Tag Archives: positive thinking

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 beat stress for better health

Stress juggling too many responsibilitiesWe all deal with stress. It can be a juggling act to balance all of our responsibilities. Your boss just dumped a bunch of work on your desk on Friday afternoon. The car battery died. One of the kids is sick. The property taxes are coming due.

Sometimes everything piles up at once, and you feel overloaded. You may not be able to keep all the balls in the air, and it seems like too much to handle. You can’t avoid stress. It’s just part of life. However, you can control how you deal with it.

Stress can cause you to gain weight and can even shorten your lifespan. By learning to manage stress, you can live a much happier, healthier and more productive life.

Here are 6 ways you can make changes in your life now to help you beat stress for better health:

1. Balance your lifestyle
How you live your life affects your stress level. If one aspect of your life is out of balance, it can lead to stress and dissatisfaction – not only in that area of your life but also in other areas. For instance, if your work schedule has become extremely hectic, it will impact your personal life. Your spouse may wish you could spend more time together. You may miss your kids’ sports or school activities due to work.

Here are some areas to work on to help you find more balance and reduce stress:

Look at your schedule. It’s important to create a balance between your personal needs, work, and your family and friends. Our relationships with others are an integral part of our happiness. Start by looking at your commitments. Maybe you need to adjust how and where you spend your time. Make more time for you. Or plan more activities with your family or friends. There may be things you don’t need to do at all. Sometimes just saying no when you’re feeling overwhelmed can be the greatest stress reliever.

Get enough sleep. Your body uses sleep to rest and re-cooperate from the stresses of the day. Your body and mind need sleep for many other healthy reasons, too.

Eat healthier. By eating healthier you have more energy, may lose weight or maintain your weight, and will feel better about yourself. Eating a balanced diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables, lean meats and protein can also help boost your immunity. Staying healthy is one of the best defenses against stress.

Make the time to exercise. If you can work exercise into your daily routine and make it habit, you will feel healthier and reduce stress. Even moderate exercise, such as walking, can help lower your stress level.

Find a sense of purpose. You may feel stressed if you aren’t doing anything that’s meaningful to you or that you truly enjoy. You may find a sense of purpose through your family, friends, a hobby you love, work or by volunteering. Your purpose should make you happy to get out of bed in the morning and fulfilled at the end of the day.

These are a few of the areas in your life that can get out of balance. It is also important to make sure you are financially and spiritually balanced. You may find it helps to set goals and improve your habits in order achieve more.

2. Get organized
Being surrounded by clutter can also contribute to stress. If you feel you are constantly searching for things or simply feel overwhelmed by all of the “stuff” in your life, then take the initiative to clean up the clutter and reduce your stress.

You can also improve your time management skills. I know I am often guilty of procrastination. I put things off or do unimportant tasks to avoid what I should be doing. The next thing I know, I haven’t gotten anything worthwhile done. By managing your time more effectively, you can prioritize what is urgent and what can wait. You can also get more things done in a shorter amount of time. That leaves more time to do the fun things!

3. Change your mindset
It’s easy to get caught up in negative thinking. Situations that are out of your control or not even your fault suddenly start to cause you unnecessary stress. Negative thoughts can trigger your body’s stress response. Changing your mindset to more positive thinking can help you cope with stress more easily.

4. Learn to relax
When you feel stressed, take time to relax. It may mean simply closing your eyes, breathing deeply and thinking positive thoughts for a few minutes. You can envision yourself in a place that makes you happy and relaxed. Sit outside and soak up the sun for a few minutes. Go for a quick walk and let your mind wander. You can also use different types of relaxation techniques to help you reduce tension.

5. Disconnect
We live in a plugged-in world. While all of our high tech devices – TVs, cell phones, computers, tablets – can help us stay connected and make work and life easier, they keep us connected all the time. Turn off the computer and cell phone and take a break from technology every once in a while. Spend time with family and friends without the distractions. Go outside and do nothing. Enjoy just being.

6. Reach out
If you start to feel too overwhelmed, reach out to friends and family. Simply talking to someone and venting your frustrations can help you feel better. You can talk to people you know from church or a religious leader. You may reach a point when you want to talk to a counselor or therapist. It’s okay to reach out and ask for help when you need it!

You can beat stress and live a more balanced, healthy and fulfilling life. How do you cope with stress?

The secrets to happiness

The Secrets to HappinessUnless you’re Eeyore from Winnie the Pooh, you probably want to be happy. We all strive to be happy but sometimes happiness can seem hard to find. In today’s world, we have never-ending responsibilities and so much stress.

As a society, we have become more materialistic and focused on collecting “things” to make us happy. But as the saying goes, “money can’t buy happiness.” Although, I’ll be the first to admit that I enjoy retail therapy. Buying a new pair of shoes, a fun outfit – or practically anything – certainly does boost my mood.

However, material happiness is usually fleeting. What is the secret to lifelong happiness? What makes us truly happy? Is it something you either have or you don’t have?

Research shows that we all have the potential to be happy. It seems that there are certain characteristics that lead to a sense of well-being. You can create your own happiness by focusing on these traits:

Optimism
Happy people are filled with hope. Optimistic people embrace all of life’s experiences even if that means making mistakes. They don’t feel like mistakes are a personal failure. Rather, when things go wrong or life gives them a setback, optimists see it as a fluke or something out of their control and an opportunity to try a new approach.

Optimists who see the glass as “half-full” also tend to be healthier which can contribute to greater happiness. Check out our blog, The Power of Positive Thinking, to learn more about the health benefits of a positive outlook.

Self esteem
Happy people have learned to like themselves. Studies have shown it’s not about having friends, close family relationships, or material things. If you can accept yourself with all your flaws, you are more likely to find happiness.

I tend to repeat myself over and over when I’m having a conversation to the point that my friends and family will say, “Okay, I’ve got it!” Or, I blurt out things I wish I hadn’t said and then stew about it later. You have to love your physical traits, too. I am so pale that when I visit someone in the hospital, nurses ask me if I need to sit down. I am learning to accept these things I don’t like about myself, even find humor in them,  and then let them go.

Proactivity
Happy people search out new experiences that will make them happy. They don’t wait around to find joy in life. They have a curious nature and make their own happiness. Think of all the things you’ve discovered that you like or enjoy doing just by trying them, especially when you were younger. As we get older we get more cynical about new experiences. Take a chance and try something new!

A sense of control
People who believe they are in control of their own destiny tend to be more happy. Feeling like you are in charge of how you live your life leads to a greater sense of well-being. Of course, there are things that are out of your control. You can’t control the weather, traffic or other people who annoy you. However, you can control what you wear, how you drive and how you react to annoying people. The more you make your own decisions and manage your own time, the happier you will be.

Extroversion
Outgoing people are happy people and have a greater satisfaction in life. Being extroverted also ties into being self assured. If you are confident and like who you are, you can walk into a room of strangers and start up a conversation. Extroverts also tend to be more content and have a larger circle of friends.

I am more introverted my nature and spend a lot of time “in my own head.” I have had to work at being more outgoing and trying new experiences. I do feel it has built my confidence and made me a happier person.

Love
Having a sense of compassion for others and knowing you are loved is one of the biggest predictors of happiness. We need relationships – whether they are romantic love, the bond we have with our children, or the acceptance of friends. Spending time with others strengthens these connections and contributes to our sense of happiness.

Friendship
Our friends help us accept ourselves for who we really are. When they accept us, flaws and all, we are better able to be more comfortable in own skin. We find happiness from spending time with other people, and from supporting others when they need us. Read more about the power of friendships in our blog, 7 Reasons We Need Friends.

A contented feeling
A feeling of security or contentedness comes from feeling good about where you are in life. It’s recognizing that you can be happy without being rich, having the biggest house on the block or being the most popular. Happy people are simply content with their current situation. It’s okay to have goals, wishes and dreams but your happiness doesn’t have to hinge on them. You can be happy right now.

Spirtuality
People who are spiritual tend to have greater life satisfaction. Life may have a bigger meaning beyond our knowing, so it’s not worth worrying so much about the little things. Religion can have a positive affect on both your mental and physical health. Studies show that those who pray or attend religious services regularly are less likely to have hypertension, anxiety disorders or depression.

Altruism
Giving without expecting anything in return is one of the truest ways to find happiness. Because even though your reasons for giving are altruistic, you can get so much in return. Having a positive impact on someone else’s life can help you feel better about what is going on in your own life. For more details about the rewards of giving, read our blog 5 Surprising Benefits of Giving Back.

A purpose
Happy people enjoy what they do. They don’t do it for money or glory. They do it because they love it. Your purpose should be your passion. It may be the work you do for a living. It could be your purpose is being the best mother and wife. You may enjoy teaching kids or mentoring others. Your purpose makes you excited to get out of bed every morning. Simply put, it makes you happy.

We all have the potential to be happy. By focusing on these traits and characteristics you can create your own happiness. What makes you happy?

Express your anger for better health

Express your angerAnger is often considered a negative emotion. We may suppress our anger because we think that is how we are supposed to behave. When you bottle up your anger, you are most likely sacrificing your own needs to please others.

Yet, anger is an emotion that allows us to protect ourselves. When expressed positively, anger helps us stand up for ourselves or others who we think are being mistreated. Anger encourages us to speak up when something is bothering us. It’s also a great motivator for change. If we feel strongly enough about something, we will take the steps to make things better.

Here are some ways to help you appropriately manage your anger so you can find a constructive solution to a situation:

Breathe deeply
Take a few deep breathes to give yourself time to think before you act. Breathing also helps you relax and ease tension you may be holding in as you deal with being angry.

Acknowledge your anger
Being angry may make you uncomfortable. Many of us are taught that anger is a bad emotion. You may not even recognize when you’re angry. Trying to ignore or suppress your anger can make it explode out of you with hurtful words or rash actions. By realizing you are angry, you can accept it and constructively deal with it.

Change your environment
If possible, remove yourself from the situation for a few minutes. Go take a quick walk and get some fresh air. If you’re stuck somewhere you can’t leave, such as your car or a meeting, use relaxation techniques by visualizing a place that makes you happy.

Express yourself
Think before you speak and then say what you’re thinking calmly and rationally. You can state why you are angry in a nonthreatening and diplomatic way. Explain why you’re upset and present a solution that would help you feel better about the situation.

For instance, you and a friend may take turns carpooling your kids to and from school. But lately, you’ve been doing the majority of the driving. Calmly let your friend know that you feel like you’re doing more than your share. Explain what you wish would happen to rectify the situation. Odds are your friend didn’t realize the driving had become unbalanced and will happily make a change to remedy it.

Be assertive
You can be assertive in stating you are angry without sounding aggressive. Being assertive means that you stand up for yourself, but do it in a constructive way. You may want to practice what you will say in your head until you feel it will get your point across and help improve the situation.

Be positive
Rather than focus on the negative look at the positive side of things. For instance, you are fed up with your kids leaving a trail of stuff all through the house. Rather than saying, “Why can’t you put anything away? Do I have to do everything around here?” Phrase it more positively, “It would really help me out if you would pick up your things and put them where they belong.” In my experience, they will still leave things everywhere, but over time you will see results and be less stressed.

Let it go
Once you have expressed your feelings and vented your anger, let it go. It may still bother you. It may not feel quite resolved. But holding on to anger and negative feelings is not good for your overall health and well-being.

By knowing how to effectively releasing your anger, you can also help improve your health. Here’s how expressing your anger is good for your mind and body:

Improve your heart health
A study has shown that those who experience more anger and bottle up their angry feelings are at an increased risk of high blood pressure, heart attacks and other coronary issues. Learning to control and express your anger can improve your heart health.

Settle your stomach
People often feel pain in their intestines or “guts” when they get angry. That’s because symptoms of anger in your physical health usually strike in your gastrointestinal (GI) tract first.  A chemical imbalance can lead to peptic ulcers, diarrhea, acid reflux, cramping and constipation.

Boost your immune system
Your GI tract also plays a major part in your immune system. When your GI system gets out of whack, it opens you up to more frequent infections and a lowered immunity to other disorders and illnesses. It also makes it harder to heal from minor wounds.

Lose weight
Bottling up or suppressing your anger may lead you to use food as a source of comfort. In addition, when you get angry, the body releases a stress hormone called cortisol. Higher cortisol levels tend to create fat deposits in the stomach area. By managing your anger, you can more effectively maintain or even lose weight.

Feel more relaxed
By expressing your anger and letting it go, you also reduce your stress levels. You will feel more confident and relaxed in your relationships as well.

Anger can be a positive emotion when used effectively. When you express your anger calmly and constructively, you can help improve your relationships, your mood and your health.

Easy relaxation techniques to reduce stress

1121962_meditationThe kitchen faucet is leaking. One of my kids can’t find her P.E. clothes and the school bus is coming. I need to deposit checks, pick up the finished taxes, drop off the dehumidifier to be fixed, and get my gray roots touched up sometime. Oh, and get a little work done, too.

This is just a sample list of the types of things we all deal with on daily basis. Some stress is good for us. It helps us stay motivated to get things done, and it keeps our minds focused and active. On the other hand, too much stress can be harmful to our physical and mental health.

How can you find the right balance between a little bit of good stress and too much stress? If your hectic lifestyle is getting to you, here are a few relaxation techniques that can bring you back into balance – quickly and easily:

Meditate
When you think of meditation, you may picture twisting your legs into the lotus position, holding your hands up and repeating, “Ohmmm.” However, any repetitive action can act as meditation and help you relax. For instance, walking, swimming, painting and crocheting can help you focus on the moment and find calmness.

The idea is to quiet your mind and let your thoughts slow down. If you start feeling overwhelmed, you can also find a quiet, comfortable place to sit. You can focus on an external point, such as a photo or an object, or you can focus internally on an imaginary scene or a calming phrase. Concentrate on your point of focus and push out all the thoughts that are causing stress. You may get distracted and start stressing again. Simply push it aside and go back to your point of focus until you feel more relaxed.

When you meditate, you are giving your mind a rest from thinking and that constant stream of chatter  running through your head. You can let the negative thoughts go and move on.

Visualize yourself relaxed
This technique is called guided imagery or visualization. You focus on pleasant images to replace your negative thoughts or feelings so that you can relax. I live in landlocked southern Illinois, but I love to go to the beach. I like to picture myself sitting in my beach chair, the waves lapping at my toes, a warm wind ruffling my hair, and the sound of waves crashing rhythmically on the shore. Ah, I feel better already!

Breathe deeply
Deep breathing, also known as diaphragmatic breathing, can help you reverse stress by calming your breathing. To practice deep breathing, follow these steps:

  • Inhale slowly and deeply through your nose, pushing your abdomen out as far as possible
  • Let your shoulders and neck muscles relax
  • Begin to exhale slowly and comfortably
  • Focus on feeling relaxed and calm
  • Repeat bullets 1 through 4 up to 5 times

Relax your muscles
When you are feeling stressed, you may find your body becomes more tense. I find that I tense up my neck, shoulders and jaw which can lead to a tension headache. With practice, you can learn progressive muscle relaxation to relax your muscles when you find yourself tensing up. Find a place where you can sit comfortable or even lie down. You may want to start with a few minutes of deep breathing to help you begin to relax.

Then, focus your attention on your right foot. Slowly tighten up the muscles in your right foot squeezing as tightly as you can. Hold it for a count of 10. Relax your foot and feel the tension flowing away as you let your foot go limp. After a moment, focus on your left foot and follow the same process. You can move slowly up your entire body, contracting and relaxing muscles as you go.

It takes some practice but feels great when you get the hang of it. I also use the technique to quickly release the tension I may be holding in a specific area, such as my neck, jaw, shoulders or back.

Think positively
If you find yourself stressed out about a situation and focusing on the possible negative outcomes, take a mental step back. Engage your mind in positive thinking. It can be very powerful! Start by envisioning something that triggers positive feelings in you. You can envision your spouse, your child (or children), a favorite vacation spot or your pet.

Thinking about these things that make you happy will help you slow your breathing, relax and put a smile on your face. With these feelings of relaxation and peace, you will be able to consider the stressful situation from a new perspective. You will most likely find it less overwhelming and more manageable.

Share some love
One of the quickest ways to feel more calm and relaxed is to cuddle with a loved one. Hug your spouse or partner for no reason. Snuggle up with a child and let the child take the conversation where ever it will go. Or, spend time with your pet. Playing fetch with your dog or petting your cat can provide instant relaxation. A side benefit of spending time with those you love is that you also recognize and appreciate the good things in your life.

Take a musical trip
Music can calm your heartbeat and soothe your soul. You may like to have classical, jazz or opera playing softly in the background to help reduce your stress. Or, you may like to crank up some pop or rock and roll to get out your frustrations and dance to the beat. Turn up the radio in your car and sing along. You may get some funny looks from other drivers, but you will most likely feel more relaxed. No matter how you like your music, it can take your mind off your worries so that you can decompress and enjoy the moment.

Drink a cup of tea
I drink a giant cup of coffee to help me get going in the morning. However, coffee can raise the levels of the stress hormone cortisol. I switch to drinking water after my morning coffee, but I also like to have a cup of hot tea in the afternoon or evening. Green tea offers many health benefits, including fight cancer and heart disease, lowering cholesterol, burning fat for weight loss, preventing diabetes and stroke, and staving off dementia. Chamomile tea is great for calming the mind and reducing stress. Some research has shown that black tea may help lower levels of cortisol when you drink it on a regular basis.

The next time you feel stressed, try a few of these techniques and see what works for you. If you practice them regularly, you will be able to confront that stressed out feeling immediately. You can take control of stress instead of letting it control you.

Do you have techniques you use to help reduce your stress level? Tell us about them!

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?