Staying Calm in Stressful Situations: Tricks from the Trenches

If you were to sit down and talk with a military veteran, an enlisted officer, or a family member, you will soon discover that dealing with high amounts of stress in their everyday life is a pretty commonplace. Words such as “post-traumatic stress disorder” and “stress-related illness” are not words that are bantered about; they are real conditions and situations that these people cope with on a moment to moment basis.

And they are not the only ones. More and more people, from many different walks of life have to learn how to cope and deal with increased levels of chronic stress. Whether the stress you feel comes from a demanding job, a chaotic family life, or something in between, learning how to remain calm in a stressful situation is paramount to mental health and well being.

Just like the body needs protection from the elements, the mind needs a type of mental armor or protection. According to Dr. Amishi Jha of the University of Pennsylvania, research has shown that it is possible to cushion yourself against stress, and those tactics used by military personnel can often work just as effectively with everyday civilians. Here are a few of the most effective.

Meditation

Despite its connotation as being a new-age type of thing, meditation has been practiced for thousands of years and in a number of different ways. Plus, it doesn’t need to have any spiritual connotations associated with it. Practicing a form of mindfulness meditation can boost stress resilience, help to calm a person’s thought process and nerves, and help to train you to live in the moment instead of agonizing about the future. It was shown, for example that after eight weeks of meditating, Marines became less reactive to the stresses in their lives, and became more alert and had better memory retention.

Recognizing Your Knee Jerk Reactions

Another effective way to deal with stressful situations is to train your body and your mind to react differently to the common stressors that you experience. Cognitive behavioral therapy or CBT is a great way to train you to not react to the stressor in the same way. Methods often used include such things as exposure therapy, where people relive past experiences in small dosages under the watchful supervision of a therapist until memories become less traumatic.

While these intensive visualization exercises should only be performed under the direction of a trained and licensed professional, a less intense form, or practicing feeling stressed is an effective way to help train you how to cope with a stressful situation. By knowing how your body and mind will react, you can more effectively alter your reaction to a more positive one.

For example, try imagining yourself in a tense situation, such as your commute to work. See if you can imagine the tension that you commonly feel. Then write out the factors contributing to the situation at hand.

  1. If I don’t leave by 7:00 am I will be late
  2. Traffic is really congested during this time of day. I can sit in the traffic for at least an hour.
  3. There’s nothing good on the radio that time of morning.

Now consider how you can change the amount of tension that you are feeling. For example, if there is nothing on the radio, perhaps bringing one of your hour long audio books might be a good distraction. This thought exercise accomplishes two different things. First, it makes you realize that the stress you are feeling can be managed. Second, it provides you with a specific way to help reduce the impact of the stress in that situation. This is just one of the methods used by CBT, and if you are interested in trying other ones, the best course of action is to contact a certified practitioner through the National Association of Cognitive-Behavioral Therapists at www.nacbt.org.

While mental exercises like the ones described above are quite effective in reducing the level of stress that you feel physical exercise is also a great way to alleviate stress as well. In addition, regular exercise, such as bike riding can be a great way to increase muscle tone, lower your blood pressure, and increase your respiratory health. All of which can greatly help in managing your body’s reaction to a stressful situation. While any kind of regular exercise has its benefits, studies have shown that regular exercise outside, such as a bike ride, going for a hike, or even playing a game of softball with your friends are more effective at reducing stress. It has been shown that a combination of activity, fresh air, and friends often help a person gain great strides in handling their stress.

Learning the skills needed to cope in a stressful situation can become an asset to you in nearly every situation. There are a number of different ways, and some of the most effective have been described here.

Dealing with Toxic People: Seven Proven Strategies

We all have them in our lives. Whether they are a family member, an old friend, or the grocery store manager, toxic people seem to be showing up everywhere in our lives. And while we might yearn to get rid of them, chances are someone toxic to you will always be a part of your life. Instead of wishing the problem would go away, try one of these methods of dealing with it. Over time you’ll find that these toxic people can be handled quite effectively.

Keep a Professional Attitude

One of the ways that a toxic individual can become so damaging to your self-esteem or spiritual well being is by pulling you into an emotional, opinion-based argument. They thrive on this type of confrontation, and often will leave their victim, unintended or not, gasping for emotional air. The best way to avoid this situation is to take their weapons away from them. Keep your attitude when dealing with a toxic person strictly professional, focusing on the facts of the situation, and not opinions or conjectures. If the toxic person can’t seem to make any progress with resorting to emotional weapons, suggest that the subject be approached at a later time.

Seek Help From a 3rd Party

Sometimes no matter how professional you try to be, a toxic person will not work with you. During these times, it is often prudent to bring in a third party to help mitigate the situation at hand. Sometimes a third party can help the toxic person see things from your point of view, or even allow for a toxic person’s ideas to be presented in a more palatable format. Whichever the case, a third party can often mean a new perspective and a fresh idea when everything else has been exhausted.

Pay Attention to Your Body Language and Posture

Toxic people are adept at reading your body’s cues and reading your posture. They are looking for weak areas in your defenses, places where your armor is not quite as strong. Things such as crossing your arms, pounding your fists on the table, biting your lower lip, and even glowering can be prime indications that you are frustrated or mad – perfect opportunities for a toxic person to make their move. Instead, try and keep a relaxed pose, with your arms loosely at your sides and your breathing steady and normal. If they can’t see a way to agitate you, chances are they won’t even try. Plus, keeping a relaxed pose has been shown to aid in keeping your mental state relaxed and reduce stress.

Revenge is not worth it

Many a movie and book have been created through the idea of revenge. However, in practical terms, revenge is really not all that it is cracked up to be, especially when dealing with toxic people. In truth, it will often make you look even worse than the toxic person that instigated the desire for revenge. Instead, use those feelings for revenge and re-focus them into becoming a better person, professional, or partner. The world itself will eventually bring its own justice to the toxic person. Why put more effort into it when you clearly don’t need to? Trust me, the higher road is the better one to take.

Create an Exit Plan

If you know that you are going to encounter a toxic person, take the time to plan and exit strategy. This can be as simple as “remembering an appointment” to requesting more time to research some new information. The trick is to get out of the situation as quickly and as professionally as you can before it turns bad. Remember though, to keep your interaction, no matter how brief professional and above board.

Be Kind

Often the only way that a toxic person can truly affect you is if you let them. By answering their vitriolic remarks with words of kindness or a smile, you’ll find that the impact of their attacks won’t be as great. It is also a great way to keep your mind focused on the task at hand, and not worrying about how you’re going to best them during the next round. While it probably won’t change their outlook, it will certainly improve yours.

Avoid the Situation and the Person

Every so often, however, there are people and situations that cannot be fixed or alleviated, no matter how hard you try. If you find yourself in this situation, sometimes the best course of action is to walk away. Life is entirely too precious, and too short to waste it on people who bring you down to a level you don’t want to be at. However, if avoidance isn’t a viable option for you, perhaps one of these other methods will be effective.

Want to Live to See a Century? Twelve Signs that Say You Will

Nearly everyone at one time or another will wish for a long and happy life. If you think you might live to be a hundred, you may just be right. Here are a few reasons why the way you live can help you live to one hundred.

Reason # 1: Exercise is a Major Part of Your Life

According to scientist in California, middle aged people who ran for at least 40 minutes a day – or exercise for at least five hours a week lived longer and were more mentally active as they aged. The study focused on both runners and non-runners for approximately 21 years, and found that the runners did not just suffer from fewer cases of heart disease, but also cancer, neurological diseases, and infections.

Reason # 2: You Have a Friendly and Outgoing Nature

Everyone loves the life of the party. Did you know, however that if spend your time being friendly and smiling, you are about 50% less likely to develop dementia? According to a study of more than 500 men and women over 78 years old conducted by the Karolinska Institute in Sweden. It was found that the participants also maintained a relatively low stress levels, and lower levels of cortisol can enhance the brain’s ability to communicate effectively. Thankfully, the reduction of cortisol, or the stress hormone is relatively easy. Take some time to meditate, sip a cup of black tea, or even take a short nap.

Reason # 3: A High Fiber Diet

If you want to decrease you chance of developing heart disease, consider eating more fiber. According to a study conducted in Netherlands, an increase in dietary fiber was shown to reduce the total cholesterol, as well as LDL, otherwise known as “bad” cholesterol, improve insulin sensitivity, and even help with weight loss. And adding more fiber in your diet is fairly easy. For example did you know that a cup of raspberries has nearly 8 grams of fiber? It can be easy and tasty to increase your fiber intake to about 20 grams per day.

Reason # 4: You are Technically Savvy

It seems that every time you turn around, there is a new technological trend. If you quickly get the gist of these devices and programs, it can be another sign that you’re likely to live for a century or more. Using programs such as Twitter or Skype has been shown to help keep your brain cells young and healthy, which in turn can help make your life longer. By sending a few emails, searching for information on the internet, and even dating online, a person can keep the quality and quantity of their life in high order.

Reason # 5: You’re a Kid at Heart

According to a survey conducted of more than 500 men and women aged 70 years or older, simply feeling young can lead to a healthier and longer life. Feeling, and acting young at heart can improve your outlook in life, motivate you to overcome challenges, and even boost the effectiveness of your immune system.

Reason # 6: You Started Menopause after 52

For the women in the world, experiencing the “change of life” at a later time can often mean an increase in their lifespan. According to Jane Minkin, M.D. of Yale University School of Medicine, the risk of heart disease is also much lower.

Reason # 7: You were Blessed with Children Later in Life

If you got pregnant naturally later in life, a study from the University of Utah indicates that you are less likely to die during any year after the age of fifty than your friends who had children in their mid-twenties. Having the ability to naturally get pregnant later in life may indicate that you have the genetic markers that can contribute to a long and healthy life.

Reason # 8: You Get the Most Out of Every Calorie

According to researchers in St. Louis, people that limited their daily calorie intake to 1,400 to 2,000 calories per day had hearts that functioned like those who were fifteen years younger. And it wasn’t about simply eating less. It was more about getting the most from what you eat. By increasing the nutritional value of each calorie, the body gets more of what it is needing, and craving. Foods such as vegetables, whole grains, lean meats and fat-free milk all can contribute to an improvement in your health.

Reason # 9: You Don’t Snore

Believe it or not, your wife’s or husband’s insistence that you stop snoring can help you live longer. Snoring is a major sign of obstructive sleep apnea, a common disorder that causes you to stop breathing because the tissue of your throat collapses and blocks your airway. This may happen multiple times a night for some people. It’s like suffocating for a brief moment several times a night. An 18 year study found that people who did not suffer from sleep apnea were three times more likely to live longer.

Reason # 10: A Slower Pulse Means a Longer Life

For most healthy people, a resting pulse rate of sixty beats per minute is common. People who ultimately live to one hundred often experience that resting rate more often than those who do not. A slower pulse rate means that your heart doesn’t have to work as hard, and can therefore last more years than normal.

Reason # 11: You have a relatively flat belly after Menopause

Generally speaking, if you are a woman with a little bit more around the middle than you would like, you are also more likely to die sooner. At midlife, you have to put more effort into keeping your waist trim because hormones cause more extra weight to settle in the middle. Thankfully with consistent effort, a smaller flatter tummy is possible. Just add one or two 20-minute strength training routines into your regular exercise routine, increase your intake of anti-oxidants, and get a quarter of your daily calories from healthy fats.

Reason # 12: You have the Right Amounts of Vitamin D

If you want protection from disease, consider having your blood tested for its vitamin D content. In general, we need at least 30 nanograms of Vitamin D per millimeter of blood. Most Americans have much less. Vitamin D not only helps bones fend off osteoporosis, but has also been shown to reduce the risk of cancer, heart disease, and infection. A simple blood test can indicate if your levels of vitamin D in your blood is at the optimal level. But be warned; monitoring may be necessary since higher levels of vitamin D (above 100 nanograms) may be toxic.

These are just a few of the indications that you may live a long and healthy life. Plus, if you’re interested in increasing your chances, a conversation with your doctor, and better, more nutritional choices may just be the ticket.

The Busy Mom’s Diet Plan: A Way to Stay Healthy in Your Chaotic Life

Every new day is filled with love, activity, potential complications, and yes, the chance to eat. If you are like most moms, the dynamic nature of your life means that when you eat, and what you eat can sometimes be hard to predict. If you want to bring your weight down a bit, making the right, and reasonable diet choices can be difficult indeed. Here are a few ideas that just might help.

Keep the Problem Foods Out of Your House

Everyone has certain foods that spell trouble. Whether it is potato chips or German chocolate cake that is your downfall, consider keeping it out of your home. That way, when you have the craving for these foods, you’ll have to make the effort to go and get them. Chances are after you consider the effort needed, you might reconsider.

Play Can Be Exercise Too

Most medical professionals advise to get at least 30 minutes of exercise each day. What mother has time for that? Well, thankfully, exercise doesn’t have to mean following an aerobics instructor, and doesn’t have to be all at once. Instead, chase the kids around the house, or take everyone for an evening walk. Or challenge your kids to a pick-up game on the court, or a dance contest in the living room. By being active, you’ll not only grow your family bonds, but also shrink your dress size.

Eat a Little to Tide You Over

Of course, there will be times that the only choice is a fast food hamburger, or a piece of chocolate cake. As a busy mom, you know this better than anyone. This kind of food is fine in a pinch, but try not to make a habit of it. Instead, eat a small amount, just enough to tide you over until you get home. That way, you can use the healthy food you have at home to make a more nutritious snack or meal.

Being a busy mom can certainly feel chaotic at times. The tips provided above will hopefully ease some of the chaos in your life and help you maintain a healthy diet as well.

Time Management Tips for Busy Moms

Time Management for MomsIn any given day, a mother has to deal with about a thousand and three ideas, and at least six dozen different things. However, with a few simple time management tips, the chaos that is motherhood can be handled.

Tip # 1: Be Organized

The more organized you are, the more likely things will get accomplished in a timely fashion. By keeping your things, and life as organized as possible, you’ll be able to see and deal with problems much easier and sooner than normal. Plus, it doesn’t have to be anything real elaborate. Having separate bins for laundry, or even a wall chart for the daily chores can go a long way to making the whole mechanism run a lot smoother.

Tip # 2: Delegation is Important

Despite what you have been previously told, it is not necessary for mothers to be all things to all people. As the head of your household, you need to think like a company manager. It is essential that you delegate some responsibility to others in the household. Give chores to the children, or let your husband take the dog for a walk in the evening. Whatever you chose to delegate, be consistent, and don’t allow others to “re-gift” the responsibility back to you. If it isn’t done by them, it simply won’t get done.

Tip # 3: Don’t Be Afraid of Shortcuts

While it is important to take your time and do a task correctly, a mother needs to realize that taking the occasional shortcut is not only allowed, but should be encouraged. There are many tools and tricks available that are designed to make your life easier, and your time management skills that much more effective. For example, taking a few seconds to pre-treat stains on your clothing as you throw them into the hamper can save you a fair amount of time during laundry day. Or take a few minutes in the morning to set up a slow cooker meal. That way dinner will be waiting for you at the end of the day.

You will be amazed at how much time you will find in your day when you implement one or all of the tips I’ve shared with you today, it works!