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Finding Your Backbone

by Amber L. Burden on January 5, 2017

I am generally terrible at being assertive. My lack of self-confidence makes it difficult to push myself outside of my comfort zone and toward other people. Because of this, it’s been difficult for me to ‘ring my own bell,’ so to speak. There is so much more I could be doing in this world – for myself, as well as others – if I would just push a little more.

First and most importantly, I am not talking about being aggressive. For those in the back… I am not talking about being aggressive. Many people (for whatever reason) cannot comprehend the difference between assertiveness and aggression. Let’s clear this up. Aggression is pushing past the boundaries of others. It consists of making people uncomfortable, being unnecessarily harsh or rude, and generally thriving on conflict. Assertiveness has to do with an attitude of confidence. It means standing up for yourself and others, being direct, making your voice heard, and still maintaining respect for others and yourself.

With that said, being assertive is such an important asset. It has plenty of benefits – not only in your life, but also for your mental and physical health! Assertiveness gives you a definite boost in your confidence, which opens up opportunities in life. How much easier would it be to land that huge project at work if you were able to directly tell your boss, “I can do this” – and you believe it? Being assertive is also great for reducing your anxiety levels (which tends to bring down the accompanying increased blood pressure and heart rate) and gives you a feeling of being calm and in control.

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By now you’re thinking, “This all sounds great but how on earth can I start this now? I’m set in my ways at this point in my life.” Well, no one ever said change was easy. In fact, if anyone has told you that, they lied. Change is definitely difficult but it’s not impossible. Here are a few pointers on becoming more assertive in your life from Randy Paterson, PhD, a registered psychologist and author of The Assertiveness Workbook: How to Express Your Ideas and Stand Up for Yourself at Work and in Your Relationships:

1)      Learn to say no. Saying no will help you build and maintain your boundaries. It’s healthy to say no; it helps you keep your priorities in check and not spread yourself too thin.

2)      A closed mouth doesn’t get fed. Personally, my favorite part of assertiveness is being direct. People are not mind readers and without expressing your needs and desires, you will never get them. There’s no room for misinterpretation or uncertainty on anyone’s part as long as you are straight forward.

3)      Take baby steps. Practice a bit before jumping into the deep end. We all need to ease our way into new situations – especially if we want to increase our chances of success.

You can also find a lengthy list of books available on why assertiveness is important and how to build it, as well as contacting a clinical psychologist to help you figure out where to start. Go on, see where being assertive can take you!

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The Demise of Your New Year’s Resolutions

by Amber L. Burden on December 6, 2016

As the new year approaches, people are starting to prepare for the annual tradition: let’s make a new year’s resolution! Personally, I do something a little different for resolutions but I’ll get to that later. Most people have an idea of what they would like to change or do to better themselves. It’s something that they plan to start on January 1st and try to continue throughout the year – or until they meet their goal. Some people decide that they want to quit smoking, some want to lose weight, and others are determined to spend more time with their family. Whatever you choose to shoot for during the new year, the biggest challenge is to actually follow through on it. Did you know that, according to a study by professor John Norcoss from the University of Scranton and colleagues, almost 60% of people abandon their resolution within six months? It’s always apparent to me that gym memberships skyrocket in the month of January but attendance is down by March. People sign up for courses that they quickly drop. Trust me, I know; I barely made it to April. Folks have this idea of what they want to do but eventually give up. Why is this? Well, there’s a few reasons…

First, people tend to set unattainable goals. “I’m going to travel the world this year.” Okay, that’s awesome. It’s extremely ambitious, anyway. But is it plausible for you? For some, it might be feasible. However, if you’re trying to achieve this while working 40+ hours a week and taking care of a four-person household, it would probably be extremely difficult. Perhaps an easier goal may be to see a new city once a month. You’ll be traveling, making memories, and experiencing plenty of excitement. You’ll also be avoiding disappointment if you’re simply unable to travel the world in one year. Another problem is not making a plan. Sure, learning a new language can be a great experience. But how can you get it done? Nothing gets done through wishful thinking, so figure out how you can do it! This can be signing up for classes or befriending a native speaker. Finally, one of the biggest deterrents is creating a resolution for someone else. So you want to quit smoking? Fantastic! … but why? If you want to quit smoking so that other people will shut up about it, your reasoning will never be good enough for you to stay on top of it. If your heart isn’t in it, you will slack off. Set your sights on something that you want, choose something reasonable that won’t set you up for failure, and make a plan.

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I’m terrible at sticking to a year-long goal. I get sidetracked and I eventually stop caring about it. My resolutions are slightly different: I start the year by making a goal for each month… not for the entire year. They are usually pretty simple, but they are things that I feel would enrich my life or help me achieve some of my long term goals. Plus, it’s easier to start some fabulous habits this way. Once I get in the groove of something easy for a month, I find it easier to continue while adding my new goal for the following month. Feel free to steal this idea if it works for you. Here’s my 2017 resolutions:

January: work 40 hours a week – no more, no less!
February: meditate for 30 minutes a day
March: work out twice a week
April: read daily – anything! a book, newspaper, a random magazine article
May: create weekly meal plans …since trying to figure out what to eat while I’m starving is a horrible idea
June: journal once a week
July: prepare for my daughter to start kindergarten (register for school, buy supplies, stock up on wine for me…)
August: drink 16 oz of water a day
September: sleep 7 hours a night – at least!
October: do a random act of kindness daily
November: actively do my personal poetry blog
December: find a pen pal – because why not?

So what are you going to work toward?

 

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Starbucks Did It Again

November 7, 2016

Each year, Starbucks comes out with a special holiday cup. Last year, the company’s choice of design for their seasonal cups struck up controversy and they’re apparently not disappointing in doing the same this year – whether intentional or not. A green holiday cup (as opposed to their previously red holiday cups) has been described […]

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Promotions for Parents

October 24, 2016

I am the mother of a gorgeous four-year-old little girl. And yes, she really is gorgeous. I swear I’m not bias. Anyway, as a mom, I am bombarded with promotional products for companies that sell different “mom needs.” In the last four years, I have received coupons for diapers, samples of formulas, email blasts about […]

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