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Take on a project nobody else wants. "People say, 'We should create a Facebook page or Twitter stream for our company,' or 'We should start an internship program.' Everyone nods, but nobody does it," says Tory Johnson, chief executive officer of Women for Hire, which hosts women's career fairs nationwide. "Those are gems of opportunities to say, 'I'll take that on.'" The payoff? You'll meet people in other departments, build new skills, and showcase talents the company didn't know you had, making you less likely to be laid off when the next cutback comes.
Looking for work? Volunteer for a charity or nonprofit that relates to your career. Showcase your public relations skills, for example, by writing press releases for a local food pantry. If you're in technology, work with a group that brings computers to inner-city schools. "Look for an organization that has meaning to you but also is well known and prestigious," says Johnson. (Our Web site, LHJ.com/dogood, can match you with a cause.) The payoff? "You'll meet people who might hire you and end up with a success you can put on your resume," Johnson says. There's also the feel-good aspect of helping the less fortunate, which can boost your confidence and help you keep your own situation in perspective.
Andy Paige, author of Style on a Shoestring and expert on TLC's 10 Years Younger, shares her five rules for looking great every day, no matter your size, shape, or budget.
1. Wear lipstick. It only takes a couple of seconds to apply, doesn't cost much -- and it brightens your teeth and brings color to your face.
2. Showcase your waist. Wear a belt -- skinny cinchers are popular this season -- or, if you've got a tummy, a top with seams and darts that flatter.
3. Wear cute shoes. That doesn't have to mean high heels. If you're a sneaker girl, wear green ones. If you prefer flats, choose a flashy leopard-print pair.
4. Have fun with your handbag. We are a society of jeans and T-shirts (yawn). Your bag can add a note of style and color that makes you feel more polished.
5. Be unexpected. Mix masculine pants with a feminine top or add some pop to basic black with a bright-orange watch. A little style courage sparks conversation.
STEP ONE: You can reinvent yourself, says Loren Slocum, author of Life Tuneups: Your Personal Plan to Find Balance, Discover Your Passion, and Step into Greatness. Design your own ideal new life. "Think, 'What would it look like? Who would be in it? What would I be doing on a daily basis?'"
STEP TWO: Decide how to get there. If you envision writing a novel, think about enrolling in a writing class or designating a corner of the basement as your after-hours writing space.
STEP THREE: Forget the old rules. Perhaps you tried to go back to school to become a teacher 10 years ago and couldn't make it work. Don't assume the same thing will happen again. Maybe there's a new grant available. You're in a different place now, so be open to new ways to make it happen.
STEP FOUR: Make a daily move forward. "People ask me how I wrote my book," Slocum says. "I worked on it a little bit every day, maybe for half an hour." The key isn't to spend every waking moment on your goal but just to be consistent.
STEP FIVE: When you reach your goal, go to LHJ.com/lifelist to tell us your story and inspire others.
The best relationship remedy may not be a pricey getaway or couple's therapy, says Terri Orbuch, PhD, a marriage therapist and author of 5 Simple Steps to Take Your Marriage from Good to Great. Her surprising prescription: Laugh together. "We're so serious these days -- especially now, when people are concerned about economic security and job loss. But a good marriage is not just, 'Do we have enough money to pay the rent?'" she says.
Not only does laughing together relieve stress but it also helps remind the two of you what brought you together in the first place. So spend your next date night at a comedy club, snuggle on the couch for an Airplane! and This Is Spinal Tap double feature, or e-mail him your favorite YouTube video -- whatever cracks you up.
You're trying to get things done, your kids won't leave you alone, and you'd do anything for a little peace. Karen Maezen Miller, the author of Momma Zen: Walking the Crooked Path of Motherhood, says the first step toward being more patient is to focus on what's happening right at this moment. "Children are always asking for things, and you say, 'Not right now.' In return, you are asking them things and they say, 'Not right now.' It's a message of resistance and conflict," she says. Because Zen is all about paying attention, Miller's remedy is to give your kids one hour of your undivided attention every day.
She sets a kitchen timer for 60 minutes and then does whatever her daughter wants -- often playing Barbies. This isn't about getting your child to do a chosen activity, she cautions, but about following her agenda. If the thought of playing dolls for an hour throws you into a panic, the timer will remind you there's a way out. Then you can relax and give in. Do this regularly and you may find that children don't need the full hour and aren't acting up as often. If you pay attention, they won't have to misbehave to get it. Says Miller, "I have come to view attention as magic elixir."
Everyone needs a spiritual tune-up from time to time, says Bernie Siegel, MD, author of 365 Prescriptions for the Soul. When life throws you a curveball, such as illness or money troubles, it's easy to feel disconnected from your faith. When he needs a little inspiration, he says, he looks for a sign: "For me the most significant sign is a penny. Its value is in the message, not the materialism."
The face of a penny contains three messages: The word Liberty, reminding us we are all free to be ourselves. The image of Abraham Lincoln, facing forward, which reminds us to accept our mortality and live in the moment. And above all is the phrase "In God we trust." Each time Siegel finds a penny, he picks it up and spends a moment thinking about those ideas.
When he collects 100 pennies, he buys a lottery ticket, with the promise that if he wins he'll use the money to do good in the world. "I think of the found coins as pennies from heaven -- crumbs left for someone to follow home," he says. "It's an uplifting experience."
Stay connected with your girlfriends with these three R's from Irene S. Levine, PhD, a professor of psychiatry at New York University School of Medicine and author of the new book Best Friends Forever: Surviving a Breakup with Your Best Friend.
Be realistic. "At different points in a woman's life, she has more or fewer opportunities for friendships," Levine says. If your days are packed with work and family obligations, you may have to let some people go, like the childhood pal you don't have much in common with anymore or the former colleague whose conversation revolves around an office you left long ago. That leaves more time for those who mean the most to you, like the hilarious neighbor who always puts you in a great mood. It's tricky to avoid someone without hurting feelings, Levine acknowledges, but sometimes you just have to do what's best for you.
Establish rituals. "Sometimes women need to schedule friendship into their calendar," says Levine, who sees no problem with multitasking while you bond. Nearby friends might schedule a weekly grocery-store excursion or manicure get-together. As for faraway friends, you might plan a telephone date when you're both on lunch break or instant-message each other with critiques while both of you watch American Idol. Put it on your calendar and consider it sacred.
Communicate regularly. You don't have to spend hours talking. Levine has a friend who sends her a quick e-mail each morning. Other friends sneak in a few minutes by carpooling to work or walking home together from school drop-off. No matter how you do it, staying in touch helps cement a friendship.
Work, parenting, and household chores can send even the most passionate couples into a bedroom rut -- or hiatus. But getting your mojo back doesn't have to involve racy lingerie or adult videos. Try these tips from certified sex counselor Evelyn Resh, director of sexual health services at the Canyon Ranch resorts.
EVERY DAY: Get out of your head and pay attention to the sensual side of life. Savor meals sitting down, not standing up. Don't wait for a special occasion to buy flowers. Pet your dog. Listen to music you love instead of the news on the way home from work.
EVERY SO OFTEN: Just do it, even if you're not in the mood. "If you wait to have sex until you're turned on, you could be waiting for 100 years," Resh says. "Women can't rely on physical desire to drive them into being sexual because our desire can come well after we start making love. You have to will yourself into it and then your body catches up."
EVERY SIX WEEKS: Go away together without your kids for 36 hours. Resh calls this the Six Times 36 rule. Homes generally are not sexy places, she says, and sometimes you have to step away from that environment. You don't need to spend a lot of money, Resh adds: "Go to an inexpensive bed-and-breakfast or borrow a friend's vacation home."
All the Facebook status updates in the world can't replace the joy of a face-to-face connection. So get out your calendar, pick a date, and plan a reunion -- not one of those giant extended-family shindigs but something smaller and more manageable. Jennifer Trainer Thompson, author of The Joy of Family Traditions, gets together for a weekend of biking and boating at a centrally located resort every year with her cousins and their spouses and kids. Everyone takes turns making arrangements for the event, which always takes place the weekend after Labor Day, when the weather is still summery but resort prices are more affordable. (Planning far in advance can also help save money on airfare if some people have to travel long distances.) "This tradition keeps us close," Thompson says. "And our kids love it." If you live in the same town as your siblings or parents, make a habit of Sunday brunch, an afternoon of bowling, or a walk in the woods.
Originally published in Ladies' Home Journal, October 2009.