Category Archives: “Knock Out Your Stress”

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 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 on January 27, 2014.

Knock Out Stress Tip – Read a Book!

readingHappy New Year!  Now that the holidays are over and resolutions have been made(and in most cases, broken) stress levels are beginning to ramp up for many of us.  There’s no better time than now to take your mental health seriously.  Let 2014 be your year of self-care!  Having trouble getting started?  Guess what?  You already have by reading this blog post!  Go ahead and give yourself a pat on the back if you’ve guessed what this week’s stress tip is about.

You guessed it.  Research indicates that reading reduces stress.  A 2009 study at the University of Sussex found that reading can reduce stress by up to 68%[1]. And, the same study found that reading can be more effective than other stress reduction techniques in reducing stress.  By reading, you not only engage in an effective stress management technique, but you also get more results for each minute spent!  Why is reading so effective?  In part because of distraction.  When we read something that we’re interested in, particularly fiction or other creative writing, we’re transported into the world of the writing.

For best results, pick something that you’re interested in that won’t upset you.  For many of us, that means staying away from the daily news.  Fiction is a great choice, but it can also be something you’re interested in like a new hobby or even a magazine.  Try to devote at least thirty minutes to your reading.  And if you think that is too much, remember, 2014 is the year of self-care.  You can find 30 minutes for yourself each day!  It’s my challenge to you!  Happy reading.

[1] University of Minnesota.  “Reading for Stress Relief”.  Retrieved

Knock Out Holiday Stress Tip #4 – Anti-Resolution Stress

boxing glovesThe holidays are over and the decorations are put away for many of us as the new year is here.  The end of the year is always a time of reflection, both on the past year and the year to come.  It is also an opportunity to start fresh, which can carry both promise and pressure to succeed.

Many of us are thinking about New Year’s resolutions.  The statistics are against us; only 8% of Americans successfully achieve their resolution, according to a 2013 study by the University of Scranton Journal of Psychology.  My challenge to you this year?  Decide to be anti-resolution, and instead of setting a goal you know you probably won’t achieve, choose to start habits that will improve your life and reduce stress, like exercise or healthy-eating.  Focus on creating healthy habits, not the result and you may find a healthier, less-stressed version of yourself this time next year.

Thank you for being a part of the Knock Out Your Stress: Holiday Series.  I look forward to seeing and hearing from many of you in the New Year.


Knock Out Holiday Stress Tip #1 – Exercise!

20100524_katieMM_0123Whether it’s the slight chill in the air, the holiday decorations, or the hustle and bustle of everyone hurrying to find the perfect gifts for their loved ones, there’s no denying that the holiday season is upon us.  And what does that mean?  Joy, of course.  But also increased stress.

A study performed by the American Psychological Association indicated that Americans, particularly women, are more likely to experience increased stress during the holidays[1].  The same study also indicated that people are more likely to engage in comfort eating or sedentary activities like watching TV to manage their stress.  If you’ve tuned in for the Knock-Out Stress blog series so far, you know that activities such as these are counteractive to stress management and extremely detrimental to your health and well-being.  If you’re joining this blog series for the first time, welcome!  You’ve taken the first step in healthy stress management this holiday season.  The stress relief tips you’ll find here will help you to manage stress more effectively while creating habits that will endure beyond the holiday season, so keep reading!

The first tip in the Knock-Out Stress Series: Holiday Edition is to exercise in order to release endorphins.  Endorphins are your brain’s “feel-good” neurotransmitters, and they’re most easily released when you engage in physical activity[2].  Physical activity does not mean that you have to take a five mile run or a strenuous hike if you don’t enjoy those activities; pick something you enjoy doing that is active and make a focused effort to practice that activity this holiday season.  Your waistline will appreciate the extra calories you’ll burn while your mind will get a boost from the mental break and all the “feel-good” endorphins that will be released when you’re active.  So go ice skating, take a walk around the neighborhood to admire your neighbor’s tacky Christmas lights, or make that trek up the mountain for the perfect tree and reduce your stress while you get into the spirit this holiday season!

[1] Berktold, Jennifer.  Greenberg, Anna.  “Holiday Stress”.  American Psychological Association.  Retrieved from on December 2, 2013.

[2] “Exercise and Stress: Get Moving to Manage Stress.” The Mayo Clinic.  Retrieved from on December 2, 2013.