Why Stress Management Strategies Work

stress management


Stress is a universally experienced phenomenon. Although there are many causes, the methods of managing it are generally the same. Research from varying professionals helps explain how coping strategies work, broken into three categories – physical, mental and social.

 

PHYSICAL STRATEGIES

  1. Exercise – Research confirms that being physically active leads to physical, mental and emotional benefits, both immediately after and long-term. Exercise can be as successful at decreasing depression as anti-depression prescriptions, according to University of California  Riverside professor and author Sonja Lyubomirsky. Exercise stimulates the release of “feel good” chemicals that help improve mood.

 

  1. Get adequate and high-quality sleep – Even slight levels of sleep deprivation can affect judgment, memory and mood, according to the American Psychological Association. When you do not get enough sleep, the areas of the brain that experience anxiety and worry are impacted. In addition, while you sleep, your muscles are repaired and your memories are consolidated, preparing you for the next day. Chronic sleep deprivation can lead to obesity and high blood pressure and cancause you to feel overwhelmed, less motivated and less able to concentrate.

 

  1. Maintain a healthy diet – The National Center on Health, Physical Activity, and Disability explains that certain nutrients, such as thiamin and folate, help with nervous system function. Deficiencies in these nutrients can lead to irritability, depression and poor concentration, causing stress. In addition, the APA notes that when you overeat or eat unhealthy foods, you will tend to feel sluggish and think negatively about your body, causing more stress.

 

  1. Hydrate  – Stress and dehydration affect each other and produce similar symptoms such as headaches and fatigue. Staying hydrated can help stave these off. 

 

  1. Take breaks – In order to avoid burnout, it is important to find an outlet that lets you relax and enjoy what you are doing. Taking a vacation, listening to certain types of music, checking email less often and laughing have all been shown to reduce stress levels.

 

MENTAL STRATEGIES

  1. Meditate – Relaxing the body through deep, controlled breathing helps fight off the physiological symptoms of stress. In addition, feeling in control of just one thing in life—in this case your breathing—is empowering. Meditating increases your self-awareness and helps you gain a new perspective, focus on the present and reduce negative emotions.

 

  1. Cultivate spirituality – Spirituality is not necessarily synonymous with being religious. It has more to do with finding purpose and context for your life through something larger than yourself. Spiritual people tend to be happier, have better mental and physical health, cope better, have more satisfying marriages, use drugs and alcohol less and live longer (Lyubomirsky, 2007).

 

  1. Write – Writing is a great way to calm the chaos of life. Because writing is, by nature, highly structured, it can help you put your thoughts together in a coherent manner, helping you find meaning in your experiences. It also helps you to learn about yourself and feel in control of your life (Lyubomirsky, 2007).

 

  1. Think positively – According to Mayo Clinic research, positive thinking allows you to “approach unpleasantness in a more positive and productive way.” It improves your outlook on life and can lead to health benefits such as greater resistance to the common cold and improved cardiovascular health. Optimistic people often have healthier lifestyles as well.

 

SOCIAL STRATEGIES

  1. Talk to a friend – Knowing that you are not alone facing your stressors can empower you. The Mayo Clinic asserts that people with strong social support networks are healthier and live longer. This is likely because a social support network increases your sense of belonging, feelings of self-worth and of security. In addition, others often have a different perspective and may suggest changes or coping strategies you had not thought about.

 

  1. Spend time with a pet – Animals reduce tension, improve mood and can be a nice icebreaker in social interactions. According to health journalist Kathleen Doheny, having a pet yields unconditional love, a diminished sense of being alone, physical contact, a consistent daily routine (often including exercise) and an increased sense of self-esteem from caring for it. However, the benefits of having a pet are reduced if doing so causes worry, is not affordable or if you aren’t in a position to provide care. Therefore, a pet is not a one-size-fits-all solution for reducing stress.

 

  1. Learn to say no – The Mayo Clinic proposes that saying no to one thing means you are saying yes to another priority. Doing so can also open up opportunities to try new things and for others to step up to what you are turning down. Being able to say no reflects a healthy level of assertiveness and self-confidence. Always saying yes causes stress, which over time can lead to burnout, resentment and illness.

 

  1. Meet with a professional – If your stresses become overwhelming and burdensome, seek professional help. The Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance notes that a good therapist may help you cope with the stresses or traumatic events you have or are experiencing by helping you identify the triggers and develop a plan to help you cope with and make sense of them.

 

Since stress is part of everyday life, it is important that you learn healthy, effective coping skills. Understanding the reasons for common stress management strategies makes them even more empowering. As you apply them, your personal well-being and relationships with others are likely to improve.


This article was written by Dave Schramm, Utah State University Extension family life specialist, David.schramm@usu.edu and Jennifer Viveros, M.A.




Landscaping for Season-long Color

responsible children (1)


Each season brings with it new colors and emotions. Many homeowners seek help in selecting plant material that will offer season-long interest in the landscape. Different colors can add variety and add interest to the landscape. Plants should add consistency and tie the landscape design together. Harmony in a landscape is often accomplished when the same color schemes are repeated.

When planting for color, it is good to remember some general rules. Cool colors, such as shades of green, blue, and soft pastels, blend well together and have a tendency to make an area seem larger in appearance. These colors also suggest calmness or tranquility. Warm colors, such as shades of red, orange, and yellow, jump out visually and act as colorful accents. These colors imply lively and inviting feelings.

Complementary colors are those colors that most optimally accentuate each other. Yellow is considered complementary to purple. Red is complementary to green. Orange is complementary to blue. White is one of those universal colors, which complements all colors.

There are many different plants which can add seasonal splendor to a landscape. Many plants display an array of flower colors throughout the season. Some plants offer different textures while others put on a spectacular show in the autumn as their colorful leaves proclaim the end of the season. When planting for color, it is important to think of the importance of foliage effect along with flower color.

With literally thousands of options in choosing plant material, it can oftentimes be overwhelming to homeowners in deciding which plants to buy. Catalogs and magazines are great for getting ideas. It is also a good idea to visit the nurseries and garden centers periodically throughout the year to see what plants are in bloom. Choosing a variety of plants with staggered bloom times, along with those that add unique textures and distinctive leaf colors can add seasonal interest to any landscape.

For a list of some of the more commonly sold plants and their approximate bloom times along with plants that offer variety to the landscape in the form of texture and seasonal leaf color, click here.


This article was written by JayDee Gunnell, Horticulture Agent, Cache County Extension, Sheriden Hansen, Extension Assistant Professor, Davis County, Linden Greenhalgh, Extension Associate Professor, Tooele County, and Holly Christley, Horticulture Assistant, Tooele County.




Tips for Raising Responsible Children

responsible children


As a parent, what would you say is your top goal to accomplish with/for your children?

A common response is that parents want to help their children grow into responsible adults— which may include smaller goals such as helping them have skills necessary to be productive members of society, be healthy, happy, and able to take care of themselves.  To encourage and direct parents toward achieving this goal, Cornell University Extension (Jefferson County) has created a parent guide that identifies and breaks down 7 parenting tips. Let’s take a closer look.

Tip 1: Don’t do things for your children that they can do for themselves.

  • Even young children can help with chores and get themselves dressed in the morning.
  • Resist the urge to take over and solve all your child’s problems. Instead, help children learn to help themselves.

Tip 2: Be clear and consistent about your expectations.

  • Make sure your children understand the rules of the household.
  • Be consistent with your messages. If the rule is that children must finish homework before watching TV, then stick with it.
  • Give children advance notice if you expect certain behavior. This is helpful when taking them to the grocery store or on a family vacation, for example.

Tip 3Teach skills and give positive feedback.

  • Don’t just tell your child what to do—include how to do it. For example, a young child may need to be told to clean up their toys but showing them what you mean may work best.
  • Older children may benefit from written step-by-step instructions. For example, to clean the bathroom they may need to know: spray down the shower walls and floor with “X” cleaner, leave for 5 minutes and then rinse with warm water and use a squeegee to dry.
  • Positive and specific feedback for a task or assignment done well. For example: “I love the way you folded your clothes so neatly before putting them in the drawer.”

Tip 4: Create a home that helps children act responsibly.

  • Work with children to organize their space and belongings. This might mean providing bins and shelves they can reach.
  • Make sure children know where to find cleaning supplies to do their chores and clean up spills.
  • Set up an area for homework that is comfortable, well-lit and that minimizes distractions.

Tip 5: Teach children that mistakes are an opportunity to learn.

  • Everybody makes mistakes, so your children are likely to as well. Try not to over-react. Instead, view mistakes as a time to make new plans and better actions for the future.

Tip 6: Let children experience the natural consequences of their behavior.

  • When children don’t act responsibly, don’t be a “helicopter” parent who always rushes in to fix the mistake- unless it is dangerous to their personal safety.
  • Instead, let children experience the results of their actions.

Tip 7: Be a positive role model.

  • Speak positively about your work and chores. Don’t complain about all that you have to do. Instead, take pride in the things you do well.
  • If (When) you make a mistake, admit it—and then show children how you will correct it.

These statements summarize most of the excellent information found in this on-line publication found at: http://ccejefferson.org/parenting ,under “Resources for You”, “Raising Responsible Children”

A few take-away statements for parents included in the document include:

  • Children do best when they know what to expect.
  • Letting children know when they do well encourages responsible behavior.
  • Remember- you are in charge of your home.
  • Keep in mind, when children “choose” their behavior, they are also choosing the consequences.

Kathleen Riggs is the Utah State University Extension family and consumer sciences professor for Iron County. Questions or comments may be sent to kathleen.riggs@usu.edu or call 435-586-8132.




Five Ways to Find Peace by Staying Present

5 tips to find peace.jpg


It is easy to get caught up in the events of the past or the future. However, doing so only brings worry and causes you to miss out on the present. On the other hand, mindfulness – or focusing on the present moment – leads to better health, lower anxiety and greater resilience to stress. Learning to incorporate the concept of “flow” is one of several ways to increase mindfulness.

Have you ever enjoyed an activity so much that you did not feel time passing? This intense absorption and involvement in what you were doing in the present moment is called flow, and it is generally pleasurable and fulfilling. In addition, the enjoyment is usually lasting and reinforcing and provides a natural high that is not accompanied by negative feelings.

Although it is easy to experience flow during our favorite activities, we can enjoy this feeling more often during other activities with practice, and experiencing flow will come more naturally. Consider these five tips:

1. Control your attention – Try to keep your full attention on the task at hand. If your mind wanders, bring it back to the present moment. If you are having a conversation with another person, try to stay completely focused on what they are saying. Be patient with yourself as you work to develop the ability to stay focused.

2. Adopt new perspectives – Try to enjoy life, even if it unfolds differently than you had planned. (Which it often does!) In order to do so, be open to new and different experiences, and be willing to keep learning until the day you die.

3. Recognize flow – Many times we do not realize that we are having these experiences. In order to create more of these in your life, you first have to recognize when they are happening so you can increase them.

4. Transform routine tasks – During dull, daily tasks, seek to add microflow activities to make them more meaningful. For example, while you are waiting at the doctor’s office, you could read a book or draw a picture. You could try to make your work more meaningful by viewing it as your calling in life rather than just a job. When brushing your teeth, try doing some lunges or squats. When driving, instead of listening to the radio, listen to audiobooks, podcasts or TED talks to learn new ideas.

5. Find the balance between challenge and skills – Flow experiences occur when we are sufficiently challenged to the point that our skills are stretched, but not so much that the task seems daunting. Activities that challenge your skills too much result in anxiety, while activities that are not challenging enough result in boredom; herein lies the paradox of flow experiences.

The intrinsic rewards of engaging in these kinds of activities make you want to keep doing them, yet you have to continue stretching yourself because your progress will eventually leave you bored during the same experiences that were once exciting.

Finding activities that result in flow is exhilarating. Change things up by trying new things. Our brains crave variety and novelty. The key to finding flow is developing a balance between skills and challenges – finding something you are good at and enjoy, but that still stretches you a bit.


This article was written by Dave Schramm, Utah State University Extension family life specialist, and Jennifer Viveros, M.A.




Tips for Weathering Winter Storms

SNOW REMOVAL

The recent frigid Arctic air encompassing much of the mid-west caused mass transit, businesses and schools to shut down. It also was responsible for several deaths. If you were caught in such adverse conditions, unable to leave home because of a snow/ice storm or you were in your car stuck in a snowbank several miles from home, how would you fare?

The best tips for enduring winter cold and storms are: be informed, be prepared, be cautious and be a good neighbor. The Emergency Preparedness site, https://www.ready.gov/winter-weather has information for staying safe in a variety of emergency situations, including harsh winter weather. Consider these tips.

If you are under a winter storm warning, find shelter right away.

  • Stay off roads.
  • Stay indoors and dress warmly.
  • Prepare for power outages.
  • Use generators outside only and away from windows.
  • Listen for emergency information and alerts.
  • Check on neighbors.

Prepare now to stay safe when a winter storm threatens.

  • Know your area’s risk for winter storms. Extreme winter weather can leave communities without utilities and other services for long periods of time.
  • Help keep your home warm by having proper insulation, caulking and weather stripping. Learn how to keep pipes from freezing. Install and test smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors with battery backups.
  • Pay attention to weather reports and warnings. Sign up for your community’s warning system. The Emergency Alert System (EAS) and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Weather Radio also provide emergency alerts.
  • Gather supplies in case you need to stay home for several days without power. Keep in mind the specific needs of each person, including medication. Do not forget to plan for the needs of pets if you have them. Have extra batteries for radios and flashlights.
  • Create an emergency supply kit for your car. Include jumper cables, sand, a flashlight, warm clothes, blankets, bottled water, and non-perishable snacks. Keep the gas tank full.

To stay safe during a storm:

  • Stay off roads if possible. If trapped in your car, stay inside. If you must leave the car, wear layers of warm clothing and limit time outside.
  • Avoid carbon monoxide poisoning. Only use generators and grills outdoors and away from windows. Never heat your home with a gas stovetop or oven.
  • Reduce the risk of a heart attack. Avoid overexertion when shoveling snow.
  • Check on neighbors. Older adults and young children are more at risk in extreme cold.

Recognize and respond:

  • Frostbite causes loss of feeling and color around the face, fingers and toes.

  • Signs include: numbness, white or grayish-yellow skin, firm or waxy skin.
  • Actions: Go to a warm room. Soak in warm water. Use body heat to get warm. Do not massage or use a heating pad.
  • Hypothermia is an unusually low body temperature. A temperature below 95 F is an emergency.

  • Signs include: shivering, exhaustion, confusion, fumbling hands, memory loss, slurred speech and drowsiness.
  • Actions: Go to a warm room. Warm the center of the body first—chest, neck, head and groin. Keep dry and wrap body, head and neck in warm blankets.

Be sure you have an alternative heat source and food and water storage. Preparation will increase your family’s confidence and ability to survive extreme winter weather conditions.

By: Kathleen Riggs, Utah State University Extension family and consumer sciences professor, 435-586-8132,kathleen.riggs@usu.edu