My Top Quick Cheap Stress-busters

I admit, I get stressed easily. Comes with the territory of being an overly emotional, overthinking kind of person. I know, I know, I should not worry. It’s actually a command of Jesus not to worry!

The good thing is, while I get stressed easily, I can also de-stress pretty easily. Comes also with the territory of being a low-maintenance, mababaw-na-kaligayahan type of girl. I’m not saying a private beach or a stay at a five-star hotel won’t please me, but given that I don’t usually roll like that, I’m glad to find pleasure and serenity in seemingly small blessings.

Wikipedia defines stress as, “a person’s response to a stressor such as an environmental condition or a stimulus. Stress is a body’s way to react to a challenge. According to the stressful event, the body’s way to respond to stress is by sympathetic nervous system activation which results in the fight-or-flight response. Stress typically describes a negative condition or a positive condition that can have an impact on a person’s mental and physical well-being.”

If your idea of de-stressing involves huge amounts of cash or elaborate preparations, this post is not for you. But like I said, I’m mababaw like that so if you are too, feel free to share your own list too. Who knows, we might learn a thing or two from each other. Also, this list is not exhaustive and some items may change from time to time, but right now, in this season in my life, these are my tops.

13. Write. Doesn’t matter if it’s a short Tweet, a lengthy Facebook status or a full post in this blog, or even just some scribbles in my planner and BB notepad which never gets published. Jotting down my thoughts and feelings into words never fails to calm me.

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12. Sound-trip. I am rarely ever without my earphones, my phone or my iTouch, especially since I spend at least 4-5 hours commuting to and from work everyday. My antique first-gen iTouch has regressed into a Nano and I’m unable to put any apps in it so it is now a glorified MP3 player. If you put my playlist on shuffle mode, you’d get a mix of R&B, pop, 90’s boy/girlbands, praise and worship, OPM, OST’s and some dancey tunes. About 90% would be love songs. Yep I’m a total sap. My playlists are usually categorized according to month, depending on what my mood is on that particular month, so if you browse through the songs , you’d get a pretty good idea where I’m at (at least emotionally) at any given month in the last two years or so.

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11. DVD marathons. Nothing like spending a huge chunk of my rest day vegetating in front of  the TV and catching up on my favorites series, and if I’m in a movie mood, the latest pirated copy or rent some in Video City. I only watch movies that I really, really like in theaters. Otherwise, I much prefer it that I could hit pause so I can do a quick run to the restroom, the snacks don’t cost a fortune and most of the time, they have subtitles.

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10. Massage. I don’t need a really fancy schmancy spa (though the occasional visit is highly appreciated) to get my massage fix. I discovered this cheap place which cost half of my home service masseuse.

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9. Jog. One of the great things about living inside the UPLB campus: unlimited access to fresh air, wide spaces, greens and greens galore. Just walking around Freedom Park is enough to clear my head of worries and my lungs of acrid city pollution.

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8. Comfort food. My most favorite ones are buko pie (or young coconut pie, which I had today! I posted a pic of it in my FB account and it elicited a lot of envy. Sorry guys! :)), binatog (boiled sticky corn kernels with grated coconut and salt), ginisang monggo (Gosh I don’t know how to translate that? Sauteed little green beans? Haha!), and a hefty bowl of summer fruits (watermelon, mango, pineapple and melon never fail to refresh me).

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7. Hot sweet tea. For the longest time, I was a black tea drinker, but I recently started on green tea. Jasmine is my favorite, not just because my name came from it, but because its fragrant aroma and mild taste is a balm to my frayed senses. Chamomile is also fast becoming a favorite.

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6. Lemongrass-scented oil. I pour a few drops in my little ceramic burner, and the smell of it filling up the room makes me feel awake and fresh and invigorated.

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5. Go on little solo trips. The last time I was really down, I did a little city exploring and went to Paco Park. I like discovering nearby places I normally would not notice or visit. Our sojourn in Chinatown few weeks ago was also supposed to be just me, but I did enjoy going there as a group. Though I’m now thinking of going back alone to also satisfy my solitary muni-muni cravings. And get some tea, too.

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4. Look at baby pictures of my daughter and her cousins. I love to marvel at how times flies so fast and how adorable they were back then as babies. Of course, I still adore them now, but with puberty and teenagehood, I miss those sweet milky-breaths, toddler giggles, endless hugs and kisses and begs to come play lutu-lutuan or Barbie.

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3. Friends and family. Where would I be without my truest, frankest, craziest friends? My dysfunctional yet ever-dependable family? ‘Nuff said. (By the way, those not in this pic, you know who you are 🙂 ).

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2. The beach. Still my ultimate, no-fail go-to place for some serious de-stressing. Something about the sand, waves, sun and anything inihaw is better than any store-bought remedy.

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1. Pray. Before, I used to just pray when I want something from God, or to thank Him for a wish come true. Praying was reserved for Sundays at church, or thsoe brief moments before eating or going on a trip. I’m glad He broke that mindset for me. Still, finding time to have real quality quiet time with Him is a challenge at times, but I’m glad He’s everywhere. Now, I find myself praying even when I have nothing to say to Him, just trusting that He knows the desires of my heart and the cries of my mind. Whether he answers me right away or keeps silent for a while longer, pouring out things to Him I wouldn’t dare say to another human being is a huge, huge comfort.

When Dreams Change…

I was reading through some random blogs that showed up in my feeds when one sentence caught my eye: “Dreams change.”

In my sixth-grade yearbook, under ambition, I wrote I wanted to be an actress. So in high school, I joined plays and presentations as extracurricular activities, was a member of the Speech and Dramatics Club, while also reliving the dramas of my teen novels in real life – typical teenage angst and rebellion stuff.

The highlight of my high school acting “career” was playing Maginar, the temptress witch that made life miserable for the epic hero Bantugan and his lady love. They got me this “Best Actress” that got me thinking, hey.

Later I decided I wanted to be a writer. I chose Communication Arts for my college course and majored in Writing. I also thought I wanted to become a teacher so I vowed that right after college, I would take up my Masters while teaching in my high school alma mater, and do some writing on the side too. That was the grand plan.

I had a kid when I was a sophomore so I said, okay, no biggie, just had to delay the plans a bit. I remembered feeling oh-so-intellectual when I finished my thesis – a creative output of short stories and essays – which got me the highest grade I would get in my stay in the university: a 1.25. I felt maybe I could really write. I can probably live off of this, right?

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This was my thesis. Should be another post to explain why such title. 🙂

I wrangled a way to apply for a junior writer post in a local network from an org brother and his connections. At the same time, I had a two-year-old baby and I knew I needed a more stable, better-paying job, so the same day I took my exam at the network, I accepted the job offer from a fairly bank-based BPO service. I told myself, I’d stay here for a year tops, then I could go back to my “dream:” write, and eventually go back to study and then teach.

That was 8 years ago and I never left that BPO company. Many times over the years I’ve attempted to try to pick up where I left off, but something always came up: not enough time, not enough money, etc. I had such great excuses. Truth was, I just didn’t want to leave my comfort zone. My friends were here, I could do my job even while asleep, I had less responsibilities, I had a decent salary complete with health benefits, insurance and additional compensation.

I knew I was getting stagnant. I am not belittling my job, but let’s be honest. There are days when I thought, I did not go to UP just to be a collector until the end of my days. I’ve grown to love my job and the people I work with, but yeah, I’m sure not one of us stood up on stage during our graduation, proudly clutching the diploma we toiled years for and uttered these words: “Finally! I can be a debt collector!”

Did I give up my dream? Did I settle or what was comfortable, what was easy? In the last two years, I believe I finally decided, if I’m gonna be here for a long time, might as well do something that will excite me, that will make me want to get up in the morning with anticipation. I want to do something that will challenge me, make me grow and at the same time, reach out to others. I might as well do something I can feel valued about.

I didn’t really give up my dream. I just had to modify it to suit where I am in my life right now. I still get to act; I actually have to juggle a lot of roles and most of them don’t get a second take. I’m a mother, a sister, a daughter, a friend, a colleague, a disciple. Lots of times I have to act strong when I just want to break down and cry. I have to act all motivated to inspire others even when I just want to sit back and do absolutely nada. I still get to write, mostly for free of course, but I get to write about anything I like. It de-stresses me, it calms me, and in very rare cases, it even encourages the handful of people who actually take the time to read them. I still get to teach. In the last two months, I’ve taken on the role of manager, coach, mentor and trainer, being responsible for the development and learning of eight amazing yet diverse personalities I call my team.

I still get to live my dream. It’s not as perfect as the one I conjured up when I was younger. It’s not the ideal picture I painted either. But it’s not just the title, nor the description on my resume or even the corresponding pay check (but of course it’s a big factor, haha!) that determines whether I am living my dream or not.

It’s that feeling of accomplishment. When I feel valued and appreciated, when I see that my efforts are reaping good results not only for me but ultimately for the team, process and company I serve, then I know that is my goal. And no, I’m not even half-way to achieving it. And that’s what excites me. That’s what’s going to keep me going. That’s what’s going to spur me to bet better.

Our dreams don’t just have a single road leading to it. There are detours, side streets, short cuts, high ways, cliffs and potholes we may fall into, mud we can slide in, rocks and mountains we have to climb. But once we get there, once we reach it, the view will be more than spectacular. The journey will be more than worth it.

If this week turns out to be another dead end, well then, “a dead end is just a good place to turn around.”

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So, TODAY is Father’s Day, huh?

While scrolling down my Facebook feeds and seeing all those Father’s Day shout-outs, I glanced at the date: June 16. Hmn. What is it about 06/16 that seemed oddly familiar. Then it hit me. I used to write these numbers all the time. I even used it as an ATM PIN before. Exactly fourteen years ago, Ging’s father and I wrote our initials under a chalkboard in one of Rural High’s new site’s classroom. Yes kids, back in the dark ages, before advent of “In A Relationship” status updates in FB, this is one way young couples seal their being “on.”

Of course, like most young relationships, ours didn’t stand the test of time nor commitment. It certainly crumbled under the unexpected responsibility of raising a baby at the ages of 19. Before I knew it, I was a single mom, trying to finish college on time, then later plunging right into the booming call center industry, leaving my baby crying at night and sleeping in the day when I should be up playing and feeding my daughter. He disappeared shortly after Ging’s first birthday, communication between us dwindled and we never saw him again, except maybe the few times I stalked his Friendster account and vowed never to forgive him ever.

 Over the years, my feelings towards him oscillated between vicious anger and feigned nonchalance. However I was careful not to poison my daughter against him. Ever intelligent, when she was old enough to understand, she was placated by my initial explanation on why he left. She grew up accepting the fact that while some families have a mommy and a daddy, she knew hers was different.

 I only realized that this might not have been enough for her when I stumbled upon some messages in her FB inbox when she was about 7 or 8. I saw several messages she sent to him, asking him if he was her father. She even sent him friend invites – all of which received no replies. When I asked her about it, she just casually shrugged it off and we never talked about it – or him –again. At that point, I truly believed I hated him more than when he first left us. And Ging never forgot him. Every year, on her school’s journal info page, she would still write his complete name on the “Father’s Name” field and included him in her family tree project.

 I guess time does have a hand in dulling the pain. A few years ago, I even became friends with the girl he cheated me on. Last year, in a church retreat, I finally and completely surrendered all the negative feelings and animosity I have harbored all those years and forgave him. If God can forgive a sinner like me, I can extend the same grace to him. Forgiving him doesn’t mean I condone what he did, or that I want him back in our lives. It just means I will not let all the hurt affect me anymore.

 A few of my friends, over the years, have told me stories of trying to contact him and bring him back into the barkada – all in vain. My mother and best friend almost had face-to-face encounter with him but he quickly avoided them.

My prayer for him then – if he hasn’t already – is that he also forgive himself. Because for all the wrong things he had done, I had forgiven him for the one thing he did right: he gave me the biggest, best blessing I could ever have, and that’s his eleven-year-old mirror image sitting next to me, laughing over an anime show on her phone. 

Service with a smile is nice, but let’s get it right first

I’ve been working in the BPO industry for almost nine years now: about a year in customer care and the rest in outbound collections. Personally, I find it more challenging to provide better customer experience when calling people up to for payment on their overdue bills. Still, customer experience is one of our main driving forces. Our jobs, our brand, depend on it. I mean without them, we wouldn’t stay in the business, right?

 

 

I’m not the type of customer who makes unreasonable demands, who throws a bitch fit and asks for the manager at the slightest disagreement or discomfort. I just want to get the service or product I paid for in the first place. I mean, doesn’t everybody? Is it too indulgent, selfish even, to expect decent service from merchants or companies whose very businesses depend on customer relations?

 

Couple of weeks ago when my friends and I went to Binondo, we decided to stop for some drinks before heading home. We picked a nice looking café along Ongpin Street. We ordered shakes, tea and coffee all around. My friend looked over the menu and picked Bailey’s coffee under the Cold Coffee list (there was a separate one for Hot drinks) because she was all tired and hot for from walking all afternoon, so a cold drink sounded good. She gave her order to the waitress and a few minutes later, she came back. “Iced coffee po?” she asked. We told her we didn’t order the iced coffee, we ordered Bailey’s coffee (which we understood to be cold and have some liquor in it, right?). She came back again with a cup of steaming coffee. I sniffed it and it smelled like a normal espresso. We called her attention about it. First she said that there was an error in the menu; Bailey’s was supposed to be under the hot list. So my friend wanted to cancel the order. The waitress then said, “Kunin ninyo na po kasi sakin po macha-charge ulit yan.” At first we resisted. Should we pay for her and their menu’s supposed mistake? Does it mean all customers who ordered it expecting a refreshing cold drink but will instead get a jolting bitter cup of coffee, are just supposed to suck it up and just shake their head saying, “Sige na nga kawawa naman yung ale eh.” I do admit nobody’s perfect and are prone to mistakes, but when they do, they should at least have the decency to own it up.

 

Just this weekend I had another nightmarish encounter with my daughter’s uniforms’ seamstress. I was extra cautious this time because I had been in this same scenario two years ago with a different lady. I brought the materials to this patahian along Lopez Avenue just after I bought them from Mang Tino’s across the street. The seamstress and I agreed on the pick up date – June 1st, a good two weeks away – since I won’t have much free time to go back and forth to her. A week later I texted her to remind her of the pick up date; no reply. I assumed all was well and probably the lady didn’t have load. On the pick up date, Saturday, I went there and was told it wasn’t finished yet; she asked for an extension until Friday. I asked if it could be finished and she assured me yes. I conceded but warned her this better be sure because I really don’t have anymore free time to pick it up, have them all washed and ironed for my daughter’s first day on Monday. I requested my sister to pick it up for me since I was at work. Saturday morning my sister told me the seamstress told her it wasn’t ready yet and asked that we pick it up later that afternoon.

 

I was already getting a bit upset at that point so I went there right away, only to find my cloths still in the bag I brought it in, untouched and gathering dust in a corner of the patahian. The mananahi was shrugging it off saying, ay pasyensya na hindi pa nagagawa e balikan mo n lang. Come back when? When Ging is in high school? I was speaking to the lady in a controlled voice trying not to go ballistic (I was asking the Lord for some temper check, God help me!) but she could tell I was upset. Heck yeah I was upset and I could feel my voice rising that time. I asked her why she accepted the job in the first place if they couldn’t finish it on time. She just kept saying, e pasyensya na nga eh, okay na, okay na, and she was giving me the cloths back and my deposit cash, as if trying to get me to leave already, as if my presence there was such a big inconvenience.

 

They accepted the business, promising service and delivery and when they couldn’t, pasyensyahan na lang? Ano to, parang sugal lang, kung magawa nila, panalo, kung hindi, sorry na lang? It’s bad business practice. The thing is, I found out from other people this mananahi had a habit of doing that – nambibitin sa trabaho at nanloloko ng mga customer.

 

How sad. After the initial frustration wore off, I felt sad for the woman. Sad she couldn’t conduct her business with integrity, sad that eventually masisisra talaga siya sa mga tao, sad that she gets her kicks off duping clueless customers who chose to trust her word in the beginning.

 

I don’t recommend being rude or berating someone unreasonably if by chance the product or service we expected fell short. Or worse, using force, threats and profanity. That’s just bad manners. I’ve had my fair share of verbal abuse over the phone over the years, and I’m glad when I’m on the other side of the phone as a customer myself, I never used that I-also-work-in-a-call-center attitude of entitlement some are so fond of using. Just because we get trained to use an American twang doesn’t make us better than other service reps.

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But if we get bad service or got conned into buying something substandard, there’s nothing wrong about speaking up. Patience is not being a doormat or a silent fool; it means having the self-control to talk things through with civility, not about finding out who wins the argument or who gets to be proven wrong. Pagiging pasyensyoso is a darling Filipino trait, but it should not be used as an excuse to get taken advantage of. Yes, there are times we should turn the other cheek, and then there are times when we have to point out someone’s error and correct it. That – if done and said with the right intentions and manner – is doing them service by making sure they don’t repeat the mistake and incur the anger of someone less patient or understanding.

 

Grey Area

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I haven’t watched any episode of Grey’s Anatomy’s new season (the ninth?). I think the last I watched was when their plane crashed and little Grey (Lexi) died. I liked her so them killing her character off was a bummer. Now I just have Yang. And yeah, okay,  Avery’s piercing eyes.

Anyway, I just thought of that because I was actually starting on an entirely different post when I suddenly remembered one of my favorite lines from the hundreds of really good Grey’s quotes.

I’m not sure if it’s in the second or third season, but it was when Meredith and Derek broke up because Addison, Derek’s wife -whom Mer didn’t have any idea existed, not knowing her hunky attending surgeon is already married – suddenly appeared in Seattle Grace at the end of the previous season.

So, Mer was feeling all hurt and messed up because one, Derek was not honest about his real status, and two, Mer looked like a dirty little homewrecker, never mind that Derek actually left Addie in NYC because she cheated on him with his best friend (yes, that McSteamy but he will appear later in the season pa).

Mer naturally went into a rebound-dating spree and of course, Derek found out about it and confronted her.

While I may not agree with Mer’s methods (a long time ago, I admit I resorted to that too – with predictably disastrous and painful results), her words to Derek stuck to me ever since.

“No,” she told him after Derek seemed to be on the verge of calling her the W-word. “You don’t get to judge me on how I chose to fix something that you broke.”

Ooh. Relate much?

If we could just be like Paul

I’m fond of posting quotes, song lyrics and Scripture verses in my Facebook and Twitter accounts. Recently, I’ve noticed most of them I end with a cheery “Happy (whatever day it is of the week)!” followed by the obligatory smiley/smiley with teeth/laughing icon.  Someone who’ll judge me by these posts will probably conclude I’m some regular ray of blinding sunshine. Asa pa! 😀 <-here I go again with them smileys!

Well, I’m not always happy, even when I post those stuff. Most of the time, I just want to cheer myself up. Positive thinking baga. But what I like about it is when a bunch of people (sometimes, even just one or two) likes the post. I realize I may not be in the best of moods when I updated my status, but maybe, just maybe, I was able to make those few people smile or even a bit happy, even if for only a short while.

Have you ever been in that situation when you’re down in the dumps, or going through some problems yourself, yet you find yourself giving advice or encouragement to someone else who needs it too?

I thought about this as we were reading up on the Book of Philippians in the last three weeks at church and during our VG sessions.  Basically, our latest series (All-Weather) is about finding joy, confidence and stability in Jesus Christ, no matter what season in our lives we are in right now – stormy, sunny, windy and the other two coming up soon.

A little background. This book in the Bible was written by the apostle Paul to the church in Philippi while he was in prison.  He was writing to encourage the church despite his absence, to instill unity as there were some division arising within the church and to caution the people against false teachings . He wanted to help his people even while he was incarcerated. Eto na yung malinaw na illustration ng, malayo man, malapit rin! 

And we all know how Paul was before he became a follower of Christ: he persecuted believers and was basically an enemy of Christians. He was one of the bad-boy-turned-good of the biblical times, and an evidence of the transforming powers of God. And now here he was,  in a jail cell and all and still finding the desire to minister to his church.

Googled a picture of Paul and this is one depiction of him:

paul_the_apostle

 

 

I remembered before I was going through a relational problem; I was an emotional mess. Then one of my close office friends sought me for advice because my friend and her partner were having a huge fight and feared they might break up for good.  My friend was crying to me, venting out, just basically needed someone to hear out the story. I was like, what am I going to tell her? I don’t even know how to comfort myself or what to do about my own problems!

Then I found myself just listening to her,  offering words of encouragement, advising her not to let her emotions take over and praying for them. I didn’t know where those “words of wisdom” came from – I’m certainly no expert at controlling my feelings!

That’s when I realized that most of what I was telling her were lessons I gleaned from going through my own disillusionment and heartbreak. Had I not gone through the painful events that I experienced, I would not have had the ability nor the credibility to dispense advice to her.

So don’t disregard or hate those rough, hurtful patches you’re going to come across in life.  I’ve always believed that pain is an effective teacher; we remember more the lessons that hurt. God has a purpose for each and every nick, slight, tear, wound or sickness that will come our way. God will not take away the storms of our lives, but He will certainly be with us through it all. Have faith.

“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. ” ~Philippians 4:13