How to Relieve Stress Naturally

Stress, especially chronic stress, can negatively impact our health and lead to heart disease, obesity, diabetes and even cancer. More than 75 percent of doctor visits are related to conditions caused by stress, and being exposed to stress over a long period of time can lead to life-threatening conditions. Here are a few ways to relieve stress.

Exercise: Exercise, particularly yoga, can have calming effects on the entire body, help to improve sleep and help to manage blood sugar, metabolism and mood.

Mindfulness/Meditation: As little as 10 to 15 minutes a day will give our mind time to relax and release worry and anxiety. It is also a great opportunity to be appreciative for the good things we can focus on.

Eat a Healthy Diet: Eat clean, whole foods that are nutrient-dense and avoid processed and sugary foods, too much caffeine and alcohol.

Practice Self-Care: Very often, we stress because we are taking care of everyone else but ourselves. Make room for “me” time by focusing on yourself. Take a hot bath, get a facial or take a long walk in nature, even for just a few minutes a day.

For more information on ways you can reduce your stress, call us at 312-259-7585.

A Positive Workplace Creates Positive Results

As we move into a new year, let’s look at ways that we can celebrate the best in the workplace by creating a more positive work environment which, in turn, creates a more powerful and positive workforce. In turn when employees are happy, your customers, stakeholders and other key players are happier as well.

In an experiment that was conducted by the University of Warwick, 700 people were shown 10-minute comedy video clips or they were provided with beverages and snacks. The researchers then followed up with the individuals to confirm that those two things actually made them happy and when the individuals confirmed that they did, the researchers assigned each person certain tasks to measure their productivity levels. The outcome of the experiment showed that, on average, productivity increased an average of 12% and went as high as 20% above the control group which is pretty astounding.

Conversely, the researchers also noted how “real-world” situations such as family problems, illness and mourning affected the individuals and found that there was a link between the unhappiness of the individuals and a decrease in their productivity levels that actually could last as long as two years.

The reason that employees are more productive when they are happy is actually pretty simple. The brain functions better when a person is feeling positive. They tend to be more creative, have better problem-solving skills and they tend to collaborate more effectively when they are feeling happy and positive. When a person feels happiness, the brain state that they are in is much the same as when they are in what is called “collaboration or relational flow”. This brain state allows people to imagine new outcomes, share intentions, build confidence, develop curiosity and appreciate the contributions of others.

Professor Andrew Oswald, who was part of the University of Warwick experiment, provided a brief case study about Google that outlined Google’s investment in employee support and Google noted that employee satisfaction rose by about 37%. So as you move into 2018 either as a leader or as part of an employee population, what can you do to make sure that your workplace is a happier one? The possibilities are endless. There are specialists and organizations available that can help you tailor employee wellness and happiness programs into your organization. For more information and ideas that you can implement, contact Heidi Smith, CINHC, CCWS, CMP at the Integrative Wellness Studio – heidismith@integrativewellnessstudio.net – www.integrativewellnessstudio.net.

April is Stress Awareness Month – Are you stressed?

You have all probably seen this list before of the major causes of stress in a person’s life:

Death of a loved one
Getting married
Getting divorced
Losing a job
Moving to a new home/location
Increase in financial obligation or money problems
Chronic illness or injury
Emotional problems (depression, anxiety, guilt, grief, etc)

Pretty common sense things that may cause stress for someone, right? This month, in particular, did you know that April 15 – Tax Day – is also one of the most stressful days of the year? In fact, according to some reports, people are more likely to get into a car accident on April 15 than on another other non-tax day because they are stressed and, subsequently, not focused and paying attention to the road.

At some point, even the most relaxed person will experience stress of some kind. Children, teens and adults will all experience stress and they will often experience stress in different ways. Since April is Stress Awareness Month, I wanted to do a post about stress and offer some healthy ways that you can cope with stress better to maintain better overall health. First, let’s take a look at what stress really is all about.

Stress is a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or very demanding circumstances. Stress can be felt from both positive events like getting ready for a wedding or by negative events like losing a job. Stress is the combination of tensions the body experiences that are physical and emotional. It is one’s reaction to a situation where a person may feel anxious or in danger and can then trigger a “fight or flight” response.

Everyone reacts to and deals with stress differently and according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, here are some of the most common reactions to a stressful event(s):

Disbelief, shock and numbness. Feelings of sadness, frustration and helplessness. Fear and anxiety about the future. Feeling guilty.

Anger, tension, irritability. Difficulty concentrating and/or making decisions. Crying or emotional outbursts. Lack of interest.

Loss of appetite. Sleeping too much or too little. Nightmares or bad dreams. Smoking or use of alcohol or drugs.

As you can see, the reactions to stress are both emotional and physical which is why it is so important to have some techniques available that will address both issues ahead of time, making you more capable of dealing with a stressful situation before it happens!

Don’t let life stress you out:

Eat well-balanced and healthy meals that are nutrient rich
Exercise daily – the endorphins help to elevate your mood naturally making stress easier to handle
Get plenty of sleep – when you are well rested, your brain functions more clearly
Talk to someone you trust – sometimes it helps to get things off your chest and share your feelings with someone
Meditate – meditation will help you to remain grounded and focused on what you need to do next
Avoid self-medication – stay away from drugs and alcohol as they both will tend to make things seem more dramatic than they really are
Walk Away/Unplug – sometimes you just have to remove yourself from the source of stress and gain some perspective

The most important thing is that if you are feeling overwhelmed by stress, recognize the signs and ask for help. It is ok to admit that you cannot cope with a situation or situations and ask for guidance. If you cannot find it from family and friends, contact a professional who can direct you to a good resource.

Below is a link to a video put out by the StayingSharp program through AARP:

https://stayingsharp.aarp.org/art/relax/16/brain-on-stress.html?CMP=EMC-DSM-NLC-SPC-SSS-20170412_SS_April_NL_1_Registered_248902_309207-20170412-Body-Watch_Video-Button

For more information on how to cope with stress or if you are in need of immediate help, please contact one of the following hotlines:

Disaster Distress Helpline: 1-800-985-5990

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-9454)

Youth Mental Health Line: 1-888-568-1112

Child-Help USA: 1-800-422-4453

Love yourself, Valentine!

Love yourself, Valentine!

On this day, February 14, 2017, traditionally known as Valentine’s Day, it is customary to express our love and affection for our significant other and those who are of importance to us. We give each other flowers, candy, jewelry and other expressions of that love as an outward testament of our affections.

Prior to marrying my husband several years ago, I spent a very long time as a single and spent many a Valentine’s Day alone and without someone to share the day and special moments of love. At first, Valentine’s Day was tough and even a bit depressing. I wondered why it was that everyone else I seemed to know had someone special to share it with but me. As the years moved on, I came to realize that Valentine’s Day was not defined by who loved me or chose to show they affections toward me, rather, it became a time for me to take one special day to love and recognize myself! What a revelation.

I learned to really take a moment to appreciate who I was, what I had accomplished in my life and would appreciate me for the woman I had become. I did not need to have a man or person in my life to hand me a box of chocolates and flowers to validate me. I got so excited about my newly found love for myself that I would make myself a nice dinner, have some wine and even buy myself a gift..I worked hard all year so why not. Sometimes it was a great opportunity to invite other friends over to celebrate our friendship or to go out for the evening and celebrate each other.

So, on this Valentine’s Day, I would like to encourage you to spend the day loving yourself. Regardless of whether or not you are also celebrating with your significant other, do something nice, something special today that is just for you. It may be a trip to the nail salon, it may be an extra long walk or yoga class, it may be a quiet hour to read a book or meditate. Whatever you chose to do, make some time that is just for you to be able to appreciate who you are and what you do every day.

I learned this exercise during my studies at IIN and it has stuck with me over the years. Look at the photo below and review the signature strengths that are listed. Think about all of the strengths on this list that you posses and use every day. Think about some new ways you can use those strengths in your life to show your love for either your partner, your family, your job and then commit to using your strengths in that new way for the next week. Get yourself a notebook and keep track of the strengths you use and how implementing them affects you. Share the experience with someone you love or for something you love and see what happens. ENJOY!

Winter is Still Here….

Winter is Still Here….

There are still 39 days, 6 hours and 17 minutes left until Spring 2017 is officially here. So, that means we still have a lot of time to deal with winter in many parts of the country.

I’m very fortunate to be living in Texas where it is 86 degrees and sunny so I already feel like spring has arrived. But, that can change at the drop of a hat around here and I know that in places like Chicago, Minneapolis and in many other cities, it is cold, blustery and the rhythms of winter are still if full force.

How do you stay balanced through the remainder of winter? What can you do to make the most of the season, protect your health keep from getting the winter blues for the next 39 days? There are some great Ayurvedic techniques you can adopt that will help you throughout the winter season and help you to flourish and not just cope with the days ahead.

Ayurveda blossomed thousands of years ago when the world was much different than it is today. People functioned more closely in tune with nature and their surroundings and slept and were awakened by their circadian rhythms and not by terrifying alarm clocks signaling the time to get up for work!

Ayurveda is based on the notion that there are three main doshas, vata (the energy of movement), pitta (the energy of digestion or metabolism and kappa (the energy of structure and lubricatio). The practice also says that every human body is in tune with one of these dosha and they correlate to the seasons with vata being winter, pitta being summer and kapha being spring.

That being the case, winter is the cycle of vata and by standing in harmony with the natural cycle of winter, you can help to build your health, energy and the ability to fight off cold and disease during the winter. How can you do that? By adjusting what you eat, the type of exercise you are doing or any type of herbs or supplements you may take can affect the way you feel during the winter months.

Here are some hints to make the remaining part of winter a bit easier to handle!
* Wake up a little bit later than in other seasons (extend your sleep by 30-60 minutes if possible)
* Have a warm cup of water with lemon first thing in the morning to get your digestive system moving
* Treat yourself to an extra long shower and towel scrub before work
* Add in some yoga or meditation before getting the day started to open the chest, throat and sinuses
* Eat a nutritious breakfast of oatmeal or grains like quinoa and add cinnamon for heating but sweet spice
* Drink tea instead of coffee and add 1/2 tsp cinnamon and a pinch of clove to increase digestion
* Exercise regularly to increase blood flow and circulation when we naturally tend to be more sedate in the winter
* Get some sun! If you don’t want to walk out in the cold, sit by a nice window and soak up some rays. The vitamin D helps with mood
* Eat foods that are warming and nourishing like homemade soups, steamed veggies and add spices to them.
* Avoid dairy as it increases mucus and congestion which can already be a bother in winter when we are closed indoors
* Enjoy a glass or two of sweet or dry wine with dinner to help with digestive fire, improve appetite and circulation
* Get plenty of vitamin C, add ginger to tea if you feel a cold coming on. You can also add to a warm bath along with baking soda
* Use natural saline solution in your nose to keep your nasal passages moist and clear during the dry winter months
* Bundle up! You really do lose more than half your body heat through your head so wear a hat and keep warm.

The other thing I love to do is get out a calendar or print one out from your computer. Keep count of the days leading up to Spring’s arrival and plot out all the things you would like to get done prior to then. We all know that “Spring Cleaning” is on everyone’s list so begin with yourself and write down all the things you would like to “clean out” before