Take a Break!

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kelliewinnell.typepad.com

“I’m scared to take my breaks,” I told my therapist.

My job as an agent assistant is constant busy work: emails, phone calls, etc. I’m surprised that I have time to use the bathroom!

But after that statement, my therapist began telling me how important it is to take breaks, whether I was studying or working. Our brains can’t handle doing something for an extended amount of time without breaks. She used the all too common scenario of cramming for an exam as a great example of how NOT taking breaks affects our cognitive ability to process and retain information: We may study for 8 hours, but only really study for 6 because the other two hours were spent trying to stay awake, daydreaming, etc.

In other words, we’re physically present and doing something, but not mentally there and focused.

I told her I’d try and start taking breaks when I feel fatigue and see what happens, even if it means missing a phone call or not starting on an urgent task right this minute. Taking a 15 minute break isn’t going to cause clients to panic, right?

And if her advice didn’t convince me enough, I just came across this article about what to do during those breaks (it revolves around music practice, but the advice pertains to work too). Science doesn’t lie!! Breaks are important!!

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I’m a Work in Progress

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lonerwolf.com

Since my mid-twenties came and went, I’ve always looked for ways to improve, whether personally or professionally. I did (and still do) look at others and wonder, ‘How is this person so smart about (insert topic here)?’ or ‘I want to be as good at (some task) as him/her, but how?’ Comparing myself to people who were successful and who seemed to “have it all,” I felt insecure, but took that as an opportunity to change and better myself.

My new journey began two-fold: I realized that all of the bookmarks on my computer were full of “fluff” websites: sites that didn’t enrich my life in any way, but were entertaining to read. I came to the conclusion that there was no real value to anything that I was reading on these sites. The second was graduating college and entering the real world, a world that none of us never fully grasp and understand. I wanted to be better at everything that I was doing, and to continue learning new things, but I didn’t know how.

That’s when Google became my helper. I typed in ‘self improvement sites’ and hit ‘Enter.’ That search led me to Lifehacker, Tiny Buddha, and Ted Talks (I’m sure you know about that last one, right??) A sidenote on Ted Talks: It’s a good site if you don’t want to read, but watch someone give advice. Amy Cuddy’s Your Body Language May Shape Who You Are is one of my favorites. I found that video when I was in the middle of a long, stressful, and (oftentimes) frustrating job search. It helped me be more confident in interviews, and I believe that her advice is what landed me my current position as an agent assistant.

You never know what can happen to you if you practice what you learn.

But over the years my list of self-improvement sites changed, and recently I added a new one called Smarter Living, a newish section of The New York Times that’s full of practical articles in addition to more in-depth stories. The section is dedicated to helping readers live better lives, and if you have an open mind, you’ll find this site useful. I happen to like their Guides.

After reading a few articles, I signed up for the Smarter Living newsletter. Now I get useful information delivered to my email every week. I’m not a subscriber to The Times, so I’m still only allowed to read 9 articles a month, but I haven’t ruled out the option of doing so. It’s another valuable site that I’m grateful to have stumbled upon.

Growing and bettering yourself is what everyone should strive to do every day of their lives. But some people are fine with staying static. I hope that you don’t want that for yourself. Whether it’s learning how to cook better, or how to be a better employee, there are a lot of resources on the web waiting to be read and put into practice. It’s working for me, and it’ll work for you too.

What websites do you go on for advice and to better yourself?

Sunflowers at Waimanalo Country Farms

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Sunflowers…

They just scream “summer” right? That’s what I love about them, and ever since I heard that they were grown on Oahu (and Maui!), it’s been my mission to see sunflowers in person.

My first attempt was with a friend during winter. Word got out that the North Shore had sunflower fields so we drove up, only to end up in the middle of a large field of dirt. Needless to say, I was sad.

But that hasn’t stopped me.

As luck would have it, Matt sent me a link to a news article about sunflowers at Waimanalo Country Farms. I didn’t know that there was a farm out there, but I should’ve, since it was the country.

We went last Sunday morning, and I was excited! Waimanalo Country Farms is located in a residential area, high above the Pacific Ocean and the busy highway. The majestic Ko’olau Mountain Range is the farm’s backdrop, and it’s gorgeous. To make it even better, the farm faces the Pacific Ocean in all of its blue glory.

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View from the farm

The parking lot was fairly full when we arrived, and when we made our way to the ticket booth there was a short line. Next to it, there were stands selling sweet corn (if you’re on Oahu, you have to try Waimanalo sweet corn–sold at farmer’s markets or out of the bed of their corn truck–it’s the town’s specialty), and lemonade and sweet tea. Across the way people were lounging at picnic tables under a large white tent. I didn’t blame them, it was H-O-T that morning.

Admission was $2 and there was the option to take the tractor trailer up to the sunflowers or walk. We decided to do the latter, which was on a short dirt path lined with avocado and kiawe wood trees. And a goat, that was tied up near the entrance.

Unfortunately, since the news about the sunflowers came out after they were at their peak, they had started to wilt. However, there were still pretty ones standing tall (literally, some were towering over their slumped neighbors). People were taking photos galore with their iPhones and cameras, scoping out the best ones to show friends and family.

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Peek-a-boo!

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I look pretty happy, right?

We stayed for an hour, taking in the sunflowers and the stunning scenery. When we were heading back to the car the ticket line was longer: everyone wanted to see the sunflowers, apparently.

I’m glad that I was able to see the sunflowers, but I still want to see what the fields are like on the North Shore. Maybe I’ll go this year. However, if I miss them again, I now know that there’s a place showcasing these happy plants closer to home.

Koko Crater Botanical Garden

Hawaii doesn’t have large national parks like California or any other state on the mainland (the exception is Hawaii Volcanoes National Park). But we don’t have deep, gorgeous valleys, large Sequoia trees that stretch into the sky, or vast deserts.

No, we have gardens full of greenery.

But I was taken into a “desert” when we visited Koko Crater Botanical Garden last week. I knew that it was going to be hot, with the terrain being dusty and full of rocks–it was inside of a crater, after all.

But I didn’t know that it was going to be that different from the other gardens around Oahu.

On our way to the garden we were in the middle of the bicycle portion of the Tinman Olymic Triathalon on Kalanianaole Highway. Cones and cops were sectioning off a lane on the road, and continued until halfway up to the garden.

We arrived at 7:30am and after passing the security guard sitting at a picnic table under the shade we went to grab a brochure from the mailbox. We read the sign describing the garden and headed off, following the Loop Trail signs to the plumeria section. Even in the desert-like conditions, they were pretty. Among the grown ones, we noticed a bunch getting ready to bloom on some bushes.

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So picturesque

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A group of plumeria

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Baby plumeria

After following a pair of hikers on the trail, we ended up in the Americas section, which was an area with a lot of cacti: tall, strange looking ones, ones that looked like bushes, and round ones were all scattered on the terrain, up and down a hill. The weather was starting to get cool, and the view in front of us reminded me of being in Arizona or the Nevada desert.

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Are we still in Hawaii?

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It was MUCH larger (and thornier!) from where I was standing

We thought we were following the path, but ended up veering off of it a bit when we reached the Madagascar section. The path we were on became more narrow as we continued walking, so we cut through some plants and got back on track.

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More cacti!

Throughout the 2-mile loop trail there were shady spots to stand under, and a nice gentle breeze. It wasn’t sweltering hot, but we needed water once we arrived back to the car!

As we were making our way down the to entrance we noticed more people coming: families and couples decked out in hats, shirts, shorts, and shoes. One woman I saw was wearing sandals and jeans. (She must’ve been sweating after).

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So high up

Since the garden was next door to Koko Crater Stables, we stopped to watch two girls ride very groomed horses. The muffled sound of the hooves on grass filled the (mostly) silent atmosphere with noise.

We completed the hike at 9am and made our way back to town. Out of the gardens that we visited, Koko Crater Botanical Garden is different: besides the obvious dirt paths and heat, it’s more of a hike than a leisurely walk (but I guess you could do that), and the plants are different from what Foster’s or Ho’omaluhia have on display too, which shows the diversity of Hawaii’s ecological system. It was a fun way to spend a Sunday morning.