Tag Archives: anxiety

9 Simple Ways to Handle Stress

relaxOur lives are filled with stress. It’s impossible to avoid. You’re already late for an appointment and get slowed down by road construction. Your boss dumped a proposal on you that’s due tomorrow. Your schedule is hectic, and you need to be in two places at once.

Research shows that some stress can be good for you. However, if you’re dealing with persistent – long-term stress, such as a sick parent or a demanding boss, it can actually lead to a variety of health issues.

Here are 9 simple and practical ways to copy with stress in your daily life:

Enjoy some fresh air
Make it a point to get outside every day. Research shows that vitamin D from sunlight can elevate your mood by releasing feel-good serotonin. Taking in the sights, sounds and smells around you will take your mind off your worries or frustrations. Even feeling the wind on your face can lift your spirits.

Take a walk
When you’re stressed, it’s easy to turn to bad habits to make you feel better, such as a candy, cigarettes or caffeine. Next time you’re feeling anxious, go for a quick stroll. Studies show that even 10 minutes of exercise can provide a mental boost. Better yet, climb a few flights of stairs. Climbing stairs requires you to pay more attention to what you’re doing and helps vent frustrations.

Rely on rituals
You probably already have rituals that help you relax, and you may not even realize it. For example, you may read the newspaper as you eat breakfast, listen to music while you clean or take a bath before going to bed. Our bodies naturally crave routines, so focusing on regular rituals can help you relax physically and mentally. If you’re feeling stressed, make sure you stick to your regular routines.

Put down the junk food
Do you handle stress by eating? In hectic times, you may choose comfort foods, such as refined carbs or sugary snacks. You will most likely experience a sugar crash, leaving you feeling tired and sluggish. Extra calories can also quickly add up to extra pounds. The next time you’re feeling anxious, make sure you have healthy snacks on hand, such as fresh fruits, vegetables or a handful of nuts.

Get out of your head
Stress likes to mess with your mind. Do you ever get stuck in an ongoing loop of negative thoughts or playing back conversations in your head? A great way to get out of your own head is to engage in fun activities that put your focus on your hands or body. For instance, you can cook, knit or crochet, climb a rock wall or play a sport. When you do something creative or an engaging activity, you fall into a rhythmic pattern and your brain helps you relax and feel more grounded.

Visualize calm
Find a quiet area and create a happy place for a few minutes each day. Just sit still, close your eyes and focus on your breathing. Clear you mind and concentrate on thinking about nothing stressful. It’s harder than you think! Find a comforting and calming image that works for you and helps you relax. Read more about relaxation techniques.

Focus on the present
It’s easy to get sucked into worrying over things that have already happened or imagining what could happen in the future. Let go of thoughts about the past and future, and focus on the present moment. Be aware of where you are and what’s happening right now. Think about how the air feels on your skin, the sound of your kids laughing or a friend telling you about their day. Being mindful of the present can help you let go of stressing about the past and future.

Express your gratitude
Take a few moments each day to express gratitude. It can be as simple as going over the good things that happened that day before you go to sleep. You can write your feelings in a journal. Or, you can let friends and family know you are grateful for them. Research has shown that showing more gratitude releases hormones that make you feel good and lowers stress levels.

Connect with your spiritual side
Spirituality can boost happiness in times of stress. Many religious groups and native tribes use prayer beads to guide their spiritual practice. Having something to hold while communicating with a higher spirit can provide comfort and routine. Prayer can also help you pass your worries over to God and give you peace.

Learning how to cope with stress on a daily basis can help you improve your overall health and well-being. Take the time each day to acknowledge stress and find ways – like the tips above – to help you let it go and live a more balanced life.

Advertisements

10 Common Habits That Get You Hooked

hook-485885-mYou probably have activities that you love to do. What you may not realize is that normal hobbies and habits can turn into an addiction.

When you hear the word addiction, your mind may automatically think of dependence on a substance, such as drugs or alcohol. But, the definition of addiction may surprise you. According to Wikipedia, “Addiction is a state characterized by compulsive engagement in rewarding stimuli, despite adverse consequences.

That means you can also become addicted to “behaviors.” Something that starts out as fun turns into a habit, and then becomes a compulsion.

Here are 10 surprising things you may be addicted to:

The Internet
You may think that browsing the internet is just a fun way to pass the time. However, studies have shown that internet addiction actually alters the brain in ways that are similar to the affects of drug and alcohol addiction. An addiction to the internet involves loss of control, as well as negative consequences at home and at work.

Smartphones
Smartphones are another new habit that can become an addiction. You keep it with you all the time and check it every few minutes. You ignore in-person interactions to catch a text or a post from someone you haven’t seen in years. You work too much because you’re constantly checking your phone. Put the phone down and have a conversation!

Coffee
You may not realize that caffeine is a drug. As soon as I wake up in the morning, I want coffee. I am on edge without it and will get a headache from caffeine withdrawal. Coffee, soda and energy drinks can all be overused. As long as you don’t overdo it, your caffeine habit can be harmless.

Sugar
Many people get sugar cravings. Foods high in carbs, fats and sugar can affect your brain just like drugs do. You may be craving a chocolate candy bar or an ice cream cone. It doesn’t necessarily mean you’re addicted, but your sweet tooth can get out of control and contribute to other health problems.

Shopping
I admit it. I have a shopping addiction. I love clothes, shoes, kitchen gadgets and more. I just enjoy the act of shopping. When you shop, it may lift you up when you’re feeling down or just make you happy. That’s because your brain actually releases a feel-good chemical called dopamine. Chronic shopping may also mean you have impulse-control problems or anxiety issues. Shopping too often can also lead to financial, social or deeper emotional problems.

Tanning
You can become addicted to the sun. The ultraviolet spectrum of sunlight releases chemicals in your body called endorphins. They make you feel good. You may also feel like you’re never tan enough no matter how tan you get. This may be a sign of an obsessive-compulsive or body dysmorphic disorder.

Gambling
Of the behavioral addictions, gambling is the one most closely related to drug and alcohol addiction. Gambling lights up the same areas in the brain as drug addictions. You may bet on an office pool, gamble online or gamble more seriously at slot machines, poker tables, or off track betting. If you’re not lucky, betting can wreak havoc on your finances, job and family life.

Work
As I sit here writing this on a Saturday morning, it’s possible that I am addicted to work. While most of the work world looks forward to weekends, those who have an addiction may find themselves working nights and weekends. While we joke about being a “workaholic,” it can jeopardize a person’s health and relationships.

Videos games
Can’t put down the video game console? Do you think about playing games while doing other activities? Research shows that boys and men most commonly have a video game addiction. If you’re shirking responsibilities, work or social activities to play video games, you may be addicted. With games becoming more realistic and challenging, it’s even harder to separate fantasy from reality.

Food
Food can become a problem if you’re eating to ease emotions, overeating while alone and then feeling guilty after the binge. While food can seem like a drug for people with eating disorders, it’s not considered a true addiction. It’s important to develop healthy eating habits and avoid issues with food.

It is possible to have too much of a good thing. Any activity or habit can become an issue if it begins to control your life. It’s important to find balance in everything you do. If you discover that you’re hooked on a behavior and it’s having negative consequences, it may be time to make a change!

12 Tips for Managing Holiday Stress

christmas-lights-1435376-mIt’s time we all admitted it: The holidays are stressful. The average American spends about 42 hours on holiday activities. Money concerns and hectic schedules are typically the top sources of stress.

This time of year is truly magical. From Thanksgiving to Christmas and New Year’s, we spend time with family and friends, making delicious treats, listening to seasonal music and enjoying the spirit of the holidays.

Then, why does it make us so crazy? For most of us, we want the holidays to be perfect. We want to impress our families or make magical memories for our kids. Yet, if we turn into a screaming shrew while trying to decorate the tree and fix holiday dishes, it definitely takes some of the joy out of the holidays.

Here are 12 tips to help you manage your stress and create a truly enjoyable holiday season:

Lower your expectations
For those of us who tend to be perfectionists, we are stressed all year round. We set expectations for ourselves – and those around us – that are so high that it’s unrealistic they will be met. Then, we feel like we failed and become more anxious and stressed. The holidays only amplify these feelings.

What can you do? Lower your expectations and focus on what is realistic. Think about what really matters and simplify your to-do list. You will be able to accomplish what you want without sacrificing your sanity.

Take a breath and “let it go”
When you feel your mind is racing and things are out of control, take a deep breath and let it go. Focus on your breathing. Stop what you’re doing, close your eyes and concentrate on breathing in and out until you feel more relaxed. Let go of the things you cannot control and ask yourself if the things you’re stressing about really matter in the grand scheme of life. Most likely, they probably don’t.

Delegate part of your list
Another way to lower your stress level is to delegate part of your to-do list. You don’t have to do everything by yourself. You can delegate your house cleaning to a cleaning service. You can give everyone in your family a holiday job, such as putting lights on the house, wrapping presents or addressing holiday cards.

Get a handle on your finances
One of the most stressful parts of the holidays can be worrying about money. Your job situation may have changed and money may be tighter than normal. Doing everything you want during the holidays can put a strain on your budget. Set a shopping budget – know who you’re buying for and how much you want to spend on each person. Also, plan for extra groceries, decorations and travel expenses. If your budget is really tight, consider making homemade gifts. When you receive a handcrafted gift, you know it comes from the heart and it often means more.

Learn to say no
If you’re feeling overwhelmed, it may be time to exercise your right to say no. People will understand if you can’t participate in every project and activity. Saying yes when you should say no can leave you feeling resentful and anxious.

Switch up your traditions
You used to take the kids caroling and then watch old holiday movies. Now, no one wants to do it with you. You may need to make adjustments to your holiday traditions as time goes by. It’s not about the event itself, but spending time with your family and making new memories. Drop the stressful family traditions and do something simple, like having hot chocolate and waffles while you decorate the tree.

Practice peacemaking
Family misunderstandings and conflicts are only magnified during the holidays. Think of some ways you can head off any bad feelings or disagreements before they go too far. If you have house guests, consider planning time for you or them to be out of the house for a few hours. You can go to yoga class or take a walk around the neighborhood. Your guests might be able to visit other relatives or go see a movie.

Give yourself a break
It’s important to take time for yourself during the holidays. Block out a couple of hours every few days to rest or do something you enjoy. Treat yourself to a massage or manicure. Take a bubble bath with scented candles or read a book.

Eat well
Food is a big part of the holiday season. Make sure you are eating foods that help decrease stress. You can improve your mood and energy level with whole grains, fruits, vegetables, dark leafy greens, beans, fish and nuts.

Enjoy your exercise
Find a physical activity that will help you clear your mind and energize your body, even if it’s just for 10 minutes. Dance around the living room to holiday music with your kids, play sports-related video games or do kickboxing. Go outside for a walk and soak up the sunshine.

Call a friend
If you’re feeling stressed out, call a friend to vent. Your friends can help you feel better and relate to your problems. Just be sure to return the favor and listen to their holiday woes.

Go to bed
While you may feel like you need to deprive yourself of sleep to get more done, lack of sleep can turn into a vicious cycle. The less you sleep, the more tired, out of sorts and overwhelmed you feel. Try to get 7 to 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep every night. If you don’t get things done, it can wait until tomorrow or not get done at all. You may need to adjust your expectations so that you can stay rested and healthy.

By planning ahead and preparing for the chaos of the holidays, you can keep your stress under control. Make it a point to manage your stress and enjoy the holiday season.

12 Ways to Stop Stressing Right Now

I was riding in the car with my son, and the country song “I’m in a Hurry” by Alabama came on the radio. He said, “Mom, that sounds like you.” The opening lyrics are:

I’m in a hurry to get things done
Oh I rush and rush until life’s no fun
All I really gotta do is live and die
But I’m in a hurry and don’t know why.

Do you feel like you’re in a constant state of stress? Rushing here and there trying to accomplish everything, until you realize you aren’t having any fun? I definitely have days like that.

If you’re stressed out and feeling like your life is out of balance, here are 12 ways to stop stress in its tracks:

Admit you’re stressed
When my son said that song sounded like me, I looked at my knuckles clenched on the steering wheel, hunched back and overall impatience. I realized I was stressed about fitting in everything I needed to do that day. Was it that important? Did I need rush until I was stressed out? Recognizing that you’re anxious, grumpy and just plain tired, you can make a determined effort to do something about it.

Take a deep breath
While you may not have time to take a yoga class or find a quiet place to practice relaxation techniques, you can take a few moments to just breathe. Breathe in deeply through your nose and then slowly let it out. Repeat a few times and think about letting the stress of the moment go. You will feel better!

Go outside
Taking in nature can reduce stress and improve your health. Go outside and take a walk or even sit in a peaceful place and enjoy the soothing sounds of nature. Spending time outdoors can put things in perspective and inspire a more positive outlook.

Laugh or smile like you mean it
A genuine smile can reduce your body’s stress responses, even if you’re not necessarily feeling it on the inside. Smiling can also lower your heart rate. Humor can help you relax. Read the comics in the newspaper, watch a comedy show or hang out with funny friends. Find a reason to have a little fun each day.

Do something for you
I spend all my time worrying about my kids, husband, work and all the things that need to be done to keep everything running smoothly. Take a few minutes to do something you enjoy – and that’s just for you.

Chew bubble gum
Studies show that chewing gum lowers anxiety and eases stress. It may be that the rhythmic act of chewing improves blood to your brain. Or, it may just be that the smell or taste help relax you.

Try aromatherapy
Certain scents can sooth. Lavender is a common scent thought to help ease stress. I personally like the smell of honeysuckle. It takes me back to summer nights when I was young, sleeping with the windows open and smelling honeysuckle. Other scents may trigger positive or special memories for you.

Get moving
Exercise improves mood, releases stress and can make you feel better about yourself. Just 30 minutes of physical activity three times a week can positively impact your mood and your health. Exercise can also be meditative, allowing you to clear your mind and let go of whatever is stressing you out.

Make time for friends and family
Talking to close friends and family members can help when you’re feeling overwhelmed. Telling someone your troubles and getting their input can put things into perspective. It helps to share your thoughts and be supported and heard.

Hug a pet
Spending time with animals can also alleviate stress. You can tell them your troubles, worries and fears, and they won’t judge you or give you unwanted advice. Animals can help your brain produce less of the stress hormone cortisol and more serotonin, which helps you feel more relaxed.

Rock it out
Music can help you let go of stress or put your worries aside for a while. The type of music is up to you. Some people enjoy classical music while others want to jam out to some old time rock and roll. It’s about being in the moment and letting yourself get into the music.

Read a book
I love to get lost in a great novel. I can shut down my brain and let go of distractions. I enjoy becoming caught up in the story. It’s a great way to relax, especially right before you go to bed.

Once you learn to recognize that you’re stressed out, you have the power to let the worry and anxiety go and find a more balanced, low-stress life.