Posts Tagged ‘Reducing Stress’

Motivation & Goal-Setting

December 8, 2017

Setting goals can be tricky. Staying focused, even harder. Motivation is key in setting and completing goals. Examining our desires, values, and ideals can inspire us to act and help us control our level of motivation.

5 STEPS TO HELP YOU GET MOTIVATED

Motivation begins with a choice. The following tips will help you maintain and gain momentum:

  1. Identify – Consider your core values, beliefs, and desires. How do these interrelate with your work, health, and relationships? Prioritize their importance to you. Then look for themes emerging from your list.
  2. Seek accountability – Surround yourself with supportive people. Encouragement is vital, especially from those who’ve completed a similar goal. Constantly competing with others can be very isolating.
  3. Inspire – Look for ways to uplift yourself daily. Consider posting an inspiring quote or picture to your mirror. Read about influential people and see what wisdom you can glean.
  4. Consider the alternative – If you don’t make this change, what will your life be like? Your reaction to this question is a clue to how much you value this goal.
  5. Forgive yourself – It’s easy to be your own worst enemy. Understand you will days you fail, make mistakes, and get rejected. Stay positive and keep moving forward.

GOAL-SETTING TIPS

Getting started is often the hardest part in goal-setting. Step out of the gate with these guidelines:

  • Think big – Put logic aside for a moment and dream big. Negative thinking is a dream-killer. Just because you cannot reach a goal today doesn’t mean it’s not a possibility.
  • Break it down – Goals should be broken up into attainable and measurable tasks. Setting a daily or weekly goal keeps you motivated and helps track your progress.
  • Stay positive – Use uplifting language when you’re writing your goals. Focus on what you want for yourself rather than what you don’t. Write a vision statement to help you stay on course.

Motivation and goal setting is a life-long process. As we move through life, our circumstances and passions will change. Stay flexible and adapt your goals as needed. As you achieve one goal, be sure to celebrate the victory.

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Handling Holiday Stress

November 20, 2017

From pumpkin spice to peppermint mocha, there’s a tangible feel as the seasons change. Yet, for every bit of holiday magic, extra stress and confusion can easily spoil the show. Parties, traditions, food, and scheduling conflicts can add up to a holiday handful. Whether you find yourself dreading or anticipating that annual event, consider these tips to keep your relationships happy and healthy.

  • Pay attention – Expectations, memories, and drama can easily complicate the season’s joy. Be mindful of your feelings and needs, particularly if you’re in a different situation than last year. Grieving the loss of a loved one, relationship, or job can leave you feeling sad. That’s okay. Even though it’s the holidays, you don’t have to be happy.
  • Be realistic – Communicate your expectations of others and yourself. Remember, you are only one person. You can only be in one place at a time, bake so many cookies, and spend so much money. Consider scaling things back to enjoy the most from each detail.
  • Prevent stress – Everyone has that one family member, coworker, or acquaintance that gets on their nerves. Postpone deep or controversial conversations. Stay cordial, stick to the small-talk and form an exit strategy to excuse yourself from a potential disagreement.
  • Say no – Practice the discipline of saying no to preserve feeling overwhelmed and resentful. Cherish your holiday, say no to the good and yes to the best.
  • Travel solo – Double-booked with multiple engagements? Consider splitting the events with your partner. Driving separately so one of you can leave early is another alternative. Stand up for your individual needs to strike the perfect holiday balance.
  • Plan – Reduce last-minute surprises by organizing a plan for who, what, when, and where. Communicate your plans by writing them down or sharing via your favorite mobile device app.
  • Minimize – Consider limiting your sugar, food, and alcohol intake. Avoid holiday hangovers by cutting back.

No matter what holiday situation arises, practice the art of being polite. Keep scrooge locked away and remember your manners. Say thank you, send a note, or consider a donation to your favorite charity.

How to Respectfully Disagree

August 31, 2017

All relationships experience conflict. Disagreements cause stress for everyone, even those with a healthy emotional intelligence. Whether it’s romantic, professional, or familial, navigating a disagreement with respect is a sure sign of personal growth and maturity.

BEST WAYS… TO DO IT POORLY

Conflict is often uncomfortable at best, and it is easy to fall into poor habits. However, we can learn to converse respectfully and constructively disagree. If you identify with any of these disagreement no-no’s, it would be wise to reconsider your approach. The best ways to disagree poorly include making a disagreement any of the following:

  • Personal – Do you find it challenging to separate the issue from the person? Remember, it’s an idea or concept being suggested that you are actually upset or disappointed by, not the individual.
  • A put-down – Have you found yourself saying things like, “That’s a dumb idea?” Avoid putting down the other person’s ideas, culture, or beliefs. Use respectful language, such as, “I don’t see it the same way you do.”
  • Emotionally charged – It’s easy to grow passionate and heated about topics that matter to us. Instead of lashing out or saying regretful statements, take a deep breath. Think before you speak or ask to continue the conversation at a later time if need be.
  • About you – Do you stop listening and begin mentally formulating your argument? Maybe you avoid it altogether and simply comply. Instead of shutting down or over-talking, try listening for understanding. Ask questions to gain insight into the person’s thoughts and feelings. Listening is a universal sign of respect.

PHYSICAL CUES

Learn to listen to your body’s clues and dues during a disagreement. Be mindful of overreacting, or “the amygdala hijack.” Our brain’s pre-frontal cortex is the center for rational thinking. Yet during an emotionally charged disagreement, the brain’s amygdala takes control and activates the fight, flight, or freeze response. Watch for physical cues such as a racing heart, increased breathing rate, or feeling tense to recognize the amygdala is kicking into high gear. Take some deep breaths to calm down and lower your heart-rate.

Navigating disagreements takes courage and maturity. Creating a culture and relationship built on mutual-respect amidst conflicting points of view is a worthy and rewarding pursuit.

Conflict Resolution

May 16, 2017

Everyone faces conflict in varying degrees at some point in life. Because conflict happens in any relationship, including those at work and at home, no one is immune to its complexities. How we choose to deal with conflict is unique, as everyone brings his or her own personality and experiences to these difficulties.

CONFLICT DEFINED

A conflict is a difference of opinions, priorities, or perspectives, whether friendly or hostile. Because people react differently to conflict, the situation may be difficult to assess. Those who view conflict as a threat usually experience anxiety and stress, and those who see it as an opportunity for growth can overcome it and even benefit from conflict.

CONFLICT IN THE WORKPLACE

One environment where conflict is common is in the workplace. We spend the bulk of our time there and often can’t choose our co-workers. Since conflict is inevitable, there are real benefits to improving your resolution skills. Some of the paybacks include improved relationships, a smoother working environment, fewer delays in production, increased communication, and improved health as tension symptoms decrease. The following strategies will help you in your workplace conflict resolution:

  • Tackle potential conflict – If you sense tension in the workplace, take a proactive stance. Calmly confront the other individual with honesty. This could prevent a future blowup from occurring.
  • Choose your battles – Not every little item is worth the conflict. Knowing when to let things slide and when to take action about conflict makes for a more success work environment.
  • See growth in conflict – Being able to resolve conflict in relationships is a sign of maturity. Try viewing conflict, at work or home, as an opportunity for growth instead of something to be avoided.

TAKE ACTION THROUGH LISTENING

The following tips demonstrate how to resolve conflict with listening skills:

  • Listen actively – Active listening aims to understand the thoughts, feelings, and emotions behind what the other person is saying.
  • Acknowledge the message – You don’t have to agree with the other person to respect and validate their opinion. Recognize their value as a fellow human being and affirm the importance of their beliefs.
  • Know your message – Before you respond, consider your own emotions and thoughts about the situation in conflict.

All About Feelings

March 24, 2017

While much has been said about the differences between men and women with respect to awareness of feelings, the truth is, it’s easy for everyone to lose touch with their feelings once in a while. Yet, feelings provide powerful clues as to what we’re thinking and how we’re reacting physically.

EXPERIENCING FEELINGS

There are three main ways we encounter an emotion. First, we experience the feeling. Second, our body reacts to it. Last, we express the feeling through our behavior. Therefore, if you were angry, you’d interpret the emotion as anger. Perhaps, your body would tense up and your heart would begin to pace, and then you might lose your temper and begin to shout.

THE IMPORTANCE OF FEELINGS

Exploring your feelings can benefit both your body and behavior. For example, if you find that you often feel afraid you may also discover that you regularly experience association anxiety and physical symptoms of stress. Perhaps your heart is continually racing and your sleep is affected, these responses can have a long-term impact on your health. If you start to examine the root of your fear, you might find that your thoughts aren’t factual. Recognizing this faulty or irrational thought pattern is the first step in modifying it and ultimately feeling less anxious and afraid.

TIPS FOR MANAGING EMOTIONAL REACTIONS

Controlling your reactions to emotion takes time and practice. The following ideas will help you learn how to regulate your reactivity.

Track your feelings – Keep a log of your feelings throughout the day. This experience will give you greater insight into how you see the world and react to it.

Scale emotions – Emotions exist on a broad spectrum, so rating them on a scale of one to ten might help you look for patterns and situations that trigger certain emotions.

Reduce stress – When you experience negative emotions, tracking the methods you use to lower your stress provides invaluable insight and guidance on when and where to use these methods to reduce stress.

Stress Stoppers: Stress Stretch

February 14, 2017

When you are under stress, tension accumulates in your neck and jaw. Take a minute to gently and slowly move your head from front to back, side to side, and in a full circle. For your jaw, stretch your mouth open, and slowly move your lower jaw from side to side and front to back. (NOTE: If you notice any pain or if you have had any injuries to your back, neck or jaw, check with your doctor first.)

Set a Goal (and Achieve It!)

Unrealistic goals that never seem to be reached add to your stress level. Try setting one goal for yourself this week. Pick one small goal and write it down. Can you count it or check it off a list? Is it realistic? If not, make it smaller. Decide how to reward yourself when you reach your goal. Set a specific, realistic date to finish or achieve your goal.

Comedy Break: Laugh at Stress

Set aside some time for laughter, your body’s natural stress release mechanism. Rent your favorite comedy video. Tape a TV show that you know makes you laugh and keep it on hand for stress emergencies. Go to the library and borrow a book by an author who can make you laugh. Read the daily comics in the newspaper. Or, phone the funniest person you know!

Walking Breaks

Walk away from stress. Instead of sitting down for another cup of stress-inducing caffeine on your coffee break, lunch hour or when you’re at home … try going for a stress-relieving and energizing walk. If you don’t like walking by yourself, try forming a walking club with two or three of your friends or coworkers.

Learning to Relax

December 8, 2016

Stress! It’s everywhere and affects everyone. Without proper self-care, stress can feel like it might swallow us alive. Why? Any time a change or interruption occurs in your life, your body, emotions, and mind react. This is known as the stress response.

The Stress/Relaxation Relationship

Having a constant or hyper-normal stress response to life wears down the body. Relaxation techniques are specific practices used to produce the body’s natural relaxation response. The advantage of practicing relaxation include better concentration, reduced anger, lower heart and breathing rates, fewer stress hormones, and less muscle tension, pain and fatigue.

Types of Relaxation Techniques

Autogenic relaxation – Being aware of your body can help decrease stress. First, focus on peaceful images or words. Next, tune in to your breathing, heart rate, and body’s sensations.

Progressive muscle relaxation – This technique slowly tenses and relaxes individual muscles. Start with your feet and work up to your head. This practice teaches awareness of muscle tension when you are stressed.

Tips for Relaxation

Pay attention – We can often ignore what our body is trying to tell us. Pay attention to where you feel stress and tension in your body.

Laugh – Watching your favorite funny movie or catching up with a witty friend can be just what the doctor ordered. Laughter lowers cortisol, your body’s stress hormone, and releases endorphins to uplift your mood.

Be present – Practice being present in your relationships at work and by yourself. Push aside thoughts about your to-do list, future events, and things in the past. Try keeping your thoughts on the here-and-now.

Relaxation techniques may not completely eradicate the stress in your life, but they can lighten your stress load. So, why not try it? There’s everything to gain and nothing to lose, except maybe some extra stress.

Codependence

November 15, 2016

When a person is codependent, they are unable to define and meet their own needs in a relationship. This individual “loses” their sense of self because they are completely absorbed in the needs of the other person. This intense focus on the other person can jeopardize your health, safety, and success in life.

CHARACTERISTICS OF CODEPENDENT PEOPLE

There are many emotional characteristics of codependent people. They often experience low self-esteem and constantly compare themselves to others. They might have an overblown sense of responsibility for other people and fear abandonment. Often a person who is codependent finds it difficult to set and maintain boundaries in a relationship, and they also have a difficult time expressing their own personal goals or values as an individual.

HELP FOR THE CODEPENDENT PERSON

The following tips can help you or someone you know move from codependence to healthier relationships.

  • Identity – Embrace your own needs and emotions. Saying “no” to a loved one doesn’t mean you don’t care for them, and it’s healthy to set these boundaries. Tough love is sometimes the most loving thing you can do.
  • Self-reliant – What are some ways you could be more independent? When can you take responsibility for your own emotions and actions? Encourage others around you to do the same.
  • Stop “fixing” – It is not your responsibility to solve all your loved one’s problems. You can still support and love them without trying to “fix” their lives. Give them space to take personal responsibility for their actions and future.
  • Relax – Relieve stress, tension, and anxiety by practicing relaxation techniques. Yoga, enjoyable music, mindfulness, and activities you love are all things you can do to help dial down worry and guilt.

If you or your loved one is struggling with codependency, be courageous and seek help. A licensed counselor or therapist can help you explore how you began to act this way. Together, you can establish a plan to change your life’s direction and move from a codependent relationship to a mutually satisfying one.

Sleep Solutions

October 31, 2016

Most adults need somewhere between seven and nine hours of sleep each night. We spend about a third of our lives asleep, but most people know very little about it, even though it’s as important as food and water.

It’s estimated that sleep disorders affect more than 70 million Americans. When you get less sleep than needed, you fall into “sleep debt.” If the debt becomes too high, then physical problems and daytime drowsiness can occur.

THREE KEY INGREDIENTS

Three key ingredients to good sleep are temperature, light, and sound. A hot bath or shower raises your temperature then rapidly lowers it to help you relax. If the room is cool, you’re likely to get better sleep. To control light, consider dimming the light an hour or two before you go to sleep. Don’t look at computer or TV screens right before bed, so the hormone melatonin can flow. If your neighborhood is noisy, consider wearing earplugs to keep the sound out.

SLEEP TIPS

  • Be consistent – If you can go to sleep and wake up at the same time, even on the weekends, you’ll sleep better.
  • Create a routine – You can train your body to recognize when it’s time to sleep if you stay consistent with habits. Maybe read a book. or take a warm shower. Perhaps lay out your clothes for the next day.
  • Get up if you can’t fall asleep – If after 15 minutes you don’t fall asleep, get up and do something rather than worry. Consider reading a book or listening to soft music.
  • Limit your naps – It might feel good to snooze for an hour in the afternoon, but anything over half an hour might keep you up at night.
  • Consult a professional – If you need to get more info or guidance on your sleep habits, talk to your primary care physician.

Resiliency in the Workplace

October 14, 2016

Whether you have a fast-paced job or not, stress exists in every workplace. Having a “bounce back,” or resilient, perspective is a key element to coping with stress. Workplace resilience helps you handle coworkers, interoffice events, and outside situations that impact your job.

THREATS TO OUR WORKPLACE WELL BEING

  • Work culture – Anything that happens outside the organizational culture of your job can increase stress levels. This includes the structures, policies, mergers, expansions, layoffs, etc.
  • Interactions within your job – Events such as bullying, intimidation, and being overworked can make your job difficult. Other stressful situations might include accidents, grieving a coworker’s death, and the fear of supervisors.
  • Personal lives – Stress and anxiety from other parts of our lives can also threaten our workplace well being. Our behavior toward others can reflect this stress.

TIPS FOR BUILDING RESILIENCE

  • Interpersonal intelligence – The ability to empathize with your coworkers and understand their point of view is a key component to managing relationships. When we are socially aware in the workplace, it helps us monitor our own reactions to problems. Then we can seek resolution to a workplace conflict or interpersonal confusion.
  • Remaining active – A resilient person does not shut down when adversity comes their way. They speak up for themselves and their goals in an assertive way. Active in teamwork, this individual also takes a self-initiated approach toward problem solving.
  • Proactive – Resilient people can identify potential problems and take actions to prevent them. These individuals won’t wait until a disaster occurs before they clean up a mess and work toward resolution.
  • Self-care – A work environment that values good self-care will be more productive in the long run. Getting enough sleep, eating healthy and a regular exercise routine are keys to resilience. In addition, spending time with family and friends eases stress and helps us bounce back faster when times are rough.