Checking In with Yourself and Others


When I am feeling stressed, my vision narrows. I feel a little like a horse with blinders. I can’t see the whole picture. I have noticed that when I metaphorically take the blinders off, my stress level tends to decrease. But sometimes I’m just stuck and I don’t even know I have blinders on.

It’s like me sitting in my home “office”. Picture a cardboard table with a laptop, notepad, pen & lamp…nothing fancy. I’m hunched over and I don’t even realize that my ridiculous posture is creating the horrible neck/back strain that I am feeling. Then, my spouse passes by and says, “What in the world?!! You’re going to be a mess tonight if you don’t straighten up and put some books under your laptop.” And, that got me to thinking that I probably need to set a timer to go off every 30 minutes and stretch in the door frame for a couple of minutes before I sit back down. I realized that I needed a plan and a process to prevent the pain.

So, getting back to my “blinders”, I think I have a plan & a process that will widen my vision and help me check in with myself. It’s the “rose, thorn, bud” exercise. It’s nothing new. In fact, it is a modern-day adaptation of a spiritual practice called the daily examen that has 16th century origins in Ignatius of Loyola.

Here’s how the elements are defined in an activity described in Mindful Schools:
Rose—A highlight, success, small win, or something positive that happened.
Thorn—A challenge you experienced or something you can use more support with.
Bud—New ideas that have blossomed or something you are looking forward to.

My plan is to have a small notebook at my desk and, on a daily basis at the close of the workday, to stop and reflect on the day. What was a rose in my day, what was a thorn, and what is a bud?

As I write this blogpost at the end of my workday, I might as well get started:
My rose today…I was able to successfully set up a practice WebEx with my officemates to see if I can change my upcoming April seminars to be live chats with my invited speakers. It felt good to be able to figure out a way to deliver valuable content in this “new normal”.
My thorn today…I need more proficiency with various aspects of Microsoft Teams. I was planning to take advantage of some of the online training options, but I ran out of time. The tyranny of the urgent strikes again!
My bud…I just got a copy of the book I’m planning to use for my annual Parenting Summer Book Discussion, and I can start digging into it tomorrow! [For those who want a head start, it’s Dr. Christine Carter’s The New Adolescence: Raising Happy and Successful Teens in an Age of Anxiety and Distraction.]

Just doing that little exercise has calmed me a bit and given me some perspective on my day.

This “practice” can be done with family members, too. Even young children can participate! I hope to incorporate it in our household once or twice a week at the dinner table. I might even FaceTime my grandkids and try it out with them. It’s a way of checking in with each other and being able to enter into the narratives of our lives during a time when we are prone to feel isolated and disconnected.

As I pivot from my desk, I want a fuller vision of how this virus has impacted my life at home and try the exercise again:
My rose…Without the commute time to & from work and the added community meetings/social events, I have the opportunity to take a walk with my spouse each evening and reconnect. It’s been sweet.
My thorn…I miss seeing my grandkids face-to-face. FaceTime helps but it’s not the same.
My bud…I have more time to cook and I’ve tried out a few new recipes. I’m planning on making Saturday morning special with an egg casserole and possibly a fancy beverage. 🙂

This tool can also be used with your work team and could become an element of your staff/project meetings. If you are curious, check out this suggestion from Atomic Object’s Design Thinking Toolkit:

If you are willing to share a story about how you adapted this idea for your situation, I’d love to hear!


About Author

Page Cvelich

College/Teen Program Manager

Page Cvelich has brought a wealth of knowledge to the Work/Life Center from prior experience as a high school guidance counselor and parent education coordinator. Page has been responsible for setting up a high school college and career center, designing a career exploration program for teens and serving as a counselor at a backpacking camp in the Rockies. In her role as Teen/College Program Manager, Page enjoys interacting with small groups of parents and teens, as well as consulting one-on-one with parents and referring them to resources so that they are better able to provide the support and encouragement their kids need.

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