Done Waiting

It was 2 weeks ago that I posted about how I need to step up my game. In writing and in life.

So, did I do anything? Am I all talk and no walk?

Yes, I did and no, I’m not.

Wait…you get that, right?

I started with a movie. I took myself to the movies. I went to a matinee to see Hangover 2. There were about ten other people in the theater, so I got to stretch out and get comfortable. (I’d like to add that matinee is prime time because if you heard a whole theater laughing, you may have missed half of the jokes as they were layered in one after another.) While I usually bring my own snacks in my oversized purse….ssshhhh!…this time I bought myself a snack and drink there. Hey, if no one else is gonna splurge on me, why don’t I do it? I spent two hours in worry-free bliss, relaxing and laughing.

A few days later, I treated myself to some new summer clothes. Nothing extravagant, but a few bright colored things from Old Navy perked me up a bit.

This week, I took my kids to the local zoo. Not a big city zoo, but a local one where we can still walk around and enjoy the day outside. The kids had a great time and I was at ease allowing them to run around and watching them ooh and aah at every little creature.

Tuesday. Tuesday was a big day. I took my son to the Philadelphia Museum of Art. My quest to spend more time in the city has begun. A bit nervous on the drive in, we made it there with no problem. I only freaked out mildly when I found out I couldn’t park in the usual parking lot in front of the building.

WHERE DO I GO?!!

Street parking…ugh. We found a spot, and the bonus? I didn’t have to pay for parking. Score one for me.

And even though the residual effects of the stress tainted my stomach for the next two hours, I managed to suck it up and make the most of the day with my son. We strolled. We admired. We wondered. He received several compliments on his hat; he has a fedora he loves to wear. There’s something elating about seeing your child beam at random compliments. We even marveled at our favorite room…The Armor Room.

All in all, I think I’m on the right track. The past two weeks gave me a boost and I feel like some life has been breathed back into…well…my life. I’m definitely going to take myself to the movies more often. And finding things to do outside with the kids will be a priority, as well. There are a bunch of playgrounds nearby. Maybe that will be next week’s fun.

What are YOU doing to live a little more? Let me know!

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So What If I’m Neurotic? It’s Totally Normal!

All last week I was neglecting my laptop for a little thing called vertigo.  A ridiculous illness that seems to visit me two or three times a year since I had my daughter 3 years ago.  For an entire week, I was unable to do my normal daily activities around the house such as cooking, laundry, cleaning, etc.  Any walking at all was a huge effort, but utterly hilarious to onlookers as I walked like I had just downed a bottle of tequila.  Needless to say, the things that I do didn’t get done and chores piled up all over the place.  In addition, my anxiety about it piled up as the days passed.

Today, however, the clouds parted and the dizzy haze was gone.  So, what was the first thing I did?  I made a list.  I love lists.  My mind runs a million thoughts a minute and for me to remember every task at hand is virtually impossible.  I am too easily sidetracked.  Washing the dishes, I see a food container and remember I wanted to clean up the fridge.  Or I’m putting away clothes when I realize I wanted to fix something in one of the kids’ rooms.  I stop at the computer to check my email and end up reading that blog I forgot about.  By the end of the day, the dishes are half washed, the fridge still have leftovers that could walk to the trash on their own and someone is still waiting for my reply to that email from last week.   

When I make a list, I feel like order is restored to a stressful situation.  If I go shopping, I make a list.  Christmas is coming?  Everyone needs a list of what they want.  Different projects to tackle?  Make a list.  Chores to do?  You get the idea.  I feverishly scribbled every little thing that needed to get done.  Vacuum, laundry, wash the dishes, so on and so forth.  My irritation started to subside once I sat down and looked over each item.  I take specific care to write down each item no matter how small.  Even though the list is long, I am more encouraged with every chore I cross off.  Yes, I cross them off as they are done.  (Insert point and laugh here.)  Water the plants, empty the dishwasher, wrap a gift….check, check and check. 

Maybe I have a little OCD…or maybe I have a lot.  My lists are my little lifesavers.  Calming me from the onslaught of too much to do and never enough time to do it.  I have loads of little notebooks around so I can make a list anywhere, even in purses in case I think of something while I’m out.  

Stop worrying…I recycle!

I love my lists and I don’t care who knows it.  I am addicted to order and organization and my lists are the glue that holds my sanity together.  I don’t care if it’s neurotic!  It’s totally normal! 

You make lists, too!  Right? 

RIGHT?! 

The Need for a #DailyGiggle

If you follow me on Twitter, you might know that every day I post a #DailyGiggle.  Most days it is either a silly photo or video from various sites.  The only requirement I have for choosing one is that it has to make me laugh out loud.  Whether hysterical laughter, or just a little chuckle, it has to initiate a reaction from me.  And for videos, I try to keep it under five minutes in the interest of people at work who might be checking it out.  I pick a new item every day and usually put in some time searching.  If I’m lucky, something that I recall that has made me laugh in the past pops into my head and I just go find it.

Who is reading these tweets?  Let’s do the math.  I have less than 300 followers  and I’m pretty sure that about 100 of them are bots, businesses or people that don’t even read my tweets.  Still, that leaves about 100 or so that might read them.  Even if only half of those people see the #DailyGiggle, that could be 50 people that I have made laugh.  To me, that is an extremely successful day. 

Why do I post these tweets?  I’ve come to find that if you make it a point to get some laughter each day, you can make a difference in the way stress affects you.  Being happy doesn’t just come naturally.  You have to help it, nurture it and encourage it to be able to keep it.  It may seem like hard work, but you’ll find that when it comes to making yourself happy, it doesn’t feel like work. 

Still not convinced?  Let me list a few of the health benefits of laughter for you:

  • Relieves physical tension
  • Decreases stress hormones
  • Increases immune cells & infection fighting antibodies
  • Improves blood vessel function & increases blood flow
  • Decreases pain
  • Eases anxiety
  • Increases energy

The list goes on and on.  A good laugh may give you temporary benefit, but when you are laughing regularly you could see some real long term advantages.  The improved blood vessel function and better blood flow can protect you from heart attack.  Relieving anxiety can help you avoid stress related illnesses such as anxiety attacks and stomach ulcers.  Taking care of your body can be difficult for people on the go.  We don’t always eat right and exercise.  However, it’s still important to do what you can to keep your health in check.  Better health means less trips to the doctor.  That means less doctor bills to pay and one less stress to worry about. 

I’ve been on quite a journey in this past year and the most important lesson I’m learning is that happiness is easy to come by when you are looking for it.  And with this lesson, I hope the spread around the joy a little.  I feel like if I can be this happy, more people should feel this way, too.  So, if you’re on Twitter, look for me and my #DailyGiggle hashtag.  For those of you that follow me already, I hope you enjoy the giggles.  And for those of you that retweet them, thanks for spreading around a few laughs!

Whether you are or aren’t on Twitter, please, do what you can to get some laughs every single  day.  The more you laugh, the more you’ll see what a difference it can make. 😀

The Makings of an Optimist

Life is stressful.  It just is.  We have jobs, kids, friends, family, money and whatever else we deal with weighing on our shoulders.  We multitask, reschedule, overbook and overwork to get everything done.  It’s hard to stop and breathe sometimes.  Our bodies take stress in and it can affect us in different ways.  Headaches, backaches, stomach pain and anxiety attacks are only a few of the culprits. 

I have been on a quiet journey for a few months.  While trying to read more and write more, I have also been trying to calm my mind and body in the meantime.  Maybe we could say I am on a path to enlightenment.  Too cliched?  Ok, I am learning about meditation.  When I first began reading about it, I thought what can it really do for me?  I can barely sit still for several minutes let alone get my mind to focus on a mantra.  Isn’t this only for hippies and people who live for yoga?  Besides, I have kids, a dog and a cat, so there is no chance of me ever having a substantial amount of undisturbed silence to obtain any benefit. 

Wrong.  I was so wrong.  I am so wrong it makes me wonder why have I not done this before?  Meditation does not mean sitting and chanting “Ohm” for hours on end.  There is so much more to know.  You can meditate by looking at a candle, listening to ocean waves or even doing daily activities.  Positions vary from lying flat on your back to performing yoga poses.  The middle of your living room is a great place.  So is your back yard.  Or your desk at work. (You may not want to lie across your desk, though.)  The point is, meditation is not about one position and one practice.  The importance is in the results of your meditation.

The ability to breath deep and allow yourself to let go of your thoughts is a true gift.  The breathing can calm your body as well as your mind.  When we let stress affect us, it can make our muscles tighten and our breathing to become short and shallow.  By forcing a deep breath, you can feel your muscles begin to relax.  And somehow, some way, the more you do it, the more the calm bleeds into the rest of your day.  You are more likely to handle tasks with patience and skill.  You are less likely to be upset by coworkers, spouses or your children. 

My favorite outcome is I feel more aware of my own self.  I am starting to discover so much more about who I am.  I feel much more in tune with my body and mind.  When I feel frustration or anger building up, I am much better equipped to pacify my emotions.  Just one or two deep breaths can help me refocus when I feel like I am losing control.  Most of all, I relish the fact that I can learn to appreciate so much more in my life.  A mere smile from one of my kids or a trip in the car without an accident is enough to make me remember what is important in my life.  Each day, each moment can hold something precious. 

So, has meditation made me an optimist?  Maybe.  Or maybe it just showed me what I’ve been missing.

I’m Mad So I’m Gonna Yell At You!

In the past few days, I’ve seen some pretty poor displays of character in public forum.  Rather than point fingers and say this person is wrong or this one is right, I think there is one big lesson that is sometimes easily forgotten when emotions run high.  Respect. 

Sure, it can be a vague topic, but in actuality, it all comes down to one main focus…not being a total jerk when you get mad about something.  Ok, maybe that’s not as eloquent as I could have been, but you get it, right? 

Emotions can often get the better of us.  Anger and jealousy being the biggest culprits.  It’s easy to attack others with hurtful words when we let these feelings overwhelm us.  It’s ok to be angry and it’s perfectly normal to feel jealous.  But, when  you go after others to make yourself feel better, you only make things worse.  Think about the last time you lashed out at someone.  Did it make you feel better?  Did it solve the problem?  Probably not.  Not only were you still upset, but now someone else is, too.

When you do this in a public forum such as Facebook, Twitter, or even out in a place like a restaurant or other venue, you leave it up to others to be able to judge your character based on this one outrageous incident.  You might normally be a great person, but who would know?  Insulting people you know, or don’t know, just to express something doesn’t solve the issue. 

So, let’s fix it. 

1)  Know who you are angry with.  Snapping at your friends, family or the cashier at WalMart is misplaced emotions.  Beware!  The person you are mad at, may be you.   

2)  Think before you speak.  If you are speaking with someone, wait a few seconds before reacting to determine if they are trying to be hurtful or helpful.  You may have misunderstood them.

3)  Don’t point fingers at people you don’t know.  You may only have one little glimpse into the life of a person on sites like Facebook and Twitter.  Accusing someone based on one or two comments is like calling someone a bad dresser when they had to run out to the store after a session at the gym.  You don’t know them.  Two lines and a picture don’t give you a window to their soul.  It gives you a Polaroid of one day. 

4)  Stop to consider the consequences.  Do you have any idea what is going on in another person’s life?  You had a bad day and feel fed up.  Maybe their day was worse.  Maybe they have less than you do to be thankful for.  You may have just incited a domino effect as they might be rude to the next person they speak with because you have needlessly ruined their day.

5)  Look in the mirror.  Do you have any blame in what is going on?  Are you so busy yelling at someone else that you forgot that part of this is your fault?

The basic lesson here is that when you feel enraged about something, think before you open your mouth.  Consider what the result may be if you encroach on someone else’s happiness.  If you can manage to take a few deep breaths and ponder what might happen, you will have the fortitude and the good sense to prevent someone else from being an innocent victim of your wrath.  And you just might save your reputation, as well.

Just Breathe…

Today is one of those days where my mind is all over the place.  I took my son to get new glasses at the eye doctor this morning.  Dropped a wad of cash there because eyeglasses are not cheap.  Then came home thinking I need to check my bank account, write in my blog, clean up the dishes, decide what to make for dinner and oh, I want to start a new book.  And I can’t forget that tonight is the night my son has his weekly guitar lesson and while he’s there I will dash over to Target to pick up anything I need in a half hour or less.  So, while thinking of all these things, I’m letting the dog out and the neighbor’s german shepherd jumps the fence…again…and proceeds to chase my dog around while she’s trying to pee.  Really?  Again?  I get annoyed when the kids knock on the door when I’m in the bathroom, but this is crossing some sort of private time rule here.  Besides the fact that she has to go outside to begin with.  Then my dog is inside barking like a maniac while I’m trying to shoo the other one back to her yard, but instead she’s trying to mark her territory in every corner of my yard.  Did I mention my 3 year old is trying to take a nap?

Anyway, I digress, of course, because my mind is being pulled in a million different directions and I can’t stay focused on one little thing long enough to complete a thought and what I really need to do is…just breathe.  I just need to be still for a minute and take a few deep breaths.  Aaah.  It’s amazing what the simple act of concentrated breathing can do for you.  The minute stress is starting to weigh heavy, my muscles tighten, my breath becomes short and shallow and I can actually feel my blood pressure rising.  But, when I just take a minute to breathe a few lasting, deep breaths, I can feel it start to melt away.  My focus comes back and I can tackle one issue at a time.  The worry that is building a wall, brick by brick, is slowly being taken down.  The world is not ending.  I close my eyes and picture a comforting place to be.  The beach always works.  The ebb and flow of the waves soothes my mind.  I picture a cool breeze brushing across my cheek as I dig my toes into the sand.

 

Taking just a few moments to stop and breathe deeply can reset how your brain is reacting to stress.  Stressful situations are everywhere.  When the kids are running around the house, work is piling up on your desk, or you are stuck in traffic, you feel like it’s going to ruin your whole day.  Take a few deep breathes.  Rationalize the situation.  It’s not the end of the world.  The kids are having fun, the work will eventually get done and you will ultimately get to where you are going.  There are things in life you can’t control, but you can control yourself.  If you do not enjoy feeling like tearing your hair out, then maybe you should try this. 

Just don’t go to your happy place when you are in traffic.  Eyes on the road, please!  

10 Ways to De-Stress

After a lay off, a move, distracting illness and trying to start over professionally, I have maxed out my stress threshold.  I have found that the best thing to do is to start from ground zero and rebuild my stress reducing routines.  It can be difficult to regroup when stress starts affecting your health.  The worst part is, many people don’t realize what a large role stress plays.  I have compiled the following list that worked for me. 

1)  Listen to more music! – Music, whether it’s classical, rock, jazz or heavy metal, is always good for the soul.  Put the iPod in the docking station and turn it up.  Switch on your favorite radio station and kick back.  It doesn’t matter how, or where, you listen, as long as you enjoy it.

2)  Take a relaxing bath or shower – Girls, get your bubbles or salts, a magazine and a glass of wine.  Guys, turn up the heat and stand under the water at full blast.  Personally, I take the time to use a special facial scrub, take off any old nail polish, get the fruit scented soaps, lotions and shave gels and I take a long shower with hot water.  I even take the time for extra conditioner in my hair.  Warmer water can loosen tight muscles and the steam can open your pores.  Taking your time and focusing on taking care of yourself will really take the stress out of a long day.

3)  Treat yourself to a heat and/or massage item – There are loads of relaxation tools out there, so find one that suits your needs.  Foot pillows, eye masks and massage seats are all great purchases.  My favorite is a pillow that heats up in the microwave and wraps around the neck.  It removes all the tension that I collect in my neck and shoulders.

4)  Read the funnies – It doesn’t matter if it’s in the newspaper or a book of your favorite Sunday comics.  Calvin and Hobbes always puts a smile on my face.  And the fact that it is a comic strip takes me back to happy memories of my parents reading the newspaper while all of the kids passed the comics secion around. 

5)  Watch a funny movie – I’m not talking about a random chuckle or two.  I want you to get the movie that makes you laugh for at least half of the running time.  The more laughs the better.  Laughter has been proven to have positive effects on your body.

6)  Start a hobby or a project – My husband loves to fish and hunt, and whether you knit, scrapbook, or build model cars, a hobby can be very relaxing and a great escape from the every day pressures.  As for me, I haven’t found one particular hobby that holds my interest, however, a new home holds many exciting ideas for projects.

7)  Get regular exercise – If you are like me, even the word exercise is enough to turn your stomach.  I HATE exercise.  Sadly, though, I have to admit, it has made a significant improvement in my health.  There are so many different ways to work out, you are bound to find something you like eventually.  Just keep trying until you find it.  Mix it up, try different styles.  Most of all, stick with it.  I promise, it gets easier after a while!

8)  Keep your diet in check – Look, I am the last person to tell anyone to stay away from chocolate.  All I am saying is be smart.  Moderation is your friend.  Control your portions.  You can still fill your stomach without overfilling.  And guess what?  Fruits and vegetables really can be good.  Who knew? 

9)  Enjoy some family photos – You might not be like me; I take photos of every occasion, get-together and for no reason at all.  However, whether you have 20 or 2000 photos, it’s nice to take a minute to walk down memory lane and remember some good times you’ve had.  For maximum benefits, look through them with a friend or family member, too!

10)  Count to 10 – When things get hectic and it seems that you are snapping at every little thing, it’s time to rethink your reactions.  It’s time to stop overreacting.  Take 10 seconds before responding to anything when you feel ready to yell or freak out.  Your kids spills a full bowl of cereal and milk and you are ready to scream at how careless they are.  Stop, breathe and think.  There’s a better response in you somewhere.  You can scold if it was intentional, but be rational.  And if it was accidental, have them help you clean it up and show them how to be more careful. 

Even if you only use one or two of these suggestions, be sure to get the most out of them.  Stress can create havoc in your life and body.  Keep it together and take care of yourself.