Stress Management Tools

Stressed woman talking to female doctor

Is Self-Care Being Selfish?

A friend brought up her health during lunch the other day. Pam recently went to see her doctor and mentioned that she had put this visit off for some time. You see, she was too busy working or doing any number of things that would stop her from self-care.

Stressed woman talking to female doctorPam received her test results back and said luckily nothing much had changed. And she emphasized the word “luckily.” After breathing a sigh of relief, Pam asked, “was everything and everybody really more important than my own self-care? Is self-care being selfish?”

The Demands of Life are Increasing:

Many people have become stretched thin with increasing responsibilities, such as family caregivers and job requirements. According to a study from the National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP, 38% of caregivers report high emotional stress from the demands of caregiving.

The level of job stress continues to rise as well. Many research studies have been done about the connection with stress and illness over the past two decades. Many people experience early warning signs of  job stress that are sometimes dismissed. The long-term effects of stress take a considerable time to develop but may result in chronic illnesses, such as cardiovascular disease.

Does something bad have to happen before we listen to our bodies?

Ignoring your health can become a matter of life or death. Denial can blind us, shifting our perception from feeling vulnerable to invincible. Denial can be helpful in some situations. But it can also block us from taking care of ourselves when there is an imbalance in self-care.

Have we become a population of superhero figures, crusading through the streets taking care of everyone except ourselves? When did the line blur between self-care versus taking care of others?

Eventually, a life-changing moment can happen as your body, mind, or soul breaks down without a self-care plan. This shift can happen suddenly, or at least just seem that way. Most likely there were many signs along the way, such as back pain, insomnia, headaches, or a feeling of disconnection from everything around you. Ignoring aches, pains, fatigue and other symptoms is an option, but can be a dangerous choice.

How to make a habit out of self-care

Invest in yourself.

You are important and worthy of all the love you give to others. Reflect on what stops you from taking time for yourself. Are you making excuses or why you don’t give back to yourself? Many people state they may not have the time or money for themselves. While there can be truth to that, it is really worth examining your resources in more detail.

Where are you borrowing your health resources from? It can be just like trying to remove money from an empty bank account. Nurture your body, even if you are beginning with 10 minutes. Health choices that are made today will definitely reflect in the future.

Prioritize what you really want.

We honestly can become numb to what we really want out of life. Our days can consist of to-do lists, and a once vibrant life can turn robotic. We choose to plow through task after task for the sake of getting things done. The joy of crossing one more thing off your list turns into an insatiable drive to do more rather than be more. Clear direction and priorities can really help reduce stress.

Plan, plan, plan.

One of the biggest pitfalls in self-care is not scheduling “me time.” Planning is vital for creating healthy habits. Open your calendar and count how many times you have blocked off for yourself. A warning sign for lack of self-care is if no spots are marked off for you. Begin to look at breaks as opportunities to stretch or listen to a relaxation app on your phone. You can then be able to introduce longer periods of time to nurture yourself.

Tackle stress.

Develop calming techniques that you can use each day. Deep breathing and meditation can be fit into your day in short periods of time. Keep essential oils like lavender in your desk to add to your self-care plan. Reach out for support if your stress seems too overwhelming.

Struggling With Making Time For Yourself?

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new years resolution

How to Be Wildly Successful with New Year’s Resolutions

Coffee cup on napkin with words A Goal Without a Plan is Just a WishSo, it’s time to make those New Year’s resolutions for 2021. Roughly 41% of people make New Year’s resolutions already. Unfortunately, only about 9% of those folks will have achieved them by year’s end. What is the secret in being wildly successful in achieving your goals this year?

Cause for New Year’s Resolution Problems

One of the biggest causes for these failures is the fact that folks make such huge goals that are virtually impossible to achieve. This is can because they are disappointed over failing to change their habits in the prior year, so people plan to kick butt in the upcoming year to make up for those shortcomings.

However, what people fail to anticipate is that it will take a huge effort to achieve those big goals. The stressful holiday season just ended and you are now busier than ever. Your reserves may be low, physically, mentally and spiritually. One way to combat these high rates of failure is to break those New Year’s resolutions into smaller goals that can be achieved along the way.

The Next Step

Breaking down large New Year’s resolutions into smaller goals will make you more likely to achieve these resolutions in the long term. This is because a smaller goal will be faster and easier to achieve. It will take less effort and less time to achieve this goal, thus making it more likely you’ll achieve this goal.

Once you achieve this goal, you’ll be more encouraged to stick on your path to achieving your goals. This “mini-success” will propel you with momentum to keep going in achieving your long-term resolutions.

Why Smaller Goals Work

Your smaller goals won’t require as much strain and commitment from you, helping you to consider the work and life commitments that kept you from achieving your goals in the prior year. Again, making it more likely you’ll achieve these smaller goals.

For example, say you want to lose 30 pounds in the upcoming year. You might want to lose that by the time beach season comes rolling around in late May or early June. The thing is, if you want to lose the 30 pounds by early summer pace yourself and be realistic about your goals. Add support from groups or friends that have the same goal. Accountability to others makes a goal much easier to achieve.

Shift Your Thinking

Take mindset of just small goals each week. Create habits to commit to each day to create greater accomplishments. Plus, it would also commit you to keep going during even your most stressful times. All of this enables you to get where you want to go with let stress and more success.


By setting smaller goals as part of your New Year’s resolutions, you are more likely to stick with what is necessary to achieve them and have the momentum and strength to achieve them.

Share with me below how you are being wildly successful with your New Year’s resolutions.

Setting Priorities – Where’s the fun on your list?

We all lead busy lives these days. There are endless projects to complete and to do lists that need to be prioritized if you are to be successful at accomplishing your goals and achieving your dreams.

Words:  setting priorities includes having fun

It’s easy to prioritize your to-do list. You should have a good handle on what needs to be done, and when in order to complete projects on time. But let me ask you this….

When you are setting your priorities, where does having fun with family and friends fit onto the list?

When you’re struggling to determine what’s important to you, it’s hard to make decisions. What will you do next? Where will you go for the evening? Who will you choose to pass the time with?

Feeling torn between two or more people, places, and things is common if you haven’t yet identified your priorities. After all, when you consider everything and everyone in your life as all-equal in terms of their “level” of importance, it’s going to be tough to choose what to do next.

Setting your life priorities is a way of identifying what’s most important to you. Once you determine your priorities, you’ll be pleased with the ease of making decisions and the serenity that comes with knowing you did the right thing.

Establishing priorities also gives you a clearer focus on how to allot your time. If you allot the bulk of your time to doing what’s most important with the most important people in your life, you’ll feel more fulfilled and satisfied with your life experiences.

It’s easy to get lost in the never-ending world of work these days. Always being connected, and having to be “on” can cause stress for even the hardiest of souls. Setting priorities for your life and work can help to ensure that you create a balance between the two. Knowing that you are making time to relax and reconnect with your partner, family, and friends can help to lessen any job related stress you are dealing with.

Here are a few ways to ensure you have time for family, friends, and fun in your schedule”

Leave your work at the office. This can be hard when you’re self-employed, but it’s the first step in being able to make time for others a priority in your life.

Make time for yourself. Realize that you’re important and valuable. Taking care of your happiness (and sanity) is an essential part of creating a balanced life. It’s hard to relax with others if you haven’t given yourself any time to recharge first.

Make time for your partner. There are many ways you can take the stress out of your relationship. When we get too busy often our relationships are the first thing that suffers. Putting your partner high on your list of priorities not only gives you the space to relax and have fun with a loved one, it also lets them know how important they are to you.

Take time to socialize with friends. Hanging out with friends allows you to unwind and have a few laughs. Make it a point to meet up with friends at least once each month. Go out to dinner or entertain in your home.

Setting your priorities now will help you limit or even remove the less-important elements of your life and enable you to focus more fully on what means the most to you.

You can live less a less stressful life by setting priorities. Knowing who and what is important to you and devoting your time to those things at the top of your list will ensure you experience an enriched and fulfilled life. Just don’t forget to include the fun!

Woman's hands making a heart around sunset at beach

Creating a Personal Self-Care Plan to Reduce Stress

It’s not selfish to love yourself, take care of yourself, and to make your happiness a priority. It’s necessary. ~ Unknown

Self-care is one of the most important pieces of your stress-relief plan, and yet, it can also be one of the most misunderstood. Taking care of yourself is so much more than just taking care of your physical needs. It’s also about taking care of your soul and your inner self. And in order to get the most out of your self-care, you need a plan.

A good self-care plan should include pieces that not only take care of your physical needs, but your mental, spiritual and emotional needs as well.

Here are 10 things to consider when putting together a self-care plan that also reduces stress.

Self-Care For Your Spiritual Needs

1. Book time alone for yourself. Make sure you make time for you. You have to be alone once in a while to re-connect with yourself. You can use this time to write in a journal, pray, or meditate.

2. Make time for meditation and prayer. It is important to have a connection to something or someone higher than yourself. Prayer puts things into perspective and provides balance.

3. Use a journal for self-reflection. Self-reflection is important because it allows you to take a deeper look into yourself. Focus on the things that are positive for a good sense of well-being.

Self-Care For Your Body

4. Pay attention to what you eat. Incorporate as many raw foods as possible, such as fruits and vegetables. They contain the essential nutrients needed to function at your best, both physically and mentally. Try to have a diet that consists of at least 60% raw foods, if not more.

5. Use supplements to enhance your nutritional needs. If you need more than what your diet is providing, use all natural supplements to make sure you get what you need. Many essential oils work as supplements and also provide extra health benefits.

6. Get plenty of exercise. Exercising just a few days a week can make a huge difference in how you feel about yourself, both mentally and physically. You’re doing something healthy with your body and you’re also releasing endorphins that are known to make you feel happy!

7. Get enough sleep. Make sure you get enough sleep at night. Sleep deprivation can make you nervous, cranky, prevent you from thinking clearly, and contribute added stress to your body and mind.

Self-Care For Your Mind

8. Make sure you exercise your brain. You have to constantly stimulate your brain. Do this by working puzzles or playing computer games that involve some sort of strategy. Doing this will keep you sharp and ready for anything.

Self-Care For The Rest of You

9. Learn to respect yourself. One of the main pieces of self-care that people tend to forget about is learning to love and respect yourself. If you don’t have self-respect, it’s hard to find the motivation to care about anything else. Respect and love yourself because of who you are on the inside, not just because of the outside pieces others see.

10. Develop relationships that meet your social needs. Personal relationships are very important; after all, we all need social interaction.  Enjoy a regular night out with friends far away from work.

Finally, get yourself organized! It’s much easier to ensure you have time to meet your self-care needs if you are organized and uncluttered in the rest of your life.

Your self-care plan should remind you of your goals and aspirations, and help you take steps to accomplish them. Some pieces of your plan will be easier to implement than others, but with consistent practice and a well-thought-out plan, you will be a master of self-care in no time.

Remember — You need to take care of yourself before you can take care of anyone else. Using these tips to create your self-care plan will provide you with the stress relief, the attitude, and the energy you need to be successful and enjoy life to its fullest!

Red stop sign in country field

Let Go of Resentment, Let Go of Stress

“Holding on to anger, resentment and hurt only gives you tense muscles, a headache and a sore jaw from clenching your teeth. Forgiveness gives you back the laughter and the lightness in your life.” – Joan Lunden

One of the best things you can do for yourself when it comes to letting go of stress is to let go of old resentments. Nothing good ever came from holding a grudge or letting the resentment build up inside you.

Resentment is like a broken record, where your mind plays out the same scenario repeatedly. Each time you hit the replay button you also replay the anger and other feelings associated with the incident. The more you do this, the deeper the bitterness, resentment and pain wedge into your mind and body.

Reliving anger also evokes the stress response in our bodies: racing heart, spike in your blood pressure, shallow breathing, and even muscular tension. And the worst part is, by holding on to all this anger, resentment, and stress the only person you are hurting is yourself. Quite often, the person you are upset with has already either forgotten or moved on from the incident that has you so upset.

Fortunately, there are methods you can use to work on letting go of resentment and the stress that goes along with it.

Hit the “stop” button.

Instead of continually hitting the replay button in your mind, hit the stop button instead. Living in the past causes stress in its own right because you can’t do anything to change the situation. Recognizing this helps you to move on and let go of the anger and resentment, and the stress that those negative emotions carry with them.

Accept responsibility for your thoughts and actions.

In order to move on, it’s important that you accept responsibility for your own part in the incident, and also for your own thoughts and feelings now. When you are feeling resentful, it’s easy to get stuck in the victim mentality. If it fuels a sense of righteousness at the same time, it’s also hard to let go and admit that maybe you played a part in what happened as well.

Using a journal to record your thoughts can help with this. Putting your thoughts and emotions down on paper is a great way to let them go.

Practice forgiveness.

As tempting as it might be to hold on to past hurts, forgiving others makes it much easier for you to let go of resentment and stress. Forgiveness is more for you than it is for the other person. It doesn’t mean you’ve forgotten the hurt, it means you have made a conscious decision to let it go and move on with your life.

As you learn to let go of resentment, you will find yourself living more in the present moment. It’s very freeing to not have those old hurts taking up space in your head and causing you stress.  It may not happen overnight, but as you practice letting go you will find that it does get easier.

You are the only one who can change your thoughts and decide when the right time is to stop the continuous loop in playing in your head. Use these tips to move through the process from feeling resentment to practicing forgiveness, and you will also find that it’s easy to let go of the negative emotions and the stress caused by them.

Origami on beach that says work, life, balance

Work-Life Balance and Exercise

work life balance, exercise, motivation, self careBy Grahak Cunningham

We have all finished a tough day at work and then come home from a run or the gym and felt the benefits, both physical and mental. Sweating out the problems of the day, we can feel pleased with ourselves and leave the worries and problems of everyday life behind. Something about it invokes a clarity in our mind and hearts.

So what is the connection between exercise and stress management? Firstly let us look at situations where things just aren’t happening.

Mental stress causes real problems when we are attempting something. Everybody on earth has experienced the stream of endless and meaningless thoughts that crop up in the mind, not just people who exercise regularly. Think back to a time when you have been lying in bed unable to sleep. Never-ending banter and thoughts make you agitated and restless. As a result you toss and turn and cannot rest. The mind will do this all the time unless you learn to control it.

Any doubts or negativities will directly affect your mood and performance whether it is at work or in a fitness situation. I found it happened when training for an ultra-marathon: getting myself depressed about another run or the jog meant I would I lose all enthusiasm.

For example I went for a run the other day and just couldn’t get in the zone. There was no flow. I got every single traffic light on the way to the bush trails, everything ached and I wanted to walk. My mind kept telling me how torturous this particular run was and the best thing about it was finishing. It happens to us all.

When we hit the wall exercising, our bodies have reached tipping point and our minds will chime in with it’s It two cents worth. It’s funny, though, most of us will keep going. It would be much simpler to quit, easier to catch a bus home and sit on the couch, but we don’t.

Something inside us won’t give up and we keep moving forward trying to reach the goal. Stress management techniques involve touching on this something and help to maintain positivity, health and general well-being despite being in what could be considered a ‘stressful’ situation. During a run my heart rate is elevated, I am sweating and tired…just like a tough day at work.

Combining Exercise with Relaxation Techniques

If you have never tried meditation or stress management techniques formally it is probably not that foreign to you. Everyone has meditated sometime or another. Being under a canopy of stars, the simple smile of a child, the vastness of an ocean, the power of a mountain, they stir something inside us and make us feel uplifted. It is the same when exercising.

During strenuous physical activity it’s certainly possible to maintain clarity and peace. Nature helps carry you. Your mind and body feel purified. Fitness regimes push us to take that extra step, to move forward despite obstacles, to transcend ourselves, to make progress. The further or harder you go, the deeper you have to dig. Exercise is a simple thing. We are forced to be focused and positive. If we don’t it’s very noticeable and you have a tough run, just like I did.

It makes sense to combine meditation and sport on a more formal level. Many great sportsmen talk about moments of absolute conviction before a major victory or event. They feel at peace with the race, game, or task ahead. Nothing is forced and as a result, victory or achievement just flows.

Watch any professional tennis star about to receive a serve. They are deep in concentration. Nine-time Olympic gold medalist Carl Lewis meditated before his big races. “I would just go quiet and try to listen for the farthest sound away…just having my peace, where it all stops and you’re just aware of where you need to be.” He once commented. “Every record I set, I knew it was a record because it was the easiest race I ran.”

To do well in sport (or anything for that matter) you need focus, clarity, and concentration; skills that can be learnt through formal practice. The repetitive movement and regular breathing in running for example helps induce a calm and reflective mind, with it comes a positive power. I have been 1000 miles into an ultra and sometimes I felt like I had the strength of ten men coursing through my body.

A Relaxation Exercise

  • Do this exercise sitting upright in a chair
  • It is advisable to practice with your eyes open so you can use it while at work or excercising
  • Chose a quality like peace
  • Breathe in this quality into the mind and body, relaxing all your muscles
  • Breathe out the opposite, in this case anything that takes away your peace such as stress, restlessness and intruding thoughts
  • Try the same thing while exercising and try other positive qualities such as power, joy, or strength

grahak cuninhaamGrahak Cunningham is based between Australia and New York and is a motivational speaker and business speaker and four time finisher and 2012 champion of the Self-Transcendence 3100 mile race.

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