Taking care of your stressed self

Are You Okay?: Caring for Yourself in the Midst of Stress
Marla Tomazin shares seven strategies that will help you to focus on your own
well-being—and to feel a little bit better—in the midst of one of life’s rough patches.

New York, NY (June 2013)—Everyone goes through rough spots in life—it’s an unfortunate but unavoidable fact. You might feel worried about an upcoming move, overwhelmed as you try to deal with an illness in your family, or anxious about a looming project at work. Maybe you’re simply worn down by the never-ending stress and relentlessly hectic pace of modern life. If so, you’re not alone.

“I can sympathize—I went through a rough spot myself recently,” says Marla Tomazin, who has been an image consultant for twenty years after earlier experience in the fashion industry.

“Due to several different factors, I was extremely busy for several months,” she explains. “When I’m under pressure, I become stressed (no surprise there, I imagine!) and feel ‘wired,’ meaning that I go to sleep later at night and wake up early each morning. And, of course, because I’m perpetually tired, I tend to worry more about significant and insignificant things. Not a very healthy cycle to be caught in.”

After one particularly crazy day, Tomazin says, it occurred to her that she should take her own advice.

“When I’m working with clients, I focus not just on outward appearance but on the whole mind-body-spirit connection,” she shares. “I always urge my clients to take care of and honor themselves in all situations, but especially when life is chaotic. If you don’t focus on your own well-being when times are tough, you won’t have the mental, emotional, or physical energy you need to change external circumstances for the better, either.”

Here, Tomazin shares a few taking-care-of-yourself strategies that have been helpful to her, and that you can put into practice to help you make it through the next rough spot in your life, too.

Realize that things will get better. When you’re in the midst of a tough time, it’s easy to believe that things will never change. But sooner or later, there’s always a light at the end of the tunnel. No matter how you feel right now, the truth is that you won’t be stressed, anxious, or overwhelmed for the rest of your life.

“Think back on past obstacles you’ve overcome to give yourself motivation to press on and ask a trusted friend or family member to help you put your current struggle into perspective,” Tomazin suggests. “This last strategy is particularly effective because not only will sharing your burden help to lighten it; the other person might be able to help you think of solutions you were unable to see on your own.”

Hydrate. Drinking water might seem a little odd at first glance, but it’s actually one of the best things you can do to keep yourself looking and feeling good when you’re under stress. Staying hydrated helps you stay energized, ensures that your body operates optimally, and can even improve the appearance of your skin (a welcome gift when you’re worried and tired!).

“Personally, I drink a quart of water every morning, and I carry a bottle with me throughout the day,” Tomazin says. “I can tell that it makes a difference!”

Exercise. Working out is often the last thing you want to do when life is tough. (Flopping onto the couch probably sounds a lot more attractive!) But the truth is, even a little bit of physical activity can work wonders in terms of how you feel. Exercise makes you feel more capable mentally and physically. It can help you sleep better, reduce feelings of stress, and even relieve symptoms of depression as effectively as medication.

“In other words, a half-hour at the gym or a walk around the block is one of the best decisions you can make,” Tomazin asserts. “That’s why, no matter how busy or unmotivated I am, I commit to working out at least two days a week.”

Give yourself credit. When you’re upset or worried about one aspect of your life, those feelings can easily spill over into your general attitude and outlook. You start looking at your whole life through a negative lens, and you might start to focus on the mistakes you’ve made and the things you could have done better.

“If that sounds familiar, stop!” Tomazin urges. “Think of one, or two, or ten or twenty things you’ve done well in the recent past and give yourself credit for accomplishing them. Remember, nobody is even remotely close to perfect. Don’t make a tough situation even worse by remaining your own worst critic.”

Prioritize. Especially when you’re feeling overwhelmed or stressed, it’s tempting to fixate on each shiny ball that rolls past instead of directing your energy and attention to the problem at hand. When your efforts are scattered, though, nothing gets done, and you end up feeling even more frazzled than you did at first. Remember, you can focus only on one or two big goals at a time, no matter how adept you are at multitasking.

“As you work through the next rough spot in your life, sit down and decide what is most important to you,” Tomazin recommends. “If spending time with your family is at the top of your list, for example, put them first and consciously make sure that other things remain on the back burner.”

Say no. Many of us have trouble saying no for a variety of reasons: We don’t want to let others down, we don’t want to be seen as weak, we’re afraid to refuse, etc. However, until you learn to say no when you need to, you’ll never be in the driver’s seat of your own life, and it will be more difficult to steer yourself out of draining, stressful situations.

“Realize that you don’t have to do it all—nor should you,” Tomazin points out. “You don’t have to make every decision, supervise every person’s schedule, chair every event, host every party, and come to the rescue every time something goes wrong. Again, decide ahead of time what’s most important to you and prioritize those things. Then you can feel okay about saying no to some of the rest and focus on working toward your own well-being.”

Take time for yourself. Whether the current demands on your energy and time are coming from your family, your job, your friends, your finances, or something else, it’s important to “get away” every so often—literally or at least metaphorically.

“To make sure that you don’t become too drained and burned out, do something for yourself,” Tomazin urges. “Maybe it’s sitting down to enjoy a cup of coffee in the midst of running errands, locking the bathroom door and taking a bubble bath, reading a motivational book during your lunch break, or going on a walk through the park. When you unwind and take a breather, your perspective will stay clearer and your stress will be more manageable.”

“In the end, you can’t avoid going through rough times in life, but you can decide how to respond to them,” Tomazin concludes. “Remember that your own health and sanity are paramount, and most of all, have confidence that the sun will emerge from behind the clouds soon!”

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About Marla Tomazin:
Marla Tomazin, Certified Image Consultant, established her image consulting business in 1990 with the goal of helping clients identify an authentic image and develop its effective expression.
From a successful career in the fashion industry, Marla gained expertise in retail buying, merchandising, sales, and marketing. She began with May Company in Denver after earning a B.S. in Marketing from the University of Denver. Marla moved to New York where she worked with several well-known Seventh Avenue design firms. As she developed her business skills, Marla made a serendipitous discovery—an innate sense of style and facility for working with fabrics and colors to maximum advantage.

The progression to Certified Image Consultant was a natural transition. Marla utilizes her abilities in evaluating body shape, movement, and coloring as well as synthesizing optimal cuts, lines, colors, and textures. This results in balance and proportion that accentuate attributes and conceal flaws. Her clients include women, men, and corporations seeking external revitalization that mirrors their internal development.

This New Year, Resolve To Get More Sleep

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(StatePoint) There are many popular New Year’s resolutions that quickly come and go: eating healthy, losing weight, managing stress and saving money. In 2013, why not focus on one health change you’ll enjoy sticking to… getting more sleep.

According to the National Sleep Foundation, the average American sleeps about six hours and 55 minutes per night during the week, and 15 percent of adults sleep less than six hours per night.

“Lack of sleep can take a significant toll on your overall health and interfere with some of your daily activities,” said Dr. Michael Thorpy, director of the Sleep-Wake Disorders Center at the Montefiore Medical Center in New York.

Almost everybody has trouble sleeping now and then, but many Americans experience significant problems getting to sleep or continually wake up in the middle of the night and can’t fall back asleep.

Such problems may be clinical symptoms of insomnia. According to the National Sleep Foundation, if you have trouble falling asleep at night or staying asleep, or you wake up in the morning feeling unrefreshed, you may be suffering from insomnia.

Insomnia can affect people in different ways. Some sufferers have trouble initially getting to sleep, while others wake up in the middle of the night and have difficulty falling back asleep.

To help you get better sleep this year, Dr. Thorpy suggests these simple tips:

• Set and stick to a sleep schedule. Establish a regular bedtime and wake time.

• Set aside time at night to “wind down.” Spend some quiet time before bedtime. Such activities as watching TV, using the computer or working right before bedtime, or in the bedroom, can make it harder to fall asleep.

• Avoid caffeine and alcohol before bed.

• Exercise regularly. Just don’t exercise rigorously near bedtime and check with your doctor before starting an exercise regimen.

• Don’t clock-watch. If you awaken in the middle of the night and stay in bed, don’t lie there staring at the clock. And don’t watch TV or use your laptop or cell phone, because these technologies stimulate the brain, making it tougher to fall back to sleep.

If these tips don’t help, speak with your healthcare professional to help determine if you are suffering from insomnia and require treatment.

More information regarding insomnia is available at the National Sleep Foundation website at www.sleepfoundation.org.

8 Tips for Surviving Holiday Travel with Your Kids

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Traffic, TSA, and Tantrums, Oh My!: Eight Tips for Surviving Holiday Travel with Your Kids

If you’ve ever traveled with kids (especially over the holidays), you know it’s an adventure. More accurately, it’s a slapstick, Murphy’s-Law, Griswold-family type of adventure. There are poorly timed poops. Lost pacifiers. Traffic jams and road construction. A beyond-awkward screening at airport security as you’re pulled into secondary and patted down while you try to comfort a screaming baby. Having every nook and cranny of your carry-on luggage searched—and subsequently rearranged—so you can’t find anything. The overhead speakers announcing that your departing flight is boarding while you’re in a completely different terminal.

And the list goes on. There are as many potential travel mishaps as there are families with kids. But take a deep breath: According to Princess Ivana Pignatelli Aragona Cortes, holiday travel doesn’t have to be complicated.

“The better organized you are, the easier it gets,” says Ivana, who is a featured blogger at Modern Mom, founder of Princess Ivana—The Modern Princess, and coauthor of the upcoming book A Simple Guide to Pregnancy & Baby’s First Year. “Yes, I know that this sort of ‘be prepared’ advice sounds simplistic, but that’s the beauty of it—it is! With the right information and a willingness to think ahead, you can save yourself a Santa’s sackful of stress.”

Ivana speaks from experience. While she’s a modern-day princess, she comes from modest means and met her Prince Charming while on scholarship at Pepperdine. What’s more, she has worked with children for over twenty years, has a master’s degree in education, and is a digital strategy consultant. But Ivana’s most valuable source of education by far, she says, is her experience as a mother of two.

“I’m an American who married an Italian, so my family flies fairly frequently,” she shares. “Over time, I’ve learned a lot of travel-disaster lessons in the School of Hard Knocks—and I’ve also developed some crisis-averting strategies that have turned out to be real lifesavers.”

Whether you are traveling near or far, these eight survival tips from Ivana will help make your family trip the wonderful adventure it should be.

Plan ahead. And plan some more. In other words, make a list and check it twice. Write down everything you’ll need while you’re away from home, and do so as far in advance as possible (then put the list in your suitcase so you can use it as a guideline when you’re repacking to come home). Give yourself plenty of time to consider your travel schedule and think through all possible scenarios (e.g., Will there be naptimes and mealtimes? If so, how many?) and what you’ll need to handle these situations.

“For example, if you are going to be mid-flight during naptime, make sure you have sleep essentials like lovies, and also pack a distraction like a portable DVD player in case sleep doesn’t happen and you have a cranky kid on your hands,” Ivana suggests. “It’s also a good idea to check any connecting destinations for restaurants or kid-friendly areas so that you can refuel and kids can burn off energy in between flights.”

Travel light(ish). Yes, this is definitely easier said than done—but it’s not impossible. Ivana advises packing everything you can a day or two before your departure, perhaps while the kids are asleep so that you can focus. Use the list you made earlier and don’t second-guess yourself. Remember, there are probably plenty of stores at your destination if you forget something.

“Speaking of stores at your destination, consider whether there are items you can borrow or buy once you get to your destination,” Ivana suggests. “Or you might even call ahead and ask Mom to pick up a few things like extra diapers and formula so you won’t have to travel like a Sherpa.

“I’ve found that one suitcase works for both of my kids,” she continues. “I recommend consolidating as much of your luggage as possible. Especially if you’ll be traveling with a stroller, carrier, or car seat, you don’t want to be weighed down by anything extra. (Speaking of consolidation, the new Ride On Carry On—a device that converts your carry-on suitcase into a stroller—solves a lot of traveling mommy woes!) And if you’re checking most of your bags, don’t forget a carry-on with extra outfits for the kids and maybe even an extra shirt for you in case of spills or spit-up!”

Organize your Mary Poppins purse. All moms have mastered the art of traveling with a seemingly bottomless bag. The trick is to do so without contracting “I’m lost in my handbag” syndrome! First, find a bag with plenty of separate pockets and compartments so that you’ll be able to store documents, snacks, baby gear, handiwipes, etc. as opposed to simply throwing them into your bag and hoping for the best. Make sure the things you’ll need most often and/or quickly (such as pacifiers, bottles, and snacks) are most easily accessible.

“I always pay special attention to travel documents,” Ivana says. “You’ll have to whip them out while checking in and going through security, so think about storing them in a separate, brightly colored wallet or folder if there isn’t a convenient compartment in your bag. And when I’m traveling by plane, I make sure to pack a carry-on ziplock bag with medications my kids might need, such as infant fever reducer, throat soothers, and gas and allergy relief. There’s nothing worse than being trapped on an airplane with a fussy child who’s feeling bad.”

Give yourself plenty of time to get to your destination. You may be thinking, Duh! Every amateur knows that!, but the advice bears repeating. It always takes longer to get out of the house than you think it will. Traffic jams tend to pop up at the most inconvenient times. Airport lines can be mind-numbingly long. And you never know when a tantrum or dirty diaper will erupt.

“Thinking back on my family’s many trips, I don’t believe there has been even one that went without a hitch,” Ivana recalls. “And that’s normal! Make sure your time margins are as wide as possible. Leave a half-hour or more earlier than you think you need to. Otherwise, you may find yourself in the middle of a meltdown.”

Ace airport security. “The thought of navigating airport security can strike fear into the heart of even the bravest mothers,” comments Ivana. “While you can’t bypass TSA completely, you can make the process as painless as possible. Here are some tips and tricks to keep in mind.”

  • When possible, use the “Green Circle” lanes, where you will be allowed extra time and assistance to get through the lines.
  • Know the latest TSA regulations and pack your carry-ons accordingly. The following tips are based on November 2012 guidelines:
  • Gels, aerosols, and liquids should fit into one quart-sized ziplock per passenger. Maximum container size is 3.4 ounces.
  • Liquids like medicine, baby formula/food, breast milk, or juice do not have to be in baggies, and can be higher than the 3.4 oz. regulation amount. You do have to notify the TSA officer that you are carrying these extra-fluid items.
  • Dress for a Magic Mike night out. Before you get all hot and bothered, what Ivana means is that your family should wear easy-to-slip-on-and-off shoes, jackets, and belts (children under twelve can leave their shoes on). Be sure your little ones aren’t wearing anything metal that could set off beepers. And be prepared—if you are carrying your baby in a sling, you may get an extra pat-down, even if no alarm goes off.
  • If they are old enough, prepare your children beforehand as to what they can expect when they go through security. Explain to them why they need to stay close and follow instructions, and not to be afraid if the beeper sounds.

Fill their bellies. What’s worse than a tired baby? A hungry one! Make sure you have plenty of snacks (e.g., infant formula and finger foods) for your little ones to enjoy for the duration of your travel. If you’re flying, have a baby bottle ready for take-off and landing. Swallowing will help your baby’s ears adjust to pressure changes. For older children, a low-sugar lollipop works great.

“Don’t forget to fuel yourself, either,” reminds Ivana. “You won’t be doing anyone, especially your kids, any good by bottoming out your blood sugar. Be sure to stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water and eating snacks when the kids do. A stop at the airport coffee shop won’t hurt, either!”

Make time fly with entertainment. Whether you’re traveling by plane, train, or automobile, chances are you’ll have a lot of downtime to fill. Buy a new toy for the trip, and bring books, an iPad, pacifiers, a pony—whatever it takes to keep your children from reaching octave levels that break the sound barrier.

“Having a few ‘new’ things will keep kids occupied longer,” explains Ivana. “Be wary of bringing anything that makes too much noise (think of the other passengers and yourself!). Music is a great soother, so perhaps some kid-friendly headphones would make a great investment. And don’t forget comfort items like a favorite teddy, sleep pillow, or soft blanket.”

Map out your road trip. Just because you may be traveling America’s roads in the trusty family vehicle, that doesn’t mean you should neglect planning. Traveling by car with pint-sized passengers can be just as stressful as flying the friendly skies. Many of the same rules apply: Be sure to have plenty of snacks and toys on hand to keep your children occupied, and make sure you can get to them easily. Also, consider a DVD player and headphones to keep parent sanity intact (and to cut down on the “Are we there yet?”s).

“Look at your route ahead of time and plan stops at locations that will allow little ones to burn off energy, like a park,” Ivana suggests. “In a pinch, a fast-food restaurant with a play area or even a rest stop with an open grassy area will do. Also, be sure to have lots of extras on hand—I’m talking about diapers, and also pacis and wipes. You never know when something might get dropped under the seat, or when sticky hands or spills might make an appearance.”

“Remember, holiday travel with children doesn’t have to mean that the end of your sanity is in sight,” concludes Ivana. “Making it there and back in one piece is simpler than you think if you plan, prepare, and know what to expect. So travel safely—and don’t forget to enjoy this special season.”

# # #

About Princess Ivana:
Ivana is the author of the upcoming book A Simple Guide to Pregnancy & Baby’s First Year, which was cowritten with her mother, Magdalene Smith, and her sister, Marisa Smith. Their blog, Princess Ivana—The Modern Princess, is a blend of humor, practical advice, and lifestyle tips on the essentials. Ivana is also a featured blogger on Modern Mom.

10 Last-Minute Tips for Black Friday

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Black Friday is closer than ever, with many big-name stores opening their doors on Thanksgiving Day. Whether you’re braving the crowds for the first time or consider yourself a Black Friday shopping veteran, consider these 10 last-minute tasks to prep you for the biggest shopping day(s) of the year.

1. Research circulars and map out a route. Check your inbox, mailbox and the Internet for updates on store circulars and Black Friday deals. Map out your route based on the deals you want, and remember your local mall is a great resource for discounts within walking distance of one another.

2. Make a list and stick to it. You’ll be tempted to deviate from your holiday gift list during the Black Friday madness, and that’s exactly what retailers are hoping for. Last year, Black Friday sales reached $52.4 billion, up 16 percent over the year before. The best way to stick to your budget is to stick to your list and avoid any unnecessary impulse buys.

3. Charge up your smartphone. There’s nothing worse than being without a suitable diversion while standing in line. Make sure your smartphone is fully charged and fully loaded with helpful apps. Download the Coupon Sherpa mobile app for extra discounts, the RedLaser app for instant price-comparison, and Decide to ensure you’re buying at the right time.

4. Fill up now. Fuel up the day before so you aren’t stuck at the gas station when you could be snatching up that last doorbuster. Carpooling is another great way to save on fuel and avoid the headache associated with finding your crew and coordinating your next move.

5. Get your wallet organized. Make it easy to access your preferred payment method, whether it’s cash or credit cards. Designate a place in your purse or wallet to store receipts should you need to return something, or if you want proof for a price adjustment later in the season. You can also download the OneReceipt app to keep a mobile record of all your purchases.

6. Use reward cards. If you have a credit card that offers reward points, you can get something back for all the purchases you make during the holiday season. Redeem the points you accrue for gift cards to give as gifts, or to use toward the purchase of gifts as a unique money-saving method.

7. Buddy up and layer. This way you can split your list and cover more ground in less time. Don’t forget to bundle up with layers so that you can stay warm when waiting in long line outdoors and remove excess clothing when inside.

8. Pack snacks and hydrate. Every seasoned Black Friday shopper knows there’s a lot of downtime while waiting for stores to open and the next cashier to become available. Be sure to hydrate and pack snacks to avoid wasting time and money in food lines.

9. Avoid the crowds. If you love a good deal but hate waiting in line, stay at home and shop from the convenience of your living room. Most stores offer the same Black Friday deals online, with some stores like Sears and Sam’s Club offering deals and doorbusters to online shoppers before Nov. 23.

10. Blow it off. Black Friday isn’t necessarily the best day to buy gifts and other holiday goods this season. You can put off your holiday shopping to as late as Monday, Dec. 17, when thousands of retailers participate in Free Shipping Day and offer deep discounts and free shipping with delivery by Christmas Eve.

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Andrea Woroch is a nationally-recognized consumer and money-saving expert who helps consumers live on less without radically changing their lifestyles. From smart spending tips to personal finance advice, Andrea transforms everyday consumers into savvy shoppers. She has been featured among top news outlets such as Good Morning America, NBC’s Today, MSNBC, New York Times, Kiplinger Personal Finance, CNNMoney and many more. You can follow her on Twitter for daily savings advice and tips.

Help Your Kids Stand Up to Bullying

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Going back to school can be stressful for many kids, especially if they have been the victims of bullying. According to Youth Ambassadors 4 Kids Club, an organization dedicated to eliminating bullying, a student is bullied every seven minutes in our country, and an estimated 77 percent of students will experience some form of mental or physical bullying during their school years.

While the statistics are worrisome, there are measures parents and caregivers can take to help identify the signs of bullying and the anxiety it can induce so they can help their children manage through this difficult situation.

Recognizing Bullying

Bullying can take many forms, including hitting, threatening, intimidating, maliciously teasing and taunting, name calling, making sexual remarks, stealing or damaging personal belongings, and indirect attacks such as spreading rumors or getting others to exclude another student.

It’s also no longer limited to the classroom, lunchroom or playground. Today, cyberbullying -bullying through electronic outlets such as text messages and social media sites – has made this issue a 24/7 challenge.

“Bullying can have a significant impact on students,” said University of Phoenix College of Social Sciences instructor and expert on bullying Dr. John Nixon. “Children and teenagers who are bullied suffer from anxiety, fear, withdrawal, low self-esteem and poor concentration. Recognizing the warning signs is the first step toward ending the behavior.”

Signs that your child may be a victim of bullying include:

  • Coming home with damaged or missing clothing or belongings
  • Unexplained injuries
  • Frequent complaints of headaches, stomach aches or feeling sick
  • Changes in eating habits
  • Loss of interest in friends or going to school
  • Mood and behavior changes
  • Trouble sleeping and/or having frequent bad dreams
  • Feelings of helplessness or not being good enough

What You Can Do if Your Child is Bullied

Establishing a process for detecting, discussing and monitoring bullying can help in more effectively reaching a solution. “It can be embarrassing for a child to admit that they are being bullied,” said Nixon. “And many kids don’t tell parents about it because they are afraid of either being blamed for the situation, or they are afraid of how the parents will react.”

Nixon offers some tips for what you can do:

  • Increase awareness – Parents must educate themselves on the signs of bullying and realize that they are not alone.
  • Communicate – Ask children questions about how they slept or what they are looking forward to doing in school that day. Their responses can provide a wealth of insight.
  • Gather more information – Ask teachers if they have noticed anything that would signal the child had been bullied. Also, check a child’s text messages and Facebook profile for signs of cyberbullying.
  • Develop an action plan – Put steps in place to monitor the signs of bullying to see if it persists and engage your child regularly to open up communication about the problem.
  • Follow through – It’s important to keep at it. Be active to both spot the signs of bullying and discuss them with the child to work toward a solution. If bullying persists, take action. Discuss the problem with the parents of the child who is bullying, if it is appropriate. Talk with your child’s teacher. If the teacher is not responsive, escalate the discussion up to the principal or superintendent if necessary.

There are more participants in bullying scenarios than just the bully and the victim. “More often than not,” said Nixon, “there are bystanders. These are students who know what is going on and either encourage it in some way, or sit back and do nothing. We need more kids to stop being bystanders and take a stand against bullying.”

You can find additional information on University of Phoenix degree offerings by visiting www.phoenix.edu, and more resources for helping students deal with bullying at www.a4kclub.org, and www.stopbullying.gov.

 

 

19 Strategies for Replenishing Your Emotional Energy

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You’re a modern woman…which means you’re barely surviving. You work yourself to the bone for ever-diminishing returns, thanks to the rising cost of everything from gas to food to health insurance. Meanwhile, you serve as cook, maid, shrink, tutor, and handyman at home. When life’s little “emergencies” crop up—a broken water heater, a toothache, a parent-teacher conference to discuss your son’s recent homework boycott—well, those land on your plate, too. No wonder you feel you’re one permission slip away from a complete breakdown!

Women should not accept this state of stressed-out existence and call it living, insists Vickie Milazzo. You can lead a successful life and cultivate a wellspring of energy that will renew your mind, body, and soul every day—but first you’ve got to give yourself a break.

“Today’s woman has taken on an extreme life crammed to overflowing with commitments and responsibility,” observes Milazzo, author of the New York Times bestseller, Wicked Success Is Inside Every Woman. “It’s not possible to stretch yourself to the breaking point every day and not break.

“You wouldn’t expect a battery to keep going forever without recharging it, and you shouldn’t expect it of yourself either,” she adds. “Women need to learn to revitalize their minds, bodies, emotions, and spirits frequently, so that they’ll have abundant energy whenever they need it.”

Read on for 19 strategies that every woman can use to replenish her emotional energy:

1. Get away. Take one day off with no responsibilities like Melissa, who assigns Saturday child-care duty to her husband, sends him and the kids to the zoo or park, and enjoys a renewal day.

2. Take a virtual vacation. Women are sensual creatures. We enjoy rich fabrics, exotic fragrances, music, dance, and art. Indulging in the occasional sensory banquet is second only to an actual getaway. Blanche enjoys vacations in her bathtub with candles, bath oil, a glass of wine, and her favorite CD. Maybe you’d prefer to lounge in your backyard or hammock with a favorite beverage or to curl up in bed with a deliciously light book.

3. Hug a tree…or an iceberg! Getting off the grid is not always an easy thing to do. (You don’t just hop onto the 5:15 train to Bhutan.) Still, make it a goal at least once a year to get far away, into something so different that it forces you out of your regular relaxation routine into one that entirely disconnects you from day-to-day life. Many people find that nature and wildlife provide two of the most powerful tools for relaxation in the world.

4. Renew with music. Play music that energizes or relaxes you, depending upon what’s called for. Choose classical pieces for intense projects and rock and roll for cooking, household chores, or packing suitcases. At night, play slow music to unwind and relax.

5. Choose happiness. The fact is, happiness is not only contagious to others, it’s contagious to ourselves. You may not always wake up happy, but wherever you are physically or emotionally, try to focus on the part of the experience that is good. Life will always throw us curveballs, fastballs, and, just when you think you know what’s coming next, the occasional change-up. Being happy to the core helps us hit them back—no matter how fast they are or how many come our way. Think of the woman who refused to move out of the drama of a negative experience. For two weeks she dwelled on something that was easily solved in three minutes. How many opportunities did she miss during those two weeks because she chose to grouse? Decide every day that nothing will get in the way of choosing happiness.

6. Monitor your intimate companions. Nothing drains energy faster than negative thinking. Your thoughts do control your life; in fact, they are your most intimate companions. When you notice that you’re wasting energy thinking negatively about someone or something, remind yourself that you’re only attacking and harming yourself with such thoughts. This is not to say that you can—or should—ignore your feelings or reality. But when you learn to control your thoughts, you touch new places of feeling that are even more real.

7. Turn off the critic. Do you find that your inner “critical voice” rears its head way too often? For instance, you might wonder, Is it me or was that secretary less friendly than usual? Did I do something? Or perhaps you walk into your house and, in an instant, zero in on everything that’s wrong: the messy kitchen, the scratched coffee table, the pile of bills waiting on the counter. However, allowing this inner critic to be your dominant communication style will negatively impact you, your family, and anyone else you encounter. Instead, try to intentionally notice and comment on the good things to fuel your success energy.

8. Be nice and watch how nice people will be in return. There is an economy of emotion with niceness. Few things will give you more energy than the rewards of being nice. Likewise, nothing will drain your emotional energy faster than not playing nice with others.

9. Dump toxic clutter. Because you have important familial, professional, and social commitments, it’s important to eliminate toxic or emotionally draining relationships and other social clutter, just as you dump the mess that accumulates on your desk. This gives you time for relationships that matter—husband, family, and best friends. Likewise, guard what enters your mind. For example, it’s important to be aware of the world around you, but there’s no need to listen to negative news stories 24/7. Remember, each minute is a precious gift, so always strive to keep your energies within your “circle of influence.”

10. Detach. Why put your own precious emotional energy into someone or something else that doesn’t provide a positive return? Detach from emotional unrest that doesn’t serve a purpose in your life and feel the increase in your own positive energy charge.

11. Lighten up. It’s tempting to behave as though everything you do is intensely important. But unless you let go of some of that intensity, you’ll be emotionally exhausted. When you find yourself making mountains out of molehills, ask yourself, “In one year, will this be significant?” Lighten up. If you push, you get resistance. Be less serious about the outcome of the little things.

12. Learn a new language. As soon as you label something “bad,” you limit your ability to have fun. Milazzo used to “hate” the cold, and then one day in Iceland a woman told her, “There’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing.” Since then she has explored the Canadian Rockies, the Antarctic, the Arctic, trekked the Everest and Annapurna sides of Nepal, and stood among prayer flags on a 13,000-foot high mountain pass looking across Bhutan’s Haa Valley and the Himalayas into Tibet…and she loved it, because she brought the right gear. When you substitute the right mental gear for the word “hate,” you will be amazed at how much emotional energy you gain. Take all such negative words down a notch in mind and voice, and notice how differently you feel.

13. Let it go. Do you suffer from dissatisfaction and frustration? Do you find yourself whining and complaining instead of acting on your passionate vision? Try letting it all go and see the difference that it makes in your day. Appreciate what you have. When frustration happens, take a breath and let it go.

14. Enjoy the moment. How often do you hear or say, “Thank God it’s Friday”? Do we want to enjoy only two days out of seven? Why not “Thank God it’s today”? If you are living for the weekend, you aren’t living. You can’t repeat a day or even an hour or minute. You’ll never get that time back. Treat every moment as a precious gift.

15. Practice gratitude. For happy people, gratitude seems to outweigh desire. For unhappy people, it’s about want, want, want, with little gratitude in return. Now, there’s nothing wrong with desire, because desires fire your passionate vision. But gratitude must always be greater. Otherwise, you’ll never be satisfied or happy. Acknowledge daily three things you’re grateful for, small or large, and express gratitude to others as well.

16. Accept yourself as you are. How often do we let the comparison game rob us of joy? If you’re five-feet-two-inches tall, with sturdy ankles, you’ll never grow into a lithe five-feet-seven-inches. The fact is, some things we can change and others we can’t. Let the things you can’t change about yourself go.

17. Find the fun. Fun is healing, and laughter keeps us sane. Laughter raises T-cell counts, relaxes blood vessels, eases muscle tension, and reduces psychological stress, which enhances learning. Laughter can happen when you least expect it…if you let it.

18. Create your own party. Growing up in New Orleans taught Milazzo that you can have a party anywhere—at your house, in your mind, or, as her father says while chowing down on a good muffaletta, in your mouth. Embrace life with energy and joy. Wherever you go physically, emotionally, or mentally, take the party with you.

19. Eat dessert first. Sometimes we treat renewal like a dessert we have to earn by eating our vegetables. Mardi Gras taught Milazzo to celebrate before the hard work. Prior to the sacrifice of Lent, the city of New Orleans would party hearty for two weeks. So feast before you fast, and eat dessert first.

 

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About the Author:

Vickie Milazzo, RN, MSN, JD, is the author of the New York Times bestseller Wicked Success Is Inside Every Woman (Wiley, 2011). From a shotgun house in New Orleans to owner of a $16-million business, Milazzo shares the innovative success strategies that earned her a place on the Inc. list of Top 10 Entrepreneurs and Inc. Top 5000 Fastest-Growing Companies in America.

 

The Art of Saying No

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By Dr. Travis Bradberry
John Gailbraith’s housekeeper was a whiz when it came to saying no. One day in 1965 the noted economist was taking a nap when President Lyndon Johnson called his home. “He’s taking a nap and has left strict orders not to be disturbed,” his housekeeper told the President. Johnson replied, “Well, I’m the President. Wake him up.” Her response? A simple: “I’m sorry, Mr. President, but I work for Mr. Galbraith, not for you.” Then she hung up.

Research from the University of California in San Francisco shows that the more difficulty you have saying no, the more likely you are to experience stress, burnout, and even depression. Saying no is indeed a major challenge for most people. Anyone who suffers from the stress that comes from over commitment can get help themselves by following these simple strategies for saying no.

1. Find your yes

Before you can become good at saying no, you have to know what you’re saying yes to when you’re saying no. You see every opportunity that you pass with a no is really saying yes to something else—something that you’d prefer to do or something more important to you in the long run. You can’t hope to say no when the pressure is on until you know for sure what you really want. When you’re feeling pressure to say yes and acquiescence feels easier than taking a stand, just think of your yes. If joining the PTA fundraising committee means spending even less time with your children, focusing your attention on this fact will embolden you to say no and keep your priorities straight.

2. Sleep on it

Even if you feel like saying yes (and certainly if you’re having doubts), ask for a day to think about it before providing an answer. It’s going to be much easier to say no once you’ve had time to consider all of your commitments and whether the item in question is a realistic addition to your schedule. This will also give you a chance to come up with the best way to say no.

3. Sandwich the no between two yeses

Sandwiching a no between two yeses ensures that your no will be more palatable. It’s also a great way to explain that to which you are already committed. For example, if your boss asks you to work on the
weekend, but you have family commitments you cannot break, explain these commitments to your boss (the first yes), how that prevents you from coming in on the weekend (the no), and finish by confirming your commitment to the company and your work (the final yes) by asking if there are other ways you can contribute that don’t require you to come in that weekend.

4. Make sure you’re actually saying “no”

Make no mistake about it, no is a powerful word that you should not be afraid to wield. When it’s time to say no, you need to avoid phrases like “I don’t think I can” or “I’m not certain.” Using limp phrases instead of saying no will often be considered a yes. Pulling this off requires a certain degree of emotional intelligence (EQ). When it’s time to say no, just say no!

5. Be prepared to repeat yourself

If you say no and the other party pushes back, the best thing you can do is repeat yourself. This is much easier to do when you recognize beforehand that it is often necessary. In some cases, you may have to
repeat yourself more than once. If you offered any explanation with your original response, you can repeat this explanation or just say no again. Don’t back yourself into a corner by trying to explain  yourself further. It is your right to say no to any request, and you’ll often need to be firm in order to have your intentions understood.

Putting These Strategies to Work

Saying no to a new commitment honors your existing commitments and gives you the opportunity to successfully fulfill these commitments. Saying no can certainly open doors; for example, when John Galbraith woke up from his nap, the first thing President Johnson wanted to know was the identity of the woman who told him no. After he found out, Johnson said, “I want her working for me.”

 

 

About the Author: Dr. Travis Bradberry is the award-winning co-author of Emotional Intelligence 2.0 and the cofounder of TalentSmart (http://www.TalentSmart.com), the world’s leading provider of emotional intelligence (EQ) tests, emotional intelligence (EQ) training, and emotional intelligence (EQ) certification, serving more than 75% of Fortune 500 companies.

The Busy Woman’s Guide to Wedding Planning

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I would happily relive my wedding day but never the year leading up to it. I planned our event while juggling class, working 30 hours a week and enduring a sudden death in my husband’s family. Needless to say, I was ready to throw my hands up and scream “I’m done!” during the months leading up to the big day.

If this madness sounds familiar, try not to get weighed down by the drama and details of it all. Consider the following tips for saving time and staying sane during the most complicated party you’ll ever plan.

1. Prioritize
The easiest way to cut down on the planning process is to reduce the number of things to plan. Prioritize what you and your future spouse really want for the wedding. Do the invitations need to reflect the latest innovations in origami? Are programs really necessary? Weddings are pretty commonplace, after all — most people know what’s going to happen. Not only will this save you time, but it will save you money, too.

2. Register Online
Online registries are all the rage these days, reflecting the needs and lifestyles of modern couples. Avoid spending your precious weekend in the aisles of Bed Bath & Beyond and create a wedding gift registry at CardAvenue.com. The site allows you to select gift cards from hundreds of favorite retailers, restaurants and even airlines. It’s as easy as creating a registry, selecting the cards, and sharing the link with friends. Done and done!

3. Delegate
People close to you enjoy being part of your big day, so let them! I relied heavily on my mom during planning and she was thrilled to be involved. Similarly, a good friend of mine asked me to set up her reception space while she prepared herself for the aisle. Granted, her meticulous instructions took time to create, but ultimately it allowed her to focus on what’s most important – getting ready for the ceremony.

4. Get Pinning
The days of shopping for wedding magazines and scouring wedding websites are over, thanks to Pinterest. Ideas ranging from the highly traditional to the totally off-the-wall are all available in one easy-to-use website. Better yet, there are several DIY ideas that help you stay within budget and make your day truly unique. No time for DIY? Refer to tip 3 – that’s what bridesmaids are for!

5. Go All-Inclusive
Depending on your budget, couples might find it easier to select a venue that offers access to music, catering, rooms to get ready in, and all the other details that make wedding planning chaotic. The all-inclusive convenience will likely jack up the price of the venue, but if you can afford it you’ll save a lot of time.

6. Keep it Simple
Avoid pouring over dress styles and let your girls select their own dresses in your preferred color palette. Ditch the formal dinner in favor of a buffet to bypass seating arrangements and dish preferences. And finally, make the reception as carefree as possible — the big moment is over and it’s time to relax and enjoy time with your guests.

7. Think Small
It’s a fact of life — it’s much easier to organize a small group of people than it is a large one. Keeping the guest list small has multiple benefits, not the least of which is saving you money. After the wedding, send a marriage announcement to everyone in your extended network, thanking them for their well wishes.

8. Stay Local
From food to flowers, keeping your vendor selections local will reduce the headache associated with coordinating out-of-town services. It’s much easier to have a friend swing by a shop to pick something up than it is to order a last-minute necessity and hope it gets where it needs to be on time. TheKnot.com’s Local Vendors page offers easy access to nearby vendors of all kinds.

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Kendal Perez is a frugal fashionista and bargain shopper who helps fellow shopaholics find hassle-free ways to save money. As the deals expert for FreeShipping.org, Kendal has the resources to be an extreme couponer but prefers a less complicated approach to staying in-budget. Kendal has been quoted in such media outlets as CNN Money, TIME Moneyland, FOX, ABC, NPR and Kiplinger Personal Finance. For savings tips and more information, visit HassleFreeSavings.com.

How to Stop Running From Your Debts

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by Carol Holm

 

Debt – it’s the one little word that has the ability to send most people running for cover.  You can run but unfortunately, you can’t hide.

The topic of debt is a tender subject.  If you find yourself in debt, it’s difficult to listen to people chastise you on how you shouldn’t have gotten so for behind financially in the first place.  But I’m not here to lecture you, that’s not going to do any good.  The fact of the matter is you’re in debt, no sense dwelling on coulda, woulda, shoulda’s.  The best thing you can do now is to get a realistic plan together and work hard towards your goals.  The following are four steps you can take to get yourself running on the right path:

1. Keep track of everything you spend.

One of the secrets for losing weight is to keep track of everything you eat so you can pinpoint where your weaknesses are when it comes to food.  It’s the same concept with your spending; you need to figure out where all the money is going!

Here’s your challenge; for one month, write down every single dollar you spend – that includes everything from the coffee you got at Starbucks to the pack of gum you bought at the gas station.  Once you realize what kind of items your money is going towards, it becomes crystal clear where you need to make changes and cut back on your spending.

2. Create a budget and stick with it… seriously.

By creating a budget, you are putting yourself in control of what you spend your money on instead of just reacting to your impulses.  Start by making a list of your fixed expenses such as your house, car, phones, tv and insurance payments.  Look at the list and see if there are any places you can cut back; do you really need the most expensive tv package?  Could you live without unlimited texting on your cell phone?

Next list all of your non-fixed expenses such as food, gas, utilities, clothing, medical, entertainment, etc.  Give yourself a monthly dollar amount for each category.

Now here is the key to making it all work – actually do it!  The easy part is making the budget; the hard part is sticking to it.  No one can force you to do it; it’s all about your own will power so do things that can help you stay strong.  Many people use cash envelopes, these are great because if you use up all your money, your done, you have no more cash to spend above what was budgeted.

3. Use the debt eliminator system.

Chances are you have heard of the debt eliminator system before, it’s not a ground breaking idea, but it’s great because it genuinely works.

Start by writing down each of your debts with your monthly payment and the payoff amount.  You then work toward paying off the smallest debt first.  After you have repaid the first creditor, add the amount of that monthly payment to the payment for your second creditor. When that debt is paid off add both of those payments to the payment on your third debt.  It’s as easy as that.  Keep doing it until all your debt is paid off.

4. Start a “put-and-take” savings account

Being in debt can be a vicious cycle because when you are putting all your money towards paying off your debts, you have no free money to use when emergencies arise.  So what happens when something comes up?  You end up adding more debt to your existing mountain.

When you are struggling to make monthly payments, the thought of a savings account may seem crazy, but the fact is you will never be able to remain debt free unless you have a savings account to use for major purchases and emergencies.

Add a certain amount of money to your monthly budget to put into a savings account.  Only use this money for emergencies or for big purchases.

To get yourself out of debt, you either need to: 1. Win the lottery or 2. Make a plan and stick to it.  The odds of number one happening are not so good.  But if you choose to do number two and follow the steps outlined above, you will find the odds are in your favor and one day you will know the joys of debt-free living.

 

About the author:
In 1999 Carol became the first female in the history of New York Life to lead the company in sales.  During that time she co-authored the book titled “Have You Bought the Ticket?” in which she shares some of her studies about the laws of success.  She has spoken about the power of the mind to audiences all over the world including speaking on the Main Platform at the Million Dollar Round Table in San Francisco and Thailand.  Carol has been in the financial services industry since 1977 and is currently a financial advisor for the firm of Carol Holm Financial.

Website: http://www.takethelidoffbook.com

Stress Busters

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If you feel irritable, have a hard time concentrating, have low energy or a hard time sleeping, you could be showing signs of stress. In fact, it seems that most Americans are feeling stress these days.

The American Psychological Association’s (APA) 2010 Stress in America survey disclosed that stress is taking a toll on physical health, as well as the emotional well-being of individuals and families. The majority of Americans live with moderate to high levels of stress but have a hard time making changes to cope with it. The survey also found that:

  • Two-fifths of surveyed adults reported overeating or eating unhealthy foods because of stress.
  • Nearly one-third of respondents said they skipped a meal because of stress.
  • More than four in ten said they had lain awake at night.
  • The most common physical symptoms of stress reported were irritability (45 percent), fatigue (41 percent) and lack of energy or motivation (38 percent).

If you’re feeling stressed, take heart. There are some things you can do to manage your stress. The APA recommends that you:

  • Understand how you stress. How are your behaviors or thoughts different under stress? Do you have a harder time concentrating or making decisions? Do you lash out in anger? Or do you experience headaches, muscle aches or lack of energy?
  • Identify sources of stress. What triggers stressful feelings? Are these stress triggers related to family, health, financial decisions, work, or something else?
  • Find healthy ways to manage stress. Participate in stress-reducing activities like exercising, meditating, yoga, or talking things over with friends or family. Reaching out for support from others is another important part of stress management.

It’s also important to take care of yourself with regular sleep, healthy eating and plenty of water.

The warning signs of stress should not be taken lightly, so listen to what your body is telling you. By recognizing the triggers and understanding how you respond to it, you can healthfully manage and take measures to avoid the long-term problems associated with stress.

 

Photo Courtesy Getty Images

Source: C3* for Stress/ courtesy of Family Features

 

 

 

 

 

 

Boost Your Mind to Beat the Winter Blues

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As holiday celebrations begin to wind down after the beginning of the New Year, you may begin to notice yourself being slowly drawn into the onset of a seasonal slump. With daylight hours shrinking and chilly weather, you might find yourself feeling less active, more irritable, and wondering what happened to the energy that got you through the holiday season. Although some people might turn to cookies and eggnog for comfort, winter woes can be lessened by increasing the amount of sunlight experienced per day and investing time into mood-boosting activities.

Seasonal mood changes such as loss of energy, oversleeping, changes in appetite, and social withdrawal are common symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder, a type of depression that can occur at the same time of year, typically during the winter or summer months. According to the Mayo Clinic, the specific cause of Seasonal Affective Disorder remains unknown, but experts believe that most likely genetics, age, and our body’s natural chemical makeup all play a part in developing the condition. Specific physiological alterations often linked to Seasonal Affective Disorder include both the disruption of our biological clock, and the decline of our body’s serotonin levels (a brain chemical that affects mood) and melatonin levels (the natural hormone that relates to sleep patterns).

Aptly referred to as SAD, Seasonal Affective Disorder is sometimes treated with prescribed light therapy, medication, and psychotherapy. However, some experts believe it’s normal for everyone to experience mild symptoms from time to time. You can improve your symptoms by participating in mood-lifting activities, such as taking walks outdoors during daylight and exercising regularly, both of which can help alleviate stress and boost energy levels. Finding a hobby or participating in a group activity during the cold winter days can help keep spirits high. By mastering a new skill or learning a new language, you can retain a sense of excitement and achievement during the long winter months.

Although finding enticing physical activities may be challenging due to chilly weather conditions, keep an open mind. Start by making a list of hobbies that complement your interests and intellectual desires. Try remembering your fondest childhood memories to kick-start the process: How did you spend your time as a youngster? What activities or clubs were involved with? Then decide on a few pursuits to explore and establish goals for each to help maintain focus. Indoor activities, such as painting, yoga, dance, writing, and cooking, can help to expand your mind and body while adhering to the winter weather limitations. If you are participating in an indoor activity, such as starting a blog or learning to cook a gourmet meal, be sure to open the curtains or blinds to allow any available sunlight to shine through.

Connecting with a group can also help to offset the tendency to withdrawal from others during the winter. Feeling committed to a group will encourage you to attend classes or meetings and help you to stay on track to achieve your goals. Most local art studios are active year-round and offer a variety of classes where artists can rekindle their creative fires. Aerobic activities such as yoga and Zumba lend themselves easily to participation in a class setting; you can find a class that fits your level of experience.

Although Seasonal Affective Disorder only severely affects a portion of the population, many people naturally feel a bit more sluggish during the colder months of the year. Taking the time during these months to discover new hobbies and rekindle old passions will help you to escape the winter blues. And if all else fails—if you’re left out in the cold when it comes to trying new hobbies—take a short vacation to a sunny destination to give yourself an added dose of sunshine and excitement.

 

 

 

 

 

7 Tips for Hassle-free Holiday Returns

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Returning gifts is such a drag, many of us simply toss unwanted presents into a closet with the hopes of re-gifting them in the future. Sadly, waiting in line for returns and exchanges is a ritual many of us still honor. A recent Consumer Reports survey revealed one-in-five Americans plan on celebrating this post-holiday tradition. If you anticipate joining the lengthy queues, keep these seven tips in mind.

1. Research the Return Policy
Retailers with websites almost always post their return policies. They may be difficult to find at first, so search under links for “Customer Service,” “FAQ” or “Help.” You’ll find lots of small type, but it’s worth reading through all the mouse scrawlings to know exactly what you’ll face.

2. Keep an Eye on the Date
Some stores have extended the number of days during which you can return holiday gifts, but most still hold to their standard policy. Remember the expiration date is from the time of purchase. In “Return rules at 8 big retailers” published last year, Consumer Reports found the average return period ranged from 30 to 180 days.

3. Keep the Gift Receipt
If some thoughtful friend or loved one was kind enough to include a gift receipt, this is your golden ticket for exchanges or returns. Keep in mind that, because such receipts don’t indicate the purchase price, the store likely will only reimburse you at the going rate.

4. If You Don’t Have a Receipt…
…bring an ID. More than 60 percent of retailers require a customer to show ID when returning an item without a receipt. This is because some stores limit how many times you can return purchases within a set time period.

5. Avoid Shipping Charges
Many major retailers — but not all — will accept returns of online purchases at their brick-and-mortar stores. You might have to wait in line, but you’ll save a bundle on shipping and the hassle of re-boxing a gift and mailing it out.

6. Resell Gift Cards
You don’t need a receipt to exchange unwanted gift cards for cash. Visit GiftCardGranny.com, where you can resell gift cards to several companies for a percentage of the face value.

7. Don’t Open What You Don’t Want
Because the merchant can’t resell opened items as new, you could be charged a hefty restocking fee just for cracking the lid. Amazon cranks up the charge to 50 percent for software, used books and DVDs; but Overstock takes the cake at 60 percent for open or used products.

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Andrea Woroch is a consumer and money-saving expert for Kinoli Inc. She is available for in-studio, satellite or skype interviews and to write guest posts or articles. As a nationally recognized media source, Andrea has been featured among top news outlets such as Good Morning America, NBC’s Today, MSNBC, New York Times, Kiplinger Personal Finance, CNNMoney and many more.