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How To Make A Self-Care Program To Combat Stress

Stress is epidemic, and science has already supported what millions have experienced for themselves under stress. Stress can make people sick, and it can kill.  From hypertension to heart attacks, from frayed tempers  to burn out, from fuzzy concentration to gnawing back-pain, stress can overload us physically, mentally and emotionally.

Stress is an inescapable part of life, but we don’t have to live helpless before it. There are definitely factors outside of our control when it comes to living with stress, so that just means we can focus on what we can do in order to  help ourselves. No one can afford to be ignorant when it comes to self-care about dealing with their stress. When we take accountability at a personal level, we decide for ourselves what no one else can or will, and that action by itself is of great help in getting our strength back.

Knowledge is power, and  we need to be more aware of what situations can contribute to stress, and how stress creeps up in and makes us ill. We can use that knowledge to prevent that from happening and be able to take care of our selves when it does.

Stress can come from feeling we have no control, comfort, or choice. By learning about stress, and applying that  awareness to action,  we take control and open up more choices for ourselves to address  the cause and relieve the pressure, creating better situations for ourselves. Continue reading How To Make A Self-Care Program To Combat Stress

DIY Self Care With Free Mindfulness Training

We’ve always been about how to work better and work smarter here with the articles on our blogs,  and this is where Dave Potter’s site on mindfulness comes in — as a resource to help you live and work with less stress.

Palousemindfulness houses a collection of carefully selected articles, video links and resources meant to help you learn and practice Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) in an 8-week training program that is absolutely free. No email sign-ups, no need to log-in, you can go straight to the source.

Potter, a certified MBSR instructor and a retired psychotherapist, specialized in cases on anxiety, stress and trauma. He created the course  so people without access to formal, class-room MBSR courses can also benefit from the knowledge, saying that learning MBSR helps people with the following:

  • Cope with stress, pain, and the challenges of everyday life.
  • Deal with disturbing events with grace and composure.
  • Be fully present and alive in the moment.

Potter describes MBSR as “a blend of meditation, body awareness and yoga: learning through practice and study how your body handles (and can resolve) stress neurologically.”

The 8-week self-guided program uses mindfulness meditation, body sensation awareness (“body scanning”) and simple yoga exercises to help people develop mindfulness. The benefits of starting and practicing regularly include stress reduction and better relaxation.

We get that you’re busy with getting things done, that’s why this self-directed course may be just the right fit for your schedule.  Sure,  it’s presented as an 8 week course, but once you have access to the reading material and print-outs, you can always go at your own pace. Like the site says, the key is consistent, intentional action.

Tailored for people who may not be able to attend live classes, or have schedules that make that  difficult, the training is modeled on the MBSR program founded by Jon Kabat-Zinn at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. It includes YouTube video links, downloadable PDF’s for print-outs, and practices to guide people on the way. Continue reading DIY Self Care With Free Mindfulness Training

Screen Out Stress: Block Out The Pings

Do you remember reading about the Pavlovian response?  It’s named after the scientist who essentially conditioned his dogs to salivate on demand.

Ivan Pavlov’s  experiment went like this: He made a sound before mealtimes to signify that the food was coming, and when it did, his dogs salivated. When they became accustomed to the sound that signified the food was coming, he kept the experiment going with the sound, but not the actual meals, and his dogs continued with the learned response. Sound equals food, so they salivated.

From that kind of reward association, we can now get an idea of how we get trained to our own reward situations. From that, you can get a  glimpse of how we can get conditioned to act in certain situations, even without a ‘reward’ at the end.

What we are exposed to, we can get used to.  When we get ‘rewarded’ for doing things a certain way, we get habituated — again, conditioned — to responding that certain way. Expectations are set and we grow into responding quickly.

When you are use to the speed of response given by today’s technology, you can get habituated to responding immediately. Pings, pop-up messages, signals… when these register on your radar, you are alerted.

What happens when you are alerted continuously though, is that your brain can become overworked trying to sort out and prioritize all those incoming demands for your attention.

We can set certain rules and filters in email, of course. That’s what they’re there for.  We can set up voice mail as well. But these strategies are external, and don’t really touch on the internal and mental toll it takes to recognize, prioritize and respond to all these demands on our time.

  • Haven’t you ever felt a sinking feeling in your stomach when you see the total number of unread emails in your inbox and the priority folders in it? Or see the number of messages blinking for attention  on your answering machine?

When you are habituated to compulsive update checking or responding, your brain’s internal alert systems are overworked. Focus is affected because the stimulus –pings, dings, pop-ups, rings— can keep coming and while you consciously try to keep you mind on the thing in front of you, your brain can’t help but keep registering the pings on your radar.

You pay for it: In split focus, or frayed concentration, in spilled energy mopping up after each ping, and a sinking feeling you’re not really attending to the important things  in your days and in your life, since you’re basically on-call, all the time, for all the things coming in. Continue reading Screen Out Stress: Block Out The Pings

Procrastination: How To Pay Double Interest For Your Time

Procrastination is what happens when intention and ordered meaning is obscured by immediate feeling.
But you already know this, right?
On an intellectual level you understand that there is something you have to finish, and your feelings are like tiny howler monkeys, screaming in your ear and pointing you in the direction of something else.

You can’t pull yourself into the thing you’re supposed to be doing.
You’re meh on that.

These emotions of the moment take your time away from you, and stop you from getting things done that will help you. It’s like there’s a swelling pressure in your head that directs your attention and impulses to other things.

In the long run, when you indulge your feelings now you stress out — and pay for it again in exhaustion, squandered options and missed opportunities afterward.

  • You worry about the stuff you’re supposed to be paying attention to.
  • You worry about not having done it yet.
  • You worry about the after-effects — of work you haven’t done and still aren’t doing.
  • You worry about all the hard work you have to rush to get it done.
  • And in the meantime, you see other opportunities that you can’t take because you’re so busy trying to not-deal with whatever it is you’re putting off.

Result: you’re driven into deeper dithering. You pay for it now (in stress and time) and you pay for it later (in wasted opportunities).

That’s double interest. A credit card with rates like that would be dead in the water, but when it comes to time, your time, it’s okay?

You put things off until the opportunity expires. You don’t work. Things don’t get done. Nothing important for you happens. And for no good reason other than a massive cloud of meh obstructing your vision. Then what happens?

  • You forfeit long-term gains for short-term relief. Add the incidences up over time, the cost can be crushing, because you’ve paid in slices of your life that you can’t ever do over, but can regret plenty.

And it’s not just procrastinating on the little things that bite you in the ass. It’s pulling back on the big things because you’re scared and they matter to you too much. Small things lost may tick you off, but big things lost can break your heart.

You’re afraid you’ll never be able to measure up, or deserve it — why even try? — so you bury yourself in the small stuff to feel busy and accomplished.

Here are a few things I found over the years that helped me get in gear and beat this bad habit: Continue reading Procrastination: How To Pay Double Interest For Your Time

A Few Thoughts On Taking Time Off

“Instead of wondering when your next vacation is, you ought to set up a life you don’t need to escape from.” – Seth Godin

Over the years, I noticed a few things when it came to taking some time off:

  • I often have to encounter something I can’t stop, change or affect in order to rest. For example, when I get sick, it’s about the only time I set aside time for myself –and more often than not, I have to talk myself out of powering through it and cross off one more thing on my To Do list, in fear that the world will collapse if I’m not there to handle it. Ever do laundry when you’re running a fever and your head is so clogged you can’t even breathe through your nose? I don’t recommend it.
  • I feel anxious and think that I may be missing out on something important. Cue repetitive checking for new email and updates. Cue refreshing every half-hour or so: “Just 10 more minutes…there might be an upda–oh, score!”
  • I feel like a slacker, and that I’m squandering time and opportunities — I mean, I can be making something great here! I could be doing something more important. You know, something!

Basically, when I try to relax, I fall apart. And I don’t think I’m the only one. Right?

Pressure can be deviously comfortable that way. When you’re used to living with it, you can feel quite out of sorts when it’s suddenly removed. Sometimes that dislocation manifests itself in the oddest ways. Like planning and saving and looking towards a vacation, and come the time to take it, you schedule in everything because dammit, you are going to enjoy this break even if it kills you. (Again, that can’t be just me.) So here’s the rest of what I learned when I tried really, really hard to relax and failed. Continue reading A Few Thoughts On Taking Time Off

Use Your Inventory To Maximize Your Business Know-How

Inventory can refer to:

  • The list of merchandise or material held in readiness (storage) for delivery or distribution, as well as the actual units themselves.
  • It can also refer to the ongoing record of any units held in stock.

When approaching inventory as a business tool, you’ll see it’s a numbers puzzle: you need the context, the data and the experience to make sense of the pictures that come out from those numbers and columns, and accurate, timely inventory-keeping gives you the following advantages:

You know when you’re running low, or running high.
With a record you get historical data. You can compare and contrast the figures from year-to-date, or week-to-date, for example, so you can discern trends emerging or reappearing, and start thinking things out when the numbers seems to be showing you a different picture from what you reasonably expect this time around. You have an idea about what’s been going on, and how much has changed or not compared to a week, a month or a year ago.

  • Why are you running low, and will this be likely to happen in other areas, or is it happening already? Why? What caused it? If you’re running low here, does this mean that the item in question is a hit with customers — and you can pre-order more — or were you not able to stock up properly the last time?
  • What are the reasons for these changes? A delay in shipping? Switching to a new supplier?

The answers to the questions that come up help you do better next time. Any information you can use to make your business better, use it.

By tracking your inventory, you keep on top of the situation.
Knowledge is power. Accurate, timely information in the form of inventory tells you how much you have to work with at any given time.

  • You don’t run out at a critical point. You have an advance warning system to tell you what needs attention when.
  • You can batch orders and in the process save money on delivery costs, as well as have some reassurance that you’ll get what you need when you need it.
  • Just-in-time production helps on shipping and storage costs — you skate on the edge of overstock, you pay for the storage and the shipping costs to get it in, but it’s not making money for you sitting idle. What if you have only what you need, only when you need it? (Building in acceptable leeway, of course.)

Continue reading Use Your Inventory To Maximize Your Business Know-How

6 Money Management Tips For Your Online Business

When it comes to brick and mortar stores, every business owner, prospective or otherwise, has a lot of expenses to consider.

For the store itself, you can take rental costs — if you’re not buying outright — and the utilities. Factor in any renovations needed, plus there’s also stuff like property and fire insurance, applicable health permits, local government permits and the corresponding taxes, etc.

Then there are also the physical assets used in the business: aside from raw materials, there are the tools and any machinery used in production, which also come with their eventual depreciation.

Adding employees means allotting money for compensation and benefits, plus health insurance and any government-mandated pension plans, which are also included in the cost of running the business (overhead). That’s a lot of slices in the budget pie.

In an online business, you can bypass a majority of these bills. Because it’s a virtual enterprise, you can run one out of your basement, your garage, even your living room or a closet.

You’ll need reliable equipment, but most everything else can be outsourced like data storage, website design, virtual assistance and even administration. There’s no real need to buy the latest thing only to see it depreciate in value after only so much time.

In running an e-business, things get really different because of its very nature. The first and most basic requirement is a computer and a reliable (and fast) internet connection.

Anything you want to do, whatever it is you want to build, is based on having these things — whether you’re selling something (being a merchant and an e-store proprietor), having someone else sell something for you (affiliate management), establish a presence or a brand (blogging and social media), again, your most basic tools are a reliable computer–with good backup, don’t forget — and a steady internet connection. Continue reading 6 Money Management Tips For Your Online Business

Everyone’s A Knowledge Worker: Thriving In The Creative Age

“People need skills that will enable them to thrive across a diverse, fast-changing and demanding range of situations. […] The economy needs people who are able to draw on their full potential to contribute ideas and know-how to the work they do. (Emphasis added)
– From the conclusion of “The Creative Age,” (1999) a 109-page paper written by authors Kimberly Seltzer and Tom Bentley for Demos, a UK based think-tank.

This is The Creative Age we’re living in, and what made it possible was the birth and growth of the massive maze of interlinks that is the World Wide Web. The Internet is a world online, and it has revolutionized the ways we think, how we communicate with one another and how fast that happens.

We have access to more information at our fingertips right now than we’ll ever be able to use up in a lifetime, with more information coming in every second of every day. So what will it take to navigate the rapids in all the torrential rivers of information available out there and make it?

One thing mentioned in the Demos paper was knowledge-based economics. Knowledge is power. Knowing how to generate it, understand it, and make it work for you is another kind of power, as is being able to simplify that knowledge to help benefit the general population.

Think of your favorite websites. The artists, creators and writers of those website have messages that resound with you, otherwise you wouldn’t visit. Think of all the websites out there, and their all niche-readers, their subscribers and followers and fans. What with all the information out there, it’s not just the people who come up with it, but also the people who can link it in useful ways that are going to stand out.

A knowledge worker is a very real thing, even if the social scientist still argue about the exact definition of one. When you see the lattices and intersections of the data out there, when you understand how they connect and function and make that information easier for other people to ‘get it’, you can be considered as someone who works with knowledge.

Think of writers like Seth Godin and Chris Guillebeau…they do that for their readers. And when your readers, or fans, get it as well, they will follow you. Continue reading Everyone’s A Knowledge Worker: Thriving In The Creative Age

Treat Your Projects Like Your Favorite Adventure Story

Do you remember your childhood daydreams of wild adventures, incredible hardship and epic questing?

Perhaps you were inspired by Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonrider series, or set aflame by Tolkien’s stories. Maybe C.S Lewis’s Narnia got you started, or even Laura Ingalls Wilder’s recollections of life on the frontier. Perhaps Lois McMaster-Bujold’s epic space opera series flipped your switch, and you haven’t looked back since.

Trust me, I’m going somewhere with this. Ready? To get straight to the point, a project is a worthy undertaking.

Whether it’s a personal project or part of a business objective, the planned pay-off is something deemed of good, even great, value to the people involved.

Granted, needler guns aren’t included, or lembas bread, or impressing dragon hatchlings–or firelizards. Those are for the fantasy part of epic questing, this –this part here– in real life, is where the ‘incredible hardship’ comes in. And even then that often turns out to be the plain, garden-variety hardship of the everyday flavor.

Boring, isn’t it? Yes, yes, we all live for those action-packed moments–they get the adrenaline pumping right quick, eh?–but face it, all that is due to editing.

Hardly anyone wants to watch or read about the editing process, or in real life, learn about all the years of patient toil, the various pits of despair, and all those exhausted hours wondering if it was all worth it.

You want the good stuff and you want it now. For books and movies, ‘now’ can be had in under two hours, for the most part. Overnight, if the books are part of a series and you burn the midnight oil. But in real live life, nope.

Guess what? The good stuff doesn’t come out of the blue. You have to work for it. And if you plan well for it, the better your chances of getting the good stuff. Fail to plan, plan to fail. Continue reading Treat Your Projects Like Your Favorite Adventure Story

Triage: When You Have Too Much Stuff To Do

Triage. The term comes from the French verb ‘trier‘, “to separate, sift or select.” In the medical field, there are two types of triage:

  • Simple, for accidents and mass casualties, used to see who needs immediate medical attention and transport to the hospital soonest.
  • Advanced, which is ” used to divert scarce resources away from patients with little chance of survival in order to increase the chances of survival of others who are more likely to survive.”

Triage is used to determine the order and priority of emergency treatment, transport, and-or the transport destination for the patient. In the hardest cases, triage decides who gets prioritized based on their chances of survival.

You already prep for triage when you sort your prioritizes for the day. You commit to triage when you attend to them to get the best results. Triage in this context is commitment to success in action.

In our everyday work, the term triage can be used to describe the “the assigning of priority order to projects on the basis of where funds and other resources can be best used, are most needed, or are most likely to achieve success.”

If you’ve ever watched any battlefield scenes where soldiers scream for a medic, you already have an idea of how the pressure in those dire circumstances forced the evolution of a medical process meant to save people. You can apply the principles of this process to your own battlefields. You assess the field, check the quality and availability of the resources at your disposal, your window of opportunity, and your own personal resources. Continue reading Triage: When You Have Too Much Stuff To Do