Life: The Screen Version

 

Discovering your leading role in “The New Normal”

   Here in relative seclusion, we’re adapting to life on screen.

   Hey, you always wanted to be the star of your own life, right? Well, here’s your chance.

   Virtual everything can have its benefits, from dating, to work … even to becoming the (big) apple of your mom’s eye on Mother’s Day.

   Yes, there’s a lot to be said for the necessary part technology plays in our lives these days. But in addition to computer screen, sunscreen can help you get in shape for the roles you’ve always wanted. If you’re fortunate enough to have one, take a fresh look at your backyard pool.

   So, dive in! Tune in! Take a look inside and outside of yourself, focusing on the most unique playbill ever handed to you.

 With concerted rehearsal time, Zoom! You might find yourself cast as the leading player in your own life’s production. We’ve got our fingers crossed for you.

   Break a leg.

A New Definition of Home Work

 

Focus on gratitude, perspective and seek help when you need it

 

by Julia Browning

   Your pets are your new coworkers and they just soiled your shared office space. Instead of indulging in your morning Starbucks, you choke down a lukewarm Nescafé. Your kids’ schools are now in your home too, and the cafeteria is your kitchen. As you adapt to your new roles as tutor and lunch lady, you learn new technology and juggle work-at-home responsibilities, if you’re lucky. You do all this, struggling to avoid a breakdown over a worldwide pandemic.

   It’s no wonder a significant number of people report that working from home isn’t all they thought it was cracked up to be and, alarmingly, may be bad for their mental health.

   Those of us lucky enough to have the opportunity to work from home have probably read that the key to success involves sticking to a routine, having a dedicated workspace (and setting rules about who can be in it), scheduling breaks (and taking them) and asking for what you need.

   While Angela Lopez, a psychotherapist and licensed clinical social worker at mental health nonprofit David Lawrence Center, agrees that sticking to routines is beneficial for adding normalcy, especially for those who are stressed out by change, positivity, a healthy perspective and a big dose of gratitude are of equal importance.

   “What are some things you are able to do while working from home that you like and are a benefit to you?” she asks. “When we look at it that way, it can be helpful in changing our perspective.”

   After all, in times like these, you can walk your dog while checking emails, cook yourself a nice lunch and work on assignments from a garden or green space.

Whatever the positives are, focus on those. One enormous positive for people working from home today is that they are still working.

   “Some people aren’t working at all and would love to be working from home,” Lopez points out. “But unfortunately, they’ve lost their jobs.”

   With people saying, “We’re all in the same boat,” Lopez remarks that isn’t quite accurate. While we’re all charting the same waters, some are on metaphorical yachts, and some are in life jackets.

   If you’re able to work from home, you’re in a relatively safe boat, and having gratitude for that is key to keeping a positive perspective. That’s not to say negative feelings are wrong, or that you should feel guilty for voicing a complaint. But focusing on the positive provides a “cognitive redirect,” something that results in a better mood, overall.

   “What could be beneficial to all is just being aware of a change in mood or habits and behaviors one is exhibiting,” Lopez says. Are your family members pointing out that you’re cranky? Are you sleeping more or having trouble sleeping? Has there been an upturn in substance use, like drinking?” she asks.

   “Be aware of those changes and seek help if you see them,” she says. “Once we seek help, we can start healing. Things don’t have to get worse; they can actually start getting better. And then you can come out stronger.”

   Routines, gratitude and a positive outlook are essential to at-home wellness. But if these things aren’t working for you, and if stress is wreaking havoc on your mental health, it’s important to recognize it and ask for help.

 
 

Increasing Productivity

 

Embrace working from home with self-care and creativity

   Whether shelter-in-place mandates have made you a work-from-home newbie or you’re accustomed to a home office environment, there is always an opportunity to become more productive and less stressed while remaining proud of your work.

   Elly Bannon, entrepreneur and life coach, who has been operating her business from home for four years, shares a recommended process for staying productive while working from home.

   Before diving right into your tasks, Bannon suggests doing something called “morning pages.”

   These are three pages of free-flowing writing. There is no right or wrong way to do these pages. The only rule is that you can’t stop writing until you have completed three written pages. You do not go back and read these pages.

   Essentially what you are doing is “brain dumping” all the extra stuff in your head that you likely didn’t know was there. This will clear space for you to be more focused, clear and less distracted by your subconscious thoughts throughout the day.

   The morning pages process was created by Julia Cameron, author of “The Artist’s Way.” Learn more here: https://juliacameronlive.com/basic-tools/morning-pages/

After your morning pages, create a very intentional to-do list. Your to-do list can’t be a mile long every single day as you will not accomplish all those tasks. This could leave you feeling completely unaccomplished, which can form a dialogue in your brain that beats you up for not getting more done. Avoid that.

   Here is what to do instead: Write down a “thought of the day” at the top of your list. This could be a reflection from the morning pages, or just something you want to be mindful of. From there, write down 3 to 6 big-picture things that need to be done. These are your high-priority things that need the most brainpower and attention.

   Once you have your to-do list, it’s time to structure your day, using “time blocking.” Literally block off designated periods of time throughout the day for

each task. Schedule out your to-do list and set a timer for each item. When the timer goes off, it’s time to move on. If you did not finish your task, or if something else comes up, it gets bumped to the next day.

 

Additional Tips

  • If a task pops into your head that will take 5 minutes or less, like email correspondence or scheduling a meeting, do it right as you think of it.

  • Delete apps from your phone if they distract you during the day.

  • Find music that helps you get into the workflow.

  • Communicate with the people you live with that you need a determined amount of time to focus.

  • Get your coffee, use the restroom and grab a snack, etc., before you sit down to work.

 

It absolutely takes time to find a flow that works for you. Give yourself grace and have patience. Some days will be seamless, and others will feel all over the place. Commit to doing better the next day.

 

Elly Bannon is the creator of Self Adore Club and co-founder of Honey + Be Self Care and Beauty. Learn more at ForFieldsandFlowers.com

 
 

Zoom! Meetings Go Digital

 

How to get the most out of your video conferences

by Julia Browning

   No one wants to be perceived as inept on a video conference call, struggling to get the audio going while everyone else is smoothly participating in a meeting.

   Understanding how to operate the video platform, especially if you’re the meeting host, is essential.

   With free versions, security protocols and a user-friendly interface, Zoom is a prime video-chat platform for businesses. Groups and individuals.

   Here are some tips for getting the most from your video conference from Zoom’s content marketing manager, Raul Montes.

 

The Basics

Create your Zoom account by visiting https://zoom.us. Hit the orange button in the top right corner. The basic membership is free and allows 40-minute meetings for multiple people and up to 24 hours for one-on-one meetings. Paid memberships, ranging from about $15 to $20 a month, offer meetings that can last up to 24 hours with many participants. There are many options available at  https://zoom.us/pricing.

   Once you’ve created your account or signed in, go to your Zoom profile. Here, you can upload a photo, which will appear during a meeting when your video isn’t activated. It will also indicate your account type next to “User Type,” giving you an option to upgrade.

  • Click “Settings” on the left side of the screen and familiarize yourself with this page’s meeting options. Adjust them to meet your preferences.

  • Next, on the top right of the screen, click “Schedule a Meeting.” Fill out the pop-up form to input the meeting topic, description and time. Choose options for video, audio and other meeting specifics.

  • Hit “Save.” The page will refresh to show meeting details. To invite people to the meeting, click “Copy the Invitation” and send it via text or email. You can also send a calendar invitation by clicking on the “Add to (your calendar type) button, then opening the calendar entry, appearing at the bottom left of your screen, and inviting attendees the way you normally would through your calendar.

  • To practice on your own, click “Start this Meeting.” Zoom will open a new window with your meeting information and prompt you to connect with your computer audio. Click “Start Video” at the bottom left of your screen to display yourself. From here, you can adjust your image and video and audio quality.

  • Familiarize yourself with the buttons on the bottom of the screen, where you can mute audio or stop video. Using the security tab, you can lock your meeting so no one else can enter.

 

Screen Sharing

The bottom of the screen is also where you’ll find the “Share Your Screen” button. Useful for presentations, screen sharing allows you to show attendees whatever is on your screen. After clicking “Share Your Screen,” check the box next to “Share Computer Sound,” to share anything requiring sound.

  • Keep in mind that once you share your screen, choosing the option to “Show Your Desktop” makes it visible to meeting participants, so close out of anything you don’t want others to see. (You can also choose to share your computer sound only, without having to share the view of your desktop.)

  • Have applications and content running that you might want to share (e.g.: PowerPoint, spreadsheets and websites) before the meeting.

  • In the “Advanced” tab, you can choose to share a whiteboard: a blank canvas that allows drawing and annotation, using Zoom’s drawing tools.

  • Once you’re sharing your screen, access the toolbar by bringing your cursor to the top of the screen. There, you can access information about audio, video, participants and more.

  • To end screen share, click “Stop Share.”

 

Managing Participants

Click “Participants” to see who is in the meeting or to access useful control tools such as muting participants. This is also where you can check to be sure none of your participants are stuck in the waiting room, if you’ve enabled that feature.

 

Polls

On the toolbar, if the host clicks “Polling,” a panel pops up for the host to take the poll. Click “Launch,” and participants can chime in on the poll.

 

Breakout Rooms

The breakout room feature allows you to put participants into groups.

The èBella team meets regularly to keep our magazine and the new èBella èXtra coming to you.

  • Be sure you have breakout rooms enabled in your settings to use this feature.

  • Choose the number of breakout rooms you want to create and then choose whether to automatically or manually break people into groups in the menu options.

  • Hosts can move people to different groups and jump in and out of those sessions.

  • The rooms close automatically after 30 minutes, so hosts can broadcast a message when breakout sessions are ending.

 

Recording

  • For those with basic memberships, recording to your computer starts the moment you click “Record.” To share it, you will need to upload the video to Dropbox, Google Drive or YouTube.

  • Those with paid memberships can record directly to their Zoom account, with an option to save it to the cloud or computer (not both). When the meeting ends and the recording becomes available, log onto your account and click “Recordings.” From there, download the recording or share the link.

  • If you’re hosting a meeting on a mobile device, you cannot record directly. Instead, save the recording to the cloud.

  • Attendees can only record their screens if the host has indicated in settings that they have that privilege.

Desktop Client

Zoom Client for Meetings is downloaded onto your computer automatically when you start your first meeting. Open Zoom and “Client,” where you can create, join or schedule a meeting and set a background image for your Zoom video.

 

Background

  • In “Client,” click on “Settings.” (It will look like a gear).

  • Next, click “Virtual Background.” (If your system doesn’t meet requirements for a virtual background,  you will need to purchase your own green screen to effectively use this feature.)

  • Click the plus sign to add your own image or video from your saved computer files.

 

Practice, Practice…

It’s important to practice Zoom’s features before hosting a meeting to avoid delay, errors and embarrassment. Practice by scheduling a trial-run call with a friend or colleague, going through the desired steps and features and checking audio and video quality.

 

Not Just for Work

Zoom isn’t just being used for work purposes. In this time of living on screen, Zoom is the platform used for the ‘Saturday Night Live’ at home remote episodes. (youtube.com/watch?v=Kol7RE3wCNA&list=PLS_
gQd8UB-hKbruovFC53YET_ApBG1zjf
)

   Hamilton cast members performed a parody of the musical’s “The Room Where it Happens” song, calling it “The Zoom Where it Happens.” (youtube.com/watch?v=HCK_1ydMhiE&feature=youtu.be)

   And late night talk show hosts are using zoom for quarantine TV, too. Jimmy Fallon has used Zoom to interview guests and to air musical renditions with his house band, like this fun remix of “Don’t Stand So Close to Me,” featuring Sting. (youtube.com/watch?v=GbZtFKgqXIs&feature=youtu.be)

   So, go ahead and let those creative juices flow to make living on screen more fun!

 

Resources

The Zoom website has hundreds of user resources, including meetings, demos and tutorials. Visit  https://zoom.us/docs/en-us/covid19.html to learn more.

Zoom Tricks and Shortcuts
  • Quick Invitation – Once in a meeting, type Alt+I to open an invitation window.

  • Mute Audio – Type Alt+A to mute and unmute your audio. Or keep the setting in mute and hold down the space bar when you seamlessly want to talk.

  • Turn Video Off – Set the video to default off when joining a meeting so you can get yourself situated before showing up to others. Type Alt+V to quickly turn video on or off.

  • Mute All – If background noise is interfering with a meeting, the host can quickly mute everyone else by typing Alt+M.

  • “Touch Up My Appearance” – Who doesn’t want to look as good as possible? In settings, video, check “Touch up my appearance,” and the focus on your camera will soften.

Call Your Mother

 

Video chat makes Mother’s Day possible, even when you can’t be together

   Whether you live in another country or the same neighborhood as your mom, this Mother’s Day will be celebrated differently than any other in your family’s lifetime.

   For those accustomed to large family get-togethers and laughs over a shared feast, the loss of a holiday gathering could feel particularly poignant. Even if you’re accustomed to wishing your mother her special day from afar, world events inspire people to take no moment for granted, and to tell our loved ones how much we care.

Mother’s Day calls for a special celebration and, luckily, technology allows us to spend quality, face-to-face time, despite restrictions.

 

An app for that

Providing a really decent digital version of a social gathering is the app, Houseparty, something that can suffice until we can truly celebrate together. The app is free, and it allows up to 8 people to join group video chats in a “room.”

   Users can also play games together through apps such as Trivia; Ellen Degeneres’ charades-style game, “Heads Up;” and an app-friendly version of Pictionary.

   Be sure everyone in the family has downloaded the free app to their smartphone or computer, although one draw for Houseparty is that the app is well-formulated for smartphone use.

   Then, be sure everyone creates an account and syncs his or her contacts. Swipe up on the screen to start a Houseparty; then use the search bar to add your family members to the virtual gathering. Once everyone is in, if you want to play games, click the dice in the corner and select a favorite.

   For larger families, Zoom (see related story) is a great option, as up to 100 people can join the video chat. If one family member has a paid account, he or she should be the meeting’s host. Meetings for those with free accounts last only about 40 minutes.

   Only the meeting host needs a Zoom account, free or paid. All other attendees just need the internet, the invitation link, a webcam and audio capabilities to participate.

   Ask guests not familiar with Zoom to do a trial run with the host the day of a get-together in order to make the meeting go more smoothly. (This proactive approach helps ensure Zoom troubleshooting before the game.)

Advance planning will be rewarded when everyone has joined the meeting. You might want to cook the same meal and eat together, sharing fond memories that celebrate the moms of the family. Or create a playlist of music you listened to as a family and include some new tunes your mother will enjoy.

   Finally, if you don’t have a big family — or your loved ones are not available for video chat, there’s a simple way to reach out and touch someone. A good, old-fashioned phone call to your mother, aunt, grandmother and all the moms in your family will be appreciated.

After all, it’s the love and the thought that counts.

Love in the Time of COVID-19

 

The coronavirus has put much of the world on pause, but does your dating life have to wait?

   Dating is hard enough. And now, the worldwide pandemic has thrown another challenge into the dating scene … or has it?

   With a multitude of online dating sites and a bit of creativity, “love in the time of coronavirus” is still attainable.

   In fact, since the coronavirus changed the way we live, Dating.com reports a spike in online dating the world over — 82% of the site’s members have turned to online dating.

   Think about it: what better way to have a safe first date than via Zoom or Skype?

   Since traditional, cute romance stories — catching each other’s eyes at a coffee shop or reaching for the same head of lettuce at the grocery — are off the table for the foreseeable future, online dating could provide a way for singles to connect while maintaining social distance.

   So, once you’ve met someone online and hit it off in a few messages and planned a first date — virtually of course — what do you do next?

   We asked relationship expert, seasoned dating coach and best-selling author, Lee Wilson, to share what might be a perfect date, even on screen.

 

èB: What tips do you have for people trying to date during these trying times?

Though it might not seem as serious as the first dates you’ve had in the past, give a virtual date appropriate focus and diligence.

   Without the social buffers of a menu to discuss, a server to come by, and the ambiance of a room to reference, more pressure is placed on the conversation, so be prepared with topics and give your date your full attention.

   When a person distractedly looks away from the computer or even carries on conversations with other people in the room, it’s a turnoff. Find a private place and keep your focus on the person and expect that person to show you the same courtesy. Not doing so reveals a lack of social maturity and intelligence.

 

èB: What’s the benefit to getting to know someone via webcam?

With webcam, you see the person beyond his or her profile picture. It’s great to interact before investing in the expense and time of a date in person. If you feel a connection, take the next step and plan a date when we can all meet in public again.

èB: How can we come out of quarantine with better dating skills and habits?

Good conversation skills serve us well in so many areas of life, including dating. Learn how to ask someone questions and be an active listener who genuinely takes interest in what the other person is saying. People appreciate it when someone is interested and paying attention to what they are saying.

   Keep comfortable eye contact. People who have good conversations with plenty of eye contact feel more connected — and more attracted — because eye contact demonstrates confidence and attentiveness.

Virtual Date Ideas

Dating.com’s expert Maria Sullivan offers the following virtual date ideas.

   Watch a Movie. Choose a movie that neither of you have seen, make some snacks for yourselves and watch the movie simultaneously via video chat to experience it together. Netflix Party, for instance, allows you to stream the movie together. After the movie, you can discuss the film, and gain insight into each other.

   Play a Game. There are so many games to play over video chat. Choose ones that allow you to get to know each other better, such as “Two Truths and a Lie” or “Never Have I Ever.”

   Make Dinner Together. Select a dish that you both would enjoy and make it together via video chat. When the meal is complete, compare your dishes and techniques.

   For more date ideas, check out this èXtra issue’s listing of virtual entertainment and activities.

At Home Workouts

 

Breaking a sweat feels much nicer in the pool

   Gyms may be closed, but if you own a pool, you have everything you need for a home workout, especially in these times.

   “Pool workouts are great for injury rehab and weight loss, because when your body is in the pool, it has to burn more calories to keep your body temperature up,” says personal trainer Mark Baillargeon.

Here is his suggested workout:

 

Upper Body

  • Clap your hands under water to work out your pectoral muscles and shoulders.

  • Do rapid uppercut punches to work biceps.

  • Do reverse claps to work the back (arms straight out in front, bring them back as fast as you can).

 

Lower Body

Run in place, knees high as you can. Run for fast, short spurts about 15 seconds at a time, resting between repetitions. The number of reps will depend on your fitness level and preference. Start by doing 5-10 each and gradually work your way up.

   According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 150 minutes of pool workouts per week can help decrease your risk of chronic illness. That could translate to five 30-minute workouts per week. Or, if you already have a workout regimen in place, incorporating water aerobics a few times a week can augment your routine and keep you from getting bored.

That’s ‘Quarantainment!’

 

Presenting entertainment at home, from cooking to journaling to weather school

  • Jam out to Ina Garten’s cooking playlist while you make a new meal. The Barefoot Contessa shared her go-to playlist that she calls “Women Who Rock.” It can be found on Spotify and Apple Music and “Man! I Feel Like A Woman” by Shania Twain is the first track. Enough said. barefootcontessa.com/inas-world/inas-cooking-playlist-women-who-rock​

  • If you’re having odd dreams during this quarantine, you’re not alone. National Geographic unpacked a

   Fonda’s videos, designed specifically for home use 30 years ago, were the precursors of high-intensity interval training techniques dominating fitness today. Check out Jazzercise videos on YouTube for low impact, surprisingly difficult routines that provide a cardio blast from the past.

  • Southwest Florida’s meteorologists at NBC2 are offering “weather school” with twice-daily video lessons on meteorology. The educational segments and accompanying questions give kids the fun and structure of school.www.nbc-2.com/weather-school

  • Married couple, Rachel Burttram Powers and Brendan Powers, nationally recognized professional actors known regionally for their work at Florida Repertory Theatre, have converted the back closet of their bungalow into a makeshift theater. There, the pair hosts Tiny Theatre on Facebook, with live play readings featuring the core of script, actor and audience. facebook.com/events/638544940060364/

  • The Grand Piano Series is still here to entertain, with classical music offerings on their Facebook page and YouTube channel. Visit Facebook.com/grandpianoseries

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