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22 Simple Habits That Can Relieve Holiday Stress and Anxiety

Are the holidays the season of excitement or a time for anxiety and frustration? 
Here are expert tips to get you past the stress and into the festive spirit.

Get adequate sleep

It’s no secret that our bodies crave rest; fail to get enough, and you’ll have some nasty symptoms. Not only does adequate rest—at least seven to eight hours per night—recharge your body for the day ahead, it also gives your nervous system a chance to wind down and reset as well. For those who suffer from anxiety symptoms, a lack of sleep can make you much more anxious. No one wants that around the holidays, warns Barbara Greenberg, PhD, a clinical psychologist and the co-author of Teenage As A Second Language. She tells Reader’s Digest, “We must all keep in mind that the holidays can be quite overwhelming as well as exciting. Because we are going to be expending a lot of energy during the holidays we must take care of ourselves. That way, we are less likely to become physically sick and emotionally overwhelmed during the holiday season.” Go ahead and go to bed early—chances are you’ll be better able to handle whatever comes your way in the morning.

Give your body the boosts it needs

The typical American diet can leave you short on nutrients your body needs to function at its fullest potential, and sometimes it needs a boost that food is not providing. During stressful times such as the holidays or busy seasons, it’s important to pay close attention to cues your body is sending about its status. Supplements such as magnesium (almost 80 percent of the population is deficient), zinc, and fish oil can deliver the nutrients your body needs to keep running efficiently. Magnesium helps to relax muscles and decrease anxiety. Zinc will help to boost your immune system during the colder months, and the omega-3 oils in fish oil are powerful anti-inflammatories that provide an overall sense of well-being.

Give yourself the gift of self-care

In the midst of the seasonal rush, it’s easy to forget about your own health. Make time for a daily routine—even if it’s just 15 minutes—of doing something relaxing. Whether that’s pulling out the yoga mat, steeping a cup of your favorite herbal tea, or simply reading a good book, the time you give yourself out of your busy day will make a huge difference in your outlook. Kim Fredrickson, a marriage and family therapist and author of the new book Give Your Kids A Break: Parenting With Compassion For You and Your Children, agrees. She advises, “Treat yourself with compassion. It’s important to treat yourself kindly regarding all the extra pressures and activities you’re dealing with.” She continues, “Come up with a plan to take care of yourself as you head into the holidays. Try getting enough sleep, eat as healthy as possible, take time for a daily walk, and set things aside that can wait until January or February.”

Accept what you can control and release the rest

If you struggle with anxious feelings, you may also have control issues. So when the to-do list becomes overwhelming, that’s the time to step back and assess what is reasonable and what you have to let go of. If you’re hosting a dinner and you know that gluten-free Aunt Martha will complain that she can’t have the stuffing, kindly suggest that she might want to bring a side she’ll be able to enjoy. Fredrickson recommends making a list of the things you feel are top priorities, to keep your focus on what matters most. She says, “What’s important? Think about what is really important as you approach the holidays. Make sure your list includes things that are important to you, rather than only focusing on creating good experiences for your family.”

Do what you can from the comfort of home

There’s never been a better time to get things done without getting out of your pajamas. Sure, the Internet has its drawbacks, but there’s no question it’s made life easier for shopping. Tap the wonders of the web to order your groceries and gifts online. Some grocery services will deliver to your door, while some require that you pick up your order; either way, the time you’ll save is priceless. With online gift-wrapping options, it’s never been easier to have gifts sent directly to the relatives. Consider yourself a tech genius this season and eliminate your to-do list worries.

Delegate the details

If you’re facing a panicked rush to get things done, why not hand off some of the to-do lists to your spouse? If you know you’ll never be able to wrap every gift on time or schedule the carpet cleaning you’ve been putting off, recruit help. The same goes for holiday meals. While it’s true that the host often provides much of the main meal, why not ask people on the guest list to provide a side or dessert? Dr. Greenberg advises, “There are no prizes for doing everything on your own. Delegate. Remember people should come together during the holidays and help each other, right?”

Know your limits and respect them

Do memories of holidays past leave you shuddering with a sense of dread? If so, it’s time to learn from past mistakes, and vow to do things differently this year. If hosting the holiday festivities is simply too much of a strain on you or your family, ask someone else to take it on this year. Stress and anxiety can make even the most well-intentioned hostess less than jolly, and chances are good that there’s someone in your family who would love the chance to show off their culinary skill. Dr. Greenberg tells Reader’s Digest, “Know your limits. If it is difficult to be with your family for too long before you start getting irritable with each other, then set a time limit in advance. Believe me, you will be grateful that you did this! Do not expect that this year your family will get along perfectly and that old grudges will be forgotten. Unfortunately, we tend to regress when we are with our families during the holidays and old issues from years ago rear their heads.”

Make time to move

While it might seem counter-intuitive to add exercise to your daily routine during a time of extra activity, it doesn’t have to be strenuous. Activity reduces blood pressure and stress, and a short walk around the block can really go the distance in making the holiday grind more bearable. If walking isn’t something you enjoy, why not try yoga, and let your breath carry you away from it all? Exercise doesn’t have to produce heavy breathing and sweat to count—so find something that gently allows your body to expend its extra energy, and go with it.

Prep your way to less stress

You’ve probably heard the saying, “Fail to plan? Plan to fail.” That’s a little harsh, but there’s no question that having a holiday-prep plan will help ensure the success of your season. Take a look at your seasonal to-do list and make notes about the things that can be taken care of in advance. Can you bake and freeze some dinner or dessert items now? How about sending out the invitations early, with your requests of what others should bring for the meal included? Some things don’t need to wait to be done until the week before the big day. Take advantage of the time you have, and take action now.

gingerbread

 

Maintain realistic expectations of yourself and others

Family relationships are complicated. Add in holiday pressures and heightened expectations for a perfect holiday, and you’ve got a recipe for disaster. Instead of expecting a perfect holiday staged by Hallmark, keep your vision of the day realistic. That one relative who really knows how to push your buttons will not magically become a joy to be around just because it’s a special day. Accept the likely reality for what it is, and make the best of it. Dr. Greenberg cautions that you should rein in your expectations—especially around the holidays. “It is crucial to keep expectations at a reasonable level. If we set the bar too high and expect family get-togethers or other celebrations to be perfect, then we are setting ourselves up for disappointment.” Who needs the extra stress of having a perfect day?

Keep healthy boundaries in place

Some of your family or friends may see the holidays as an excuse for excess, indulgence, or rude behavior. Though more family time might lead you to have an extra glass of wine, Dr. Greenberg says this isn’t the best option to soothe frazzled nerves. She warns, “Keep the drinking of alcohol to a minimum. Too much alcohol leads to saying the wrong thing, behaving in a clumsy manner, and unintentionally bruising the feelings of others. It also leads to embarrassing yourself and your family.” Everyone wants an enjoyable day, but it shouldn’t cost you your sanity or healthy limitations.

Make a date with yourself

“The holidays can be a chaotic time with friends and family and it’s OK to schedule some alone time,” says Prakash Masand MD, a psychiatrist from Duke University and founder of the Centers of Psychiatric Excellence. “Ask your spouse to watch the kids for an hour and go to the spa, or go hit a bucket of golf balls. Seeking some solitude is both healthy and necessary to reduce stress.”

Hit “pause” on family arguments

Old tensions, political differences, blended families with ex-spouses and new loves—for a lot of people, getting together with extended family to celebrate holidays is a mixture of good and bad. If tensions and disagreements arise, consider pressing pause, at least for now. “Holidays are not the time to resolve family conflicts,” says Dr. Masand. “Many individuals use the family holidays to try to resolve longstanding conflicts with family members often with disastrous consequences, particularly when alcohol is involved. Leave addressing those issues to a later time in a one-to-one conversation.”

Do your shopping in short bursts

In an interesting 2016 study, researchers strapped emotion-tracking devices to 100 people and sent them holiday shopping for an hour. The findings? People’s heart rates increased by an average of 33 percent while shopping, about the same increase seen in someone who’s running a marathon. A majority became fatigued after just half an hour. “There’s so much to do: buying presents, cooking, decorating and more. Saving it all for the last minute will raise your stress,” says Dr. Masand. “Start a few weeks ahead of time and do a little at a time.”

Do less!

The number-one stressor during the holidays is time, a survey by the American Psychological Association found. A full two-thirds of people surveyed often or sometimes feel worried about having time to fit everything in, including family visits, cooking, shopping, decorating, and working. If you find yourself feeling stretched thin every holiday season, why not plan to do a little bit less this year? Jot down a quick list of all the parties, activities, and traditions you “need” to fit in and then prioritize. The ones that end up near the bottom? They’re optional.

Stick to a budget

Money is the second-biggest source of holiday stress (“time” is number one), according to the American Psychological Association. That’s why Dr. Masand suggests making a holiday budget and sticking to it. “Every parent wants to buy that perfect holiday gift for their child, but big-ticket items can take a toll on your wallet and your stress level,” he says. If you exchange gifts with extended friends and family, “consider a grab bag gift exchange where each person buys only one gift to alleviate the stress of having to get something for everyone.” Of course, gifts aren’t the only expenses of the season—there’s also food. “Let others help,” says Dr. Masand. “Don’t feel like you have to be the hero of the holiday season. Ask each person to bring a dish to dinner, make decorating a family activity where the kids help out.”

Go store-bought instead of homemade

Do you always bring the pie for the holiday meal, always homemade? If this year has you feeling overwhelmed or overworked, consider giving yourself the gift of time and buy one instead. Store-bought or cafe-bought desserts can be just as enjoyable, especially if you’re not stressed out and exhausted when you eat them! Try this top-pick frozen apple pie or check out this Chicago Tribune review of sweet potato, pecan, and apple pies from grocery stores like Walmart, Jewel, and Target.

Expect some bad along with the good

In a recent survey, 41 percent of Americans admitted to working too hard to have a “perfect” holiday season. “Expect things to go wrong,” says Dr. Masand. “Your son may hate his Christmas gift. Your daughter might get sick. You may overcook the ham. The point is things will go wrong. Appreciate the season for the time spent with loved ones and create new memories, and don’t sweat the small stuff.”

Draw firm boundaries between work and family

Many people have to work regular schedules in the days leading up to the holidays—those in the travel industry, retail, hospitality, and food services may have to work even more than usual. Other than requesting time off as far in advance as possible, those work schedules can’t necessarily be controlled. What can be are your boundaries when you’re not at work. Thirty-four percent of people in an American Psychological Association survey say they experience significant stress worrying that work obligations will impede on their holiday celebrations. So when you’re off the clock, stay there. Make it clear that you can’t respond to texts or emails on your days off, and don’t let yourself feel pressured into filling in for co-workers who ask to swap shifts.

Look out for the holiday blues

Those of us who have lost loved ones or are facing other difficult life situations may feel especially sad during this time of year when everyone is supposed to be jolly. Don’t ignore these feelings of grief or sadness, say the mental health experts at the Mayo Clinic. Not only is it OK to express these feelings during this time of “cheer,” it’s healthier to do that than to ignore or suppress them. Learn more about what to look out for when holiday blues go too far.

Remember that ultimately, a holiday is just a day

“The holidays are filled with both joy and stress,” says Ellen Braaten, PhD, an associate professor of psychology at Massachusetts General Hospital. If you find yourself feeling extremely overwhelmed by emotions, pressures, or obligations this year, try to shift your perspective by deciding what’s most important and what you want the holidays to mean to you. “The holidays are just another time of year, certainly something to mark, but not the end-all, be-all,” she says.

Focus on the good

Yes, the holidays can be stressful and difficult. But they’re also full of joy for many of us. The American Psychological Association found that 78 percent of people report feeling happy, 75 percent feel love, and 60 percent report being in high spirits this time of year. So don’t lose sight of what you enjoy most about this time of year, whether it’s the twinkling lights, music, food, or fellowship.

Jen Babakhan       Sunny Sea Gold
 
source: www.rd.com
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9 Tips on How to Communicate During a Conflict

Have you ever been so angry at someone you said something you instantly regretted? There are more constructive ways to communicate during a conflict that can effectively turn the situation around. Keep some of these tips in mind next time you’re facing a disagreement.

How does conflict start?


Everyone has a need to feel understood, supported and safe. Conflict often arises when people perceive a threat to having these needs met. A natural response is to get angry at the person you feel is somehow threatening you.


For example, your partner could give you a gift you didn’t want. You might get angry because you feel they don’t understand you. But in fact they gave you the gift to show their affection and are hurt that you don’t like it.


A situation like this doesn’t have to become a heated argument. When people can communicate honestly and openly, a conflict can usually be settled with a positive outcome for everyone involved.


Proactive Steps to Resolve Conflict


1. Time it Right – If you have a past dispute that still needs to be resolved, make sure to find an appropriate time to bring it up. Choosing the right moment could mean the difference between a helpful discussion or a nasty blow-up. Avoid approaching the person if they’re obviously busy or have somewhere to go. You could ask them to schedule a time to talk about it with you. It’s best to meet in person, but if you need to phone someone, always start out by asking if it’s a good time to talk.


2. Speak to the Source – You might find it easy to tell friends and family members all about someone you have an issue with. But it can be more difficult to speak to the person themselves. You don’t know how they’ll react and it could be scary making the first move. But ignoring a serious issue could be even worse in the long run. If you’re hesitant to face them alone, you can suggest a counselor or trusted friend join your discussion with them to help bridge the gap.


3. Stay on Topic – No matter how heated a discussion may get, always stay focused on the issue you want to resolve. Whenever you mention any facts about the situation, keep them objective and only refer to what really happened. Resist any temptation to bring up historical patterns you feel someone has, or what they said to you ten years ago. Clearly, this would not help the situation.



4. Really Listen – It can be easy to get lost in your own point of view and become blind to any other input. Take a step back and focus on the other person for a moment. Ask them why they’re upset or how they’re feeling. Then take the time to listen to what they have to say. Don’t interrupt while they’re speaking and ask for clarification afterwards if you didn’t understand anything they said. This lets them know you care and are truly listening.


5. Take Responsibility for Yourself – No one is innocent in a conflict. Own up to your part of what happened. Also remain aware of your own feelings and reactions. Are you upset about what someone said because it stirred up some painful memories completely unrelated to the situation? This is not the other person’s fault. That might be a good time to take a break from the discussion and sort out your own feelings before you react unfairly.


6. Start Your Sentences with “I” – It’s always helpful to express your thoughts and feelings about what’s going on. For instance, “I was hurt when you said I’m lazy because I value your opinion of me.” But keep it about yourself. Don’t cross the line and start pointing fingers or blaming others for what happened. Also, make sure you’re expressing your true emotions, not just saying you’re angry. Typically, anger comes from feeling hurt, scared or sad about a situation. Try digging a little deeper to find out what’s at the bottom of your anger.


7. Seek Understanding – Remember that the other person is also upset because their needs are being threatened. Ask them to clearly express what they really want or need. What did you do to cause their frustration? A common cause of misunderstanding is making assumptions about how the other person is feeling. Don’t ever assume. Keep asking questions until you really know what’s on their mind.


8. Use Humor When Appropriate – Sometimes the best way to defuse a confrontation is to lighten it up a bit. Obviously, this needs to be approached with sensitivity. Many times humor would only make matters worse. But if it’s a fairly small issue, you could ask the other person, “Doesn’t it seem silly we’re even arguing about this?” Or if you can tell the other person is open to it, you could try a playful shoulder punch or other goofy gesture. Just make sure the playfulness is mutual and there are no lingering bad feelings.


9. Look for Compromise – Try to find common ground with the person you’re in conflict with. Your goal should not be to “win” the argument. What resolution would be good for both of you? Stay focused on resolving the conflict in a positive way rather than being right. And remember it’s always an option to agree to disagree. Some arguments aren’t worth a prolonged effort and it can be fine to simply let go of what’s not important and move on with a fresh start.


By: Zoe Blarowski    April 20, 2016    About Zoe
 


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Psychologists Explain How to Stay Calm In An Argument

“Conflict wreaks havoc on our brains. We are groomed by evolution to protect ourselves whenever we sense a threat. In our (world), we don’t fight like a badger with a coyote, or run away like a rabbit from a fox. But our basic impulse to protect ourselves is automatic and unconscious.” – Diane Musho-Hamilton

Emotional intelligence (“E.I.”) is defined as “the ability to identify and manage your own emotions and the emotions of others.” A low E.I. generally leads to an inability to stay calm, resulting in more conflict, while a high E.I. leads to less conflict and an ability to stay calm under pressure

Conflict is an inevitable part of life. Even the coolest, calmest, and the most collected person in the room will experience some degree of interpersonal turmoil at some point. In most cases, people don’t have any control over what happens next.

The only aspect of a conflict we can control is how we react. This isn’t to say that overriding this “automatic and unconscious” process is easy; it’s not.

But we can learn to recognize, acknowledge, and manage our negative emotions. We can override, to some degree, this innate physiological response.

We can learn to stay calm during any conflict, including in the midst of an argument.

HERE’S HOW:

1. TAKE DEEP BREATHS

Why: The ability to remain relaxed and centered during a conflict depends on your ability to de-tense the body. Shallow breathing is the body’s innate response when confronted with stress. Quashing this natural response and practicing deep breathing instead helps the body to remain calm.

How: Deeply inhale through the nose before slowly exhaling through the mouth. Smooth, deep breaths will cease the production of two stress hormones – adrenaline and cortisol.

2. CONCENTRATE ON YOUR BODY

Why: Concentrating on any physical sensations that arise in a conflict permits you to mindfully change them. When your focus switches to the body, you can feel the tension, shallow breathing, etc. that accompanies stress.

How: When you notice your body beginning to tense, return your posture to a neutral state by relaxing your shoulders and hands. This open position communicates positivity using body language – and often diffuses conflict.

3. ACTIVELY LISTEN

Why: A person will initiate an argument, or some other kind of conflict, if they feel they’re not being heard. Furthermore, it’s impossible to diffuse a conflict without attentive and active listening.

How: When someone is talking, focus all of your attention on what the person says. Ignore any thoughts of constructing a response. Once the person finishes speaking, you have the necessary information to respond intelligently.

4. ASK OPEN-ENDED QUESTIONS

Why: Open-ended questions are invaluable in conflict resolution. First, open-ended questions demonstrate that you are attentively listening. Second, these type of questions show respect for the person by allowing them to articulate their thoughts.

How: Learning to ask open-ended questions can be a bit tricky for some people. The easiest way to avoid asking “Yes” or “No” questions is not to use the words “Do,” “Don’t,” “Did,” and “Didn’t” when asking a question. Instead, use the words “What,” “Why,” “When,” and “How.” Try it now. Notice the difference?

5. KEEP YOUR VOICE DOWN

Why: The easiest way to escalate conflict is raising your voice. On the flip side, one of the easiest ways to diffuse conflict is lowering your voice. Voice level is also linked to blood pressure. When BP reaches a certain point, it becomes more difficult to understand what’s being communicated.

How: The first step is to diffuse the initial anger of the other person. You can’t do this by raising your voice. On the other hand, you can quickly impart a sense of calm by making the conscious decision to lower your voice.

6. AGREE TO DISAGREE

Why: Not every conflict will produce amicable or mutually agreeable results. However, you can avoid deepening the conflict by politely disengaging from the conversation.

How: One law of interpersonal conflict is that it takes two participants. Separating yourself from an argument is appropriate under one of two circumstances: (1) the person becomes increasingly hostile, or (2) the conversation, despite your best efforts, is not going anywhere.

In closing, unless you happen to be a self-awareness guru, you will become angry in an argument at some point. Human beings are emotional creatures – and this ability to feel can be used to either our advantage or our detriment. It’s also important to forgive yourself if you should act in an unbecoming manner. We all do – and anyone who says otherwise is either a fool, a liar, or both.

By following one or more of the six tips given, you will assuredly feel more confident in any conflict. As a result, you’ll use your emotions and self-regulation to your benefit. Doing so, you will gain the trust and confidence of people in your good and even temperament.

To our non-argumentative better selves!

REFERENCES:
HTTP://WWW.NOTEY.COM/@HUBSPOTMKTGBLOG_UNOFFICIAL/EXTERNAL/8558555/HOW-TO-CALM-YOUR-BRAIN-DURING-CONFLICT-INFOGRAPHIC.HTML?UTM_CONTENT=BUFFER8E58E&UTM_MEDIUM=SOCIAL&UTM_SOURCE=PINTEREST.COM&UTM_CAMPAIGN=BUFFER
HTTPS://HBR.ORG/2015/12/CALMING-YOUR-BRAIN-DURING-CONFLICT
HTTPS://WWW.PINTEREST.COM/PIN/324751823116339269/
HTTPS://WWW.PSYCHOLOGYTODAY.COM/BASICS/EMOTIONAL-INTELLIGENCE


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5 Things Much More Important than Being Right

I really don’t like to be wrong. How about you?

Are you someone who wants — even needs — to be right most of the time? All of the time? Do you like to have the last word in a disagreement? Do you get frustrated when others don’t agree with your opinions? I do, much more often than I’d like. And it never feels good.

Being right is so overrated, especially when it comes at the expense of basic human kindnesses. Inherent in the need to be right is the desire — consciously or not — to put ourselves above others, to make them wrong in order to appease our own insecurities and our ego’s need to be perfect.

Where’s the fun in that? Where’s the love in that? There are so many healthier choices we can make than needing to be right. Let’s start making them!

When we find our minds locked into the need to be right — whether in an argument, a discussion or a casual conversation — let’s call on our hearts to integrate the following five virtues.

1. Openness

We can’t always agree with each other, nor should we always try to. That doesn’t mean everyone who disagrees with us is wrong, or that we’re always right. There’s so much to learn from the ideas and opinions of others when we stay open to listening to them. When we give up the need to be right, we communicate and listen on a deeper level, with more understanding and acceptance, and with less judgment and resistance. This is how dialogues move forward and connections deepen. Also, our openness almost always encourages openness in those with whom we communicate.

2. Detachment

It really is possible to be passionate about what we’re trying to express without being attached to how it’s received. When we are attached to what we’re saying, and to the need to be right about it, we often end up forcing our ideas on others, or distorting our beliefs simply to gain the approval of others. Detachment gives us the freedom to communicate without the pressure of needing to be seen as right. Through detachment, we can find peace with however our comments are received and with whatever direction a conversation takes. Who’s right and who’s wrong becomes irrelevant.

3. Humility

The need to be right is rooted deeply in the ego, and one thing our egos are not is humble. Let’s take a breath and swallow our pride when someone says something we believe to be wrong. We don’t have to prove them so. Even more, we need to be willing to be wrong ourselves. It’s not about compromising our truths, but about being humble within the expression of them. It doesn’t matter whether we’re right or wrong. What’s important is how we handle ourselves in either case.

4. Forgiveness

Though the need to be right enters all areas of our lives, it’s especially damaging during conflicts with those we love. When we believe we’ve been wronged, we often want to prove to the one who’s hurt or betrayed us just how wrong they are. We want to hurt them back. Instead, the focus needs to be on forgiveness. It’s important to share our feelings and express how we feel hurt, but not without a commitment to forgiving the action and the person, no matter how wrong we believe them to be. When the desire to forgive takes precedent, the need to be right dissipates, opening the door for a more conscious and healthy connection.

5. Kindness

Dr. Wayne Dyer famously wrote, “When given the choice between being right and being kind, choose kind.” We all struggle with the insecurities of our egos, with the insecurity of being wrong. And a threatened ego will almost always lash out. When we make an effort to prove someone wrong by establishing ourselves as right, we’re being unkind in the process, whether we intend to be or not. Only the ego cares about the distinctions between right and wrong. The heart simply loves and accepts whomever is on the other side of the conversation. Let’s operate from our hearts, with kindness.

The next time we feel ourselves pressing to make our point and needing to be right, let’s take a moment to remember that being right is not the goal. It’s unimportant. Let’s try to integrate some of the above qualities into our way of speaking, knowing that by doing so we invite a more conscious and loving exchange with whomever is on the other side of our dialogue.

What other qualities do you bring into your disagreements to keep them from being about who’s right and who’s wrong? I’d love to know.

 
by Scott Stabile      Oct 03, 2014