Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Avoiding Post Holiday Doldrums

Hey all. Happy Wednesday to you.

The Holidays aren't quite over yet, but the nearness of the New Year has me thinking about post holiday slumber and peace. Sometimes that peace can lead to doldrums if not harnessed in the proper way. :-) In other words, if we don't have the positive attitude that comes with Christmas and the New Year celebration, we can sometimes get depressed. Why does this happen and how can it be avoided?

Well, I think part of this is a double edged sword. There is the hurrying and festivities that surround the Holiday time, along with seeing family and being in the giving spirit. That always brings happiness (or usually) and the residual good feelings tend to last through the Holiday period. We also tend to get some time off work (if we're lucky) and we look forward to that time like it's the Holy Grail of the work year. We get much needed rest and mental release from our jobs and the stress that is right behind our job. So, again, why do we sometimes get in to the New Year with a bit of a low or melancholy?

I equate this to a similar feeling that comes with separation anxiety. We are separated from the family that we see 2,3,4, or more times a year. We have that good feeling that comes after seeing said family and now it's over until next year. Or, at least until our family gets together again, but the Holiday time is over until next year. That's okay though. We can all find our own ways to keep that cheer in our lives. Find the positives like we do so easily during the Holidays. Keep those with us through the rest of Winter and in to Spring, and there's always next year to look forward to for another Holiday.

Giving throughout the year can also have similar effects as the giving that we experience at Christmas. Find a charity to help with, even if it's just your time. Those experiences and feelings can have lasting effects, and people will benefit as a result.

I hope you have happiness all year long. All the best!

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Resolving New Years Resolutions

Happy Holidays everyone!

I have taken some days off from posting here lately, but am back now and just wanted to explore the topic of New Years Resolutions.

First off, what qualifies as a New Years Resolution and how do we narrow things down to a substantial resolution? I guess it doesn't have to be that seriously pondered, but if it's going to get resolved, it's got to be something that we want to improve right? Well, I have some goals that I'd like to reach, but nothing as far as losing weight, or stopping smoking (don't smoke), or any other normal resolutions that people have. Mine involve things like: getting a proficient understanding of complex jazz improvisation for guitar and mandolin and being able to open my musical vocabulary a bit more. Other than that, just traveling more and seeing/experiencing new things.

I really feel like the older I get, the more important my family and friends become. I also plan on spending as much time with family as I possibly can. After the X'mas Holiday, I look back and think, it is wonderful to spend all that time with family that I get to see twice a year. Maybe I can bring that up to three or four times a year.

My new goal each year also is to see a new country every year. This year it will either be Thailand and Southeast Asia or another country in Central/South America. It depends of friends' schedules and plans as to what we do. I can't wait. I love the excitement that comes with seeing new places and people. I love to immerse myself in new (to me) culture. I love trying new foods and drinks in new places as well. That stuff gets my creative juices flowing.

What is it that you value and want to resolve in 2010? What can you do to make it happen?

Here's to the Holidays and the news years...Cheers!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Avoiding Burnout With Your Career

I think everyone, at one time or another, feels that burned out feeling from over working and trying to make sure things are squared away at the end of the year. So, what do you do to avoid getting burned out doing the same things day in and day out?

Change up your routine- This seems like a no-brainer, but some people get stuck in their rut and forget to spice up their life a bit. This can be easy. Just do a couple things differently in your day to change things up. Take your lunch break for the full hour, or go somewhere different for lunch that you wouldn't normally go to. I like to go to the library and browse the Cd's, movies, books, magazines, and newspapers. Just depends on my mood and what I'm interested in that day. It's a great way to get your mind off of work and away from the stress that work can place on you.

Take little breaks- Make time to pull away from your most stressful patches of work. If you know that between 10 am and 2 pm is your busiest time, then plan 5 minute breaks for every hour to walk around the office, or step outside for minute, or just surf the web mindlessly. This allows you to regain your composure and decompress a bit to allow yourself to better complete your task at hand. Everyone operates differently though. Some people prefer to just put their nose to grindstone and get things accomplished and out of the way, that way they're done for the day. Some people prefer to take breathers in between their tasks to avoid getting over stressed and spreading out the work for the day. Neither is right or wrong, one just may work better for you.

Make your tasks meaningful- I like to make a list and use it as kind of a daily goal planner. I can check off my tasks and make it feel like a game. It's like a personal game that you can play with yourself to feel like you accomplished your goals and gave yourself a purpose for the day. If you approach your tasks with a sense of purpose, you'll feel a bit better at the end of the day. On the other hand, don't take your tasks too seriously. If you approach them with too much importance, if one task doesn't get done, you'll get down on yourself. This defeats the purpose. Keep positive.

Have fun with your co-workers- This isn't always possible in every work environment, but in most, you can find ways to have some fun with your co-workers while getting your work done. At my workplace, we all tell jokes, tell each other our debacles in life, share our own shameless screw ups, and just generally shoot the breeze. This can be done while getting work done if you instant message, sit close to your co-workers, or if you get regular breaks. If you get one of these, email works well too. Just find ways to add some humor and fun to your work bubble.

If possible, do some work from home- Don't do this in your "off" time. In other words, if you work allows you to, work from home as a substitution from you office work time. This allows you to change up your sterile work environment for your cozy home. Just make sure that you stay productive so your boss doesn't regret letting you have some at home work time. This helps me greatly as it allows me to get more done by focusing on my work away from office distractions. The nice trade off here is that with that focus, I can get my work done quicker and have time to do the things that I want to do around the house, etc. It's a great trade-off.

I hope you effectively avoid burnout while you press through this end of the year work quarter. Good luck and have some fun.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Getting Away to the Desert

Hello everyone. I've been away in Phoenix, Arizona for the last 5 days and haven't been keeping up with my blogging in the meantime. I did want to post some reflections on the trip and how it made me think differently about certain aspects of my life.

First off, we went to Phoenix to go celebrate my father's 50th birthday party and I couldn't be happier that we did. It was great to see all of my parents' friends and our family come celebrate with him on his milestone birthday (although in my mind it's just another day, as Dad would say as well). My parents are both very young to have a son that's 30 (that's me) and 27 (my brother), but it works out well for all of us as they are very active and adventurous. Not only were they up for whatever we want to do, they even come up with their own crazy agendas. I love that about them. My brother is very cool as well and I love counting my family as my best friends (along with Evelyn of course).

Secondly, my parents surprised my brother and I with some tunes that they've been learning on the banjo (my Dad) and the fiddle (my Mom). Needless to say, I was stunned and so proud. I think it's awesome that they're learning these very difficult instruments and I'm so proud that they've made such progress is so little time. They were playing old fiddle tunes very well for the 5-6 months that they've been playing them. My jaw was on the floor when I walked in the house from the airport and saw them playing them. I always knew that I got my musical abilities from somewhere and I think my parents are realizing that they have it in them as well. That's so inspiring. My brother and I have been playing for some years, and we are now complete with the "Stackhouse Family Band." :-)

Thirdly, going back to that adventurous part: my parents and I went hiking Monday in Usery Park outside of Phoenix, and we did some pretty intense hiking. We climbed roughly 2000 vertical feet and a trail that was at least 3 miles (although we dispute that as it seemed much farther and we're not just saying that because of the elevation gain). Seeing the panoramas and the views of the Arizona valleys was stunning to say the least. It's a mental health wonderland up their on the mountain and I literally am excited about the next visit out there so I can do it again somewhere new. I love the crisp air and the warm sunshine when you're trekking up the mountain. There's nothing really that compares to that feeling of reconnecting with the outdoors.

Lastly, I'm grateful. I'm grateful that I get to spend such great times with my family while I'm young. I'm also grateful that we can put any differences aside and just love each other no matter what. That is great when you think about so many people out there that just can't seem to get along with their family because of petty differences. During the Holidays, I'm thankful that I have these things. I think I will always be grateful and thankful for that.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Making It Through the Holiday Stress

If you are like most Americans, you are freaking out about how you're going to get all your Holiday shopping done and how you're going to travel everywhere you need to go over the Holidays. Trying to overdo it is a normal situation for all of us and sometimes we all just need to take a step back and realize that the Holidays are about family, friends, and being with the ones we love, not impressing them. I think we all sometimes work a bit to hard to make sure every detail is perfect for our family and really, our family just wants to relax and be with everyone.

Perfect is the enemy of good enough. It's taking me a long time to realize (30 years of my life) that being a perfectionist is not always a good thing. Sometimes, we all need to step back and accept good enough. Having the "perfect" Christmas is sometimes as simple as just having family over, eating together, and then enjoying each others company. Really, do you remember a gift that you received 5 years ago that really changed your Christmas day. There are some exceptions, but we are all so conditioned to give and receive gifts that we really tend to overlook or glaze over with all the gifts. I'm not saying that we don't necessarily appreciate them, but it's almost like over stimulation of the senses and we get overloaded. I'm of the opinion that one great gift is enough and especially one that has meaning.

So, when you're preparing for this Holiday Season, keep in mind the importance and the point of this great time of year. Don't get too caught up in the hoopla that can create stress in an otherwise fun time. We don't get to see the whole family (or the vast majority hopefully) all the time, and being appreciative of this is good for the soul.

Good luck with your shopping and preparations for the Holidays. Good luck if you have a challenging family also! :-)

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Doing What You Love

How is it that we convince others to pay us for the things that we love to do? How do we go about it? Is it just sheer determination or is it the fine art of marketing? Is it networking and using contacts that you have to create your ultimate business? Could it be brute force and the force of just putting your nose to the grind stone?

I happen to believe its a bit of all the above, as you might have guessed. Timing can also be a factor as well since we don't always have the time to pursue our passions, and given that time, we may come across the opportunities that we didn't have before. For example, you may work a job now that consumes 60 hours of your week. God forbid, but let's say your employer cuts back your hours to 35 hours a week. With all that time that you have, you may pick back up your passions and or find new ones. Who's to say that won't turn in to something that goes to a full time gig? I used to think this mentality was for dreaming about when one retires, but now I realize that we all can make our own realities with some hard work and determination. We just have to try. That's the biggest part of the equation that a lot of people miss!

Trying. Be it as it may, trying can be very difficult. Difficult for our egos (especially when we fail), and difficult for us on a physical level. It's easy to sit around and do nothing about change or creating change, but taking that first step or just jumping in head first can be scary. The funny part is though, once you dive in head first in to crazy challenges, they all become easier and more manageable through time. Even when approaching new challenges. The skills learned from the last big challenge can guide you through the current one.

That's the wonderful thing about us humans. We adapt and grow with change. We naturally don't like change, but we do deal with it in our own ways. We can choose to fight it, but change always wins. When we create and make the change, we get to guide our own destiny. That's the cool part. How do you think that you'll guide your destiny?

Thursday, December 3, 2009

De-Cluttering My Life

Well, we made it through another Wednesday unscathed. I have been having a pretty good week so far, and tonight I played a gig to top off my "hump" day. Can't say that I'm not happy about that.

I have been seriously planning and scheming (in my head) all the ways that I can de-clutter and lessen the amount of "stuff" that I (we) have. One of those approaches involves selling the stuff that is of use to others, but of no more use to me. I have some pretty expensive (well, it used to be anyway) music equipment that I haven't used in years and could be sold on Ebay to generate some additional cash flow and make room for less clutter. Other ways that I'm approach are to decide what has been used in the last 4-6 months, and if it hasn't, it's got to go. Minus the camping stuff, kayak, and other stuff that I know I'll use when it's warm again.

So, why the reasoning for this? I feel that I need to simplify all aspects of my life so my mind is less cluttered. Plus, it's good for your mental health to de-clutter and streamline all the stuff in your life. This is evident when you see elderly folks that tend to clutter stuff after their spouse passes away. They do so to "hold on" to the memories and the tangible from what was in their life.

Another reason for this mode of getting rid of stuff is because I have become very anti-consumer in philosophy as I hit this 30th year mark in my life. I hate consuming things and buying things just because I can. It drives me nuts to see an over abundance of packaging used on items, people running up credit cards and the banks charging F-U interest rates, the gluttony of collecting junk, and then going back for more. I'm not in any way saying I'm "better than that" or "holier than though," so please don't take it that way. I'm just saying that I refuse to be like that and it depresses me that so many are trapped in that mode of addictive behavior. I want to help those people and heal that emotional wound that causes them to do this.

Do you have ways that help you de-clutter your life so you can think more clearly? Do you have traditions or ritual times of the year when you do this? I can't think of a better time than the holidays, given the fact that we'll probably all end up with more than we had after it's all over, said and done.