Posts Tagged ‘stress’

10 Practical Ways to Handle Stress

July 30, 2017

stressStress is inevitable. It walks in and out of our lives on a regular basis. And it can easily walk all over us unless we take action. Fortunately, there are many things you can do to minimize and cope with stress. Here are 10 ideas for handling stress without causing more strain and hassle.

1. Figure out where the stress is coming from.

Oftentimes, when we’re stressed, it seems like a big mess with stressors appearing from every angle. We start to feel like we’re playing a game of dodge ball, ducking and darting so we don’t get smacked by a barrage of balls. We take a defensive position, and not a good one at that.

Instead of feeling like you’re flailing day to day, identify what you’re actually stressed about. Is it a specific project at work, an upcoming exam, a dispute with your boss, a heap of laundry, a fight with your family?

By getting specific and pinpointing the stressors in your life, you’re one step closer to getting organized and taking action.

2. Consider what you can control—and work on that.

While you can’t control what your boss does, what your in-laws say or the sour state of the economy, you can control how you react, how you accomplish work, how you spend your time and what you spend your money on.

The worst thing for stress is trying to take control over uncontrollable things. Because when you inevitably fail — since it’s beyond your control — you only get more stressed out and feel helpless. So after you’ve thought through what’s stressing you out, identify the stressors that you can control, and determine the best ways to take action.

Take the example of a work project. If the scope is stressing you out, talk it over with your supervisor or break the project down into step-wise tasks and deadlines.

Stress can be paralyzing. Doing what’s within your power moves you forward and is empowering and invigorating.

3. Do what you love.

It’s so much easier to manage pockets of stress when the rest of your life is filled with activities you love. Even if your job is stress central, you can find one hobby or two that enrich your world. What are you passionate about? If you’re not sure, experiment with a variety of activities to find something that’s especially meaningful and fulfilling.

4. Manage your time well.

One of the biggest stressors for many people is lack of time. Their to-do list expands, while time flies. How often have you wished for more hours in the day or heard others lament their lack of time? But you’ve got more time than you think, as Laura Vanderkam writes in her aptly titled book, 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think.

We all have the same 168 hours, and yet there are plenty of people who are dedicated parents and full-time employees and who get at least seven hours of sleep a night and lead fulfilling lives.

Here are Vanderkam’s seven steps to help you check off your to-do list and find time for the things you truly enjoy.

5. Create a toolbox of techniques.

One stress-shrinking strategy won’t work for all your problems. For instance, while deep breathing is helpful when you’re stuck in traffic or hanging at home, it might not rescue you during a business meeting.

Because stress is complex, “What we need is a toolbox that’s full of techniques that we can fit and choose for the stressor in the present moment,” said Richard Blonna, Ed.D, a nationally certified coach and counselor and author of Stress Less, Live More: How Acceptance & Commitment Therapy Can Help You Live a Busy Yet Balanced Life.

Here’s a list of additional techniques to help you build your toolbox.

6. Pick off the negotiables from your plate.

Review your daily and weekly activities to see what you can pick off your plate. As Vanderkam asks in her book: “Do your kids really love their extracurricular activities, or are they doing them to please you? Are you volunteering for too many causes, and so stealing time from the ones where you could make the most impact? Does your whole department really need to meet once per week or have that daily conference call?”

Blonna suggested asking these questions: “Do [my activities] mesh with my goals and values? Am I doing things that give my life meaning? Am I doing the right amount of things?”

Reducing your stack of negotiable tasks can greatly reduce your stress.

7. Are you leaving yourself extra vulnerable to stress?

Whether you perceive something as a stressor depends in part on your current state of mind and body. That is, as Blonna said, ““Each transaction we’re involved in takes place in a very specific context that’s affected by our health, sleep, psychoactive substances, whether we’ve had breakfast [that day] and [whether we’re] physically fit.”

So if you’re not getting sufficient sleep or physical activity during the week, you may be leaving yourself extra susceptible to stress. When you’re sleep-deprived, sedentary and filled to the brim with coffee, even the smallest stressors can have a huge impact.

8. Preserve good boundaries.

If you’re a people-pleaser like me, saying no feels like you’re abandoning someone, have become a terrible person or are throwing all civility out the window. But of course that couldn’t be further from the truth. Plus, those few seconds of discomfort are well worth avoiding the stress of taking on an extra activity or doing something that doesn’t contribute value to your life.

One thing I’ve noticed about productive, happy people is that they’re very protective of their time and having their boundaries crossed. But not to worry: Building boundaries is a skill you can learn. Here are some tips to help. And if you tend toward people-pleasing, these tips can help, too.

9. Realize there’s a difference between worrying and caring.

Sometimes, our mindset can boost stress, so a small issue mushrooms into a pile of problems. We continue worrying, somehow thinking that this is a productive — or at least inevitable — response to stress. But we mistake worry for action.

Clinical psychologist Chad LeJeune, Ph.D, talks about the idea of worrying versus caring in his book, The Worry Trap: How to Free Yourself from Worry & Anxiety Using Acceptance & Commitment Therapy. “Worrying is an attempt to exert control over the future by thinking about it,” whereas caring is taking action. “When we are caring for someone or something, we do the things that support or advance the best interests of the person or thing that we care about.”

LeJeune uses the simple example of houseplants. He writes: “If you are away from home for a week, you can worry about your houseplants every single day and still return home to find them brown and wilted. Worrying is not watering.”

Similarly, fretting about your finances does nothing but get you worked up (and likely prevent you from taking action). Caring about your finances, however, means creating a budget, paying bills on time, using coupons and reducing how often you dine out.

Just this small shift in mindset from worrying to caring can help you adjust your reaction to stress. To see this distinction between worrying and caring, LeJeune includes an activity where readers list responses for each one. For example:

Worrying about your health involves…

Caring about your health involves…

Worrying about your career involves…

Caring about your career involves…

10. Embrace mistakes—or at least don’t drown in perfectionism.

Another mindset that can exacerbate stress is perfectionism. Trying to be mistake-free and essentially spending your days walking on eggshells is exhausting and anxiety-provoking. Talk about putting pressure on yourself! And as we all know but tend to forget: Perfectionism is impossible and not human, anyway.

As researcher Brene Brown writes in her book The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are, “Perfectionism is not the same thing as striving to be your best. Perfectionism is not about healthy achievement and growth” and it’s not self-improvement.

Nothing good can come from perfectionism. Brown writes: “Research shows that perfectionism hampers success. In fact, it’s often the path to depression, anxiety, addiction and life-paralysis [‘all the opportunities we miss because we’re too afraid to put anything out in the world that could be imperfect’].”

Plus, mistake-mistaking can lead to growth. To overcome perfectionism, Brown suggests becoming more compassionate toward yourself. We couldn’t agree more.

Signs That You’re Exhausted (Not Just Tired)

July 24, 2016

Live_Learn_survey_couch

If you stifle yawns in 2 p.m. meetings and find yourself passed out cold during the previews on movie nights, you probably already know you’re run down. But there’s a big difference between being pooped out and being exhausted — and the signs aren’t as obvious as just feeling tired. It’s important to know the difference, because exhaustion can be downright dangerous.

“Sleep is one of the most under-appreciated facets of health,” says Dr. Wayne Scott Andersen, MD, medical director of Take Shape for Life. “The consequences of sacrificing it can ripple throughout various areas of your life. Exhaustion has been linked to issues with appetite regulation, heart disease, increased inflammation, and a 50 percent increase in your risk of viral infection.” So if you’re tired and you’re experiencing any of the symptoms below, it might mean you’re exhausted — and it’s time to devote some serious time to sleep, ASAP

6 Clues That You’re Totally Exhausted

1. Your Lips Are Dry
If your lips are cracked, your skin is scaly, and you’re suffering from frequent headaches, dehydration may be to blame. Yes, this is a common woe in cold-weather climates. But, if you’re feeling rundown, you should know it goes hand-in-hand with exhaustion. “You feel more fatigued the more dehydrated you are,” says Michael J. Breus, PhD, a board-certified expert in clinical sleep disorders. “If you’re constantly craving something to drink or experience dry skin and lips, you might be dealing with a level of hydration that can lead to exhaustion.”

“You won’t retain knowledge very well, as your brain depends on sleep to re-process what you experienced during the day.”

Water affects so many systems within your body that it’s impossible to maintain your energy levels if you’re not drinking sufficient amounts of H20, he explains. “People often forget to hydrate because it just isn’t on their minds. Everyone’s different, but I always tell people you should drink water to the point where your urine is clear,” says Breus.

2. Your Mind Is All Fuzzy
Your brain needs sleep like a car needs gas; neither runs very well on empty. “Among other things, your body uses sleep to stabilize chemical imbalances, to refresh areas of the brain that control mood and behavior, and to process the memories and knowledge that you gathered throughout the day,” says Dr. Andersen.

This is especially important during the 90-minute period known as REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. When it’s disturbed, your mind might be sluggish the next day. “You won’t retain knowledge very well, as your brain depends on sleep to re-process what you experienced during the day,” says Dr. Andersen. Exhaustion can leave you vulnerable to forgetting important things, like a big meeting at work, or feeling especially irritable, says Dr. Andersen.

3. Your Workouts Have Sucked
Not crushing it at the gym like you usually do? Being exhausted causes every aspect of your life to suffer — including exercise, according to Dr. Andersen. “Exercising requires mental focus as well as physical activity,” Andersen says. “If your brain is falling behind because you are not well-rested, your ability to properly challenge your body will be limited — and that’s in addition to the many performance consequences that come with poor sleep.”

Another big sign: You can’t even bring yourself to make it to the gym. “Our bodies are programmed to find the easy way out, which was useful 10,000 years ago when survival was difficult. Today that means one night of lost sleep can lead to weeks of missed workouts and unhealthy meals,” says Dr. Andersen.

4. You’re Super Stressed (and Trying to Ignore It)
It’s no surprise that stress can keep you up at night, but the way you deal with it is what might cause exhaustion-inducing insomnia, according to research in the journal SleepFor the study, researchers asked nearly 2,900 men and women about the stress in their lives, including how long it affected them, how severe it was, and how they handled the pressure. A year later, the researchers found that people who coped with stress by distracting themselves, dwelling on the issues, or trying to completely ignore it had higher instances of chronic insomnia, which they characterized as three sleepless nights a week for a month or more. This can turn into a vicious cycle of stress and exhaustion fueling one other. The researchers suggest using mindfulness techniques to ease stress might be a better way to cope.

5. You’re Eating More Junk Than Usual
Find yourself hitting up the office vending machine on the regular? “The more exhausted you are, the more you crave high-fat, high-carbohydrate foods,” says Breus. Exhaustion often corresponds with high levels of cortisol, the stress hormone. To decrease cortisol, your brain will often seek out a hit of the neurotransmitter serotonin. “[Serotonin] is a calming hormone. An easy way to access it is by ingesting comfort food full of carbs and fat,” says Breus.

Even worse, all that comfort food can just wind up making you more exhausted. “With highly processed, highly glycemic foods like soft drinks, candy bars, or bagels, blood sugar and insulin levels will rise dramatically,” says Dr. Anderson. “The elevated insulin levels actually cause blood sugar to plummet, so your brain triggers [more] cravings for something full of sugar, fat, and calories.” Then, it starts all over again. Instead of reaching for comforting junk, Dr. Andersen recommends fueling your body with healthy low-glycemic foods like fruits and whole grains that can help stabilize your blood sugar and keep your insulin levels from swinging wildly in either direction.

6. You Sleep Poorly Even Once a Week
You probably know that chronic insomnia can trigger exhaustion. But did you know that even a single night of interrupted sleep could screw you up the next day? In a study in the journal Sleep Medicine, 61 study participants slept for eight hours for one night. The next night, their rest was interrupted by four phone calls that instructed them to finish a short computer challenge before they could continue sleeping. Researchers found that after a night of fragmented sleep, people experienced worse moods along with weaker attention spans, suggesting that interrupted sleep might be as detrimental as the exhaustion that comes with full-on sleep restriction.

Or, maybe instead of dealing with interrupted sleep, you just go to bed way later than you should. “Bedtime procrastination” is the latest buzzy term in sleep medicine. In a study in Frontiers in Medicine, researchers discovered that on nights when the 177 participants reported procrastinating their zzz’s, they slept less and with worse quality. Plus, they experienced more intense fatigue the next day. “Set your bedtime and stick to it, counting back seven hours from when you need to wake up to determine the ideal start to your sleep latency period, or falling asleep time,” advises Dr. Andersen. “Decrease stimulation 30 minutes before you plan to sleep by shutting off cellphones, televisions, and other devices.”

Ready to make a change? Check out this guide for a better night’s rest.

Updated January 2016  on 1/15/2016
http://dailyburn.com/life/lifestyle/exhausted-signs-tips/

 

Surviving the HSC

October 19, 2014

HSC_English_Cramming_

Practical advice for the whole family

If your child is studying for the HSC, you’re probably feeling the stress too. Many parents want to help but don’t want to interfere.

As well as pre-exam tension, there are other common factors that can make life seem even more challenging for the whole family.

Year 12 is often the year when kids:

  • lose interest in school
  • have no plans for after the HSC
  • develop an intense relationship with a boyfriend or girlfriend
  • get their driver’s licence
  • experiment with legal or illegal drugs
  • have a part-time job
  • are a member of a sporting team
  • develop an eating disorder
  • suffer from depression.

If any of these concerns sound familiar, don’t despair. You’re not alone – and this won’t last forever.

How you can help

Richard Cracknell, counsellor and district guidance officer at Inverell High School advises that “the most obvious forms of support parents can offer are the practical, physical things,” and recommends parents:

  • Provide a good place to study, that’s quiet, comfortable, with good ventilation, good lighting, adequate desk or table space and free from distractions such as TV, noise, a telephone, interesting conversations, little brothers and sisters.
  • Provide healthy, balanced meals.
  • Encourage sleep and regular exercise.
  • Encourage them to avoid late night parties and alcohol consumption.

Less obvious, but just important, is giving your child the support they need in the lead-up to exams, which can be hard when emotions run high.

Tips to remember

  • Be supportive and encouraging.
  • Highlight strengths and successes. Encourage your child not to dwell on failures, but to see them as “mistakes”, which can actually be something they can learn and benefit from.
  • Appreciate your child maybe feeling very stressed, even if it’s not obvious to you. Many kids fear letting their family down so beware of setting unrealistic expectations. Some worry they can’t do as well as a sibling, or friend. Many Year 12 kids are feeling overwhelmed about what lies ahead: leaving home, leaving lifelong friends, the prospect of having to live in a new city.
  • Understand people under pressure become supersensitive and explosive from time to time. Family members are usually the first targets. Try not to overreact.
  • Be realistic in your expectations as to where the HSC leads. Not all HSC students will go on to university – but they can still have a wealth of excellent and satisfying career options. If they don’t get the HSC marks they needed and still really want to go on to tertiary education later, there are many other pathways. Interestingly, the success rate of mature age students is much higher than for those who go straight from school.
  • Encourage your child to seek help from teachers or the school counsellor if they are having any difficulty with subjects, study organisation, stress or anxiety about examinations.
  • Encourage a healthy balance between work and leisure. Some times kids need a total break from everything for a weekend  or so, to recharge their batteries.
  • Take an interest in what your child is doing, if they’ll allow you to (some won’t). This can include the subjects or topics being studied, how their study timetables and programs have been organised and their leisure pursuits. (Note: “Taking an interest in” does not mean interfering.)
  • Remember the occasional hug and “I love you” don’t go astray, even when they are 18 years old.
  • Encourage and allow your child to be as independent as you can possibly stand. The more independent your child is in meeting the demands of Year 12, the better prepared they will be to succeed at a tertiary level or in the workforce.

Just before exams:

  • Don’t stress about the little things like leaving lights on, leaving the lid off the toothpaste and not doing chores.
  • Don’t panic when they announce on the evening before the examination that they know nothing. (Reassure them, even if you think they could be right. “Just do the best you can. We know you’re giving it your best shot.” is a good standby.)
  • Avoid nagging, which doesn’t mean you can’t give a nudge or gentle reminder from time to time.
  • Encourage confidence by reassuring your child. If you have doubts, keep them to yourself.

According to Richard Cracknell, all parents make mistakes, and we need to bear in mind that we’re human too.

Don’t feel too badly when you forget not to nag, when you get picky, and complain bitterly that your child has the time to attend the 18th birthday party of every Year 12 student, but doesn’t have time to help with the washing up.

As parents we sometimes can’t help being over-involved and from time to time we also feel the pressure of Year 12.

Know this is a temporary stage, just like the newborn, toddler and adolescent stages you’ve already negotiated together.

Article sourced here: http://www.schoolatoz.nsw.edu.au/homework-and-study/homework-tips/tips-for-surviving-the-hsc

Christmas – tips to reduce the stress

December 15, 2013

Christmas is typically one of the most stressful events of the year. The expense of buying gifts, the pressure of last minute shopping, and the heightened expectations of family togetherness can all combine to undermine our best intentions. Some practical suggestions can help you reduce your ‘Christmas stress’.

Budgeting for Christmas

For many of us, the Christmas aftermath includes massive credit card bills that can take months to clear. Christmas doesn’t have to be a financial headache if you plan ahead. Stress reduction strategies include:

  • Work out a rough budget of expected Christmas costs as early as possible. This includes ‘hidden’ expenses such as food bills and overseas telephone charges.
  • Calculate how much disposable income you have between now and Christmas. A certain percentage of this can be dedicated each week (or fortnight or month) to covering your expected Christmas costs. Don’t be discouraged if the amount seems small. If you save $5, $10, or $20 per week over a year, it can provide you with a hefty nest egg.
  • If your nest egg isn’t enough to cover your estimated expenses, consider recalculating your Christmas budget to a more realistic amount.
  • If you have trouble keeping your hands off your Christmas nest egg, consider opening a ‘Christmas Club’ account.

Presents

If you have a large circle of extended family or friends to buy gifts for, it can be very costly. You might be able to reduce the stress and cost of Christmas for everyone if you suggest a change in the way your family and friends give presents. For example, you could suggest that your group:

  • Buy presents only for the children.
  • Have a Kris Kringle, where everyone draws a name out of a hat and buys a present only for that person.
  • Set a limit on the cost of presents for each person

Christmas shopping

According to a recent study by Roy Morgan Research, around 60 per cent of Australians dislike Christmas shopping, just 20 per cent plan their shopping expeditions, and the majority of us (nearly 75 per cent) often come home without a single purchase for our efforts.

Stress reduction strategies for successful Christmas shopping include:

  • Make a list of all the gifts you wish to buy before you go shopping. If you wait for inspiration to strike, you could be wandering aimlessly around the shopping centre for hours. Perhaps you could get to know the interests of family and friends to help you when choosing gifts (remember money is also a great gift as it allows people to choose what they want).
  • Cross people off the list as you buy to avoid duplication
  • Buy a few extras, such as chocolates, just in case you forget somebody or you have unexpected guests bearing gifts.
  • If possible, do your Christmas shopping early – in the first week of December or even in November. Some well-organised people do their Christmas shopping gradually over the course of the year, starting with the post-Christmas sales.
  • Buy your gifts by mail catalogue or over the Internet. Some companies will also gift-wrap and post your presents for a small additional fee.

The Christmas lunch (or dinner)

Preparing a meal for family and friends can be enjoyable but tiring and stressful at the same time.

Some tips to reduce the stress of Christmas cooking include:

  • If you are cooking lunch at home, delegate tasks. You don’t need to do everything yourself.
  • Consider keeping it simple – for instance, you could always arrange for a ‘buffet’ lunch, where everybody brings a platter.
  • Make a list of food and ingredients needed. Buy as many non-perishable food items as you can in advance – supermarkets on Christmas Eve are generally extremely busy.
  • Write a Christmas Day timetable. For example, 11.30am – put turkey in the oven.
  • You may need to order particular food items (such as turkeys) from your supermarket by a certain date. Check to avoid disappointment.
  • Consider doing your food shopping online. The store will deliver your groceries to your door. (Keep in mind this option is more expensive than visiting the supermarket yourself.)
  • Book well in advance if you plan to have lunch at a restaurant. Some restaurants may be fully booked for months before Christmas, so don’t wait till the last minute.

Relationships

Stress, anxiety, and depression are common during the festive season. If nothing else, reassure yourself that these feelings are normal. Stress reduction strategies include:

  • Don’t expect miracles. If you and certain family members bicker all year long, you can be sure there’ll be tension at Christmas gatherings.
  • Avoid known triggers. For example, if politics is a touchy subject in your family, don’t talk about it. If someone brings up the topic, use distraction and quickly move on to something else to talk about.
  • Use relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing or focusing on your breath to cope with anxiety or tension.
  • Family members involved in after-lunch activities (such as cricket on the back lawn) are less likely to get into arguments. Plan for something to do as a group after lunch if necessary.
  • People under stress tend to ‘self-medicate’ with alcohol, cigarettes and other drugs. Try to remember that drugs can’t solve problems or alleviate stress in the long term.

The little extras

Other ways you might be able to reduce the stress include:

  • Write up a Christmas card list and keep it in a safe place so that you can refer to it (and add or delete names) year after year.
  • Plan to write your Christmas cards in early December. Book a date in your diary so you don’t forget.
  • Christmas cards with ‘Card only’ marked on the envelope can be posted at a reduced rate during November and December.
  • Overseas mail at Christmas time takes longer to arrive. Arrange to send cards or presents in the first half of December to avoid disappointments (and long queues at the post office).
  • For great savings, buy Christmas necessities (such as cards, wrapping paper, ribbons and decorations) at post-Christmas sales.

General health and well being

Some other ways to keep your stress levels down include:

  • Try to be moderate – it may be the season to be jolly, but too much food and alcohol is harmful. Drink driving is a real danger and is illegal. If you can’t (or don’t want to) step off the social merry-go-round, at least try to eat and drink in moderation.
  • Get enough sleep – plan for as many early nights as you can.
  • Keep moving – keeping up your regular exercise routine can give you the fitness and stamina to make it through the demands of the festive season.

Where to get help

  • Your doctor
  • Financial planner
  • Your local community health centre

Things to remember

  • Save a percentage of your disposable income throughout the year to provide a nest egg for Christmas expenses.
  • Make a list of all the gifts and food you wish to buy and shop early.
  • Don’t expect miracles – if you and certain family members bicker all year long, you can be sure there’ll be tension at Christmas gatherings.

 

Information sourced from: http://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/bhcv2/bhcarticles.nsf/pages/Christmas_tips_to_reduce_the_stress?open&utm_term=Christmas_tips_to_reduce_the_stress&utm_source=&utm_campaign=newsletter

Feeling Stressed? Create a Stress-Free Zone ** 10 “stress-busting” Techniques **

November 12, 2013

What’s making you stressed?

If you’re stressed, whether by your job or by something more personal, the first step to feeling better is to identify the cause.

less stress

The most unhelpful thing you can do is turn to something unhealthy to help you cope, such as smoking or drinking.

“In life, there’s always a solution to a problem,” says Professor Cary Cooper, an occupational health expert at the University of Lancaster. “Not taking control of the situation and doing nothing will only make your problems worse.”

He says the keys to good stress management are building emotional strength, being in control of your situation, having a good social network and adopting a positive outlook.

What you can do

These are Professor Cooper’s top 10 stress-busting techniques:

Be active

If you have a stress-related problem, physical activity can get you in the right state of mind to be able to identify the causes of your stress and find a solution. “To deal with stress effectively, you need to feel robust and you need to feel strong mentally. Exercise does that,” says Cooper.

Exercise won’t make your stress disappear, but it will reduce some of the emotional intensity that you’re feeling, clearing your thoughts and enabling you to deal with your problems more calmly.

Take control

There’s a solution to any problem. “If you remain passive, thinking, ‘I can’t do anything about my problem’, your stress will get worse,” says Professor Cooper. “That feeling of loss of control is one of the main causes of stress and lack of wellbeing.”

The act of taking control is in itself empowering, and it’s a crucial part of finding a solution that satisfies you and not someone else. Read tips about how to manage your time.

Connect with people

A problem shared is a problem halved. A good support network of colleagues, friends and family can ease your work troubles and help you see things in a different way.

“If you don’t connect with people, you won’t have support to turn to when you need help,” says Professor Cooper. The activities we do with friends help us relax and we often have a good laugh with them, which is an excellent stress reliever.

“Talking things through with a friend will also help you find solutions to your problems,” says Professor Cooper.

Have some ‘me time’

The UK workforce works the longest hours in Europe. The extra hours in the workplace mean that people aren’t spending enough time doing things that they really enjoy. “We all need to take some time for socialising, relaxation or exercise,” says Professor Cooper.

He recommends setting aside a couple of nights a week for some quality “me time” away from work. “By earmarking those two days, it means you won’t be tempted to work overtime on those days,” he says.

Challenge yourself

Setting yourself goals and challenges, whether at work or outside, such as learning a new language or a new sport, helps to build confidence. That in turn will help you deal with stress.

“By constantly challenging yourself you’re being proactive and taking charge of your life,” says Professor Cooper. “By continuing to learn, you become more emotionally resilient as a person. It arms you with knowledge and makes you want to do things rather than be passive, such as watching TV all the time.”

Avoid unhealthy habits

Don’t rely on alcohol, smoking and caffeine as your ways of coping. “Men more than women are likely to do this. We call this avoidance behaviour,” says Professor Cooper. “Women are better at seeking support from their social circle.”

Over the long term, these crutches won’t solve your problems. They’ll just create new ones. “It’s like putting your head in the sand,” says Professor Cooper. “It might provide temporary relief but it won’t make the problems disappear. You need to tackle the cause of your stress.”

Do volunteer work

Cooper says evidence shows that people who help others, through activities such as volunteering or community work, become more resilient. “Helping people who are often in situations worse than yours will help you put your problems into perspective,” says Professor Cooper. “The more you give, the more resilient and happy you feel.”

On a more basic level, do someone a favour every day. It can be something as small as helping someone to cross the road or going on a coffee run for colleagues. Favours cost nothing to do, and you’ll feel better.

Work smarter, not harder

Good time management means quality work rather than quantity. Our long-hours culture is a well-known cause of workplace illness. “You have to get a work-life balance that suits you,” says Professor Cooper.

Working smarter means prioritising your work, concentrating on the tasks that will make a real difference to your work. “Leave the least important tasks to last,” says Cooper. “Accept that your in-tray will always be full. Don’t expect it to be empty at the end of the day.”

Be positive

Look for the positives in life, and things for which you’re grateful. Write down three things at the end of every day which went well or for which you’re grateful.

“People don’t always appreciate what they have,” says Professor Cooper. “Try to be glass half full instead of glass half empty,” he says.

This requires a shift in perspective for those who are more naturally pessimistic.

“It can be done,” he says. “By making a conscious effort you can train yourself to be more positive about life. Problems are often a question of perspective. If you change your perspective, you may see your situation from a more positive point of view.”

Accept the things you can’t change

Changing a difficult situation isn’t always possible. If this proves to be the case, recognise and accept things as they are and concentrate on everything that you do have control over.

“If your company is going under and is making redundancies, there’s nothing you can do about it,” says Professor Cooper. “There’s no point fighting it. In such a situation, you need to focus on the things that you can control, such as looking for a new job.”

Information sourced from: http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/stress-anxiety-depression/Pages/reduce-stress.aspx

8 reasons to make time for your family to eat together

September 2, 2012

Soccer practices, dance rehearsals, playdates, and other scheduling conflicts make family mealtime seem like a thing of the past. Suddenly, we’re feeding our kids breakfast bars during the morning commute, sneaking 100-calorie packs at our desks, and grabbing dinner at the drive-thru window.

If you’re finding it difficult to get together with your family at the dinner table, here’s a little inspiration.

Dinner together can be a stress reliever

Believe it or not, if you have a demanding job, finding time to eat with your family may actually leave you feeling less stressed.
In 2008, researchers at Brigham Young University conducted a study of IBM workers and found that sitting down to a family meal helped working moms reduce the tension and strain from long hours at the office. (Interestingly, the effect wasn’t as pronounced among dads.) Alas, the study didn’t take into account the stress of rushing to get out of the office, picking up the kids, and getting a meal on the table.

Kids might learn to love their veggies

A 2000 survey found that the 9- to 14-year-olds who ate dinner with their families most frequently ate more fruits and vegetables and less soda and fried foods. Their diets also had higher amounts of many key nutrients, like calcium, iron, and fiber.
Family dinners allow for both “discussions of nutrition [and] provision of healthful foods,” says Matthew W. Gillman, M.D., the survey’s lead researcher and the director of the Obesity Prevention Program at the Harvard Medical School.

It’s the perfect setting for new foods

A family meal is the perfect opportunity for parents to expose children to different foods and expand their tastes.
In a 2003 study in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, children were offered some pieces of sweet red pepper and asked to rate how much they liked it. Then, each day for the next eight school days, they were invited to eat as much of the pepper as they wanted. On the final day, the kids were again asked to rate how much they liked it.
By the end of the experiment, the children rated the pepper more highly and were eating more of it — even more so than another group of children who were offered a reward for eating the pepper. These results suggest that a little more exposure and a little less “You can leave the table once you finish your broccoli!” will teach kids to enjoy new foods, even if they don’t like them at first.

You control the portions

Studies show that families spend more than 40% of their food budget on meals outside of the home. Eating out can be convenient but it’s also caloric — portion sizes in restaurants just keep growing! The average restaurant meal has as much as 60% more calories than a homemade meal. When we are presented with more food, we eat more food, possibly leading to our expanding waistlines.

Healthy meals mean healthy kids

Studies have shown that kids who eat with their families frequently are less likely to get depressed, consider suicide, and develop an eating disorder. They are also more likely to delay sex and to report that their parents are proud of them. When a child is feeling down or depressed, family dinner can act as an intervention.
This is especially true of eating disorders, says Dianne Neumark-Sztainer, Ph.D., a professor at the University of Minnesota’s School of Public Health, who has studied the impact of family meal patterns on adolescents. “If a child eats with his or her parents on a regular basis, problems will be identified earlier on,” she says.

Family dinners help kids “just say no”

Eating family dinners at least five times a week drastically lowers a teen’s chance of smoking, drinking, and using drugs. Teens who have fewer than three family dinners a week are 3.5 times more likely to have abused prescription drugs and to have used illegal drugs other than marijuana, three times more likely to have used marijuana, more than 2.5 times more likely to have smoked cigarettes, and 1.5 times more likely to have tried alcohol, according to the CASA report.
“While substance abuse can strike any family, regardless of ethnicity, affluence, age, or gender, the parental engagement fostered at the dinner table can be a simple, effective tool to help prevent [it],” says Elizabeth Planet, one of the report’s researchers, and the center’s vice president and director of special projects.

Better food, better report card

Of teens who eat with their family fewer than three times a week, 20% get C’s or lower on their report cards, according to the CASA report. Only 9% of teens who eat frequently with their families do this poorly in school.
Family meals give children an opportunity to have conversations with adults, as well as to pick up on how adults are using words with each other, which may explain why family dinnertime is also thought to build a child’s vocabulary.

Put a little cash in your pocket

In 2007, the average household spent $3,465 on meals at home, and $2,668 on meals away from home, according to the national Consumer Expenditure Survey from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
When you take into consideration that the $2,668 spent on meals away from home only accounts for about 30% of meals (according to historical data), that’s about $8 per meal outside of the home, and only about $4.50 per each meal made in your own kitchen. You do the math!

By Sarah Klein, Health.com
October 25, 2011 — Updated 1157 GMT (1957 HKT)

Are you suffering from burnout?

August 19, 2012

Even if you love your job, do too much of it, and you’ll hate it.

That’s the conclusion of Mark Cullen of Stanford Medical School, who studies overworked execs. Pride yourself on your work stamina, how much you can take, and you can get taken—by the terminal exhaustion of burnout. That’s when productivity, not to mention your brain and body tank, but you can opt out of that.

Burnout is the last stage of chronic stress, and a job and life killer. If you’re good at endurance and believe your value lies in taking more of a pounding than the next person, you are a prime candidate for it. The irony of the professional world is that it’s the hardest workers who fall prey to burnout—1) the most conscientious, 2) the Type A’s, 3) the bravado warriors. They can take more, and so the usual warning signals of stress are ignored. The fact is that humans, as of yet, don’t have Pentium processors, only caffeine.

The hollowing-out of burnout happens gradually. Your body adapts to chronic stress so it looks like you’re handling things, but it’s an illusion. Adrenaline pumped out by the stress response masks the fact that it’s taking your body down and suppressing your immune system.

Doctors say that when patients arrive with burnout symptoms, there is always a long prelude: Heart palpitations, headaches, back pain, insomnia, irritable bowel, hot flashes, exhaustion. Ignore the signals leading to burnout, and you can wind up adapting to the stress response until your resources are gone. Burnout can trigger stroke, depression and a host of things you can do without, not to mention reduce the sense of accomplishment, interest and joy in your life to zero.

Opt Out of Heroics

Burnout is a three-way shutdown — mind, body, and emotions. It’s the depletion of all your energetic and emotional resources. The result is dramatically lower productivity, guilt, shame, cynicism, falling behind, not caring about the things that you used to.

One of the hallmarks of burnout is disengagement, the opposite of getting things done. This makes burnout a big problem for any organization, since it takes down the top talent. Productivity plummets for anyone with burnout, a cause of presenteeism—you’re there physically, but not mentally—and the sick days and medical bills mount.

Preventing burnout takes a vigilant mind, paying attention to the stress signals and doing something about them, not gutting them out with heroics (which only prolongs and deepens the stress cycle). You have to be proactive and break out of autopilot.

Recognize and dump the behaviors that drive the burnout trap—work overload, perfectionism, no refueling or recreation, un-viable schedules, nonstop busyness, chronic conflict, and giving too much of yourself emotionally. It’s also critical to build skills to communicate about key burnout funnels: lack of reward, control, and community, pieces organizations need to address too.

You Do, Therefore You Are?

You can turn down the stress by altering the way you do your tasks, deal with stress, expend emotion, and set boundaries. Regular recovery strategies are key to buffer stress and chronic exhaustion, which can be the start of the withdrawal from life that marks the downward spiral of burnout.

The tendency to overdo it drives the burnout beast, so you’ll need to wean off compulsive behavior. Why is it so hard to turn off the go button and stop? It could be you are getting all your value from performance. When performance is the sum total of your identity, and you pull back from constant busyness and production, you have no value.

Do less, and you actually get more done, the research shows. And you just might like your job again.

Information sourced from: http://www.lifehack.org/articles/productivity/the-top-3-candidates-for-burnout-and-how-to-avoid-being-one-of-them.html

Diet for Stress Management

July 3, 2012


Stress management can be a powerful tool for wellness. There’s evidence that too much pressure is not just a mood killer. People who are under constant stress are more vulnerable to everything from colds to high blood pressure and heart disease. Although there are many ways to cope, one strategy is to eat stress-fighting foods. Read on to learn how a stress management diet can help.

Stress-Busting Foods: How They Work
Foods can fight stress in several ways. Comfort foods, like a bowl of warm oatmeal, actually boost levels of serotonin, a calming brain chemical. Other foods can reduce levels of cortisol and adrenaline, stress hormones that take a toll on the body over time. Finally, a nutritious diet can counteract the impact of stress, by shoring up the immune system and lowering blood pressure. Do you know which foods are stress busters?


Complex Carbs
All carbs prompt the brain to make more serotonin. For a steady supply of this feel-good chemical, it’s best to eat complex carbs, which are digested more slowly. Good choices include whole-grain breakfast cereals, breads, and pastas, as well as old-fashioned oatmeal. Complex carbs can also help you feel balanced by stabilizing blood sugar levels.


Simple Carbs
Dietitians usually recommend steering clear of simple carbs, which include sweets and soda. But these foods can provide a fast fix for a mood swing and short-term relief of stress-induced irritability. Simple sugars are digested quickly, leading to a spike in serotonin. But remember to limit your intake of simple sugars and sweets.


Oranges
Oranges make the list for their wealth of vitamin C. Studies suggest this vitamin can reduce levels of stress hormones while strengthening the immune system. In one study done in people with high blood pressure, blood pressure and cortisol levels (a stress hormone) returned to normal more quickly when people took vitamin C before a stressful task.


Spinach
Popeye never lets stress get the best of him — maybe it’s all the magnesium in his spinach. Too little magnesium may trigger headaches and fatigue, compounding the effects of stress. One cup of spinach goes a long way toward replenishing magnesium stores. Not a spinach eater? Try some cooked soybeans or a filet of salmon, also high in magnesium. Green leafy vegetables are a rich source of magnesium.


Fatty Fish
To keep stress in check, make friends with fatty fish. Omega-3 fatty acids, found in fish like salmon and tuna, can prevent surges in stress hormones and protect against heart disease, mood disorders like depression, and premenstrual syndrome. For a steady supply of feel-good omega-3s, aim to eat 3 ounces of fatty fish at least twice a week.


Black Tea
Research suggests black tea can help you recover from stressful events more quickly. One study compared people who drank 4 cups of tea daily for six weeks with people who drank a tea-like placebo. The real tea drinkers reported feeling calmer and had lower levels of cortisol after stressful situations. When it comes to stress, the caffeine in coffee can boost stress hormones and increase blood pressure.


Pistachios
Pistachios, as well as other nuts and seeds, contain healthy fats. Eating a handful of pistachios, walnuts, or almonds every day may help lower your cholesterol, reduce inflammation in the arteries of the heart, lower the risk of diabetes, and protect you against stress.


Avocados
One of the best ways to reduce high blood pressure is to get enough potassium — and half an avocado has more potassium than a medium-sized banana. In addition, guacamole offers a nutritious alternative when stress has you craving a high-fat treat.


Almonds
Almonds are chock full of helpful vitamins. There’s vitamin E to bolster the immune system, plus a range of B vitamins, which may make the body more resilient during bouts of stress such as depression. To get the benefits, snack on a quarter of a cup every day.


Raw Veggies
Crunchy raw vegetables can help fight stress in a purely mechanical way. Munching celery or carrot sticks helps release a clenched jaw, and that can ward off tension.


Bedtime Snack
Carbs at bedtime can speed the release of serotonin and help you sleep better. Heavy meals before bed can trigger heartburn, so stick to something light like toast and jam.


Milk
Another bedtime stress buster is the time-honored glass of warm milk as a remedy for insomnia and restlessness. Researchers have found that calcium eases anxiety and mood swings linked to PMS. Dietitians typically recommend skim or low-fat milk.


Herbal Supplements
There are many herbal supplements that claim to fight stress. One of the best studied is St. John’s wort, which has shown benefits for people with mild-to-moderate depression. Although more research is needed, the herb also appears to reduce symptoms of anxiety and PMS. There is less data on valerian root, another herb said to have a calming effect.


De-Stress with Exercise
Besides changing your diet, one of the best stress-busting strategies is to start exercising. Aerobic exercise increases oxygen circulation and produces endorphins — chemicals that make you feel happy. To get the maximum benefit, aim for 30 minutes of aerobic exercise three to four times a week.

sourced from http://www.webmd.com/diet/ss/slideshow-diet-for-stress-management