PERSONAL DEVELOPMENT

1. Confidence Building

Confidence is built on accomplishment. If you achieve small and big goals, you’re going to feel much better about yourself. It begins with your day-to-day goals, what do you need to accomplish today, and every day this week or three days this week to help meet your goal? If you accomplish the goals you set for every day, chances are you will begin meeting weekly and monthly goals, which brings you in range of your bi-annual and annual goals. Keep in mind that progress is incremental, and big changes do not happen overnight. You’re going to feel like you can take a big project, and set an ambitious goal because you believe you can meet it. Set a goal for yourself, and go for it.

1. Add Your Heading Text Here

Confidence is built on accomplishment. If you achieve small and big goals, you’re going to feel much better about yourself. It begins with your day-to-day goals, what do you need to accomplish today, and every day this week or three days this week to help meet your goal? If you accomplish the goals you set for every day, chances are you will begin meeting weekly and monthly goals, which brings you in range of your bi-annual and annual goals. Keep in mind that progress is incremental, and big changes do not happen overnight. You’re going to feel like you can take a big project, and set an ambitious goal because you believe you can meet it. Set a goal for yourself, and go for it.

2. Monitor Your Progress

The best way to reach your goals, big or small, is break them into smaller goals and to monitor your progress. Whether you’re trying to get promoted, get a better job, get into graduate school, change careers, eat healthier or lose 10 pounds, the best way to know if you’re making progress is to monitor it. Try to quantify your accomplishments: the number of applications you’re submitting to jobs or graduate schools, what you’re eating and how much you’re exercising, write down whatever your goal may be. It will help you stay on course, and you will build confidence as you see the progress you’re making in real time.

3. Do the Right Thing

Most confident people live by a value system and make their decisions based on that value system, even when it’s hard and not necessarily in their best interest, but in the interest of the greater good. Your actions and your decisions define your character. Ask yourself what the best version of yourself that you aspire to be would do, and do it. Even when it’s really hard and it’s the last thing you want to do and it means a short-term sacrifice on your part, in the long run you’re going to like yourself more and be prouder of who you are.

4. Exercise   

Besides benefitting your health in general, exercising helps memory retention, improves focus, helps manage stress and prevents depression. It’s harder to be anxious when there is no excess energy to draw upon, and outside of being difficult uncomfortable at times, exercise improves every aspect of your life. So stay active, and create time to take of yourself.

5. Be Fearless

Failing isn’t your enemy, it’s fearing failure that truly cripples you. If you set big goals and have big dreams, you’re going to feel overwhelmed, and you’re inevitably going to feel like you can’t do it. In those moments you have to look inside yourself, and gather every ounce of courage you have and just keep going. Every single wildly successful person has been afraid, and they’ve kept working and taking risks anyway, because what they are trying to accomplish is more important and urgent than their fear they will fail. Think about how much you want to achieve your goal, then put your fear to the side, and keep going, one day at a time.

6. Stand-up For Yourself

When your goal, project, etc. is in its early stages, and someone says that your goal is stupid, or that you can not do it, it’s tempting to believe them because they’re joining the chorus of doubts inside your head. Logically you think, “How can I be right when this person and all these doubts in my head are telling me I can’t do this? That this idea is stupid.” And you have to tell those people, especially the voices in your head, that they’re wrong. You have it in you, so tell them you believe in your goal, you believe in yourself, so you’re going to accomplish it. There’s a great line in 10 Things I Hate About You when Joseph Gordon-Levitt is about to give up his pursuit of Larisa Oleynik, and Heath Ledger gives him a pep talk, ending it with,”Don’t let anyone, ever make you feel like you don’t deserve what you want.”

7. Follow Through

People respect people when they say they’re going to do something and they do it. More importantly, you will respect yourself if you say you’re going to do something and you do it, and belief in yourself will come easier, because you know you are not afraid of the work. Action gives your words meaning, and it will help you pave a path to accomplishing your goals, strengthening your relationships and feeling proud of who you are.

8. Think Long-term

The foundation of unhappiness is decisions made for short-term comfort that impede long-term goals: if you’re trying to save money, you can’t go out to eat as much, if you’re studying for the GMAT or LSATs you can’t go out with friends as often, if you’re trying to lose weight, you can not eat french fries often, etc. Big goals require big sacrifices, you have to dig deep and really discipline yourself. In the moment it is tedious and frustrating and makes life significantly harder, but it will pay off, and the pride you feel will be worth it. You have to decide if your short-term comfort is more important than your long-term goals, but know that long-term goals will bring you far more happiness in the long run than your short-term comfort.

9. Don't Care What Others Think

There are going to be so many people who will tell you you can not accomplish your goal. Whether is it rejection from employers, schools, or just negative feedback from friends or family, people will try to tell you your goal is too big, or that you’re not ready, or that you can’t do it, that it’s never been done before, etc., and you absolutely can not listen to them. You must be resolute. While they tell you the odds are against you, etc., just remember most people are wrong about most things. People change the world every day, despite everyone around them telling them it can’t be done. If you think you can do it, you can it. Don’t listen to them, believe in yourself and keep going.

10. Do More Of What Makes You Happy

What do you love to do in your spare time? Is it to get outside, hike, kayak and enjoy the outdoors? Or do you live for lying on your couch and watching all the excellent television that’s available? Whatever it is you love, create space for it, because life is short- you need time to enrich your life and to recharge to be your best self.

2. ASSERTIVENESS TRAINING

What is Assertiveness Training?

Have you ever wondered what is assertiveness training in psychology? The assertive definition is simply having confidence or communicating in a confident way. Most people think of assertive meaning aggressive but that’s not always the case. Assertiveness training teaches confidence, not aggression. 

Assertiveness training is a form of therapy that has been used since the 1970s to help people learn how to better communicate their needs and wants so that they don’t feel taken advantage of or used. Assertiveness training can be very helpful to people who learned to be passive or passive aggressive due to the circumstances that they grew up in. 

Who Came Up with Assertiveness Training?

Assertiveness training was originally developed as an offshoot of the women’s movement of the 1970s and it was designed to help women learn to stand up for themselves in situations where typically they hadn’t in the past like in the workplace or in higher education settings. 

Today both women and men who are shy, or never learned how to appropriately and respectfully set boundaries and prioritize their own needs go through assertiveness training to learn better ways to communicate in all facets of their lives including personal relationships, work relationships, and educational relationships. 

Assertive Behavior Vs Assertive Personality

There is a big difference between assertive behavior and an assertive personality however. Assertive behavior that is also respectful while still allowing a person to make their own needs and wants known is healthy. 

An assertive personality means that someone is prone to a communication style that can be overbearing or sometimes even bullying. Assertive behavior can be respectful of the needs and wants of others. 

Assertive communication that is done in a positive and respectful way is a healthy way for a person that has trouble standing up for themselves to communicate with others without allowing others to control or manipulate them. 

Assertiveness training focuses on making “I” statements and expressing your ideas and your feelings in a way that is confident but not aggressive. If you have struggled to believe that your needs matter or that your ideas have value you might find assertiveness training uncomfortable at first. That’s normal. The important thing is to keep going with the training. 

When the training is done you will be more confident and have the right skills to ask for what you want and to know that your feelings do matter. Being able to express your feelings in a healthy and constructive way will give you the confidence to start setting and achieving new goals that you might have thought were impossible. 

What Does Assertiveness Training Encourage?

Assertiveness training teaches more than just how to be assertive. Assertiveness training teaches people how to handle tense situations or awkward situations without being confrontational but also without giving up their personal autonomy. When people know that their needs matter and that they have the right to prioritize their own needs they can listen to others and communicate clearly and openly without being combative but also without letting themselves be manipulated. Assertiveness training encourages people to speak up for themselves and make their feelings known. Your feelings do matter and being able to express them in a constructive way can eliminate disappointment and feeling badly about yourself. 

How to Be Assertive Without Being Aggressive

Going through assertive communication training can teach you valuable communication skills and give you the confidence to approach any type of situation without anxiety or worry. Assertiveness training can help you navigate situations like:

  • Asking for a raise.
  • Dealing with an unpleasant or combative coworker.
  • Making phone calls that you used to put off because you were anxious about asking for things.
  • Dealing with an overbearing relative or parent.
  • Clarifying communication with a toxic friend.
  • Speaking in public.
  • Communicating with a spouse or partner.
  • Putting your own ideas forward in work meetings or in educational settings.
  • Interviewing for a job that you really want.
  • Negotiating scheduling conflicts.

And many other everyday situations that previously caused you stress or anxiety.

Many people think that assertiveness training means learning to be more aggressive but that’s not really what assertiveness training is all about. Assertiveness training gives you better communication tools and the confidence to make your point of view clear without being antagonistic. 

If you have always struggled to be heard or if you have traditionally let people have their way even when it meant that your needs weren’t met or that you were overlooked assertiveness training can change the way you communicate and change your life. 

Keep an Open Mind

Keep an open mind and try assertive communication training when you’re ready to start prioritizing your own needs and wants and when you’re ready to start taking an active role in achieving your goals and strengthening your relationships with the people around you.

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3. Presentation Skills

10 WAYS TO IMPROVE YOUR PRESENTATION SKILLS

If you have to give a presentation, does your mouth dry up and your heart start racing? Fear of public speaking – or glossophobia – is estimated to affect as many as 75% of people, making it one of the most common phobias.

If you’re glossophobic you may try your best to avoid any situation where you have to speak in front of others. You may even break into a cold sweat at the mere thought of having to give a formal presentation, especially one to your managers or co-workers.

Unless you’re an experienced presenter you may worry that you’re not very good at public speaking or that your presentations aren’t interesting, both of which can make you feel anxious about your performance. The good news is there are lots of things you can do to become a more effective – as well as more confident – public speaker, whether you’re addressing a handful of people or a crowd of thousands. Here are our top presentation tips:

1. Set your goals

Ask yourself what you want to achieve with your presentation and how it’s going to benefit your audience. Do you want to use it to share information with others? Is it meant to update your audience or inform them about some important news or decisions? Try to make sure you know what your objectives are, and make sure your presentation achieves them clearly.

2. Show some passion

Your audience is more likely to be engaged with what you’re saying if you can speak about it with passion and conviction. If you truly care about your presentation’s subject matter, your enthusiasm will shine through. Not only that, but speaking with passion can help to overcome nervousness because you’ll be so absorbed in what you’re saying, you won’t have time to worry about how you’re being received.

3. Use personal stories

Good public speakers know how important storytelling is for a successful presentation. But talking about yourself, such as including personal anecdotes to illustrate the points you’re trying to make, can be even more powerful. And as most people feel comfortable talking about themselves, it could help you relax more too.

 

4. Add some humour

Humour can endear you to an audience because it shows you don’t take yourself too seriously. If you can make your audience laugh a few times they may also be more receptive to what you’re saying, which can help put you at ease. But avoid telling obvious jokes, as they can seem forced. Instead try to weave in a few humorous observations about your job or the subject you’re talking about.

5. Include take-home points

Aim to make sure your audience doesn’t leave your presentation wondering what it was all about. Your take-home points are the ideas and messages you want your audience to go away with, the things you hope will make a lasting impression on them. Summarise your take-home points at the end of your presentation when you’re wrapping things up.

important news or decisions? Try to make sure you know what your objectives are, and make sure your presentation achieves them clearly.

6. Ask questions

Try not to make your presentation one-sided. Involve your audience by asking them questions and encouraging them to participate. But make sure your questions can be answered – the last thing you want is for a question to be met with a wall of silence. Similarly, if someone asks a question while you’re speaking, jump in straight away – don’t wait until the end of your presentation to answer it.

 

7. Be prepared

Even the most confident and seasoned presenter can be thrown by unforeseen problems, especially when technology is involved. If you’re using audio-visual aids, try to have a plan B in case your laptop crashes or your wi-fi connection vanishes. If you’re well prepared, tech problems will be one less thing to worry about.

8. Practise - then practise again

If you have time, practise your presentation as often as possible. Rehearse to the point that you’re so familiar with your subject matter, you could deliver your presentation with ease – like having a conversation with a friend. Also try to do at least one practise run in front of a friend or family member.

9. Visualise your success

As well as practising it’s a good idea to visualise giving a great presentation as it can help boost your confidence. Try to do this as many times as you can, and especially immediately before you give your presentation. If you’re still feeling nervous, try doing some deep breathing to bring down your heart rate.

10. Don't talk on an empty stomach

Always try to eat something before speaking in public. It may be the last thing you feel like doing if you’re nervous, but having a light snack before giving a presentation can help make you more mentally alert. And if the thought of your presentation is really stressing you out, try having a burst of physical activity. Exercise helps your body use up stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol, so have a brisk walk or hit the gym beforehand – it will make you feel much calmer.

4. Healthy Living

4 Steps to a Healthy Lifestyle

Think you’re leading a healthy lifestyle? Aside from occasionally veering off the path, most of us think we do a fair job of maintaining our health with good (or at least OK) eating habits and physical activity whenever we manage to fit it in. But is that enough to be considered “healthy?”

According to a recent study, very few adults actually meet the criteria for a healthy lifestyle. The study, published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, showed that only 3% of American adults got a perfect score on what the authors say are the four basic criteria for healthy living. Just 13.8% met three of the criteria; 34.2% met only two criteria. Women scored slightly better than men.

See how well you measure up on the researchers’ four keys to healthfulness:

The good news is that these behaviors should not be foreign to you, as all but one are an integral part of the Weight Loss Clinic. Numbers 2 through 4 are the foundation of the WLC program, habits that we continually discuss, write about, and recommend.

Everyone knows smoking is bad for your health. If you are one of the lucky ones who never became addicted to nicotine, pat yourself on the back. Smokers, I hope you are working diligently to kick your habit. It’s impossible to underestimate the importance of a smoke-free life for your health — as well as for the sake of those around you.

4 Steps and More

While those four habits are indisputably important for a healthy lifestyle, some may argue that more factors should be taken into consideration. What would be on your list?

Just for fun, I came up with my own personal top 10 list of healthy behaviors (beyond the four basics) that contribute to wellness and satisfaction with one’s lifestyle:

  • Brush and floss dailyto keep your teeth and gums healthy and free of disease.
  • Get a good night’s rest. Well-rested people not only cope better with stress, but may also have better control of their appetites. Research has shown that a lack of sleepcan put our “hunger hormones” out of balance — and possibly trigger overeating.
  • Enjoy regular family meals. This allows parents to serve as good role models, can promote more nutritious eating, and sets the stage for lively conversations. Being connected to family and/or friends is a powerful aspect of a healthy life.
  • Smile and laugh out loud several times a day. It keeps you grounded, and helps you cope with situations that would otherwise make you crazy. Read the comics, watch a sitcom, or tell jokes to bring out those happy feelings.
  • Meditate, pray, or otherwise find solacefor at least 10-20 minutes each day. Contemplation is good for your soul, helps you cope with the demands of daily life, and may even help lower your blood pressure.
  • Get a pedometer and let it motivate you to walk, walk, walk. Forget about how many minutes of activity you need; just do everything you can to fit more steps into your day. No matter how you get it, physical activity can help defuse stress, burn calories, and boost self-esteem.
  • Stand up straight. You’ll look 5 pounds lighter if you stand tall and tighten your abdominal muscles. Whenever you walk, think “tall and tight” to get the most out of the movement.
  • Try yoga. The poses help increase strength and flexibility and improve balance. These are critical areas for older folks especially, and both men and women can benefit.
  • Power up the protein. This nutrient is an essential part of your eating plan, and can make up anywhere from 10%-35% of your total calories. Protein lasts a long time in your belly; combine it with high-fiber foods and you’ll feel full on fewer calories. Enjoy small portions of nuts, low-fat dairy, beans, lean meat, poultry, or fish.
  • have a positive attitude. Do your best to look at life as if “the glass is half full.” You must believe in yourself, have good support systems, and think positively (“I think I can, I think I can…”) to succeed.

 

IT’S ALL ABOUT YOU

Your list of healthy lifestyle behaviors may be different from mine. The most important thing to remember is that you can make a difference in your health and well-being. Take charge of your life, and be mindful of small behavior changes that can make your lifestyle a healthier one.

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5. LIFESTYLE TRAINING

HOW TO MAKE HEALTH AND FITNESS A  LIFESTYLE

With the start of the New Year, many of us have made resolutions to improve our health and fitness. While having specific health and fitness goals in mind is excellent, people often go to extremes to accomplish these goals. They try the newest fad diet or workout trend and often end up exhausting both their mental and physical energy. This usually leads to either quitting altogether or reaching these goals and being unable to maintain them, ultimately resulting in burnout, failure, or injury. Because of this, I propose you ditch the extreme unrealistic goals and aim to change your lifestyle.  When you start to view health and fitness as a lifestyle rather than a part-time hobby or 30-day challenge, you develop behaviors that will improve many areas of your life. Living a healthy lifestyle can inspire creativity and teach you discipline, adaptability, and balance. This will not only leave you looking and feeling better, but you will show up as a better version of yourself for the people in your life that truly matter. 

IT’S MORE THAN AESTHETICS

Health and fitness are about more than the way you look, the food you eat, or the weight you lift at the gym. They’re about:

  • the way you feel.
  • your quality of life.
  • the focus you have at work.
  • your ability to move.
  • your psychological state.

When you’re truly healthy, you are in a better mood and can physically do more. You can do things like walking your dog, going hiking, or paddleboarding. Not being able to do these things can drastically impact your experiences and limit your quality of life.

SETTING AN EXAMPLE

When you choose to live a healthy lifestyle, you not only do yourself a favor, but you set an excellent example for all of those around you. Your friends, family, and children are impacted by the healthy choices you make and will often feel inspired to make a change in their own lives. The result of this is better relationships, lower risk of disease, and an overall healthier and happier world. By simply making healthier choices, you can have a rippling impact on all of those around you. Be the person to start the change.

You can also set a great example by becoming a Lifestlye Coach through NASM!

YOU LEARN EXACT BEHAVIOR CHANGE

I find that “diets” or “workout challenges” only last so long. It is unrealistic to be going at 100 MPH all the time. We are all human. Life happens, stress comes and goes, and schedules can get thrown off. When we choose to live a healthy lifestyle, we learn to accept these things and ADAPT. You learn to enjoy life when you are on vacation and away from your gym and kitchen because you have developed the habits and skills to live a healthy lifestyle no matter where you are. By always practicing moderation and balance, you allow yourself to indulge without going overboard. If you don’t have access to a gym one week, you get in the habit of traveling with your resistant bands, creating a bodyweight circuit, or using nearby benches and stairs to get a workout in. You learn to adapt instead of self-destructing when your routine gets thrown off. 

CONSISTENCY

Sure, people get results with extreme dieting or partaking in workout challenges. However, the percentage of people who follow those plans exactly is tiny. These challenges are often completed in a short period and accompanied by strict guidelines of success and failure, both of which are not good for your physical or emotional health. When you set extreme goals, you’re more likely to

feel defeated if you “mess up.” When the expectations aren’t as intense, you are more likely to stay consistent and enjoy your journey. You don’t put that pressure on yourself to be perfect. If you eat something “bad” or skip a workout, you wake up the next day and get right back on track because now it’s just part of your lifestyle. This approach is much more attainable and leads to more consistency long term.

Here are a few tips to start making health and fitness a lifestyle today: 

1. FIND EXERCISE YOU ENJOY

This is important when it comes to staying consistent with your workouts. If you are continually doing exercises you don’t enjoy, and they leave you feeling drained physically and emotionally, it’s only going to last so long. You are better off finding exercises that make you feel good, and you can stick to long term, even if it’s not the most intense. Consistent low-intensity exercise will always triumph inconsistent high-intensity exercise. 

2. BE PATIENT WHEN IT COMES TO REACHING YOUR PHYSICAL GOALS

Remember, results take time. Be easy on yourself.
Nothing good comes easy. Learn to fall in love with the process and the person
you become throughout the journey.

3. DON’T GIVE UP THE FOODS YOU LOVE
I’m a firm believer in never giving up the foods

you love. Find a way to make your favorite foods healthier. If pizza is your
favorite food, don’t give it up. This will leave you feeling deprived. Get
creative and use clean ingredients to make your healthy version.

4. DON’T COMPETE WITH ANYONE

This is your life and your journey. No two people
are the same, so you should never compare yourself to others. As long as you


5. TRY NEW THINGS

Step out of your comfort zone. Try a new fitness class with a friend and explore different foods. Grocery shopping based on what’s in season is an easy way to begin experimenting with different foods and exposing yourself to a wide variety of fruits and vegetables. If you have never meal prepped before, try it out! Stepping out of your comfort zone and switching things up will keep things interesting and help you stay motivated and inspired to make this way of living a permanent lifestyle.

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6. Yoga & Meditation

What Are The Benefits of Yoga & Meditation?

Mental health issues such as depression, anxiety and chronic stress are prevalent in the United States, and are considered serious health conditions alongside heart disease, cancer and asthma. Integrative and holistic mind-body practices such as yoga and mindfulness meditation have become increasingly popular and beneficial as well when it comes to psychological and physical health issues. In fact, yoga and meditation are considered stress reduction techniques that can influence how we relate to mental and physical health issues, ultimately leading to less suffering and attachment to life outcomes.

So What Are the Benefits of Yoga and Meditation?

Given the “on the go” lifestyle and multitasking mentality of Westerners, we can find ourselves in a chronic state of hyperarousal in which the fight-flight-freeze response system (i.e., sympathetic nervous system (SNS)) becomes overactivated. In this way, our busy and chaotic lives can lead to gastrointestinal issues, weakened immune systems, tension, as well as increased anxiety and depression. Moreover, living in a chronic state of reactivity (or stress) keeps the SNS alive and on guard, which over time dampens levels of dopamine and serotonin in the brain, our “feel good” neurotransmitters. Low levels of these neurotransmitters are often associated with the loss of pleasure and enjoyment in life, a common occurrence in depressed individuals.

Yoga is a holistic and mindful practice that includes physical movements (asana), breathing (pranayama), meditation (dhyana) and relaxation (savasana). The practice cultivates mind-body awareness, promotes physical movement, and creates intimacy with one’s internal landscape (e.g., emotions, thoughts, physical sensations). Yoga can also be self-soothing, affecting the stress response system by quieting down the nervous system. Through its impact on the stress response system, yoga can help to decrease physiological arousal, for example lowering blood pressure and heart rate, a benefit for those who tend to feel wound up, on edge, and restless.

What Are The Differences Between Yoga and Meditation?

While there are some differences between yoga and mindfulness meditation from the Buddhist tradition, these two practices are undeniably synergistic and seemingly interchangeable. Mindfulness is the ability to maintain attention on a specific meditative object (e.g., breath, mantra), with emphasis on returning to beneficial (versus negative) thoughts. Mindfulness can be practiced in a more traditional way by sitting in a quiet space with eyes closed for a certain amount of time, as well as during a yoga class with focus on breath and movement while holding and transitioning from one pose to the next. Yoga mindfulness meditation facilitates increased awareness of present-moment experiences, rather than resisting or trying to clear the mind of uncomfortable thoughts, emotions, or sensations. In this way, mindfulness meditation can help the student learn how to disengage from evaluative or critical thinking by cultivating an attitude of curiosity and attention to ongoing reactions to emotions, thoughts, and feelings and ultimately minimizing suffering with increased clarity of reality.

One notable difference between yoga and meditation is the physical aspect (asana) of yoga, which essentially is a form of mindfulness that supports connection with present moment experience while moving from one pose to the next or during long held poses. In addition, the physical element of a yoga practice can aid the student in working through pain, stiffness, and muscle tension. Further, there are some individuals who may not be able to do a sitting meditation practice due to intense psychological or physical issues; for these individuals, their pathway to less suffering is found through a physical asana practice that perhaps integrates mindfulness techniques.

Yoga exercises are often practiced to ready both mind and body for meditation and concentration. Yoga meditation poses can range from activating poses such as sun salutations and arm balances, to relaxing and calming poses. Activating poses are often practiced in the beginning of a class and stimulate the sympathetic nervous system, otherwise known as the fight-flight-freeze response. When followed by relaxing poses, such as supported back or forward bends, the parasympathetic or relaxation response is activated, enabling one to drop into a more calm and peaceful place. Ultimately, the physical practice with an emphasis on pranayama, mindfulness, and movement is a pathway to moving through emotional and physical tension, preparing the body for a sitting meditation.

Mindful yoga (or the integration of yoga and mindfulness meditation techniques) provides a healthy and safe environment for individuals to practice “being with” uncomfortable emotional and physical experiences, and to eventually reunite with and fully inhabit their bodies on the mat. These skills can then be transferred off the mat and applied to everyday situations.

7. Stress Management

Ways to Manage Stress

ARTICLES ONTIPS FOR REDUCING STRESS

  • Stress Management
  • Breathing Exercises
  • Aromatherapy
  • Stress Reduction Checklist

 

 

Stress is part of being human, and it can help motivate you to get things done. Even high stress from serious illness, job loss, a death in the family, or a painful life event can be a natural part of life. You may feel down or anxious, and that’s normal too for a while.

Talk to your doctor if you feel down or anxious for more than several weeks or if it starts to interfere with your home or work life. Therapymedication, and other strategies can help.

In the meantime, there are things you can learn to manage stress before it gets to be too much. Consider these suggestions:

Exercise

To start with, physical activity can help improve your sleep. And better sleep means better stress management. Doctors don’t yet know exactly why, but people who exercise more tend to get better deep “slow wave” sleep that helps renew the brain and body. Just take care not to exercise too close to bedtime, which disrupts sleep for some people.

Exercise also seems to help mood. Part of the reason may be that it stimulates your body to release a number of hormones like endorphins and endocannabinoids that help block pain, improve sleep, and sedate you. Some of them (endocannabinoids) may be responsible for the euphoric feeling, or “runner’s high,” that some people report after long runs.

People who exercise also tend to feel less anxious and more positive about themselves. When your body feels good, your mind often follows. Get a dose of stress relief with these exercises:

If you don’t have the time for a formal exercise program, you can still find ways to move throughout your day. Try these tips:

  • Bike instead of driving to the store.
  • Use the stairs instead of the elevator.
  • Park as far as you can from the door.
  • Hand-wash your car.
  • Clean your house.
  • Walk on your lunch break.

Diet

The benefits of eating health foods extend beyond your waistline to your mental health. A healthy diet can lessen the effects of stress, build up your immune system, level your mood, and lower your blood pressure. Lots of added sugar and fat can have the opposite effect. And junk food can seem even more appealing when you’re under a lot of stress.

SUGGESTED

To stay healthy and on an even keel, look for complex carbohydrates, lean proteins, and fatty acids found in fish, meat, eggs, and nuts.

Antioxidants help too. They protect your cells against damage that chronic stress can cause. You can find them in a huge variety of foods like beans, fruits, berries, vegetables, and spices such as ginger.

Stick to a healthy diet with a few simple tips. Make a shopping list. Carry healthy snacks with you when you leave the house. Stay away from processed foods, and try not to eat mindlessly.

Scientists have pinpointed some nutrients that seem to help lessen the effects of stress on the body and mind. Be sure to get enough these as part of a balanced diet:

Sleep

A common side effect of stress is that you may struggle to fall asleep. If this happens three times a week for at least 3 months, you may have insomnia, an inability to fall and stay asleep. Lack of sleep can also add to your stress level and cause a cycle of stress and sleeplessness.

Better sleep habits can help. This includes both your daily routine and the way you set up your bedroom. Habits that may help include:

  • Exercise regularly.
  • Get out in the sunlight.
  • Drink less alcoholand caffeine close to bedtime.
  • Set a sleep schedule.
  • Don’t look at your electronics 30-60 minutes before bed.
  • Try meditationor other forms of relaxation at bedtime.

The role of your bedroom in good sleep hygiene also is important. In general, your room should be dark, quiet, and cool — 60-65 degrees is thought to be an ideal temperature to stay asleep. Your bed also plays an important role. Your mattress should provide support, space and most of all, comfort.

Relaxation Techniques

Yoga. This is a form of exercise, but it can also be a meditation. There are many types of yoga. The ones that focus on slow movement, stretching, and deep breathing are best for lowering your anxiety and stress.

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Meditation. It has been around for over 5,000 years for a reason. Meditation works well for many people and has many benefits. It can lower stress, anxiety, and chronic pain as well as improve sleep, energy levels, and mood. To meditate, you will need to:

  1. Find a quiet place.
  2. Get comfortable (sitting or lying down).
  3. Focus your attention on a word, phrase, object, or even your breath.
  4. Let your thoughts come and go and do not judge them.

Deep breathing. When you practice deep breathing, you turn on your body’s natural ability to relax. This creates a state of deep rest that can change how your body responds to stress. It sends more oxygen to your brain and calms the part of your nervous system that handles your ability to relax.

Try belly breathing. Get comfortable, close your eyes, and place one hand on your stomach and the other on your chest. Take a deep breath in through your nose. You should feel your belly rise more than your chest. Now, exhale through your nose and pay close attention to how your body relaxes. Repeat.

Biofeedback. Learn how to manage your heart rate, muscle tension, and blood pressure when stress hits. Biofeedback gives you information about how your body reacts when you try to relax. Sensors are placed on your body that call out changes in everything from your brain-wave pattern to your muscle tone. Working with a biofeedback therapist, you can start to take control of the signals by changing how your body reacts to the sensor.

Connect with people. Spend time with a friend or family member who will listen to you. It is a natural way to calm you and lower your stress. When you connect with people in person, your body releases a hormone that stops your fight-or-flight response. You relax.

Behavior. How you respond to people directly impacts your stress levels. Manage your response with these tips:

  • Try not to overcommit yourself
  • Share the responsibility
  • Count to 10 before you respond
  • Walk away from a heated situation
  • Distract yourself with musicor podcasts

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Inner voice. Nothing affects your stress levels like the voice inside your head. The good news is you are in control. You can exchange negative thoughts for positive ones. There are more benefits to positive self-talk than reducing stress. These include a longer life, lower levels of depression, greater resistance to the common cold and cardiovascular disease, and better coping skills for when hard times hit.

Laugh therapy. When you laugh, you take in more oxygen. Your heartlungs, and muscles get a boost and your body releases those feel-good hormones. Laughter also improves your immune system, lessens pain, and improves your mood for long periods time.

Talk therapy. Long-term talk therapy helps some people deal with stress. One approach, cognitive behavioral therapy, helps you change negative thought patterns. Your therapist can guide you toward other approaches that might be helpful.