Healthy relationships lead to better lives

 

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Teddi Dineley Johnson

Unless you’re shipwrecked on a deserted island, you probably enjoy a handful of close relationships. From spouses to children to friends, parents, siblings and significant others, healthy relationships build self-esteem, improve mental and emotional health and help you live a fuller life.

“Relationships are — not surprisingly — enormously important for health, and there are lots of studies on the biological processes that account for the link between relationships and health,” says psychology professor Arthur Aron, PhD, director of the Interpersonal Relationships Laboratory at New York’s Stony Brook University.

The quality of our personal relationships also has an enormous impact on our physical health, as evidenced by a hefty number of research studies.

“We support each other in getting enough exercise, eating right, flossing — all the things that make for better health can be supported or undermined by close relationships,” Aron says.

In the movie “Cast Away,” Tom Hanks’ character — stranded on an uninhabited island — creates a face on a volleyball and talks to the ball, which he names “Wilson,” as if it were a person. Though fictional and funny, the gesture illustrates something very basic about us: Relationships are important — so important, in fact, that our brains are hardwired to form them.

“Evolution has set us up to be very good in relationships and to make them happen,” says Aron, who also teaches an undergraduate course on close relationships. “We have evolved to form relationships and to keep them together to raise children.”

That said, have you ever wondered why some of your relationships are more effective than others? Researchers have learned a lot in the last 30 years about what makes good relationships tick, and it boils down to just a few things. Unfortunately, most folks are only minimally aware of those elements, Aron says, and therefore aren’t doing everything they could be doing to improve their relationships.

 

Mind your mental health

Without question, the mental health of all parties is the most important element of a good relationship. If you suffer from depression, anxiety, insecurity or low self-esteem, seek help from a health professional right away, because it’s not just you, but also your relationship, that will suffer.

You can’t always control the stressors in your life, but for your relationships to be effective, try to keep stress to a minimum.

Also, be understanding when others are going through a tough time. Someone who loses her or his job, for example, might behave negatively for a little while. But things should get better eventually.

Keep the lines open

“We just don’t communicate!” is a common refrain in relationships — too common in fact, because after mental health, effective communication is the second most important ingredient in a healthy relationship.

Communication is important because conflicts are inevitable in relationships, and “most people are poorly prepared to deal with them well,” Aron says.

But there’s plenty of help out there. If you’re planning to wed, take advantage of the preparation courses offered through places of worship or community programs.

If you are already in a relationship, think about registering for a weekend seminar or marital enrichment course, often offered through churches, synagogues and community recreation departments.

And if you think the communication between you and your partner needs some extra help, consider couples counseling or marital therapy.

 

Build a bridge of support

Support from family and friends is an ingredient that repeatedly surfaces in good relationships. You might need someone to take the kids for the night, or help with carpooling. If you have a support system in place, or live near friends and family, don’t be afraid to ask them for a helping hand, a sympathetic ear or advice.

 “All relationships require effort and attention,” Aron says. “Sometimes that effort and attention is automatic, such as with an infant. Beyond what is automatic, for most relationships, we usually need to put attention and effort into them, and it pays off.”

 

Love Quiz: Do You Really Know Your Partner?

Worldwide leaders in research and couples therapy, Drs. John and Julie Gottman have found that one of the most important characteristics of successful relationships is the quality of the friendship between partners.

Do you really know your partner? Take our quiz below to find out. 

https://www.gottman.com/how-well-do-you-know-your-partner/

Dimensions of Wellness: Financial Wellness

Financial wellness is an intricate balance of the mental, spiritual and physical aspects of money. This unique combination is an ideal to strive towards in our dealings with money.

Financial wellness is having an understanding of your financial situation and taking care of it in such a way that you are prepared for financial changes. Maintaining that balance consists of being comfortable with where your money comes from and where it is going.

Take the quiz below to see how close you are to achieving financial health.

Financial Wellness Check-up

  1. Do you have cash in your pocket?               Yes      Kind of      No      You must be kidding
  2. Do you balance your checkbook regularly? Yes      Kind of    No    You must be kidding
  3. Do you know the total amount of debt you have?   Yes   Kind of   No  You must be kidding
  4. Do you feel there is plenty of time in the day? Yes   Kind of   No  You must be kidding
  5. Do you have a retirement account? Yes      Kind of      No      You must be kidding
  6. Do you know how much is in your retirement acct? Yes      Kind of      No      You must be kidding
  7. Do you know where your retirement is invested?     Yes      Kind of      No      You must be kidding
  8. Are you happy with your job?     Yes      Kind of      No      You must be kidding
  9. Do you know what your net worth is?      Yes      Kind of      No      You must be kidding
  10. Do you know what net worth means?      Yes      Kind of      No      You must be kidding

Scoring: For every answer score the following points:

Yes: 1 Kind of: 2 No: 3 You must be kidding: 4 Total Score:__________

Financial Wellness Check-in Results

How did you score?

10-15 – Looking Good – You have a handle on your financial picture. You are on the scales with a fairly steady balance. Sure you sometimes go off and lose your balance but it is not a long road back to normal. Stay the course. And congratulate yourself!

16-22 In Need of Education –  Okay, you have an overview of what is going on in your life. Your financial wellness picture is a bit hazy. But with some education and a bit of persistence you can change the picture and steady the balance. Certainly you still have some things to learn about money, so start learning the additional finer details and then apply them to your financial life.

23-28 Mismanaged – Your time and effort are misguided when it comes to finances, that is if you are putting anytime and effort in at all. You are heading for a disaster of the most explosive kind. Start now putting in the extra time and effort to improve things. An ounce of prevention is worth half the cure.

29-34 Messed Up – Get help immediately! You can not do it on your own. Just think of all that fear and dread that provokes stress around money, that someday could be gone, if you act now! Find your financial balance by establishing a wellness plan by making a concentrated and dedicated effort. It is the way to stability (and sanity!)

35-40 Denial is Bliss – Have a nice day. (If you ever are ready to look at your finances – go slowly, it may be overwhelming to deal with reality.)

Financial Wellness Check-in Action Steps

What do you do with the score?

Read below and find the action steps that match your score. Take action on the financial steps that are not currently doing. Give yourself some time to learn along the way. Then, move up the scale of action steps until you have reached Looking Good. Your finances will be good shape and so will you!

10-16 Looking Good – Yes, you are in good shape. Still, there is always more to learn. It is time to get some objective advice. So investigate the financial professionals in your area. Look for an advisor who is a Certified Financial Planner. This means they are licensed and educated to review your whole financial picture and help you meet your goals. An annual check-in will help you reach peak performance and keep you operating that way.

16-23 In Need of Education – How to get a financial education without going back to school? Look to financial magazines to begin your education. Pick up a book or two to guide you in your understanding of financial matters. There are many out there on the shelves. Pick up one that appeals to you. Then, attend a financial workshop or two. Local business groups or continuing education centers offer them at convenient times and at little or no expense. Be sure to attend and learn, not buy anything. As you are in the learning phase, you need to gather information before taking action.

23-29 Mismanaged – How do you start now putting in the extra time and effort in to your finances? First, set aside time to review what income you have, and how you spend it. This may involve pulling together financial records or starting from scratch tracking the information. Next, pull out your bank statements, credit card statements and retirement and investment accounts. On one sheet of paper, summarize how much you have and where it is. Finally, do this all on an semi-annual basis.

29-34 Messed Up – Where to get the help you need? First, you may ask friends how they do it – if you are comfortable talking to them about money. Second, consider talking to a therapist or other professional about why it is you have resistance to facing up to money and its place in your life. Then, continue moving up the scale above until you have a better understanding of your money.

35-40 Denial is Bliss – If you are willing to put in some work, there is hope for you. First, Pray. I am not kidding. This is a big task and to make it happen, you need the Big Guns. Second, think about your money and how it got that way. Just in an objective sense, no beating yourself up or creating a crisis of past wrongs. I want you to write it down and acknowledge it. Next, spend twenty minutes a day with your finances. Start with simple tasks – cleaning your wallet and counting the money there. Collecting the loose change scattered in your house, car, and pockets and putting it in one place. When you are comfortable with these tasks, move slowly up the scale.

Financial Wellness

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Five Rules to Improve Your Financial Health

By Jean Folger | Updated June 21, 2016

The term “personal finance” refers to how you manage your money and how you plan for your future. All of your financial decisions and activities have an effect on your financial health now and in the future. We are often guided by specific rules of thumb – such as “don’t buy a house that costs more than 2.5 years’ worth of income” or “you should always save at least 10% of your income towards retirement.” While many of these adages are time tested and truly helpful, it’s important to consider what we should be doing – in general – to help improve our financial habits and health. Here, we discuss five broad personal finance rules that can help get you on track to achieving specific financial goals.

  1. Do the Math – Net Worth and Personal Budgets

Money comes in, money goes out. For many people, this is about as deep as their understanding gets when it comes to personal finances. Rather than ignoring your finances and leaving them to chance, a bit of number crunching can help you evaluate your current financial health and determine how to reach your short- and long-term financial goals.

As a starting point, it is important to calculate your net worth – the difference between what you own and what you owe. To calculate your net worth, start by making a list of your assets (what you own) and your liabilities (what you owe). Then subtract the liabilities from the assets to arrive at your net-worth figure. Your net worth represents where you are financially at that moment, and it is normal for the figure to fluctuate over time. Calculating your net worth one time can be helpful, but the real value comes from making this calculation on a regular basis (at least yearly). Tracking your net worth over time allows you to evaluate your progress, highlight your successes and identify areas requiring improvement.

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Equally important is developing a personal budget or spending plan. Created on a monthly or annual basis, a personal budget is an important financial tool because it can help you:

  • Plan for expenses.
  • Reduce or eliminate expenses.
  • Save for future goals.
  • Spend wisely.
  • Plan for emergencies.
  • Prioritize spending and saving.

There are numerous approaches to creating a personal budget, but all involve making projections for income and expenses. The income and expense categories you include in your budget will depend on your situation and can change over time. Common income categories include:

  • alimony
  • bonuses
  • child support
  • disability benefits
  • interest and dividends
  • rents and royalties
  • retirement income
  • salaries/wages

General expense categories include:

  • childcare/eldercare
  • debt payments – car loan, student loan, credit card
  • education – tuition, daycare, books, supplies
  • entertainment and recreation – sports, hobbies, movies, DVDs
  • food – groceries, dining out
  • giving – birthdays, holidays, charitable contributions
  • housing – mortgage or rent, maintenance
  • insurance – health, home/renters, auto, life
  • medical/healthcare – doctors, dentist, prescription medications, other known expenses
  • personal – clothing, hair care, gym, professional dues
  • savings – retirement, education, emergency fund, specific goals (i.e. vacation)
  • special occasions – weddings, anniversaries, graduation
  • transportation – fuel, taxis, subway, tolls, parking
  • utilities – phone, electric, water, gas, cell, Internet

Once you’ve made the appropriate projections, subtract your expenses from your income. If you have money left over, you have a surplus and you can decide how to spend, save or invest the money. If your expenses exceed your income, however, you will have to adjust your budget by increasing your income (adding more hours at work or picking up a second job) or by reducing your expenses.

To really understand where you are financially, and to figure out how to get where you want to be, do the math: Calculate both your net worth and a personal budget on a regular basis. This may seem abundantly obvious to some, but people’s failure to lay out and stick to a detailed budget is the root cause of excessive spending and overwhelming debt.

  1. Recognize and Manage Lifestyle Inflation

Most individuals will spend more money if they have more money to spend. As people advance in their careers and earn higher salaries, there tends to be a corresponding increase in spending, a phenomenon known as lifestyle inflation. Even though you might be able to pay your bills, lifestyle inflation can be damaging in the long run because it limits your ability to build wealth: Every extra rand you spend now means less money later and during retirement (see How to Manage Lifestyle Inflation).

One of the main reasons people allow lifestyle inflation to sabotage their finances is their desire to keep up with the Joneses. It’s not uncommon for people to feel the need to match their friends’ and coworkers’ spending habits. If your peers drive expensive cars, vacation at exclusive resorts and dine at expensive restaurants, you might feel pressured to do the same. What is easy to overlook is that in many cases the Joneses are actually servicing a lot of debt – over a period of decades – to maintain their wealthy appearance. Despite their wealthy “glow” – the boat, the fancy cars, the expensive vacations, the private schools for the kids – the Joneses might be living paycheck to paycheck and not saving a dime for retirement.

As your professional and personal situation evolves over time, some increases in spending are natural. You might need to upgrade your wardrobe to dress appropriately for a new position, or, as your family grows, you might need a house with more bedrooms. And with more responsibilities at work, you might find that it makes sense to hire someone to mow the lawn or clean the house, freeing up time to spend with family and friends and improving your quality of life.

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  1. Recognize Needs vs. Wants – and Spend Mindfully

Unless you have an unlimited amount of money, it’s in your best interest to be mindful of the difference between needs and wants so you can make better spending choices. “Needs” are things you have to have in order to survive: food, shelter, healthcare, transportation, a reasonable amount of clothing (many people include savings as a need, whether that’s a set 10% of their income or whatever they can afford to set aside each month). Conversely, “wants” are things you would like to have, but that you don’t need for survival.

It can be challenging to accurately label expenses as either needs or wants, and for many, the line gets blurred between the two. When this happens, it can be easy to rationalize away an unnecessary or extravagant purchase by calling it a need. A car is a good example. You need a car to get to work and take the kids to school. You want the luxury edition SUV that costs twice as much as a more practical car (and costs you more in gas). You could try and call the SUV a “need” because you do, in fact, need a car, but it’s still a want. Any difference in price between a more economical vehicle and the luxury SUV is money that you didn’t have to spend.

Your needs should get top priority in your personal budget. Only after your needs have been met should you allocate any discretionary income toward wants. And again, if you do have money left over each week or each month after paying for the things you really need, you don’t have to spend it all.

  1. Start Saving Early

It’s often said that it’s never too late to start saving for retirement. That may be true (technically), but the sooner you start, the better off you’ll likely be during your retirement years. This is because of the power of compounding – what Albert Einstein called the “eighth wonder of the world.”

Compounding involves the reinvestment of earnings, and it is most successful over time: The longer earnings are reinvested, the greater the value of the investment, and the larger the earnings will (hypothetically) be.

  1. Build and Maintain an Emergency Fund

An emergency fund is just what the name implies: money that has been set aside for emergency purposes. The fund is intended to help you pay for things that wouldn’t normally be included in your personal budget: unexpected expenses such as car repairs or an emergency trip to the dentist. It can also help you pay your regular expenses if your income is interrupted; for example, if an illness or injury prevents you from working or if you lose your job.

Although the traditional guideline is to save three to six months’ worth of living expenses in an emergency fund, the unfortunate reality is that this amount would fall short of what many people would need to cover a big expense or weather a loss in income. In today’s uncertain economic environment, most people should aim for saving at least six months’ worth of living expenses – more if possible. Putting this as a regular expense item in your personal budget is the best way to ensure that you are saving for emergencies and not spending that money frivolously.

Keep in mind that establishing an emergency backup is an ongoing mission (see Building an Emergency Fund): Odds are, as soon as it is funded you will need it for something. Instead of being dejected about this, be glad that you were financially prepared and start the process of building the fund again.

The Bottom Line

Personal finance rules-of-thumb can be excellent tools for achieving financial success. But It’s important to consider the big picture and build habits that help you make better financial choices, leading to better financial health. Without good overall habits, it will be difficult to obey detailed adages like “never withdraw more than 4% a year to make sure your retirement lasts” or “save 20 times your gross income for a comfortable retirement.”

 

16 Days of Activism at Dankbaar Farm

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A Wellness Day related to the 16 Days of Activism was facilitated by PROCARE on the farm Dankbaar, Ceres. The theme of the day was STOP Abuse against Yourself by altering your thoughts and behaviour  to improve your family’s wellbeing as well as your own. To symbolize the commitment new thoughts and behaviour the attendees made hats from coloured paper which resulted in some interesting creations!

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We wish to thank  Dankbaar Farm and especially the HR Sharon Olivier, and owner Fanie van der Merwe, for the opportunity.

 

 

HIV AIDS

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What is the prevalence of HIV in South Africa?

Sub-Saharan Africa is the region worst-affected by HIV and AIDS.  HIV/AIDS in South Africa is a prominent health concern; South Africa has the highest prevalence of HIV/AIDS compared to any other country in the world with 5,6 million people living with HIV, and 270,000 HIV related deaths recorded in 2011.  (UNAIDS)

Why is the South African HIV/AIDS prevalence so high?

Many factors contribute to the spread of HIV. These include: poverty; inequality and social instability; high levels of sexually transmitted infections; the low status of women; sexual violence; high mobility (particularly migrant labour); limited and uneven access to quality medical care; and a history of poor leadership in the response to the epidemic.

Research shows high levels of knowledge about the means of transmission of HIV and understanding of methods of prevention. However, this does not translate into HIV-preventive behaviour. Behaviour change and social change are long-term processes, and the factors that predispose people to infection – such as poverty and inequality, patriarchy and illiteracy – cannot be addressed in the short term. Vulnerability to, and the impact of, the epidemic are proving to be most catastrophic at community and household level.

How has this affected the everyday lives of South Africans?

The hardship for those infected and their families begins long before people die. Stigma and denial related to suspected infection cause many people to delay or refuse testing; fear and despair often follow diagnosis, due to poor-quality counselling and lack of support; poverty prevents many infected people from maintaining adequate nutrition to help prevent the onset of illness; limited access to clinics, waiting lists for ARV treatment programmes and eligibility criteria for access to ARVs mean that many people become seriously ill before accessing treatment; loss of income and support when a breadwinner or caregiver becomes ill, and the diversion of household resources to provide care exacerbate poverty; the burden upon family members, particularly children and older people caring for terminally ill adults, and the trauma of bereavement and orphanhood compromise the physical and mental well-being of entire households, where 2,100,000 children orphaned due to AIDS in South Africa in 2011. This all happens in a society where the majority of children live in poverty and 25% of the economically active population is unemployed.

Women face a greater risk of HIV infection. On average in South Africa there are three women infected with HIV for every two men who are infected. The difference is greatest in the 15-24 age group, where three young women for every one young man are infected.

However, South Africa has made positive strides in managing the HIV and AIDS epidemic since the end of 2008. The numbers of people on antiretroviral treatment has increased dramatically to   1 900 000 and there were 100 000 fewer Aids-related deaths in 2011 than in 2005.

What are the proposed solutions?

For many years, the burden of care and support has fallen heavily on the shoulders of impoverished rural communities, where sick family members return when they can no longer work or care for themselves. Community-based care has been promoted as the best option since it would be impossible to care properly for hundreds of thousands of people dying from AIDS in public hospitals. The resilience and capacity to care for dying people and provide for those they leave behind in impoverished communities is extremely overstretched. There remains an acute need for social protection and interventions to support the most vulnerable communities and households affected by this epidemic. The challenge we still face is that people are not testing timeously therefore only once they are very ill at quite a late stage of disease progression do they only realise that they are HIV positive. The central focus remains that we continue to mobilise an increased uptake in HIV testing and counseling, behaviour change communication and combination prevention and treatment.

The AIDS Foundation of South Africa pays significant focus to achieve these goals by having supported 92 Community based organizations (CBOs)  countrywide over the last financial year. CBOs are central to our aim to mitigate the effects of HIV and AIDS in the most vulnerable communities within South Africa. Furthermore, the training of community health care workers who conduct household visits and provide HIV & AIDS education, home and community based care and support services to households in distress helps to alleviate the burden of our overwhelmed public health care facilities.

https://www.aids.org.za/hivaids-in-south-africa

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Domestic Violence

Imagine if, for 16 days, there was no rape, no child abuse. The 16 Days of Activism for No Violence Against Women and Children campaign challenges South Africans to declare a truce on violence against women and children – and, ultimately, to make it a permanent one.

For the 16th year, South Africa is taking part in the global 16 Days of Activism for No Violence Against Women and Children campaign, which runs from 25 November (International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women) through to International Human Rights Day on 10 December.

With the theme “Count me in: Together moving a non-violent South Africa forward”, the campaign will be officially launched by President Jacob Zuma in Reiger Park, Ekurhuleni, on 25 November.

While the campaign runs only for 16 days each year, its objectives are reinforced by a year-long programme and a national plan to combat abuse.

South Africa is still home to high levels of violence against its women and children, despite a world-renowned Constitution and a legislative overhaul that safeguards women’s and children’s rights.

The government, business, civil society organisations, faith-based organisations and the media are all participating in the drive to increase awareness of the negative impact of violence and abuse on women and children. Read more:

http://www.southafrica.info/services/rights/16days.htm#.WDwckI9OLnM

 

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WELLNESS DAYS AT DMS Powders

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PROCARE & SANTERNO HEALTH had the privilege of being part of DMS Powders wellness days. Employees had the opportunity to do TB and HIV Screenings as well as General health and Wellness Assessments.

The wellness days were a huge success and we thank everyone involved for their contributions. PROCARE will be running their EMPLOYEE WELLNESS PROGRAMME in future and we are looking forward to working with the splendid team at DMS Powders.

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Stress Management

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Stress Management

How to Reduce, Prevent, and Cope with Stress

In This Article

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You may feel there’s nothing you can do about stress. The bills won’t stop coming, there will never be more hours in the day, and your work and family responsibilities will always be demanding. But you have more control over stress than you might think. Stress management is all about taking charge: of your lifestyle, thoughts, emotions, and the way you deal with problems. No matter how stressful your life seems, there are steps you can take to relieve the pressure and regain control.

What is stress management?

We all respond to stress differently so, there’s no “one size fits all” solution to managing stress. But if you feel like the stress in your life is out of control, it’s time to take action. Stress management can teach you healthier ways to cope with stress, help you reduce its harmful effects, and prevent stress from spiraling out of control again in the future.

No matter how powerless you may feel in the face of stress, you still have control over your lifestyle, thoughts, emotions, and the way you deal with problems. Stress management involves changing the stressful situation when you can, changing your reaction when you can’t, taking care of yourself, and making time for rest and relaxation. The first step is to recognize the true sources of stress in your life.

What are the sources of stress in your life?

Start a stress journal

A stress journal can help you identify the regular stressors in your life and the way you deal with them. Each time you feel stressed, keep track of it in your journal. As you keep a daily log, you will begin to see patterns and common themes. Write down:

  • What caused your stress (make a guess if you’re unsure)
  • How you felt, both physically and emotionally
  • How you acted in response
  • What you did to make yourself feel better

It’s easy to identify sources of stress following a major life event such as changing jobs, moving home, or losing a loved one, but pinpointing the sources of everyday stress can be more complicated. It’s all too easy to overlook your own thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that contribute to your stress levels. Sure, you may know that you’re constantly worried about work deadlines, but maybe it’s your procrastination, rather than the actual job demands, that is causing the stress.

To identify your true sources of stress, look closely at your habits, attitude, and excuses:

  • Do you explain away stress as temporary (“I just have a million things going on right now”) even though you can’t remember the last time you took a breather?
  • Do you define stress as an integral part of your work or home life (“Things are always crazy around here”) or as a part of your personality (“I have a lot of nervous energy, that’s all”)?
  • Do you blame your stress on other people or outside events, or view it as entirely normal and unexceptional?

Until you accept responsibility for the role you play in creating or maintaining it, your stress level will remain outside your control.

Start a Stress Journal

A stress journal can help you identify the regular stressors in your life and the way you deal with them. Each time you feel stressed, keep track of it in your journal. As you keep a daily log, you will begin to see patterns and common themes. Write down:

  • What caused your stress (make a guess if you’re unsure)
  • How you felt, both physically and emotionally
  • How you acted in response
  • What you did to make yourself feel better

How do you currently cope with stress?

Think about the ways you currently manage and cope with stress in your life. Your stress journal can help you identify them. Are your coping strategies healthy or unhealthy, helpful or unproductive? Unfortunately, many people cope with stress in ways that compound the problem.

 

 

Unhealthy ways of coping with stress

These coping strategies may temporarily reduce stress, but they cause more damage in the long run:

  • Using pills or drugs to relax
  • Sleeping too much
  • Procrastinating
  • Filling up every minute of the day to avoid facing problems
  • Taking out your stress on others (lashing out, angry outbursts, physical violence)

Learning healthier ways to manage stress

If your methods of coping with stress aren’t contributing to your greater emotional and physical health, it’s time to find healthier ones. No single method works for everyone or in every situation, so experiment with different techniques and strategies. Focus on what makes you feel calm and in control.

Stress management strategy #1: Get moving

Physical activity plays a key role in reducing and preventing the effects of stress, but you don’t have to be an athlete or spend hours in a gym to experience the benefits. Just about any form of physical activity can help relieve stress and burn away anger, tension, and frustration. Exercise releases endorphins that boost your mood and make you feel good, and it can also serve as a valuable distraction to your daily worries.

While the maximum benefit comes from exercising for 30 minutes or more, you can start small and build up your fitness level gradually. Short, 10-minute bursts of activity that elevate your heart rate and make you break out into a sweat can help to relieve stress and give you more energy and optimism. Even very small activities can add up over the course of a day. The first step is to get yourself up and moving. Here are a few easy ways:

  • Put on some music and dance around
  • Take your dog for a walk
  • Walk or cycle to the grocery store
  • Use the stairs at home or work rather than an elevator
  • Park your car in the farthest spot in the lot and walk the rest of the way
  • Pair up with an exercise partner and encourage each other as you workout
  • Play ping-pong or an activity-based video game with your kids

Managing stress with regular exercise

Once you’re in the habit of being physically active, try to incorporate regular exercise into your daily schedule. Activities that are continuous and rhythmic—and require moving both your arms and your legs—are especially effective at relieving stress. Walking, running, swimming, dancing, cycling, tai chi, and aerobic classes are good choices.

Pick an activity you enjoy, so you’re more likely to stick with it. Instead of continuing to focus on your thoughts while you exercise, make a conscious effort to focus on your body and the physical (and sometimes emotional) sensations you experience as you’re moving. Adding this mindfulness element to your exercise routine will help you break out of the cycle of negative thoughts that often accompanies overwhelming stress. Focus on coordinating your breathing with your movements, for example, or notice how the air or sunlight feels on your skin. Getting out of your head and paying attention to how your body feels is also the surest way to avoid picking up an injury.

When you’ve exercised, you’ll likely find it easier to put other stress management techniques to use, including reaching out to others and engaging socially.

Stress management strategy #2: Engage socially

Reach out and build relationships

  • Reach out to a colleague at work
  • Help someone else by volunteering
  • Have lunch or coffee with a friend
  • Ask a loved one to check in with you regularly
  • Accompany someone to the movies or a concert
  • Call or email an old friend
  • Go for a walk with a workout buddy
  • Schedule a weekly dinner date
  • Meet new people by taking a class or joining a club
  • Confide in a clergy member, teacher, or sports coach

Social engagement is the quickest, most efficient way to rein in stress and avoid overreacting to internal or external events that you perceive as threatening. There is nothing more calming to your nervous system than communicating with another human being who makes you feel safe and understood. This experience of safety—as perceived by your nervous system—results from nonverbal cues that you hear, see and feel.

The inner ear, face, heart, and stomach are wired together in the brain, so socially interacting with another person face-to-face—making eye contact, listening in an attentive way, talking—can quickly calm you down and put the brakes on defensive stress responses like “fight-or-flight.” It can also release hormones that reduce stress, even if you’re unable to alter the stressful situation itself. Of course, it’s not always realistic to have a pal close by to lean on when you feel overwhelmed by stress, but by building and maintaining a network of close friends you can improve your resiliency to life’s stressors. On the flip side, the more lonely and isolated you are, the greater your vulnerability to stress.

Reach out to family and friends and connect regularly in person. The people you talk to don’t have to be able to fix your stress; they just need to be good listeners. Opening up is not a sign of weakness and it won’t make you a burden to others. In fact, most friends will be flattered that you trust them enough to confide in them, and it will only strengthen your bond. And remember, it’s never too late to build new friendships and improve your support network.

Reach out and build relationships

  • Reach out to a colleague at work
  • Help someone else by volunteering
  • Have lunch or coffee with a friend
  • Ask a loved one to check in with you regularly
  • Accompany someone to the movies or a concert
  • Call or email an old friend
  • Go for a walk with a workout buddy
  • Schedule a weekly dinner date
  • Meet new people by taking a class or joining a club
  • Confide in a clergy member, teacher, or sports coach

Stress management strategy #3: Avoid unnecessary stress

While stress is an automatic response from your nervous system, some stressors arise at predictable times—your commute to work, a meeting with your boss, or family gatherings, for example. When handling such predictable stressors, you can either change the situation or change your reaction. When deciding which option to choose in any given scenario, it’s helpful to think of the four A’s: avoid, alter, adapt, or accept.

Avoid the stressor

It’s not healthy to avoid a stressful situation that needs to be addressed, but you may be surprised by the number of stressors in your life that you can eliminate.

  • Learn how to say “no” – Know your limits and stick to them. Whether in your personal or professional life, taking on more than you can handle is a surefire recipe for stress. Distinguish between the “shoulds” and the “musts” and, when possible, say “no” to taking on too much.
  • Avoid people who stress you out – If someone consistently causes stress in your life, limit the amount of time you spend with that person, or end the relationship.
  • Take control of your environment – If the evening news makes you anxious, turn off the TV. If traffic makes you tense, take a longer but less-traveled route. If going to the market is an unpleasant chore, do your grocery shopping online.

 

Stress management strategy #4: Alter the situation

If you can’t avoid a stressful situation, try to alter it. Often, this involves changing the way you communicate and operate in your daily life.

  • Express your feelings instead of bottling them up. If something or someone is bothering you, be more assertive and communicate your concerns in an open and respectful way. If you’ve got an exam to study for and your chatty roommate just got home, say up front that you only have five minutes to talk. If you don’t voice your feelings, resentment will build and the stress will increase.
  • Be willing to compromise. When you ask someone to change their behavior, be willing to do the same. If you both are willing to bend at least a little, you’ll have a good chance of finding a happy middle ground.
  • Manage your time better. Poor time management can cause a lot of stress. But if you plan ahead and make sure you don’t overextend yourself, you’ll find it easier to stay calm and focused.

Stress management strategy #5: Adapt to the stressor

How you think can have a profound effect on your stress levels. Each time you think a negative thought about yourself, your body reacts as if it were in the throes of a tension-filled situation. Regain your sense of control by changing your expectations and attitude to stressful situations.

  • Reframe problems. Try to view stressful situations from a more positive perspective. Rather than fuming about a traffic jam, look at it as an opportunity to pause and regroup, listen to your favorite radio station, or enjoy some alone time.
  • Look at the big picture. Take perspective of the stressful situation. Ask yourself how important it will be in the long run. Will it matter in a month? A year? Is it really worth getting upset over? If the answer is no, focus your time and energy elsewhere.
  • Adjust your standards. Perfectionism is a major source of avoidable stress. Stop setting yourself up for failure by demanding perfection. Set reasonable standards for yourself and others, and learn to be okay with “good enough.”

Stress management strategy #6: Accept the things you can’t change

Many sources of stress are unavoidable. You can’t prevent or change stressors, such as the death of a loved one, a serious illness, or a national recession. In such cases, the best way to cope with stress is to accept things as they are. Acceptance may be difficult, but in the long run, it’s easier than railing against a situation you can’t change.

  • Don’t try to control the uncontrollable. Many things in life are beyond our control—particularly the behavior of other people. Rather than stressing out over them, focus on the things you can control such as the way you choose to react to problems.
  • Look for the upside. When facing major challenges, try to look at them as opportunities for personal growth. If your own poor choices contributed to a stressful situation, reflect on them and learn from your mistakes.
  • Learn to forgive. Accept the fact that we live in an imperfect world and that people make mistakes. Let go of anger and resentments. Free yourself from negative energy by forgiving and moving on.

Stress management strategy #7: Make time for fun and relaxation

Beyond a take-charge approach and a positive attitude, you can reduce stress in your life by nurturing yourself. If you regularly make time for fun and relaxation, you’ll be in a better place to handle life’s stressors.

Develop a “stress relief toolbox”

Come up with a list of healthy ways to relax and recharge. Try to implement one or more of these ideas each day, even if you’re feeling good.

  • Go for a walk
  • Spend time in nature
  • Call a good friend
  • Play a competitive game of tennis or racquetball
  • Write in your journal
  • Take a long bath
  • Light scented candles
  • Savor a warm cup of coffee or tea
  • Play with a pet
  • Work in your garden
  • Get a massage
  • Curl up with a good book
  • Listen to music
  • Watch a comedy

Don’t get so caught up in the hustle and bustle of life that you forget to take care of your own needs. Nurturing yourself is a necessity, not a luxury.

  • Set aside relaxation time. Include rest and relaxation in your daily schedule. Don’t allow other obligations to encroach. This is your time to take a break from all responsibilities and recharge your batteries.
  • Do something you enjoy every day. Make time for leisure activities that bring you joy, whether it be stargazing, playing the piano, or working on your bike.
  • Keep your sense of humor. This includes the ability to laugh at yourself. The act of laughing helps your body fight stress in a number of ways.

 

 

Stress management strategy #8: Adopt a healthy lifestyle

In addition to regular exercise, there are other healthy lifestyle choices that can increase your resistance to stress.

  • Eat a healthy diet. Well-nourished bodies are better prepared to cope with stress, so be mindful of what you eat. Start your day right with breakfast, and keep your energy up and your mind clear with balanced, nutritious meals throughout the day.
  • Reduce caffeine and sugar. The temporary “highs” caffeine and sugar provide often end in with a crash in mood and energy. By reducing the amount of coffee, soft drinks, chocolate, and sugar snacks in your diet, you’ll feel more relaxed and you’ll sleep better.
  • Avoid alcohol, cigarettes, and drugs. Self-medicating with alcohol or drugs may provide an easy escape from stress, but the relief is only temporary. Don’t avoid or mask the issue at hand; deal with problems head on and with a clear mind.
  • Get enough sleep. Adequate sleep fuels your mind, as well as your body. Feeling tired will increase your stress because it may cause you to think irrationally.

Source: http://www.helpguide.org/articles/stress/stress-management.htm