Monday Musings: Emotional Labor vs. Well-Being

I read a book and some articles to save you time. But the ideas brought up were extremely thought provoking and I heartily recommend reading Daring Greatly by Brené Brown to learn about combating shame, if you’re so inclined, and the following articles to familiarize yourself with the concept of emotional labor.

  • Daring Greatly by Brené Brown
  • “Emotional labour: A significant interpersonal stressor” by Steven Kiely
  • “How companies force ‘emotional labor’ on low-wage workers” by Ned Resnikoff

What is emotional labor? All people, at some point or another, manage their feelings while “on the clock” to create a work-acceptable facial and bodily display - this is emotional labor. Some jobs require more emotional labor than others, for example: receptionists, therapists, educators, etc., because they must remain neutral or even falsely cheerful with customers/patients/coworkers/students at all times. Often it seems that this crucial and difficult task is not taken into account when classifying job difficulty, both in government and in private sector job classifications. 

"Emotional labor is 'management of feeling to create a publicly observable facial and bodily display … sold for a wage'” - Arlie Russell Hochschild

How does this unmentioned job duty affect people? Routinely suppressing or faking feelings causes an internal conflict that can lead to stress, anxiety and depression. Being on the front lines often means an employee is subjected to the brunt of other people's displeasure, whether it's because they are delivering bad news ("the doctor is running late") or because they are not seen as someone worth treating well (customer talking on cell phone when ordering coffee), the result is the same. Employees start to feel less than. Less than themselves. Less than worthy. Less than human. At some point the toll of emotional labor carries into employees' personal lives; they can no longer connect with other people or themselves.

How can managers, supervisors, job classifiers and co-workers acknowledge and help employees to deal with the stress caused by routinely suppressing one's feelings or faking feelings? Should employees be allowed more time for health and well being, with more time away from the front lines? Is time away enough?

"We are psychologically, emotional cognitively, and spiritually hardwired for connection, love, and belonging. Connection along with love and belonging (two expressions of connection), is why we are here, and it gives purpose and meaning to our lives." - Brené Brown

Imagine if companies provided all employees with paid time, a few hours a week, for proactive health and well being! People often think physical exercise but other wellness activities like meditation or therapy are crucial for whole health, especially if there is a combination of time for oneself and for connecting with others. Employers would retain and recruit happier, healthier and more productive employees if they incorporated these benefits to offset unpaid emotional labor. Additionally, an institutional wellness initiative is more impactful than an individual trying to find time in their personal life. Health education/information is beneficial, but individuals can only do so much with information. When institutions, supervisors, peers, etc. provide time and support, employees can actually use all the wellness information that is widely available. 

You might not have the power to make institutional changes but you likely have coworkers; how can you support them? 

Perhaps you need support or have been successful at asking for support: how did you ask for help? 

Is being vulnerable the opposite of emotional labor?

Share your ideas here, on our blog, or on our YogaQuest Facebook Page.


Other Quotes of Interest:

"SA [surface acting] has been linked to negative psychological and physical health outcomes including burnout in the form of increased emotional exhaustion, depersonalisation, reduced personal accomplishment, job dissatisfaction, depression, anxiety, psychosomatic  complaints, and intentions to resign."  - Steven Kiely

"When we teach or model to our children that vulnerability is dangerous and should be pushed away, we lead them directly into danger and disconnection." Brené Brown

"Due to the failure by traditional job evaluation systems to adequately measure and compensate for emotional labour in monetary  terms...organizations should consider using formal and informal rewards  and recognition as a symbol of appreciation for the emotional effort exerted by employees." - Steven Kiely

"I am suggesting that we stop dehumanizing people and start looking them in the eye when we speak to them." - Brené Brown


Jennyann - Poet, Yoga Teacher, Expert Waffle Maker, Designer

Currently reading:
The Wave in the Mind by Ursula K. Le Guin
Mostly Void, Partially Stars: Welcome to Night Vale Episodes, Volume 1 by Joseph Fink

Monday Musings: Finding Joy

I, like many of us, wake up and check Facebook and see more headlines and horrific news stories. I feel like the world is burning down around my ears all the time. On top of it, and I’m going to be honest here, money’s really tight, I haven’t had time to do the dishes in a week, I’m impressed that I have clean clothing to wear to work, there’s something sticky on my living room floor, and I’ve also started school full time (because I didn’t have enough to do).

It’s a lot.

And I’m not alone. Collectively, we are feeling more and more stressed out – the ends that barely made it are not quite making it anymore, and everything feels tense and scary. And, despite the constant communication, we feel alone in all this. How can I have people over to my house when the kitchen is not just messy, but at high grossness level of mess? How can I take time to visit with friends when I haven’t had any time with my partner? Not only am I freaked out about money ALL THE TIME, but I’m also so afraid that everyone’s going to judge me because we ran out of money again this month, that I just don’t talk about it to anyone.

Secret is: we are all going through this.

How do we stop it?

Two things:

  1. Talk about it. Start with close friends. Open up about how much it sucks to be in debt (and most of us are!). Talk about how you can’t catch up on the laundry. Discuss how you’re afraid people are going to judge you about whatever you’re afraid people are going to judge you about. If you speak up and voice what isn’t being said, you’ll give space for others to do the same. You don’t have to have answers or solutions, but making that connection and that space has stress relieving effects. For me, knowing I’m not alone is so huge – when I can call my best friend and say, “OMG. I just had a bill go into collections and it really sucks, and I’m feeling afraid of it, and there is literally nothing I can do about it” Is incredibly freeing. Names have power. Let’s name these things out loud.
  2. Find joy. Trust me, I know it’s trite. But, hear me out. Take a couple moments each day (I do this first thing in the morning), and think about the day before. Think about what made you happy, or gave you a momentary smile. It can be big things, but it doesn’t have to be. Something that gives me joy is writing with a certain pen I have. I just love it and I get excited when I get to write with it. I really love having my daily coffee. Finding joys – small and big – can be a huge stress reliever. It helps to get out of the muck of the day for just a moment.

What are the small joys that you find in your day? Share with us in the comments! 


Kat is a yoga teacher (RYT200), student, partner, mother, and all- around badass woman. She is honored to share her Monday Musings with her YogaQuest Community. 

Monday Musings with Jennyann

If someone asked me why I write (or paint, or crochet poorly, or garden) I would likely tell them spilling my emotions onto the page helps me get out of my head. But when people ask me why I practice yoga it's the opposite; it's to bring my head back to my body. Although I don't say it that way, mostly because I never thought about it in that way until I read The Making of a Poem by Stephen Spender. 

Spender states, "there is always a slight tendency of the body to sabotage the attention of the mind by providing some distraction. If this need for distraction can be directed into one channel," - for example yoga! - "then other distractions outside oneself are put out of competition. The concentrated effort of writing poetry is a spiritual activity which makes one completely forget, for the time being, that one has a body. It is this disturbance of the balance of the body and mind, and for this reason, one needs a kind of anchor of sensation with the physical world." 

This really resonated with me. It suddenly made sense why I couldn't help myself when creating my own yoga classes (shout out to YQ Yoga Teacher Training for being so awesome) that I would create a series I lovingly call "Yoga for Depressed Writers" (really I should have called it Yoga for Me). I need writing to forget my body and I need yoga to bring me back and anchor my mind with my physical self.

Yoga and writing are not only opposites for me, they also have a lot in common. Both are creative outlets and they make me feel good. Wellness, amirite! But seriously, wellness! One of my writing and wellness challenges is shaking the negative emotions I get lost in. The thoughts generally aren't related to what I'm trying to do. I'm just stuck. One thing that has helped me is actively weeding out the thoughts I don't need in my head - before yoga practice, a writing sesh, whatever.

There are many versions of weeding writing on the interwebs (I found this one in a book! A book made of paper!) and one version might work better for you than another. Here's the one I use and have used with other yogis. Try it out and tell me what you think. 

Weeding Writing (adapted from Cultivating Your Creative Life by Alena Hennessy)
Write out a list of thoughts to weed out or things you think about yourself that you no longer want to carry with you. This is instinctual; don't censure yourself and don't worry about complete sentences.  (write for 1 min)

After your list is complete, review it for a little while. It's important to recognize and accept that these thoughts were things you may have carried for years. Take note of any patterns. Now you can transform these thoughts into nothingness. They were stuck inside of you. But since they were never yours to begin with, you can let go of them.

Turn these thoughts into a drawing. You can do anything, really, just as long as it expresses the fact that you don't own these ideas anymore. (draw for 1-2 min)


Jennyann - Poet, Yoga Teacher, Expert Waffle Maker, Designer

Currently reading: 
The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde; 
Unmentionable by Therese Oneill; 
Designing Our Way To a Better World by Thomas Fisher; 
Frankenstein  (1818 version) by Mary Shelley;
Wild Seed by Octavia E. Butler

Mindfulness For the Full Minded

Like many folks, I struggle with an all or nothing attitude. If I decide to do something, I often go full force ahead, and it’s either an epic win or a dramatic fail. Combine this with my anxiety, and it often means that I choose to not do things, rather than risk the failure.

I teach knitting to folks, and in my classes I focus on creating an environment that is safe for failure. Learning new tasks lends its self to lots of failure, as people are rarely masters at a task the first time they try it. As children, we expect to need to LEARN a task. I find that children expect to not be good at something when we start, and as we practice we get better and better. Kids do things for the joy of doing them, rather than the experience of instant mastery. Think about a five year old finger painting – that kid is not thinking that the blobs of paint are ACTUALLY what a tree and flowers look like, but they sure enjoyed smushing their hands in the paint and that’s what it FEELS it looks like. The kid is not expecting their piece to come out looking like a Van Gogh. The process of creating that painting brought them joy, and as such, the end result brings them joy too.  

With my knitters, when I give them permission to fail, to know ahead of time their project is not going to be perfect by any means, and to enjoy the experience of learning to knit (and this takes a lot of reminders that it’s ok to suck at something), they are so happy with what they have created at the end – no matter how full of holes and mistakes it is – because they were able to experience the joy of learning without the fear of failure. 

Somewhere in between being five with finger-paints and adults with jobs, we forget the joy of learning, and instead focus just on the end result. Which means we stop trying new things, because we know the end result is not going to be perfect. Even though I teach other people to allow themselves to not do everything perfectly, I don’t give myself the same permission.

I’ve realized the act of taking the time to enjoy a process is mindfulness. It’s about learning that stitch in that moment, not worrying about what your end result is going to be. I also don’t need to jump into mindfulness full force – I can choose times to be mindful (…. As I type this, I realize it’s being mindful about being mindful….). As this is a yoga blog, it would make sense to work on mindfulness in my yoga practice. Wish me luck on this venture.


Mindfulness For the Full-Minded is an ongoing exploration by Kat Gordon. She invites you to follow her journey toward mindfulness here. 

Monday Musings: ECCC Wrap-Up!

Wow, what a weekend at Emerald City Comicon! Convention weekends are always busy and exhausting but so worth it. We were so pleased to be able to offer Quests all four days of the con and had amazing crowds each day. It never ceases to astound me how many people are excited about doing geeky yoga! We also saw some old friends and met lots of new folks; many braving to do yoga in their cosplay! Thank you to everyone who took time out of their convention day to go on a narrated yogic adventure with us! Below, we have a selection of photos from each day of Quests. If you attended any of the days, keep an eye out for yourself.

Thank you for your hospitality, Seattle, but there's no place like home. Also, our legs will not miss your hills. Nerdmaste.


Why I am proud to call myself ‘fat’


How can three little letters elicit so much emotion? The implicit biases that have been inextricably linked to this adjective are numerous and diverse, but they almost all have one thing in common. The implications conveyed by using the term fat are almost all negative.

Fat began to be an undesirable trait with the most recent set of beauty standards. As thinner and thinner bodies were used for models and actresses, thin became synonymous with beauty and fat with ugly. Media worsened this dichotomy through the creation countless thin protagonists who were smart, funny, a love interest, and strong while large characters were gluttonous, mean, lazy, and pitied.

A common, but largely ignored, phenomenon in medical research followed. Too often, when traits are considered undesirable socially, the medical field turns this implicit bias into a medical problem. (For example, studies on the size of skulls were conducted to ‘prove’ the superiority of the white race.) Being “overweight” was medicalized and studied, their findings correlating higher weights with certain chronic diseases. So these beliefs about being a large person came together in the narrative we have today about fat people: “Overweight” people are too lazy/stupid/careless to eat healthfully and take care of themselves, thus not only are they unattractive, but they are also willfully negligent of their health.

This narrative has led to several forms of discrimination, including fat people being less likely to get hired, having lower salaries, and most counter-intuitively of all, receiving poorer health care. Yet, there is no evidence that larger people are less intelligent, driven, or even inherently unhealthy.

By proudly claiming fat as a description of myself, I’m making a political statement. I’m saying that we can no longer allow fat to be synonymous with those undesirable traits. While I certainly don’t embody every possible positive trait, I am slowly becoming the living proof that fat can’t automatically equate lazy, unintelligent or negligent of health. I hope that as more people join me, society will see that fat people deserve all the same opportunities as thin people to fully enjoy their lives.

1. Andreyeva, Tatiana, Rebecca M. Puhl, and Kelly D. Brownell. "Changes in Perceived Weight Discrimination Among Americans, 1995–1996 Through 2004–2006." Obesity 16.5 (2008): 1129-134. Web.
2. Puhl, Rebecca M., and Chelsea A. Heuer. "The Stigma of Obesity: A Review and Update." Obesity 17.5 (2009): 941-64. Web.
3. Sabin, Janice A., Maddalena Marini, and Brian A. Nosek. "Implicit and Explicit Anti-Fat Bias among a Large Sample of Medical Doctors by BMI, Race/Ethnicity and Gender." PLoS ONE 7.11 (2012): n. pag. Web.

Ani is a fat activist and Health at Every Size promoter. She is currently pursuing a degree in Dietetics and is working towards the creation of a non-profit to support healthy relationships with food. She is also a geek, yogi, knitter, and lives with her partner and two dogs in Minneapolis.

Monday Musings: Valentine Stay

Monday Musings: Valentine Stay

I think it’s great to set aside time to let others know we care about them. I think it’s equally important, especially in these trying times, to show ourselves that same affection. So if you find yourself at home this Valentine's here are a few ways to celebrate yourself at home and it's all free.

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Monday Musings: The Gaga Bowl

So let’s talk about last night. No, not the big game; the big game’s half-time show. There are a lot of Monday morning quarterbacks (that’s a football reference) who want to weigh in on how Gaga’s performance could’ve been more “political.” I feel like those folks weren’t paying attention. These are likely the same folks who have difficulty reading subtext (a certain portion of the Supernatural fandom, I’m looking at you). She didn’t need to hold up a giant RESIST banner to be political. Lemme break it down for you.

How was this performance political? Let me count the ways: 

1. Lady Gaga is a woman. Simply being a female headliner in this male-dominated space might not be subversive in and of itself. If that woman were quiet and submissive and there primarily for the male gaze. But Gaga is not a quiet, demure woman who takes up no space; she is a bold, loud woman who literally dove off the top of the fucking stadium! She took up space and she owned that space. That shit’s political. 

2. Lady Gaga is a queer icon. Her very presence as a queer woman in a #nohomo space was important. She could’ve toned down the gay, but that isn’t her style. She sang songs focused on the inclusion of queer people as well as general inclusivity. Her dancers are diverse and so very glittery. And she did this at an event attended by VP Mike Pence. That shit’s political.

3. Lady Gaga has a body. In the final act of her performance, Gaga switched into a crop top outfit that showed off her bare belly. This exposed a soft stomach rather than chiseled six-pack abs. As I watched this with my husband, I remarked aloud that I hoped she didn’t get a ton of haters. But of course she has. How dare this woman have a body and use that body however she wants. Showing up and showing off the body that is hers right now, unapologetically, and absolutely slaying. That’s fucking political.

You, the way you live your life, the way you show up in the world, are political. Let’s slay this week Mat Monsters.