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Posts from the ‘Tips to Improve Your Life’ Category

6 Tips for Holiday Harmony with the Family

The holiday season is a time for family, good food, recalling holiday seasons past, and making new memories. At least that’s what it’s supposed to be like.

Let’s face it – not every family’s holiday celebration is straight out of a movie. If your family gathering feels more like World War III than a celebration of holiday joy, you’re not alone. Help make this holiday season a little more bearable by using the tips below.

Put Your Best Foot Forward

If you walk in expecting chaos, you’ll get it! Take the time to mentally prepare for the time you’ll spend with family. Make a conscious effort to go with the flow and not let the drama affect your mood. Having a positive attitude about holiday get-togethers is the first step toward harmony.

Make a Game Plan

It might sound silly, but having a game plan for the occasion is a must. Think about how you’ll answer the awkward questions your Aunt Sue will ask, who you’ll sit next to for the meal and even your limit on glasses of wine. The only person you can control is yourself, so having a plan for the tough moments is a good first step.

Think Before You Speak

Are you irked by a comment your sister, cousin or uncle made at last year’s holiday feast? It’s probably best not to re-hash the details over this year’s meal. Make an effort to stop, breathe and think before you speak. Just think – you may have been spared 364 days of hurt if Uncle Joe would have counted to three before embarrassing you in front of the family!

Find a Holiday Season Buddy

We all have that one friend who can bring us back from the brink, right? No, not the one who agrees with every word of your rant, but the one that calms you down and gives you a little perspective. It’s time to enlist their help for the holiday season. You don’t have to bring them as a plus one to the party, just have them on standby for your most stressful moments. Once you step out the front door, pick up your phone and let it all out – they’ll understand!

Plan Breaks

Having a small panic attack about the marathon family party circuit you’re about to start? We all love our families, but sometimes we just need a break! Make sure you plan for a little alone time before party season starts. Whether you call your Holiday Buddy to vent, watch a movie, read a book or just stare at the stars after a long night, the guests at your next event will reap the benefits of the time you spent unwinding.

It’s Okay to Say No

Every family goes through rough patches. If it’s been a particularly stressful year, it might be best to take the holidays off. Choosing to spend your holiday season with friends rather than family doesn’t mean you love them any less, it just means you’re choosing not to stir the pot. So, go have some fun with friends and hope for a more positive 2014.

When Is It Time to Find a Career Coach?


Career coaching and professional development businesses are becoming more popular as professionals seek solutions to help them stand out in a crowded job market, refine existing skills and explore career options. Whether you are looking for a new job or want to improve in your current role, the career coaching experience can continue to pay dividends for coachees for many years following a completed program.

What is career coaching? Is it similar to a mentorship program?

Career coaching helps individuals clarify their career goals, present themselves in the best manner in professional situations, and even search for a new job or career path, in order to attain a more satisfying career and personal life.

According to Elisabet Rodriguez, founder and president of Rodriguez and Associates, a Pittsburgh-based firm specializing in career coaching for women’s advancement, career coaching and mentorship are very different. “Mentoring is an ongoing experience and relationship. It is one of teaching and learning,” she said. “Coaching is more short-term. It is to address a specific issue and to correct it.”

Rodriquez is actively involved in executive leadership programs for multinational companies, teaches a women’s executive leadership program at Duquesne University, and is author of Can You Afford to Ignore Me? How to Manage Gender and Cultural Differences at Work.

Mentoring involves networking for career development and strategic thinking. Career coaching addresses a very specific situation that, if not corrected, can derail you or prevent you from performing at your best, according to Rodriguez.

“A good example of a situation in which someone would benefit from career coaching is if a person claims, ‘People say I come off as aggressive in meetings. I want to modify my behavior so people do not perceive me as being aggressive.’”

A career coach will help you to rationalize the situation and can help provide a clear analysis of the situation or behavior you want to correct.

How do you find a career coach? What is the cost?

If there are behavioral traits that you would like to change about yourself or there is a situation at work that you would like an objective opinion on in order to help you find a solution, then a career coach may be a good investment for you.

There are thousands of career coaches across the country. Each coaching service is different. Some only focus on certain attributes in professional development. Additionally, while there is a certification process for career coaches, it is not required, and a person can present themselves as a career coach without being certified.

The range in price can vary according to your needs and your role within a company, but hourly rates for career coaches can range from an average of $150 per hour to thousands of dollars per hour for very senior level professionals and executives.

If you’re employed at a mid-sized or large organization and are interested in a career coach, a good first step is to contact your immediate supervisor and human resources department. Many companies contract with career coaching services, and if they don’t, can offer recommendations based on your goals.

What to expect from career coaching?

“Typically when you’re working in a corporate environment, the experience lasts six to eight months,” she said. “However, the length of time depends on why the individual sought out coaching in the first place.”

During the coaching process, the coach will provide homework and guidelines to modify the behavior of the coachee. The coachee provides their coach with examples of how they are behaving in certain circumstances. The coach will then measure progress to see how a behavior is being changed.

Rodriguez noted that the coachee must sustain a sense of awareness and be alert in order to change a behavior. “A good coach can help you stay on a very clear path, and when you’re experiencing difficulty, a safe place to go, and provide direction on how to move forward.”

*Originally published in Higher Degrees Fall 2013.

Career Q&A with Dr. Diane Hamilton


Diane Hamilton (Ph.D., Business Administration, 2008) is an alumna with more than 25 years of business and management-related experience in software, pharmaceuticals, corporate training, finance, and real estate.

Hamilton currently teaches at several universities, is a contributing writer for business-related websites like, and is the author of three books: It’s Not You: It’s Your Personality: Skills to Survive and Thrive in the Modern Workplace, How to Reinvent Your Career: Make Money Doing What You Love, and The Online Student’s User Manual: Everything You Need to Know to be a Successful Online Student.

Higher Degrees caught up with Hamilton to learn more about the topics she has written about including online learning, understanding personalities in the workforce, and reinventing your career.

Higher Degrees:
How does a person who has just finished a degree change his or her career path?

Dr. Hamilton:
If you want to change your career path, it may require some additional training and experience. Some people get degrees in a specific area and then change their minds about what they want to do when they graduate. If a degree is broad like a business degree, there are more options than if the degree is not, for example, Portuguese Communications. It may be as simple as adding a certificate or as complicated as obtaining a post-graduate degree. Many schools have added career planning as part of their training. I teach one course where students must take personality assessments and do assignments within a career center.

Higher Degrees:
What role does someone’s personality play in the workplace?

Dr. Hamilton:
I believe personality plays a big part in whether someone is successful in their job. Many companies administer assessments like the Myers Briggs MBTI. This may be very helpful to determine whether tasks fit personality preferences. I have a strongly extroverted personality which helped me when I was in sales. Now it helps me because I can give lectures and share insights in class.

Higher Degrees:
How can people make a living doing what they love?

Dr. Hamilton:
It may not be possible to get rich doing what you love (at least initially). Sometimes you have to pay your dues in jobs you do not love in order to finally reach the level you desire. Many people are unrealistic in their expectations for what jobs pay. It is important to have a clear goal prior to entering school if possible. If you do not discover what you love until you graduate, it may be more challenging. However, as with any goal, there may need to be smaller more attainable goals set to reach the overall goal. For example, I am a better teacher now than I would have been had I gone directly into teaching in my 20s. All of my experience led to my ability to add more to the classroom discussions. I had a lot of jobs there were not wonderful. However, they all taught me something that has helped me in my dream job that I have now.

*Originally published in Higher Degrees Fall 2013.

4 Ways Eating Candy Can Help You Get More Out of Your Study Time

Eating candy can help you become a better student! Wait, haven’t you been trying to tell your parents that since elementary school? Well, as it turns out you were right all along. Indulging in sweets (in moderation, of course!) might actually help you get the most out of your study time. If you’ve been holding off those sugar cravings for years, sweet relief is finally here!

In order to maximize the benefit of each delicious bite, it’s best to have a game plan (and shopping list) in place. So before you grab your wallet and run, take a few minutes to browse the advice below.

Sugar-Induced Willpower

If you think you’re doing yourself a favor by opting for the sugar-free version of your favorite study time snack, you might be wrong. As it turns out, just a little bit of sugar may go a long way in helping you power through to the end of your coma-inducing reading assignment. In fact, recent studies show that not only will you get to the end with a sugar boost; you’ll have focused better throughout. Now, rejoice and grab that bag of candy you’ve been eyeing. Anything with sugar will do!

Chocolate-Flavored Mood Booster

Ah, chocolate. The taste alone can help brighten even the darkest days, but did you know it contains a chemical called phenylethylamine (PEA) that can actually enhance your mood? In fact, it’s proven to help relieve signs of depression. So, what does that have to do with your study time? You get to enjoy those M&M’s you’ve been dreaming about while writing your next paper, of course! But seriously, think of it this way – if you’re in a better mood, you’ll study longer. If you study longer, you’re bound to get better results on those papers and tests!

Peppermint-Powered Focus

Having trouble focusing on the task at hand? Grab a peppermint! Studies at the University of Cincinnati show that you’ll concentrate better and even become more alert, not to mention the added benefit of having the freshest breath around. If a bag of peppermints isn’t your first choice for a sugary snack, try stopping by Starbuck’s for a peppermint hot chocolate or grabbing a piece of Ghirardelli Peppermint Bark for a mood-brightening bonus!

Gum-Smacking for Stress Relief

For many students, battling stress is an everyday occurrence. If you find yourself battling anxiety, try chewing a piece of gum to ease the pain. The repetitive nature can help release nervous tension, letting you focus on the task at hand. If you’re a little skeptical, check out a little research on the benefits of chewing, then pick up a pack of Wrigley’s Spearmint gum and start reaping the benefits. And don’t forget – none of that sugar-free stuff!

4 Tips on Dealing with Holiday Stress

Remember being a kid and looking forward to the holiday season each year? There was nothing more exciting than getting time off school, spending time with family, listening to cheerful songs on the radio, eating great food and opening presents, lots of presents. Ah, the good old days! Now you’re all grown up, and the holidays represent something completely different. Sure, all of the excitement is still in the air, but there’s something about having to plan, cook and host it all that makes the season just a little more stressful.

Don’t let the thought of everything you need to do to prepare for the holiday season become overwhelming! You can get back to enjoying the final days of 2013 by properly preparing for the stress the season brings. Take a few moments to sit down, breathe and take in these suggestions for making your life just a tad easier.

Plan Your Time

If you’re anything like the rest of us, your holiday to-do list is a few miles long. From shopping to baking and family time, the last few weeks of each year are packed full of preparation for can’t-miss gatherings. Planning for the chaos is your best defense against obligation overload, so use this opportunity to start a positive time management habit – calendar blocking. Then, make a commitment to stick to your plan.

Set a Strict Budget

The holidays emphasize the spirit of generosity and it feels good to share your holiday spirit with others. If you’re stressed about fitting all of the gifts, food and charity contributions in to your budget this year, you’re not alone. Holiday spending (and the stress that goes with it) can get out of control fast, so take the time to set a strict budget. Not sure where to start? Check out this how to article complete with budget worksheets and tips on tracking, tweaking and limiting your spending.

Make a Holiday Playlist

When you’re out fighting crowds and standing in the checkout line for hours, it’s easy to forget that the holiday season is really about family, friends and being thankful for togetherness. If you find yourself standing at the edge of a holiday breakdown, try listening to a few holiday songs that can bring you back from the brink. In fact, it might be a good idea to be proactive and craft a holiday playlist ready for blasting through your headphones at a moment’s notice. If you’re in need of a few suggestions, try browsing Billboard’s list of hot holiday songs.

Spread the Holiday Spirit

There’s nothing quite like the feeling you get from giving back to your community. Volunteering for a local food drive, food bank or church not only helps your community, it helps you to become more grateful for the gifts you have in your life. If you’re having trouble finding a volunteer opportunity to feel passionate about, try With a database full of opportunities to give back across the country, you’re sure to find something close to home.

Pet Therapy: Discovering the Human-Animal Connection

When some people think about adding a pet to their family, they are more worried about the added responsibility and time requirement versus the overall benefit of having a pet. Trips to the veterinarian for vaccinations, spending extra money on food and toys, the headache of potty training, long walks around the park and chewed up shoes are all images that may come to mind when we see the “Adopt Me” sign in front of the dozen puppies and kittens playing outside PetSmart.

Yes, having a pet of any kind is a long-term financial and time commitment, but for most of us, what we get out of the relationship far exceeds what we put into it. More often than not, the promise of unconditional love and companionship are enough to get a paw in the door, but recently-documented health benefits are yet another reason to consider expanding your family with a pet. In fact, studies of the human-animal connection have shown that pet ownership can help “lower blood pressure, less[en] risk of heart disease and reduce anxiety.”

It’s easy to connect the dots between constant companionship and reduced anxiety, but what about those miracle stories of healing? You know, the ones where a cockatoo helped a child overcome the challenges of severe illness. The benefit of the human-animal connection is well-documented in The Pet Collective videos section – Healing Power of Pets. You’re sure to become a believer after watching a US Marine suffering from PTSD, a man with brain cancer, and a young boy with a seizure-detecting dog share their heartwarming stories of pet companionship and healing.

Still feeling a little skeptical? Check out The Healing Power of the Human-Animal Connection by Margo A Halm, RN, PhD, APRN-BC, CCRN. According to this study published in the American Journal of Critical Care, animal-assisted therapy (AAT) helped patients with perception of happiness, normalizing the hospital healing environment, and increased relaxation and calmness. Not to mention the finding that in cardiac patients, pet ownership was significantly correlated with 1-year survival. It’s not so easy to argue with actual results!

If you’re looking for a way to implement the power of pet companionship into your own healthy lifestyle, check out The Healing Power of Pets: Harnessing the Amazing Ability of Pets to Make and Keep People Happy and Healthy. The author and resident veterinarian on Good Morning America, Dr. Marty Becker can show you how pets can help “prevent, detect, treat, and in some cases cure a variety of maladies from arthritis to asthma, and from Alzheimer’s to depression.” Then, head to your local Humane Society to give a pet in need a new family.

Tips for DIY Home Makeovers on a Budget

You’ve succumbed to a late night Bravo and HGTV binge. It’s 2:00 AM and you’re frantically searching the internet for the perfect addition to your home. Sure, it started as an innocent search for a new comforter, but it no longer matters what room it’s for. You just want something fabulous!

Before dropping 300 bucks on a new comforter set complete with throw pillows, take a moment, breathe, and browse these suggestions for a DIY home makeover on a budget. You’ll get through this!


Tired of staring at that spaghetti sauce stain behind the stove every time you cook? Or maybe you’re just over the olive green color you were obsessed with 5 years ago? Changing up the backsplash will give your kitchen the transformation you’re craving without going overboard, and it’s easier than you think.

Try giving your kitchen a face-lift with these budget backsplash projects!

Dining Room

If you’re hosting your family’s holiday festivities this year, get ready to wow them with a new look for your dining room by adding crown molding! Home and Garden Television (HGTV) provides a budget-conscious solution to this otherwise pricey upgrade here. If that’s not the look you’re going for, browse the site for other ideas. You’re sure to find something that fits your budget.

Living Room

Sometimes money isn’t the only thing you’re budgeting – time is of the essence for this one-day makeover! If you’re working with a 7 PM deadline for your hosting debut, check out this nine-hour living room makeover. A few decorative tweaks, a new accent color, and strategic placing of lamps and furniture and you’re set!


You just saw the perfect lamp on Million Dollar Listing: New York. A quick Google search reveals – shocker – it costs $2,000! If you don’t have extra cash lying around for your fabulous bedroom remodel, take a look at these tips on designer bedroom DIY projects. The extra effort you put in to creating your unique look will mean so much more, while costing much less.


Since it’s not technically part of the home, you have no problem justifying the massive clutter dump your garage has become. You’ve come to terms with parking your car in the driveway and never being able to find anything when you need it, so why change it?

If only to preserve your sanity the next time you’re searching for your long-lost tape measure, take advantage of these DIY Tips for Your Garage.


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