Friday, November 28, 2014

How Writing Contributes to Healing

Everything that happens in life whether directly to us, to someone close to us, or in the environment around us, has an impact. Some effects are obvious, while others are more subtle and take longer to surface. There are a number of things we carry with us, though we are not always conscious of our baggage.

Some of us function seemingly fine in spite of our baggage, and some have trouble managing the ups and downs of daily life. Getting help is sometimes difficult, especially when money for counseling or therapy is not part of the budget.

Humans are terribly resilient, and while therapy may be necessary for some, other can get by with self-help and/or centering techniques such as exercise, meditation, and reflective writing.

Reflective Writing and Healing

Healing from a loss or disappointment or some other kind of setback takes time. The key to moving forward from grief or other internal pain is in developing an awareness of it so it ceases to be quite as painful. One means of getting to this point is writing. From simple journal or even letter writing that gets your feelings out to the more focused approach of reflective writing, developing increased self awareness helps to put things in perspective so that they are less difficult to deal with.
Writing helps you get all the facts in order at times when you need to make a decision about what to do next. It lets you examine a situation from all sides looking at the pros and cons so you can determine what is best for you. If you have lost a job or a relationship or a loved one, writing about the experience helps clear your head to start over again with new purpose.
Keeping a journal is simple enough. You record your thoughts and feelings and it can sometimes have the cathartic effect of confronting someone who has hurt you but without the drama of an actual confrontation. You can sort things out and decide what you should or shouldn't say or if it's even necessary to say anything at all.
Speaking of confrontation, letter writing is a very affective means of getting everything out of your system without having to be face to face with the person you are writing to. Even if the person who has harmed you is deceased you can still gain closure from writing a letter telling them exactly how what they did made you feel. This is actually better than confronting someone face to face over an emotional issue. When you confront someone without the assistance of a trained therapist, things can backfire and you may end up with the situation being worse.
Reflective Writing as a tool is an invaluable resource that everyone should utilize. Writing reflectively triggers memory, sparks creativity, and develops mindfulness. It can be viewed as similar to responsive essay writing in school where you were given something to read and then told to write a reaction to it. You can use quotes, photographs, or objects to spark your writing and explore your feelings. One very effective exercise is to write a letter to a problem.
By exploring the thing that causes you pain through writing you effectively take the sting out. Learning to look at a situation from another perspective not only eases discord, it provides a path to creative solutions and problem solving.

Gift Giving: Best Budget Friendly Gifts For Women

Most women love gifts. They love giving them, and they love receiving them. Many, if not most, also enjoy shopping for gifts, particularly the thrill of exhilaration upon finding just the right thing for the person they are shopping for. Finding that great things at a great price is even better.

Men, on the other hand, while they may enjoy the giving and the receiving, seem to consider shopping for anything other than their own new toy an exquisite form of torture. With a few exceptions (some guys do enjoy it), most want to get in and out of the store as quickly as possible, and with as little investment as necessary.

One thing both men and women have in common when shopping for gifts for women, is that when time and money are short, gift season can be particularly challenging. Below are some suggestions of the best budget-minded gifts you can by for women at the holidays or anytime.

Originally published to the Helium Celebrations channel in July of 2009.
(Also see Best Budget Friendly Gifts for Men)

Best Gifts for Women when You’re on a Budget

When the holiday season rolls around, buying Christmas gifts on a budget can be a daunting task if you have a long list of people to shop for. Giving someone a nice gift that will be appreciated doesn't have to break the bank, however. Savvy shoppers can score great items everyone will love and appreciate with just a little planning.
Buying gifts for women is easy because there are thousands and thousands of items available for suitable Christmas gifts and after all, it's the thought that counts. Soaps and personal care items are the top choice for most women. Presentation is also a plus so even a $1 token gift to a coworker or associate can seem more valuable dressed up in nice gift wrapping.
Bargain and discount stores are filled to the rafters with everything from candies to soaps to gift bags that take the pain out of your pocket and make gift giving affordable. The best way to give a nice gift without spending a lot of money is to assemble a group of small items in a gift bag that are useful to the recipient.
People receive a lot of gifts at holiday times and some are useful and appreciated while others merely add clutter to already overcrowded lives. To be sure your gift is in the latter category take a little time to think about the personality of the person receiving it as well as her hobbies and interests.
Most women are always in search of an emery board to tend to a snagged or broken nail or clear nail polish to stop a run in hosiery. Both of these items are cheap and can be combined for thoughtful gifts. Professional women will appreciate miniature lint rollers and stain removal pens in their gift packs, especially if they are mothers or pet owners.
The Dollar store is a great place to find stocking stuffer type items that can be grouped together to make nice little cheap Christmas gifts. Stores like Walmart, Kmart and Target offer a wide variety of low cost items in trial sizes such as facial treatments that can be bundled together or with other items. Also, these stores accept manufacturer's coupons which will help you save additional money on items like soaps and body wash when putting together a pampering package. If the items are also on sale you can purchase full sizes for the price of trial sizes.
Likewise taking your manufacturer's coupons to the drug store or supermarket is another way to save on personal care items that can be used to create nice but cheap Christmas gifts. Often times a coupon will require the purchase of more than one item. Normally this might discourage the purchase of the product but at holiday time it can work to your advantage especially if the item is on sale.
A great and cheap gift for a woman is a dollar store cosmetic bag filled with tissues, mints, a small mirror, lip balm, rain bonnet, trial sized lotion, etc. that she can carry around in her purse. These are things that all women have a regular use for and are often in need of.
Other cheap gifts to get for women are stationery, hobby supplies, journals, hair accessories, photo albums and frames, kitchen items, calendars and books. Discount and dollar stores have an abundance of these items and sometimes gift sets with multiple items such as bubble bath can be broken down into individual smaller gifts.
If you're crafty or good in the kitchen you can save a lot of money on gifts by making them yourself. Baked goods, soaps, candles, flavored oils and vinegars, candies, drawer sachets and other personal touch items are always appreciated just as much if not more than store bought gifts.

Gift Giving: Best Budget Friendly Gifts For Men

No matter how many times you've heard it, there's no disputing that when it comes to giving and receiving gifts, it's definitely the thought that counts. Men are not like women; with the exception of collectors, they just are not into acquiring. They may own a few pairs of shoes and a very basic wardrobe, and they are not likely to have drawers and drawers full of accessories.

Their hobbies tend to be more expensive (golf, fishing), and while a gift card to Academy Sports will be greatly appreciated by many, it's not exactly the most original or thoughtful gift you can give. Additionally, when you're on a budget and/or have a long list of folks to shop for, you may find yourself in the tough spot of being unable to afford the items on your fella's wish list.

Originally published in July of 2009, the article below lists a few suggestions of items you can purchase without looking cheap or busting through your budget.

Great Gifts for Men when on a Budget

Shopping for men is sometimes quite challenging, particularly if you are not a man. Everywhere you look there are lovely gift items like rose petal soaps or cute stuff for kids but when it comes to shopping for men gift givers are often left dazed and confused scrambling for suitable items at the last minute.
Purchasing a Christmas gift for a man such as a coworker, particularly one you are not close to can be even more of a challenge as you will more than likely not be familiar with his likes and dislikes. If you're on a strict budget, your gift options for a man will seem even further limited.
Some of the best cheap Christmas gifts for men are handkerchiefs - be they plain white or simple bandannas, nail clippers, beard and mustache combs, desk calendars, dress socks, knit caps, bargain books, undershirts, shoe shine/cleaning supplies, car accessories such as a glove box wallet/organizer and snacks.
Single guys may appreciate items to help them in the romance department. Scented candles, place mats, dinner napkins, a cork screw, CD compilations of romantic music, recipe cards, anything useful on a date that can help set the mood for a romantic evening. Also, if the single guy in question is someone you like he may even take the hint and ask you out!
If you know that a friend or coworker likes to download music, a package of blank CD-Rs and jewel cases would be a thoughtful item that is very affordable. Many stores have multi-packs of recordable CDs for just $5 (U.S.) and you can find sets of jewel cases at the dollar store.
The well-groomed man on your Christmas gift list will no doubt appreciate lip balm, exfoliating scrub, lotions and personal care items for sprucing up just as much as your best girlfriend or gal pal would so don't leave these very affordable items off of your shopping list.
Many men love to sit and soak in the tub and bath products can be purchased cheap just about everywhere. Choose budget friendly soaps scented with ginseng or sandalwood such as Bee and Flower, or even oatmeal or aloe such as those made by Yardley. When selecting bath water additives consider relaxing or invigorating salts and oils or make your own.
Almost every man has a collection of caps he loves and since they can never have too many of them fleece or knit caps in winter are cheap gifts that are practical and easy to care for that will likely see a lot of use. These are especially good for men who like to coordinate the color of their cap with the rest of their outfit. Fleece gloves are also cheap and welcome gifts once the weather turns chilly.
It is just not possible for a man to have too many handkerchiefs and even those who don't have them should. They are handy to have for mopping brows, wiping tears and since they are sold cheap in multi-packs they are a great gift item as you can repackage them to make them look more impressive. They can even be folded origami or dinner napkin style and placed in a gift bag or used as ornamentation on gift packages.
One of the absolute best cheap Christmas gift items for men is an assortment of snack items. Most men love to eat and most men love sports. They especially love to eat while watching their favorite sports. An assortment of snacks will be greatly appreciated during holiday bowl games or when hunger hits at the office.
Finding great gifts for men that are affordable on a budget is easy once you develop a plan. Shopping early and checking for clearance items will also insure you have everything you need when the holidays roll around and you won't have to put out huge sums of money all at once.
Note: At the time this was published, CDs and DVDs were still popular purchases. Today I would add SD and micro SD cards to the list, as you can often get them on sale, and everyone with digital devices is in constant need of them, especially photographers.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Getting Noticed: How to Stand out From the Crowd

Being invited to a party can be either a source of delight over the excitement of upcoming fun, or it can be a source of dread at having to get through yet another social event where no one is going to talk to you. Some people have absolutely no problems making friends wherever they go, while others are painfully shy or even simply a little social awkward and have trouble fitting in.

Even when you're not the life of the party (which, by the way, can be exhausting, so be careful what you wish for), you can still have a good time mingling with others and participating in conversations without sticking out like a sore thumb. Below are some tips on how to not be relegated to the background at social gatherings.

These tips are based on using your appearance as a conversation starter, however, staying abreast of current events, measuring your comments (no one likes a know-it-all), and appropriately complimenting others (no one likes a suck up), you can also make a memorable impression and stand out at functions.

Originally published on Helium in July of 2009.

How to get Noticed at a Party

It's the party of the century and you're invited! You have been watching the clock at work since the midmorning coffee break and when quitting time rolls around you are outta there! You race home after work, grab a quick bite, shower, don your favorite outfit and head back out the door with your spirits high. You have been looking forward to this all day and as you excitedly arrive at your destination you are more than a little pleased with yourself for not being too early while not being "fashionably late" either. You present your invitation at the door and enter the gathering ready for a fabulous evening of cocktails and conversation.
Instead, you spend your time admiring the beautiful floral arrangements and interesting artwork while people watching from the corner of the room. The place is packed with people excitedly chattering away with each other and yet none of them seems to be interested in talking to you. So much for your fun and fabulous evening at the party of the century.
The first step in getting noticed at a party, or anyplace else for that matter, is to make your self stand out. Even though we have been told repeatedly throughout childhood and even into adulthood that we shouldn't judge a book by its cover that is exactly what happens. The first thing people notice about someone who enters a room is what they physically see before them, so a huge part of making a good impression is appearance.
If people are somehow put off by the look of you, or worse it they don't even notice you, no one is going to approach or want to be approached by you. The key is to have a neat, clean appearance and to make an entrance. What to wear will depend largely on the type of event you are attending and how casual or formal it is so it is important that your clothing is first appropriate to the occasion. If there is a theme for the event, be sure to consider this when choosing your outfit or the accessories for it.
At a black and white ball for instance, a little flash of color in the form of a flower in the hair or on the lapel could draw attention to you and even spark conversation. Jewelry, pocket squares, gloves, even a wrap (such as a pashmina) or fashionable hat (where appropriate) can serve to add a subtle bit of spice to your outfit.
The next thing that will make you stand out even before you open your mouth is posture. Slouching is a sign of low self esteem and someone who is careless about details which is social suicide whether at a professional function where you are hoping to network or at a less formal gathering where you are hoping to find a date for next weekend. Poise, confidence and good posture go a long way in getting you noticed even when you aren't trying to stand out.
The third thing that will help you stand out is your conversation. It isn't just your words though, it is your mannerisms as well so be polite and respectful and save the jokes for another occasion. Charm goes a long way in getting people to warm up to you, as does wit, just remember to be subtle and keep things simple. When someone likes what you have to say they will be more apt to introduce you to others.
Everyone's familiar with the saying "You never get a second chance to make a first impression," and while it may be a cliche it still rings true so always, always, always put your best foot forward at all times.