Should I Stay or Should I Go?

I was filming a video today that demonstrated exercises to release tension in the hands, wrists, and forearms, and I started to think about emotional stress and tension.

I was talking to a friend yesterday about how difficult it can be to stand up for yourself when you are a people-pleaser by nature.  How is it that the fear and anxiety that comes from saying “no” to someone else can be greater than the stress and anxiety that we are placing on ourselves by saying “yes”?  I have wondered this for many years.

I decided to do some research on the “fight or flight” response.  While these days we aren’t typically running from wild animals who want to make us their dinner, emotional stressors such as being forced to work 60 – 80 hour weeks for fear of losing our jobs can illicit the same response — rapid heart beat, a surge of adrenaline, stress hormones pumping throughout our body.  All of the same things that would prepare us to fight or run away from a predator are engaged, and we lose the ability to thinking clearly and rationally during that time.

In most situations today, once our fight or flight response is activated, we can’t fight or run from these threatening situations.  We have to figure out how to regain control and deal with it.  In fact, there are so many of these modern day stressors – feeling overworked, missing a deadline, sitting in awful traffic every day – that our fight or flight response can stay triggered for days on end.  This leads to aggression (like road rage) and overreaction; every little thing feels like the LAST straw!
So what do we do?  How do we deal with this emotional stress?
I have to say, I absolutely learned this lesson the hard way.  As far as traffic is concerned … let’s just say I’m still working on that one. 🙂
One thing we can do is give ourselves a time-out.  Change your environment.  If possible, remove ourselves from the situation by going for a walk or stepping outside for a few moments until we feel calmer and our rational thinking returns.
Another option is to surround yourself with positive people, people who are grounded.  Discussing the situation with people in the same boat adds fuel to the fire and keeps your anxiety level high.  Try talking with someone you trust who is removed from the situation and can offer perspective.  Maybe you DO need to change jobs, so “no” to a new assignment that is going to keep you away from your family or go against your values.  A reality check from a positive supportive person can be just what you need.
When your nerve cells are not firing out of control, practice mindfulness.  Try techniques like taking deep, relaxing breaths or a short meditation.  Finding ways to promote relaxation are helpful, as you can cue them during stressful times.  You can read more about mindfulness in my post, “Multi-tasking vs. Mindfulness: The Science of Stress.”
How often do you feel your “fight or flight” response kick in?  Do you ever wonder if you should stay or go?  
I’m sure you have found other ways to deal with the anxiety-provoking feelings.  Tell me about it in the comments below — I want to hear from you!

Other posts you may like:

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Five Steps to Bring Wellness Into Your Life

 

The Science of Self-Care

You start off with good intentions every Sunday evening — with plans to eat healthier and get to the gym a couple of times during the week. Before you know it, your alarm is going off & it is Friday morning. Self-defeating thoughts start to creep in of what you should have done and didn’t manage to do — AGAIN! Sound familiar?

Stop with the “should haves” and the defeating self-talk! Did you know that the average person has about 50,000 thoughts per day? Negative thoughts create stress. Stress causes the adrenal glands to release cortisol, which affects the brain and the body. Chronic stress impairs memory, creativity, the ability to problem-solve. It can cause you to have difficulty sorting out what is important from what isn’t. Your immune system and self-esteem become compromised which can lead to feelings of helplessness. Helplessness can make you anxious, depressed, and afraid of change.

Imagine how much better you would feel if you could replace the negative thoughts you have with thoughts that improve your self-esteem and feelings of self-worth. It’s time for a change, and it’s time to make self-care a top priority.

This is how to do it:

1) Make a list of your strengths: List all the things that you like about yourself – include your successes, achievements, positive traits, and qualities for which others have recognized you. Accepting yourself is one of the most important steps you can take.

2) Give yourself the attention you deserve: Are you surrounded by negative or positive influences? It helps to surround yourself with people who are positive and accepting instead of negative and resistant. Pay attention to your physical health. Don’t put off starting to exercise until next week or next month — start today. Fifteen to twenty minutes of a physical activity (such as walking) per day is a great start. If you need a break from work-related stress, take a mental health day. Listen to your body and the signals it gives you. If you have been putting off a physical or a check-up with your doctor, stop procrastinating and make the appointment today.

3) Ask yourself questions: Do you have what you truly want in life? Are you happy with your relationships, your community, and your career? Find a way to thrive doing what you love using all of your strengths and talents.
Do this exercise, and I promise it will give you the tools you need to start living a happier and healthier life today.

Wishing you wellness,
Karen

Five Tips to Keep You Feeling Energized

Summer is my favorite time of year, but the really hot days, increased activity, and travel can leave you feeling completely exhausted!  An extra espresso shot just doesn’t seem to do the trick.  Here are 5 tips to keep you feeling energetic so you can get the most out of the summer months!

  1. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate!  Our bodies are made up of between 60 to 70 percent water.  We need water to regulate temperature, to transport oxygen to our cells, to remove waste from our system, and of course to supply our bodies with nutrients.  Drink water first thing in the morning and try to remember to keep doing so throughout the day.  I find this hydration calculator a very nice tool to determine how much water we actually need per day based on our activity level, as well as other factors:  http://nutrition.about.com/library/blwatercalculator.htm

  1. Stay positive!  Does dealing with office politics or difficult family members leave you feeling drained?  I know it has that effect on me.  Try and counter the negativity by spending time with people who uplift you.  This may be easier said than done in the workplace, but it is far less energy zapping to avoid the office gossip.  If your regular lunch bunch spends too much time complaining, try going for a lunch-time walk on your own once in awhile.  You will be surprised how much more inspired and energized you may feel.

  1. Get moving!  I have been suffering from jet lag since returning from vacation last week.  I have been so tired; the last thing I felt like doing was exercising.  I went for a brisk walk for both the cardiovascular activity and exposure to sunlight to help with the jet lag.  I felt so much better once I spent a few minutes outdoors!  Ignore the little voice telling you to sleep for an extra hour and get moving!  A few minutes of stretching each day goes a long way as well, especially if you have been cramped on an airplane for several hours.
  1. Stay on top of the clutter.  For years, I let the unimportant mail and documents to shred pile up until the pile toppled over.  Just looking a pile of mail to be opened made me want to take a nap!  I made a decision to stay on top of the clutter so it wasn’t such a dreaded chore.  Got an untidy garage?  Consider donating furniture, clothing, and small appliances that you haven’t used in ages to a local community non-profit or check out Freecycle.com to see if a neighbor may be able to use something you are ready to part with!
  1. Don’t forget to breathe!  Just like water is such a critical component to our health and energy level, so is oxygen!  Deep breathing promotes relaxation and a healthy lymphatic system.  If you can do simple breathing exercises on your own — great!  If not, I have found some gentle and restorative yoga classes to be very helpful in teaching the art of mindful breathing.

I hope you find these 5 tips for staying energized helpful!  If you have comments or other suggestions, I would love to hear from you!

Multi-tasking vs. Mindfulness: The Science of Stress

Let’s face it… we can keep saying that we are going to start taking care of ourselves more when things “go back to normal”, but our lives are just getting busier and more chaotic.A few years ago, I was spending 12 – 20 hours on a plane each week for my job.  For those 5-6 hours flying from Newark to San Francisco, I had undistracted time to work, nap, read, watch a movie or whatever!  The point is, no one could reach me.  Now, we’ve got internet access on planes, there is an app for just about everything, people are sadly texting while driving more than ever despite the harsh fines.  We are living in a world where multi-tasking is more commonplace than ever before.
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I read an interview with a pioneer in the field of research, Dr. Earl K. Miller, Picower Professor of Neuroscience at MIT.  He shares with us that there is really no such thing as true multitasking.  For example, when a teenager is doing homework, texting friends, and watching TV at the same time, these things are not actually being done simultaneously!  Actually, our brain switches focus from one thing to another, often resulting in loss of focus, and decreased quality of work.

No wonder we are exhausted!  That brings me to the subject of mindfulness.  Mindfulness meditation is defined as the practice of bringing an open and receptive awareness of the present moment to experiences, avoiding thinking of the past or worrying about the future. It is thought to reduce stress and improve health outcomes across the board.  Stress is a known contributor to diseases such as depression and can exacerbate chronic disease such as heart disease, autoimmune disease, and some types of cancer.

While meditation is not for everyone, we can introduce mindfulness in small doses without being a master yogi or meditator.  Here are a few easy tips that have worked wonderfully to give my brain a break and reduce stress.

  • Ditch the TV during dinner time and eat your meals at the dinner table.  You actually taste your food while you are eating it, and it is much easier not to overeat when you eat mindfully.
  • Put down the cell phone while you are driving!  Hands-free chatting is a law now in many states, and texting is just plan dangerous.  We are all guilty of doing one of these things at least one time or another, but really… it’s not worth the risk to your life or someone elses.
  • We love our music when exercising, but every once in awhile leave the iPod at home.  Check out the scenery, breathe in the fresh air, and be alone with your own thoughts.  You may be surprised what you learn about yourself when you are listening.

The Balancing Act: Take Inventory

work-life-balance | how to have it

Before you can be balanced, you’ve got to figure out what you’ve got on your plate. For some of us, it may be straightforward.  For others, not so much.  We’ve got to make sure our minds and bodies are able to balance what our relationships and the world around us is demanding.  Grab a pen and paper or start a new document and take a personal inventory by answering these questions below.  Don’t think about it too much.  Our first impressions are often spot-on.

Body.  Is your body as strong as you need it to be?  Have you been trying to drop a few pounds (or more) for the past several years but can’t seem to do it?  Are you limited by physical pain?  Are you limited by an injury?  Are you aware of any chronic disease suffered by yourself or a family member such as high cholesterol or diabetes?  If so, is your disease well-managed?

Mind.  Are you able to think clearly, or are you overwhelmed by racing thoughts?  Are you able to concentrate?  How is your memory?  Have you ever tried to meditate or do yoga?  If yes, were you able to relax or were you flooded by outside demands and responsibilities?

Work and Relationships.  Are you honoring the relationships that are most important to you?  Does your partner, spouse, or children tell you that you don’t spend enough time with them?  Are you worried that your pets are feeling neglected?  Are you at odds with anyone & wish to mend fences?  And what about work… Are you doing what you love or just working to get by?  Are your work demands taking so much from you that you are neglecting your important relationships?

Environment.  Are you living in a place that makes you happy?  How is the quality of air you are breathing?  Are you subjecting yourself to injury or disease by your living or working conditions?  Do you make an effort to protect our natural resources through conservation, recycling, or some other effort?  Do you buy locally grown fruits and vegetables?  Are your eating habits in sync with your core beliefs?

Now you’ve got your inventory, and you are ready for the next step.  Figuring out your personal formula for successful balance.