How to combat the effects of stress

stress

Thankfully, according to researchers at Stanford, a meaningful life is almost always a stressful one; the more we care about the things in our life, the more stress we are likely to feel. We simply can’t have one without the other. So, for all of those finding that stress is a daily occurrence – at least it means we are having a meaningful life. Apart from this statistic, there is little advantage to stress only a heap of consequences, many of which, actively reduce the quality of our lives.

But imagine if you could have a meaningful life, with stress (as we can’t have one without the other, unfortunately), that didn’t involve health consequences or unhappiness? Sound too good to be true? Well, actually, it isn’t – we have a lot more control over our stress than we think. Here are the best strategies to overcome the consequences of stress.

Change your thought process 

How you think about stress ironically impacts you more than the actual stress. Positive attitudes about stress were correlated with better health outcomes even when stress levels were chronically high. Interestingly just knowing you can handle stress is a way of protecting yourself from its harmful effects. For more reading on how to rethink stress, see Kelly McGonigal’s Upside of Stress.

Forsee your stress

Don’t let stress throw you into a tizzy. Instead plan when stress might hit you and foresee when it might reduce your ability to be as organised, eloquent or as efficient as you usually are. If you have trouble remembering things or spotting mistakes in your work during periods of stress be aware of this and make extra allowances or time to ensure it doesn’t impact your life.

Let stress motivate you

Stress is adrenalin, that can be put to good use. Rather than letting it crush you – use it to let you crush everything else. Knowing you are putting your stress to good use, or even thinking it benefits you actually helps you to avoid its negative consequences so, it’s a double win.

Social contact

Whether you walk with a parent, chat with your colleague or talk to your spouse during your commute, socialising helps you to cope and feel supported. Irrespective of whether you talk about the stress at hand – simply knowing you have people around you makes you feel stronger and more able to defeat consequences of stress.

Stress can be challenging, especially if you are career driven and ambitious. But, by simply changing your perspective, on how stress fits into your life, you can avoid its negative consequences and even reap a few rewards!

 

For more help with managing stress and anxiety, check out this useful anxiety blog.

How complaining can ruin your reality

complaining

Your mind should be your sanctuary. It should be the cosy place you escape to when everything around you is going wrong. It should be a safe haven, a place that protects you. Imagine if your mind was full of people constantly complaining. Ruining your tranquil sanctuary with their overbearing and loud, whining. Well, the reality is, that when you fill your mind with complaining, you are creating a hostile environment, for which you have no escape. One question, why would you do this?

How complaining can ruin your reality

1.Trains your brain to focus on the wrong things

Complaining trains your brain to focus on the negative things in life. Your mind will be programmed to support your previous complaints with new perceived negative things. Instead of trying to see things positively you start to have a negative default.

2. Negativity makes you unpopular

Just like happiness is contagious, negativity is too. Don’t be surprised if people start to slowly back off from you, as there is a direct correlation between complainers and lack of friends. Complaining brings a negative and gloomy atmosphere around you – one that is certainly hostile to others.

3. Negativity breeds more negativity

constant complaining holds you back in life, it reduces your ability to just “get on with it’, as you’re too busy ruminating about your annoyances. You need to stop complaining today, for a better future tomorrow. Focus on what you is important in your life and forget everything else. Fill your mind with positivity and light and that is exactly what you will receive back from the universe. It’s incredible how a small change of perspective can shift your enjoyment of life.

4. Stops you from thriving

Complaining keeps you exactly where you are, on a platform of negativity and irritation. People that don’t complain turn negative situations around and make them a positive. Embrace the situations you find yourself in, remember every day is precious and you have to make the most of them. Complaining will never take your forwards only backwards.

5. Kills creativity

Innovation and creativity require freedom of thought. It requires the ability to step outside of the confines of your mind. When you are stuck in complaining mode, you are well within the realms of constraint. Let your mind be free and then the creativity will follow.

 

 

Beat the January blues with these happiness hacks

stress

Happiness impacts everything you touch. If you’re feeling down at work, you simply won’t have the motivation you need to reach your targets. Instead of struggling through your work days and annoying your family when you get home with your persistent moping, inject some much-needed happiness into your life with these foolproof happiness hacks.

Exercise

Getting your sweat on, releases endorphins throughout your whole body, ridding you of your negativity and generating a mood filled with happiness! Studies have shown that exercise can help to alleviate depression. The best time to hit the gym is first thing in the morning to get your pump on before you start work. Think about it, is that extra hour in bed doing you any favours? Instead, wake up a little earlier and start your day right.

Turn on a lightbox

Light therapy is an effective treatment for seasonal affective disorder (SAD), this can be a major cause of January blues, but even if it doesn’t, experts agree that it works to treat symptoms of most major depressive disorders as well. So whenever you’re feeling blue simply turn on the light box for 30 mins to an hour and feel instantly better. To feel its full effects, use it daily.

Go outside and walk

Starting to feel down? Head outside to take a walk in the closest nature you can find. Science research shows, again again, that spending time in nature helps to relieve symptoms of anxiety and phycological stress. When you feel your mood taking a downward spiral, simply step outside and bring yourself back to the surface.

Citrus scents

Citrus scents, such as orange, lemon, and grapefruit actually draw out positive chemical reactions in your brain. Not only this but they help to relieve symptoms of stress. If you want a quick uplift at work put a few drops of citrus essential oil on your pressure points. You can buy already made mixes at any health shop. You can also mix the citrus injection

Buy flowers for yourself

A team of Harvard researchers found that keeping fresh flowers at home does successfully keeps away anxiety and negative moods. People in the study also felt more compassionate toward others and they felt a boost of energy and enthusiasm at work.

Take microbreaks

Research shows that people who take short microbreaks at work, to break up their work day, for example, to watch funny videos online, get a high emotional payoff and report feeling more energetic and happy with fewer negative emotions. This is a great way to boost your mood in just under a minute. Cat memes anyone?

For even more helpful tips read CNN Health’s blog, on happiness hacks, here.

How create more cohesion amongst your co-workers

co-workers

However you decide to see this fact, whether good or bad, you can’t deny the truth – You probably spend more time with your co-workers than you do with anyone else. Scary, ey?

When you’re in an office environment, in any major city, the people you work with become almost like family. So, it makes a huge difference to have a meaningful relationship with them.

Not only does it strategically benefit your career but it also makes work, that much more bearable and you have a solid support system for when things don’t go to plan.

So, here are four simple tips to encourage a stronger bond between you and your co-workers;

1. Offer Help

Think of the last time you were struggling at work. Maybe you were swamped and overwhelmed, or perhaps you had things going on at home, diminishing your ability to deal with your workload.

Wouldn’t it have been nice if someone had stopped by your desk and provided some support? Or even offered to take something off your plate? Wouldn’t that offer of support, alone, have made you feel so much more valued and supported? Absolutely. So, why not do that same thing for a colleague? When you see someone who’s stressed or confused, just ask: Is there anything I can do to help?

Even if your co-worker doesn’t actually take you up, on your offer, just the fact that you recognised their struggle and wanted to do something about it, goes a long way in fostering a more empathetic culture around you.

2. Make friends

Try to forge a relationship with the person, not just the job title.

Get to know their interests and hobbies – who knows you may have more in common than you first thought. Friends at work shouldn’t be totally off-limits, so long as there are boundaries and it doesn’t impact your duties, then, there is no reason why you can’t share your hours with your co-workers in a more meaningful way.

3. Give praise

Everyone loves to have their ego stroked. However, providing genuine recognition or praise for work, makes someone feel really special and even motivates them to push on during the hardest days. Don’t be afraid to speak up when you think someone in your office has done a great job. These sorts of comments make a huge impact when it comes to helping others in your office feel valued. It also creates a supportive and healthy work environment.

4. Practice kindness

Little acts of kindness go along way. You never, really, know how someone is feeling, on any given day and your small act of kindness could really uplift them.

Pick up some snacks, ask your colleague if they need anything for lunch or bring someone a coffee, or a cup of tea. These things might sound simple but they are effective ways to sprinkle kindness into your colleagues day.

If you want to take it to the next level – be mindful of when your co-worker has reached their stress capacity and if you have a lot less work – offer to help them, even stay late with them. This type of support will be remembered and it’s likely they’ll help you out in the future too.

Plus, as an added bonus, doing these sorts of things makes you feel good too!

These four strategies are incredibly simple and they are great for showing your co-workers that you actually care about them. And they’re incredibly simple and take almost zero effort on your part.

So what are you waiting for? Create a better, kinder and more supportive work environment and reap the rewards!

 

How to start a self-development strategy

self-development

Self-development allows you to be the best version of yourself.

You can address gaps in your knowledge, break down mental barriers, enhance existing skills and learn new ones.

Everyone will have different self-development goals and it can be anything from improving physical fitness or self-esteem to learning more skills to enhance your career.

Whatever you choose to do, the business and personal benefits of self-development will be astounding.

Once you decide to commit to personal self-development goals, utilise this list of great strategies, created to help you reach your targets;

1. Set clear actionable goals

You have to have very clear goals. You have to understand exactly what you want to achieve so that further down the line you’ll be able to measure your success.

2. Write your goals down

Committing your goals to paper (or your laptop screen) makes it more real. Your goals become a target and if you don’t work on them you are letting yourself down. An untouched to-do list will not let the most ambitious sleep.

3. Start small

Break your goals down into small actionable steps. Not only does this look less overwhelming if you’re already busy but it actually motivates you to start – because it doesn’t seem like such a big task. Reaching small, more achievable self-development goals empowers and encourages us to continue.

4. Improve existing skills

When it comes to self-improvement, we can often concentrate on learning something new. But sometimes it can be more beneficial to improve your existing skills i.e improve your strengths and not your weaknesses. This is beneficial to career orientated, self-development goals, why focus on being the jack of all trades when you can be the master of one?

5. Be thorough

Instead of doing a broad surface approach to your self-development goals, really commit to one and get under its skin. Think about every angle of your goal. Research it intensely, understand who the experts are in that particular field. Watch videos, reach books. Eat, sleep and breathe it and make sure that when you look back at how you approached your self-development goal, you are satisfied that did all you could to commit to it. If you do it, do it well.

6. Treat it like paid work

Put your self-development, as high on your list of priorities, as your paid work. Unless you really take your self-development goals seriously, your new learning will be sidelined and you’ll deny yourself the opportunity to be the best version of yourself.

The scientific secrets behind perfect timing

hour

Daniel H Pink, in his book, When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing explores cutting-edge research on timing and provides compelling insights into how we can live in tune with our energy and mood peaks, allowing us to live more self-aware and engaged lives.

The study

The book explores a 2011 study by Michael Macy and Scott Golder. The pair from Cornell university gathered around 500m tweets, posted by more than 2 million users in 84 countries over the period of two years. They conducted an intense analysis into the tweets in order to understand if any patterns arose in correlation to feelings and the times of the day.

To assist with their research, they used an analysis program called Linguistic Inquiry and Word Count (LIWC), they attempted to measure the emotional states revealed by individuals in the electronic texts they sent. The patterns that were uncovered were striking.

Results on timing

Macy and Golder found that with interesting and remarkable consistency, irrespective of the time of the year – people’s positive emotions were stronger when the morning started and as it progressed and then fell significantly in the afternoon, before coming back fighting in the early evening. The study also showed that it did not matter, in what part of the world the subject was born or lived the results remained consistent, globally. In other words, regardless of culture or differing daily rituals or even weather, our moods follow a rigorous pattern that is hugely influential, revealing and to this day largely outside of our knowledge.

Interestingly several other studies support these findings. In one Danish study, children’s results for exams in the afternoon were significantly lower than those being tested in the morning.

Essentially, what the results mean for us, is that the morning time is the best time for critical decision making. We should therefore not be trying to make judgements or decisions in the late afternoon, as evidence shows this can be to our disadvantage.

In the words of Pink “First, our cognitive abilities do not remain static over the course of the day. And second, these daily fluctuations are more extreme than we realise,”

Why is our internal timing like this?

The reason for us being sharper in the morning is due to our body temperature. When we wake up our body temperature is relatively low and then starts to rise. That rising temperature starts to boost our energy levels and we feel a significant increase in our alertness which in turn “enhances our executive functioning, our ability to concentrate, and our powers of deduction”.  As the morning develops, the more focused and alert we become, until we reach our absolute peak, after which our energy levels decline and our alertness decreases, only to be restored in the early evening.

 

Serotonin food hacks to enhance your mood

serotonin

Serotonin helps to create the “happy molecule” in our brains resulting in a wonderfully happy and positive mood.

A brain that has high levels of serotonin, helps to regulate appetite, behaviour, sleep, libido, memory and learning. Meaning, on the contrary, if you have low levels of serotonin, then all of the above are directly affected.  Even worse a low level of serotonin is linked to depression.

One way to boost serotonin is through drugs, namely antidepressants. But resorting to this is the last case scenario as messing around with antidepressants can lead to all sorts of side effects.

Fortunately, there are a few simple dietary hacks that can effectively increase serotonin.

Whilst some foods do naturally contain serotonin, there is no evidence that these foods actually transfer serotonin to your body and as such, they will do nothing to boost your mood.

There are a handful of foods that do not contain serotonin but work by a variety of mechanisms to increase serotonin naturally.

Turmeric

The spice turmeric contains the active ingredient curcumin which readily crosses the blood-brain barrier and increases levels of both serotonin and dopamine.

Interestingly, turmeric works so well that it has proven to be as effective Prozac for depression.

Dark Chocolate

Dark chocolate, is always popular, especially on a cold winter night however did you know it also works as a natural mood enhancer? Dark chocolate increases serotonin levels in both the brain and the digestive tract.

The digestive tract? Why do we need serotonin there? Surprisingly, 95% of serotonin resides in the gut and not in the brain

Another plus factor about dark chocolate is that they are significantly less processed as well.

Fatty Fish

People with low serotonin levels commonly have low levels of DHA, which is an omega-3 fatty acid that forms an essential structural building block of the brain. it also contributes to healthy hair, skin and nails and is often a suggested food for those about to take exams or enter situations that require large amounts of brain power.

Cold-water fatty fish, such as salmon that’s high in omega-3 fatty acids can help to raise serotonin levels.

Fermented Foods

Fermented foods like yogurt, kefir, and unpasteurized sauerkraut naturally and Kambucha tea contain psychobiotics, probiotics that help establish a normal balance between good and bad bacteria in your gut.

An overabundance of bad bacteria creates toxic byproducts called lipopolysaccharides which can have numerous negative side-effects on your brain, including lowering serotonin levels and even causing depression. That’s why it’s crucial to have a balance in your gut as this largely affects your serotonin levels and overall mood.

Interestingly, stress, sugar, artificial sweeteners, pharmaceuticals, chlorinated tap water, inflammation, and even antibacterial hand soap can disrupt your intestinal balance. So, looking after your gut is also a lifestyle choice, that when mixed with diet hacks, can increase your serotonin levels.

 

For more on this top read this helpful blog written by Be Brain Fit, here

Neurobics; the five best ways to train your brain

neurobocs

Dr. Lawrence Katz is an award-winning neurobiologist famous for his book titled Keep Your Brain Alive: 83 Neurobic Exercises to Help Prevent Memory Loss and Increase Mental Fitness

Dr Lawrence  Katz calls brain exercises, “neurobics” and believes that people should be just as obsessed with “neurobics” as they are with their yoga classes or weight training regimes.

Neurobics significantly enhance brain performance and protect you from all sorts of mental declines and diseases such as Alzheimer’s at a later age. Our brains decline when there is a lack of communication between brain cells – meaning that if we don’t use it – we lose it.

Dr Lawence Katz found that by doing the right kind of mental exercise, using all five of our senses – in non-routine ways – we can grow new dendritic connections – which in simple terms means that we can strengthen and grow our brains.

Here are five of the best Neurobics exercises, chosen for their ease of use allowing you to do them anytime, anywhere.

1. Change hands

If you are right-handed, try using your left hand to do everyday things such as brushing your hair or teeth or opening doors.

Using your non-dominant hand results in increased brain activity. Your brain is forced to do new things and it finds it challenging.

This can be very hard at first and results in giving your brain a good workout.

2. Do well-known tasks with your eyes closed

I do not mean driving or even walking in public. But when taking a shower, washing your hands, putting on the laundry or making your bed, try doing it with your eyes closed.

This will force your brain to work harder, rely more heavily on other senses and as such, use new neural pathways.

3. Do things backwards or even upside down

By looking at things upside down you are actually stimulating your brain.

An easy do is wear your watch upside down and try to read it upside down, working your brain as it tried to process the correct time.

You can also hang clocks or calendars upside down. You may risk looking a little crazy to guests of your house but once you explain it’s a brain game I’m sure they will respect your creativity!

If you want to take it up a notch, try writing or even speaking backwards, it won’t take long before you get better and better, and once this happens the challenge of doing things backwards can be quite addictive to the hungry mind.

4. Read things aloud

A nice evening routine could be to take turns listening and reading your favourite book with your partner, child or friend.

This type of reading engages the imagination in a different way.

One of the earliest demonstrations of brain imaging clearly showed three distinct brain regions lighting up when the same word was read, spoken, or heard.

5. Break routines

Try to not be a person of strict routine. If you have the same meals every day, take the same route to work and sit in the same spot on the sofa at home – it’s time to change it up – this type of lifestyle is limiting your brain.

When we have routines, that we action every day, our brains operate on autopilot and gets very little stimulation.

By taking an unfamiliar route or changing up your meals you activate the cortex and hippocampus.

for more on this great topic read the very helpful blog written by Deane Alban here

ABOUT US

PCA Law (the Personal Communications Academy For Lawyers) are the legal sector’s specialist providers of conversation-based experiential training products

We are the only Personal Communication Consultancy in the world to work exclusively with lawyers...

CONTACT US

We are happy to come in to talk with you at your offices, wherever you’re based, so please contact us at: