Category Archives: Managing Stress

Focus Your Energy on Well-being

To live a happy, healthy, balanced life, you must learn to focus your energy on well-being. Self-care on all levels should be an integral part of your lifestyle.

There is an abundance of information available about the benefits of eating well and exercising regularly to sustain a healthy mind and body. In fact, I write about both regularly. But today I want to move in a little different direction.

In addition to those two very basic and critical activities, there are a number of other things you can to improve your mental health and overall well-being.  By incorporating them into your daily life, you will be better able to manage most challenges – including struggles with self-doubt, anxiety, and mild depression.

Practices that Focus Your Energy on Well-being

Accept Your Feelings

Stuffing or ignoring your emotions is more damaging than it is helpful.  Everyone has emotions. They are a natural part of being human. Bottling them up may seem like a good solution in the moment, but when you do it all the time, you are potentially creating a time bomb that will eventually explode.

Unfortunately, you are hurting yourself as you hold them in and you run the risk of hurting those you love when the eruption finally occurs.

Rather than acknowledging what you are feeling and allowing yourself to experience emotions, you may medicate, rationalize, blame, bury, deny, smother, drink, or stuff them (pretend they don’t exist). Emotions have become the enemy and many people will do anything to avoid them – especially the big three: fear, anger and sadness.

It takes a lot of mental, physical and emotional energy to avoiding your feelings and creates high levels of stress and anxiety.

Don’t stuff your emotions!

Let yourself laugh, cry, scream, yell, or pound something (preferably a pillow, grass, sand – not the wall or someone else). Do whatever you need to do, probably in private is the best choice. But, if emotions erupt in public, excuse yourself and let it rip.  This is nature’s way of releasing stress. Don’t beat yourself up afterward!

You must find a safe and sane way to release your emotions (this applies to both men and women). When you continually stuff them, you are endangering your own health and possibly the well-being of others around you.

Stuffed emotions eventually come out – either in the form of a physical illness, a mental break down, or incredible explosions of anger on anyone who happens to be around – including your children, other loved ones, colleagues, and innocent bystanders.

Don’t set up yourself, your family, or friends for these unintended consequences. Consciously begin to let down your guard and experience your feelings – recognize and acknowledge your emotions. Only then will you be able to manage them in a healthy way and relieve the stress that stuffing them is creating.

Be a Risk Taker

Routine and structure are good things. They keep us on track and make life work. However if you are a rule follower to a fault and never do anything spontaneous or out-of-the ordinary, you are missing some interesting adventures that make life more enjoyable.

Don’t let yourself become so regimented and predictable that you may even bore yourself. Life is meant to be lived.  When you are not stretching and doing new things – taking risks on a regular basis, you are not growing as a person. Taking risks – even calculated ones can be exciting, rewarding and are definitely good for your mental well-being

Challenge yourself. Make a point of taking some kind of risk every day. They don’t have to be big risks.

If you are shy – make a point of talking to someone new. Learn a new language, take dance or voice lessons or join Toastmasters and learn to speak in public; and other things – like being more trusting or being more assertive. The goal is to push yourself out of your comfort zone regularly.

Take Responsibility for the Life You Have

Too often people spend their entire life blaming others for the life they are living. Everyone has their own experiences – good, bad and in-between. Those experiences definitely impact the way we view life – but they did not have to cripple us.

If you allow yourself to live in the past, continuously suffering for what you have lost or for what others have “done to you,” you will never be able to completely embrace the joys of life that are available to you. They will be lost in the fog of anger and self-pity.

The only way to truly enjoy life is to take responsibility for what you can control and for what you are creating right now – in the present moment. You are what you think about and you have the life that you create by your thoughts and your actions. Take responsibility for that; and start enjoying it.

The past is gone, the future has not yet arrived – all you have is the present, so learn to live in the moment and make it count.

Develop Self-Awareness

Avoid just coasting through life, being totally unaware of what you are doing – never taking the time to look inside and to assess your behaviors.

Which of your behaviors are serving you and which are not? What factors are driving the behaviors that are not serving you? What is your prevalent attitude about life? What are your thought patterns? Are they helpful and uplifting – or negative and destructive?

What realities about your life are you denying? Bad habits? Self-defeating behaviors? Are you resisting change that would greatly benefit the way you feel?

You do not have to take it on all at once, but a little honest introspection daily – possibly at the end of each day – could work wonders in creating a greater sense of self and well-being.

Laugh Out Loud a Lot

Focus on Well-being
Image by photography33

It is time to start laughing – out loud – a lot! Many people take themselves far too seriously. This seems to be a particularly big problem for highly-intelligent people. And, typically a problem that develops as people grow into adulthood. It doesn’t generally afflict children.

Kids laugh about 200 times a day and adults, only 15 times a day at most. Let yourself laugh openly and freely as children do when they are reveling in life.

Read funny books; develop friendships with people who make you laugh; play games with your kids or grandkids; go to funny movies.  In other words – have more fun!

Laughter is our way of communicating joy. Researchers have found that when people are joyful, there is a sense of well-being that when sustained, contributes to longevity.

Let the laughter flow openly and freely the way a young child laughs. It will be infectious and others will laugh with you.

Laughter not only provides wonderful psychological benefits, it also has many physical benefits, as well such as improving circulation, boosting the immune system, reducing stress, and normalizing blood pressure.

Finding joyful moments and making time for laughter can make a huge difference in the way you feel and the way you live your life.

My simple prescription for you is to laugh unconditionally every day.  It is free – it is fun – there are no adverse side effects – and it will help keep you young (at least young at heart).

Focusing on Your Well-being Is not Difficult

Improving your well-being does not have to be as difficult or complex as you may imagine. By using the five tips here, you can easily discover that you feel better, you are less stressed, and that you are able to enjoy life more.

I am not telling you to ignore the importance of eating well, regular exercise and getting adequate rest.  I am telling you to recognize that there is much more to a person’s overall well-being than those basic components.

A high-level of self-awarenes (how you act and how you feel) can impact your well-being in significant ways.

The Danger of a Frenetic Lifestyle

The frenetic lifestyle that many people live today is very harmful. Rushing here and there, being constantly on call, balancing multiple layers of responsibility may give you a sense of accomplishment – even make you feel important, but it takes a huge toll on every aspect of life.

Image by stokkete
Image by stokkete

When you constantly push yourself to take on more and more challenges, it is easy to lose sight of why you wanted to be successful in the first place. For many, the reason was to be able to spend less time working and enjoy life more.  A frenetic, high-pressure lifestyle creates exactly the opposite.

There is a very dark side to constantly pushing yourself to produce more and more. Unfortunately, it creeps up on you and becomes a serious case of self-negligence.

When you are busy and driven every minute of every day and well into the evening, it is easy to neglect important things in life that keep you healthy, happy, and create quality of life.  A continual stream of urgent tasks that must be completed will overshadow the not-so-urgent, but important activities that make life worth living.

It is not just physical well-being that is neglected – mental and emotional well-being also suffer when there is no time for self-care.

Areas of Neglect

Nutritional Needs

When your daily schedule is crammed to overflowing one of the first areas of neglect is your diet. Eating regular, nutritious meals become a thing of the past. You are not only too busy to sleep or even take a deep breath now and then, there is no time to prepare decent meals

Convenience foods, frozen dinners, take out and fast foods become the norm. It is a steady diet of additive filled, sugar and fat-filled dishes, loaded with empty calories that provide minimal nutrition and damage the body. It is impossible to sustain any level of good health on such a diet.

Adequate Rest

When you burn the candle at both ends, there is a good chance you will pay the price of poor health.  Inadequate rest carries both short- and long-term consequences.

Short-term lack of sleep can affect moods, cognitive ability, memory, judgment and increase the risk of accidents and injury.

Long-term, chronic sleep deprivation can set you on the path to serious health problems such cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and even early death.

In addition to endangering your own health, you may also be endangering others because of the toll it takes on your perception and judgement. In the work place it results in inefficiency, decreased productivity, and dangerous mistakes that can cause accidents. And, of course, driving while exhausted can be deadly.

Regular Exercise

Far too many people are overweight in the United States and obesity is on the rise. Many are calling it an epidemic of the 21st Century. This is primarily the result of poor diet and lack of exercise, which are the result of busy, hectic, work-focused lifestyles.

Regular exercise is a critical factor in maintaining good health. That will never change.  When it is a missing piece, sustainable good health is nearly impossible. Even if you take the time to eat well – if you live a completely sedentary life, you are putting your health in jeopardy.

Lack of exercise is as deadly as smoking. Physical inactivity has been declared the culprit in the rising death rates from coronary disease, type 2 diabetes, plus breast and colon cancer.

You should never be too busy to exercise!

Recreation

Busy people forget to have fun (re-create themselves). If you ask a very busy professional what s/he does for fun, the answer may be anything from a blank stare to a quick, “Who has time for fun?”

This may not seem serious at first glance; but, never having time for fun and relaxation can have serious negative impact on mental and emotional stability. They are just as important to good health as nutrition, exercise, and sleep.

Hobbies, play, relaxation techniques, and simple fun activities have therapeutic and regenerative effects on both physical and mental health.

Studies show that people with anger management issues or who struggle with anxiety and/or depression can often trace the cause back to a lack of joy in life that is found in fun and relaxing activities with friends and family.

Regardless of your profession – doctor, chef, mechanic, professional athlete, or garbage man – you need time to unwind and enjoy yourself

Without fun and relaxation as a significant part of your lifestyle, you are setting yourself up for problems related to chronic stress.

Stress is a killer! It leads to obesity, heart attacks, high blood pressure, chronic headaches, depression, and temporary personality disorders, etc. It can also destroy relationships, break up families, and decrease the desire to continue living.  There is no aspect of life that is free from the necrotic touch of chronic stress.

Dreams No Longer Matter

Another serious danger of a frenetic lifestyle  is that you can eventually reach a point where dreams no longer matter, which can alter the course of your life.

Life-long dreams –  the catalyst to your ambition – the ideals that pulled you into the future may dim and eventually disappear completely from your consciousness.

After years of life-draining work, the dream can be forgotten and  replaced by the time-consuming, demanding career that takes everything you have to give.

No one intentionally gives up on achieving their dreams, but the intense focus of a person’s mind, life, and soul around the means to the end eventually becomes the end in itself, leaving no room for the original dreams to exist.

When a person places all his time, talent, and energy on something long enough, that “something” begins to absorb the entire mind and becomes the central focus of his life.  It is the only thing that his mind is capable of comprehending – and possibly the only that he is capable of wanting.

He loses his healthy zest for life,  and he has nothing but obligations, responsibilities, and productivity goals – with no end point in sight. Life is about the work and nothing more.

Living in a constant rush of cortisol and adrenaline, a person loses the ability to enjoy friends, family, hobbies and life – hopes and dreams for the future no longer exist.

Instead of enjoying life, one merely tries to beat it.

Don’t Let Life Lose Its Meaning

Living every day filled with hectic, intense activity and constant stress creates an existence of a meaningless chain of milestones that lead nowhere.

You must take the time to stop! Disconnect! Breathe!

You must remember that life exists outside of work.  Without the little moments of love, joy, laughter, and even struggles, life is meaningless.

Setting goals and milestones can be great as long as you don’t forget why you set them. There were reasons – don’t lose sight of those.

On the other hand, everyone has crazy days or weeks now and then – that is part of life in the world today.  But notice, I said “now and then” not all the time.  SLOW DOWN and LIVE!

What to Do to Get Started Walking

In my last post we looked at eight reasons why you should walk for your health: to lose weight; for heart and brain health; to get happy endorphins flowing, for more energy and general well-being. Hopefully, you were inspired to include walking as part of your daily activities. Today, we are going to talk about what to do to get started walking.

There are a few important things your should do to get started with a walking routine that will lead to a healthier life:

Check with Your Doctor

Image by wavebreak_media
Image by wavebreak_media

Starting any kind of exercise regimen should include a physical check up by your doctor. You want to make sure that what you have planned will be good for you – and not detrimental in any way.

Chances are your doctor will be completely supportive of your plan, but s/he may want to check your heart, your blood pressure and other vitals before you begin just to make sure your body can handle increased physical activity.

He may also request that you return for a follow up after a specific period of time, to make sure everything is going well.

Start Slow and Steady

For anyone starting a new physical exercise routine, starting out slow and steady is a good idea.  It is important to let your body adjust to the rhythm and energy you will be exerting.  This is particularly true if you are not accustomed to exercise, are terribly out of shape, and/or have been living a sedentary life for quite a while.

Start as slow as necessary – just be sure that you are moving your body a little each day, and that you are committed to increasing your time or distance every three or four days.

Listen to your body. Trying to do too much too fast can create serious problems.  You could strain muscles, have muscle cramps, feel weak from too much exertion . . . and also take away your motivation to continue walking daily.

Do what you can each day – be persistent – stay with it. I promise, you will begin to enjoy the process and your body will thank you.

Have a Schedule that Works for You

For most people it is a good idea to have a walking schedule. Each day after you have finished your walk, check it off. This reinforces the feeling of satisfaction that comes from having accomplished something important.

You may want to buy a special calendar for this purpose and write out your walking goals for each week.

Set up your schedule – start slow and gradually increase how far you walk or how long you walk. You can choose which of those things you want to use as your measure. For me, it is how long I walk.

If you are a complete novice at walking (and exercise), start with 5-10 minutes at a time for 3 to 5 days.  Then, increase it by 2-3 minutes and gradually add more days.

Continue until you reach a level that seems a good length of time for you.  My recommendation would be to work up to 30 minutes if at all possible; with 15-20 minutes at least 5 days a week as your minimum goal.

A Healthy Diet Is Part of the Plan

Image by klenova
Image by klenova

Walking is wonderful for your health, but you should also be eating healthy foods as part of your new routine. Even if you walk everyday (which is great), but continue to fill up on fried, fatty, sugary, processed foods, it will be more difficult to sustain the energy you need to walk regularly and for any extended period of time.

Feed your body fresh, whole foods, lean protein for energy, fruits and vegetables, and lots of whole grains. These foods will keep you feeling satisfied, they are good for your body, and provide the energy needed for walking (and everything else you want to do).

Do what you need to do the get started walking. Then, plan your new walking routine beginning today – and stay with it for the long-term! 

Walk for Your Health

Image by Poul-Werner Dam
Image by Poul-Werner Dam

When you see (or hear) the words: Walk for your Health, you may flinch and think, “Enough is enough!” Everywhere you turn there are articles, research, advice from fitness experts, etc. that tell you to walk for you health.

You know that walking is good for you – I know that walking is good for me – even doctors agree that walking is good for us.  And yet . . . many people are resistant.

In spite of that resistance, I’m going to join the voices and give you eight reasons why you should walk for your health.

A 15- to 20-minute daily walk can do all of the following:

  1. Promote Weight Loss

A healthy diet coupled with a daily walking regimen is a great way to lose those extra pounds you have been carrying.  Even a few times around the block will burn extra calories. But, if you are serious about weight loss, a 30-minute brisk walk five days a week will do wonders.

  1. Increase Energy

I hear people complain about being tired all the time. If you are one of those who feel that way, walking can be the answer to your problem. It may take all you have to get started – and you may feel like you are dragging when you first start, but stay with it.  The more you walk, the more energized you will feel, which leads to being more physically active – which leads to greater productivity in your life.

  1. Improve Your Mood

Exercise releases endorphins (happy chemicals) in your brain that make you feel better.  When endorphins flow freely, tension is released, stress dissipates and depression and anxiety begin to fade.

  1. Provide Vitamin D

As a society we spend most of our lives indoors, which often results in a Vitamin D deficiency.  So, by walking on a daily basis (outside), you are not only getting all the other physical benefits we have discussed, you are also soaking up natural Vitamin D from the sun.

  1. Improve Balance

This benefit is more for the seniors – but can apply to everyone. Unfortunately, as we age, balance can be affected, which often leads to falls and serious injury. If you walk all your life, you will be building strong bones and sustain better balance as you get older.  If you are already a “senior” – it is never too late to start. Walking makes you stronger, improves your balance and lessens the chance of falling.

  1. Boost Your Immune System

If you are susceptible to colds and infections, you may have a weakened immune system – walking can help.  A small study at the University of Nebraska Medical Center suggests that exercise is not only good for your overall health, but it can boost your immune system and possibly help guard against cancer.

  1. Strengthen Your Heart

If you have a heart condition, are at high risk for heart disease, or simply want to be proactive about your health, it is wise to take action to protect and strengthen your heart.

Daily walking gets your blood pumping through your body, which helps your heart function more efficiently. It is a natural way to lower blood pressure and eliminate the need for medication.

  1. Improve Brain Function

The human brain is a miraculous organ that can be affected by your physical health. Walking reduces the risk for many diseases with dementia being at the top of the list. It also protects your cognitive ability and improves your memory.

Walk for your health – you will reap enormous benefits! Start today! 

Stop Stress Eating at Night

Stress eating can happen any time of the day (or night).  In fact, it is usually worse in the evening.  So, every effort should be made to stop stress eating at night.

Stress Eating at Night
Image by artisticco

You have a hard day at work, or one of the kids give you grief after school.  Finally, dinner is over, dishes are cleared, and everyone is asleep except you.  You are finally alone and have time to relax. It is so nice and quiet.

Unfortunately, there is also too much time to think about the day and everything that has happened, or might happen. It is all TOO MUCH!

All you can think about is eating something sweet and yummy – the great distractor – to make you feel better. AND . . . you deserve it! What can you do?

There are a few tips I can share that may be helpful.  They work for me; maybe they will work for you, too.

When You Want a Snack – WAIT!

This is a tip that not only works in the evening, it is a good one to use anytime of the day when you have the overwhelming urge to grab an unhealthy snack between meals.

Find some other way to distract yourself. Ignore the urge for a few minutes. Tell yourself you will get the snack after you take care of “one more thing.”  This gives your body time for the craving to disappear so you can move on with healthier activities.

After 15 or 20 minutes, if you are actually feeling hungry, then maybe your body really needs something.  Go for a healthy snack of fruit or a small handful of nuts to take the edge off until meal time (or bedtime).

There is a good chance the craving will fade and  you will know that you were in “stress-eating mode” rather a real need to feed your body. Plus, you will have made it through without giving in.

Clean-out Your Pantry – No Junk Food Allowed

Take the necessary steps to make night-time stress eating difficult.  Clean out your pantry, freezer and refrigerator. Get rid of all the chips, ice cream, buttery popcorn, hot fudge, cookies, pretzels, and any other favorite munchies that you typically have readily available.

When you have multiple choices of favorite unhealthy snacks lying around, you will almost always go for them. It is difficult to choose healthy alternatives when stress is in control of your mind and body.

If your pantry is bare of such temptations, you are more likely to eat a healthier substitute that you have on hand than you are to jump in your car and drive to get something unhealthy.

When your pantry is clean, make healthy options easy to find and eat. Always have fresh fruit you can peel, or cut up quickly. Also, keep small portions of raw nuts like almonds, cashews, walnuts, packaged in snack-sized baggies ready to grab and munch.

Hard-boiled eggs are great for a quick evening, high-protein snack – even a few slices of real cheddar cheese, or apple slices dipped in almond butter.

Snacking can be fun and healthy if you want it to be.

Always Eat at the Table

Eating should be reserved for the kitchen  or the dining room.  When you get used to eating in the living room, your favorite recliner, or in bed, you will have a much harder time breaking the night-time stress eating habit.

In fact, eating in any of those places creates a double whammy bad habit. You are not only stress eating unhealthy foods, you are doing it in parts of the home that are meant for relaxation (not eating). It can easily lead to overeating and serious weight gain.

For the health of the entire family, make a strict rule that meals and snacks are only eaten in the kitchen, breakfast nook, or dining room.  No eating should be allowed on the sofa, the recliner, in front of the TV, in the office, or in bedrooms.

Establish a Healthy Evening Routine

How do you wind down and get ready for bed?  That may be part of the problem.

If you make it a habit of grabbing a bag of chips or a big dish of ice cream to eat in front of the TV before you go to bed, you have already established a pattern that must be broken.

Change things up! If your family enjoys dessert, serve smaller dinners so they have room for a small tasty dessert that is served at the end of the meal, with a nice cup of tea or coffee.

Start a tradition of enjoying conversation with the whole family over dessert.  Then clear the table and have the whole family go into the living room to watch a little TV before bed.

Or, take a leisurely walk around the block – a great way to relax before settling down for the night.

Another great way to de-stress is to use aromatherapy while taking a long bath. It clears the mind, relaxes the body, and helps release tension for a better night’s sleep.

The more relaxed you are the less likely you will be to indulge in stress eating at night.

I would love to hear your thoughts and suggestions for a good evening routine.

What ideas to you have for de-stressing and relaxing in the evening before bed?