Getting rid of a friend, could you do it?

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Reading the New York Times on Sunday, I came across the article, It’s not me, it’s you, written by Alex Williams. Williams explores what I think is a very interesting topic, the delicate task of ending friendships, particularly female friendships.

So much is written about the importance and the gift of great girlfriends.  And I couldn’t agree more.  Most women would agree that their friends make up a huge part of their emotional lives.  We give each other advice on everything from shoes to birth control, and confess our inner most obsessions, neuroses and ideas. We‘ve turned to our friends long before our partners came along and even when you have the most loving partner around, well, some things, are just better shared with “the girls”. Hmmm, think I will just leave it at thatsmiley. I wrote a column last year on what I think makes friendships successful and had lots of agreement from readers.  But this New York Times article looks at the dark side of friendship.  The other side. What happens when things change? When the friendship just isn’t feeling so successful anymore?  Or in some cases, actually turns toxic.

Friends come in all shapes and sizes.  That is their beauty because each friend, whether you are exactly alike or not, adds texture to our lives. The friends you grew up with that know you from way back when, work friends, gym friends, “mommy friends”, and of course the large group of people that fall into the “acquaintance” category.  Each different, but together make up our unique social circle.

However, according to the New York Times article, research shows that it is “natural, and perhaps inevitable, for people to prune the weeds from their social groups as they move through adulthood”, but it can be complicated leaving fractured social circles and lots of  hurt feelings and ill will.

Williams even points out this  “winnowing process” actually has a clinical name: socioemotional selectivity theory, a term coined by Laura L. Carstensen, a psychology professor who is the director of the Stanford Center on Longevity in California. Dr. Carstensen’s data show that the number of interactions with acquaintances starts to decline after age 17 (after the socially aggressive world of high school) and then picks up again between 30 and 40 before starting to decline sharply from 40 to 50.

While Carstensen’s  research is certainly reasonable, and I absolutely agree with her theory, the hard part is knowing IF the friendship has come to the end of the line and if so, HOW do you get out of it? So, in addition to the article, I did some research of my own when it comes to ending a friendship.  I asked the women in my life (none of whom I wanted to end my friendship with!) The overall feeling was that where a friend falls in your “circle” matters. For instance, acquaintances are easy to shed, just avoid. They probably won’t notice.  But the closer the friend, the far more complicated it is… The other level of complication comes from what turned the friendship on its side in the first place.   According to my group, the Top 5  reasons they would end a friendship would include the following: (Listed from mild to toxic)

Circumstance: You move, you switch jobs, or even your kids are no longer at the same school.  What tied you together is no longer there.

Different Age and Stage:  You were friends when you were both hitting the clubs on Saturday nights but now you’re married with kids and Saturday nights involve getting the kids to bed early and falling asleep watching a movie with your partner. Not the same things in common anymore.

Different Values:  Doesn’t matter who has what value but they are opposed and often end up causing disagreement, friction and other bad kharma.

The 1-way friendship: Seems to be always about her, her issues, her successes, her life.  “How are you?”  is not part of her vocabulary or interests.

Pure Scorn:  Something bad, really bad. Enough said.

All of the women agreed that learning to shed a friend is an important skill. We all get to a point where we realize we have limited time and energy to give and unfortunately those friendships that become more of a drain than one that gives you joy and nurturing sometimes have to go.  So how?

“Its not me, its you” talked about two approaches; the passive and the direct.  The passive option included lots of invitation declines, un-returned email and phone calls and “physical space” so that the “defriended” hopefully gets the point over time. The direct approach would include tactics like an email outlining why this person no longer fits into your life or why the friendship must end, “the talk”  (similar to the break up of a romantic relationship), an overt “defriend” on Facebook or neglecting to invite a close friend to an important event.  Ouch.  The value of the direct approach was to have closure, not leave the other person wondering what happened.

Truth be told, the reason I found the article interesting is that personally, I am terrible at ending friendships.  Thankfully I have only really done it twice in my 45 years and they both fell into the “scorned” category so my actions were pretty obvious.  Didn’t have to do much. But reading about the direct approach cited in the article, I was in awe that some people could have that much courage. I don’t.  Probably why I had boy friends that went way past their expiry dates too.  I can’t hurt someone. But looking back, there are many times where I probably should have had more courage and confidence to make a break. Thankfully all the friends I have in my life right now, I want to keep. But it is certainly food for thought.  Not all friendships are successful, and part of our own success lies in knowing when it is time to cull.  Think about it.

What about you?  Have you had friendships that you have chosen to end?  If so, why?  How did you do it?  

Posted in Relationships, Topics, Wellness | Tagged , , | 4,089 Comments

Do you know what month it is?

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I do.  January is National Mentoring Month. Created in 2002 by the Harvard School of Public Health and MENTOR: The National Mentoring Partnership, National Mentoring Month focuses national attention on the need for mentors, as well as how each of us—individuals, businesses, government agencies, schools, faith communities and nonprofits—can work together to increase the number of mentors to assure brighter futures for our young people. 

What exactly is mentoring? It’s most often defined as a professional relationship in which an experienced person
(the mentor) assists another (the mentoree) in developing specific skills and knowledge helps to enhance the less-experienced person’s professional and personal growth.

Mentoring young people is critical for obvious reasons but not to be overlooked is that these young people are the leaders of tomorrow and will be making decisions that will affect us when we are older smiley.  Mentoring is vital in the female community too. Women have so much to teach eachother.  It is important when thinking about mentoring to know that the age gap is not that important and neither is your own “status”. Because to be a mentor, you really don't need special skills or a big title, sometimes the best mentors just have an ability to listen and to offer friendship, guidance and encouragement.  It also doesn’t have to be just in the workplace, it can happen in your community, school, or a faith based community too. Many companies and national organizations have formal mentoring programs but some of the best mentoring can also happen organically. Perhaps someone you meet at an industry event, a book club or even the gym and begin a conversation.

So what does a mentor really do?

The following are amongst some of the classic mentor functions:

  • Teaches about a specific issue
  • Coaches on a particular skill
  • Facilitates growth by sharing resources and networks
  • Challenges the “mentoree” to move beyond his or her comfort zone
  • Creates a safe learning environment for taking risks
  • Focuses on the “mentoree’s” total development

Why it works.

  • Having someone in your “corner” can help outline and achieve your goals and it feels good.
  • Your partnership is all about you; your specific work and personal development needs.  What is better than that?
  • It is flexible in terms of how it is delivered, what works for you and your mentor? Perhaps a coffee once a month, a phone call, lunch at a new restaurant, whatever works. It is up to you two.
  • It is independent of employment relationships that may sometimes makes self-disclosure and honest feedback difficult

A common trend in the mentoring world right now is “reverse-mentoring”. According to the Wall Street Journal, it is born from an effort to school senior executives in technology, social media and the latest workplace trends. The trend is taking off at a range of companies, from tech to advertising. The benefits for the older mentoree range from technical skills, learning about new facets of youth culture that make it easier for them to manage to younger employees to other new skills. The younger mentor gains insight into top management, visibility within the organization and the opportunity to ask questions like balancing career and motherhood, or how to work successfully in a male dominated industry. It's proving to be a win-win.

When I think about the mentors in my own life, I am so very thankful to have had them. They have not all been formal relationships some grew out of common interests and/or friendship. But they all have taught me so many life lessons well beyond the professional. They are relationships I cherish. I only hope that I have and continue to give back that same value to others as a mentor.  Think about doing the same.

Have you had any special mentors in your life?  What have you learned? Have you thought about becoming a mentor or finding a mentor?

Posted in Career, Relationships, Topics | Tagged | 4,059 Comments

Learning to Stop Short!

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Nope, I'm not talking about brake slamming and whiplash; I’m talking about stopping yourself from going “over the line”. These past few weeks, I’ve conducted very un-scientific and statistically improper study and it seems as though women I talk to are faltering by simply not stopping short.  Stopping before you decide to do that extra errand on your list, the extra project at work, the extra social commitment or even the extra ski run that ends with tears or worse, an injury because someone was too tired. If we could just stop ourselves, well, we might all just be a bit better off.

Before anyone balks and says that by taking on more, you get further, are more accomplished, blah, blah, blah, this is not about that (and my columns probably aren't for you). Of course, we should challenge ourselves, be efficient and productive, duh! This also isn’t about learning to say “No”.  Different issue. This is about what happens in our everyday lives. The little things we do that send us flying over our own invisible line of chaos and stress. What throws you into overdrive; speeding to make up time that results in a ticket that then takes hours to deal with, having to yell at your kids to go to bed quicker so you can get back on the computer and finish the report you offered to have completed by a.m (btw, that is also the point that you have problems with your computer, run out of paper and start cursing) or baking the sweet home made cookies that always ends with a trip for eggs, flour all over the floor and a massive mopping job. There is a point that we all reach that if we just could have just stopped ourselves…

Women by nature and need are fantastically efficient and multi-tasking extraordinaires.  This makes us great mom’s, wives, friends, sisters and employees.  BUT, we must learn to avoid this “one more thing” syndrome because more times than not, and I speak from way too much experience on this, it comes at a price. I could make a list (or my husband could); lost wallets, cell phones, keys left places, empty gas tanks, way many too points on my license, burnt food, countless scrapes and burns, lost luggage, broken appliances and spats with my spouse and kids, I could continue but probably shared too much already smiley. Common theme?  I was in a rush and more focused on what I needed to do next than what I was doing at the time.  Took on " one more thing” that sent everything else off the rails.  Sound familiar (please tell me yes, I am feeling vulnerable).

So, with the help of a few experts, I am suggesting just few ideas on how to Stop Short

  1. Assess:  What will it take to do this? How long? Do I have what I need to make it happen easily (i.e. ingredients, correct forms, research)? If not, think twice.
  2. Be realistic:  Doing ten errands before an early meeting, probably not a good idea. Four different plans for one Saturday night.  No way. Chances are you will wind up pissing someone off.  Learn to say, “Sorry it just isn’t going to work”.
  3. Plan: Calculate how long it takes to do everything you need to do in a lunch hour, an afternoon or a day, add 15 minutes to each item and STOP.  Don’t add another thing like inviting people for dinner too (unless of course you plan on ordering in, then go for it!)
  4. Know your limits: How much can you really do in a day before you become cranky and less than kind?  Pay attention.
  5. Be kind: To yourself! Rome wasn’t built in a day.  Things might just need to wait till tomorrow.  Really, everything will be o.k.

There is so much on our lives that we unfortunately can't control and must do. Shouldn't we at least try and use a bit more control where we can? So this month lets all try and Stop Short in our lives and breathe just a wee bit easier.  It certainly sounds more relaxing than traffic court.

 

Posted in Self, Wellness | 4,838 Comments

Money. Money. Money.

With a whole fresh year of spending in front of us and holiday expenditures “safely” behind us, my first column of 2012 is about money. Not how much you have or don't or wish you did, but stressing the importance of financial literacy. Financial literacy is the ability to understand finance.  A necessary component to becoming financially self-sufficient. Examples might include an understanding of savings, interest, investment products, assets, liabilities, basic household economics and accounting, balancing a checkbook, opening a bank account.  And while it’s certainly important for everyone, since I write primarily for women (but do love my male readers  smiley), I’m starting with the importance for you. 

And ladies, we do have to do something because according to “the research”, women are severely lacking in financial aptitude. The International Federation of University Women (IFUW) recognizes financial literacy as an essential life-skill that is every human being’s basic right. Yet many women don’t know the first thing about money management, investing or how to read a basic financial statement.  So, despite being considered the “chief purchasing officers” of our households by those interested in our spending patterns, most women are way far behind on understanding how that same household spending impacts a household budget or their overall financial strategy.  Yes, that does implies you should have a financial strategy.

See, this is more than just whether or not we were good at math in high school! (girls and math is another whole column all together). This is about understanding fundamental finance and therefore being able to make prudent financial choices. While more women today are taking charge of their financial future by returning to work or goig for the promotion, many leave key money management functions to the men in their lives or worse, ignore it altogether. If you ask me, far too many women stay on the sidelines and don’t actively manage (or even participate in) their financial future.  This could lead to trouble down the road.  Not saying there will be trouble but there could be.

It's a common theme among many women. "The single biggest mistake I see women make is that they acquiesce [the financial decision making] to their spouses," says Stewart Welch, author of "The Ten Minute Guide to Personal Finance for Newlyweds" and a certified financial planner based in Birmingham, Ala. "Once they're out of the loop, they remain uninvolved forever." When one spouse controls the purse strings, the other spouse can be left in a vulnerable position when the marriage ends.

Women’s lack of knowledge in financial matters is a matter of serious concern on both a local and global level. And not just because of the the financial affects of divorce or widowhood.  But because financial knowdledge is about self reliance, independence, confidence. I for one refuse to "dumb" it down to how much we spend on shoes and groceries.  You are smarter than that.

It is accepted worldwide that women play a vital role in family and community life, yet their access to financial education has often been limited due to various social, cultural, and economic factors.  For women to make sound financial decisions either for themselves or on behalf of their households it is vital they have sufficient knowledge and understanding of core financial principles. Deregulation of the financial services industry has increased the number and range of financial products, providing increased choice. To make informed choices, today's consumers require greater levels of financial capability than those of three decades ago where one was more apt to rely solely on a financial advisor or banker.

So I ask, how many of you participate in developing a budget for your household?  Balance a checkbook? Fully understand your bank statements?  Investment portfolios? The difference between a stock, bond, fixed income investment, a car loan or how to calculate present value?  Know how to read an income statement or balance sheet of a company to guide your investment decisions? Or if you are skilled enough to understand, do you just choose to leave the details to your spouse?

Now, before all of your eyes glaze over and you wonder how I could start the year off with something so mundane, I am going to tell you why it is important.  

  • On average, a woman's standard of living decreases by 27% after divorce, according to Richard Peterson, of the Social Science Research Council.
  • A staggering 87% of the poverty stricken elderly are women.
  • Women live longer than men (an average of 7 years) so they need 20% more for retirement. 

  • On average, women earn 25% less than men. 

  • Since women tend to take time off to raise children or take care of parents (women take off approximately 11 years more from work than men), they save less than men do for retirement. 

  • After earning lower salaries for fewer years, women's social security benefits are about half of men's.

  • The majority of women had certificates of deposit (CDs) in their retirement savings accounts when a more aggressive investment vehicle was more appropriate.
  • Almost 1 in 4 women are broke within two months of a husband passing away.
  • White collar crime is more prevelant amongst men and wives should not be in the dark (beleive me, I have seen it happen).

There's never been a better time for women to take control of their financial futures. Even if financial equality has not been achieved, women are more financially successful and independent than ever before. With that success comes a fiscal responsibility to organize and manage their financial health.  

  • There are over 10 million female-owned businesses in America, generating more than $2.5 trillion in annual revenue.

  • Women are starting new companies at twice the rate of men, according to the National Foundation for Women Business Owners. 

  • Women tend to be better investors than men. According to a recent study by the National Association of Investment Clubs, women's investment clubs outperformed their male counterparts by a wide margin in 9 out of 12 years.

All of you can learn the basics, not just those of us in finance roles or with MBA’s. The Golden Women's Resource Centre of BC, believe women need information and support to learn about how financial health relates to their own health, safety and well-being.  When women lack financial control and the skills to protect themselves financially, they become more vulnerable to domestic abuse and systemic violence.  Funded by the Status of Women of Canada, they have developed a 3-staged program to help women increase their financial skills. 

Upon quick glance, there are loads of classes being offered through universities, local learning centers, and online. Not up for the commitment of a course, take a look at some of the many sites I found dedicated to women and finance.  A few note worthy ones I found were:

http://www.goldengirlfinance.ca/glossary/

http://www.wife.org/

http://msmoney.com

There are so many ways to get up to speed.  Read, listen, watch.  Your choice.  Buddy up with a friend.  But please think about making this a priority for 2012.  Set a good example for your children, boys and girls. You and your family will be better for it and hey, you just might find a few extra shoe dollars in the process!

 

Posted in Financial Success, Topics | Tagged , , | 2,925 Comments

Will you be making end of year “stock”?

Last year about this time I wrote about Taking Stock. My thought was to use the holiday season, typically fraught with hustle, bustle and social obligations (aka overload), to breathe, reflect on the past year and what you want out of the next.  Simply take stock of what’s going on… What’s making you smile?  What’s just not working for you anymore? Maybe someone or something in your life needs a little more attention or extra TLC?  See, I wanted to try and take control away from that what I called the nasty “New Year’s Resolution Society” that rears its head this time of year telling us what we should be doing next year or who we should be and we are left feeling overwhelmed and under "developed"…. instead focus onenjoying the holidays season, press “pause” if you want or if you are up to it and want to start “planning” for next year, well rely on our own insights instead of the magazine someone left on the coffee table! Readers agreed.

So, as we come to the close of yet another year … I’m standing my ground. I will once be Takeing Stock of what’s going on in my own life and reflect on the past year as I enjoy spending time with family and friends.  I truly hope that you do too. 

C' mon, grab a pen or Smartphone or your sparkling new tablet.  Go off on your own or with someone who brings out your best (someone who doesn't, NOT a good choice). Maybe a glass of wine …  and go for it! Take stock of 2011 and then when you're ready … you will have the beginnings of your very own “personal plan” for 2012.  Try some of these:

  • What made you happy in 2011?  Made you smile?  Feel good inside? Is it something that you could do again?  Add to your life more often? What do you need to do to make that happen?
  • What caused you stress this year?  (Code word for tears, heart palpitations and angst?) Were the factors in your control?  Was it a one-time occurrence or reoccurring? If this was a reoccurring stress in 2011, what can you do about it in 2012?
  • How would you describe the relationships in your life this year?  Who makes you feel “loved up”?  Valued?  Necessary?  Which ones made you LOL?  Keep those people on your list in 2012.  We all need them in our lives.  Any take too much energy?  Sucked you dry?  Didn’t reciprocate the love? Or just didn’t show up.   Hmmmm.  Think about writing their names in pencil smiley.  
  • If you work outside the home, how did your work life unfold this year?  What made you feel accomplished?  What were the highs?  The lows? Will you make the same choices for yourself in 2012?  If you work part-time or stay home with children, is that still the right choice for you?  If not, what changes do you need to make to take a different path?
  • And for 2012, challenge yourself a little!

            Pick one new thing to try.  A sport?  A hobby? 

            Pick one thing that scares you and make a plan to do it. Public speaking? Travel?

            Driving downtown?

            Make one new friend and appreciate the ones you have.

It’s been a good year.  For me, 2011 was a year of growing and learning and all the ups and downs and changes that come with it.  I’ve had much that made me smile and only some that has not. I have shown strength and character where I never thought I could and I took the time to make changes where they were badly needed.  Oh, I have lots to do in 2012 but feel confident that I will achieve some of it!  And so I close the year grateful for all that 2011 brought to my life and hopeful for all that 2012 will bring. 

I wish everyone a happy, healthy and safe holiday season. 

May you each find the joy, peace and success in your life. 

——————————————————————————-

Blooming Betty will return in January 2012!

Posted in Seeds, Self, Topics, Uncategorized, Wellness | Tagged , | 3,849 Comments

Our Quest for Balance

I have little balance in my life. And I am o.k. with it.  See, I’m impaired from the get go, I have an inner-ear disorder called Menieres that while it's very manageable, affects my balance, my real balance.  So everyday that I’m actually upright, versus swaying in vertigo hell, is a good one to me. No need to balance on one foot or anything fancy for me. And along with my anatomical impairment, in terms of lifestyle, I work, from home and “part-time” but since I have three of these “part-time” jobs, it doesn't allow for as much balance as it probably should.  Also, I 'm married to a lovable; but incredibly hardworking and often-travelling man, which makes it impossible to “balance” our household responsibilities (and with my part-time jobs, we don’t balance fiscally either.)  And add to the mix by two young boys and I tell the truth when I say I do not live life in a state of balance. 

I read the articles and listen to the endless conversations about achieving balance in my life, skeptically. I actually don’t think there's even much benefit to convincing women that there is this “ultimate” state of balance. Makes them feel that what they are doing in not good enough. That there is always something else that should fit into their mix.  More volunteer work, more exercise, more time with their kids, more sex, more challenge in their lives. Do I believe that there are different aspects of our lives that need attention? Yes.  Do I believe in conscious living and choice?  Absolutely.  But to think that women can be hardworking, socially responsible, nurturing moms, loving wives, caring friends, supportive daughters and sisters, fit and even 100% organic is just ludicrous.  Of course we can be all of those things, just not at the same time.  Maybe not even in the same season.

So when I saw that the Young Women of Influence chapter in Toronto was hosting an event on Work-Life Balance, I forced myself to attend.  Maybe I would learn something new. Shed my cynicism. The panel was moderated by the very charismatic Lindsey Deluce, a CP 24 news anchor here in Toronto, and on the panel was; Cindy Mielke, Director of Marketing, West 49, who admits to working hard and loving every minute of it, Christine Russell, CEO and co-founder 889 Yoga who started on the corporate track and jumped off, and Grace Palombo, Vice President Human Resources at TD Bank who works to balance life to fit her work and home. 

First thing I learned at the Young Women’s event.  I should not be attending a YOUNG women’s event.  I had 15-20 years on most of the attendees. Ugh. Oh and I was also late since I needed to feed and schlep kids before heading downtown. Is spending quality time with my kids before the event considered balance?  Or is that multi-tasking?  I’m confused.   Anyway, the panel began and I put away my blackberry and put on my listening ears eager to hear what these women thought about balance. 

First let me preface that all three women, as well as the moderator were quite different.  They represented a good cross-section of age and stage.  Two were newlyweds, one had been married for years and one was single.  Only one had children (three in their twenty’s). I think they missed the boat without having someone with young children on the panel but those women were probably too busy to even attend. 

Throught the hour discussion each woman told her story.  How she got to where she was, the choices she had made and how hard they worked to get to where they were. But they all hit a point of having to make changes in their lives because they felt out of balance. They were tired. Walking around in dazes and felt as though they were spinning. They needed to think about what was important to them and somehow come to peace with leting the other stuff go.  Now Cindy leaves the office at 5:00 pm and turns her cell phone off at 10.  Cindy practices meditation and works at home each morning for a sense of calm and Grace makes sure she gets some quiet time during the day or gets home to eat with her family.  While each of the women interpreted balance differently; internal balance, balance with family, time to volunteer, or health and wellness. They all agreed on the following:  And, after reflecting on what I heard last night, so do I:

  • Balance is individual.  Everyone must define it for themselves.
  • Know your priorities and your passions.  This provides a roadmap as to where to spend your time and your energy.
  • Shed the word should.  The things you should be, should be doing, should have.  They only create more stress.
  • Have a vision. Visualize what you want to be like in 5 years and work towards it.  See what fits and what doesn't.
  • Check in regularly.  Are you feeling peaceful?  In the zone?  If the answer is No.  Identify why and do something about it.
  • Indentify your zen spot.  Know what brings you into balance, provides calm and re-focus and go to it whenever necessary.  A walk, a tea, meditation, prayer.  Whatever it is.  Make sure you do it.

Turthfully even after attending last nights event I still feel that asking women to “balance” their lives is dicey, Butm I did shed some of my cynicism.  Mostly because, I realized that what we should be teaching women is not to try and balance their outside life and responsibilities with work but to find their internal balance.  It  will be different for each of us since not all of us want the same things. But as Grace Palombo, my favorite panelist of the evening, said last night :balance to her means finding “the place where the world feels right and everything is good”.  Hmmm . Even Little Miss "off-balanced" me can do that.  

What does balance mean to you?  How do you know if you are "in balance"?  What do you do if you are not?

Posted in Career, Self, Topics, Wellness | 9,695 Comments

I’m up, you?

I am tired.  Honestly, I’m always sooo tired and it is starting to interfere with my usually perky persona smiley. This week, I even thought about not writing this column because I felt too tired to form coherent sentences! I am not sick, not depressed, and not even stressed.  But see, I wake up at approximately 4:00 a.m.  Every day.  Usually it’s because of what I call my “4 a.m. furnace”. This refers to the night-sweat that starts somewhere inside my body and quickly escalates to a full body sweat. Gross, huh?  Apparently though, I’m lucky, because after the furnace quiets down, I usually fall back to sleep. Way better off than most who are up for the duration of the night, staring at the clock, working, fretting. Did you know that nearly 50% of women over the age of 35 complain that they do not get a full night sleep? Women and “good sleep” seem to be at odds; with this lack of sleep is interfering with everything from our health, productivity, happiness and our success. So, that friends, is my topic this week.

Lets face it, to “perform” our best, we need to be alert, dynamic, energetic, in a relatively good mood, and cognitively sharp (that feels like my most challenging). We need to be able to concentrate, remember, make critical and creative decisions, communicate persuasively, and be productive all day long (o.k. that seems like a tall order in the best of times). But even to have a decent shot, we need Good Sleep. Furthermore, healthy sleep has been proven to be the single most important determinant in predicting longevity.

See sleep is a basic human need, as important for good health as diet and exercise. When we sleep, our bodies rest but our brains are actually remain active (hence dreams). Good sleep lays the groundwork for a productive day ahead. Even though most people need seven to nine hours of sleep each night to function well the next day (and women need more than men), the National Sleep Foundation's (NSF) 1998 Women and Sleep Poll found that the average woman aged 30-60 sleeps only six hours and forty-one minutes during the workweek.

An even more recent 2005 NSF Sleep in America poll of all adults revealed that women are more likely than men to have difficulty falling and staying asleep and to experience more daytime sleepiness at least a few nights/days a week. Research has shown that too little sleep results in daytime sleepiness, increased accidents, problems concentrating, poor performance on the job and in school, and possibly, increased sickness and even weight gain.

According to Sleep Canada, Women are twice as likely as men to have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep (post puberty). Although, not true in my house, my husband is a way worse sleeper. Getting the right amount of sleep is vital, but just as important is the quality of your sleep. For women, hormonal factors , psychological issues, most particularly depression as well as pain syndromes, and stress and RLS (restless legs syndrome prevalent in women and occurs at higher rates during pregnancy) are all common causes of insomnia in women.

Sleep Canada states that these biological conditions unique to women, like our menstrual cycle, pregnancy and menopause affect how well a woman sleeps because the changing levels of hormones that a woman experiences throughout the month and over her lifetime, like estrogen and progesterone, have an impact on sleep.  Not to mention taking care of babies, toddlers that don’t sleep, young children with nightmares and sick children. 

For the many of us that Good Sleep is just not happening we are feeling desperate to do something about it.  The New York Times article, “Mother’s little helper” published a few weeks ago stated that nearly 3 in 10 American women fess up to using some kind of sleep aid at least a few nights a week, according to “Women and Sleep,” a 2007 study by the National Sleep Foundation, a nonprofit research group.  Female patients overwhelmingly dominate sleep-medicine practices. Dr. Nancy Collop, director of the Emory Sleep Center in Atlanta, said three out of four insomnia patients at the clinic are women.

According to IMS Health, a health care consulting firm in Danbury, Conn., the use of prescription sleeps aids among women peaks from 40 to 59. Last year, the firm said, 15,473,000 American women between those ages got a prescription (overwhelmingly for Zolpidem, the generic form of Ambien) to help them sleep, nearly twice the number of men in that age group. Those figures do not include those women who are prescribed anti-anxiety or anti-depressant medications, frequently used off-label for insomnia. Nor do they include women who try a glass of wine, more “natural” sleep aids like melatonin or over-the-counter helpers like Tylenol PM.

Holy hot flash ladies these are crazy statistics.

We can’t all start using sleeping pills and melatonin? Can we? My moral compass points to  definate No.  It would just be wrong and just too scary. But I understand the need to do something about our systemic lack of sleep as a gender.  So I did a list of some of the best-known ways to get a good night’s sleep. Any to add?

1. Avoid caffeine, alcohol and nicotine in the evenings (for some that might mean afternoons too!)

2. Don't go to bed on a full stomach

3. Take all technology out of the bedroom

4. Try to keep a regular sleep schedule

5. Keep a pen and papers by your bedside so you can write down what you are thinking about, your to-do list, etc.

6. Exercise regularly                        

7. Have a comfortable mattress, pillow and duvet.  Keep room dark!

8. If it takes longer than 20 minutes to fall asleep, get out of bed and go somewhere else in the house to relax (keeping it quiet and dim)

9. Try earplugs, a white noise machine or even a mask

The truth of the matter is that as women most of us are trying to perform at super-human levels to begin with, to do so without enough sleep is that much harder. Not only is it harder but the way to get ahead, to succeed and maybe even feel happier is with more sleep. Arianna Huffington, of the Huffington Post, did a fabulous and funny TED Talk on the value of sleep.  That it is not cool to boast about how little sleep you get, that it does not make you smarter or more important.  She humorously encourages women to really “sleep their way to the top”! So if you are suffering from problems sleeping try some of these or find others to work for you.  It is too important to ignore.  Night Night.

Posted in Self, Topics | Tagged , | 1,938 Comments

Blooming Betty …

… was busy celebrating US Thanksgiving in Canada yesterday :)  

WIshing all of my American family and friends a happy and healthy holiday.  But in true American style, the ending of Thanksgiving marks the beginning of the holiday season.  And what better way to announce how Blooming Betty is celebrating than on the infamous Black Friday.

So if you’re enjoying the online exploration of defining your own success on  Blooming Bettyor maybe just trying to keep all of the balls in the air, you’ll find that  multi tasking is an occupational hazard.  So why not at least make it joyful and join us at the Second Blooming Betty Salon.  But this time, lets chat and SHOP!

If you are in the Toronto area, please join us December 1 from 6 – 8 p.m., at Intuition,  to connect, reconnect, network, sip and maybe even get through some of the gifts on your shopping list.  Intuition is on the lower floor at the Yonge Eglinton Centre between Carlton Cards and Laura Secord.

Michael Wainstock, Intuition’s founder, has graciously offered to donate 5% of sale proceeds to TIAW (The International Alliance for Women, )  to support microcredit for women in developing countries.  Store hosts Susan Wainstock and Rosie  Marie  will be on hand to pour and help you navigate your list.  

Connect/Reconnect/Develop Biz Relationships/ – √

Sip – √

Shop – √

Drill through your shopping list – √

Empower women and make a difference – √

Get out there and live a larger life- √

Blooming Betty is about empowering yourself. TIAW is about empowering women.

See you December 1 to do all of this – and more.

Bring your daughters, your friends, your posses.

Have a question that’s life changing?

Let’s talk.

 

 

Posted in Self, Topics, Uncategorized | Tagged | 1,464 Comments

Bullies Beyond the School Yard

October was National Anti-Bullying Awareness Month. It aims to bring more awareness to the severity of bullying. Bullying, as most of us know, is the most common form of violence in schools. It involves an imbalance of power, intent to cause harm and picking on the same person time after time, advises StopBullying.gov. It doesn’t take place just in the schoolyard either.  Work, at home and online are also common places for bullying behavior. The Awareness Month is intended to teach people to spot bullying behavior and give people, especially kids, the tools to deal with it should they experience it or see it.

Why do people bully? I wish I knew, but regardless of the reasons why one person chooses to bullies another, it is unacceptable behavior. Most schools are now spending a portion of their budget, time and skills to stop bullying in their schools.  As parents, we are taught to look for signs that our children might be victims of bullying or a bully him/herself. We check in and ask ourselves; is he/she sick to his stomach when it's time to go to school? Does he/she avoid want to avoid recess? Hanging out with friends? Does he/she explode in anger? Is he/she quick to blame others? Is he/she a manipulator, a controller? Does he/she refuse to take responsibility for his actions?

We are poignantly aware of the long lasting effects of bullying too.  That the scars carry into adulthood, affecting our levels of happiness and success. So needless to say, when I came across a report from Zogby indicating that 71% of workplace bullying is women harassing other women, and a study by the University of Toronto showing that women who worked with female bosses were more likely to show high levels of work-related stress, and that most women prefer male bosses, I was horrified. 

Tell me, is it too “Pollyanna-esque” of me to think that women grow up from the antics of grade school and high school?   I mean I know it exists, I have encountered my own share of difficult female bosses, but to see the statistic of 71% of total bullying taking place among women, is just unacceptable.  And should be to all of us. Don’t women have enough to deal with in the workplace (both paid and not)? Should dodging the sting of a Queen Bee be added to the list?  Shouldn’t we be able to look to other women for support and mentoring not antagonizing?

When management consultant Mary Sherry wrote about women and workplace bullying a few years ago, she received dozens of responses supporting the idea that women are more likely bullies than men. Sherry suggests that women who “don’t have the managerial competence to get the best out of people” may turn to bullying instead.  While it may be true that women have fewer opportunities to gain management skills than their male counterparts,  bullying is less about competence and more about low self confidence.

Chellie Mejia, in the Women’s Post, also says that when “I see a “Queen Bee” who resorts to work place bullying to lead, get her point across, or establish her status in an office, much like high school “Queen Bees”, what I actually see is a woman who is lacking in confidence, self-esteem, the ability to ask for help, the ability to listen, the ability to accept constructive criticism, and the ability to delegate effectively – all key management capabilities. 

Others suggest that while there are more women “bullies”, the women are not at fault, it the gender biases in the workplace that lead them to such behavior.  To determine whether queen bee behavior is actually a response to a difficult, male-dominated environment, researchers at the Leiden University in the Netherlands gave an online questionnaire to 63 senior women working at police departments in three Dutch cities. First, all of the women were asked questions was about how important their gender identity was at work, including how much they identified with other women in the police force.  Half of the participants were then asked to write about a situation in which they either believed that being a woman was detrimental to them at work or heard other people talking negatively about women.  The women were then asked to describe their leadership style, to say how much they felt they differed from other women and to say whether there was still sexism within the police. How the respondents responded to these questions depended on the strength of their female identity. 

Women who had not been reminded of their own experiences of sexual discrimination answered like queen bees – they indicated a more male leadership style, said they were very different from other women and were more forceful in denying that there was still sexual discrimination in the police force. However, this was only if they had started out by saying that they did not identify with other women in the police force. Women who strongly identified with other women exhibited an opposite reaction: after they had thought about sexism they were actually more prepared to mentor other women and help them with their career. Adding to the arguement that bullying is about a lack of confidence and the gender bias that women face.

Regardless of the reasons or the arguments as to why women would deliberately treat other women in this manner, the numbers support that it is more than common and more than a small problem.  It must be addressed.  Women must take the time to learn other ways of showing their strength, skills, and leadership beyond threatening others.  We must show the workplace and each other why women in leadership positions benefit employers not pose a threat to their greatest assets, their employees. Women who feel they are victim of female bulley, come forward.  Find the help you need to cope and make it stop.

C’mon ladies.  We can all do better.

—————————————————–

Do you work for a woman?  Have you experienced a Queen Bee?  Been a victim of bullying in the workplace?  How did you handle it?

Susan M. Heathfield, a human resources expert feels that you can deal with a bully but it is going to take some  courage. You can address the behavior of a bully in your workplace. With persistence and personal courage, you can neutralize the bully behavior and regain your conflict-free workplace.  Here is what she suggests:

Set Limits on What You Will Tolerate

Most importantly, once you have set the limit in your mind, exercise your right to tell the bully to stop the behavior.

Confront the Bully With His Own Behavior

If the bully is talking over you with complaints and criticisms, ask him a direct question about what he recommends instead. If that doesn’t work ask him to leave the meeting until you finish your discussion. If he refuses, end the meeting and reschedule the meeting without him.

You need to call out the bully on your terms.

Document the Bully’s Actions

Any time you are feeling bullied or experiencing bullying behavior, document the date, time and details of the incident. Note if another employee witnessed the incident. If you eventually seek help from Human Resources, documentation, especially documentation of the bully's impact on business results and success, gives HR information to work with on your behalf. The bully is not just hurting your feelings; the bully is sabotaging business success.

If the bullying occurs in email or correspondence, maintain a hard copy of the trail of emails and file them in a folder in your computer.

Your Coworkers Are Targets of the Bully, Too

Note whether the bully pulls the same behavior with your coworkers. Ask your coworkers to document the bully’s behavior and any scenes they witness when the bully targets any coworker. If five of you experience the bullying, and five of you document, then you build a case to which HR and your management can respond on solid ground. They need evidence and witnesses, even if everyone knows, that the bully is a bully.

Tell Management and HR About the Bully

You’ve tried to implement these recommendations, but they aren’t working to stop the bully. It's time to get help. Go to HR or your manager with your evidence, especially the evidence that demonstrates the impact of the bully on the business, and file a formal complaint. Most employee handbooks describe the HR investigation process that your complaint sets in motion.

Posted in Buds, Career, Topics | Tagged , , , | 4,436 Comments

Lessons from Mom

When you're five, she's a goddess. You smear your face with her lipstick and model her earrings and high heels, wanting to be just like mommy. That's the way it is until you're about thirteen, when she suddenly becomes the most ignorant, benighted, out-of-touch creature on the planet, and you can't get far enough away from her. Your primary form of interaction for the next five years or so will be a single word, "Mooooooooooooommmmmmm!" And then, somewhere between your twenties and your thirties, if you're lucky, she becomes your best friend again.

 

Sound familiar? Relationships between mothers and daughters are complicated, to say the least.  So complicated that I often I revel in the fact that I escape it completely by having two boys.  So complicated that I’ve put off writing this column because I was unsure how to describe my own relationship with my mother, but it is important. Because no relationship is quite as fundamental as the one between a mother and daughter. It’s the first relationship we have, both parents are, but for daughters a mother is also role model. The first “picture" of what we could or might become and as a result, we compare ourselves throughout our lives, over and over again.  It is not always pretty either, especially in those teenage years. But no matter what, we learn.  Mind you, some of the lessons range from the good to the bad, to the irritating to the exasperating (ask our partners).  But this learning goes on to shape who we are, who we want to be or who we don't, so truthfully a conversation about our own definition of success would't be complete without at least exploring it.

After years of reflectionblush, the way I have come to think about our "lessons from Mom" is this; there is the ”little learning” and the “b-i-g learning”.  The little lessons are everyday things and fairly innocuous, things like, information, habits, fashion tips, family traditions, and simple how-to's.  For example, I learned things like , always write a thank-you note, always get a good (expensive) hair cut because curly hair is difficult, never put a bottle or jar on the table (hence my enormous collection of little bowls), and the recipe for a kick-ass noodle pudding. But then there’s BIG learning, little trickier and not always as innocuous; character traits,, coping skills, emotional DNA, values, perspective, career counsel, relationship modeling, they’re big, so they get the  “big learning” label.  They shape us.  This is my focus today.

Just last week, Hilary Rodham Clinton’s mom, Dorothy Howell Rodham, died at the age of 92.  She was widely recognized as being a great source of Clinton’s personal strength.  Clinton told the world of the lessons she learned from her mom; how to stand up for herself and to stand up for those who needed help, a love of higher learning that her mom herself never had, a curiosity about a larger world, and a will to persevere — about which Mrs. Rodham knew a great deal from her own life that was documented as filled with hardship, loneliness and abandonment.

Also this week, not quite as famous but just as important, I attended the funeral of a close friend’s mother. At the funeral, my friend spoke beautifully, lovingly and sincerely about all that she learned from her mother both before and during her mom’s long illness; self-confidence, personal strength, humor, friendship and love (her parents were married for 50 years).  All traits that she does her best to apply to her own life and the choices she now makes with her own family.

While this reflection often occurs after a death, for many women, myself included, our mothers serve as our baseline during our entire life.  They are our first female model, and so we go on to spend a lifetime trying to figure out what pieces we want to be “just like” and what we would do anything in our power to not be like at all. The process is not that linear and usually filled with a few fireworks along route but it is continuous…  until hopefully each woman comes out the other side with her own definition of self. That is what is most important and having had some of these conversations with my own mother, exactly what they actually want for us.

Some women want to emulate their Mom’s careers, or provide the same home life to their families that they enjoyed growing up.  A friend I know talks about how her mother always made every birthday a special occasion in the house, decorations, cake, parties, etc. so she tries to do the same for her kids. Perhaps your mother was a politician, a lawyer, and you were able to see the wonderful fulfillment and gratification that came from their work and so you follow. This certainly works in reverse too, a daughter growing up with a “stay-at home-mom” uses this as a reason to work and advance her own career because she saw that her Mom felt unfulfilled… or a daughter growing up with a “Career Mom” who worked 80 hours a week promises herself that she will do it all differently when she has a family.  She will be home after school, attend every soccer game, trying to give her kids what she feels she missed.

I personally have done some mixing and matching, as I am sure most of us do.  My mother, widowed at 38, with three young children had to work.  She worked so hard both at her job as a Grade 1 teacher and as the mother of three children.  She had little emotional or financial support and so our home while didn’t lack, there was little extra energy for anything but just getting through the day.  So what did I learn? The little learning, among many includes cooking, laundry, sale shopping, amazing time management skills, and awesome study habits.  Mostly positive and comes in handy all the time! The big learning though has helped form my character.  I learned to work hard, be independent, high functioning (most of the time), and most of all, I can only hope that I have learned to be as kind and giving as my Mom. But make no mistake, I have also used my mom as a baseline to change what I want in my own life, like realizing that if  if you have the time and the resources, small things in a family life are important, take attention and make you better, avoidance gets you nowhere, I have learned the importance of connecting with feelings, breathing, and taking a thoughtful approach to situations.  Why? Because my Mom simply didn’t have the luxury of time to do so.

More than anything though, I have realized motherhood sure as hell is not easy, certainly more so now as a Mother myself.  We are just regular people doing the best we can and want the best for our children. So we should all take the things that make our own Mom's wonderful to us but also have the power and strength to define ourselves as we choose, perhaps like our Mother’s, perhaps not.  Our choice. And Mom’s of the world should feel proud regardless because it all started with them. There are so many women who wonder all their lives if they have raised their children well. I think we should tell them all now, including my own, that they have done just fine.  Don't wait.

Share the important lessons your mother taught you. What lesson did your mom instill in you that you are especially grateful for? What different choices have you made in your own life based on your childhood? Are you teaching your children the some of the same things you learned from your mom?

Posted in Career, Relationships, Self, Topics, Wellness | Tagged , , | 17,732 Comments