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3 Ways/Methods to deal with bad news... :-(

Receiving bad news can be incredibly jarring and turn your world upside-down. Not only do you need to manage all the consequences of the news, but you also need to handle the effects that bad news can have on your physical and mental health. You may feel tired, stressed out, or unable to cope. Understand that everyone responds to stress and trauma in different ways, and you can find ways to take care of yourself as you deal with your bad news.

Method 1

Taking Care of Your Physical Health

Breathe. In the immediate aftermath of receiving bad news, you may find it difficult to breathe. You may feel tightness in your chest, a pit in your stomach, or feel like you can’t catch your breath. Focus on your breathing and breathe deeply. When people are stressed out, they often hyperventilate. Spend some time focusing on breathing into your belly (rather than your chest), inhaling through your nose, in order to reset your breathing.

Drink water. Hyperventilating and breathing through your mouth (as you may do when you are stressed out) can lead to a dry mouth and thirst. You may be crying a lot, depending on the nature of the bad news, which can dehydrate you. You may also be too distracted to feel your body’s normal cues. Keep this in mind and remember to stay hydrated. You may want to carry a bottle of water around with you to help you to remember to drink.

Get a good night’s sleep. You may be better able to process the news and figure out your next steps following some sleep.

Sleep aids in regulation of emotions. Think of an overtired toddler, throwing a tantrum over a broken cracker. That child will be back to a normal, cheerful kid after naptime. You may find that sleep helps you think more clearly and logically about your bad news.

You can also try taking a power nap to reset yourself.

Getting sleep when you are stressed can be difficult. Learn some bedtime relaxation techniques like turning off electronic devices, listening to calming music or a guided meditation, or taking a bath.

Exercise. Release all the stress, tension, and anxiety you are carrying from the bad news by exercising. Exercise produces endorphins, which help you feel better, as well as helps you feel more energized and alert.

Try taking a walk. Even moderate physical activity can help improve your mood and lower your stress level.

Take some time out for yourself to play your favorite sport or go to the gym.

Prepare for fatigue. Bad news can be exhausting. Your brain is working overtime as it tries to process your news or problem-solve. You may also be forced to take on extra responsibilities as a result of this bad news.

Go easy on yourself and give your permission to let non-essential things slide during this time. For example, let the dirty dishes pile up in the sink, or reschedule a work meeting if you can.

Avoid numbing behaviors. You may be tempted to manage your pain by drinking, using drugs, or binge eating. Keep in mind that these behaviors only temporarily dull your feelings and do nothing to help you work through your bad news. These behaviors only create a cycle of feeling the pain and numbing the pain. They do not help you process the pain.

If you feel compelled to drink to excess, use drugs, or binge, talk to a friend to help distract yourself, or consider attending a support group meeting, such as Alcoholics Anonymous.

Method 2

Taking Care of Your Emotional Health

Know that you may be in shock. It is extremely common to not feel much of anything when you first hear the news. You may feel numb, like you are going through the motions. While other people around you may be crying upon hearing the bad news, for example, you may be sitting there in stony silence. Understand that this is normal and does not usually last very long.

That feeling of numbness is the brain’s self-protection mechanism to not let too much trauma flow in at once. Slowly you will begin to process the feelings associated with the bad news.

Feel the emotions that come to the surface. Don’t bottle them up. You are processing this news and your brain needs to work through it. You work through it by letting your feelings flow through and out of you without judgment. Fear, sadness, anger… whatever you feel is appropriate and normal.

It is okay to cry. Your brain will probably be replaying the news over and over again. It’s your mind’s way of getting used to the new information. It’s tiring and annoying but normal.

Distract yourself. Processing bad news can be exhausting. Take a break from it if possible and do something you find enjoyable. The problem may be at the back of your mind, but busying yourself for a while will give you a sense of normality. You may even find yourself feeling a bit better.

You might decide to see a comedy with your friends, go shopping, read a book, or do a puzzle.

Reach out to your support network. Find people you trust who can be a shoulder to cry on as you process your bad news. Look for friends, family, clergy, or others who can listen supportively without offering advice or judgment.

Make sure you are talking to people who can support you in the bad news, not the people who are currently experiencing the bad news. You need to seek support from someone.

Look for professional support. You may find it beneficial to seek out more structured, professional help for a number of reasons. Perhaps you just moved to a new city and have no one local to talk to. Or maybe you are tired of relying on your friends to be ready to talk to you. Talking to a counselor or joining a support group will help you feel like you are not alone, and give you strategies to help you cope.

Find a support group whose members deal with the problem you are facing.

Seek counseling if you are struggling to cope with your bad news, and/or do not have a support network available.

Find perspective. While your bad news may genuinely be catastrophic and traumatic, keep in mind that these difficult, overwhelming feelings will not last forever. Time is a good healer, and with each passing day you may find yourself working through your feelings and slowly figuring things out. You will find a new normal. Be patient with yourself, as this does not happen overnight.

Do your best not to ruminate on the future, creating worst-case scenarios in your mind. This creates additional stress, which you certainly don’t need right now.

For example, if you find yourself worrying about far-off possibilities, like leaving the country or wondering if you will need to take out a second mortgage on the house, it is probably time to distract yourself with a self-care activity.

Stay confident. Continue to believe in yourself and have faith in the world around you that things will turn out for the best. You may have to overcome obstacles, but believe in your ability to surmount them and succeed.

Feeling confident in your ability to handle a situation translates into a greater likelihood of success. Pretend you are a superhero: There’s trouble, but you have the power to fix it.

Learn from your mistakes. Perhaps you could have done something differently to avoid your bad news. Take some time to reflect on what you could do differently next time. Thinking about what you’ve learned from this experience will help you avoid repeating history, as well as help you maintain a positive attitude. It’s easier to stay positive if you are able to reframe your bad news as a life lesson.

Remember that by spending time reflecting on what happened, you will be able to learn from the situation. You will have more understanding of what to do next time.

Be flexible. People who are resilient will bounce back from bad news by reevaluating their goals and coming up with a new plan. They do not see bad news as roadblocks; rather, it is a detour, or another destination entirely.

Method 3

Practice Self-Care

Spend time in nature. Being outside helps calm you down, decreases your blood pressure, and helps you become more present by observing what’s around you.

Go for a walk. You may not live among the redwoods, but you can still connect with nature by walking through a local park or forest preserve. Walking in nature helps you stop focusing on your bad news and helps you push your “reset” button.

Walking outside will also help you get some exercise, which has its own mental health benefits.

Write. Spend some time writing down your problems in a journal. This helps your mind organize your thoughts and feelings, and provides an expressive outlet, particularly if you not able to talk to someone as often as you’d like.

Writing in a journal will also help you reduce stress.

Take a personal day. If you can, skip a day of work or school to rest, relax, and take care of yourself. If you are feeling overwhelmed and unable to concentrate because of your bad news, speak to your employer or school and let them know you need a day to rejuvenate.

You could say to your boss, “I need to take today off for personal reasons” or “I need to take a mental health day,” depending on your relationship with your boss and your workplace policy. If your boss is familiar with what you are dealing with, they may be more willing to be flexible.

You may wish to spend your day catching up on sleep, writing in a journal, exercising outside, or spending time with a good friend. While you may be tempted to spend the day on the couch, watching TV, this is not the healthiest approach.

Connect with your spirituality. You may find your faith to be a source of support for you as you cope with your bad news. Suffering is a universal human concern, and you will find many religious teachings and texts addressing it. Focusing on your spiritual life will help you feel calmer and help you feel better equipped to handle stress.

Attend religious services and connect with others in your religious community for support.

Pray. Connecting to a higher power and sharing your troubles has been found to help people feel less stressed.

Meditate. Not only is meditation proven to help you decrease stress, but it can help you to connect with your spirituality and a sense of “oneness,” a feeling of being connected to the divine.

You may have other spiritual practices in your life that promote healing, like using crystals, Reiki, or tarot cards. You may wish to spend some time each day in the practice of your choice to keep yourself present and calm.

 

Stay in Faith and Be Well!

Debra

 

*This information was edited and taken from http://www.wikihow.com/Deal-With-Bad-News

Exercise, Eat, Drink, Weight Train and Rest your Fat Away!

21 tips to help you lose and burn unwanted body fat and keep it off!

  1. Know your numbers! Start by getting a physical examination and health check-up to find out your Blood Pressure, BMI, Cholesterol, Fat percentage numbers, your waist circumference, and your weight.

 

CAVEAT: An extensive medical work-up is not necessary for many people who wish to begin an exercise or physical activity program or a weight loss/fat reduction program but for some people, overweight or obesity may be related to a medical condition or a medicine they are taking, which interferes with their weight loss efforts.

 

The American College of Sports Medicine recommends a risk-stratification approach to exercise participation. (And, in order to lose unwanted body fat and keep it off, you have to exercise.) Therefore, the level of risk corresponds to the number of heart disease risk factors a person may have. These factors (high blood pressure, abnormal cholesterol levels, family history of heart disease, smoking habit, obesity, and abnormal glucose tolerance) may indicate danger in beginning an exercise program. As a minimum, adults who are to begin an exercise program should begin with a self-administered assessment using a popular questionnaire such as the Physical Activity Readiness Questionnaire (see simple version below). Such a questionnaire is easy to use and helpful in determining one’s suitability to safely begin an exercise program.

Results from the self-assessment will suggest whether medical clearance would be useful and/or necessary prior to beginning an exercise or physical activity program or a weight loss/fat reduction program

 

Physical Activity Readiness Questionnaire

  • Has your doctor ever said that you have a heart condition and that you should only do physical activity recommended by a doctor?
  • Do you feel pain in your chest when you do physical activity?
  • In the past month, have you had chest pain when you were not doing physical activity?
  • Do you lose your balance because of dizziness or do you ever lose consciousness?
  • Do you have a done or joint problem (for example, back, knee or hip) that could be made worse by a change in your physical activity?
  • Is your doctor currently prescribing drugs (for example, water pills) for your blood pressure or heart condition?
  • Do you know of any other reason why you should not do physical activity?
  • If you answered yes to one or more of these questions, see your doctor before you start becoming much more physically active or before you have a fitness appraisal.

 

  1. Make S.M.A.R.T.  lifestyle fitness and eating changes you can live with.
  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Realistic
  • Trackable and/or time-based
  1. Drink adequate amounts of water each day at least eight 8ozs or more depending on your level of activity.
  • Water is essential to good health. Every system in your body depends on water. It flushes toxins out of vital organs, carries nutrients to your cells and provides a moist environment for your ear, nose and throat tissues. 
  • Lack of water can lead to dehydration and prevent your body from carrying out normal functions. Even mild dehydration can drain your energy and make you tired.

 

CAVEAT: You’ve heard the advice, "Drink eight 8-ounce glasses of water a day." That's about 1.9 liters, which isn't that different from the Institute of Medicine recommendations. Although the "8 by 8" rule isn't supported by hard evidence, it remains popular because it's easy to remember.

  1. Consume fewer calories than you burn. Huh? (Or, burn more calories than you consume.)
  • Your body burns calories all day long (even at rest) because it takes energy (calories) for your body to perform basic physiological functions that are necessary for like—breathing, digesting, circulating your blood, thinking/brain functions and more. On top of that, normal physical activity (bathing, grooming, walking, and exercising) uses even more calories (energy) each day.
  • If you burn more calories than you consume by increasing your physical activity, you will create a caloric deficit by burning extra calories.

CAVEAT: It’s important to note that our bodies are very complicated and each person might not always see the expected results immediately. Many factors can affect your weight and fat loss rates. It’s a process. Be patient and give your new lifestyle habits a chance to work.

  1. Avoid drastic calorie reductions, starvation or meal replacement diets.
  1. Reduce starchy carbs like potatoes, breads, cereals, white rice, and pasta.
  1. Eat a balanced breakfast: whole grain + dairy/protein + fruit.
  1. Spread meals and small snacks across 5-6 total meals a day (including breakfast).
  1. Increase vegetable consumption.
  1. Eat fiber rich foods like bran cereal, oatmeal and beans.
  1. Eat the proper amount of protein (too much can be stored as fat if over-consumed!)
  • Adult men need about 56 grams a day.
  • Adult women need about 46 grams a day (71 grams if pregnant or breastfeeding)
  • You should get at least 10% of your daily calories, but not more than 35%, from protein, according to the Institute of Medicine.
  • CAVEATs:
    • Adjust these numbers as necessary for your body…

The “right” amount of protein for any one individual depends on many factors… including activity levels, age, muscle mass, physique goals and current state of health.

  • And, if you're an exerciser (as you should be : - ) your protein needs may increase since resistance training and endurance workouts can rapidly break down muscle protein.

 

A simple way to calculate your protein needs:

Your ideal weight in pounds x .36 = your recommended daily protein intake in grams. (You may need to start with your current weight and slowly reduce your protein intake needs to give your body a chance to adapt and get down to  your ideal weight.)

  1. Eat and use healthy fats like olives/olive oil , nuts, seeds, avocados.
  1. Eat foods you crave (the ones that are bad for you!) occasionally and in moderation. If you give up these foods altogether, you may feel deprived and binge on them or feel guilty for eating them. During your fat loss process, you still have to live and enjoy life. Just don't over do it when it comes to foods that are processed, over processed, high in fat and/or salt and loaded with sugar. Practice mindful eating!
  1. Limit sugar consumption.
  1. Perform interval training exercises.
  • Interval training workouts—in which you alternate periods of high-intensity exercise with low-intensity recovery periods—increase fitness and burns more calories over a short period of time than steady-state cardio (you know…just doing the same thing for your entire workout).
  1. Perform endurance training exercises.
  • Endurance training workouts refers to your ability to exert yourself or remain active over time. Endurance training helps improve cardiovascular, respiratory and muscular endurance during aerobic (cardio) or anaerobic (weight lifting or strength training) exercise.
  1. Perform progressive overload resistance exercises.
  •  Progressive overload is the gradual increase of stress placed upon the body during exercise training.
  • A common goal for strength-training programs is to increase or to maintain one's physical strength or muscle mass. In order to achieve more strength, as opposed to maintaining current strength capacity, muscles need to be stressed (without injury and over time) in such a way that triggers the body's natural, adaptive response to new demands placed on it.
  1.  Engage in low- to moderate-intensity exercise (such as walking and cycling) on “off hard workout days” to enhance caloric deficits and support muscle adaptions between training days.
  1. Rest and recover from your workouts.
  • Rest days are critical no matter what type of workout routine you follow. You need rest days so your muscles get time to repair and recover following tough sessions and to make sure you feel your best the next time you workout!
  1. Supplements may help.
    • While eating the right foods with the proper nutritional value is the goal, supplements may add needed vitamins and minerals to your healthy eating choices. The key is to ensure that supplements are taken in addition to nutrient-dense foods. Experts may not agree about the effects of daily vitamins and minerals but, in bridging nutrient gaps, it’s reasonable to assume that supplements not only support general health, but may help head off chronic conditions or other health risks. For example, a woman could take a supplement containing folic acid to help avoid some birth defects, or a supplement with calcium and vitamin D to lower her risk of osteoporosis. A man could take a multivitamin that is specially formulated for men and seniors who may lack calcium, vitamin D, vitamin B12, potassium, and fiber, may benefit from taking supplements formulated for their particular micronutrient needs.
  • The thing to remember when it comes to supplements is this –they are supplements and not food replacement pills! Don’t blindly take a supplement without assessing your food intake. So, only use supplements if your physician has recommended them or has approved your taking them.

Tip #21

Hire a certified personal fitness trainer who possesses the knowledge, skills and abilities for safe and effective exercise and fitness program design, instruction and assistance for the purpose of reaching personal health and fitness goals. You'll need one to help you meet your fat loss goals as you work on tips 1-20!

 

Want Results? Get SMART!

http://get.smartfitnesspersonaltraining.com/

 

MEDICAL WARNING & DISCLAIMER The information in this article is not intended as medical advice or to replace a one-on-one relationship with your doctor. It is intended as a sharing of knowledge and information from my personal research and experience. I encourage you to make your own health care decisions in partnership with your physician.

 

 

 

 

Top 10 Hot Weather Exercise Tips!

When you exercise outdoors in the summer, be careful. The combination of heat and exercise could turn your workout into a serious medical problem.

Physical exertion and muscle activity leads to an increase in body temperature. Even though your body works to maintain its internal temperature by sweating, your body's natural ability to cool itself can be overwhelmed by the combination of intense exercise and hot weather. As a result, you can become dehydrated which can cause muscle cramps, fatigue, headache, lightheadedness, confusion, lethargy and in some cases, heat exhaustion, cardiac arrhythmia; even death.

Heat-related illness is serious.

But this doesn’t mean you can’t exercise outdoors or that you are doomed to do all of your summer exercising in a gym.  Just keep the following tips in mind when you step out in the sun.

  1. Know the temperature and the heat index

The “heat index” is the temperature the body feels when humidity is taken into account. Heat and humidity add up to danger. High humidity makes heat more dangerous because it slows the evaporation of perspiration – the body's natural cooler. So check the weather forecast temperature and how hot it feels!

  1. Check the time

Contain your summer exercise to the least hot and humid part of the day. UV radiation is greatest when the sun is highest in the sky—generally midday, between 10 AM and 4 PM. UV radiation is lower in the early morning and late afternoon. A good rule to follow is: if your shadow is shorter than you are, you should take extra care in the sun.

  1. Look for shade

Make sure that there’s some   during your workout so you’re not exposed to constant direct sunlight.

  1. Drink lots of water

Thirst isn't always a reliable gauge of the body's need for water, especially in children and older adults. A better indicator is the color of your urine: Clear or light-colored urine (the color of lemonade) means you're well hydrated, whereas a dark yellow or amber color usually signals dehydration.

  1. Wear light loose-fitting clothing, a hat, and sunglasses

Lightweight fabrics that wick away sweat are best for exercising in the heat. Clothes should also be light in color in order to reflect the sun. A well-ventilated hat with a brim will keep the sun out of your face and sunglasses may help prevent headaches. Also, don’t cover up the working muscles in the legs which generate a lot of heat.

  1. Take it easy

If it’s hotter than you’re used to, keep your exercise intensity low. When heat and humidity combine to slow evaporation of sweat from the body, outdoor exercise can become dangerous even for those in good shape.

  1. Wear sunscreen

Sunscreen is important when you exercise outdoors. It won’t make you feel cooler but a sunburn decreases your body's ability to cool itself.

  1. Know how your medications affect your body

Many medications--both prescription and over-the-counter (decongestants, antihistamines, cold medications) can intensify the effects of heat-related illnesses. They hasten dehydration and decrease the body’s ability to recognize danger. Even diuretics like caffeine and alcohol, when consumed before exercising in the heat can accelerate the effects of dehydration.

  1. Don’t forget to eat

Exercising without enough fuel is dangerous. If you're going to work out, eat light meals and snack throughout the day on veggies and fruits because they're naturally filled with water.

  1. Have a backup plan.

If you're concerned about the heat and humidity, stay indoors! Work out at the gym* or use the stairs in your (air-conditioned) workplace as a quick way to add exercise to your day.

 

The biggest thing with heat and exercise is to use common sense.  If you start to feel ill, you need to get inside and get your core temperature down. You may even need to contact your doctor.

 

Enjoy your...

Post-Christmas Recovery Plan

 

After all the Christmas food and cheer, our bodies need to relax and unwind. And, the best way to do that is when the body and the mind are both totally relaxed –during sleep. During sleep, your body does most of its repairing and healing. So, a good night's sleep is the first step of your post-Christmas recover plan. A good night's sleep will aid in helping you be at your best and feel great.

Next, increase your intake of vitamin C. This will help clear your skin and help maintain teeth and bones and aids our absorption of iron. Great sources of vitamin C are strawberries, kiwi fruit, steamed broccoli and oranges. Another vitamin that is great for our bodies is vitamin B as this helps soften the impact of alcohol on the liver and encourages cell rejuvenation.      

Next, eat colorfully! To combat any signs of aging that the Christmas party season has brought on, increase your intake of foods that contain anti-oxidants. These are brightly colored fruits and vegetables like peppers, tomatoes, pumpkins, sweet potatoes, apricots, carrots, kale, spinach, beets, Brussels sprouts, etc.

And don’t forget to drink your water! Think of water as a nutrient that your body needs. Fluid losses occur continuously, from skin evaporation, breathing, urine, and stool and these losses must be replaced daily for good health. When your water intake does not equal your output, you can become dehydrated. Dehydration symptoms and risks include: excessive thirst, fatigue, muscle weakness, headache, dizziness, less frequent need to urinate and decreased output, darker colored urine (should be nearly clear to pale yellow), confusion, increased heart rate and respiration, skin that doesn't snap back when pinched and released. Oh my! Drink water!

Next, perform low stress exercises like walking. There is no better therapy after a long stressful day than going for a walk. This is a great form of exercise and will also blow away all those cobwebs that have accumulated from spending too much time inside and sitting!

Last but not least (for men and women alike)…if you really want to totally relax and recover then treat yourself to any type of spa treatment like a massage, a facial, or manicure and definitely a pedicure! We all love to be relaxed so don’t forget to treat yourself and your body well.

p.s...repeat this plan after celebrating and bringing in the New Year!

Cheers!

Want Results? Get SMART http://get.smartfitnesspersonaltraining.com/

Healthy Eating Over the Holidays

                

According to Weight Watchers, the average American gains around 7-10 pounds between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day. Moreover, much of this weight is maintained from thereon despite our promises to go on a diet in January. We have this promise in the back of our minds as we help ourselves to another serving of banana pudding or ice cream, another piece of cake or pie or extra helpings of everything we just ate for our meal!

        

Here are some tips to avoid packing on those extra pounds over the holidays.

  • Don’t let holiday foods get the best of you.
  • Make healthy food and beverage decisions by reducing your portion sizes. Also, stop eating when you feel satisfied rather than stuffed.
  • Just say “no” to food pushers–family members, friends, or co-workers who refuse to take “no” for an answer when they’re offering fattening treats. It’s OK to just say “No, thank you.” Or, “It looks and smells really good but I’m full.”
  • Be careful at the office holiday party. Canapés and other fancy appetizers are often full of fat. Each one is tiny, but the calories add up quickly when there is an endless parade of hors d'oeuvres.
  • Engage in conversation to slow the pace of eating.
  • Limit or abstain from drinking alchohol because it increases hunger and lowers willpower

 

Make holiday foods healthier

When preparing your own meals over the holiday, use good food preparation techniques to reduce calories. For example:

  • Mash potatoes with low-sodium, fat-free chicken broth instead of milk, butter, and salt. Or, use less milk and add sour cream and chives or scallions.

  • Roast vegetables to bring out the flavor instead of cooking them with butter or fat.

             

  • Consider lean cuts of meat and avoid fried foods.

            

  • Prepare dips with fat-free sour cream or yogurt.

           

  • Use fruits like strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, pineapples or grapes with yogurt as your dessert.

            

 

Don’t totally abandon your workout

All it takes is some creativity and fun to get some exercise in over the holiday.

                                           

  For example:

  • Keep moving and use every opportunity to exercise.

             Do 1 minute of jumping jacks throughout the day

             and/or jog in place for one minute (up to 10 times).

 

Park farther away from the entrance of a store.

This is an extremely easy way to get in a few extra

steps as exercise. Or, take the stairs whenever you

can. Even if you only walk up one or two flights and

then take the elevator to your floor. This is another

very easy way to get some exercise.

  • Don’t forget strength training

Maintaining your muscle mass is an excellent way to burn calories.  And you don’t need a gym or equipment!

 

Do push-ups, dips using a chair, squats, lunges, calf raises, or abdominal work including plank exercises for 10-15 minutes 2 - 3 times a day.

  • Schedule some gym time and add it to your to-do list. You might surprise yourself and actually have time to fit in 30 minutes to an hour of exercise.
  • Stretch and perform deep breathing exercises to relieve holiday stress.

Simple neck rolls or reaching your arms up like you are trying to touch the ceiling, or bending over at the waist and hanging your head, neck shoulders and arms down like a rag doll are all excellent stress reliever stretches. Also take a few deep breathes while you are stretching!

The main this to remember is this...

The holidays are no time to abandon your healthy habits or feel pressured to eat and drink more than usual. So, don't become derailed during the holiday season; keep your resolve up and your body healthy. If you keep these tips in mind, you'll get through the holidays without gaining a pound!

 

                                     

                                             From SMART Fitness Personal Training

                                             Want Results? Get SMART http://get.smartfitnesspersonaltraining.com/

 

 

 

STRESS: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of our Mental and Physical Health

Stress is a normal part of life and many events that happen to us and around us (and many things that we do to ourselves) will add to our stress. But what exactly is stress?

 

We generally use the word “stress” when we feel that events in our lives have become too much to handle at any given moment or when we are overloaded in general and wonder whether we can cope with the pressures placed upon us. So, can stress be defined as anything that poses a challenge or a threat to our well-being? Yes, but wait!

If you were to ask a dozen of your friends or co-workers to define stress, or ask them to explain what causes stress for them, you would likely get 12 different answers. The reason for this is because stress can be defined in many ways and we all react to stress differently. Stress can be good, bad, and/or ugly! What is stressful for one person may be pleasurable or have little effect on someone else. Therefore, understanding stress and managing your stress level is important. If nothing in your life causes you any stress or excitement, you may become bored or may not be living up to your potential. On the other hand, if everything in your life, or large portions of your life cause you stress, you may develop health or mental problems that will make things in your life worse.

When stress is ugly!

You probably already know that anxiety and tension (i.e., stress) play key roles in the progression of life-threatening internal diseases like high blood pressure and diabetes, but did you know that stress can also be seen on the outside of our bodies?

Is your hair thinning? Is your skin inflamed? Do your nails splinter faster than you can file them? What is going on to cause all this? It could be stress. If you have been on edge more than usual, you might be experiencing the ugly toll that stress  can take on your looks.

When stress is bad!

When events or situations in your life become unpleasant and continue without relief, the mental and/or emotional strain can lead to a condition called distress -- a negative stress reaction. Distress can lead to physical symptoms including headaches, upset stomach, elevated blood pressure, chest pain, and problems sleeping.

Distress can also become harmful if you use alcohol, tobacco, or drugs to try and relieve your state of mind. Unfortunately, instead of relieving your stress and returning to a relaxed state, these substances tend to keep your body in a stressed state and cause more problems.

When stress is good!

You need some stress to get up in the morning because it is critical to feeling motivated and interested in life! Like bad stress, good stress (called eustress) gets the heart pumping, increases your breathing rate, makes you perspire more and causes chemicals reactions throughout your system.

 

The difference in bad stress versus good stress is in the type of chemicals we produce when we are excited and happy - verses being excited and apprehensive or unhappy.  When we are in a “good” stress situation, we get a kind of “runners high” type of chemical cocktail. Lovely chemicals like endorphin, serotonin and dopamine are produced by our bodies and do all sorts of good things for us. They act almost like antidotes to the stress chemicals that can manifest as physical symptom or as a mental symptom like depression.

Want more good stress situations?

Exercise! Exercise reduces (bad) stress. Preliminary evidence suggests that physically active people have lower rates of anxiety and depression than sedentary people. Why? Some researchers are looking at possible links between exercise and brain chemicals associated with anxiety and depression. Others think exercise thwarts depression and anxiety by enhancing the body's ability to respond to these conditions.

Biologically, exercise seems to give the body a chance to practice dealing with the kind of stress you get from anxiety. It forces the body's physiological systems (all of which are involved in the stress response) to communicate much more closely than usual. The heart and lungs communicate with the kidneys, which communicates with the muscular system. And all of these are controlled by the central and “fight or flight” nervous systems which also must communicate with each other. This workout of the body's communication system may be the true value of exercise. The more sedentary we get, the less efficient our bodies become in responding to the stress that is considered bad for us.[1]

Give exercise time to work

The stress-reducing changes wrought by exercise on the brain don’t happen overnight so give it time and don’t quit! Keep running or cycling or swimming or walking or weight training, etc. You may not feel a magical reduction of stress after your first bout of exercise but once those endorphins kick in, you’ll look forward to the release of negative emotions during your workout. Think about turning those potentially unhealthy emotions into motivation for increased health and well-being.

 

Managing your stress

Exercising is only one way to lower your anxiety. Since you probably can’t simply stop what you are doing during a stressful situation and start exercising, here are some other ways you can take the pressure off and manage your stress:

  • Listen to music. Preferably not something loud and raucous. Make sure it calms you. Playing calm music has a positive effect on the brain and body.
  • Call a friend and talk about what’s going on or simply vent! You’ll feel better.
  • Talk yourself through it and tell yourself everything will be OK.
  • Pay attention to nutrition.Don’t resort to eating sugary or fatty snack foods as a pick me up.
  • Breathe easy and take a deep breath. Clear your mind.
  • Laugh it off. Is the stressful situation really that bad?
  • Have a cup of tea. Tea has less caffeine than coffee and contains healthy antioxidants and amino acids that have a calming and soothing effect on the nervous system.
  • Sign up for yoga classes. Yoga trains you to build up a natural response to stress and bring the relaxed state of mind into your everyday life.
  • Get some rest and sleep better. Lack of sleep is a key cause of stress.

You are in control!

It may seem that there’s nothing you can do about your stress level. The bills aren’t going to stop coming, there will never be more hours in the day for all your errands, and your career or family responsibilities will always be demanding. But you have a lot more control than you might think. In fact, the simple realization that you’re in control of your life is the foundation of stress management.

Managing stress is all about taking charge -- taking charge of your thoughts, your emotions, your schedule, your environment, and the way you deal with problems. The ultimate goal is a balanced life, with time for work, relationships, relaxation, and fun – plus the resilience to hold up under pressure and meet challenges head on.

So, the next time you feel stressed; think of cake, or ice cream, or your favorite desserts. Why? STRESSED spelled backwards is DESSERTS!

 



[1] American Psychological Association web article Exercise fuels the brain’s stress buffers  http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/exercise-stress.aspx