Recently, I read an article about how “busy syndrome” is wreaking havoc on society. Being overly busy has become a way of life that leaves people stressed and wrung out. I know I can relate to this. So, I’ve done some research on how to handle my own personal stress. I’d like to share what I’ve learned. I’m not an expert. I didn’t invent these tips, but I’ve adopted them. It’s made a big difference.
Here are eight stress-busting tips I’ve taken to heart:
Think ahead and get ready the night before. Pack lunches; locate keys and cell phones; lay out your clothes; have kids pack backpacks; etc. Even if you’re exhausted, push through (or plan ahead) to get it done the night before. Anything you can do ahead will help you sleep better and get your day off to a smoother start.
Avoid negative people. While it’s not realistic to purge all negativity from our lives, you can make up your mind not to react to drama. One of my favorite quotes is, “You don’t have to attend every argument (or battle) to which you’re invited.” People are different. What works for one might not work for you. Or some people just might not like you and you don’t have to feel bad about that. Usually, it’s their problem and not yours. So, stop trying to please everyone and don’t spend too much time worrying about what people think of you. Another thing that’s helped is I’ve adopted a key word that I say (sometimes aloud, but usually in my head) when my mind is wandering down dark, pessimistic paths (usually spurred on when someone hurts my feelings or I allow something someone says to get under my skin). My word is STOP! It’s my mind’s cue to curtail the negativity, reframe and refocus in a more positive direction. It really works.
Lose the all-or-nothing attitude. This is a hard one for me. I like to complete things in one go. But I’ve learned I accomplish a lot more when I allow myself to do tasks incrementally. Five or ten minutes of exercise is better than none at all. I’ve learned to write in twenty minute sprints, or on days when life makes sprints impossible, my bare minimum is 100 words per day (and usually the words flow so that it ends up being more.) You’d be surprised at how the words will accumulate. When College Girl was in elementary school, I’d over-committed myself to volunteering. It felt impossible to write in long sessions. I stuck to the 100-per-day minimum and ended up amassing 60 pages during this time when I thought I might accomplish no writing at all. On the house cleaning front, I follow the Fly Lady‘s advice and “swish and swipe” on most days and take five minutes daily to clear “hot spots” where clutter tends to accumulate.
Go on a news and/or social media fast. This is another difficult one for me. I was a journalism major. It goes against my grain to not be informed. However, there’s so much bad news out there (and so much “stuff” on social media), sometimes it weighs too much to carry. When you’re stressed, it doesn’t hurt to put down the news (or Facebook and Twitter) for a while. It’ll be there when you get back.
Breathe. As basic as it sounds, this can change your life. I’m not talking short, shallow, hyperventilating breaths. Take slow, mindful, deep belly breaths. I’ve heard that deep breathing can lower your blood pressure, and I know for a fact it can stop the mind squirrels from commandeering your sleep. When I’m stressed and anxious (especially at night), I practice the 4-7-8 method. Breathe in for a count of four, hold it for seven counts, exhale for eight counts and repeat.
Get plenty of sleep. Life always seems off kilter when we’re tired. So, when you’re stressed, don’t skimp on the sleep. Studies have shown that being sleep deprived will not only cause fuzzy-headedness, but it can compromise your immune system.
Learn to say, NO! I suffer from a condition called FOMO: Fear Of Missing Out. Sometimes this insidious disorder tempts me to take on way too much. And then I hate myself. I’ve learned that while saying no might be difficult in the short-term, in the long run it makes life so much easier.
Finally, schedule downtime. Read a book, take a walk, play with your kids or your friends, or your pets or your spouse. Did I mention read a book?
How do you handle stress? I have a grab bag of books by several different authors for one person who shares a stress-busting tip below. I’ll announce the winner Sunday.
MY FAIR FORTUNE
Mass Market Paperback Available April 21 ~ EBook Available May 1
In the business world, Brodie Fortune Hayes is known as a man of no mercy. The all-work, no-play PR consultant is sure he’ll have no trouble correcting the image problems plaguing the Cowboy Country theme park. There’s just one complication: the green-eyed beauty sitting behind the boss’s desk who makes his pulse race like a roller coaster!
Caitlyn Moore never imagined working side by side with Brodie after sharing a most out-of-character night of passion with him a few months before! And now, thanks to her dad’s absence-by-illness, she’s his boss? Brodie’s bottom-line mentality is as infuriating as his blue bedroom eyes are intoxicating—but Cait is convinced that there’s a heart lurking beneath his designer armor. Perhaps she can prove to him that love is the greatest Fortune of all…
Initially, I was going to blog about my new book, FALLING FOR FORTUNE. I really love this story. It’s book five in the current Fortunes of Texas series. It features Christopher Fortune Jones, a tortured hero who is suffering an identity crisis, and Kinsley Aaron, a strong level-headed heroine, who helps him find himself.
But then something funny happened on the way to the blog. My daughter and I found ourselves cast as the strong, level-headed heroines of our own story — or at least we were trying to be. Please let me tell you about it.
We moved College Girl home from school for the summer on Monday. The Norwegian drove the U-Haul. College Girl and I drove her car home. The entire day, everything went like clockwork. She had done a great job getting mostly packed. What wasn’t packed was nicely organized. In no time at all we were ready to head for home. The only thing was she had conveniently forgotten to fill up the car with gas. Imagine that.
She and I stopped at the gas station before we got on the highway. Since she is a princess, I paid for and pumped the fuel. Of course. Really, I didn’t mind because she’s a pretty good kid and I was so glad to see her. We had so much catching up to do. She rolled down the window to talk to me as I gassed up the car. Mid-conversation, she shrieked and jumped up on her seat, yanked off her flip flop and started pounding the passenger side floor.
“What are you doing?” I asked.
“A bug! A bug! A bug! A great big palmetto bug just flew in here!”
“Oh. Ew. Really??”
Who knows what a palmetto bug is? Those of you who do probably also said, “Oh. Ew. Really??”
For those of you who don’t know…imagine the biggest cockroach you’ve ever seen. Now put wings on it and give it fearless flying superpowers. They fly at anything. I think they’re attracted to screaming and flailing arms.
**Note: I just Googled palmetto bug and discovered that the AVERAGE size is around 1.6 inches long. College Girl swore the one that flew at her was gargantuan. That’s what they look like. And don’t forget they fly. —>
She climbed out of the car.
“Did you get it?” I asked.
“No? How could you miss? I thought it was gargantuan?”
“It WAS. And it climbed up behind the glove compartment.”
“Oh. Ew. Really?”
“I think so,” she said. “Because I don’t know where it went.”
I climbed onto the front passenger seat, armed with her flip flop and a pizza special door hanger. With my butt in the air, I slapped and poked around until I was sure that the bug wasn’t in the car. Five or ten minutes later (how can you measure time at a moment like this?) I realized that the bug probably wasn’t coming out – maybe it crawled out into the engine – and guy at the pump next to us was watching us intently.
And he was laughing.
“Need some help?” he asked.
Clearly, he found our predicament amusing. The nerve.
“No, I think we’re good,” I said.
College Girl suggested we start the car to see if the sound and heat of the engine would drive it out. That’s when I remembered the time I saw a gecko in my car and recalled how it disappeared, never to be seen again. That was years ago and I never found the lizard – dead or alive.
“I’ll bet the bug got out,” I said. ”Those nasty things can squeeze through a tiny crack. Besides, we can’t spend the night here at the gas station. Don’t you think we should go?”
So, we set off, both acutely aware of the fugitive flying roach.
“So, do you think we should make a plan just in case the bug comes out?” College Girl asked. “Just in case it flies out when we’re on the interstate. So that we don’t freak out and have a wreck?”
Oh, dear God.
“Not a bad idea,” I said, suddenly having visions of us traveling on the crowded highway, and the bug either flying at me as I drove, or making its way over to the driver’s side, dropping onto my ankle and crawling up my pants leg.
Are you mentally doing the “icked-out dance of repulsion” as you read this?
I reminded myself over and over again that I could NOT – under any circumstance – do that dance. Even if the bug flew at me and landed on my nose as I drove. If I freaked out, it could cause a deadly crash. That thought instantly sobered me. Do any of you remember the blog I posted a year ago about our headlights going out on the way home from one of College Girl’s school concerts? This is the same scary highway.
So, we spent the next bit of time devising “the bug evacuation plan.”
If the bug appeared, we would both remain CALM. College Girl would CALMLY say the word, “Bug.” There would be no screaming. No swatting. No swerving. And definitely no impromptu “icked-out dances of repulsion.” She would CALMLY roll down the windows (so that it could fly out if it was so inclined). I would CALMLY keep both hands on the wheel and both eyes on the road and SLOWLY guide the car over to the shoulder. Then I would remain CALM and NOT jump out into the path of an oncoming car as I hopped into the “icked-out dances of repulsion.” I would CALMLY let myself out, being mindful of oncoming cars, and get well into the grass, then I was free to break into the dance.
We both laughed and acknowledged that if we had such a plan in place that the bug, who was probably winging its way around the gas station back in her college town, would never emerge. Hahaha!
About an hour into our trip, College Girl gasped. In her quiet, CALM hysteria, she might’ve even uttered a word that is not normally in her vocabulary. All this mama heard was a composed, “Bug.”
Keeping my eyes on the road and both hands on the wheel, I said, “Oh! Ew. Really?”
She did not roll down the windows. Instead, she started beating the ever living daylights out of the passenger side floor mat.
“Got it,” she said.
“Really?” I hadn’t even had a chance to pull off onto the side of the road.
“Good job,” I said.
We agreed that we would stop at the next exit, which happened to have a Dunkin Donuts, and dispose of the evidence and then reward ourselves for remaining so calm in the face of danger.
I would like to celebrate our level-headed victory with you. Tell me if you’ve ever had a situation where you remained calm even though it would’ve been very easy to freak out. What did you do? Or what would you have done if you’d been in our car? Would you have stayed in the college town until the bug emerged (keeping in mind that it might not have crawled out as fast as it had flown in) or would you have gotten on the highway? Five people who post on this blog will each receive a copy of my new book, FALLING FOR FORTUNE.
Please give a warm welcome to our special guest, Judy Duarte! I had the pleasure of working with Judy on Harlequin’s 2014 Fortunes of Texas series, and I was thrilled when she agreed to join us today. So, without further adieu…
You Gotta Love Those Kids…
One of the things I love about writing a romance—in addition to creating a beautiful love story—is the chance to create unique and entertaining secondary characters who add that special something to the book. And that’s why I especially enjoyed writing A HOUSE FULL OF FORTUNES!
Everyone loves a funny sidekick, a dastardly villain, or an older and wiser friend. But personally, my favorite secondary characters are children.
Having raised five of my own, I’ve also been blessed with their cousins, their friends, and now their children—my grandchildren. Needless to say, I’ve put in my share of babysitting, volunteering in the classroom, chaperoning field trips, and teaching Sunday school. I’ve cooked for kids, cleaned up after them, rocked them to sleep and disciplined them. Over the years I’ve come to understand kids and to always expect the unexpected whenever they’re in the room.
When writing Toby and Angie’s romance, I had the opportunity to create not one, but three children. Toby Fortune Jones had taken in three foster kids who had nowhere else to go. And while his heart was in the right place, he found that it isn’t always easy to juggle the needs and personalities of three youngsters. He soon found himself relying on Angie Edwards to help him with his adorable brood.
Art Linkletter was right. Kids really do say the darnedest things. That’s what makes them so fun to include as secondary characters. But when doing so, a writer needs to make them as realistic as possible.
My daughter, who is also an author, once stopped reading a book because she couldn’t wrap her head around the fact that the heroine’s son kept asking his grandmother for more helpings of her delicious okra and vegetable stew. My daughter said, “Have you ever heard a seven year old boy beg for okra? I’m sure there might be one or two out there, but at my house, it’s a battle just to get my kids to eat carrots with ranch dressing. I’m not buying it.”
So kids can be cute, they can be funny, and they can be a challenge. But when created realistically, they can add so much to the layers of a book. I tried my best to do that with Brian, Justin, and Kylie. I hope my readers agree—and that they’ll enjoy watching Angie and Toby fall in love, in spite of all the antics and obstacles they have to overcome in A HOUSE FULL OF FORTUNES!
Judy is giving away an Amazon gift card to one person who posts. So, please join in on the fun and leave a comment below.
Who was your first hero?
Like a lot of young girls, my first hero was my father. One of my earliest memories is when I was a very young child and my dad was carrying me into the house from the car. We’d been on a long trip; it was night time. I buried my head against his shoulder and he carried me and there was simply no better place in the world. He has been a military man, a half-dozen other things it seems, including a private pilot and flight instructor…and he still rides a motorcycle. (Of course, the older we all get, including me—with fully grown children of my own–the more that last point just simply amazes and scares the bejabbers out of me!) When I was young, Mom was the one with the quicker temper, but Dad was the one who could merely tilt down his eyeglasses and peer at me over the top, and reduce me to misery. One glance. All it took. It’s been a lot of years since I needed to have that one glance from Dad, but I have a strong hunch it would still be pretty darn effective. He’s a man of incredible patience who worked with his hands, checked our tires, came to my rescue more than once with most of the pathetic vehicles I’ve owned as a young woman. He called my mom “Honey” so frequently that my older brother called her that, too, for a while when he was a little boy. Dad was often gone for work—always taking care of his family—and always was the rock of my childhood, and probably every hero I’ve ever written has had a piece of my father in him.
So when it came to writing Fortune’s Perfect Match, whose hero, Max Allen, is a flying enthusiast, it was a whole lot of fun to pick my dad’s brain about flying. He doesn’t get behind the wheel (maybe that should be rudder?) anymore, but it’s all still in his head, and I suspect, his heart. Both of my parents have often been a resource for some detail I need about life out on a farm—city girl, here!—or some other area, but this time, it was more than just a detail. It was pages and pages of notes and long conversations; I dearly loved it; and once again, my father the hero, came through.
I’ve married a hero of my own. He holds my hand and he can slay me with a single glance, eyeglasses or no. Most of all, he makes me laugh, and makes me glad that I had Dad’s example to look for, so I could recognize a gem when I found him.
Growing up, Allison wasn’t overly thrilled moving from one home in one state to another and another and another. By the time her family settled in Arizona, however, she came to learn that each experience—from the orange grove-scented air of Southern California to the wild beauty of Wyoming, from the verdant land of Minnesota to the inexplicable appeal of the Arizona desert—proved wonderfully useful when it came to letting her imagination run riot while putting pen to paper. She continues to make her home in Arizona with her husband and family, whom she credits with remarkable patience for the hours she spends parked in front of her computer, and more importantly, for blessing her life with the kind of love and happiness that she wants her readers to continue sharing with the characters living in the pages of her books. She loves hearing from her readers at Allison@allisonleigh.com or PO Box 40772, Mesa AZ 85274-0772.
I’m a quote collector. I love stumbling across a quip or a pondering that strikes a chord. It probably started back when I was a kid and my mother – trying to help me loosen my mind-grip on whatever was troubling me – offered the Prayer of Serenity. Now, I have the saying taped to my computer and refer to it when I’m struggling with something I have no control over. Sometimes it’s my saving grace.
Another of my favorite quote comes from the philosopher Voltaire: “Perfect is the enemy of very good.” It serves as a gentle reminder when I’m having trouble letting go of something … say, a book I’m writing… because it’s not quite there yet…. Sometimes I want to stop – or worse yet, not even start- because I can’t get it as perfect as I think it should be. Then I remember, it will never be perfect, because nothing is perfect. Perfect is, indeed, the enemy of very good.
Jordana Fortune, the heroine of my latest book, FORTUNE’S UNEXPECTED GROOM – book five in Harlequin’s latest Fortune’s of Texas series, would’ve benefitted from Voltaire’s little ditty. In her quest for perfection – being the perfect daughter; cultivating the perfect life; finding perfect love– she almost misses out on “living” altogether. That is, until fate blows her right into the arms of Tanner Redmond and turns her entire belief system upside down.
Along their journey, Tanner and Jordana realize that the most perfect kind of love is imperfect; it encourages a person to be herself and knows that even on those very human bad days there’s a safe haven in the forgiveness of unconditional love… which reminds me of another favorite quote from Marilyn Monroe: “I’m selfish, impatient and a little insecure. I make mistakes, I am out of control, and at times hard to handle. But if you can’t handle me at my worst, you sure don’t deserve me at my best.”
Those are words we can all remember when we’re feeling less than perfect.
Do you have a favorite quote? If so, please share it with us. Each person who comments will be entered in a drawing to win a copy of FORTUNE’S UNEXPECTED GROOM.
Be sure to check out all six books in the newest Fortunes of Texas: Whirlwind Romance series
FORTUNE’S CINDERELLA – by Karen Templeton
FORTUNE’S VALENTINE BRIDE – by Marie Ferrarella
MENDOZA’S MIRACLE – by Judy Duarte
FORTUNE’S HERO – by Susan Crosby
FORTUNE’S UNEXPECTED GROOM – by Nancy Robards Thompson
Coming in June 2012
FORTUNE’S PERFECT MATCH – by Allison Leigh