A Space of One’s Own

deskLast year, my husband managed to shoehorn a small IKEA desk over a radiator in our bedroom to create my “home office”, my space, my escape.  Ah! What JOY!  I soon added my calendar, my pictures, my stuff.

The demands on women increase daily whether from our relationships, our work or our families and we need to develop personal strategies to incorporate physical and emotional space in our lives.

Physical Space

1. Find a space in your home you can retreat to that makes you feel relaxed.  Maybe you like to hide out in the bathroom to shower or bathe.  Perhaps you enjoy being alone in the kitchen cooking.  Explore places that makes you feel most comfortable and then personalize them.

2.  Find your favorite physical spaces to go to outside the home to clear your head – perhaps the gym, the library or a coffee shop.

Emotional Space

1.  Tell the people around you when you need a break.  If you take a 10 minute break from work to get some fresh air, you will feel better and it will increase your productivity.  Tell the people in your household or outside family that you need some time alone.  Give yourself a “time out” from your kids.

2.   Do you have any hobbies? Lose yourself in playing or listening to music or knitting or painting.  Sports are also a great emotional release.

3.  Become ensconced in a book or movie.

4. Immerse yourself in nature by gardening, hiking or wandering through the park.

5. Practice meditation – as little as ten minutes a day can provide restorative energy to the brain.

Experiment with these strategies and develop new ones.  Don’t be shy about demanding your space, your improved mood will benefit you and those around you.

This article is also published at www.myculturemagazine.com

I get by with a little help from my friends…

mnn2SRkSome stress is a part of life and can even motivate us to do our best – like the rush you get before a show or a presentation at work.  But when stress reaches high levels it is dangerous to our health and can paralyze us from making positive changes in our lives.

So here’s my advice for combating stress. Don’t go it alone. Reach out to your female friends for love, support and just plain fun.  It’s easy for me to correlate times in my life when I was happier and less stressed with the quality and/or quantity of my female friends.  As a girl, I had a best friend for years named Lizzie and that meant I always had someone to sit with at lunch or to go ice-skating with or to just watch The Brady Bunch.  Not to mention sleepovers – if those aren’t the cat’s pajamas, I don’t know what is.

I also remember the emptiness I felt the first year at Connecticut College because I had no friends, or how depressing it was to be isolated in my early years as a Stay-at-home Mom. Friends are that important.

There is even evidence that we live longer when we have strong female friendships. In this article on women’s friendships ,  they site research in the area of friendships such as how in The Tending Instinct, Shelly Taylor found women’s relationships and need for community is based in our DNA and can also be seen by studying animals.

A study at UCLA School of Medicine discovered that when we’re with our female friends, we emit a “feel good” hormone called oxytocin that helps us reduce everyday stress.

A study by Dove indicated that 70% of women feel prettier because of their relationships with female friends. This is critical to understanding how self-image develops in girls and women.

 Most importantly, Haupart states that, Women without strong social ties risk health issues equivalent to being overweight or a smoker – it’s that serious.”

Unfortunately, with our fast-paced digital society, women’s friendships are on the decline while stress levels in women are in the increase.  Try to reconnect with friends in your life.  Be open to new friendships. 

I have a friend from Italy and she makes green tea in a pot on a tray with china cups and puts out light flakey buttery cookies. It’s a welcome and refreshing approach to catching up with a friend.

So meet a friend for tea, to get your nails done, or see a movie.  I have learned that above all one thing is clear:  We Need Each Other.

This article is also published in the Wellness section of myCulturemagazine

I like it the old-fashioned way…

journalsJournaling, that is.  I can’t imagine my fingers clicking away as I keep a digital record of my most private thoughts.  No, I prefer the feel of my Bic Round Stic pen as it glides across my preferred spiral bound, thin lined, purse sized journal.

Every feel you need a place you could vent endlessly about your trials and tribulations in love (or lack thereof), life and trying to make sense of it all???  A journal provides a captive audience that is willing to listen without judgment or comment to WHATEVER you want to say.

For me, journaling has been a Godsend.  I have shelves in my closet full of these life journals that I’ve kept since high school.   When I was done writing for the day,  I closed the book and felt I could put those worries aside and keep them in that book and it was safer that way.

It can be helpful to try different journal styles to see what works for you.  I recommend trying the empowerment journal if you are trying to gain confidence in yourself or to fulfill a particular goal.  It’s simple.  When you feel so moved, write down things that you are proud of that you accomplished that day, that week or anytime in your life.  It can be small things, like I’m proud that I got to work on time in a presentable fashion or big things, like I’m proud of myself for getting a promotion at work or helping my child feel better about themselves after being bullied at school.

The gratitude journal is very popular this year.  A way to cut through all the negativity around you is to remember things you are grateful for.  Perhaps you are grateful for a chance to talk to a friend that you’ve lost touch with or that the construction noise outside your building has finally stopped.  It can be as simple as appreciating that you have a roof over your head or the chance to have a meal together with your whole family.

So, try it out.  Put Down The Laptop.  Maybe just go down to the local coffee shop with your pad and paper and see how it feels to scribble down ideas about your thoughts and dreams.

Never Give Up!

Image 1Sometimes it’s the smallest things that give us inspiration, like a white mug with a drawing created by Jacky Fleming that sits on my desk that has a girl/ woman who is jumping for joy, with the symbol for female on her shirt, that says never give up.  I purchased it in a women’s bookshop in London about 20 years ago and it reminds me of my Junior year Abroad when I felt so free being  far away from New York and I was sure that the world was waiting for me with open arms.

What do you do when moments of despair take over and it feels like there is no hope?  We quickly lose that feeling of invincibility that you feel at the age of 21 and it’s increasing hard to conjure up hope.

So I’m amazed how one day I’m pulled out of my own funk by reading to my bright eyed 8 year old daughter from Dr. Seuss’s “Oh, the Places You’ll Go!”

There’s an adorable little yellow guy who struts his stuff as he goes confidently into the world.  At times, he’s “soaring to high heights” but there are many bumps and snags along the road, that “scare you so much you won’t want to go on.” But onward he goes.

I think we can all take a page from Dr. Seuss as we go through our lives.

So be sure when you step,

Step with care and great tact,

and remember that Life’s

a Great Balancing Act.

Just never forget to be dexterous and deft

And never mix up your right foot

from your left.

And will you succeed!

Yes! You will indeed!

(98 and 3/4 percent guaranteed.)

If you ever get caught in a downward spiral in your life, try taking a deep breath and find this Seuss book and read it.  Or watch one of inspiring graduation talks like the one that Steve Jobs gave as a commencement speech at Stamford that can be viewed on Ted Talks.

I believe self-esteem develops differently in girls and women

As a girl you may remember that you were praised for being “pretty” or “cute” or how your outfits looked.  Boys were told they were “big” or “strong” or praised for accomplishments.  I’m not here on my soapbox for change (maybe a little).  I’m just pointing out that female self-esteem and self-image develops differently.

I shudder when I hear my daughters, who are eight, read calories on labels of what they are eating.  They are thin yet one girl teased my daughter that she had fat thighs.  It’s hard not to get angry as they tell my daughter in gymnastics class that when she finishes her routine and pulls her hands behind her head in the dismount, we should be able to see her ribs.

Naturally women have more of a struggle to accept their looks and their weight.  Start to take a step back from messages society is sending or who is to blame.  Be determined to start sending yourself messages to overcome any inner critics in your head that are making you feel bad about your image.  Treasure the relationships that are true and honest as those reflect who you are.

Really? I thought this was 2013.

Do you think that women and men are treated the same in the workplace?  Of course not!  I was reading an article in Psychology today that explained that men were penalized for being less aggressive and moral whereas women who were less aggressive and moral earned more.

Really? So as I woman is it wrong to be aggressive? ask for promotions? higher wages?  Where is the line between assertive and aggressive?

I asked myself the other day if I were a man would I be charging more for my coaching and counseling.  Maybe.  Maybe women are still undervaluing themselves but are we being given a choice if we are rewarded for being “moral and less aggressive”.

In my research, it seems that women who are assertive are often seen as get seen as aggressive or bitchy. Further, if women get mad they are out of control and incompetent whereas for men it’s reasonable and can be a plus.

There is hope.

Quoting Amy Gallo’s article in HBR

“Don’t feel you have to muster interpersonal coldness to accompany your assertion. Feel free to be friendly and empathic while asking for your needs to be met,” says Ames. Find your own style instead of trying to imitate others. This is especially true for women. “Women need to be aware that becoming more like men is not sustainable,” says Cox. Nor do you need to be more assertive in every context every day. “You can bring out your competitive side when it’s useful and you can dial back and be accommodating when it’s helpful,” says Ames.

Play around with setting small goals and see how others react.  Spend time with co-workers so they know who you are and understand your ambitions. Feel strong and self confident as you develop your style of assertiveness that will bring you maximum success.

What will your “two steps forward” be?

I was starting to panic as I approached my 30th birthday. Unhappy with my job, unhappy in love, and feeling disconnected from others.  I would walk around New York City by myself and frequently pass the tiny storefront of a dive bar in Chelsea called the B.M.W. (Beer, Music and Wine) bar.  I was intrigued by the musicians playing on the stage and wanted to go in and listen, but I would have to pass by the stage and people would stare.

One Sunday, courage and curiosity won out and I boldly took my two steps forward into that bar.  They were having an open mike with guitarists blasting out their two original songs as if it were The Bowery Ballroom.  I hadn’t played my guitar in about seven years and never in front of an audience.  I was asked if I wanted to try to write my own song and perform it next Sunday.  I didn’t know if I could do but I couldn’t wait to go home, dust off my guitar and try.

I did it and it flowed from there.   There, I meet the man who was the recording engineer on my CD, which is called “Two Steps Forward”, based on a song I wrote about moving on from your past.  He is now my husband.  I am now at peace with my career choice, and my relationships.

I often think about what my life would be like if I didn’t step in that bar on that day.  Step outside your comfort zone and see what happens.

SMART resolutions for 2013

As the New Year approaches, women begin contemplating their resolutions.  This can be a disappointing process as we often aim high and are surprised when by January 5th, we are already eating pints of Haagen Daaz, have stopped exercising, are working long hours and are spending too much time on Facebook.

Here are some smart ways to make resolutions based on Neuroscience Coach David Rock’s SMART model for goals.

First- A goal must be:

Specific–  A lot of women want to drop the holiday pounds they put on or a few pounds or more in 2013.    If you are going to achieve this goal, be specific.  How much weight?  Am I going to count calories or eat less carbohydrates? Drink more water?  Eat many small meals?  Am I going to do Zumba classes three times a week or 20 pushup and sit ups a day? List as many details as possible.    Don’t forget to make the goal Attainable.

Measurable– Health experts say that measuring waist size is a more accurate measurement than pounds.  Whatever you are going to measure (whether you can fit in that black dress or not), be consistent.  Measure yourself in the morning when you first get up.

Attainable– Don’t set yourself up to fail!!!  Make a reasonable goal that you can achieve and you will start the new year with a sense of accomplishment.  Have someone help you be accountable for your diet and exercise program.

Relevant- Goals are only realized if they are relevant to you. Only if losing weight is important to you and you are motivated to succeed, can progress be made.  Maybe this is a goal for you, but you are preoccupied with something else more important right now.

Time Limited– Your goal has to be completed within a certain time frame.  Pick that time frame and stick to it.  If you succeed, congratulations!  If not, find a new goals when you are ready and make it SMART!