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Don't Let Stress Dilute or Derail Your Holidays

“We tend to forget that happiness doesn’t come as a result of getting something we don’t have, but rather of recognizing and appreciating what we do have.” – Frederick Keonig

Society sells the “holiday season” as one filled with never-ending family, food and fun. But for most of us, the “holiday season” is synonymous with stress. We are assaulted with messages that we must buy the perfect gift or hold the perfect party or cook the perfect dinner. And this bombardment seems to come earlier every year.

No WONDER we feel overwhelmed. Before you can finish saying “Happy Labor Day,” fall descends with a thud – with Halloween and Thanksgiving basically bypassed to make way for the Christmas/Hanukkah/Holiday season.

It’s the perfect storm of stress. Expectations are high that we should have a HAPPY Hanukkah or a MERRY Christmas, and thus we start adding projects and responsibilities such as baking cookies, decorating the house/office, shopping for gifts (and maybe going into debt), sending holiday cards or planning parties to an already busy work/home life. No wonder it feels like our head is about to explode.

And the price we pay for this stress is the risk of diluting the joy that comes from celebrating the true meaning of the season, and derailing our happiness and contentment because our expectations are too high. The commercialism that accompanies this time of year threatens to suck us into an emotional black hole – where no amount of Black Friday “sales” or store “specials” can save us.

The stress of the season is literally robbing us of the joy that it promises to bring. The solution?  Instead of letting the stress control our lives for the next six weeks, we need to control the stress. And here are five helpful tips:

1.     Get organized – Holiday responsibilities (decorating, cooking, gift giving) are an ADDITION to the responsibilities in our lives, not a replacement. We must work our jobs and raise our families while preparing for the season. So get organized. Sit down this week and create a calendar where you set aside time to get everything done – from gift-buying to card addressing to cooking to wrapping to decorating. Put it ALL down on a calendar.

2.     Don’t put too much on your plate – Be realistic about how much you want to accomplish and don’t try to do too much. You won’t be any fun or any help to anyone if you are too tired and even sick to enjoy the season.

3.     Let go of the guilt – If you can’t make a homemade pie, or don’t have the money to buy everyone gifts, or run out of time to send holiday cards – DON’T FEEL GUILTY. The goal here is to enjoy the season, not run some kind of race. If you buy a store-made pie, or send out an email greeting this year, it certainly isn’t the end of the world.

4.     Continue your healthy habits – Don’t let the stress of the season interfere with your exercise routine or seduce you into eating or drinking more than you really need. Take care of YOURSELF this holiday season.

5.     Be present in the moment – Above all, remember what the season is all about – peace on earth, goodwill to men (and women) and miracles. This is the time to make memories with the people we love, to bask in the knowledge that we are alive, to be grateful for everything we have, to acknowledge and reach out to those who are less fortunate, and to remember the “reason for the season.”

And to CELEBRATE that we made it through another year.

Don’t let stress dilute your joy or derail your peace.

Dr. Lori Baker-Schena is the founder and chief executive officer of Baker Schena Communications, a firm dedicated to “Unleashing Your Potential Through the Power of Words.” We offer motivational speaking, leadership consulting and medical writing services. Find us at www.loribakerschena.com

Time to Adopt One Small New Positive Habit

“Create healthy habits, not restrictions.” – Author Unknown

After reading this quote, you may be thinking, “This isn’t January 1, it’s November! Isn’t it a little late in the year to think about picking up good habits – especially right before the holidays?” to which I must respond “It’s NEVER too late to adopt a habit that makes you feel good.”

Indeed, small intentional changes in your life can lead to huge benefits – including more happiness, joy, peace … and even a greater sense of control. And small changes can be made by creating positive habits.

I suggest that TODAY, you identify a small good habit and adopt it as your own. And I mean small. Don’t become over-ambitious on this because you set yourself up for failure. Instead, take a baby step.

Personally, I make my bed every morning and hang up my clothes from the night before prior to starting my work day. I know that sounds routine, but returning home from the end of hectic day with a clean living space and an inviting bed provides a real sense of home – and peace.

I’ve also made it a habit to express gratitude for my life, health, family and friends the minute I awaken every morning. I start the day off with positivity and thankfulness – regardless of the challenges that may await me later. And it takes me two minutes.

Here are some other suggested habits designed to help simplify your life, and regain a sense of control when your days seem stressful and hectic:

·      Tell at least one person every day how much you appreciate him or her.

·      Make a habit to balance your checkbook so you know just how much money you have to spend.

·      Do the dishes in the sink right after a meal – don’t wait until the next day.

·      Floss your teeth every night.

·      Don’t go to bed with makeup on.

·      Save $5 a day. That adds up to $1,825 a year and in five years you will have $9,125. It’s a painless way to save.

·      Call your parents/kids once a week and let them know you love them.

·      Send a handwritten thank you note to someone who has taken you to dinner or bought you a gift or has given you joy.

·      Eat at least one piece of fruit every day.

·      Smoke one less cigarette a day, drink one less alcoholic beverage a week, eat one meatless meal a week.

A great article on the Elite Daily website by Joelle Nanula gives more great examples of habits that can make you feel better: http://elitedaily.com/life/culture/cultivate-happiness/1222588/.

Picking up a new, positive SMALL habit will work wonder for your moods – it is a gift to yourself. And soon, you will be thinking of more ways to be good to yourself. Through this positive approach, you will gain the strength, joy and vision needed to pursue your personal and professional passions.

Dr. Lori Baker-Schena is the founder and chief executive officer of Baker Schena Communications, a firm dedicated to “Unleashing Your Potential Through the Power of Words.” We offer motivational speaking, leadership consulting and medical writing services. Find us at www.loribakerschena.com

Being Happy With What We Have

Learn to appreciate what you have before time forces you to appreciate what you had. – Unknown

Apple never ceases to amaze me. The company regularly holds news conferences to introduce its next generation of shiny “must have” devices. Even if we are perfectly content with our current phones or iPads or watches, now we can purchase something even BETTER. In marketing terms, this is “creating need” for a product. In emotional terms, it reflects the distractions and advertising saturation in our lives tempting us with the “next new thing.”

Indeed, our economy runs on sales, and as a marketing/public relations professional, I COMPLETELY get it. More/newer products translate into increased sales. Why settle for only one choice of pasta when you can purchase 15 different types of noodles? Why possess only one mobile device when you can own seven? I bet you never thought about monitoring how many steps you take everyday or the quality of your sleep before the availability of wearable technology. And car manufacturers are notorious for introducing new models every year, making your current ride obsolete.

As a consequence, we never seem content with the products we already own. Instead, we are constantly yearning for something bigger, better, newer, shinier … it is a vicious cycle.

And this constant bombardment, especially on social media where keeping up with the Jones’ is taken to an entirely new level, makes many of us unhappy. We are continually reminded of what we don’t have – whether it is the “perfect” body, the “perfect” car or the “perfect” lifestyle.

Few if any messages remind us of what we DO have.

Temptation for things we don’t have is everywhere. Without a doubt, it’s difficult to control the messages pouring out of the traditional media, or your Facebook/Twitter/Instagram feeds. But you CAN control how you react to them.

Start by being sincerely happy for what you DO have, right now, today. Once you start taking a “gratitude inventory” of your life, you will quickly realize just how much you do possess.  With gratitude as your foundation, the next step involves making the conscious choice to be happy. And in my mind, there is no excuse not to be happy.  No matter what you do or do not own, you wake up every day on our beautiful earth breathing and conscious – which, let me tell you, beats the alternative. If you are truly dissatisfied with your possessions, let it be the motivation for positive change. But be conscious of the reasons WHY you are unhappy. If it is simply because you own last year’s model, you may want to rethink your happiness quotient.

It’s okay to want the latest phone, or save up for a new car or a vacation to Europe. But in the meantime, be happy with what you currently possess. I am happy that my 5S phone does its job, I am grateful my old-school mattress still supports my back (without the need for memory foam) and I am thrilled that apps still function on my three-year-old iPad.

I am happy. Very happy. Although a new pasta maker would be nice … LOL!

Dr. Lori Baker-Schena is the founder and chief executive officer of Baker Schena Communications, a firm dedicated to “Unleashing Your Potential Through the Power of Words.” We offer motivational speaking, leadership consulting and medical writing services. Find us at www.loribakerschena.com

What are YOUR Midyear Resolutions?

Though no one can go back and make a brand new start, anyone can start from now and make a brand new ending. – Carl Bard

I would like to suggest a new tradition: Midyear Resolutions. Everyone is all fired up in January to start the year with a clean slate. Yet somehow between January and June, these New Year resolutions fizzle out and are often forgotten.

Yet resolutions, or personal commitments, are vital when pursuing our Passion Challenge 2015. They keep us on track, fired up and ready to continue the journey. Indeed, living a joyful, fulfilling life is a marathon, not a sprint. And you want to be in it for the long haul. I know I do.

So how do you capture that New Year vitality? Make some Midyear Resolutions and stick to them.

Don’t set yourself up for failure by being over-ambitious. Keep your resolutions realistic, simple and doable. Use this midyear moment to re-energize your life and your journey.

Here are a few suggestions:

·      Be present in the moment. When you are with a friend or loved one, be WITH him or her. Don’t be thinking about other things you need to do, or problems you need to solve.

·      Identify one thing you have been procrastinating about and GET IT DONE. Whether it is scheduling a doctor’s appointment, organizing your closet, arranging lunch with a friend, flossing or painting your kitchen, take the steps TODAY to make it happen.

·      Do one healthy thing for yourself. If you find yourself drinking too much wine at the end of the day, cut out a glass. If you need to start exercising again, join a gym, get to a gym or simply take a walk. But MOVE.

·      Start a project that will bring joy to your life. If you have always wanted to take up ice-skating, baking or stamp collecting, figure out how to begin – and then, just do it.

·      Reach out to a friend with whom you haven’t spoken in more than a year. Even a text or email is appreciated.

·      Update your resume – even if you are happy in your job. You never know when you may need a new adventure.

·      Stop worrying about your problems for a day, and volunteer for an organization that needs your help – whether it is working with small children, running a race to raise money for a medical condition, or visiting an assisted-living facility. Giving from your heart puts all of your issues into perspective.

·      Take time to daydream. What would make your life sweeter? How do you get there?

·      Stop being so cynical and start choosing joy.

·      Really commit to your gratitude journal, writing down five things you are grateful for EVERY NIGHT.

·      Take a break from electronics. Devote a meal, or a chunk of time, where you do not interact with something that needs a battery. The world can wait. Your peace of mind is more important.

·      Tell the people in your life that you love them. We don’t say those three precious words enough.

·      Remember that every day is a gift. Wake up every day with a smile, grateful that you are ALIVE on this beautiful earth.

·      Worry less. Laugh more.

It is mid-July, midyear 2015. Time to re-energize and continue living a joyful life.

Dr. Lori Baker-Schena is the founder and chief executive officer of Baker Schena Communications, a firm dedicated to “Unleashing Your Potential Through the Power of Words.” We offer motivational speaking, leadership consulting and medical writing services. Find us at www.loribakerschena.com

Time to Reflect: Passion Challenge 2015 Halfway Point

We cannot see our reflection in running water. It is only in still water that we can see. – Taoist Proverb

Welcome to the midpoint of our Passion Challenge 2015. With six months under our belt and six months left of the year, it is time to STOP and REFLECT on our journey.

Reflection is a vital component to any successful endeavor. Running, running, running without the benefit of reflecting, reflecting, reflecting will leave you STUCK STUCK STUCK in one place. The secret of moving forward is planning, doing and reflecting.

Where are YOU on your journey? Whether you are seeking a new job/career, enhancing your current job/career, working on relationships or redirecting your life on an entirely new track, here is some food for thought and reflection:

·      I am MOVING FORWARD on my Passion Challenge 2015 path – This is ultimately where you want to be at the midpoint of the year through December. You’ve made a commitment to yourself, a goal, and are consciously taking the steps necessary to fulfill this commitment to living a conscious, passion-filled life. The simple act of moving forward, whether with baby steps or in leaps and bounds, means you are on the right path. At this point, you want to reflect on how you can improve the process, but don’t forget to celebrate the small victories.

·      I am STUCK on my Passion Challenge 2015 path – At this midpoint, you have a goal you are working towards, but are not making any progress. This may be due to unforeseen obstacles that you are encountering, the feeling that the path you’ve chosen isn’t really what you want, a lack of support from others, various distractions, procrastination or simple exhaustion and fatigue. The most important thing here is to NOT GIVE UP. Take the year’s midpoint to re-energize and figure out what is working for you, and what needs to be tweaked. If you need to change direction, so be it. If you need to explore alternative plans, so be it. The most important goal is to figure out how to start moving forward again, and make a commitment to do that.

·      I am COMPLETELY LOST on my Passion Challenge 2015 path – Perhaps you haven’t started, or maybe you’ve stopped and started several times, and you feel like you are heading absolutely nowhere. It is NEVER too late to start exploring your options and thinking creatively about how to find more joy in your life. It is YOUR choice to live a happy, fulfilling, passionate life. If you choose joy, you will find a way to start and maintain the journey. The one thing I know for sure: playing the victim, no matter what your challenges, will never bring you lasting happiness. I encourage you to take this midpoint opportunity to restart your life and take the first step on your path to a passion-filled life.

Continue to document your progress by keeping notes, a journal, a lessons log or even an outline of where you’ve been and where you are heading. If you haven’t documented your progress, it’s never too late to start. With these “maps” of your journey, you can periodically reflect on your life.

This week, slow it down, reflect and then continue moving forward. And Happy Mid Year!

Dr. Lori Baker-Schena is the founder and chief executive officer of Baker Schena Communications, a firm dedicated to “Unleashing Your Potential Through the Power of Words.” We offer motivational speaking, leadership consulting and medical writing services. Find us at www.loribakerschena.com

The Power of Positivity

Our greatest glory is not in never falling but in rising every time we fall. – Confucius

A few weeks ago, I headed for the weight room at the gym. I had been keeping up with my aerobics on the treadmill all winter, but had neglected my strength training. And inevitably, I felt incredibly out of shape.

I had a very tough time that first day back. It felt disheartening to realize I had difficulty lifting the weights I had so easily managed only a few months earlier. I knew my body would be sore for the rest of the week. As I struggled through a bicep curl, I thought about all that lost time away from the weights area. I started to feel defeated only 10 minutes into my set.

And then, in the middle of a shoulder pull-down, I made the conscious decision to NOT beat myself up for the time away from the gym. Instead of slipping into negativity and giving up, I turned the weight session into a positive experience. I congratulated myself for getting back on my schedule, expressed gratitude that I had the ability to even lift weights and the financial stability to belong to a gym, and told myself that every rep mattered. Even with baby steps, I eventually would be able to return to my former level of fitness.

Which brings me to today’s thought: When faced with a setback, we have two choices -- slip into negativity or remain positive.

It is so easy to feel discouraged when faced with a setback. It’s so easy to slip into a negative space and become depressed because a relationship has gone south, or a job is not working out, or a plan has derailed. Negativity is the easy route.

Yet negativity is a slippery slope to giving up. To not returning to the gym. To never dating again. To stop looking for a job. To give up on a friend. And what is BEYOND giving up? A big void of nothing. It is an easy tumble down that tunnel because it takes such little effort to give up, yet the sacrifice to your happiness is enormous.

In contrast, your other choice, remaining positive, requires intense energy and effort. It means getting up after falling down and TRYING AGAIN. It takes grit. It takes determination. It takes courage. Yet at the end of the day, the positivity payoff is HUGE! It gives you ANOTHER chance for happiness, ANOTHER chance to get things right.

We only have this life, and must play with the cards we are dealt. I truly believe giving up is never an option, and negativity is never beneficial nor does it EVER enhance your life.

Positivity is a choice. Sometimes it is a learned choice, but it is there for the taking. It starts with gratitude, and seeing the positive of ANY situation, no matter how difficult.

I encourage you to tap into the power of positivity and avoid the seduction of misery. It will turn your life around.

Dr. Lori Baker-Schena is the founder and chief executive officer of Baker Schena Communications, a firm dedicated to “Unleashing Your Potential Through the Power of Words.” We offer motivational speaking, leadership consulting and medical writing services. Find us at www.loribakerschena.com