Fitness and Stress Management

Stress and physical activity are things that we deal with daily, but you may be surprised at how related they are. Even a small amount of physical fitness can boost your “feel good” endorphins and act as a distraction from day-to-day worries and stressors. If you find yourself stressed on a regular basis, exercise could be a healthy form of stress management.

Exercise and physical activity increases neurotransmitters called endorphins. If you have ever heard anyone talk about a “runner’s high,” they are actually referring to the increase in endorphins they experience from the act of physical activity. Endorphins trigger positive feelings in the body similar to morphine without the negative effects of drug use/abuse. Endorphins are also known to act as analgesic, which means they diminish the perception of pain. They also act as a sedative and can increase healthy sleep patterns, which are directly related to stress, anxiety, and depression.

While involved in a high paced activity, you will often find yourself concentrating on your bodily movements, rather than concentrating on the day-to-day irritations and stressors. As a result, many find themselves able to focus on tasks better, tackle projects with increased energy and enthusiasm, and have a more optimistic attitude in general.

Even if exercise has not been a word in your vocabulary for quite some time, building up levels of physical activity can have immediate positive effects on your overall wellbeing. If it has been awhile, start slow and increase as you go along. It helps to choose activities that you already find enjoyable.

Also, pencil in some physical activity on your weekly agenda; this will help you stick with goals you set for yourself. Exercise is worth the time slot in your schedule as regular exercise has been proven to reduce stress levels, boost self-esteem, ward off anxiety and depression, and improve sleep.

Keeping Yourself Relevant in the Workplace

Whether you just started a new position or you’ve been in the same position for 10 years, it’s important to remain relevant in your field for your own confidence as well as potential job progression. Here are a few ways to keep yourself relevant in the workplace:

  • Develop your skills: Stay updated on publications, technologies, and processes related to your profession.
  • Invest in yourself: If you aren’t willing to invest in yourself, then who will? Look for seminars, trainings, and books that will develop you as a professional but not break the bank.
  • Join a professional association: Professional associations allow you to network, provide you with training opportunities, send out newsletters with valuable information, and hold conferences.
  • Volunteer: Consider volunteering a few hours a week at an association that you feel an affinity toward. Volunteering can push you out of your comfort zone and help you to grow.
  • Network: Networking is not the same as job searching. Talking to other professionals in your field helps you to grow and remain relevant among your colleagues.
  • Hone your leadership skills: Never shy away from an opportunity to lead something. This not only helps you to develop and refine skills but also creates visibility in the workplace.
  • Challenge yourself: Seek out opportunities to step outside of your comfort zone and help you to grow- even if you can’t see how it relates to your career at the time. Any confidence you gain in your personal life will translate to your professional life.

Retirement Savings: Focus on Starting Today

If you’re just beginning to put money away for retirement, start saving and investing as much as you can now and let compound interest have an opportunity to work in your favor. The more you can invest when you’re young, the better off you’ll be. If a 25 year old starts investing $75 per month, they will have more money by age 65 than someone that starts at 35 years old investing $100 per month due to interest.

  • Rather than thinking, “I will start my retirement for a New Year’s resolution,” START NOW!
  • Make sure to at least match your employers’ 401k contribution percentage.
  • Check with your HR department to see if you employer offers Roth and Traditional 401k plans and see which better suits your retirement plans by asking more questions.

Another way to start saving for retirement is to rein in your spending. Examine your budget and see where you are spending too much money and what you could start saving for the future. This will also help you to set up a realistic spending plan for when you are retired.

Tips to Survive Holiday Parties

Holiday parties mean that it’s time to make small talk and catch up with people that you don’t see very often. If you are like most people, these conversations can sometimes be awkward or uncomfortable. Having a few topics that you enjoy talking about in your holiday party communication toolbox can be really helpful. Here are a few tips to remember as you step outside your comfort zone.

When adding topics to the list, it is always best to avoid topics that can get heated and lead to debate such as politics, religion, gossip, or anything depressing in nature.

Show genuine interest.

Show the other person that you are paying attention by nodding your head, responding appropriately, and asking related questions. It is important not to let them see that you are scanning the room for people you know, watching the food line, or planning your escape to move to the next mingling group.

Be aware of your body language.

To show someone that you are right there with them in the conversation you should face them, make eye contact, and/or lean forward a bit. Pay attention to your facial expressions and the position of your body. Having a blank expression and having your hips and toes pointed away from the person send the message that you are not interested and plan on moving away at the soonest opportunity.

Do your homework.

Plan on talking about a great movie you saw, a good book, plans for the holidays or your favorite vacation spots. These are topics that will make talking with people that you do not usually talk to on a daily basis much easier.

Listen.

Many of us are way too busy talking about ourselves or thinking about what we will say next. How many times have you been in a conversation and realized you just asked a question that someone else asked only a few minutes earlier? A good rule is to listen 60 percent of the time and ask questions the other 40 percent of the time.

Ask Questions.

Asking questions shows the other person that you are interested. Although many people can go on and on with good stories or witty statements to amuse an audience, this does not help the discovery phase of conversation. Bonds are formed during this stage of conversation. If you know that the person has children, ask “how old are your children?”, “Do they play any sports?”, ”What do they want for Christmas this year?”

Team up with your guest.

If you take a date or friend with you, stay with them. While you should not stick to your guest like glue, you do not want to let them wonder around aimlessly not knowing anyone and feeling very uncomfortable. If your guest is a sports fan and you are not, they can help break the ice with a fellow sports fan. Remember to always introduce your guest and include them into the conversation.

Practice the art of excusing yourself.

Some people get caught up on a certain topic and are blissfully unaware of others’ discomfort. If you have been trapped in a conversation for too long you can gracefully exit by making a brief summarizing statement followed by your exit statement, for example, “sounds like you really struggled through that stomach illness, glad you are feeling better. If you’ll excuse me I think I need to freshen up my drink”.

Do talk about the holidays.

This can lead to many different discussions from holiday travel, gift buying, decorating, holiday activities, and holiday traditions. It is an appropriate conversation for the season.

Don’t talk about work.

Although work is the one thing you have in common at events such as office holiday parties, it is not the time to schedule a meeting or finalize project plans. It is okay to briefly mention work news and developments, but not okay to complain unpleasant things about work.

Say Thank you.

Before leaving the party be sure to thank your host. Remember to thank you guest for attending. It is a lot of planning and work to throw a holiday party, let everyone know that you appreciate their efforts.

Being able to communicate at holiday parties will give you the people skills that you need to successfully survive the event. The communication skills developed at these events are skills that you can use all year long in your career, social circles, and family events.

Veterans Day Thoughts

By Dan Frank
CEO,  Three Wire Systems, LLC

America spoke, Trump is our next president. Where does he go from here on one of his key campaign issues of veteran support? Let me guide the way.

A recent Small Business Administration (SBA) study found that military service exhibits one of the largest marginal effects on self-employment, and veterans are 45 percent more likely to be self-employed than non-veterans. Historically, 50 percent of World War II vets went on to own or operate a business and that 40 percent of Korean War vets did the same thing creating millions of jobs for of their fellow citizens.

In stark contrast to these statistics, consider that since 9/11, only 162,000 veteran businesses have been creating 324,000 jobs. Hypothetically, using Korean War rate discussed above, our most recent veteran generation should have started 1.4 million companies employing in excess of 2.5 million jobs. Veteran entrepreneurship is on the decline. Why?

It’s complicated, but here is an anecdotal account: Last week I attended the Department of Veterans Affairs National Veterans Small Business Engagement conference in Minneapolis. As an old, bald guy, I noticed lots of other old people in attendance. Essentially zero millennials or Gen X in attendance.

Are the young vet guys/gals developing the next ride haling app and chasing venture dollars in Silicon Valley? Most certainly are not doing this. It simply appears that more vets now “get a job and settle” according to Joseph Kopser an Army veteran and co-founder the Ride-Scout app. He blames a lack of in-service mentorship opportunities for current military members. But is it DoD’s job to prepare transitioning service members for entrepreneurship?

So here is the Big Idea for a scalable veteran entrepreneurship program for President-elect Trump.

The Post-9/11 GI Bill is the Cadillac of all GI Bills and already encompasses rich benefits. Entrepreneurship training is covered, but only thru Small Business Development Centers (SBDC) run by the SBA.

First, let’s eliminate this rule and expand the options from government run facilities and programs. There are plenty of co-work spaces, non-profits, contractors and volunteers to create an eco-system of options for the budding vet entrepreneur. One option run by the government is ridiculous. Entrepreneurship is not a government core competency.

Secondly, for veterans not interested in a college education track, let them take the equivalent tuition and stipend funding they would have received for their college education and let them use it either fund their business or offset living expenses during their business start-up phase. This will require oversight to ensure that the vet is legitimately involved in their business, but program oversight is a government core competency.

Finally, let’s move upstream with entrepreneurship education within DoD as suggested by Army vet Kopser. There is a huge opportunity within the DoD/VA Transition Assistance Program (TAP). Every transitioning service member must attend TAP classes as they transition from the military to civilian life. For those soon to be vets interested in self-employment, a breakout class could be offered and designed to incorporate the details of my first two suggestions above.

With the right training and funding, I believe we can increase interest and change the downward trajectory of veteran owned businesses. President-elect Trump, Three Wire stands ready to serve.