Depression may be described as feeling sad, blue, unhappy, miserable, or down in the dumps. Most of us feel this way at one time or another for short periods. True clinical depression is a mood disorder in which feelings of sadness, loss, anger, or frustration interfere with everyday life for weeks or longer.Online counselling is a very good alternative to deal with such problems

Depression is a very tricky illness to treat. There is no one answer to this question. It also depends on the severity of your depression. Some people suffer from relatively mild forms of depression. Other people suffer from debilitating forms that are extremely difficult to treat. Each one of us is different, and different methods might suit different people.

You might have to try several methods of alleviating your depression before you find something that works. Once you do find a solution, your depression might return. Something might happen that might triggers your depression and you’ll have to search for yet another solution. The most important thing is not to give up. There is always a way out of your depression. No matter how hopeless or lost life might seem, you can find a solution. It might take a long time, and it may seem as if there’s no end in sight. But it’s very important to be patient, persistent and enduring. Depression might seem like a sign of weakness, but actually, you are a very strong person for enduring the pain you’re going through. You’re a survivor, and you will be a stronger, wiser person for everything you’ve been through.

It’s important to remember that whatever is causing you this pain is in the past. Try not to dwell on the past too much. The past is gone, and it’s never coming back. There’s no need to relive it in your mind over and over again. Try to focus on where you are right now. You can put things behind you, no matter how painful it might have been, it’s all over with now. Try to think of yourself as a new person starting fresh. Every moment presents a new opportunity to change. What can you do right now to make a positive change in your life? Whatever you do, try to enjoy the simple, everyday things you have to do every day, like preparing food or gardening. Simple, everyday things can be very soothing, a source of creativity and purpose. This is what leading a mindfull life all about.

Try to remember that all of the negativity in your mind is only your thought. If you think about it enough, you’ll come to realize that thoughts are insubstantial. This means that all of the negative things you think about that make up your depression actually aren’t anything at all. A thought is nothing more than a thought. You perpetuate your thoughts through habit. You are habituated to thinking certain things. This means that breaking through your depression means changing your habits. You could just as easily be thinking of something else, like how beautiful the sky is, or how refreshing cool water is.

You need to appreciate yourself. Have compassion for yourself and what you’ve been through. Love yourself. Just think of yourself as a good, worthwhile person. No more low self esteem or negative self image for you. Give yourself a big hug. You deserve it. There’s no one in the world quite like you. You’re a valuable person, and it’s time you start realizing this.

Try to remember that things will change. We all change from day to day. Nothing ever stays the same. This means that your emotions will also fluctuate from day to day. Believe in yourself and your capacity to effect change in your day to day life. You’re not standing still. You can reach out for help in the form of therapy, meditation techniques, reading, medication, exercise. You can even get the help of the experts at JustDoc which aims at providing medical advices and expert opinions. Ultimately the power to transform your depression is in your hands right now. Try to be determined in your pursuit. You can do it.

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What We Do (and Don’t) Know About Health Insurance Exchanges

The rules around health insurance exchanges are dynamic and evolving all the time. Some agents fear these exchanges could displace us-in the way Travelocity displaced many travel agents. Others argue that because health insurance is a far more complicated purchase than an airline ticket, and because consumers are likely to be confused by these new channels, our expertise and advice will be even more crucial.

Hopefully, the role of agents will become clearer as time goes on. In the meantime, here’s an overview about what we do-and don’t-know about health insurance exchanges.

Health Insurance Exchange: A Definition

A health insurance exchange is an online marketplace where individuals and small businesses can shop for, compare and purchase health insurance. Think of it as an Expedia or Travelocity for health insurance. No one is required to use an exchange; it is an additional channel being added to the marketplace.

Some states, including Colorado, where Alliance Insurance Group is based, are taking the initiative to build their own exchanges, which are permitted by federal law but subject to certain guidelines. States that choose not to create their own exchanges by 2014 will be required to use the federal exchange.

States building their own exchanges typically cite the desire to control their own destiny and customize their exchange to the needs of the local population. States that have rejected exchange proposals often mention their reluctance to support any aspect of the federal reform bill, which they hope will be repealed by the Supreme Court.

In general, insurance exchanges allow consumers and small businesses to:

Shop for and compare health plans, which must include certain standardized benefits.
Determine eligibility for premium relief in the form of tax credits.
Call or sit down with someone who can help explain various benefits and plan features.
Enroll in a plan.

Following are some of the most relevant aspects of the health insurance exchanges for independent insurance agents.

Consumer Access to Agents

The National Association of Health Underwriters (NAHU) is lobbying for the inclusion of an agent-contact option within the exchanges’ online systems. This could be structured similarly to the national Web-based portal for home sales, which presents listing information in a standardized format, but also connects potential homebuyers with a state-licensed realtor.

Importance of Certification

NAHU also believes all agents participating in the exchanges should be required to pass an annual exam that addresses private coverage, public assistance and subsidy-eligible options to ensure familiarity with all coverage choices available to consumers. This knowledge is important for agents as well as individuals filling the new role of “healthcare navigator.” Navigators will receive federal funding to help educate the public, distribute information about enrollment and premium credits, and provide enrollment assistance. NAHU believes navigators duplicate the role of licensed agents and questions the wisdom of spending federal money on these positions. But if navigators are used, they should be subject to the same rigorous licensing and continuing education requirements as agents.

Marketing and Commission Limits

There has been talk of restricting agents’ marketing activities and commissions related to their activity within the exchanges, which NAHU strongly opposes. The rationale is that the precedent for such constraints-Medicare Advantage-does not apply here at all. For the under-65 and small-business health insurance markets, prospective clients often want agents to provide additional information about life, dental, disability and other elements of the typical employee benefits package, within a single meeting.

With regard to commissions, we believe these should be determined by private health insurers, as they are today. That said, health plans have already begun cutting commissions in response to other aspects of healthcare reform, such as administrative vs. medical-loss-ratio requirements. The best insulation from commission cuts is to join forces with a Managing General Agency (MGA) that can consolidate the sales activity of many agents, guaranteeing insurers a high volume of business.

Will Exchanges Really Help?

It’s safe to say that “the jury is out” on this matter.

Will exchanges lower premiums? The answer depends largely on how the risk pools are structured. Some argue that separate pools for individuals vs. small businesses are fairest, as premiums more accurately reflect the risks of these two very different markets. Others say combining the pools would allow risk to be spread across a larger base, facilitating lower prices for all.

Will the exchanges improve the overall health of the population? The hope is that, among other things, costly emergency room visits will decline once a larger percentage of citizens are covered. Others counter that those with low-benefit/high-deductible plans are also reluctant to seek preventive care or even acute care until absolutely necessary. Will exchanges improve the healthcare purchasing experience? Possibly. In theory, lining up benefits “apples to apples” should make shopping easier-as long as it doesn’t result in slew of indistinguishable, look-alike plans that blur together and further confuse the consumer.

Like so many facets of healthcare reform, we as agents may have to embrace change and adapt as best we can to the changing landscape. There’s strength in numbers – through your local professional organization and a good MGA who has helped you with your insurance agency business plan, you can navigate these changes as gracefully and knowledgeably as possible.

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24 Reasons to Form Online Strategic Alliances

Strategic alliances are valuable affiliations or partnerships with similar or complementary businesses. They are not reserved for large corporations. Because of the nature of the web, you can easily link in with like-minded businesses to pool your resources and capture a greater share of the global market. By aligning yourself to carefully selected organisations and sharing your strengths, you can fast track your online success economically.

The success of strategic alliances depends on what each party brings into the relationship e.g. assets, experience and commitment and on what terms and conditions the relationship is defined e.g. joint venture, endorsement or partnership.

Strategic alliances can be useful to extend your product line, add new points of sales and consequently increase your turnover. They can also help you gain more exposure, position your business and enter new markets.

Here’s some of the benefits of strategic alliances…

Product sales and development

1 – Expand your range of products

Offer a wider selection of products by adding those of your strategic alliance partners to your regular offerings without incurring the cost of producing and distributing the goods. In some cases, you simply need to provide a link and direct product enquiries from your customers to your partner’s website. If a sale is made, you receive a referral commission. This type of alliance creates a new source of income.

2 – Cross-sell products

A customer who enjoys your products is more likely to seek and follow your advice for future purchases because you have gained credibility. Recommend the products of your strategic alliance partners and receive a pre-negotiated referral commission on product sales. Because of your trusted recommendation, customers benefit from a shortened purchasing process (no need to research and review) and reduced element of risk in trialling new products.

3 – Supply holistic solutions

Provide ‘complete’ solutions that require bundling your products with those of your strategic alliance partners. This is similar to the one-stop-shop principle where you find all products and services under the roof (in this case a website). Buying a package deal for a fixed price is convenient, quick and relatively easy for the customer to order.

Example: Some web site designers bundle their design services with hosting and domain name purchases. On the one hand, customers benefit from not having to deal with three different entities (web designer, web host and registrar) and having to work out the logistics. And on the other hand, web designers receive a commission on sales of their strategic alliance partners’ products whilst adding value to their own services.

4 – Create products jointly

Develop new products drawing on skills and knowledge of each partner. Shared resources and expertise will gain lead time, reduce product development costs and may also widen the appeal of your product.

5 – Develop new applications

Tailor products from your strategic alliance partners to meet the needs of your own market and likewise, your partners can find new uses or applications for your products.

Example: My book ‘200 Marketing Ideas for Your Website’ has found a new lease of life with one of my strategic alliance partners. It is now sold as a human resource management tool for recruiting staff and volunteers on the web.

6 – Invite an expert

Form a strategic alliance with an expert in your field who will answer questions from your website visitors. Advertise your products on the sidebar where the answer to the problem is displayed and have the expert recommend your products when appropriate. From this arrangement, the expert can benefit from free publicity for his services and possibly a commission on your product sales.

7 – Increase perceived value

This is a win-win-win situation. By offering a product from a strategic alliance partner as a bonus, you add value to your own product, the customer benefits from a freebie and your strategic alliance partner gets a special introduction. Naturally, this can be a reciprocal arrangement where a strategic alliance partner offers your sample or promotional product.

Example: Give away a half-hour introductory consultation with your partner or a promotional eBook valued at $29 with each sale of your product. All parties benefit from this transaction.

8 – Gain product acceptance and credibility

To increase the attractiveness of your products or services, have a reputable expert in your field endorsing them. As part of the alliance, give a commission on product sales and advertise the expert’s own products and services on your website.

9 – Pre-sell products

Recommend products and services from your strategic alliance partners. When a product receives a favourable mention, as in an article or review, it is usually ‘pre-sold’ to the customer i.e. the customer has already made his mind to buy the product, before the click on the purchasing link to the partner’s website. You may want to produce articles and reviews for your own products that your strategic alliance partners can publish on their websites.

10 -Increase your sales force

Your strategic alliance provides an additional sales force. With more people and more websites to promote your business, your sales should increase.

11 – Develop new distribution channels

Add new points of sales for your products using your strategic alliance partners’ locations to service your customers. This will reassure those customers who are uneasy about purchasing over the web.

12 – Exchange knowledge and products

Save on operational costs by trading products and services for free or discount prices with your strategic alliance partners.

Example: Within the National Speakers Association, we ‘pick each other’s brains’, refer customers and sell each other’s books. This strategy enables us to increase our knowledge base and provide new distribution channels for our products.

Positioning and promotional benefits

13 – Position your business

Strategic alliances position businesses in the minds of customers. That is why your choice of strategic alliance partners is critical in securing your desired business image.

Example: If you are associated with a University, people will perceive that your offerings are supported by scientific evidence and academic ethics. If you are a member of a home-based business association, people will see you as a cottage industry or… one of those professionals who have a great lifestyle!

14 – Trade invitations

A special invitation to your customers for visiting your strategic alliance partners’ website or subscribe to their newsletter can increase your customer base and result in extra sales when reciprocated. Viral marketing, the online word-of-mouth, is more credible and powerful than any expensive banner advertisement.

15 – Exchange testimonials

Reciprocal testimonials serve as endorsements of each other’s businesses. It costs nothing but reassures potential customers in regard to your trustworthiness and expertise. It makes people more receptive to your commercial message.

16 – Swap adverts

Partners of a strategic alliance can save on promotional costs by exchanging website adverts from their business. This a good way to increase traffic to their sites at no cost.

17 – Increase search engine visibility

An increased number of inbound links (links towards your website) will boost your search engine ranking. One of the factors that determines ranking on search page results is link popularity, which is based on the number and quality of inbound links. Reciprocal links from strategic alliance partners will increase search engine ranking for all concerned.

18 – Cross-promote your businesses

You can pool financial resources to maximise your promotional efforts.

Example: You could publish an eBook on health topics or projects that recommend the use of products and services from both alliance partners. If you don’t have the time or the writing skills to produce an eBook, share the cost of hiring a ghost writer. To increase the readership, give it away for people to post on their website. You may not make money from the publication of the eBook but you will increase your exposure.

New markets

19 – Increase your database

It takes time to build a valuable database of clients. Tap into your alliance partner’s established list of qualified leads to grow your business quickly.

20 -Reach local markets

With people increasingly performing local searches on the web, create alliances with businesses located in different geographical areas. This way, you reach a global audience of local searchers.

21 – Enter closed markets

Gain entry to restricted or closed areas where your target market is congregating.

Example: If you want to reach the members of a professional association to which you don’t meet the criteria, create a strategic alliance with that association. This type of sponsorship can entitle you to advertising privileges in exchange for your products or services provided free or at discounted price.

22 – Protect your market share

Align your business with key players on the web. Combining forces can erect a barrier to competition.

23 – Obtain competitive intelligence

Share sensitive information about competitors’ moves to set up appropriate strategies.

24 – Share market research

Exchange data collected in your market researches.

When assessing strategic alliance partners, consider these important issues:

– Trustworthiness: check credentials of a potential partner

– Compatibility of ethics and core values

– Language and cultural differences

– Expectations and commitment

– Contribution: present and potential

– Reputation and other affiliations of potential partner

– Products and services: must be complementary and not competitive

– Ability and willingness to share data and knowledge

– Intentions: short or long term

– Terms and conditions.

On the web, with just a few emails you can form strategic alliances that will catapult your business into cyberspace. With like-minded people, you can build on each other’s brand equity without incurring costs.

Strategic alliance? Think collaboration and competitive advantage.

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A Review of the Trek Alliance Income Opportunity

The Trek Alliance website is either not available or so well hidden that it can not be found. Whatever the case, there is little to find about Trek Alliance except for quite a few very unhappy former investors and distributors. Apparently, Trek Alliance is a spin off from the former MLM company, Equinox which is now defunct because of legal problems stemming from fraud. Apparently, the upper management of Equinox left and started their own MLM company, Trek Alliance. Those who were in both companies report that there are many similarities between the two, although we have not found any direct allegations of fraud as far as Trek Alliance is concerned.

Who They Are

Trek Alliance was started by former successful Equinox leaders in September of 1997. The founders of Trek Alliance reportedly made promises to conduct their business in a manner that was completely different from the now defunct Equinox. Apparently, these leaders were upset by the unethical and illegal practices that the Equinox leader, Bill Gould, was conducting. Equinox International was shut down in April 2000 by regulatory authorities. Bill Gould is permanently barred from any MLM involvement. With this said, the leaders of Trek Alliance claim that they learned by Gould’s experience and do not care to repeat it.

What They Do

Trek Alliance is a MLM company that signs people to sell their health and wellness products. They have lines of vitamins, health supplements, skin care, shampoo and other personal care items.

How You Make Money

The most basic way that you make money through the Trek Alliance system is to sell their products. However, if you get your products through your supervisor, you actually make very little commission on each sale. On the other hand, if you buy your way into a supervisor position to the tune of $4,000, you stand to make much more on each sale. You also make money off of people you sign under you. For instance, if you are a supervisor and get someone to buy their way into becoming a supervisor, then you really make a substantial profit.

What We’ve Heard

We searched and could not find any positive feedback on Trek Alliance. They showed up on several MLM scam warning sites and there were quite a few testimonials that warned people against signing with them. After wading through the many negative feedback postings, we can sum up the general discontent in just a few areas:

* The initial ad to get you in the door is a ruse, an elaborate set up that is little more than a shiny false front
* You will drive up your debt “investing” in the company, purchasing products and buying your way up the ladder without ever really seeing a profit
* Representatives are encouraged to run misleading ads to recruit their downline
* Representatives are very aggressively encouraged to pay for and attend training classes that are virtually useless and a waste of time

These are the four main allegations that we got from numerous sites, testimonials and postings by people who had tried the business.

Perhaps you do get out of Trek Alliance what you put into it, but from all accounts there is a great deal of money that members must pay in order to make money – and more often than not, it seems that it doesn’t even allow them to break even.

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Purchasing Options Available For Group Health Insurance Plans

It is a common tendency with all small business owners to look around and continuously search for efficient ways that can help them cut on the business costs. So when it comes insuring the employees of the company, there are a few variant options available out there other than the traditional group health insurance plans. After all, these policies can be a little too costly for the small business houses that have a limited amount of liquid cash to spend. One of the most common and popular options available in this context are purchase of alliances.

Purchasing alliances which are also known as purchasing pools: These organizations are non profit in nature and are run on the basis of private ownership. This way a number of small business organizations are networked while buying the group health insurance plans together. The driving idea behind these options is the fact that the more you gather, it is always the better. As in such cases a whole lot of people are involved in the pool where they purchase the insurances and the negotiation is a lot more effective, the final rates are managed at a far more affordable state as well.

Group Health Insurance alliances in general involve three distinct parties, the alliance company, the administrator company and the health insurance providers.

The alliance company is a private company by the very form of its ownership. This company works in the favor of the interests of the small business organizations who take part in the pool for buying the group health care coverage plan. The alliance company is actually supposed to take care of all the rules and regulations and fill in the requirements for new members and decide on their eligibility as well. It’s also to a large extent responsible for negotiating the premiums and the rates with the insurance company that will be providing the coverage. Most commonly it is a local chamber of commerce of the local state agency that takes up the responsibility as an alliance company.

Coming to the administrator company this is a unit that is supposed to deal with the regular management duties. This is generally a company that specializes in health care administration and it is this company that gives all the directions and service instructions to the member companies.

The third category belongs to the health insurance providers who are provided by the insurance companies to the members for providing the coverage. Often these companies might contact a number of other insurance providers who may be asked to put in their offers for the pool members. This way the members are given the chance to choose from a wider range of coverage rates and plans.

The health insurance purchasing alliances are generally present in most of the states in the US, precisely where the state law allows these kinds of practices. So in case you are planning to buy any such coverage, something you need to do is first check out whether there are any such organizations in your area. You might even call in at your local Chamber of Commerce to check out if there is any valuable information that might come in handy.

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Social Media and Municipal Alliance Committees (MAC)

A Primer on Municipal Alliance Committees

For those New Jersey residents still unfamiliar with Municipal Alliance Committees, (according to a State of New Jersey brochure) they are local planning and coordinating bodies established in all of New Jersey’s 21 counties to “assess needs, set priorities, develop plans and implement programs that form the foundation of New Jersey’s substance abuse prevention activities.” New Jersey’s Municipal Alliances provide over 3,800 prevention programs statewide.

The state brochure on MACs further goes on to describe the makeup of Municipal Alliance Committees established by the local governing body and made up of volunteer “appointees representing a broad cross section of stakeholders in the community.” Alliance committee members include representatives from the governing body, education, health, law enforcement, civic, religious, and business organizations. From the inception of the Municipal Alliances, community volunteers have been the backbone of the program and they are parents, coaches, peer leaders, youth, seniors and others.

The Beauty of Social Media: Great Reach at No/Low Cost

Recently, some 150 concerned Mahwah parents learned how to talk to their kids about cyber-bullying, sexting, video bullying, and other adolescent online interactions at a Thursday night seminar sponsored by the Mahwah (NJ) Municipal Alliance. The Alliance got the word about the seminar on their Website ( and through the local media as well as several mainstream and regional Social Media platforms/outlets such as AOL’s for the Mahwah area.

Social Media works to help municipal alliance committees understand what they can do to get their message out and how their messages can be found. Online platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and dedicated Blogs are increasingly being used by community groups to enhance communication with community members and other key stakeholders including federal, state and local governing representatives.

Social media really gives financially strapped municipal alliances the opportunity to reach their target audiences for little or no cost. It is a great tool to broadcast their events and activities. It is also an incredible resource for learning from and collaborating with other municipal alliances and nonprofit groups working towards similar community goals. After all, why keep re-inventing the wheel, if we can all work together to make it roll better on a much smoother road surface? Municipal Alliances must strive to get everyone involved, especially the parents and teachers of the at-risk kids they need to reach and help.

Using feedback from members of the community is a great way to make them feel like they are a part of the municipal alliance and its programs. Never before has this been remotely possible. Now it is possible to involve people, remotely – through the Web-based tools of Social Media.

Social Media’s I/O – Input/Output

Another reason that Municipal Alliances go online is to be where the kids they are trying to protect from harm are most often found. Participating on the Web offers Alliance coordinators and members a portal into and necessary insights regarding the problematic exchanges often taking place between some children and their peers (as well as with potential child stalkers and exploiters) through Social Media. It is not coincidental that on the Mahwah Municipal Alliance website is a Today Show interview with Mahwah police Chief James Batelli regarding this same issue:

For those who were unable to view the original broadcast, it now permanently resides on the Alliance’s Website and can be viewed at any time. Word of the video’s existence on the Website and/or the video, itself, can easily be “pushed out” to the residents embedded within a digital newsletter or via E-mail blast. This is yet another example how Social Media is being used by Municipal Alliances to reach out to greater numbers of community residents and educate them about topics of interest – when they are conveniently available.

Never before the age of Social Media has constructive two-way communication with the community been possible. And, Municipal Alliances throughout New Jersey are availing themselves of these technologies and the greater benefits they yield.

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Adventure Travel From Grand Canyon Rafting to Base Jumping

Some people believe a break from work should involve more than just a holiday: it should be an adventure! Which is why adventure travel is becoming so popular. It doesn’t have to mean climbing Everest, attempting K2, or crossing a desert on the back of a camel: but it can, though it can just as easily mean a guided rafting trip in the Grand Canyon, seeing the desert from the basket of a balloon, a bungee jump like James Bond (off Switzerland’s Verzasca Dam) or a road trip somewhere literally *off the beaten track*.

Trekking in Nepal or paddling the Grand Canyon are the classic adventure travel options, and for most adventure travellers involve a bit of travel to get to, but there are travel adventure options in every country — you ‘d be surprised to see the list of where all the best paragliding destinations are, and paragliding definitely qualifies as adventure travel if it’s done right. Ice climbing, cave diving, shark diving, paddling between scenic islands, trekking overland, base jumping, or even heli-biking or heli-skiing can elevate your travels to adventure travels, and these kinds of adventure travel options can be found in some very unlikely destinations.

But the classic adventure options are still the best: New Zealand, for all the cycling and paddling options, as well as the extreme sports, is one of the best places for adventure travel, and Chile and Patagonia are popular for the same kinds of adventure travel attractions. Canada has the winter-y wilderness, and offers adventure travellers the chance to get back to nature and meet some exotic animals, while Borneo and the Galapagos, offer adventure travellers both untouched wilderness, unique animals and sunshine. Just in case you prefer your adventure travels without the adventurous weather.

Not all of us get the chance to have a real travel adventure. However, ‘adventure holidays’ are becoming ever more popular, and accessible, and not just among the young. As baby boomers mature they find they are fitter, and generally richer, than their parents were – so your 50s and 60s is a great time to take that travel adventure you never had time or money to do. Lots of adventure travel is within the realms of possibility for most people — you don’t have to be an elite athlete to cross the Sahara with a camel train, just relatively healthy and the owner of an adventurous spirit. Some adventure travel tour operators even run adventure tour options for younger explorers, and there are some gentle routes along even some of the most exciting of white water rivers, and child size mountains still worth conquering. And while once people thought of some adventure travel options as being the adventure of a life time, now a lifetime can have many travelling adventures.

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