Summer Road Trip

a to z road trip

I’m off on a Summer Road Trip. A virtual trip to blogs yet undiscovered.

In April, I participated in the annual A to Z Blog Challenge. There were so many wonderful blogs that joined in this year (1200…1400…1500…somewhere in that range I believe). As I was busy posting my own 26 alphabet blogs through the month, I visited as many as I could, but was far from making my way through the entire list.

The A to Z team has a solution for that. They came up with a summer road trip. Signups close tonight (Friday night, June 24th). As of my posting right now, there’s still a little over fourteen hours left to sign up.

Come aboard! Sign up on the linky and join us on this trip to virtual destinations. From the comfort of your air conditioned home, from the cushy chair you’re sitting in. No gas. No searching for restrooms in desolate locations.

Discover new, unusual and fun blogs that you didn’t know about.

Happy armchair traveling!

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Z: Zone Out (Meditation)

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Z: ZONE OUT (MEDITATION)

I’m back at it, meditating, after an eye opener.

Yesterday afternoon, I sat down to work on an exercise about realizing my innermost dreams and setting intentions to meet my goals that are stepping stones to my dearest dreams. The first part of the workbook advised spending ten minutes in meditation before completing the exercises.

As I pulled up a singing bowl meditation on You Tube, to listen to during my contemplation, I realized how infrequently I’d been meditating over the past year. I went and pulled out my journals. When I’d meditate, I also journaled following the meditation time, which left me a good time stamp to follow. In 2012 and 2013, I was going strong, spending some meditating and journaling almost every day. Then I got to 2014 and 2015 where I came to a screeching halt. Months would go by in between my special sessions.

A memory surfaced about a conversation with a friend. Back when I was still regularly meditating, I’d told her how much better my life was, having this practice in it. I explained how things just seemed ‘to flow’. Life was smoother, less stressful, and opportunities and coincidences filled my life.

So I’m back at it. As of yesterday. I made a big sign and taped it up on the door in my writing room, to remind me.

So when I’m posting different A to Z techniques to destress and keep a smile on your face, meditation absolutely has to be in that list.

Meditation brings more benefits than merely reducing stress. Huffington Post has an excellent article, 8 Ways Meditation Can Improve Your Life. Their eight benefits are listed here. See their article for more information. (It’s a great piece!)

Meditation reduces stress.

It improves concentration.

It encourages a healthy lifestyle.

The practice increases self-awareness.

It increases happiness.

Meditation increases acceptance.

It slows aging.

The practice benefits cardiovascular and immune health.

And if you’re one that wants more scientific research about meditation’s benefits, see this article by Live and Dare, SCIENTIFIC BENEFITS OF MEDITATION – 76 THINGS YOU MIGHT BE MISSING OUT ON. There’s plenty of research to back up the claims.

Today I even got up an hour earlier than usual…on a Saturday morning! And I started the day with peacefulness and contemplation. Zoning out…sometimes it’s the best way to spend your time.

W: Worry Stones

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W: WORRY STONES

worry stones 3Many may be too young for this memory. Does anyone remember the ‘worry stone’ fad of the 70’s? I remember my mom getting us some worry stones. They were small polished stones with a slight indentation carved out, where you could rub your thumb across, to calm and soothe yourself.

I’ve always loved rocks, any form of rocks or stones, so naturally I thought they were magnificent.

 

Happier.com writes of the benefits of worry stones in ‘The Calming Power of Worry Stones’.

Designating some physical object with this kind of (imagined) power is a small effort that can have a major impact on our ability to acknowledge, move through, and then move beyond uncomfortable emotions. Having the ability to self-soothe is an underestimated life skill everyone should learn.

And keep in mind that a worry stone doesn’t have to be a stone at all; it can take many forms and be used in many different situations, whatever works best for the individual. Maybe it’s a bracelet to fiddle with before giving important presentations at work, or perhaps some special token to focus on during your bedtime ritual that helps melt away the stress of the day. Whatever it looks like, the important part is taking those moments to acknowledge — not ignore or deflect or invalidate — your feelings so you can go forward with clarity and composure into a calmer, happier space.

worry stones.jpgThe 70’s was a long time ago. I’ve grown up since then, yet still find myself falling back on this technique to get me through rough spots. For six years I worked at a retail position (for a nationwide employer that I won’t call out in this post). The job always had times that were more stressful than usual, especially the ‘holiday season’, which was miserable from October through January. The last year there with a new manager was the worst. I used this a lot to get me through the days without exploding. Sometimes it was a polished gemstone in my pocket, such as an agate, quartz or moonstone. Sometimes it was an old antique key. Sometimes it was a pretty glass piece I’d fused.

Whatever little goody was tucked in my jeans, it was just enough that when a difficult moment arose, I could easily put my hand in my pocket, caress the hidden touchstone, and I’d feel more grounded and centered, and I was able to shrug off the drama that surrounded me at that moment.

Try it and see. Is there a little special something laying around on your dresser or in a drawer, that will give you solace and peace when you need it?

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V: Videos about Work Stress

V: Videos about Work Stress

Here’s some good thoughts from Integration Training in the UK. Lots of good tips. The video’s short, only a little over four minutes. And the delightful British accent is fun to listen to.

 

And for a funny take on Eliminating Workplace Stress, here’s this even shorter one minute clip.

 

But no matter how awful your job can be, on the worst of days, it’s probably not this bad!

U: Understanding

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U: Understanding

The customer, or the co-worker, snaps at you. It may be more than a simple snippy reply. They may unexpectedly ‘go postal’ on you, ranting and raging with their wrath directed at you. It’s so easy to respond with your own anger, or to throw your hands up in the air and storm off.

Two factors come into play here that may help.

The first is understanding.

attitude2We don’t know what is happening in their life. A husband may be dying of cancer. They’re dealing with a parent battling the slippery slope of dementia or Alzheimer’s. They just lost their job. They got up to a flat tire, and then got a ticket on the way to the store. The possibilities are endless. It’s true, we never know what trials another person is going through.

Sometimes, if we step back and try to remember this and be understanding it gives us a different perspective that may help take the sting out of the encounter.

attitudeYes, their tribulations are not an excuse. And yes, this is a two way street. The other person also doesn’t know what problems are in your life.
The second aspect that relates to this, is that we are only in charge of our attitude. We cannot control what another person does or says. We are in control of how we react.

Understanding. Try it for one day and see if it makes a difference in your life.

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T: Treats for Good Behavior

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T: Treats for Good Behavior

gold starsI remember, from the years my boys were little, how well treats worked to encourage good behavior. When I was potty training my oldest, we had a calendar and every morning he woke up dry he got a gold star. When we worked up to a whole week, and then a whole month, there were special treats involved. I don’t remember what the treats were, as thirty years have passed since then. There were other incentives for good behavior. (Incentives sounds better than bribery, doesn’t it?) When you get your room all clean, you can have an ice cream. If you and your brother go a whole day without arguing…

This little trick isn’t just for children. It works on adults too. We can apply this technique to our own life to encourage us to develop good habits, complete projects or meet other goals, or to try to get us through difficult situations.

I used it on myself yesterday. There was a new project I was excited about and I wanted to sit down and outline the plot and develop the characters. But I had other tasks that needed to be done first. I made my list of what absolutely needed finished yesterday…and when I was done with those, my treat was that I could sit down and spend an hour on the new project.

ice creamWhen I was working full time in retail, possibly the most challenging job I’ve had in my adult life, there was one coworker that was particularly annoying. Oh, how I really wanted to open my mouth and ream her up one side and down the other. But I also knew it wouldn’t do any good. It wouldn’t change her behavior at all. All it would accomplish is spreading ill will between not only us, but our other coworkers also. And it would destroy the image of professionalism that I’d worked so hard to build. When her actions escalated and they became more difficult to ignore, I used the treat motivation. If I make it all week without exploding, I’ll treat myself to a special dessert on the weekend.

When a customer stood at the counter being extraordinarily rude, I’d take a deep breath, count to ten, and tell myself that if I didn’t lower myself to her level of interaction, I’d treat myself to a break and a walk around the parking lot.

Try it and see.

What behaviors do you want to encourage or control? What habits do you want to develop? What tasks have you been procrastinating on?

What are some treats that would motive you? You’ll want to match the level of work or commitment with the treat. Obviously, my treat for writing one overdue blog post wouldn’t be a weekend away vacation. I’d save that treat for something that required a huge amount of effort or dedication.

beach vacationOr would I? Could I give myself a weekend at the beach for finishing this one blog post? Nope, not going to happen. However…maybe for finishing the novel that’s been on the backburner for too many years…

But for now, I’m going to go publish this post (that was due yesterday) and go treat myself to that last piece of caramel cake that’s sitting in the refrigerator.

 

S: SET IN YOUR CAR AND YELL

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S: SET IN YOUR CAR AND YELL

It works. It’s a stress reducing technique. Although, it’s not one that I’d recommend you indulge in too often.

However, one afternoon it was mighty useful for me.

I left work, angrier and more upset than I had ever, ever been. I was at my limit. The next step was probably mayhem and murder, and I didn’t want it to get that far. I pulled out of the parking lot onto the street. I made it through the red light, as I didn’t want the other driver’s to see a lunatic sitting in the car next to them, screaming. As I went through the intersection (and now had no driver’s to either side of me) I began yelling at the top of my lungs. I don’t think I’ve ever screeched so loud or so long.

About a mile down the road I went, until I had to turn for the construction detour. I gave a big sigh, my shoulders sagged in relief and…I was done. I felt immensely better. It was the pressure valve that I needed at that moment.

Of course, when I got home I could scarcely talk. (My spouse didn’t mind that part of it.) And the next day, my throat was still slightly tender, just enough to remind me of my escapades the afternoon before.

But…I made it through the day without murdering my manager, thanks to a few moments of uncharacteristic, insane behavior. Because of my yelling in the car incident, we both lived to see another day.

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N: No Kidding

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N: No Kidding

Nope, no kidding. Anyone that has worked in retail, or any other position dealing with people (as in most jobs), you’ve probably run into these situations.

Meme’s abound about customer service. From both sides. There are just as many, if not more, memes about bad customer service. The customer isn’t always right. The employee isn’t always providing good customer service. How happy life would be if we could both see the merits of the person on the other side of the aisle/counter/desk, and work together to resolve things that have become a problem.

But, since I need an ‘N’ word for today’s A to Z Blog Challenge, I’m going to go with ‘No Kidding’ and share a few memes that illustrate a few things that many of us have encountered. In the interest of believing that ‘Every Day’s a Good Day’, and trying to keep a smile on our faces while we continue on with our job, here’s a few laughs for you. Smile on!

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M: Music to De-Stress

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M: MUSIC TO DESTRESS

Many people tell how music can help us destress. Help Guide has an excellent post about how music is beneficial to our mood and attitude: 12 Ways to Reduce Stress with Music. They state:

When it becomes hard to find your way out of the downward spiral caused by overwhelming stress and anxiety, try turning to music.

Music has the ability to quickly shift our mood, affecting our subconscious mind where pesky negative thoughts feed on our fears and fuel the fires of stress.

Listening to music is a relatively inexpensive, quick-acting solution that’s almost always available, and it could just save your life.

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What’s the best kind of music to listen to for de-stressing?

Help Guide has this to say about the best kinds of music.

Your Personal Playlist – Choosing the Right Music

I am often asked: What music should I listen to if I want to relax, be happier, and feel more in balance? The answer can vary widely for different individuals. Although music has been scientifically proven to be beneficial on a number of levels, musical preferences are very subjective. One thing that is for sure, however, is that we want to be conscientious about the music we choose to listen to and the musical and sonic input that we expose ourselves to.

Music is a powerful alchemy that affects our perceptions, emotions, and physical well-being, whether we are paying attention or not. As much as music can relax us, the wrong music can agitate us and add to our stress. Typically slower, more pattern-oriented music can help regulate and relax our systems, and more up-tempo music can get us up-and-going. Happier songs can often lighten the mood quickly, and sometimes bring back fond memories.

Even sad songs can sometimes help us process heavy emotions we need to move through before we can shift to a new and happier place. Other times, a session of hard rock music can help us release our anger before we can calm down enough to relax.

Lyrics also affect us. Like mantras, these words and ideas are implanted into our subconscious through the music, reinforcing thought patterns that can affect our mood or outlook. I usually recommend omitting songs that have harsh or condescending lyrics, or that don’t emotionally resonate with you on a deep level.

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After a detailed description about how music helps us de-stress, the University of Nevada’s post ‘Releasing Stress Through the Power of Music’, goes on to discuss the best types of music to destress and how our own personal preferences can sway the type of music that works best for us.

They write:

So what type of music reduces stress the best? A bit surprising is that Native American, Celtic, Indian stringed-instruments, drums, and flutes are very effective at relaxing the mind even when played moderately loud. Sounds of rain, thunder, and nature sounds may also be relaxing particularly when mixed with other music, such as light jazz, classical (the “largo” movement), and easy listening music. Since with music we are rarely told the beats per minute, how do you choose the relaxation music that is best for you? The answer partly rests with you: You must first like the music being played, and then it must relax you. You could start by simply exploring the music on this web page. Some may relax you, some may not. Forcing yourself to listen to relaxation music that irritates you can create tension, not reduce it. If that happens, try looking for alternatives on the internet or consult with Counseling Service staff for other musical suggestions. It is important to remember that quieting your mind does not mean you will automatically feel sleepy. It means your brain and body are relaxed, and with your new calm self, you can then function at your best in many activities.

The University’s post also has links to eleven different relaxation melodies, ranging from three minutes to an hour.

What do you think about the power of music to destress and relax? Does it work for you? Do you have any favorites?

L: Looking for the Good

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L: Looking for the Good

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