5 Stress Relievers for the Working Girl

There are days where I just need an extra push. Every day I actively push myself to do things that get me through my day–especially when I’m feeling overwhelmed, stressed out or negative. I have a running list in my head of things that lift me up. I hope these help you at some point throughout your week.

Blake’s 5 Tips for Kicking Stress

1. Watch an inspiring movie.
If you’re like me and you work for yourself you can plan your own workday. Some people still choose to work 9-5, and others choose to break up their day working in the morning and late into the evening–or other variations. Sometimes–mostly in the evening–I’ll watch a good movie. I recently watched Moneyball and felt very inspired and moved by this story of an underdog baseball team in my local Oakland. If you don’t have time for a movie, I also recommend taking 10 minutes to watch YouTube videos of baby animals. I’m not kidding, it’s good for your heart.

2. Take Deep Operatic-Like Breaths.
If you don’t breathe, you will die. And if you don’t take time to breathe with purpose, you won’t die, but you won’t feel as much at peace as when you make a conscious effort to breathe. Ask yourself where is your breath? If I’m personally upset it’s mostly in my throat. Try consciously breathing from your belly and take 5-10 deep breaths in and out. If you can, close your eyes and sit or lay down on the floor in a yoga pose. Breathing is an easy quick-fix on stress.

3. Write and read your little heart out.
I depend on other people for a little gift of inspiration when I need it. There are authors who I can confidently say I’ve read all of their books. Sometimes you only need to read a few pages or articles to get yourself back on track. Reading is good for your mind, and it’s good for your heart. My personal favorites right now are Geneen Roth, Brene Brown, and Anne Lamott. For a fun, quick and dirty blog I read Jezebel.

4. Make a list of what you’ve accomplished and what you need to do.
There is nothing cheesy about giving yourself pats on the back, and providing written out life instructions that will get you through the next two hours. It can put your day in perspective, and give you an achievable strategy for getting through any days that you are feeling overwhelmed, bored, sad, panicked….you get the idea.

5. Take small breaks.
Depending on if you have a full time job or if you work from home you can take breaks throughout the day for yourself. That might mean a walk/run with your dog, or even escaping to the company restroom for a 3 minute meditation in a bathroom stall. Seriously, I’ve been there–as in corporate environments there is not much room for privacy and in 90% of cases no room for mental health breaks. Do this for yourself.

Wishing you a strong finish to your week everyone!

When Young Women Suffer From Anxiety and Depression

Did you know that one in four women is on some kind of anti-depressant medication? To me that’s a major red flag about women’s mental health in this country.

I believe most women have struggled with anxiety and depression at some point in her life. I certainly did when I was living in New York. I was in a job where I felt very stuck. I was living paycheck to paycheck trying to keep up. I wasn’t sleeping and like many other sleep-desperate insomniacs would resort to sleeping pills. They left me feeling groggy and hung over.

Many nights I was up until 5am, then I would get up at 7am to run.

I look back at the girl that I was and I feel sad. I feel sad that so many other women suffer from anxiety and depression–two sides of the same coin.

Anxiety and depression result from a feeling of hopelessness. I didn’t have any mentors, let alone female mentors. I didn’t know where to go for career advice, finance advice, life direction advice or guy advice.

The medication helped for a little while, but the medication wasn’t what eventually helped me heal from what I was really running from.

Medication does not help you find the direction you seek in your life. Medication can’t tell you you’re on the wrong career path. Medication can’t help you build up better self esteem.

I’ve been off medication for a few years now and through a lot of soul searching, some great teachers and wonderful mentors, I’m back on a clear path I feel very good about. I no longer lose sleep.

For so many of you out there that suffer in silence, I would encourage you to ask for help. Feelings of depression can stop people from asking for help, but I want women to feel ok about asking. I want women to feel ok about admitting they’re scared, they don’t have the answers, or they need more emotional support than they’re getting.

Here are some of the things I encourage you to do if you are experiencing anxiety and depression, and you’d like to get help:

1. Find a good therapist, even if you can’t currently afford it. Ladies we spend a lot of money on our nails, our hair, our clothes and our gym membership. Having strong mental health is more important than any of these services. I would strongly encourage you to find a therapist by looking at reviews online, or even asking for a recommendation from a friend. It’s very important to have someone to unload on each week that isn’t your mom.

2. Find a career coach. When I wanted to leave my job I had no clue about how I would ever transfer my skill set into another career. I wish I had sought support rather than just keep myself busy so I didn’t have to think about it. If you can’t find a career coach, set up a dozen phone calls with women who you think are interesting, and are in roles that you would want to be in. Find out how they got there. This will help you feel much better and give you some strong ideas on how to move forward in your own career.

3. Watch who you spend your time with, how much you shop, and how much you drink. For some reason in New York City getting wasted every night isn’t considered being an alcoholic. It’s a very social city, there’s a fine line between social drinking and abuse. When you’re feeling lost, taking time for yourself can mean the world to your recovery and growth. Rather than spending time out drinking, seek out networking events–especially groups of other women who are in a similar demographic to you. You’ll feel much less alone when you see how many other women are in the same boat as you. Find a support group. I used to attend Weight Watchers meetings every week. I enjoyed the support group, and the opportunity to vent in a safe space.

I believe women turn to medication because we take on too much trying to be the perfect girl. We are taught never to complain, and to always keep up appearances. Office politics and culture challenges can leave us feeling overwhelmed, frustrated and hopeless. Whether you’re jobless, stuck in a job you hate, or an entrepreneur trying to find her footing–you’re not alone! We all experience feelings of anxiety and sadness time to time–but when it’s crippling your ability to thrive, you might want to stop and evaluate what’s happening.

And I’m here for you.

Athena’s Top Six Suggestions For Being a Successful Female Entrepreneur

You can’t wake up in a bad mood when an 11 pound ball of furry love and glee pounces on your stomach and lunges to give you too many kisses. Meet Athena, my 24-7 reminder that the world is good and fair and there’s always room for love.

The thing about dogs is they love you no matter what–when your hair looks like a bird’s nest, when you’ve gained weight, when you’re grumpy, when you didn’t pay your Nordstrom bill on time….dogs are truly woman’s best friend.

New age woo woo names

I obviously have a new age woo woo fondness for goddesses as I’ve named my dog [Athena] and my business [Artemis] after them. And you know what? I just prefer to walk on the new age woo woo side of life–because it’s a softer more fun and much funnier side of life where we can reflect and consider our spirits and our feelings. So back to my fondness for goddess names, I will also tell you one of my best friend’s names is Aphrodite. I don’t know why it happened this way with the goddess theme in my life, but it did! Athena, Artemis, Aphrodite….oh my!

Athena–in Greek mythology–is the goddess of wisdom, war, the arts, industry, justice and skill. Women who start their own businesses arguably have to encompass all of these traits at different times. We have to use our intuition to know when to use what tools in our toolbox, who to trust, who to learn from, and how to trust ourselves to drive. While my dog Athena knows nothing about driving, she can provide some important life lessons on how to live. Athena teaches me something new every day. Here she shows us some important lessons that will help us be happier, stronger and emotionally wealthier entrepreneurs.

Here are Athena’s six life lessons for female entrepreneurs.

1. Have playtime. 

Women are great entrepreneurs because we work hard, we’re great multi-taskers, and we are passionate about our work. At the same time we have a habit of getting very much “in our heads.” That means we can’t see the big picture because we’re so caught up in the day to day. Most of us have our best ideas when we’re doing something mindless like taking a shower, going for a run or chopping veggies. Having hobbies outside of work–and tme for play–will help get the creative juices flowing, and give us important time to breathe. By adding play and whimsy into our lives, not only will we find we’re more productive when we do sit down to work, but we will come up with better problem solving for work related things. Additionally doing things with friends is very important to our sense of belonging and feelings of self worth.

2. Spend time with the big dogs.

It’s not surprising that very successful people want to hang out with very successful people. However, I believe that mentoring newbies is very spiritually rewarding and gratifying. I would encourage more established women entrepreneurs and executives to spend time mentoring the young-ins. Also if nothing else, it makes you grateful for how far you’ve come! Young-ins, it’s so important to have mentors, and to spend time with people who are where you want to be. Try and find good people who are smart, established and didn’t cut corners to get to where they are–learn from them. Ask a lot of questions!

3. Work what your mama gave you [also known as use what makes you different to your advantage].

It’s often the very thing we try to hide that makes us special or unique. When we realize that it’s important to “be yourself, because everyone else is taken” [thank you Oscar Wilde] we start to attract people to us. Despite how hard the media and ad industry have tried to make us believe that people are only attracted to a very specific cookie cutter mold, the truth is people are attracted to other people that are vibrant, that shine.  We attract what we want when we are excited about what we’re doing, and we are feeling spiritually wealthy and joyful. That “sheen” comes from living your life, being you–flaws ‘n all. People are attracted to authenticity and passion. Wear what your mama gave you, and don’t try to hide those “flaws,” instead use them to your advantage. “Women are never stronger than when they arm themselves with their weaknesses.” – Madame Marie du Deffand.

4. Go for it!

Over analyzing every detail of a move can slow us down. Sometimes the very thing we’re afraid of is joy and success. When you don’t give yourself time to noodle over something for too long, you will be more prone to do it. As Bill Cosby once said, “First, decide what you truly want. Then, decide that you want it more than you are afraid of it” or let’s learn from Amelia Earhart who said, “The most effective way to do it, is to do it.” Athena tells us “just dive in.” What doesn’t kill you ultimately makes you stronger. Or at least provides some funny stories/blog/book material.

5. “Every morning we are born again.” -Buddha

My dog freaks out every time we go for a walk. She wags her tail back and forth like a ticking clock and smiles a big toothy grin! When we walk, like a true connoisseur she wants to smell every piece of grass, every flower, and every dog we meet along the way. She has pure pleasure from even the most simple activity–being outside on a walk.

Something goes awry with humans in the process of growing older–we lose our sense of whimsy–and become desensitized to life’s small pleasures. We become unaware of the sheer miracle of being alive. Every day is a chance to enjoy something new, learn something about the world, about ourselves. My dog reminds me every day to be a softer, gentler human being–one that walks with gratitude.

6. Rest.

It’s an important part of life. Give yourself time throughout the day to be quiet. It is said that when we quiet down, we truly hear what the universe are trying to tell us. Often we already have the answers we are looking for, but we can’t hear them with all the noise. We all need to go out of our way to provide time for quiet and rest (most times that also means no television–no engagement). Remember life is not a race, it’s a marathon. We need time throughout to be quiet.

And with that please feel free to share with me and Athena what your suggestions are for being a better female entrepreneur. We’re all ears!

Small Business, Fancy Food and NASFT President Ann Daw’s Advice for Women in the Food Industry

Ann Daw, President of the National Association of Specialty Food Trade (NASFT),  is an impressive person. The former highest ranking female at Phillip Morris International and the highest ranking female executive at Kraft in the U.S. She speaks with intent–an east coast sensibility–and kind eyes. She carries the confidence of a woman who has held very senior positions in mostly male dominated industries.

She runs the food industry’s premier gourmet foods event the Fancy Food Show, produced by the NASFT. Since 1955, the Fancy Food Shows have been North America’s largest specialty food and beverage marketplace. Between the Winter Show in San Francisco and the Summer Show in New York City, the National Association for the Specialty Food Trade events bring in more than 40,000 attendees from more than 80 countries to see 260,000 innovative specialty food products, such as confections, cheese, coffee, snacks, spices, ethnic, natural, organic and more.

My former client Sukhis, who is a consistently high performer in the sofi awards competition put on by the National Association of the Specialty Food Trade, is one of the most popular exhibitors at the Fancy Food Show.

I loved working with Sukhis because of my fondness for the gourmet food industry, small business (esp. family-owned) and culture. That being said, I found out about the NASFT through Sukhis, and was excited to attend my first conference this year. What I didn’t realize was how many women have left corporate America for second careers pursuing their passion. The gourmet industry is an industry with much entrepreneurial opportunity.

At this year’s west coast installment of the Fancy Food Show I had the opportunity to sit down with Ann Daw.

Ann Daw, President of the NASFT

With their D.C. show just around the corner, consider Ann’s insights around running the biggest specialty food association in the country, being a woman executive and why the gourmet industry is a great one to be in.

Blake Landau: How is running the fancy food show a different challenge than when you  were at kraft foods or Phillip Morris?

Ann Daw: Running a member based organization with 2900 members, we’re focused on serving all the different categories of members  in their stages of development.  Our members are very special in that they  are passionate about food. They bring their ideas to the marketplace we help them tell their story. We want the community to be able to connect with one another at the Fancy Food Show.

BL: What are you doing on social media to build a presence and community for your members?

AD: We’re on Facebook, LinkedIn and twitter. We also have online forums for our members where they can discuss industry topics online. We have one for the retailer network, one for family owned businesses and more. That’s how we use social. We also use food spring.

BL: Does the fancy food show supports women entrepreneurs?

AD: I spend time with new members. Here women and minorities have the same opportunities as everyone else. I host  groups that are just for women. In this organization you find that the passion for food eliminates gender issues. Look at brands like Sukhis. They’ve done a phenomenal job. Sanjog Sukhi is a larger than life type of person. She likes to deliver honest feedback about her entrepreneurial experience, specifically social media. Other companies learn from her experiences with Sukhis and she enjoys sharing them.

BL: What advice do you have for young women in business who are in male dominated fields?

AD: You make decisions that make sense for you and fate takes you the rest of the way. I never felt disadvantaged. I got to have the experiences that I wanted because I asked for them.

People think of it as unusual in a US context. I was the highest ranking female at Philip Morris International and the highest at Kraft, and working abroad was a very different animal.

In Europe (even in marketing) women don’t rise to high ranks as they do in the U.S.

My advice for women is never compromise your principles. You have to know what the game is but play it in a way that you feel good about, not feeling like ‘I don’t think that was right.’

For more on the upcoming D.C. conference visit the Fancy Food Show website found here.

Role Models, Media and Breaking Rules

When I was a kid I was always in search of teachers.

I was [am] insatiably curious, and grew up mostly without the internet, so I found my mentors mostly in books–the authors and the characters.

I was “different”….and still am.

And when it came to television I never identified with the characters I was supposed to. Most of it written by people who are generations older, and most of it is written by men. How can a grown man know what it feels like to be a young girl/woman?

I watched television as if looking at a sociological experiment. Example of my thought bubble, “I suppose this is what normal human beings my age are supposed to enjoy. Isn’t that interesting [insert genuine unpretentious and curious tone here].”

Back to the books.

I lost myself in Margaret Atwood, Isabel Allende, Jennifer Weiner, Anne Lamott, Geneen Roth and Anita Diamant. I read books that were written for grown women. I wanted to be grown. I remember reading Ernest Hemingway’s “Garden of Eden,” a story that explores themes of androgyny, and thinking the female character Catherine Bourne didn’t feel very female–and that the women in the novel were treated with a very unfeminine and unsympathetic callousness that is necessary to bring a character to life.

Ernest Hemingway as depicted in Woody Allen’s film “Midnight in Paris.”

With books the reader is given more freedom to identify with the character of their choosing. With the lyrics to music, television and film, there is less room for your mind to wander. With books you are free to use your wild imagination to watch the characters from the balcony, and mentally insert your own variation on what happens.

The point of this post is to remind you that the world is your oyster. Books allow you to dream up whatever character you would like for yourself. They allow you to fly and swim and dream of a life different than your own.

Books are a treasure chest of truth in what can feel like a sea of plastic.

Does Her Costume Fit Me?

I was at the Hard Rock Casino in Las Vegas this weekend looking at music memorabilia. At the hotel are memorabilia including clothes worn by various music artists.

There’s Katy Perry’s outfit from “I kissed a girl,” Britney Spears’ outfit from “Baby one more time” and Christina Aguilera’s costume from “dirty” [this was before Aguilera had kids, gained about thirty pounds and put on a hilarious attitude  on the show The Voice where she's a judge].

There’s also memorabilia from the band Sublime, Sex Pistols, Pearl Jam and more. Comparing the clothing at this hotel in what could be the most gendered fake city in the world, I noticed how tiny and sexy the women’s clothing was, and how tall and thin the men’s clothing was.

My three thoughts when looking at the women’s clothing:

First thought, “would that fit me?”

Second thought, “wow she is much tinier than me.”

Third thought, “Blake, what the hell! You know better than to have this internal dialogue comparing your weight with pop stars. These women are puppets who are told they won’t make it unless they lose weight. You are a writer, not a celebrity. You are too old and wise to fall for these girl-traps.”

But alas we all do it.

I then walked back to the Sublime case of memorabilia, and was reminded of how I loved this band, but how the lyrics were mostly about being a guy, partying, and being tough (in a surfer/skater type of way). Bradley Nowell the songwriter and lead singer of the band didn’t think about what it would be like for women to listen to his music. When I listened to this type of music I never identified with the girl being discussed in the song. I always identified with the guy singing the song. The more I look back at favorite movies, tv or music I often identify with the male character–not as a male, but as a person with brain, with thoughts, with opinions, and with character.

As I grew up I picked pieces of people I liked and admired, and learned to mirror them. I never considered their gender, color, religion or any other things you would fill out on a survey. I was thirsty for people who were interesting, who were authentic, and who could teach me something. So as you set out on your week, especially those of you who are still in school or starting out your careers, my lesson for you is you can pick and choose the characters that you like to create your own narrative. Similar to the choose your own adventure books, you never should take what the media gives you at face value. Be smarter, break rules, and use the free territory of your mind to explore.

Because this is your adventure, and you have the power to choose your own guides, your own role models and your own costumes.

Women Who Take Up Space

When I was a little girl I realized I was different than everyone else. My parents were eccentric–my mom was an artist and painter who always had feminist friends over for coffee though I don’t think any of them would call themselves feminists (or even realized they seemed that way compared to other women). My father was a Jewish psychiatrist.

As I grew older in orange county I soon realized I didn’t fit in. And no matter how hard I tried I couldn’t squeeze myself into the standards of the town I grew up in.

I wasn’t the carefree waify fun loving California girl that was the popular personality at my high school. I hated most of high school–a high school with an award winning football and cheer team. These people seemed to be higher up on the food chain. For most of high school I felt like a bottom feeder. I wish someone would have told me that the bottom feeders generally blossom long after high school.

White Culture

The little contact I had with other cultures at my mostly white school was a glimpse into a world I envied. It appeared in other cultures women were celebrated in a different way.

While I don’t want to generalize here, I saw in other non-white cultures strong female personalities were not silenced. I was looking for examples of women who didn’t use self-effacing tactics to make themselves seem submissive, and women who didn’t put themselves up for sale.

I felt very unhappy and disenchanted with the culture I was submerged in. As I mentioned I am Jewish however we were largely assimilated into Christian culture–something many Jews did after World War II to avoid anti-Semitism.

I wanted to live in a culture where big women didn’t try to make themselves disappear. Where the highest rewards didn’t come from being sexually attractive according to white societies standards.

I wanted to live in a world where the pressures weren’t around appearing perfect and looking perfect. I was looking for meaning, and I only found it in books, film and music. So I became a bit of a recluse in high school. I spent my weekends with friends exploring book stores, cooking exotic food and watching foreign films.

I envied other ritual-rich cultures where celebration and color were applauded, different than how suffocated I felt in the heart of white culture. 

I am not claiming that life is perfect in non-white cultures. From a cross-cultural perspective, women have it hard, and are held to different standards. However there did appear to be more room for variation in non-white culture.

Eventually while I didn’t look like a hip-hop girl I listened to Missy Elliot and Mary J. Blige, listening to the heartfelt  words of their unapologetic and soulful music.

I was interested in seeing non waifish women on tv. Admittedly I watched a lot of the Food Network to find these personalities.

I really wanted out and when I left for college, I never looked back. I moved to New York for five years and came back to California with a different lens.

Today I intend on being part of changing the experience for younger women. With the media’s increasing power and saturation it’s scary to see how easy it is for destructive messages to seep into young women’s minds.

I don’t apologize for calling out the fact that the way we treat women in the media and in our institutions is a problem. Those who read this and roll their eyes can move on, and those who read this and nod their heads can join in.

Women look to the media to understand their place. Women look to the media for cues on social norms–and to see their own potential. We need media outlets that shift the messaging and show women who don’t apologize for taking up space. We need the internet, tv, and the movie industry to allow real depictions of women, rather than just hypersexualized underfed hollow women. It’s time.


Woman work: holding contradictory ideas in her mind.

A sane woman must have an ability to hold two contradictory ideas in her head at the same time, and understand which one is truth.

Examples of contradictory mainstream messaging toward women:

Be confident but don’t be a bitch.

Look attractive but not too attractive.

Look sexy but don’t look like a slut.

Be confident but be submissive.

Be a domestic goddess but don’t be a fat domestic goddess.

Be a lady in the streets and a freak in the….

Well you get the idea. And thanks to the media the perpetuation of these ideas are gaining power.

Unfortunately the place these messages hurt us the most is our sense of self, and in turn, our careers. Women still earn an average of 23% less than their male counterparts. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again. To attain real power and real freedom women need financial independence and stability.
That means we need to make more money, and save more money.

One doesn’t have to look far to notice the hyper-sexualization of women’s bodies in the media. You have to wonder, where are the women at the top who are putting their stamp of approval on this messaging? Would they want their daughters to participate in this circus show?

I heard something interesting this morning on the phone with a friend who is a little older than me. She said that every time we make strides in one area, there is a backlash. And with the political climate the way it is toward women, their bodies, and their decisions, you have to wonder if my friend is right. Hillary Clinton runs for president, and then we have the government threatening to take away woman’s right to choose, and the option to have birth control at all.

A world where women are not a part of the global decision making process around how societies should run is not a world we want to see.

Here are six of my own observations about how women sabotage themselves in the workplace.

Like me?
As hard as this may be, I am a big proponent of boundaries. At work your boss and the people you work with are not your friends, they are your coworkers. While we are focused on being liked, often the extent we go to to be liked actually takes us away from our core projects, and we are either running around like headless chickens to do it all, or we miss things on our actual work. Additionally, focusing so much on being liked is very distracting. You can’t build your career around being likable. We have to let this go if we want to be successful and if we want to be leaders.

Women wait to be called on in meetings.
Ladies, you can’t be afraid to speak up in meetings. If you don’t speak no one will know you have opinions. Speaking can feel highly risky, but it’s also highly rewarding. Often introverts have the best ideas because they’ve been listening. Speak your ideas.

Women couch their opinions in questions.
Why do we do this? It makes us sound weak and unsure, when we are the opposite. Show your muscles. Be loud and proud ladies. Don’t couch your opinion in a question. State it. Don’t be afraid of the pauses and the silence around the statement. Sit with it.

We allow ourselves to be scapegoats.
A CIO once told me that leadership is about managing perceptions. It has been said that when something goes wrong and a woman is blamed, she won’t stand up for herself. Don’t let the people around you disrespect you that way. I don’t propose you get defensive, or put other people down, but state the facts. This type of thing shouldn’t happen in the workplace but it does. If it happens more than once, leave and get a better job in an environment where you will be supported.

We use minimizing language.
We all do this and we need to be more aware of when we do. Words such as like, kind of, sort of, maybe. These are credibility diminishers. When you communicate your ideas be firm and direct.

We ask permission.
It’s better to ask forgiveness than ask permission. Use your best judgement and do what you feel is right. Leaders don’t ask for permission.

Ladies if we want to advance in the workplace we need to be strong leaders for ourselves. Remember the workplace is a game. You need a strategy, you need to think big picture. Don’t live in your head. See the broader battlefield.

We need to be aware of the contradictory messages we are sent, and know what is real truth. We need to stop inflicting violent thoughts toward ourselves, particularly our bodies. Self-defeating self talk will result in self-defeating behavior. Be strong! I know you have it in you!