Warrior posesamarttiw

Photo courtesy FreeDigitalPhotos.com/samarttiw

Welcome back to my monthly series on building self-confidence to enhance relationships and strengthen communication skills.

Uncertainty holds many of us back from joining new groups of people, networking or reaching out to people we don’t know well. Whether you’re headed into a job interview, preparing for a presentation or getting ready to meet with a difficult or unknown individual, performance anxiety may shackle you in terror.

Here’s how to manage nerves and build your confidence before heading into an anxiety-provoking situation. Remember, your body language sets your frame of mind as much as it communicates to those around you.

Harvard Business School researchers found that people who prepare for a stressful presentation or interview by practicing power poses appear more composed and project more confidence during the presentation or interview, resulting in more positive evaluations from the audience.

Take up space. Have you ever noticed how a dog tries to look larger by raising its hackles when it’s scared or faced with an opponent? Through body language, the animal is instinctively trying to appear more confident in the pending face-off. Before going into your meeting, stretch your arms out as far as you can. Stretch your legs. Put your arms on the arms of your chair and sit up tall. Stretch your back. If you can get away with it, prop your feet up on your desk and sit back. You’ll immediately feel a boost of confidence as your body language signals to the brain that “you’ve got this”.

Stand like Superman or Wonder Woman. Stand in front of the bathroom mirror. Put your hands on your hips and your legs out in a wide stance. Smile confidently. Rehearse what you plan to say.

Show victory. Channel your favorite sports hero and stand with your fists up, arms out in a Y for victory. 

Hold a Warrior pose. This is one of my favorite yoga poses that inspires strength and confidence. First stand with your feet hip-length apart. Then turn your right foot out. Move your left foot back keeping the arch of the left foot in line with the heel of your right foot. Your toes of your left foot should be pointed towards the front of your body, while the toes of your right foot should be pointed toward the right wall. Raise your arms and send one arm towards the right wall and the other towards the back wall. Your arms should be in alignment. Palm down, stretch your right hand toward the right wall and stretch your left hand toward the back wall. Hold the pose for two minutes. Repeat on the opposite side. 

While practicing you preferred power pose, take deep breaths in and out. Visualize yourself succeeding in front of a friendly audience. If it helps, choose a mantra to repeat to yourself like, “I am strong. I am confident.” While it may sound corny, repeating a mantra out loud can help build your self-confidence. I was resistant to mantras for a long time but once I actually tried it, I was pleasantly surprised at the effectiveness of the practice. Try it and see if it works for you.

How do you get yourself pumped before an anxiety-inducing social situation?

 

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Understanding Preconception Health & Why It Matters

by CMHines4 on January 13, 2016

pregnant

Courtesy FreeDigitalPhotos.net/StuartMiles

January is Birth Defects Prevention Month

Normally, I reserve this space for sharing communication issues related to mothers and family. But some discussions need to occur long before we become parents (or while adding to our broods) and one of those is understanding the influence of preconception health on pregnancy. One in five babies die due to birth defects. Here’s my story.

When I became pregnant for the first time, I knew little about “preconception health.” Actually, I’d never even heard the term. I may have mentioned that we wanted to start a family to my doctor and she prescribed prenatal vitamins, but that’s about as far as the discussion went. I naively assumed that pregnancy didn’t begin until you were actually pregnant. Go figure.

I imagined pregnancy as nine blissed-out months of admiring an expanding baby bump, reading “What to Expect..,” decorating the nursery and running out for fried chicken at two in the morning. Birth defects seemed like vague notions that happened to other people. 

Heading into our 20-week appointment, my husband and I eagerly anticipated finding out the gender of our baby. As the ultrasound tech grew increasingly quiet, a persistent whine of fear began to leach into my otherwise cheerful visions of my bouncing baby boy. The tech measured and remeasured the images on the screen. When she excused herself to retrieve my doctor, my husband reached for my hand. That day, we learned that our son suffered from numerous and severe birth defects and wouldn’t survive the pregnancy. He died a few weeks later.

After that appointment in subsequent pregnancies, the ultrasound room became my own private hell–the fuzzy black and white unveiling of everything that can go wrong. Like a thunderclap to my conscience, it suddenly occurred to me why new parents traditionally count their newborn’s fingers and toes.

According to the CDC, one in 33 babies will suffer from a birth defect. Often, as in my case, there’s no rhyme or reason to why things go wrong. And, given that I had a miscarriage a year after we lost our son, having a healthy baby began to seem like a crapshoot.

Timing, genetics, environment, lifestyle and maternal health are pieces of an intricate puzzle that contribute to the development of a healthy baby. While there’s never a guarantee that all the pieces of will fall into place as they should, every small step you make now can up the odds of delivering a healthy baby even if he’s still only a playful figment of your imagination.

If you’re planning to become pregnant or even if you’re not (half of all pregnancies are unplanned, underscoring the importance of taking daily vitamins that include folic acid), read the tips that doctors and maternal health specialists shared with me in my article “Healthy Babies Start with Proper Pregnancy Planning” in the winter issue of Kansas City Baby magazine.

Practice caring for yourself now. Give yourself the gift of a healthy body. Connect with your doctor to find out what you can do to prepare for a healthy pregnancy. Surround yourself with caring friends and strengthen your social network for optimal emotional health. When you do become pregnant, chances are your pregnancy will go off without a hitch, and you’ll celebrate each miraculous milestone.

But if things don’t go according to plan whether during pregnancy or after, know that you aren’t alone. There’s an empathetic, quiet network of women who’ve been there; who’ve struggled, worried and suffered. Don’t be afraid to reach out. We’ll catch you if you fall. 

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14 Ways to Raise a Skilled Communicator from Babyhood and Beyond (1)A survey conducted by Pew Research found that 90 percent of American parents believe that developing strong communication skills is one of the most important skills kids will need to learn in order to succeed in today’s world. Whether you have an infant or an older child, here’s how to make sure your budding connector is on the right track.

  1. Talk to your baby all of the time. She loves to hear your voice.
  2. Kids learn language best when loved ones interact with them directly. Label things that you see, sing songs and ask questions.
  3. Read to your child daily. He’ll build empathy, listening and language skills.
  4. Role model. Show your kids how you ask for assistance on the phone and in stores, and how to interact with people you don’t know well, from random strangers to customer service representatives.
  5. Be aware of how and when you use your phone. Children will use their devices according to how they watch their parents use theirs.
  6. Coach conversation skills by suggesting questions they can ask a new friend.
  7. Tell stories to impart your values, teach resilience and build pride in your family’s heritage.
  8. Teach manners early. Small courtesies like please and thank you foster a sensitivity toward others.
  9. Ask your kids open-ended questions. Then listen attentively.
  10. Invite your youngster to talk to relatives and friends on the phone, Facetime and Skype.
  11. Encourage kids to think of ways to problem-solve social challenges from sharing to bullying. Work through troubling issues together.
  12. Create sacred tech-free spaces in your home and car to encourage casual conversation.
  13. Carve out unstructured play time every day. Kids build communication and storytelling skills through imaginative play with dolls, building blocks, action figures and even empty boxes.
  14. Take walks and drives with your child. Kids are more likely to open up when you aren’t looking directly at them.

To learn more ways to raise a competent communicator in today’s digital world, check out my book Happy, Healthy & Hyperconnected: Raise a Thoughtful Communicator in a Digital World available for download here, on Amazon (also available in paperback) and other online retailers.  

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Is Teasing Bullying?

by CMHines4 on December 16, 2015

Girl Teasing

Photo courtesy: FreeDigitalPhotos.net/Stockimages

“Oh, honey, you know I’m just teasing you,” I said, smiling as I ruffled my then 6-year-old’s hair. He was miffed that I was gently ribbing him about the Dennis the Menace cowlick in the back of head and how we needed to go and get him a haircut.

“Teasing isn’t allowed at school. It’s bullying,” my son responded.

This stopped me in my tracks. Is playful teasing really the same as bullying? I’d mostly thought of teasing as a form of affection especially within the family and with close friends. I’d grown up in a family that teased each other. My husband and I lovingly tease each other and as our kids have begun to understand humor, we’ve begun teasing them too.

Sure, teasing can be mildly irritating, but among family and friends it comes from a place of love and knowing the other person well enough to see his or her idiosyncrasies.

When it comes to understanding the nuances of teasing, context and the nature of the relationship is key. Several years ago, communication researchers Carol Bishop Mills and Amy Carwile, at the University of Alabama examined the difference between teasing and bullying. The media and schools often link the behaviors as part-and-parcel in response to episodes of school bullying.

The researchers found that the lighter side of teasing actually benefits our social life by building and strengthening relationships and helping us navigate conflict. The ability to recognize and respond appropriately to light-hearted teasing is a valuable skill for any competent communicator.

Teasing is positive when:

  • Both parties are laughing, smiling and joking with each other.
  • Both individuals sense that the teasing is playful and not meant to be hurtful.
  • The person being teased responds in a playful way, which increases his or her like-ability in the group.
  • There’s a balance of power in the relationship. For example, two friends who often rib each other.

Teasing should stop immediately when:

  • Facial expressions convey that the other person is feeling hurt by the comments.
  • Taunting or cruel name-calling is used (epithets related to race, weight, sexual orientation, ethnicity, religion and disability are unacceptable).
  • Comments are derogatory in nature, insulting and mean-spirited.
  • The teaser shows disdain and dislike for the other person.
  • There’s a power difference between the individuals. For example, one is the “popular” kid and the other is struggling in the social setting.

In many social situations, the teaser’s intent isn’t always clear. As parents we can coach our kids to “tease” out the difference between mean-spirited teasing that’s associated with bullying and affectionate teasing. For example, teach them to recognize playful social cues like tilting of the head, smiling, warm eye contact, nodding and tone of voice. They can then learn to respond in kind. 

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Bucket Lists LKWelcome back to my monthly series on building self-confidence to enhance relationships and strengthen communication skills. This month, I’m excited to host Lara Krupicka, an incredibly gifted writer, author and speaker, and a leading expert on how to create family buckets lists.

When we see our family as our home team, we’re empowered to achieve so much more than if we’re all spinning in different directions on separate quests. With a fresh new year on the horizon, now is the perfect time to learn how family bucket lists can inspire increased confidence in both you and your kids while helping you pursue your individual and collective dreams.

CMH: How can setting and achieving bucket list goals help enhance self-confidence? Should we start with smaller goals first or what’s the best strategy when starting out to avoid setting ourselves up for failure?

LK: In many ways setting bucket list goals is about getting to know yourself better and understanding what you are most drawn to in life. So when you acknowledge those goals by putting them in writing, your self-confidence receives a boost because you are in essence telling yourself your inner dreams and desires are valuable. And achieving bucket list goals gives such satisfaction and energy that our self-confidence can’t help but be boosted. Plus we’re able to draw on memories of past success when we face challenges. Bucket lists really call on us to push our boundaries and often let us see we’re capable of more than we realized.

I think small goals are great! We often get tripped up on the idea that bucket list goals are so far out there that they’re unreachable. But if you think about it, the only requirement for something to go on your bucket list is that it be something you haven’t done yet, but have wanted to do. Which means we can include simple, inexpensive goals too.

I advocate for starting small with bucket list goals (unless a big goal suddenly comes within reach) because of the energy and momentum we can gain from seeing success. And don’t forget that many big goals could be looked at as a series of small goals ( for example, running a marathon starts with training short distances and building up your endurance – each bit of training can be its own goal).

CMH: In your experience, what kind of trickle down effect from parents to children occurs as kids see their parents making a conscious effort to go after their dreams?

LK: In a lot of ways, Mom and Dad are pretty two-dimensional people to kids. We’re the parents. Period. And a lot of times we get sucked into this place of being focused on helping our kids succeed that reinforces this view, because we stop being individuals with hopes and desires for ourselves. When we go after our own dreams it’s expansive. Our kids see that it’s not all about them and that we’re people, not just parents. Plus they get the thrill of cheering us on toward our goals – it’s a role reversal. That alone changes the dynamics and creates a feedback loop for goal achievement, where everyone is inspired to keep dreaming and doing.

CMH: How do you think creating and fulfilling bucket lists as a family can help kids grow more confident in how they look at opportunities in the world?

LK: Again, it’s the idea of pushing boundaries. Bucket lists are essentially a way of engaging more broadly and deeply with our world – trying new things, meeting new people. The more we take kids outside of their everyday settings, even if it is something as simple as going to a new restaurant, the more they see that “new” and “different” aren’t scary, they’re just unfamiliar. That’s what makes a family bucket list so powerful. Doing things as a family provides the security kids sometimes need when approaching the unfamiliar. We’re all in it together. From there kids learn that they can approach even their individual goals with confidence because they know their family will be there to back them.

CMH: It’s not news that we live in a busy world with plenty of distractions. How can creating a bucket list together help build a stronger family? How can your new Udemy course help families make that happen?

LK: Creating bucket lists as a family gives you an opportunity to talk about heart matters – those inner hopes and dreams. You get to know each other in new ways. And you learn to lean on each other for support as you tackle different goals.

My new Udemy course, Build Stronger Bonds Writing Family Bucket Lists is designed to walk you through practical steps (geared toward the ages of your kids) to not only get your lists down in writing, but also make the most of the interactions that happen as you do so. And students in my class learn how to make it a natural part of everyday family life that enhances relationships. The goal is to help parents bring family members closer, create more camaraderie and make quality memories.

Thank you for letting me share with your readers. I hope they’re inspired to bring bucket lists into their families.

Thank you, Lara!

2012LaraKrupicka headshotAbout Lara: 

Lara Krupicka is an internationally published parenting journalist and author who encourages parents to make the most of the years while raising their children by setting out of the adventures that matter most to them. Lara is best known for her Bucket List Life Manifesto and her books Family Bucket Lists and Bucket List Living For Moms.

Lara’s work has been published in dozens of magazines and newspapers including The LA Times, San Diego Family, Family Australia Magazine, Calgary’s Child, and the Chicago Sun Times. She also serves on the executive board of the Redbud Writers Guild.

When she is not at her desk writing, Lara loves beautifying the world through crafts and sampling new food, skills, sports, and locales. Lara and her husband, Mike, are raising their three daughters in the western suburbs of Chicago.

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5 Networking Mistakes Moms Make

by CMHines4 on December 1, 2015

Common Networking MistakesNetworking. For many of us, the word alone is jarring, like icy fingers crawling down the spine to unlock a nauseating flutter of butterflies into the stomach.

As an introvert I know exactly how hard networking can be, which is one of the reasons why I wrote my book Confidently Connected: A Mom’s Guide to a Satisfying Social Life. I wanted to share the lessons I’ve learned to help moms who struggle with building community or find themselves overwhelmed by the prospect.

You could say I’ve had plenty of practice. Since I was a child, I’ve been plopped right smack into established social networks and made to work around them. As a military brat, that was life. And while these experiences weren’t always easy, they were invaluable and prepared me for adulthood. Throughout my early career, as a new mom, and still today, building community is essential.

While it can be a source of great stress, connecting with new people is a personal growth opportunity every single time. With that in mind, here are five common networking mistakes we can learn from:

Compare yourselves to others in the group. If you start sizing up the other women before they’ve even opened their mouths and assume you won’t fit in, you set yourself up to fail.

The fix: Give yourself a chance. Go in with an open heart. Most people in networking groups are excited to meet new, interesting people. And they can’t wait to get to know you.

Looking closed off. Body language sends strong messages. What is your body telling everyone? Staring down at your phone, huddling in a corner, crossing your arms, distracting yourself with your kids and not attempting to talk to anyone will make people assume that you aren’t interested in chatting.

The fix: Keep your hands relaxed and to your sides or behind your back. Smile warmly. Approach someone you haven’t met yet and introduce yourself.

Not being curious. When some people get nervous, they’ll fall back into talking only about themselves. This can get tedious for the listener after awhile.

The fix: When you’re feeling nervous, ask questions and listen. Talk about each other’s kids and explore common interests.

Pretending you’ve never met a mom who you’ve already met. This is awkward for all involved. I’ve seen moms I’ve met who I’m not sure if they remember me and then I can’t decide if I should say hello.

The fix: If you make eye contact, say “Didn’t we meet at ______?” “We’ve met before, but I can’t recall where…” or “Aren’t you Jillian’s mom?” Usually there’s relief in the other person’s eyes because you broke the ice.

Or they’re completely perplexed because they really don’t remember you. And that’s OK too. They’re paying closer attention now and will remember you the next time. Rather than taking these situations personally, keep in mind that some people have a poor memory for faces and honestly aren’t good at recognizing people they’ve previously met.

Making a beeline for people you already know. If you’re a member of a moms’ group, how well your group welcomes new members into the fold is more important than you may realize. Groups die because new moms don’t feel welcome. Realize that joining a new group of women who already know each other well is intimidating and can feel isolating to your guest or potential new member.

The fix: Whenever you have new members or guests, introduce them to the rest of the group. Then split up and chat with your newbies.

Whenever I put myself in a networking situation, I grow more confident and more at ease. So even if you’ve made a few of these mistakes–goodness knows, I have–keep putting yourself out there. And just be you. You’ll feel better about yourself and more resilient in general. Your confidence, warmth and optimism will leave a positive imprint on each person you meet.

What networking mistakes have you experienced as a mom?

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How Does Your Family Practice Gratitude?

by CMHines4 on November 18, 2015

Maya Angelou quot

Photo courtesy: Jean Fitzhugh, Dreamstime Stock Photos

The ability to show gratitude helps us combat cynical thoughts that can trample our personal happiness. By fostering a conscious practice of gratitude, our children begin to see that outside of their inner world, people are generally kind, thoughtful and helpful.

How do you practice gratitude in your home? Please share your tips, ideas, photos and stories in the comments below.

Thank you for being part of my community! I love sharing what I learn with you and hearing what you have to say about ways we can all relate to one another in a more mindful, meaningful way.

…Because better communication really does build stronger families and communities.

Wishing you a blessed and happy Thanksgiving! 

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How we dress and present ourselves to the world can have a significant influence on how confident we feel and how successful we are interacting with others. 

As part of my monthly confidence series, I consulted with Anna McConnell, a gifted Kansas City wardrobe stylist and image consultant, and asked her to share her thoughts on how appearance can affect self-confidence and perception and how we can use our assets to step out the door feeling our best. 

Anna McConnell Quote

CH: How much can appearance impact a persons self-confidence and how others perceive her?

AM: Appearance affects a persons self-confidence greatly.

Women have a lot of pressure from the media as well as from their peers to look better, younger, thinner. Designers use models with a rectangular figure weighing 130 lbs and are 5.10 when reality is much different. The average size in the US is a size 12.

We already have a tendency to see our perceivedflaws instead of seeing our assets. This is human nature.

When you feel attractive, well-groomed and put together, your self-esteem and confidence lifts. Not only do you carry yourself differently, but you interact with others in a different fashion.

Have you ever had a bad hair day and everything goes wrong and you just dont feel right? Or you walk into a restaurant inappropriately dressed for the event. You feel awkward and certainly not willing to be the life of the party!

Looking polished and put together implies to the rest of the world that youve got everything in your life under similar control, career, family, finances..The contrary also exists. If you go to a business meeting or interview with an unprofessional appearance, for the outsider, your skills will seem unprofessional as well. Perception is reality!

We are judged by our appearances within three seconds. It is our first tool of selection. We tend to go towards like-minded people or people who look similar to us.

CH: What are simple, quick ways that we can appear and feel more confident through our appearance whether we work outside the home or stay home with children?

AM: Anyone can look great regardless of where you live, what you do, how much you weigh, size or budget. We can change our attitudes by becoming aware of our self-image and taking control of our emotion.

Knowledge is key. Here are a few things that can help:

  • Know your body type and what you can or cannot wear (according to your body type). For example, if you are a long lean rectangular figure, you do not want to wear long, straight shapeless garments.
  • Understand your clothing personality. Are you a romantic, classic, sporty..? If you are sporty and spend your time taking the kids to the soccer field, you may not need 5 pairs of heels and pencil skirts in your wardrobe.
  • Does your wardrobe suit your lifestyle, personality and activities? Can your wardrobe take you to all your activities, events? Does it really correspond to my personality? Am I making the most of my wardrobe?

CH: What advice do you give women who are on tight budgets or simply dont want to spend a lot on clothing for themselves? 

AM: Once youve answered the above questions, you can organize your closet with the clothing you really need and discard the rest.

Shop in your closet first and try to build a wardrobe that can fit your activities and lifestyle. Make a list of items that you would need. This is essential to stay on track with your budget.

You dont need an extensive wardrobe, but good quality items that you can wear in different options. On a tight budget, stick to classics that will always be in style.

Consignment stores are a great place to start.

AnnaMcConnellAbout Anna McConnell:

Wardrobe Stylist and Image Consultant Anna McConnell helps men and women create and maintain an efficient and functional wardrobe to suit their lifestyle, body type, personality and budget.  Also discover Anna and the KC Glam Squad for their fabulous makeovers. For more information on the services Anna provides and how she can help you, visit http://www.anna-mcconnell.com

For questions and consultations contact her at http://www.anna-mcconnell.com/ask-anna/ or call 816-582-2550.

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A Prescription to Prevent Holiday Blues

by CMHines4 on November 3, 2015

Screenshot 2015-11-03 08.41.36

via ToledoBlade.com, www.whatnext.com

Put your seatbelt on. In case you haven’t noticed, the jolly jingle of the holidays has begun buzzing across airwaves and into stores (some since August). For many of us, the holidays add urgency to an already burgeoning to-do list. Some people thrive on it, others experience a spiritual dive.

A few years ago, I pledged to myself that I wouldn’t allow the obligations of the holiday season to trump my sense of inner peace. Admittedly, every year my personal pledge is a work in progress. One thing that makes a difference is consciously eliminating some of the insane rules I was putting on myself like:

  • Must find the perfect gift for every single person (causes major headaches and frozen indecision).
  • Must take on the responsibility of ensuring my family’s happiness during the most magical time of the year (causes anxiety and frustration for all involved).
  • Must dutifully create a picture-perfect memorable and/or crafty holiday activity each day during the Advent season for my children (causes a sense of failure by the third day).

Here’s the prescription I’ve come up with for decreasing stress, preventing the blues and taking a more mindful approach to how I orchestrate the holidays.

Please read instructions carefully. Potential side effects include: A subtle shift in mood. An immune system that fights a tougher battle against potential invaders. A more playful, loving attitude. Increased empathy toward yourself and others. A contented smile on your face that confuses others.

  • Listen to your intuition. Traditions that work for some families, simply don’t for others. Consciously decide what you won’t do this year. Avoid turning a meaningless tradition into your annual jailer.
  • Lower your expectations. Martyrs are no fun. Vow to have a perfectly imperfect holiday season. Write your pledge down. 
  • Schedule an outing with a friend. Keep it simple – coffee, shopping trip, lunch, glass of wine or a movie you both want to see.
  • Clear an evening. Bake or cook a surprising and delicious meal just because. The smell of good food warms a home and a soul.
  • Get some fresh air. Invite a friend for a walk or a run. Exercise will clear your head and push stress to retreat to that tiny chair in the corner.
  • Plan a Sunday Fun Day with your family. Play a board game, watch holiday movies marathon, bake and decorate cookies or have a gingerbread house decorating contest. Check out these cool gingerbread houses that you don’t have to bake.
  • Be spontaneous and a little sneaky. Did an extra 30 minutes pop up unexpectedly? Stop at a cozy coffee shop with a novel and read, but don’t tell anyone. Running errands? Take a detour to that boutique you’ve always been curious about.
  • Treat yourself. Get a massage or a manicure. When we feel good on the outside, we feel better on the inside.
  • Make an artist’s date. Grab your camera and snap some shots of nature. Visit a museum. Paint a coffee mug at your local ceramics shop. Color in an adult coloring book. Explore a home decorating shop. Gather other artist friends. Take turns teaching each other different artistic techniques or simply work on your projects together.
  • Honor those you miss. For those who grieve the loss of a loved one, the holidays can be incredibly challenging. Honor your loved on by telling stories; hang an ornament in their memory; light a candle and put it in your window; make their favorite meal/dine at their favorite restaurant; or engage in an activity they loved to do during the holidays.

Want more? Check out my article Tips to Tame the Holiday Circus, in this month’s Space City Parent magazine (Houston, Tex.).

What do you do to ease the stress of the holidays?

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Heading back into the workplace after either staying home with kids or working from home can cause no shortage of anxiety, fear and lapses in confidence. Continuing with my monthly series on building confidence, I asked award-winning humor author Lela Davidson if she could share a few of her insights with us.

Lela’s newest collection of inspiring, relatable and hilarious essays about the collision of motherhood and work, Faking Balance: Adventures in Work and Lifelaunched in September. 

5 Things I Wish Someone Had Told Me About Going Back to Work

Layout 1 (Page 1)by Lela Davidson

Going back to work is exhilarating and wonderful, but also scary and stressful. Heading back to a work environment means you’ll be expected to shower, get dressed, and show up with a smile on your face each and every day. It’s exhausting. But it’s also so very worth it when you’re sure it’s the time to return to work, or when the cash is going to make a significant impact on your standard of living. From fast track to mommy track to yoga-panted freelancer and back again, I have been all kinds of working mother. Two years ago I left my “life of leisure,” or at least the luxury of wearing yoga pants to the office down the hall. Going back to work was the best decision I made this decade, but it was still a rough transition. Here are some things I wish someone had told me.   

Relationships take time.

I went from working at home with my dog, or in a coffee shop where the extent of collaborative human interaction was limited to my coffee order, to working in close proximity with dozens of other people. I had to interact with these people on a personal and professional level every day. All of the days. Even the ones when I didn’t want to talk to the dog, much less another person. In the beginning I would come home with zero energy beyond that required to eat dinner and crash onto the couch in front of the television. I wish someone would have reminded me that it takes a long time to get to know people. I wish someone would have told me to give myself the space to be myself and the time to get to know others and let them get to know me.

Motherhood builds marketable skills.

When you stay home with kids you acquire superpowers that you may not be fully aware of until it’s time to apply them in another environment. Arbitrating sibling conflict? Awesome training for getting your team to work together. Coordinating Thanksgiving plans with your parents, spouse, and in-laws? Super preparation for salary negotiations. I wish someone would have told me that my parenting skills were valuable in the marketplace.

You get used to the cash very, very quickly.

So much extra money! Yay, right? There’s going to be extra money for better groceries and eating out and clothes and extras for the kids and friends and family, not to mention that vacation you’ve been dreaming of. All true. Extra cash is real. However, the weird thing about money is the more we get, the more we think we need. That extra cushion, or extra disposable income, quickly becomes absorbed into the budget to the point where you cannot fathom how you once lived without the additional paycheck. Don’t get me wrong, extra cash is fun. Just know that it doesn’t feel like extra for long.

Getting dressed is hard.

For six years I wore my most comfortable jeans with a top that may or may not have highlighted my mama-muffin-top, topped with a raggedy cardigan. (Nothing beats the comfort of a ratty pilled-up cardigan.) Being required to look presentable and authoritative every day is an ongoing challenge, especially because I work in a very casual environment. It’s counter-intuitive, but looking pulled together and casual is a lot harder than just dressing up. I knew how to look like a CPA. Looking cool, trendy, trustworthy, smart, and like I’m not trying too hard? Still working on that. I wish someone would have told me about the capsule wardrobe sooner. I’m still a student of closet skills, but at least now I’ve got a system.

You are probably going to cry.

Maybe a lot. This is okay. It’s alright to cry– remember that song from “Free to Be You and Me”? But crying doesn’t feel great, especially when you’re hiding in the bathroom at work. But some days are going to be cry days, especially in the beginning. By no means does the occasional breakdown stop you from accomplishing your goals. You just pull out your Big Girl Kleenex and deal with the frustration that’s causing you to lost it. I wish someone had told me that the crying is simply a symptom of the overwhelm of change.

Bottom line is, when you know that going back to work is the right thing to do, you can power through the challenges and feel successful. You don’t have to lean so far in that you fall over, and you don’t have to max out your life. You do have to be patient with yourself and your family and your newly acquired work family. I wrote Faking Balance: Adventures in Work and Life to highlight the choices working mothers face every day. Through my own journey into and out of the workforce, I encourage you to celebrate the smallest wins and laugh off the rest–because in the quest for work life balance, we’re all faking it.

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LelaDavidsonHeadShotAbout Lela Davidson:

Lela is the award-winning author of Blacklisted from the PTA and Who Peed on My Yoga Mat? and Faking Balance: Adventures in Work and Life.

Lela speaks nationally about working motherhood, marketing, media, and faking balance. Her work as a freelance journalist has appeared in print, web, video, and television. By day, Lela is VP of Media & Entertainment at Acumen Brands, a widely recognized leader in social commerce and parent company of Country Outfitter.

For those of you in the Kansas City area, Lela will be speaking and signing books at the Junior League of Kansas City Missouri Holiday Mart this Sunday, October 25 from noon to 1 p.m.

The Holiday Mart runs from October 22-25 at Bartle Hall. The event supports the Junior League’s many community-focused projects that benefit women and children in the area. Get your tickets today!

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