Category Archives: Stress Management

10 Ways to Become More Resilient

I have realized recently that to live a balanced life, you must be resilient. Why are some people able to bounce back easily from adversity or misfortune while others fall apart?

Developing resiliency is part of achieving a more balanced life. People with resilience have a greater sense of control over their lives. You will have a more optimistic outlook and be willing to take more risks. You will also find more meaning and joy in your life.

Here are 10 ways you can become more resilient and stay on the path to achieving a more balanced life:

Be flexible
Change is a part of living. You may find that certain goals no longer work because your situation or circumstances have changed. The ability to accept what you cannot control will allow you to focus on what you can do. Resilient people find ways to adjust their goals and adapt.

Find your purpose
Do things that bring meaning to your life. If you have a sense of purpose, you can find ways to stay on track and move toward your goals.

Take action
Think about what you can do to improve a situation and then do it. When you’re resilient, you work on solving problems rather than getting caught up in negativity. It’s also easy to simply detach and avoid a challenging situation rather than face it head on. Make a decision and take action to make it happen.

Learn from your mistakes
When you have a negative experience or something doesn’t go the way you expected, you should see it as an opportunity to learn something. Focus on the positive lessons you can take away from a challenging situation.

Take care of yourself
Part of being resilient is staying physically and mentally strong. It’s easier to face adversity when you’re feeling your best. Take care of yourself by exercising regularly, eating a balanced diet, getting enough sleep and managing stress.

Maintain a positive outlook
A positive outlook will make you much more resilient. Many of life’s problems are only temporary. Not to mention, that often adversity brings new opportunities. I have often looked back on what I thought was a bad situation only to find that it actually led to something better.

Have a sense of humor
Even in stressful times, it’s important to keep your sense of humor. You need to be able to laugh at yourself and find the humor even when times are tough. Laughing and smiling helps relieves stress and can put things into perspective for you.

Let go of tension
Find your own way to express your emotions and let go of stress. You may find that writing in a journal, meditating or doing creative tasks like sewing, scrapbooking, painting or baking helps you relax. Or, you may discover that physical activity helps you relieve tension, such as running, kickboxing or yoga.

Make connections
Good relationships with family members, friends and others can help you be more resilient. It’s nice to have people who will listen to you and help you with your problems. You also know that you have their support no matter what happens. In addition, you can be there for them when they need your support and guidance.

Believe in yourself
Be confident in your ability to solve your own problems. Recognize your personal strengths. Take pride in your abilities and what you’ve accomplished. By learning to trust yourself and your instincts, you can build even more resilience.

Resilient people acknowledge when things don’t go as planned, learn from their mistakes and then move forward. If things don’t go as planned, view it as an opportunity to take another path on the journey to a completely balanced life!

8 Ways to Fit Healthy Habits Into Your Hectic Life

time-1128278-mDoes it ever seem like there aren’t enough hours in the day to accomplish everything you need to do? Lately, that seems like every day for me.

How can I fit in healthy habits when I don’t have any time? Then, I just feel more stressed and out-of-sorts because I didn’t fit everything in.

Decide what you truly want to accomplish and prioritize your life around your goals. When you make the time for healthy habits, you’ll have more energy, lower your stress levels and achieve more life balance.

Here are 8 ways you can fit healthy habits into your hectic daily routine:

Track your time
For a day or two, write down everything you do and what time you do it. Then, take a look at your routine. Does anything stick out to you? You may be watching more TV than you realized, or playing games on your phone. You might be able to break that time down and fit in your healthy habits.

Ask yourself: What tasks take longer than they should? Do I need to change my priorities to cut out things that are less important than more healthy options? What can I say no to?

Cut your to-do list
Highly successful people often have very short to-do lists. You may be overestimating what’s realistic to get done in a day. Cut your planned to-do list down by 25% to take into account all those things that can come up and derail your plans. Then, you can keep from overloading yourself. Make sure your healthy goals are at the top of the list!

Drink more water
Be sure you’re drinking water throughout the day. Water is an all-purpose, healthy drink. It helps your digestion, circulation, aids in weight loss, improves your skin and more. If you feel fatigued during the day, it could be because you aren’t properly hydrated. Water can also help you feel full and keep colds at bay.

Stock up on healthy snacks
One of the quickest ways to derail your eating habits is to grab an unhealthy snack when you’re hungry and on the go. When you go grocery shopping, pick up portable, healthy snacks. For instance, baby carrots, string cheese, fresh fruit, nuts, and single-serve packs of yogurt, applesauce, crackers, etc.

Buy frozen, healthy ingredients
One of the biggest deterrents to sticking to your healthy eating habits can be making time to prepare nutritious food. Purchase frozen, ready-to-cook ingredients. Frozen fruits and vegetables still have a high vitamin and mineral content. You can also buy frozen boneless chicken breasts and a variety of frozen seafood in single-serve packages. These are great options for quick, healthy meals.

Try interval training
A busy schedule means your workout may get left out. You can fit in a great workout in 20 minutes. Short bursts of high-intensity exercise can actually be more effective.

Walk it out
The average job means sitting at a desk in front of a computer for a big part of the day. Then, consider your commute to work, eating lunch and dinner, and then relaxing on the couch at the end of the day. You may find that you spend as much as 80% of your day sitting down. Sneak in some extra exercise by running errands on foot, taking the stairs, and parking at the end of the parking lot. All those extra steps you take add up!

Give yourself some slack
Are you trying to create a 4-course meal every night for dinner? Obsessing about creating the perfect presentation for work? Worrying about whether your kids’ favorite outfits are washed? Focus on getting tasks done, not striving for perfection. You can have leftovers or a quick, healthy meal for dinner. The presentation will be fine, and the kids have plenty of clothes to wear.

Go to bed
Sleep is one thing you can’t cut to get more done. When you don’t get enough sleep, you will be less efficient during the day, your energy level suffers, and your cognitive function is reduced. Lack of sleep can also make you more susceptible to getting sick. By getting enough sleep, you are more likely to have the energy to get more done during the day.

Making healthier choices may be a matter of making more time. Decide what you truly want to accomplish to create a more balanced life. Then, use these tips to fit your healthy habits into your daily routine!

9 Ways to Create a More Balanced Life

Are you overworked? Stressed? Tired? Feeling grouchy and unhappy? If you’re out of balance, you will feel it in every aspect of your life – from your mental and emotional well-being to physical fitness, relationships and stress levels.

You can achieve and maintain balance in your life. A well-balanced person has a greater ability to focus their attention and energy in order to be more productive and live a more meaningful life.

Here are 9 ways to make little changes that can help you achieve a more balanced life:

Turn it off
When the weekend comes (or when you have days off work), disconnect. Put the phone down, turn off the computer and ignore the emails or texts. It’s important to give your body, mind and soul a rest. You should be able to set aside two consecutive days per week with no work at all. These two days will leave you refreshed and recharged for the next week of work.

Be fully present
By shutting completely down from work, you can also spend more time with friends and family. You can spend more time connecting with them and have fun together. You can be more physically and emotionally present in their lives. If you’re thinking about work or doing work while you’re together, you are missing out on opportunities to create lasting memories.

Simplify
If your life is overflowing, you will never be able to achieve balance and manage it all. Say no to everything that isn’t either essential or doesn’t add value or enjoyment to your life. If you’re working more than 40 hours a week, it may be time to examine your job and see if you can manage your time to get done faster. You may also want to evaluate what you’re doing for a living if it monopolizes your time, causes chronic stress or isn’t bringing you joy.

Connect with others
Your relationships matter. In fact, you may even live longer when you have strong, healthy relationships. Make time for your significant other, kids and friends. Set a date night with your spouse or partner. Take time to truly connect with your kids, especially if you have multiple children. Talk to them on the way to school, sporting events or practices. Spend a few minutes talking about their day at dinner or when getting ready for bed. Be there for your friends and family, and you will all benefit more than you realize.

Take a walk
Take a walk and pay attention to what’s going on around you. Enjoy nature or people watch. Simply take some quiet time each day to appreciate the good things and enjoy life. It’s also good to get moving and increase your heart. Here are more benefits of exercising.

Get creative
Take a class, learn to paint or try something new. Read a new book that sparks your interest, watch a movie or listen to music. Find what interests you and makes you happy – and then do it more! Even better, find things to do with friends and family and strengthen your relationships at the same time. You are likely to end up smiling and laughing, which are also good for your health.

Watch your health
Your physical health affects the quality of your life in so many ways. Make it a habit to get yourself moving. Find fitness and exercise routines that inspire you to do more. At the same time, pay attention to what you eat. A healthy, balanced diet will give you more energy and can improve your mood and concentration.

Treat yourself
Get a facial or a pedicure, or even splurge on a massage. You can also find inexpensive ways to treat yourself to a little fun. Have a glass of wine or a cup of your favorite coffee or tea. Light a scented candle that smells wonderful to you. Snuggle up on the couch with your kids, a blanket and a movie. Just be sure to make the time to enjoy the little things!

Pay it forward
You can start out small and simply make an effort to perform one act of kindness a day. Maybe it’s opening the door for someone whose hands are full, or letting the person with only a few items cut in front of you in the check-out line. You can also look for opportunities to do something more meaningful to you, such as tutoring kids, volunteering at the hospital or fostering animals. You’ll find that you benefit as much as those you help.

It’s a balancing act to keep all aspects of your life on the right path. Take a few minutes each week to evaluate how you’re doing. If you find that one area needs work, make a plan to correct it. Living a balanced life is a life-long journey!

14 Easy Ways to Lift Your Spirits

To me, the winter months always seem to drag monotonously toward spring. The weather is cold, dreary and gloomy. I may not see the sun for days – or even weeks – at a time. Let’s just say I can get a bit grouchy during this time. (My family would probably say A LOT grouchy.)

You can find quick and simple ways to lift your spirits. Remember that true happiness doesn’t come from a paycheck, material goods or warm weather. A good part of the joy you find in life comes from finding easy ways to make yourself happy.

Here are 14 tips to help you lift your mood and boost your happiness level:

Drink coffee or tea in the morning
Regular, modest caffeine intake can help regulate your mood. Research shows that when you enjoy four cups of black tea a day it leads to fewer stress hormones being released. Or, if you’re more of a coffee person, you can drink a few cups of java. In fact, coffee has additional health benefits.

Spend time with friends
Good friends are good for you and your spirits. Your friends foster a feeling of belonging, purpose and boost your self esteem. Strong friendships can help keep you on a mentally even keel. Whether you get together for drinks or dinner, call on the phone or text about the ups and downs of your day, friends can improve your mood. Here are more reasons why we need friends.

Eat mood-boosting foods
To help boost your mood, you can eat foods that are naturally high in serotonin, such as walnuts, tomatoes, kiwi, bananas, sour cherries, plums and pineapple. Tryptophan is also a natural mood booster. Tryptophan is found in proteins, including turkey, fish, chicken, nuts, cheese, eggs, cottage cheese and beans. Learn more about foods to boost your mood.

Get a massage
Massage can be good for your physical and mental health. When you get a massage, your body releases endorphins. Massage also reduces stress hormones, lowers anxiety and raises your immunity. Shut out your surroundings and the chaos, relax and let some happiness seep into your day.

Break your routine
Sometimes I feel stuck in a rut. Get out of your regular routine, and your mood may lift with it. Go out for dinner on a Tuesday night instead of Friday. Have lunch at a new place once a week. Take a different route to work or wear something that is normally “not you.” A small change can make a bigger difference in your outlook for the day.

Open your shades
I have a huge picture window in my living room and then patio doors in my dining room. I like to leave the blinds shut in the winter because it helps cut down on the cold air. Yet, I realized it felt like I was living in a cave or dungeon. Make sure you open the shades in your bedroom, living room or office even when it’s cold. Studies show that morning light exposure can benefit your mood.

Take a walk outside
If you work in an office without windows or sun exposure, make sure you step outside a few times a day to soak up the sunshine. Even if it’s overcast, fresh air can help lift your spirits.

Bang on something
Researchers believe that drumming helps to relax the body. I personally think that kicking and punching things can help you feel better, too. You can use a punching bag or take a kickboxing class.

Clear the clutter
Disorganization can make me anxious. Clutter reminds us of the things we should be getting done but haven’t taken care of yet. For a quick fix, straighten up a few surfaces in your office or in the areas of your house where you spend the most time. Feeling more ordered in your personal spaces can help you feel more at ease and give you peace of mind. Here are some tips to organizing and decluttering.

Watch something funny
Studies show that a good laugh gets rid of stress, boosts your immunity, improves your heart function and lowers your blood pressure. A good chuckle can also keep blood sugar levels low and aids in better digestion. You can watch a comedic movie, a funny TV series or goofy YouTube videos. Laughter and even simply smiling can be good for your overall health.

Do a good deed
There is nothing like the act of giving to help us feel more appreciative of what we have and give us a mood boost. Do some research and find a group that could use your talents and skills. Learn more about the health benefits of doing good.

Indulge your senses
Sights, sounds, smells, tastes and tactile senses can quickly change your mood. Aromatherapy can be good for your health. Breathing in natural perfumed scents, such as lavender, can lift your spirits. Bake cookies and enjoy the yummy smells and warmth of the kitchen. Listen to soothing music. Soak in a scented bubble bath, or put flower arrangements around the house.

Give a kiss or hug
It’s a good feeling to be loved. Kiss your spouse, your kids or your mom. Smooching your significant other may even help reduce your cholesterol. You can cuddle up and watch TV together or give your family members and close friends a hug – just because. You can also hug and pet a furry friend to lower blood pressure and bring on a sense of calm.

Do something you love
You may like listening to music, dancing, taking photos, working on craft projects or tending a garden. You can even sit on your deck, take in nature or read a novel. To lift your spirits, make time to do something you enjoy – even if it’s just for 15 or 20 minutes.

Your mood goes a long way to helping you achieve a more balanced life. If you’re grouchy or feeling down, you may not have the motivation to exercise, eat right or hang out with friends. Take a few minutes each day to lift your spirits and appreciate the little things in life.

10 Ways to Improve Your Memory

notepad-1066735-mDo you lose track of your car keys? Walk into a room and have no idea why you’re there? Can’t remember the name of your child’s teacher?

I recently read that our modern lifestyle plays a significant role in contributing to our memory and brain function. Our exposure to toxins, chemicals, an unhealthy diet, poor sleep habits and stress can actually hinder our ability to remember.

A healthy lifestyle can support your brain health and even help your brain grow new neurons. This process is called neurogenesis.

By simply making healthier choices, here are 10 ways you can improve your memory:

Stay hydrated
Your brain is 75% water so even mild dehydration means that your brain tissues are shrinking, and you may experience mild loss of cognitive function. You may have heard, “Drink when you’re thirsty.” However, when you feel thirsty, you’re already becoming dehydrated. You should shoot for 8 glasses of water a day. Of course, if you exercise or work outside in hot weather, you should drink even more. Learn more about the benefits of drinking water.

Eat real food
I often cook from a box, package or can. Prepackaged foods almost always contain unhealthy ingredients that aren’t good for your brain. The best diet consists of real food. Unprocessed food helps you avoid those chemicals and toxins that can hinder your memory function. Artificial sweeteners and MSG are both known to adversely affect your brain health. Here are some tips for swapping junk food for healthy food.

Cut back on sugar
Brain cells use twice as much energy as other cells, and they get most of this energy from glucose. Your brain cells can’t store energy, so they need a steady supply of glucose. That means you should eat more sugar, right? No, the key part of the equation is a steady supply. Real sugar, including high fructose corn syrup and maple syrup, is hard on your brain and memory. They send your blood sugar levels on a roller coaster ride of spikes and dips. Too much refined sugar leads to poor memory formation, learning disorders and depression. It also impacts your attention span and mood. Here are more reasons to limit sugar.

Keep the fat
Many diets want you to cut out the fat. However, some fats are good for you. Not to mention, your brain is made mostly of fat. It needs healthy fats, such as the type you get from nuts, avocados, oily fish and olive oil. About 25% of your body’s cholesterol is found in the brain. Low fat diets have had a disastrous affect on our brains. We need good fats for overall health, as well as memory function.

Get more sleep
Sleep has so many health benefits. Getting the recommended 8 hours of sleep shouldn’t be considered sleeping in. You should strive to sleep 8 hours every night for your overall health and mental well-being. During sleep, your brain repairs itself, gets rid of toxins and consolidates memories. Lack of good sleep will impair your memory, creativity, judgment and attention span. Make sure you’re getting plenty of sleep.

Stop multitasking
We’ve written before that there is no such thing as multitasking. You are simply switching from one task to another. Trying to multitask may actually slow you down, make you more prone to errors and make you more forgetful. You need about 8 seconds to actually commit a piece of information to memory. So, if you’re talking on the phone while bringing in the groceries, you are more likely to forget where you laid down your car keys.

Stay active
Our bodies are meant to move, yet you may spend 10-12 hours a day sitting. All this sitting can lead to memory lapses, brain shrinkage and cognitive decline. Physical activity increases blood flow to your whole body, including your brain. Exercise also moves more oxygen and nutrients to your brain. Getting more physical activity can help keep your memory sharp. Here are more benefits of regular exercise.

Reduce stress
Prolonged stress leads to anxiety, depression, poor decisions, insomnia and memory loss. Too much of the stress hormone cortisol can lead to a surplus of free radicals. These free radicals can cause your brain to shrink by punching holes in the brain cell walls and causing them to rupture and die. The next time you’re getting stressed out, take a deep breath and remember that you’re killing brain cells. Here are some more ways to reduce stress.

Check your medicine cabinet
A number of medications can affect memory, including antihistamines, antidepressants, anti-anxiety drugs and sleep aids. Don’t stop taking any prescription medicines without talking to your doctor, but if you’re concerned about your memory function it may be something to bring up at your next visit.

Keep learning
People who are cognitively active will have better memory as they age. How do you keep your brain going strong? Stay engaged in the world. Play games that make you think. Do a crossword or Sudoku puzzle. Find ways to challenge your memory. For instance, if you meet someone new, make up a way to remember his or her name. Here are 16 Ways to Exercise Your Brain.

Your lifestyle and habits impact every part of your life, including your memory and brain function. A healthy, balanced lifestyle can improve your memory, mood and well-being. It’s just another reason to live a balanced life!

8 Ways to Control Your Holiday Eating

pumpkin-pie-1372787-mOn the best of days, it can be hard to control your eating. The holiday season challenges even the most routine eating habits. You’re running errands and eating on the go. You have holiday parties, family gatherings and lunch with friends.

Adding in the additional stress and changes in your routine, how do you maintain your healthy diet during the holidays?

Here are 8 ways to control your eating and enjoy a happier and healthier holiday season:

Start with the healthy options
Whether you’re sitting around the holiday table, grabbing food off of a buffet or eating on the go, load up on the healthiest items first. Start with a salad, fresh fruit or a veggie dish. Then, choose the whole grains and lean meats. Last, sample a few bites of different desserts. You’ll fill up on the better food choices and eat less of the foods you don’t need.

Concentrate on eating
When you eat with friends, family or co-workers, you may not pay as much attention to what – and how much – you are putting into your mouth. By concentrating on what you’re eating, you will be able to tell when your stomach is letting you know you’re full. If you’re paying attention, you’ll know when to quit rather than mindlessly eating.

Eat slowly
We are always in a hurry and often eat on the go. You may be guilty of stuffing your mouth full of food and hurrying to swallow it down. Do you even really taste the foods you’re eating? Chew slowly and really savor the food in your mouth. Taking it slow will also give you time to realize that you’re full, rather than finding out later that you are over-stuffed with food.

Plan on leftovers
Most families serve way too much food at the holidays. It’s best to assume that you will have leftovers instead of feeling you have to eat it all. Making two meals out of what you might have eaten in one sitting will help you control how much you eat.

Be in charge of your stomach
Your well-meaning mother-in-law or aunt may try to push food on you. The people who cook the food usually enjoying seeing others eat the food. They want you to try every dish and give your opinion. If you’re feeling full, politely let them know you aren’t hungry now, but you’ll be sure to try it later. Or, offer to take it home as leftovers.

Snack healthy
As you’re running errands or preparing food ahead of time, make sure you choose healthy snacks. Rather than sampling the food you’re making, have a banana, grapes, carrot sticks or a handful of nuts to keep you from getting too hungry. If you sit down to eat and you’re starving, you are more likely to overeat.

Rest after eating
When you’ve finished a meal, take a few minutes to rest. Give your stomach time to digest before you go back to running errands or attending the next holiday gathering. It’s also good to take a few minutes to relax and recharge to keep your stress levels down. Running yourself ragged and becoming stressed can lead to eating unhealthy food choices.

Find new sources of comfort
If eating comfort foods is a way for you to cope with stress or handle holidays with the family, try doing something different. Call a friend, go outside for a walk in the sun, read a book or take up a hobby that keeps you occupied. The goal is to distract yourself from making unhealthy food choices during the chaos of the holidays.

You can maintain your healthy eating habits during the holiday season. Keep these tips in mind as you run your holiday errands, fix festive dishes or attend holiday parties!

Giving Back is Good for Your Health

present-3-673648-mOne of my favorite holiday stories is the Charles Dickens’ novel, A Christmas Carol. It captures the true meaning and spirit of the Christmas season – putting others before ourselves and doing good deeds.

At the beginning of the story, Mr. Scrooge is a selfish, bitter, mean, miserly old man. As he looks back on his life, he realizes the error of his ways. He learns that compassion, generosity and kindness are much more rewarding than being greedy and narcissistic. His spirit is reborn, and he is a changed man.

While we should be altruistic all year long, the holidays are a great time to volunteer and give back to others. In fact, helping others – without expecting anything in return – is actually good for your health.

Here are 6 health benefits of doing good deeds:

Combat depression
Volunteering can help reduce your risk of depression. A key risk factor for depression is social isolation. When you give back, you are regularly in contact with others and that helps you build a solid support system. If wintertime gives you the blues or if the holidays are getting you down, doing good deeds can help ward off depression.

In addition, you can actually experience a “helper’s high” when you do a good deed for someone else. Giving back can create a sense of euphoria that may also be accompanied by a surge of energy. The emotional rewards of doing good can boost the mind and soul.

Improve heart health
One of the many benefits of helping others includes better heart health. Acts of goodness are associated with the release of oxytocin – a hormone that is known to be linked to improved heart function. Since heart disease is still the number one killer, it’s important to protect your heart every way you can.

Increase self-confidence
Volunteering can provide a healthy boost to your self-confidence and self-esteem. You may feel more satisfied with life and be happier with your place in the world. When you do good in your community, you have a sense of accomplishment. By feeling better about yourself, you have a more positive outlook on life overall.

Reduce stress
Being happy and positive can also help you reduce stress. Getting out, spending time with others and making new friends is also great for alleviating tension and stress.

Live longer
If you feel better about yourself and experience less stress, you may also live longer. Volunteers tend to be more conscientious about their own wellness. Your positive outlook can reinforce your desire to become more physically fit and eat a healthier diet.

Decrease chronic pain
When you do good deeds, you may recover more quickly from a wide range of ailments, including illness and injury. You may also feel less pain when you volunteer regularly.  The positive energy from giving back can lower the chemicals in your body that contribute to inflammation and other diseases.

Want to enjoy these mind-body benefits of giving back and reach that helper’s high? Here are 5 tips to help you become more altruistic:

Use your talents
What can you do that could benefit others? Can you provide tutoring? Do you know how to paint or create pottery? Are you good at gardening, working with animals or playing sports? You may have skills that could benefit others – and it will be fun for you, too!

Set your own pace
You don’t need to start out volunteering 20 hours a week. Research has shown that just two hours of good deeds each week can boost both your mental and physical health.

Strengthen relationships
Volunteering can be a good way to bond with friends or family members. You can strengthen your relationships while helping others.

Make it a habit
It’s the follow-through that really counts. Set a regular day and time to do your volunteering. If it’s on your schedule, you can quickly turn it into a habit.

Find your passion
It may take you some time to find the best fit between you and your volunteer activity. Try a few things out to see what works best for you. Start out with your skills and interests and go from there.

Good deeds are good for those you help and good for you. And, it feels good to be nice. Doing good guides you on the path to a more balanced life and creating a better version of yourself. Additional side effects include being more physically and mentally healthy, as well as growing as a person.

How do you give back? What are your plans for doing good deeds this holiday season?

11 More Tips for a Good Night’s Sleep

time-flies-1214482-mAlmost two years ago, we posted 11 tips on getting a good night’s sleep. While I have been working on my sleeping habits, I still have room for improvement.

It’s been proven that sleep, and getting enough sleep, has a huge impact on our overall health and well-being.

Modern life is filled with stress and so many distractions. I am guilty of watch TV or playing games on my phone while lying in bed. So, turn off the devices and use these 11 tips for getting a good night’s sleep:

Keep a sleep diary
To get a better idea of your sleep habits, write down what you do every day for at least two weeks. Keep track of what time you go to bed, how long it takes to fall asleep, how many times you wake up, and how you feel in the morning. You should also track what you eat and drink before bed and if you exercised that day. You might be surprised to see some patterns in your habits and how well you sleep.

Increase light exposure
Getting more sunlight during the day can help set your body’s clock and sleep-wake cycle. Soak up some sunlight in the morning. Try to spend more time outside during the day, even if it’s a few minutes at lunch or walking the dog after work. Keep curtains and blinds open during the day to let in more sun.

Block the clock
When you go to bed, block the alarm clock. If you can’t glance at it in the middle of the night or start checking it in the early morning hours, you might find you get a more restful night’s sleep. Even the glow from your electronic devices, such as tablets and mobile phones, on the nightstand can interfere with sleep. The darker you keep the room, the better.

Turn on white noise
I sleep with a fan running at night. You can also use a sound machine to produce a low-level soothing sound. This white noise helps you tune out the noisy neighbors, a barking dog or the TV that’s on in another room.

Seal the mattress
If a runny nose, sneezing or itching is bothering you at night, your mattress could be the problem. You can develop dust mites, mold or other allergens. By using a plastic, dust-proof mattress cover, you can avoid these issues.

Get your neck in shape
If you wake up tired with a stiff neck, your pillow is probably to blame. Your pillow should keep your neck in a neutral position. It’s best to sleep on your back or side, since stomach sleeping can twist your neck.

Write down your troubles
What’s the most common sleep complaint? I can’t shut off my brain. Every night before bed, write down what’s on your mind. Make notes on chores you need to do, errands you need to run the next day, or calls that need to be made. I sit down with my day planner and jot down all the things I need do accomplish the next day at work. Then when my head hits the pillow, I don’t let myself think about it.

Create a wind down routine
In addition to writing a to-do list for the next day, you can also set your clothes out or pack what you need for work. Then, go through your bedtime ritual, such as washing your face, brushing your teeth or even taking a shower. Now it’s time to relax in bed with a book or practice deep breathing.

Stay put if you wake up
If you wake up in the night, stay in bed in the dark and do some deep breathing or visualize things that help you fall back to sleep. However, if you find that you’re worrying or becoming anxious, get up and do something quiet and relaxing until you feel sleepy again.

Review your medications
Some medicines for high blood pressure can cause insomnia, as well as antidepressants such as Prozac and Zoloft. If you’re having sleep troubles, you may want to discuss your medicines with your doctor.

Get it checked out
An occasional restless night is most likely normal. If you have difficulties sleeping or insomnia for more than a month, it might be time to take a deeper look. Chronic insomnia may merit a visit to the doctor to have your sleep habits evaluated.

Remember that everyone’s sleep habits are different. Finding out what works best for you may take some experimenting and learning by trial and error. Try some of these tips to discover the sleep formula that works best for you!

How to Declutter Your Home Room by Room

home-interiors-5-347361-mDoes your house have clutter hotspots? My house definitely does. Our entry way is a dumping ground for coats, shoes and backpacks, and then everything else gets put on the kitchen counter.

I blame my husband and three kids, but I am responsible for the clutter, too. Eventually, I reach a point where I’ve had enough. It happened this weekend. I was trying to find papers for work and a receipt so that I could return items. I spent 45 minutes searching – I found the work papers and finally gave up on the receipt.

I was inspired to make a dent in the chaos. To achieve a balanced life, your physical “stuff” needs to be in balance, too. It’s important to have everything in its place, toss the junk, and find a new home for those things you no longer need.

While it seems overwhelming to declutter your entire house, it is much more manageable if you take it room by room. Here’s a list of areas to start decluttering and take it one step at a time:

Entry way/ front closet
When everyone in my family walks in the door from the garage, they dump coats, shoes, purses and backpacks. Take back your entry or foyer:

  • Use hooks to hang coats on the wall. Add a lower level of hooks to store purses or backpacks.
  • Put in a bench or attractive boxes or baskets to hold hats, gloves and extra shoes.
  • Incorporate a small table with bowls or baskets to hold keys, wallets or other small items.

Kitchen and pantry
I think the stuff in my cabinets multiplies while I’m not looking. At one point, I probably had 25 coffee cups. I’m the only person in my house who drinks coffee! Cut through the kitchen clutter:

  • Sort through dishes and get rid of those you never use. You don’t need 10 travel mugs or 4 different styles of drinking glasses. Pare it down to what you really need.
  • Cut down on the plastic containers and casserole dishes. Go through your plasticware and get rid of cracked and broken items as well as mismatched lids or bottoms.
  • Put away the appliances you only use on rare occasions. Just remember where you put them!
  • Clear out the extra cleaning supplies, get rid of what you don’t use or consolidate containers or boxes where you can.

My pantry is always a mess. I straighten it up and then the next time I buy groceries, I just shove everything on the shelves. Or, someone in my family can’t find an item, and they jumble up the entire pantry searching for it. Here are some tips to make your pantry work:

  • Toss canned goods, boxes and spices that are out of date or you never use.
  • Group your foods by type or use on the shelves. Then it will be easier to find the items you need.
  • Do an inventory before you go grocery shopping so you don’t over buy an item. I have 6 jars of spaghetti sauce in my pantry right now.

Living room
Clutter – like people – tends to gather in the living or family room. Here are some tips to keep your living room picked up:

  • Get rid of old magazines and newspapers.
  • Knick knacks can add to a cluttered feel. Unless they have sentimental value or lift your spirits when you’re in the room, clear out the odds and ends.
  • Put kids games or toys in a cabinet or storage area.
  • Get rid of DVDs, video tapes and CDs or other collections you rarely use.

Bathrooms
I sometimes wonder how we fit so much stuff in one of the smallest rooms in our house. Bathrooms hold so many health and beauty items. Here’s how to keep them organized:

  • Toss out old or out-of-date medicines and put like items beside each other.
  • Combine containers when you can. For instance, put all the Band-Aids in one box.
  • Consolidate partially full bottles of shampoo and soap and limit each person to one open bottle at a time.
  • Go through make-up and throw out what you don’t use or is over 6 months old.
  • Arrange items in totes or baskets in the bathroom cabinets.

Garage or basement
Garages and basements tend to be where items that don’t have a home go. Due to their size, these spaces may take more time, so you may want to set aside a few days or even a weekend to tackle them.

  • Be serious about sorting out the junk. Donate or throw out items you don’t want or won’t use again.
  • Use shelves and hooks to hold items you regularly need.
  • Store items by type or use – for instance, group gardening and lawn tools, swimming pool supplies, holiday decorations and sports equipment in their own areas.
  • Toss old paint, cans of oil, newspapers, boxes, etc. Check the rules in your area for throwing out and recycling items.
  • Go through boxes and purge what you don’t need.
  • Get rid of tools you don’t use or have duplicates of.

Junk drawer
I love my junk drawer. Really, I love it. I recently renovated my kitchen and wanted to put in a dishwasher. For a while, I was afraid I would have to give up the cabinet that held the junk drawer in order to fit in the dishwasher. I was extremely stressed about losing the junk space. Keep your junk drawer, but clear it out regularly:

  • Take everything out and sort it into piles. Get rid of things that you no longer need or know what they belong to. Cut down on extras – I once had at least 100 bread ties in my drawer.
  • Buy a plastic tray with dividers or use small plastic containers to group and organize items.

Paper clutter
Mail tends to pile up. You may put it in a basket, stack it in neat piles or hide it in a drawer. However, when it gets away from you, you may forget to pay the bills or miss an important event. Clear as much paper clutter as you can:

  • Get and pay your bills online.
  • Rather than keep the whole magazine or catalog, tear out the pages you want to keep. Or, take a photo with your phone.
  • Create an area to organize your papers. Put up a pocket wall hanger and make folders to keep track of any bills or paperwork that needs to be filled out. Put papers related to your kids in another folder. Use a folder for things that are urgent so you know to check it frequently.

You can conquer the clutter. Simply take it one room at a time and organize things in a way that makes the most sense for your household. When you finish one room or area, go on to the next. You can quickly enjoy the rewards of a clutter-free home!

9 Ways to Make Lifestyle Changes That Stick

sticky-notes-and-pen-695000-mDid you make any New Year’s resolutions for 2014? Were you able to accomplish your goals?

As 2014 is quickly coming to an end, I’ve been thinking about my progress in living a more balanced life. I still stay up too late. I am working on a regular exercise routine, but I do lapse from time to time. I could definitely do a better job of managing stress – I worry entirely too much. I have been eating healthier, although I still enjoy my favorite junk foods.

So, how can we make lifestyle changes that last? Here are 9 ways to make changes that stick:

Think big
What do you want to change? You can create an overall road map for your journey to balanced living. Make a list of the lasting changes you want to accomplish. For instance, I need to get more sleep. There is so much research that backs up the importance of getting plenty of sleep. I also want to maintain my exercise habits. I would like to cook meals at home more regularly so that my whole family can develop healthier eating habits.

One thing at a time
All those goals sound overwhelming when you consider doing it all at once. That’s why you should pick one aspect of your life to change at at time. For example, I want to work on better eating habits for my family and myself. To improve my chances of success, I need to focus on making this change first before starting on additional ones.

Start small
Now that I have my goal of healthier eating habits, I can break that down into ways to achieve that goal. If I just say that we’re going to eat better, it will be difficult to accomplish. Start by making a plan and creating some steps. First, I’m going to make a list of meals I would like to prepare over the next week. Then, I can put together a grocery list of supplies I need to buy, adding in some healthy snack foods. Now, when I’m feeling overwhelmed and tired, I will have a list of meals I can make and the ingredients on hand.

Set goals
For more complex lifestyle changes, you can set additional goals to keep you on the right track. For instance, if you want to get your finances in order, you may want to set several goals to accomplish this task. You can start by reviewing your financial situation. Then, you can create a budget that will, in turn, help you set goals to pay off credit card debt, reduce your mortgage, and save for retirement.

Get a buddy
Knowing that someone is on your side can help you make changes that last. It can be your spouse or partner who gives you encouragement or works with you to achieve a goal. You can enlist a financial planner to help you put your finances in order. A personal trainer can help you develop an exercise routine and set goals so that you stay on track.

Share your plans
It’s okay to tell your friends and family about your plans. Having support can help you feel more confident about accomplishing your goals. Sharing your challenges and successes can make the work easier and may help others feel inspired to make changes themselves!

Reward yourself
Don’t wait until you’ve achieved your final goal to reward yourself. Rewards, however small, can help motivate you to keep at it. For short-term goals, set simple rewards. For instance, if I cook healthy meals for a week, I can buy a pair a shoes. Or, if I meet my exercise goals for a month, I can treat myself to manicure.

Be prepared for lapses
You will slip up. Everyone has lapses when trying to build healthy habits. You will eat that brownie a la mode. You’ll have a cold and skip your workout routine for a week. It doesn’t mean you failed. The only way you fail is if you give up. After a lapse, forgive yourself, learn from your mistakes and move on.

Do it again!
Once you feel like you’ve developed a healthy habit that will stick, start on the next lifestyle change you want to make. Finding a healthy, balanced life is a work in progress. Keep at it!