All ‘Personal Stories’ Posts

29 jul

Work Your Body, Work Your Mind

JennaSmithIt took me a long time to admit that I wasn’t successfully coping with my depression and anxiety on my own. It took even longer to come up with a plan to fight back against my own lying brain. It has taken even longer still to fully adopt that plan because it turns out that fighting back against your own brain is not like fighting back against other types of conditions. Anti-depressants and other meds can work wonders but they don’t fix everything.

This blog has talked before about dealing with depression. Today I want to talk to you about living with and living through depression and anxiety. Before I do, though, it is important to note that these conditions manifest differently for everybody. What works for me may not work for you so it is important that you work with trained doctors and therapists to figure out the best way to help yourself feel better.

That said—here are the two things that have helped me the most:

Establishing A Routine

For me, depression often manifests itself as an inability to make even small decisions without feeling overwhelmed. For example—I know that I need to get up but deciding what I should do first makes me immediately anxious. What if I pick the wrong thing? This combined with the fact that mornings are often the hardest time of day for people with depression means that a morning routine is essential. Britt Reints, a favorite blogger and author, talks about her morning routine in Every Day Health.

For me, I need the structure that Reints uses in the mornings all day. For example: I make sure that I eat lunch at the same time every day and try to eat dinner at the same time on most days. I do X at this time, Y for this long and Z on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons. The fact that I don’t have kids and that my friends are also creatures of habit helps with this. Scheduling as much of the mundane as possible gives me incredible peace of mind. It also helps me feel like I am more in control of what is happening each day and that gives me a (small, sure, but still important) confidence boost.

Exercise Regimen

Yeah, yeah, endorphins. Exercise increases endorphins—the happy making hormones—which is why one of the first things people are told to do when they even mention symptoms of depression is to work out. For some people this is something that they can do passively. I’m not one of these people.

Exercise is part of my daily routine and I’m not going to lie: it is not my favorite thing in the world. By nature I’m a sedentary creature, preferring reading to running every darn day of the week. Still— sticking to the routine and working to help my body feel strong is an important confidence and mood booster.

What worked for me was figuring out a way to keep my workouts short and, sure, okay, cheating the system. Typically, a workout will take an hour: twenty minutes of strength, twenty of cardio, twenty of endurance training. I decided to devote just twenty minutes a day to elliptical training. One of the (many) benefits of elliptical training is that the elliptical machines or bikes work all of the areas of your body at once. It’s like I’m killing three birds with one stone.

Remember: depression and anxiety manifest differently for everybody. You might find that deviating from a steady routine helps you feel better. Or maybe you prefer to run and swim for your exercise. Or you might have entirely different coping mechanisms. What matters is that you find what works for you and stick with it!

If you felt moved, inspired, touched, helped, annoyed, or anything after reading this, please let us know. Our wonderful bloggers really do appreciate your comments and feedback. It’s super easy and takes a minute. Click on comments below.

Posted by Jenna Smith on July 29th, 2014 in Diet and Fitness, Health, Personal Stories | No comments

07 jun

3 Purchases that Have Actually Improved My Life!

JennaSmithBeing a 20-something working girl, I lead a busy life–stress is part of the deal. Recently, I’ve been trying to work on my work-life balance by incorporating healthy techniques. I started maintaining a healthy diet and getting eight hours of sleep.

These changes were really beneficial. Regular exercise and stretching gave me an added boost too–but of all the changes I have made, there are 3 purchases I’m obsessed with and honestly could not live without:

1. Coffee Machine

I used to spend so much money and time in coffee shops it’s not even funny. Standing in line, frantically waiting for my overpriced latte while trying not to be late for work, was taking its toll on me.

So I decided to take the plunge and get a coffee maker and start making coffee at home. You would not believe how much this change has simplified my life, both monetarily and psychologically. Instead of forking over $5+ dollars, I simply pop in a cup and presto! My coffee is done within minutes. I do not have to wait in long lines and, because it’s so quick, I don’t have to worry about chatty customers making me late for work.

Since making the switch, I enjoy my coffee time at home and I don’t think I could ever go back to coffee shops for my morning java. My favorite perk of brewing coffee at home is that I do not add in all the unnecessary sugars and syrups that coffee shops use. Less calories and less money equals a win for me!

2. Massages

Working in the hospitality industry is a fast paced gig, which can be tough on my bones and joints. Most nights I come home totally exhausted and sore. Even though I started getting about eight hours of sleep a night, I would still wake up not feeling my best.

To better manage this problem, I started getting regular massages and this helped tremendously. That is, until I saw the bill. Keeping up with routine massages was incredibly expensive, so I opted for the next best thing: I looked up portable massage tables and bought one of my own. Getting my own massage table has allowed me to relax in the comfort of my own home.

3. E-Reader

After conversing and interacting with tons of people day in and day out, I need time to unwind and decompress. I have always had a love for reading and I try to get in a good book when I can.

To save on space in my apartment, I opted to get an e-reader. I checked out a bunch of options and decided to go with a Nook. I love my e-reader because it is specifically for reading. When I am on my day off or when I have a moment to myself, I plop down on my couch and read for hours. It helps me detox from my hectic schedule and restores my peace of mind. I can download books very quickly and I do not ever have to worry about having a million of books in my place. Plus, the battery life is great so I can get lost in books for a good period of time without having to worry about my device suddenly dying and interrupting my narrative flow.

I love my busy, on-the-go lifestyle. For me, it is fun keeping up with the hustle and bustle of my everyday life. With that being said, I know that I have to maintain my health both mentally and physically. Relieving the stress of depending on a coffee shop has helped me significantly both financially and emotionally.

No longer am I standing in long lines, yay! My portable massage table is the best thing that has ever happened to me. I love to relieve all of the pressure that work and being on my feet brings. My stress level is at an all time low because of it too. Curling up on my couch with a good e-read is another favorite after-work activity of mine. These three purchases have changed my life for the better and are items that I surely do not want to live without.

If you felt moved, inspired, touched, helped, annoyed, or anything after reading this, please let us know. Our wonderful bloggers really do appreciate your comments and feedback. It’s super easy and takes a minute. Click on comments below.

Posted by Jenna Smith on June 7th, 2014 in Diet and Fitness, General, Personal Stories | No comments

28 may

Zen and the Art of Inline Skating

JennaSmithOn my 25th birthday I woke up to the realization that I was five years away from 30, and that I was a mess.

Growing up in Ohio, I had dreamed about California’s beaches, laid-back lifestyle and year-round sun. As soon as I graduated from college, I made like the Beverly Hillbillies, packed up my car, and headed for “Cali-for-nie-ay.” Once I hit San Diego’s shores I never looked back.

But San Diego wasn’t exactly what I was expecting. First, I didn’t really know anyone. Sure, I’m adventurous, but I’m also introverted by nature. As a result, I took a lot of moonlit walks along the beach, alone. After a while, I kind of lost the taste for it, which was OK because I had to work anyway.

One of the good things I could say about work was that it solved my social issues. I had plenty of friends at the cubicle farm, and that’s even where I met my guy.

I was in my dream city, I had a good job, I had my guy, and things were great, right?

Well, three years later I was sitting in the same desk, at the same job, in a windowless cubicle, staring at a beach screen-saver instead of enjoying the actual beach outside my door… OK, the beach across town.

When I wasn’t hanging out with some friends from the office, I was spending my evenings camped out on the couch, too tired and depressed from the job and the rush-hour commute to do much more than watch whatever was on TV and listen to the blood coagulating in my veins.

So back to my 25th birthday.

I woke up that morning with 30 looming like an object in my rearview mirror. At that moment I decided that something needed to change.

I would quit my job, buy myself a VW Bus, go to Burning Man, get a sick tattoo, meet a man named Snake, then we would come back to San Diego and spend our days rollerblading along Pacific Beach like “Slomo.”

I’d be free, gosh darn it, to do what I want, any old time.

After I had my first cup of coffee I kind of came to my senses and realized that Burning Man had already passed, and that it probably wasn’t a good idea to just up and quit my job.

But that didn’t mean I couldn’t do some of the other things on my list, namely the rollerblading.

See, I knew that I needed to get out, get moving, and get healthier. Day after day after night of sitting, sitting, sitting, had worn me out so much that I was starting to take the shape of my couch and desk chair.

Initially I had considered running, but gravity and I came to an agreement long ago – I wouldn’t try to defy it, and it wouldn’t blow out my knees and, so far, the agreement was going strong. Then I thought about joining a gym and realized the last thing I wanted to do was exercise indoors.

Then I thought about how much I had enjoyed roller skating as a kid, and how hanging out with Slomo at going as fast as you can go on these thin wheels, and I headed out to get my first set of inline skates.

Happy Birthday to me!

Two years later, I’m still skating.

I did make it to Burning Man once, but didn’t meet a guy named Snake. I did meet a Josh, however, while I was skating. I was minding my own business when this horse of a dog ran by me, trailing his leash. I roll over it, trip, and wipe out on the pavement. The rest is pretty much the stuff of romantic comedies.

About six months after my birthday I finally got the courage to quit my job. I had decided that I’d had enough of the nine-to-five world so I became a freelance writer. I set my own schedule, and I always make sure to include plenty of time outdoors. I’ve even started working on this novel that had been rattling around in my head since forever.

At first it was tough making all those changes, but whenever things got stressful I would just strap on the blades, head to the beach, and roll until my heart was calm and my heard was clear. I never actually skated with Slomo, but I pass him a couple times, and wave hello.

As far as the tattoo is concerned, well, a girl’s got to have a few secrets, right?

If you felt moved, inspired, touched, helped, annoyed, or anything after reading this, please let us know. Our wonderful bloggers really do appreciate your comments and feedback. It’s super easy and takes a minute. Click on comments below.

Posted by Jenna Smith on May 28th, 2014 in New Directions, Personal Stories, Spirituality | No comments

20 may

How I Turned My Life Around and How You Can Too: Tips for Creating Permanent, Positive Change

Several years ago I developed an interest in self-improvement. My life was not horrible which is probably why I never felt particularly compelled to change it. I realized I was kind of just coasting on auto-pilot, not really giving much thought to what was happening with me, and whether I was happy. There was no one defining incident that lit my fire, rather I started on the path, and just kept walking it. Now, I have a life I never would have dreamed possible years ago. A whole book could be written about this topic, and thousands have, but here are a few key points I would tell anyone who was interested in really changing their life, and making permanent, positive change.

Define Your Why

Unless you get super-crystal clear about why you want to make the changes you are hoping to make, you are not going to get very far at all. You must define your “why.” Why do you want to lose that weight? Why do you want to work in a particular field? Why do you want to make more money? Why do you want to travel the world? Once you answer that initial question, ask yourself why you want that thing, and then that thing, and so on until you hit the rock bottom of your desire. This is where you will discover your core values, the things most important to you. Without figuring out your core values, your efforts at change will be half-hearted, and you will probably give up eventually. But, with a strong “why,” you will muster the motivation; you will have less difficulty making the decisions that are necessary. The “sacrifices” you must make to achieve your goals won’t seem so bad.

Feed Your Mind The Info That Forms Your New Belief System And Behavior

Right now, you hold so many limiting beliefs, and have so many self-sabotaging behaviors, you have no idea. You have no idea because this stuff is so deeply rooted, you are not even fully aware of it. But, once you start thinking more deliberately about changing your life, you will start to see more clearly the negative beliefs you hold about love, money, success and life in general; you will become more aware of the behaviors. The only way you will make the changes you desire is to flood your mind with information that is more positive and empowering; information to help you develop a new outlook on life, an outlook that supports your success, not detracts from it. And this is not something you can only do once in a while; you must do it all the time. This constant repetition is the only thing that will help shake loose the negative stuff that has been living quite comfortably in your mind this whole time.

You want to read and listen to everything you can get your hands on. Read about general personal development, read about law of attraction, read about any topic that resonates with you. Different people have different styles, and some will vibe with you and some won’t. Find the ones that do and devour their material.

One of the best types of information is stories about real people who have succeeded in the ways in which you hope. Learning about them will inspire you. If you hope to become a successful entrepreneur, read more about people like Richard Branson. If you hope to run a successful e-commerce website, learn more about someone like Patrick Byrne, the CEO of the monster hit Overstock.com, or Amazon’s genius Jeff Bezos.

Start Going After What You Want Without Worrying About How

Surely logic serves us well in our lives, but when it comes to creating the life you dream of, it can be a real drag. We are so conditioned to plan, and figure things out. When you first start thinking about your ideal life, you will look at your current life and try to figure out “how” you will get from here to there. Then you will start feeling discouraged because you won’t be able to figure it out. But, it is not your job to do so. You may be afraid you will fail, and that will stop you in your tracks. Just start focusing and taking any necessary steps, and things will unfold along the way. You can’t possibly anticipate all the ways your wish can be fulfilled, so leave that to the Universe, and focus on the “what.”

If you felt moved, inspired, touched, helped, annoyed, or anything after reading this, please let us know. Our wonderful bloggers really do appreciate your comments and feedback. It’s super easy and takes a minute. Click on comments below.

Posted by Jenna Smith on May 20th, 2014 in Career, New Directions, Personal Stories, Spirituality | No comments

26 apr

Three Common Types of Addiction: Spotting the Signs and Getting Help

JennaSmithAddiction is a touchy subject; even though most people have been affected by it in some form, open communication about this disease is rare. And while discussing substance abuse and addiction can be uncomfortable, an honest approach can help in both the treatment and prevention of this all-encompassing illness. As someone who has suffered the secondhand effects of addiction, I think communication, honesty and awareness are key in addressing the issue. Below, I’ve outlined three common types of addiction in the United States. With the information provided, you can spot the signs of addiction, and encourage your friend or loved one to seek the help they so desperately need and deserve.

Addiction to Prescription Drugs

Sadly, many drugs deemed safe are associated with dependence and addiction. Of these medications, the most commonly abused include prescription pain-relievers like Vicodin and OxyContin, and anti-anxiety drugs like Valium and Xanax. And while symptoms of abuse and addiction may vary, they usually include the following signs:

  • Constricted pupils.
  • Slurred speech.
  • Falling asleep or “nodding” at odd times.
  • Depression, anxiety and aggression.
  • Obtaining multiple prescriptions from different doctors, also known as “doctor shopping.”
  • Using illegal or immoral methods to obtain prescription drugs, e.g., lying about pain or other symptoms, theft, forgery, etc.
  • The onset of withdrawal symptoms when use is discontinued. These typically include nausea, vomiting, chills, aches and other flu-like symptoms.

If you or someone you love is addicted to prescription drugs, failure to seek immediate treatment can result in complications like prolonged addiction, overdose, organ damage, an increased risk of hepatitis and other diseases, relationship problems, legal and financial difficulties and other harmful effects. Treatment for prescription drug abuse usually entails intensive psychological counseling, as well as supervised detox, aftercare and more.

Sex Addiction

Sex addiction, also known as hypersexuality or compulsive sexual behavior, is associated with obsessive sexual thoughts or behaviors, to the extent that it affects one’s relationships, professional life and more. In individuals with compulsive sexual behaviors, multiple partners are common, as is the habitual use of pornography and an inability to feel satisfied from normal sexual encounters. What’s more, these individuals often engage in risky sex acts, as well as fantasies and behaviors that may be considered inappropriate, immoral or even illegal.

Even given the extreme nature of sex addiction, spotting the symptoms isn’t always easy. If you suspect a loved one of compulsive sexual behavior, approaching the subject is crucial to their health and well-being. Without treatment, individuals with this disease are prone to complications like the transmission of disease, relationship difficulties, problems at work, unwanted pregnancies and more. Treating sex addiction typically involves psychotherapy, couples counseling, behavior modification and other psychological approaches. What’s more, sex addiction therapy for men and women is typically the same, and is designed to promote healthy sexual behaviors and improved quality of life.

Alcoholism

Alcoholism may not be a new problem, but it’s one that still permeates our society and affects individuals of all ages. What’s more, in addition to prolonged alcoholism, binge-drinking among teens and young adults is also an important issue. Indeed, binge-drinking can lead to effects like organ failure and death, as well as risky sexual behaviors and an increased risk of physical injury.

Like other addictions, spotting the signs of alcohol abuse can be tricky. If you notice that a friend or loved one is drinking too frequently or too heavily, uses alcohol as a means to deal with other problems, drinks alone, or allows alcohol to affect other areas of his or life, suggesting treatment is recommended. And while treatment measures can vary, they usually include a detox from alcohol and other addictive substances, intensive counseling, behavior modification techniques and more.

Having close friends and family members who have suffered the from substance abuse and addiction, I know how hard it can be to cope with the effects and complications of this disease. Hopefully, with the information provided here, you’re better equipped to seek help, recover from addiction, and lead a healthy life, free from the terrible effects of substance abuse.

If you felt moved, inspired, touched, helped, annoyed, or anything after reading this, please let us know. Our wonderful bloggers really do appreciate your comments and feedback. It’s super easy and takes a minute. Click on comments below.

Posted by Jenna Smith on April 26th, 2014 in Family, Health, New Directions, Personal Stories | 1 comment

27 mar

Protecting My Most Valuable Possession: A Freelancer’s Story

JennaSmithI’m a freelance copy writer. Every day, I write copy for multiple clients, describing everything from algebra problems to North African food. And every day, I make sure my most valuable possession is ready to work alongside me: my laptop computer.

The original freelancers were knights; literally “free lances” who hired themselves out to multiple kings or lords. Their faithful companions were their mighty steeds, the beloved horses who needed to work just as hard as the freelance knight, or both risked losing their jobs.

My “beloved horse” is a MacBook Air, and it goes with me wherever I go — on buses, on planes, to co-working spaces and coffee shops. Every day I give it a little extra love to make sure it’s going to be ready to handle the tasks I set before it. (Like many workers, I spend about 10 hours a day working on my computer. I type so much that my last laptop died when I literally wore out the keyboard.)

Here are a few of the ways I make sure my faithful steed is always in good health and ready to go:

1. Never eat (or drink) over the laptop

My AppleCare covers a lot of things, but it isn’t particularly generous towards water spills. Or soup spills. Or tea spills. That means I have to make absolutely sure that no liquid ever touches my laptop.

In this case, it means I eat adjacent to my computer, not over it. I also finish my meal without touching the laptop. I’ll put on some Netflix episode and fullscreen the display to prevent the urge to reach over and check my email.

2. Clean out the keyboard regularly

This is less of an issue with my MacBook Air than it was with my previous laptop. The keyboard design meant that a lot of dust, dirt, and cat hair regularly got caught up between the keys. I made sure to do the compressed air trick weekly, and every six months I’d remove all of the keys and clean out anything the can of air missed.

3. Avoid viruses, malware, and other threats

When I was in graduate school, I downloaded one bad file. That was all it took. Within five minutes, my computer was completely out of my control. Popups filled the screen, and I was not able to use my mouse or keyboard to change any of the settings. By the next day, my hard drive was completely destroyed. I took it to a repair shop, but ended up having to buy a new laptop.

Now I invest in every security measure possible to keep my computer — and my information — safe. The team at Trend Micro notes how viruses have changed in the past decade, and users now need online security software to protect their privacy on social networks as much as anywhere else. If my email or my social networks got hacked, it would threaten my reputation with my friends and clients. If I lost another computer to a virus, I would lose my livelihood.

So yes, I’ll do everything it takes to keep my computer safe.

4. Use the battery in full

I didn’t know this trick until a Mac rep told me. You need to let the battery drain completely before recharging. If you keep your laptop plugged in even when your battery is fully charged, instead of unplugging it and using the battery until it’s drained, it’s like trying to give your horse more food when it’s already full. Eventually, your horse is going to get sick and your laptop battery is going to stop working.

If you’re a freelancer and you, too, have a faithful steed, follow these steps to make sure your most prized possession stays in good health. You depend on your computer for every part of your career, so you need to do everything you can to protect it.

If you felt moved, inspired, touched, helped, annoyed, or anything after reading this, please let us know. Our wonderful bloggers really do appreciate your comments and feedback. It’s super easy and takes a minute. Click on comments below.

Posted by Jenna Smith on March 27th, 2014 in Career, Personal Stories | No comments

05 mar

6 Ways You Torment Yourself at Work and How to Stop

Kerrigan2Let’s face it: At one time or another, you have tormented yourself at work. Often, the ritual is daily. Without a doubt, it’s more frequent than most people know. You have to catch yourself to even know what’s making you feel bad or sad. We are so conditioned to look on the dark side, that negativity becomes our automatic default. In fact, I ‘ll bet that the main reason you’re reading this right now is the word “torment” in the title. Yes?

So—why do you do it? What is the main reason for all that torment?

Here it is: Fear of failure, of not being good enough, as though you have to prove yourself–-often.

Here are 6 ways you suffer and how to stop:

#1: You’re afraid to ask questions

Of all the performance and productivity killers I’ve seen in the workplace, confusion, by far, is numero uno. It can hold you back and delay progress, and often goes undetected because most people hate to admit when they’re confused. Ipso facto: They hate to ask questions.

Whole processes can screech to a halt when someone somewhere along the line is too afraid to ask: “How does this work?,” “What am I supposed to be doing?,” “Why is this needed?” You get the idea.

When you’re afraid to ask, you lack clarity, and torment yourself in many ways. Your job becomes a guessing game. You have no idea what you’re doing and you fear that, if you ask, you’ll look ridiculous. So, you put yourself and your team at risk.

Worst of all, your anxiety increases as you worry about things going wrong, and then it reaches an all-time high when they actually do.

Stop. Ask. The more confident you become, the stronger and less fearful you will be, and the better you will perform.

#2: You’re afraid of answering questions

This brings me to the flip side of that coin: fear of answering questions. Many executives are known for this. They think it’s the mark of strong leadership if they appear as though they have all the answers. So, instead of seeming weak, they avoid questions like the plague.

They become politicians, not leaders, sidestepping questions with vague and inane answers. Then, their insecurity and torment passes to their team, and everyone is confused and lost.

Is this what you really want?

Stop tormenting yourself and your team by trying so hard and making it up as you go along. Stop giving wrong or incomplete information. It is your job to problem solve, to get answers, and to know where to look. It’s not your job to know everything—nobody does.

If you don’t know, say so. And then ask.

#3: You second guess everything you do

When you can’t ask or answer questions, you have little confidence in yourself. Your anticipatory anxiety runs at an all-time high with “what if” thinking. “What if I do this, and that happens?” Initially, this can be great for planning, but you can’t get stuck there. You need to make a decision and move forward–to trust yourself and choose. Yes, sometimes you choose wrong, but that’s life.

First, know that most of the time, your anticipation is much worse than the actual situation. How many times have you worried yourself to the Nth degree and the outcome was far better than you imagined?

Anticipatory anxiety keeps you from taking chances that would improve your life.

Step through that wall of anticipatory anxiety! Get on the other side. Give yourself permission to feel anxious. Then, get in the present moment and ask yourself: what’s the next positive step I need to take to move myself forward? And do it!

Think of “what iffing” it this way, “What if I succeed?”–You won’t know until you try.

#4: You second guess what everyone else does

If you don’t trust yourself, it’s hard to trust others. This brings about huge control issues. People often think control freaks are strong—wrong. It’s a sign of weakness, of insecurity. So, stop it. Once again, you’re not only tormenting yourself, you’re tormenting your team. Stop hovering over them and not letting them do their thing.

We all bring something special to the table. No one is good in all areas of work—that’s why there are teams—to collaborate. Collaboration is the alloy that makes companies strong. It’s fine to ask and answer questions to monitor progress, but you must trust your team to do what they do best. That’s how you all grow and succeed.

#5: You have an excessive need for approval

If you feel victimized, manipulated or guilty often, then you are tormenting yourself by always needing approval from others. Anxiety runs high when you feel this way because you’re just too afraid of stepping on toes. You show people where your buttons are, with a big sign that says “Push!”

The most important approval you need is the approval you give yourself. I wrote about this in 10 Steps to Get Over the Impostor Syndrome. As a people pleaser, it’s easier to be compassionate to others, but not to yourself.

If you heard a close friend talk badly about him/herself, you would defend that person and say it’s not true. You would comfort the friend with kind and supportive words. You need to be able to do this for yourself. Speak to yourself as though you were speaking as if speaking to your own best friend. Be compassionate to yourself. Use those same convincing words and be supportive — to you.

#6: You suffer from the “terrible too’s”: too young, too old, too inexperienced, too forgetful, too tall, too short—you name it!

Often, when faced with change, we torment ourselves with the “terrible too’s.” We use self-criticism as an excuse to procrastinate and resist change. What we’re really saying is that we’re too afraid to leap because we’re too afraid to fail.

Your thoughts make up your reality. So, change the messaging in your mind. Get more positive in the way you think–especially about yourself.

Get confident: Ask and answer questions. Trust yourself and your team. Give yourself the support you need. Get out from under the “terrible too’s” and your excuses. One thing is for sure: It’s never too late to stop tormenting yourself and start enjoying your life!

Copyright 2014 Michelle Kerrigan

Michelle Kerrigan is an expert in workplace confidence and performance who has been helping businesses and professionals grow stronger and more successful for over three decades. More at www.michellekerriganinc.com and www.workplaceconfidence.com

If you felt moved, inspired, touched, helped, annoyed, or anything after reading this, please let us know. Our wonderful bloggers really do appreciate your comments and feedback. It’s super easy and takes a minute. Click on comments below.

Posted by Michelle Kerrigan on March 5th, 2014 in Career, Global/Social Change, Personal Stories | No comments Read related posts in , , , , , , , , , , ,

04 feb

A One Bedroom Apartment Isn’t So Bad After All

JennaSmithMy time in college was coming to a close. I was beginning my senior year and it was also the time when things started to get serious with my freelancing career that I had been developing during the off-hours in my dorm.

There was a problem though …

It was beginning to get difficult trying to balance study and work all from a tiny little dorm room. Papers were starting to stack up. I constantly had to mail things so boxes were plentiful. The printer, computer, and video equipment I used to make promo videos was simply taking up too much space.

I started looking around and found a nice apartment complex just down the road from my school, which was perfect since it didn’t take long to get to class and it meant I had enough space for my stuff.

It also helped me relax a bit because my school wasn’t too keen about running businesses out of the dorm room.

But … being on a college budget didn’t give me a whole lot of options, so I decided the best option would be to get a one bedroom, one bath.

At first, the place felt huge compared to the tiny, little dorm room but it makes sense when people say “the more you earn the more you spend”. Getting into the new apartment had me buzzing with energy because things felt like they were truly legit. My freelance income started to climb because I didn’t have nearly as many distractions from my roommates; I now had the funds for bigger and better furniture and household items. These items quickly began to add up, which meant I was quickly running out of space again.

Since I’m not the type that wants to throw out good items, I had to find a compromise to make my living situation work.

I’m out in San Diego, which means the weather is almost always nice. I also happen to have a nice balcony, which until that point was mostly used to store my bike and some of the weird odds-and-ends that I seem to acquire whenever I swing by my parents’.

One of the things I decided to do was to treat this balcony like an extended part of the apartment, so that it would always be open and used frequently. I picked up a few nice chairs that would go out there along with some neat lights I found on www.partylights.com, which gave it a real relaxed atmosphere during the night time.

That’s like one extra room – in my book.

I also started to get real about how I kept everything organized. Luckily, there’s an Ikea in San Diego. I had been there before when I picked up some of the furniture at the time I first moved in, but I hadn’t looked much at the storage and shelving units. It’s amazing what you can do with what they have without breaking the bank.

With a budget of about $300 I picked a few shelving units that would go in the room and ones that could double up as night stands.

It took a while to declutter since everything was all over the place, but eventually I got it under control. The shelves I hung onto the wall above the headboard let me keep all my business books in an easy-to-reach spot for when I was winding down for the night.

The toughest thing was finding the best spot for my desk when moving all this stuff. I’m constant working at my computer (between study, freelancing, and doing the blogging thing) and so I decided to go with a DIY option — I mounted a desk top to the wall with hinges so that I can fold it down when it’s not in use (I use a laptop so this worked well).

Doing so also made me further declutter because I didn’t want to constantly move things back and forth when I wanted to put the desk up. Switching to some online services certainly helped (like invoicing) which I’d recommend to anyone trying to get rid of all that hard copy in work and study.

Overall, I’d like a bigger place but when you start to organize and make use of the space you’ve got, you really start to see it’s not really necessary. You’ll end up getting more stuff. If you’re crafty (or if you’ve got someone that can help out) then a one-bedroom is often all you really need when you’re younger, so don’t fret if you’re feeling cluttered … get creative, instead.

If you felt moved, inspired, touched, helped, annoyed, or anything after reading this, please let us know. Our wonderful bloggers really do appreciate your comments and feedback. It’s super easy and takes a minute. Click on comments below.

Posted by Jenna Smith on February 4th, 2014 in Finances, House and Home, Personal Stories | No comments

08 jan

How Freelancers Can Make Careers of Their Work

JennaSmithAs a freelancer, I’m always thinking about other options: what’s next, how I can gain more work, how can I can be more competitive. If you’ve ever relied on freelance work as your primary means of wages, you know what I’m talking about.

Although not ideal for some, freelancing does give you freedom to work when you want, however long you want, wherever you’d like to work. However, the best freelancers rarely stay in this line of work; sooner or later, you’re going to want to find career work that’s stable and reliable.

Here are some great ways to start:

1. Additional Schooling

While there aren’t many schools that offer courses in “freelancing,” many universities offer programs that directly help freelancers looking into turning their “side gigs” into a fully-fledged career. I have a friend who also does freelance work in Pennsylvania; his day job is in marketing, but a few years ago he decided he wanted to make his graphic design freelance work his full-time job without having to completely move states to a more high-volume area. Eventually, my friend was able to find a Pennsylvania graduate school and get the additional schooling he needed to transition from freelance to entrepreneur. This is my proof that it’s possible.

2. Finding the Right University

Again, most “universities” don’t have programs that are overtly designed for freelancers. In some cases, taking the “schooling” route isn’t even the right option. For others, online universities and certification programs are best. I had another friend in San Francisco, who now manages several other freelance writers, begin his journey to owning his small-time freelance writing business through an online certification in business.

Online certifications can help in making you more competitive, but another excellent part of them is that they teach you about how to manage your own business and develop your brand. Most freelancers won’t learn these crucial steps until they take the time to get a degree or certification.

3. Finding Time to Do It All

Heck, most of us barely have time for sleep – how can we throw in going back to school in addition to our love life, our personal passions, and work? Well, it’s not easy. Sometimes, you have to give up something good to get something great.

What I mean is, you might have to cut some things out of your schedule for a time. For those of you who have the liberty to work less than 40 hours a week, you might need to cut back work hours to make time in the mornings and at night to fit in those extra hours. It’s possible, and many other freelancers before you have done it.

So how do you make the jump? Well, it’s not easy. But if you want to stop working in uncomfortable chairs at coffee shops and always worrying about whether or not you’ll find enough work, you should look into getting more training and experience. It’s not easy, but if it was, every freelancer would own their own company.

If you felt moved, inspired, touched, helped, annoyed, or anything after reading this, please let us know. Our wonderful bloggers really do appreciate your comments and feedback. It’s super easy and takes a minute. Click on comments below.

Posted by Jenna Smith on January 8th, 2014 in Career, Finances, New Directions, Personal Stories | No comments

27 nov

A Roadmap to Financial Independence

JennaSmithEveryone wants to be financially independent, but the harsh reality is that only a small fraction of the population usually achieves it. While it’s often possible for a single event to devastate your finances, chances are good that there are multiple factors contributing to your lack of financial independence. The good news is that they are within your means to correct and control.

Step 1 – Assessment

Before you can know how to get to your destination you need to know where you are. The first thing you need to do is take stock of your finances and see exactly where you stand. In order to get an accurate picture of your assets and liabilities, you should account for all of your income and debts. Most people remember their larger debts like mortgage and car payments but many forget to account for student loans, personal loans, and membership fees. Don’t forget your assets, including savings, home equity, and retirement accounts. Here is a good list of debt management calculators from Bankrate.com/calculators.

During this step you should also assess your credit. You can get a free copy of your credit report from each of the three reporting agencies once every 12 months. If there are inaccuracies on your credit report you need to get them corrected. I found out more about correcting credit report errors at https://www.lexingtonlaw.com/credit-education/fix-credit/.

Step 2 – Plan

Once you know where you stand the next thing you need to do is determine your desired end goal. You need to figure out how much you will need to maintain your lifestyle in retirement. There are many helpful calculators available online that can help, including one from AARP.

Now that you have your starting line and your finish line, you can begin to connect the dots between the two. Here is where you develop your monthly budget. Be realistic in your expectations and strive to live within your means. Focus on paying your necessary living expenses, putting money away for retirement, and paying down your debts first. Anything left over can be used for vacations, buying a new car, starting a business, or whatever else you might want.

You should also establish an emergency fund. Unforeseen events can have catastrophic consequences to your financial stability. An emergency fund provides you with the means to deal with those events with minimal financial consequences. You won’t have to incur additional debt. You won’t have to reduce your retirement savings. You will already have the money you need.

Now you can make adjustments and fine tune your budget. You may need to reduce spending or increase income in order to reach your goals. In either case you can identify the specific need and make the necessary adjustments to stay on track.

Step 3 – Monitor and Maintain

This is the step that never ends. None of what you have done up to this point will matter if you don’t remain vigilant and stick to your plan. Life changes, and when it does you need to change with it. Whether it’s a new job, new home, or new family member, you will need to constantly stay on top of your current situation and make adjustments to ensure that you are still on track to meet your end goal.

If you felt moved, inspired, touched, helped, annoyed, or anything after reading this, please let us know. Our wonderful bloggers really do appreciate your comments and feedback. It’s super easy and takes a minute. Click on comments below.

Posted by Jenna Smith on November 27th, 2013 in Finances, Personal Stories | No comments