Acknowledge your energy and honor it however it is. Prior to menstrual alignment, clients did not know why their energy was lagging or was uncontrollably chaotic, but after learning which phase they were in and what actions best lend themselves to that phase, they were able to enjoy where they were. Think of how powerfully beneficial consistent enjoyment in our lives, especially at work, rather than shame and disappoint, is for our work output and the company’s wellbeing.
The pandemic pause brought us to a moment of collective reckoning about what it means to live well and to work well. As a result, employees are sending employers an urgent signal that they are no longer willing to choose one — life or work — at the cost of the other. Working from home brought life literally into our work. And as the world now goes hybrid, employees are drawing firmer boundaries about how much of their work comes into their life. Where does this leave employers? And which perspectives and programs contribute most to progress? In our newest interview series, Working Well: How Companies Are Creating Cultures That Support & Sustain Mental, Emotional, Social, Physical & Financial Wellness, we are talking to successful executives, entrepreneurs, managers, leaders, and thought leaders across all industries to share ideas about how to shift company cultures in light of this new expectation. We’re discovering strategies and steps employers and employees can take together to live well and to work well.
As a part of this series, we had the pleasure of interviewing Christine-Marie Quigless.
Christine-Marie Quigless is an Holistic Habit Hacker and Coach who continues to successfully work with women to release menstrual suffering + PMS by replacing those burdens with Worthiness. An American living in Germany, Christine-Marie is obsessed with helping women all over the world fall in love with their lives through menstruation and integrates Yoga, Habit, Intuitive Treatments, and Presence into her Speaking Experiences, 3-Month Worthiness Activation Programs, and the Sparrow Holistic Members-Only Community. Outside of Sparrow Holistic (SH), Christine-Marie is practicing yoga, hiking with her dog Whitman, spa-ing it up!, or enjoying quality time with her family.
Thank you for making time to visit with us about the topic of our time. Our readers would like to get to know you better. Tell us about a formative experience that prompted you to change your relationship with work and how work shows up in your life.
Although, I rarely put it front and center, my sobriety (I am 14 years sober) factors greatly in to the moment that I realized my relationship with work and how work showed up in my life — the moment I realized it had to change. I remember where I was when I realized and voiced the desire to shift my relationship with work. My recovery factors into it because I was in Los Angeles (where I lived at the time), in a meeting, at 9am, on a Friday morning, in a church, gathered around a table, in the Sunday-School Room when I made the declaration that: for me, there was no word that I hated more than the word “work”.
Until then, I think that I coped. Both prior to recovery and the first five years of recovery, I coped with what wasn’t going right in my life by working really hard: doing all nighters, working multiple jobs at once, creating online courses in two-week chunks where I would only sleep, work, do yoga, and during which time eating was an annoyance to me because it slowed me down…You see, prior to recovery, I could hide my addiction in achievement and output and after I started the journey of recovery, I used work to feel secure and to suppress the feelings that were surfacing without the indulgence of my addiction. Honestly, work and achievement, taking pride in being Type A, had become a personality trait for me.
Even though the things that I put my time to were useful, but did not ultimately contribute to thriving businesses or success — success landed for me years later, I needed to work to matter. As recovery landed for me, at that five-year mark, I was filled with enough love within to start to wonder if it was possible to mean something in this world without constantly doing. I made that declaration at that meeting and started exploring that inquiry.
Over the next six years, I went from spending 15 minutes each day just sitting with myself to find out what I really like, what I really want, and lived my way into expanding that time period until entire days were filled with allowing time for rest and allowing myself time to put my energy and efforts toward what I really wanted to do.
My pursuit of Acting was also a major factor in the shift. I had moved to Los Angeles from New York City to do more work in television and film. During this time period two major shifts also took place that contribute to the completion of the reset with work:
- I had a Voice Teacher who asked me what would happen if I stopped wearing my hair in a ballerina bun for our class. We did a lot of movement in class and I wanted my hair out of my way, but, ever the people-pleaser (at this time), I took my hair down and did the Voice Work with my hair flailing. I loved it! I felt so free. From that moment on, I stopped using a chemical relaxer in my hair and let my hair be its wild abundant self.
- My Acting teacher asked me what would happen if I stopped doing everything “right”? Even though I had stopped doing “work” — what I thought everyone wanted me to do — I continued to effort hard at the things I wanted to do, which included doing things with an insistence toward mega perfectionism. He asked me what would happen if I made an appointment and then canceled if I didn’t actually want to go? He asked me how that would feel for me? Ever the people pleaser!!, I tried it and after some experimenting with this exercise…realized that I did not want to be an actress.
It was that trifecta of awareness: recovery allowed me to feel my feelings and believe in loving myself enough to stop pushing myself so hard, to achieve, for the approval of others, the Voice Teacher’s suggestion initiated a continued exploration of my body and giving it what it wants, and receiving the permission (because I needed permission at that time) to say “no” from that Acting Teacher started me on a journey into the exploration of Feminine-Energy Power.
I was really patient with myself and didn’t put pressure on excellence anymore. I just let myself “be”, which happens to be the way of Feminine Energy, and in so doing, a life of actually doing what I wanted to do the way I wanted to do it emerged for me. My most profitable year of business, before Covid, 2019, was also the year that I clocked the least “working hours”.
It was a bit odd for my family and friends to witness; my Mom, even from across the US, would joke that I was “living the Life of Riley”, but for me there was no other option. There were still ups and downs especially when I was testing the extremes of what it means to only do what I want all the time, but extremes help us find our balance, and I found mine. It took quite a span of years, but resetting my orientation to work and embracing a new understanding of work shifted my life and strongly informed the work that I do now — work that I had zero idea that I would be doing on that Friday morning at 9am when I made the anti-work declaration.
Harvard Business Review predicts that wellness will become the newest metric employers will use to analyze and to assess their employees’ mental, physical and financial health. How does your organization define wellness, and how does your organization measure wellness?
Sparrow Holistic’s work is dedicated to the wholeness of each person. So our work has a strong 1:1 component and even in our Group Coaching experiences, the focus is not on the group coming together as “one”, but on the individual showing up for the group in their wholeness.
Wholeness is wellness. Holistic wholeness, which is the metric we use to track progress, looks at the four modalities of the whole being: physical/biological, mental, emotional, spiritual/intuitive.
To treat only one of the modes without attention to integrating the changes in the other three modes is to create temporary adjustment instead of sustainable shift. Thus, we take the perspective that how we operate, our wins and shortcomings, in one aspect of our being demonstrated through one or some of the eight spokes of the Wheel of Life, indicates strengths or weaknesses that need to be addressed in the other aspects/spokes.
To ground this understanding, imagine two people: a ballerina and a toddler. Ask them both to balance on one foot. The ballerina will easily balance on one foot and can raise the other leg to point in any direction. The toddler will wiggle, wobble, and sway in many directions in an attempt to find balance. The ballerina and the toddler are doing the same work, but the ballerina’s body is so nuanced in the language of balance that even her finger tips know how to be at each moment of the balancing process. The muscles of the body are working at rapid speed to engage the right way with just the right timing and are doing all of this at a “micro” level; the ballerina is actually doing the same wobbling and wiggling as the toddler. The wiggles and the wobbles are happening because the whole body must engage in the balancing of itself on that one point of contact, the foot, and as demonstrated by the dancer, the more practice that the whole body devotes to the balance, the easier balance becomes. That is wholeness.
The consistent attention to the four aspects of the whole, the consideration of its balance, so that all parts of our being level up together instead of just one aspect, that is wellness, and the attention/consideration is how we measure wellness.
From this perspective, the basic question: “how are you doing?”, becomes a powerful one that might result in introspective discovery, which might contribute to the expression of a new idea that benefits the person, their business, or one of the other spokes of the Wheel of Life.
Based on your experience or research, how do you correlate and quantify the impact of a well workforce on your organization’s productivity and profitability?
Since my work is limited to the wellbeing of the client in the eight spokes of her Wheel of Life, I can only speak to the results of my clients. Our work starts with Menstrual Alignment and we look at nurturing the four aspects of being (mental, emotional, spiritual/intuitive, physical) based on what the Four Menstrual Phases need, and, over the course of three months (because the physical aspect of our being needs 90 days to effect the changes we introduce to it) we create balance, read “wholeness”, for the client.
At the onset of our work, the client might come in overtired, with painful and heavy periods, and highly volatile PMS; their issue might literally be painful menstruation. As we do our work, shift happens:
- they learn what each phase of their body needs in all four modes.
- they adjust their work schedule to accommodate their phases.
- they adjust the tasks that they do at work and at home during each phase, so that they are strategically in alignment with their mental and emotional energies to perform at their best and to fully meet and exceed the requirements of the tasks.
- they pay careful attention to the resentments that come up, to the self-sacrificing that comes up, and assert these issues from a place of Worthiness rather than victim or dominator.
- they accept that their way of working and being is not the same as those who do not or never have menstruated, it is vastly different and at the same time very powerful and very useful.
After roughly three months, the client is rested, assertive when she needs to be, diplomatic when she needs to be, no longer a victim in the workspace, free from the obligation to be the “mother” of the office, empowered by her impactful contributions that come from a whole self that listens to and nurtures the ideas that come from within. As her quality of living goes up, she models for other people who menstruate that theirs can as well. In fact, I ran the numbers and, theoretically, businesses actually profit from giving their menstruating employees a three-day restorative period (whether or not they are in pain or diagnosed with endometriosis) because, “Soldier Phase, the phase that follows the restorative time, which I refer to as “Priestess Phase”, is one that has the body set up to be mentally active and emotionally extroverted. The time the menstruating employee might have offered to the company while the body was in Priestess Phase, in a body that was mentally passive and emotionally introverted, does not benefit the company anyway, and the employee’s inability to perform at their “normal” level only serves as a source of self-deprecation.
So to quantify this shift to wellness, particularly since most of my clients are self-employed, we look at the eight spokes of the Wheel of Life and ask questions each week to establish whether or not shift is taking place. By the end of the three months, we typically see higher earnings, because time is more highly valued, a greater satisfaction with work:life balance, a greater sense of respect between the client and the people who make up her work and home life, and a stronger sense of self (“I am enough as I am”, wholeness) in terms of satisfaction with the physical body, interpersonal relationships, and the intrapersonal relationship.
Even though most leaders have good intentions when it comes to employee wellness, programs that require funding are beholden to business cases like any other initiative. The World Health Organization estimates for every $1 invested into treatment for common mental health disorders, there is a return of $4 in improved health and productivity. That sounds like a great ROI. And, yet many employers struggle to fund wellness programs that seem to come “at the cost of the business.” What advice do you have to offer to other organizations and leaders who feel stuck between intention and impact?
Firstly, the flaw of solely mental intervention is that it actually slows the progress and diminishment of mental disorders. Just like the body’s pain and menstrual pain, which cannot be healed solely from physical intervention (supplements, medication, exercises), mental pain needs holistic intervention to create sustainable wellness — relief for one mode realized through relief and treatment of all modes.
The advice I would offer is to simply speak in one of the most beautiful languages: financials! Businesses save money when they attract and keep excellent employees, and the way to keep them is not to throw benefits, bonuses, gifts, at them — companies are doing it and it is not working, it is by nurturing and empowering their wholeness ergo their wellness. Businesses that embrace Employee-First Culture save money and increase profits because this culture capitalizes on the fact that every person on this planet really wants to do what they do best and be valued for it, they want to be more than numbers, and more than a case that is managed. When we work in this way, the employee becomes more willing to speak up about issues, and these problems can be handled in real-time instead of suppressed only to later show up as physical, emotional, or mental problems, which might compel the employee to take time off or to leave the company altogether. The data already show that more time at work does not equal better work or higher performing employees, so when we use the time at work to nurture each employee’s wholeness, they want to nurture back — they want to show up in excellence for the company thus completing the flow of exchange of energy: give to receive to give to receive = balance. A balanced employee (part) = a balanced company (whole), and in balance, we thrive.
Speaking of money matters, a recent Gallup study reveals employees of all generations rank well-being as one of their top three employer search criteria. How are you incorporating wellness programs into your talent recruitment and hiring processes?
My business is quite small at present, and has one employee besides myself as well as a sprinkling of contractors. When I onboarded my employee, she knew the details of the job and what I was looking for coming in to the interview. During the interview, I asked her:
- what she loves, in and out of work.
- what her goals for herself and her career are, and
- how working for me will contribute to those goals.
I’m sure the questions will change based on the position, but it is crucial for me that the employee was inspired by Sparrow Holistic’s Mission, that she could benefit from our work, and that the position she was taking contributes to the life she wants to live and her purpose. I had been trying to fill this position for a few months, and I found this employee because of her genuine interest and enthusiasm for Sparrow Holistic.
Because our work is so high touch, she is encouraged to speak up in a way that I don’t think most companies can offer their employees, which is why grooming an Employee-First Culture becomes a necessity.
When hiring, it is also important to me that my employees are aware of any imbalances that might be availing themselves, read: addictions. As a person in recovery, I can usually spot someone who is either also in recovery or is a great candidate for it, so working with people who are deliberately working on themselves in recovery, if they need it, matters. One person I interviewed for the position was a fantastic candidate, but suffered from menstrual pain and was unwilling to consider stopping smoking — I was willing to pay for treatment — if she was hired. The problem is that smoking has a direct correlation to increased menstrual pain and heavier flow, which contributes to the pain. If our work is dedicated to partnering with clients to release menstrual pain and PMS, and she wasn’t willing to do the work for her physical wellness, I knew that this would eventually affect the other aspects of her being, so it was not an effective move for our business to bring someone on with foreseeable problems.
To sum it up, I use a wellness-first approach with hiring because regardless of our problems, if we show up with an orientation toward getting better, toward wellness, into balance, regardless of our physical diagnoses or our mental diagnoses, we will get there. As Thich Naht Hahn said, “I have arrived, I am home”…even to begin our journey in wellness, to be willing to be willing, puts us there.
We’ve all heard of the four-day work week, unlimited PTO, mental health days, and on-demand mental health services. What innovative new programs and pilots are you launching to address employee wellness? And, what are you discovering? We would benefit from an example in each of these areas.
- Mental Wellness:
- Emotional Wellness:
- Social Wellness:
- Physical Wellness:
- Financial Wellness:
Very similar to the “balancing on one foot” thought experiment offered earlier, I see each of these areas not as individual aspects of wellness, but as five of the eight spokes of the Wheel of Life (Health, Personal Growth, Money, Fun, Career, Romantic Love, Family/Friends, Physical Environment). I focus on feminine-energy-biased beings, which means that we are not set up to compartmentalize, which is why this question is a challenge for me. Women, because my clients are made up solely of women right now, cannot help but bring their whole selves to all interactions, all containers of their lives. So it is not a niched program that will make a difference, but the embrace of the Four Menstrual Phases (Priestess Phase = when we shed the lining of the uterus, Soldier Phase = mentally active, emotionally extroverted, Peacemaker Phase = mentally passive, emotionally extroverted, Queen Phase = mentally active, emotionally introverted — a phase associated with PMS when untreated through Menstrual Alignment) and working with the employees to customize their schedule and tasks to align with the needs of their Holistic Being that will make a difference. Consistent awareness and vigilance keep balance.
Examples of Using the Phases in the Workplace:
Mental Wellness in our workplace looks like speaking up when a client or a fellow worker’s/contractor’s energy is depleting us, so instead of moving on in a meeting, we can pause and reschedule the meeting for a different phase, trusting that we will be in a better position to handle the situation from that phase.
Emotional Wellness in our workplace looks like: recognizing when we are, or are on the cusp of, introversion or, conversely, noticing when we are in the phase where testosterone is pumping (and strongly extroverted). We might be coming in to conversations and interactions with a bit too much ferocity and passion, for instance. This self-knowledge, when used wisely, empowers us to show up in our best way while acknowledging our phase and not trying to be where we are physiologically not set up to be.
Social Wellness in our workplace looks like: acknowledging to the group what our strengths and weaknesses are especially in light of which phase we are in and being willing to ask for help when we need it. Personally, I am really good at organizing systems and recording/inputting data, but when I am shifting to Priestess, one of the first things to go is organizational oversight on spreadsheets. Despite how much I enjoy learning from the connections based on what the numbers dictate, I have to be willing to ask for help or to defer the task to a week later, when I am in Soldier Phase and can do better, otherwise, I will have to redo the work anyway.
Physical Wellness in our workplace looks like: again knowing our phases. Knowing that in Soldier Phase, 10–14 hour days are totally normal but not standard for our entire cycle, and in contrast, trusting that our waxing and waning energy in Queen Phase does not diminish us as employees, it is just our body preparing us for Priestess Phase and signals to us to go a little easier on ourselves instead of depleting ourselves by overriding our body’s needs.
Financial Wellness in our workplace is the most exciting of these areas listed in your question because it does not address our Holistic Being, but instead serves as an outside metric to report our worthiness. Worthiness is the way that we can live and thrive in all aspects of our being, and in all spheres of our lives.
I encourage my employees and my clients to challenge their earning and spending boundaries because, as I said earlier, how we use money is a wonderful way to get a feel for our worthiness or unworthiness. At first, you might think, people are just going to spend because they can, or will ask for a high hourly rate because they can when an employer asks employees/contractors to challenge their rate, but actually we menstruators typically undervalue ourselves. More than once, I have contracted for a job and experienced an increase in my rate because the quality of output was disproportionately higher than the quality expected at the the initial rate, and the buyer wanted to ensure that we might work together again. When you are in a workplace dealing with people who are in balance with themselves and their lives, they are not working to see how much they can get from others, they strive for balance in all aspects. When a person overcharges for their work, they usually don’t do great work and do not get rehired. When a person undercharges for their work, they resent the buyer and the energy that gives off is repulsive as well.
When a person charges what they believe they are worth, not only do they feel good and do great work, the buyer/employer feels good because they respect the quality that comes with the rate, and the customer benefits immensely because all of that awesomeness shows up in the customer experience of the product or service. How well our business runs, including how we compensate our employees and how they receive that compensation directly depends on their holistic wellness.
Can you please tell us more about a couple of specific ways workplaces would benefit from investing in your ideas above to improve employee wellness?
- Getting menstruating employees into Menstrual Alignment benefits workplaces because the employees will undertake tasks and projects in a more deliberate, highly qualitative way. The workdays and work week will take on a nuanced rhythm, which at first might seem subjective, but because Menstrual Alignment diminishes and then eliminates mood swings and menstrual pain, the “out of control” feeling that often enhances the moodiness and pain, through anxiety/fear of the unknown, also dissipates. These employees assert themselves and their ideas as a result of the Worthiness Endowment that Menstrual Alignment requires, which means that they are contributing more powerfully at work and their satisfaction at work and home increases. The effects of living in wholeness pervade the workplace and non-menstruators also benefit from the balance. They might even share the “best practices” modeled by what they experience in the workplace in their own homes and their home-lives improve as well. Conversely, we will see that when people who menstruate are no longer characterized as whimsical, moody, flighty, inconsistent, etc., the actual issues in the workplace: social, behavioral, financial, work flow, for instance, will assert themselves for the betterment of the company and its employees.
- Having employees challenge their salary and how they spend the company’s money, to orient toward abundance rather than thrift, will empower them to acknowledge their worthiness and unworthiness. Where we see unworthiness, we see resentment and an employee who is probably not working to their full potential or is overworking and depleting themselves, which ultimately means that they are not working to their full potential. Where we see over-worthiness, we might find an employee who is under-performing or who might be cutting corners in one way or another. Imbalance of worthiness, regardless of the direction is an opportunity to get curious about the holistic imbalance, and in that inquiry, we might find ways to help our employees better know themselves to thus better serve the company.
How are you reskilling leaders in your organization to support a “Work Well” culture?
I don’t have a large enough company to reskill leaders, but I do work with business owners who show up in their wholeness and have benefitted from this by challenging their clients and family members to show up in their wholeness. Rather than re-skilling, I would call this empowerment. Showing up in wholeness for my clients as business owners results in them valuing their time, receiving consistent work from the same buyers, introducing higher rates, and an increase in referrals, which results in the growth of their business to handle the increased demand.
Ideas take time to implement. What is one small step every individual, team, or organization can take to get started on these ideas — to get well?
The change begins with the individual. I would recommend having all employees at all levels consider their holistic wellness and how they might treat all four aspects of their being to fix a problem showing up in one part of their life.
What are your “Top 5 Trends To Track In the Future of Workplace Wellness?”
These trends are particularly for Menstruators, but people who no longer menstruate or have never menstruated would also hugely benefit from this.
- Acknowledge your energy and honor it however it is. Prior to menstrual alignment, clients did not know why their energy was lagging or was uncontrollably chaotic, but after learning which phase they were in and what actions best lend themselves to that phase, they were able to enjoy where they were. Think of how powerfully beneficial consistent enjoyment in our lives, especially at work, rather than shame and disappoint, is for our work output and the company’s wellbeing.
- Boundaries. In order for us to live the best of what each phase offers, we have to strategically prearrange our working schedule and tasks to avoid conflict and struggle during the phase. For example, taking three days away from work and home, for restoration, during Priestess Phase, avoids experiencing feelings of shame and depletion that would have landed if we had forced ourselves to go to work or to stay super active at home. Enforcing our restorative three days and insisting that we use a schedule that harnesses our high-energy levels for high-energy work and life activities requires boundaries. As Robert Frost, said, “Good fences make good neighbors” and living with boundaries allows us to enjoy our “good neighbors”, read: colleagues, and revel in our personal awesomeness as well.
- Personal Agency. Asserting what we want on a regular basis empowers us to consistently maintain a workplace where we can be heard, and can more easily listen, to make impact that disrupts in a beneficial way (better and better and better). When we practice Personal Agency and build a work life of satisfaction, not nagging and demanding and victimhood, but simply being satisfied with our performance, we actually relax into our enoughness and perform from a foundation of worthiness. When we allow ourselves to be helped and to offer our help, when we actually want to help — not out of obligation, we live a life with less stress, which enables us to thrive…in our joy.
- Stay on your side of the street. Most of us feel obligated to be everything for everyone, but something we learn in Menstrual Alignment is that this is actually an attempt at control and is typically never met with embrace. “The road to hell is paved with good intentions”. When we give up on the idea that we know what is best for everyone around us, we stop doing for others, disappointing others, and resenting ourselves for doing for those who are not appreciative. This basic phrase, “stay on your side of the street”, borrowed from Recovery Rooms, resounds in the heads of all those who have recovered from Self Sacrifice. When we stay in our business, on our sides of the street, and use the previous three tools, we conserve our energy in a meaningful way. Our bodies will thank us as well because they will be operating outside of “flight/fight/freeze/fawn“ mode (breathing at the rib cage instead of from the belly).
- Practice Fierce Gentleness = ulterior-motive free living. The practice of Fierce Gentleness is not answering the question: “what is the kindest way that I can be in this space with these people?”, it is actually the willingness to check in with yourself and to proceed from that truth no matter what. This practice shows up in exercise when we go to the yoga class or to the gym for the fun of the experience. This Fierce Gentleness, ulterior-motive-free living is as basic as saying “hello” to a colleague because you really want to, and not because you think it is expected of you. To play with this example a little further, consider how you feel when you smile (out of obligation) in greeting to someone as they walk by…but…they do not smile back — or, even worse, they look away. Because you did it out of obligation and expected them to do it out of obligation you are taken aback to some degree. In contrast, if you are smiling at someone because you are just “in the pocket” with life, you don’t care if they smile back because you smiled to smile. Living in Fierce Gentleness is living in pure alignment with self. It takes practice and requires that you are aware of yourself, of others, and of how you live, and the way to best exercise FG is in integrity. Isn’t that why we’re here anyway? To live our purpose? If we are not doing this at work, we should take time to figure out how we can bring our purpose to work or look for other solutions with our team/support system at work. Our employers will value our honesty and it might result in a transition to a part of the company that better serves our purpose and therefore the company’s bottom line!
What is your greatest source of optimism about the future of workplace wellness?
Right now, my greatest source of optimism about the future of the workplace is that the question of three restorative days is being considered. I don’t appreciate the names typically being used to describe these days, but I do appreciate that the body’s needs are being addressed because companies are realizing how much the community, the individual, and, honestly, their profits will benefit from these days. This conversation could only happen because of the thoughtful take on workflow that the AGILE model offers, so even though it is “old news” now, I deeply appreciate the re-thinking of workflow to orient toward quality rather than objective deadlines motivated from outside of the business. Change happens from within (the individual, the organization) and informs the “without”.
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Thank you for sharing your insights and predictions. We appreciate the gift of your time and wish you continued success and wellness.