Real Talk · Uncategorized

5 questions productive people ask themselves in order to stay focused.

It happens to everyone. You sit down at your laptop to finish a project, but before long your mind starts to wander to something entirely new. Facebook starts calling. You begin browsing on Amazon. And somehow, you end up watching cat videos on YouTube and the sun is starting to set.

Don’t worry; you are not doomed to forever be a full blown scatterbrain. There are factors that can boost of break your focus. However, productive people know how to work around distractions. Start by checking on yourself often and asking these five questions.

1. How long has it been since you’ve taken a break?

Sometimes, you’re just really tired. You might not feel physically tired but a mental break is incredibly beneficial. Studies have shown that people function more effectively when they’ve had a brief mental break from their task. When your external stimuli – for example, what we see and rear – remain the same, our brains gradually stop registering those stimuli. We’re wired to pay more attention to things that are new. So please, don’t just stare at the same Word file for hours on end. Stand up, stretch your body, or skip over to a new task for a while.

2. What have you been eating?

Whether it may be surprising to you or not, the food you eat affects your focus.While there is nothing wrong with grabbing a burger for lunch, have you ever noticed how groggy you feel by the afternoon? High-fat foods require your body to work hard to break them down which leaves you with less energy to complete difficult tasks.

Fruits and veggies have the opposite effect as your hamburger. Fruits and veggies keep you more engaged, more creative and generally happier. Instead of ordering a fast food delivery, opt for a smoothie instead and let me know how you feel by the end of the work day.

3. Are you running on a good night’s sleep or just caffeine?

We’ve heard it a million times, I don’t need to tell you again. However,  I will anyways. Adults need a solid 8 hours of sleep each night. In reality though, each persons needs may vary slightly. But, if you can only get through the day thanks to your five cups of bold coffee, you might need to consider setting an earlier bed time.

Unfortunately, planning to catch up on your sleep during the weekend doesn’t work. I was reading an article recently that a Harvard Medical School study found that even with an extra 10 hours of sleep, participants’ ability to focus was less than those who received consistent sleep throughout the week.

The solution: take sleep seriously.

4. How often do you eat?

Most people go to work each day, power through any mid-morning hunger pains and then pig out on a big lunch. It is better to graze throughout the day though. The traditional meal pattern puts your body through dramatic energy drops and spikes, which is awful for productivity and self-control. Snacking during the day fuels your body by giving it a more consistent and reliable energy source.

Keeping yourself from reaching a point where you’re starving also helps with better decision making skills. We often make unhealthy food choices because we just can’t decide what to eat until we’re hungry. When you’re mentally worn out and hungry, fast food is way too appealing.

5. Is there an issue that’s stealing away your focus?

Sometimes, taking care of your health won’t be enough to beat low productivity cycles. If there is an issue that is bothering you (personal or professional), you may need to dedicate time to dealing with that. Try setting aside a specific time to address these issues. Dedicating time can mean anything from saving an hour time-slot in your workday for a task, meeting a friend after work to get something off your chest, or even seeing a professional to work through a difficult event or transition.

If you never give your brain a chance to process challenging situations, that’s where your mind will wander off to when your defences are down.

As always, don’t forget to subscribe to LiveLaughLearn.blog to stay up to date and follow on Instagram @LiveLaughLearn.blog

XOXO.

B.

 

 

Real Talk · Uncategorized

How to make your neighbourhood a community.

We all know how much this Covid period is sucking hard right now! We all feel isolated and it’s likely and understandably taken a toll on our mental health and well-being.

Here in my small Ontario, Canada town we’re allowed to socialize in groups of up to 10 people which has been great. We have a group of neighbours in our area that have become so much more than neighbours over the years and are truly some of our closest friends. Having a little community within our neighbourhood is something we always said we’d wanted when we moved in almost 4 years ago and we love it!

Do you want to live in the type of neighbourhood where kids play together in front yards and adults hang out on front porches (socially distanced obviously)? You can have that, but you might need to take steps to create it. Here are some ideas to build community in your neighbourhood…

There are days when Tyson and I will take our dog outside for a stroll down the block, and end up at an impromptu neighbourhood gathering on the sidewalk. Kids and dogs running around playing as the adults chat and catch up. Sometimes someone even says, “Hang on,” and runs inside to grab beers for all of us. I love this. It’s one of my favourite things about where we live. It’s the sort of thing you just can’t plan. But if you keep showing up and reaching out to your neighbours, this sense of community in your neighbourhood just happens organically.

Neighbourhood sense of community has been shown to be linked to so many positives: creating sense of belonging,  providing a physical and mental health boost, and even lowering crime rates. With benefits like these, we could all stand to strengthen our neighbourhood ties.

Get to know your neighbours. If you can’t name more than a neighbour or two, it’s time to introduce yourself. Even if you’ve lived in your home for a while, this first introduction doesn’t need to be awkward or a big production. Simply smile and say, “Hey, I’ve been meaning to introduce myself…”

Hang out on your porch or in your front yard. It’s hard to get to know your neighbours if you don’t ever see them. Just by being out in front of your house you can give off a welcoming vibe that encourages interaction. If we’re out in front, especially with the dog, every neighbour who walks by, even those I don’t know who may live many blocks away, still smiles and says hello before giving Winston a pat and carrying on with their walk.

Create a block directory. If you don’t yet know your neighbours, this is the perfect way to get started. It doesn’t need to be fancy. Just drop off a sign-up sheet in everyone’s mailbox and, once they return it to you, you can email the final version to everyone.

Be respectful of your neighbours. I can’t stress this one enough!! Don’t be that guy. Clean up after your dog and keep him leashed when out walking. Be aware of any disturbing noise levels that you are creating. Maintain your property and respect property boundaries. If you are that house that is continuously pumping heavy bass and loud music, you’re immediately on my shit list – be respectful!

Organize a block party. I know this might be difficult right now with Covid restrictions but you could maybe have a Drinks On Your Driveway Night. This one does involve a little work, but if you share the coordinating duties with other neighbours and keep it simple (at least that first year), this is an easy way to get to know your neighbours.

Welcome new families. You can bring a traditional baked good, but I also love the idea of welcoming newcomers by sharing your favourite local restaurants and businesses, perhaps a stack of your favourite take-out menus wrapped up in ribbon.

Celebrate NeighbourDay in April. Since 2010 Good Magazine has sponsored NeighbourDay the last Saturday of April, by providing tools and suggestions to encourage good neighbouring. You can check the website to get neighbourly inspiration from all over the globe. I didn’t know this was a thing until right now but you know next year I’ll be all over this!

Shovel your neighbour’s sidewalk when it snows, especially if it is difficult for them. If you neighbours are older or perhaps just going through a hard time with a new baby or sickness, spend a few extra minutes to clear their sidewalk too. This is no small gesture. In most cities, homeowners can actually be ticketed if their sidewalks aren’t cleared within 24 hours after it snows, even if they are out of town. Plus, you never know who will return the favour.

Support your neighbourhood schools. There is a reason the most successful schools are the ones where parents are actively engaged. Good schools have successful, if informal, partnerships between the administration, the parents and the community-at-large. Even if you don’t have kids at the school, it’s important to remember that the local school is also a member of the community, and can greatly impact the neighbourhood, positively or negatively. Our neighbourhood businesses frequently host fundraisers to benefit the local schools. If you can attend an event, you’re helping the school as well as getting to know your neighbours at a fun community event.

Address concerns or issues directly with your neighbour. Don’t let a problem fester and escalate. And, don’t immediately call to report a problem to the city or town without first trying to work it out with your neighbour directly.

Host a porch or driveway party. This is something we get up to pretty often in our neighbourhood. A good old fashion driveway hang out! Everyone brings a folding chair and a couple drinks to someones driveway and we just hang out. We often have new faces walk by and it’s a great way to introduce and welcome others to your little circle.

Shop locally if you live near a business district. You will not only see and interact with your neighbours at the local businesses and along the way, but you will also get to know your other neighbours—the local business owners and employees.

Coordinate a neighbourhood yard sale. Garage sale, tag sale, yard sale…whatever name you go by, this is a good way to clear out your home’s clutter and help your neighbours do the same.

Let your neighbours know when you will be out of town and ask them to contact you or the police if anything is suspicious. You don’t need a formalized neighbourhood watch program to keep the neighbourhood safe. If you ask your neighbours, they will likely ask you in turn, which helps to keep the neighbourhood safe for everyone.

Welcome new little ones to the neighbourhood. When I was growing up, every time one of the families had a new baby, the neighbours would decorate the families’ front porch with pink or blue ribbons. It was a small gesture, but a way of simultaneously announcing to everyone the baby’s birth and welcoming the baby into our community.

Share small neighbourhood gifts at holiday times. It’s rare that anyone gets anything fun in the mail these days. Why not surprise your neighbour with a holiday treat? Keep it simple…baked goods, seasoned popcorn, or even a bottle of wine will be welcomed by most.

Drive like your kids live here…because they do! I have become one of those people who yells, “slow down!” whenever a car speeds down our street, which means I’ve become my parents. But, I get it now. We all like to live in vibrant, bustling neighbourhoods, but this means people, especially kids, need to feel safe when walking or biking around.

What is it like in your neighbourhood? Do you have any good stories about neighbours that became friends? I’d love to hear your suggestions and what it’s like where you live!

As always, don’t forget to subscribe to LiveLaughLearn.blog to stay up to date and follow on Instagram @LiveLaughLearn.blog

XOXO.

B.

Real Talk · Uncategorized

How you can help support couples with a COVID postponed wedding.

7 Do’s and Dont’s: The New Age of Wedding Etiquette.

Chances are, we all know at lease one couple who have had to postpone their wedding because of corona virus.
With the state of the world right now, it might seem trivial to be upset about ‘just’ pushing the wedding back a calendar date. As a 2020 bride myself AND a friend trying to help other couples navigate this…I can tell you there’s a lot more to it.

In the midst of the pandemic, a handful of COVID wedding support groups have sprung up all over Facebook. (Yes, I’m in a few). I wanted real feedback to better gauge what couples impacted by corona virus are collectively feeling. So, I posed two questions:

What can family and friends do to make you feel more supported right now?
What’s helped and what hasn’t?

I quickly received over 250 comments from brides in the groups  There’s a reason these couples feel more comfortable airing their grievances to strangers. A lot of them are missing that connection with their loved ones right now.

How do couples really feel about their postponed wedding?

The couples I spoke with in this weird postponement limbo are all going through various stages of grief which I think is normal and completely fair. Heck, we’re going through them over here too.

They’re sadDisappointedConfusedfrustrated, and angry.

And all the while, they’re trying their best to put on a happy face for everyone else. They feel guilty and ashamed for feeling sad about their wedding in the middle of a pandemic.

The momentum of excitement and joy leading up to the day has been replaced with anxiety and dread. Weddings take months, even years, of time and personal savings to dream up. Consequentially, postponing the wedding often means derailing other life plans…like moving in together, starting a family, buying a home, starting a new business, etc.

For some, there is a greater sense of urgency to celebrate with aging family members or loved ones with degenerative and life threatening health conditions. Obviously, their safety and security this year has taken precedence. It stings to think about what could happen between now and then.

In particular, a postponed wedding can mean a lost opportunity to include your aging nearest and dearest. I’ve also lived that experience in the last few months and that breaks my heart everyday.

How can I support my couple who had to or may have to postpone their wedding?

If you had your dream wedding, with all your people physically present, is it really fair to say “it’s ‘just’ a wedding, focus on the marriage”?

We’ve entered a new age of wedding etiquette. Those of you who are already married will agree: planning a wedding is stressful enough. But doing it during a global pandemic? Unprecedented.

2020 couples feel robbed of that same joyous experience they’ve shared with so many of their loved ones. Weddings, like milestone birthdays, graduations, and giving birth, are rites of passage. They’re grieving the lost moment…and rightfully so.

Your step-by-step guide to supporting corona virus couples.

This post is for friends, family members, and even vendors, who want to support their couple but may not know the right things to do or say. I’m glad you’re here and thank you for making the extra effort to be more empathetic and mindful. They need your support.

This is also for all the couples out there caught up in the middle of this shit-storm. I hope this post helps you feel seen and remind you that you’re not alone. If you’re having trouble expressing how you feel right now, feel free to share the link with your people. Thank you to all of those who weighed in.

1. DO: validate their feelings.

The best thing you can do to support couples who postponed their wedding is offer a safe space to vent. It’s OK to be the first one to bring it up. Instead of assuming it’s too upsetting to talk about, let them have the option to divert the conversation or open up if they’d like to. Meet them where they’re at.

Validation + hope ✔️

  • “I’m sorry you’re going through this. You have every right to feel this way.”
  • “No matter when it happens, your day is going to be beautiful.”
  • “This totally sucks. You deserve your dream day just like everyone else.”
  • “I’ll support whatever decision is right for you.”
  • “I’m always here for you if you need to vent.”

Don’t try to sugar coat the situation or gloss over it with poorly timed humour. Keep it real and genuine. Acknowledge that none of us know what the future holds and this situation is less than ideal. Remind them their feelings are valid and just listen.

“Unless you are also a bride during this pandemic, you cannot truly understand the hardship and pain in this season. It means more when people acknowledge that. I also appreciate people just listening to how I feel.“

– Hilarie N. 2020 bride

The following are only a few of the comments couples say actually make them feel worse. I know most of these sentiments come with good intentions, but our culture of constant, upbeat positivity in the face of adversity is toxic. Ignoring or downplaying all perceived ‘negative’ emotions all the time undermines our mental health.

Toxic positivity (not this) ✘

  • “It’s a small problem in the grand scheme of things.”
  • “It’s about the marriage, not the wedding.”
  • “We’ll all laugh about this someday.”
  • “Think about the story you get to tell your kids!”
  • “Everything happens for a reason.”
  • “It will all be fine/ OK/ work out.”
  • “Weddings are overrated anyway.”
  • At least you have each other/ your health/ a roof over your head/etc.”

Showering silver linings on someone when they’re not ‘there’ yet can come off as insensitive or dismissive. “Someday” has not yet arrived for a lot of these couples- they are still living through it. And no empathetic statement has ever started with the phrase “at least.”

For someone on the receiving end, hearing things like this can make you want to punch a hole in the wall and just scream.

It’s more than OK to be grateful for what we have and sad for what we don’t. There is no right or wrong way to feel right now. 

“’At least you still get to get married.’ This statement comes with such great intentions from our loved ones BUT it just continues to remind me that our wedding day won’t be the day we dreamed of. We’ve postponed our reception, but are planning to move forward with a much smaller ceremony. Yes, I’m stoked to marry my partner, but I’m sad about postponing our party and not having all of our loved ones physically present at the ceremony.”

–  Dominique M. 2020 bride

2. DON’T: offer unsolicited advice or opinions (unless asked)

I wish this went without saying, but this is THE golden rule when it comes to weddings…ALWAYS! However, planning or re-panning a wedding during a pandemic only compounds this.

I guarantee you, your couple has spent months, pouring over the best way to move forward. Some have already paid for their wedding in full and would stand to forfeit thousands. Others who have already postponed may be mentally preparing to do it all over again.

There are a lot of alternative wedding planning ideas circulating the web right now. While I applaud those couples hosting zoom weddings or taking photos with masks, please respect that it’s not the right choice for everyone.

Unless your couple is directly seeking advice from you, please refrain from sharing opinions about what you would do or what you think they should do. Let’s keep the focus on them.

“Telling us not to worry doesn’t really take the worry away. Yes it is ‘just’ a celebration, but at the end of the day, it represents a lot more. It was meant to be the beginning of a new chapter which impacts life plans at different scales depending on relationship singularity.”

– Elizabeth R.  2020 bride

3. DO: honour the original postponed wedding date.

Even if your couple has picked new dates for their postponed wedding and/or events, they will still be sad for awhile. Especially when those dates come and go. All of those pre-set calendar countdowns are quiet reminders that this really isn’t happening.

Let your couple know you’re thinking of them and are still excited to celebrate with them. They could really use a healthy distraction or pick me up from you right now.

Free Ideas to Support corona virus Couples

  • Call or Face-time them to chat
  • Acknowledge change of date invites and RSVP asap (whether or not you plan to go)
  • Organize a drive-by parade
  • Share/tag them in old photos
  • Send voice memos or videos of your well wishes
  • Coordinate a Zoom Happy Hour

Going the Extra Mile

*** PSA: The financial burden of the pandemic has affected us all differently. Don’t feel guilty or obliged if the following suggestions are not within your means. Words of affirmation or some form of quality time (social distance style) will do the trick! ***

  • Write them a thoughtful card
  • Deck out their car or doorstep in fun decor
  • Have take out delivered or drop off baked goodies
  • Send a care package or flowers
  • Order a wedding registry item early
  • Make them something special (photo album, cake topper, etc)

“When our bachelorette trip was cancelled, my Maid of Honour arranged a surprise virtual hangout with our whole wedding party. One bridesmaid had a bottle of nice champagne delivered. Another sent soft pretzels because the bachelorette was supposed to be in Philly. When my shower was cancelled, my mom brought over a “preview” of the drinks and apps she is planning on serving when we can reschedule. All of these gestures meant so much, but really what mattered was the acknowledgement that this was super shitty.”

– Sara J. 2020 bride

4: DON’T: complain about inconvenience or change of plans.

>> Whatever you do, RESIST THE URGE TO MAKE THIS ABOUT YOU. <<

Couples are facing very limited options right now. Here are just a few examples of the roadblocks they’re hitting with a postponed wedding date. (Hint: it’s not as easy as you may think).

Even if the venue doesn’t cancel FIRST, weddings are going to look very different this year. It’s likely social distancing, sanitation rules, and public mask requirements will force concessions on almost every detail of the wedding day. Fair to say, these are not the kind of images your couple wanted to mark this milestone.

Depending on where you live in the world, some venues are also requiring couples to scale down their guest list by 50% or more to keep their 2020 date.

The hardest part of wedding planning is choosing the guest list. Please be understanding if your couple opts to move forward with a smaller ceremony (with or without you). These decision were made out of necessity, not any ill will. I promise they’re as bummed as you are.

Limited Vendor Availability and Dates.

With all spring and summer weddings being postponed right now, 2021 dates are getting booked faster than ever. Venues often book 1-2 years in advance, which means most weekend dates are not even an option. (Prepare to attend a lot of weekday weddings next year!)

Many couples have found themselves in the unfortunate predicament of either ‘riding it out’ and hoping for normalcy or not being able to secure a new date with all their original vendors. Depending on the vendor, a postponed wedding date may also come with additional rescheduling fees.

Travel Restrictions and Mandated Quarantines.

If the postponed wedding requires travel, of course it’s a drag for you to re-book your flights, hotels etc for new dates. But right now, no one is more inconvenienced, emotionally and financially, than your couple.

It’s a strange year for destination weddings. Couples are wary of borders shutting down, mandated 2-week quarantines upon arrival, or even getting stuck at their destination indefinitely. Some guests may not even be able to secure a passport this year.

“I was supposed to be getting married on November 6, 2020. But with all the speculation of this coming back in the fall and my venue only having 1 date open next July, we postponed out of an abundance of caution. I am sad but ultimately feel it was the best decision.”

– Lisa A. 2020 bride

5. DO: check in on them.

You might think it’s better to ignore the situation because you’re scared of causing hurt or building more tension. But your silence can feel a lot more like indifference.

Unless they tell you they don’t want to talk about it, assume it would mean a lot to hear from you. Don’t be afraid to bring it up first. Because the last thing you want to do when you feel like crap is initiate a conversation to talk about your crap. (Am I right?)

We all speak different love languages. If you’re not a big talker, maybe you can send your couple something sweet or write a heartfelt note. If you’re not a good gift giver, offering to help with a wedding related task can go a long way too. (More on that below).

“Our wedding was so close and the second we rescheduled, everyone stopped talking about it. It’s just hard to get excited anymore. With our original date approaching, not having anyone check in has been the most hurtful.”

– Allie V. 2020 bride

6. DON’T: ask too many logistical questions.

Honestly, the last thing your couple needs right now is to be bombarded with questions about their plans. Especially logistical questions that cause more work for them. This is a quick way to ramp up anxiety and stress.

Weddings have so many moving parts. Your couple is essentially back to square one with their planning: trimming the guest list, revisiting their contracts, lining up vendor availability, re-booking events, travel, appointments, etc.

Give your couple time to process what they’re going through. Needless to say, they are asking the same questions as you, but on steroids. Trust that they’ll send you updated information as soon as they can.

“I’m chronically ill- the stress of planning the first wedding, then changing it to adapt to restrictions, then cancelling was so tough. I’m not sure I’m ready to pick myself back up and plan another wedding when the world is still in chaos. I don’t mind people asking if we are going to have a reception, but trying to narrow down a time frame when we’re only just getting back to normal is hard.”

– Regina W. 2020 bride

7. DO: offer specific ways to help.

“Let me know how I can help” is always a kind sentiment…but does it actually help? It’s a passive phrase that is unlikely to lead to any sort of action from either party. Coming up with ideas on how to delegate tasks has the adverse effect of creating more work for your couple.

In this situation, it will probably be more helpful to be pro-active with suggestions. Offer to take on tangible tasks or favours. Re-frame the question to, “Would it be helpful for you if I ____?

Struggling to come up with ideas? Here’s a short list of ways you can support your couple right now. Crossing anything off their to-do list right now will be a relief.

Actionable Ideas to Help Couples Affected by corona-virus.

  • Field and answer follow up questions from guests
  • Plan a virtual happy hour or game night for rescheduled bachelor/bachelorette parties
  • Help design/come up with verbiage for change of date invites or website
  • Offer to store their wedding decor or the dress
  • Research/refer new vendors (if they lose some with a date change)
  • Honour original payment dates for wardrobe/accommodations/etc (if you can swing it)
  • Start a DIY wedding project to work on together for the new date

“It’s a difficult time for everyone and all of us are not the best versions of ourselves, regardless if one is a bride or not. I think what would be helpful for me is to simply check in. Ask how we’re doing navigating through this loss, ask how one can help, and just listen. Offer love and support like one would at any other time, without soliciting unwanted advice/relatable thoughts, because the reality is, no one can really relate unless one is also a COVID bride.” 

– Jamie D. 2020 bride

postponed wedding = opportunity to strengthen relationships.

To all of the couples out there who were forced to postpone or cancel their weddings: I am so truly sorry. Give yourselves the grace and space right now to sit with your feelings. The way you process this experience is personal, but take comfort in the fact that you are not alone.

You are loved, you are deserving, and you are strongYou got this.

And to everyone else out there, thank you for going out of your way to be there for your couples. I understand supporting loved ones is a form of emotional labour, especially in the middle of a pandemic. You’re an amazing friend/family member/co-worker/person.

(It’s also important to acknowledge that not everyone has the capacity to hold this kind of space right now and that’s more than OK too. 

While social distancing forces us to be apart, we can take this opportunity to slow down and strengthen our relationships with each other. It’s a scientific fact that connecting with loved ones boosts our mental health and bolsters resilience. And we need love more than ever to get us through this. By spreading kindness we can also do our part to spread health.

If you are a fellow COVID bride or a great friend to one, let me know in the comments.

As always, don’t forget to subscribe to LiveLaughLearn.blog to stay up to date and follow on Instagram @LiveLaughLearn.blog

XOXO.

B.