Tag Archives: relax

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.

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12 Ways to Indulge Yourself on a Budget

Have you been struggling with deadlines or a demanding boss all day? Fighting with the kids or your spouse? Do you just need a break and some self-indulgence?

As I start to see a glimpse of spring and warmer weather, I feel like it’s time to have a little fun. There are many small and unexpected ways to put a little bliss back into your life. Part of finding your balance is also about taking care of yourself.

Here are 12 small ways you can indulge yourself without breaking the bank or feeling guilty:

Go outside
Take a stroll in the woods. Research has found that being out in nature for as little as 5 minutes benefits your mental and physical health. If you can’t get outside, then at least look outside. Even a window view of nature can elevate your mood. Just think about it – it’s unnatural to spend our time in windowless buildings when we used to spend our whole existence outdoors.

Clean out a drawer or closet
To me, cleaning for fun seems to be in opposition with my basic nature of avoiding housework. However, I have to say, there is something relaxing about organizing a part of your life when everything else is feeling chaotic and out of control. So, organize a closet, desk, pantry or junk drawer – and enjoy the feeling of peace.

Play your favorite song
Listening to a favorite song can trigger the release of the feel-good chemical dopamine in the brain. All that matters is that it’s a melody that stirs you. Repetition nurtures the pleasure – so play it again and again!

Have a glass of wine
If you enjoy a glass of good wine or even sipping a cold beer, then indulge your senses with new flavor selections or drink it along with a great meal. You can soak in the pleasure of simply relaxing with your favorite beverage.

Keep a momento on your desk
Do you eat a small snack in the afternoon to boost your energy? Try placing something emotionally important to you on your desk where you work for a mental boost. You may have a souvenir from a special vacation, a favorite photo from your wedding or a keepsake from when your kids were small. Glancing at this momento during the work day is sure to give your spirits a quick lift.

Soak in the tub in the dark
Run a really hot tub full of water, dim the lights, burn a candle and give yourself a full hour to unwind. You can even use some mint or lavender oil to add a lovely scent to the bath. Close your eyes and relax in the warmth.

Pet a dog
It doesn’t even have to be your dog. Pet any dog or cat to enjoy the benefits. Physical contact with animals increases the chemicals in the brain associated with pleasure and decreases those associated with stress.

Eat some chocolate
Few things feel as indulgent as eating dark chocolate. Make sure you eat it slowly and savor the flavors. Make the experience last! Plus, dark chocolate may lower your blood pressure, increase blood flow and improve your “good” cholesterol levels.

Put the kettle on
Even with a coffee shop on every corner, the average American drinks more than 9 gallons of tea a year. Drinking green or black tea can reduce stress hormones over time. And, there’s just something indulgent about sitting down with a warm cup of tea.

Create a soothing scent
People have been using aromatic herbs for centuries to create great smelling scents. Now research shows that aromatherapy may be good for you. Breathing in natural perfumed scents can lift your mood. You can also stop and smell the flowers, literally. You’ll be enjoying the outdoors and taking in nature’s own aromas!

Take a nap
One of my greatest pleasures is to take a short nap during the day. Snuggle up in a comfy spot with pillows and a fluffy blanket. As we’ve mentioned in past blogs, naps are good for your mind and body. They can help improve your concentration and lift your mood. Taking a 10 – 20 minute nap in the afternoon can give you the boost you need to enjoy the day.

Give
Humans are altruistic by nature. When you act generously, you will feel joy. Find a charity or cause to support and make a donation. In addition, volunteering and helping others – without expecting anything in return – is actually good for your health.

Happiness can be elusive at times. You can create your own small pleasures and put some joy back in your life. What are your best tips for rewarding and refreshing yourself without spending a lot of time or money?

 

12 foods that reduce stress

Citrus fruits help alleviate stressWhen I feel stressed, I want to indulge in food choices that are bad for me. I start craving comfort foods like candy bars, potato chips, cookies or even iced coffee.

Those foods we like to grab when we’re having a rough day can actually increase our stress levels. You should avoid too much coffee and other caffeinated drinks. They can cause anxiety and make it harder to concentrate. Salty snacks and sweet treats can be full of simple carbohydrates that will spike your blood sugar, and then cause you to be tired and unmotivated when you come down from the sugar rush.

The good news is there are foods that can help you lower your stress levels. Here are 12 healthy foods that can alleviate tension and are good for you:

Turkey
Turkey contains tryptophan, which is a feel-good amino acid that triggers the production of serotonin and melatonin. These chemicals have a calming effect and can help you feel more relaxed.

Citrus fruit
Oranges, grapefruit and other citrus fruits are rich in vitamin C and can help boost your immune system. The vitamin C also brings down your blood pressure after a stressful situation, helping relieve anxiety.

Nuts and seeds
Nuts are packed with Omega 3 and Omega 6 essential fatty acids and can help reduce stress. Almonds have B and E vitamins, which are good for your immune system. Walnuts and pistachios help lower blood pressure. Sunflower seeds have that feel-good tryptophan.

Salmon
Salmon has Omega 3 essential fatty acids and helps boost your serotonin levels. Salmon and other fish also help keep the stress hormones, cortisol and adrenaline, at a steady level.

Avocados
Avocados sometimes get a bad wrap because they are high in fat. But, it’s a good kind of fat. They also contain potassium, which helps decrease blood pressure and has a relaxing effect.

Spinach
Spinach gives you magnesium – a mineral that helps you feel more calm. Magnesium can also prevent headaches and a feeling of fatigue. Spinach is also a good source of fiber and can boost your energy levels.

Oatmeal
Oats have magnesium, which we know is calming, and potassium to help lower blood pressure. In addition, the complex carbohydrates in oatmeal can help you produce more serotonin.

Sweet potatoes and carrots
These orange, root vegetables can help you boost your serotonin levels with fiber and carbohydrates. They also have beta-carotene and other vitamins that are good for boosting immunity.

Green vegetables
Green veggies, such as broccoli and kale, are great sources of vitamins. These nutrients can help replenish your body in times of stress.

Bananas
Bananas are known for potassium which helps fight fatigue and are good for your blood sugar. Bananas are also a great source of carbs and can help produce serotonin. Choose a banana over other sugary or starchy options.

Whole grains
Brown rice and whole wheat choices are better for you than white rice or bread. Whole grains are full of B vitamins and serotonin, which help you relax without feeling fatigued.

Dark chocolate
If you’re hit with a chocolate craving, opt for a dark chocolate snack. Dark chocolate contains magnesium which helps alleviate tension. It also has theo bromine and can naturally elevate your mood. Just remember to indulge in moderation.

The next time you feel like hitting the vending machine or ordering french fries, consider one of the healthy options above. Not only can you help reduce your stress levels, you will also feel good about making a healthy food choice.

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?

Is laughter the best medicine?

boy laughingKids laugh hundreds of times a day. As adults, we can go all day without laughing or sharing a laugh with someone. Why is that? For one thing, we may feel like we have to take life more seriously. In addition, we have more stress and anxiety. It’s harder to see the humor in things.

Laughter may actually be good for us. It may have physical and mental health benefits. While there may not be definitive research on the healing powers of laughter, it certainly won’t hurt you any!

What happens when you laugh?
When we laugh, we stretch the muscles throughout our face and bodies. I have laughed so hard that my stomach muscles will be sore later. It addition, your pulse goes up as well as your blood pressure, and you breathe faster which sends more oxygen to your tissues. The results of laughing are very similar to exercise. Laughter may even burn calories. What could be better than that?

How does laughing effect your health?
Finding humor in life may raise the level of infection-fighting antibodies in the blood. It may also boost the levels of immune cells. So, laughing may help strengthen your immune system.

Laughter may help lower blood sugar levels – helping reduce the risk of diabetes.

Laughing can help you relax, give you a general sense of well-being and help you sleep better. It may also help those with chronic pain relax and achieve more pain free sleep.

You may have a more open mind when you have a good sense of humor. Laughing may help you improve your creativity and problem-solving skills.

Could laughter be the best medicine?
Scientist are not completely convinced that laughter really has major effects on our minds and bodies. For one thing, it’s really hard to conduct a controlled experiment on laughter. For instance, if research subjects reported that they were in less pain when they were laughing, is it the act of laughing or the distraction in general that brings about the pain relief? So, it becomes hard to measure the true benefits of laughter.

Yet, even if it’s not the laughing that makes you feel better, isn’t it still beneficial to laugh? Laughing means you have a good sense of humor and that means you typically take things less seriously and may better manage stress. You most likely have a positive attitude if you can see the humor in situations. You may have supportive friends and family who help give you reasons to laugh. And as we’ve discussed in previous blogs, reducing stress, having a positive outlook and having good relationships are all vital to good health.

5 ways to increase your laugh-ability:
Want to ramp up your ability to laugh and have more fun? Here are some activities to help you get in more laughs.

Spend time with happy people – If you hang out with fun and playful people, you are bound to have some laughs.

Laugh at your own expense – Share your embarrassing moments with your friends and family. Real life can be the best comedy.

Search out humorous entertainment – Go see funny movies. Read humorous books or watch comedies on TV.

Play games – Playing board games or charades with friends and family will most likely involve friendly bickering, good natured name-calling and quite a few laughs.

Hang out with kids – Spending time with kids brings out the kid in all of us. And, kids can say the darnedest things. They bring spontaneity and humor without even trying.

So, take time to laugh today. You’ll feel better, you may be healthier, and you just might brighten someone else’s day!