Break Up with Workday Stress

by Jackie

You know the feeling: Your phone keeps buzzing, every email in your inbox is marked “URGENT,” and you have to have a meeting on the way to a meeting because your calendar has less space than you did on the train ride to work. I don’t know how it happened, but at some point, we’ve accepted stress as a normal part of life. Over time, these everyday pressures can have adverse effects on how we relate to others, our productivity, and our health. Here are some of my quick fixes for stressful moments:


My BFF sent me this URL via Gchat and I have been sharing it widely ever since. Click if you dare to be calm, and enjoy relaxing scenes from nature and meditative sounds. You can choose to play the scenes on loop or select 2-, 5-, or up to 20-minute guided sessions. Put on your headphones and give yourself a moment of peace.

Take a Walk

(Photo: IG @jax1125)

Constitution Gardens, Washington, DC. (Photo: IG @jax1125)

Unless you work in a hospital, you can take a 15-minute break to take a walk away from your stressful environment and get some fresh air. Don’t forget to leave your cell phone and your iPad behind.

Make Yourself a Calendar Item

Tres Leches, Cuba Libre (Photo: iPhone5)

Tres Leches, Cuba Libre (Photo: iPhone5)

Had to eat lunch at your desk? Again? Make a date with yourself after work to indulge in something sweet. Happy hour can be fun, but the noise of it all can just add more stress to your day. Every once in a while, put some “me time” on your calendar and enjoy your own company. You’ll have something yummy to look forward to throughout the day.


Visit Paradise on a Budget

by Jackie

Treat yourself without cheating your budget. (Photo: Negril Treehouse Resort, by Almenia J. Photography.)

Treat yourself without cheating your budget. (Photo: Negril Treehouse Resort, by Almenia J. Photography.)

Vacations should relieve stress, not add to it, but paying for pricey flights and expensive hotels can seem more burdensome than the rat race that you’re trying to escape. Don’t let costs dissuade you from taking a much-needed break and going on an adventure.  By taking a few easy steps, you can have a sunny getaway without burning through your bank account.

1. Stalk deals.

The same strategy that you use to hunt down a pair of new pumps applies to vacation shopping — relentlessly pursue sales.  I have a bevy of travel apps downloaded to my phone that alert me to deals. Travelzoo, Airfarewatchdog, and Kayak are some of my faves. I also check Living Social Escapes and Groupon Getaways often. In addition to deep discounts, apps and sites like these can give you ideas for travel destinations that you may not have thought of otherwise.

2. Plan early.

While there a plenty of last-minute deals on hotels and even some on airfare, I’m too much of a scaredy-cat to leave my accommodations to chance. I may have an adventurous spirit, but I can’t take the anxiety of last-minute travel. I look for deals with long lead times to minimize blackout dates. Planning early also means that I have time to open and contribute to a dedicated vacation bank account to stash spending money for the trip. Months ahead of boarding my flight, I create a budget and start cutting down on superfluous spending. Skipping happy hours, packing brown bag lunches, and turning my bathroom into a salon means extra cash for fun in the sun.

3. Be flexible.

Don’t be afraid to think outside of the box. I got the idea to visit Negril, Jamaica on a random winter day scrolling through vacation deals. I was determined to find something, anything. I found an unbelievable deal at the Negril Treehouse Resort that I could not pass up. I did not set out to go to Jamaica. I set out to go to a beach — any beach — and it just so happens that the beach in Negril stretches across seven glorious miles. Don’t be discouraged if your trip dream trip to Saint-Tropez seems out of reach, check out Toronto in the meantime. Having an open mind gives you more options when it comes to traveling on a budget.

4. Give yourself an allowance.

I didn’t get an allowance as a child, I washed the dishes for free and cleaned my room because I was supposed to. As an adult,  I now see the value in setting aside small amounts of  money. Before you go on vacation, do some research and find out what you’ll need to spend daily. My latest vacation package included breakfast. I only needed to allot money for frozen cocktails and dinner each day (I usually don’t have time for lunch with all the napping I do on the sand). Because I planned early, I was able to research tours and activities and plan accordingly. Sticking to my daily budget  was actually a liberating experience because I did not have to worry about running out of money or using my credit card. Give yourself some emergency money, though. You never know what may happen.

5. Just Say ‘No’ to souvenirs.

You don’t need any souvenirs, nor do your family members, coworkers, or friends. Take pictures and savor the moment. Screen-print tees, shot glasses, and Wish-You-Were-Here picture frames usually end up as White Elephant gifts during the holidays (sorry, but it’s true). The best gift you can give anyone, including yourself, after a getaway is your vibrant, relaxed energy — it’s the gift that keeps on giving.

Thinking Outside the Cubicle: Working Art

Stephanie is turning her childhood dream into her reality.

by Jackie

Some of the world’s most acclaimed talents have been discovered in church. Stephanie Kiah’s skills, however, were to be seen, not heard. Armed with paper and a pencil, the young artist accompanied her mother to Sunday services, capturing fellow churchgoers in detailed drawings in her notebook. Unlike the forgotten doodles in discarded marble composition notebooks the world over, Stephanie’s childhood drawings were just sketches of what was to come.

When did you first become interested art?

After my mother discovered my drawings in church, my elementary school teachers recognized my talent, and I enrolled in the Gifted and Talented Art program. I took part in advanced art classes all growing up.

Art came as a natural choice for a college major, and I attended Norfolk State University where I graduated with a BA in Fine Art in 2009. Surprisingly, it wasn’t until after college that I grew truly passionate about my art.

When did you make the decision to turn your passion into a gig?

Discouraged after not being accepted into the grad program I wanted, working a string of dead-end jobs, and being unsuccessful at landing even a simple “good job,” I decided to relocate to a place where I could try to find myself again. For me, that place was Washington, D.C. Luckily I was able to stay with my cousin in the city for a while as I gained my footing. Once I moved out on my own, my art became a necessary source of income along with my other part-time jobs in order for me to continue living in the city.

What advice would you give other young professionals who feel stuck at a 9-5?

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Think Outside the Cubicle: Feeding Your Passion

by Jackie

At graduation ceremonies the world over commencement speakers  invoke overused clichés that boil down to this: “Follow your dreams.” The often too-long speech can lose its luster in the real world, though. In the face of bills, under the  pressure to achieve, and behind life’s everyday stresses, dreams can fade into fantasies. Tomica Burke, head chef and owner of recently launched catering company TomCookery, refused to let her dreams die at the 9-to-5.


When did you first become interested in culinary arts?

I have been interested in cooking for as long as I can remember. I wrote my first “cookbook” as a senior in high school.  The recipes were based on the cuisine from my southern and Barbadian sides of my family.  That same southern/Caribbean fusion is what inspired my catering company, TomCookery.

Before striking out on your own, how did you balance your day job with pursuing your passion?

I am a lawyer by trade and the law is a jealous lover.  I has been quite the tenuous balancing act.  During my third year of law school, I started taking classes at the Institute for Culinary Education to refine my craft.  I entertained my friends at my home, and occasionally catered parties.  Once I started practicing law, however, it became harder to host parties and cater for friends.  I will never forget catering my best friend’s baby shower the same time I was working at the firm.  I started cooking  right after I got off work the night before the event.  I didn’t sleep at all and was a zombie the next day.  After that, I decided that I had to put a moratorium on catering until I quit my job. I wanted to be able to commit to cooking full time, because it was something I felt so passionate about.

When did you decide to turn your passion into a full-time gig?

I made the decision in phases.  I’m a risk adverse lawyer after all.  I got an opportunity to help a New York-based caterer for his holiday busy season.  After working at the firm during the day, I met him in the evenings to do parties.  I was living a double life, but it was exhilarating!  When I received my first check from him, I realized that I could cook for a living.  I may not make as much as I made as a lawyer, but I knew I could survive.  This gave me the courage to quit my day job and start building the TomCookery Catering concept. About a year later, we officially launched. I’ve never felt more fulfilled.


What advice would you give other young professionals who feel stuck at a 9-to-5?  Continue reading

5 Steps to Creating Your Authentic Career

Courtesy of

Ruchira Agrawal, Inner Veda

SANTA CLARA, CA — With the recent recession and string of corporate lay-offs, many have found themselves at a career crossroads, wondering what to do next in terms of work. While this can be challenging, it can also be an opportunity to walk towards your passions and dreams. This can be your chance to re-invent yourself including your work. What kind of a career will make you feel alive and meaningful?

Lots of people spend their lives involved in work they are unhappy about, perhaps the thought of making a career change seems daunting or they might not know what else to do. Staying in that place for an extended period of time can have a negative impact on one’s relationships, energy and well-being. If you’re contemplating finding an ideal career, find one that’s authentic and that fits who you are. Here are some steps to help you:

1. Make a conscious choice and work towards exploring your second career options.

2. Get to know yourself and get familiar with your strengths, passions, interests, and worth.

3. Listen to your intuition and take time to connect with it. See where it guides you.

4. Know what you want to do. Take time to figure that out and honor your inner truth.

5. Take action! Start exploring your career options and read career descriptions to see if there’s anything that feels like a good fit.

Facebook: Should You Use It At Work?

Courtesy of The Vault

There’s a lot going on in Employers vs. Facebook news. Wednesday, legislators in the state of Maryland passed a bill banning employer requests for employees’ and job candidates’ social media passwords.

Thursday morning, Facebook announced plans to provide its users with “archives” of data the company stores–helping Facebookers of what information is floating around the internet.

This is all great news for job seekers seeking more privacy protections for their online activities. But as much has been said about workers’ online lives outside of work, little has been mentioned about the use of social media sites at work.

Generally, it’s safe to assume that all parties think it’s a bad idea: employers bristle at the notion of paying employees to tweet or update their statuses (even if they don’t block social sites at the workplace), and employees who don’t want to look lazy will deny their extracurricular online activities.

But maybe all this shame and secrecy is unfounded. Can checking Facebook at work really be so bad?

Not so shockingly, it’s not. In fact, new research says Facebook on your breaks—or any other fun web surfing–might actually boost your productivity.

To test this theory, Academy of Management experiment gave three groups of people a simple task–highlighting letter A’s in a large block of text—then gave them each three different rest activities. One group put together bundles of sticks, another rested without internet (but could call friends, etc), and a third was allowed to surf the web.

When each of the groups had their “mental exhaustion” surveyed after the 10 minute break, it was discovered that internet users were 16% more productive than the offline group, and 39% more productive than the group that had continued working with the sticks.

Awesome, right?

Of course, longer, more active breaks (perhaps those including sunshine and exercise) are probably the most preferable rest you can get. But the all-encapsulating mental vacation that is mindless web browsing is pretty powerful stuff, and the biggest bang for your time buck. Considering many workers are too worried about job security to take real lunch breaks, or even their vacation days, it’s worth allowing.

So until the workplace gets a little less stressful for everyone, employers: can we get a little looking-the-other way on our Pinterest habit?

–Cathy Vandewater,