Tweet, Pin, Like, Share — How to Connect With Social Media

 

 

You can tweet, pin or share a selfie

You can tweet, pin or share a selfie

Multiple choice question: A) Were you one of the nearly one million people who retweeted Ellen’s mega-star selfie taken during the Oscars? B) Have you found a favorite recipe or sweet vacation rental on Pinterest? C) Have you read thought-provoking insights from Influencers? D) Have you liked a friend’s video of their adorable dog on Facebook? Or, E) All of the above?

If you answered E, you are a social media sophisticate. If not, my primer will get you social media savvy in the time it takes to tweet your own selfie with some friends.

First and foremost, social media is not only for marketing and communication executives. Social media can help you connect with friends and colleagues around the corner or around the world, it can help you find a job or the perfect lavender plant for your garden, and it can help you keep abreast of local or global happenings.

If you’re not on social media, many of your friends are, 71% of online adults use Facebook, 22% use LinkedIn, 21% use Pinterest and 18% use Twitter.

Importantly, social media is social. Studies have shown that the average user of a social networking site is half as likely to be socially isolated as the average American.

So, get social, here’s a quick guide to the top social media sites:

Facebook

Most of us have succumbed to the lure of Facebook. On Facebook we can “friend” everyone from grade school and high school acquaintances to distant relatives and old flames. On the Facebook News Feed we can view our “friends” latest news, thoughts, and pictures or we can share interesting videos or articles culled from the web.

Although a major part of Facebook is connecting with friends, most major brands and many smaller businesses, nonprofits, towns and celebrities have Facebook pages where you can get special deals or be the first to hear the latest news.

LinkedIn

LinkedIn is recognized as the professional social network. You join LinkedIn, post your professional profile, friend colleagues and other contacts and utilize this network to seek jobs and/or business opportunities. Companies also have LinkedIn sites that can be a source of information for job seekers or business news.

My favorite part of LinkedIn is the LinkedIn Influencers program which brings together 300+ of the world’s top thought leaders to share their professional insights with LinkedIn’s members.

Pinterest

Pinterest is not just for brides-to-be and want-to-be wedding planners. Pinterest is a virtual bulletin board where your can “pin” or post images and videos that you have found on the web. It’s like a virtual collage. You can pin from images found on the Pinterest platform (other members boards). Or, by downloading a “pin it” button on your task bar, you can pin an image from anywhere on the web.

You can organize multiple boards. I have recipe, gardening, travel, home ideas and inspiration boards. The most popular pinboards across Pinterest are “Home”, “Arts and Crafts”, “Style” and “Food.” You can follow other pinners’ boards as well. Ellen DeGeneres, Katie Couric and Oprah are active pinners who have thousands of pins and followers.

Twitter

Twitter is a social messaging service where you post thoughts or observations in a text message of up to 140 characters. These messages are tweets. You tweet to your followers, who have agreed to follow you and see all of your tweets. Think of tweets as a conversation where everyone in your circle can hear what you have to say. Photos, videos or complete articles can be uploaded into a tweet and are relabeled with a Twitter-specific URL shortener.

Hashtags are a way to label tweets so that other users can see tweets on the same topic. Hashtags contain no spaces or punctuation and begin with a “#” symbol. If you search #Oscars2014 you can read some of the thousands of tweets, many of which include pictures, relating to the 2014 Oscars.

This year’s Oscar’s became a trending topic, that is when a word, phrase or topic becomes extremely popular on Twitter. It is then displayed in a list of other trending topics on Twitter’s home page. Trending topics change frequently.

You can follow fellow Twitterers, I follow Main Line Media News for real time updates on local news. Their tweets on road closures were particularly helpful during this year’s winter storms. On the lighter side, following comedians like Jimmy Fallon allows you to share in their hilarity with tweets of their best jokes and skits.

#noexcusesnow, #getsocial, #connectwithsocialmedia.

You can tweet, pin or share a selfie
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Cold Comfort — Sharing Ideas for a Good Read

The comfort of a warm fire and a good book

The comfort of a warm fire and a good book

The Polar Vortex — who knew this unwelcome arctic system even existed let alone could seize control of our weather for so long? The record-breaking blasts of frigid air this winter have made most of us feel like not venturing outside until the crocuses pop. Frigid days can be bleak, and as winter wears on (and wears us out) it requires more that warm soup, hot chocolate and a roaring fire to stave off the shivering and dreariness. A suggestion: escape winter’s wrath by curling up with a good book.

Beyond besting the winter doldrums, research has shown that the benefits of reading include reducing stress, slowing memory loss as we age and making it less likely that you will have Alzheimer’s disease.

And recently, researchers at Emory University found that reading a powerful story has the ability to create “muscle memory” in the brain the same way as if the events had actually happened to the reader (so, maybe reading a travel memoir on the Caribbean will make you feel like you’ve spent some time there?). The study concluded that some stories are so powerful they may even permanently positively alter the way the reader’s brain works.

So with all these potential benefits, why wait — get reading. I’ve canvassed friends who are avid readers for suggestions of good reads to get you started.

Some Fiction Picks:

We are Water by Wally Lamb. An ultimately uplifting novel about a marriage, a family, and human resilience in the face of tragedy. My friend liked the “complex and well-developed characters.”

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt. The story of a lonely boy and a famous painting, one friend called this “the best book I’ve read in ten years.”

The Minor Adjustment Beauty Salon: No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith. Tough questions about married life, parenthood, grief, and the importance of the traditions that shape and guide our lives are explored in this installment of the best-selling No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series. My friend felt the “tale and description of the Botswana landscape really warmed me up.”

City of Thieves by David Bernioff. With the Sochi Olympic games taking place this year, this story gives us an understanding of Russia in the early 20th century. The setting is during the WWII occupation of Leningrad by the Nazis. My friend described it as a “charming tale at times funny, most times frightening.”

Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon. An epic story of murder, madness and doomed love set in Barcelona. My friend says she loved it so much she has “read it twice.”

This is Where I Leave You by Jonathon Tropper. A funny and emotionally raw novel about love, marriage, divorce and family. My friend commented, “I laughed until I cried”.

Some Nonfiction Suggestions:

Wild by Cheryl Strayed. A memoir of the author’s solo hike on the Pacific Crest trail. My friend called it “engaging” and noted it was “a favorite book club read.”

I Got Schooled: The Unlikely Story of How a Moonlighting Movie Maker Learned the Five Keys to Closing America’s Education Gap by M. Night Shyamalan. My friend found it “a thought provoking and compelling book on the American education crisis.”

Far from the Tree: Parent, Children, and the Search for Identity by Andrew Solomon. The stories of parents who not only learn to deal with their exceptional children but also find profound meaning in doing so, my friend called it “phenomenal.”by Jane Pauley. The beloved broadcaster offers advice for reinventing your life when you yearn for something different. My friend though it “inspirational.”

So light the fire, fall into a comfy chair and bask in your escape from winter by experiencing Barcelona, Botswana, the Pacific Crest Trail or some laughs in one of these great reads. It’s the journey you get to take without leaving you home before those wonderful crocuses pop.

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A Picture to go with my De-Cluttering Post

My de-cluttered sock drawer

My de-cluttered sock drawer

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A New Year, New Order of Well-Being through De-Cluttering

A new year brings new resolutions, ranging from losing weight to spending less money to reading War and Peace. Sticking to your resolutions takes energy and willpower. What if you made one resolution that in turn gave you the energy, focus, and willpower to stick to the other resolutions on your list? Would you give it a try?

One word: CLUTTER. Yep, clutter.

Studies have shown that clutter causes a neural overload and inhibits your ability to focus. One study found that women’s stress hormones spiked when they had to deal with clutter.

But you don’t need a study to tell you the difference in the way you feel when you look at a closet that is neat and orderly (maybe you’ve seen one in a magazine!) or a closet with clothes, shoes, and accessories in a mishmash. The former is orderly and gives you a feeling of calm; the latter can make you feel stressed and frustrated, especially when you can’t find the sweater you’re looking for in the disarray.

Clutter can be an energy drain and a source of stress. Clutter can also inhibit our creative abilities. All of this affects our overall well-being. Professional organizers and practitioners of feng shui might call the practice of de-cluttering “inner peace through outer order.”

It makes sense. The word “clutter” comes from the Middle English word clotter, “to clot.” So the very definition of the word clutter has its origins in blocking or obscuring.

I’ve divided the types of clutter that block and obscure our energy and cause stress into three subtypes: physical, mental, and emotional clutter. And because just the thought of sorting, organizing, and/or disposing of clutter can feel daunting, I’ve added some tips to deal with each type of clutter.

Physical Clutter

Have you ever watched “Hoarders”? The mounds of clutter depicted are overwhelming, and you can’t imagine how anyone can live like that. You don’t have to have the same level of clutter in your home to feel the same overwhelming drain on your energy or the helpless feeling about where to begin to deal with it. The key to dealing with physical clutter is to start with a manageable project. For me, it was my sock drawer (I’m not even going to get started on the mystery of the black hole for the inevitable missing sock). Once I cleaned it out and organized it, I instantly felt lighter, more in control and motivated to tackle other de-cluttering projects.

If you are going through treatment now and don’t have the strength to de-clutter, maybe a friend or family member can help. More order and calm in your physical environment will be a welcome relief and will provide you with a needed boost of energy.

Mental Clutter

Thinking about how you really need to sit down to pay the bills, gather the paperwork together for those medical insurance claims, or return your Aunt Irene’s phone call — these nagging thoughts constitute mental clutter and can drain you of energy just like the cluttered closet. A cluttered mind can’t focus on what’s important. Consistently making time, even 15 minutes a day, to eliminate some of these items from your bothersome “to do” list will have a significant positive effect on your mental health. When mental clutter can’t be checked off a list, take a walk, run, or try another thought-clearing exercise. Meditation, yoga, journaling, or even a hot bath can also help clear your head and help you feel more positive and energetic.

Emotional Clutter

Emotional clutter is unresolved issues or feelings about people or situations that replay over and over again in your mind. Maybe it’s resentment over a diagnosis, bitterness about the way a friend dealt with you while you were in treatment, frustration about a dead-end job, or “scanxiety” (worries about follow-up tests). Emotional clutter not only weighs us down, but it can negatively color our perceptions of people and situations. Sometimes, emotional clutter is small enough that it can be managed with tools such as mindfulness meditation or journaling. And if you have draining relationships with negative people, work on easing them out of your life. If a frustrating work environment is wearing on you, trying to address the issues or looking for a new job may be the way to allay this emotional “clutter.” Taking these steps is hard work and takes courage, but the pay off — “cleaning house” — can be the ability to focus on what makes you happy.

There are also times when the way we feel is far more than “clutter” and may point to deeper issues. And it makes sense — a cancer diagnosis can be traumatic. If fear, anxiety, or depression interferes with your daily well-being for a prolonged period of time, it’s best to seek professional help. A professional can provide stability and tools to help you move forward.

Ultimately, getting rid of emotional clutter or balancing deeper emotional issues with a professional can provide you with a greater ability to focus on what is really important to you: the peace of mind that results from dropping worry, guilt, and other negative emotions.

An icon of simplicity, Mother Teresa, once said:

“The more you have, the more you are occupied.
The less you have, the more free you are.”

De-cluttering can help you focus, give you more energy, and free you to do more of what is important to you. Willpower is a form of mental energy, so with this renewed focus and drive, maybe you’ll be able to tackle those New Year’s resolutions. As for me, now that my sock drawer is organized, I’m ready to take on War and Peace.

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Do Good, Feel Good: How to Give Yourself the Gift of Well-Being Through Volunteering

Scrooge. Just uttering the name conjures up images of a callous, bitter, and miserly “bah-humbug” of a man. Scrooge’s story is inextricably linked to the holiday season and can be seen on TV, stage, and in store windows every December.

The story of Scrooge’s transformation in Dickens’s “A Christmas Carol” from a nasty curmudgeon to a smiling and generous gentleman remains compelling to readers over 150 years after it was published. Why? Scrooge was able to change both the course of his life and find happiness by becoming kind and charitable. Research has shown that you and I can enjoy the same “helper’s high” discovered by Scrooge all those years ago, and, like Scrooge, simultaneously improve our physical and mental health by acting charitably and volunteering our time to help others.

The term “helper’s high” was coined by psychologist Allan Luks. He found that the “helpers high” is analogous to a “runner’s high.” Luks’s research established that helping others releases endorphins in the volunteer in the same way that vigorous exercise or meditation does. He concluded that this biochemical reaction results in stress relief, which can benefit the immune system and support overall better health.

How helpful is the helper’s high? One study of women with metastatic breast cancer found that those who participated in a support group — which included support as well as requiring the women to listen and demonstrate compassion to others in the group — survived twice as long (18 months compared with 9 months) as the women who just had routine care.

In another study, individuals suffering from chronic pain experienced decreased pain intensity and decreased levels of disability and depression after training and serving as peer volunteers for several months for others suffering from chronic pain.

One significant study has shown that women who volunteer report greater happiness and long-term health. In that study, 427 women who lived in upstate New York were followed for 30 years by researchers at Cornell University. The researchers concluded that regardless of number of children, occupation, education, or social class, those women who engaged in volunteer work to help other people at least once a week lived longer and had better physical functioning, even after adjusting for baseline health status.

Beyond the physiological benefits associated with the “helper’s high,” studies have consistently shown that those who volunteer enjoy more social connectedness and increased self-confidence as well as more fun and fulfillment in their lives. And, most importantly, individuals who volunteer report feeling happier with their lives.

Although all of these studies dealt with volunteering that included direct contact with the recipient, a recent study found that simply donating money to charity made people happier than those who didn’t engage in philanthropy. How much was donated was not significant; it was really about the act of philanthropy, meaning that a donation of as little as $10.00 could boost happiness.

So make this a December to remember others who may need support. By engaging in a random act of kindness, participating in a food or coat drive, or donating to your favorite charity, you will not only have done good — like Scrooge, you’ll feel good!

“I don’t know what to do!” cried Scrooge, laughing and crying in the same breath… “I am as light as a feather, I am as happy as an angel, I am as merry as a school-boy. I am as giddy as a drunken man. A merry Christmas to every-body! A happy New Year to all the world!” ― Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

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Striving to Thrive: The Many Benefits of Self-Expression

Part 1 of my series, Project Strive to Thrive: Ideas for Moving Beyond “Survival” After Breast Cancer

“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” — From “The Summer Day” by Mary Oliver

No one realizes the precious nature of life better than someone diagnosed with cancer. But cancer can also cause a wild range of emotions. From the time you’re diagnosed with cancer, through treatment and, really, forever after, your feelings can range from fear, sadness, and frustration, to anxiety, bewilderment, and anger.

Your health care team has guided you through the medical aspects of handling your disease and its side effects, but many times doesn’t focus on how to handle the emotional aspects of dealing with cancer. How to deal with the emotional fallout, so to speak, that can occur at diagnosis, during treatment, and especially after treatment concludes. It is my goal, through a series of blog posts, to explore how cancer survivors can find joy, optimism, and well-being and go beyond merely surviving cancer and strive to thrive.

In each blog post I hope to share a research-proven strategy for dealing with the emotional aspects of breast cancer and practical tips for incorporating that strategy into your life. A series of ideas to help you live your “one wild and precious life” to the fullest.

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During my treatment for breast cancer, when I was bald, sick, and felt isolated, my husband suggested I start writing about my experience to raise my glum spirits. I believe he meant for me to start journaling, but I started recounting some funny and not-so-funny incidents to distant family and friends through an update I sent out in an email once a month. Although I ostensibly began this update to keep friends and family “abreast” of how I was faring, it became a catharsis for me. Through writing about my breast cancer experience, I could organize and bring some perspective to the chaos that had become my life.

For instance, my weekend emergency hospital stay for some chemo side effects was “Greg and My Get Away Weekend in the City” and my mother’s growing frustration at our extended wait for chemo to begin, where she accidentally punched a nurse, became “If You Want Better Service at Chemo, Bring Alma With You.”

I also included stories about people who had impacted me and recounted how thankful I was for all the support, prayers, and blessings I had received.

What I was doing was expressing my emotions through writing, which researchers have found can give breast cancer patients a greater sense of well-being and help them feel physically better. Although the studies on the benefits of expressing emotions have been small, they have consistently shown an improvement in both positive emotions and mood, even for women with metastatic disease. For women with early-stage disease, one study found that women who expressed their emotions through journaling had fewer negative physical symptoms and fewer visits to medical providers.

How can you use self-expression to improve your well-being? First, you have to feel comfortable with self-expression and believe it is a modality that will rejuvenate you.

I thought my husband’s suggestion was worth a try and believed simply putting together an email might lift my sagging spirits.

Additionally, you have to find a convenient method of self-expression as well as a means of self-expression that you are comfortable with. In the studies, women have benefited from journaling privately, creating websites and blogs, and attending classes on journaling. Even joining discussion boards at sites like Breastcancer.org or using Facebook can prove helpful.

Some of these studies tracked women who attended Expressive Group Therapy, i.e. a support group, another form of self-expression for those who aren’t comfortable with writing. Women in these studies also saw improvement in mood and physical well-being. Support groups for breast cancer patients can be found at many churches, hospitals, and community centers.

For those who aren’t interested in group therapy or writing, a journal can be filled with drawings, or you can engage in some other artistic form of self-expression. Studies have shown that expressing your experience and emotions through art has the same positive impact on physical and mental health as writing.

The best part is that that your level of talent is of no consequence: these benefits were shown to accrue even if you’re the furthest thing from a Picasso or Hemingway.

What self-expression seems to do is allow you to express you fear, anxiety, anger, or other feelings in a productive manner, thereby giving you more control over these emotions. This serves to lessen stress and results in an improved quality of life for breast cancer patients.

So go for it — grab some paper and a pen or watercolors, or join a support group, or get out there in some other way that suits you. Strive to not simply survive breast cancer, but to thrive, and live your one wild and precious life to the fullest.

 

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Hot Topic — Chilling the Hot Flashes

In the summer I hear the term “excessive heat warning” from our local weathercasters and think they are talking about me. My hot flashes are so intense I can raise the temperature in a room a few degrees simply by standing in it. If you have never experienced a hot flash, think of feeling — without warning — of suddenly standing outside on a blistering summer day dressed in woolly layers as if for the frostiest day of the year. A fever-like heat rises from your torso through your head, resulting in a look like you have just spent 15 minutes in a sizzling steam room — but it’s not a spa day.

Some say I have a glow (like the sun?), but a glow would not cause my shirt to become soaked and make me feel like steam might come out of my ears. Could I be contributing to global warming?

After the waterworks stop, then comes the “big chill.” The flash subsides, and you’re left feeling like you got caught in the rain: wet, shivering, and sporting goose bumps.

Because 90% of my hot flashes are completely random, I’ve had hot flashes while out at a work dinner, while talking to one of my kids’ teachers, and while wearing a gown at a black-tie event. I can just see whomever I may be talking to wondering why I’m seemingly calm and collected but simultaneously literally steaming up. Friends even avert their eyes when beads of sweat start sliding down my face, neck, and arms like rain droplets. Tropical rain droplets.

I’ve heard, “OMG you’re sweating like a pig!” too many times to count from my daughter, as I embarrass her regularly. My lame attempt to joke about the situation, “Did you ever think you’d have such a hot and flashy mom?” falls completely flat. By the way, pigs don’t sweat, they roll in the mud to cool down. In moments of desperation, I’ve thought about it.

Hot flashes are caused by a decrease in estrogen. When estrogen levels drop or estrogen receptors are blocked, the body’s temperature control system gets confused, and the result is hot flashes. Menopause causes hot flashes, as do some of the treatments for breast cancer: chemotherapy, hormonal therapy, and ovarian shutdown or removal.

Aside from moving to Alaska, some more practical ways to deal with hot flashes include avoiding triggers such as caffeine, smoking, spicy food, alcohol, heat, obesity, physical inactivity, hot weather, and stress. I wish I could tell you the trigger list included vacuuming, weeding, and washing the dishes.

I have found having a cold drink (non-alcoholic!) nearby, sitting in front of a fan or fanning yourself with whatever you can get your hands on, and holding a bag of frozen peas or anything icy on your neck provides some relief.

Dressing in cotton fabrics can be invaluable: it’s both cooler and provides more camouflage than, say, silk, when perspiration is flowing like a river.

I would guess that roughly 10% of my hot flashes are caused by stress. That’s why meditation, yoga, massage, and other relaxation techniques that help relieve stress are important to integrate into your routine. They have all been shown to reduce the number and/or severity of hot flashes.

Studies have also shown that certain antidepressants may help relieve hot flashes. The more successful agents include selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) antidepressants. One in particular, venlafaxine (brand name: Effexor), has been shown to lower the number and severity of hot flashes for most women. This includes women with severe hot flashes from tamoxifen. In several studies, venlafaxine was most effective for hot flashes when used at a lower dose than is normal for treating depression.

My hot flashes are related to my tamoxifen regimen. Because completing a course of tamoxifen or other hormonal therapy is so significant for preventing breast cancer recurrence, it is crucial to take steps to allay side effects such as hot flashes to increase your chances of sticking with whatever hormonal therapy regimen has been prescribed for you (other drugs used for hormonal therapy can cause hot flashes as well).

Although I use humor to deal with my severe hot flashes, hot flashes need to be taken seriously by your medical providers, support team, family, and, most importantly, you. When hot flashes are severe, frequent, or occur during the night (known as night sweats), they often disrupt a woman’s quality of life, affecting her sleep and sexual, family, social, and work life. Discuss with your health care team what steps you can take to help diminish their duration and effects, and make sure you get the support you need to maintain the highest quality of life possible during treatment and survivorship. You deserve it.

A potential positive of the hot flashes: a 2008 British study suggests that women who experienced hot flashes and night sweats while taking hormonal therapy medicine were less likely to have the breast cancer recur. Knowing that these pesky hot flashes might indicate a reduced risk of the cancer coming back may help some people stick with treatment despite the side effects.

Because of my burning desire to rid my life of cancer, I’ll sizzle through my own personal heat wave of hot flashes, icy drink and fan in hand, hopefully still laughing at when and where I show my “hot and flashy” side. How do you deal with your “hot and flashy” side?

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Me, not particularly photo-ready (notice the shiny red face) in the midst of a hot flash, at the Colosseum in Rome

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