Wrap Up – The week in social media


Meerkat and Periscope duke out the first round in the live streaming video matchup, why you should learn about Banjo and social media mining, and how social media is opening up ways to help impact depression and suicide. Plus, Pandas! Have a great weekend!


  • The battle over live streaming. The webernet was all a-flutter the last 10 days over the debut of two live-streaming apps called Meerkat and Periscope. Meerkat was first to the party (barely) followed by recent Twitter acquisition, Periscope. Both apps are easy to use but, at least right now, there are a few differences. It’s hard to say which one will emerge the winner because they will both continue to iterate rapidly. The sure winner will be the average Josephine, who will now be able to broadcast whatever and easily share her broadcast with the world.

Meerkat vs. Periscope: Live-streaming app battle & buzz (Ledger-Enquirer)

  • Millennial nose for news. Many people have millennials chalked up to a non-informed group who spend all their time texting, tweeting, Facebooking and Snapchatting instead of pursuing the “real” world  around them. What we’re beginning to discover is that millennials are engaging the real world through these media channels, not in spite of them. Though they are not as a group deliberately searching for news the way previous generations do (through time-bound media like newspapers, news websites, magazines and TV broadcasts) they are ‘bumping into” the news through the very social networks we judge them for using so heavily.

    Millennials Rely On Social Media For News (CBS Miami)

  • Cutting through the noise. This is a fascinating feature from Inc.com about Damien Patton, creator of Banjo. Banjo is a platform that combines all the activity we’re doing online and aggregates the data to create real-world pictures of what might be happening in the world at any given time. Part of the challenge with social media and online metrics is that you have to be a bit of a wizard to understand exactly how they all fit together and what they really mean. Banjo takes to a level that is hard for the average person to understand, but has practical implications in innumerable areas of life and industry.

    The Most Important Social Media Company You’ve Never Heard Of (Inc.com)
  • Never say die. Email is the bane of our existence, yet it’s really the only universal method of communication accessible to most all online audiences. Since social media burst on the scene in earnest a decade ago, we’ve been hearing that this app or that app will finally be the death of email. So far, that’s not the case. This Newsweek article argues that we just haven’t found the next great universal tool that will fit our now largely mobile lifestyle.

    Beyond Email: SnapChat, Slack, Yik Yak and Cyber Dust Are the New Frontier of Communication (Newsweek)

Living with Social Media

  • The green monster is a ghost. Snapchat_LogoFacebook is notorious for creating relationship drama when it comes to jealousy. But Snapchat is quickly overtaking Facebook for the social media jealousy crown. Turns out its secrecy and self-destructive nature makes it even more prone to flirtatious behavior than Facebook’s more public nature.

This Is How Snapchat Is Affecting Your Love Life (Mic.com)

    • Depression on display. Younger generations are now conditioned to share their feelings online, in very public forums. In the past, people who were depressed or suicidal often suffered alone. But the Internet, especially social media, has allowed us a window inside the mind of mental illness. And sometimes those thoughts are scary because they might be thoughts of harm to themselves or others. So do we as Internet citizens have a responsibility to intervene when it seems a social media connection is having more than a bad day? This article shares the prevalence of depressive thoughts on social media and how some are providing a solution.

If suicide is signalled on social media, should you intervene? (Aeon)

  • Establishing social media boundaries. It’s kind of expected these days to have some kind of social media and online presence if you are engaged in a career. Sometimes known as personal branding, this image marketing is just part of the game now. But how do you engage on these platforms without giving up too much privacy or showing too much of your personal side? Taking control of your social media boundaries lets you decide how you want to engage and which audiences see the information appropriate for them.

How to Separate the Personal and Professional on Social Media (Harvard Business Review)

  • Hashtags support health. Everyone knows support is critical in any weight loss endeavor, whether it’s Weight Watchers meetings or working out with a buddy. There’s power in knowing someone else is sharing your efforts and looking out for you. Now research is showing that those who engage heavily in social media as part of their weight loss quest are seeing real benefits. The accountability and motivation are key in helping them stay on track.

Hashtag your way to healthy (Time)

Cocktail party banter

Dazzle all your friends at cocktail parties with a few random facts and stories.


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Is Meerkat the next big communication revolution?


One of the great things about being in the communications field is watching the ground shift at fairly frequent intervals. What was “the next big thing” just a year ago in many cases gives way to something else before you start your Christmas shopping. It’s like hitting a moving target, with faster sharing and new apps always on the horizon.

The ground has shifted in the last three weeks with the launch of Meerkat.

New apps debut every day but few to as much fanfare as this new live streaming app. You’ve probably seen a myriad of articles in the last few days about Meerkat and thought it was just another flash in the pan. And it very well may be.

But since it launched just a little less than a month ago, it’s become the darling of the tech community. Not only are people buzzing about it, but they’re also using it. Third party apps are already springing up to support it. More importantly for Meerkat, they’re raising cash.

Everyone can be a broadcaster

Meerkat is live broadcasting for the masses. The app lets you live stream from your mobile device inside your Twitter feed. Once you initiate a video recording through the Meerkat app, a tweet pops up on your Twitter feed containing a URL to the stream so your followers can watch your broadcast. The URL can then be retweeted like any other tweet, opening the door for your broadcast to go viral.

Viewers can comment and ask questions throughout the broadcast, making it much more interactive than just watching a video.

The stream isn’t archived in the app itself, but the broadcaster can store it on his or her device and upload it to YouTube, Instagram, or another video sharing site. A few days ago an app called #katch popped up, allowing Meerkaters (pretty sure that’s a thing) to automatically upload completed Meerkat broadcasts to YouTube.

Will Meerkat be different?

While the idea of livestreaming from your mobile device isn’t anything new, the simplicity of creating the broadcast and distributing it on a well-established platform like Twitter is Meerkat’s strength. They’ve made personal broadcasting kind of goof proof.

It’s tempting to wonder why you should care about this app. Certainly plenty of people will broadcast the mind-numbing details of their selfie focused life. But the uses for this kind of personal broadcasting are extraordinary.

Here are a few compelling uses in the mix so far:


While Congress can’t quickly pass meaningful legislation these days, a few politicians have already managed to latch on to Meerkat. Though not the first politician to Meerkat, Rand Paul broadcasted at the tech fest SXSW in Austin, where the infant Meerkat really got its legs. (By the way, that was just last week.) And Jeb Bush has already live streamed some speeches.

As the campaign circus gets fully underway, watch all the potential contenders start falling all over each other trying to look relevant with this app.

Conflicts, protests and armed rebellions

Twitter proved its worth as a major player in uprisings in Egypt, Ukraine and other hotspots around the world. Meerkat adds a real-time visual layer to this kind of information gathering. As events unfold around the world, we can watch them as they’re happening (albeit with a 10-second delay built in by Meerkat). It’s a compelling way for real-time events to be tweeted in a visually compelling format. I’m guessing we won’t be able to stop watching.

On scene reporting

Many reporters are now asked to be a one-person show on scene: camera operator, audio technician and reporter. Meerkat may simplify their job by allowing one-button access to getting “on air” as breaking news unfolds, getting eyeballs on their broadcast quickly. This BBC article has a good analysis of the media company’s thinking behind their use of Meerkat in the recent Ferguson protests:

Meerkat also provides more publishing options after the fact. News is all about content, and Meerkat provides an easy way to capture more content to convey a story from several angles.

Behind the scenes

Lord knows we don’t get enough information about celebrities. We are addicted to “as it’s happening,” and we are addicted to whatever it is celebrities do when they’re not working, so this use should really take off.

Sports organizations can use Meerkat to provide engaging content at practices and during camps, or just to make quick announcements, like informal press conferences. Or give us a glimpse of what Derek Jeter is up to in retirement, just sayin’…


The interactivity, timeliness and ease of use could be a strong application of Meerkat in an educational format. With the increase of social and mobile technologies in developing countries, Meerkat could bring education in all disciplines to remote corners of the world.

Innovating communication

No doubt the naysayers are going to pass Meerkat off as just another narcissist bucket waiting to be filled. And they may be right.

But if we’ve learned anything in our culture of extreme immediacy we know that the tools that help us do things quickly and easily tend to come out the big winners.

As adoption of Meerkat increases, it will be interesting to see how it solves real communication problems for real people.

Photo: The Meerkats at Busch Gardens in Tampa, Fla. are always interactive and engaging, as seen here on a family trip in 2009.

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Can I be a mentor if I’ve never been mentored?


It was only a few years ago that I began to understand the role mentorship can play for women in the business world. I had no models for my career when I got out of college more than 20 years ago. So I largely went it alone, forging ahead with my career mojo of hard work and a fierce hunger to learn.

Don’t get me wrong. I’ve worked with knowledgeable, creative and dynamic women but I was never in a position to avail myself of them specifically as a mentor. I had no idea you could just ask (who knew that was a thing?), and I know my career would have been better for it.

Now that I am firmly a card-carrying member of the mid-career crew, I can easily look back and pick out a few things that can be helpful to someone at the starting gate.

At its core mentoring is a relationship of guidance and encouragement, peppered with measurable goals and accountability. Even if you didn’t have the benefit of your own mentor, you can still provide value to a young woman in the early stages of her career by focusing on a few key concepts.

Listen to understand

The skill of listening is hands down the foundation of any successful relationship. In order to get to the specific goals and aspirations of your mentee, you need to hear what’s in her heart. But listening to understand is different than listening to speak.

Often when we’re listening to someone talk about a challenge or problem, we are calculating our response to them — while they’re still speaking. We’re so eager to get our point across that we miss out on important information.

Listening to understand means listening to your mentee with true empathy, summarizing what she said to make sure you have the details straight, asking open-ended questions to clarify anything, and physically giving her your undivided attention.

It’s a deliberate approach but it will leave her feeling as if she’s really been heard, which will encourage her to open up even more.

This is a good way to build rapport quickly with your mentee and get your relationship underway.

It’s also pretty much the best way to engage in all your relationships.

Encourage your mentee to take the reins

While it’s important to do the hard work of active listening with your mentee, it’s also important to remember that she is the one benefiting from your wisdom and knowledge. In doing so, your mentee should take the lion’s share of the work.

She should take the lead in scheduling your time together and have clear ideas and questions about what she’d like to discuss during your meetings. It will certainly be more of a collaborative effort as your relationship grows, but you shouldn’t find yourself managing all the details of her mentorship experience.

Making sure you’re meeting on a regular basis and coming up with good content for your sessions together really falls on the mentee. This is how she learns to take ownership of her career and relationships.

If you feel like you’re working too hard at the relationship you should bring it up with your mentee and re-clarify her goals for the experience.

Challenge your mentee to get uncomfortable

Some of my most gratifying and successful projects came about because I put myself in an uncomfortable and somewhat visible place. As women we don’t always like to move forward unless we have planned everything to death or spent hours in preparation. Learning to take action before feeling 100% ready (or 90% or 80%…) is a valuable skill to teach any young woman.

Encouraging your mentee to volunteer for challenging projects or take on a leadership role she may not yet feel prepared to take on is a great way to build her confidence. Action builds confidence, there’s just no way around it.

The added bonus for your mentee is that you’ll be with her as she makes that move so she doesn’t have to go it alone.

Be patient

Above all, be patient as you build your relationship.  Hopefully you and your mentee will hit it off right away, but it may take a few sessions to feel as if you are really connecting. Meaningful relationships take time to develop.

Be patient most importantly with yourself. While you may not see visible effects of your mentorship right away, you may not realize how much you’re affecting her in small ways. Sometimes one comment from you can be all she needs to look at herself in a different light.

Investing your time and experience in another person is a rewarding benefit of reaching this stage of your career.

You may not have had the benefit of someone to walk with you in your own career, but your own achievements will provide your mentee plenty of inspiration to start achieving her own goals.

Photo Credit: .v1ctor Casale. via Compfight cc

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Making a living or making an impact?

Photo Credit: Feggy Art via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: Feggy Art via Compfight cc

I was moved this week attending a retirement reception for a woman who had served in public health for more than 30 years. After a long and fruitful career as a physician, she recently decided to conclude her career to spend more time with her family.

I sat in the audience as person after person stood and expressed their gratitude for her mentorship, her leadership, and her diligence in creating programs that ultimately impacted thousands of people, many of whom she never met. Her impact seemed immeasurable.

This wasn’t just the usual witty, if not somewhat annoying, retirement banter:  who’s going to make sure everyone gets their TPS reports in on time, who’s going to bring the donuts in on Fridays, or please, think of us all here when you’re relaxing at the beach. There was real respect for the magnitude of her work and even some tears from those who had benefitted from her tenure.

I think many of us envision leaving this kind of footprint with our careers but at times it’s hard to imagine when you’re in the throes of it all.

Career literature for women today focuses on building careers that elevate women’s leadership in visible ways, such as C-level positions, Fortune 500 board positions, or in well-paid positions that bring more power.

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with those pursuits, but the statistical reality is that most of us will not reach these heights inside a corporate structure. As much as we say we are just as capable but lead differently than men, we still at times like to use their measuring stick to define our success: power and money.

Where is the line between an ambitious career that meets your financial and creative needs yet leaves an immeasurable impact that continues even after you’re gone?

As I listened to the praises bestowed on this woman, I reflected on some of the underlying themes in the remarks.

She was a woman of action.

She wasn’t so much about talking in order to be heard; in fact she is quite soft spoken. Sure, she leaned in so that others knew she was there and capable of doing good work. But she then put action behind her words, creating organizations that addressed problems in very practical and tangible ways.

Her expertise as a physician allowed her to determine the most effective course of action and also what might hinder the goal. And she certainly drew others to her to help in achieving that goal. She acted in concert with others to meet a real need in her community.

But she acted.

She chose action in context with her passion.

Her passion was public health and ensuring the health and well-being of people who struggle to help themselves. As women with so much potential and infinitely more choices than our grandmothers, it’s easy to devote our time to things that really don’t get our motor running.

In following her passion, this woman created opportunities not just for herself but for others in the same field. Several people at her reception mentioned that their careers were possible because of her desire to create change in her sphere of influence.

Someone else is doing their job because you did yours.

That’s powerful stuff.

In choosing to act, and choosing to act according to her passion, she carved her path to her legacy.

Legacy work is that which lives on after our careers are over, and indeed, when our lives are over. It doesn’t just include having a hospital wing or a street named after you. Hearing people say years later that their lives and careers were possible because of your specific choices is a humbling endeavor.

Seeing this woman quietly accept and acknowledge this gratitude from her peers made me wonder if she had any inkling of this path for herself at the beginning. Or if she was just pursuing — with measurable action – simply what mattered to her and what she thought would help the most people.

It sounds simple but I’m not sure that it is.

In spite of the challenges still present, today’s woman has more tools than ever to help grow her career and do the work she wants to do. Beyond networking, organizational effectiveness, thought leadership and all the other areas women are encouraged to pursue, we also have to ask ourselves what we are contributing that will remain, that really matters.

What choices are you making in your career that will make another person’s journey more purposeful?


Let go of what isn’t working

Photo Credit: hlkljgk via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: hlkljgk via Compfight cc

If I’m honest with myself, most of the things I do on any given day don’t drive me toward my larger work and personal goals. My cherished to-do list is full of things that maintain my lifestyle or advance someone else’s agenda. Busywork, mostly.

When I don’t accomplish enough of this busywork on my list I feel anxious and berate myself for failing to live up to an arbitrary standard.

Yes, I’m hard on myself.

In the process, the things that matter to me are easily pushed aside.

What can I let go of to focus on the things that will push my own work forward?


We get mixed messages about perfectionism. We’re told to just get things done to some point of completion. Done is better than perfect, according to Sheryl Sandberg.

At the same time we’re told that attention to details can change the quality of our lives. Remove all sugar from your diet to ward off obesity and cancer, meditate at least 10 minutes every day to reduce stress, get at least 120 minutes of cardio every week for physical and mental health, and make sure you don’t sit too much.

This noise creates anxiety if we’re not meeting those minimums. And if you’re a perfectionist, you don’t want to just meet the minimums.

I think one might be better than perfect.

Instead of asking myself each day how much I can get done, I’m now looking at my list to see what one item will have the most the value. I’m focusing my valuable energy there first. The rest will be what it will be. At the end of the day at least I’ll have my one thing.

Negative thoughts and perceptions

I hold the key to change what I believe about myself. No one else can do this work for me. Not my husband, my friends, the company I work for, not even Oprah. This one’s truly in my court.

Negative thoughts lead to negative emotions, which can lead to negative actions. We spend a lot of time trying to control our emotions or justifying them. We like to say we can’t help how we feel, but we can because we can choose how to think.

We sometimes forget we have the ability to control the process from the beginning. We can choose how we perceive the events in our lives.

I’m letting go of any space in my mind for negative and destructive thoughts. I’m challenging them right at the door as they come in. A mental bouncer, if you will. My mind is no longer an open house but by invitation only.

Passive entertainment

I’m on a mission in 2015 to remove most passive entertainment from my life. Research shows the time I spend on digital entertainment amounts to another full-time job.

If I remove all the pointless TV (including and especially the news), binge watching, random Internet browsing, social media, celebrity gossip and online gaming, I’m left with an enormous amount of time to get stuff done.

I suddenly find time to exercise, read, make the next workday’s healthy lunch, write, sleep, create a business plan, have a meaningful conversation and take time to ponder life in all its woe and wonder. Seriously.

I’m trying to let go of the need to be entertained at every step and using that time to create stuff. It’s not easy. Beautifully lit screens are surely seductive, but this new focus has produced nice rewards for me so far this year.

Spending time trying to be perfect at everything, beating ourselves up and whiling away hours consuming slick marketing platforms are all pretty wasteful.

I’m ready to let go of the activities and mindsets that hold me back. It’s time to reclaim my creative space and produce the legacy work that will mark my time here.


The year of Minding my Self


One of the consolation prizes of getting older is thinking maybe you’ve learned something with each passing year that you can take in to the next one. Every year presents a new opportunity to finally get it right, to reveal in your memoir that you figured it out and that the rest of your life pivoted on that one mind-blowing year.

My memoir probably won’t be as dramatic as all that but I have identified a few things I’d like to do a little better this year.

Photo Credit: Mariannex via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: Mariannex via Compfight cc

Find my long-lost right brain

The last 20+ years in corporate America has almost squandered the free-associating right hemisphere of my brain in favor of the more pragmatic, task-oriented left side.

At the end of the day, you have to get stuff done.

But it’s really starting to bother me that I don’t create anything as much as I just complete checklists.

The advance of the Internet and the ensuing smartphone revolution brought about productivity systems, tools and apps that promised to free up valuable parts of my brain for more creative pursuits. Honestly, those tools just gave me time to create more checklists and maintain the tools.

That’s not good enough.

I want to reclaim my ability to create new things. This year I want to have tangible representations of my time, to throw my face to the sky in blind enthusiasm and say, “I made this!” (There’s that drama!)

GOAL: Learn to draw.

Okay, it’s kind of a random goal. But plenty of people say that learning to draw is like a creative decongestant. So many different areas of the brain come into play to make it happen that it opens up new skills and changes how you view objects in the world.

Maybe the focus on using my hands and brain in a completely new way will open my mind to undiscovered possibilities hiding under its surface.

Photo Credit: Graphik Boutique via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: Graphik Boutique via Compfight cc

Ask more questions

In his book, “A More Beautiful Question,” Warren Berger explores the innovation and creativity that can result from the simple act of asking questions.

Instead of the constant search for answers, made easier these days by a simple Internet search, questions such as, “Why am I doing this?” and “What if I did this in a different way?” may prompt us to uncharted territory.

We are so busy chasing productivity and material goals that we don’t always stop to ask why we are on the hunt for these things. Should we pursue them at all?

These questions don’t have easy answers in the Google box.

GOAL: Ask questions about one goal, belief or assumption I hold dear and search honestly for the answer. Document and share.

What if I were to challenge one of my deeply-held beliefs this year? What kind of change could I bring about in my own life or in the lives of others by asking questions about things I take for granted?

Less mindless entertainment

You can now literally exhaust yourself watching TV. It goes with you anywhere on a device of your choosing. TV, now known as digital content, has turned into an amazing time suck, especially now that we can binge watch until our eyes bleed on any number of channels and services.

A Nielsen study from 2014 showed that Americans now own an average of four devices (guilty), and spend 60 hours a week consuming content on those devices (embarrassingly and probably, yes).

What amazing things could happen if just half that time spent on passive entertainment was spent exercising, reading, building healthy relationships and learning a new skill?

Would 30 hours a week developing a new hobby, building a side business or spending time with someone change my life in any real way? (Look at me already asking questions!)

GOAL: Watch TV shows I truly love only as a reward for accomplishing my weekly goals.


These goals are not mind-blowing, aggressive or innovative in and of themselves, but I think they might help push me to use my time in ways that offer more long-term value.

I want to be a good steward of my time and open my mind to opportunities I may have easily missed the past few years.

Maybe 2015 is the year I start Chapter One of that dramatic memoir.


4 Ways of Thinking That Could Affect Your Sleep


Americans are one sleep-deprived bunch. According to the 2013 International Bedroom Poll conducted by the National Sleep Foundation, 25% of people in the United States report rarely or never having a good night’s sleep. With all of the responsibilities we manage in our modern daily hustle, it is truly hard to turn everything off and make the decision to go to bed on time.

Photo: Alyssa L. Miller via Flickr CC

For some of us, even when we make that decision, sleep just refuses to come along with us. We lay awake for hours waiting for the magic sleep fairy to grace us with her sweet, sleepy pixie dust.

One solution we hear a lot about is sleep hygiene — creating habits and routines that cue our body that sleep is imminent. Sleep hygiene includes things like refraining from all of our beautifully lit screens, a hot bath, not napping during the day, and going to bed at the same time each night (yes, even on weekends). But what happens when sleep hygiene doesn’t do the trick?

Sleep hygiene is critical, but to really make progress we first have to change our thinking about sleep. If you’ve ever had a problem getting to sleep for more than a few days you are familiar with the vicious hack job your brain does when you’re not able to sleep. The harder you try not to think about not sleeping, the more ticked off and anxious you get. And it turns out, if you think you can’t sleep, then you might not.

Recently, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) has been applied to sleep disorders in an intervention called CBT for Insomnia (CBT-I). In addition to sleep habits, CBT-I addresses beliefs and thinking errors that befall insomniacs.

Below are some common thinking errors associated with insomnia, along with some more adaptive thoughts to try. If you’ve struggled with sleep over any period of time, you’ll definitely recognize some of these.

  1. I’ll never get to sleep.
    This is physiologically not likely. At some point your body will go into manual overdrive, and you will sleep. Sleep deprivation is used as a torture method because our bodies are designed to need sleep as one of our most important survival mechanisms. So don’t think you are bucking science by being the only one who will never sleep.

    • Instead tell yourself: I’m having trouble sleeping now but I will eventually fall asleep whether tonight, or tomorrow night or Friday night, or whatever.
  2. I’m not going to be able to function at all tomorrow.
    Let’s be honest, you’re not going to feel great at work, and you’ll probably want to curl up under your cubicle all day (the cruelest part of insomnia is being able to sleep anywhere but home). But you will be able to function on some level.

    • Instead tell yourself: I won’t be working at my optimum ability, but I will be able to get through the day.
  3. Everyone else is asleep but me.
    What’s more frustrating than hearing your whole house sound asleep while you’re awake all night? Remember that 25%? They’re right there with you.

    • Instead tell yourself: I’m not the only one suffering from this. It’s a common problem, and I’m not alone.
  4. I have to get up in ## hours.
    Watching the clock tick the hours away and doing that math is another insomnia cruelty. We are conditioned to the idea that 7-9 hours of sleep each night is the holy grail, and we fear certain failure if we don’t achieve that magic number.

    • Instead tell yourself: What the clock says doesn’t matter. I will be grateful to get any amount of sleep tonight, even if just for a short while.

Notice that none of these new, more adaptive thoughts actually carry the promise of sleep that particular night. The truth is you may not sleep a wink, but you don’t have to feel devastated by it. You’ll know that there’s always another opportunity to sleep the next day. These statements are all about minimizing the anxiety associated with insomnia, which feeds it and gets you all worked up. Once you’re worked up, you’re definitely not sleeping.

By learning to use different thoughts about your sleep, along with those good habits and hygiene, you may find it a little easier to fall asleep.


National Sleep Foundation. (2013, September 03). 2013 International Bedroom Poll. Retrieved from SleepFoundation.org website: http://sleepfoundation.org/sleep-polls-data/other-polls/2013-international-bedroom-poll

Palmer, B. (2009, May 11). Can you die from lack of sleep? Retrieved from Slate.com website: http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/explainer/2009/05/can_you_die_from_lack_of_sleep.html



Book Review: The Confidence Code


I read an interesting book recently called “The Confidence Code: The Science and Art of Self-Assurance – What Women Should Know,” by Katty Kay and Claire Shipman. Over the last couple of years, we’ve heard quite a bit about how women seem to have hit a wall in the workplace, settling back and not scoring those C-level positions in the representative numbers.

In 2013, Facebook’s Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg encouraged women in her book “Lean In” to place themselves right in the mix of the decision-making scenarios at work, to speak up. After the gains of the last 50 years, women are now at the table with men, but they are sitting back and not promoting themselves. Why?

Kay and Shipman believe that the missing link in achieving this kind of success is not a lack of competence, but a lack of confidence. They believe this deficit stems from attributes that many women seem to have in common: overthinking, rumination, perfectionism, and an unwillingness to act when conditions are less than ideal.

I think they may be right.

I saw a lot of myself in this book. I suffer from no lack of education, and I was an A student in both undergraduate and graduate school. I’ve demonstrated in my 20-year career that I can get things done. I work hard to make something perfect for clients or my bosses. In most of my jobs, I’ve quickly been labeled the “guru” at something. I usually act only with a fully fleshed-out plan in place (I love spreadsheets), and spare no details in executing.

And apparently my focus solely on my competence to further my career may be costing me. Without the confidence to speak up, share those accomplishments with others, and take action even when all the pieces haven’t yet fallen into place, I may be keeping myself invisible.

One interesting point the authors explore is the critical role that team sports have historically played in helping boys build confidence, as well as developing their ability to deal with failure more effectively. Many girls drop out of team sports right when they experience failure and rob themselves of the opportunity to learn important team skills. These same skills will help them succeed in a workplace where the rules are vastly different from the academic environment they have excelled in for most of their lives.

On the surface, confidence seems to be something you either have or you don’t. This book does a good job of debunking that myth and gives practical and actionable advice to start building confidence in small ways.


5 ways to trim the fat in your news diet


I’m a die-hard news junkie, but lately it’s hard not to get overwhelmed with what I see, hear, and read in the news. Terrorists doing unspeakable things, the devastating spread of Ebola and tales of tawdry political scandals filled the news just this week. It leaves me feeling worried, anxious, and helpless about many things over which I have little or no control, taking up valuable emotional space.

Photo credit: Teresa Gibbison
Photo credit: Teresa Gibbison

While we can’t control the scary things that happen each day, we can exercise some control over the real estate we allow them to lease in our minds. In the same way that we can be mindful of what foods we consume as part of a healthy diet, we can also be proactive about what we feed our minds. We can put ourselves on a little news media diet.

Here are a few recipes that have helped me trim the fat in my news media diet in the last few months:

  1. Turn off constant coverage of a breaking news event.
    A survey in the wake of last year’s Boston Marathon bombings found that those who watched six or more hours each day of media coverage in the week after the bombings showed higher levels of acute stress than people who were at or near the bombings. Digesting a constant flow of traumatic information seems to increase your risk of experiencing stressful effects.
  2. Turn off TV, radio and Internet news channels as background noise.
    Beyond the constant exposure to negative information, leaving news sources running in the background while performing other tasks, such as reading, forces your brain to multitask. One study showed that news programming affected concentration more severely than watching a comedy. Do your brain a favor, and listen to music or enjoy some quiet time.
  3. Block specific time to catch up on the news.
    Productivity experts have long praised the idea of blocking specific timeframes for important tasks as a way to prioritize our day and accomplish the things that matter to us. Block time in your calendar to catch up on world events, then move on. This especially includes time spent on social media, which for many have largely become primary sources of news.
  4. Unsubscribe from breaking news emails.
    Unless your particular industry calls for an awareness of new information, change your email preferences to receive a weekly wrap-up instead of an email “as it happens.” If the news site doesn’t offer a wrap-up, create a rule in your inbox that will forward those emails to another folder that you can read during your blocked time.
  5. Skim headlines.
    You can get the general idea of what’s happening just by reading headlines. (Sorry, web metrics folks!) This saves you from reading many of the gory details and graphic videos that can be traumatic to read or watch. This also allows you more time to ingest news that may help you impact your community, instead of feasting on the more sensational fare along the way.

I’m not advocating tuning out world events or the proverbial “sticking your head in the sand.” But there’s no law that says we have to be at the mercy of the 24-hour news cycle. We can choose how and when we stay informed.

What do you think?


Holman, E. A., Garfin, D. R., & Silver, R. C. (2014). Media’s role in broadcasting acute stress following the Boston Marathon bombings. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 111(1), 93-98.

Lin, L., Lee, J., & Robertson, T. (2011). Reading while watching video: The effect of video content on reading comprehension and media multitasking ability. Journal of Educational Computing Research, 45(2), 183-201.


Exercise and depression: Why you should move your body every day


Regular daily exercise is now the no-brainer method to stay physically healthy. But in the last decade, exercise has emerged as a big player for mental health issues as well, especially in the treatment of depression. Major Depressive Disorder is one of the most common mental health disorders in the United States. At the same time, many people in the U.S. lead largely sedentary lives. Is there a link? Can exercise make a difference in mental health?

Photo courtesy of Renato Peroni
Photo courtesy of Renato Peroni

Recently after I earned my Master’s in Counseling Psychology, I found myself in a bit of a low place. I had just spent the past 2 1/2 years working a full-time job while going to school full time (on top of being a wife and mother). In the process, I mostly trashed my diet and exercise habits. I was tired and worn out. I quickly whipped out my best Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) tools to tackle my negative thoughts, which helped a lot (because CBT works!).

But it wasn’t until I committed to exercising every day that I began to feel like I was back on top of things. It didn’t hurt that I started to lose the 15 pounds I had gained in my academic life. Doing something good for my body made me want to eat better, and soon I began sleeping better too. The simple act of daily exercising started a cycle of overall better health for me.

Recent research seems to back up what I was experiencing.

  1. Exercise reduces stress.
    Stress is a risk factor for depression, and Americans are awash in stress. A recent report from NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and Harvard School of Public Health, called “The Burden of Stress in America,” showed that almost half (49%) of all respondents in their survey experienced major stress in the last year. Over 40% of those respondents experienced stress related to health issues, which in turn created stress on a more frequent basis. If you’ve dealt with a chronic health issue you’ll know that’s true.
  2. Exercise keeps the body healthy.
    Exercise is good for our cardiovascular system, helps us retain muscle and bone density as we age, and keeps our weight in check to prevent health issues caused by obesity. If chronic health issues are a lightning rod for stress, which can lead to depression, then it makes sense to establish an exercise program to prevent chronic health issues in the first place. Many of the health issues Americans grapple with today are largely preventable with exercise, along with a healthy diet.
  3. Exercise creates chemical reactions in our bodies that counteract the biological processes of depression.
    After the body experiences stress, it produces an enzyme called kynurenine that increases the risk of depression by causing inflammation in the brain. A recent study found that another enzyme called PGC-1alpha1, which is produced in the skeletal muscle during and after exercising, calls up a protein that breaks down kynurenine and keeps it from passing into the brain. This process appears to be a defensive mechanism produced by the body as a result of exercise. Exercise also releases endorphins, those “feel good” hormones that give us a little lift in mood.
  4. Exercising outdoors, especially with a friend, gets you extra well-being points.
    Not only does exercise boost your mood, but taking it outdoors appears to increase the mood-lifting effect. A recent study in England found that people who went on group walks in nature settings experienced reduced levels of depression and stress while experiencing an improved sense of well-being. (The researchers controlled for the social support from being in a group setting.)
  5. Exercise improves sleep.
    Sleep problems are linked with mood disorders like depression. If you’re not sleeping well, you are leaving yourself vulnerable to some well-being issues. Exercising at any level of intensity seems to help boost the quality of sleep. In the National Sleep Foundation 2013 poll, those who exercised vigorously, moderately, or even lightly reported fairly good or very good sleep at higher rates (83%, 77%, and 76%, respectively) than those who didn’t exercise at all (56%).

Note: If you are already feeling depressed, beyond just feeling sad or blue, you should seek professional help and not try to “self-medicate” with exercise. A behavioral health professional can work with you in creating a plan to deal with any existing depression. However, exercise is clearly a key component in preventing depression, and will certainly be part of a comprehensive plan to treat existing depression.

With all this evidence in mind, it’s not a stretch to say that we should commit to moving our bodies every day. It’s good for our body and good for our minds.

What are some times that exercise has helped improve your mood?


Agudelo, L. Z., Femenía, T., Orhan, F., Porsmyr-Palmertz, M., Goiny, M., Martinez-Redondo, V., … & Ruas, J. L. (2014). Skeletal Muscle PGC-1α1 Modulates Kynurenine Metabolism and Mediates Resilience to Stress-Induced Depression. Cell159(1), 33-45.

Marselle, M. R., Irvine, K. N., & Warber, S. L. (2014). Examining group walks in nature and multiple aspects of well-being: A large-scale study. Ecopsychology,6(3), 134-147.

National Institute Of Mental Health. (n.d.). Major depression among adults. Retrieved from National Institute of Mental Health website: http://www.nimh.nih.gov/statistics/1MDD_ADULT.shtml.

National Sleep Foundation. (2013, March 04). 2013 sleep in america poll: Exercise and sleep. Retrieved from National Sleep Foundation website: http://www.sleepfoundation.org/2013poll.

Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (2014, July 07). The burden of stress in america. Retrieved from Robert Wood Johnson Foundation website: http://www.rwjf.org/en/research-publications/find-rwjf-research/2014/07/the-burden-of-stress-in-america.html.

Taylor, D. J., Lichstein, K. L., Durrence, H. H., Reidel, B. W., & Bush, A. J. (2005). Epidemiology of insomnia, depression, and anxiety. SLEEP-NEW YORK THEN WESTCHESTER-28(11), 1457.