Stressed? Here are 4 quick and easy ways to lower your stress and feel better

Stress wreaks havoc on the body, we all know that. It can emulate the effects of a heart attack on the body, making the sufferer go through the motions of having a heart attack. It can disrupt sleep and destroy energy levels. Stress is one thing that can cause more damage than anyone could possibly foresee.

The longer that you allow stress to sit in your body and wrestle with your mind, the worse the effects become. A little bit of stress can be a motivator, absolutely. But when the stress starts causing negative feelings and emotions, it’s time to consider that you need to release some of it.

Here are four easy ways to kill your stress level, and feel better now:
  1. First and foremost, the quickest, easiest and most effective way to release stress is to take some ‘me time’ and do something for yourself. You work hard, you do your best, and you deserve a reward. So take a nice warm bath, toss in some Epsom salts, and light a candle. Or maybe you’d rather sit in your backyard/nearby park with a nice drink (tea, beer, lemonade… whatever floats your boat!) and enjoy the scenery. Anything you want to do that takes you away from the stresses in life, just do it!
  2. If you can’t walk away from your life for longer than 10 minutes right now, consider breathing deeply with your eyes closed. This simple and quick technique has immediate calming effects. All you have to do is close your eyes, inhale deeply and exhale slowly. Take your time. Enjoy a moment of silence and take in a good punch of refreshing oxygen.
  3. Eat some fresh fruit. Whichever type of fruit you’d like, it doesn’t matter. But some fresh and vibrant fruit. First off, the bright colour will lighten your mood and lift your spirits. Secondly, the fruit will be chock full of natural sugars and vitamins that will give you an extra burst of energy and top up your energy stores. So grab a quick and fresh bite from your fridge, and enjoy the flavours and the colours.
  4. Laugh! Read a funny joke, talk to someone that you find amusing, or watch a funny video. Anything that will make you giggle or full-out roar with laughter will almost immediately drop your stress level. Laughing both causes your body to move, simulating physical activity (which is also great for reducing stress, especially long-term) as well as causing your serotonin levels to rise and improving your outlook and stress levels very quickly.
On top of these four tips, consider the following few ideas to keep your stress levels down to a dull roar even at the worst of times.
  1. Exercise regularly.
  2. Eat healthy, fresh, raw foods such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and whole grains as often as possible.
  3. Take time for yourself regularly!
Prepare yourself for the attack of stress, and you will be able to fend it off with much better results.

Remember that you are worth the effort, and you deserve to feel how wonderful it is to have little to no stress.

Do at least one thing for yourself everyday, even if it’s just five minutes. Take your time brushing your hair or in the shower and really enjoy what you’re doing. Slow down when you’re walking to or from the bus stop and look around at the beauty that surrounds you. Play with your kids or friends, boardgames, sports, or just horsing around! Just get out there and do something!

Now, if you don’t mind, I’m going to go have a snack! Gotta keep my energy up and my stress down for my family, my health, and my work.

Compassionate Parenting - Receiving gifts as a most high honour

Hope you all enjoyed Earth Hour! I spent it relaxing on the couch with my better half. How did you spend yours?

On to today's regularly scheduled piece on compassionate parenting and how it relates to the real world. Today, we revisit the concept on gifts, and how the receiver holds a key part in successful gift giving of any type.

Contributing to the well-being of others is a fundamental need, for children as much as for you.

When parents recognize and receive the gifts children have to offer, they inspire children's natural desire to give.

Having an appropriate response to gifts is a very important habit and reaction tot each by example to both children and other adults in your life. If they see you respond positively and honestly to gifts and offerings, they are significantly more likely to try to emulate that reaction themselves. This is because experiencing the full extent of gift-giving lies not only in the ability to give a gift, but also in the reaction of the receiver.

When you are super excited about a gift that you either purchased or made for someone, that excitement can be severely dampened by their reaction. If they react negatively or neutrally, you may feel that you have done something wrong, or possibly even insulted them. This will affect your confidence when it comes to thinking of and giving gifts, as you may start to feel that your gifts are not good enough or that they are unwanted. Not a good feeling at all!

While we’re on the subject of gifts, keep in mind that not all gifts are tangible items that you can hold in your hands. The greatest gift that I received this Christmas was having a happy and positive experience with my family at our dinner on Boxing Day. This was provided by each and every one of my family members in attendance (and that amounts to over twenty people!) but it was a great experience, lots of fond memories, and good feelings all around. Children can gift non-tangible gifts every day, such as inviting you to help them, or telling you a story (either about their day or that they made up.)

My daughter LOVES to tell me stories about all sorts of things. Sometimes it’s about dreams that she has, and sometimes it’s about something fun that happened at school. When she is telling me a story, I do my best to listen in and involve myself into her story by asking questions about details and being fascinated by the imagination that her little 6-year-old brain showcases. I make sure that she understands and sees that I am very interested in what she is saying, and she enjoys telling me stories because of this. This is an example of a great gift that my child brings to my life, and I recognize and receive it by using actions to show her that I am thankful and happy to receive this gift.

It is all too easy to half-listen and not really take any interest in the small gifts that are given to you each and every day. But these gifts are essential to our emotional well-being as well as the well-being of those who are giving us these gifts. When we acknowledge and receive these gifts positively, they are more likely to continue to come in. This will not only make you as the receiver feel good, for being the honoured receiver of these gifts, but they will make the giver of the gifts feel both appreciated and listened to. And that is a feeling that does not erase itself easily.

Rearranging your space to clear the air and feel better

This weekend, M and I finally got around to rearranging the bedroom. Our bedroom is an odd shape, so trying to maximize on that space with a queen-sized bed is rather challenging. Space was cramped, and I couldn’t open the closet door fully on either side. The dresser drawers were partially blocked, and the cat decided that instead of trying to find its scratching post it would use one of our pillows as a resting place.

I finally got fed up with it, and we decided to start fresh. We emptied the room of everything except the bed (it’s too big to move around, but at least it rolls!) and moved the bed to the other side of the room. Arranged everything around that, bookshelf on the other side, kitty litter closer to the door (less litter tracks to walk through now!) and the closet doors open fully! What a relief!

This made me realize how important it is to rearrange your furniture and belongings periodically. It’s refreshing, like a new haircut. You get to take a fresh look at your space and where you want your belongings to go. Arrange it in a way that it esthetically pleasing as well as functional, and embraces your personal flair in your surroundings.

Feeling the need to constantly rearrange your surroundings and your furniture can be indicative of subconscious issues that you may not be addressing, but that doesn’t mean that you can move around the couches every few months when the seasons change, or when you get a new item.

Plan out your big furniture items first as they will be the hardest to place if you place the smaller items first. The big items will also shape the formation of your completed room. If you want to maximize on space, consider keeping your shelves all on one side of the room, and ensure that you have an open space in the middle of your room. If you are looking more for comfort, set it up to emphasize that. No matter what you want your room to look like, you can make it happen and without professional help.

Rearranging a room in your home also opens the door for some decluttering and cleaning that you may have been putting off for a while. It’s a lot easier to go through your belongings and decide what to keep and what to purge when you have to take it all out and put it back in. This sounds like a cumbersome task, but it isn’t so bad if you can be honest with yourself.

If you are doing your bedroom, go through your clothes and decide which ones you really don’t wear anymore and donate them. If you are rearranging your living room, go through your movies shelf and pick out which movies you don’t watch anymore and donate them. Things that are just taking up space in your home will only create mental clutter, so the sooner you get the monkey off your back, the better!

Cleaning hard to reach places also becomes easier when the shelves are emptied and the floor uncovered. What normally would have been a time-consuming task involving shifting furniture and moving small trinkets around will now take less than fifteen minutes (or less) because the area will already be cleared! Take those few minutes and get rid of those hidden dust bunnies. The air in your home will thank you.

Everybody goes through periods where their tastes change, and their preferences adjust. By rearranging parts of your home periodically, you are allowing your personal energy to flow positively as you feel more comfortable in your surroundings. You can clean and purge your areas with limited effort, and you will feel better knowing that it is as you want it to be. Be the master of your own domain, and allow yourself to feel at ease and at peace with your own surroundings. It can make all the difference in the world.

Compassionate Parenting: Needs Explained - Integrity

Integrity: adherence to moral and ethical principles; soundness of moral character; honesty

When an individual can stay true to their own moral code in actions and words is something that will affect whether or not they can feel satisfied in life. It will affect their self-worth and damage the opinion that others may have in them.

When how a person acts is not parallel and congruent with how they feel or a moral or ethical level, the feelings of guilt, unhappiness, or resentfulness towards those whose actions are congruent with their morals and ethics can be overwhelming. The individual may feel that their life has little to no meaning, based on the fact that their actions are not portraying anything close to how they may feel on a given subject.

By being true to their own values and principles, an individual will find that it becomes easier to reach for and attain new goals that are based on their morals. The sense of honesty and belief in their own thoughts and emotions will be validated and strengthened by the fact that they know they live their life acting based on their thoughts and morals.

When a person is able to follow their own beliefs, by they moral, ethical or spiritual, through their actions as well as their words, they will have a very distinct feeling of trust and faith in themselves. It can be incredibly satisfying and fulfilling to know that words reflect actions, and vice versa. Integrity provides the individual with a distinct feeling of authenticity which will show outwardly in their behaviours and self-satisfaction.

The individual’s moral character will be more easily seen and accepted when their actions reflect their principles. Others will see their honesty and truthfulness and they will react positively to it or at least know that they will be able to trust that individual’s words and morality.

Compassionate Parenting - Specific Statements over Vague Vents

It is important to be specific about what you want from your child.

"Would you please pick up the game you left in the living room?" is specific and doable.

"Stop being such a slob" lets your child know what label you give his/her behavior. However, it doesn't give the information s/he can use to specifically meet your needs for order.

Giving children general statements and requests give them nothing to improve on. They won’t know what it is they’ve done wrong, or what they’ve done right. Blanket statements made in frustration or under duress can make the situation worse. They won’t understand what the problem is, or how to fix it. Children, like adults, don’t like to be a source of disappointment and generally want to see those around them in positive spirits. This is difficult if they don’t know what is causing the stress or frustration, or how to improve the situation.

Consider you are at work and your supervisor tells you that you do sloppy work. How do you feel? Do you know what needs to be improved on, or do you feel personally attacked by the words? When you use non-specific criticism, the receiver will often take it as a personal attack, and that can lead to lowered self-confidence and feelings of insufficiency. Consider instead that your supervisor tells you that your filing system is difficult to understand and he or she has a hard time finding files that you have put away. Now you know what the problem is and how it’s affecting those you are working with. You have something specific that needs improvement, and you will be able to take specific steps to improve the situation.

Open and honest communication is an essential part of having a productive and beneficial relationship with those around you, and using non-specific attacks to vent your frustration will only lead to further negativity. Opt instead to speak positively and specifically about things that bother you or that you think need adjustment.

If your child is constantly leaving their toys out where you step on them or kick them accidentally, sit them down and inform them that their toys are going to get broken and end up in the garbage if they continue to leave them out. Explain that leaving toys out leads to them getting kicked under couches, or stepped on, which leads to them being lost or broken. This will let them know that there is a direct natural consequence to leaving their belongings out on the floor, as well as informing them that it is dangerous for those who use the area.

Taking the time to be specific about your complaints instead of tossing out broad, general, and sometimes harsh complaints will lead to improved communication in your daily interactions and more open relationships with those around you. People will feel more able to talk to you without worrying about being bombarded with harsh personal attacks or non-specific venting that they may take personally. They will be able to take you at your word, and be able to understand what you are trying to tell them. They will also be more likely to improve their own communication skills as they will mimic that which affects them positively.

You are the master of your own words, so make each and every one of them count towards improving your situation, and by default the situation of those around you. Positive, effective communication is possible, one conversation at a time.

4 easy ways your child can be eco-friendly too

Today's post is a guest post by Tara Miller, a fellow writer who enjoys writing on a variety of subjects, particularly on the subject of psychology. This post is about helping your kids to learn how to become earth-friendly in an age-appropriate way. If you enjoy what you read here, send her an email using her email address below or feel free to leave a comment! Thanks for reading, I hope you enjoy!

Small children can't purchase organic foods or energy efficient appliances. They can't swap out the furnace filter or take a quick trip over to the recycling mill on their own. But they can do other simple eco-friendly tasks around the house and community that can help them sustain the environment. Instilling these following green practices at a very young age will undoubtedly help them on their way to becoming environmentally-conscious and energy conserving young adults.

Switch the Lights Off. As a parent, it's important that the first thing you teach your child is the importance of conserving electricity. Explain to them that leaving on a light when they are not in the room will not only drain your wallet, but it will also encourage the depletion of the earth's resources as well. It's equally important that you explain to your child that leaving appliances or cords plugged in an electrical outlet when it is not in use is also draining power—so unplugging video gaming systems, the computer and cell phone chargers when they are not using them is a must. To help get started them and to make this a habitual thing, why not turning it into some kind of game? Challenge your child to unplug all the appliances that are not being used and reward them with something small if they do a good job—just make sure you warn them to steer clear of the refrigerator and other appliances that need to be on at all times.

Conserving Water. Small children can also do wonders for the environment simply by decreasing their water usages. One of the more common things that children (and adults) do is let the water run while brushing their teeth or lather up soap to wash their face. Instead, encourage your child to only use the water to wet his or her tooth brush and then when he or she needs to rinse out his or her mouth.

To stress the importance, you could always explain that by letting the water run non-stop, an innocent fish or turtle may be drained of the water supply it needs to survive. Or, you can let them watch this short video named "Don't leave the water running". Equally important, you want to try and encourage your child to take showers rather than baths since showers use less water. But you might also want to tell them that singing in the shower and doing other activities in the shower while the water is running (playing with toys for example) is also wasting water.

Walk, Bike, Take the Bus or Carpool. How your child gets to school is usually up to the discretion of the parent, but if the school is close enough why don't you encourage your child to walk or take a bicycle to school? If your child is too young, you can make it a family ordeal and walk or ride your bike to school all together. Using this mode of transportation will heavily decrease the levels of carbon released into the atmosphere—even if your child walks to school only a few days out of the week. Taking the school bus or organizing a carpool can be equally as effective at reducing smog—it'll save you a bundle on gas money too.

Recycle Together. Lastly, if you recycle allow your child to participate. Small children love being included in everything from cooking, washing the car to yes, even recycling. Allow them to help by sorting the different materials and explaining why we recycle in the first place. This one should be a breeze since even someone as young as 5 years-old knows how to identify a can made for plastic bottles from the one made for paper.

This guest contribution was submitted by Tara Miller, who particularly enjoys writing about psychology degrees. She welcomes your comments and can be reached at:

Compassionate Parenting: Listen and understand

Children, like all of us, need to be heard and understood.
Next time you hear yourself telling your child how s/he should be feeling or what s/he should be thinking or doing, stop and listen to what your child has to say.

When you go through life and come across something challenging or emotionally provoking, do you find it helpful when those around you try to tell you how to get through it? Say you just had a child, and people come up to you while you’re out for a walk with your baby and start telling you to breastfeed/not to breastfeed, to swaddle them/not to swaddle them, to feed on demand/to feed on a schedule. How do you react?
Each person will experience their lives in a different way. The way that I decide to solve a problem, or grieve loss, will be different from the way my neighbour, mother, aunt, coworker deal with that same situation. There is no one right way to deal with a situation, whether positive or negative.
What there is in each situation is the opportunity to learn more about yourself. Take any situation, a promotion or a layoff, child birth or miscarriage, good meal or gross meal, and there is something that you can learn in how to deal with similar situations in the future.
So telling a child that they ‘shouldn’t be upset’ because they fell and hurt their feelings/bum/knees will not help them learn how to deal with the next fall they experience. Saying that your son/daughter ‘should be happy’ that daycare is over because they get to come home will not make it easier for them to cope with that separation.
Telling people how to think repeatedly, especially as they are just developing problem-solving skills and analytical thinking, will be more of a detriment to them, because they will not learn that they can have faith in their own emotions. They will depend on others to tell them how to feel about every little thing.
Instead of telling other how to feel, or how you would feel in that situation, start asking them how they feel. Listen to what they say, and try to see things from their perspective. Forcing your thoughts and opinions onto them when they're going through a time of change, be it positive or negative, is a surefire way to alienate them when what they need is someone close.
When you go through a hard time, or a big change, or just a disappointment, you don't want to hear from others who will tell you how you should be feeling. You will likely want someone to listen to you and to hear what you're saying. To provide beneficial input that incorporates what you feel as well as how they would deal with it in your situation. But your feelings and emotions and fears need to be validated.
Each and every one of us as humans have an inate need and want to be heard and understood. To be able to talk and have others actually listen to what we have to say. Children are no exception, and neither is the cranky woman next door (or grumpy uncle, or crabby cashier). They all want to have their worries, thoughts, emotions, and happinesses heard and understood.
What you send out will come back to you, so when you're waiting in line at the grocery store, or you run into your cranky neighbour, or your child is having a fit, stop and listen to what they actually have to say. You may be amazed at what they say, you may even be able to do something right then and there to help them out.
All it takes is for you to stop and listen. The rest will come naturally.