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Got Stress?

Got Stress? Try out some or all of these helpful and effective tips for stress reduction.

Meditate-Meditation does not require chanting for an hour on a yoga mat in a dead-silent room. In fact, you can practice meditation in the middle of a busy shift. Simply find a quiet corner, sit down if possible, close your eyes, and focus on nothing but your breath. Do not control your breath; let it move through you naturally. Feel the cool air move in through your nostrils, and feel the hot air move out. Concentrate on that sensation. When a thought interrupts, acknowledge it, let it pass, and focus on your breath again. You will feel your muscles start to relax as activity reduces in your sympathetic nervous system. In the long term, meditation can lower blood pressure, improve circulation, slow your respiratory rate, lower blood cortisol levels, and allow you to relax more deeply. Start with two minutes, then work up to five minutes, then 10…. A quality meditation session of 20 minutes a day can be as restorative as four hours of sleep.

Reconnect with Mother Nature-If you go through life thinking of Nature as a hostile force that is separate from yourself (easy to do living in Upstate, NY) you will go through life unnecessarily afraid and cut off from one of the greatest sources of spiritual nourishment. Find ways to connect-short walks outside, lunch break in a park, gardening or camping. Camping quickly restores our circadian rhythms for sleep for those who are sleep challenged.

Breathe-Most of us hold or restrict our breath often when we are stressed. Deep, slow, full breaths stimulate the vagus nerve, which has a profound effect on resetting the stress response.  Take five deep breaths now, and observe how differently you feel after.

Strive for Tribe-We are not meant to be alone-we are meant to be parts of bigger families, bands and tribes. Strive for tribe-no matter which way shape or form. Enlist the important people in our lives to be allies.Take inventory of the relationships in your life: What relationships embellish your life and which ones drain you? Cut out relationships that drain you if possible. Limit engagement in negative relationships that are unavoidable. Set AND maintain healthy boundaries. Saying “no” to others is often saying “yes” to yourself.

Laugh-Laughter cuts tension, lifts spirits and bonds people together. In the work environment, use humor when appropriate to lighten the mood. Research suggests that positive thinking and laughter can influence health. Positive emotions are associated with a decreased production of the stress hormone cortisol, along with improved immune function, and reduced disease risk. Laughter may also boost immunity, relieve pain, lower stress, and even help protect against heart disease.

Sleep- The health benefits of sleep are astounding. Beyond reducing fatigue and making you less cranky during a long shift, sleep curbs inflammation, improves memory and creativity, and sharpens your attention.  A good night’s sleep lends emotional stability and lowers anxiety and impatience. Make sleep a priority. Lack of sleep increases stress hormones. If you’re not sleeping well, your immune system produces fewer of the natural-killer cells needed to keep our immune healthy.  Get eight hours of sleep no matter what.  Take a nap if you missed sleep.  To set the mood and ease your racing mind, do some light stretching, darken the room completely, and disconnect from your tech gadgets an hour before you lie down.

 

Food and Mood

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The food that you eat can either be the safest & most powerful form of medicine or the slowest form of poison.” –Anne Wigmore

I love everything about good food…eating it, growing it, cooking it, reading and thinking about it. As a therapist, I am fascinated by the impact of nutrition on mental health to the extent that I read anything I can get my hands on regarding this topic. So for this blog, I am sharing some of my favorite food and mood knowledge. Enjoy!

For dessert, go to the dark side. Dark chocolate (70% cocoa) can have an acute affect on mood. Cocoa flavanols can help boost mood and sustain clear thinking.

Eat Leafy Greens (Lots of them!)-Leafy greens are a good source of Magnesium.  Magnesium  “the relaxation mineral”, is crucial to your body running smoothly, helps muscles relax and also calms the nerves by keeping cortisol levels low. It also stimulates production of GABA, a neurotransmitter that eases anxiety and nervousness; and helps you fall asleep. Magnesium is found naturally in green veggies, particularly leafy ones, like Swiss chard and spinach.

Eat Nuts-Snack on a combo of pistachios, cashews, almonds, walnuts, and pumpkin seeds for a powerhouse package of fiber, antioxidants, and unsaturated fatty acids, all of which lower blood pressure. Omega-3 essential fatty acids in walnuts have been linked to reduced rates of depression, the selenium in cashews and almonds has been shown to elevate mood, and tryptophan in pumpkin seeds may help the brain make serotonin. A handful a day is the recommended serving.

Drink Green Tea-Green tea contains an amino acid called L-theanine, which has been linked to reducing anxiety and promoting sleep. Green tea also comes with a jolt of caffeine, so you’ll enjoy a focused calm.

Eat Fatty Fish-Salmon, mackerel, tuna and other fish rich in omega 3s have been shown to calm a stressed mind. Healthy brains and nerve cells depend on omega-3s because the nervous system is made mostly of fat. Omega-3 essential fatty acids are one of the basic building blocks of the brain. Choose wild caught over farm raised-wild caught has a higher omega 3 ratio.

Have Oatmeal for Breakfast-Carbs naturally boost your mood by firing up serotonin production in the brain. Whole grains with more fiber take longer to digest, though, thereby releasing serotonin at a more slow-and-steady pace. Add cinnamon (shown to ease frustration) and a teaspoon of honey (satisfies a sweet tooth and boosts immunity).

Eat Citrus Fruits (And other foods high in C)-A 2002 German study found that a hefty dose of vitamin C (1000mg a day) helped people bounce back more easily from a stressful situation. Both blood pressure and cortisol levels decreased faster in people given a vitamin C supplement than the study participants given a placebo. High vitamin C foods include- bell peppers, dark leafy greens, kiwis, broccoli, berries, citrus fruits, tomatoes, peas, and papayas.

Feed your 100 trillion friends-Your body is colonized by a multitude of organisms that outnumber your cells on a 10-1 ratio. For each human gene in your body-there are 360 microbial ones! Many of these organisms live in your digestive tract and take center stage in every conceivable aspect of your health. No other system in the body is more sensitive to changes in gut bacteria than the central nervous system, especially the brain. Choose foods rich in probiotics-Yogurt, Kombucha, Kimchi, Sauerkraut, Pickles-anything pickled. Eat vegetables, low-sugar fruits, healthy fats-extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, pasture fed butter, nut butters, protein-pasture raised eggs, wild fish, grass fed meat and wild game. Enjoy coffee, wine, tea, and chocolate all which contain polyphenols which are powerful antioxidants found in plants that support the health of gut bacteria.

 

Igniting the spark through effective communication

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Communication is the lifeblood of the relationship. How well the two of you communicate is the single best indicator of how likely it is that you will enjoy your lifelong partnership. Every communication skill or skill deficit is the tip of an iceberg that defines a relationship. For that reason, when you change a communication habit, you change the whole relationship.

You are not psychic and neither is your partner. When communicating with your partner, if you have any doubt about what has just been said or you’re still not sure what is making your partner upset, ASK. It’s worse to assume something that is wrong and then jump to the wrong conclusion.

Use “I” Statements: When you talk about what YOU are feeling and needing, it stops you from sounding like you are blaming your partner, which can make your partner feel attacked and take the discussion to a more negative level. If you say, for example, “I need you to call me when you are going to be late. I worry when I haven’t heard from you,” your partner cannot argue with that. After all, it is how YOU feel. This way, no blame is communicated only the feeling or need that you want the other person to understand and consider.

Listen and don’t interrupt: One of the biggest contributors to the cause of an argument is nobody really listens to the other person; everyone’s just merely waiting for his or her turn to talk. Most of the time, disagreements can be resolved more easily using effective communication skills and paying more attention to what is making the other person upset. Lookout for telltale signs in the person’s body language too, for hints on thoughts and feelings.

Pay attention to body language (yours and your partner’s): Nonverbal communication should reinforce what is being said, not contradict it. If you say one thing, but your body language says something else, your listener will likely feel you’re being dishonest. For example, you can’t say “yes” while shaking your head no. If you disagree with or dislike what’s being said, you may use negative body language to rebuff the other person’s message, such as crossing your arms, avoiding eye contact, or tapping your feet. You don’t have to agree, or even like what’s being said, but to communicate effectively without making the other person defensive, it’s important to avoid sending negative signals.

Watch your tone! Sometimes it’s not what you say but how you say it that can make or break the communication. Keep your tone respectful, loving, positive and such that it invites collaboration.

Before You Shout, Call a Time-Out. Before your argument crosses the point of no return and you start saying or doing things you will later regret, call for a “Time Out”. When angry emotions crop up, people stop listening and things can take a turn for the worse. In such cases, one of the best things to do is to table the argument, for now, and state that you need some time to cool off. If you do this, you must call a “time out”, and leave the room.  Agree to reconvene at a later time to continue the conversation.

Empathize with your partner. Improving you communication skills has a lot to do with trying to see the situation from THE OTHER PERSON’S point of view. This will help you understand where their reaction is coming from.

Texting-Use with caution!! Most of communication is nonverbal, around 90%. Texting is a form of communication that strips vital nonverbal elements. When texting-confirming messages are best conveyed with an emotional dimension – communicating essentially: “I care about you,” and “You’re important in my life.” In fact, sending affectionate messages to your partner yields even greater emotional satisfaction than receiving them. On the other hand, couples who rely on texting for conflict resolution tend to experience lower relationship satisfaction. When texting, vital verbal, non-verbal and emotional cues are invariably missed, which can severely limit a couple’s ability to reconcile.