June 13, 2016

Published June 13, 2016 by with 0 comment

How to Conquer Your Greatest Fears


By definition, a phobia is an extreme fear of something. Sometimes this fear goes beyond what people would consider normal logic. The list of phobias that people experience on a daily basis is endless. Some are scared of heights, germs, enclosed spaces, dark areas, and spiders. Others are fearful of clowns, going outside, and flying. No matter what the fear stems from, the fact remains that it can cause some people a great deal of stress and anxiety.

Although it may feel hopeless when confronted with that fear, it is still possible to conquer your phobia. In order to do so, you will have to evaluate yourself, learn more about your fear, and possibly even put yourself in a few uncomfortable situations.

Learn More About Your Fear

Sometimes the key to overcoming the fear of something is to learn more about it. In the process of educating yourself, take a moment to learn not only about the phobia but also find out more about the object or situation that scares you. For example if you have a deathly fear of snakes, try to find out more information about other people that also have snake phobias. Take it one step further and start learning more about snakes themselves. You may find that the more you learn about them, the less you fear them.

Educating yourself about fears helps in the following ways:
  • Learning about your actual phobia will allow you to see if there are any existing support groups or information available to help you overcome your fear. You can also search for any available solutions that you may not have tried yet.
  • Learning more about the object of your fear can help you to dispel any myths or falsehoods that you may have previously believed. In the course of educating yourself, you may find that you feared situations or behaviors that are not even possible or very unlikely to occur.
Ultimately, educating yourself will let you know if your fear is justified, and if so, what you can do to help lessen it in the future.

Figure Out When It Started


One of the first things to try when attempting to overcome a fear is to find out exactly why and when it began. A lot of phobias are the result of negative past experiences, and as time goes on the event gets forgotten but the anxiety remains.

If you are somehow able to remember when your phobia started, try to look at it from your current perspective and ask yourself the following questions:
  • What was it about the situation that made you feel so anxious?
  • Would this same situation scare you today, or were you just not able to fully process it at the time?
  • Was there any way you could have taken control of the situation? Would you be able to take control of that situation today?
After asking yourself these questions, you may find that a lot of the mystery surrounding your phobia is gone. Facing your fear on a daily basis may become a little bit easier once you establish exactly where it came from. On the flip side, your answers could end up causing you more distress once you know the true cause of your fear. If this is the case, you may need to consult a doctor or counselor for further help.

Tackle Your Phobia Head On

One of the best ways to work on getting over any type of fear is to confront it. Although initially it may cause a great deal of anxiety, eventually you may find yourself at a point where it does not stress you out as much.

A person's comfort zone is usually made up of the people, activities, and experiences that someone is used to seeing on a regular basis without feeling anxiety. Anything that causes fear or an immense amount of stress normally falls outside of that zone. As you recognize your own phobias, you begin to move any activities related to them outside of your comfort zone in order to avoid them.

However by purposefully confronting your fear, you can slowly cause your comfort zone to expand. Eventually things that used to scare you will become more routine and bearable. As the behaviors become more routine, the stress related to them will also start to disappear. Over time, you may notice that your comfort zone has expanded to the point that you no longer have your phobia.

Join a Support Group


Sometimes people are able to get over hardships faster when they realize they are not in the struggle by themselves. Having other people to talk to and lean on can make dealing with a phobia more bearable.

In these situations, there are often support groups available for people experiencing specific phobias. These groups may meet face to face or take place as online forums. No matter what the format is, they allow people in similar situations to discuss the issues they are facing.

Some benefits of taking part in a support group:
  • They allow you to meet others dealing with the same phobia. They also give you strength knowing you are not the only one going through the ordeal.
  • They give you a chance to verbalize what your experience is like. Talking about your problem with others may help to relieve some of the anxiety that has built up inside.
  • They give you an opportunity to find out what other people have tried to fend off their phobias. The groups can be a great place to brainstorm ideas and to cross off techniques that may not have been so successful

Get Professional Help

If being in a support group or attempting to confront your fears on your own does not work, you may find it easier to go see a doctor or counselor. They may be able to assist you in one of the following ways:
  • They may help you to identify exactly when your phobia starts to occur, and what types of feelings you experience when it does occur. By learning what your "warning signs" are, the doctor can work with you on developing coping techniques to minimize the amount of stress you feel.
  • For those struggling to adjust their response on their own, the doctor may also be able to prescribe medication to lessen the amount of anxiety a person feels. While this may not allow you to completely conquer a phobia, it can enable you to function at a higher level when faced with one.
Dealing with fear is as much about how you respond to certain situations as it is about what is causing them. Although it may be difficult to try overcoming them, phobias can be conquered. With the right attitude, support from others, and knowledge of your phobia, you can make an overwhelming sense of fear a lot more tolerable.
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June 10, 2016

Published June 10, 2016 by with 0 comment

Taking Time Off from College to Avoid Burnout


For many students, college can be the best 4 or 5 years of their lives. However, there are also many students who get to college and start to experience burnout or confusion over what they want to do after school. Sometimes this can lead to falling grades, or students questioning whether or not going to college was even the right decision for them.

In certain cases, some people have taken a year off (gap year) in order to recharge their batteries and regain focus on their studies. While this can be a positive thing to do, it can also be a hard decision to explain to parents, family, friends, and fellow students.

The following are tips/strategies for people to maximize their year off before heading back to college to get their degree.

Have A Plan Before Making the Decision


If you decide that you want to take time off from school to clear your head, you should create a plan in order to sell the idea to your parents. The plan will not only put their mind at ease, but it will also be something that you can look back on throughout the year to keep you on track.

You should consider your gap year plan almost like a business plan. Make sure that you account for the reasons that you are taking the time off as well as what you plan on doing throughout each phase of your time away from school. It will be an added bonus if you can explain what types of lessons you will be learning during each phase.

Do not underestimate how important having a plan can be. Parents will initially view your year off with worry because they will fear that you will lose motivation to go back to school. They usually also have a significant financial investment tied into your academic success. Not to mention that the lack of a plan will also lead to an absence of personal focus and motivation on your end.

Get a Job, Gain Experience

The best thing that you can do during your time off is get a job. Whether it be paid or unpaid, get up every morning and work. The job does not have to be full-time and if you are creative it does not even have to be working for another person. There are plenty of students who have tried their hands at small start-up businesses with varying degrees of success. The main goal no matter what you do is to gain experience and transferable skills that you can add to your resume.

The job skills will not only help you develop career-wise, but also help you out in interviews when you can bet that you will be asked why you took a year off and what you did during that time period. Your short-term job may even help you focus on a major or career path that you had not considered prior to your gap year.

Read Anything and Everything Around You


One of the hardest things to do during a year away from college is keep your mind academically sharp. While your classmates are continuing to go to class, take exams, and write term papers, you will be away from the grind doing something completely different.

In order to continue developing the intellectual part of your brain, you should continue reading anything that is close to you. Whether it be a newspaper, novel, or something off the New York Times bestseller list, read it. When you are done reading it, try to find someone to discuss it with so you can continue practicing your critical thinking skills.

Try your best to stay up to date with current events. Watch the news occasionally, or visit sites like CNN to stay fresh on what is going on in the world. Another positive thing to do is make a reading list of books within your major. By the time you get back to college, you will be equipped with questions and knowledge that your classmates may not even have yet.

Avoiding your intellectual side will only lead to you wanting to avoid going back to school later, and that will just lead to an overall tough transition back to college.

Travel Outside of Your Comfort Zone


One of the beautiful things about being in college is being exposed to different people from so many different places. Once you take your time off, it is likely that you are going to head back to the same area that you grew up in, and the same ideas to which you were always exposed in the past.

If possible, try to find some time to travel to other areas during your break. It may end up as a big trip to Europe or the Caribbean, or it could just be a trip out of state to visit some family members. In either case, the trip will not only keep you excited, but it will also broaden your horizons. Take a moment to take in new places of interest and talk to as many people as possible in the new areas.

Ultimately, it may never be as easy to travel once you are back in college and/or the working world, so take advantage of it.

Keep Talking...To Everyone


While you are away from school, go out of your way to talk to as many people as possible. Talk to your parents. Talk to your friends. Talk to your family. Talk to your classmates back at school. Most importantly, find a way to talk to as many random people as possible that you come across on a daily basis. These new people will allow you to break out of your normal college social bubble, and be exposed to new ways of thinking.

As tempting as it may be, do not sit at home all day and play video games or watch television. The best way to learn more about yourself is usually by interacting with other people in the outside world.

Stay Positive and Keep Your Head Up


For some of you, the year away from school may have been less of a choice and more of a requirement. If you experienced burnout prior to taking a year off, bad grades may have led to your break. If this is the case, keep your head up and know that you are your own best support system.

Continue to keep your confidence up, even when people ask why you are not back at school. Be honest with yourself about what mistakes you may have made to get in the situation and start working on correcting them. Take it a step beyond and start working on solutions for when you get back to college so you do not end up in a similar situation later.

The most important thing to do is stay motivated no matter what the situation is. College can often be like a 12 round boxing match. Just because you got knocked down in the early rounds does not mean you cannot still win the fight. Use the time off to your advantage. Make a plan, stay busy, keep your mind sharp, and continue talking to people around you. At the end of it all, you will be happier for it.
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June 8, 2016

Published June 08, 2016 by with 0 comment

How to Improve Customer Service in Call Centers


Are you employed in a customer service occupation and looking for ways to improve your performance? Are you the owner of a company trying to become better at interacting with your clients? Below you will find a few basic steps that can allow you or your employees to enjoy more success the next time a customer has a problem.

In today's world, every job has a customer service component to it because everyone wants to make sure that the patrons of their business walk away happy. Whether it be a dentist ensuring a patient comes back for future check-ups or a tech support analyst offering resolutions for a computer issue, we are surrounded by situations that require good customer service.

Consider the steps below the next time you interact with a client, and success will not be far behind!

Be Courteous


It seems like such an easy thing to do especially if you work in customer service, but the number one rule is to be as nice as possible to the customer. Customer service professionals are often the face and voice of a company, so many people will base their impressions of a business off how they were treated by the customer service department. Treat someone badly and the likelihood of there being negative publicity is high.

No matter how rough the day may be, there is no excuse for being rude to the people you are trying to help. You should speak to them with respect, and try to envision what you would expect if you were in their shoes. Another thing to keep in mind is that the customer may be upset, angry, or even embarrassed by even having to ask for help. Try your best not to make that feeling any worse than it already is.

Finally, be sure to wipe the slate clean after each interaction with a customer. There will definitely be moments where you may need to take a deep breath before helping someone else. Just make sure that you do not take out a prior bad experience on someone else who had nothing to do with it.

Listen and Understand


Have you ever asked someone for help, and they ended up not even addressing your problem? Just how frustrated did you feel after they gave you an answer to what they assumed you were going to ask?

When someone comes to you for help, make sure that you listen to their problem and the solution they are expecting to occur afterwards. After they finish telling you the problem, make sure that you can re-word the problem and say it back to the customer.This will show the person that you understand what they are saying, and also allow you to get more details about the problem.

If someone is upset, it is best to let them vent first before trying to offer any suggestions about how they can address the problem. Allow people to have a chance to tell their story, and then let them know what you can do to help them out in the long run. In most cases, people will realize just how upset they sound as you sit back and allow them to speak.

Use Your Resources


One of the most dangerous things you can do as a customer service professional is give someone an answer that you are not sure is the right answer. If it turns out to be false, your credibility and that of the company are in jeopardy.

The way to avoid putting yourself in this position is to use your resources as best as you can before giving someone a definite answer. Your resources can be anything from company documents to memos to training manuals to the co-workers around you. At no point should you be ashamed to ask someone else a question if it means getting the customer the right answer.

Set Realistic Expectations/Time-frames


This is possibly one of the most important aspects of quality customer service. Sometimes there are situations where you just cannot provide an answer right away without researching it, or you may need time to develop a solution. It just is not realistic to expect everyone to be able to solve every problem the minute they find out about it.

With that being said, if you do need to take time to do more research for someone, make sure you give that person a reasonable time-frame for when they can expect an answer. Even if you are unable to find the answer by the end of the first deadline, make sure that you contact your client to let them know your status and how much longer it will take.

If you fail to keep your customer in the loop, they will eventually start to get angry with you because they may feel that you have forgotten about their problem. They may also begin to question your professionalism, and ultimately seek a solution from someone else. In most cases that I know of, people are more than happy to wait as long as they know what you are doing and when they can expect to hear back from you.

Make Sure the Problem Is Solved


Ok, so you understand what the problem is and you have researched an answer. None of this means anything if you do not take the time to make sure the answer given actually solved the problem at hand.

Take a moment to follow up with your customer to make sure that everything has been taken care of to their satisfaction. You would be amazed how happy people are to know that you took the time out of your day to make sure they are OK. And if the problem still remains, it gives you a chance to stay on top of it and work towards an alternative solution.

Go Above and Beyond


It is one thing to give somebody an answer to a problem they may be having. It is another thing to answer their question, tell them why it happened in the first place, and also provide them with tips to keep it from happening in the future. Good customer service workers answer the problem at hand. Great customer service workers find solutions and check to see what else may impact the customer as a result of the solution.

One of the best ways to go above and beyond is to look for alternative solutions. Nothing saves a company more time and makes a customer happier than being able to provide an answer as well as two or three alternative solutions in case the original answer did not work for them. This will allow the client to work down a list of possibilities rather than having to call back or visit the company each time a solution fails.

Take Responsibility for Each Customer

Have you ever checked up on a situation and had someone tell you that it was not their problem because they did not do it? Nothing angers a customer more than someone trying to blame another person or department for a problematic situation. In most cases, people just want their problem resolved without going through an internal blame game.

The best thing that a customer service representative can do in a situation like this is to acknowledge the problem at hand and immediately take responsibility towards finding an answer. Whether that means getting the client to the correct department or just resolving the entire situation yourself, you should always look towards moving the situation to a positive ending without blaming another person.
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June 6, 2016

Published June 06, 2016 by with 0 comment

Motivational Tips for New Runners


Most people who have started an exercise program can tell you just how difficult it is to get started. Many times, people find that they just cannot summon up the motivation to get off their couch and start working out. When it comes to jogging, people have a long list of excuses they may try to employ:
  • The weather is too hot or cold.
  • I don't want to run alone.
  • I don't have any running shoes.
  • I hate waking up that early to exercise.
  • I have no energy after work is over.
However when it comes down to it, these excuses are nothing more than empty reasons holding people back from getting in better physical condition. If any of the above excuses seem familiar to you and you still want to start jogging one day, the tips below should provide some welcome motivation.

Think About the Health Benefits


If anything can get you motivated to start jogging, it should be the added health benefits that you can get from it. Even by devoting a small amount of time to exercising each week, you still have the opportunity to improve your muscle tone, bone density, and cardiovascular fitness.

According to the American Heart Association, for every hour spent walking or jogging you may actually increase your own life expectancy by two hours. On the flip-side, continuing to lead a non-active lifestyle can actually result in negative health consequences such as heart disease, stroke, and increased risk of certain cancers.

If you are still reluctant to start moving, here is a longer list of health positives that may sway you:
  • Helps to lose weight or maintain a healthier weight level
  • Speeds up metabolism allowing the body to burn more calories
  • Increases muscle tone and bone density which leads to better posture
  • Helps to fight against insomnia
  • Relieves stress through the natural release of endorphins
  • Reduces the risk of high blood pressure, diabetes, and osteoporosis
So before sitting back on the couch and putting off an afternoon jog for another day, ask yourself how you could actually hurting your chances of living a longer, healthier life.

Get a Running Partner


When you exercise alone, the chances of procrastinating or missing a workout completely tend to increase. It usually ends up being way to easy to just say, "I'll make up for that run tomorrow." Eventually, that tomorrow turns into next week and next week turns into next month. Before you know it, any positive gains that you previously obtained are gone.

One of the best ways to stay committed to jogging regularly is to get a running partner. By teaming up with a partner, you make yourself more accountable for your daily runs. Failing to get up to jog means that not only did you let yourself down, but you also let your fellow teammate down.

For some people, it is easier to get motivated for things when they feel as if they are working on it as a team. Fitness is no different. By having a running partner, you automatically have someone who can push you to be your best. It also gives you a support system for those days when you are sore and jogging is the last thing you feel like doing.

If running on your own has been holding you back, find a partner and push each other to success.

Set Up a Jogging Schedule


To some extent, we are all creatures of habit. Whether it is getting ready to go to work in the morning or preparing our meals in the afternoon, we usually set up consistent routines to help us become more efficient at getting things done.

One of the difficulties with starting a new exercise program is that people often fail to set up a routine that will eventually turn into a long-term habit. Rather than scheduling exactly when and where they will jog for the week, people will start to rely on jogging solely "when they have time" or "when they feel like it". Usually those times become less and less frequent as time goes on.

In order to get started jogging, you should set up a schedule that not only tells you when you are going to run but also where you plan on going. Incorporating a firm routine has the following benefits:
  • Assures that you have time set aside in your life for exercise.
  • Turns exercise into a habit and not just an isolated event.
  • Prevents you from accidentally booking another event on top of your runs.
  • Keeps you organized, allowing you to simply enjoy the jogs with less stress.
Before you allow yourself to say you do not have time to jog, pull out a calendar or planner and make time for yourself.

Give Yourself a Guilt Trip


Sometimes it takes something a little bit stronger to make you want to get off your couch and get moving. If being healthy is not a big enough motivator for you, maybe a good old fashioned guilt trip will do the trick.

At some point, everyone needs shoes and clothes in order to go jogging. Eventually, you will hit this point as well. Make it a point to go shopping specifically for a new pair of running shoes and some shorts or sweats. They do not necessarily have to be expensive, but the effect may be better if there is a higher price associated with them.

Once you have the gear, lay it all out in an open area that you walk past every day. If possible, make sure that the price tags or receipt is in plain view as well. At some point, you should start to feel a sense of guilt creep in for spending so much money on something that you are not using. This feeling may kick in a lot sooner for some than others, but it should still kick in all the same.

Once the guilt hits, immediately put on the shoes and clothes and go jogging. Ultimately, you will feel a sense of relief and realize that getting your body in motion was not as difficult as you thought it would be.

Commit to an Event


Another way of preventing procrastination from taking hold is to register for an event like a local 5k or fun run. Usually events such as these are low pressure and filled with people who are more concerned with having a good time and less worried about breaking personal time records.

Registering for a 5k event in the near future can help you in a few ways. First, it will force you to make a commitment to jogging and getting in better shape. Once you send in the registration fee, you are locked in as a participant at the event. The only thing you can do at this point is start jogging in preparation for the big day. Of course, you could always bail out but what good would that do you in the long run?

The second thing entering a race does is gives you a goal. If you are just starting to jog, your goal may be to finish the event without walking. It might be to finish jogging within a certain time period. Or, it could even be to just show up and finish no matter how long it takes. No matter what the goal may be, you instantly have something to work towards and that should push you to get up and start moving.

The final benefit of registering for a race is that you will be surrounded by other people who are in the same situation as you. 5k races are often some of the most fun events in the running/jogging community. Take the time to meet others and enjoy the experience. You could end up meeting a new running partner, or find yourself wanting to enter a new race in the future.

Just Get Up and Go

The final piece of advice the one that anyone can follow. Just get up and start putting one foot in front of the other. It may start off as a slow walk, but eventually you will find yourself jogging. Over time, you may even start to run. While it may be hard in the beginning, the more often you jog you will begin to love it. Try not to over-think things, and definitely do not catch yourself waiting for the perfect time of year to start.

The perfect time is now, so get up and get going!
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June 3, 2016

Published June 03, 2016 by with 0 comment

How to Build Strong, Long-lasting Friendships


Just because the majority of us have friends does not mean that we are being the best friend that we can possibly be. As in many other roles, being a good friend takes time and effort, and it is something that we should all continue to practice each day. Every relationship is unique, but there are a few steps to being a true friend that seem to translate well across the board. If you notice that something has been left off the list, please leave a comment at the end with your advice on how to be a true friend.

Listen to What Is Being Said

It sounds so easy, but so many people have difficulty just listening to their friends. One of the ultimate signs of respect is just showing your friend that his life was important enough for you to listen. I cannot think of much worse than unloading a whole story to my friends only to have them ask me basic questions afterwards indicating they never heard me in the first place. Valuing a friend means taking the time to hear what they have to say. Hear your friend's questions, and take the time to ask follow up questions to make the picture more clear. By the end of the conversation, your friend will feel better knowing that you care enough to know what is going on in his life.

Be Loyal Regardless of the Situation


Nobody likes a back-stabbing friend...nobody. Do not become a person that smiles in your friend's face and then talks badly about them when they are not around.Not only does this have the potential to blow up in your face later, but it also shows other people that you cannot be trusted.

Being a true friend means that you are there whenever your friend may need help. No matter how much time has passed between conversations, a true friend is one that will be there immediately if called upon in an emergency.

Sacrifice for the Good of Others

Good friends know that there will be times when they need to set aside their own personal gain for the benefit of their friends. There will be moments where you may feel like celebrating but your friend just needs to stay in and vent over a problem at hand. Knowing when to sacrifice the moment in order to be there for a friend is a huge part of taking a friendship to another level.

There will be nights when it looks like you may be able to get a full night's rest, but instead you end up consoling a friend over the phone for hours. Sure it can be hard, but it's worth it months later when your friend thanks you for what you did for them. Or better yet, when they are there to return the favor when you are in a time of need.

Offer Advice Without Being Demanding


Try not to just sit there in silence when your friends need you. Be a reference point for them. You may have knowledge of certain subjects that they are unfamiliar with, or you may have already dealt with certain issues that they are going through now. Give your friends some food for thought and then let them make the ultimate decision on their own.

Just remember that there is a fine line between giving someone advice and telling them what they should or should not do with their lives. Give your friend some possible options and then respect them enough to let them make a decision with that knowledge.

Be Supportive During Good and Bad Times

As a friend, this was always one of my favorite things to do. Support does not just mean offer financial help. It also means to be there mentally and emotionally for the people you love. If you know that your friend has an important race coming up, make it a point to be there to cheer them on. Have a friend making a presentation? See if you can be in the audience so they can have a familiar face to look out upon during their speech. Overall, just remember the little things that your friends are involved in, and see what you can do to help them out.

Keep in Touch When Possible


It may seem like friends are supposed to talk to each other every day, but I have found exactly the opposite as I have gotten older. My closest friends and I talk sporadically over the phone and by computer, but we never seem to miss a beat. We have learned how to communicate with each other without smothering each other in the process. We respect each other's space and right to grow as individuals without feeling like extra space could tear our friendship apart.
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