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Stress takes many forms in our business lives. Exactly what it is very hard to define, but two statements seem to me to sum up the main cause and effect:
o The fear that more is expected of you than you can reasonably achieve.
o A feeling - real or imagined - that you are out of control and cannot regain the right track.
Who gets it? Everyone is susceptible, no-one is immune. However, some people deal with it more effectively. Over the years I have studied many people who seem to be able to thrive on stress - or have mastered the knack of shucking off the effects - and have formulated a ten-part plan to help others cope.
Why stress is so damaging?
o Health: long term stress can severely affect a persons health. The immune system is damaged, the nervous system is impaired and susceptibility to minor (and sometimes major) illnesses increases.
o Emotions: when under relentless and unmanageable stress, a persons self-worth is impaired. Relationships suffer and positive planning becomes very difficult.
o Performance: of course, when under long-term stress at work, the ability to function at peak levels diminishes. How can we be expected to give 110% if our minds and bodies are slowly shutting down through endless misuse? Typically, a highly stressed person, who is not managing it well, will subconsciously develop behaviors that attempt to minimize exposure to more stress:
o A fear to act - procrastination o Fear of failure o Avoidance of the issues o Withdrawal from ‘the cutting edge’
The result? You get sidelined and passed over for the next person who deals with the pressures better.
Not all stress is bad. Some can be beneficial, but only when kept in the right proportion.
Most people getting up to give a public presentation feel a high degree of stress. Those who are not paralyzes with fear often say that the pressure gave their talk an edge. That the adrenaline pumping made them sharp.
How many business people do you know who write documents and presentations weeks in advance? Hardly any, I bet. Most prefer to leave things until the last minute to ‘be at their sharpest.’ And it is true that when under the right amount of pressure, the mind tends to clear and we see to the very heart of the problem.
People who manage stress best seem to be able to manage the causes of stress, ensuring that too many situations do not develop at once. Because however positive some stresses may be, pile a whole lot of them up at the same time and you still are heading for a nervous breakdown.
Can it be beaten? Yes and no. Some stresses are in built - nothing can remove them. They are a part of each person’s individual psyche. Some are a vital part of life - try crossing a busy road without a care in the world. Some things that wind us up like a spring are not stressful to others - public speaking is a good example.
But … many stresses can be managed and others can be minimized or removed.
One key factor in dealing with your own stresses is effective self-management. Deal with your internal issues before you look to change the world outside yourself.
Here, then is my ten-part plan. Some of the elements may seem trite - and on their own they may be - but they all combine to give you a powerful, workable strategy to begin to take back control of your life.
- Get organized
However busy you may think you are, it is a sure bet that there is a half hour or so every day that is being wasted. Check out goal-setting techniques and time management strategies. They really help - and will show you how to get far more done in the same time than you ever imagined possible.
Get in to work ten minutes earlier than usual to write yourself a list for the day. Consider what you need to achieve and point your day towards that end. As Seneca said in the 3rd century BC, “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.”
Few people know how to breathe. They suck in, and blow out air periodically, but without conscious thought. Every couple of hours, become aware of your breathing. Take a deep breath, deep into your stomach, filling the very bottom of your lungs, then slowly let it out. Repeat five times. This basal breathing is very relaxing and the few minutes it takes is highly beneficial in easing stress.
What happens when all that excess adrenaline has nowhere to go? It builds stress even further. A little exercise is the best way of all of burning it all off. There is no need to join a gym or run a marathon - just walk up the stairs instead of taking the elevator, do a set of sit-ups before bedtime or take two minutes to perform an easy stretching routine before lunch. The more exercise you can build into your daily life the better you will be at dealing with each day.
- Reduce stimulants
Coffee might keep you alert in the short term, but it plays havoc with your ability to function in the longer run. Alcohol is a great relaxant in moderation, but more than a couple of glasses have the opposite effect. Tobacco puts many added stresses on your body. Drugs are simply crazy.
All these stimulants just add to the problem: if you are already stressed, they will not help you get over it - they will make the situation worse.
- Recognize stress-point and adjust accordingly
Possibly easier said than done, but knowing your enemy is 50% of the way to beating it. Take the time to work out what your stress triggers are and then try to devise strategies to minimize each one. Taking problems one at a time is a far more positive approach than panicking about them all at once.
- Make time to relax
No matter how hard you work, or how many demands are put on you, remember - it’s your life. You deserve at least some time every day just to be with you. Maybe it is just 5 minutes in the morning, but treasure it, make it yours and don’t allow outside pressures in to your time. Believe me, enjoying your own time every day will make you far more effective on everybody else’s time.
- Drink herbal tea
Not as silly as it sounds. Many herbal teas contain substances with naturally calminative properties. Chamomile tea is very relaxing, Raspberry and Echinacea tea soothes the mind and helps strengthen the immune system, Peppermint tea aids in digestion. And they are refreshing and taste good too.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help
One of the most often heard complaints I hear from highly stressed people is that they have too much work and too little time. Yet they are often the worst delegators. If you have a downline, delegate. (But mind you don’t pile too much on your subordinates that they crack under the strain). If you have an upline, see if any of your workload can be passed that way. That is more difficult, but often a task that is way too much for you is easy to someone with a few more years of experience. And bosses often like to show that they ‘still have it.’
The last on the list, but probably number one in importance. Smile on the telephone, smile in storesFree Articles, smile to your colleagues. Your subconscious mind is just waiting to run whatever program you plug into it. Stress is a kind of program with an endless negative loop. Smiling is like pressing the ‘break’ key. Smile enough and that becomes a new program in its own right. You will feel happier and everyone around you will respond positively.
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When growing up, my father frequently reminded me to “pay attention to the details.” That saying became very real to me in the area of parenting. While raising children, the details make great differences in development.
Being that children are people and not machines, the kind of detailing needed is different. Focusing on the externals of name brand clothing, perfect hair and having the most extensive collection of expensive toys are not the kind of attention needed. Such efforts will result in the child feeling rejected and learning to substitute material objects and appearances for love.
Children need the attention of their parents. The areas of their lives and abilities given attention will develop most. If the majority of parental attention is given to not standing correctly or not finishing tasks, these areas will develop further. In situations where habitual fault-finding occurs, the child eventually takes all that criticism inside and turns it on themselves. Such methods often lead to unmotivated children with low-self-esteem.
Many adult parents still carry emotional scars from harsh fault-finding from parents. A good common sense rule is, “If you would not let anyone talk to you like you talk to your child, you need to make some changes.” Sadly, many children suffer in quiet desperation as victims of harsh treatment, that the parent justifies by telling themselves “it’s for their own good,” or “I only do it because I love them so much.” Such displays are not experienced by the children as “love.”
Children need attention given to the details of their lives. The attention they need the most is from their parents. They need encouragement in specific and tangible terms. Statements like, “It puts a smile in my heart, when you show teamwork by playing nicely with your brother” make a child beam. Find them doing good things and bring that to their attention. Identify the specific talent, how it is used and your reaction to it. Train their young minds to search for their talents with the same kind of attention to detail that may have previous been devoted to fault-finding. It also helps to identify internal or character qualities to praise rather than external appearances.
By developing these qualities, the child will always carry those qualities with them, regardless of age. Children do want to please their parents. The challenge many children face is that they often do not know what does please t
Focusing on the details when children do good is important. Such an approach is detailed enough for children to understand what they did good and how it made you feel. Parents often devote too much detail to fault-finding. When the attention to detail is directed to finding good, it results in motivated children with strong self-esteems. If the devil is in the details, perhaps the saints are also.
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Throughout the year we have many gift-giving opportunities to show love to those around us. From Christmas to Birthdays, Valentines Day and more, our thoughts turn to finding the perfect gift. Before you shop and wrap remember that our loved ones need more of our presence than our presents! This type of gift giving uses more creativity, less of our money and more of our heart. Need some ideas on how you can give of your presence and not just store bought presents?
DINNER FOR 2
Instead of purchasing restaurant gift certificates for someone, invite them to dinner with you! Make sure they understand that you are picking up the tab as your gift to them, but the real gift will be the time you get to spend together.
SHOPPING SPREE GIFTS
My mother simply hates shopping for me. She also hates shopping with me. Ok, she hates shopping period. But she knows how much I love it! That’s why it is such a wonderful gift to me when she takes me on a shopping spree for my birthday every year. If you had planned to buy a loved one something at the store, you can still give of your presence too. Invite your special someone to come pick it out with you. I still remember when I was younger, and a boyfriend took me shopping. He had me model the knit sweater for him before he bought it for me. The sweater is long gone and moth eaten but the memory is still knit tightly in my mind.
Clipping coupons is an excellent way to save money when shopping but they are also a great way to save money when gift giving. The home computer has made coupon books easy and professional looking. Trying to think creatively about what your loved one needs is the hardest part of making meaningful coupons. Would your husband love his own indoor tailgate party with a coupon for a night of uninterrupted football coverage complete with his favorite snacks and drinks? Or maybe your young teenage daughter needs a coupon book offering taxi rides anywhere her and her friends want to be chauffeured for the night? You get the idea. Be creative.
INCENTIVES & BRIBES
Whatever politically correct word you use, incentives for children to get good grades or allowance given to complete weekly chores or reach behavioral goals are generally money or present oriented. I would like to suggest that you substitute presence for presents in this situation too once in a while. My parents used to take me to a good movie when I got good grades at the end of each quarter, even if I would have preferred the cash like my friends got, it strengthened our relationship more than the money ever would have.
When I was potty training my oldest daughter, instead of giving her candy to reinforce her efforts, I would let her draw an activity from a jar. She knew that I would drop everything and give her my undivided attention and presence to read her a story, color with her, eat a Popsicle with her, etc. Now that this same daughter is 8 and she would much rather have me cater and entertain at her sleep over party, than to be given an allowance as appreciation for doing her chores!
If you truly believe that Time = Money, than give a gift worth it’s wealth in gold.
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When I was a newbie in ‘the game of life,’ I wanted to succeed beyond my wildest dreams. I wanted to make it big and take on the world, all at once. My expectations were so high that not even Jack could reach them on his beanstalk. However, over time, after much frustration and burn out, I shifted to the other extreme by dropping my expectations, and dreams.
The idea of lowering our expectations is a contradiction to the ‘parental voices’ that tells us that we should ‘reach for the stars,’ ‘raise our expectations,’ and ‘shoot for the moon.’ In theory, these are excellent ideals when chasing a dream. But, without some control, such ideals can burn you out, create frustration, and literally destroy your drive to attain any goals, lofty or otherwise. We’ve all either been there, or are there.
If you feel like you’ve run into a wall, or bumped your head on the ceiling, your expectations of what should be are probably forcing you to take ‘too big of a bite.’ But, don’t necessarily lower your expectations. Try managing your expectations to keep your dreams alive and continue your pursuit at a reasonable pace. Again, it seems like a contradiction to what we’ve all heard at one time or another. But, actually, there is a way to keep your ultimate goal in sight, while managing your expectations, so that you can keep your sanity and still achieve success in life.
— Look at it! —-
Evel Knievel jumps canyons on various wonder-bikes, for fun! But, don’t think he just hopped on his bike one day and jumped over the Grand Canyon. Consider that he developed his skills over time to execute his lifetime of phenomenal jumps. But, if he had taken the jumps without building up to them, fear and inexperience would have destroyed the stunts. He had to start with small jumps to gain confidence until, eventually, he was able to make his jumps without hesitation.
High expectations can place you in a position of trying to jump your own canyons right out of the gate. Too many failed attempts can lead you to frustration and eventually, complete surrender of your goals. However, if such an attempt should succeed, it could land you in a situation that, while it looked good from a distance, might not be the place where you wanted to land.
— Break it down! —
Before you go too far on that jump across that canyon, make sure that you know exactly where you want to land. It is imperative that you define exactly what it is that you ultimately want in your life. Once you know what you want, break the process to reach this ‘vision’ down into reasonable steps.
Instead of trying to jump the canyon immediately, try jumping a puddle to see if you can do it with confidence. Once you manage the puddle, take what you’ve learned, put it behind you, and go for something just outside of your comfort zone … perhaps a ditch. Such steps allow you to take on smaller pieces of the whole so that you can set reachable goals on the way to your vision.
— Changing directions! —
Not only is this ‘stepping stone’ approach to attaining lofty goals and managing high expectations effective in moving you in the right direction, but you might also find that, the destination is something that you didn’t ‘expect.’
Here is the key—’did not expect.’ High expectations set on a vision that is ‘unknown’ can lead you sometimes place you further away from your vision then when you started. We see where we want to go, want so badly to get there, but have no idea what it takes or what it is that we’re pursuing. Even though the vision might be reasonable, it is the perception that we have of the vision that adds unnecessary stress to our daily lives in our pursuit of that vision.
If we take small steps to reach our vision, we can adjust our path along the way. As we move toward and learn more of our ultimate destination, we might find that we don’t want the original vision. We learn that we might instead want the objective about 30 degrees off of our original. By moving along, one goal at a time, we are able to adjust to ensure that we land were we want to on the other side of our canyon.
— Reapplying the expectations! —
We all develop a certain perspective of things based on the way that we’ve been raised, the experiences that we’ve encountered, and the successes or failures that we’ve had in our lives. Based on our perspective, we develop extraordinarily high expectations of things when we’re not sure of the results of our plight or goals in life. These expectations are built up to cover the doubts that we might have about the goal.
Realize that things are what they are, regardless of our perception. But, by accepting things as they are, and not what you would wish them to be, it makes it much easier to maneuver yourself in the direction you want to go. We must sometimes readjust our perspectives, our values and belief systems, to gain some control in our lives and obtain a clearer view of our paths.
— What’s next? —
By taking on small pieces of the whole, we can easily adjust our path along the way. In this way, we must research our goals so that we can understand where we’re going. In breaking up the path into the smaller goals required to reach our vision, our expectations for our vision become clearer and less imperative. By managing our goals in this way, we automatically manage our expectations because we only have expectations of the immediate goal leading us in the direction of our ultimate vision.
Establish a new plan based on the individual components of your overall vision. Try moving forward with this new plan and see what happens. See how the newly managed goals and expectations work in your life and how you feel as you accomplish the smaller goals on the way to your vision.
Not only will managing your expectations provide you with a more solid path to reach your vision, but it will also enhance your quality of life. Instead of being stressed, frustrated, and disappointed, you can now feel good about your forward momentum in your own life because you will know where you’re going and be able to handle the journey.
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They are leaders as well as parents. They don’t rely on the schools, the government, television, the movies or music to teach their children values and the difference between right and wrong. They do it themselves.
They have a vision for their family and its future, one that is discussed and shared often. And they support the vision with clearly articulated, clarified and communicated values and beliefs. Every action, behaviour, and decision is taken with those values and beliefs firmly in mind. They constantly emphasize the relationship between family successes and acting in accordance with the values and beliefs. They make a clear distinction between right and wrong. Everybody is clear on how things are to be done and why.
They are behavioral models for their children. Their behaviors reflect those that they want the kids to emulate. They are honest because they value honesty; open because they value openness; forgiving because they value forgiveness. They make tough decisions when necessary and they take responsibility for the results. They don’t just tell their children what to value and believe; they show them through words and deeds.
They enable their children. They communicate high, but achievable behavioral and performance expectations and provide the spiritual, emotional, physical, intellectual and financial resources the children need to successfully achieve them. They know that self-esteem is a function of achievement.
They talk with their kids, not at them. They develop feedback loops so the children can come to understand the impact of their behaviour on others. They make sure the kids understand the relationship behaviour and consequences. And they distinguish between the child and his or her behaviour so, when there are problems, they unconditionally love the child while looking for a solution to the problem.
They take pains to understand how children develop. As the children are finding their way in the world these parents use a combination of maturity and skill to firmly direct when direction is needed; discuss when the circumstances merit; push the kids away when they are ready to make provisional tries when they are ready to and, finally; they set them free altogether. Through it all, the door is left open for the kids to come back if they needed to.
They take an active role in their children’s education, both formal and informal. They are active contributors to both the schools and communities. They enrich the home environment in every way they can. They go to concerts, games, on camping trips and, unfailingly, to the ceremonies that mark the graduations from one stage to the next.
Although their children are outstanding in any number of ways, these parents freely admit their kids were anything but perfect. They accept and openly talk about the fact that, while good kids, their children are just as prone as others to the vicissitudes of growing up and, on occasion, their behaviour reflects that fact.
When the time comes, they discuss the future and provide appropriate advice and guidance regarding career and other life choices that children must eventually make.
Through it all they encourage independent, critical thinking so, in the final analysis, each child becomes his or her own person.
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