From the Actrix Online Informer November 2008

Self-help online

The Internet abounds with self help resources, a lot of them from blogs where writers are just itching to share with you their ideas about how to achieve great things, be a better person, or just do stuff more easily.

This month I thought I'd put together a small sample of what's out there. Some are really helpful, some are a bit tongue-in-cheek, but all are probably worth a look. If you'd like to do a little more exploring on your own, a few sites to use as a starting point include: – E-How – Wiki How – The Simple Dollar – Zen Habits – Life Hacker – Wise Bread

Fear-free flying

Are you one of those who gets filled with irrational panic at the thought of boarding an aeroplane? You know the chances of being an air crash are less than those of being eaten by a shark, but your heart still races and your palms sweat at the mere thought of taking off?

Help is at hand. The Fear-free flying website offers expert advice on how to understand and deal with this "common psychological problem among travellers." Over 60 articles are provided and advice ranges from how to use self-hypnosis, to how to use music therapy, aromatherapy or plain old breathing techniques. 

The site also delves into the reasons behind aerophobia and, for the more practically minded, provides coping strategies for delays, queues and panic attacks. For many sufferers of aerophobia, the fear is worsened by a lack of understanding on the mechanical operation and safety procedures around flights, so an informative article is provided on the way planes work to help assure you of their safety.

Really clean your bathtub and surrounding area

As this website's introduction says, "What could be nastier than your visitors seeing a dirty bathtub? Only one thing; a bathtub that's been scrubbed till you drop and it still looks dirty."

Here's how to easily clean away those stubborn things that tend to cling to tubs and the walls around them so that you never need to be ashamed of your bathroom again. There are links to related articles such as how to remove and replace a drain stopper, how to clean caulking and how to keep soap scum at bay.

If you're bored with all that or don't really need bathroom help, there's a link to an article on how to tackle someone in football instead. Don't ask me why.

How to treat your child's cold and cough without using drugs

If you have a child under age 4, what are you supposed to do now that the makers of children's cough and cold medicines are warning parents not to use their products? This site suggests no child under 6 should be given these medicines and that even up to the age of 12 these drugs should only be used with caution. Apparently the only ways these medicines appear to help is because they sedate the child.

So here are a number of alternatives including, you guessed it, hot chicken soup.

How to reuse old toothbrushes

We all know that we're supposed to replace our toothbrushes every 3-4 months, but what are we to do about the incredible wastage problem this presents? Surely these wonderful little tools are good for more and longer than that.

Well, you'd be amazed at what you can do with an old toothbrush and this website provides about 50 uses. You can use them in the garden, to apply makeup, remove, splinters, clean all sorts of bits and pieces that you thought would always be dirty and for pet hygiene. Even better, you can make them into tiny electronic "bristle-bots" and race them competitively. And all the while you'll be helping the environment at the same time.

Keep important stuff from slipping through the cracks

It's a typical day. On your list is the shopping, picking the kids up from school, writing that article about online help, paying some bills, brushing the guinea pigs, walking the dog, answering emails and so on. As this article states, it's easy to feel overwhelmed as much by the little things in life as it is by the big things. "We get so caught up in running through our list of things to do that we don't really think about what's important or not."

The article goes on to provide a sensible and simple way to approach the day's or week's tasks to help determine what's important and what should be done first. The few minutes spent thinking before we start mindlessly doing can make all the difference and lead to both accomplishment and a feeling of control.

Nine tips for getting a table and being treated well at restaurants

If you're paying a lot of money for an evening out dining with friends and loved ones, you should expect the experience to be special. But sometimes it's not. Why is it that you often have to wait inexplicably long periods for your drinks, for meals or for attention from the waiting staff, while other tables seem to be getting preferential treatment?

Well, here are some tips for becoming a restaurant VIP from someone who used to be editor in chief of a publishing house and edited cookbooks by some of the world's best chefs. He says it wasn't this that got him good service in restaurants, however, it was the tips he's about to share.

"Test even a few and you’ll almost always get amazing treatment at the very restaurants others can barely get into."

How to come up with good conversation topics

"Even if you know how to start a conversation and make it a good one, there is still the issue of choosing what you're going to talk about." This page provides some good, safe topics that will ensure a conversation gets going, as well as some tips on how to bring those topics up. Safe topics include family, travels, food, drink and work. People also love being complimented.

Some topics are inappropriate in some situations, and some are just plain boring, so a list of conversational no-nos is also provided to help you keep your foot out of your mouth. Examples include past relationships, things that don't smell nice, serial killers and stalkers.

Making work feel effortless

"Sometimes work can be a drag. You get caught up in trying to be more productive and suddenly your life turns into a series of to-do lists. You gauge your measure of success by how much you accomplish. You even determine how happy you allow yourself to be by how much you’ve gotten done in the day."

If that's you and you're willing to try a little 'zen and the art of making work seem like less of a chore and more like a gift', then this is the web page you've been waiting for. There must be a real art to it. I really like the last suggestion that you should refuse to do what you don't want to do, but I'm worried that would make my work life end up like the sound of one hand clapping.

How to tell when your hard drive is going to fail

If your hard drive is on the brink of giving up the ghost, there are some warning signs that could alert you and save you a whole lot of hassle. If your machine is a little long in the tooth and a few of these things are happening, it might be time to do a massive back up and get it looked at.

Warning signs include strange noises, disappearing data, ridiculous slowness and crashes. The smoke rising from the back of your PC is also a dead give away, but by then it's probably too late.

Form an attack plan for a cluttered, messy home

Are you one of those people who leaves things behind, left out to accumulate unattended? Is the problem so bad that there's so much mess you couldn't even think of where to put it all if you were cleaning up?

If you're a "household procrastinator" then no amount of storage bins or shelving is going to help. You need to change your behaviour. The good news is that it is possible to change even your worst habits, and solving the clutter problem is actually easier than you might think. In fact it's common sense. The problem is a few of us might be "common sense procrastinators" as well.

Go from introvert to extrovert

"If you're an introvert, how do you balance the introvert and extrovert parts of yourself, such that you enjoy both types of activities equally, rather than looking forward to one and dreading the other?

"If you're very introverted, you may undervalue the positive role people can play in your life, such as knowledge, friendship, growth, laughter, and so on. The optimal outcome is to strike a balance between the two and become an ambivert, or someone who enjoys social interaction and solitude equally."

There are some links to related how-tos below the article such as stopping being a 'people-pleaser'.

Nifty tips for getting the most from an all-you-can eat buffet

"Food can serve many purposes. For some it is merely for nourishment. For others it is a form of art or a means of entertainment. For still others, it fills an emotional need and could even be considered an addiction or vice."

This article provides advice for meeting the most basic of needs: good nutrition, a bit of indulgence, and a chance to enjoy time with your family or friends and not have dishes to clean up! It's written by someone in a family of six. They regularly eat out for less than $20.00.

Accept criticism with grace and appreciation

When we get criticised, our first reaction is often to be defensive or strike back indignantly. As this page points out, however, criticism can also be viewed in a positive way. If it is given honestly, criticism can encourage us to to do better, but it can also help us develop an inner resilience by learning to control how we react, resolve internal conflicts while not whining or howling.

By following these helpful tips, you can get off the back foot and actually take command, even when it's your performance (or hair) that's being put down. Maybe not if it's your personal hygiene...

A guide to a highly romantic yet frugal night out

This writer has been collecting ideas and tips for achieving a frugal romantic date. The system is to choose one option from the "Dinner" section and the "Entertainment" section and then top it off with one item from the "Follow-Up" section.

I recommend extreme caution with this one. The trick is to pull the evening off having the other person admire your inventiveness, but the danger is they'll despise you once they see the lengths you'll go to in order to save a bob or two.

How to save money on your wedding

This article resulted from a conversation the writer overheard in a restaurant. It doesn't amount to much more than that you should ask for a discount from your wedding planner. However links to a few other pages about saving wedding costs are also included and these have a number of helpful tips.

The first is to a 'A Practical Wedding' which has stories about actual couples, what they did and how they did it. The pictures would seem to indicate that good times were had by all even though thousands of dollars weren't spent.


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