Saturday, December 11, 2010

Five Holiday Stress Relievers

My sister called me this morning and told me she needed some of that "work/life balance stuff."   Sick kid, broken computer, school deadlines, rude Starbucks clerk, yada, yada, yada. Yikes - poor thing was ready to go right over the edge.

As I told her that true life balance is internal, I realised I was reminding myself of these words as much as I was saying them to her.

"Dude, we gotta pay even more attention to what's happening on the inside when clearly we have no control over the madness around us."

Still, the holidays are practically synonymous with the "slippery slope."   So many potential pitfalls.  Nevermind the usual stress of work, school and home.  (Does anyone take a vacation anymore?)  Now there are shopping crowds, poorly timed man colds, holiday traffic, cooking nightmares, screaming kids who are not yours so you can't beat them (j/k), too many dysfunctional family members in one place at one time.  

Let's face it - crazy is the gift that keeps on giving!

All this in mind, last year I wrote this list of things which can help anyone stay cool as a cucumber over the next couple of weeks.  Cuz ya know, Santa would probably frown upon us taking a hostage or something.

1. Attitude of Gratitude.  Thank you. Thank You. Thank You.  Say it early and often.  Another thing I've been working on is when someone says "thank you," to respond with "my pleasure."  Okay, so I got this from the mom on 19 Kids & Counting.  It's still valid.  Try it. 

2. Square Breathing.  This is one of my favorite stress relievers.  Breathe in for four slow counts (1....2....3....4).  Hold the breath for four slow counts (1....2....3....4).  Breathe out for four slow counts (1....2....3....4). Hold for four slow counts (1....2....3....4).    Do this cycle several times until the urge to scream goes away.    Keep it calm and slow.  If you find yourself breathing in and out too quickly, count to eight.  Hyperventilating and passing out is not the goal.  No blue people.

3. Heart Glow.  Another meditative technique which I love, love, love.   Close your eyes. Take slow, deep, calm breaths.  As you breathe in, imagine a little glow in your chest near your heart.  Like a pilot light or the flame of a match. As you breathe out, picture the light getting bigger.  As it grows, imagine feelings of peace and happiness also growing.  Keep breathing as the light and happiness fills your whole body.  Then, the glow completely surrounds you.  Finally, imagine that you are a beacon of light and happiness radiating out into the world.   Rinse.  Repeat.

4. Smile Dammit!  Go ahead.  Turn that frown upside down. Smiling has been called "free therapy."  There is a scientific theory that smiling actually "provides enough peripheral information to drive positive emotional experience." Basically, faking it helps make it.  For me, it also helps me if I see other people smiling and laughing, especially my kids.  So give a tickle, tell a joke, sit on a whoopee cushion. Yuck it up.  It's all good.

5. Let Go & Grow.  Send that inner control freak on vacation.  If you've ever planned any big occasion or event, you should know by now that things often don't go as planned.  I tend to be overly organized as a coping mechanism.  So when someone messes with my best laid plans, I really have to remind myself to go with the flow.

The bottom line is this:
       Regardless of religious beliefs, holidays are about being together, appreciating, enjoying and rejoicing.  Getting all stressed out somewhat defeats the purpose, right?

Wishing you health, happiness & prosperity!
Add To Google BookmarksStumble ThisFav This With TechnoratiAdd To Del.icio.usDigg ThisAdd To RedditTwit ThisAdd To FacebookAdd To Yahoo

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Life Balance and Blogging - 10 Tips

In conversations with other bloggers and wannabe's, two questions usually arise:       
    * How do you find the time?
             * How do you get readers?

At a high level, I believe that the answer to those questions is the same as everything else in the great juggling act

We need to prioritize and have a plan which includes confidence, effective actions, and support. 

To dig in a little deeper, here are 10 other tips on how to be a successful blogger and also make it work with life balance. 

1. Define "success."  Know why you are blogging and what your goals are, if any.  For me, it's just the joy of writing and getting my message out there to help people.  Therefore, I define success more by readership; by followers and comments rather than "traffic."   If your blog is monetized, you will probably care more about the latter.   (And will likely be disappointed by my lack of focus here on such things as SEO and stat analytics.)

2. Set reasonable expectations for posting frequency.  While research shows that posting on a consistent schedule increases loyal readership, there is no rule that says more often is always better.  Think quality over quantity.  Consistency is more important than frequency.  As a side note, size matters.  For a variety of reasons, posts between 300 - 800 words are ideal.

3. Set aside dedicated writing time.   Since I write on the weekends, this means getting agreement from my family for a couple hours of "quiet time."  It also means dusty baseboards.   I could ask them to pick up the extra cleaning while I write, but I try to quit while I'm ahead.

4. Tell a story.  No matter what the content, make it relatable.  When I first started writing about life balance, I thought my blog had to be a preachy "how to" guide. When I started connecting advice to real experiences, memories and mistakes, it was not only more fun but my follower base jumped 250% and I started getting many more comments.  Apparently misery really does love company.

5. Take notes.  Even if you are not writing every day, you can still be inspired 24/7.  I've done everything from carrying a small notebook to recording voice messages on my phone to sending myself emails.  Whatever works for you, find a method which allows you to capture that inspiration as soon as it comes into your brain and record it for later when you actually have time to use it.   Especially if you are over the age of 40.  Or have given birth.  I fall into both categories and I can tell you, the ol' memory just isn't what it used to be.

6. Find a community that "fits" you.  There are lots of blog forums out there (just Google) but sometimes it takes a little trial and error to find the best for you.  Here's a tip:  If you see more than one post on a page titled, "Follow me and I will follow you!"  Don't walk.  Run.  But don't give up.  Finding the one or two communities where you feel really connected and supported is critical to success.

7. Share the love.   Key in both life and blogging is putting out what we want back.  Want people to read, comment and subscribe?  Go forth to read, comment and subscribe.  This is not the same as the cold, obligatory "Follow me and I'll follow back."  This is about sharing genuine interest.  Find other bloggers in your niche and/or to whom you can relate and leave them thoughtful comments. 

8. Be "social" not "soapbox." Many blogging articles will give you lots of advice about ways to use Facebook, Twitter and other social networks to promote your blog.  My added advice is instead of making it all about "Look at me!  Read my blog!" post a status update or tweet to find out who else has a blog.  Take the time to visit them and leave a thoughtful comment.  People are much more likely to travel back up a two-way street. 

9. Multi-task.  Whereas writing takes chunks of dedicated, focused time (for me anyway), the ancillary activities can be done in much smaller doses.   I respond to comments, check-in on my blog community and visit other blogs every day.  Yet, I do these things for only moments at a time - usually while waiting for or doing other things.  That way, it doesn't feel like "work."  I don't watch a lot of TV but when I do, I have my iPad in my hands and am promoting my blog during the commercials.  (Go Top Chef All Stars!)

10. Let go of perfection.  This is especially true if you are one of those type A, "If I can't do it well, I won't do it at all" people.  I say this with love since I am one of you: Get over it.  Overthinking not only wastes time but greatly inhibits creativity.   If you are a newbie and it's the design which is holding you up, just start with one of the many templates out there. I've upgraded my design five times.  Most likely what you start with won't be your final version either.  The content is easily transferable from one design to another.   So, what are you waiting for?

If you have any specific questions about blogging or life balance, I'm happy to help.  Just let me know. 

Happy blogging! 

Add To Google BookmarksStumble ThisFav This With TechnoratiAdd To Del.icio.usDigg ThisAdd To RedditTwit ThisAdd To FacebookAdd To Yahoo