Stress and Getting Stuff Done

Dealing with stress–or whenever possible, reducing it–is a big part of my life as someone with Adrenal Fatigue. It’s one of the main causes–when our adrenal glands become too overworked due to stress, they stop functioning optimally, leaving us tired all the time for no reason. Even people who don’t have Adrenal Fatigue will often find themselves tired after a day of putting out more fires than usual.

Even Isis gets stressed out, though no one knows why!

Even Isis gets stressed out, though no one knows why!

Stress, and the fatigue it can bring on, is often a reason we don’t accomplish as much as we’d like. But these past couple of weeks, I’ve found the opposite to be true as well: not being able to get things done can make us stressed.

This became apparent to me in my day job recently. Normally, I like my job, but lately it’s become a real drag to the point that I almost dreaded going to the office. It’s not the workplace–I’m blessed to work with and for nice people, in a comfortable environment. But for weeks, I was stuck on both of the software development projects I’m working on. On one, I was stumped by a particularly tough bug fix. On the other, I was having problems with the software I needed to use not working properly. Then, last week I had a breakthrough on the bug fix. It’s still not done, but I’ve been making progress, whereas before, I was getting nowhere. And then I was finally able to get some tech support from the product vendor of the problematic software. With help, I got that working and have been moving along on that project.

Since then, my fatigue has been better (for the most part–I still have tired days, and am not as energetic as I was before A.F.). I realized it was because I was no longer stressed about my job. And that stress hadn’t come from worry that my inability to get anything done would have consequences–my supervisors on both projects were well aware of my problems and understood–but it was the simple fact that I was stuck and not moving forward.

We humans feel much better when we get stuff done, and have that sense of accomplishment. So having something on my to-do list that I know I’ll be able to check off is now an important part of my stress reduction plan.

Of course I always find time to read! That’s a big stress reducer too.

smithsmonthly 11What I read this week: Smith’s Monthly #11, including the novel The High Edge by Dean Wesley Smith. I am now a year behind in these LOL. He writes them faster than I read! Well, he does because I read other things, too. As always, this one had some enjoyable short stories in it, plus a novel set in his Seeder’s Universe, which features a post-apocalyptic earth and the spacefaring humans who are trying to save and help what’s left of Earth’s population. Enjoyable, easy read and good for that stress reduction!

ROW80Logo175ROW80 Update: Things are moving slowly on the novella, and I finally figured out why: I over-outlined it. As an outliner, having a plan in place to give me a story map helps me keep on task and moving forward. I tried a process outlined in Monica Leonelle’s Write Better, Faster (an excellent book, with tons of helpful info) that includes sketching in the scenes before I write, but that turned out to be too much for me. I either have to toss what I sketched out, or fill in the details, transitions, descriptions, etc. and that’s making it not as much fun. Hence, more difficult to get to the computer and more slow going once I’m there. I will push through and finish this, but will stick with my simple, one or two sentence outline per scene for the next book. This week, I only got one scene drafted. Next week, I want to shoot for at least three, preferably more.

What about you–do you find it stressful when you can’t seem to get anything done? How did you overcome that? Have you read any good books lately? And whether or not you’re participating in ROW80, how are you doing on whatever goals you might have? Please share in the comments–I’d love to hear from you!

Jennette Marie Powell writes stories about ordinary people in ordinary places, who do extraordinary things and learn that those ordinary places are anything but. In her Saturn Society novels, unwilling time travelers do what they must to make things right... and change more than they expect. You can find her books at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, Kobo, iTunes, and more.

Be Kind to Yourself for the Holidays

The holidays are the most stressful time of year for many of us, with all of the extra things to do on top of our already too-full to-do lists, plus all those things we want to (or have to) tie up by year-end.

Adrenal fatigue is largely caused by stress, whether a single event, or more commonly, chronic overdoing it, so those of us who’ve reached this state need to be extra mindful when dealing with more stress. So, the best way to begin to heal from adrenal fatigue (or prevent it in the first place) is to avoid unnecessary stress whenever possible.

So to that end, here are some things I’m doing to be kind to myself–and reduce stress–for the holidays:

  • Decorating: stop worrying about outdoing or impressing anyone, and just put up those decorations that are meaningful to us and those we care for. Less is more!
  • Cooking: Nothing wrong with simplifying! Again, stick to those dishes that are particularly enjoyed, and skip the stuff we’ve been doing just because we’ve been doing it for years.
  • Parties: Go to the ones we enjoy, skip the ones we just feel obligated to attend when at all possible. And do we need to bring something? If not, don’t. If so (or if we really want to), get something easy we can just pick up. No need to bring a “famous” homemade dish that takes a lot of time and effort, unless it’s one of those things those we care about will really miss.
  • This year's Christmas card photo

    This year’s Christmas card photo

    Shopping: I hate crowds and traffic, so I do as much as possible online. And whether we go out or online, planning ahead helps us not only do the job faster and with less stress, but also helps us to spend less money we didn’t intend to (another source of stress).

  • Cards: This used to be one of the most stressful aspects of the holidays for me, because I used to design fancy, custom ones and printed my own. Invariably, the designing took far longer than necessary, and the printer would jam several times before I got them all printed, and maybe would run out of ink, too. I now just upload a few photos to Shutterfly and order them there. Not cheap, even with the special offers, but still uniquely ours and sooooo much easier.
  • Addressing cards: I buy Avery shipping labels (or similar) and use Word templates and a mail merge to fill ’em in. Much easier than hand writing!
  • Gift wrapping: I still can’t stomach paying Amazon $3.49 to wrap a gift, but my wrapping has gotten much simpler over the years. When I was in school and had much less stress (not to mention no job), I loved to wrap fancy gifts with tons of extra ribbons and bows. Now they get wrapped, and maybe a bow, and about half just go into a gift bag. I remember one high school friend whose parents used to wrap each kid’s presents in a one specific paper. No gift tags; everyone knew which was theirs just from the paper. And it was the gift that mattered, not the wrapping job. Brilliant!
  • Treating yourself: I got a haircut this week. That may be no big deal to many of you, but I hadn’t taken the time to do this one simple thing for over six months! So I went to Square One Salon, where they include a mini-facial with the cut, which was so relaxing and worth it. I will not wait so long to go back.
  • And yes, I also spent plenty of time reading!

Speak of LoveWhat I read this week: I finished the novel Speak of Love by Linda Madl. This is a historical romance set in the 17th century Scottish isles. The characters were well-drawn, interesting, and believable for the time period while still sympathetic, but what I especially liked about this book was the real history that was worked in. This did not have a lot of steamy stuff in it, but was definitely not a “sweet” romance either–IMO the sensuality level was just right for the story, the characters, and the other things going on. If you enjoy historical romance, pick this one up!

ROW80Logo175ROW80 Update: I’m going to consider this week a “failing successfully” week. I was completely not thinking when I set a goal of making the big picture changes in the rest of my WIP. Turns out it needs two more scenes, which I realized as I reworked the last one, not to mention that making the big-picture changes is more of a job than I thought, given the scope of the major change introduced 3/4 through the first draft. So my goal for this week is to complete one of the new scenes, or 1500 words–a reasonable goal, as I also still need to finish Christmas shopping, and I have a party to attend that I am really looking forward to.

What about you–do you find yourself stressed over the holidays, or are you good at being kind to yourself? And in what was do you do that? Got any additional tips or ideas? How are you doing on whatever goals you might be working toward, whether writing-related or not? Please share–I’d love to hear from you!

Jennette Marie Powell writes stories about ordinary people in ordinary places, who do extraordinary things and learn that those ordinary places are anything but. In her Saturn Society novels, unwilling time travelers do what they must to make things right... and change more than they expect. You can find her books at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, Kobo, iTunes, and more.

Two More Stress Reduction Tips

It has been a challenging week, as far as getting anything done goes. My husband pretty much runs errands or works when I don’t, so I have puppy duty. It’s fun, of course, but makes it tough to get anything done. So right now, I’m taking advantage of naptime to get this update written.

puppy sleeping

In light of the challenges, I’ve come up with a couple of things that help when times are stressful:

  1. Be flexible, and
  2. Have routines.

They seem contradictory but they”re actually not.

We had our family’s Easter dinner this past Sunday, rather than on Easter, a week earlier. My daughter had to work on Easter and had already planned to come home the following weekend, so we just switched it. It also meant I got a few goodies for her basket at half price. 🙂  Being flexible meant everyone was there, we were more relaxed, and we had fun.

Routines help, too. I do certain tasks on certain days, at certain times. For example, I do paperwork–personal bill paying, as well as bookkeeping for my family’s two businesses, on Monday. I set the bills aside in a letter sorter as they come in (email bills go into a specified folder), then deal with them all at once. Much more efficient than doing a little bit at a time, yet is often and regular enough the filing doesn’t pile up.

I haven’t been working out lately, but when I did, I did it right after I got home from work. Keeping to that routine helped ensure that it didn’t get lost in the shuffle of other things to do and forgotten.

ROW80Logo175Now for this week’s ROW80 update.

The good news: I did manage to open the book file and do some writing five times this week to meet my goal. The bad news: I only wrote about a paragraph each time. I started formatting the ebook but did not finish.

I signed up for an online writing workshop to try and kick back into gear there. Spending money on something like that tends to motivate me, so we’ll see how that works. In addition, I’m going to shoot for writing 300 words in the WIP, three times this week. I also want to get the ebook formatted.

What about you–do you have routines for certain tasks that help keep the stress away? Has flexibility helped you lately? Got any more stress reduction tips? Please share–I’d love to hear from you!

Jennette Marie Powell writes stories about ordinary people in ordinary places, who do extraordinary things and learn that those ordinary places are anything but. In her Saturn Society novels, unwilling time travelers do what they must to make things right... and change more than they expect. You can find her books at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, Kobo, iTunes, and more.

Two Tips for Stress Management

In continuing to deal with fatigue, I kept my goals for this round of ROW80 simple.

ROW80Logo175The main purpose here is to continue to sleep better at night by keeping my stress level down. My day job is not stressful, nor is my family, so that leaves writing as my main source of stress–the constant feeling of never doing enough, and there always being more to do, on top of other home responsibilities I have on the evenings and weekends. Getting the stress under control inevitably meant changing my thinking and slowing down–not something I wanted to do, but my health is leaving me no choice.

To this end, I kept my weekly goals simple, too, and enacted two tips that have helped a great deal:

  1. Keep the to-do list small: No more than one thing on it per weekday evening, and no more than three or four things (depending on if they’re little/quickie tasks) on a weekend day.
  2. As for the writing, just open the file and write what I am comfortable with. Do not add writing to to the to-do list, as that makes it feel like more of a chore than something I want to do. Just do it when I want to and am able.

These two things helped a lot. I have not been getting the kind of sleep I was on vacation, but I have still been sleeping much better than before I went on vacation, so I consider that a win. I am still tired, but starting to have days that aren’t as bad.

I managed to get 1800 words written, too. Which doesn’t sound like much considering that in the past, I’ve written that much in one evening, but right now, it’s good. I am also in the process of moving a WordPress website for one of my beta readers/editors, and doing just a little of that at a time. So all is good, and I’m going to stick to the same plan for this week, especially since we are getting a new puppy on Thursday! I’ll blog about that more next week (plus more photos!), but here’s one from when we went to see and pick them out this past week–or I should say, this little girl picked us out:


What about you–do you have, or have you had, something in your life that’s supposed to good and fun, but is stressing you out? What did you do about it, and what have you found that helps? Do you have any exciting changes coming up? Please share–I’d love to hear from you! Also, Happy Easter to those who celebrate it!

Jennette Marie Powell writes stories about ordinary people in ordinary places, who do extraordinary things and learn that those ordinary places are anything but. In her Saturn Society novels, unwilling time travelers do what they must to make things right... and change more than they expect. You can find her books at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, Kobo, iTunes, and more.


Where is your Stress Coming From?

I finally got those Christmas cards out last week.

As in yesterday. Saturday.

I suspect some of my recipients won’t get theirs until after the holiday. At first, this bothered me, but then I remembered that I always get a few after Christmas each year, and I really don’t think much about it, so no big deal.

2009's Christmas Card - my favorite!

2009’s Christmas Card – my favorite!

Christmas cards are one of those things that it turned out I stressed about more than I needed to. I used to design mine myself, did up some really cool ones in years past. But this year, none of us had any cool pictures taken (my family is not a big photo-taking bunch) so I couldn’t think of anything cool to do with them, nor did I have any special photos to use on a Shutterfly card (which I’ve also done in the past). So I kept putting it off, hoping something would come to me.

Nothing did. Finally, early this week I threw something together with a picture of our dogs that we’d used before. I wasn’t thrilled with it, so I printed one out and set it aside.

By Wednesday, I knew I had to do something. I’d also realized that I wasn’t quite done with shopping, and I mentioned to DH that I was feeling really stressed. Awesome guy that he is, he asked what he could do. I told him to make moonshine (not real moonshine, just store-bought stuff with flavoring added, but very good), which I’d promised to some of my coworkers. He then took a big load off. He said the Christmas card I’d printed out was fine, so why not send them out.

You see, he was the one who’d always made a big deal of the designed cards, and had been disappointed the year I used Shutterfly. So that was a lot.

I printed them out. Then realized I only had eight envelopes for 8-1/2 x 11 paper folded in quarters. Not a size I can just run down to the corner drugstore to buy. ::headdesk::

So I took off work a couple hours early on Friday, bought a box of cards, and sent those out, along with eight of the homemade cards.

But it all makes me wonder, how much of our stress comes from our own expectations of ourselves? How many of us put a ridiculous effort into extensive decorating, fixing the perfect holiday dinner, buying the perfect gifts–when those they’re supposed to be for don’t expect it, and are just happy we’ve done whatever it is for them?

ROW80Logo175Which brings me around to the rest of my ROW80 goals. I certainly expected too much of myself, thinking I’d get any writing done with everything else that needed to be done. Here’s the details:

  • 2,500 words on combined WIPs – No
  • Keep up with writing workshop assignments – Done (and the workshop is done)!
  • Website: figure out custom programming needed on product page – No
  • Fitness 4 times – Done!
  • Get Christmas cards out, complete rest of shopping – Done!

I figure I did well to get done what I did. This week will be better. I still have to wrap gifts, am hosting dinner, and my house is a disaster, but I have help if I need it, i.e. DD is home from college. I need to put in a few hours at work tomorrow, but am otherwise taking off until after New Year’s–my yearly present to myself. 😀 I think this Round officially ends on Christmas, but my goals are weekly, and I plan to work on the non-holiday goals Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, so here goes:

  • Wrap Christmas presents, and finish everything else needed for the holiday
  • 2,500 words on combined WIPs
  • Website: figure out custom programming needed on product page

What about you–do you expect more of yourself than others, once you think about it (or ask)? If you celebrate Christmas, are you ready for it? And if you’re doing ROW80, did/are you hitting your goals? Please share–I’d love to hear from you!

Jennette Marie Powell writes stories about ordinary people in ordinary places, who do extraordinary things and learn that those ordinary places are anything but. In her Saturn Society novels, unwilling time travelers do what they must to make things right... and change more than they expect. You can find her books at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, Kobo, iTunes, and more.

How do Life Changes Affect Your Progress?

Confession time: I have not been very motivated this week to do much of anything. I did have a good week at the day job – I had a software release, which went well, addressed a couple of bugs quickly (which weren’t noticeable until it went into real-world use). I also had a good writing week – motivation’s not been bad there, either. But otherwise, just not happenin’.

Let's hear it for new beginnings!

Let’s hear it for new beginnings!

We took our daughter to college on Wednesday. Since she’s an only child, this is a big life change for my husband and me. Oh, she’ll be back for six weeks over winter break, and probably will come home for summer too – and since her boyfriend is a few months younger than her and still in high school, I suspect she’ll be back for a weekend before long, if for nothing else than to see him and do laundry. 🙂

Still, the house feels very empty. When I got home from work, I would usually go and talk to my daughter for 15-20 minutes right after I walked in the door. Now I go into her computer room and talk to the turtle (I did this before, too, but after talking to her first :)). It’s definitely weird.

Child Leaving Home is about halfway down on the Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale, with a life-change value of 29. I can think of a lot of factors that would make this more or less stressful. It would be less of a change for those who still have other children at home. More stressful if one knew the child was going into a potentially more dangerous situation – traveling abroad, especially to a dangerous area, beginning military service (and my thanks to those who do!), or – yikes! – going to prison. The thing to note about the Life Changes scale is that both good and bad events can be stressful and throw us a curve ball.

I have it pretty good – this is what’s supposed to happen, I know my daughter will do well at school and is no doubt making plenty of new friends, and will enjoy herself. DH and I are focusing on our own interests, and on spending more time with our friends, both old and new. It will just take time for me to get settled into this “new normal.”

ROW80Logo175Here’s how my new normal has gone so far:

  • 3000 words on new ms – Yes!
  • 4 workouts – Partial. Got two times in on the treadmill, and probably made a dozen trips up and down three flights of stairs moving DD in to her dorm. Does that count?
  • One chapter in estate planning book – No
  • Spend 15 minutes decluttering something, anything! – Partial – I ended up going through some stuff in DD’ s computer room so I could sit on the couch next to the turtle tank, but I don’t think it was 15 minutes’ worth

I don’t have a lot of extras going on this week, and I really need to get going on  those last two items, so the list will stay the same this week, except I’m going to bump the writing up:

  • 4000 words on new ms
  • 4 workouts
  • One chapter in estate planning book
  • Spend 15 minutes decluttering

What about you – have you had any life changes recently? I hope they were good ones! Whether good or bad, recent or otherwise, how did they affect your progress toward your goals, if any? Please share – I’d love to hear from you!

Jennette Marie Powell writes stories about ordinary people in ordinary places, who do extraordinary things and learn that those ordinary places are anything but. In her Saturn Society novels, unwilling time travelers do what they must to make things right... and change more than they expect. You can find her books at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, Kobo, iTunes, and more.

Is it Time to Fire that Bad Boss?

I’m baaaaaaaccckkkk! Well, okay, for the three or four of you who noticed I haven’t posted anything but Sunday ROW80 updates for the past two weeks.

Stress--it's not pretty

Stress–it’s not pretty

I needed a blog break. I haven’t taken one in over a year, other than when I was in France. And let me tell you, it was great. I learned a lot–like how we need to ask ourselves the right questions in order to find the answers we need. For me, that was “Am I having fun?” My commenters had some great suggestions too, like “Is it worth it?” and “Why am I doing this?” and “Where can I find some inspiration?”

I was also reminded that when we’re feeling stressed, it’s because we feel we don’t have choices. But the fact is, when we look at our to-do list, we have more choices than we think. Psychologist-author Kassandra Lamb outlined this fantastically in her post “Whaddya Mean, Good Things are Still Stressful?” Absolutely worth the read! Go check it out, I’ll wait.

Back? OK. One of those things I had on my “have to” list was blogging. I know consistency is important to build up a readership and build up my store of content here, but it was getting so that I felt half of my weekend was being taken up by 1) writing the blogs, after 2) procrastinating writing the blogs and 3) researching for the blogs, especially the My Town Monday blogs. Don’t get me wrong, I love sharing things about my hometown that are cool, because that’s so not the image most people have about Dayton, but writing those blogs can be a lot of work. And it was starting to not be fun any more.

Same went for things like getting on Facebook and Twitter, and even outlining my next book! Yet the more I procrastinated, the guiltier I felt… yet the more all I wanted to do was sit at my computer and play more time management games. And then felt guiltier about that. I notice most of the blogs I follow don’t religiously post on the exact same topics, the exact same two or three days every week, and I don’t think any worse of these writers for it. So why do I expect this of myself?

So I took some time off all of the above, and I realized no one had a problem with it… except me. I was my own worst boss.

My boss at the day job does not act like this. He’s probably the most easy-going guy I have ever worked for. He gives me something to do, then leaves me alone to do it. When I present my work, he lets me know in a very matter-of-fact, non-judgmental way, what’s good, and what needs to be changed. As long as the work gets done, he really doesn’t care how I spend every minute of the day. He doesn’t care when I get to the office, or when I leave, as long as I put in the time I charge to my time sheet required by the company and our client. He doesn’t care if I spend time reading up on some technology that will help me to better do my job, as long as the work gets done. As far as scheduling goes, it’s up to me to set my schedule, and if it turns out something needs to change, I can change it. Everyone should have it so good! The only tricky part is that he has so much going on, he’s hard to track down when I need some direction or have a question, but I’ll take that with the good.

I decided it’s time my writing boss is like this. So here is a message for the outgoing one, because no one can say “You’re Fired!” like the WWE’s Vince McMahon:

And oh – as you might have guessed, my posting might not be as regular from here out – or it might! It depends on what else I have going on, and if I have something to say! I will definitely continue doing My Town Monday posts, because I enjoy them, just not as regularly. Same goes for WANA Wednesday! I do have some fun new releases to share this week, so see you in a couple of days!

What about you? Are you too hard on yourself, whether you’re a writer or not? Do you have a tyrant of a boss who needs to be fired? Feel free to show him or her this video! And please share – I’d love to hear from you!

Jennette Marie Powell writes stories about ordinary people in ordinary places, who do extraordinary things and learn that those ordinary places are anything but. In her Saturn Society novels, unwilling time travelers do what they must to make things right... and change more than they expect. You can find her books at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, Kobo, iTunes, and more.

Why is it so Hard to Ask for Help?

A couple weeks ago, I blogged about courting burnout. As writers, we face a lot of obstacles when it comes to getting the words on the page, massaged into something worth reading, and out the door. Actually, this is true for many people, especially those who work multiple jobs (I consider writing a second job), have kids of an age that require a lot of hands-on attention, or have a time-consuming hobby. More often than not, it seems there just aren’t enough hours in a day.

A little help makes a career – and other things! – grow

Go long enough like that, and it gets stressful. To heap logs on the stress-fire, many writers get stressed out even more if they go for more than a few days without writing. It’s not a deadline issue, the not-writing in itself adds to the stress, making the writer like the can of pop that’s been left in the freezer too long.

One way to alleviate the not-enough-hours-in-the-day problem is to ask for help. When I got help on an issue I was having in my day job, this went a long way to reduce stress. My helper didn’t even end up doing anything; I was able to fix some of the problems, and others resolved themselves, but just knowing someone else was helping made all the difference.

At home when there’s too much to do and my family can see me getting stressed, they sometimes offer to help. Sometimes, there’s nothing they can do – the writing stuff, I have to do, and other tasks (typically involving computer work) fall outside of their technical capabilities. But I did have my daughter spend some time uploading photos to a client’s website, and it took a great load off, even though it only took her an hour. And yes, I paid her, since I was being paid for the work, a win-win.

So why is it so hard to ask for help?

I didn’t need to very often as a kid – my responsibilities mainly consisted of simple chores and getting my homework done. Occasionally, I needed help with math, and I had no problem asking my dad for help. But this was only occasional.

Maybe I never learned to ask for help.

Or it may have stemmed from my first “real” job. I was a one-woman art department for a building products manufacturing company. I worked in the marketing department, but I was the only graphic designer – everyone else was more focused on business-to-business sales. I had investigated professional organizations, but they really didn’t do anything for me. I didn’t have a professional network, seeing as this was my first job in the field. So there simply wasn’t anyone I could ask for for help.

I was also the only person in my company who used a Mac – back then, you couldn’t run professional-level graphic design programs on a Windows computer. For many years, no one in our IT department knew much about Macs, so I was on my own there, too. About a year before I left the company, they hired an IT guy who welcomed the challenge of working with my Mac. He helped me get the Mac online, which led to me learning HTML and making a career change. But at my next job – my first in web development –  I started out, once again, as the only person in the company with graphic design experience.

By then, my reluctance to ask for help was fully ingrained. I wanted to move more into the developer side of the business, because there wasn’t enough design work to keep me busy full-time. Also, the more I got into programming, the more I liked it. Some of my coworkers were glad to help when I had questions. But others would say, “that’s what we have programmers for,” like I was beneath that exalted status.

That’s not to say we shouldn’t try to figure out things on our own first – or at least search for answers on the web. Figuring it out ourselves is the best way to make what we’re learning stick. But when we’re spending too much time trying to find answers and not getting anywhere, it makes more sense – both for us, and for the company and clients who are paying us – to ask for help.

At that first job in software development, I gained several technical certifications and the respect of several of my coworkers. Management never saw me as anything other than a graphic artist who could do a bit of development. But at my next job, I was hired as a developer, and treated as an equal of the other developers. At that job and in my current one, I’m part of a team, and while I might sometimes spend more time than I should trying to figure out something on my own, I have great resources on which to call for help.

It’s still hard to do, but I think I’m getting better.

What about you? Do you have a hard time asking for help? Why do you think that is? Or if not, do you have any suggestions for us recovering holdouts?

Photo by via Microsoft Office Clipart

Burnout: Better than Fading Away?

Monday was the second time I’ve missed a blog since I started over a year ago.

I had time to write a post the day before. I decided to play computer games instead.

My brother, in our dad’s old Camaro. Unfortunately, this is not the kind of burnout I’m talking about.

I had a topic lined up. Between a motorcycle I’d ridden only twice all summer, and this post by Kristen Lamb, I knew I needed a “play” break, and I took a nice ride Saturday to do just that. And wound up taking photos to go with a My Town Monday blog post. But honestly, it was a play break.

But when it came down to it, I Just. Didn’t. Want to.

When I am not sitting at my computer at a place where I can write a blog, I have all kinds of great ideas. If it’s something new, I note it on my Blog Ideas document on my phone, which gets backed up to Dropbox and is always available on my computer. But when I’m not at my computer in a place where I can write a blog, I also get great words for said blogs. Then I go home and when I am sitting at my computer, I Just. Don’t. Want to.

So this week I didn’t.

I’ve been having this kind of blah feeling way too often. It’s been bad all summer, and I don’t think it’s a “summertime blues” thing. It’s not just blogging, either. It’s the day job (which I like!), other things around home, and even writing fiction. No motivation to do anything!

A lot of times when I’m trying to figure out what to do in a case like this, I ask myself what would I tell a friend who told me these things.

In this case, I would ask her, could she be depressed?

But I have not been feeling sad. Just unmotivated – to do anything – and tired, both physically and mentally.

One thing I have managed to do this summer is to (mostly) keep up with exercise. I do three interval workouts on the treadmill every week, plus a couple of shorter workouts doing things like pushups, crunches, lunges, etc. The main reason I started was because I hoped it would help me be less tired.

It hasn’t helped noticeably. (I get to read on the treadmill, so that helps keep me motivated.)

Then I read this blog by Louise Behiel and saw myself all over it. I took the quiz linked from the blog, and the results did not surprise me.

I’m heading toward burnout.

It’s not my job – at least, not by itself.

It’s not the writing – I haven’t been doing that much of it.

It’s not the social media – I’ve cut way back on that, feeling this whole burnout thing coming on.

It’s the combination.

At work, I have one project where the client keeps having one problem after another with a web application my team developed (and I am currently the sole developer on). None of these problems appeared during testing, and I haven’t been able to reproduce them outside of his installation. But I’ve seen the issues, and it’s incredibly frustrating on many counts. I take a lot of pride in my day job work, and I take it personally when I can’t meet a client’s expectations, even when it’s no fault of my own. The client’s been great to work with – really, very understanding through all of this – and I hate letting people down, especially people I like. And, I know how frustrating it is to not be able to do my job because of something stupid like computer problems that are out of my control, and I hate it that my product is putting my client into that situation.

At home and with the writing, I have the age-old too much to do, not enough time to do it.

But like Louise’s post said, burnout is not a fun place to be, so I had to do something about it – three things, in fact:

1. At work, I asked for help, something I have a very hard time doing. The areas of the application where the problems occur are areas that aren’t in my main expertise, so hopefully my colleagues will be able to figure out something I wasn’t able, and I can move on to other things that will help my client.

2. At home, I’m making a concerted effort to focus on one thing at a time – and when I’m done, go ahead and play computer games.

I also got a call from my doctor yesterday with some news that surprised me: I have borderline hypo-thyroidism. After further discussion, we decided to just test again in six weeks or so to see if it’s still low, rather than jump into medication right away. It’s not low enough to necessarily have noticeable effects, but then again it could be adding to my tiredness. So #3 is, check to see if there’s a physiological cause.

What about you? Are you, or have you come close to burnout? What did/are you doing about it?

More Holiday Stress-busters

We all have too much to do during the holidays. So much that, for many, a time that’s supposed to be filled with fun, friends, and laughter ends up being filled with tension, anger, and resentment – maybe even stress-induced illnesses. I remember my mom being sick on many a Christmas. Now I know that it was probably stress-induced – she has fibromyalgia, so would be even more susceptible to this than most people.

So how can we reduce the stress, while still having fun and making things meaningful for our loved ones? I touched on a couple of ways in my ROW80 update post, last Sunday. Here are a few other tricks I’ve tried:

Parties and other time-commitments
For many people, there are simply too many of them! Sometimes, they even conflict, forcing us to choose – and possibly disappoint someone. I can’t speak to that situation – it will be unique depending on you, and the others involved. But sometimes there are simply too many commitments and they’re keeping you from doing other important things – like spending time with your family, doing the job that pays the bills, and oh yeah, that shopping. So do you really need to go to every one of those parties? Ask yourself these questions about each one:

  • If I don’t go, will someone be disappointed or hurt?
  • Are there people there I care about, who won’t understand why I can’t make it?
  • If I don’t go, will it adversely impact me (for example, career or business issues)?
  • Are these people who don’t live nearby, and whom I don’t see at other times of the year?
  • Do I really want to go? (<- This one’s important!)

If you answered NO to these questions, then skip it!

Shipping Gifts

Just say no to waiting at the post office!

I am blessed to have my close family nearby, so I’m not as affected by this as many. But I do know if I was, I’d be planning ahead – and doing all I could to avoid the post office. There are never fewer than ten people in line at mine on any day, and near the holidays, the place is a madhouse! I think I’d almost rather go to the mall; it’s that bad. Of course, the number one key is to plan ahead and get things taken care of early. But aside from that, the good news is (at least for those in the U.S.), most of the time, you CAN avoid the post office! And I don’t mean paying the higher prices at a commercial shipper either. All you need is a computer, a good quality printer, label paper, a credit or debit card, and maybe a postal scale to take advantage of two AWESOME services provided by the US Postal Service: Click ‘n Ship, and Carrier Pickup. Just set up an account at, type in the address info, weight, etc. Enter your credit card, and the system will automatically generate a label with the proper bar codes, tracking info, etc. that you can print on single-sheet labels and stick on those packages. Use the free boxes the USPS provides for Priority Mail and Express Mail – go in and grab some after hours, or even if you brave the parking lot, you can at least skip the line. It gets better – after you print your label, you can schedule a pickup at your home for the day you ship your package – for free! The 13-ounce, must-hand-to-a-postal-employee rule doesn’t apply either: they have your info in their database, so they know you’re OK. You don’t even need to be home for them to pick up your packages. I’ve had them pick up 17 boxes at a time once – no problem! I haven’t been to the PO in months, if not longer; and then it’s only to check my PO box.

Let Shutterfly do those holiday cards!

Holiday Cards
Christmas cards are my bane. A lot of people just buy a box of cheapies from Wal-mart or wherever, sign them, and send them off. If you’re one of them, then you’re ahead of the game. The only way to speed up from that is to simply not send any. I do know people who don’t, and I’m envious. Yet I do send them, for a couple reasons. One, they help me keep in touch with people I might otherwise not, but want to; and two, they’re a Big Deal to my husband. Even though I don’t think he ever sent a Christmas card before we met. They are his opportunity to brag, and in years past, I used my Graphic Artist Skillz to design a custom card with our photos on it, print them up in our printer, print the envelopes up….  it was awful! I’m a good designer, but I don’t work fast, so this was a huge time-suck from the get-go. Then they would invariably be a pain in the butt to print, jam the printer every other card, run the printer out of ink or toner… you name it. Last year I said, no more! Instead, I asked my husband and daughter to pick out photos they wanted to include, and I purchased digital licensing for the photo we had taken of our dogs a few weeks ago, a free sitting at the PetWants store grand opening. I uploaded the bunch to Shutterfly, picked out a design, and click! Cards on the way. I got a lovely box of them in four days, and with coupons, they were under $1.00 a card. With the cost of card stock (not to mention the aggravation factor), the ones I did at home probably weren’t any cheaper. Instead of printing the envelopes, which always seem to jam, I’ll print labels. My husband can then sticker and stamp ’em, and they’ll be good to go. If you really have more money than time, Shutterfly will even address and mail them for you, but this wasn’t available with my coupons, so I’ll do that part myself.

Holiday Newsletters: These are an artifact from a time before email, Facebook, free long distance, and texting. Do most of the people you’d send a newsletter to already keep in touch via the above? Then give yourself permission to Just Say No!

Baking: just say no – or pick up something they’ll really like, like I mentioned in Sunday’s post.

Santa still wraps, but he uses gift bags, too!

Gift Wrapping: If it’s free at the store where you bought it, and the line is short (or you’ve got time), use it! A lot of malls and specialty stores have Girl Scouts or similar groups offering gift wrapping for a small donation. Another tip is to use gift bags! As Melinda VanLone commented on my Sunday post, they take only a few seconds – and they’re reusable! While I do wrap some presents, especially those that won’t fit well in a gift bag, I also use a lot of gift bags. I hardly ever buy them – almost all of mine once contained gifts to me, my husband, or our daughter. My brother has a weird habit of unwrapping presents by meticulously removing every piece of tape with as little damage to the paper as possible. It takes him at least a half hour to open one present, and it drives everyone nuts. From me, he gets all his presents in gift bags – a double benefit!

Online shopping: Avoid the crowds, lines, and craziness – and save time! Do it online. My favorite store is In many cases, you’ll also save money – their prices are tough to beat, there’s no sales tax (fair or no), and most things will ship for free if you spend over $25. It takes a little planning ahead, but otherwise, what’s not to like?

The best tip of all? Do as Flylady says: plan ahead, do a little bit every day, and BUDGET your money – that way you won’t be as stressed for the holidays now, and you won’t be stressed when the bills come later!

Got any more holiday stress-busters to share? As much as these make it look like I have a handle on things, there’s always some last minute gift I forgot, commitment I didn’t plan on, and extra stuff to do, so I’m always looking for more ways to make the holidays fun for everyone, and as stress-free as possible!