Why Stress Isn’t Always a Bad Thing

stress

If you’re trying to breathe and stay calm in more stressful situations and generally remain cooler under pressure, then you’ll often be approaching the idea of stress as something ‘bad’ that you need to ‘fix’ or address. Actually though, this is the wrong way to think about stress and it’s even responsible for some of the issues associated with it. The perception is that stress makes us less confident, less able to make decisions and generally weaker. But the reality couldn’t be further from that. In fact, stress actually makes us much stronger and also improves our performance in various other ways too.

How it Makes You Stronger

When you’re stressed, it triggers your body to release neurotransmitters and hormones which include adrenaline, dopamine, norepinephrine and serotonin. Together, these contribute to pain relief, an increased heart rate, dilation of the blood vessels, increased blood viscosity and tension in the muscles. Blood and oxygen are directed away from the digestive system and immune system and instead they’re directed to your muscles and brain. This makes you faster and stronger and therefore better able to escape danger or confront it head on. What’s more is that it improves your focus and alertness and improves your ability to act quickly and respond to threats. If you’re in a fight then, or an athletic contest – stress can actually help you to perform better and achieve more.

How Stress Motivates Us

At the same time, stress has the positive effect of motivating us. An example of this might be when we’re studying, at which point it’s often anxiety that makes us revise more or double check our work. The same goes for interviews and any other scenario where the outcome relies on us putting in work. This type of positive motivating stress is called ‘eustress’ and people tend to be more successful if they experience this to a good degree.

stress

The key then is not to completely eradicate stress but rather to control it. By being able to dictate when you become anxious and how much stress you experience, you can thereby improve your ability to stay while at the same time tapping into the heightened strength, speed and intelligence that comes from a stress response. Next time you find yourself feeling anxious, don’t try to fight it (which will only make you more stressed ironically) but instead lean into it and channel it!


Soothing Tools

How to Become Socially Fearless With Hypothesis Testing

fearless

What is Hypothesis Testing?

Hypothesis testing is a concept taken from cognitive behavioural therapy and that involves testing a negative ‘hypothesis’ in order to disprove your fears and help you to overcome an illogical anxiety. This is a technique that you can use to absolutely smash through limiting fears and it can be perfectly targeted towards destroying social anxiety.

How it Works

When you’re afraid of something or something causes anxiety,then normally this is linked to some kind of belief about what will happen. We are not afraid of heights – we are afraid of falling. Likewise, we are anxious in social situations because we think we might stutter, we might get shouted at, or we might make a fool of ourselves. This is the ‘hypothesis’. Hypothesis testing then involves proving how unlikely this is to yourself. In the case of a social phobia, you can do this by simply facing your worst case scenario to see what actually happens.

Putting it Into Practice

Afraid you’ll make a fool of yourself in public and get laughed at? The reality is that most people are kind and understanding. If you actually do stutter or make a mistake people will generally turn a blind eye and be compassionate. You probably know this already on a conscious level, so all that’s left to do is to prove it to yourself so that you believe it on every level. This is where hypothesis testing comes into play and to do tis you’re going to actually make a fool of yourself on purpose.

So find a shop where you don’t visit regularly, go up to the till and then purposefully stutter and act shy and confused. Chances are you’ll be absolutely terrified while doing this but if you can get through it, you’ll find that in 99% of cases, the assistant simply overlooks your struggles and is perfectly polite. And once you’ve done that, you can do it again and again and you’re likely to find the exact same thing happening each time.

hypothesis testing

Of course you might have to build up to this if you’re too scared to begin with. Start by occasionally letting yourself stutter in conversation with friends and then in public. Perhaps try speaking to more strangers over time and generally you can gradually teach yourself that there are much worse things than not sounding perfectly eloquent all the time! People will go easy on you – so make sure you go easy on yourself too.


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Why Motivation Doesn’t Matter

motivation

Motivation for Success?

You may think that motivation is the key to success. Many people do, and that’s why so many people fail at their goals. Motivation is a fickle friend. It’s sort of like the classic literary muse. Sometimes it is there, guiding you along, and sometimes it is as elusive as a breath of fresh air in a fire. Thus, if you wait until you are motivated, you are never going to achieve your goals.

So, what is a person to do then? How do you reach your goals if you aren’t motivated to do so? There is only one way that you can make it through the times when you don’t feel motivated and that is by committing to something and sticking to it.

It is very easy to complete tasks and work on your success when you feel motivated. When you are motivated, every task seems easy and every goal seems achievable. However, when you are not motivated, every task seems like total drudgery. Your goals seem like they will never be realized. When those times come and you cannot conjure up enough motivation to get you through the tasks that you have set for yourself, that’s when you need to sit down and remember the commitments that you have made to yourself.

What if I Lost My Motivation?

There are a couple of steps before that which will help you when the time comes to use commitment to proceed. First, you have to teach yourself that commitment is important, even if it is to yourself. Most people have a habit of breaking commitments to themselves and so it is not a big deal when they do it again. You need to convince yourself that making a promise to yourself is just as important as a promise you make to someone else.You also need to have the commitments laid out and on paper in advance. You aren’t going to be able to use the commitment to force yourself to complete your tasks if you don’t know what they are. Make sure that your commitments are written down somewhere.

motivation
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The bottom line is that you recognize that you are going to have times when motivation isn’t enough, and when that happens, you are going to want to have a plan of action and pre-recorded commitments so that you can push through when you don’t feel like working and get the things that you need done accomplished.


How House Plants Can Reduce Your Stress

house plants

Want a quick hack that can improve your stress and help your health in a number of other ways? Then just get some plants and put them around your home! Plants in your home have been shown in countless studies to be highly effective for improving mood and general health and there are a number of reasons for this. Read on and we’ll examine why house plants are so useful for stress levels and how you can benefit from them.

The Effect of Plants on Stress

It has been known for a while now that having plants around can improve the mood of an environment. Research has shown, that plants help to combat stress, depression and other negative emotions. In fact, many businesses are encouraged to add plants to their office environments in order to build staff motivation. Studies show that having plants help their staff deal with large workloads and to combat feelings of stress.

So what’s going on?

Well, the effect harkens back to our days in the wild. When we were still evolving, we would have had to seek our vegetation in order to stay alive. In the African savanna, seeing large patches of green would have meant that we had found areas rich in natural resources. Here we would be able to find food, shelter, hydration and nourishment.

As such, it seems that we still have a similar response to seeing plants. Our bodies still respond by engaging our ‘rest and digest’ state via parasympathetic nervous system activation. Our heart rates slow down and we become more relaxed. Even just seeing the color green has been shown to have this effect!

house plants

Other Effects

house plants

There are other benefits of having house plants around too. One is that they can help to improve creativity. This is a byproduct of increased restfulness – and there’s a lot of evidence to suggest that we are at our most creative when we’re more relaxed. This way we lose the ‘tunnel vision’ that comes from stress and focus and instead we’re able to explore different ideas and alternative solutions to problems. Having plants around helps us to get into this state of mind and thus helps us discover more novel and creative solutions to our problems.

Plants can also help to boost our general health by cleaning the air and increasing oxygen. This has again been shown in several studies and it has been suggested that we should keep a few plants around for every family member to improve air quality.


Feel Better Now

Three Common Causes of Stress in Your Life and How to Deal With Them

causes of stress

What Causes Stress?

One way to tackle stress is to improve your health, your energy levels and your mood. By doing these things, you can help yourself to become more resilient and hardy to stress and you can avoid letting the smaller things bog you down. But that’s a fairly abstract way to combat anxiety that doesn’t always have an immediate effect.

The other route to take then is to look at the specific causes of stress in your life – the stressors – and to remove them. Some of these will be big and some of them will be small, but all of them contribute to raising blood pressure and making us feel a little less calm and relaxed. The problem is, many of us can’t put our fingers on exactly what it is that is causing us stress and even when we do, it’s not always obvious how we can deal with the problems.

causes of stress

Read on then and we will look at some of the most common causes of stress and at what you can do to deal with them once and for all…

The Commute Cause of Stress

Did you know that the only ‘universal fear’ is things heading towards you? Thus, walking to work and having hundreds of people moving the other way down the street is pretty much a recipe for stress – especially if you’re running late or if you have a long way to travel.

One solution then is to avoid the rush hour. You can do this by speaking with your employer and asking them to give you more flexible working hours: perhaps you could work 8am-4pm for instance instead of 9am-5pm? Alternatively, look at other ways of getting in, like cycling. Or just arrive a little early!

‘Open Loops’

Many of us have lots of niggling jobs and stresses in the back of our minds that contribute to our stress. For instance, you might need to call your relative. Or maybe you have a bill to pay. These are what are known as ‘open loops’ and they can drain us of energy, focus and positivity. The solution is to deal with each of them as soon as possible rather than letting them drag on.

The Money Cause of Stress

Money is a huge stress for many of us and can cause many a sleepless night.

The solution? Creating a budget. Budgets show us how much we’re losing and where and allow us to formulate a plan to get back on top. What you will often find is that simply cancelling some of your recurring bills and changing your lifestyle a little can make a big difference and help you to get back in the black.


Stress Mangement Tools

Stress-Free Stress Management Checklist

stress check list

Looking to improve your stress levels?

Ironically, stress management can end up being stressful in itself! Knowing you have a problem with stress is of course the first step towards getting better but it also means you now know you have a problem… and it means you have a long road stretched out in front of you to ‘recovery’.

If only there were a stress-free way to manage stress… like a checklist for instance!

Do You Have a Stress Addiction?

The first point of order is to consider the possibility that you may have a stress addiction. Unlikely though it may sound, stress addictions are common as we find ourselves unable to pull away from work and other high intensity activities.

* If you ‘thrive under pressure’ and if you can never take time off, you may well have a stress addiction.

* If you feel bored and fidgety when you’re unwinding, you may have a stress addiction

* If your friends and family complain that they never get to see you, this is a sign of a stress addiction

* If you feel constantly ‘wired’ then you may have a stress addiction.

The first step to overcoming stress then is to recognize that you may feel it’s difficult to change these habits: but you must in order to gain freedom from stress.


Identifying Your Stressors

A good place to start when tackling stress is to look at your stressors. Stressors are things that cause stress and these can include things like work and debt. At the same time though, they can also include slightly smaller things in many cases.

Common stressors include…

– Impending deadlines

– Calls you need to make and don’t have time for

– Angry bosses

– Awkward colleagues

– Friends or partners who are angry with you

– Arguments

– The commute to work

– Untidy homes

– Health problems

– Inability to pay bills/debt

stress management

What you’ll notice is that some of these things are rather small and easy while others are big and abstract. A good place to start is by dealing with the smaller problems that you can tackle more easily. You might also be able to break down bigger problems into smaller issues.

For instance ‘work’ can actually mean:

– Awkward colleagues

– Bad bosses

– Uncomfortable working environments

– Unpleasant commute

– Painful working hours

– Large workloads

– Impending deadlines

So even if you can’t change your job, you may be able to deal with some of these specifics. Where will you start?


Good Habits
for Stress Management

A lot of these problems wouldn’t occur if you were to use good stress/time management habits.

Here are some good examples:

stress mangement
Stress Man. Businessman suffers from a headache

* Little and often – instead of letting your dishes pile up, try tackling them sooner so that they never build up to that level.

* The pomodoro technique – are you prone to procrastination? Get around this tendency by using the pomorodo technique: segregating your working hours into periods of work and rest using a timer.

* The 80/20 law – if you’re self-employed, you might find that 80% of your work comes from 20% of your clients. Cut the rest.

* Close open loops – don’t let things continue to stress you out over the long term. If you have a call to make, make it sooner and ‘close the loop’.


Lifestyle Changes for Stress Management

You should also apply these lifestyle changes to make stress easier to cope with:

1. Make sure you sleep well by going to bed at a similar time every day, by having 30 minutes to calm down with a book and by relaxing into bed

2. Make sure you give yourself breaks and holidays occasionally! No one should work 365 days a year!

3. Exercise – exercise improves stress and energy in numerous ways.

4. Eat healthily

5. Wake up with a daylight lamp, not a blaring alarm!


Dealing With Acute Stress with Mangement Tools

Finally, try to learn to deal with acute stress.

Some things that can help here include:

* Breathing more slowly which will activate the parasympathetic nervous system

* Learning mindfulness and cognitive behavioral therapy

* Reminding yourself of why you shouldn’t be stressed

* Removing yourself from the situation

There you have it: you now have all the tools and know-how to begin your move towards a stress-free life!


Other Soothing Tools

Prioritize More if you Want to be Successful

priorities

Why does Organization help Success?

When you want to be successful, you have to prioritize. This often means that some things get overlooked and unfortunately, sometimes they are things that you don’t want to overlook. But you have to make sacrifices if you want to achieve your goals and that means deciding what is most important, and working on it first and foremost.

The reason for this is simple: we want too many things. Human beings are famous for wanting too much. It’s like our motto, especially here in America. More, more, more. This is true in the food that we eat, it is true of the things that we buy and it is true of the money that we make. Of course, it is also true of the things that drive us and the goals that we have, and that’s not a bad thing.

The Problem

The problem is, when you have too many things that you want to accomplish, you aren’t going to have time for them all, and unless you prioritize, you are probably going to end up doing the things that are the most fun rather than the things that are the most important.

Example

Let’s look at an example of this. Meet Richard. Richard is trying to make a list of the things that he wants to accomplish over the next five years. Here is what he has written down.

  • Learn 5 new languages (1 per year) – Spanish, German, American Sign Language, French and Italian
  • Learn how to play musical instruments like a pro – first guitar and then piano
  • Learn how to do my own taxes and keep track of business taxes
  • Start my own business – some kind of retail store that is unique and fills a need
  • Volunteer more – do some church work, homeless shelters, give to charity
  • Become more organized so that I never miss appointments and always know where stuff is
  • Lose 50 pounds and get in shape like I was when I was in my 30’s
prioritize

We’ll stop here because you probably get the idea. Richard wants to do so many things, but accomplishing them will take up far too much time. For example, learning a new language in a year will take about 30-45 minutes each and every day. If you added up all of his stuff just from this partial list, half the day would be gone.

That’s why prioritizing is vital. If you cannot choose what is most important and work on it first and most often, you are going to accomplish very little.


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How Bad Habits Become Good Habits

bad habits

You may be familiar with the idea that you cannot get rid of bad habits – you need to replace them with good habits instead. The reasoning behind this is that your mind thinks that you are taking something important away when you stop a bad habit; but when you simply start a good habit that pushes the bad habit out of the way, then you feel like you are giving yourself something.

So, what is the actual process in which bad habits become good ones? This is an important thing to understand, because it can help you get rid of all of your bad habits eventually. This article will go through the process step-by-step, using example bad and good habits.

Example Bad Habit: Skipping Breakfast

Example Good Habit: Having a Healthy Breakfast

So, you want to replace the habit of skipping breakfast with having a good, healthy breakfast instead. There are numerous reasons to do this, and studies have proven that people who eat breakfast are healthier, get more accomplished and are happier. Let’s go through the process of replacing the bad with the good one step at a time.

  1. Sit down and create a list of breakfast foods that you like. Then go out and buy them and keep them stocked in your kitchen.
  2. Stop eating food at 5:00PM each day. That way when morning comes you are hungry enough to eat something.
  3. Write down the benefits that come with eating breakfast and then post them somewhere that you will be able to see them when you get up in the morning.
  4. Make a habit out of going to the kitchen and looking at the food that is there. You don’t have eat anything at first. Just be aware that some good foods are stocked in your kitchen.
  5. Start small. Cut an orange into segments and eat one segment per day.
  6. Increase this until your body actually starts looking forward to having that orange every day.
  7. Don’t skip any days once you start eating. You may revert back to your old habit of not eating breakfast.
  8. Create a breakfast trigger. For example, as soon as you finish your first cup of coffee, then make something for breakfast.
  9. Increase the amount of food until you are having a full, healthy breakfast.
  10. Write down any benefits you notice from eating breakfast.

Soothing Tools

How Anxiolytics Work (And Whether You Should Take Them)

What are Anxiolytics?

Anxiolytics treat anxiety and panic attacks. Whether you regularly find yourself having panic attacks or you simply find yourself feeling stressed from time to time, then you may have been recommended anxiolytics by your doctor. These medications work in a number of ways to help combat both the psychological and physiological symptoms associated with it.

But how do they work?

Neuroscience

All anxiolytics work by changing the release of neurotransmitters and hormones that are associated with stress or anxiety. Stress is essentially caused by the ‘fight or flight’ response, which is our body’s chemical response to danger. When we think we’re under some kind of threat, we release adrenaline, norepinephrine, dopamine, cortisol and more and this leads to an increase in our heartrate, dilation of the pupils, dilation of the blood vessels and even increased blood viscosity. The muscles become stronger and we become more alert but the immune system and digestion are suppressed until we become safer.

Anxiolytics
Blackboard with the chemical formula of Alprazolam

Most anxiolytics work by increasing the amount of a substance called ‘GABA’ or gamma aminobutyric acid. This is an ‘inhibitory’ neurotransmitter. The purpose of an inhibitory neurotransmitters is to suppress activity in the brain and communication between brain cells. This leaves us feeling less alert and less anxious which in turn causes those anxiety-related neurotransmitters to subside. Essentially it works by sedating us slightly. Other anti-anxiety medication works by increasing serotonin. Serotonin is the ‘feel good’ neurotransmitter and when there’s lots of it in the brain, we feel happy and cheerful. Increasing this can therefore reduce feelings of anxiety and dread.

The Challenge with Anxiolytics

anxiolytics

The problem is that both these methods can lead to unwanted side effects as well as addiction. When you increase or decrease specific neurotransmitters, the brain responds by reducing its natural production of those chemicals. They also reduce its ability to respond to them (by removing ‘receptors’). Thus you can develop to the point where you need stronger doses of the medication to get the same results. Likewise, you can find yourself feeling even worse when you’re not using the medication. This is called ‘tolerance and dependence’.

Furthermore, using medication like this does not address the root cause of the problems. The root is the thought processes that lead to that chemical change. While anxiolytics might be useful in the short term for preventing the on-set of an attack, it’s important to use other methods in the long term to solve the problem.


Therapy Tools

Why You Should Replace Television with Books

books

Read for Success

Did you know that one of the things that some of the most successful people in the world share in common is that they read books – mostly books on how to improve themselves in a variety of ways.

If you want to follow in the footsteps of people like Warren Buffet, Bill Gates and Steve Jobs, then you are going to want to read books just like they did. That means shutting off the black screen in your living room, removing the Netflix shortcut from your desktop and getting rid of the TV or movie apps on your phone or tablet. Then download a Kindle or an e-reader.

There are good reasons to get rid of television and replace it with reading material. Of course, you may not want to get rid of television completely, although many people who do say that they are much happier afterward and everything they thought they would miss seems of little importance. Television doesn’t do much in the way of education. Most of the programs on television are fictional stories, and many are so predictable and formulaic that they do not tax your brain cells at all.

Why Read Books?

Even when television isn’t fiction it is often the same news stories that repeat over and over, or sensationalized real events that bear little resemblance to fact. Let’s not even get started on reality TV. The point is, there is very little on television that is going to teach you something that will allow you to better yourself. In addition, science has shown that TV really does “rot” your brain – or at least your brain power weakens over time from television watching.

read books

Books on the other hand, have a number of advantages. For one thing, you are reading and not watching. This simple difference means that you are using your brain in other ways. You are reading, figuring out the definition of words and forming pictures in your imagination. Plus, there are so many books out there that actually help you improve yourself – hence the entire section of books called “Self-help” or “Self-improvement.” There are books on reaching goals, achieving financial independence, starting a business and learning everything from a new language to a musical instrument.

The bottom line is that books are better if you want to be successful. You don’t have to give up TV entirely if you don’t want to, but you should definitely read more if you want to achieve success.