May: Spring Towards a Better You

It’s May, the weather’s warming up and the sun just seems to be shining a little brighter, doesn’t it?

But with this change of seasons comes a variety of new challenges: Those nice, sunny days can cause what high school kids refer to as “senioritis”—the desire to just blow off your responsibilities for a carefree afternoon, we have to figure out where to store all of our bulky winter-wares, and let’s not forget about that seam-busting BBQ season looming just around the corner!

This month, we have tapped into some really amazing women that we think can help you get your professional—and personal—life in order as Spring comes into full bloom: we detail the journey of one of Oprah’s go-to gals, Gabrielle Bernstein, in this month’s Power Woman column; Robin Arzon gave-up her power suits for spandex and has some epic advice for her younger self; and Lisa Adams from LA Closet Design tells us what we need to know about uncluttering our closets—and our minds.

Check out all of this content—and more—as we step towards summer and our better selves!

Joi Gordon, CEO of Dress for Success Worldwide

Gabrielle Bernstein: Turning Her Mess into Her Message

Looking at her whimsical, slim frame and blonde, beachy waves, Gabrielle Bernstein is a cross between a new age Carrie Bradshaw with the seasoned wisdom of Oprah and the calming energy of a coffee date with an old friend. This wide-eyed girl next door has an unabashed realness that can captivate any room. “Success for me today is how much fun I’m having,” says Gabrielle unapologetically.

At 34, Gabrielle is the New York Times best selling author of May Cause Miracles and her latest book Miracles Now; a motivational speaker; life coach; certified yoga and meditation teacher; and was named one of the Top 50 Women in Business by Self-Made Magazine. Branded as the happiness expert, Gabrielle is part of a new wave of self-empowerment and realization for women. Dress for Success sat down with Gabrielle to find out how she changed a life of partying and materialism into meditation, mindfulness and intention. She shares the idea of looking inward for inspiration, turning her new lifestyle into her life’s work and becoming a role model for women everywhere.

It was not that long ago that Gabrielle’s “fun” could have referred to what night club she was opening that week.  A young entrepreneur, she started a public relations firm right out of college that represented some of the swankiest nightclubs in New York City.  She was living the hard and fast lifestyle in NYC’s party scene. On the outside, Gabrielle had the “Sex and the City” fantasy that most 20-somethings yearn for, but inside she was fighting a silent battle of addiction and depression.  At age 25, she finally made the decision to get sober and turn her “mess into her message.”

But as anyone who has faced their bad habits head-on knows, making the decision to do something and actually doing it are two very different things.  Gabrielle realized that sobriety was not only necessary, it was simply inevitable.  But on her journey to a substance-free life, she spent months of indulging her addictive behaviors in a limbo-like phase between being ambivalent about her future and being an active and eager participant defining her fate.  “You can’t deprive someone of their bottom,” she says, referring to the all-time emotional low that she came to embrace as the catalyst that turned her “deciding” into “doing.”

Gabrielle’s experience is reflective of so many of us today who have grown up in a culture of consumption, inundated with conflicting messages from the media, causing us to constantly reach outside of ourselves for validation and self-worth, instead of looking inwardly for those same affirmations.  This mindset of material-success has created a void for many, leaving us searching for answers, including Gabrielle herself.

A self-proclaimed “spirit junkie,” Gabrielle believes it’s all about energy, perspective and understanding the mind-body connection. If we are confident, open and actively seeking the positive, we will naturally gravitate towards people that are going to support and guide us.  You can really just think of us like magnets, she says.  “If we’re in an energy that is low-level and negative and surrounded by thoughts that keep us down, then we are attracting towards a likeness; whereas if we’re in an inspired, free, and happy state, that is when life begins to really flow naturally and doors begin to open for us,” says Gabrielle.

Now nine years clean, Gabrielle shares with clients her transformational lesson that contentment and self-fulfillment can only come from within.  “Happiness is an inside job,” she says.

So how did she get to a place where those positive vibes began flowing? Here’s where perspective is particularly important.  We’ve all had experiences that help shape who we are today, but Gabrielle takes those experiences, learns from them and chooses the part that they will play in her future, just as we all should.

“Happiness is a choice we make. We can choose to go down the negative spiral and live the story we’ve been holding onto for decades or we can choose to change the story.”

When old ideas and thoughts begin to creep in– reorganize, repurpose and choose to perceive them differently. “Continue to show up for those obstacles as opportunities for growth, rather than show up with fear and uncertainty,” she says.

As a reoccurring theme in Gabrielle’s classes and books, fear plays a huge role in both our home and work life.  Fear causes stress, which has a devastating effect on our physical and emotional health, playing a role in everything from susceptibility to cancer to heart disease.

Even with all she’s overcome, Gabrielle still works on controlling her own fears and stress every day. With the same confidence that she shares her personal triumphs over a self-destructive lifestyle, she admits that as a professional speaker, she often over shares and constantly works to exercise humility.

Juggling the promotion of her fourth book, Miracles Now; a weekly radio show; various TV spotlights; and regularly touring on the international speaking circuit, as well as teaching various yoga and meditation classes to her clients and still making time for herself, Gabrielle knows a thing or two about multitasking—and keeping her cool.

So how does Gabrielle break it down for us? Reorganize your life to honor the areas that are relevant at the time. It all comes back to perspective. In her new book, Miracles Now, she reassures us that women can have it all, maybe just not all at once. If we can let go of stress and fear and instead focus on what empowers us, we can achieve balance and contentment.

Connect with Gabrielle at GabbyB.tv!

Choosing the Right Health Insurance

Financial Advice By: Carmen Wong Ulrich

Q: Whenever I have a job that offers health insurance, I definitely make sure to take it, but I have to admit that I don’t always understand what is actually being offered, I just know that health insurance is something that everyone needs to have.  Now that “Obamacare” recently launched, I’m just even more confused!  Is there a way that I can tell if I am getting the best coverage for the money that I’m paying with all of these different options now available?

No matter what age you are or even how healthy you are, life happens: accidents happen, illness happens.  Health insurance protects you from paying much—much—more out of pocket for health and medical needs than if you didn’t have insurance coverage.

Some employers offer health coverage as part of your benefits package, which can also include other benefits, such as 401k plans or disability insurance.  And coverage through your employer will most likely cost less than coverage you can buy on your own because employers are able to get lower rates as they pool together large groups of people.  The government now offers coverage (with uninsured Americans as their ‘pool’ of people) through Healthcare.gov though it still is most likely more expensive and restrictive than what you can get through an employer.

So, if your employer offers coverage, it’s a valuable benefit to sign up for and it’s usually through one overall provider who then offers various tiers of service.  Usually the tiers are split between:  1) the size of the deductible, 2) the ability to choose doctors/hospitals, 3) how much of the bill they’ll pay for you.

Essentially, the lower the deductible (say $2,000 vs. $5,000), plus the more choice you’d like to have with your network of doctors and providers and the more you’d like the insurer to pick up the bill (say 100% or 90% vs. 60%), the more you’ll pay monthly for coverage.  These choices make sense for someone who goes to the doctor often—for example, a pregnant mother with full family coverage—rather than a young, healthy, single adult who can afford to risk a much higher deductible and fewer choices for providers.

So when you’re shopping around with your employer’s coverage, think about what’s most important for you and do not be shy or lazy about scheduling time to talk to the plan administrators to answer your questions—they are there to help you.  And if you have to shop on your own at Healthcare.gov, anticipate spending some time with the sign-up process, but know that a couple of hours online or some minutes on the phone with someone to help you through the sign-up process can mean the difference between paying $250 a month, just in case, or tens of thousands of dollars should you not have coverage at all and you need medical care.

Consider health coverage as a protection of your finances now, as well as your plans for the future.  After all, health is wealth!

 

Carmen Wong Ulrich is a personal finance expert and author of “The Real Cost of Living.”

Unclutter Your Closet and Your Mind!

By Lisa Adams, Founder of LA Closet

We all know how much better we feel when the home is clean or the desk is organized. Psychologically, it makes us feel that things are under control. Well, that feeling naturally extends to the closet. A messy closet influences what our clothes look like, how long it takes to get dressed, what we actually wear and how stressed we are getting out the door in the morning. That’s a big deal! So why not take on a spring cleaning project and get into the closet and out from under the clutter.

As a closet designer I have five top tips that I recommend – and that I live by – to keep your closet and clothing organized, and mornings running smoothly.

  • Edit, edit, edit. Even if you don’t own a lot, it is likely that you only wear half of what you have. Start by taking everything out of the closet and organizing it into piles. Then really consider each piece. Does it actually fit you? Does it flatter your figure? Is it in great shape or is there a stain or tear?  Does it meet your professional needs or at least your off-hours needs? If it doesn’t work/fit/look good – let it go. If it will work for someone else, pay it forward to Dress for Success. If it is not in good shape, just toss it.  Same goes for shoes and bags and belts. If they are in good shape, give them a good polish and get them ready for a fresh start, too.
  • Clean away the cobwebs. While the closet is empty, get in there and dust it out, wipe it down and start from scratch with a clean palate. Maybe even a fresh coat of paint if you have time.
  • Organize. As you begin putting things back into the closet, organize your clothing by work life and play life. Then within each area, keep shirts together, pants together, dresses, etc. Then line up your bags on a shelf or in a drawer and keep those shoes within easy reach. Make it easy to find what you need. Studies have found that we only wear what is visible to the eye. If it’s buried, it’s gone.
  • Plan ahead. Each evening give yourself a head start to an organized day. Figure out what you are going to wear the next morning and hang it up together. Iron if necessary – the last thing you need to do in a busy morning is get out the ironing board!
  • Maintain. When you get home in the evening, I know it is so tempting to toss your clothes on the bed/chair/floor. But it takes less than a minute to put things back where they belong. Putting them back away keeps your room clean, the clothes in better  shape and means you don’t have an overwhelming pile come Friday – when really all you should do it relax. You’ve earned it!

Lisa Adams is the founder of LA Closet, where her mission is to create wardrobe and storage spaces that are balanced functionally and aesthetically. As a designer, she sees the potential in this under-utilized, and often out of control space to add value to your home and to calm the chaos of everyday life.   Find out more about Lisa on LA Closet Design.

Take a Mental Vacation with This Simple Trick!

The Power Walk for Dress for Success is taking place in more than 30 cities throughout five countries this month, so we’ve clearly had health & wellness on our minds!  But when most of us think about being healthy and about being well, we tend to focus solely on the body, when we should also be focusing on the mind.

So we tapped into the insight of  Alexa Fischer to see what she does when she feels like she might be getting a little overwhelmed– and finding a way to recharge might be easier than you think! Watch her video here to hear about the simple trick she found on how to take a mental vacation without totally checking out!

 
Alexa Fischer uses the skills she learned at The Yale School of Drama and on countless primetime television shows to help people speak with confidence and calm in any situation. Versatile and useful, her methods can be applied to boardroom pitches, public speaking, promotional videos,  even cocktail small talk. Alexa is honored to have worked with Fortune 500 companies like Trader Joe’s and SONY and smaller, philanthropic organizations like the Step Up Women’s Network and Dress for Success. She works with clients in group workshops, through online classes, and one-on-one, helping each person polish their speaking and presentation skills while tapping into their own greatness. Grab her free video course, Public Speaking 101 at alexafischer.com.

Fix Your Fitness Mistakes with These Tips from Brett Hoebel!

“Work-out” used to be a dreaded seven letter word, but in recent years, more and more women are eagerly throwing on some spandex and heading to their local gyms and neighborhood parks to sweat their way to a healthier life.  But while going for a brisk walk around the block or hitting the cardio machines might seem like simple tasks, there’s a variety of variables to consider when trying to achieve your desired results effectively and efficiently.

Our friend and fitness guru Brett Hoebel—who you might remember as a trainer from The Biggest Loser!—broke down some common mistakes that many women make as they try to get in shape and stay healthy.

Ignoring Emotional Eating

Despite working out more, the obesity statistics have remained pretty similar. One major reason why is emotional eating. Studies show that is the number one issue you must resolve to get and stay in shape. If you suffer with emotional eating, seek out ways to figure out the problem and take the steps necessary to solve it. Whether it’s counseling, journaling, or one-on-one meetings with family and friends to discuss past hurts, you must address the emotions that lie beneath. Don’t ignore emotional eating as if it’s just your problem. Find the cause so you can get past using food for comfort.

Comparing Your Body to Others

How many times have you picked yourself apart for not having what someone else does body-wise, or worse, reminiscing on what you may have looked like in another point in your life. Instead, find ways to boost your confidence and accept your body for what it is. Of course you want to look and feel your best, but the only way you can get there is if you stop beating yourself up, and be nice to what you already have. The body you own now is the body you need to get the body you want. Treat it well, and it will reflect how you feel about it.

Leaving Your Cup Half-Empty

With many of the women I’ve trained, I’ve found that they put their needs last on their daily to-do list. To fill up other people’s cups, you have to have a full cup yourself or you’ll burnout. A healthy person is one who can balance the needs of others without forgetting about themselves. Don’t guilt yourself out of finding me-time. It is in that time of self-reflection that you can refresh and be re-invigorated to do things for others. Especially if you are a Mom, being a good example also includes teaching your family how to take care of themselves.

Only Doing Cardio

“While spot reduction shouldn’t be a focus, neither should doing the same cardio exercises.” Mix up your cardio workout arsenal. High intensity cardio is an easy way to burn calories and keep your fitness levels on the up and up. However, it will take work to keep the progress going. Instead of doing the same set of time at the same intensity on the treadmill or elliptical, add resistance along with higher intensity intervals to challenge yourself. Doing the same cardio session day in and day out is like lifting the same weight:  you’ll never get stronger. You might also incorporate some short bouts of cardio into a circuit that includes core exercises, strength training, and dynamic movements that allow for full range of motion movements.

Ignoring Long-Term Goals

Now to the hardest thing for both men and women to do: take a big-picture approach to health and fitness. Beyond your weight loss goals, or trying to fit a certain size of skinny jeans, getting more fit and eating healthy is a long-term goal. This goal isn’t about other people, it’s about you. Your health, your happiness, and your ability to accomplish the goals you have in life. How many people have you seen say they can’t do this or that. You can be the difference if you look at your health and fitness from within.

Brett has even more tips on this topic on his website, so check them out to make sure that your fitness strategy remains mistake free!  He even has a free ebook to download to make sure that even when you’re on the go, you’re able to have access to knowledge that you need!

Celebrity Fitness & Motivation expert Brett Hoebel was a trainer on NBC’s The Biggest Loser, health expert on Food Network’s Fat Chef, and judge on Fit or Flop: America’s Next Fitness Star. Brett is the creator of the 20 Minute Body™, RevAbs® from Beachbody, and frequently blogs for LIVESTRONG.COM, US News, Eleven By Venus and other prominent media outlets. He regularly appears on TV shows like Dr. Oz and The Talk to discuss topics such as weight loss, bullying and emotional obstacles, and contributes to national publications like SELF and Fitness Magazine.

The Success Diaries: Robin Arzon


Dear little Robinskie,

Things will get real. Really good, really challenging, and really overwhelming. Divorce is real. Death is real. Resilience is stronger. Your backbone is powerful and steadfast. You get it from your momma.

Start before you’re ready. Two weeks after quitting your legal career and successful law firm gig, you’ll book a flight costing more than rent to the London Olympics, on a gut instinct. That trip will change your life.

For a kid who forged notes to get out of gym, you’re going to run a lot – a dumb amount. It’s going to become your life’s work as an Ambassador of Sweat and ultramarathoner to run more miles than your little brain can compute. You will redefine who an athlete is and help others do it, too.

You’ll decide to run five marathons in five days to raise money for multiple sclerosis research. It will change you. That person who said you run “funny” in 6th grade is an a**hole. You curse a lot. That won’t change. And it’s all good.

Happy is something you DO. Create yourself every moment. You and only you are responsible for your happiness. Life is happening now, now, now.

1. Trust your struggle.

The path to success is circuitous. And it’s juicy. Enjoy the iterative process of the journey.

2. Write your story using fear as fuel. 

Does it get your blood pumping? Does it make you nervous? Then that’s the challenge you were meant to encounter. Own the pen to the story you’re writing. Your passions are not accidental. Pursue them.

3. Listen to the little voice inside.

You’ll be a corporate lawyer until you’re not.

You’ll be into eating meat until you’re not.

You’ll be in love until you’re not.

You’ll be sad until you’re not.

You’ll be rejected until you’re embraced.

Meet your emotions where they are. Honor them. It all passes.

The little voice inside that said you could live alone in New York at 17 years old was right. It’s still your happy place.

4. Endorphins are better than Botox.

Your body unlocks passion and potential. Honor it with sweat. Create laugh lines. Screw the stretch marks you’ve had since puberty. They are your warrior stripes.

Your body will do such amazing things that you’ll no longer mind those chicken pox scars. You won’t even mind when your pancreas stops producing insulin, suddenly leading to a Type 1 Diabetes diagnosis. In fact, it’s going to make you feel so full of gratitude that you’ll be happy for a lifetime of not a single ailment, hospital stay, or broken bone.

The key to your power is the flame in your belly.

5. Superheroes are real.

Seek those who fan your flames. Surround yourself with people who make you proud and humbled in their presence. Your mom really is always right.

6. Get lost. Find yourself. 

You will travel the world, get lost, find yourself, and leave pieces of you from Africa to Turkey. The best walnut ravioli you will ever have is in Florence down the little side street with no name that you discovered drunk on red wine. Savor it.

7. Let things go. You have to put what weighs you down to fly. 

You’ll pick up baggage on these travels, the bad kind, the abrasive stuff that makes people jaded.

Put the bags down. Those wounds are not your story. Ask yourself: will this matter in a month, or a year? A decade? Lighten your load.

You are not baggage claim.

8. Hold on to your Porch Swing Posse.

There are only a handful of people who you’ll imagine sitting with you in silence on a porch swing. They are everything. You like to be right. But you’ll love them more. Have enough ego strength to say “I’m sorry.” In business and in life, relationships are IT.

9. Do epic sh*t. 

For example, and in no particular order:

Belly laugh. Jump off cliffs (literally, like that time in Brazil). Shatter limits. Embrace the insatiable curiosity that keeps you up at night. Eat cherries. Dance until you’re delirious, even in the living room. Listen to lots of 90s hip hop. It never gets old. Save your mixtapes. Stay up for sunrise. That never gets old either. Call your mother.

10. Fail. Big.

Failure means progress. The people who haven’t failed, haven’t lived. Experientially, it’s rough, but that’s where the good stuff lies.

Girl, you’re in for a real life Choose Your Own Adventure. Make it spectacular. Manifest thoughts into things with action.

Sit on the porch swing in 50 years with salacious, powerful, inspiring, goose bump-inducing stories to tell. Learn the power of “no.” Own your “yes.”

Above all, do more of what makes you happy. Sometimes, it really is that simple.

xx.

@RobinNYC

Robin Arzon is a corporate lawyer turned Ambassador of Sweat, running coach, cycling instructor, and ultramarathoner. A former social media producer for Nike Women, coaching athletes is my passion. SHUTUPANDRUN, her blog,  is for athletes who think medals are the highest form of Bling. Fueled by the ethos that there is no finish line, her life’s mission is to redefine, reform, and rethink possibility through movement.  For more about a life lived in sweat, visit www.robinarzon.com or follow @RobinNYC on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook!

 

Dear DFS: How Can I Care for My Mother AND My Children?

Dear DFS,

I am proud to say that I am currently working full-time, but in addition to balancing my career and caring for my two children, my mother is older in age and has recently fallen ill, so I am now tending to her, as well.  I obviously love my mother with all of my heart, but I am not sure how much longer I can keep up this juggling act—or if I am even the best person to be caring for her.  I’m obviously no millionaire, but do you know of where I might look for help or have any advice on how I can better manage this situation?

Fingers crossed,

Lucia

Corpus Christi, TX

Below are some answers from the Career Coaches affiliated with Dress for Success Triangle in North Carolina:

Hello Lucia – First, let me say congratulations on your full-time position.  I recognize balancing your responsibilities as a working mother can be very challenging, but I am confident you will succeed.  I assume you do not have other family members that can share the care of your mother in the local area.  If not, there are two programs that may be able to provide some additional support.  Your current employer may have what is known as an EAP (employee assistance program).  These services can often help you find resources and support for a variety of work life balance challenges.  They may also be able to provide referrals for elder care programs nearby.  You can ask your human resources representative for more information.  Also, you can contact your local social services department.  Dependent upon your mom’s age and condition, she may qualify for benefits that can help support her care.  I hope these options work for you.  Stay encouraged. – Tomesah Harrison

Caring for your ill mother can be a huge challenge.  Most importantly, take care of yourself so you are better able to juggle all your responsibilities.  Be sure to ask for help!  This can be from friends or community resources (church or civic).  Fortunately, the state of Texas where you are located has a Department of Aging and Disability Services with an extensive website.  The website includes lists of options for adult day care, assisted living facilities, home healthcare, home- and community-based programs, free-standing nursing homes, hospital-based nursing homes and residential care for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.  If you care for someone 60 or older, you can call 1-800-252-9240. Your local AAA may be able to help you find services in your area, help arrange for those services and provide short-term relief.  Support groups may be helpful to vent your frustrations and get advice from people in similar situations.  Take Time Texas challenges caregivers to take some time for themselves and reach for information, support and assistance. To encourage caregivers to take that time, the Texas Respite Coordination Center was created to offer caregivers and respite care providers services, resources and educational materials.  Texas has 28 local area agencies on aging (AAA) contract with to help people 60 and older and their caregivers find the information they need to locate and access community services, including benefits counseling/legal assistance; care coordination; information; referral and assistance; legal awareness; and an ombudsman program.  There is a wealth of resources out there – be persistent in reaching out for help!  – Lois Bronstein

I’m so sorry to hear about your mother and have encountered this issue on both sides: the unexpected care taker and the one needing the help for themselves. I have found in almost every city, there are organizations that help people on various levels such as house cleaning, transportation to doctors or simply a friendly visit for a chat. They usually are found under social services. I located an organization named Elderly Care at Home: Free Elder Care in the Home.  This, of course, is presuming your mother is eligible for senior services. If they can’t help, they should be able to direct you to a nonprofit that can. – Joy Carter

If your employer offers an Employee Assistance Program, please check it out. They may be familiar with elder and child care resources. To find out more, check with Human resources department or whomever is in charge of benefits.  – Kioka Dunston

Book Shelf: Cheryl Strayed’s “Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Coast Trail”

Life is an unexpected journey. Sure, this is a phrase we have all heard before, but sometimes it takes the unexpected to remind us to be grateful for the life we are fortunate to have.

It was the unexpected that sparked the most meaningful adventure Cheryl Strayed would embark on in her life and, lucky for us, she documented this journey in her biography Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail. Wild is a powerful memoir that tells the story of one woman’s eleven-hundred-mile solo hike from the Mojave Desert to Washington State and the way it healed her.

At the age of twenty-two, Cheryl thought she had lost everything. In the wake of her mother’s death, devastation caused her family to fall apart and her own marriage was inevitably brought to an end. At one point, Cheryl even turned to drug abuse for relief. Reeling from catastrophe and feeling as though she had nothing to lose, four years later she decided she would hike more than a thousand miles of the Pacific Crest Trail. With no experience or training, and dependent upon the kindness of strangers she meets along the way, Cheryl’s decision to travel alone through California and Oregon to Washington State was single-handedly the most impulsive decision she had ever made—and the best one at that.

Cheryl’s story is one of promise. With each challenge, bruise and blister from the trail, Cheryl relays how her determination allowed her to overcome each physical and emotional hurdle. While her journey broke her down, it also helps her come to terms with the overwhelming loss she’s endured and her unexpected reactions to it.

Yet the most surprising twist to Cheryl’s memoir comes after it was actually published. By checking Wild out in a local library, the half-sister Cheryl had never met was able to find the author. By giving her journey a voice, Cheryl was able to rebuild the family she once thought that she had lost for good.

Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail is a reminder to be grateful for what we have and at the same time teaches us how to cope with the things we have lost. Told with remarkable honesty, Cheryl reaches women everywhere with her personal journey and encouraging tale of finding out that the strength she needed was within herself all along. We hope you enjoy reading this one as much as we did.