Sexual harassment takes many forms and it can come from co-workers or strangers on the street. But what do you do when your customers harass you? Share your comments below.

Last month I regaled you, dear reader, with some challenges of working in the public service realm, specifically some of the harassment (intentional or not) that can come from customers/clients/patrons/vendors. I did not, however, get to talk about any potential solutions or coping mechanisms. This month, I’ll try to explore those (though I am no expert).

First and foremost, a company or organization may not even realize that there is a problem unless the employee brings it to their attention, which a lot of employees are hesitant to do since harassment from customers doesn’t fall under the traditional definitions/policies. This great article from Work It, Richmond discusses how employers, once aware of the problem, should let the customer/client know that a behavior is unacceptable. Some businesses are even making their in-house harassment policies available for customers/vendors/business partners to openly read; therefore, people who do business with a particular organization will already know what behaviors will not be tolerated and what consequences they may face (such as being banned from that organization). Companies/organizations should support employees who are made to feel uncomfortable, but sometimes an employee may not even know that she/he is being harassed.

Equal Rights Advocates provides a clear description of different types of sexual harassment, including the tricky nonverbal types. They state, “To be illegal, sexual harassment must be unwelcome. Unwelcome means unwanted. For this reason, it is important to communicate (verbally, in writing, or by your actions) to the harasser that the conduct makes you uncomfortable and that you want it to stop.” So even without involving the company, an employee has the right communicate a wish for the harasser to stop certain behaviors. Sometimes communicating this type of information may be difficult. There are plenty of resources to help, such as Deal with Difficult People: How to Cope with Tricky Situations and People; Perfect Phrases for Dealing with Difficult People: Hundreds of Ready-to-Use Phrases for Healing Conflict, Confrontations, and Challenging Personalities; and Dealing with Difficult People.

Of course all of these “solutions” puts the onus on the employer or the employee. What about the harasser? Sadly, some people may not recognize that they are acting in an abusive way unless they are informed of it. Even more sadly, some people may not care. Not to oversimplify, but I’d challenge people to put themselves in the position of the worker. I put this challenge to myself and came up with a list of things I will not do to someone who is my “captive audience” on a public service desk:

  1. I will try to only discuss topics that deal with the workplace in which you are working.
  2. If we do engage in “small talk,” I will keep it to a minimum and be sensitive to the fact that you are at work and have limited time for chit-chat.
  3. I will try to avoid asking questions that require you to reveal personal information.
  4. I will not comment on your appearance, good or bad.
  5. If I am overcome with a desire to be your friend or try to get to know you on a personal level, I will ask you politely if you wish to get together sometime outside of work, and then drop it completely if you tell me “no thank you,” without trying to wheedle or press you for more information.

I’d love to know if anyone else has any suggestions/modifications to add to my list. I do think these would make a nice basis for anyone trying to be considerate of those working in a public forum.

Recovering from an abusive situation at work and regaining a sense of comfort in your workplace is a whole other undertaking, an important one–one that, hopefully, a human resources department can provide some help with. There are some resources that might be helpful, such as Real Happiness at Work: Meditations for Accomplishment, Achievement, and Peace; The PTSD Workbook; The Body Keeps the Score; and Anxiety and Avoidance: A Universal Treatment for Anxiety, Panic, and Fear, just to name a few. Also, seeking counseling and guidance from a professional would be wise.

Joanne Sobieck-Lingg is glad to blog about her many, disparate interests (though expert in none, except maybe parenthetical asides). In past lives, she was a writer, proofreader, editor, project manager, teacher, and even co-coordinator of a certain health blog. She has been happily ensconced among the fiction and teen books at the Central Branch of HCLS since 2003.


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“It’s about change, about committing to a new way of living–one that will ensure a lifetime of self-esteem and confidence.” Cindy Crawford, model

Ready for mind and body fitness? Open Body-for-LIFE for Women and be amazed by the attention-grabbing cover lining. Like the personal stories inside, the before and after photos attest to the success that so many different women have found following this book’s advice. Dr. Pamela Peeke, a physician specializing in nutrition and metabolism, introduces MMM – the Mind-Mouth-Muscle Formula for physical and mental fitness. Relying on the gender-specific studies of women’s biology and physiology, Dr. Peeke presents a health plan tailored around hormonal milestones. Taking into account biological, behavioral, social, and psychological factors, MMM confronts the challenges of motivation, healthy eating, and fitness. The book even includes detailed weight training and stretching instructions with helpful photos guiding the reader in proper form.

PamPeeke_BrownLeather_webSome highlights of this inspirational book include the “Cut Calories without Counting Them” page and the “Smart Foods Table” for constructing healthy meals. There is an informative nutritional table comparing energy bars. (The healthy fast food, energy bars are not all created equally so it can be tough to know which one to choose). Dr. Peeke’s fitness guidelines are especially encouraging in their emphasis on intensity rather duration. The goals are based on the science of metabolism and never feel overwhelming or unrealistic. There is also an abundance of insightful stress management tips such as the Rule of Reverse Expectations, “Anticipate that there will be obstacles in your path….Remember that in the midst of difficulty lies opportunity.” Dr. Peeke writes about creating “motivational targets” to overcome tough times and invigorate healthy choices.

Whether you are most interested in improving your emotional, nutritional, or physical fitness, check out Body-for-LIFE for Women. Next, register at to meet the author on Monday, June 9, 2014 at 7 pm at the  Miller branch. Dr. Peeke will be speaking about her books and taking questions. See you there!

Cherise Tasker is an Instructor & Research Specialist at the Central Branch and has a background in health information. Most evenings, Cherise can be found reading a book, attending a book club meeting, or coordinating a book group.


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Are you ready for the nice weather and the unofficial start to summer this Memorial Day weekend? After the winter we experienced, I think we’re all excited to finally be outside doing something other than shoveling snow! I’m looking forward to gardening, barbecues, and spending time with family and friends. Are you planning a trip to the beach or spending time at a pool?

Many of us look forward to this time of year, but this time of year can also elicit fear and anxiety. Why? It’s simple: swimsuit season. Shopping for a swimsuit is usually on top of our list of things to avoid. This year let’s make a pact to not let body image issues affect us in negative ways. We will not succumb to the fear and anxiety that normally accompanies us into the dressing rooms when we try on swimsuits. Everyone has something he or she would like to change about his or her body and this can motivate us in a good way to exercise more or eat better. Our goal should be a stronger body and better health, year round.

The days are warmer and there are more hours of daylight! Get outside and walk, run, swim or bike! You will feel better afterwards, I promise. We all deserve the benefits of exercise, so start now. HCLS has a great collection of books and DVD’s to help you get started.

Whatever you do this summer, focus on what you love about your body instead of what you want to change. Be mindful about what you say about your body, because it will affect how you feel about yourself. It won’t be easy, but try to silence your inner critic and speak to yourself like you would to a friend. Stop comparing yourself with the body images so often portrayed in the media. Many of us do not have time or money for personal trainers, in-house gyms, or the best photographers or airbrush artists. What we can do is make realistic, positive changes in our lives to become more fit and healthy. We can commit to not dwelling on the negative. Friends and family love and support us just the way we are!

Isn’t it time we free ourselves from worrying about what other people think? If there are people in your life who are making you feel inadequate in some way, it’s time to ignore them and trust yourself. Go ahead and try on that swimsuit and smile at what you see. It might be hard to do at first, but most things that are worthwhile are. Make it a goal to give yourself a compliment every day. When you look in the mirror say something positive about what you see.

If you are interested in learning more about body image check out the many books, magazines and articles available at HCLS. Information on body image is also available at

So, are you ready to make the commitment to stop the negative self-talk? To not let worries about how you look in your swimsuit spoil your summer fun? Great! Go ahead and give yourself an emotional high-five the next time you look in the mirror! Now grab a book from one of the summer reading displays at the library, put on your swimsuit, smile, and I will see you at the beach or pool this summer.

Don’t forget your cover-up. No, not your swimsuit cover-up (you can bring that too), but your sunscreen. Visit the Johns Hopkins Medicine Health Library for more information on how to choose and apply sunscreen.

On a more serious note, if you know someone who has an unhealthy preoccupation with body image, encourage him or her to seek help from a counselor or doctor. You can visit the Johns Hopkins Medicine Eating Disorders Program to find answers to frequently asked questions.

Nancy Targett is an Instructor & Research Specialist at the Miller Branch. She lives in Columbia and is the proud mom of three boys and a girl and a Siamese cat.


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Society has a knack for pitting women against one another with their ads and the way they spotlight certain attributes that encompass “beauty.” Instead, women need to focus on the fact that each person and their body are going to be different. This is what deserves to be celebrated. These so called imperfections are what make you unique.

I could spend the rest of this post discussing the faults found within every form of media when it comes to the portrayal of the “perfect body.” Instead, I have chosen to focus on the emotional effects of such an influential part of our daily lives. The media is constantly sending out messages that make us take a second look at ourselves and how we live. One message that I have chosen to ignore is that there’s only one way to be “perfect” or “beautiful.”

The main goal of every individual should be to define what it personally means for them to be healthy and happy. This has to deal with everything from exercise to appreciating the “little things.” Looking a certain way should be equated with wanting to be healthy and not wanting to be “beautiful.” You are already beautiful! Yes, you!

I am sure we can all find things about ourselves that we wish were different. Some of these things might not ever be able to be changed. However, your attitude and perspective can definitely change. Instead of looking at a feature as something that is “wrong” with you or something that makes you less physically attractive/desirable, stop and ask yourself how you arrived at such a conclusion. Do you honestly feel that those things make you any less human than anyone else? What needs to happen in order to love every inch of your body? Taking the much deserved time to answer questions like these will help you to understand why you feel a certain way about yourself. It will also help you to see realistic ways to make changes in areas where it’s possible to do so.

Just like the next person, I have my bad days. I have days where no matter what outfit I pick out I still feel like it doesn’t look flattering. I have days where there is no taming my frizzy hair or magically getting rid of a blemish breakout before the important event I’m about to attend. We all have these days. The important thing is to not think this way every single day. Look at yourself in the mirror and gaze at the sight of how truly wonderful it is to be you. Admire your beauty both inside and out. Be confident in your body and show the world that “beauty” has many definitions.

How boring of a world this would be if we all looked the same. I say we redefine the term “imperfection” and stop viewing it as something that is a fault or undesirable. Be the “perfect” in imperfection. After all, there is only one you!

Laci Radford is an Instructor & Research Specialist at the East Columbia Branch (while her home branch, in Savage, is being renovated). She is a music lover, writer, and an avid reader. She enjoys attending concerts, plays, and other forms of live entertainment. Her favorite activities include scoping out unique items at thrift stores, bonfires with friends, and having tie-dye parties. She is studying Psychology and plans to become a music and art therapist sooner rather than later.


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1196478322_fa47d6c732_oThe Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) states, “Workplace violence is any act or threat of physical violence, harassment, intimidation, or other threatening disruptive behavior that occurs at the work site.” Most people think harassment only connotes sexual behavior, and another term “workplace bullying” has been adopted to create awareness of additional threatening behaviors. A lot of people also think harassment or bullying can only take place among coworkers. I’d like to focus a moment on just some of those threatening and disruptive behaviors in a public service forum and how they can manifest among clients/customers.

Wow, Joanne, great topic—way to greet spring, Captain Bring-down. Sorry, maybe the cold, extra-long winter had me lingering in some dark places of the mind, but I don’t want to discuss seasonal allergies, sunblock, or even SAD right now.

There should be a certain expectation of safety and comfort in one’s workplace (check out #3 on this list from Harvard Business Review; actually, check out all 12—it’s a good list).

However, working in the public sphere can be challenging in ways that working in corporate settings are not; workplace bullying is not just a potential problem among employees. One of the biggest challenges is the “ownership” your customers can sometimes feel they have over you. I like that I have regular customers, people who have come to trust me or feel they know me a bit over my 10+ years at HCLS. I do get a little uncomfortable when customers ask personal questions or reveal something overly personal about themselves. But mostly, I handle these situations as politely and gently as I can without too much worry.

So how do we regain comfort in an extremely tricky situation? How do we prevent the potential health problems caused by harassment when the harasser is not a fellow employee and not subject to the same rules? I will explore solving it in next month’s post.

Joanne Sobieck-Lingg is glad to blog about her many, disparate interests (though expert in none, except maybe parenthetical asides). In past lives, she was a writer, proofreader, editor, project manager, teacher, and even co-coordinator of a certain health blog. She has been happily ensconced among the fiction and teen books at the Central Branch of HCLS since 2003.


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PamPeeke_BrownLeather_webRecently, I turned fifty; yes fifty! I can’t believe my age as I rarely ever feel fifty. As a runner, and in somewhat good fitness health, why would I pick up Fight Fat After Forty? I have very little fat on my body and, according to my doctors, women would kill to have my weight and metabolism. (Thank you running!) However, I was intrigued and open to learning new techniques to help me stay fit and healthy. Women after the age of forty have problems with their metabolism, weight, and hormones. Dr. Peeke discusses this in her book and how stress plays an active part in our lives as women.

Dr. Pamela Peeke’s book is divided into three templates. The first template involves learning to develop a “Stress-Resilient Personality.” In this template, you should be able to identify the peaceful times in your life versus the stressful times. She calls this “regrouping your stress.”

The second template focuses on learning how to de-stress your eating and how to utilize food to keep your stress hormones in check. You learn how to distinguish between hunger (“I need to survive”) and stress-induced appetite (“I want to numb stress”). Yes, that donut, chocolate, or soda that you crave may not be hunger! She discusses how to taste and savor your foods versus just eating them.

The third template teaches you how to incorporate a variety of stress-reducing physical activities into your daily routine. This will help with your energy level and increase your stress resilient personality. I spent too much time on this template and incorporating her activities into my running/fitness routine.

As Dr. Peeke states in her book, “This is the second half of your life and you have the power to make your future years rich and rewarding.” Dr. Peeke has written several other books. She recently published The Hunger Fix: The Three-Stage Detox and Recovery for Overeating and Food Addiction. She also has written Body-for-LIFE for Women: A Woman’s Plan for Physical and Mental Transformation; and Fit to Live: The 5-Point Plan to be Lean, Strong & Fearless for Life.

Dr. Pamela Peeke will be visiting HCLS Miller Branch on June 9 at 7 pm. Registration for the event opens on May 2. I am looking forward to her visit and learning how to stay healthy for the rest of my life.

Anna Louise Downing is a Customer Service Specialist at the Miller Branch. She is an avid reader and enjoys Disney, music and her passion for running. She has been a race ambassador for several local races and is a Sweat Pink Ambassador for promoting women’s health. Follow her journey towards being physically fit with running and healthy lifestyle choices here on Well & Wise.


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