s what I found:

Overall, there has not been enough research to determine the exact long-term effects of marijuana use if you are consuming it in ways other than smoking. However, eating marijuana has much different short-term effects on the body. When people consume marijuana, let’s say in a brownie, it takes up to an hour to feel the effects. Once the marijuana begins taking effect, it is usually stronger than if you were to have smoked it. People tend to have strong hallucinations from eating marijuana. Because it takes longer to feel the effects, many people keep eating more because they think that it’s not working, and then they eat way too much.

Even though we don’t know the major long-term effects of eating marijuana, it doesn’t have many positives. Any use of marijuana may lead to severe anxiety, depression, and lower grades and GPA (if you’re a student). Until more research is done on the long-term effects of eating marijuana, I would avoid it because there are more negative consequences than positive ones when it comes to using marijuana.



Contemplating the F-word

I recently attended an outstanding conference hosted by the Greater Grand Forks Young Professionals, and one of the speakers in particular has left me thinking…

and thinking…

and thinking.

Even on a weekend. Which is almost unlawful.

She talked about the F-word. You know: Failure.

Her message was simple. We must not fear failure and rob ourselves of living life, we must share our failures with others, and we must celebrate failures in order to create a culture of innovation. This concept blew my mind. I’ve always held myself to the standard that failure is unacceptable. It means I didn’t try hard enough, or I made the wrong choice, or I did something incorrectly- whatever “it” is, I screwed it up. And she wants me to CELEBRATE and SHARE these things?!956b2cadd449b6b6a05ed4f8e65b9ee1

She asked for volunteers to share a time they’ve failed and what they learned from it. I have to admit that it rarely crosses my mind to think, “What did I learnfrom this mess?” when it’s all over. I usually think “Oh my gosh thank GOODNESS that’s over! Time to move on.”I try to stay on the safe side of everything, and if something doesn’t work out right, I sweep it under the rug and move past as fast as possible. The last few jobs I’ve had have been “firsts” for the companies- I was the first Executive Director and I’m currently the first Events Coordinator. (Did I mention that my degree is dietetics?!) Anyway, before I took my last job as ED, I was almost paralyzed with fear that I would say or do something wrong in the position and somehow make the entire organization crumble. I sat down with this same great lady at the time and rather than offering pity or comfort, she challenged me with statements like: “What’s the worst that could happen?” and “So what?!” I was not ready to even consider the outcomes, as my mind was too consumed with the possibilities.

I’m someone who can easily get lost in her own mind. I think about thinking- to a fault at times. So now I have this new challenge to start celebrating and sharing my thoughts on failures I’ve had. I’m not going to lie- it’s been a few weeks, and I still find myself paralyzed with fear at times when I think about failing- but I try to stop and open my mind to the possibility that it may happen as a lesson- as something to celebrate. I believe that most things happen for a reason, even if it’s a reason I don’t like. Or a lesson I don’t want to learn. It still happens, and it’s up to me to decide how to close the cover on that book.

Girl walking in a field carrying a suitcase

What have you failed at recently? And what became of it? Share it with me- let’s CELEBRATE!


Is THAT what You call Commitment?

Throughout your day, if you really think about it you commit to a lot. You commit to the outfit you’re wearing. You commit to wearing your seatbelt on the way to school/work. You commit to riding your bike or walking to work. You commit to your responsibilities at work. You commit to cooking supper or maybe choosing where to pick up something to eat. You commit to taking the dog for a walk or going to the gym. You commit to sleeping at night.

Do you think of it that way? Do you see your life as a series of choices to commitments you make?

Maybe I’m off… maybe your car is broken so you HAVE to ride your bike or walk. Maybe your favorite shirt is dirty so you HAVE to wear the other shirt. Maybe it’s raining out so you HAVE to find a different way of exercising. But really, don’t you still have a choice in committing to these things at a certain level?
I mean, you could call for a ride, you could pick your 2nd favorite shirt, you could embrace your exercising alternative… do you see what I mean?

I’m not saying that you need to walk around and high five everyone you pass on the street because you were “tasked” with picking up all of the dog poop at a recent volunteer event… but you could at the very least remain a pleasant human being. I think most people would agree that isn’t the best job in the world, but you are greatly appreciated for doing it. Pull up your big kid pants and put a smile on your face- after all, it’s only temporary!

There are other times when you choose to do things- like attend an after work event with coworkers. It’s up to you to be mindful and respectful of all of the others present with your conversation… meaning, you aren’t bashing those who chose not to come. And you aren’t negatively simmering over the fact that you showed up. You are simply there and enjoying whatever unfolds. Choosing to see the bright side of your choice and only worrying about yourself.

Commitment… what does it look like? In my mind, it looks strong. It looks reassuring. It looks positive. It looks attractive.

What does your commitment look like?


You are Allowed.

Dear Self,

Sometimes you push too hard. You forget to take a break for fear of failure. You let those silly voices tell you that ‘you are not worthy of rejuvenation because the person next to you must be working harder. You have to keep going. Even allowing one hour or one evening of rest will undo all of your efforts. Get up. Get going. Keep going’.

Do you ever find yourself feeling this way? It might be at work, or at the gym, or at your place of residence… this overwhelming sense of guilt for daring to listen to your body and take care of yourself by breaking for a nap to to watch your favorite show or read a chapter in your book. I do- like, all the time. I found myself in this predicament last week. The previous week at work had been pretty crazy and I don’t think I ever did recover. You know, because there’s always a house to clean, a dog to walk, clothes and dishes to wash… the list never ends. Every time I thought about sitting down I would feel like I was just wasting time.

I could feel my body telling me I better slow down “or else” on Monday, but once again ignored it; I had stuff to do!

And then it hit me. HARD. By mid-afternoon Tuesday I felt physically and emotionally exhausted. It hurt to sit. And think. And function. By the time I got home I was going back and forth from tearing up to yawning. All I thought about was taking the dog for a walk and picking up the house and finishing the dishes and cleaning off the counters and all of the other little things that I felt like I HAD to get done that night or risk total failure as a human. (I know, I know… totally ridiculous, right?!) But … my body had officially had enough.

So I stopped. I allowed myself permission and space to just sit, and then just sleep. After a 2 hour “dead sleep” nap plus a full nights’ sleep, I woke up the next day feeling human again.

In a go-go-go world, it’s easy to get caught up in a rough cycle that will eventually lead to breakdown. It’s important that we remember that the majority of people feel this way- that we are all “competing” for that “I’m the busiest person” trophy… and yet, you don’t win a prize for that.

Slow down.

Allow yourself to sit and enjoy life- whether it’s through a hobby, a phone call to a friend/family member, or even taking a little bit of time to catch up on your favorite TV show. From my experience, the police won’t show up on your doorstep because you chose to take care of yourself… and the dishes/clothes/messes will be there tomorrow.

How will you slow down this week?



I’ve been out in the “Real World” now for almost 5 years (holy COW, how did that happen?!), and I’ve worked in a few different settings. I like to think that although I still have a lot to learn, I’ve figured out a thing or 2 about making a job something I look forward to doing. One reoccurring theme is Teamwork. As a self-proclaimed “NON-athlete,” the opportunity to be a part of a team makes me excited and interested.

How does someone “Join the Team” at work?

  • be reliable- deliver on the things you promise, show up on time, and be prepared
  • get to know your neighbor- I don’t just mean introducing yourself to your coworkers or sharing your tape dispenser on occasion; I’m talking about genuinely getting to know the people that you work with. Chances are, you will be spending a lot of time with your coworkers, especially when you get your “big kid job” You might as well enjoy them, right? Have lunch in the break room and talk about hobbies and interests. Perhaps you’ll find a new fishing buddy! and also along those lines…
  • take it outside- if your coworkers occasionally get together for fun activities, join them! Whether it’s a rec league sports team or trying out a new restaurant, getting together for fun can continue to help build camaraderie and trust in the workplace.
  • be flexible- especially if it makes a difference in a group project. Be willing to go the extra mile on occasion and step out of your norm for the benefit of all.
  • participate- you get paid to do a job, so be sure you’re doing that and more.
  • be committed- if you truly cannot be even remotely interested in the work you do or the place you work, it might be time to find something new. I got to fulfill my dream of being a “lunch lady” in college, and I learned so much just by being open-minded and committed to the work I was doing. I couldn’t believe how passionate those women were about each child that came through the line and each fruit cup served- truly inspiring and heart-warming.
  • R-E-S-P-E-C-T- if you want it, have it. simple as that.
  • use your ears AND your voice- be an active listener, meaning that you are just listening rather than thinking about all of the things you want to say. Speak up appropriately and contribute to the idea or conversation.
  • there’s only one trophy- remember that you all succeed or fail as a TEAM. Give credit where credit is due, and stay humble.
  • have their backs- Support is a biggie. And just like respect, it goes both ways.

Now I realize there will likely be aspects of any job that you find a bit more challenging and off-putting… but you can choose to make your way through those things with a positive attitude.

So…is your name on the Workplace Roster?


What do you do when you’re sick with the flu?

We all get sick from time to time. Sometime it is just a minor cold – which is expected when living in this frozen tundra. Sometimes, however, it is the flu (AKA influenza) – a respiratory illness caused by a virus. Flu is highly contagious and is usually spread by people coughing and sneezing around you. The virus then becomes airborne and can be inhaled by anyone nearby. You can also get the flu if you touch a contaminated surface like a phone or a doorknob and then touch your nose or mouth.

Adults are contagious one day before getting symptoms and up to 7 days after becoming ill which means that you can spread the flu virus not even knowing that you are infected. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), between 5% and 20% of Americans get the flu each year.

So how do you know it is flu? The most common symptoms of the flu are:

– Fever: 100-102°F lasting 3-4 days

– Headaches

– Muscle or body aches

– Fatigue/weakness lasting 2-3 weeks

– Extreme exhaustion at onset of virus

– Chest discomfort and cough, especially if it becomes severe

– Rare: vomiting or diarrhea

– Occasional symptoms might include stuffy nose, sneezing, and sore throat. However, these symptoms are more likely to be the common cold rather than flu.

Complications of the flu can be life threatening, such as bacterial pneumonia, ear infection, sinus infection, dehydration, or worsening of chronic medical conditions like congestive heart failure, asthma, or diabetes. More than 200,000 people are hospitalized and 36,000 die annually because of flu in the United States, according to NIH.

To avoid these unpleasant symptoms and terrible complications that can prevent you from studying and having social life, there are a couple of things you can do to recover faster:

1. Blow your nose often and right away: gently blow while plugging the other nostril to avoid irritation.

2. Stay rested: sleeping and relaxing helps the body direct energy toward the immunity battle internally.

3. Gargle: moistens a sore throat and brings temporary relief, 1 tsp. of salt per cup of water 4 times per day.

4. Drink hot liquids: relieves nasal congestion and helps prevent dehydration, soothes inflamed membranes that line the nose and throat.

5. Take a steamy shower: moisturizes your nasal passages and relaxes you.

6. Apply hot/cold packs around congested sinuses: either temperature may help you feel more comfortable.

7. Sleep with an extra pillow under your head: helps drain nasal passages.

8. Don’t fly unless necessary: added air pressure puts more stress on your respiratory system.

9. Stay at home and rest 24 hours AFTER a fever has broken: prevent the spread of the flu!

The best way to prevent the flu is to get vaccinated early! Flu season usually starts in October and it takes about two weeks for the protective properties of the vaccine to take effect. By being vaccinated, you help your body to build antibodies to fight off the infection easier. To schedule your appointment, call Student Health at (701)777-4500.

Also, don’t forget to wash your hands, eat healthy, exercise, and clean your work space. It will greatly reduce your risk of getting the flu. Stay healthy and away from this virus!

Prescription Drugs

Prescription drugs are becoming more and more prevalent among college students. According to the American Journal of College Health, 40% of students and even parents think that prescription drugs that are taken for non-medical reasons are not as harmful as cocaine, LSD, heroin and other illegal drugs. However, abusing prescription opioids such as Valium and Xanax has caused more deaths in college students than cocaine and heroin combined. The harmful effect of non-medical use of prescription drugs is something that all college students should be aware of.

More than 97% of UND students do NOT engage in this risky behavior (2012 UND CORE Alcohol and Other Drug Survey)

There are two most common types of prescription drugs that college students are using for non-medical reasons. First, central nervous system (CNS) depressants are drugs, such as Valium and Xanax, that have a calming effect, make you a little drowsy, and mostly bring you down. Second, drugs such as Ritalin and Adderall (usually prescribed for patients with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD) can produce a euphoric effect and keep you focused. Some students have reportedly used them to get through heavy study sessions instead of learning effective study habits when they arrive at college.

Even though these prescription drugs taken non-medically are dangerous by themselves, they are even more harmful when taken in combination with alcohol. For example, when students take CNS depressants they depress the central nervous system. When you combine these drugs with alcohol, which is also a depressant, it actually brings your body even further down. So you could say your body is experiencing a 1+1=3  effect!

So, do you want to suffer mentally and physically from abusing the prescription drugs, or even die from them? If not, think twice when putting medicine in your body that it does not need!  Think about alternative healthy choices for staying focused, energized, and relaxed. Here are some ideas for you:

  • Clarify your goals and the steps you need to take in order to reach your goals; this will help you feel focused
  • Sleep and exercise daily to increase your energy
  • Take a walk or mediate to feel relaxed

Find your way to stay away from the unnecessary dangers of prescription drug abuse!

Hometown Partier

I was always the ‘good kid’ in high school. I had straight A’s, no detentions, no driving misconducts- just a clean slate. At the end of my senior year of high school we were required to do senior projects in order to graduate. It was basically a large research project with a paper, presentation, job shadow, project board, website, and the building or doing of something that would benefit the community in some way. Once senior projects were graded and done with, all of the seniors go to a secret spot and have a huge bonfire where they burn their failed papers, used textbooks, and other school related things that they do not need anymore. Usually, everyone gets drunk at the end of the school year party- and this year was no exception. This was the first experience I had ever had with drunk people.

I chose to be the designated driver for my friends, but it was still odd for me to see everyone throwing up and being irresponsible. As the night was drawing to an end, I drove my wasted friends home. My car was covered in puke, but at least my friends were safe. That day I decided that partying was not for me. I knew kids would pressure me and think I was lame for not wanting to go out and “have fun” but I did not care; I would find better ways to have fun.

Then college came around… My small, hometown party experience in no way prepared me for the partying that happens in college. To be honest, I gave into pressure a few times. I’m ashamed of it but it’s the truth. As the years went on I felt like I was getting caught up in a “partying is the only way to have fun” kind of mindset. All of my friends in college and at home only wanted to drink the night away. What happened to staying up late watching horror movies and making Taco Bell runs and talking about what we wanted to do in the future? I wanted and needed a change of pace. Partying was turning out to be a waste of my time, money, and effort.

I started being the designated driver more and making sure my friends were safe. Unfortunately, it is hard to sit and watch your friends have a great time, but the good thing is that I could still have a great time without drinking. In my hometown, we have lots of lakes and trails where we can go boating and ATVing. I started working on convincing my friends to do other fun things that do not include alcohol. They still party every once in a while, but it was so cool to see them realize that having fun does not have to include alcohol. It was exciting for me to think of fun activities we could do together instead of just sitting around drinking. I do not know if it will be worth my efforts in the end, but I hope that the efforts I put into my hometown friends will make a difference not only in them, but in the community that we influence and shape as well

But how do I know?

Last time you heard from me, I talked about change; specifically, why I resist it with everything inside of me. I’ve never really been a risk taker, and so far it’s led me down a pretty decent “safe” path.

I’m not sure why, but I’ve noticed that the older I get, the more I have moments of “Let’s do this!” They come out of nowhere, leaving a giant pit in my stomach, and shortness of breath, and a desire to move. Sometimes those moments are for little things, like deciding to workout when I don’t feel like it or trying a new recipe. And sometimes those moments are for big things, like zip lining through a rainforest* or starting a new job. (*Full disclosure: I’ve never ziplined through a forest. Let’s be real.)

A few months ago, I decided to try something new in my professional life. I have a very unconventional path when it comes to the workplace. I graduated with a degree in Dietetics (the science of food) after dabbling in secondary English education. My first “real job” was as a NDSU Extension Agent in Benson County, focusing on things like youth development, living on a budget, overall health, and 4-H. It was a great mix of teaching and wellness.

About 2 years later, I took the job as the first Executive Director of the Greater Grand Forks Young Professionals. This was a brand new arena for me, filled with new obstacles and experiences. I joked that I was still using my degree, because I had many coffee and lunch meetings, so I was still involved in the “food part.”

Two weeks ago I started a new position as Events Coordinator for Scheels in Grand Forks. A much larger store is opening in June, and it’s my job to find fun and useful ways for our store to be a part of the community. I have to be honest; this is another BRAND NEW place for me to be. As Executive Director, I did get some experience in event planning and execution, but I have a feeling this will be a bit different.

While attending a pretty intense job training recently, it hit me:

This feels right.

We all wait for that moment after deciding to try new things because of that possibility of failure. Sitting in the unknown can be almost unbearable, so when the moment of “ahhh…” hits, it’s pretty awesome.

I feel fortunate for my newest professional opportunity, and even more for that “ahhh…” moment. For several months I’ve thought “I THINK this is the right move… But how will I know??!” It has taught me patience, the beauty in courage, and confidence in myself and my abilities.

I can’t promise you every ending to a new adventure will be smooth or comfortable or even pretty. But unless you take a chance every now and then, you never have the opportunity to grow!

When was the last time you had an “ahhh…” moment?

General Health Peer Educator Position

As a peer educator we get the opportunity to impact the lives of students to make a positive change in their life, or maybe just become more aware and knowledgeable about various topics.

Through this position I have learned SO much! From making presentations, brochures, handouts, and other types of flyers, to doing actual presentations in front of people, or at conferences; all these skills will help with my future endeavors. I have learned how to work in an office type space with multiple people, how to communicate ideas within a group, and planning for the “big picture”. When I applied for this job, I had no idea what I was getting myself into, but through hard work and dedication I really saw myself change and reflect what I was researching. Not only do we get the change to change students’ lives, but in the process our own lives may be changed too. I am so thankful to have been given this position, and I can’t wait to apply all this knowledge to my future career and lifestyle choices.

Things I have gained from this position:

  • How to use the different Microsoft Office tools
  • How to work within a unit or team of coworkers
  • What it feels like to work in an office space/cubicle
  • How to do effective research and prepare it for an audience
  • What conferences are like at a college level (they’re really fun and informative, go to them!!)

If I could say something to future peers it would be this:

Take every opportunity you can! If there is a conference, go on it. If there is an event, do it! Be involved in your job, it is an amazing experience! You don’t realize what you have until its gone, appreciate your position and get the most out of it that you can. (:

Lexi Larson, Peer Educator Health & Wellness Hub

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