Category: On Lifestyle

Seeing The Benefits Of A Blended Family

Until I married more than 20 years ago, I had only known a traditional family first hand, even if three of my siblings lived out their teenage years before I made it to high school. Still, we moved through life to the same rhythm, albeit it in different generations. Still, we knew one set of parents, one household.

Nowadays, however, my immediate family navigates several households if you will. Our grandchildren will reap the benefits of belonging to a blended family.

Yes, you read that right—benefits, though a blended family, sometimes referred to as a stepfamily gets a bad rap, particularly the stepmother.  Remember, the Cinderella story? Who can forget it. Anyhow, I divert.

The point is blended families don’t have to be difficult or distort one character to make a happy ending for another. Furthermore, to belong to a blended family does not necessarily put a person at a disadvantage.

In some ways there can be advantages. For example, a blended family can in many ways broaden the horizons of its members and can also increase emotional intelligence, according to Understanding Stepfamilies author Dr Lisa Doodson, guest of Your Family Matters podcast (out tomorrow).

That I can vouch for.  Planning where and how to spend a traditional holiday, for example, can be challenging for most families with different schedules, interests and so on and once you consider an added component such as a stepparent and a step sibling, the task can feel even more overwhelming, as it did for Cinderella.

But it need not be this way. If we rely on sensitivity and effective communications, for instance, we bring an openness to the table rather than the closed mindedness that can squash opportunities.

No one needs to be marginalised or feel snubbed. But everyone must bring willingness to the table. In Your Family Matters, Dr Doodson and I have a great chat about situations that can cause stumbling blocks such as the acceptance of a new partner, new siblings, understanding roles and the use of social media and how it impacts family life.

It is a must listen podcast for everyone who wants to improve their family relationships and particularly those who are navigating new territory—the blended family.

When it is all said and done, whether traditional or blended, your family matters. Check out the podcast from September 27 on Apple, Spotify, Google Play, sonjalewis.com and wherever you listen to podcasts.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Three Steps to Coping With Bullying

I can’t tell you how many times I have said under my breath, I cannot believe that this is happening to me. And for a split second, I’m tempted to ignore the situation, not even entertain it. Fair enough since a key thing to do when dealing with bullying is not to let the brutal words in.

Still, it is important to acknowledge what is actually happening–call a spade, a spade, accept that it is unhealthy and then talk about it.

Check out this snippet from Your Wellbeing Matters, offering great advice on how to cope with bullying.  And do listen to the full podcast on Apple Podcast, Spotify and a host of other great podcast platforms. And when you are there leave a review to spread the word.

No matter how you look at it, bullying is unacceptable because the thing is, your wellbeing really matters.

Don’t Let It In

I love Cat Williams’ advice ‘Don’t Let It In’ in our latest podcast Your Wellbeing Matters. The UIO two-time guest, a seasoned rapid transformational therapist, is, of course, talking about the unhealthy words of a bully.

Shame I didn’t fully understand this as a teenage girl all those years ago but to be honest, I don’t remember any consistent episodes of being bullied. There were the people who picked me out to pick on me, sure, but I managed to shake them off rather quickly somehow.

I would be fully ensconced in business–well sort of, it was my first real job–before I experienced real bullying, which can be self-esteem eroding at the very least. And because I didn’t understand the important concept of not letting other people’s misconstrued perceptions get into my head, I fled as fast as I could.

This would mean a different career path for me. My hopes and dreams of becoming a seasoned journalist who would walk straight into a writing or publishing career took a rather crooked path and frankly never arrived at its originally intended destination.

To this end, I have come to understand that tremendous emotional and mental unrest comes with taking responsibility for someone else’s unhealthy behaviour or words, no matter how powerful that person is or seems. Don’t believe them.

In my case, the person held all power at the place where I worked so it wasn’t a bad idea to pack my bags and leave. My mistake was taking the unnecessary baggage with me.

No wonder I can’t get Cat’s advice out of my head. Of course, there will be missteps–that is part of personal growth. But lessons needn’t take years to grasp, thanks to varied  resources such as UIO podcast.  So, if you haven’t listened to Your Wellbeing Matters yet, now is the time to check it out.

And whether you or someone you know is experiencing bullying, or even stumbling into a place where you are the bully, share the podcast for more advice on how to cope with bullying and keep life moving in a forward-facing direction.

When all is said and done, remember the words that serve you and the rest, don’t let it in.

Why It is Important to Study

When I was in school, granted that was a long time ago, I didn’t always think studying was about me, but rather about what someone else wanted me to do–the teachers and my parents mainly.

In hindsight, my thinking was flawed because studying is about seizing the moment and living your best life in the moment. In this snippet from Your Education Matters, expert counsellor Donna Morgan explains why studying is important, particularly for girls. Watch here. 

Of course, boys need to study, too, but the point made in the podcast focuses on historical facts–opportunities exist for girls now that simply did not exist, even a few generations ago, perhaps in informal education as well, as mentioned in our podcast, Your Voice Matters.

And though you don’t have to study for life lessons (you only have to heed them), studying or formal education really matters.  Check out the full podcast here.

 

How To Voice Your Opinion

Sometimes voicing your opinion can be downright tricky, especially when the situation is intense.  Our latest podcast, Your Voice Matters, offers great advice on how to get your point across.

Bestselling author Cai Graham says in a nutshell, it is about getting people to listen to you.  Check out this snippet from Your Voice Matters, offering succinct yet spot on advice on how to voice your opinion. 

Listen to the full podcast where ever you check out your favorite podcasts or subscribe to the show from this website.

 

Having Your Say In the Right Way

Not speaking up has a negative impact on your emotional and mental well-being—at least it does mine.  It’s a bit like carrying around dead weight, weight that pulls me down in the dumps but as soon as I have my say, I feel uplifted.

Let’s be clear about what having your say means and what it does not mean.  First, things first! It does not mean blowing off steam or telling someone off at the top of your voice or engaging in a futile argument with someone about politics, religion, or morality for that matter.

It’s more about saying and doing what is healthy and right for you. And how you say it matters too, according to bestselling author Cai Graham, guest on UIO’s podcast, Your Voice Matters.

In our chat the author of The Teen Toolbox and I agree that having your say is not always as easy as it sounds. It can be tricky when there is looming peer pressure, for example. That’s why it is important to understand the difference between self-esteem and self-confidence and use them both effectively to get your point across, particularly when it matters the most.

In a nutshell, self-esteem is about how you feel about yourself in a particular situation and self-confidence is believing in your ability to do something.

Makes a whole lot of sense to me, which takes me back to my first point. Often when I am feeling low about myself or a situation, upon review I will conclude that I didn’t have the confidence to have my say. Owning and understanding this gives me the confidence to put it right and it often gives me a segue to the right words.

For example, I might say, you know I was thinking about our recent conversation and, I prefer we agree to disagree about women’s rights, political beliefs, whatever it is that has caused the upset. I need you to respect my views but as and when this is not possible, let’s not talk about it. Otherwise, it is a strain on our friendship, whatever the relationship is, and because I value it, it is imperative that we avoid these explosive conversations.

Now that’s confidence.  No screaming, yelling and naming calling, just putting your point across, remembering that your voice matters.  The namesake podcast is out September 6. Listen here or wherever you listen to podcasts.

 

The Power of Change in Relationships

Healthy Relationships are key to healthy living. No matter how independent we are, we simply cannot live in this world alone.  We thrive on interaction with our family members, peer groups and friends, especially the latter in our teenage years.

Upon reflection, I remember how important it was to have friends and the impact healthy friendships have had on my growth and development. Recently, I reminisced about athletic friends choosing me for their teams even though they knew I could not help them win.

How mature of them and forward thinking to look out for my emotional well-being, when the very system in place did not. But what about when they weren’t around. I was the last one selected. Never mind! I do hope picking teams has been scrapped for the sake of good self-esteem.

Anyhow, the point is relationships can reveal key information about who we are and our friends, too, not only when we are in the relationship but also after the relationship has passed.

I know, I know. Who said anything about passing? Don’t good friendships go on forever? Sometimes they do and other times, they do not.  In either case, one thing is for sure, people change.

And understanding this change is one of the basics of maintaining healthy friendships and another is knowing when the friendship has run its course, whether it is a love interest or simply a good friend.

So, what is a girl to do when her best friend changes right under her nose? Or a love interest, well, is no longer interested. Suddenly the activities that you shared are no longer exciting and the crowd that you have both worked hard to avoid have brought your friend or love interest into their inner circle.

I hear you. No one wants to feel left out, so it might be something to consider changing, too, for acceptance.  Not so fast; consider the tips below:

  • Recognise the past has passed. No point in hoping for a better past. It is gone. Let bygones be bygones! Grow from it!

  • Instil boundaries! When friendships are evolving, boundaries can come in quite handy. They can be the security you need to steady yourself.

  • Respect the boundaries of others. Give them their space, their new life. Take what you have learned and let the rest go!

  • Stay true to your values. Though we grow and evolve, we all have fundamental values deep within. Let them rise to the surface when they need to. They will never steer you wrong.

On my most recent long-haul flight, in one of the movies I watched, a teenage girl took up smoking because her friends were doing it. But her romance with smoking was short lived once she worked out that she didn’t value it and really didn’t enjoy it.

This revelation led her to realise that her friendships had become toxic. And that perhaps the friendships had run their course, and that it was time to make new friends.

On the other side of change, however, I know of two women who grew up together but took very different paths in life, yet they stayed in touch and continue to count each other as close friends. Congrats to them!

Undoubtedly, change continues to influence their relationship, as it does all relationships. It is just a matter of understanding its power and knowing how to manage it.

New Vlog Out: Breaking Bad Phone Habits

Since my February 17 blog on breaking bad phone habits, my eyes have popped wide open to my unhelpful routines, one in particular: I have just not been able to put the phone down at my cut off time at night–9.30 pm. For the past couple of nights, I have been sucked in to reading something or even listening to something at about 9.15. And though I know it is a risk, I’ve indulged myself and the result has been the same, a sleepless night.

Why? I’ve not yet embodied the experience of how it really makes me feel to engage with one of my devices fifteen minutes before I am supposed to be winding down. Frustrated and sleep deprived this morning, I am going to spend some time today dropping into the experience, reflecting on it, feeling it repeatedly. Looking forward to the the light bulb turning on and understanding that this  bad habit no longer serves me, if it ever did.

For more tips on breaking your own bad phone habits, check out my latest vlog.

And do see how ready you are to tackle the problem with our short quiz on the subject. Click launch button to play.

See you next time. Take care of you inside out and remember it is you I owe.

Breaking Bad Smartphone Habits

Where would we be without our phones—the smart one that is? So many people have abandoned landlines and can’t imagine life without a smartphone. Not only is it a phone, but it’s also just about everything else you want it to be—a camera, an internet provider, an entertainment center and all the rest.

Honestly, I am as excited as the next person, though the thought of ditching my landline is a step too far. It’s my reliable device when all else fails. But I, too, am hooked on my smartphone and can’t leave home with it.

In my obsession with it, I have picked up a few bad habits along the way that are more trouble than they’re worth and can be quite relationship and health undermining, as well. You, too? I’m not surprised, so have dedicated this blog and a vlog (coming next week) to breaking bad phone habits such as:

Looking at your phone while in the company of another person
Using your phone during a meal or just having it on the table
Playing with your phone during class, a meeting, or a club
Sleeping with your phone or at least with it nearby so it is the first thing you see in morning and the last thing at night and sometimes in the middle of the night

What’s the problem, you might ask? These are norms nowadays! Everybody knows that. Well, I have to tell you, these habitual norms are not only rude, isolating, distracting and dismissive of others, they are also irritating, aggravating and sleep depriving. They have to go for the sake of effective communications, good emotional and mental wellbeing, and healthy relationships.

So how do we break these bad phone habits? I’ll come to that, but first let me tell you what doesn’t work permanently– exerting will power, analysing or guilting your way out the habits.

According to neuroscientists, habits are well, habitual, so you can’t will yourself out of them, think your way out, but it is possible to feel your way out of them through awareness. But first you have to notice the habit, experience it with awareness repeatedly, assess whether it serves you, is it still rewarding? Has it ever been? And finally when you and your brain experience the habit as unrewarding, you can break it.

Very straight forward isn’t it, but it takes focus and consistency to undo any habit that the brain has set to auto pilot. For example, I was an addictive cola drinker, especially in my 20s in New York City. Every morning, I had a certain cola and a cinnamon and raisin bagel with cream cheese for breakfast. I know. Yuck! No amount of telling me how unhealthy this was mattered. I knew it was a caffeine and sugar trap and all the rest and I could not stop until I experienced its undermining of my health repeatedly.

After years of doing this on auto pilot, I began to notice that every time I had a cola, I had palpitations. And the more aware I became, the more I saw that my habit was not rewarding. Pretty soon, I dropped all colas like they were hot coals and do not like them to this day.

Now about that smartphone, is it serving you or are you serving it at the expense of your sleep, emotional wellbeing, relationships and so on? How do you feel when someone else uses their phone in your company? How do you feel when you play with your phone on the down low? Is there a widening a gap between you and friends and family when the phone is all you can pay attention to? Are you losing sleep, feeling isolated, disconnected and all the rest?

In any case, turn the spotlight on the real time experience and feel the results of your behaviour in real time. You just might become fed up. I am getting there and wishing you Godspeed as you go forth to nail your bad smartphone habits.

For more hot tips on phone etiquette, check out Your Online Wellbeing Inside Out with Nicola Morgan and keep watching this space for my vlog next on the same subject.

Oh and yes, check out our short quiz on bad phone habits. Launch from the button below.

In the meantime, take care of you inside out and remember it is you I owe.


Your Online Reputation Matters

Your online reputation matters, like it or not, in the same way that your offline reputation counts.

No wonder I don’t have a big online personal presence, though it wouldn’t hurt to enhance it, as my personal brand is linked to UIO, which does have a pretty good online reputation, thanks to our social media manager.

But here is the thing to remember, the thing that terrifies me—everything you say and do online becomes a part of your online record. Yeah, you have an online record and all it takes is a quick search to pull it up.

Of course, there are privacy matters but make no mistake about it, privacy can become a little murky when posting comments, photos, etc… Whatever you post, well there is a trail, forever!

Gosh, forever is a long time and can and will follow you around from your teens, to university, to new relationships, to potential jobs and so on. So, as long as your posts represent you, your personal brand, and you can stand by them and not behind them in shame or in front of them to conceal them, you are good to go.

What a heavy burden to bear, living in front of a lens, that is, all the time. Sure, we all like to reflect on memories but there are few things we’d like to forget about, too.

Like the time that I sat humiliated in the stands during a basketball game and my boyfriend, who knew nothing about me intimately, nothing, decided to plant his hands upon my coated chest (I had on a puffer coat). And even if he had known me intimately, how disrespectful was that? Whatever happened to r-e-s-p-e-c-t? Obviously, this has left a scar on my psyche, but I do remember squirming my way out of it somehow and getting another boyfriend.

Imagine me finding a photo of the scene online the next day, the next month, the next year, the next decade. I’d be traumatised today. Thank goodness this was pre-online dominance for socialising. Thus, I was able to restore my reputation without too much of a fuss. For starters, I had much less of an audience to deal with.

Make no mistake about it, the thought of not having an online presence is unreasonable to ask nowadays, considering all the goodness that comes from social media such as broadening your horizons and communicating with people throughout the world. Without it, sharing my expat experiences or promoting UIO podcast would be incredibly challenging or downright impossible.

So, what can you do to protect your online reputation?

Don’t post inappropriate visual or written content!

And don’t be tempted to comment on inappropriate content, either. It might seem harmless and fun, but it could easily come back to haunt you.

Be mindful of others, only posting comments and photos of them with their permission.

Stick to the offline rule of refraining from heated discussions about religion, sex and politics, particularly with strangers, unless of course, you have a platform that warrants you to do so.

And finally, check out Online Safety with Charlotte Aynsley from series 3 of UIO podcast for more hot tips on staying safe online and protecting your reputation. It’s all about you inside out!