Women Who Inspire Us

Growing out of a small town school event in California in 1978, Women’s History Month has been observed in March since 1987, when the U.S. Congress declared it.  It is a celebration of women’s contributions to history, culture and society.  The National Women’s History Alliance chooses a theme each year.  The 2019 theme is Visionary Women: Champions of Peace and Nonviolence.  These are women who have led efforts to end war, violence and injustice and pioneered the use of nonviolence to change our society.

There have been women who have made a positive difference through peaceful protest and nonviolent actions for centuries.  We have chosen a few of these amazing women to showcase from the mid 1800’s to the present.

Susan B. Anthony (1820-1906)

Susan B. Anthony was raised in the Quaker tradition of nonviolence and was influenced by her parents with a sense of independence and social justice.  She was collecting anti-slavery petitions at the age of 17 and became the New York State agent for the American Anti-Slavery Society in 1856.  After meeting fellow suffragist, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, the two women formed the New York State Temperance Society when Anthony was prevented from speaking at a temperance meeting due to her gender.  They founded the Women’s Loyal National League to petition against slavery and later founded the National American Suffragette Association.

Anthony was arrested in 1872 for voting as a woman in her home town of Rochester, New York which led to a highly publicized trial and a fine she refused to pay.  Ultimately, it resulted in a grant by Congress in 1878 for an amendment giving women the right to vote.  Anthony became known as the “Napoleon of Feminism” and is remembered today as one of the most historically significant advocates for women’s rights.

Violet Oakley (1874-1961)

American painter, illustrator, muralist and stained glass designer, Violet Oakley was the first American woman to receive a public mural commission.  She is best known for the series of murals she completed for the Pennsylvania State Capital.  Her political beliefs were shaped by William Penn, whose ideals she represented in her murals.  When the United States refused to join the League of Nations after World War I, Violet traveled to Geneva, Switzerland where she spent three years drawing portraits of the League delegates and later published them as “The Law Triumphant: The Opening of the Book of the Law and the Miracle of Geneva” in 1932.

She was an early advocate of nuclear disarmament following World War II.  Oakley was the first woman elected to the National Society of Mural Painters.  She received the Gold Medal of Honor of the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts and was the first woman awarded the Gold Honor from the Architectural League of New York.  In 1977, her studio in Philadelphia was listed in the National Registry of Historic Places in recognition of her artistry and beliefs.

Josephine Baker (1906-1975)

American born French entertainer, activist and French resistance agent, Josephine Baker resided and made her career in Europe.  She was an icon of the Jazz Age and was noted for wearing a costume consisting of only a girdle of artificial bananas.  Baker was the first women of color to earn international renown and to star in a major motion picture, Zouzou.  She refused to perform for segregated audiences in the United States and was noted for her contributions to the civil rights movement.  In 1968, she was offered the unofficial leadership of the movement by Coretta Scott King following the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., however she declined in order to protect her children.  She received the French Croix de Guerre for aiding the French Resistance during WWII.

Coretta Scott King (1927-2006)

American author, activist, civil rights leader, and the wife of Martin Luther King, Jr., Coretta Scott King helped lead the civil rights movement in the 1960’s.  She was an active advocate for African American equality.  King was also a singer and often incorporated her music into her civil rights work.  After her husband’s assassination, she took on the leadership of the struggle for racial equality herself and became active in the women’s movement.  King founded the King Center and fought to make her husband’s birthday a national holiday.  She broadened her scope to include apartheid and advocacy for LGBTQ rights.

Rosa Parks (1913-2005)

Rosa Louise McCauley Parks was an American activist in the civil rights movement best known for her pivotal role in the Montgomery Bus Boycott.  The U.S. Congress has called her “the first lady of civil rights.”  On December 1, 1955 in Montgomery, Alabama, Parks refused to give up her seat in the colored section of the bus to a white passenger after the white section was full.  Her prominence in the community and willingness to become a controversial figure inspired the black community to boycott the Montgomery buses for over a year.  Her act of defiance became an important symbol of the civil rights movement.  Parks organized and collaborated with civil rights leaders.  Shortly after the boycott, she moved to Detroit and did similar work there.  She wrote her autobiography and continued to insist that the struggle for justice was not over.

Mother Teresa (1910-1997)

Mother Teresa Bojaxhiu was an Albanian-Indian Roman Catholic nun and missionary.  In 1950, she founded the Missionaries of Charity, a Roman Catholic religious congregation which has over 4500 nuns and, as of 2012, has been active in 133 countries.  It manages homes for people dying of HIV/AIDS, leprosy, and tuberculosis, soup kitchens, dispensaries and mobile clinics, children’s and family counseling programs, orphanages and schools.  Members who take vows of chastity, poverty and obedience, also take a fourth vow “to give wholeheartedly free service to the poorest of the poor.”  Mother Teresa received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979 and was canonized as a Saint on September 4, 2017.

Malala Yousafzai (1997- )

Malala Yousafzai is a Pakistani activist for female education and the youngest Nobel Prize laureate at age 17.  She is known for human rights advocacy, especially the education of women and children in her native home of Swat Valley in northwest Pakistan, where the Taliban had at times banned girls from attending school.  Her advocacy has grown into an international movement.  According to the Pakistani Prime Minister, Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, she has become the “most prominent citizen of the country.”

Malala’s family ran a chain of schools in the region and she was inspired by her father’s thoughts and humanitarian work.  She wrote a blog under a pseudonym for the BBC Urdu detailing her life during the Taliban occupation of Swat.  The following summer, a New York Times documentary was made about her life as the Pakistani Military intervened in the area.  On October 9, 2012, while on a bus after taking an exam, Malala and two other girls were shot by a Taliban gunman in an assassination attempt in retaliation for her activism.  Malala was hit in the head and remained in critical condition in the hospital.  She improved and survived, rallying to an international outpouring of support for her.  The Taliban was internationally denounced by governments, human rights organizations and feminist groups.  They responded by promising a second assassination attempt on Malala.  After her recovery, she became a prominent activist for the right for education and established the Malala Fund, a nonprofit.

In 2013, she co-authored a book, “I am Malala,” an international best seller.  In 2015, Time magazine put Malala on the cover as one of the most influential people globally.  From 2013-2017, she attended Edgbaston High School and is currently studying for her bachelor’s degree in Philosophy, Politics and Economics at Lady Margaret Hall in Oxford.  There is no doubt that we will see more of her amazing efforts in the future.

2019

It is so important to become familiar with inspiring women during Women’s History Month, and every month.  We urge all of you to take a few minutes to read about the many women who have either changed, or are changing, our world for the better in peaceful and nonviolent ways.  Whether or not you agree with their interests and causes, they still have managed to become role models and achieve change.  Share their stories with your children so they too can learn about these visionary women.

How to Make the Best of Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day.  Just hearing the words can set off a panic button for men and women alike.  Whether you are single or in a relationship, this can be a holiday full of expectations, excitement, disappointments, stress and exhilaration all at once.  There are two factions – those of us who are not in a relationship and those who are.  If you are not in a relationship, Valentine’s Day can be a very upsetting day or even week.  While we don’t live in Victorian times when if you weren’t married by age 25 you were an old spinster, it is still generally expected that you should be dating, in a solid relationship or married by most cultures.

Parties

Rather than allowing yourself to be upset at not having ‘someone special’ to share the day with, find a way to enjoy the company of others who are in the same boat.  Get together with a couple of single girlfriends and make a night of it!  Grab a favorite comedy movie, set out a couple of trays of hors d’ouvres, some wine and make it a fun girl’s night.  Buy a few face masks, put out a tray of nail polish with toe holders, fun glitter and a few towels for pedicures.  You might even want to go to a local beauty store and get some washable hair color – the sky is the limit.  Make sure to have lots of chocolate and maybe a rose for each friend to take home in a vase.  Trust me, everyone loves flowers and the thoughtfulness will be appreciated.

If you have friends who like to craft, purchase wine glasses from the local dollar store and oil-based Sharpie markers for everyone to decorate them to take home.  Buy Styrofoam wreaths, a few glue guns and glue sticks, and a bunch of fake flowers and have a Spring wreath-making session.  Purchase a 5 lb. bag of flour, butter, sugar, vanilla and a variety of chips and have a cookie-making night.  There’s no rule that says you can’t throw in some wine and dinner as well.  Maybe ask each person to bring a small snack or dessert.  Keeping busy and having fun will keep your minds off anything negative and everyone will go home with something beautiful to remember a special evening with friends.

Singles Dinner Party

If you have a lot of single friends of both genders, you may want to host a single’s dinner party with a theme.  You can make it pot luck and have everyone bring their favorite dish, or settle on a cultural theme such as Mexican, Asian or Italian.  Decorate and make little gift bags of silly things from the dollar store to send home with people just for laughs.  Keep in mind that others are feeling sad and need a pick-me-up as much as you do!  You may be surprised and find that doing something for others to make them feel better makes you feel better as well.

Pampering

You may want to embrace the Black Valentine’s Day of South Korea and just have a special day for yourself.  Schedule a massage or facial.  Get your eyebrows waxed.  Find a local reflexologist and have your feet massaged and pampered.  Light one of those aromatherapy candles.  Order some take-out or delivery from your favorite restaurant and add an appetizer just because.  Schedule something that you enjoy and embrace it.  If you have a bathtub, take a bubble bath.  Even if it means being by yourself, treat yourself like a Queen and allow yourself to be pampered.  Put on your favorite music and sing along.  As they do on “Grey’s Anatomy,” dance it out and enjoy being alive.

Philanthropy

If you are feeling altruistic and really want to get out of your own head and comfort zone, find a local food kitchen or shelter and volunteer to serve dinner.  Go to a nursing home and offer to spend time with the residents.  Find a local animal shelter to see if they need help.  You can keep it simple and bake some goodies for your local firehouse.

Couples

Even if you are in a relationship, whether dating or married, Valentine’s Day can still be stressful.  There’s an expectation for both men and women to make the day and night extra special.  Men are expected to give jewelry, chocolate and/or roses.  Women are expected to buy something special for the man in their life, perhaps surprising them with new lingerie and a gourmet meal.

Everyone creates their own annual traditions.  While newer couples may choose to go out and have a meal at an overcrowded restaurant with ‘Valentine’s Day Specials,’ many older couples elect to stay home and celebrate with dinner brought in from a local favorite restaurant or cook a meal together.  Don’t get me wrong, flowers, chocolate and jewelry are always perfect for Valentine’s Day.  Bake a heart-shaped cake or cookies for dessert, or even chocolate covered strawberries, which are a special surprise.  Break out a bottle of champagne and those glasses that are gathering dust in your breakfront.  Set the table with the “good” China, because it really is a holiday.  Dress up for each other.  Sweatpants and T-shirts are not romantic.

Time Together Doesn’t Matter

Regardless if you’ve been together 10, 20, or 40 years, celebrate a day dedicated to love.  Make your own card or cook a special meal.  Find the video or DVD of your wedding and watch it together.  Take out your wedding album and share memories of your special day.  Make it a point to spend quality time together.  Put the cellphones and iPad away.  Watch a romantic comedy together.  Enjoy being with the person you love.

 

A Month by Month Guide to an Amazing 2019

We all know the benefits of planning ahead and mapping out a course for success.  When you have set your sights on a goal, it is important to chart out a plan and break it down into manageable steps.  With the new year fresh upon us, let’s prepare a monthly guide to make 2019 the most productive year yet.

January

Since this month begins our journey, let’s start out by creating a journal where we can set out our plans and chart our progress.  I am the type of person who likes to write with a pen and paper, so I purchased a colorful notebook that I love and will want to open up and write in.  Others prefer using an app, such as Day One, which is a free app for basic IOS and Android, where you can list short-term goals, track your accomplishments and also note feedback received.  Having a journal is one thing, but remembering to update it is another.  It is crucial to update your journal ideally once a day, but realistically once per week.  I have been known to save ideas or feedback I have received during my work day on sticky pad notes or in my cell phone notes and transcribe them into my journal in the evening at home.  The more you read and review your goals and areas of improvement, the more likely you are to continue to pursue them.  This journal also becomes helpful as a source of information to review and utilize when you are planning a meeting or asking for a raise.

February

Devoting time to networking is crucial to keeping yourself out there and possibly leading to new opportunities.  This month, take time to send out emails, text or use other social media messaging to touch base with people in your network.  In addition, send messages out to people you haven’t spoken with in some time, such as a former colleague or someone you met at a holiday party last December and really clicked with.  You never know who can end up being a valuable networking asset or mentor.  It is also a great time to look into joining a professional organization or association in your field.  Many of these organizations are just starting to meet again after the holidays.  Also, start researching upcoming conferences for the year in your field, decide ones you might want to go to, register to attend, and make inquiries regarding company reimbursement requirements.

March

March is the month to make sure all your finances are in order and that you have all the documents you need for filing your income taxes.  April 15th will be here soon.  If you already know you will be getting a decent refund check, take half to pay off debt such as credit cards, unpaid bills and college loans.  Put the other half into savings, college or retirement funds.  If you have received a raise in pay for 2019, put the extra money into your 401K or pension, especially if you are receiving a company match.  It is also time to review your budget to see where money is leaking and how to improve your finances.  Maybe it is time to cut back on gourmet coffee out in the morning or ditch the smoking habit, and put the money you would have spent each day into a vacation fund.  You will be surprised how it adds up.

April

Spring is almost here, and with it comes spring cleaning time for your home.  It is also a good time to organize your desk space.  First, review your seating and computer monitor for the best ergonomic positioning.  Your work surface should be slightly below elbow height when seated or standing.  Your computer monitor should be centered with the mid-line of your body.  Keep the backrest of your office chair tense enough to support your weight.  Now take a look at your work space and declutter.  Only keep things that you use frequently on top of your desk.  Set up an in-and-out tray and keep it organized.  If it is overflowing, it will definitely affect your attitude and ruin the feng shui by destroying the harmony of your environment.  If possible, add a plant to your office to bring something fresh and alive into the space.  Some artwork on the wall and a photo of your loved ones will personalize your space and bring you joy.

May

If you haven’t done so already, now is the time to make sure your vacation plans are intact.  Figure out how many vacation days you still have available and plan to use them.  Look into flights and hotels, especially during holiday times.  The U.S. Travel Association says that 52% of Americans leave unused vacation time on the table.  We are all busy, but downtime away from work is vital to our psyche as well as affording an opportunity to think about where you are and where you want to be without the pressures of the daily grind.  Employees should be valued for their accomplishments, not perfect attendance.

June

Team building can improve morale and help guide employees toward their goal.  If you are a manager, sit down with your people and ask them for feedback and ideas besides current work projects.  If you are an employee, ask your manager out to lunch to discuss any ideas you have or areas of concern.  This month is the perfect time for that employee picnic to get people together and help build relationships with each other.

July

We are now halfway through the year and it is time to review your career journal thus far and assess what you have done to get you closer to your goals.  If you don’t see the progress you hoped for, use this time to restructure and create new, more realistic goals.  Sometimes, by breaking things down into baby steps, we can accomplish more.  You also may realize that your goal has changed since January due to other events that have taken place and you need to reset your goals for the next six months.

August

August is often a time when we see a summer slowdown at work.  Many people are out of town.  Why not take this opportunity to volunteer or set up a work program in the office.  This will not only help you feel fulfilled by helping and giving back, but it can also let your boss see other skills you possess.  For example, setting up an office recycling program will not only help the environment but will also let your boss see your organizational and leadership skills.

September

Now that summer is over and it is “back to school” season, it is a good time to think about some skills you might like to learn.  Perhaps take a public speaking course, an online college course to work towards a degree or even just take a course in something you are interested in.  It may spur some creativity and could also make you think about some other career interests.  A yoga or Pilates class will improve your health and give you some alone time to focus on you.

October

The open enrollment periods for health insurance plans and some other types of coverage usually run from November 1st through December 15th.  Now is the time to figure out your potential healthcare needs for 2020.  You might need a plan with a lower or higher deductible or you might find it would be beneficial to open an health savings account (HAS) or a flexible savings account (FSA) if you have a high-deductible health plan and/or if it is offered by your employer.  This is a tax-advantaged medical savings account where funds contributed are not subject to federal income tax at the time of deposit.  Research the different plans to see if it would be beneficial to you.

November

Mentoring is a win-win situation.  You are able to tap into a younger person’s perspective and pay it forward by helping them with their future.  They, in turn, receive the benefit of your experience and wisdom, as well as creating a contact and friend to go to when they need direction.  Check to see if your company offers a mentoring program or look to industry organizations or community groups.

December

This month is usually incredibly busy with holiday parties, travel and family events.  When you find a small block of down time, take a look at your resume, your online portfolio and LinkedIn profile.  Update any major accomplishments that occurred this year, add in any published items you have had or any career-related certifications or courses you have completed.  If you have changed positions this year, make sure to update that information.  This way, should you decide to make a job change in 2020, it won’t be a huge scramble to update your personal documents.

By New Year’s Eve, you should feel empowered by your efforts to keep on top of your career and personal goals and be ready to start fresh on January 1st.

 

Self-Care For the New Year

If you want 2019 to be your best year yet, it’s time to focus on yourself and make the changes needed to do just that.  Everyone talks about self-care thinking it is just going for a facial or massage once a month.  It is much more than that.  Self-care is defined as any activity that we do deliberately in order to take care of our mental, emotional, and physical health.  First and foremost, self-care is self-love.  It involves becoming your own best friend as well as making some real lifestyle changes to make that happen.

Trust yourself

Learning to trust your instincts is a major component of self-care.  It if feels wrong, don’t do it.  Don’t be afraid to say yes or no and listen to your inner voice.  Be brave and do things that challenge you.  Say exactly what you mean, and never speak badly about yourself.  You need to be your own cheering squad.

Let go and move on

Letting go of what you can’t control is one of the most difficult things to do for many people.  We want to oversee and micromanage everything in our lives.  However, we can’t make people like us or do what we say or want.  We have to admit this and move forward with the things we can control.  Stay away from other people’s drama and negativity.  Remember the phrase, “Not my circus; not my monkeys.”  Go ahead and unfriend negative people on social media.  Worry about your own life and let others deal with theirs.  Of course you should be supportive, but don’t try to fix other people’s problems or other people.

Don’t be a people pleaser

While we like to do and say things that will make people feel good, we can’t spend our lives trying to make others happy.  We must make ourselves happy.  Smile and laugh more.  Say exactly what you mean, but don’t gossip and be cruel.  Show more gratitude to the people we love in our lives.  Be excited about life.

Make it happen

If you want to have an amazing year, you can’t sit on the couch and wait for it.  You have to make it happen.  Go to bed early and wake up early to greet the new day.  Unclutter your home and your life.  Be fierce and do things that challenge you.  Set goals for your self-care; not just for your career.  If you want to get healthier, plan realistic changes in your diet and exercise that will not stress you out and make you miserable.  If joining a gym is not for you, find something active that you enjoy like walking, swimming, cycling, bowling or skiing.  The point is to make it something that is good for both your health and your soul.  It is an active choice that you must plan, rather than something that just happens.  By adding these activities to your calendar and announcing your plans to others, it will increase your commitment to practicing your self-care.

Start the New Year off right

Self-care is the key to living a balanced life.  It’s not a selfish act.  As the saying goes, if we don’t take care of ourselves, we won’t be able to care for our loved ones.  For 2019, create a “no” list with things you know you don’t like and you no longer want to do.  Examples might include not attending gatherings you don’t like, not answering your phone during family times and not checking emails at night.  Then set up a 15-day self-care routine that includes one pleasurable or relaxing activity every day and stick with it.  This could be going to the movies, taking a bath, or calling a good friend for a chat.  Compare how you felt before and after the 15 days.  And remember, as with everything, self-care takes practice.  Tell others that your motto for 2019 is, “Sorry, but I am taking care of myself!”

New Year’s Resolutions

Wow, 2019 is almost here!  Time certainly flies when you are a woman juggling it all.  It is time to think about what your New Year’s resolutions are going to be: lose those inevitable excess holiday pounds, take a leap and make that career change, get that promotion… you know the drill.  While we all have the best intentions, more than 80% of New Year’s resolutions are scrapped within a few months’ time.  What can we do to make realistic resolutions and improve the odds of our success?

Are too many resolutions realistic?

Most of us are highly motivated, goal-oriented women; however, in some cases we try to take on too much, thinking we can really do it all, without being realistic.  We end up getting so overwhelmed that we wind up abandoning all of our resolutions from frustration.  Through interviewing and conferring with other successful women, it became apparent to me that it is best to prioritize and try to tackle only three resolutions, instead of 10.  Try this for January 2019.

Resolutions are achievable

Perhaps you’ve heard of “Christmas in July.”  Being the goal-setters we are, why not set three more resolutions halfway through the year as well.  Then, by the time 2020 rolls around, we may have completed six resolutions, instead of abandoning 10.

Look at some of the most successful women in business.  They drive home the fact that setting realistic resolutions, working hard and perseverance allow you to achieve anything.  Sometimes we even have accomplishments that we didn’t even know we were working towards!  They just happen through our efforts or through the help and mentor ship of others.

Resolutions are adjustable

As we progress, we may realize that the resolution we set was really not what we wanted, so we adjust and reset it.  Nothing is written in stone; we must be pliable and open to change.  We also must be accepting of the possibility that a resolution we have set is just not attainable yet.  If that is the case, then perhaps breaking it down into more realistic “baby steps” will enable us to achieve the desired result in the long term.

Choose your 3

When you are thinking about the three resolutions you want to focus on for January, read some of the profiles of our Women in the Limelight and members both in your industry and others.  Let them inspire you.  Remember resolutions and anything you want can be achieved if you are realistic and put your mind to it.    Let 2019 be your year to shine!

Gratitude Every Day of the Year

With Thanksgiving arriving in a few days, I have been thinking about the importance of thankfulness and gratitude.  Unfortunately, most of us don’t think about this on a daily basis.  If we  were to do so, we would find ourselves happier, more fulfilled and connected to people and things that matter most in our lives. How do we manage to implement gratitude into our busy lives?

Prepare a Gratitude List

Similar to a bucket list, writing a gratitude list is not difficult.  Make a list of people you want to show gratitude toward all year round.   It can be as simple as telling them specifically why you are thankful for them and what they mean to you.  This can be through a quick text, email, a card in the mail, or more importantly, a quick phone call to say thank you.   Showing them gratitude affirms that you are thinking of them throughout the year, not just at Thanksgiving.

Paying it Forward

Showing gratitude to a stranger can create a feeling of joy within you and also start a chain reaction, inspiring others to do the same.  Paying for a cup of coffee for the person behind you in line will not only make you feel like you did a good deed for someone but may come back to you tenfold one day.

Alleviate the Me-First Mentality

It is very easy to get caught up in the “me-first” mentality.  By getting out of that mindset and empathizing, you have the opportunity to make a difference for others.  For example, I have a neighbor who was just diagnosed with cancer. What can I do to help her during this difficult time?  Maybe I can drive her to an appointment, walk her dog after work or bring over a casserole so she doesn’t have to cook.  Putting someone else’s needs ahead of your own will bring you a sense of fulfillment while helping at the same time.

Keep a Gratitude Journal

By jotting down things you are grateful for each night before you turn out the light, you will feel a sense of peace.  Also, you may begin to seek out positives in your day, knowing that you will be writing them down later. This is a win-win situation; focusing on the positives during the day and feeling happiness and peacefulness at night.  Practicing gratitude brings about mindfulness and helps ground us by making us aware of our values and what we are thankful for.

Thanksgiving is a great time to begin a new tradition.  As you gather with friends and family this year, go around the table and tell each other how much they mean to you every day of the year.  Let that spark a daily habit of intentional gratitude that will create an immediate positive change in your world.

Keeping Joy In the Holidays Despite the Craziness of the Season

It’s that time of year again when we start to think about Thanksgiving and all the other holidays that will follow.  My first reaction is a positive one, thinking of all the things I am thankful for this year and every year.  But then, my thoughts immediately turn to the amount of preparation and events that I must get through, added to my already loaded schedule.  Help!  The positive thoughts immediately turn to negative ones as I envision endless to-do lists, dealing with crowded stores, decorating, cooking large meals, running to all types of parties, children’s concerts, entertaining relatives and spending tons of money take over my thoughts.  Talk about exhaustion!  There has to be a better way to manage all of these extra tasks without losing the joy that the holidays represent.  After some research and thought, I have come up with some ways to get through the holidays with a smile.

Keep Your Regular Routine Intact

We all have our daily routine that keeps us grounded and moving forward.  If we steer too far away from that routine, our stress levels increase.  This year, try to keep wake-up times, meal times and bed times as close to normal as possible.  If most of your days are routine, the ones that aren’t will not affect us so harshly.  Sit down with your calendar and try to schedule shopping, cleaning and decorating time blocks around your normal tasks, leaving some flexibility for unknown invitations and events that occur.  If you have out-of-town family or friends who will be staying with you over the holidays, prepare your home so they can easily help themselves to breakfast and lunch.  Have shower needs readily available like towels and shampoo so they do not need to ask.  Print out some information about activities they may want to do while you are at work or handling other commitments.  Maybe they will take your kids with them on an excursion.  Imagine, you may actually have some free time alone to sip a hot beverage, gaze at the tree and listen to your favorite holiday tunes.  I am relaxing already just thinking about that scene.

Don’t Drive Yourself Crazy Reaching For Perfection

We all have visions of the “perfect” holidays which are created from holidays of our past as well as photos and stories we see in magazines and on television.  While it would be wonderful to achieve all of those goals, it is not worth the price you pay to do so.  Sit down and figure out what parties and events are non-negotiable, and what can be considered for another year.  Say “no” when you are being asked to help out at yet another holiday event that you know will push you over the edge.  A sincere regret is enough.  Throw any guilt out the window.  Plan time to do simple things like watching the local tree lighting in your town or driving around the neighborhood to see the lights and decorations.  These are the types of things that create joy.

When it comes to decorating your home, remember that not every inch has to be decorated.  Your home does not have to look like the ones on “The Great Christmas Light Fight” on TV.  Choose a few of your favorite decorations and put those up.  A lovely wreath, a sparkling tree or menorah will create a warm holiday glow.  Thanksgiving and holiday meals do not have to be banquets.  Prepare a menu covering the basic favorites, always being mindful of dietary needs of your quests, so everyone can enjoy.  Don’t feel bashful asking guests to bring a dish to the meal.  It will cut down on your work and allow you to sample other people’s family favorites.  Whenever possible, prepare food ahead and freeze to reduce the stress on the actual day.  The main focus is to enjoy a meal together with loved ones and to remember the meaning of these holidays.  Less food will also help avoid the holiday weight gain when you step on that scale in January.

Dealing with Holiday Emotions

The holidays can bring on many mixed emotions.  Many people feel lonely because they do not have family near or have gone through a recent divorce or loss.  Combat that loneliness by asking friends over for a “Friendsgiving.”  Donating time to helping out at a soup kitchen or other volunteer work is a great way to alleviate feelings of sadness by helping others in need.  Getting together with family can bring memories of past disappointments, rekindle sibling rivalries, or drag us back to old childhood patterns where we feel like we are children again.  If these patterns start to emerge, walk away for a few minutes and remind yourself of the person you are now.  If a family member is “pushing your buttons”, try not to allow them to succeed.  Step away and talk with someone else who has your best interests in mind.

Self-Care

It is absolutely essential to take special care of yourself at this time of year.  If you are feeling blue, pamper yourself with a mani/pedi, spa treatment, a 15 minute nap, a walk outside or curling up with a cup of hot chocolate and a good read.  These are all ways to disconnect and have some pleasure.  Getting run down from lack of sleep, rich and fatty foods and being around crowds for hours in hot stores can make you feel sick and miserable.  That is certainly not how you want to spend your holidays.  Be mindful of yourself, not just your family and friends, as it is your holiday too.

The holidays are only a few weeks out of the year.  In the famous words of the Grinch in “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” by Dr. Seuss, “Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before!  What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store.  What if Christmas…perhaps…means a little bit more!”  Let your holidays be filled with joy this season.

Combating the Symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder

Have you ever noticed that as the days get shorter, and the hours of sunlight lessen, your mood shifts?  When it’s bright and sunny everyone tends to be in a cheerful mood, but when fall turns into winter and Daylight Savings Time hits, you tend to get into a funk or even a depression.  You may be suffering from a condition known as Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD.  Surprisingly SAD affects 10 to 20 percent of Americans, primarily young adults and women.  The actual cause is unknown, but many believe that the reduced levels of light affect your body’s internal clock and a drop in the levels of melatonin and serotonin can trigger mood changes.

What are some symptoms of SAD?

There are several symptoms that are identifiable as being related to SAD.  You may experience one or all of them.  They include:

  • Feelings of depression, fatigue or lethargy
  • Having difficulty waking up in the morning, or a tendency to want to sleep more often
  • Increased appetite, mainly for high carbohydrate foods
  • Loss of interest in activities you usually enjoy
  • Loss of desire to spend time with family and friends
  • Trouble concentrating

If any of this sounds like what you are experiencing, be aware that there are treatments!  This does not have to be as debilitating as it sounds.

Some treatments for SAD

Some sufferers who find these problems becoming a daily issue benefit from working with a therapist.  This is a way to have some assistance in dealing with the issues related to the seasonal changes.  You can speak with someone who can give you advice on handling SAD, so it doesn’t become debilitating.  Prescribed medication is another treatment for SAD.  Depending on what you use, it can help limit the depression, and adjust the levels of melatonin and serotonin back to normal levels.

Phytotherapy, therapeutic light therapy, is considered one of the most common treatments for this condition.  Since the light mimic’s sunlight, it causes a chemical change in your brain that lifts your mood.  Sitting under the light therapy box for a prescribed number of minutes within the first hour of waking up in the morning can help.

Using this, along with visiting a therapist and/or medication can cause improvements in your outlook over the course of the darker season.

Good health, nutrition, supplements, exercise and relaxation can also help to lift your mood and help limit the negative reactions.  Getting enough consistent sleep, and waking up at the same time 7 days a week, will keep your internal clock in proper sync.  Controlling your cravings for carbohydrates by eating a balanced diet and limiting the carbs can help as well.  Carbs, while good, only provide a short term energy boost, but will quickly cause lethargy, which can make things worse rather than better.  Protein is the best source for continued energy.

Create or maintain a consistent exercise routine.  Regular exercise is not only good for general physical health but is also good for stress and anxiety reduction.  Relaxing exercise such as Pilates or Yoga is extremely good for this.  Learning to manage your stress can go a long way to helping reduce the effects of SAD.  By taking time to relax and manage your stress each day, you can prevent depression and overeating.  Make a point to not pull away and stay connected with your friends and family as they will help you remain calm and happy.

Will following the above advice prevent SAD completely?  Probably not, especially if it is something you are prone to.  However, following the above advice can certainly help limit the effects and allow you to live your best life, even in the fall and winter when natural sunlight is at a minimum.  Most of us don’t even realize how fewer hours of sunlight, and more of darkness, can affect our body, mind and spirit.  Everything is connected, so coming up with ways to minimize the effects, and personalize them to you, can help you get through the longer winter months.  In addition, planning what you will do once spring comes around will give you something to look forward to once the days start getting longer again!

 

*Information gained from:  Women’s Health Research Institute, blog, Battling Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

The Pros and Cons of Comparing Yourself to Others

Comparisons are an everyday occurrence whether it is comparing in a positive way or coming from a darker place.  Did your family ever say, “Why are you comparing yourself to XYZ?”  Some schools of thought suggest that comparing is a good way to motivate you while others feel it is a road to disaster.  Wonder why?

Cons of comparing yourself to others

Seeing what others have or have accomplished can instigate feelings of jealousy, malicious envy and unfairness.  Instead of feeling happy for someone that we know deserves their good fortune, we allow our own insecurities to take over.  We have to be able to get past our negative thoughts and stop feeling sorry for ourselves.  This person may be at a different place in their lives where they worked hard and legitimately deserve to succeed.  Your feelings of anger and the “poor me syndrome” are preventing you from seeing clearly and can ruin a friendship or potential business contact.  You know the adage, comparing apples and oranges.  Perhaps in the future, you will have moved forward and can realistically compare and contrast with this person.

Pros of comparing yourself to others

Seeing what others accomplish can positively motivate you to set goals and reach the next level.  Knowing that others have achieved something that you want confirms that it is possible and can be realized.  Understanding how someone reached their level of success can be a learning experience and help you prepare your pathway.  Often times, comparing ourselves to others whom we aspire to emulate can create a mentoring situation or camaraderie that can not only help us to achieve our goals, but create an important business contact and friend.

While you may be comparing yourself to someone, keep in mind that someone might be comparing themselves to you.  How would you want to be viewed by another?  Remember, what goes around comes around.  Always seeing the positive (pro) in someone not only makes you feel better as a person, but will show those comparing themselves to you that you are a positive role model and they will want to emulate you.

Quieting an Overactive Mind

Does this sound like you?  You are a professional woman or an entrepreneur, you have an ever-growing to do list, and your mind is always active, running on with thoughts of everything you need to do during the day, week or month.  You feel like your mind is running away from you, but you are not able to catch up to it.  Your stress levels continuously increase and you are not able to quiet your mind to get a good night’s sleep or relax with friends, and as a result your health suffers.

What if I told you that there are ways to quiet an overactive mind?  Yes, these methods will take some practice and time to learn, but ultimately they will allow you to find some peace of mind and keep your sanity in check.

Journaling

Grab your favorite notebook or journal along with a special pen, find a quiet place, pour yourself a soothing cup of tea or coffee, open the journal and put pen to paper.  Allow your thoughts to just come out onto the paper.  Do not censor anything.  You are not making a list of what needs to be done, but rather creating an empty space in your mind to clear away the constant jumble.  You are writing a stream of consciousness where everything you are thinking is going onto the paper, thus freeing your mind from the stress.  By learning to journal on a daily basis, even if only for 5 minutes, you will learn to release yourself from the constant jumble.

Meditation

This used to be the realm of the religious, but meditation has become more and more commonplace as practitioners are realizing the soothing and relaxing benefits.  Much like journaling, meditation takes time to learn to do right and to truly shut down your mind.  With regular practice, and some good apps, you can learn to quiet the mind, allowing you to be open to what can be called “divine downloads” where you get knowledge of what your role truly is.  Meditation allows you to spend anywhere from 5 to 60 minutes in a state of rest, closed off from the “real world” and open to what is going on inside of you.

Yoga

For years Yoga has been identified as exercise for meditation.  In most yoga practices, you go through the movements, or asanas, in a slow, purposeful pace.  Due to the movements, it allows you to meditate as you work on your flexibility, strength and stamina.  Each pose has a purpose, and as you develop proper technique, you also gain more sense of self as well.

Runing/Hiking

Do you like the outdoors?  What about being alone in it?  One excellent way to clear the overactive mind is to get outdoors and take a hike or go for a run.  Both of these allow you to get wonderful exercise for the body, but also for the mind.  You have to focus on what you are doing, so you are not able to focus on what is running through your mind.  The repetitive movements help you release your stress, release endorphins and get exercise at the same time.  They are both soul clearing.  As with yoga, both running and hiking can be meditative.

Walking on the Beach

Have you ever taken a walk on the beach?  Did you know that just walking in the sand, or sitting on the beach listening to the waves is soothing and relaxing?  In fact, many people purchase sound wave machines that make the sound of waves washing on the beach.  This sound can be more meditative than any other.  The act of digging your toes in the sand, listening to the waves, hearing the cries of the seagulls flying overhead and just tuning out the rest of the world is a great way to clear the mind.  It allows your mind to calm down, and stop running for a time.  Spending an hour in the evening, maybe at sunset, taking in the colors of the sky changing from day blue to dusk yellows, oranges, reds, and more, can truly sooth the overactive mind.  Why not even do yoga on the beach for a double relaxing time.

Sound Machines

Since this was brought up already, getting a sound machine that has sounds such as the waves on the beach, birds singing in the breeze, a rainfall in a jungle or even the sounds of a waterfall could help relax and quiet the mind.  These machines play “white noise” which blocks out the everyday sounds and can pull your mind away from what it is thinking.  Play the machine at night to relax you and help you fall into a quiet, deep sleep.  These machines are also good for meditation, by quieting the mind and pulling you deeper into the meditation.  Have you noticed that when you go for a massage, a majority of offices will have something like this playing in the background to relax you, even before the massage begins?

Massage

Getting a massage can be extremely relaxing and soothing.  From the time you are on the table, with a practiced massage therapist, or even a good friend, you are pulled into a sense of calm and soothing.  A good massage will relax not only the body but the mind as well.  It will remove all of the stress, knots, and even center the body and mind.  Give yourself a treat of an hour or more therapeutic massage and allow yourself to feel all the stress pull away from your body.  This will also help clear the mind and allow it to shut down at least for a short time.

The above 7 forms of relaxation are just the tip of the iceberg.  Everyone has their way or ways that work best for them.  These are just a few to get you started.  Try them and find what works best for you.  You may even come up with some of your own.  Once you have found something that works for you, please let us know what it is and how it relaxes you.  We love to hear from you, and know that others will benefit from your research into how to quiet your mind

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