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A calendar for your sanity

Our world today is so fast-paced and demanding that most of us find it nearly impossible to escape and wind down — even for a few short minutes. In her new book "Sanity Savers:Tips for Women to Live a Balanced Life," psychologist  Dale V. Atkins offers 52 weeks of  daily tips, thoughts and suggestions to help you restore balance, order and happiness to your life. Atkins, the creator and host of television's "Dr. Dale's Life Issues," was invited on TODAY to discuss the book.

Here is an excerpt:

Monday

Well-Being

A “New” New Year’s Resolution

New Year’s resolutions are often about committing to an exercise program, losing those extra twenty pounds, or quitting the smoking habit. While all of these are likely to be terrific for your health, offer great promise, and are made with the hope that your life will be better, the funny thing is that often our New Year’s resolutions from one year to the next are exactly the same.

Ring in this New Year by changing your attitude about something or someone (including yourself). So often our attitudes remain unchanged and unchallenged and we become stale in our outlook. Take a refreshing approach and question whether your perception serves you well or restricts you, holding you back.

How many times have your own or other people’s opinions prevented you from doing or trying something? “I always wanted to go skydiving but my friends will think I’m crazy.” “I would like to take an art class but I can’t draw.” “I would like to learn to play the piano but I was never very good at it when I was a kid.” “I would like to travel but I don’t have a companion.” “I would like to dance but don’t have a partner.”

•   No Challenge, No Change. If you don’t give yourself a challenge, there can be no change, and without change, there is no growth. Ask yourself, “How can I be continually challenged?”

•   Meet People Who Are Different from You. Step out and don’t limit yourself to your usual group (age, culture, race). Find people with similar interests but from different backgrounds. Meet and be with people who are both younger and older than you. Learn from their experiences.

•   Be Conscious and Present. By being fully aware, we can accept, reject, or change that which we don’t want into something that can be helpful and productive.

•   Be Eager for Personal Growth. Seek knowledge, adventure, and friendship. Do not confine yourself to a familiar road, traveling along paths others have gone or mapped out for you. Leave the familiar path from time to time. Be adventurous. Find your element; never stop searching. Continue your quest in life. It is all about growth!

By changing your attitude you can try things you thought you were “unable” to do and have experiences that will open your mind to incredible possibilities.

Tuesday

Friends

Maintaining Friendships When You Are in Different Life Circumstances

You are a longtime single woman and your best friend is married with three children. Or you’re divorced and your college roommate is about to get married.

Whatever the circumstance, it is easy to believe that you no longer have anything in common. Just because what is so important to one hasn’t crossed the radar screen of the other doesn’t mean the friendship is over. Some of the best friendships are enhanced when both watch, learn, and appreciate what is happening in the other’s life. Friendships can grow from the foundation of a shared background, similar values, being yourself, and good laughs rather than solely from similar experiences.

•   Make Room for Differences. Try not to fall prey to adult cliques and being exclusive with certain types of people. Think twice about joining the private club of “only moms with young kids” and letting go of your friends who don’t have children. Why not say yes to a family barbecue at your girlfriend’s house if you are single? Even though you think your working friend just doesn’t have a clue about what it’s like to be an at---home mom, give the relationship a chance to absorb your different lifestyles. Evaluate whether you can rearrange your friendship for now (and now can be a few years) and stay in touch, relate, and connect. Friendships ebb and flow with life circumstances. Who knows, your single friend might be a midlife mom one day, and if the bond is maintained, you might be the person she’ll seek for support and guidance.

•   Don’t Assume There’s Nothing in Common. Not having life experiences in common doesn’t have to mean there’s disinterest. When you spend time with your friend, pay attention to what you talk about and what you don’t talk about and why. Are you hiding the issues you have with your children because she doesn’t have any and wants them? Do you know for sure that she is uncomfortable hearing you talk about your kids’ school, or is it possible that she gets a kick from being close to your children as a surrogate aunt? Many women who do not have children love to be with their friends’ kids and can develop unique relationships with them, which benefit everyone. Address the differences as well as the similarities that still remain intact.

•   Live Vicariously. Ask about your friend’s life and realize that your differences can allow for a closeness that is not possible when there is similarity. Enjoying your friend’s single life when you are dealing with moody kids and a cranky husband can give you a moment of escape. You might giggle together over her “courting” stories and have fun helping your girlfriend select an outfit for her next blind date. Talking with her about what she is experiencing is something that can make both of your lives full.Don’t write friends off just because their life path is different from yours.

Wednesday

Partner

Healthy Communication With Your Significant Other

We all know that good communication is essential if you want a good relationship. But many of us don’t quite know exactly what we need to do. “Life” gets in the way, and we seize communication shortcuts or take the person and the relationship for granted by communicating in a way that is not healthy.

Among the many ways you can tell whether you are communicating effectively to your partner is by feeling respect for him and for yourself during the interaction. Recognize that all interactions either hurt or enhance your relationship, so consider wisely how you are communicating what is on your mind or in your heart.

•   Empathize. Discover ways to see your partner’s point of view in a sensitive way. Listen, without interruption or judgment, to what she or he is saying and how she or he is saying it so you can recognize the feelings behind questions and comments.

•   Timing. If this is not the “right time” for a serious discussion or confrontation, let him or her know before he or she begins and tell him when you will be available to pay attention, cooperate, and participate. Gather your wits about you and mentally prepare for being open and vulnerable so that you are more able to work through a problem than resist. Heavier discussions that are too lengthy will stress out both of you. Try getting your important points out and allow for comments in a fifteen---minute segment. If there’s a need to go on, ask whether he or she’s OK to discuss it for another few minutes. Try and be clear and brief, but thorough.

•   Try Something New. If your partner suggests a new approach to an old problem, be open. Perhaps it is time to change a long---standing pattern that gets in the way of your ability to communicate effectively, particularly during times of crisis. Your way may have worked in the past but may not in the future.

•   Be Conscious of Body Language. Rolling eyes, sighing, shaking your head no, sitting with your arms folded across your body may send a signal or message to your partner that although you say you are “there,” you do not appear to be listening with a joint solution in mind if you are problem solving, or interested in what he is saying. Nonverbal communication is generally more convincing and believable than verbal.Communicate with your significant other as if this person is a precious blessing in your life.

Thursday

Single, Well-Being, Community

Treat Yourself Well as a Single Woman

Think of how much more interesting your life will be if you make daily decisions to live it fully.

Whether married or single, it is better to depend on yourself to do what interests you rather than wait for others to invite you to participate in something that may or may not suit you. Sometimes single women feel as if they are third wheels and are uncomfortable being with married friends. And some of their married friends don’t ask them to join in events that are family oriented but fun for all. And let’s not even talk about those dinner parties where if you don’t have a partner, you are excluded completely.

Stop waiting for the phone to ring for the next date, delaying plans to buy your own place, or looking to others to fill up your social calendar. It’s your life to live, so enjoy the independence that many would envy.

•   Don’t Wait for “Him” or Anyone Else. If you would like to meet someone, do not put your life on hold while waiting for a partner to show up. Become involved in living your life. Plan a fun vacation to an exotic and interesting place. Spend at least part of a holiday with people you enjoy and who value you in their lives.

•   Create Community. Become involved in an organization that you believe in and connect with a network of other people who are dedicated to its mission. Become immersed in doing what you like. Volunteer.

•   Buy Yourself Gifts. If you see a nice necklace, art, something special, and you can afford it, buy it. You deserve it.

It’s up to you to fill your life so it’s a fulfilling life to have.

The foregoing is excerpted from Sanity Savers by Dr. Dale Vicky Atkins. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced without written permission from HarperCollins Publishers, 10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022.

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