Improve Your Sleep To Help Fight Stress

Tips for Healthy SleepStress experts report that chronically stressed people almost always suffer from fatigue and people who are tired do not cope well with stress.  When distressed people get more sleep, they feel better and are more resilient and adaptable in dealing with day-to-day events.

Did you know that most sleep difficulties (about 80%) are either caused or reinforced by our own behaviors or daily habits?  If you have trouble sleeping, the tips below will help you get the most out of your hours in bed: 

Stay away from stimulants.  Coffee, tea, colas, chocolate and some over-the-counter medications contain caffeine which stimulates the central nervous system and increases blood pressure and heart rate.  Drinking a can of cola or cup of coffee in the late afternoon can keep you awake at midnight.  Avoid consuming caffeine at least 4 to 6 hours before bedtime.

Don’t smoke, especially before bed.  The nicotine in cigarettes is a stimulant.  Insomnia is among smokers’ greatest complaints.  Research shows that smokers take longer to fall asleep and wake up more often during the night than nonsmokers.  Having a smoke before bed may feel relaxing, but it is actually putting a stimulant into your bloodstream.

Go to bed at regular hours.  An erratic schedule can cause problems such as “Sunday night insomnia.”  This problem occurs to people who stay up late and sleep late on weekends and then try to switch back to their usual bedtime to prepare for Monday morning.  Try to go to bed at roughly the same time each night and, no matter how long you slept, get up at your usual time in the morning.

Exercise regularly.  Sleep is facilitated by relaxation and exercised muscles relax more easily.  Aim for 20 minutes of exercise that increases your heart rate at least three times a week.  Late afternoon is best.

Don’t use alcohol to induce sleep.  A nightcap can lull you to sleep, but alcohol typically produces light, unsettled sleep.  Also, using alcohol to fall asleep could lead to dependency.

Establish a relaxing bedtime routine.  Set the mood for relaxation before bed.  Start letting down about an hour before bedtime: read, listen to music or take a warm bath.

Don’t take sleeping pills; they induce less restful sleep and can cause serious problems.  Oftentimes, the person relying on sleeping pills is left

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How To Improve Your Productivity and Get More Done Each Day

Tips to ease financial stressAre there too many things on your calendar each day to get done?  If your answer is “yes,” you may be guilty of a common assumption made by many people, say researchers.

According to a study reported by the American Psychological Association, research reveals that people over-commit because we expect to have more time in the future than we have in the present.  Of course, when tomorrow turns into today, we discover that we are too busy to do everything we promised.  Keep this fact in mind.  It will help you to better-plan your days and avoid unnecessary frustration.

Three ways to improve your productivity at work

How can you improve your productivity and get more things done each day?  Here are three strategies that can help:

  1. Schedule your time for work – Be consistent. Don’t do personal things when you are scheduled to work. Make a “To Do” list and prioritize your tasks.  A list is most effective for those of us who need to consult a reference or see it in writing.  When you have completed a task, cross it off your list.  You’ll get a real sense of completion and satisfaction as you see your list getting shorter and shorter.
  1. Do the most-difficult, time-consuming, least-favorite job first – It may sound crazy but you’ll be doing it when you have the most energy and motivation. If you tackle the toughest job first, the rest of your tasks will seem that much easier. 
  1. Don’t allow yourself to get interrupted by other people’s “emergencies” – How many times have you had your tasks and activities planned, so you could finally get caught up with your own work, and all day long other people keep coming to you with their last-minute problems that only you can fix? You don’t want to say no, you want to be a team player, but you have stuff to get done too, right? Remember, that being a team player also means respecting others’ time and realizing that others have responsibilities too.  If your co-workers can’t grasp this, you have to.  Learn to say no in a polite but firm manner: “I would really like to assist you with that, and I know you have a deadline.  Unfortunately, I have a project which I must complete for my boss today.  If you can come back tomorrow or another time, or better yet, schedule some time with me so that it is on my calendar, I would be more than happy to help you.”
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What Is Problem Gambling?

Help for problem gamblingApproximately two million adults in the U.S. meet the criteria for pathological gambling, and another four to six million are considered problem gamblers, according to the National Council on Problem Gambling. Due mainly to shame, denial and a desire to handle the problem themselves, only one in 10 problem gamblers seek professional help.

An uncontrollable urge to gamble

Just as some people become addicted to drugs or alcohol, it is possible for a person to become obsessed with an uncontrollable urge to gamble. A person has a problem with gambling if he or she continues to gamble despite evidence that their gambling is causing personal, family, financial, work or legal problems. 

Warning signs of problem gambling

Review the warning signs below. If you or someone you know answers “Yes” to any of the questions below, consider seeking help from a professional who is experienced in treating problem gambling:

You have often gambled longer than you had planned.

  1. You have often gambled until your last dollar was gone.
  2. Thoughts of gambling have caused you to lose sleep.
  3. You have used your income or savings to gamble while letting bills go unpaid.
  4. You have made repeated, unsuccessful attempts to stop gambling.
  5. You have broken the law or considered breaking the law to finance your gambling.
  6. You have borrowed money to finance your gambling.
  7. You have felt depressed or suicidal because of your gambling losses.
  8. You have been remorseful after gambling.
  9. You have gambled to get money to meet your financial obligations.
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How To Help A Family Member Who Is Abusing Alcohol Or Drugs

Helping a Family Member Who is Abusing Alcohol or DrugsSomeone in your family has a problem with alcohol or drugs.  What can you do to help?

You might think that an alcohol or drug problem belongs to the person who is drinking or taking drugs.  But if a family member has a problem, then you have a problem too.

Families operate as a system in which each family member’s behavior affects every other member’s behavior.  The abuser’s behavior affects all family members, producing painful and difficult feelings in response.  At the same time, the other members of the family – unintentionally – develop patterns of behavior that make it easier for the problem drinker or drug user to continue their substance abuse.  This behavior is referred to as enabling.  Here are some examples of enabling:

* Denying that there is a problem, or dismissing the problem as a small one.

* Rescuing the abuser from the consequences of his or her use, such as by “calling in
sick,” covering up for a broken promise, or lending money.

* Taking over the abuser’s responsibilities, making allowances or excuses, forgiving
unforgivable behavior or to continue trying to be loving and caring in the face of abuse.

* Reinforcing drug use by participating in occasions where it is used.

What to do

If you suspect that a family member might have a problem with alcohol or drugs, learn all you can about alcohol and drug abuse.  Next, seek the help of a licensed healthcare professional who specializes in addiction.  A professional addiction counselor can help you assess your situation and help you determine the best way for you to help yourself, your drug-using family member, or other family members.  A professional counselor can help you deal with your own frustrations in dealing with a substance abuser and give you information about how to most-effectively confront your drug abusing family member.  You may also find it helpful to attend an Al-Anon meeting where family, friends and loved ones of alcoholics and drug addicts share their experience, strength and hope as they struggle to cope and come to terms with the effects of addiction.

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Raising a Resilient Child

Mother and teen conversations can prevent harmful drinking behaviorResilient people have the ability to deal more effectively with stress and pressure, cope with everyday challenges and bounce back from disappointments, adversity or trauma.  Many parenting experts believe that resiliency is the most important quality you can instill in your child.  How can you foster resiliency in your child?  While there are many factors, parenting experts recommend the following:

What parents can do to help

  1. Show unconditional love. Love is the most powerful protective factor that parents can give their child. Studies about resiliency have found that kids who overcame a very difficult childhood all had at least one adult in their life who loved and believed in them.  Kids feel loved when they know their parents enjoy being with them.  Schedule one-on-one time with your child daily and give them your undivided attention.  This feeling of specialness is integral to their self-esteem.
  1. Be empathetic. Empathy is feeling from someone else’s perspective and a critical component of all satisfying relationships. By parenting with empathy, you not only foster the healthy, emotional development of your child, but also help your child develop empathy for others.  Listen to your child and acknowledge his/her feelings.  When your child responds with fear, anger, disappointment or sadness, help them identify the emotions they are feeling.  Let them know you understand their feelings.  By acknowledging your child’s feelings you help your child accept his/her own feelings, which in turn allows your child to resolve them.
  1. Treat mistakes as learning experiences. Show your child that it’s okay to make mistakes, that they are expected, and that mistakes can be a part of the learning process. When a mistake is made, instead of chastising your child or telling him/her what they did wrong, engage your child in a discussion concerning what they think went wrong and how they think they could avoid a similar mistake from happening in the future.  By doing so in a positive and encouraging way, your child will learn that making a mistake doesn’t automatically mean that they have failed and that they can use mistakes as a way of learning to find better ways to be successful.    
  1. Focus on strengths. Self-worth and resiliency come from experiencing success in areas of life others deem important. Every child possesses areas of strength and it is important for you as the parent to identify and reinforce these, rather than focus on weaknesses.  Help your child discover their strengths and build confidence by helping him/her set and work toward reasonable goals.  Moving toward a goal and receiving praise along the way will help your child focus on what they can accomplish rather than on failures.  Each time your child achieves a goal or successfully solves a problem on their own, it gives them the confidence and skill to persevere the next time they face a challenge.
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Signs Of An Abusive Relationship

Teen dating violenceAll relationships have there ups and downs, but there are certain types of behavior in any relationship that are unacceptable and abusive.  If you think that your partner is abusive, or you suspect that someone you know is in an abusive relationship, review the information below.  Recognizing the signs of an abusive relationship is the first step to breaking free.

What is relationship abuse?

Relationship abuse is a pattern of abusive and coercive behaviors used to maintain power and control over a former or current intimate partner.  An abusive relationship means more than being hit by the person who claims to love or care about you.  Abuse can be emotional, psychological, financial, sexual or physical and can include threats, isolation and intimidation.  Abuse tends to escalate over time.  When someone uses abuse and/or violence against a partner, it is always part of a larger pattern to try to control him/her.

Self-test: Is your relationship abusive?

Do you wonder if your relationship may be abusive?  Ask yourself the questions below.  The more “yes” answers, the more likely it is that you’re in an abusive relationship.

Does your partner:

— humiliate, insult, criticize, demean or yell at you?
— ignore or put down your thoughts, feelings or accomplishments?
— treat you so badly that you’re embarrassed for your friends and family to see?
— blame you for all the problems in your relationship, or for his/her own
abusive behavior ?
— see you as property or a sex object, rather than as a person?
— act excessively jealous and possessive?
— control where you go or what you do?
— keep you from seeing your friends or family?
— check up on you all of the time to see where you are, what you’re doing and who you
are with?
— accuse you without good reason of being unfaithful or flirting?
— limit your access to money, the phone, or the car?
— have a bad and unpredictable temper?
— destroy your belongings or things you value?
— hurt you, or threaten to hurt or kill you?
— threaten to take your children away or harm them?
— threaten to commit suicide if you leave?
— force you to have sex?

Do you:

— feel afraid of your partner much of the time?
— avoid certain topics out of fear of angering your partner?
— feel that you can’t do anything right for your partner?
— believe that you deserve to be hurt or mistreated?
— wonder if you’re the one who is going crazy?
— feel increasingly trapped or powerless?
— feel emotionally numb or helpless?

What to do if you’re being abused

If you are in an abusive relationship, you may feel confused, afraid, angry and/or trapped.  What should you do?  The following information can help.  Obviously, the level of your response will depend on the degree of seriousness with which the abuse is inflicting emotional or physical injury.

 1. Acknowledge the reality of abuse.

The first step toward changing things is recognizing that your situation is abusive.  Even if your partner says he/she cares about you and you care about your partner, it’s not okay to be put down, pushed around, scared or intimidated into things that make you feel uncomfortable, unhappy or unsafe, just because you are in a relationship.  And it is never okay for your partner to use physical violence.  Once you acknowledge the reality of the abusive situation, then you can get the help you need.

2. Meet with a professional therapist or counselor.

For your health and safety, and the security of any children who may be involved, it is vitally important that you utilize the help of a professional therapist or counselor who can help you assess your situation and advise you with solid principles and practical information.  You may need to go several times to address the variety of issues that may be involved in your relationship.

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Too Much Sitting Is Hazardous To Your Health

Too Much Sitting Is Bad For Your HealthAccording to the latest medical research, hours of uninterrupted sitting can be bad for your health.

—  A study from the American Cancer Society reported that the more leisure time people spent sitting was associated with a higher risk of death.  Women who reported sitting for more than six hours per day were about 40% more likely to die during the course of the 14-year study than those who sat for fewer than three hours per day.  Men were about 20% more likely to die.

—  A study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology showed that sitting for long stretches, more than six hours a day, can make someone at least 18% more likely to die from diabetes, heart disease and obesity than those sitting less than three hours a day.

—  Even if you exercise for 30 minutes a day, five days per week, it may not be enough to counteract the effects of too much sitting during the rest of the day.  If you exercise for 30 minutes and sleep for eight hours, that still leaves 15.5 hours in the day.  If you have a sedentary job and engage in sedentary activities after work, you are sitting a lot more than moving.

—  Health experts say the key to staying healthier is to integrate movement into your day as much as possible.  The human body is made to move.  When you sit for an extended period of time, your body starts to shut down at the metabolic level, negatively influencing things like triglycerides, high density lipoprotein, cholesterol, fasting plasma glucose, resting blood pressure, and leptin, all of which are biomarkers of obesity, cardiovascular disease and other diseases.

How to sit less and move more at work

If you find yourself sitting for hours on end, interrupt your patterns.  Stand up, move around and get your blood flowing for at least a few minutes every hour.  Other suggestions:

—  Switch to a stand-up desk
—  Stand or move around when talking on the phone
—  Walk to a colleague to talk rather than sending an email
—  Hold a walking meeting with a colleague
—  Take the stairs instead of the elevator
—  Move your trash can or printer further away from your desk so you need to get off your chair to access them
—  Increase your walking. Buy a pedometer and build up to 10,000 steps per day

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Better Communication With Your Teen

Mother and teen conversations can prevent harmful drinking behaviorDo you feel like your teen just doesn’t want to talk to you?  Do you sometimes feel so estranged from your teen that you don’t know how to talk to them anymore or what to talk to them about?  Below are suggestions to help improve your communication (and your relationship) with your teen:

  1. Listen to your teen. Listening is an act of love.  Listening to your teen with your undivided attention and concentration demonstrates to your teen that you love and care for them.
  1. Listen for understanding. The teen years are a time of turmoil and change.  This is a time when your child needs you more than ever to be there for them.  By listening, you can better understand the issues of importance to your child and the problems and challenges they may be facing.  The more you understand your teen’s challenges and feelings, the better you will be able to help them.
  1. Improve your listening skills. Most people need to learn how to listen with their undivided attention.  Follow the guidelines below to improve your listening skills:
  • Give your child your full attention.
  • Maintain eye contact with your child.
  • Concentrate on what your child is saying.
  • Nod your head occasionally to show your involvement without interrupting.
  • Don’t change the subject.  Let your child lead the conversation.
  • Do more listening than talking.
  1. Be patient. Being uncommunicative is very common for teens.  Understand that meaningful talks with your teen will occur when they are ready to talk to you, not when you approach them.  If your child does not want to talk, you need to respect that.  You can keep the lines of communication open by saying, “Okay, but I’m here when you need me to listen.”  Remember, when they do open up, focus on being a good listener.
  1. Avoid nagging and lecturing. Nobody likes to be nagged or lectured to, especially on a regular basis.  A steady stream of nagging, lecturing and negative criticism will stifle communication with your teen.  Instead focus on being encouraging, supportive and positive.
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The Benefits Of Marriage Counseling

The Benefits Of Marriage Counseling

Better Communication For CouplesThe largest, most comprehensive study of couple therapy ever conducted reports that therapy can help even very distressed married couples if both partners want to improve their marriage.  The UCLA study included 134 married couples who were “chronically, seriously distressed” and fought frequently, but were hoping to improve their marriage.  Treatment included up to 26 therapy sessions within a year.  Five years after treatment ended, about a third of the couples described themselves as normal, happy couples, while another 16 percent said their marriage was significantly improved and was tolerable, if not very happy.  The key to improvement?  For therapy to work, both partners have to be strongly committed to saving the marriage, and both need to be willing to do their share to work at the relationship and not just blame the other, the study authors said.

How can marriage counseling help?

Marriage counseling – also known as couples counseling – is generally provided by licensed therapists known as marriage and family therapists.  These therapists provide the same mental health services as other therapists, but with a specific focus – a couple’s relationship.

Couples counseling affords you and your partner numerous ways to bring about change that you would not normally know how to accomplish on your own.  It provides a safe and supportive environment for you to identify and communicate the issues, feelings and behaviors that are bothering you, to facilitate understanding and positive change.  A qualified marriage and family therapist can provide instruction, coaching and feedback to help you develop new skills to improve your marriage, including:

— Learning ways to communicate better

— Learning how to argue in a healthier way

— Learning how to resolve conflict and problem solve in a productive manner

— Learning appropriate expression, disclosure and resolution of painful emotions

— Learning how to state your needs clearly and openly within your relationship

— Learning how to work through unresolved issues

— Learning how to negotiate for change within your relationship

Seek help early

Marriage therapists recommend that distressed couples seek help earlier.  Many couples who get divorced either do not go to therapy, or go much too late after one partner has already given up on the relationship.  Couples are often better served by starting therapy when they “get stuck in negative patterns that they can’t get out of on their own,” the study authors concluded.

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Tips To Help You Successfully Change Habits

Tips to Increase HappinessDid you know that experts say it takes 21 days to break an old habit and form a new healthier habit?  If you’ve tried and failed at a New Year’s resolution, you can try again using the help of the suggestions below:

  1. Write down your goal. There is magic in the written word when it applies to you.  Experts recommend stating your goal in positive terms, such as “I want to be lean and physically fit,” instead of “I’ve got to get this flabby body out there huffing and puffing.”  So, begin with writing down, as a positive goal, the habit you will change.
  2. List your reasons for changing or eliminating your habit. Writing it down will force you to think out in specific terms what this habit represents in your life and the meaning you believe your life will hold for you upon changing the habit.  This will also help with your commitment toward taking positive action.
  3. List possible obstacles. What are the possible obstacles that will keep you from achieving your goal? List everything that is stopping you now.  What are your inadequacies?  What do you need to achieve your goal that you don’t already have?  Why aren’t you there already?
  4. Write a plan to overcome each obstacle. List your action steps 1…2…3…etc. for each obstacle. Be as specific as possible.  What will it take for you to overcome each obstacle that is blocking you from what you want?
  5. Follow your plan for 21 days. Determine the date you are planning on changing your habit. Count ahead 21 days on the calendar and mark that date down.  Now, make a commitment that you will follow your plan for 21 days.
  6. Sustain your motivation. Follow these suggestions each day to sustain motivation:
    – Review your list of reasons for quitting or changing.
    – Create mental pictures of yourself as having already achieved your habit change.
    – Make affirmations, positive self-statements about your habit change.  For example,
    “I am filled with so much health and vitality now that I exercise four times a week.”
    – Remember to take it one day at a time.  If you do backslide, don’t label yourself as
    having failed.  Get out your list of reasons for quitting or changing and begin again.
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