How To Minimize Holiday Stress

Share Holiday Responsibilities to Avoid StressWith all of the extra demands and expectations we place on ourselves during the holidays, it’s easy to get “stressed out.”  Follow the tips below to help ease holiday stress and help you enjoy a meaningful and happy holiday season:

  • Set a financial budget for the holidays and stick to it –  Not just for gift giving, but for the top-dollar amount you can afford to spend for everything including gifts, big family dinners, wrapping paper, decorations, parties, etc.  Plan what you will spend in advance, to avoid “impulse buying” and overspending.
  • Budget your time as well as your money –  Avoid the stress of last-minute shopping and preparations.  Plan ahead.  Make a “To Do” list and prioritize what has to be done.  Set aside some time each day to accomplish scheduled holiday tasks.
  • Keep holiday plans realistic –  Don’t overload yourself.  It’s not necessary to attend every family, social or religious celebration that comes along.  When allotting your limited time, choose quality over quantity.  Learn to say “no” gently but firmly to social events that are over your limit.
  • Delegate responsibility –  Share the shopping, cooking, cleaning, etc. responsibilities with others.  Have family members draw lots from a hat or use the “grab-bag” system to assign tasks such as putting up the tree, outdoor decorations, cookie baking, gift wrapping, etc.  Set time goals for each assignment.  Let family members know in advance when things need to be completed.  
  • Factor in changed circumstances –  Are you recently laid off, newly divorced, grieving a recent death?  Now’s the time to “keep it simple.”  Keep the demands on your time, energy, emotions and wallet to a minimum.  It’s “okay” to pass up an activity if you’re not feeling up to it at this time.  
  • Take care of yourself –  Avoid overindulgence of holiday food, alcohol or caffeine.
    Be sure to get adequate sleep and give yourself some time for rest or renewal each day.
  • Don’t forget the after holiday blues –  There are many tasks no one wants to be responsible for, but they still have to be done.  For example taking down the Christmas tree or putting away holiday decorations.  Have a “tree-taking-down party.”
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3 Strategies To Help You Leave Job Stress At Work…And Be A Better Partner And Parent At Home

Are your relationships at home strained because you often arrive home from work too stressed or exhausted to be a good partner or parent?  The positive strategies below can help you leave job stress at work and be the kind of caring partner and parent at home that your family needs and deserves.

  1. Before arriving home, give yourself a “time out.” Five or ten minutes before you walk into your home, give yourself a much-needed time out.  Stop the car a block away from your home or close your eyes on the bus, train, or subway to find a moment of serenity.  Then take a few moments to breathe, pray, meditate, or talk silently to yourself about the fact that the people you are about to meet in a few minutes (your partner and/or your kids) are more important than any client, customer, supplier, boss, or work colleague you’ve dealt with all day.  Even if your work-focused brain wants to take your loved ones for granted, this is the moment when you can once again realize they are the most important people in your life right now.
  2. Make a daily promise to yourself. Instead of tuning out your loved ones or having a short fuse during family time, shift your mindset from work mode to family life by consciously deciding to be fully “present” for your family when you arrive home. Make a promise to yourself each day to be the caring, interested and relaxed partner or parent your loved ones deserve, rather than being impatient, disinterested and stressed out.  Complement your commitment to be fully present for your family by learning and practicing healthy methods to increase relaxation, dissipate stress and lift your mood.
  3. Set guidelines for positive communication. When you sit down to talk with your partner after work, set some guidelines that will allow the two of you to have a good check-in conversation.  One helpful guideline is for you to take turns (10 to 15 minutes for each partner) sharing and listening about each other’s day. Instead of having one person go into a 60-minute monologue where the other person is struggling not to tune out or interrupt, with this guideline both of you will have a chance to be heard and understood each night no matter how stressful your days have been.  This guideline of “ten minutes for each person so we both get a turn” is a remarkable way to restore balance and closeness in your relationship.
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Better Sleep: Bedtime Do’s and Don’ts

Tips for Healthy SleepThe Better Sleep Council reports that one of every two people will experience a sleep problem sometime in their life.  However, not all the news is bad.  In fact, most experts concur that the majority of sleep difficulties are either caused or reinforced by our own behaviors and daily habits.  Late meals, too much coffee, an irregular schedule, mulling over the next day’s problems or plans while in bed, can spark sleeplessness.

Guidelines For Better Sleep

Getting a good night’s rest begins long before you get into bed.  The following tips, compiled from current research, will help you get the most out of your hours in bed:

* DO stay away from stimulants.  Coffee, tea, colas, chocolate and some medications contain caffeine which stimulates the central nervous system and increases blood pressure and heart rate.  Note: It takes three hours for one cup of coffee to leave your system.

* DON’T smoke, especially before bed.  The nicotine in cigarettes is a stimulant.  Research shows smokers take longer to fall asleep and wake up more often during the night than nonsmokers.

* DO retire at regular hours.  An erratic schedule can cause problems such as “Sunday night insomnia.”  This problem often 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.

* DON’T eat heavily before going to bed.  Forcing your digestive tract to work overtime interferes with sleep.

* DO exercise regularly.  Sleep is facilitated by relaxation and exercised muscles relax more easily.  However, don’t exercise immediately before bed.  Allow yourself at least an hour to cool down after a workout.

* DON’T use alcohol to induce sleep.  A nightcap can lull you to sleep, but alcohol typically produces light, unsettled sleep.

* DO get into a relaxing bedtime routine.  Start letting down about an hour before bedtime: read, listen to music or take a warm bath (not a hot bath, which is actually invigorating).

* DON’T get your mind racing before bed.  Set aside time for thinking and planning several hours before bedtime.

* DO make sure your sleeping environment promotes relaxation and sleep.  Your bedroom should be quiet, dark and at the proper temperature – in the mid 60s.

* DON’T use your bedroom as an office.  This environment will discourage restful thoughts.

* DO use imagery or other techniques to put yourself to sleep.  Counting sheep is the oldest trick in the book for a simple reason…it works.  According to research, this technique distracts both sides of the brain with soothing, repetitive activity.  As you count the woolly animals leaping through your mind, you literally bore yourself to sleep.

* DON’T take sleeping pills; they induce less restful sleep and can cause serious problems.  Oftentimes, the person relying on sleeping pills is left with his/her original insomnia, plus a drug problem.

NOTE: If you suffer from chronic or severe insomnia, visit your doctor or a sleep disorders clinic to see if there is an underlying medical condition.




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4 Tips To Decrease Emotional Overeating

Tips to Decrease Emotional OvereatingAccording to a recent survey by the American Psychological Association, almost half of Americans (48 percent) reported overeating or eating unhealthy foods to manage stress.  Many people use food to fill emotional needs, contributing to overeating and being overweight.  Do you use food to:

— relax or calm your nerves?
— comfort yourself?
— numb yourself from emotional pain such as sadness, hopelessness, rejection, or anger?

Tips and strategies

If you’re prone to emotional overeating, you can take steps to regain control.  Below are tips and strategies to help decrease this unhealthy habit:

  1. Learn to recognize true hunger versus emotional eating. If you ate just a few hours ago and don’t have a rumbling in your stomach, you’re probably not really hungry. When you feel the urge to eat, get in the habit of asking yourself, “Is it physical hunger or is it emotional or stress-driven hunger?”
  2. Know your triggers. Use a food diary to identify when and why you eat for emotional reasons. Keep an accurate record for at least one week of what you eat, how much you eat, how you’re feeling and how hungry you are.  Ask yourself: What happened today to make me feel this way?  You may become aware of situations or feelings that trigger you to turn to food.
  3. Face difficult emotions and stress-producing problems head on. Work on ways to face difficult emotions and stressful situations other than reaching for food. Acknowledge and address feelings of anxiety, anger or loneliness.  Look for solutions to the difficult issues in your life.  Talk them over with a friend or counselor, or write in a journal.  Finding ways to express your feelings constructively can help clear unwanted eating patterns.
  4. Find alternative behaviors to eating. Instead of turning to food, take a walk, practice yoga or meditation, listen to relaxing music, take a warm bath, read a good book, engage in a hobby, work in your garden, treat yourself to a movie, or talk to a supportive friend. Exercise regularly and get adequate rest.  Each is proven to reduce stress, improve your mood and help control appetite.
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Tips For Controlling Your Anger

Teen dating violenceIf you have a tough time controlling your anger, you can take steps on your own to improve your anger management.  The suggestions listed below can help you get your anger under control:

— Practice deep breathing.  If you feel yourself getting angry, don’t let it build up until you have a violent outburst.  Try breathing deeply from your diaphragm in long, slow breaths, giving your heartbeat a chance to slow down.  Repeat a word such as “relax” or “calm” as you breathe.  Breathing deeply will ease your tension.

— Change your environment.  Get out of the situation if you need to.  The quickest way to uncouple yourself from a source of anger is to take a five-minute walk and get some fresh air.  The walk will help you calm down and the break can give you time to think about the cause of your anger.  Find someone to talk things over with – someone who can help you calm down and gain perspective.

— Count to ten.  Counting to ten is an anger management tip that has worked for centuries.  The Roman poet, Horace (65 – 8 BC), said, “When angry, count ten before you speak; if very angry, one hundred.”  Counting to ten (or one hundred) helps you step back from an anger-provoking situation, buys time for you to examine the problem, and then decide on an effective, rational way to express your anger.

— Do something physically exerting.  Physical activity can provide an outlet for stressful emotions.  Numerous worldwide studies have documented that exercise can dissipate stress energy and improve your mood.  If you’re about to erupt, go for a brisk walk or run, a swim, lift weights or shoot baskets.

— Ask yourself this question. Before you react in anger, ask yourself: “Will the object of my anger matter ten years from now?”  Chances are, by asking this question, you will see things from a calmer perspective.

— Let go of what is beyond your control.  You can change only yourself and your responses to others, not what others do to you.  Getting angry doesn’t fix the situation and often makes you feel worse.  If someone constantly arouses your anger, focus on the troublesome situation and brainstorm solutions.

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What To Do When Your Spouse Suffers From Depression

Depression increases marital dissatisfaction and divorceDid you know that untreated depression is one of the main reasons for marital problems and divorce?  In fact, in relationships where one of the partners suffers from depression, the divorce rate is nine times higher.

If you suspect that your spouse or significant other may be suffering from depression, you’ve no doubt already seen the problems escalate in your marriage and life.  What can you do to help your partner recover, protect your marriage, and keep from becoming miserable or depressed yourself?

Here’s What To Do

Educate yourself about all aspects of depression. Your challenge is to keep your love and your relationship intact until professional treatment can alleviate your spouse’s depressive illness.  Begin by learning all you can about depression, its symptoms and treatment.  The more you know about depression, the better you can help your spouse, your marriage and yourself.  Very important:

— Understand that depression is an illness.  Your spouse did not “choose” to become depressed.

— Realize and accept that no one is to “blame” for the situation.  People do not deserve to be depressed.  And, despite what your spouse may say, you are not to blame either.

— Put yourself in your spouse’s shoes.  You will help your spouse recover faster and help lower your own frustration by learning as much as you can about what depression feels like from your spouse’s point of view.

  1. Realize that depression is the foe, not your spouse. View depression as an “it” that has entered your life and intruded upon your long-established relationship with the person you love.  The more clearly you can perceive your spouse’s illness as the newly arrived “it,” the better you will grapple with “it’s” impact on everyone concerned.
  2. Seek professional help.  Encourage your spouse to seek professional treatment as soon as possible.  The first step is for them to see a doctor and ask to be examined for depression.  Once a treatment program is prescribed, helping may involve monitoring whether your spouse is taking their prescribed medication, or encouraging them to stay with treatment until symptoms begin to abate (several weeks).  Helpful: Develop a “we” approach instead of an “I” approach with your spouse toward depression treatment.

Note: If depression has been present for a long time, both the depression and the relationship will require attention.

  1. Offer your spouse support and encouragement. Be there for them.  Give them a shoulder to cry on or just listen while they vent their feelings.  Be patient with them.  Let them know you care.  Share the things you’ve learned while researching depression.  Remind them that their depression is not their fault and that they are not weak or worthless.  Keep reassuring your spouse that with time and help, he or she will feel better.
  2. Take care of yourself. Living with a depressed person can leave you feeling confused, demoralized, angry and resentful.  These feelings are a valid response to a very trying situation.  Talk to a trusted friend, join a support group or seek individual counseling to vent your frustrations rather than allowing them to build up inside.  Don’t allow your spouses depression to completely overtake your life.  Make time for yourself and continue to participate in things you enjoy doing.  Periodically take some time to step back from the situation and recharge your batteries.
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Self Test: Are You Flirting With An Eating Disorder?

Suicide: Do you know the warning signs?Eating disorders (medically recognized diseases) are a peril to life and health.  The term “Eating Disorder” is collective for three types of disorder manifestations: Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia and Compulsive Overeating.  The underlying similarities in each case are the obsession or pre-occupation concerning food and/or body image.

The following test will help you decide if you have an eating disorder, or if you are at risk of developing one.  Answer always, sometimes or never for each question below.

Do you:

  1. Hate the idea of gaining even one pound?
  2. Exercise exclusively to burn calories?
  3. Feel that your stomach should be completely flat?
  4. Think about food most of the time?
  5. Go on eating binges?
  6. Feel bloated after meals?
  7. Feel you need to diet rigorously?
  8. Think about the fat on your body?
  9. Feel anxious after eating high-carbohydrate foods
    like bread, pasta and potatoes?
  10. Weigh yourself more than once a day?
  11. Avoid eating, even when you’re hungry?
  12. Take pride in being able to control your eating impulses?
  13. Feel frightened of eating with friends and/or family?
  14. Feel guilty after eating?
  15. Feel uncomfortable after eating sweets?
  16. Feel dissatisfied with the shape of your body?
  17. Eat or drink in secrecy?
  18. Have to eat the same food every day?
  19. Hate to have food in your stomach?
  20. Avoid social situations that require eating?


Each answer of “Always” is worth 2 points, and answer of “Sometimes” is worth 1 point.  There are NO points for “Never” responses.  Add up the points for all twenty questions to find your total score and then compare it to the figures below.

0 – 4 points: Not weight preoccupied          15 – 24 points: Weight preoccupied

5 – 14 points: Weight concerned                 25 – 40 points: “Anorecticlike” thinking

People with eating disorders can be helped, but almost always professional help is needed to get back on track.  If you suspect you might be suffering from an eating disorder, see your physician or a qualified mental health professional to prevent medical or psychological problems.



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Signs Of Problem Drinking

Preventing Binge Drinking in Teens and College StudentsIn most cases, someone who is abusing alcohol does not recognize that they have a problem.  Ask yourself the following questions.  If the answer to any of them is yes, you need to examine how your alcohol use is affecting your health, safety, job performance and relationships with others.

Do you have a problem?

  1. Do you ever drink heavily when you are disappointed, under pressure or have had a quarrel with someone?
  2. Do you sometimes feel guilty about your drinking? Do you do things while under the influence that you wouldn’t otherwise do?  Do you find yourself regretting them later?
  3. Do you tell yourself you can stop drinking any time you want to, but you keep getting drunk when you don’t intend to?
  4. Has a family member, friend, or your employer ever expressed concern or complained about your drinking?  Are you annoyed by their concern?  Do you become defensive?
  5. Do you find yourself lying to your spouse, your kids, your friends, your employer to cover up your drinking – though you really don’t like lying?
  6. Have you had financial, work, family, or legal problems as a result of your drinking?
  7. Do you get drunk alone?
  8. Have you driven a car while intoxicated? Have you ever been arrested for driving under the influence?
  9. Do you need to resort to alcohol in order to do something (start the day, work or have sex, for example), to change how you feel (sad, scared, anxious or angry), or to banish shyness or bolster confidence?
  10. Do you notice you have an increased need for more alcohol in order to feel high?
  11. Have you developed medical problems or suffered injuries as a result of your drinking?
  12. Has your drinking led to conflicts with your friends or family members? Do you regularly hide alcohol from those close to you so that they will not know how much you are drinking?

What to do

Recognizing that there is a problem is the first step toward recovering from problem drinking.  If you think you might have a problem, here are some steps you can take:

— Acknowledge the problem openly.
— Seek professional help from doctors or therapists who deal with alcohol problems and
recovery.  You might benefit from counseling or a recovery program at a hospital or
private clinic.
— Avoid time spent with people who encourage alcohol use, or who believe that a drinking
problem is a problem of weak will.
— Seek out the support of people who are recovering themselves.  Many 12-step programs
are available, such as Alcoholics Anonymous.

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Tips To Increase Happiness

According to a study in the journal Applied Psychology: Health and Well-Being, a review of more than 160 studies has found “clear and compelling evidence” that – all things being equal – happy people tend to live longer and experience better health than their unhappy peers.

“Your subjective well-being – that is, feeling positive about your life, not stressed out, not depressed – contributes to both longevity and better health among healthy populations,” said lead study author, Ed Diener, Ph.d.

Happiness Strategies

The good news?  Recent research reports that you can change your thoughts, actions and habits to increase your happiness.  To increase your happiness, consider the following:

Live with purpose.  People who strive for something personally significant – whether it’s learning a new skill, raising a good family, or changing careers – are happier than those who don’t have strong dreams or aspirations.  Pick one or more significant goals and devote time and effort pursuing them.  

Nurture your relationships.  A Japanese study found that contented people’s happy experiences most often involved connecting with someone.  Happy people have a strong bond with at least two out of three of these essential relationships: a partner, a friend, or a parent.  Experts say the best way to improve a relationship is to invest time and energy in it. 

Count your blessings.  One way to feel happier is to recognize good things when they happen.  Express gratitude for what you have privately and also by conveying appreciation to others.  If you have trouble counting your blessings, try keeping a gratitude journal.  Write down three to five things you’re grateful for once a week.  Several studies show that people who record what they appreciate experience greater happiness and less anxiety.

 Develop healthy coping strategies.  It’s hard to be happy if you’re chronically over-stressed and emotionally drained.  Stress and anxiety are huge barriers to health and happiness.  Research from Harvard Medical School has found that women 100 years and older share a common trait – they’re not plagued by negative feelings such as guilt, anger, fear and sadness.  Find and practice healthy ways to manage stress, hardship or trauma.

 Move your body.  Research overwhelmingly shows that people who exercise are happier.  Make some form of exercise – such as brisk walking, running, swimming or yoga – a regular habit.  When you exercise, your body produces valuable brain chemicals and hormones – like endorphins, serotonin, dopamine and adrenaline – that positively impact your energy, mood and health.  Also important to feeling happier: Eat a nutritious diet and get adequate sleep.

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3 Strategies To Decrease Worry And Anxiety

How Family and Friends Help the DepressedEveryone has anxiety from time to time, but chronic anxiety can negatively impact your quality of life and have serious consequences on your physical health.

Some stress experts warn that chronic worrying may be the number-one killer in this country.  Every time we allow ourselves to experience anxiety (the clinical term for worry), we change our physiology (changes in blood chemistry, blood sugar level, blood pressure, muscle tension).  If persistent worrying or anxiety is a part of your lifestyle, these physiological changes are prolonged and undermine your health.

The short-term effects of chronic worrying include depression, mental and physical exhaustion, chronic fatigue, insomnia and general achiness.  In the long term, the person whose lifestyle includes worrying predisposes him/herself to diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, and certain types of cancer.

Strategies to help

If you are concerned about the amount of worry and anxiety you may be feeling, below are three strategies to help:

— Control your worry.  Select a half-hour “worry period” that will take place at the same time and place each day.  Observe your worrying throughout your day.  When you “catch” a worry beginning, postpone it to your worry period, reminding yourself that you will have time later to worry about it and there is no use upsetting yourself now.  When you get to your worry period, spend 30 minutes thinking about your concerns and what you can do about them.  Try not to dwell on what “might” happen.  Focus more on what’s really happening.  Distinguish between worries over which you have little or no control, and worries about problems that you can influence.  If you can influence the problem, do some problem-solving and take action.  If the worry is largely beyond your control, recognize that little or nothing can be done and that you are only making yourself feel bad by worrying.

What causes you to feel anxious?  Try to pinpoint what it is you are feeling anxious about.  If you can recognize what’s really bothering you, what can you do to eliminate or minimize the situation in some way so that it isn’t so stressful?  More important, how can you react differently so you won’t be so affected by this situation?

— Exercise and learn relaxation techniques.  Not only can exercise and relaxation techniques ease tension and relax the body, they can give you a break from worry.  For exercise, focus on aerobic exercise like brisk walking, jogging, swimming or cycling.  Relaxation techniques may include muscle relaxation, yoga, biofeedback, meditation or deep breathing.  Choose what works best for you.

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