#76 Keep A Stress Diary

Sharing 365 life lessons, tips, or hacks; the things that make life easier, happier, and more productive. I hope you’ll follow along and find them helpful too.

#76

Keep a Stress Diary

I’ve spoken several times about the deleterious effects of stress and offered numerous tools for managing stress yet I’ve yet to comment about recognizing stress and tracking it as a coping mechanism. A stress diary is the perfect way to do this.

Essentially, it is a record of when you feel stress, what was the triggering event, the intensity of the stress response, and how it manifested. Lastly, identify how you attempted to manage it and whether or not it helped. By tracking each of these elements, you may discover a pattern that enables you to shift or make a change that eliminates the stress.

When

Is there a particular time of day, or a week of the month, or a time of year that stress is magnified?.

What

What triggered your stress? Was it a person? A task? A thought? A sound? Go deep here… what about that person? What in particular about that task? Exactly what was the thought? Etc.

Intensity

Rate your stress response on a scale between 1 & 10 – 10 being pure panic. Here again, we’re seeking to identify those stressors that are manageable and those that need attention or adaptation.

Where

Where does stress appear in your body? Do you perspire? Rapid heart rate? Shallow breathing? Back or shoulder pain? Headache? Do you have a nervous twitch? Do you cry, yell, shut down?

Management

What did you do? Here, we’re trying to notice what helps and what doesn’t. Often, when we’re stressed, we’re not paying attention to how we worked it out and yet this is truly helpful information that we can use over. Keep track of the techniques that you used. Did you take a walk? Meditate? Breathe? Journal?

Diary

A stress diary can be formal or not so much. It can be a simple notebook, a bullet journal, or an excel spreadsheet depicting the key elements discussed here.

Keep the diary for 30 days during a typical period of your life and then analyze it for patterns. You’ll be amazed by what you discover when you…

Keep a stress diary.

I love hearing your thoughts and ideas. Please share in the comments below.

#105 Stop Complaining

Sharing 365 life lessons, tips, or hacks; the things that make life easier, happier, and more productive. I hope you’ll follow along and find them helpful too.

#105

Stop Complaining

I read that complaining was like emotional farting – a description that resonated with me and it turns out – that when we complain, it’s as if we are in a closed elevator – essentially impacting everyone in our vicinity with the negativity of our comments. Yes, complaining is contagious. When you are complaining, you are a black cloud of dust settling in, over, and around everything within earshot.

Second Nature

The adage “what we focus on … grows” and it’s indicated in physical science by looking at the way our brain sends electrical charges through our brain – eventually shortening the distance the charge travels and making it easier for the brain to think the way it is thinking. In this example, “grows” refers to the ease with which thoughts are triggered. When we complain a lot, complaining becomes second nature.

Based on this logic, the reverse would also be true. If we compliment – or notice the positive – over and over, they are the elements that become a natural part of our thought process.

Stress

Negativity begets stress… stress is hazardous to your overall health. When we are surrounded by complaining, stress levels increase. When we are complaining, stress is elevated. In both cases, the overarching effect on our system is negative which, in many cases – become another focus of our complaint.

Easy Street

Complaining is easy. We are hardwired to look for what’s wrong in life. It’s a mechanism that supports our survival and some complaining – is healthy. The truth is that some aspects of life feel negative and expressing frustration effectively is a necessity for good mental health. Constructively expressing the emotions we feel is more difficult than it appears.

Gratitude

The antidote to complaints is to recognize the good in each experience. Expressing gratitude for even the most difficult of scenarios is at the heart of healthy functioning. It is akin to finding the silver lining in every storm cloud and describing IT – instead of the horror of the storm. Noticing the good and allowing it to take center stage instead of complaining about the element that wasn’t perfect… can be where the focus goes. And ass it goes… “what we focus on… grows” so…

Stop Complaining.

I love hearing your thoughts and ideas. Please share in the comments below.

#116 Give Someone a Back Rub

Sharing 365 life lessons, tips, or hacks; the things that make life easier, happier, and more productive. I hope you’ll follow along and find them helpful too.

#116

Give someone a back rub

Remember that saying “it’s better to give than to receive”? While most people I know enjoy receiving a back rub, it’s also quite nice to earnestly give one.

Aside from foreplay

Back in the day – before ‘hookups’ were a truly a casual thing, this is the ‘intimate gesture’ that often served as a ‘hint’ that more touching might be welcomed – at least in my experience – although the initiation of sex is NOT what this suggestion is really about.

Intimacy

When we gently and slowly massage the bare skin of another human that we feel connected to, it can be a very intimate experience. This exercise is encouraged as a way to build physical intimacy with someone without the expectation or culmination of sexual activity (although if you are moved… by all means).

How To

When I make this suggestion in couples therapy, I will sometimes hear resistance by an individuals declaration that they have weak hands and I send them directly to the internet to learn how to give a back rub. It turns out that strong hands are not a requirement for a relaxing, stress reducing, or even a seductive back rub. They may be if you are seeking sore muscle treatment in which case, see a trained massage therapist. Indeed, a good back rub is more about the caress of the skin, slight pressure moving in a particular direction, and the intention of the touch. Most anyone can give a good back rub with a bit of practice.

Benefits

At first glance, one might think that the receiver is the only one who tends to benefit from a back rub but for the giver – there’s opportunity as well. Making a connection with someone you care about may be the most obvious. Making the time for your friend or partner let’s them know you put them first from time to time and that gesture reinforces the relationship you are also a part of. Initiating a selfless gesture of providing pleasure to someone you care for keeps you grounded and focused beyond only your needs, encouraging a Eudamonic sense of well-being. The act of physically touching another person with compassion and gentleness can be physically (not sexual) pleasurable for you as well. Indeed, there’s hardly a downside when you make the effort to …

Give someone a back rub.

I love hearing your thoughts and ideas. Please share in the comments below.

#171 Go Camping (or Glamping)

Sharing 365 life lessons, tips, or hacks; the things that make life easier, happier, and more productive. I hope you’ll follow along and find them helpful too.

#171

Go camping (or Glamping)

I didn’t exactly grow up camping the way so many people have but it didn’t take long for me to fall in love with getting away and sleeping outdoors, once I did.  There’s just something very natural about sleeping outdoors. Perhaps it calls to our ancestral memories when outdoor living was the only option. When we can spend time outdoors (or with the essence of being outside) without the frustration of insects, bad weather, or discomfort – it’s a wonderful experience that resonates deeply for most of us.

Options

Camping accommodations are about as diverse as there are places to camp. When you’re young and broke, tent camping is a great place to start. Small, easy to set up tents are inexpensive as are tent camping sites – especially at National Parks. There are pop-up campers, hard shell campers, fifth-wheel traveling homes, cottages, cabins, yurts, and various contraptions that have been turned into camping rentals (i.e., treehouses, cabooses, etc.). Likewise, prices run from just a few dollars a night to potentially hundreds if you’re Glamping in an elaborate tree house with all of the comfort amenities.

Comfort

Glamping is a relatively new twist to the idea of camping – taking all of the reasons people don’t camp – and erasing them. Glamping is perhaps the very best way to experience a change of scenery away from home while embracing a bit of the best camping elements. Glamping give you a chance to do all of the things that are great about camping; cooking on an open fire, eating outside, stepping out of your sleeping area and taking a hike, embracing copious amounts of fresh air, etc. By definition, Glamping is where campling and modern comforts (bed & flushing toilets) – collide.

Rental

The idea of Glamping has become so popular that AirBnB lists dozens of owners who are now making money by offering ‘accommodations’ that take camping to a whole new level. RV’s – Tents with beds, and treehouses are only a few of the offerings available now on these online overnight reservation services. Imagine the owner of a farm in western New York who puts up a large tent out on the edge of his tree line, lays in a throw rug, a queen sized mattress with high end linens, a few high powered battery operated lamps, lots of throw pillows, prepares a fire ready to light, and then leaves a tray with s’more fixings for you to enjoy at some point in the evening. Oh… and don’t forget the chemical toilet that’s available so you won’t have to succumb to any ‘out house’ experiences. That farmer… smart guy!

Certainly, throwing down a sleeping bag next to a babbling brook after sundown and watching the raccoons try to steal the bag of hot dog buns you left on the picnic table while you roast marshmallows over a fire you made by collecting scraps of wood across the forest floor… there is a beauty to that simplicity as well.

Perfect timing.

It’s that time of year in the Northern hemisphere where camping is prime… warm days and cool nights. Leaves will be changing colors and there will be a crispness to the air that is attractive no matter where you stay. It’s a time of year when the mountains call. There’s so many advantages to getting away from the daily stressors of your life and communing with nature – even if you do it in comfort! Your stress level will reduce, your exposure to Vitamin D will rise, your connection to family and/or friends will strengthen and your opportunity to ‘get grounded’ improves dramatically when you…

Go camping (or Glamping).

I love hearing your thoughts and ideas. Please share in the comments below

#210 Sit by a Waterfall

Sharing 365 life lessons, tips, or hacks; the things that make life easier, happier, and more productive. I hope you’ll follow along and find them helpful too.

#210

Sit by a waterfall

Much of the USA is draped in sweltering heat this time of year and other than air conditioning, only a few options for relief exist. One of them is any location in close proximity to a waterfall. Often, there are shade trees to soften the intensity of the sun and as the water moves over rock and falls, it stirs the air and simultaneously cools.

Moving Air

Even if you live in a major metropolitan region, there are water features available in the form of fountains that serve much the same function as a natural waterfall; water – colder than air temperature – moving the air and cooling it. There may be less natural shade in that environment but it’s a close second. In the event that you live a more suburban life, there is a good chance that a waterfall exists within a drivable distance. A basic Google search for waterfalls near Philadelphia returned an article listing 11 that were an easy drive away. Pack a picnic, put the kids in the car, and escape the heat with a little hike leading up to a cool lunch location.

Liquid Music

The sound of falling water is a known soother. Rain, creeks, and waterfalls are options on a variety of white noise machines advertised to calm our nerves and induce relaxation. It acts as a buffer to city noise or the chatter in our brain. It connects us to nature in the most elementary way.

De-Stress

Eliminating the stress and misery that comes with bracing the summer heat will certainly improve one’s disposition and overall sense of well-being. Getting outdoors and into air that moves – a little at least – compounds the benefit. Adding the element of water is akin to icing the best cake. It improves stress reduction techniques that are proven to increase happiness.

Escape the heat – reduce the stress – and make your way to the nearest location that allows you to…

Sit by a Waterfall

I love hearing your thoughts and ideas. Please share in the comments below.

#282 of 365 Ways to live Easier, Happier, & More Productive

Sharing a daily life lesson, tip, or hack; the things that make life easier, happier, and more productive. I hope you’ll follow along and find them helpful too.

#282

Read a ‘beach’ book

Sometimes we just need a break and that’s why we go to the beach and often, when we get there, we read a random book – something easy and relaxing. However, not all of us can get to a beach so my recommendation then, is to let yourself read a ‘beach book’. You know – it’s one of those – sometimes known as ‘junk novels’ – a book without critic acclaim, perhaps not even a solid plot.  It’s one of those easy to read, easy to absorb, and easy to finish books.

Romance Novels are the obvious choice for a lady’s poolside read and the variety exists along the continuum of Nicholas Sparks and Danielle Steele (with solid plots) or to the other end with a good ole fashioned Harlequin Romance type of read that shakes out the storyline in the first forty pages and becomes predictable half way through. Not that there isn’t a place for reading that style of book – they’re light and fluffy… perfect if you want a quick, easy solution for fun-in-the sun (sans electronic) entertainment.

I’ve never known a man to be interested in romance novels – my thoughts about ‘beach books’ for men are similar but oriented more toward spies and zombies. My intent, of course is not to be sexist here as I completely acknowledge that those genres are not gender biased by any means and that there is a man (or many), that I simply have yet to meet that truly gets into a Nora Roberts novel.

So, the season is upon us now with this Memorial Day post and many of us are simply ready for some physical and mental R&R… put down the academic journals, the textbooks, the self-help bibles, and the heavy duty winter reading books that make you think about the world in a new way and pick up something less intense, less thought provoking, and less educational for your outdoor relaxation time…

Read a ‘beach book’.

I love hearing your thoughts and ideas. Please share in the comments below.