Remember when self-help tips were limited to books like I'm Okay, You're Okay and The Power of Positive Thinking? Life really was simpler then.
Today, personal improvement advice comes at us from a flood of not just books, but blogs, websites, tweets, ezines, infomercials, emails, texts and ... you get the picture. So much so that sifting through it all has become a new source of stress.
That's why psychologist and fellow Baby Boomer, Dr. Amy Wood, felt compelled to write Life Your Way: Refresh Your Approach to Success and Breathe Easier in a Fast-Paced World (Modern Sage Press, $14.95). This inspiring, 175-page foundation for personal growth offers practical tips for making sense of TMI (too much information) while juggling professional and personal demands, no matter how overwhelming they might seem. It includes helpful strategies for taking control, finding confidence and going after what you want (not what you've been told you should want).
View your life as a work in progress. We Boomers know more than any other generation that predictable adult development - from picket fences to gold retirement watches - is no longer the norm. Nothing is certain now except that the pace of American life will continue to quicken, and options for personal discovery and transformation will keep snowballing. This is the age of reinvention, and you will probably leave a "to do" list behind when you die. Once you accept that you will never get "it all" done, that each new horizon will bring new goals and dreams, you will begin to stress less and enjoy the ride more.
Take excellent care of yourself. You need to be genuinely rested and awake with all your parts in good working order to cut through the chaos of modern life and see your way to genuine enjoyment. This means making sure that you get enough sleep, eat reasonably well, exercise sufficiently, protect yourself from people and environments that drain you, and keep your mind adequately stimulated. This also means breaking away from work whenever necessary to take the edge off, have fun and recharge. The advantage of taking full responsibility for your physical and mental health is that you'll be well-anchored with your wits about you as the cacophony of American life continues to build.
Make the most of what you already have. One sure way to reduce stress is to take your mind off what's missing and focus instead on what's working. This means recognizing and fortifying existing strengths in yourself, other people, your environment, and the internet and technology. You can't afford to waste time complaining about what's not going your way, or attempting to excel in areas that just aren't your thing. If you go with what feels natural and delegate what goes against your grain, you'll feel more comfortable, capable and optimistic.
Get rid of what you don't want. It's hard to believe you're getting anywhere in life when you can't see the path in front of you. You can clear your way by ridding yourself of stuff, ideas, goals, commitments, relationships and obligations that have long since served a purpose and are now only taking up premium space. Identifying and then getting rid of whatever is weighing on you, cluttering your environment, clogging your mind or dragging you down will free up room for more meaningful beliefs, belongings and opportunities, and you will feel more energized and better able to breathe.
Get clear about what you do want. If you don't know where you're going in our distracted culture, you will get pulled in all sorts of directions that aren't right for you. The best way to end up in places that feel good is to let what's most important to you -- your health, your family and friends, your livelihood, and other core sources of meaning and purpose - inform your decisions. Envisioning what you're after -- more money in the bank, less weight around your middle, happier relationships at home and the office - will coax you through all those distractions and toward fruition.
Make life balance a practice: A big source of stress these days is the popular belief that life can be perfect if you just apply the right strategy. With so much expert advice at our disposal, it's easy to convince ourselves that the secret to the perfect life must exist somewhere, if only we can find the appropriate fix. The advantage of being a Boomer is that you're old enough to know that you will never get your life exactly right and that's okay. You will have good days and bad days, surprises will interrupt even the best laid plans, and you will make mistakes. But if you approach each day as an opportunity to do the best you can, adapting when necessary to ever-changing outer circumstances and inner inclinations, your life will feel balanced most of the time. And in an era when stress is a communal experience, feeling balanced more often than not really is as good as it gets.
Amy Wood PSY.D. graduated from Loyola University in New Orleans in 1985 with a communications degree, then enjoyed an invigorating advertising, marketing, and publishing career in Chicago. Fascinated by corporate dynamics and human behavior, she enrolled in Chicago's Adler School of Professional Psychology at age 30 to become a psychologist. She fell in love with Maine after completing her clinical internship at the University of Maine counseling center and launched her practice in Portland in 2000. Amy is also certified by the College of Executive Coaching in California and is known for her workshops and presentations on the themes from her book.