4 Health Benefits of Positive Thinking

positive woman smiling

There are many benefits to positive thinking.  Many people belief that if you start the day off with positive thinking then you have a greater chance of having a good day.  Another school of thought suggests that positive thinking attracts good people and good things to come your way.  I believe both things to be true.  A positive mindset will put you in a much better position to not see every challenge or difficult situation as the end of the world.  The great news is that a positive mindset also comes with some health benefits.

Better Heart Health and Positivity

There is scientific evidence that says that positivity can lead to a healthier heart.  When we think negatively or have a negative outlook, stress hormones are released.  This results in a higher heart rate and a rise in your blood pressure.  Having a positive mindset leads to less stress hormones being released which limits the amount of stress being put on your cardiovascular system.  A positive mindset can help ensure that your health is not under any additional or unnecessary stress that can lead to a heart attack, stroke, or heart disease.

Positive Thinking Can Increase Life Span

A positive mindset can add years to your life.  It can sometimes keep you away from those things that unhealthy thoughts can lead you.  Negative thinking can send you down a rabbit hole that can lead to self-destructive behaviors such as alcoholism, drug use, or unhealthy eating habits.  All of these things can lead to a decrease in your life span.  Those individuals who keep a positive mindset are more likely to do those things that make them feel good and are healthy.  Exercising, healthy eating habits, and lower stress levels can add years to your life.

Positive Mindsets and Increased Pain Tolerance

Your positive thinking can even impact how much pain you can tolerate.   For example, When you are in pain or when you are thinking about something that may be painful, the way you think about the pain can impact your experience.  Thinking you are not going to be able to deal with your current or impending pain increases your stress levels which increases your pain levels.  Thinking positive thoughts reduces your anxiety and helps you to focus on something other than pain. This lowers your stress levels which can lead to an increase in pain tolerance.

Positive Thinking And Better Coping Skills

Positive thinking enables you to see the most positive outcome in a situation.  Negative thinking can lead you to make one bad decision that can lead to other bad decisions.  This cycle of perpetual bad decision making can lead to bad outcomes such as hopelessness, high stress levels, and chronic anxiety.  Positive mindsets lead to positive coping skills. These are the coping skills that relieve anxieties and not perpetuate it.  Mediation, journaling, and seeking therapy or counseling are all healthy ways of coping with challenging situations.  You are far more likely to choose positive coping skills when you have a positive mindset.

positive lady smiling

Comment below and tell me how you maintain a positive mindset?  What are some other health benefits of a positive mindset that you would add to this list?

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5 Surprising Symptoms of Anxiety

woman experiencing anxiety

Anxiety often presents itself in different ways.  Most of us have experienced some level of anxiety at one point or an0ther.  Sometimes we can experience it in the form of sweaty palms.  Other times it can be in the form of a racing heart. But there are times that you can be under such a heightened level that it presents itself in different – less obvious ways.  It is one of those things that can alter your whole personality and the way you do things without you even realizing about it.  Here are 5 surprising ways that anxiety shows itself.

Digestive Issues

The brain and your stomach are very closely related.  This can be seen when you get butterflies in your stomach just by thinking of something.  Or when your stomach is in knots as you prepare for a big event or decision.  But these are both instances where you are fully aware of why you have butterflies or why your stomach is in knots.  When being anxious becomes such a normal part of your day-to-day existence, you may not realize that your heartburn, upset stomach, or acid reflux as a result of the anxiety that your body is experiencing.  Sometimes it takes the ruling out of many other disorders or medical issues to realized that your digestive issues may be the result of anxiety.  Once you see it for what it is, you can have better control over it.

Anxiety can Lead to Confusion

Anxiety can cause you to feel very confused or if you are walking in a fog.  Even if you do not realize that you are operating under a heightened level of anxiety, you may still feel these effects.  You may find that you become confused when trying to remember details.  Or you may find it difficult to follow conversations or formulate logical thoughts.  This confusion can be due to either your mind going blank or because there are too many thoughts running through your mind.  Most of the time this confusion comes and goes as opposed to happening of the time.  General confusion or the feeling of having disjointed thoughts can be a symptom of anxiety.

Anxiety Can Cause Tiredness

Did you know that anxiety can physically tire you out?  The truth is that it can and often does.  When you body is experiencing a great deal of stress, your muscles tense.  This can tire you out and make you very tired without you even realizing why you are so tired.  When you are under a great deal of stress, your body will begin to shut down as a way of protecting itself.  As discussed earlier, anxiety can lead to confusion and disjointed thoughts.  Trying to process these thoughts can be mentally draining and can lead to physical tiredness.  You may not realize why you are suddenly so tired or taking frequent naps, but it could be related to anxiety.

Perfectionism

Those fighting anxiety may also find themselves fighting perfectionism.  It will tell you that everything must look or be a certain way and, if it is not, you are a failure.  It may also tell you that you are not where you need to be in life or that you are unworthy of any good thing that happens to you.  Anxiety tells you these things and the quest for perfection is what we do in response to these feelings.  Perfectionism is a lesser-known symptom because people sometimes fail to realize that it stems from the desire to do things perfectly on the first try.  This leads to perfectionist behaviors that, ironically, the anxiety perpetuates.

Frequent Colds

Anxiety releases a great deal of chemicals and hormones that prepare you to be able to respond to tense situations.  Your immune is given a boost when this happens.  In most circumstances, your immune system returns to normal.  But in circumstances where you frequently experience a high level of anxiety, your immune system does not have time to recover.  This leads to being much more susceptible to illnesses.  The compromising of the immune system is a surprising symptom to many, but it is good to know so that you are aware of how seriously anxiety can impact your health.

woman looking confidently into camera

If you battle anxiety, have you ever experienced any of these things? Comment below if you have ever experienced these or any other surprising symptoms of anxiety.

Free Yourself: 5 Benefits of Journaling

Woman writing in her journal

I have always been aware of the idea of journaling but I have never heard it advocated as a practice as much as I have this year.  I am sure that is due to the challenging year that this has been.  Journaling has been suggested by many as a healthy way to process the many emotions that may be felt during these times.  Many people often confuse keeping a journal with keeping a diary.  They are similar but the main difference is that a diary is a record of what happened.  A journal is a record of your thoughts and feelings.  There are several benefits to journaling.

Journal to Relieve Anxiety and Stress

Have you ever had so much on your mind that it was just too much to process?  And after you talked it out you realized that your issue was not as bad as you thought?  Journaling is similar to talking something out with a friend.  Anxiety and stress can be eased when you write out your thoughts concerning those things that are making you anxious.  Journaling can provide you with clarity if it is a decision or circumstance that is causing you stress.  Writing out your thoughts on the issue that is making you anxious could greatly assist you with solving the issue or allowing you to see the big picture.  Either of these outcomes can ease stress and anxiety.

Journal to Recognize Patterns

Whether we realize it or not, we all have patterns.  If you talk to your friends about a situation enough they can probably tell you where the situation is headed based on similar conversations.  Journaling can help you see those patterns for yourself.  As you write about how different situations make you feel or your thought process around certain decisions, you will begin to notice patterns.  You may notice that use negative self-talk or you may notice that you do not have as much confidence in yourself as you should.  Patterns can be seen as you write and then reflect on those things that you have written.  Reading past entries can provide you a new perspective on your behavior.

Journal sitting on desk

Journal to Become Empowered

Journaling can give you a sense of empowerment as you can write your deepest, most intimate thoughts.  Whether writing about your experiences or through journal prompts, you will begin to gain more clarity on how you think and how certain experiences have shaped you.  Journaling can help you discover more about yourself.  You can discover what makes you happy, what causes you stress, as well as those aspects of yourself that you wish to improve.  Discovering your personal strengths and the power you possess in these strengths is a wonderful feeling.  But discovering those areas that you may need to work on to enhance your personal growth can be life changing.

Journal to Track Goals

Journals can help you track progress toward an established goal.  After identifying your goal, a journal can help you determine both your good and bad habits that may be helping or hindering you from achieving your goal.  It could be your innermost thoughts or the company you keep but reflecting on past journal entries will help you to begin to see what your barriers are.  Likewise, you will be able to see who or what promotes a healthy path to your goals.  You will be able to learn a lot about yourself in the process and this will make future goals easier to achieve.

Journal In a Safe Zone

Have you ever just wanted to be brutally honest with someone regarding the way you felt but was leery due to the judgment that may follow this honesty?  All of us feel vulnerable from time to time.  A journal is a safe place to write what you feel in a safe space.  No one will see your inner most thoughts except those you choose to see them.  A journal is a place where you can be your most authentic self.  Feel free to write honestly as being candid is one of the main ways to get the total benefits of journaling.  You can learn a lot about yourself when you allow yourself to be vulnerable. 

Open journal on desk

These are just a few benefits of journaling.  Do you journal?  What are some benefits of journaling that you would add to this list?

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Managing Your Stress (Part Four)

Today is the final day of this series about stress and I wanted to end on a high note.  I hope to assist you with ways to help alleviate your stress. Please remember that, although stress is all around us, stress can be managed and there are quite a few things that you can do to manage your stress.  Hopefully one of these things can assist you on your quest to alleviate your stress.

1. Journaling.  Get some of those thoughts out of your head and on paper. Journaling can also help you notice patterns in your behavior and can help you with your self-reflection.

2. Exercising. Stress can be relieved through exercise because exercising produces endorphins which reduce your stress levels. Regular exercise can go a long way in your efforts to manage your stress.

3. Laughing.  Have you ever had a good, deep belly laugh that pulled you out of a bad mood? Laughter can take your mind off of your stressor while easing a lot of muscle tension.

4. Meditation.  Meditation allows you to get to such a deep place of relaxation that you are able to sort through all of your jumbled thoughts. Your anxiety may be eased if you are able to sort your thoughts and tackle them one at a time and not all at once.

5. Eat healthily. Eating foods high in nutrients can help improve your mood and energy which can reduce stress. Foods that are rich in Vitamin C, as well as some herbal supplements, can help to reduce stress.

6. Reading.  Reading allows you to escape your reality and enter someone else’s reality. This allows you to take your mind off of the things that are stressing you out and allow you to relax.  This temporary escape from your reality can keep you from being overwhelmed.

7. Slowing down your thoughts.  This may sound simple but it is one of the hardest things to do. Slowing down my thoughts has helped me greatly. Stress can sometimes come from the feeling of being overwhelmed and having to figure out everything at once. Slowing down your thoughts allows you to focus on one thing at a time.

8. Breathing deeply. Breathing deep breaths when stress threatens to overwhelm you helps to relax your body and relieve tensions. It also helps you with being able to clear your mind to the point where you can put your stressors in perspective.

9. Therapy.  If the stress that you are trying to manage feels that it is unmanageable, please consider getting help from a therapist. Excessive stress can be an indicator of other mental illnesses that need to be addressed by a professional.

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Please remember if the stress is so overwhelming that you just feel like nothing you do is helpful, please see a professional. Comment if there are some things that you have done to alleviate stress that was not included on this list.

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Managing Your Stress (Part Three)

So far in this series on stress management we have talked about myths/misconceptions, lesser-known symptoms of stress, and some common causes of stress. Today, I will be discussing the effects that stress has on your mental health. I wanted to give the effects of stress on your mental health a day of its own because it is just that important. It is sometimes hard to identify the effects that stress has on your mental health because it is not as obviously seen as physical symptoms. Sometimes these symptoms can sneak up on you and become a part of your being before you even realize that stress is what got you there. 

Stress can affect your mental health in several ways but here are just a few.

Anxiety. Constant stress can lead to anxiety, which is a feeling of fear or worry. Anxiety can affect your mental health if it begins to interfere with your daily routine. Unchecked anxiety can lead to a lack of concentration, racing thoughts, excessive worry, amongst other things that can have harmful effects on your psychological health.

Depression. Stress can break down all of your body’s defenses. It impacts your sleep, your ability to focus, as well as your mood to the point where you can begin to feel like you are not yourself. Depression is a feeling of being sad or just not interested in those things that used to interest you. Chronic stress can wear you down to the point where you can almost become numb to what is going on around you. This numbness can lead to depression.

Loneliness. Some things that cause you stress may be so personal that you do not feel like you can share them with anyone. As the thoughts begin to stress you and worry you, you may begin to feel lonely. The feelings of loneliness will keep you from reaching out to people to receive help. Keeping everything inside can lead to more feelings and loneliness and negatively impact your psychological health.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).  If your stress is caused by a prolonged traumatic event that has occurred over a period of time or a single traumatic event, the impact of that stress can stay with you in the form of PTSD. We often think of PTSD when we think of soldiers who were in combat – but PTSD can also be a very real thing for those individuals who have been in abusive relationships, endured some type of abuse in their childhood, or have witnessed a traumatic event. PTSD is a very real disorder that can impact your mental health if not addressed.

Alcoholism or substance abuse.  Being consumed by stress can make you feel a variety of things – jittery, uncertain, anxious. A lot of people feel that these feelings are unbearable and all they want to do is ease the discomfort or numb the pain. For many, stress can lead to alcohol and substance abuse as a way to alleviate stress.

Comment below if you have either experienced these effects of stress or if you can add to the list of ways stress has affected your mental health.

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Managing Your Stress (Part Two)

Can you pinpoint exactly what causes you stress?  It could be one major thing, or it could be a combination of several things. Many of us would say our current state of affairs is causing us stress. The country is slowly beginning to open back up now, but for a while, we were all feeling disconnected from our families and communities.

People perceive stressors differently and people respond to stressors differently. People often pinpoint work, finances, health concerns, and family responsibilities as being major sources of stress.  Those are the major reasons people stress but let us peel away the layers and examine why these things are stressful.

Uncertainty. This is what was (and is) causing so much stress during our time of quarantining and isolation. We did not really know much. When was it going to end? How was it going to end? What would life look like when it ended? One question would always lead to another and the not knowing was extremely stressful. Suspense and foreboding are great when it comes to a movie or a novel, but not when it comes to our lives. COVID-19 has caused many people to lose their jobs or have their hours cut.  This could lead to a lot of uncertainty. An uncertain health report could lead to stress because of all the uncertainty. Stress due to uncertainty is related to us being uncomfortable with not having control over every aspect of our lives.

Being Overwhelmed. Many of us have a lot going on with work, children, our hobbies, etc. It is easy to become overwhelmed especially when it seems like there is always something to be done and something that needs attention. Becoming overwhelmed can happen in a multitude of settings. A sudden job loss, the death of a loved one, or even a positive life event like a marriage can be overwhelming. The feeling of being overwhelmed can become so intense that it will literally take your breath away.

Unrealistic expectations. Sometimes we become stressed mainly because of the stress that we put on ourselves. We sometimes hold ourselves to such high expectations that disappointment and frustration is the only outcome. When we overcommit ourselves or have unrealistic expectations for ourselves, stress is inevitable. A great example of this would be a parent who is trying to balance work life and family life. The expectation that you can give 100% both at work and at home is not inconceivable but can be a heavy burden to put on yourself.

Comment below some of the things that cause you stress.

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Managing Your Stress (Part One)

What causes you stress? Money? Your job? Family responsibilities?

And what physically happens to you when you begin to stress? Sweaty palms? Headaches? Chest pain?

Stress is defined as a state of mental or emotional strain or tension that results from adverse or very demanding circumstances. We all perceive stress differently but the reality is that stress can be very harmful to health if you do not manage it properly. Let me first dispel a few myths about stress.

  1. Only major symptoms need to be addressed.  Most of us are aware of the more prominent symptoms of stress such as high blood pressure and headaches, but there are other lesser-known symptoms that should alert us that something is not right. Stress can also cause you to have muscle spasms, skin itchiness/rashes, and a weakened immune system. All of these things are symptoms that should not be overlooked but often are due to us not being aware that they are indicators that our bodies are operating under a heightened level of stress.
  2. Stress is everywhere and cannot be avoided.  I used to believe this myth because my life was so stressful that it felt as if the stress could not be avoided. What I learned is that even if you feel that stress cannot be avoided, it can definitely be managed. The idea that stress is everywhere and just a part of life can lead to dangerous health consequences.
  3. No symptoms, no stress.  Some of us live in a constant state of stress. And just because we do not have the classic symptoms of stress, does not mean we are not stressed. Thinking that you are not stressed just because you do not have the classic symptoms of stress can be detrimental.

Many of us are aware of the more common ways that your body reacts to stress: tension headaches, back pain, chest pain, stomach issues, etc. But let’s talk about some of the lesser-known ways that stress can impact you.

  1. Hair loss/graying and skin issues. Stress can be a contributing factor to hair loss and premature graying. Skin issues such as eczema, psoriasis, and acne can be more severe if you are stressed.
  2. Immune health.  Stress causes your immune system to lose its effectiveness in fighting off antigens which could make you more likely to get sick.
  3. Excessive sleeping or insomnia.  When your body is under a high level of stress, it often tries to control that stress through rest. This could lead to you noticing that you are sleeping a lot. Or your stress can be so overwhelming that you may not be able to sleep, which could lead to insomnia.
  4. Memory loss.  When you are stressed and your mind is occupied by the thoughts that are stressing you out, you have a tendency not to remember things. Difficulty focusing can make you forget details and make it hard to concentrate.
  5. Racing thoughts.  If you are stressing about a particular issue that is causing you to worry, the stress can make your thoughts go down a rabbit hole. When this happens, your thoughts begin to run wild with each thought being more worrisome and stressful than the one before it.

Comment if you know of or have experienced any other lesser known symptoms of stress. Please join me tomorrow as I talk about the common causes of stress.

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