Tag Archives: stress

Coping with Covid-19: It’s About Time

Many of us joked at the beginning of this pandemic that introverts would be better equipped to handle long periods of isolation. We’re all still inside reading, while our extrovert friends and family — plus all those manic folks we’re seeing on the news — are out cavorting as if the emergency is now over.  If only.

I’ve been thinking that another factor influencing how crazy-making this is, is whether you generally prefer having structured or unstructured time.

Most people have a strong inclination towards one or the other.  Put another way, do you tend to feel happier during the workweek, when you have a series of tasks that need to be done, colleagues with whom you interact, a feeling of achievement when you complete a project? Are schedules and routines useful rather than burdensome?

Or are you more of a “free spirit” who doesn’t like to follow a regimen? Are you happiest at the weekend with no particular agenda and the option to use your time as your own?

Being retired, I notice less of a difference than I did in my career life, but I clearly still fall into the “structured” category. For example, I’ve always liked to make lists and plan appointments ahead of time. Sundays and major holidays can be frustrating because certain things are closed and I can’t get stuff done.  (Are structured people more prone to impatience, too, I wonder? Don’t answer that!)

Of course, Covid has tossed many options out the window. But knowing which type you are can help you deal with stress and uncertainty by adding more or less structure to your day.  If you’re an “S”, try keeping a calendar of even the most banal activities so you can feel some sense of accomplishment as you tick them off your list. If you’re a “U” who hates following rules, enjoy the relative freedom of working from home and taking breaks when you feel like it.

I’ve read that S’s often instinctively pair up with U’s, which may be nature’s way of helping us find balance in a relationship: The “structured” person can do most of the planning and organizing, while their “unstructured” partner comes up with spur-of-the-moment fun stuff.

Is scheduled spontaneity the best of both worlds? Or merely another oxymoron in our current reopening-but-not reality?

man break dancing on street

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Good News Monday: Natural Stress Relief

I admit it’s hard to find any good news today.  But I did find a wonderful way to relax, courtesy of the Monterey Bay Aquarium Jelly Cam.  The livestream, available from 10 am to 9 pm PDT on their website, features hypnotic images of floating jellyfish, accompanied by spa sounds.

You can also ooh and ahh over live footage of their sea otters and penguins.

I’ll take whatever distractions I can get.

Good News Monday: Relaxation IS Possible

Since we’re all stressed these days, I thought this article was worth sharing, even though suggestions such as seeing an acupuncturist are a bit aspirational at the moment.

[Reprinted from AllTimeLists.com]

“Just relax.”

You have heard this a million times, right? Usually, it is some well-meaning friend or family member that sees you are under some intense pressure, and they offer this piece of advice as if it never occurred to you. But of course, you want to relax. But the situation you are in is just not relaxing.

What you need is a proven method to reduce the stress you are feeling. When it comes to calming the mind and spirit, the Chinese and other Far East nations of the world have been practicing techniques for centuries. Many of them are quite simple. Let’s look at some ways to reduce your stress and increase your energy.

Qigong

Pronounced “chee-gun,” it combines meditative and physically active elements and is the basic exercise system within Chinese medicine. Translated into English, qigong is “life energy cultivation.” It’s a holistic system of coordinated body posture and movement, breathing, and meditation used for health, spirituality, and martial arts training. Here’s a summary of the exercise routine:

10. Crane Stands on One Leg – The exercise is intended to develop balance and agility, gently stretch your ligaments, improve circulation, and release your spine. Repeat on each side at least five times. Don’t worry if it doesn’t work the first time.

9. Standing Still With Absorbing – This meditative exercise improves your breathing and encourages your body to contract and expand itself to generate vitality. Visualize your breath inflating like an internal balloon. Meanwhile, imagine you are pulling energy in toward the core of your body. Continue for 2–5 minutes. IMPORTANT: Your arms should stay in the same place throughout the exercise.

8. Coiling Recharge – The exercise is perfect as a stand-alone practice or as an energizing warm-up before martial arts. Qigong involves using the hands to direct energy, often in a spiral pattern. It helps to develop energy, power, and well-being. IMPORTANT: Pay attention to your fingers — they should be turned down to your abdominal area.

7. Chinese Wall Squat – This exercise is a fundamental exercise for keeping the Qi channels in and around the spinal and lumbar region clear. It is very effective in alleviating mental and nervous disorders, and it also helps to improve kidney function. IMPORTANT: Repeat the stance as many times as you can, but don’t forget to listen to your body. Experts from the Qigong Institute recommend starting with 10 squats and increasing it daily.

6. Endurance Activator – This exercise is known as the “walk-three-miles point.” In the Middle Ages, fatigued monks practiced it to enhance stamina and improve leg strength. IMPORTANT: Avoid rounding your back.

5. Picking Fruit – This is a simple exercise, but it’s very effective. Try to lift your arms high above your head, and stretch upward like you’re picking fruit from a tree. This is one of the oldest movements of mankind, and it activates the kidneys, the spleen, and the pancreas. These organs are all activated, and the joints are lifted.

4. Full-Body Spiralling – This movement helps to open up the joints and relax the muscles. The exercise also teaches full-body integration and allows you to engage your tendons and ligaments rather than relying on purely muscular strength. Repeat eight times.

3. Horse-Stance Circles – The main purpose of the exercise is not just training the body but training your energy and mind. It is a marvelous method that can really help to alleviate tension in your hips and improve posture, as well as opening up energy in your lower body. Assume a wide stance, keeping your feet close to parallel. Start with your elbows bent, and extend your hands overhead, allowing your shoulders to rotate so your hands face each other. Your fingertips should lightly touch at the top.

2. Bending and Lifting – This exercise improves knee-joint stability and teaches you how to lift things without hurting yourself. IMPORTANT: Bend at your knees and waist. Make sure your knees do not extend past your toes and that your spine is straight.

1. Circling Knees – This is a widespread warm-up exercise in martial arts that invigorates the legs, both up and down. Start with your feet shoulder-width apart, and slowly bend at your waist and knees. Place your hands on your knees, and circle them outward around your ankles, making sure to not let your knees extend past your toes.

Aside from this exercise and meditation program, there are also simple tasks you can do that will dial down the stress and pain of the daily grind.

Foot Massage 

In China, it is relatively common to have regular foot massages. Chinese medicine tells us that our feet connect to the earth and the energy of the earth circulates throughout our body. The feet conduct energy to our heart, liver, and other organs so it’s very important to take good care of them. You can also go barefoot as this too helps open the body’s energy channels.

Acupuncture 

This practice is a great way to improve circulation in the body. It has been shown to be a solution to treat symptoms of stress like muscle aches and pains. Acupuncture opens up the meridian or energy channels of the body to relax the muscles.

Meditation 

In China, people meditate daily. Chinese doctors encourage meditation because it reduces stress and promotes health and well-being. There are many different types of meditation such as Tai Chi, QiGong, and Buddhist meditation.

Valerian Root and Chrysanthemum Tea 

Valerian root has been used for thousands of years in China to promote relaxation. Other cultures have also used it to alleviate stress and it is commonly used in many sleep aids found in grocery or drug stores. In Chinese medicine, it is most often used as a tea. If you’re interested in purchasing Valerian tea you can find it at Walmart.com. Chrysanthemum tea is used on a daily basis to relax and maintain a healthy liver. You can purchase Chrysanthemum tea here.

These tips should help reduce the stress to the point that no one will fill compelled to tell you, “just relax.” Enjoy your less-stressed life!

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Good News Monday: You’ve Got Some Nervines!

Got stress? Lately I’ve seen several mainstream press mentions of nervines, natural herbs that are reported to help support the nervous system.

These include tonics made from organic skullcap and oat tops, mildly calming herbs such as catnip and chamomile, and stronger relaxants such as valerian root and hops.

Lavender and chamomile tea are pretty mainstream these days but here are several I didn’t know about, per a few websites. Many are staple folk remedies that have been used for centuries.

Have any of you tried any of these? I can’t personally vouch for them and since herbs aren’t regulated the way drugs have to be, it’s always wise to consult a physician about dosing and possible side effects. Still, I’m intrigued. Any recommendations?

Organic skullcap in bloom with purple flowers

  • Oat tops – Although they may not produce an immediate physical feeling of relaxation, oat tops are called a superfood for the nervous system, meant to support nerve functioning over time. Suggested for anyone who is overworked or relies on caffeine to get through the day, this herb is said to calm the nerves, reduce fatigue, relieve emotional instability, and help restore peace and tranquility to over-stressed and chronically upset people.
  • Skullcap – Helps relieve occasional tension and stress, circular thoughts, and nervousness. Can be used throughout the day during stressful situations or at night before bed to calm worried thoughts. I’m curious to try this one. Considered to have anti-spasmodic and anti-inflammatory properties, herbalists recommend skullcap for muscle tension, insomnia, chronic headaches and relaxation.
  • Chamomile – A classic, relaxing nighttime tea, the herb is also helpful for relieving mild daily mental stress.  If you don’t like the taste, try adding a little lemon and honey.
  • Lavender – This lovely calming herb is often used in aromatherapy applications. Wonderful in the bath or shower, massage oils, pillows, room sprays, and fragrance.
  • Lemon balm – Sunshine in plant form, this citrusy herb helps with nervous exhaustion, gloom, and restlessness, while also providing pure aromatic pleasure. Rub a leaf between your fingers and inhale deeply for an immediate mood boost.
  • Catnip – Gentle, calming herb suggested for sleeplessness in children and the elderly. Are we all cats at heart?
  • California poppy – Used for its calming properties, this plant helps promote relaxation in those seeking rest. Picture that wonderful scene in The Wizard of Oz!
  • Passionflower – Considered helpful for relieving general tension, occasional nervous restlessness, and supporting restful sleep.
  • Hops – With a distinctive flavor and action known well by beer drinkers everywhere, this plant supports relaxation and helps calm a nervous stomach.
  • Valerian – When sleep seems impossible thanks to nervous energy and a brain that won’t shut off, this potent herb encourages relaxation. Caution: for some people, valerian can have the opposite effect, causing stimulation and even more anxiety.  If this happens, an herbalist can suggest something else.

Wishing you all a relaxing, stress-free New Year.  We all deserve one! xx Alisa

It’s Not Just You

According to a recent study, the average American can’t spend more than four hours with family during the holidays without getting stressed.

Lack of space and privacy, noise, too much togetherness, and family drama are some of the reasons. ‘Ya think?

However, knowing this, you might want to take a short walk around the block every few hours to clear your head and give you some alone time.  Happy holidays! xx

white and blue crew neck t shirt

Photo by Atul Choudhary on Pexels.com

10 Simple Stress Busters

It’s been a crazy few weeks.

DH has been busy with end-of-term meetings, presentations and the like. I’ve been in charge of scheduling contractors for lingering punch-list items including a sink replacement — it is SO much fun to have your children visiting when you can’t use the kitchen sink –, replacing two window blinds that had arrived damaged, painter touch-ups, fixing the garage door, etc. Plus finding someone to clean the windows, finding someone to cut the grass, and everything else we have to squeeze in before we leave for the summer.

I don’t do well with stress. (Does anyone?) So I try to remind myself to do these simple things:

  1. Walk whenever possible.  We now live about a quarter mile from the supermarket so, instead of driving over when I need a few things, I take the rolling grocery cart or a couple of shopping bags and walk there.  It takes longer but is weirdly relaxing.
  2. Buy flowers.  They smell lovely, look pretty, feel indulgent, and improve air quality.
  3. Spend time alone. Go for a stroll, take a bath, exercise, give yourself a facial… whatever clears your head (literally or otherwise).
  4. Read or watch something funny.  Laughter is the ultimate stress buster.
  5. Do something creative. It doesn’t have to be award winning or museum quality: Bake, garden, rearrange your closet —  anything that fuels your imagination.
  6. De-clutter. If there’s no time for a full reorg, even neat piles on my desk help me feel more in control.
  7. Simplify entertaining when you’re short on time. Unless you find it relaxing to make a fancy dessert or bake bread, don’t bother. Your friends want to spend time with you, not admire your gourmet prowess.
  8. Do the dishes tomorrow.  Guests stayed late? Put the food away and let the dishes soak overnight.
  9. Don’t overschedule. This usually happens because I (and you, too?) want to make everyone happy, often at our own expense. Be realistic about how much you can fit into a given day. If you have to cancel, do so as early as possible to minimize other people’s inconvenience or disappointment. And try not to feel guilty.
  10. Remember to breathe.  Inhaling lavender helps.
aroma aromatic bloom blossom

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Special shout-out to MSW blog for more thoughts on this topic.

Random Hacks

The Internet was full of interesting tips this week!

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7 ways to prevent (and fix!) smelly shoes

1. Start with clean feet: Soak them in salt water, then dry off and dust with talcum powder (baby powder or Gold Bond).

2. Put antiperspirant on the soles of your feet.

3. Sprinkle the inside of your shoes with baking soda and leave overnight. Vacuum or shake out in the morning.

4. Place dry tea bags inside your shoes and leave them overnight.

5. Put crumpled newspaper inside your shoes and leave overnight. It absorbs odor-retaining moisture.

6. Place your shoes in individual plastic zip bags and leave them in your freezer overnight to kill bacteria. During the winter, leaving them overnight in a cold car will work too. Let your shoes slowly return to room temperature before wearing.

7. Spritz sneakers or fabric-lined shoes with mixture of water and white vinegar. Let dry thoroughly.

 

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5 steps to relaxation

1. Place the tip of your tongue just behind your front teeth and exhale sharply.

2. Close your mouth and inhale slowly through your nose for a count of four.

3. Hold your breath for a count of seven.

4. Exhale strongly to a count of eight.

5. Repeat 3 times. Ahhhhh.

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17 ways to save money

  1. Clear your browsing history. When shopping online – especially for airline tickets – make sure to empty your cache. Online companies follow your history and raise prices based on this information.
  2. Shop as a guest. When buying online, use the Guest option instead of creating an account. New customers usually get lower prices.
  3. Leave items in your online cart. Get everything filled in, with your name, e-mail address etc., but don’t purchase immediately. You’ll often get a follow-up e-mail a day or two later offering a discount code to incentivize you to complete the sale.
  4. Lower the brightness on your TV and computer screen. Reducing the brightness of your TV and/or computer monitors from their default settings can reduce power consumption by up to 40%. 
  5. Carry large bills. Research shows that you’re likely to pay less if you use cash instead of a credit card. That’s because purchases feel more “real” when you see the amount you’re spending. If you carry only $50 bills you’ll be less inclined to break them, which helps avoid impulse buys.
  6. Make lists. You’re also less likely to succumb to impulse buys at the mall or grocery store if you’ve decided ahead of time what you need and plan to buy.
  7. Build your credit. Your credit score determines your rate on loans; nowadays utility and insurance companies use these scores to calculate monthly premiums.
  8. Make large purchases at the end of the month. Buying a couch, car or electronics? All sales reps have to meet monthly quotas. If they’ve had a slow month they may be willing to give you a deep discount in order to make a sale—and reach their quota. 
  9. Paint your roof white. If you live in a warm climate, this quirky idea could save you a bundle on air conditioning bills. Traditional roofs are dark, and dark colors absorb more heat.  Go even further and install solar panels – the upfront cost will be worth it if you plan to live in your house for a long time.
  10. Brew your own coffee. Home brewing cuts your cost to about $0.25 per cup vs. $3 at a pricey coffee shop, saving you hundreds per year (and over $1000 if you have a 2/day habit!) 
  11. Eat less meat. Eating vegetable-centric meals 2-3 times per week will save you some major cash.
  12. Buy generic. Store brands often have the same ingredients as name brands and may even be made by the same companies. Same with prescriptions – ask your doctor if the generic version is an effective option. 
  13. Buy a water filter. Bottled water isn’t just expensive; it’s not necessarily healthier than tap water. The filtration process may result in water that’s actually better for you than spring water!
  14. Exercise daily. Research confirms that working out regularly limits the number of trips you’ll take to the doctor’s office.
  15. Eat out at culinary schools. If you love dining out, investigate culinary schools in your area. You can enjoy delicious meals from up-and-coming chefs at significant savings vs. restaurants.  
  16. Stay hydrated. Many people overeat because they mistake thirst for hunger. Drinking water before a meal will help you to only consume what you need. Result: lower grocery bills!
  17. Ask for discounts. Most companies offer money-saving promotions but may not advertise them. When contacting your cable, gas, phone, or credit card companies, ask if there’s a way to reduce your bills. Sometimes, mentioning that you’re ready to cancel a service or switch providers is all it takes for them to “magically” come up with a better deal.