Category Archives: “Knock Out Your Stress”

Knock Out Your Stress: Manage Your Time

Has a lack of time ever gotten you stressed?  Do you feel like you’re always in a hurry, but somehow never able to get everything done?  Have you forgotten the last time you fit something you truly enjoy into your day?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, you’ve probably experienced some stress due to a lack of effective time management in your daily life.  Even if you’re the most organized person you know, who never leaves home without their day planner and has an Outlook calendar for every scenario, you could still be experiencing stress due to over-commitment.  Here are a few tips[1] to help manage your time more effectively:

1)      Learn how to say no.  In many cases, time management stress originates from over-commitment.  Perhaps you feel uncomfortable telling someone no due to fear of disappointment.   You may be concerned about losing friends or “falling off the radar” if you pass on the latest invitation.  That is a normal reaction, but rest assured that saying no to things you cannot fit into your schedule will not hurt your relationship with someone, particularly if that relationship is built on mutual respect and is a true friendship.   Don’t worry about finding a good excuse, as that can often lead to stretching the truth which you’ll later feel guilty about and can cause even more stress.   The best approach is to be direct and polite.

2)      Prioritize.  Sit down and look at how you’re spending your days.  What’s truly important to you?  What is essential to your daily routine?  How can you cut out non-essential tasks and group tasks together so that you can manage them more effectively?

3)      Make time to plan.  Set aside at least 10 minutes each day to review the next day’s activities and plan for the coming weeks ahead.  A schedule isn’t worth very much if it isn’t up to date, so strive to maintain your time management system once it is established!

4)      Ask for help.  Are you making a special trip to the dry cleaners each week when your spouse drives right past it every day to work?  What may be an hour roundtrip activity for you could just be an extra 5 or 10 minutes for them.  Sit down with your partner and review the household duties periodically to make sure you have a system that’s effective for both of you.

 

[1]Scott, Elizabeth.  “I’m Just Too Busy. How Do I Find More Time?”  Retrieved fromhttp://stress.about.com/od/managetimeorganize/f/time_management.htm on May 27, 2014.

Knock Out Your Stress: Plant Something!

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Spring is here!  And along with the sense of renewal the budding trees and buzzing bees bring, there is also a chance of increased stress, whether it’s due to planning the family vacation, increased work stress, or major life events like a graduation.  The good news is that Spring brings many easy opportunities for knocking-out your stress, whether it’s enjoying a stroll on the greenway or cooking a healthy meal with farm-fresh ingredients.

One of the best seasonal stress relievers you can engage in is gardening.  Gardening not only allows you to exert physical activity, which is great for reducing cortisol levels, but it also allows the gardener to take a mental break from their everyday demands and “lose themselves” in a rewarding sensory activity.

It’s not just the master gardeners that tout the health benefits of their favorite activity.  A group of scientists in the Netherlands conducted a study to measure the effect of gardening on stress.  After completing a stressful task, two groups of people were instructed to either read indoors or garden for 30 minutes. Afterward, the group that gardened reported being in a better mood than the reading group, and they also had lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol.

You may not have a green thumb, but this weekend why not challenge yourself to grow something?  Whether it’s a vegetable garden, herb garden, or even a window box for your balcony, get in touch with nature this weekend and reap the benefits to your physical and mental health!

1Harding, Anne.  “Why Gardening is Good for Your Health.” Retrieved from http://www.cnn.com/2011/HEALTH/07/08/why.gardening.good/index.html on May 1, 2014.

 

Knock Out Your Stress: Massage Therapy

massage

Most of us don’t need an excuse to get a massage, but if you were on the fence, a new study from Emory University may be just the extra push you needed to convince yourself (or your significant other), that regular massages are a worthwhile investment in your mental and physical well-being.

The study that found regular massages resulted in lower levels of cortisol (hormone that causes stress) and an increase in disease-fighting white blood cells1.  The study also proved that, unlike some other stress relievers that have a temporary effect on your mental state, the stress-relieving effect of massage lasted several days after it was performed.  Regularity (the participants in the study received a massage at least once a week) was key to the benefit, so although that once-a-year massage you receive for your birthday or Valentine’s Day is a treat, it won’t have the same benefit as making massage a part of your regular lifestyle.

For many of us though, the expense of a weekly professional massage is not in our budget.  If that’s the case for you, try these self-massage techniques (or better yet, convince your partner to do them for you) from Maureen Moon, former President of the American Massage Therapy Association[1]:

1)      60 Second Facial Massage.  With a firm touch, run your fingers up and down your forehead and along each eyebrow.  Apply gentle pressure to your eyelids and temples.

2)      60 Second Foot Massage.  Using your favorite massage oil (bonus stress reliever points if you chooselavender) rub the tops of your feet with brisk, smooth motions.  Focus your attention to each toe and firmly radiate your hands outward along the soles of your feet.

3)      60 second Hand Massage.  Tug and rotate each finger and then use either your fingers or your knuckles to push on the palm of your hand in a circular motion.

 

[1] Drummond, Katie.  “Is Massage Actually Good For You?”  Prevention.  August 2012.  Retrieved fromwww.prevention.com/health/health-concerns/massage-shown-reduce-stress-and-boost-immunity

Knock Out Your Stress: Stress and Teens

iStock_000024398187MediumAre you or do you know a teen who is exhibiting signs of stress?  If so, you’re not alone.  According to an article in USA Today about a recent study performed by the American Psychological Association on teenage stress, 27% of US teens experienced an extreme stress level this past year1.  Another 55% indicated they had a moderate stress level and only 18% described their stress level as low.  The results also indicated that girls in particular exhibited higher stress levels and were more likely to be affected by stress than boys.  Girls cited social factors like their appearance(68%) and social media image(39%) as stressors and felt less confident than boys in their stress management skills.  Across both genders, the teens were handling their stress in unhealthy ways like watching TV or playing video games.

So how can we disrupt this alarming and unhealthy trend of high stress in teens?  The first step is recognizing the signs of stress in your teen.  If your teen is acting differently than normal and seems to be more despondent or irritable than usual, they may be experiencing an issue that is causing increased stress levels.  Try to encourage your teen to engage in healthy activities that can reduce stress like yoga, hiking, or creative activities like art or writing.  Try to limit “screen time” when possible.   As the results of the study show, teens are more likely to use the internet as a stress management tool, but social media is actually a cause of stress for many teens.

It’s important to recognize high stress levels in your teen, but also to realize that some stress is normal and healthy.   By recognizing when your teen is stressed, you can steer them toward healthy stress management tools.  If you feel your teen’s behavior has changed drastically or that they may be considering suicide, contact a licensed therapist in your area for immediate counseling.

1 Jayson, Sharon.  “Teens feeling stressed and many not managing it well.” USA Today. February 11, 2014.  Retrieved from http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2014/02/11/stress-teens-psychological/5266739/ on February 25, 2014.

Knock Out Your Stress Valentine’s Day Edition

heartValentine’s Day has vastly different connotations depending on where you are in your life.  Maybe you aren’t in a relationship currently and are wondering when you’re going to meet that “special someone.”  Or perhaps you are in a new relationship and still in the “honeymoon” stage.  Or maybe you’ve been married to your partner 50 years and are wondering if you still have that spark.

Whether it’s a new relationship that you’re looking for or to renew your current one, understanding that each of us has our own way of showing and receiving love is critical in establishing a healthy relationship.  One of the most popular books about communication is Dr. Gary Chapman’s “The 5 Love Languages.”  In his book, Chapman theorizes that people express and receive love in one of five ways:

Words of Affirmation:  Do you like to hear your partner say that he/she loves you or do you like it most when you’re complemented by your partner?  If so, your love language may be “Words of Affirmation”.

Acts of Service: Do you feel most loved when your partner goes out of his/her way to help you around the house?

Receiving Gifts:  Does nothing excite you more than getting a gift from your partner, whether it’s for a special occasion or “just because?”

Quality Time:  People whose love language is “Quality Time” prefer to spend one-on-one time with their partner, without any distractions.

Physical Touch:  If you’re love language is physical touch, you feel most loved when you’re being touched by your partner, whether it’s a massage or even just holding your hand.

It’s important not only to know your own love language, but also that of your partner so you can make sure that you’re showing love in the way they will recognize.  It may feel uncomfortable at first, especially if your love language is different from your partner’s, but the reward will be great if you stick with it.

To find your own love language, try visiting http://www.5lovelanguages.com/ and taking the love language profile.  Sit down and have your partner complete it as well, and get ready to learn more about yourselves and each other.  Happy Valentine’s Day!

Knock Out Your Stress Tip – Smell the Lavender

lavenderWould you ever imagine that the key to reducing your stress level could be right in front of your nose?  Although often unnoticed, the nose is a powerful part of our body.  Have you ever tried imagining a life without smells?  Think of the dimension smell adds to your life.  Whether it’s your grandmother’s cookies straight from the oven or the scent of your first puppy, smells attach themselves in our memories almost as much if not more than any other part of our experiences.

When you consider this, it isn’t too far-fetched to believe that smell can be an important factor in stress reduction.  One of the most proven smells to aid in the reduction of stress is lavender.  Lavender has been used for centuries to battle insomnia and anxiety.  Over time, studies have proved that the benefits aren’t just folklore.  In various studies, lavender has been shown to reduce cortisol levels.  One particularly interesting study was performed in 2008.  Very young infants were given a bath with or without lavender-scented bath oil. The mothers in the lavender bath oil group were more relaxed, smiled and touched their infants more during the bath. Their infants looked at them a greater percentage of the bath time and cried less and spent more time in deep sleep after bath. The cortisol levels of this group of mothers and infants significantly decreased, confirming the behavioral data showing increased relaxation of the mothers and their infants[1].

So how do you get started?  Try dropping a few droplets of lavender oil on a wet cloth and placing it on your forehead.  Close your eyes and relax for 15-20 minutes, breathing deeply.  Another easy way is to light a lavender-scented candle or add a few drops of lavender to a warm bath.  You can even use lavender oil as massage oil.  Whatever you try, remember….breathe deeply!


[1] Field T, Field T, Cullen C, Largie S, Diego M, Schanberg S, Kuhn C. Lavender bath oil reduces stress and crying and enhances sleep in very young infants. Early Hum Dev. 2008 Jun;84(6):399-401. Epub 2007 Nov 28.  Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18053656 on January 27, 2014.