11 Expert Tips for Finding the Right Bra Size and Fit


11 Expert Tips for Finding the Right Bra Size and Fit

Did you know you have more than one bra size?
a woman shopping for bras

For many people, bra shopping falls somewhere on the emotional scale between flat-out disappointing and totally traumatic, and the same could be said for the actual wearing of said bras. Many women are wearing uncomfortable bras that dig into their skin, slip off their shoulders, and create awkward spillage situations—and then rip them off their bodies the minute they get home. A lot of this can be traced back to the lingerie store: If you don’t know how to find the right bra (or even the right bra size!), you’re not going to get one that’s best for you. Put simply, women aren’t getting the support they need to get the support they need.

To make sure you get the most out of this experience, I reached out to three stylists and bra fitting experts who gave a detailed rundown of tips you should consider when buying a bra. Their advice, from breaking down bra components to telltale signs when your bra is too small or too big, is useful for women of all ages and sizes. Read on for 11 things every bra-wearing person should know.

1. Most of the support comes from the band.

Cups hold the breasts in place, but the band is responsible for about 90 percent of the actual support (strapless bras exist for a reason). So while the straps may seem like they’re there to hold up your bust, they are really there to help keep your cup flush with your body and to shape your breast. In fact, if your band and cup both fit well, you should be able to slip off your straps and take a few steps while your bra stays in place, bra expert Kimmay Caldwell from Hurray Kimmay tells SELF.

2. You need to know your size and your “sister size.”

Just like with other notoriously difficult-to-shop-for items, like jeans, there’s a wide variation in how bras of the same size will fit from brand to brand, even from one style to another. That’s why experts say women should know both their true size and their sister sizes. If a bra doesn’t fit in your regular size, it might work in your sister size.

The rule of thumb is as follows: If you go up in the band, go down in the cup and vice versa. For example, a 32C could possibly fit a 30D or a 34B. If you’re a 34C, you might find bras that fit better in a 36B or a 32D.

Knowing your sister size is useful to accommodate for size differences between brands. It is also a good resource if your “real size” is hard to shop for. People with smaller bands and large cup sizes, or larger bands and smaller cup sizes, will benefit most from sister sizing.

3. There’s an equation for figuring out your band and cup size.

Your bra size is a ratio that combines the measurements of your cup (letters AA-M) and band size (numbered 28-44). It’s a really good idea for any woman to get a professional bra fitting at a boutique—you might be surprised what a bra expert will tell you, such as you’ve been wearing the wrong size your whole adult life. You can also measure yourself at home with some tape.

To measure at home, you’ll need two measurements: around your back and under your bust for your band size, and around your back over your nipples for your cup size. You’ll then subtract the difference. For example, if your bust measures 35 inches and your under-bust (or rib cage) 32 inches, you’ll be a 32C because 35 minus 32 equals 3, and that number corresponds to the letter “C” in the alphabet.

4. If your breasts are two different sizes, round up.

It’s totally normal and really common to have one breast that is bigger than the other. If the difference is significant enough that it makes bra shopping even more complicated than it already is, Cora Harrington, lingerie expert and author of the upcoming book In Intimate Detail: How to Choose, Wear, and Love Lingerie, suggests fitting to the larger breast. If you want, you can even out the appearance by adding a bra cutlet to the smaller breast, or getting a bra with removable pads and taking them out on the big side.

5. If bras straps are digging into your shoulders, it could mean your cups are too small…

If your breasts are spilling out around the edges of the cup, they might be putting a lot of extra weight on the straps—and you may find yourself pulling the straps taut to hold them in check. Either way, your shoulders would probably benefit from larger cups.

6. …or your band is too big.

Your straps could also be digging into your shoulders if your band is too loose, making it so your straps are doing all the work. Take a look behind you in the mirror: If your straps are pulled so tight that they’re yanking your strap up, it’s probably too big or is too stretched out to do its job.

7. If your straps are slipping, it could be one of a few signs that your cups are too big.

Another tell is if the center gore, or the center panel on the front your bra between the cups, is floating away. It should lay flat against the middle of your chest. And obviously, if the cups are gapping because your breasts are not filling them all the way, you may want to go down a cup size.

8. The band should be snug, not suffocating or loose.

When you’ve got the right band size, you should be able to fit your finger between your back and the strap with only about an inch of stretch. Your band is too small if the underwire is squeezing or digging in your breast tissue. But looser is not better when it comes to support. Caldwell notes that most people think loose means more comfort (think: caftans or sweatpants), but that doesn’t work for bras. Remember that the band is what accomplishes most of the holding-up of the breasts, so a loose band that rides up between your shoulder blades will not provide the support you need and leave you less comfortable in the long run.

To keep your band fitting as well as possible for as long as possible, Caldwell advises you start off by wearing your bra on the loosest hook, so when you bra starts to feel worn out, you can use the second and then third hook for more grip.

9. “Full bust,” “full figure,” and “plus size” mean different things.

According to 2016 a survey of 2,000 shoppers by lingerie retailer Rigby & Peller, the most popular sizes for women across the country is between 32DDD and 34G (that’s 32E and 34F in UK bra sizing). More brands offer bras in a range of larger sizing, sometimes labeled as plus size, full bust, or full figure. They all mean slightly different things:

-Women with a small band and large cup size are considered full bust. That includes sizes of a DD cup or larger and a 36 band or less. Full bust sizes includes sizes like 28G, 30F, 32E, and 34H.

Plus size for bras have a band size of 38 or larger.

Full figure encompasses sizes DD+ with a 38 or larger band. All full figure bras are also plus size, but not all plus size bras are full figure: A 38F would be considered full figure and plus size, but a 40B would be just plus size.

10. Different bra styles and materials serve different purposes.

Ideally, your bra options should complement your wardrobe. You want styles that are versatile, but comfortable enough to take you from day to night. You also want multiple bras so that you don’t stretch a bra out too fast. The experts I spoke to agreed that everyone should have at least:

-Two traditional-style bras, like a smooth T-shirt bra in your skin tone, or in black, which would cover about 70 to 80 percent of your wardrobe.

-A sports bra that minimizes bounce during physical activities, but doesn’t impede your performance. You might want different bras with different levels of support for high impact activities like running versus yoga or Pilates. (Plus, if you work out a lot, you’ll want several so that you’re not constantly washing them.)

-A convertible bra that can be strapless, racerback, halter, or criss-cross for tops with “unusual” necklines and for formal occasions.

-A non-underwire bra or bralette you can wear traveling or lounging. Just make sure you can adjust the straps to get the best fit.

The fabric and technology of a bra is also important to take into consideration, Jenny Altman, fashion stylist and lingerie expert from the blog I Love a Good, tells SELF. “That’s why it’s important to ask yourself a few questions when picking a fabric: What do you need that bra to do for you? Does it wick away sweat? Do you want a lace detail? Or do you have sensitive skin and need a softer fabric?”

11. Bras don’t last forever—even your favorite one has to be replaced when it no longer gives you the support it used to.

The experts I spoke to said that depending on your size, how well you take care of your bras (never throw them in dryer!), and how many you have on rotation, a good, basic bra should last about a year. Washing them gently by hand (after typically after three to four wears) and rotating your bras (that is, not wearing the same one multiple days in a row) will also help keep the bands from stretching out too quickly. But no matter what you do, you’ll have to say goodbye at some point, so keep a lookout for signs, like the band creeping up your back, telling you it’s time to go bra shopping.

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What Is the Bulgarian Bag? All About Halle Berry’s New Favorite Strength Training Tool


bulgarian-bag-halle-berry

When it comes to free weights, dumbbells, kettlebells, and barbells are all good options, but they aren’t your only options. Another effective, though less known piece of equipment? The Bulgarian bag.

This niche tool, which at first glance resembles a giant life-vest-shaped sandbag, isn’t exactly new. But it does have a new fan: Halle Berry.

On Friday, the Academy Award–winning actor shared an Instagram photo of her and her trainer, Peter Lee Thomas, squatting with Bulgarian bags draped around their necks and shoulders. In the caption, Berry explains that Thomas recently introduced her to the tool, and she’s now hooked, using it for a variety of exercises, including strength training, cardio, and plyometric moves.

You can check out the post, via @halleberry, here:

Thomas also shared the photo, plus a few additional images of him and Berry using the bags, on his Instagram, @peterleethomas. But it got us wondering: What exactly is the Bulgarian bag, what makes it so effective, and how does it compare to more popular weighted tools?

We chatted with Thomas and another trainer familiar with Bulgarian bags to learn more.

The Bulgarian bag is basically a souped-up, more comfortable version of a sandbag.

Sandbags are an old-school weight training tool still used today by niche groups like the Navy SEALS and CrossFit athletes and in various group fitness classes. The Bulgarian bag is essentially a nicer iteration of the sandbag, thanks to its soft leather covering, crescent shape that fits snugly around the shoulders, easy-to-grip straps, and stuffing of both sand and wool. Because of this shape and mixed material interior, “the weight doesn’t tend to move around as much as the sandbag will,” Mark DiSalvo, NYC-based certified strength and conditioning specialist, tells SELF, making it easier to wield when performing various exercises.

According to Suples, the Bulgarian bag manufacturer from which Thomas purchased his bags, the tool was created in 2005 by Bulgarian wrestling coach Ivan Ivanov as a functional piece of equipment for his athletes and other combat trainees whose sports require them to perform heavy throwing movements, though it has many other uses.

“It’s a thing you don’t see in most gyms,” Thomas, an instructor with the Thai Boxing Association of America, tells SELF. Thomas has used the bags sporadically over the past decade whenever he came across them at speciality gyms, and only recently bought his own. And it’s quickly become one of his—and Berry’s—favorite pieces of gym equipment.

Compared to other weights, the Bulgarian bag can be a safer, more comfortable, and more versatile option for performing certain exercises.

One of the tool’s biggest perks, says Thomas, is that it is more comfortable than traditional weighted tools. Thomas describes a client who complained of upper-back pain when squatting with a barbell, even when using a pad on the bar. When she switched to the Bulgarian bag, she “could actually squat without major pain.”

It’s also a good implement for training dynamic movements in different directions, like laterally (side-to-side) and transversely (diagonally) that would be difficult and/or unsafe to perform with a barbell, dumbbell, or other weighted tools, says DiSalvo. If you don’t do dynamic sports, performing exercises with the Bulgarian bag can be “a great way to put dynamic movements into your routine,” he adds. “This can help you train your mobility a little bit differently—you get to move your body in a way that is more athletic.”

The bag is also great for swinging movements, like side swings, that can’t be performed safely with a dumbbell, barbell, or plates. On top of that, it’s a great way to train grip strength, thanks to the handles on both ends of the bag that you have to firmly hold as you perform various moves. Grip strength is “paramount” in certain sports, explains Thomas, like rock climbing, Jiu Jitsu, and gymnastics.

One limitation of the Bulgarian bag is that unlike a barbell, on which you can easily load or remove pounds, the weight is fixed. So if your goal is get extremely strong—say, you want to lift really heavy weights—it’s not your best bet, explains DiSalvo, since you can’t progress beyond the heaviest available bag. But if your goal is more to improve your general fitness? “You could get in really great shape with a Bulgarian bag,” he says.

Here are Thomas and DiSalvo’s suggestions for incorporating the Bulgarian bag into workouts.

First, in terms of selecting the appropriate weight, Thomas recommends newbies start light—around 20 pounds—and use bags of different weights so it will feel challenging with different movements. For example, you might want to start with a heavier bag for lower-body movements, like squats, and a lighter bag for upper-body movements, like overhead presses. (If your local gym doesn’t have Bulgarian bags, you can order your own, though, fair warning, they’re pretty pricey, ranging from about $53 to $325 depending on the brand and weight of the bag.)

Once you have a bag, you don’t need to perform advanced or complex moves to reap the benefits. With the Bulgarian bag, and exercise in general, for that matter, “it’s the basics that win,” says Thomas, who suggests using it with an array of traditional exercises—from back squats (like Berry and Thomas demoed), front squats, and overhead presses, to more complex movements like the squat to press and the clean and press. You can also swing it between your legs (like a kettlebell swing) or drape it over your chest “like a baby bib” and perform sit-ups to overhead presses, says Thomas. Or, you can put it on top of your feet and perform sit-ups in place of a partner holding your feet.

You can also hold it in front of your body (racking it in your elbows) to perform lunges, says DiSalvo, or you can drape it over one shoulder and do a set of lunges on that leg, then switch sides, says Thomas. You can also use it to perform side swings, a dynamic move that works the rotation of your spine and engages your obliques, says DiSalvo. You can even just drape it over your shoulders to do carry exercises.

The bottom line: If you’re looking to diversify your strength training and add more dynamic movements to your routine, the Bulgarian bag can be a great, functional option.

How to Streamline every Area of your Life


Time is what we want most, but what we use worst.


I don’t believe every aspect of life should be optimised, every day planned out and every minute used productively. Because sometimes the unexpected, spontaneous things are what makes life worth living.

BUT: I strongly believe in streamlining areas of your life that are repetitive and/or annoying, if it allows you to carve out time for the things that are more important in your life.

Here is the ultimate guide for increasing your personal efficiency in every area of your life.

Eating:

  • Plan your meals for the entire week and shop the ingredients in one go. This takes some time to get a hang of it but has tons of benefits in the long-run. 1) You save time by avoiding multiple runs to the grocery store, thinking what to cook and where to eat every single day.
    2) You save money by avoiding food waste through careful planning and being able to strategically benefit from store promotions. 3) It is a lot easier to be healthy if you cook yourself and plan your meals instead of eating what you feel like when you are really really hungry.
    Bonus: Order your groceries online to save even more time.
  • Meal Prep on Sundays. If you are already planning your meals and want to go a step further, this one is for you. By spending 2–3 hours on Sunday to prepare most of your meals for the week you will save a bulk of time by eliminating daily cooking and cleaning time. It’s kind of like economies of scale for your private life. If you are not ready for prepping the full week yet, just cook double the amount at dinner and take it for lunch to the office the next day.

Some of my favourite meals to prep: over-night oats topped with fruits, big leafy salads with grilled vegetables and feta/chicken/salmon/tuna, Thai curry and other stews with brown rice, home-made wraps and flourless egg quiches.

  • Have a set of default recipes. Being able to cook fast, well and healthy is one of the keys to streamlining your nutrition. By having a set of recipes that you know how to do in your sleep you are able to save time and mental energy on decision making, ingredient shopping and recipe research.
  • Always have your kitchen stocked with the basics. Make sure your pantry is stocked with the basic ingredients to make your default recipes as well as other essentials like oil, salt, herbs, rice, coconut milk. Moreover, keep a few home-made meals in the freezer at all times. This will be a life saver when you need a quick meal fast — or have unexpected guests over.
  • Bonus: Optimise your nutrition for optimal mental performance by experimenting what works best for you in terms of eating frequency, carb/fat/protein distribution and type of foods (watch out for sensitivities and intolerances).

Household

  • Have a basic “stock” list that you check every week. Running out of toilet paper is probably one of the most annoying things on this planet. Mostly because it always happens when you don’t have time to go to the store to buy some or the store is even closed. But running out of basic things like olive oil, shower gel and batteries can easily be avoided by having a “stock list” for every room in your house and checking it weekly. If something is about to run out, put it on the “to buy” list (see next point). This not only saves you time but also saves you from the toilet paper moments.
  • Keep a running “to-buy” list. This could be a physical list on your fridge or a section on your task management tool — just make sure you have it all in one place and ideally sorted by type of shops to buy the supply.
  • Buy the stuff you need once a week. While you are on your weekly grocery tour, stop by some other shops to stock up your household. Bonus points if you do it online to save even more time. You can adjust the planning cycle to 1 month or even 3 months if you have lots of storage space and are permanently living somewhere.
  • Clean up after every meal and before you go to bed. Getting into the habit of putting things back were they belong every day keeps you from ending up in chaos — even if you have a very busy week.
  • Make a cleaning schedule. Determine how often it makes sense to clean your flat/house and do the laundry. Then, set specific times and dates for it, mark it in your calendar and stick to it. Bonus points if you are able to outsource house work and save even more time.

Errands:

  • Keep a running to-do list for errands. Sounds very basic but most people don’t have a separate to-do list for their admin tasks. Instead, they try to remember it, write it on post-its or set random reminders. Save yourself some time and start to manage your errands properly.
  • Batch similar tasks together. Running errands will always be annoying, but at least you can save some time if you are doing them strategically by batching similar tasks together. The idea is to categorise your errands based on type or location (e.g. post office, online bill payment, messages, purchases, etc.) and then do them all in one go.
  • Get them done in scheduled time slots. The thing with errands is that they like to stay on our to-do list for a very long time, making us feel worse every time we look at it. This behaviour not only impairs your productivity but also negatively impacts your happiness. Staying on top of your admin stuff is easy and can really improve the quality of your life. So after you have set up your to-do list and divided your errands into batches, assign specific time slots in your calendar for getting them done. Bonus points if you combine it with things you enjoy like having a coffee in town after picking up a parcel from the post office or listening to your favourite music while paying all your bills online.

Traveling:

  • Have a default packing list for different occasions. Business trip, city break, beach holidays or yoga retreat — identify the trips you do most often and set up a default packing list for it. Opt for fashion items that can be combined multiple ways and have your toiletry bag flight-ready with mini-versions of your cosmetics.
  • Travel hand-luggage only. This is a no-brainer. It saves you time before and after your flight. But get yourself a proper cabin trolley — one that can be pushed in any direction.
  • Check in online. Another no-brainer. Enough said.
  • Prepare for your journey. Pack food, download podcasts, ebooks and movies and bring everything you need to sleep properly. Preparing for those WIFI-free, commute heavy times can help you save time and use your time more productively when traveling — even if it means catching up on sleep.

Workouts:

  • Plan your workouts ahead. Having a workout schedule saves you a lot of time and increases your chances of actually working out. Define a specific time, place and type of workout and schedule it in your calendar.
  • Have a set of workouts you can do at home or while traveling. 20 – 30min workouts can be extremely effective and a great way to stay fit during busy times. Use apps like Freeletics, Sweat or 7-minute workout for no-equipment exercises on the go.
  • Combine working out with other things. No time for working out? Kill two birds with one stone by doing a walking meeting, taking your bike to work or meeting your friend for yoga instead of coffee.

Lost Time (waiting in line, commute etc.):

  • Have a set of relevant podcasts ready. Don’t just randomly listen to podcasts on your commute. Instead, select them in advance and download them. This way, you can be sure you will make the most out of your listening time and avoid connection problems in the train.
  • Have a list of articles ready to read. Use a tool like Pocket to bookmark and save interesting articles from Medium or elsewhere. This way, you’ll avoid mindless scrolling and can fully take advantage of your reading time.
  • Have a running list of 1-min tasks. Make that quick phone call to reserve a table, quickly cancel a subscription, unsubscribe from a few useless newsletters or book that appointment — all in the 5 min waiting for your friend.
  • Reply to messages. If you hate email and Whatsapp like I do, using lost time for catching up with messages is a win-win.
  • Prepare. Go through that important meeting in your head. Review your notes. Think about your marketing strategy. Use lost time to think about your next move.

There’s an optimal way to structure your day—and it’s not the 8-hour workday


Man in suit
This antiquated approach to work isn’t helping us; it’s holding us back.

The eight-hour workday is an outdated and ineffective approach to work. If you want to be as productive as possible, you need to let go of this relic and find a new approach.

The eight-hour workday was created during the industrial revolution as an effort to cut down on the number of hours of manual labor that workers were forced to endure on the factory floor. This breakthrough was a more humane approach to work two hundred years ago, yet it possesses little relevance for us today.

Like our ancestors, we’re expected to put in eight-hour days, working in long, continuous blocks of time, with few or no breaks. Heck, most people even work right through their lunch hour!

This antiquated approach to work isn’t helping us; it’s holding us back.

The best way to structure your day

A study recently conducted by the Draugiem Group used a computer application to track employees’ work habits. Specifically, the application measured how much time people spent on various tasks and compared this to their productivity levels.

In the process of measuring people’s activity, they stumbled upon a fascinating finding: the length of the workday didn’t matter much; what mattered was how people structured their day. In particular, people who were religious about taking short breaks were far more productive than those who worked longer hours.

The ideal work-to-break ratio was 52 minutes of work, followed by 17 minutes of rest. People who maintained this schedule had a unique level of focus in their work. For roughly an hour at a time, they were 100% dedicated to the task they needed to accomplish. They didn’t check Facebook “real quick” or get distracted by e-mails. When they felt fatigue (again, after about an hour), they took short breaks, during which they completely separated themselves from their work. This helped them to dive back in refreshed for another productive hour of work.

Your brain wants an hour on, 15 minutes off

People who have discovered this magic productivity ratio crush their competition because they tap into a fundamental need of the human mind: the brain naturally functions in spurts of high energy (roughly an hour) followed by spurts of low energy (15–20 minutes).

For most of us, this natural ebb and flow of energy leaves us wavering between focused periods of high energy followed by far less productive periods, when we tire and succumb to distractions.

The best way to beat exhaustion and frustrating distractions is to get intentional about your workday. Instead of working for an hour or more and then trying to battle through distractions and fatigue, when your productivity begins to dip, take this as a sign that it’s time for a break.

Real breaks are easier to take when you know they’re going to make your day more productive. We often let fatigue win because we continue working through it (long after we’ve lost energy and focus), and the breaks we take aren’t real breaks (checking your e-mail and watching YouTube doesn’t recharge you the same way as taking a walk does).

Take charge of your workday

The eight-hour workday can work for you if you break your time into strategic intervals. Once you align your natural energy with your effort, things begin to run much more smoothly. Here are four tips that will get you into that perfect rhythm.

Break your day into hourly intervals. We naturally plan what we need to accomplish by the end of the day, the week, or the month, but we’re far more effective when we focus on what we can accomplish right now. Beyond getting you into the right rhythm, planning your day around hour-long intervals simplifies daunting tasks by breaking them into manageable pieces. If you want to be a literalist, you can plan your day around 52-minute intervals if you like, but an hour works just as well.

Respect your hour. The interval strategy only works because we use our peak energy levels to reach an extremely high level of focus for a relatively short amount of time. When you disrespect your hour by texting, checking e-mails, or doing a quick Facebook check, you defeat the entire purpose of the approach.

Take real rest. In the study at Draugiem, they found that employees who took more frequent rests than the hourly optimum were more productive than those who didn’t rest at all. Likewise, those who took deliberately relaxing breaks were better off than those who, when “resting,” had trouble separating themselves from their work. Getting away from your computer, your phone, and your to-do list is essential to boosting your productivity. Breaks such as walking, reading, and chatting are the most effective forms of recharging because they take you away from your work. On a busy day, it might be tempting to think of dealing with emails or making phone calls as breaks, but they aren’t, so don’t give in to this line of thought.

Don’t wait until your body tells you to take a break. If you wait until you feel tired to take a break, it’s too late—you’ve already missed the window of peak productivity. Keeping to your schedule ensures that you work when you’re the most productive and that you rest during times that would otherwise be unproductive. Remember, it’s far more productive to rest for short periods than it is to keep on working when you’re tired and distracted.

Productivity Tips for People Who Hate Productivity Tips


 

“Traditional approaches to staying focused don’t work for me.” “I know what I should do to be more productive, but I just don’t do it.” I hear sentences like these repeatedly from coaching clients. Many have read articles and books — and have even been trained in productivity methods — but still find staying focused to be an uphill battle. Why do people who know a lot about what helps people focus still struggle to focus? Through my work, I’ve identified several reasons, as well as strategies that may help you gain control.

Assuming that others’ preferred productivity strategies should work for you can yield frustration and a sense of defeat. A friend or an author may advocate their own approach so enthusiastically that it seems fail-proof if properly implemented. But if you experience the approach as inauthentic or constraining, it may not be right for you. Trying to make it work can send you into a rut where you repeat unhelpful behaviors while beating yourself up over your lack of focus.

For example, a subset of my coaching clients has an aversion to structuring their time usage with widely recommended tools like spreadsheets, planners, calendars, if-then rules, and timers. These are often the same clients who are closely attuned to the quality of their work experience, who find joy in flow and seek to create more of it, and for whom the introduction of industrial productivity levers feels stifling. If this describes you, you’ll benefit by paying attention to what’s happening within yourself as you work and using what you observe to inform your strategies.

If you feel defeated, two things will help you move forward and feel more in control. The first is to accept where you are and have compassion for yourself. When you admit to yourself, “I’m stuck. This feels awful,” and let that admission sit in your awareness without fighting it or using it to berate yourself, it loses its power to derail you. Treat yourself with compassion by recognizing your strengths, recalling challenges you’ve overcome in the past, and affirming your capacity to solve problems.

Then move forward by experimenting and reflecting. I encourage my clients to check in with how their work process feels at different points throughout the day and make adjustments to improve the quality of their work experience. Being flexible helps. If one approach isn’t working, try another rather than continuing to hammer away fruitlessly. Frustrated sitting at your desk? Take your work outside or to a coffee shop for a couple of hours. Computer screen making your eyes go buggy? Switch to working on paper or using voice recognition. Perhaps you’re determined to complete something before lunch. But if frustration is building, stepping away, taking a walk, and getting something to eat may be exactly what you need to facilitate smooth and rapid completion of the task after lunch.

Leveraging the connection between mind and body is key to knowing when to make a change. For instance, I’ve learned that I need to get out of my chair to stretch several times a day. Tightness in my shoulders or numbness in my buttocks triggers the urge to move. If I feel myself hunching or my jaw getting tight, I’ll walk to the window or go outside and breathe for few minutes. I also build in exercise nearly every day, typically towards the end of the workday or before something that doesn’t require close attention as I find that it diffuses rather than sharpens my focus. Your body can provide you with important cues to optimally manage your focus.

Some people like to keep track of what they plan to accomplish by when. On the other hand, focusing on the process of work rather than the output is a powerfully facilitative perspective shift for many. For instance, my client Nora learned that if she frames her main goal for the day as “finish project,” she feels increasingly stressed as time goes by if the project isn’t moving along as quickly as she’d hoped — and she’s ultimately demoralized at the end of the day if the project remains incomplete. She’s much better served by an intention to “work on project” or “make progress on project,” particularly when she identifies discrete tasks and little milestones that can serve as indicators of progress.

Staying focused doesn’t have to be a struggle. While it may not be easy, managing your focus can and should be self-affirming and fulfilling. Making progress on work that is meaningful is among the most energizing and satisfying experiences anyone can have. Therefore, it makes sense to engineer your workflow for ease and progress. University of Minnesota professor Theresa Glomb recommends organizing your work for a “downhill start.” Like parking your car on a slope facing downhill, what can you do to set conditions such that you need only lift your foot from the brake to get moving? Clear off your desk before you start a new task? Write down your two top priorities for the next day before leaving in the evening? Perhaps you’re a big-picture person who gets bogged down in details. To move your big idea toward realization, you must pinch a manageable task out of your vision and perform it. Ask yourself, “What’s one tiny step I could take?” For example, if I get an idea for an article I’d like to write, I know that the inspiration will dissipate if I don’t convert it to action. I can do a rough outline in a few minutes (tangible progress). If I have time, I’ll develop it into a more extensive outline (more progress). Outlining is much faster and easier than writing a whole draft, yet it’s a concrete step forward that feels good and facilitates the next phase of writing. Waiting for inspiration to create something big from scratch doesn’t work; in fact, it slams the brakes on productivity. What does work is finding ways to take small steps and enjoying the resulting sense of progress.

If someone else’s productivity strategy feels artificial to you, it probably won’t motivate you. For instance, some people can increase their productivity by setting a series of deadlines for themselves. For others, a deadline only promotes focus when it’s real, interpersonally relevant, and has serious consequences attached, not when it’s made up by themselves or someone else for seemingly arbitrary reasons. A real deadline for me is, for example, knowing there will be an audience waiting to hear me speak at a particular time. With that kind of deadline, I’ll be ready and I will deliver an excellent talk. By contrast, me stating to myself or someone else that I plan to have my slides done two weeks in advance won’t help me focus.

Productivity strategies also lose their potential to motivate when they don’t feel meaningful. Try reframing something you have to do in terms of your core values for stronger and more sustained focus. Let’s say I need to schedule interviews with employees at a client firm. Managing the e-mails and the scheduling process feels tedious if I consider these tasks mindless administrative details. But when I think of them as opening conversations that hold the keys to helping people grow and thrive, they become engaging.

Many people fall prey to distractions, both internal and external, in their quest to focus. A useful tool to fend off distraction is an inquiry into the costs of giving in to it. Surrendering to distraction, while temporarily soothing, will later generate feelings of regret and even incompetence. On the other hand, making progress boosts the wonderfully self-affirming sense of mastery. In the face of temptation to give in to distraction, ask yourself the following question: “What are you saying no to right now?” When you take stock of the fact that tumbling down an internet rabbit hole means letting go of the reins and giving up time for the things you really want to do, you may well find the strength to focus.

Finally, accept that focus is dynamic, a work in progress. There’s no single tool that will help you develop laser-like focus that never wanders. The best response to a few hours given over to distraction is not self-recrimination, but self-compassion paired with curiosity. Regardless of whether your focus has been ideal or not, take a few moments at the end of each day to note what you accomplished and to set yourself up for a smooth downhill start on the next day’s targets for progress.

A simple trick to help you speak in public without showing your nerves


You don’t have to put up with a thin, shaky voice, says speech-language pathologist Jackie Gartner-Schmidt.

Every weekday for the month of January, TED Ideas is publishing a new post in a series called “How to Be a Better Human,” containing a helpful piece of advice from a speaker in the TED community. To see all the posts, click here.

Ever given a presentation and felt like your throat was closing up or that there was a big lump in it? Or made an important request of your boss but thought your voice sounded as shaky as Jello on a trampoline?

Turns out, you don’t suffer from some unexplained physical malady. There’s an anatomical explanation for what happens to our voices when we’re under pressure, says speech-language pathologist and University of Pittsburgh professor Jackie Gartner-Schmidt.

All humans have vocal cords — also called vocal folds since they’re folds of tissue — which sit on top of our windpipes, right behind the Adam’s apple. “The real reason we have vocal folds is to protect ourselves,” says Gartner-Schmidt. In fact, they do the very important work of preventing us from inhaling water into our lungs whenever we drink something.

But researchers have found “in experimentally induced stressful situations — be it public speaking, hearing a loud startle sound or having cold water put on your body — that the muscles around the voice box and the muscles actually inside the voice box [a.k.a. the vocal folds] react,” says Gartner-Schmidt. “They activate, and in some cases, they close altogether.”

Of course, no one wants to sound shaky, squeaky or choked up when they speak. As Gartner-Schmidt puts it, “We want our voice to reflect our strengths, not our weaknesses.” She says, “in study after study a high-pitched voice has been correlated with the perception of anxiety, not being competent, not being strong, and not being trustworthy.”

And this matters more and more now, as many of our meetings and interviews take place over conference calls or low-res video chats. As a result, says Gartner-Schmidt, “the voice is substantially taking over more and more of how we are perceived.”

To avoid this, she suggests doing this easy exercise (which she calls one of her favorites).

Hold up your index finger a few inches in front of your mouth. As you exhale steadily, make a “Wooooooo” noise (think: little kid pretending to be a ghost) for 5 to 10 seconds. Do this 5 to 10 times. (Watch her demonstrate it here.)

“This … essentially relaxes the vocal folds,” says Gartner-Schmidt. “It establishes breath and air flow and voice stability, which is the cornerstone of any strong, clear voice.”

Right before the next important occasion in which you have to speak — for work, for the toast you’re giving at a wedding, for a speech to a community board — take Gartner-Schmidt’s advice and “spend some time finding your best voice.”

Watch her TEDxPittsburgh talk here:

Dealing with Stress at workplace


Stress at the workplace is common for an employee. Each employee is facing stress at the workplace, but the amount of stress is different from individual to individual and situation to situation. An incident for an employee may cause stress, but the same incident for other employees may not be the cause of stress.

Stress at the workplace not only affects the job satisfaction and performance of an employee, but stress also affects personal life, health and relationship of an employee.

What is stress?

“Stress is a reaction people have to pressure placed upon them and occurs when pressures exceed the individual’s ability to cope”

Stress may be positive or negative, if due to stress the performance of the individual is increased then it is positive stress, but due to stress when the performance is decreased it is negative stress. Stress is a normal part of life and every individual is facing stress in routine life. Stress has both implications, if stress is positive then it is good but if stress is negative then it is harmful. In other words, stress in a certain limit can be good but if stress exceeds the limit then it becomes harmful.

Factors Influencing Organizational /Work Stress.

The following factors directly or indirectly affect the stress level of employees.

  • Workload

The higher workload to the individual employee is a major factor for stress. If an employee is unable to complete the given work in a time frame, the level of stress increases.

  • Working Hour.

Too many working hours or odd working hours may become the major factor of stress.

  • Environment hazards

Some working places are prone to environmental hazards and adversely affect the health of an employee, for example, the chemical industry.

  • Poor Infrastructure at working place

Some working places do not have proper infrastructure facilities such as ventilation, proper seating arrangement, drinking water, toilet etc. which may become the cause of stress.

  • The drive for success

The employee may have a very high drive for success. Sometimes they cannot bear the little failure and create stress for them.

  • Changing work patterns.

Sometimes employees are used to doing work in a certain pattern but if there is a change in working patterns initially employee suffer stress.

  • Little job control.

Sometimes employees do not have any control over his job or have very little control which can also lead to stress.

  • Poor communication.

In an organization, proper communication is very important. Conflict will arise due to miss communication or poor communication, which may lead to stress in employees.

  • Lack of support.

In the organization, proper coordination and support are required. If there is no support from the superior or colleague, then an organization cannot achieve the targets which result in stress.

Early Warning Signs of Work Stress

There are various physical and mental signs of stress such as Headache, sleep disturbances, difficulty in concentrating, short temper, job dissatisfaction, low morale etc.

Stress Management Strategies

Stress can become a silent killer if it exceeds level for more time. So one should identify the stress and if it is negative for a long time, a remedy to control that stress must be searched out. Following are some strategies to control stress.

Recognize the Problem

The most important point is to recognize the source of negative stress. This is not an admission of weakness or inability to cope, but it is a way to identify the problem and plan measures to overcome it.

Stress Management Techniques

  • Change your thinking
  • Change your behaviour
  • Change your lifestyle

Change Your Thinking.

The best way to minimize the level of stress is to change the way you think about the incident. One can change the thinking by way of

(1)     Re-framing

Reframing is a technique to change the way you look at things in order to feel better about them.

(2)    Positive Thinking

Here one should think about the positive aspects of incidents and focus on strength.

 Change Behaviour

A person should express their thoughts, feelings and beliefs directly to others

  • Get Organized

Here one has to prioritize their objectives, duties and activities and make them manageable and achievable.

  • Ventilation
  • One has to talk with friends/colleagues about the problems.
  • Humour

Laughter is the best medicine and best way to relieve stress.

  • Diversion and Distraction

Get away from things that bother you.

 Change Your Lifestyle

  • Diet: Balanced diet is very important for healthy living. One should have proper calories, nutrition and vitamins. The healthy body can resist the stress easily.
  • Smoking and alcohol: One should avoid alcohol and smoking from routine life.
  • Exercise: Exercise can help to lower your stress level. Regular exercise gives positive effects on mood, resulting from lowering stress level.
  • Leisure and relaxation: Going out with family in natural places such as forest, beach, mountains etc. reduce the stress level.

 

 

To conclude one can say that stress is a part of life, we need to identify the sources of stress and need to manage stress so that one can have better performance and more productivity

How To Make Exercise A Habit That Sticks


The NPR staff likes to exercise in several different ways.

 

Maybe you can relate to this: You resolve to get more exercise. And you do — for a while. But a few days or weeks into a new routine, your good intentions fall apart.

How do you bridge the divide between intention and doing? We asked Katy Milkman, a professor at the Wharton School of Business who studies human decision-making. She gave us six tips, backed up by science, to help nudge people toward better, longer-lasting habits.

1. Give it a month.

Commit to about four weeks of exercise, and research suggests that this can help you build a new routine. Milkman’s team at Wharton did a randomized controlled trial in which they paid people to exercise for 28 days. They found many of the participants were more likely to be exercising 10 months later.

There’s no magic number of days it takes to build a new habit, but “the key to habits is repetition,” Milkman says. “And if you can get that repetition going while you have high motivation, you’re much more likely to have a behavior change that lasts.”

2. Try temptation bundling.

Put the Kardashians to work for you: Combine something that you crave with something that’s healthy, and bingo! You’ll want to do that healthy thing.

“We’ve shown that it can increase the rate at which people exercise, if they combine a real pleasure that they look forward to with their workouts,” Milkman explains.

Whether it’s the Real Housewives or the new season of Serial, you can indulge only while you exercise.

3. Set goals — but don’t let them trap you.

Make sure your exercise objective is achievable and ambitious — but give yourself a free pass or two if you fail to meet it.

That will help you avoid the what-the-hell effect, Milkman explains.

“The what-the-hell effect says that if we fail to hit our goals, we can throw in the towel and go crazy,” Milkman says. “That’s the risk of goals. If they’re tough, and then you don’t make it, you can throw in the towel and actually be worse off.”

So give yourself a free pass if you miss a trip to the gym. Think of it as a mulligan.

4. Let flexibility be your friend.

Milkman was part of a team that studied whether it was more effective to work out at the same time every day or build a more flexible routine. They expected to find the answer was same time, every day.

“That’s not what we found,” she says. “The people who worked out at the same time every day, they did actually form a more lasting habit around exercising at that time. But here’s the catch: That was the only time they ever worked out.”

They fell victim to the what-the-hell effect and gave up for the day if they missed their time.

“We actually found that it was more effective if people mixed it up.”

5. Make it social.

Research shows that habits — good and bad — spread through our social networks. “We often look to the crowd for cues about what we should be doing,” Milkman says.

The same goes for working out. If you compare your exercise habits with neighbors or co-workers, you may be more motivated to go to the gym. Or schedule your exercise with a friend. You’ll be more likely to show up, Milkman says.

6. Put some money on the line.

Money can be a big motivator, so put it to work for you. Set up a commitment device, a sort of contract with your future self to follow through on your goals.

A website called stickK.com enables you to set up a contract to give your money to your designated person or charity if you don’t live up to your commitments. Make that device even more powerful by designating your money to an organization you don’t like!

What makes this such strategy succeed? Humans are risk averse: We hate to give up something, like money, that we’ve already earned.

“We find losses about twice as motivating as gains of equal size,” Milkman explains. That’s what psychologists Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky found with their Nobel Prize winning research. “If we can motivate people with sticks rather than carrots it can actually be more effective,” Milkman says.

Want to stick to your News Year’s exercise regime? This research can help


Our New Year’s Resolution to visit the gym or do more exercise need not be a stab in the dark with the help of some clever psychology, according to a team of researchers.

The experts from The University of Manchester, Leeds Becket University and the National University of Ireland Galway researched the most effective techniques for changing adults’ physical using a concept known as self-efficacy.

The study of the concept, which refers to the belief in our ability to behave in a way that produces a specific performance and published in Annals of Behavioral Medicine, pooled the results of an analysis of 180 randomised trials.

Though it has long been known that higher levels of self-efficacy is associated with higher levels of physical activity, it is not clear which techniques can best increase self-efficacy in the over-18s as a whole.

The ‘This Girl Can’ Campaign to promote sport among women, say the team, is a prime example of how self-efficacy can be used to encourage participation in sport.

Lead researcher Dr. Mei Yee Tang from The University of Manchester said: “One of the biggest influences of our behaviour is our own beliefs. If we believe we are capable of doing something, then we are more likely to devote effort to it and feel we can do it even if it may be a difficult task.”

The team found that the more techniques we use, the more effective they may be at maintaining our self-efficacy – the perception of our abilities and its influence on our behaviour—in the longer-term.

However, the researchers also found that commonly used techniques such as giving people information on the health benefits of physical activity were not effective in increasing self-efficacy.

Dr. Tang added: “We were unable to find clear patterns of techniques which should be used together, or which might not work as well together, in increasing self-efficacy.

“Previous similar reviews which have looked at specific adult populations have found self-regulatory techniques such as setting physical activity goals and monitoring physical activity behaviour to be effective at increasing self-efficacy in obese adults and adults without a clinical condition.

“Yet, these techniques were associated with lower self-efficacy in . In older adults, techniques such as setting graded tasks—such as slowly increasing walking distance each time—were found to be more effective for this population.

“Therefore, it’s important to stress that there isn’t a single ‘magic bullet’ that can increase self-efficacy for physical activity across all .

“On January first we should think about factors such as age and any illness or conditions if we are to support ourselves and our loved ones in achieving their physical activity related-New Year’s resolution.”

10 Simple but Crucial Ways to Deal With Holiday Travel Stress


It doesn’t have to be the worst travel day ever.
people waiting on line while traveling with luggage

Thanksgiving is one of the busiest—and as a result, most stressful—travel times of the year. With everyone around you trying to get to their holiday destinations, that means some serious crowds, bumper-to-bumper traffic, and delays that zero people are psyched about.

“Travel in general can already be stressful for certain people, and the holidays have a mix of even more travelers, unpredictable weather, and dealing with relatives,” Simon Rego, Psy.D., chief psychologist at Montefiore Medical Center/Albert Einstein College of Medicine, tells SELF. “Those things converge for people and can make them even more stressed than usual.”

We don’t blame you if you’re already anticipating feeling seriously stressed out trying to get from point A to point B, or even if you’re already feeling overwhelmed and scattered right now. That’s why we polled mental health pros for their best holiday travel tips, so that it doesn’t have to wipe you out emotionally and physically.

Here are a few things mental health experts recommend to help you keep your cool this week.

1. Make a list of what, exactly, about holiday travel stresses you out.

Sure, pretty much everyone will say that holiday travel is stress-inducing on some level. But the reason why it makes you feel frazzled can be pretty individual—and identifying your specific stressors is the first step in helping you combat them, Cheryl Carmin, Ph.D., director of clinical psychology training at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, tells SELF.

That’s why it’s a good idea to write down all of your anxious feelings and worries on paper before you travel, Jason S. Moser, Ph.D., director of the Clinical Psychophysiology Lab at Michigan State University, tells SELF. Perhaps you’re most concerned about hustling through the airport with your crying newborn, for example; put this on paper and then think of a few solutions for this, like bringing their favorite toy to distract them or talking to your partner about your worry ahead of time so you can plan and support each other through a worst-case scenario.

“This is called expressive writing,” Moser says. “That effectively can ‘offload’ those thoughts and feelings on paper, make them more concrete, and facilitate rethinking and problem solving.” It can even help to toss the whole thing in the trash after you write it to mentally and physically throw away your fears, he adds. Once it’s on paper and out of your head, you can give yourself permission to stop agonizing over it.

2. Make it near-impossible to forget the most important items on your packing list.

If you know you’re going to be up at night worrying that you’ll forget something, or if you’ll completely freak and beat yourself up if you do end up forgetting that precious item, write it down, Rego says. Then, put that reminder somewhere visible (the front door, a bathroom mirror). “It’s a productive action,” he explains.

If you’re still fretting about leaving, say, your niece’s holiday present at home, you could even go as far as packing it way in advance in the luggage you know you’ll be carrying so that it’s there from the start. “If there is something that’s stressing you out and you can do something about it right now, do it. If you can’t, put it on a to-do list to do at another time,” Rego says. Here are more logistical travel tips to make the whole process a little less chaotic.

3. Try to travel during off-peak times, if you can swing it.

Crowds can be a large source of anxiety for some people. And while masses of people and long lines are pretty inevitable during the holidays, they’ll be less overwhelming during less popular times or days. So to whatever extent you can, schedule your travel on days and times when the crowds are likely to be a little thinner, Rego says, like super early in the morning. Or, if your job permits, consider leaving a few days earlier and working remotely from your destination to avoid the mad rush that typically occurs the day before the actual holiday.

4. Download whatever will help distract you from the chaos.

Given that you may still find yourself in some serious body-to-body situations, make a Spotify list of soothing songs before you leave the house so you can tune people out, Carmin suggests. Or, if meditation is your thing (and you feel like you can do it effectively even when others are around), download meditations from an app like Calm or Headspace.

If you have access to Netflix, you can even download some TV shows, movies, or stand-up to distract you from whatever is happening at the airport. But remember: You’ll likely need wifi to make these downloads, so take care of it before you leave the house. And, take it from us, you’ll want to download way more than you think you’ll need…just in case there are major delays.

5. If you’re not driving, have a pre-travel beer if you’d like.

If you’re at the airport or train station and could really stand to chill a little, it’s OK to have a pre-flight glass of wine or beer to unwind, Carmin says. Of course, you know yourself better than anyone, so skip this one if alcohol isn’t for you.

If you have a serious fear of flying and feel as if you’ll need something to help you get on and then stay calm on the plane, talk to your doctor in advance about whether an anti-anxiety medication for the flight might be suitable for you, Carmin says. That said, you definitely don’t want to mix alcohol and medication together, so this is an either/or situation.

6. Talk to yourself in the third person.

This may sound a little strange, but it can help. Practice labeling what you’re feeling, but use your own name and other non-first person pronouns like “he” and “she,” rather than first person pronouns like “I” and “me,” Moser explains.

“What you notice after a while is that you start to give yourself advice like you are talking to someone else,” he says. For example, maybe you hate turbulence and feel like the plane is going to fall out of the sky. Try saying out loud, Moser says, “But [your name] knows air travel is very safe and even safer than driving. [Your name] knows that this will pass.”

7. Lay a few ground rules for your car.

If you’re the designated holiday driver, you’re the one who needs to be the most relaxed during the journey—and that means you get to set the rules, Carmin says. For instance, consider having a quick reminder chat with your passengers to tell them that you’ll be using your navigation method of choice and don’t need backseat Siris, or that you need everyone to avoid arguing while you’re in the car.

Also, the driver gets to pick the music or podcast—that’s just the way it goes.

8. Be ready for delays and conflicts before you even leave.

Remind yourself that there’s (sadly) a good chance your plane will be delayed. Or that you always feel uptight when you’re around Uncle Al for an extended period of time. So if your flight is leaving two hours later than you’d hoped, or you’re going to be stuck in the car with that relative that you have a tense relationship with, wrap your mind around these things in advance so they don’t catch you off guard. (Plus, you’ll be in an even better mood if these situations don’t end up coming to fruition.)

Being aware of these things in advance, recognizing that they might be issues, and thinking about how you’re going to handle them can help reduce some of your anxiety, Reid Wilson, Ph.D., director of the Anxiety Disorders Treatment Center and adjunct associate professor of psychiatry at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine, tells SELF.

9. Whatever your preferred method of self-care is, do it before you leave.

Go for a jog before you leave, or take a quick bath. “Don’t leave things out that help you manage your stress,” Carmin says. Many people will brush off their regular exercise or self-care before they travel to try to save time, but it can make the difference between you stressing on the highway or keeping your cool. Also, don’t forget to bring workout clothes and sneaks for once you arrive—you’re probably going to need it at some point, Carmin says.

10. Leave (way) earlier than you think you need to.

This one seems obvious, but running behind schedule is often a big part of the reason why people get so stressed out about holiday travel. “If you can do things like pack a little bit earlier, leave for the airport a little earlier, or get out earlier, that can help decrease the pressure that people will feel that make them stressed when they travel,” Rego says. If you’re traveling with other people, don’t be afraid to tell them to show up at a time even earlier than you’re actually planning on leaving to give yourselves a cushion.

Worst-case scenario? You have extra time to kill at the airport or train station, or you arrive at your destination earlier by car—far better scenarios than turning into a ball of stress because you’re cutting it too close.

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