All posts in Stress Reduction

Guest Post: Healthy Living Can Be a Walk in the Park!

With so much going on in our lives, many of us plan out every minute of our day: Wake up, work, go to the gym, come home, make dinner, work from home, try to spend some quality time with our families, go to sleep, repeat. Day after day we know what is important to live a healthy life and we are constantly working to juggle that with our daily responsibilities. But when our mental health starts to falter, it can be hard to check off everything on your To Do list.

How we can get more done while feeling less stressed, more fulfilled in our daily lives, and maintaining our overall health? The answer might be simpler than we think.

Try getting out more often. With most people living in urban environments, working in offices all day, and spending free time working out at the gym, it is not uncommon for our only time in nature to consist of the walk to the car. This may seem like a minor price to pay for living a full, busy life but the New York Times cites studies showing city dwellers have a higher risk for anxiety, depression and other mental illness than those who spend regular time outdoors.

By not spending enough time outdoors, we lose more than just our recommended daily intake of Vitamin D. Human beings have an inherent connection to nature and previous generations did not spend nearly as much time indoors. With modern technology, we can do nearly everything from the comforts of our own home but doing so could be detrimental to our health.

In a study done by Stanford University, Gregory Bratman and colleagues found that volunteers who walked through a green area of the campus showed a more focused and positive attitude afterward than volunteers who walked for the same amount of time near heavy traffic. The volunteers who had strolled through the calming natural parks also showed improvements in their mental health and were not dwelling on the negatives in their lives as much as they had been before the walk.

Getting into nature has major mental and physical health benefits for us, but don’t think of it as something else you have to add to your ever-growing To Do list. Many routine activities can simply be moved outdoors. Make the commute to work on your bike if possible, or take nightly walks around the neighborhood as a part of your post-dinner routine. On the weekends make time for a hike or picnic outdoors. Even just sitting on the porch for a while has its benefits.

It can be easy to become obsessed with reaching our goals and crossing tasks off lists, but a successful, healthy life is about balance. We should work towards the life we want and love, but not at the cost of our mental health. Start with half an hour every day spent in nature and try to write down how you feel before and after. Noting the lift in mood that the outdoors can have on you will help to continue the habit when it seems like the last thing you want to do. And eventually, your time in nature may be what you look forward to most every day.

Guest Blogger: Camila

Communication Major at the College of Charleston

Marketing Intern at Wellness Beyond Fifty

 

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What Two Minutes in a Day can Mean for your Life

Where were you last Monday afternoon? Like pretty much everyone else I was outside watching the total solar eclipse, a once-in-a- lifetime event here in Charleston. More specifically, I chose to watch it with 1,500 College of Charleston students, faculty, staff and “friends” who gathered on Rivers Green, behind Addlestone Library, to watch the heavens put on this astronomical show.

The college’s viewing party was the backdrop for NASA TV’s national eclipse broadcast. NASA anchored its eclipse coverage from the campus as it tracked the celestial event across the United States from Oregon, to Charleston, the last city on the path of totality. My late father worked for NASA alongside Werner Von Braun as part of his executive staff to send a man to the moon by the end of the 1960s; I didn’t hesitate to get a photo of me as an “astronaut” while on the college campus.

And while the image captured above was taken before the total eclipse, the temperature had started to drop and darkness was descending upon us. At approximately 2:46 pm (EDT) 99.6% of the sun was covered in the Charleston area.

But most important was the lesson it brought to the forefront.

While, yes, the 2017 Solar Eclipse was a natural phenomenon, it serves the purpose to remind us all that beauty is everywhere every single day if only we choose to slow down and observe it, absorb it, and be present.

Due to the heightened media attention, preparations by city and government officials as well as residents and travelers, the event was well known by all to be significant. But do we need to be told when something is significant? Do we need to be witnessing the beauty with millions of people for it to be an event worth slowing down for and savoring?

What Monday’s event, which lasted 1 min, 33 seconds at its longest duration, reminded me to look for was the beauty in every moment, every day, whether directed by media, the community, family or friends. Because we can’t wait 99 years for about two minutes of awe. We should recognize the awe that exists around us all the time.

Ultimately, it is a shift in each of our minds. A belief followed by conscious actions, ways of living, thinking and being, that enable us to cultivate what, to some, may seem impossible. The good news is, it is entirely possible. Take, for example, the following seemingly ordinary moments I observed Monday outside of the eclipse’s occurrence that, when fully appreciated, reminded me of how sweet and beautiful life is:

— Awakening up from a deep restful sleep.

— Having the opportunity to sit in the quiet of early morning and enjoy a cup of coffee before everyone wakes up.

— Having close friends at my house enjoying a wonderful lasagna lunch, leftover from the night before, before we set out to experience the eclipse, adding more memorable moments to a lifetime of many together.

Indeed, being in the present moment, and being mindful, remind us that we don’t need an ecliptic event to savor and appreciate the “small things” that add richness to our lives every day.

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Do you have a Love-Hate Relationship with Social Media?

Do you have a Love-Hate Relationship with Social Media?

We are social beings by nature, but nowadays there is less time to do all the things we need to get done and still have time to connect with families and friends on a serious level. We’re like Pavlov’s dogs. It’s easy to get on social media for a “quick fix” of updates, entertainment and “likes,” and receive a quick dopamine rush that tricks us into thinking we’re connected to people and events that really matter.

I am over 50 years old now. When I was at the College of Charleston I did not take the only computer course offered to business majors. The computer on campus was as big as a small classroom, and student seating was at a premium. It was an elective course, not a requirement to graduate. I enjoyed working, studying and socializing with my classmates and not necessarily in that order. To me the computer course was isolating and boring. Nor was it the cool thing to do…. communicate with a big, odd looking machine.

I didn’t get my first mobile phone until I was in my 30s, and it was the kind that was mounted on the floorboard of my little foreign car. Back then the only ways to seriously communicate with people was in person, by U.S. mail and telephone — all of which were pleasingly social.

Of course, things have changed a great deal since the early-1980s, but certainly not my desire to be “social.” I am not alone with this. But, as I’m sure many of you would agree, I have developed a worrisome love-hate relationship with today’s ubiquitous social media apps and devices.

Indeed, smart phones, tablets, texting, tweets, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Pinterest, Instagram, LinkedIn and Snapchat provide unending opportunity to connect with others, to learn and “to grow.” I’ve quoted the trite phrase “to grow” here because we should all know by now what happens to one’s derriere when one sits around on it day in and day out “socializing” instead of moving.

So, for health reasons if nothing else, it’s best to maintain your more traditional ways of social interaction — those that allow us to truly be with other people, to interact with them using our well-developed physical senses, and to reach out and hug someone if need be.

How do you balance your use of social media and face-to-face interaction with family and friends on a significant level? By “significant” I mean an interaction that brings actual joy, richness and quality to our lives through personal contact. Consider the following:

First, get yourself clear on why you use social media? Is it a work requirement? Is it how you keep up with current events? Do you use social media as your primary way to stay in touch with family and friends?

Now, carefully consider your answers to these questions because, if you don’t have a clear vision of why you’re using it, you will end up wasting hours upon hours of your valuable time day after day on nothing. Fact is, there are not enough hours in the day to be active on the plethora of online social platforms. So be very selective. Choose wisely and use it to suit immediate needs.

Be honest with yourself. How you feel when you look at various posts. Do you feel more informed or less? More joyful or less? Do you feel more socially isolated because you are not actually doing things other people are doing, and comparing your life to someone else you see and hear in a virtual reality realm?

Do yourself a favor. Use social media only at certain times of the day instead of logging in whenever you have a free minute or receive some sort of inane notification. Schedule social media use just as you would any other significant appointment. If you find joy from social media, then relax and treat yourself at the right time. It can be as fulfilling as reading a good book, having your nails done or getting a massage. But don’t allow it to consume you. That leads to stress and we all know what stress does to your health….need I say more?

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Guest Post: What’s the Newest Way to Deal with Stress?

Guest Post: What’s the Newest Way to Deal with Stress?

It doesn’t take long for something new and exciting to capture people’s interest, and the Fidget Spinner is no exception. Almost instantly, this gadget has created a “buzz” that is turning heads of all ages. But why?

The Fidget Spinner was originally intended to hold the attention of distracted children. Now adults, especially those in high-stress environments, use them to alleviate stress and to help them stay focused.

You can find these plastic, three-pronged toys almost anywhere including convenience stores, tourist shops and even local pharmacies. Why is there such an intrigue in this toy? The Fidget Spinner is designed to reduce stress and increase focus, especially for those who have trouble concentrating and are fidgety. Hence the name. Its effect is similar to an old-fashioned stress ball although more intriguing. The user holds the middle of the toy, spins one of its three ends and watches it rotate.

Its inventor, Catherine Hettinger, originally intended for the device to calm children’s nerves and help reduce their stress and anxiety in a creative way. But soon the device caught on with people of all ages, so much so it is now No. 3 on Amazon’s Top-20 list of best-selling toys in 2017.

Although the Fidget Spinner has become such a sensation, many predict, like most fads, it will soon lose its popularity. However, if the toy has similar effects on people as does an old-fashion stress ball, comes in a variety of colors and are around the same price, it’s hard to say what its future holds.

What do you think? Will you try this stress-reducing fad, or do you think it is just another passing fancy?

Author Bio: Jacqueline Dorman is a Business Administration major at the College of Charleston and an Intern with Wellness Beyond Fifty.

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Spirituality Is More Than Religion

Spirituality Is More Than Religion

So what is important to you in your life? Are you living in a way that fulfills your purpose? And what does this have to do with being happier and healthier? The answer may be as simple as understanding your spirituality and how it benefits your health.

For many people spirituality — which does not necessarily mean religious belief — is at the core of their being. It is the lens through which they experience life and see the world. Understanding spirituality in the context of optimal health is extremely important.

For many people spirituality gets at the heart of what is important to them. Some may want to be healthy for health’s sake or to feel more alive and happy. But for many people, achieving optimal health is important because it ties in to their deepest values and beliefs and it brings them overriding joy and happiness in the present moment and throughout their lives.  Understanding this and refocusing on it daily often leads to sustaining healthy behaviors for a lifetime.

For others, spirituality provides a sense of strength and healing during times of adversity, illness or death. Through the healing process people often draw on their spirituality to make more sense of the adversity.

There has been a great deal of interest in recent decades in understanding the impact spiritualty has on one’s health. Research has shown the positive relationship between health and religious practice as well as meditation, an understanding of humanism and living according to tenets of a well-defined morality.

It is unquestionable now that when people live their lives with a sense of meaning and higher purpose, their health improves. They have lower inflammation and increased immunity and therefore less heart disease, strokes and other complications from chronic diseases.  Which by the way, has now been determined to be the No. 1 killer in society today.

Having a good sense of purpose makes you more resilient and better able to deal with the stress and demands of life. Living with a sense of purpose and meaning doesn’t merely help you get through an adverse time, but also improves your health.

So how does one determine what his or her purpose in life is?   It can come from knowing you are helping others, serving a greater purpose or excelling at a skill or craft that is meaningful to you.  So regularly ask yourself these questions to explore the role of spiritually in your vision of obtaining optimal health.

  1. What does it look like when I am spirituality centered and devoting my time and energy to the things that reflect my deepest values?
  2. What would need to happen for me to feel “successful”?
  3. Am I cultivating a daily practice of present awareness so I live my life in a more spiritually focused way?
  4. Once you define your sense of purpose and have cultivated an awareness of that purpose on a regular basis, you need to sustain that awareness so it further impacts your life and health. Do you believe and trust in yourself to be able to reach these goals over the long haul?

Of course you can with the proper attitude and accountability.  You can bring yourself joy, live longer and be happier in the process.

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Giving up on your goals does not mean you are lazy

Giving up on your goals does not mean you are lazy

We are in an exciting time in life. Just as we had the beginning of the digital revolution at the end of the last century, we are now experiencing a personal transformation revolution.  It’s about becoming healthier, happier and living your own life with purpose. But better health and positive change won’t come unless you know what you’re doing.

Here are five steps to help you begin your own journey on the road to personal development:

  1. Set goals: The first step to living the way you want is to set goals for each part of your life. Those would be your health, career, finances, spirituality and family, but not necessary in that order. Setting separate goals in each area of your life allows you to prioritize what you want to achieve so you can increase your chances of doing so.

However, if you are like most people, you set goals but fail to achieve them because they are too vague. When I work with my health coaching clients, one of the things we work on is setting SMART goals. So what is a SMART goal?

S — Specific: If you want to lose weight, for example, you need to specify how much.

M — Measurable: The easier it is to track your progress, the better your chance of attaining it. “If you don’t measure it, you can’t improve it,” said Lord Kelvin.  Tracking your food intake is one way to do this and makes it less difficult to determine if extra efforts are in order in case you experience a setback or come up short on the progress you desire.

A — Achievable: Although you should aim high, make sure your goals are still achievable and action-oriented.

R — Realistic: While some goals are achievable, they might not be realistic for this moment in time. An example might be you have decided to do a marathon but you have not even run a mile yet. Running is realistic, but you might want to start by building up to running a marathon by completing a 5k (3.1 miles) or a 10k (6.2 miles) race first.

T — Time-based: Setting a deadline will help you remain focused and ensure you stay on track. Using the same example above, you might say, “starting June 1 I will begin jogging and complete a 5k race by Sept. 1, 2017.”

  1. Create an action plan: Once you’ve set your goals and have written them down, create an action plan on how to achieve them. What activities do you need to do to achieve your goals? If you have a long-term goal, break it down into small steps to make it manageable. Don’t forget to track your progress so you can look back and pat yourself on the back every time you move one step closer to your goal.
  2. Make time for growth activities: Even though life is very busy, it’s vital that you make time for yourself and your own personal growth. Take 15 minutes to read, learn, or listen to a podcast. Wake up 15 minutes earlier to read or write in your journal. If mornings are tough for you, block out 15 minutes during the day or before you go to bed at night. Whenever you chose is up to you but make sure to try and do it daily.
  3. Adopt a positive mindset: Optimists are more likely to enjoy and succeed in life than people who always see the negative in a situation. Fill your head with positive information and people. Before long you too will have a sunnier disposition and all the health benefits that come with it.
  4. Keep a journal: Journaling allows you to keep a record of your progress. It helps you learn from the challenges you face and your triumphs and everything in between. I personally like to have two journals going at all times, a gratitude and goal journal. Writing everything down gives me a chance to reflect on my journey, embrace the challenges and savor the joyful moments along the way to the destination.

If you have already set your goals and accomplished them you are in good shape. Give yourself a pat on the back. Even though there is no special prize, if you have managed to do it by yourself, you’ve learned it takes longer and with more mistakes.

However, have you tried to succeed alone and failed? Health coaching can help you dive a little deeper. I know the reason that people lose weight but never seem to keep it off. People THINK that the reason they give up exercise is that they’re lazy but there’s a surprising reason they don’t stick with it. Meditation is something one can use to relieve stress; I know what it takes to cultivate a daily practice with little effort. People feel they should be restricting calories and avoiding certain foods to eat a healthy diet and are shocked when that’s not the case. Would you like to have a wellness breakthrough session with me? You’ll discover the top 5 things that can get in the way of your health goals, and the #1 thing you need to move forward.

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What does a good night’s sleep have to do with weight loss?

What does a good night’s sleep have to do with weight loss?

Lately I have not been getting enough sleep, which is worrisome because sleep deprivation leaves your body in a state of unhealthy stress. So I re-visited those things that promote quality sleep and soon got back into a proper routine. Quality sleep is critical to maintaining good health and performing optimally in our daily activities

A lack of sleep is associated with impaired learning, driving and work performance, faster aging of the brain and body, overeating, obesity, elevated LDL (bad) cholesterol and increased risk of diabetes and hypertension.

There is also evidence that poor sleep can impair your immune system and increase inflammation in your body. When you get enough sleep you can shorten the duration of a cold or other such illnesses and increase the number of cells that naturally kill mutant or deviant ones. Darkness, which is one of the things needed to get good sleep, produces the hormone melatonin, and melatonin is an antioxidant and inhibitor of cancer cell growth.

Let’s face it, a lack of sleep affects our physical appearance and emotional state. Our brain works best when well rested. It keeps us more alert and energized, and sleep improves our memory too.

But how much sleep is needed varies from person to person. The rule of thumb is 7-9 hours. The best way to tell if you have gotten enough sleep is determined by your alarm clock. If you need one to wake up daily, you probably are not getting enough sleep.

What are the strategies to getting a better night’s sleep?

  1. Minimize your use of a television, smart phone, tablet or laptop at night, and by all means do not go to sleep while using such devices. All of them emit light, typically blue in color, which suppresses melatonin production, so using them at or close to bedtime is disruptive. This is what caused my recent problem. I love to research things, read blogs and return less urgent emails at night after dinner. Now, instead of using such devices, I’ve gone back to reading a book at night. NOTE:  I’ve heard you can get various apps that turn the blue light to yellow, but that hasn’t worked for me.
  2. Cut off lights. The natural rhythm of light and dark keep us alert during the day and promotes sleep at night by shifting how much melatonin our bodies produce. Clocks, phones, night and outside lights can disrupt this natural rhythm. And did you know that light exposure before bed can increase your risk of cancer? Any exposure to light before bed or during your sleep reduces the depth and quality of sleep. Even a low-level light through closed eyelids can reduce melatonin production. A sleep mask makes a lot of sense if you are bothered by excess light, although I’ve yet to use mine.
  3. Maintain a regular schedule of going to bed and waking up. Once you get into a good routine, you’ll no longer need an alarm clock. By waking naturally, you allow your body to go through its final sleep cycle, where the hormones shift, melatonin decreases and cortisol increases so you become alert.
  4. Your body temperature should drop naturally at night so make sure you keep your bedroom cool. Ideal sleep temperature is 68 degrees. By lowering the thermostat, avoiding alcohol and caffeine and minimizing noise, you give your body the best chance of a good night’s sleep.
  5. No surprise here but eating right and exercising are also important for sleep. One of the many benefits of exercise is it helps to physically tire your body so you are ready to get a good night’s sleep. Also, remember to eat your vegetables daily. Otherwise, your sleep may suffer.

I continue to read more and more about the side effects of the various prescription sleep aids on the market today. Relying on a sleep medication generally isn’t the best long-term solution for insomnia. Medications can mask an underlying problem that needs treatment, and they have side effects.

For example, some people who take Zolpidem (Ambien) or similar medications, such as Eszopiclone (Lunesta), do things while asleep that they don’t remember — such as driving, sleepwalking and preparing and eating food. Because you’re not awake, these obviously are dangerous behaviors.

Also, after taking sleep drugs, the Food and Drug Administration recommends that you avoid driving or doing activities that require full mental alertness the next day. This is especially important if you take extended-release varieties.

Sleep medications can be useful in the short term but don’t make them a habit. The best approach is to address whatever is causing your sleep problems in the first place. Remedies include many of the things I have talked about in this blog. In addition, counseling for anxiety or using stress-reduction techniques, such as meditation, can be helpful.

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Guest Post: What Does Wellness Mean in Today’s Chaotic World

Guest Post: What Does Wellness Mean in Today’s Chaotic World

By: Guest Blogger Cassie from ehealthinformer.com

What Does Wellness Mean in Today’s Chaotic World?

 

It seems like today’s world is constantly in motion. Everything is instant, and it feels like attention spans get shorter every day. Amidst all this commotion, it can be hard to know when we’re okay and when we’re not. This confusion leads us to ask, what does wellness mean in today’s world?

 

Any time we talk about “today’s world” we must discuss the impacts of the digital revolution. Having so much technology in our lives has its advantages and disadvantages. On the one hand, accessing information and communicating with people can be done in the blink of an eye, but on the other hand, we now seem hooked to devices many of us lived without for many years. It shouldn’t be a secret that all this time spent in front of screens isn’t the best for our well-being.

 

So, how can we find wellness and peace of mind amongst this chaos? Can it be achieved, and if so, how? In today’s article, I’ll outline what wellness means to me in this crazy, connected world, and I will offer some strategies to help you remain calm, peaceful, active and, most importantly, well.

 

Leisure Time

 

One of the consequences of such a high-tech, chaotic world is that work and leisure time can easily mix.  You’ve probably noticed how many people like to discuss their work problems when they are supposed to be relaxing. This really isn’t a great idea; it only creates more stress.

 

So, in today’s world, wellness means having time for you to do what you want to do. Take the time to do things you enjoy with people who fill you with positive emotions, and try as best as you can to leave work and other stresses behind. You don’t want them ruining these precious “you” moments. Being able to truly disconnect is a great step towards achieving wellness in the hectic world we live in.

 

Being Active

 

For as crazy and chaotic as the world is, it seems like we still spend a lot of time sitting down. Breaking out of this and moving around is a big part of achieving wellness. Engaging in active pastimes fills us with positive emotions, both during and after we do them.

 

It seems, though, nowadays a lot of us associate being active with an obligation. We need to go to the gym or have to go for a jog. Well, it doesn’t need to be this way, and finding ways to be active should go hand in hand with doing things you like. You could go for nature walks or strolls around your neighborhood and get the same benefits you would get from other types of exercise.

 

Being active allows stress to work its way out of the body. Tension is lessened through muscle movement—this is why activities such as yoga are great practice for self-improvement, as well as your physical health. So, in today’s world, wellness can be achieved by breaking up the routine and moving around. It’s not about reaching certain weight loss goals or looking a certain way, but rather about getting out there and experiencing joy and happiness with yourself and your loved ones.

 

Peace of Mind

 

Peace of mind is essential for letting go of nerves, worries or feelings of anxiety. In today’s “chaotic” world, achieving peace of mind can be a real challenge with all the different sources of stress. But what would wellness be without a calm and peaceful mind? Would it be worth pursuing?

 

These days the more peace of mind you can give yourself the better, and you can achieve it in a variety of different ways. For example, you can make to-do lists for the things you need to get done so that you don’t get overwhelmed with what you have on your plate. Or, you could keep a journal and write down what worries you—it’s like venting to a friend all the time. Another thing you could do is install a secure network
on your computer and other devices to not have to worry about things like identity theft or hackers. It seems like a small thing, but when it comes to peace of mind, everything counts. If it is something that could stress you out or worry you, find a solution, for achieving peace of mind and wellness in today’s world come hand-in-hand.

 

When thinking about wellness in today’s world, remember that the world you see on the outside is usually a reflection of how you feel on the inside. Therefore, making time for leisure, being active and working to achieve peace of mind will help make the world seem less chaotic, help you feel less stressed and make achieving wellness much easier.

 

Author bio: Cassie is a health and tech blogger who is passionate about wellness and well-being. She blogs for ehealthinformer.com.

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How to Make Stress a Healthy Behavior

How to Make Stress a Healthy Behavior

No one today would argue with me that most Americans are overly stressed. Technology, feeling the need to immediately return text and emails, and the pace at which we live today has created an epidemic of chronic stress and mental fatigue. In fact, between 60 percent and 80 percent of doctor visits today are a result of this chronic stress. And of course, when we are stressed we make poor lifestyle choices. Which means we eat on the run, make unhealthy food choices, and take too little, if any, time to exercise, rest and do the things that bring us joy. The cumulative effect of all this stress? Burnout and chronic disease.

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