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 from on May 27, 2014.

Knock Out Your Stress: Plant Something!


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 on May 1, 2014.

Knock Out Your Stress: Massage Therapy


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

Knock Out Your Stress: Electronic Usage


Is checking your phone the last thing you do each night?  If you find yourself night after night checking Facebook, sending a text message, or even reading one last “weird news” article before bed, you aren’t alone.  89 percent of cell phone users keep their cell phones in their bedrooms at night with 56 percent keeping it within arm’s reach.  For 14- to 17-year-olds, the overwhelming majority keep their phones in their bedrooms (many even keeping them under their pillow while they sleep)[1].

Technology is responsible for many advances in our society, and we’re connected like never before.  Being able to connect to anyone in a click of a button has its advantages, but did you know too much connectedness can actually be harmful for your health?  It’s true.  Technology use, particularly before bed, disrupts sleep, contributes to insomnia, and increases stress[2].  Studies have also shown that frequent cell phone use amongst teenagers has been linked to depression and other mental health problems[3].

Instead of letting checking your phone be the last thing you do each night, try to replace that habit with something that can reduce stress and rejuvenate your mind and body, like reading a book, writing in a journal about your day, or even taking a warm bath.  Set technology boundaries by agreeing on a set time each evening to “turn off” the technology and devote that time to your health.  It may be difficult at first and you may even experience some anxiety, but stick with it for at least 30 days to create a new habit.

[1] Vitelli, Romeo Ph. D.  Stress, Texting, and Being Social.  December 13, 2013. Psychology Today.  Retrieved from on March 25, 2014.

[2] Rettner, Rachael.  Technology Use Before Bed Linked with Increased Stress.  May 26, 2013.  Retrieved from on March 25, 2014.

[3] Pedersen, Tracy.  Heavy Cell Phone Use Linked to Depression, Sleep Problems in Young People.  Retrieved from on March 25, 2014.