Tag Archives: manage stress

Are Your Kids Stressed Out?

KidsHaveStressTooPicIf you’re like most parents, your list of errands and things to do never ends. You run from one activity or event to the next. You’re probably stressed out at times.

Guess what? Your kids may be stressed out, too. The start of school – after a summer of being on vacation – can be a particularly stressful time.

How do you know if your kids are stressed?
A recent survey by the American Psychological Association found that 20% of children have ongoing stress.

Here are 4 questions to ask yourself to determine if your child is stressed:

  1. Does your child have more meltdowns than usual?
  2. Do you notice more fatigue, irritability, headaches or stomachaches?
  3. Is your child sleeping poorly or having more nightmares?
  4. Does your child seem angry?

What can you do to help your child cope with stress? Here are 8 stress relievers you can teach your kids:

Think positive
It’s easy to get stuck in a rut of negative thinking. You may also be teaching your kids to think in the negative instead of the positive. Rather than saying, “I hope I don’t fail the test,” put a positive spin on it and say, “I have studied, and I will pass the test.”

Show by example
Kids are perceptive. They watch you and pay attention to what you’re doing. If you show them that you can manage stress in productive way, they will learn that stress is something they can deal with. Make sure they see you finding effective methods of handling stress in your life.

De-stress early
Most people wait until they’re stressed out to use stress-busting techniques. You can teach your kids to know the signs early or take a preventative approach to dealing with stress. For instance, you can use healthy eating, exercising, meditating or other techniques to help  cope with stress.

Unplug
While we rely on technology in many aspects of our lives, it can also add to our stress levels. Try a self-imposed technology cut-off time. Limit screen time for kids, including TV, movies, mobile phones, tablets and social media. You and your kids may be surprised by the things you can find to do when you’re unplugged.

Eat together
At least once a day, make it a point to eat a meat together. It can be breakfast if everyone is up and about at the same time. Or plan on sitting down to eat dinner in the evening as a family. You can learn quite a bit about what’s going on in your kids’ lives if you sit down regularly for a meal and conversation.

Spend time with friends
As adults we spend time with our friends to unwind, complain about our boss or just goof off. Your kids should also build healthy friendships that allow them to be themselves and blow off steam. They can hang out at the park, have sleep overs or just play in the yard.

Take up a sport
Sports are a great way to relieve stress. Playing a team sport can also help your kids build relationships, exercise and have fun.

Enjoy creative activities
Art, music or other creative tasks can help alleviate stress. Even reading a book can be a stress buster.

Relationships can help kids build resilience. Spending time with parents or grandparents playing board games, cooking or tossing a frisbee can help kids handle stress. And it creates happy memories for everyone!

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6 Ways to Improve Your Brain Health

crossword_background_001I worry about my brain. As the prevalence of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia increases, I want to do more to protect my memory and cognitive function.

While we wait for a cure for Alzheimer’s or better treatments for dementia, what can you do to help prevent the diseases? You can lead a more brain-healthy lifestyle that can slow down the process of deterioration. No matter what your age, you can take steps now to keep your brain healthy.

Here are 6 ways to start improving your brain health today:

Stay active
Physical activity is a valuable part of living a more balanced life and can also lower the risk of cognitive decline. According to the Alzheimer’s Research & Prevention Foundation, physical exercise reduces your risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease by 50%.

In addition to protecting against Alzheimer’s and dementia, creating a regular exercise routine can also boost your mood, increase energy levels and reduce stress.

Read more about the benefits of exercise.

Eat a healthy diet
Your brain needs a nutritious diet to perform at its best. Make sure you are eating plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, lean protein and healthy fats. Focus on creating good eating habits that reduce inflammation and provide a steady supply of fuel.

Here are more diet tips to keep your brain healthy and protected:

  • Follow a Mediterranean diet – This approach to healthy eating includes a balanced diet rich in fish, whole grains, nuts, olive oil and fresh produce.
  • Avoid trans fats and saturated fats – You should reduce your intake of full-fat dairy products, red meat, fried foods, fast food and processed foods.
  • Eat heart-healthy options – If you’re following a diet plan that’s good for your heart, it’s also going to be good for your brain. When you reduce your risk of heart disease, you’re also helping protect your brain.
  • Add omega-3 fats – Studies show that omega-3 fatty acids may help prevent Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. Eat cold-water fish, such as salmon, tuna, trout, mackerel and sardines.

Keep mentally active
When you continue to learn new things and challenge your brain throughout life, you are less likely to develop Alzheimer’s or dementia. It’s a good idea to follow the “use it or lose it” approach. Activities that involve multiple tasks or include different types of stimulation, such as communicating, interacting and organization, will offer the greatest benefits and protection.

Here are more ways to exercise your brain.

Have a social life
We are social creatures. Relationships are important to our health. If you are isolated, you’re not thriving and neither is your brain. Studies show that the more connected we are and the more relationships we have, we test better for memory and cognition.

Do you have trouble making friends? Here are a few ways to build a strong support system and develop new relationships.

  • Volunteer – There are so many great causes you can support and giving back is good for your health!
  • Make weekly plans with friends – Take the initiative and get together with friends. You can go to the movies, visit the park, creating a walking group, or check out local museums.
  • Take a class – Join a gym or sign up for classes at a local college. It’s a great way to meet new people and stimulate your brain.
  • Get to know your neighbors – You may have people nearby who have similar interests to you. Make it a point to know your neighbors.

Manage your stress
Chronic stress takes a toll on the body as well as on your brain. Stress can lead to shrinkage in key memory areas of the brain, hamper nerve cell growth and increase the risk of Alzheimer’s and dementia.

There are many things you can do to prevent stress and keep your stress levels in check. Even the foods you eat can help you control stress.

Get plenty of sleep
Your brain needs to rest. A good night’s sleep helps your brain function at maximum capacity. When you don’t get enough sleep, you are cranky and tired. Lack of sleep also impairs your ability to think, solve problems and store or recall information. Deep, REM state sleep is important for memory formation and retention. Most adults need at least 8 hours of sleep per night. If you’re getting less sleep than that, your health, productivity and creativity can suffer.

To protect your brain health, embrace a balanced lifestyle that will improve your overall health. A balanced life includes exercising, eating a nutritious diet, establishing good relationships, reducing stress, and getting plenty of sleep.

9 Intriguing Things to Know About Stress

Intriguing Things to Know About StressWe have written about holiday stress, summer stress, vacation stress and even tax time stress. There are foods that can help reduce stress as well as relaxation techniques.

We know that stress is bad for our health and can interfere with finding balance in our lives. At this point, you may feel like you know everything there is to know about stress.

Here are 9 interesting and intriguing things you may not – but should – know about stress:

Big or small – your body feels stress
Your body doesn’t know the difference between a big stress and a little stress. Whether you were just in a car accident or if you’re panicking over get a report finished on time, your body reacts in the same predictable ways. When you are stressed, your system is cascaded with 1,400 biochemical events in your body. Left unchecked, this stress reaction can cause damage over time.

Contributes to top-most causes of death
Chronic stress is interconnected with some of the major killers: accidents, cancer, heart disease, suicide, lung disorders and cirrhosis of the liver. Stress is often called the “silent killer” because we spend so much time in a state of stress that we may not even realize how seriously it affects us.

Stress can make you do stupid things
Researchers have found that stress causes something called “cortical inhibition.” This reaction helps explain why sometimes smart people do dumb things. When stress interferes with your brain, you aren’t able to function and think like normal.

Your pupils dilate when you’re stressed
When you’re in a stressful situation, your pupils will dilate. It’s your body’s way of trying to gather and process more information about what is happening.

Stress can make you lose your hair
While there’s no proof that stress can make your hair turn gray, it may contribute to hair loss. Studies have shown that you may experience hair loss as much as three months after a stressful event occurs.

Being stressed affects your blood
Stress can lead to physical problems like high blood pressure, irregular heart beat, chest pain and heart disease. Being stressed can also thicken your blood. Your body is naturally preparing for an injury and makes your blood more sticky. Your capillaries also constrict so that you won’t bleed as much if you have a wound.

Stress makes you prematurely age
How much stress you experience and how well you handle it can be a factor in the aging process. Stress speeds up the wear and tear on your body, making you look older and feel more run down than your actual age.

Simple things can help control stress
Little things like laughing, eating dark chocolate and listening to music can help you relieve stress. Chewing gum may ease stress as well. Of course, playing with a pet, hugging a child or spending time with friends and loved ones are also good stress relievers. Getting enough sleep can help you feel more rejuvenated and combat one of the side effects of stress – insomnia. Exercise is a natural way to alleviate stress, too.

Live in the moment
To a large extent, stress is all about mind over matter. A positive attitude goes a long way toward combating stress. Stress is often brought on by over thinking and worrying about things that are beyond your control. If you can spend more time living in the moment – rather than obsessing about the past or what might happen in the future – you can instantly create a more relaxing state of mind.

How do you cope with stress? What are your tips for avoiding it or changing your reaction to it?

The power of positive thinking

positive thinkingYou’ve heard the sayings. Look on the bright side. Every cloud has a silver lining. The glass is half full. Positive thinking can be more powerful than you may realize. People who have an optimistic view of life tend to be healthier and have a greater overall well-being.

I know, one of your overly perky friends probably just popped into your head. We aren’t talking about fooling yourself into thinking everything is fine when it’s not. Or, having blind enthusiasm in any situation. Positive thinking means having the resources and the ability to stay positive even when things are hectic and aren’t going your way.

If you are serious about creating a more balanced life and improving your physical, mental and emotional health, now is the time to embrace positive thinking.

Here are some of the powerful benefits of positive thinking:

It’s good for your health
Being positive may help you live longer. Positive thinking can reduce your heart rate, decrease your risk of cardiovascular disease and lower your chances of having diabetes or cancer. In addition, pessimistic thinking is one of the factors in depression. Changing the way you think can improve your mood and help combat depression.

Boosts your immunity
Positive thinking can help you fight off common colds and other illnesses. Negative thinking may even reduce the effectiveness of your flu vaccine. People with positive attitudes also recover faster from surgery and cope better with serious diseases.

Helps you manage stress
When faced with stress, a positive thinker will cope with hardships better than a negative thinker. For instance, you just found out that you didn’t get the job or promotion you wanted. Rather than being frustrated and dwelling on the negative or things you cannot change, a positive thinker will device a plan of action to overcome the obstacle or will think of new opportunities to pursue.

Opens your mind
By practice positive thinking, you will start to see things in a different way. You are able to more easily shift your mindset and your focus to see the good and the bad side of a situation. If you are used to seeing the negative in any situation, you may miss seeing the good side no matter how obvious it might be. Positive thinking also helps you look for solutions rather than wasting energy on negative emotions.

Connects you with others
Who would you rather be around? The upbeat person who sees the good in a situation and is enthusiastic about whatever comes his or her way, or the Debbie Downer who complains about everything and doesn’t see the good in anything or anyone. People like to spend time with people who are genuinely happy and make others feel good, too. So, be positive and make friends!

Now you know that positive thinking can be beneficial to you in many ways. How do you know if you’re being negative? What can you do to change negative thinking into positive thinking? First, you need to recognize when negative thoughts are creeping in. Then, learn how to focus your thoughts to be more positive and optimistic.

How to recognize negative thinking:

Do you filter?
Are you magnifying the negative aspects of a situation and filtering out all of the positive? For instance, someone says, “You look great today.” Do you accept the compliment at face value, or do you analyze the remark negatively and think, “Does that mean I don’t look good most days?”

Do you personalize?
When something bad happens, do you automatically blame yourself? Let’s say you had plans to go out with friends and they cancelled. You then assume they changed their plans because they didn’t want to be around you.

Do you think the worst?
Do you automatically think the worst will happen? For example, you get in your car to go to work and your radio isn’t working. Do you assume that this is just going to be a bad day and everything will be a disaster?

Do you only see extremes?
Do you think of things as good or bad, and only black or white? You may think you have to be perfect, or you have failed. If you burn a batch of cookies, do you decide you are a terrible cook?

How can you overcome these types of negative thinking? With practice and a few tips, you can create a new habit of thinking positive.

Learn to focus on the positive:

Identify your problem areas
You may have certain areas of your life where you automatically go into negative mode. You may be feeling down about your job. You and your spouse may be in a rut of arguing and bickering. Start small by focusing on one area and approach it with positive thoughts.

Catch yourself
When you start to be a Negative Nelly, catch yourself and find a way to put a positive spin on the situation and your thoughts.

Get healthy
Practicing a healthy lifestyle can help you have a more positive outlook. Try to exercise at least three times a week. Fuel your mind and body with healthy foods to help boost your mood.

Hang out with positive people
Make sure the people you are around have a positive attitude. If you have a negative friend, he or she may want to bring your mood down with them. Supportive people with give you helpful advice and feedback.

Smile!
Find reasons to smile or laugh, even when you’re having a difficult time. Try to find humor in a situation. Or just smile for no reason. You will be surprised how much better it will make you feel. And you might get a few smiles back!

I truly believe that being positive is rewarding in so many ways. I also think that sometimes things happen for a reason. What seems like a negative situation at the time can turn out to be a blessing in disguise. Do you have any stories about the power of positive thinking?

14 secrets to living longer

living longerMy husband and I have very different views on aging. He wants to live as long as possible – on the condition that he is in good health. He has made it clear to me that if he were on life support and there was no chance of regaining quality of life, he wants me to pull the plug.

I, on the other hand, want to live forever. Since that’s not possible, I at least want to live to 100. I have told him he is – under no circumstances – to pull the plug. I could be one of those miraculous survivors who beat the odds.

I know this is a rather morbid subject, but if you are like me and want to live your longest life, you want to know what you can do to make it to 100. After reviewing studies, research and even tips from centenarians, here are some secrets to longevity:

Be conscientious
Having a conscientious personality and attributes like attention to detail and persistence may help you live longer. Studies have shown that conscientious people do more things to protect their health  – such as exercise, eat healthy and avoid bad habits – and make choices that lead to stronger relationships and better careers.

Make friends
Be grateful for your friends. As we mentioned in our blog, 7 Reasons We Need Friends, your friends may help you live longer. But, be picky. You want to have friends with good habits, such as exercising and healthy eating. Otherwise, a friend’s bad habits, like smoking or overeating, can rub off on you.

Take naps
This may be one of my favorite secrets on the list. I now have permission to take naps! There’s scientific evidence that napping may help increase longevity. A recent study suggests that by taking naps you are 37% less likely to die from heart disease. So, go take a siesta!

Get married
There is some debate about whether being married will help you live longer, but having a partner in life may have its benefits. With marriage, you have a friend and your own support system. In addition, being married may mean you are more financially stable, which can make you feel more secure and give you more opportunities to do things you enjoy.

Eat a Mediterranean diet
A Mediterranean diet consists mainly of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, olive oil and fish. Studies have shown that this type of diet can help reduce obesity, lower blood sugar, decrease blood pressure, and help lower your chances of heart disease and diabetes.

Lose weight
Belly fat seems to be particularly bad for your health and longevity. So, work on slimming down and deflating the spare tire. The health benefits can include protecting against diabetes, heart disease and other life-shortening conditions. One way to lose weight is to eat less. Stop eating when you’re 80% full. Eat less meat and eat twice as many fruits and vegetables. We know we need to eat better, so add living longer to the reasons you should adopt a healthy diet.

Keep moving
According to studies, regular physical activity reduces the risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, some forms of cancer and depression. Exercise may even help you stay mentally sharp as you age. You should aim for 2.5 hours of moderate exercise per week. You can break that down to 30 minutes, 5 days a week. Even if you can only get in 10 minutes at a time, it all adds up to increase your lifespan. Here are some tips to Get Motivated to Exercise in 2013.

Drink in moderation
Yes, heart disease is less common in people who have a drink or two a day than those who don’t drink at all. However, you need to remember that alcohol is also empty calories that add to that belly bulge. The American Heart Association recommends that if you drink alcohol, the limit should be one drink a day for women and one or two for men. If you don’t drink currently, you shouldn’t start.

Quit smoking
We all know that smoking is bad for your health. Not only is there a greater risk of cancer, you’re also taking years off of your life. So, if you haven’t already, now is the time to quit smoking.

Have faith
Having faith seems to help you live longer. By having strong spiritual beliefs, you are able to better deal with stress and difficult times. It may also offer protection against heart, respiratory and digestive problems. In addition, the strong social network that you create when you worship with others may contribute to overall health.

Manage stress
We always hear that stress is bad for you, but moderate stress can be a good thing. It means you are probably busy, active and involved. Rather than being sedentary and ambivalent, you are persistent and dedicated to getting things done. However, too much stress can be harmful if it causes anxiety, insomnia or digestive issues. Are you too stressed? Read our blog Do You Have Chronic Stress? 6 Major Signs.

Sleep more
As you may have read in our blog, 10 Reasons Get More Sleep, getting plenty of rest can help you fight disease, lose weight, look better and build your brain. Getting enough good quality sleep can even lower the risk of diabetes, heart disease and mood disorders. Sleep will also help you recover from illness faster.

Offer forgiveness
Just let it go. Offering forgiveness has surprising physical health benefits. Forgiveness can help you reduce anxiety, lower blood pressure and help you to breathe more easily. These benefits tend to increase as you get older.

Have a sense of purpose
There is something to doing what you love. We all have days when we need a reason to get out of bed. Having a sense of purpose leads to a higher quality of life. You may love your work and look forward to it every day. You may have hobbies and activities that have meaning for you. You may find that volunteering makes you feel fulfilled. For more benefits of volunteering, see our blog, 5 Surprising Benefits of Giving Back. Basically, doing what you love may contribute to a longer life.

So, now you know what you need to do to live your longest life! Do you know someone who is 100 or older? What are their secrets to longevity?