Don’t Let Anxiety Control Your Life

Anxiety is familiar to everyone due to the many stresses and complexities of modern life. But about 25 percent of U.S. adults have a serious problem with anxiety at some time in their lives.

“Unlike fear, which is usually directed toward a concrete thing or event, such as a snarling dog or not meeting a deadline, anxiety is often nonspecific and can be brought on by worrying about the future, your finances or your health, in general,” says Edmund Bourne, Ph.D., author of Coping With Anxiety. “Anxiety can appear in different forms and at different levels of intensity, and can range in severity from a mere twinge of uneasiness to a full–blown panic attack.”

The causes of anxiety are varied and include upsets in brain chemistry, heredity, childhood trauma, abuse, chronic stress, loss of a loved one and drug and alcohol abuse, to name a few.

“While it can be helpful to identify possible causes of anxiety and address them, you don't need to know why you feel anxious to be helped by practicing coping strategies,” says Dr. Bourne.

Coping Strategies

The following practices are helpful for anyone with anxiety and may be all that's needed if your anxiety level is mild and not disrupting your life.

People with more severe anxiety, including anyone dealing with panic or post–traumatic stress disorder, will still find the exercises helpful but also may need therapy and medication.

These exercises can be done singly or in any combination:

Take Calming Breaths

This exercise quickly interrupts the momentum of anxiety symptoms. Breathing from your abdomen, inhale through your nose slowly to a count of five. Pause and hold your breath to a count of five. Exhale slowly to a count of five. Take two normal breaths, then repeat the cycle for three to five minutes.

Stop Magnifying Problems

Exaggerating problems by making them seem bigger and more serious than they are can lead to anxiety. To combat this way of thinking, stop using words such as terrible, awful or horrendous in relation to events or situations in your life. Instead of saying to yourself, “It's unbearable,” or “I can't stand it,” try saying, “I can cope” and “I can deal with and survive this.”

Stop Worrisome Thoughts

Use this strategy if you find yourself stuck in a spiral of worrisome thoughts that won't go away. “If you're alone and want to halt a chain of anxious thoughts, shout in a loud and forceful manner, ‘Stop!' or ‘Stop it!'” says Dr. Bourne. “If you're with other people, shout internally as you visualize a large stop sign.” Every time the worrisome thoughts return, repeat the spoken or internal command to yourself.

Shift Your Point of View

When anxiety or worry about an actual or possible problem is getting the best of you, try thinking about the situation in the following ways:

Tell yourself you can lighten up about it. Affirm “this too shall pass.” Realize it's not likely to be as bad as your worst thoughts about it.

Combat Negative Self–Talk

Positive affirmations can help you cope with anxiety in the moment and over the long–term by helping you change long–standing beliefs, which tend to enable anxiety. To make your thoughts more constructive and supportive, replace or refute each negative statement illustrated below in italics with the one that follows it.

For example, replace “This is unbearable” with “I can learn to cope with this.” Or, replace “What if this goes on without stopping?” with “I'll deal with this one day at a time.”

“Resisting or fighting anxiety is likely to make it worse,” says Dr. Bourne. “A more constructive approach is to cultivate an attitude that says, ‘OK, here it is again. I can handle this. I've done it before.' In most cases, anxiety peaks and begins to subside in a few minutes. It will pass more quickly if you practice coping strategies regularly when you start to feel anxious.” Krames Staywell

For more information on reducing anxiety, counselors are available over the phone 24/7.

Text: 503-980-1777
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Having a Difficult Conversation: How to Mediate Conflict Between Employees

It’s not a fun part of being the boss. But you know that if you don’t deal with it, it will only get worse.

It may be something as common as creative differences, or something as severe as abuse allegations, but whatever the matter, conflict among colleagues should always be addressed before it spirals out of control. But how do you tackle it? Here are some tried-and-true tips for success:

Don’t Take Sides

It may be true that certain employees seem prone to drama, but before you lay blame on them or write their grievance off as nonsense, examine all sides of the problem from an objective lens. It’s not always true that there are two sides to every story—in fact, there are more often three or four. Playing favorites isn’t fair to those involved and over time will erode your team’s trust in you.

Have a Plan

Leaders may want to jump in immediately to diffuse a bad situation, but their pre-emptive actions may actually make problems worse. Before you approach a conflict, get all the facts and explore possible solutions. Consult with your HR department if there are legalities to be considered. Brainstorm solutions that will allow the team to learn from their mistakes and emerge stronger.

Be a Good Listener

It should go without saying, but never enter a collaborative conflict meeting and do all the talking. As the leader, and ultimately the one who will decide on next steps (if necessary), you need to make those involved feel heard. Let them walk you through exactly what has been going on, even if you’ve witnessed it yourself. Hear their perspectives. Respect their voices. Communicate next steps if the conflict can’t be resolved in one session. The main goal is that everyone is on the same page and making progress.

Remove Fear

If your team members are walking on eggshells around you, you should step back and reset your management style. Employees who live in fear of their leaders operate in a state of stress, which can lead to lower productivity, defensiveness, and absenteeism because it makes them mentally (and sometimes physically) sick. Instead, take an empathetic approach to get at the heart of the problem. Is there something happening in the employee’s personal life that could be a contributing factor? Don’t pry if they’re not willing to share, but if they let you dig deeper, you’ll often learn workplace problems are not always about the work. Offer support like a conversation with HR or give them the number of your employee assistance plan.

Cultivate an Open Culture

Offices and work environments that share fun times outside of the daily grind experience less conflict. This is because colleagues who know each other better have a greater understanding of what makes each other tick. And while enjoying office icebreakers may not come naturally to everyone, that’s all the more reason to host them. Getting outside of our comfort zones enables us to better deal with transitions and change, which is key to healthy conflict resolution.
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Strategies for Building Resilience

Building Resilience Resilience is the ability to adapt well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy or significant stress. Resilient people don’t dwell on failures; they acknowledge the situation, learn from their mistakes, and then move forward.

Below are some strategies for building resilience:

Nurture a positive view of yourself. Develop confidence in your ability to solve problems and trust your instincts.

Avoid seeing crises as insurmountable problems. We can't always prevent stressful events from happening, but we can change how we interpret and respond to these events.

Accept that change is a part of living. Certain goals no longer may be attainable as a result of adverse situations but acceptance can help you focus on circumstances you can affect.

Look for opportunities for self-discovery. Many people who have experienced tragedies and hardship report better relationships, a greater sense of strength, an increased sense of self-worth and a greater appreciation for life.

Make connections. Good relationships with family, friends or others are important. Accept help and support from those who care about you.

Maintain a hopeful outlook. An optimistic outlook enables you to expect good things to happen in your life.

Take care of yourself. Pay attention to your own needs and feelings. Engage in activities you enjoy and find relaxing such as exercising, getting enough sleep, eating a healthful diet and limiting alcohol consumption.

If building resilience is on your self-care to-do list, we have some great tools to help you succeed. First, as an EAP member you can log into our interactive member site to access our Resilience Journey program. Second, connecting with one our counselors may be helpful. We can coordinate an appointment with a counselor by phone, in-person or even a video session.
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Five Common Mistakes Leaders Make When Onboarding New Hires

New Hire It’s exciting to grow a team. Adding employees can improve every aspect of your organization, from efficiency to morale. When you find the right person for the job, it’s a win-win you’ll celebrate for the life of their career with you.

Unfortunately, starting a new job can feel more like an initiation than a celebration for many new hires. It’s not intentional, but the beginning can be clunky if not handled well by those in charge.

Here are 5 mistakes commonly made by leaders:

1. They don’t welcome new hires from the get-go

Once they sign on the dotted line, there’s usually a span of time before the new hire begins work. During that gap many leaders forget to reach out, leaving the soon-to-be-employees in an agonizing limbo. New employees will have questions about what to expect and how their day-to-day life will change in their new role; many will have apprehension about fitting in with their new team.
Instead of remaining silent, consider sending a welcome note and gift that you know the new hire will like. How will you know about their tastes and preferences? When new hires accept the job, have them fill out a survey that asks basic questions about their hobbies and extracurricular activities. There are even Pinterest boards dedicated to new hire gifts to help spark inspiration.

2. They don’t make a plan

Before the leader made their new hire, they posted a job description of what qualities/skills they were looking for to fill the role. Unfortunately, sometimes the definition of a role ends there and when the new employee begins, they’re passed around to various team members to learn bits and pieces of the big picture that may or may not be relevant to their responsibilities.

This is easily solved by crafting a simple onboarding plan. Include everything from online access (logins and passwords) to lunch-and-learns with key people they’ll work with on projects, and the learning curve won’t feel so overwhelming. Communicating clear roles to everyone involved is also vital to onboarding success.

3. They put off the logistics

How many times have you started at a company and spent the first day or two simply filling out paperwork? It’s nerve-wracking to be excited about a new position only to get stuck feeling like you’re at the doctor’s office. It would be better for everyone to harness the new hire’s energy for the role by letting them dive into the job.

So many of the required forms (insurance, taxes, etc.) can be completed in advance, it makes more sense to get them out of the way before the employee begins. That also allows more time for the new hire to read through the material and familiarize themselves with company policies and perks. Just make sure they know the deadline for the return of the items is their first day on the job.

4. They forget the pain of the first week

Even in the best of situations, starting a new job can be awkward. From learning to use new tools and equipment, to finding your place in the lunchroom, the smallest of tasks can be daunting. For introverts, it’s often overwhelming. Leaders who neglect to acknowledge different styles are creating unnecessary anxiety all around.

The easiest way to lessen the worry is to appoint an orientation mentor or new hire buddy. Someone who is qualified to answer questions about everything from remote access to supply closets. Have that point person available and close-by the first week for anything that comes up. Often times managers and directors have packed calendars and are unable to serve as a guide—and that’s okay, as long as there’s someone there in their place. It’s also nice to plan out a week of welcome coffees and lunches to introduce the new hire to different departments and colleagues. Plus, they’ll learn about favorite neighborhood go-tos by default!

5. They neglect to check in at regular intervals

Often, leaders recognize that the new hire is a good fit and forget to see if the employee is confident in their work. This is a crucial mistake that can lead to long-term issues or in the worst of times, departures—all because of poor communication.

The best way to overcome this is to simply plan for scheduled check-ins at regular milestones. They can be monthly, weekly or even more often if warranted, but the employee should never lack feedback on performance long enough to wonder if they’re meeting expectations. Checking in at the 90 day mark is a good way to find out how things are going and whether there have been any surprises in the new job.
Really, great onboarding is achieved by careful and constant communication tailored to the needs of the new hire and the job they perform.
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Five Ways to Improve Workplace Communication

Your most important business asset—your staff—is often your most complicated one, too. Whenever you put a large group of people together, there are bound to be differences, arguments, small slights that turn into big grudges.

How can we keep these inevitable interpersonal issues from derailing our work? According to Laura MacLeod, a licensed social worker and the creator of the From the Inside Out Project, it all comes back to communication. MacLeod combines her social work expertise and 20 years of experience in the hospitality industry to teach employees at all kinds of companies how to resolve conflicts and speak and listen with empathy.
Here are five of her tips for improving workplace communication.

#1. Remember that all healthy communicating groups have conflict

Your goal is not to avoid conflict altogether. Some kind of conflict is unavoidable, and not necessarily a bad thing—it means people are actually discussing what’s bothering them.

“If your group, your staff, your meeting is all smiles, and everyone is happy and agreeing with each other, then you are not doing your job right. People disagree, and if they’re keeping it quiet, that’s not healthy.”

Your goal, instead, is to develop structures for dealing with conflict effectively and proactively. That all starts with creating an environment where people know they can air their grievances.

#2. Create an atmosphere where people feel safe and comfortable speaking up so problems don’t fester

Without this step, none of the other steps will work. If your employees think they might be punished in some way for talking about their concerns, by you or the employee they are struggling with, they will ignore the issues until they get much worse. But a lot of people are unable or unwilling to confront conflict head-on.

“Nobody wants to be the person to say, ‘Hey, what’s going on here?’ so the problem gets ignored,” MacLeod says. “Maybe you pick up their slack and some resentment grows. The work still gets done, perhaps, but the resentment builds.”

“If you sweep something under the rug,” MacLeod adds, “it’s only under the rug. It’s still going to pop back out later.”

Tell your staff plainly that they should feel comfortable talking to each other about their concerns. Encourage them to talk things over in one-on-one conversations, not around other coworkers, and definitely not around customers or clients.

The best way for you to create this kind of culture is to model this behavior yourself whenever you encounter conflict.

“Doing this helps create a safe atmosphere where people can be direct with each other about what they’re observing, what’s bothering them,” MacLeod says. “It helps people feel safe and comfortable enough to hear others’ points of view without feeling like they’re being attacked.”

#3. Be honest!

Your employees might not even realize they’re ignoring problems—or causing them. In order to identify issues and be able to move past them, they need to be honest with each other.

“I worked with a group of employees where someone was very negative on a regular basis,” MacLeod says. “You know those people: nothing is ever good enough, nothing is ever right, and they really bring you down. Oftentimes, these people have no clue what they’re doing. They don’t know they’re being negative and poorly affecting people because nobody wants to tell them.”

If someone doesn’t confront the person causing problems, MacLeod says, they may never realize the issues they’re creating. Ultimately, being honest not only helps other employees feel better, and feel like the problem is being addressed, but it helps that person become a better employee, too.

#4. Start with a check-in

Some teams have a difficult time adapting to more open communication. Break the silence by starting meetings with a check-in. MacLeod says this can also be a way for coworkers to see how everyone is feeling before a shift begins.

“You say your name and the sentence ‘I feel _,’ and then fill in the blank. And you can’t use good or bad, because that’s too general. So you might say, ‘My name is Laura, and I am really exhausted today. I was up all night with my baby.’ Okay, so now that we know Laura is a little tired today, we know she might not be totally on target. So let’s try to help her out here. The people who step up to help then know they can ask for help next time they need it. It’s a way to create a culture where people are supporting each other.”

And remember: don’t steamroll the conversation with suggestions for how to fix people’s day-to-day issues. Often, people just want to be heard. Be authentic when you ask how people are doing and listen more than you talk.

#5. Don’t jump in to solve your employees’ interpersonal problems for them…unless it starts affecting their work

Lines of communication can scramble very easily, whether it’s because people work opposite shifts and rarely speak face to face, or because of conflict that started off the clock but merged into the workplace.

No matter the cause, you shouldn’t jump in to resolve the issue. At least, not right away. Keep an eye on whatever is happening, but give the employees a chance to handle it themselves.

However, if the issue is affecting the employees’ work, then you can and should step in. MacLeod suggests talking to the involved employees individually. Let them know you’ve noticed what’s going on because it’s keeping them from getting their work done. Not only does this signal to the employees that they need to step it up, but you’ve also modeled a direct approach to dealing with the problem.
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Six Simple Strategies to Have an Organized and Productive Day

Six Strategies_Organized and Productive Want to ensure you have an organized and productive day tomorrow (and every day after that)? Here are six simple strategies you can implement to increase your daily productivity. It’s amazing what a big impact small change can have. Follow these tips to save time, money and stress and to get the most out of your day.

1. Get seven to nine hours of sleep each night.  Everyone needs a different amount of sleep to feel rested, rejuvenated and ready to be productive, but studies show that for most people, between seven to nine is ideal. Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time each day. Follow a familiar bedtime routine, limiting “before bed” activities to things that relax you and help you wind down. You will enjoy the benefits of more energy and of feeling well rested while you work. You will also be more productive and efficient.

2. Plan out your week.  Finish your week by reviewing projects and tasks accomplished and looking ahead to the next week to see what the priorities will be. Make sure you have time allotted on your calendar to work on these priority projects and make strides towards your goals. Take time over the weekend to have a family meeting and discuss everyone’s plans for the week ahead (who will be home for dinner what nights, who has commitments or activities?) This will help you to plan meals, plan transportation and will ultimately save you time and money in the week ahead.

3. Do as much as possible the night before.  Set the coffee pot on a timer so it is ready and brewed when you come down for breakfast. Pack up your gym bag the night before. Set dry cleaning or any other items you need to take for activities or errands the next day right by the door. Pick out the outfit and accessories you’ll wear so you can ensure what you want is clean and ready to go. By doing these things the night before, you will make your morning less hectic.

4. Prioritize your work day.  Once you arrive at your office or as you start your day at home, immediately plan and prioritize your day. (Alternatively, this can also be done at the end of the day for the next so that you can come in and hit the ground running). Focus on high-priority activities first. Eliminate distractions (turn off email notifications, send your calls to voicemail, put a “do not disturb” sign on your door) for periods of time so that you can really dig in, uninterrupted and make great progress on those priority tasks and projects.

5. De-clutter.  Take a few minutes at the end of each day to tidy your desk or space at home where you get things done so you have a clear space at which to work, free of distraction. Put supplies back where they belong, file loose papers, put books and binders back on shelves and take a few minutes to get organized. At home, enlist family members in a “Ten-Minute Tidy” to scurry around, room by room (you may need to do ten minutes in each heavily used room) to put things back where they belong. This makes it so much easier to find what you need, when you need it!

6. Schedule appointments with yourself.  Block off time in your calendar to regularly de-clutter and organize.  If you don’t schedule time to do this, it won’t happen. Take time to purge old papers you don’t need, supplies you no longer use and to weed out old files. Consider biting off a small area to organize in just 30 minutes. Make this a weekly habit and you’ll tackle all sorts of areas in your office and home. Likewise, block off and protect chunks of time on your calendar for high priority activities. If you know there’s something you want to get done in a given day, make an appointment with yourself and then honor that time (meaning when the appointment rolls around, work on that task or project). Seeing the appointment visibly can also make it easier to say “no” to something or someone else that might serve as a barrier to your productivity on the priority.

Want more strategies, motivation and accountability to live your most organized and productive life, and to have more time for what matters most? Join Simply Placed’s It’s About Time – Virtual Productivity Program. Register today and then email to request a free copy of Six Word Lessons to be More Productive, as our gift to you to thank you for joining the program. Here’s to your organized and productive life!
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7 Steps to Buying a Home

Buying a Home If you’ve decided to buy a house, you may be wondering where to begin. Below are 7 steps to help guide you with the home buying process:

Decide which community or neighborhood you’re interested in. Research your ideal neighborhoods and whether they are in your financial reach.
Begin looking at houses. Visit open houses, paying attention to the numbers of bedrooms and bathrooms, special features, and overall charm.
Assemble a team of professionals. Take the time to get referrals from friends, and meet with a few prospects before you hire anyone.
Figure out how you’ll pay for the house. If you can make a down payment of 20% or more of the purchase price, you’ll avoid paying private mortgage insurance (PMI). The better your credit rating, the more favorable a mortgage you’ll be able to obtain.
Offering to Buy the House You Want. You or your real estate agent will state your proposed purchase price, where you expect to obtain financing, what conditions or “contingencies” you’re attaching to the offer, how quickly you’re willing to close the deal, etc.
Dealing with the house’s physical condition. Have your own inspections done by at least one experienced professional -- and for the sale to be contingent upon your approving the results.
Closing the deal. Your purchase contract will normally contain a “closing date” and you’ll need to finalize your financing, review the home inspection and other reports, get title insurance, and more. Then the house is yours!
Did you know that as an EAP member you have access to a Relocation and Home Ownership Program? Cascade assists users and provides discounts on services needed with selling and buying a home, refinancing, maid services and much more. On average, this service has been able to save employees $2,000-$6,000 in out-of-pocket expenses. If you want to learn more about this exclusive benefit you you can call, email or connect online.
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Are You Stressed Out or Burned Out? How to Avoid Career Burnout.

Stress Out or Burned Out Many of us have been there: a stressful workday turns into a hectic month, which turns into a rough year, which turns into physical and mental exhaustion. But how can you tell if you’re just stressed, or if you’ve reached total career burnout?

According to Beth Genly, lead of the coaching and consulting company Burnout Solutions and coauthor of
Save Yourself from Burnout: A System to Get Your Life Back, there are common signs for stress that has moved beyond the day-to-day. When we watch for those signs and practice proactive self-care, we can prevent burnout altogether.

Genly, a former nurse, says her idea for the book came from her own experience. She’s gone through career burnout three times, and though the fields she was in and the causes of her burnout were very different, she says she was still similarly miserable every time.

“I felt like a wimp,” she says. “I thought maybe I had some special character flaw beyond my usual ones that was causing burnout. I was afraid to talk about it. I was pretty sure there was a stigma attached to it.”

Burnout is common in helping professions like health care. But studies show that it turns up across industries, no matter the intrinsic stress level of the job. All kinds of people, “from hotel managers, to finance people, to grocery checkers,” experience burnout, she says.

In the book, Genly and her coauthor, Dr. Marnie Loomis, compare burnout to a repetitive use injury. It gets worse over time, and when you don’t have the tools to deal with it, you get more and more miserable. Fatigue, she says, is the most common and most recognizable symptom, but many of us don’t notice it until it reaches a breaking point. The difficulty, then, comes with determining the difference between a stressful day and full-on burnout.

“With burnout,” Genly says, “you reach the point where you feel so tired, it feels like bone-deep weariness. You stop being able to connect with other people very well, and you start wondering if there’s any point to what you do.” Other warning signs include frequent crankiness and isolation, especially from people who don’t normally keep to themselves.

So what can we do about it? According to Genly and the book, the best way to stay on top of burnout is with what she and Loomis call the “burnout shield.” The burnout shield is an assessment that gauges how you’re doing in five categories:

Self-care (eating well, getting enough rest, exercising)
Reflection and recognition (expressing gratitude, recognizing yourself for a job well done)
Capacity (having the right amount of work on your plate)
Community (connecting with mentors, friends, and coworkers)
Coping styles (implementing healthy ways to deal with daily stress)

The first thing to do with your complete burnout shield, Genly says, is identify what you’re doing well. “Give yourself credit first,” she says. Beyond that, you should explore areas that are lacking, determine why they are behind, and find ways to fix them. For example, if you’re lacking in community, find a way to go out with friends regularly. Build it into your schedule. Prioritize it so it doesn’t fall off your to-do list.

When it comes to self-care, Genly says sleep is of the utmost importance. “There has to be a very conscious commitment to getting enough sleep and rearranging your life so that sleep becomes a priority. When you do that, you become a much nicer, much smarter human being.” Research has shown that every day we lose sleep—even when we get just a couple hours less than we need—our cognitive functioning slows. But we can’t often tell that we’ve slowed down, because our brains try to protect us from recognizing our shortcomings. We tell ourselves (and others!) that we’re doing just fine with little sleep, and though we believe it, it’s likely not true. Genly’s wake-up call was a middle-of-the-night car accident after a long nursing shift. After that, she knew something had to change.

Managing blood sugar is another important aspect of self-care. “People who are go-getters, who are really pushing themselves, tend to eat irregularly,” Genly says. “They work straight through mealtimes.” But when our blood sugar drops, and when we’re dehydrated, our cognition slows, and just like with a lack of sleep, we’re more likely to make mistakes.

It’s not just a matter of eating regularly, though. The type of food is important, too. “Challenge yourself to eat fruits and veggies at every meal and every snack,” Genly says. “It’s not always possible to do. But every time you can, you’re doing your body a favor.” To help yourself along, she recommends stocking plenty of fruits and vegetables along with high-fiber, high-protein snacks to grab when you need them. That will keep you from reaching for sugary foods that will give you a boost for a moment but will cause you to crash soon after.

Beyond the individual level, Genly suggests to HR professionals to open up conversations about burnout in the workplace. It helps people feel less alone and less like their response to long-term, intense stress is not a “character flaw.” Then, look at company culture to see if burnout is being promoted. If someone who boasts about only getting four hours of sleep every night is leading a team, “that person is setting the tone for their entire organization,” she says, and that’s counterproductive. “People tend to do what their managers do, not what they say they should do.”

Ultimately, avoiding burnout is about being intentional with ourselves. Even if we choose high-stress professions, Genly says, we can still keep ourselves functional and happy.
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5 Healthy Morning Habits in 15 Minutes or Less

If your mornings are met with less than enthusiasm, you’re not alone. The average working American wakes up, hits the snooze button (a few times), checks email and Internet, skips breakfast and grabs to-go coffee before heading out on a grueling morning commute. It’s no wonder people are feeling stressed before their work day has even started. If most of your mornings feel like you’re flying Supersonic, now is the time to implement a few healthy practices so you can start each day with more calm, clarity and over-all positivity.

Mindful moments (3 minutes)

As you wake up from what was hopefully a blissful night of sleep, refrain from picking up your phone or turning on the TV. Instead take a few moments to be appreciative of life. These three minutes are for you to express gratitude, recite daily affirmations, journal, or just be present with how your body and mind feels. Be fully aware and modify your thinking if you find your morning in a negative space. These three minutes are for you to take control and set the tone for your day.

Breathe deep and with intention (3 minutes or less)

We don’t often think about the function of breathing in relation to over-all health. However, your brain may not be getting enough oxygen. This is especially true for anyone with undiagnosed sleep apnea. The practice of 4–7–8 first thing in the morning assists with increasing oxygen-rich blood to the brain and reduces stress which may spark as you start your day. An oxygenated brain increases cognitive thinking and also has a calming effect, so practice 4–7–8 throughout your day and before going to sleep.

4–7–8: Simply breathe in for four seconds, hold your breath for seven seconds, and exhale for eight seconds. Do this three times, but try not to rush the process. You will find after doing 4-7-8 you will feel a decrease in anxiety and an increased sense of calm and relaxation.

Drink a glass of water (3 minutes)

Drinking a glass (or two) of water after you wake up not only provides an instant mental and physical pick-me-up, but there is also a link between heart health and hydration in the evening and early morning. The American Journal of Epidemiology reported 46 percent of men and 59 percent of women have a decreased chance of a fatal heart attack if they consumed five or more glasses of water a day. This is compared to those whom have consumed only two glasses of water a day. Morning water activates internal organs and assists the body with flushing out toxins. For additional health benefits add lemon to your water. Lemon in your water adds essential electrolytes to your body in the form of potassium, vitamin C, magnesium and folate, and is easily assimilated by the body.

Stretch (5 minutes)

Just the act of moving the body sets the mind in a forward motion. We’ve all heard of the saying, if you don’t use it you lose it. Stretching helps keep the body nimble which may make you less likely to injure yourself if you do take a tumble. Enhanced coordination isn’t the only benefit of stretching. Other benefits include better circulation, pain relief, along with relief from chronic health issues such as arthritis, multiple sclerosis, fibromyalgia, and depression.

Smile and laugh (1 minutes or less)

Smiling and laughing modifies your body’s chemical response. When you laugh or smile your brain releases a rush of endorphins. Consider the simple act of smiling to be a gift to the people around you, along with reducing your stress and boosting your mood. This is not a suggestion to smile or laugh inappropriately or with insincerity. However, if you can find moments throughout your day which are in some way enjoyable, comical, or downright hilarious, access those moments fully and enjoy!

Take two weeks to incorporate these practices into your morning routine. You may even discover you want more than 15 minutes of morning health. Starting your day with this 15 minute investment is quick and easy, and the pay-off will be increased health and well-being for a more holistic lifestyle.
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Self-care Through Sound Healing

Sound Healing Managing work and personal stress while also attempting to find fulfillment has become the new American past-time. Meditation, yoga, and massage therapy are all excellent self-care tools. However, you may want to consider implementing a few lesser-known options into your holistic lifestyle. Practices such as sound healing have been shown to lower blood pressure, reduce anxiety and improve cognitive awareness. Numerous cultures over many centuries have utilized aspects of sound healing to evoke physical and mental well-being, including ancient Egyptians, Greeks, Japanese, Chinese and Australian Aborigines.

The use of sound as a healing modality can assist with “tuning” the mind and body to a balanced state. Stress creates disharmony in the form of anxiety, insomnia, allergies, food sensitivities or physical and emotional pain. Modern scientists have been studying alternative medicine, including vibration, music and laughter as tools to assist with healing. Music therapy has been explored and implemented by obstetricians, both during pregnancy and at the time of labor. Botanists have discovered plants use vibration to seek out water sources to assist with nourishing and sustaining life. Sound healing practices are an easy and enjoyable way to introduce self-care into your life, or enhance an existing holistic regimen.

Holistic sound healing includes different sound modalities to assist with relieving stress and quieting the “noise” inside the mind. Tibetan singing bowls are widely used during meditation to assist with relaxation and to stimulate the immune system. Other percussion instruments include gongs, drums and tuning forks. Human vocal tones are also used through meditative chants and the practice of Tibetan Om (Aum) meditation. Each of these are based within the element of vibration and can assist with activating the body’s own healing properties.

Sound healing through music has been common throughout history. Music has no socioeconomic, age, or culture barriers so it translates and inspires most people. Health benefits associated with music include decreased stress and anxiety, increased pain threshold, emotional expression, improved memory, communication and cognitive thinking. Health practitioners have been studying music for some time, and have discovered certain music can alleviate stress almost instantly, along with improving cognitive and creative thinking. The following list of modern and classical music has been studied and shown to significantly reduce stress and anxiety but also increase focus.

Modern (in no particular order)
1. Weightless, by Marconi Union
2. Electra, by Airstream
3. Watermark, by Enya
4. Mellomaniac (Chill Out Mix), by DJ Shah
5. We Can Fly by Rue du Soleil (Café Del Mar)

Classical (in no particular order)
1. Raindrops, by Chopin
2. Air on the G String, by JS Bach
3. Canzonetta Sull'aria, by Mozart
4. Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun, by Claude Debussy
5. Trois Gymnopedies, by Erik Satie

Laughter for healing is a fairly new practice in comparison to 3,000 year old Eastern practices. However, modern healthcare studies have linked laughter to stress reduction and decreased blood pressure. Benefits of laughter are instant…and it doesn’t need to be genuine laughter. Although, that’s always something to strive for. Laughing releases endorphins and acts as a physical and emotional release, which helps our physical and mental health.

However you decide to move forward with your holistic health lifestyle, be curious and experiment with what works for you. These tools can assist with relieving the stress of personal growth and the sometimes painful circumstances which are unavoidable as you move through life. Take the time to continue searching for what will help you stay balanced. Implementing these self-care practices can assist you with improving your physical and mental health, along with enhancing your overall well-being.

Disclaimer: The information above is for informational purposes only and not an endorsement. It’s always advisable to contact a medical professional before undertaking any form of conventional or alternative treatment.
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