Stress Management

How To Deal With Work Stress

Who isn’t stressed at work these days? Whether it’s the people you work with, your work load, long hours or wanting a better job in an unstable job market, it’s no wonder that most of us dread Mondays the way we do.

RELATED: Nutritionist Susie Burrell’s Top Spring Diet Dos And Don’ts

So, how can we effectively deal with work stress? Follow these proven stress management techniques.

First, identify what stresses you out at work. Is it your two-faced co-worker? A lazy boss? The unbearable noise coming from the construction area beside your office? Knowing what makes you so stressed at work allows you to address and start working towards fixing the problem.

Second, recognise manifestations of excessive stress levels at work. It is normal to experience some stress from work since the pressures of responsibility are always weighing on you. However, getting burned out quickly, drinking after work, arguing with your partner and having sleepless nights are a good sign you’ve exceeded that normal stress threshold. Remember, you work to live, not live to work.

Third, take care of yourself. Restoring a positive work-life balance is key.If work is causing you to be unhappy, balance it by making the most of your non-work hours. Treat yourself to a massage after a stressful work week or.  Eat a heart diet and exercise regularly. Both methods boost your mood and outlook in life plus they ward off diseases.

Fourth, manage your time and workload responsibly. Plan in advance and prioritise your to-do list. Make a time to check and answer your email instead of constantly flicking between your inbox and other tasks. Complete projects and tick them off instead of having multiple projects on the go at the same time.

Fifth, bring a positive, healthy energy into the workspace. Don’t complain about other employees, or your boss – you never know when it could back to bite you. Turn that negative energy into positive, trying breathing techniques and smile when you feel yourself getting angry. Take a walk at lunch instead of eating at the computer. Swap your double latte for herbal tea, your mid-afternoon sugar hit with yoghurt and a handful of nuts.

September 14, 2015

How To Say NO Without Being A Bitch

Are you a people pleaser – you know, the type of person who finds it difficult to say no? And when you do, does it comes out like a roar because you’re so overloaded? Well, you aren’t alone. Interestingly, there’s an epidemic of us out there and I used to be one of them. Even though I continued to overload myself, saying no just never felt like an option.

RELATED Enabling Or Helping… What Is It You’re Doing?

Learning when to saying NO

Learning when to say no is a very powerful tool in stress and time management. Loads of women find this exceptionally difficult, while men (obviously not all men) seem to find it much easier. This potentially has something to do with the way females are raised, therefore many of us have had this trait from a young age.

A key thing to remember is that you could spend your entire life saying yes to others and it won’t necessarily make their lives any better, nor will it make yours all rosy, either. In many cases saying yes constantly can, and does, make life worse. We just don’t see it like that at the time.

Why we need to say no

The next thing to establish is why you need to say no. Ultimately, you need to look after your needs and health first. This is so important as someone who is burnt out is really no good to anyone – not at work, not at home, nowhere. Therefore, if someone asks you a to do something, you really need to remind yourself that you have a choice. It’s been your choice in the past to say yes and it’s your choice in the future to say no.

It sounds pretty simple, doesn’t it? Well it is, and it’s as easy as reminding yourself that only you can make that decision. No one can do it for you. You might get a bit of opposition at first but be prepared to work through it to reach the other side.

How to say no assertively

One of my biggest problems when saying no was my tone. It was aggressive. Sometimes very aggressive. This was usually when I felt under pressure, but continued to want to please everyone. Instead of looking after my needs first, I’d look after everyone elses and once I’d reach breaking point, all hell would break loose. My inability to say no assertively was getting me into some seriously trying situations.

Being assertive is very different to being aggressive. It’s in the tone and language we use. A great skill to have is looking at the reaction of the recipient of our messages. For example, when someone is spoken to with aggression they often physically take a step back.

Additionally, people spoken to with aggression will get a hurt or angry look on their face. This is when their protective wall goes up; if you look closely, you’ll usually be able to see it happening. You see, assertion, on the other hand, evokes a different reaction.

If you aren’t sure if you are being assertive or aggressive, use a successful boss or supervisor as a role model. They need to delegate and say no often, so when they speak they often do so with pleasantness, conviction and earnestly. Something like: “No, you won’t be able to take next Monday off, but I’ll check the roster and see what we can work out.” Although you don’t get the exact answer you’re hoping for, there is a degree of positivity in the way that they speak.

An aggressive boss or supervisor in the same situation would bark something like: “No, I need you. You can’t do that.”  There’s nothing positive offered in response and it can instantly make you feel bad. You often see parents in supermarkets doing this to their kids, and if spoken to the same way, they’d probably feel like screaming too.

Mastering assertion

Being able to say no in a positive way is something which needs to be mastered. It won’t happen instantly and you’ll need to practice. Keep in mind that it’s bound to feel uncomfortable at first as others will be expecting you to say yes as you’ve always done in the past. Remember above all else, saying yes or no is a choice. Therefore, avoid taking on any guilt in doing so – this is how many of us have become people pleasers in the first place.

Image via heatherwaxman.com

June 4, 2015

Using Sex As A Simple Stress Relief Technique

While sex can be the last thing on your mind when you’re highly stressed, it may be exactly what your body needs. Stress builds up tension and a great way to get rid of it is having a quickie – or two. Preferably a quickie with a happy ending!

RELATED Ooo Yes! How Women Can Orgasm Every Time

Why a quickie instead of a long seductive session, you ask? Well for one, stress lowers the libido, so you probably won’t feel like going at it for too long. Secondly, all you really need to do is reach orgasm and share some body contact – this encourages the body to release positive endorphins which will help you to cope better with stress in the long-term. Finally, having a quickie when you’re stressed will actually help to improve your libido, leading to longer love making sessions and generally a better sex life.

There’s been a fair few studies on stress and sex and interestingly partnered sex is far more effective than solo masturbation. It might be the physical connection we experience with another person, or sharing mutual satisfaction with your partner during times of turmoil. It might even have something to do with the fact that both partners get some stress relief. This can make your environment less stressful as well as make your body feel better.

There’s also evidence that regular sex makes us more resilient to stress when it arises by basically acting liking a buffer when things start to go off track. You see, instead of blood pressure rising significantly in stressful situations, people who have sex more often are said to have a lowered heart rate in similar situations.

Apparently it doesn’t only effect blood pressure, but can also have a positive impact on cortisol levels. This makes sense because cortisol is also known as the stress hormone and is secreted when adrenaline arises. It’s function helps to control blood pressure and our immune system among other things.

When stress arises cortisol release can have a positive effect on memory function, pain sensitivity and gives us that kick when our body needs to get into fight or flight mode. Long-term release can be really harmful, however. It can negatively affect cognition, thyroid function, blood sugar levels, our bones and muscles, give us high blood pressure and lower our immune systems. Therefore, when stress levels remain high over prolonged periods of time it has a derivative effect on our overall health – everything begins to suffer.

Using sex specifically as a stress reliever can reduce the impact this has on our bodies. It’s also a great way to keep your body working efficiently and your household functioning better. Plus, it’s far safer than tablets, pills and potions and way more enjoyable than a trip to the GP or therapist! Try it next time stress begins to impose on your life and feel the benefits it brings to you both in the short and long-term.

Image via Mens Health

May 22, 2015

5 Ways To Fall In Love With Mondays

It’s Monday morning. You hear your alarm and you hit the snooze button. Then you hit it again. Eventually you manage to get out of bed, get dressed and out of the house. You grab a coffee on the run and start counting the days left before the weekend… Too many. While most of us are familiar with this scenario, it doesn’t have to be this way. You can fall in love with Mondays and here’s how.

RELATED: Supercharge Your Day With This Simple Morning Ritual

1. Get enough sleep

We have a good time until late on the weekends, sleep in, then stay up late again. No wonder getting out of bed on Mondays is a struggle. Treat yourself to an early Sunday night instead and you will wake up with renewed energy.

2. Have a morning ritual

Do something in the morning that helps you feel the way you want to feel – whether it’s calm and grounded or excited and wanting to take on the world. Your morning ritual could include exercise or meditation, but it can also be as simple as singing loudly along to your favourite song on the radio.

3. Schedule something fun for Monday

Why do we leave all the fun things for Friday nights? Why not have fun every day? Schedule a lunch date with a friend or a dance class after work and you will have something look forward to.

4. Appreciate your work

No work situation is perfect and it’s easy to let our attention go to all the things we dislike. If you notice yourself going down the negative spiral, stop and remind yourself of all the things you appreciate about your work, instead. Maybe you’re working on a new and exciting project. Or you have a client you always enjoy talking to. Or you get free coffee. At the very least, you have an income that pays your bills. There’s always something you can appreciate.

5. Plan for change

If none of the above ideas help you fall in love with Mondays, you probably need a change. Spend some time figuring out what’s working and what’s not working for you in your current situation. Brainstorm things you can do to make your work more enjoyable or start looking at other opportunities.

Image via Pixabay

April 27, 2015

Benefits Of Foot Reflexology

Did you know that certain reflexes found in the foot can help to stabilise the entire body?

Used for centuries all over the world, foot reflexology is a popular way to de-stress and improve circulation. Whether you are suffering from a nasty headache, experiencing monthly back pain, or simply in need of a de-stressing exercise, here are a few ways foot reflexology can help you out.

RELATED: The Guide To Acupressure For Stress Relief

How does it work?

Most therapists focus on stimulating the solar plexus which stores all of our excess stress. Once this sacred area is relaxed, then the entire body enters a serene state which seeks to eliminate all forms for stress.

When pressure is applied onto certain areas of the foot such as the heels are lower arch, this has a significant effect on the solar plexus. You will start to notice that stress levels have decreased, and your heart rate is beating a slower, more consistent level.

Circulation

As with all massage techniques, applying a certain amount of pressure onto one area of the body can help to improve bad circulation. This will help to clear the path inside the blood stream, and will better support the proper function of healthy tissues and organs. Massaging the feet holds great health benefits since there are so many nerves linked into this central location.

Pain management

Did you know that applying more pressure to the feet can decrease the amount of pain the rest of your body can feel? A rush of endorphins are released which help to minimise pain signals to the brain, and as a result, brings about a relaxing sensation. Next time you are experiencing a bad cramp or stomach ache, try massaging the area just below the arch of your feet to relax the entire body.

Techniques

If you want to try a few of these stress relieving techniques at home, start with these simple exercises which will surely make you feel better:

Thumb walking

A popular technique which helps to a tense feeling in the entire body. Use both hands to relax the foot, and then simply rub your thumb down the inside of both feet. This should take place from the tip of the big toe, down the length of your foot until you hit the heel.

Stroke

To improve your overall circulation, stroke the bottom of your foot with each thumb. This should be a short, fluid action which firmly applies pressure on the base of your foot. Once you reach the toes, apply less pressure since the tendons around this area are more sensitive.

Tips

Before embarking on your own foot reflexology, make sure to review some of our beginners tips which will help make the process so much more effective.

  • Drink as much water as you can before and after each massage. This will help to remove any nasties from your system, and can improve circulation.
  • Use a light oil to make the massage feel better. Never massage dry feet since the exercises won’t feel as effective, and it will only make your feet feel dry! Coconut oil is a great choice since it’s inexpensive, and melts quickly between your fingers.
  • Start off slow by massaging the top and base of your feet. Don’t apply too much pressure to areas which you’re unsure about. Even just massaging your toes, heels, and arch are enough to relax your entire body.

Image via Acupressure

February 9, 2015

Does Aromatherapy Actually Work?

Aromatherapy has been used for hundreds of years as an alternative medicine which boasts relief against stress, anxiety, general aches and pains all through the use of various scents.

But how does this age-old treatment work, and how can you use it at home?

RELATED: 5 Facial Mists For Hydrated Skin

How does aromatherapy work?

This is the question which many people find baffling: how can just one scent change the way your body feels from the inside? Sounds kind of creepy, doesn’t it?

For many of years aromatherapy has been explained to stimulate the delicate receptors in the nose, then this sends a message through to the nervous system which reaches the brain. At this point, the brain declares whether this is a good or bad scent; if it is good, it can ultimately have a relaxing effect on the entire mind and body.

What are some popular scents?

If you want to try this out for yourself at home, first read our list of some popular scents and what they’re used for in aromatherapy. This will give you a better understanding of how everything actually works:

1. Lavender

Ideal for: stress

This is probably the most popular oil used in aromatherapy, mainly because of its calming effects. Sniffing anything with lavender is scientifically proven to decrease stress levels, even if you don’t actually like the smell in the first place!

2. Patchouli

Ideal for: antidepressant

Patchouli is a naturally uplifting oil which is used for a few different conditions. One of the most popular ways to use it is for people suffering from depression. The scent helps to release pleasure hormones such as seratonin and dopamine, which relieves sad or angry feelings.

3. Tea Tree

Ideal for: colds, antibacterial

While tea tree is mostly known for its antibacterial properties, it also has a calming effect when used in aromatherapy. The uplifting scent is perfect for those suffering from a chest cold or nasty cough. Rub gently over the chest to clear out the lungs, and leave your body with a sweet scent all day long.

4. Franklincense

Ideal for: spiritual

Used for centuries in the Middle East for a emotional and spiritual connection with a higher being, it is still used today during prayers. The gentle scent is also massaged into joints to alleviate aches and pain associated with arthritis.

Is aromatherapy scientifically proven?

While most essential oils are used to decease levels of stress, anxiety, and aches in the body, not much has actually been proven otherwise. Don’t count on this type of alternative medicine to permanently decrease a high blood pressure count, increased heart rate, or even chronic disorders. They can be used for extended periods of time to help relieve these symptoms, but aren’t strong enough to actually cure any long-term conditions.

Have you ever used essential oils? Share your experiences in the comments below.

Image via Wellness Today

January 26, 2015

How To Manage Holiday Stress

I admit I find the holidays stressful. I even secretly feel bad about it. After all, isn’t Christmas supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year? Then why, instead of feeling joyful and relaxed, I want to run and hide?

Here’s my answer – I’m an introvert. While I can have fun being social, it takes a lot out of me and I need time alone to recharge, something I don’t get much of at Christmas time. Other sources of holiday stress can be taking on too much responsibilities, family members you don’t get along with, finances running low and having high expectations that don’t always turn into reality.

RELATED: How To Survive A Family Christmas

Here’s the good news. If you’re feeling stressed out, you don’t need to grit your teeth and wait until the holiday season is over to take a breath. Here are some things you can do to help you feel better immediately.

Christmas, Christmas stress, holiday stress

Simplify

Often we’re running around too busy to examine if we really need to do everything we’re trying to do. You probably don’t feel that you have time to stop and simplify your Christmas, but do it anyway. You’re bound to find a few things on your schedule that you can skip and no one will notice.

Take a break

It doesn’t have to be a week-long retreat (although it would be nice). A cup of tea by yourself, a simple mediation or a short walk can do wonders, just allow yourself to stop worrying about the holidays and think about something peaceful instead.

Ask for help

As much as having people around me at all times exhausts me, there’s a good side to it.  There’s always someone to ask for help, whether you need a listening ear for something that’s on your mind or you want to leave the kids to take a few minutes to yourself.

Look after yourself

Getting lots of sleep, drinking water and taking some time to exercise can definitely help you keep in good spirit. Even if making it to the gym is out of the question, a quick stretch at home or a game of soccer with the kids can make you feel happier in no time.

Count your blessings

There’s always something good happening around you to be grateful for – a child’s smile, a reunion with an old friend, not having to get up early in the morning to go to work. Challenge yourself to look for the positives in everything and you’ll have a collection of beautiful moments by the end of the holiday season.

Image by Andi_Graf via pixabay.com

December 16, 2014

Simplify Your Holidays In 4 Easy Steps

Holidays are meant to be fun and relaxing, but for many of us Christmas is different. Too many presents to buy, too much to organise and not enough time, money and energy to do it all. Is just the thought of Christmas stressing you out? Make a change this year and simplify your holidays with these easy steps.

RELATED: 7 Tips For Stress-Free Entertaining This Christmas

1. Write a list of everything you need and want to do

Include everything – every present, every card, every social event. You might end up with a super long list, but don’t let that discourage you. Even just writing it down means that you don’t have to hold it all in your head and now you have mental space available for other things.

2. Decide on what’s important to you

How do you want to feel these holidays? How do you want the other people around you to feel? What are your values? Pick the top 3-5 things that are important to you and that you want to focus on this holiday season. Here are mine: family, creativity, giving.

3. Colour your list

You’ve already completed the hardest part of the process, now the fun begins. Grab some highlighters and pick a colour for all the things you really want to do (just thinking about them puts a smile on your face). Now go through your list and highlight them. These items are staying!

Next pick another colour. Go through the rest of the items and highlight the ones that are in line with your values from Step 2. You may not necessarily want to do them, but on some of them you’ll have to compromise. For example, spending time at your in-laws may not be your favourite pastime on any day of the year, but family is important to you, so you don’t want to negotiate your way out of it.

Everything else on your list that you haven’t coloured can go. You don’t want to do it and it’s not important to you, so cross it out.

4. Get creative with the things you don’t want to do

Now let’s go back to second group you coloured – what doesn’t light you up, but is important to you. How can you make those tasks easier for yourself? Is it you that has to do them? Can you ask for help? Can you trade tasks with your partner? Is there a simpler way of doing them? (Hint: the answer to the last question is usually ‘yes’.) Only because something has been done a certain way in the past, it doesn’t mean that it always has to be that way.

By the time you’re finished with this process, you’ll have a list that excites you and a holiday season to look forward to.

Image by condesign via pixabay.com

November 14, 2014

The Benefits Of Massage

Massage is great for you for a multitude of reasons. From relaxation to improving blood flow, easing muscle tension and even the feeling of a little ‘selfish’ indulgence, the benefits are many. So rid yourself of the guilt because massage shouldn’t just be relegated to being a rare special treat, it’s an integral part of your long-term wellbeing – and here’s why:

Massage can help with headaches. The power of touch seems to help limit headache pain. Start by applying gentle pressure with your fingertips to your temples, then move them in a circular motion along the hairline until they meet in the middle of your forehead.

It can help you sleep. The calming treatment can also help you spend more time asleep, according to research from Miami University’s Touch Research Institute: “Massage helps people spend more time in deep sleep, the restorative stage in which your body barely moves.”

Massage can reduce pain. A 2011 study found that massage helped people with low back pain to feel and function better, compared to people who didn’t get a rubdown.

Massage may ward off colds. There’s a small body of research that suggests massages boost immune function. A 2010 study, believed to be the largest study on massage’s effects on the immune system, found that 45 minutes of Swedish massage resulted in significant changes in white blood cells and lymphocytes, which help protect the body from bugs and germs.

It could make you more alert. At least one study has linked massage to better brainpower.

The stress reduction is scientific. Between the dim lights, soothing music and healing touch, it certainly feels like stress melts away during a massage, but research suggests a very literal reduction of cortisol, a major stress hormone.

It may alleviate depression symptoms. A 2010 review of the existing studies examining massage in people with depression found that all 17 pieces of research noted positive effects. 

Massage may ease cancer treatment. Among patients receiving care for cancer, studies have noted multiple benefits of massage, including improved relaxation, sleep and immune system function as well as decreased fatigue, pain, anxiety and nausea.

April 22, 2014

How To Deal With Everyday Stress

Wasn’t life easier as a kid? Piling bills, long working hours, family dramas are just a few of the many things that make modern life oh-so-stressful. But you can take control of the stress in your life, with these tried-and-true tested stress management tips:

Be realistic

Many of us are stressed out because we set unrealistic expectations. You really cannot do it all. If you feel like you have too much on your plate already, then you should think twice about taking on another responsibility. And don’t be afraid to ask for help when you are feeling overwhelmed.

Get plenty of sleep

Taking care of your health is an important part of stress management. Eight hours’ sleep is essential for staying healthy, for both your body and mind. If you are like a lot of people who are chronically stressed out, consider limiting your caffeine intake. You may also want to take a Valerian supplement before going to bed, which is a natural herb available at health stores.

Exercise

A busy lifestyle can leave little time for physical activity. However, you should try your best to squeeze at least 30 minutes of exercise into your routine three times a week. Exercise helps reduce stress by stimulating the release of endorphin, natural painkillers that also have a calming effect. Regular exercise will also help increase your energy. It will also help you to take your mind off of the things that are stressing you.

Eat healthy

You may want to reach for the phone and order a pizza, and open a bottle of wine after dealing with a particularly stressful day. But a healthy diet will help your body recover from stress, and you’ll feel a lot better after the junk food hangover has worn off. Start the day with a vegetable juice – this will give your body the nutrients it needs even when you do not have the time to eat a healthy meal.

Manage your finances

Because finances are a major source of stress for many people, getting them under control will make your life a lot easier. Keep track of your monthly expenses and eliminate unnecessary spending. Set a budget and try to stick with it. If you need help managing your finances, chat to your bank, a trusted friend or family member.

March 25, 2014

7 Tips To Stress Less

We’re a stressed lot, us Aussies! The Blackmores Stress Quiz has revealed that 63% of Australia feel like their lives are out of control, with 49% reporting they are more stressed now than the same time last year, and 30 – 39 year olds form the most stressed age group in Australia.

And what’s contributing to our stress? Lack of sleep, bills and work! 71% of Aussies surveyed are stressed by not sleeping well, 68% of Aussies are stressed about their mortgage, bills and finances, and 67% of Aussies report  getting stressed about making errors at work. Yikes!

So how do you stress less? Follow these seven essential tips:

1. Good nutrition
This helps your body recover from stress and provides you with the resources you need to deal with it.  Limit caffeine and other stimulants along with alcohol.  Fuel up with nutrient-dense, antioxidant-rich foods like fresh vegetables and vegetable juices, whole grains, nuts and lean protein foods. Supplementing your diet with a multivitamin can help provide nutrients during times of stress that a busy lifestyle sometimes doesn’t allow.

2. B calm
Support your body and take B vitamins; in times of stress our bodies have an increased requirement for vitamins, especially B vitamins. During stress, nutrients such as vitamin C and vitamin B5 are important for supporting adrenal function.

3. Sleep easy
Adequate sleep rejuvenates your mind, as well as your body but it’s a catch 22, when stressed often not being able to get a good night’s sleep is a side effect. To promote sleep, avoid eating late and having a large meal at night.  Avoid caffeine after 12pm and don’t exercise too late in the day. You can also take a herbal supplement containing valerian that supports your body’s natural ability to sleep soundly. Other beneficial ingredients include lemon balm and magnesium.

4. Exercise
Exercise is key to stress management.  Physical activity plays an important role in reducing the effects of stress. Not only does exercise produce feel-good endorphins, it helps clear the head, burn off pent-up tension and gives you more energy.

5. Connect with others
A good social support system is a vital resource for dealing with stress (and something women are often better at than men).  Talking to people you know and trust helps to give you a better perspective on things.

6. Take control of your finances
Monitor your spending habits.  Proper planning and budgeting will help you feel in control in this area.  Get expert help if needed.

7. Work smart
Don’t take on more than you can handle.  Be realistic about timeframes and try to manage expectations with workloads.  And remember to take regular breaks during the day, take a 10 minute stroll outside or perhaps go to the gym at lunch-time. You will be more productive in the long run.  

For more information on how to manage stress naturally and restore your balance visit www.blackmores.com.au/stress or call Blackmores free Advisory Service to speak to a qualified Naturopath on 1800 803 760.

February 24, 2014

10 Tips to Manage Stress and Find Balance

Christmas might be the time of year we look forward to the most, but it’s also a stressful time with family issues, money woes, anxiety for the year ahead and much more.

Blackmores Director of Education, Pam Stone, says: “Stress can affect people in different ways and it is important to know that there are also different things you can do to help prevent and manage its symptoms – to start to take control.”

Pam shares her top 10 tips to prevent and manage stress over the holidays, and find balance in the year ahead.

1. Prioritise your own wellbeing
Take some time out for yourself daily to do something you love and nurture you. It could be as simple as a quiet cup of tea, a long bath, massage, reading a book, taking a walk or catching up with a good friend. It can be anything you enjoy and helps you to feel good. This will keep your ‘bucket’ topped up and help you to feel refreshed and happier.

2. Manage time before time manages you
Do this by taking control of your plans and deadlines. Learn to say “no” – taking on more than you can handle is a recipe for stress. Keep a diary of your commitments and don’t forget to schedule some important free time for yourself daily.

3. Adopt a healthy lifestyle
Reduce your caffeine, sugar and alcohol consumption. By reducing these from your diet, you will feel more relaxed and grounded.

4. Eat right
Proper nutrition can ensure you are getting adequate amounts of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants to maintain energy, health and general wellbeing. Supplementing your diet with a multivitamin can help provide nutrients that a busy lifestyle sometimes doesn’t allow.

5. Rest and digest
A healthy digestive system powers feelings of calm instead of stress and anxiety. Give your gut some added help with probiotics which help support digestive health and wellbeing.

6. Take a deep breath
This will help to increase your oxygen levels and can calm and relax.

7. Exercise
Exercise releases endorphins which are feel good chemicals for the body. Exercise also helps use up hormones that are produced when we feel stressed, creating calm and promoting better sleep and relaxation at night.

8. Practice meditation
A quick 5-minute meditation can have a great impact on lowering your stress levels.

9. Ensure you are getting enough sleep
Adequate sleep rejuvenates your mind, as well as your body. If you have trouble getting to sleep set aside 30 minutes before going to bed to wind-down and relax by writing in a journal, reading a good book, drinking herbal tea or taking a warm bath. You can also take a herbal supplement containing valerian that supports your body’s natural ability to sleep soundly. Other beneficial ingredients include lemon balm and magnesium.

10. Avoid comfort foods when you’re under stress
Remember that refined carbohydrates can spike your blood sugar levels leaving you feeling more frazzled, exhausted and unable to concentrate. Focus on eating a well-balanced diet including fresh fruit and vegetables, low GI carbohydrates, lean protein, dairy and drink lots of water. Well-nourished bodies are better prepared to cope with stress, so be mindful of what you eat. A multivitamin can also help to provide essential nutrients to assist you through the day.

December 18, 2013

4 Ways to Keep Calm and Stress Less this Silly Season

Beyond the wonderful traditions of ham and family time, Christmas can also be an incredibly stressful period; over-spending, visiting relatives you haven’t seen all year and sheer panic can be as common as Christmas pudding. So rather than giving yourself a beautifully wrapped freak-out this year, here are some essential tips to help you keep your cool over the silly season.

Get a list
Come Christmas, I often end up with lists of lists, and although pedantic it’s certainly helpful. Keeping a checklist of everything that needs to be done can immensely help to calm a mind chaotic with things to do. Taking note of anything along the lines of gifts, cooking, and commitments can help keep you calm and on-track.

Start early
Getting on top of what needs to be done, even before the silly season starts, helps to avoid playing catch-up later. Getting Christmas cleaning, cards and the odd gift early means there’s less of the last-minute panic that results in your sister getting gifts from a petrol station. Covering things like Secret Santa presents or stocking up on wrapping paper and sticky tape can save you from a last-minute panic. I find it easiest to have a spot designated to ribbon, wrapping paper and cards as well as a few handy boxes of chocolates so even if you’re caught short, there’s something on hand to save on stress.

Share the load
With Nigella and the Great British Bakeoff making it look so simple, it’s easy to think we can all hand-weave baskets for our freshly-baked shortbread. In reality, between work, Christmas parties and having a life it’s super unlikely that this will happen. So rather than stressing yourself out trying to be the organic version of Delia Smith, maybe just crack on with what needs to be done without the frantic ‘flourishes’ that can so often turn Christmas into a crafty nightmare.

Even better, rope in friends and family to help out. Having people pitch in with the cooking or gift buying can remove a whole lot of angst. So share the load; after all, part of Christmas is bringing people together, and if that means handballing this year’s pudding purchases – so be it.

Accept that nothing is perfect
Yes, Aunt Dora might sit in silent fury over the way Aunt Nora eats her peas or your mother-in-law might get roaring drunk and fall asleep in the gravy, but there are always things that cannot be controlled. Rather than getting wound up, recognising that things will not always run smoothly (and sometimes go completely off the rails) is part and parcel of the holiday experience. The more you let go of the anxiety to make things perfect, the more likely they’ll go smoothly. So relax, enjoy the few days off to spend with people you care about, and eat something delicious. It’s Christmas after all.

Kate H Jones is a lifestyle and pop culture writer at Clavicle Capitalism.

December 13, 2013

Why Playing Like a Kid Can Improve Your Health

Playing like a kid and acting young can massively reduce stress levels and improve the ability to solve problems, according to recent research. Play has also been revealed as being just as important for mental and physical health as sleep, eating well and exercising – and hey, it’s a lot of fun!

Dr. Adam Fraser, evian Live Young expert and leading human performance researcher says, “Playing is not only critical for the development of the brain but also its health.

“Making time to refresh yourself through play is one of the best things you can do for your career, relationships and overall sense of wellbeing,” says Dr. Fraser.

And to show how effective playing and acting young is on our health, evian is setting up a giant backyard in Sydney’s Martin Place and Bondi Beach featuring an oversized Hills Hoist clothesline that adults will be able to swing off and enjoy the rewards of playing like a kid again.

Dr. Fraser shares top 10 ways to live young and experience the benefits:

1.       Get some friends together, go to a toy store, buy some toys and have a play date
Think play dough, finger painting, water guns! Explore an environment that felt magical as a child. It’s sure to put a smile on your face.

2.       Turn your favourite song up loud in the kitchen and dance to it
Let go of your inhibitions and just enjoy yourself without worrying what others think.

3.       Have a tickle fight
There’s no better way to ensure uncontrollable laughter that will leave a lasting smile on your face.

4.       Jump up and down until you’re out of breath
It will release endorphins that will make you feel great.

5.       Build a cushion fort in your living room
Let your creative side guide you and revisit a hobby from your childhood that always felt exciting and fun.

6.       Play in the mud and don’t stress about the dirt
This carefree activity stops you from taking yourself seriously and invites you to simply let loose without an afterthought. It can help put things into perspective.

7.       Have a pillow fight
A really fun way to recreate a much loved activity from your youth.

8.       Draw a picture and don’t worry about how good it is
This is a great way to let your creative juices flow and not think about anyone else’s opinion other than your own. Celebrate your individuality through this activity.

9.       Race a colleague up the stairs
A simple way to release endorphins and encourage a good giggle.

10.   Go to the park at lunch time and play on the swings
This effortless, fun activity will ensure you indulge your inner child and escape the stresses of daily life for a while.

The Live Young Backyard will be unveiled at Martin Place on Wednesday, September 25th from 7am until 3pm. It will then move to Bondi Beach opposite Roscoe St Mall on Campbell Parade on Saturday 28th and Sunday 29th September from 8am to 5pm.

What’s your favourite way to relax and have fun?

September 24, 2013

The Art of Saying No

We all lead very busy lives and stress compounds when we have to fit additional commitments into our already busy schedules or worse commit our valuable time to tasks that leaves us feeling unappreciated.

Imagine how different life could be if you understood why you say yes (when you want to scream “no”) and only agreed to commitments that make your heart sing?

1. Why we say yes

We’ve been programmed to say yes in order to keep the peace. These automated responses were instilled in us from our well-meaning parents who conveyed that it’s wrong to hurt the feelings of others. I’m sure we can all remember words rabbited over time such as “don’t hit your sister,” “don’t be selfish – can’t you share that” or “I don’t have time for this or that.” Over time we shut down our own emotional needs in order to keep others happy. Over time stress compounds as we struggle under the weight of agreeing to these requests.

2. Have good boundaries

People who have good boundaries normally have no trouble saying no.  They understand that their happiness is paramount in their decision making process. They also possess the necessary skills to communicate “this is how I like to be treated and that I matter.”

Boundaries can be as simple as:

I like it when…

I do not like…

I will never…

I hate it when…

3. Stop the automatic yes

When a request comes your way here’s a simple trick that will stop the automatic yes from tumbling out.

Simply pin your tongue, to the roof of your mouth and take a deep breathe.

This short lag not only prevents your old conditioning from kicking in ( by saying yes)  and  will allow you time to assess your true feelings.

4. The decline – thanks but no thanks

Stress comes into play when you say yes then spend the next hour or day thinking up an excuse (which is really a lie you tell yourself) in order to negate the offer.  Wouldn’t it be easier to just say no in the first place?

If a request comes your way and you’re unsure of your decision use a delay tactic such as: I need to check my diary, with my husband or the kid’s schedule.

If you then decide that the request is not for you, tell the person straight away.  Use:

  • Thank you for your kind offer but that’s not for me
  • Thank you for your offer but I have something else on
  • I hope you have a great time but the invite does not interest me

The person may be disheartened; and this is where you need to stay strong. Guilt will make you feel like you need to justify your actions; however this is not something you should do. Once you start to respond it can be like opening a door and allowing the other person to enter. This is where they’ll pressure you to change your mind. Being firm with your response closes that door-end of discussion.

5. What if they become upset?

Did you know your memories have emotions attached to them?  When a memory is jogged the attached emotion surfaces and triggers our actions or reactions.

When someone becomes upset understand that it’s their emotion (they may be feeling rejected) causing their actions (being angry with you.)  It is in no way your fault. However you can help them by reassuring them that your decision does not mean you do not care.

A true friend would understand without the need to make you feel guilty, family on the other hand are another story and staying strong may be much harder.

6. The catch up

If you sense that someone is hurt by your no (remembering it’s their emotions making them feel that way) offer a catch up. A catch up shortly afterwards is a great way of showing you still care for them (which will negate their feelings of rejection.

7. Practice makes perfect

Declining offers at first will feel very strange; you may even feel guilty about not attending certain events. However when you put your own happiness first spending time with people who don’t make your heart sing will become less of a priority.

It never ceases to surprise me the amount of people who are prepared to be unhappy in their comfort zone (attending functions they dislike) rather than venturing outside (by declining) and seeing what is possible.

Once you learn “the art of saying no” you’re old childhood conditioning will disappear and as you become empowered stress in your life will also dissipate.

Leann Middlemass blogs about emotional wellness at My Destiny.

September 20, 2013