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The Balanced Life: The Importance of Finding and Creating Balance

I am not going to claim that I have it all together. I am not going to claim that my life is balanced and wonderful 100% of the time. I am only a young woman who experienced things as a girl that made it harder for me to find joy. As I reflect back on the moments that have shaped me, I am able to accept them as part of my story. Coupled with the tools and personal insight I have gained over the last five years, I look forward to writing the next chapters while creating a balanced life.

I believe my story and what I have learned throughout my journey has value and I want to share it with you. Whether you relate personally to my struggles and triumphs or we are kindred spirits when it comes to accepting our past, finding mindfulness, or cultivating joy through living authentically, I hope we walk away from this little corner of the internet understanding that we aren’t so different after all.

From the age of six and into my early 20’s, I struggled with body image. Coming from a conservative background and being brought up in a Montessori school until seventh grade, I wasn’t taught how my body would change and grow. I felt like I was an outsider looking in at a stranger every time I saw my body in the mirror. Was this normal? Was I normal? With every red and painful blemish that dotted my sensitive forehead, I thought to myself “You are dirty. You don’t wash your face enough”. At six body dysmorphia crept upon me like a budding new friendship, making herself known as I stared at myself in the mirror in a faux-silk tap dance costume. The dress’ painful seams dug into the flesh around my thighs and the sleeves were two inches too short. Instead of thinking “This is not my size”, I thought “I am fat and that is bad”.

The struggle to know and love myself remained as I battled an eating disorder from 16 into my early twenties. I was so consumed with eating and not eating that I didn’t notice the loneliness that sat beside me every day throughout those formative years. I isolated myself after feeling the sting of rejection that most girls will face in middle school. I welcomed loneliness as a companion for my eating disorder. When I didn’t feel the slight melancholy feel of my old friend, I felt raw, exposed, and scared. Depression and anxiety came to join the party but I wouldn’t know it until I was 24 and was able to look back on my life without judgement.

I know what you might be thinking, why is this woman who clearly struggled to love herself through crucial formative years, now only a few years later thinking she can dish advice about living a balanced life? I will tell you…

I have spent the last five years fighting for myself. In those five years, I have been able to heal from my ED through the help of therapy and a great doctor. I have accepted that anxiety is part of my journey and have stopped wrestling with the idea of trying to rid myself of it. I have developed my self-awareness – that has been a great gift to me – so that I can catch destructive behaviors or thinking errors before I am caught in a downward spiral (which can mean a variety of things).

I have made it a distinct mission to cultivate self-love through acknowledging my inherit value. Through mindfulness practice, occasional yoga and meditation, uplifting literature, creativity, and the thirst for a successful life, I have made my life more durable, more loving, more kind, more compassionate, more full, more empathetic, all of which leads to more joy.

 

This “series” of posts will be called “The Balanced Life” and will be separated into four basic categories: Mental, Physical, Spiritual, and Intellectual. There will be multiple posts under each category that will contain my personal experiences, the tools I find helpful, and literature that I find inspiring.

Along with this series, I will be posting reviews of my favorite books that have helped form these ideas and inspired change or creativity within me. They will be in separate posts titled “Book Club”. On the side bar of this page, you should see a widget from Good Reads that is hosting a few examples of what’s on my bookshelf currently. Feel free to browse my Good Reads profile for books I recommend. I will try to get around updating it ASAP, as of right now, there are still a few great books on there that I give 5 stars!

 

Have a wonderful week,

Darcy

Why You Need a Social Media Management Software

 

I have spoken with many small business owners and have worked with many clients who are not familiar with the many faucets of the social media world. They desire to be a social media influencer and own their brand online. This is where my services come into play as I work with them to create an online presence that is both valuable and influential. It takes a bit more than just having a basic social media account though. In this post, I will explain why you need a social media management software and the best software for the job!

Strategy

Most small businesses and bloggers have more than one social media account. My clients often start with the basic three which are used for both SEO and community; they are Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus. I highly recommend an Instagram presence but this is an add-on service because it requires much more time and strategy to become an established influencer.

Social media management softwares help you develop a posting strategy while keeping organized by storing all analytics in one place. This makes it’s easy to create a schedule based on optimized posting days and times to gain the broadest reach and most engagement.

 

Organization

When trying to establish a social media presence, it won’t take long to realize that things can quickly become chaotic. For instance, if you want to keep up with trending hashtags on certain days of the week (i.e. #WednesdayWisdom or #ThrowbackThursday), you will need to know which social media platforms these are trending on, what time is best for posting, and what content does best on each platform (GIF, short video, image, etc).

Then, you will need to create the content and upload it in advance. It is incredibly hard – even working with one social media account – to remember to post at the optimal time and include all relevant hashtags and information.

A good social media management software will help you keep organized by allowing you to upload content in advance. This will leave time for you to interact with potential customers and perform audience growth by networking and establishing relationships instead of trying to post to all of your accounts every single day.

 

Penalties

There have been conflicting articles that discuss SEO tactics and third-party scheduling services. My research has been about 50/50. 50% of digital marketers claim Facebook and Instagram penalize the reach of posts that are scheduled by a third-party software. The penalty claimed to be around 5%. If this is true, that means that because you choose to schedule posts on a third-party software, they will have a shorter reach than those you post live or schedule directly on the social media network (Facebook allows you to schedule posts ahead of time on business pages).

Through my own research, I have not found that this is the case. In fact, I used Hootsuite to schedule on Facebook for a few months while my colleagues scheduled directly to Facebook. The analytics showed that my posts were doing significantly better than those of my colleagues. If you choose to use a third-party software to schedule, keep a close eye on your analytics so that you can make changes if you start to see your posts being penalized by obtaining a significantly lower reach.

 

Hootsuite

Hootsuite is one of the cheapest social media management softwares on the market. Their smallest package is free! While their platform is plain and visually unappealing, they get the job done. The great thing about Hootsuite is that it is very basic and straight forward. They offer a calendar system so that you can view a months worth of scheduled posts, which is great for organization and planning in advance.

The downside to Hootsuite is that you may find yourself buying many more additional third-party softwares to make up where they are lacking. For example, you may need to buy another scheduling service for Instagram as Hootsuite doesn’t offer this feature. You will also want to buy another analytic service so that you can generate more accurate and easy-to-read analytics to create SEO tactics. In the end, this service may not be the cheapest option but I do highly recommend them as a starting point!

 

CoSchedule

I’ll admit, I found CoSchedule quite confusing. I would say that CoSchedule is Hootsuite’s more attractive (and more expensive) sister. The interface is inviting and looks user-friendly; however, I found the terms they used to be most confusing. What I do like about CoSchedule is how they connect directly to WordPress. This is great for bloggers! You can promote your blog posts more easily over social media platforms by simply connecting your CoSchedule account to WordPress. You can create a calendar that lists your blog posts and their publishing dates and create different graphics to correlate on social media networks. CoSchedule offers a one month free trial, which I strongly suggest for bloggers who use WordPress!

 

Sprout Social

And finally, the mother of all social media management softwares. Sprout Social is my absolute favorite. Yes, they are on the higher end of the financial scale; however, with Sprout Social you will not a third-party analytic service like Rival IQ. The analytics on Sprout are in-depth and include everything you need to know to create a great SEO plan for your social networks. They offer an Instagram scheduling service that isn’t quite ideal yet but knowing Sprout Social, it will be soon.

Sprout Social saves me loads of time because their scheduling calendar is incredibly user friendly and easy to move around. It has a click and drag feature that allows you to move things around without manually changing the date and time (Hootsuite does not offer this feature), which really will save you a lot of time in the long run.

It’s my favorite because it is user-friendly through and through. The tutorials they offer will help you make the most of your experience by showing you what numbers to look at when it comes to analytics and even creating optimized posting times so that you don’t have to keep a separate document to track when to post. I could sing their praises forever. I fell in love over my one month FREE trial and highly recommend you utilize the free trial to see for yourself!

 

When it comes to social media management software, make sure that you have the basics covered. You will need a platform that you understand, can easily use, and that allows you to create new strategies as you grow. I hope this post has shed some light on these services. Do you have a favorite posting software? Let me know in the comments, I am always on the look out for the next best thing!

The Happiness Myth

 

Our society teaches us a lie that can deter us from reaching our full potential. Every day we are fed thousands of different messages from outside influencers. Like the seemingly perfect lives of millennials captured on tiny screens and taking over Instagram, we begin to build a distorted idea of what life really looks like. This is “the happiness myth” and I am breaking it down for you in hopes that you can embrace a new way of thinking and use it to enhance your career and life goals:

“Happiness is the natural state for human beings”

We are people with ever-changing emotions. Advertisers want you to believe that “without this product, you won’t be happy”. This message has been beaten into our brains until we have bought into the idea that happiness is what we should feel more times than not.

This belief can lead people to depression because no matter how hard they try, they will never accomplish the goal of continual happiness. This belief can also effect careers and other important duties. What happens when you encounter a period of monotony that starts to feel familiar instead of intriguing? We feel that something is wrong and go into “fix it” mode in order to create intrigue and regain that feeling of excitement. We become dissatisfied and restless, perhaps fixing something that is perfectly efficient.

“Happiness means feeling good”

The last time you remember feeling frustrated, how long did the feeling last? The last time you felt content or pleasurable, how long did that feeling last? When you stopped feeling frustrated, did you immediately feel joy? Because the definition of happiness is to feel content or pleasure, we can’t expect it to last all the time. Like our many diverse and broad ranges of emotion, happiness is not unique in the fact that it should always be there. It is only one of many. Accepting that happiness is fleeting can help us not to expect it all the time.

Have you ever reached a goal and momentarily celebrated the feeling of accomplishment? The feeling of achievement probably didn’t last long before you were on to your next goal. It’s great to recognize happiness and bask in it; it’s also ok when the feeling goes and is replaced by something else. This is great for career goals and can act as a tool to push you to achieve more and become more efficient.

“If I am not happy, something is wrong”

Again, society often normalizes happy. If you are not happy then you must need antidepressants. We almost unanimously decide that happiness is the natural state and other emotions are bad. Life is a challenge filled with up and downs, we are lucky to feel such different and varying emotions everyday.

If you are not happy, you are probably normal. You are probably like the other 7 billion of us who encounter many different, strong emotions, including happiness.

 

Coming to terms with the fact that humans shouldn’t constantly feel happy can allow you to work through challenging moments of monotony. When you reach a time in your career that you don’t feel fulfilled, it’s a great time to check in and make new goals; however, it’s a good opportunity to remind yourself to expect times like these and recognize them as normal. Don’t make rash decisions out of boredom, fear, or sadness because you feel that you should always be happy. Recognize that happiness, just like these other emotions, is there to enhance life and make it sweeter for just a quick moment.

This post is based on the YouTube video “The Happiness Myth” by Dr. Russ Harris

 

5 of the Most Helpful Travel Apps

 

While living abroad, I was able to pick up the tips and tricks of other travelers. Not much to my surprise, the trick to getting the BEST deals was all tied up in the apps you download. Today I am sharing 5 of the most helpful travel apps I use when while exploring different parts of the world!

1. SkyScanner

I used Skyscanner multiple times for flights around Europe. It lists the best deals for cheap flights, hotels, and car rentals. The best thing about Skyscanner is that is gives a comparison between different airlines. Sometimes I found it in my best financial interest to fly a popular commercial airline because of luggage fees associated with smaller, budget airlines. Skyscanner allows you to go through the complete booking process on their app.

 

travel app

 

2. Uber

I debated putting Uber on the list. Anyone living in a decently sized city will most likely already have this on their phone. However, it wouldn’t be a true article if I didn’t include it. I believe in the power of Uber. Whenever I felt unsafe walking around various parts of London late at night, I wouldn’t hesitate to call an Uber. It is better to drop some cash on a cab when you are worried for your safety, than to risk potential harm by walking alone. I loved that I could share my ETA with friends and family. I would often share my location with one of my housemates or my mum for peace of mind.

 

travel app

 

3. Time Out

Time Out is a great source to find the best entertainment while in the city. I use it frequently to check theatre, museum, and art reviews. This is a great app for people who want a more “local” art experience due to the fact that they review and write about more than just mainstream theatre companies. Time Out reviews will help you get the most out of your stay in a city  while keeping it exciting, plus you can book tickets directly from their app!

 

travel app

 

4. Hostelworld

A good hostel can make or break your traveling experience. We have all heard horror stories from people staying in hostels that didn’t live up to their expectations. Search by city or hostel to read reviews and see photos before you make a choice. From the app, you can also make group bookings with no additional fees. As a solo traveler, finding the right hostel can greatly enhance your experience by bringing you together with like-minded people. (And I’m not just saying this because I contributed to this post on their website).

 

travel app

 

5. Autoslash

Some of my best memories were made by taking a road trip through the UK. We were always on the hunt for the best deals. Austoslash allows you to compare rental car prices in your area, since they fluctuate just as much as flights! Just make sure you meet the country’s driving standards (age, drivers license, etc.).

 

travel app

 

These apps kept me safe and entertained while exploring the world. What are your favorite apps for traveling? Share them with me in comments. I am always looking for the best travel apps for deals and bookings! Happy exploring, everyone!