Scents for Relaxation

It’s no secret that fragrances can have a powerful effect on our mind and body. Maybe a certain perfume or cologne brings on feelings of happiness because it reminds you of your significant other. Or maybe the smell of baby lotion brings back a flood of blissful, happy baby memories (or possibly a screaming infant!). We, as humans, link many memories and emotions with specific fragrances.

Essential oils have been used and studied over the years for their ability to help people relax, reduce anxiety, and sleep better. These naturally occurring, aromatic compounds are found in the seeds, bark, stems, roots, flowers, and other parts of plants. They have a wide range of physical and emotional wellness applications.

Below, we discuss a few of the most studied and effective essential oils. 

Jasmine

When inhaled, jasmine scent has been found to help people experience greater sleep efficiency, less movement during slumber, and overall better quality sleep. One study found that jasmine oil exhibits a calming effect and can act as a natural sedative by reducing heart rate and bringing on feelings of calm and relaxation.

Vanilla

For most people, the smell of vanilla evokes a sense of warmth and coziness. Research tells us that it can also help you to relax and feel happy, therefore, helping you to sleep better. In one study, people who smelled vanilla while completing a stress test had more stable heart rates and better blood pressure readings than those who took the stress test in an unscented room.

Valerian

Valerian essential oil is one of the most studied oils in relation to sleep improvement. One study showed that valerian oil reduced sleep latency and wake time after sleep onset, for healthy adults in the home setting. Another study showed that rats who smelled valerian oil fell asleep faster and slept longer than those who didn’t. Additionally, valerian oil can also improve mood and reduce anxiety, which are often related to insomnia and other sleep disorders.

Lavender

Many people appreciate the smell of lavender. Moreover, scientific evidence suggests that aromatherapy with lavender may slow the activity of the nervous system, improve sleep quality, promote relaxation, and reduce stress in people suffering from sleep disorders.

Studies also suggest that massage with essential oils, particularly lavender, may result in improved sleep quality, more stable mood, better concentration, and reduced anxiety. In one study, people who received a massage with lavender felt less anxious and more positive than those who received a massage without lavender.

Try it!

If using therapeutic grade essential oils, try diluting with a carrier oil (such as coconut oil) and rubbing directly onto your skin. You can also dilute the essential oil, rub in on your hands, and take deep breathes while inhaling the aroma. Other ways to enjoy oils include diffusing them in an oil diffuser or placing a few drops in your bath water.  

* It is important to note that essential oils aren’t for everyone. They are simply one option that has been found effective to help some people sleep better. Some people may be especially sensitive to their strong smells, which can lead to headaches or nausea. Pregnant women are also advised to discuss essential oils with their doctor before beginning use.

 

 

News Roundup: Stress Reduction

Image credit: http://blog.dougdvorak.com/use-mindfulness-for-sustained-motivation/

Whether it’s over money or health problems, many Americans feel stressed out on a daily basis. Stress seems to be a normal part of life. Unfortunately, if it goes too long unchecked, it can get out of hand and lead to new or worsened health problems, such as depression and anxiety. Fortunately, there are many free resources available for those who want to learn how to reduce stress levels.

This week’s news roundup brings to you a collection of articles and blog posts related to stress reduction.

Stress management. Mayo Clinic. “Without stress management, all too often your body is always on high alert. Over time, high levels of stress lead to serious health problems. Don't wait until stress has a negative impact on your health, relationships or quality of life. Start practicing a range of stress management techniques today.”

20 Scientifically Backed Ways to De-Stress Right Now. Huffington Post. “While just about any walk will help to clear your head and boost endorphins (which, in turn, reduces stress hormones), consider walking in a park or other green space, which can actually put your body into a state of meditation, thanks to a phenomenon known as “involuntary attention” during which something holds our attention, but simultaneously allows for reflection.”

10 Scientifically Proven Ways to Reduce Your Stress. Inc.com. “Countless studies prove the myriad health benefits of working out, including recent research that found strengthening your muscles releases enzymes that detoxify a substance called kynurenine, a byproduct of stress and inflammation.”

Four Ways to Deal with Stress. American Heart Association. “Negative self-talk increases stress. Positive self-talk helps you calm down and control stress. With practice, you can learn to turn negative thoughts into positive ones.”

Take Care of Yourself this Holiday Season

Another Thanksgiving has come and passed. Hopefully you were able to enjoy time with friends and family. Maybe you felt a little stressed and were able to calm down by practicing gratitude and staying in the moment. Or, maybe you let the stress of all the hustle and bustle put a serious damper on your holiday cheer. If the later is true, don’t be too hard on yourself. It’s easy to get caught up in the worry of pleasing everyone and going the extra mile just to make sure everything is perfect. We’re all guilty of it from time to time.

As we approach Christmas and the start of a new year, we challenge you to first and foremost take care of yourself. This may sound a little contradictory to the selfless mantra that usually accompanies the holiday season. We’re not saying that you should become a greedy Grinch who only thinks of them self. We’re challenging you to take a step back from the incessant “people pleasing”, worrying about buying the perfect gift, overcommitting to holiday gatherings, and all the other extra stressors we tend to put on ourselves this time of year. Instead, take some time for yourself and you will likely find that all of the other stressors take care of themselves. When you start to take care of yourself first, you are better prepared to handle whatever life throws your way…and your light can shine a little brighter.

Ditch the Resolution and Resolve to be SMART

Don’t bother setting a New Year’s resolution. Statistics show that only about 8% of people actually accomplish them anyway. What better way to start the New Year than to start it with failing to reach a goal? Instead, pick one important, yet achievable goal using the SMART method. This will set you up for success and leave you feeling accomplished and proud in the start of the New Year.

For more on SMART goals, check out our blog.

Set Boundaries

Most of us tend to find it easier to say “yes” than “no” when someone asks a favor of us. But, this can be a huge source of stress and anxiety if you are not truly equipped mentally or physically to handle the long to-do list. Don’t be afraid to say no. Most people will be very understanding if you are honest with them. If it is something that you feel you have to do, don’t be afraid to ask for help. By setting boundaries, you are allowing yourself to better manage both your time and your expectations. This will help to decrease some of stress and anxiety related to the holidays.

Stop and Smell the Roses

Well, maybe stop and smell the pine. You get the point. It’s so easy to get caught up in busyness of each day. Maybe you’re counting down the days until Christmas or the days you have left to get your Christmas shopping done. Before you know it another Christmas will have passed and you will have missed out on many of the smaller things that you passed right by. The next time you are shopping, take a moment to visit your favorite store and browse around. Pick a gift for yourself that you really enjoy and buy it. Take a couple of hours to sit down with your family and enjoy your favorite Christmas movie while snuggled up with hot chocolate under the covers. Or maybe take a half day just to do whatever you want, by yourself. Pampering yourself a bit will re-energize you and give you the boost you need.

Reshaping Your Environment: Get the most out of your space

It's easy to underestimate the impact of our surroundings on our life. An unsuspecting person may walk into the kitchen and grab a banana out of the fruit bowl without knowing that they would have just as likely grabbed a donut, if it had been there instead of the banana. Think about how much more work you can get done by having your own private office with a door, rather than working in a shared space, such as a cubicle.

Although there are some things that we can’t totally change (such as working in a cubicle), we can almost always make modifications. Whether small or large, reorganizing and setting aside a specific space for your most important tasks, can have a huge impact on your day.

Nutrition

One of the best ways to shape your food and drink environment can be summarized by the old saying “out of sight, out of mind”. Make the healthiest foods, like fruit, the most visible and easily accessible in your kitchen. Conversely, remove all unhealthy, “junk food” from the counter tops (and your house altogether, ideally). If you have a difficult time deciding what is healthy and unhealthy, a good rule of thumb is to not have any food on your counter top except fruit. Also, place pre-made green salads or a bowl of grapes at eye level in the refrigerator to keep them visible. If you spend a lot of time away from home, pack some healthy snacks so that you can create your own healthy food environment anywhere you are. 

The same principles work when it comes to staying hydrated.  Keeping water in a pitcher in the fridge or in convenient water bottles will help keep your family hydrated.  You will naturally tend to gravitate toward the food and drink that is most convenient and visible.

Exercise

What is most important to you when you are exercising? Think of the things in your environment that motivate you the most, and focus on enhancing them. For example, if music is crucial to your workout, then make sure you load up with a good playlist before each workout. If you love being outdoors, then take your workout outside to the park, or your backyard. If you are intimidated by large groups of people, make sure to choose a gym that is smaller in size or offers private workout areas. Regardless of your preferences, make sure that you addressing your needs and removing any barriers from your environment that may be preventing you from exercising.

Sleep

Creating a bedroom that is conducive for sleep is one of the easiest ways to modify your environment. The bedroom should be used for sleep (or intimate time) only. No watching TV and no exercising in there either. Your bedroom should be cool, dark, and quiet. Use blackout curtains and a white noise machine, if necessary. If kids or pets often keep you awake, try to create a specific space for them that is off your bed, preferably in another room.

Mind/Body

As discussed previously, the benefits of practicing mindfulness range from improved sleep, to lower stress levels. Creating a space to practice mindfulness is sometimes as easy as finding an empty, quiet room to sit for a while. Other times, you will want to create a more permanent space that is calm, peaceful, and relaxing. This can be your go-to place when meditating or practicing mindfulness. You will want to make sure this space has a comfortable place to sit, and is not too cluttered with unused items. Instead, have one or two items that inspire you.  These items will help you find your center and practice. Setting aside this space solely for the purpose of relaxation will provide peace of mind, knowing that you have a peaceful place dedicated for this one purpose. 

 

Feel Less Stressed & Have More Free Time: Techniques for Strengthening Time Management Skills

 

Between work, family, friends, and the plethora of digital distractions, finding time to accomplish all they day’s tasks can seem nearly impossible at times. Clean the house, mow the lawn, go to work, pick the kids up from practice…don’t forget the laundry. Not to mention finding time to exercise and plan healthy meals. The list goes on.

The good news is that there are a number of tips and suggestions for improving time management. When we don’t feel overburdened by all our tasks, then we are free to better enjoy our day. We experience lower levels of stress, depression, and anxiety, while also maintaining better sleep habits.  We are also better able to enjoy our time with friends and family.

Although it can be hard to stray from well-established habits, there are certain techniques that you can practice.  Having an organizational system in place will likely help you to be more organized, and therefore, more relaxed.

           

Set aside 15 minutes

Getting started is often the most difficult part of a new task. Devote 15 minutes each day to organizing. This could mean anything from throwing out old food from the refrigerator, to organizing a closet. Remember, it is not how much time we have, but the way we use it.

 

Learn how to Say No

Time management is the act of gaining a bit of control over events.  Do not say yes to too many things.  This causes us to live the priorities of others, rather than your own.  Every time you agree to do something extra, something else will not get done.

 

 

 

Don’t Procrastinate

Often a person's anxiety about a task leads them to avoid it.  Therefore, to accomplish more, it is best to tackle the most difficult or worrisome task first.  By tackling the most worrisome task early on, you will likely reduce the anxiety associated with this task, and find that work becomes easier.  When the unpleasant task is finished, it no longer creates anxiety and worry, which can save time.

Set SMART Goals

Focus on one SMART goal rather than several non-specific goals. SMART is an acronym that stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Rewarding, and Time Specific. By setting your goals according to the SMART method, you are more likely to accomplish them. For more on SMART goals, check out our blog.

Get Organized. Stay Organized.

In order to minimize time spent looking for misplaced items, it is important to stay organized. Start by arranging your work/home space in a way that promotes organization.  Have a place for everything, and put everything in its place. Another helpful tool in staying organized is using a calendar. A well-organized calendar can help you track important tasks and remember important dates and deadlines.  For a calendar to be effective for time management, however, you must be sure to note important dates.  A good rule of thumb is to only schedule 70% of your day.  The other 30% will likely be filled with interruptions and emergencies.

Remember, different approaches work for different people.  The goal is to help yourself become aware of how you use your time so that you are using it most efficiently.  Ideally, this will help you to feel less stressed by helping you accomplish your goals in a timely manner.  Efficient time management will also help you free up more time to spend doing the things you truly enjoy, like spending time with family and friends.