Thursday, December 31, 2015

Prescription for the Last-Day-of-the-Year-Blues

Speaking strictly for myself, it's easy to feel a little down at the end of the year. Some people LOVE the holiday season and the dark, yin time of year. Others, not so much. What's going on with this phenomenon? I suppose it's well documented and you could find all sorts of prescriptions with a single internet search. Here are my ideas about what is going on, for me at least.

First of all, I think many of us are more affected than we know by the smaller amount of yang qi from the sun that we are receiving unless you live pretty far below the Mason-Dixon Line. It mostly dark outside where I live. Second are the expectations many of us grew up with around what "the holidays" are supposed to look like but don't for most of us. Third, for those with businesses of their own, it's often slower for a few weeks around this time, which may add financial stress to the rest of the stuff in our heads. Finally, another year gone by on our small and struggling planet and how have I made it meaningful; what did I do for others; how have I made it better for myself or any one else? All this is definitely "up" for me.

What to do to perk ourselves back up? Here are a few suggestions of things I use for my own end-of-year emotional symptoms.

1. Add some yang qi. Get outside if there is any sunshine and it's not really inclement. The Brits have a good saying, "there is no bad weather, just inappropriate clothing." That could be a bit of a stretch if its below zero or raining cats and dogs. But if there is no sun outside, a trip to the gym with a good, hard workout and soak in the hot tub or sauna might be in order. That's yang qi as well. And/or how about doing a trade with someone for a nice deep, hot rock massage?  When there are fewer patients around, it's a really good time to take care of yourself.

2. Create, recreate, or update your business or marketing plan. What did you get right and where could you do better? How many more patients would you like to be seeing each week by, say, March 31st? What type of conditions do you feel most comfortable treating? What products, services, machines, skills, processes would you like to add to your clinic? What would it take to make these things happen? Where did you think about volunteering in 2015 but never got around to making it happen? How or with whom could you connect, imbed, or network more meaningfully within your community to expand your interconnectedness factor?

Give this thought process and note-taking some time; a whole day perhaps with a walk after lunch. Read your local paper; check out some of your competition websites, look at local Meet-Up opportunities, check out what's happening at local churches, clubs, and non-profits. If and when something looks interesting, what are the follow up steps you want to take before you forget about it. Follow through; follow through; follow through. Remember that if you keep doing what you did, you'll keep getting what you got. So what do you want to change?

3. Sign up for a local class; pick something that gets you out and meeting other people. That's where the new patients are.

4. Better yet, find a place to sign up to teach a class, free or paid. That's where more new patients are.

5. Eat your fruits and vegees and get adequate sleep. This does not need any explanation. Keep the booze, sugar, or whatever else (I live in Colorado) under some control.

6. Call someone you've not seen in a while and arrange for a walk, a tea, a dinner. An old friend, perhaps, or someone you've met and wanted to get to know better.

7. Send an actual letter or small gift to someone you know who is struggling just now. Or even someone who is not.

8. Throw a party for your friends and patients. Tell them that anyone they bring who books an appointment gets their first one (or second one??) at no cost. Put some juice into this...make it a really, really fun event.

9. Acknowledge what you're experiencing emotionally, but don't allow yourself to believe it's all that important. If you feel sad, okay. So what. It's not the end of the world, it will pass, and you still have to get up and do what needs to be done. I think the idea that we have to be happy all the time is a modern disease of its own. The idea of "being happy" is something we all think we want; but perhaps purpose, usefulness, self-awareness, and doing what needs to be done is a more realistic set of goals. Maybe those things ARE a more real definition of happiness. It's something to consider.

My Grandmother used to tell me that when I felt lousy, that was the time to do something for someone else. Not easy to do when you are sunk in total self-involvement, but I've come to see she was right. Who can I help, and how can I help them? It need not take a mob of people to make a difference in this world, and it's a great way to start, or end, any or every year.

Thanks for being a reader. Here's to a purpose-filled and meaningful 2016 to us all.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

7 Things to Do While You Ignore Your Email

This was advice from a recent article in PC World, and I agree. How often have you been endlessly lost in cyberspace clicking on emails and Facebook posts, only to find that all of a sudden it's 11:45AM and that's all you've done today?

If this sounds familiar consider: a recent study done at UC Irvine suggests that checking email fewer times reduces stress and increases productivity. What should we be doing first thing in the AM instead of being lost in cyberspace? Tons of things could get done and leave us knowing that we accomplished something (which reduces stress) before the day has had a chance to make too much mischief.

• When was the last time you updated your web page with new material, photos, videos? Why not use the early morning to write a 3-4 minute video script (a kidney-boosting qi gong exercise, a warming self-massage routine, a description of a winter soup recipe or home-made liniment, or how to make a hara-maki to wear at home) and then gather whatever show and tell materials you need to complete this project. Call a friend to bring their new Galaxy or iPhone to shoot the video later in the week.

• When was the last time you scheduled a series of talks with local groups or associations? If you are a parent, could you give a talk on stress reduction to your PTA? What about specific disease support groups in your town? What about creating your own "Meet-Ups" for patients to bring their friends? Do any local companies have brown-bag lunch talks for employees? If so can you get on the list of speakers? Are there parenting groups, women's groups, sports groups to whom you could speak? Are you a member at a local gym that might offer a health lecture series? How many calls can you make before 10 AM to any or all of these connections?

• Is there a local radio station in your town? If so, do any of the programs do interviews? Might you start your own radio show once a week on health related topics? (I know one very successful practitioner in CA who keeps his practice full using this strategy while sharing good information in his community at the same time.) Find out who to speak to and follow up.

• When was the last time your website had a facelift? Look at 3-5 of your competitors websites and honestly compare yours to theirs. What could you do better? Who or what resources do you need to make these updates? If you can do them yourself, write down a plan listing needed or wanted changes and additions in order of importance. Follow up.

• Look through your patient files. Who has not been in for 6+ months? What personal message, article, blog post, or snail mail could you send to these folks? Make a personal outreach or some type to 10-or-more of them this morning.

• Alternatively to working on your business, why not go for a good walk or take a trip to the gym? Start your day with a work out to stimulate your qi and blood and take care of yourself first!

• Read the local paper(s). Take notes on any and all possible co-marketing or co-service projects that you could organize with other local businesses or non-profits. Follow up with some phone calls. Another possibility is to create an event with 5-6-7 or more other acupuncturists in your community. Find a service project in your town that needs doing and organize yourselves to do it and get publicity while you're at it.

Remember, email is busy work. It may or may not produce any new patients or any additional opportunities. And, it'll all still be there when you are done doing something more productive.

Good luck and thanks for reading.

Honora Wolfe is the author of Points for Profit: The Essential Guide to Practice Success for Acupuncturists.
She has taught and lectured at almost every acupuncture college in the US as well as spoken at conferences all over the world.