Go Green and Decrease Stress!

Picture of green agave plants.

A New Twist on a Green Revolution

Going green, so to speak, is one way of decreasing your stress. I am not talking about the green revolution in which you reuse and recycle, but rather something that is starting to get more recognition in city planning across the United States. Namely having ready access to green spaces as a means to help increase social cohesion and decrease overall stress levels in populations.

A recent article Walking Green: Developing an Evidence Base for Nature Prescriptions in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health caught my attention. As a provider of mental health services I have often considered that access to nature would likely improve mental health, but here is one study that confirms just that.

Hopefully we can all appreciate how stress relieving it can be to spend time in nature. What has been a hunch of those providing care is now being born out scientifically. If you are a person who has access to nature (i.e. trees, wild animals, grasses, water expanses, etc) bravo. One way to help decrease your stress is to get out and take a walk in the great outdoors.

Location, Location, Location

One aspect the article mentioned is having tested two locations or conditions. Walking along either a busy street OR walking in a forest preserve. They were able to show over the course of the study that those who walked in the forest had lower perceived stress levels. So while walking in general helps lower stress levels as discussed in previous posts (here and here) we now finding that the location of the walk can amplify the effect.

Make it Meaningful

So what does this mean for the average person like you and me? Well, to my mind this represents a very low cost means of accessing stress reduction. Finding a place to walk in nature near you could be the biggest contribution you can make to your overall stress in 2020. If you live in a large city this may be more challenging. Many larger cities have started incorporating green spaces within walking or commuting distance.

If you can take the time to get to a green space once a week or more to take a walk (some studies suggest that you can even sit and just be in the green space) for 30-50 minutes, you will go a long way to helping reduce your stress. As we’ve discussed previously intention makes the meaning. Setting aside/planning a time when you will spend time in nature will make it more likely to happen.

What Constitutes a Green Space?

ANY location of relatively unspoiled nature. It can be a small park at the end of the block or a large forest preserve. It can be a location with a large expanse of water with unobstructed view. A beach can be a green space. A mountain, a large field of grass with a path, a fitness path.

Whatever is available near you. I find it much easier to go green and decrease my stress when access is relatively close. There are several in my community less than a 20 minute drive from my home.

Banyan tree in a city park in Sicily. Opportunity for citizens to take a break with nature and decrease stress.

Find It and Use It

Once you find your local green space be sure to use it. Also by linking other stress reducing habits you’ve built you can increase your overall effect. For example, you could make it a part of your DIY stress kit as discussed in a previous post. You may even decide to make it a part of “unplugging” from technology if only for the time you are spending in nature. I once walked several sections of the Appalachian Trail and found no need for music or distraction. Nature had me completely enveloped. And while not every aspect of that adventure was stress free (let’s just say there were tears) I did find that I slept very well while out in nature. Since striking out into the back country is not everyone’s idea of “stress relieving” take a moment to consider simply going to a local park and sitting or walking for 30-50 minutes. You may find that your stress levels go way down.

Give it a try making an effort to go green and decrease stress may work so well you can relinquish your gym membership. Well, let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Try it out and let me know how it works for you.

Thanks for dropping by The Stress Nest.

I hope your 2020 is filled with much more fun and much less stress.

Happy New Year!

Attitude and Stress~The choice is yours

Sicilian god cultivating a plant

Attitude and stress have an interesting interaction. We often feel justified in feeling upset or resentful when stress is high, but research suggests that cultivating a more positive attitude may be more beneficial to our physical and mental health.

Bad-itude or Gr-attitude?

According to the Oxford English Dictionary resentment is “an indignant sense of injury or insult received or perceived, a sense of grievance; (a feeling of) ill will, bitterness, or anger against a person or thing.” It defines gratitude as “the quality or condition of being grateful or thankful; the appreciation of an inclination to return kindness; gratefulness.” Choosing gratitude over resentment is a choice that leads to more benefit both for you and those around you.

Okay so what’s the point?

When we cultivate gratitude our bodies respond by increasing our subjective sense of well-being likely through activation of the parasympathetic nervous system (the part of the nervous system that induces calm). When we are grateful we have lower heart rate, better immune response, and a higher sense of positive well-being. Conversely when we are resentful our heart rate increases, our immune system struggles, and we have higher tension which in turn increases our feelings of anger or bitterness toward the world. Check out this article in psychology today which talks about the benefits of gratitude.

Can I really choose?

Yes, you really can choose gratitude over resentment. There will always be situations that increase our stress, but we can choose to get mired in the negative aspects or focus more on the positive parts of our lives. This may mean letting go of hurt and identifying where things are going right in our lives. While the driver that cut you off in traffic this morning can increase your resentment in the moment, holding on to that is a choice. When you look at the whole of your life that momentary hurt doesn’t amount to much, but when you hold on to that throughout the day you are doing damage to yourself and possibly those around you.

For the most part it’s up to you

I’m not suggesting that you ignore injustice or harm, but much of what stresses us out in the day to day isn’t about world peace or even what’s happening in much of the world. Typically it’s about things in our lives much closer in. What I call “toothpaste issues.” If you are prone to resentment you can choose to make a shift. This won’t happen over night, but as you consciously choose to focus more on the positive over time you will notice a shift. Most of the time making that shift is about looking at what can be done about what irks us and then taking action or choosing to let it go. If you want to take a deeper dive into changing thoughts, feelings, and behaviors check out a previous post here.

Choosing Gratitude

Cultivating gratitude creates an attitude that will decrease your stress. Start creating a more positive attitude by:

  • Thanking people
    • Taking time to say thank you to those you interact with is a powerful way to step into gratitude.
      • Thank everyone from the neighbor who shoveled your walk to the cashier at the store.
      • This helps to cultivate positivity.
    • I have been amazed at the number of people who are genuinely touched when thanked.
  • Keeping a journal of gratitude
    • Take note of things that you are grateful for , review the list, and add to it regularly.
    • This activity can help you realize on a difficult day that all is not bleak.
  • Letting go
    • Taking time to let go of old hurt is a great step toward unburdening yourself.
    • Holding on to hurt is not the same as holding others accountable.
    • Holding onto hurt only makes you miserable.
    • Letting it go helps you feel lighter and happier.

How can you start cultivating gratitude today?

Thank you for dropping by.
Please a comment about what you’d like to see more (or less) of as we move into the new year.

Taming Holiday Stress

Trees with snow and red morning sky.

Taming holiday stress will help you other times of the year as well. If you tend to feel stressed around the holidays, this post is for you. For many the stress can begin to creep in just after Halloween and builds through the remainder of the year.

What causes this sudden shift into feeling more on edge and maybe even a little queasy? For some onslaught of holiday tunes played on an endless loop amp up the stress. For others there is an uneasy feeling that perhaps they won’t achieve the goals they set earlier in the year.

Floating Back

Whatever the source of your stress it’s time to take stock. Take a few minutes to think about the holidays. When does your stress start to build and where does it come from? Looking at this now helps you to tame it later.

Close your eyes and float back through the years to various holiday experiences. What was your best Holiday? What was the worst? Open your eyes and jot these down.

Next, look at how closely your holiday last year resembled the best of your holiday memories. Did it match up or fall short? Also ask does the worst memory tend to show up and distract you? Taming holiday stress only comes if you look at how you may be acting in ways that increase stress.

The Land of Expectations

Ask yourself what you expect from the holidays.

  • Do you expect others to behave in a certain way?
  • Do you expect yourself to provide a certain type of experience for those around you?
  • Are you holiday central finding it hard set limits?
  • Do you expect to get better deals than you do an end up broke?

Next consider

  • What you most look forward to this time of year.
  • What you dread.
  • How much of the holidays you miss by being caught up in your own expectations.

Once you define what stresses you about the holidays you can start to build an action plan to address that stress and start to reduce it.

Plan for Holiday Success

Talk to your loved ones about your expectations. If you are expecting things to be a certain way it’s likely that others in your life do as well. Talk openly about what each expects in the weeks ahead.

Listen to what others have in mind and find a way to negotiate to get to a middle ground. The holidays can be a win/win if we are willing to compromise so that everyone gets at least a part of what they want.

Share the work of the holiday experience. While we can idealize the holidays there is work involved. Preparing our home for visitors, shopping not only for gifts but for the extra groceries etc. we may need when hosting family and friends.

Remember to set limits for yourself and to respect the limits of others during the season. Set a budget and stick to it. Take time to step back and really enjoy the events of the season. Take time to experience all those things you’ve looked forward to.

Holidays are about celebration not competition. You don’t need to outspend or out surprise or over deliver in any way. Just be yourself. Be present. Be part of the celebration and enjoy.

Decreasing stress is often a case of looking at where the stress comes from and then laying a plan for making a change. If you are experiencing stress beyond what this post covers take a few moments to check out some of the earlier posts on stress management here and here.

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Thank you for dropping by.

Have a great day~ Lynda

The Heirarchy of Stress

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

We don’t often think of placing our stress level on a continuum, but looking at our stress through the lens of our needs can be helpful. Stress and needs often go hand in hand. Using Maslow’s hierarchy of needs we can begin to map out where our stress levels are on a continuum from less severe to more severe. This also allows us to determine where our stress is coming from. Knowing where our stress comes from helps us to build a plan to address it more effectively.

Abraham Maslow was a psychologist who developed the hierarchy. This was a theory he developed concerning how people are motivated. It is said he preferred to focus on the positive in people rather than just seeing symptoms. He completed his graduate work at the University of Wisconsin and went on to complete more research at Columbia University.

As you go through your life you may be surprised that stress can accumulate from a variety of areas. Using Maslow’s hierarchy you can develop a map of your stress. By looking at where your needs are not being met you will also find where stresses arise. This will help you to develop action plans that better address those areas and in turn help to decrease your stress.

The Hierarchy

The model is arranged in the shape of a triangle as shown above. Each portion of the triangle builds one upon the other and ends in a peak. Maslow broke down the human condition into five areas. Our Physiological, Safety, Belonging, Self-Esteem, and Self-Actualization needs.


What the body needs for survival comprises the physiological level of the hierarchy. We all need enough air, water, food, sleep, clothes, shelter, and general health. If any of these areas are compromised in your life your stress levels will rise. Addressing the physiological needs is a good place to begin. Looking at the following areas is helpful. By baseline general health I simply mean are you overall healthy. If you have chronic ailments such as diabetes or heart disease are these in good control? Some of these things will be in your direct control while some may not be–such as quality air. Looking at what you can control can be helpful in reducing your stress levels.

  • Enough quality air
  • Plenty of water
  • Healthy diet
  • Quality sleep
  • Enough clothing for the season
  • Reliable shelter
  • Baseline general health


Next is safety. Looking at your level of personal, emotional, and financial safety and security are key to helping your stress levels. If you are not feeling safe it’s more likely that you will be feeling very stressed. Do what you can to address each of the areas of safety. Health gets a boost in this level as well to health and “well being.” Again in some of these areas you may not have direct or immediate control, but you will likely be able to formulate a plan to address each of these areas over time.

Social Belonging

Humans for the most part are social beings. Having a level of social belonging can be a key part of keeping stresses low. Family, friendships, and intimacy are important parts of life. Finding a social group can be difficult, but there are a lot of tools in the modern era that can help. Search engines such as Meetup.com can help you to find a group of like minded people. Being a part of a social group helps us to feel “part of” rather than isolated. This can go a long way to decreasing stress.


Self esteem is the next level in the hierarchy. Beyond feeling good about yourself feeling competent in your work, confident in your friendships and family life, and having a level of expertise somewhere in your life all have a positive effect on reducing stress levels. Many times the more expert we are the more autonomy we have over our lives which can also be stress relieving.


The peak of the hierarchy is self-actualization. Self actualization is living a life that allows you to realize your full potential. Developing a skill or talent in life, parenting, finding a compatible mate. Self actualization is the cherry on top. It allows you to navigate your life as you desire for the most part. And to be sure it requires you to have all the previous levels of the hierarchy locked in.


What is the hierarchy of your personal stress? Take a few moments to look at how your needs and stress stack up. Start looking at what you can do to address your levels of stress in each of the areas. Take a few moments to review some of my earlier blog posts on eating, sleeping, exercise, and finances which may help you to better manage your stress levels. Remember stress is inevitable, but there is something you can do to address what stresses you. It just may be easier than you realize.

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Change your brain and Decrease your stress

Face make of junk found on beach. Talk about stressful!

We once thought that changing the brain in adulthood was impossible. Now we now that to be false. The brain is more plastic (able to change) than we previously believed. In less than 15 minutes a day you can begin to change to your brain and decrease your stress.

The Background

Mindfulness based meditation has been in the in the mainstream for nearly 30 years now. Jon Kabat-Zinn began using it in western medicine starting in the the 1970’s. He started a stress reduction clinic in 1979 at the University of Massachusetts School of Medicine. The ideas he started with there didn’t gain public popularity until the early 1990’s after he wrote and published the book Full Catastrophe Living: Using the Wisdom of Your Mind and Body to Face Stress, Pain, and Illness. This book was embraced and from that point Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) started to spread.

Meditation as a Tool

What does this have to do with meditation and how can you benefit from it? Meditation is a portion of what MBSR teaches in an 8-week course along with different ways of thinking about obstacles.

I often suggest that people give it a try especially in managing anxiety. Because meditation is often affiliated with Buddhism there is often some hesitancy. Sometimes folks believe it will interfere with their religious practice. But meditation is not THE religious part of Buddhism it is simply a tool that Buddhists use to move closer to enlightenment. Meditation also helps with many other aspects of human life and we can benefit from those without becoming Buddhists. You can find a free MBSR course here.

How it can help

A January 2019 article entitled Brief, daily meditation enhances attention, memory, mood, and emotional regulation in non-experienced meditators caught my attention. They looked at folks who had no experience in meditation and had them listen daily to a meditation recording that was 13 minutes in length. The control group listened to a non-meditation pod cast. Study participants engaged in fairly rigorous pre, mid, and post study testing in a variety of areas including memory, attention, and mood.

After 8 weeks they found statistically significant differences in the groups. While the study group was small (n=40) they were able to pull some interesting findings.

The Kind of Help

They found improvements in:

  • Mood
  • Emotional regulation
  • Working memory
  • Recognition memory
  • Responses to stress
    • Including improved ability to cope under stress

Importantly they found that the effects were not present at 4 weeks (the mid-point), but required more than 4 weeks to see the changes.

Interestingly sleep was not found to be improved although a number of other studies have shown improvements in sleep with use of meditation. The authors opined that the time of day that the participants engaged in the activity could have had an impact and urged that future studies control for this.

The Brain

The hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis works to help us manage our stresses and bring our bodies back into homeostasis. When the HPA axis is out of whack we can feel overly anxious or overwhelmed. When stresses occur it works to help us recover.

Meditation seems to help regulate the HPA axis. Over time engaging in meditation appears to help the hippocampus grow and the amygdala reduce in size helping us to better regulate our mood. The amygdala is the part of the brain that jumps into action when emotions emerge. When it is over-activated it can get stuck in sending distress messages to the frontal cortex (the part of the brain that helps us to make a decision on how to act). When the frontal cortex is overwhelmed we can have difficulties making decisions or in extreme cases may even blank out.

In Conclusion

Imagine having access to a system that is free, requires less than 15 minutes a day of our direct attention, and has the potential to impact all the above areas of your life. Sounds like a miracle of sorts. We are finding that meditation can change your brain and decrease your stress.

That said, while meditation can provide improvements in a number of areas, it is not a silver bullet. Meditation alone will not solve your problems. But by using meditation you can create an optimal internal environment. One in which you are more likely to best handle your stressors most effectively.

Another activity that can decrease your stress and cause positive brain changes is exercise. Check out the blog post on exercise here and here.

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Use Music to Improve Sleep and Decrease Stress

Avatar of author walking with headphones listening to music

Avatar of author sleeping on a bed of zzzz -s

Sleep is an important part of remaining healthy. According to Centers for Disease Control (CDC) one third of the adult population doesn’t get enough sleep. Among the consequences of poor sleep are development of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, obesity, and depression. Check out the CDC site here. There is an area where you can also look at how your state stacks up in reference to sleep. Improving sleep can decrease stress.

Quality sleep helps with stress levels

There are many good reasons to make sleep a focus of our daily routine. Getting enough sleep and getting good quality sleep are key. Addressing any sleep issues can go a long way to helping you reduce your overall stress levels. Review my previous post on sleep here. There you can review the components of good sleep hygiene to improve your sleep and reduce stress.

Quantity of sleep is also important

Sleep loss impacts us on a variety of levels as detailed above. The CDC recommends 7 or more hours a night for adults. While a single night of poor sleep here and there is not likely to be harmful, if you are consistently getting less sleep than you need you may be suffering the deficit whether you are consciously aware of it or not. Sleep loss impacts:

  • Short term memory
  • Happiness levels
  • Depression
  • Cognitive speed and efficiency.

What about sleep aids?

Sleep aids are also a cost to our system. While short term use is likely not harmful taking these products over a number of years can cause issues. They are also pretty expensive and adding in medication side-effects drive that overall “cost” to you up.

Music and Sleep

I recently read an article that looks at how people use music to get better sleep. The article is clear that there is more research to be done and that their sample may be biased toward younger people as well as people who are musically oriented. Still, doing a short cost/benefit analysis shows that giving music a shot is a win/win.

Music has long been used as a means of relaxation and to address mood states. To use this to benefit sleep is not a far leap. This article looks at the benefits of music use. You can read the full article here.

Benefits of Music

  • Low Cost
  • Reduce anxiety
  • Decrease subjective experience of pain
  • Modulations of sympathetic nervous system activity
  • Reduce stress hormone cortisol release
  • Increase oxytocin release which promotes relaxation

The study was an anecdotal survey study done online. 651 individuals took the survey and of those 248 reported using music as a sleep aid. Of the 248 they inquired as to why and how the respondents thought that music helped them with sleep.

The “why” respondents gave for using music

  • Helps me fall asleep faster
  • Less time in bed before falling asleep
  • More satisfaction with sleep

The “how” respondents thought it worked

  • Helps me mentally relax
  • Distraction from events of the day
  • Helps me physically relax.

In the survey 545 musical artists were named. The most named artists were:

  • Johann Sebastian Bach (15)
  • Ed Sheeran (13)
  • Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (13)
  • Brian Eno (10)
  • Coldplay (9)

By these numbers we may be able to deduce that there isn’t one kind of music that is helpful and that it may go more to individual taste. The authors state that self selection of music is the key and that individuals are likely choosing music to address the why’s listed above. In this way music can be chosen for the desired effect (i.e. mood enhancement, distraction, physical relaxation).

Give it a try

Why not give music a try to address any sleep issues you may have?

  • The cost is relatively low when compared to pharmaceutical sleep aids.
  • There are no currently determinable side effects.
  • It is easy to add music as a regular part of your sleep hygiene. For example listening to preferred music for an hour prior to bedtime.

Getting enough sleep and good quality sleep can go a long way to helping reduce stress overall.

Let me know what you think. Drop a comment below.

Finding the “just right” amount of exercise

Avatar of author on treadmill depicting vigorous exercise
Avatar of author doing yoga depicting low to moderate exercise

Exercise, the Good and Not So Great!

We all know that exercise is good for us, but finding the “just right” amount can be difficult. Most of us need more exercise. To find out just how much check out my previous post on exercise here. Finding balance in your physical activity can help decrease overall stress levels.

I was intrigued by an article I read that discussed the pros and cons of exercise. Because exercise in our society is often billed as a more is better kind of thing this article got me thinking of something I had not previously considered in terms of exercise even though I talk about it with patients nearly every week. Finding a balance.

In their article The Goldilocks Zone for Exercise: Not Too Little, Not Too Much, authors James H. O’Keefe MD, Evan O’Keefe MS, and Carl J. Lavie MD discuss the right amount of exercise. These men have a knack for getting to the heart of the matter which kind of makes sense since the two MDs are affiliated with cardiovascular centers.

The Good

They discuss the benefits of physical activity on cardiovascular risk such as lowering of resting heart rate and blood pressure as well as improving lipid and glucose levels. They also mention the benefits on improving body mass index (BMI) as well as the reduction of emotional stress, improvement in sleep, and the encouragement of adopting other healthy behaviors (e.g. improving eating habits).

One of the mind blowing parts is their assertion that “a routine of regular exercise is associated with an increase in life expectancy of up to six years.” They go on to place further perspective around that assertion stating “If medical science discovered how to cure and/or prevent all cancer, the average life expectancy in the United States (US) would rise about 3.5 years.” I find that truly amazing and hopeful.

The Downside

The trick is finding the right amount of exercise. Not too little and not too much. They discuss that workouts of more than 60 minutes tend have a decline in benefit due to the enormous amounts of free radicals released during exercise Our bodies can’t clear it out fast enough and that puts us at higher risk of cardiovascular events. Of course factors like age, genetic risk, and other lifestyle choices impact this issue as well. And keep in mind that for every 20 Americans who are not meeting the exercise guideline there is just 1 who is overdoing exercise. Not exactly an epidemic of over exercising going on. But I like knowing that I don’t have to kill myself 7 days a week in order to get the benefits of physical activity.

Back to the Good

I was relieved to see that even as little as 50 minutes a week of strenuous exercise conferred benefit. They also looked at studies of indigenous people who typically get 16,000 steps per day attending to life activities. They found that when physical activity occurs through the day in light and moderate intensity there is no upper limit as there is with more strenuous activity! This is comparable to taking a brisk walk, gardening, doing housework, golf or racket sports, and even bowling.

And in terms of weight “for overweight or obese individuals, physical fitness is an important predictor of longevity, whereas weight loss is not.” As a curvy woman who has always carried a few more pounds this is music to my ears.

Finding Balance

To find balance consider engaging in the following:

  • Moderate intensity physical activity 150 minutes per week
    • OR
  • Moderate intensity physical activity for 75 minutes a week.
  • Limit sitting for longer than 30 minutes
  • Add physical activity if you are sedentary
  • Reducing physical activity if you are overactive (450 minutes a week or more).
    • Changing to low impact activities such as yoga or walking
  • Adding more low to moderate intensity physical activity to your life
  • Take at least 1 day off a week from vigorous exercise

How can you add balance to your physical activity?

Taming Stress with Self -Talk

green plus sign symbol
black ampersand symbol
bright green minus symbol

Taming stress with a shift in self-talk is easier than you think. By taking some time to consider your self-talk and how you can make a shift from more negative forms to more positive forms you will be able to better move toward your goals. This perspective shift is key to laying the foundation for change and thus taming your stress.

What is Self-Talk?

Self-talk is talking to the self (often about the self). Self-talk can take many forms and not all self-talk is bad for you. In fact as we will see in this post there are some kinds of self talk that you may want to cultivate to help you better manage your stress levels. Taming your stress could be as easy and shifting your self-talk perspective.

Types of Self-Talk

We all have self-talk. In fact most of our thinking revolves around the self (even when we think it does not). Self talk is inevitable, but you can have an impact on the kind of self-talk you choose to engage with.

  • Negative
  • Postive
    • Motivational
    • Instructional

Negative Self-Talk

Negative self-talk is talk (thoughts) about the self which are negative in nature. This type of self talk can be toxic especially if we don’t do something to reframe our thinking. Because we often simply believe this kind of talk as “true” without investigating it more it can lead to poor choices. Negative self-talk is often the focus of therapy. Once we become aware of it we can use skills to reframe the thoughts into more accurate ones which can then bring our stress levels down.

Positive Self-Talk

Positive self-talk like the name suggests is talk (thoughts) about the self which are positive. There several types of positive self-talk as detailed below. Positive self talk is easy to overlook as we tend to take the positive for granted especially if it does not match the idea we already have about ourselves.

When we are working on self improvement it is easy to forget about the positive aspects about ourselves and the positive things we are already doing. Your positive self-talk is a benefit and a resource you can call on to help you during difficult times.

Review more about negative self-talk in the post Stress, Thoughts, Feelings, and Behaviors for specific types of negative self-talk.

Motivational Self-Talk

Motivational self-talk is often pursued as a means to improving self-esteem and creating a positive climate for pursuing goals. We can use motivational self-talk to encourage ourselves to set specific goals. We can use this type of self-talk to get ourselves engaged and ready to make an plan of action.

A 2008 article in the journal Psychology of Sport and Exercise detailed a study in which tennis players were able to decrease their competitive anxiety and improve self confidence. Check the article out here.

Instructional Self-Talk

Instructional self-talk is used to learn a new skill or take on a challenge in our lives. This is a great tool to use when we want to move toward a specific goal. Once we have an action plan and are ready to get moving in the direction of our goal, instructional self-talk can help us to move through the steps required to meet our goals.

So what’s the point of all this Self-Talk talk?

To decrease our stress levels it’s important to recalibrate your thinking between the negative and positive forms of self-talk.

Becoming more aware of our self-talk and determining the types we are most likely to engage in is key. While we will likely never completely eradicate negative self-talk we can make some changes to better address things we would like to change.

First we must become more aware of our self-talk. Review the post on the inner critic here.

Some ways to uncover your self-talk are:

  • Free association journaling
  • Self reflection several times a day
  • Ask a loved one what they think your self talk says

Free Association Journaling

Free association journal writing is a good tool to elicit self-talk. Simply put, this is a type of writing in which you start writing and write whatever comes into your mind for 15 minutes. Often I ask people to start with something neutral and my typical suggestion is “start writing about an orange.” It doesn’t take long before we will start writing about ourselves. Take a look and you will likely find some information about what you think about yourself.

Self-Reflection several times a day

This can be done by setting a reminder and asking yourself “what am I thinking about myself right now?” Jot down what you are thinking without judgement. Do this three to four times a day for three days.

Ask a loved one for their perspective

This is likely the easiest avenue, but could lead to some inaccuracies if there are issues between you and your chosen loved one. Another way would be to ask several loved ones and look for patterns of response. For example if each person you ask gives as one of their responses “you are too hard on yourself,” this is likely at the core of your thinking in some way.

Taming stress by shifting your self-talk style

Once you have started to tune into your self-talk and placing it in one of the above categories you may find that more of your self-talk tends toward the negative. You are not alone. This is a tendency we have as humans. Work at not judging your self-talk but taking some time to look at it and determine what part you want to change.

Often people get bogged down with emotionally laden words to describe the self. In my practice I encourage people to look at these and then start to shift them to descriptors with less baggage

I have a list that I call “The ‘F’ word list.” While not all of the words begin with ‘F’ they all come with varying amounts of emotional baggage. Once you’ve identified some of the ‘F’ words you use most often I encourage you to be on the look out for these words and then to shift your language to become more descriptive and less judgmental.

For example consider exchanging these words
  1. Failure
  2. Fat
  3. Judgement
  4. Bad
  5. Lazy
  6. Abnormal
  7. Stupid
  8. Fake
  9. Fault
With These
  1. Did not meet my goal
  2. Overweight
  3. Assess
  4. Not where I’d like to be
  5. Not as active as I’d like to be
  6. Move to a different beat than most
  7. Inauthentic
  8. Responsibility

When we are more aware of our self talk we can more easily shift our thinking into one of the more positive forms. This exercise is not about turning everything on its head and making it pie in the sky wonderful. It’s about accurately identifying our thinking without judgement and laying a plan to do something different.

Self judgement often leads to more negative thinking and a brick wall that may encouraged you to give up on making change which of course does not lead to any improvements in how you feel or your stress levels.

Once you have identified your negative self-talk you can work at inserting more positive forms of self-talk into your thinking.

For example if I am “not as active as I would like to be” what can I do to become more active? This may require some insertion of motivational or instructional self-talk into my day. This allows me to think more clearly about how to become more active rather than beating my head against the brick wall of “I’m just lazy.”

Use more positive self-talk to your advantage. Not to create inaccurate thinking, but to make some changes and decrease self-judgement. Shift o self-assessment and consider when you’ve been successful in the past. Often skills that have been helpful in other areas of life are transferrable. Using skills you already have to build new ones will help decrease your stress as well.

Give it a try and tell me what you think.
Drop a comment in the comment section.
Thank you for dropping by. Have a great day ~Lynda

DIY Stress Relief Kit~ on-the-go stress relief.

red park bench against a tall hedge. Stress relief on the go.

Chances are we are all going to have ongoing stress in our lives. But that doesn’t mean we should give up and just deal. Accepting that there will be a certain amount of stress is beneficial so you can address it. Putting together a DIY stress relief kit is a great way to take your skills on the road.

Remember those exercises back in 5 minute stress management and Effective stress Management makes you a better you? Knowing where and when your stress is likely to increase is helpful, because then you can make a plan for how you will manage it. Taking some time to build a DIY stress relief kit for when you are away from home can be a great help.

We can all be great stress managers at home, but what about when we have to be away? Whether it’s the day to day chores about town or being on vacation making your own Stress Relief Kit can be a great go to when you are away from home.

What is a DIY Stress Relief Kit?

A DIY stress relief kit is a collection of physical an/or virtual items and reminders that help you to better manage stress as it arises. The U.S. Department of defense has endorsed a helpful application for phones called Virtual Hope Box and is a collection of virtual distractions and inspirations to help individuals better manage stress. It is customizable to the individual and is available in both the Apple and Google app stores.

Stress Relief to Go

It’s easy to build a DIY stress relief kit. First think of what helps you when you have an increase in stress. Second think of items that speak to each of your senses. And then find portable versions of those items to take with you.

Here are a few ideas

  • Sight
    • Pictures of loved one(s)
    • Images of a favorite place
    • book
    • puzzle book
    • small bottle of bubbles
  • Sound
    • Music/book/podcast
    • Ear plugs-for those that are sound sensitive when stressed.
  • Smell
    • Favorite fragrance
  • Taste
    • gum or mints
    • favorite candy
    • Tea bag
  • Touch
    • Pocket rock
    • Favorite touchstone item
      • ring/necklace
      • clothing item

The kit can include anything that helps you when you are feeling stressed.

Then what?

Once you have all the items that you think will be helpful, choose a way to store them. A small container or ziplock to throw in your bag may be all you need. It also depends on how long you plan to be away from home. I often carry items daily, but when I leave home for an extended period I add a few more items.

Test Drive Your Stres Relief Kit

Don’t forget to test drive your kit and add or subtract items as needed. Your kit is only as good as how you use and care for it.

What do you think?

Will you make a stress relief kit to take with you?

Leave a comment in the comments section.

Thanks for dropping by. Have a great day ~ Lynda

Decrease Stress with a Pet~ and get healthier too!

A lady and her dog take a selfie and decrease their stress.

Decrease your stress by adding a pet to your life. Having a pet has been shown to decrease blood pressure, improve overall health, and decrease both sick days and doctor visits. If you can afford to have a pet (both in terms of financial commitment and time) it may help you live a longer, healthier life.

Why pets may be good stress busters

In a 2012 review article in Frontiers of Psychology Andrea Beetz and co-authors Andrea Beetz, Kerstin Uvnäs-Moberg, Henri Julius, and Kurt Kotrschal looked at 69 original studies concerning the effects of human-animal interaction (HAI) and the oxytocin system (OT).

Here we have what appears to be the effects in both mind and body from something as simple as owning (or even interacting) with a pet such as a dog or cat. More studies looked at dogs, but there were a few cats in the mix and even a few birds and fish. Effects for birds and fish were a bit less strong since the studies they looked at did not allow for human-animal contact only viewing.

The Mind

In terms of mental benefit they detail a number of studies of school aged children (mostly pre-school up to 1st grade) with a dog in the classroom. The bulk of the studies they looked at showed-

  • Decreases in aggressive behavior
  • Positive effect on empathy
  • Improved social attention
  • Improved interpersonal interactions

Effects in the adult populations were similar. They mostly looked at older people and people with dementia. This is where the birds and fish came in showing that just being able to watch birds in an aviary and look at fish in an aquarium had positive effects on restlessness and improvements in mood.

They also found studies highly suggestive of a positive relationship to stress reduction as well as reduction of fear and increase in trust. Since most of the studies were with dogs it must be noted that subjects in the studies did not have an aversion to dogs.

The Body

Well you may say “that’s awesome” but what about the body you mentioned earlier. Well they also detailed studies that indicated benefits to our body overall. These benefits include-

  • Reductions in overall blood pressure
  • Decreases in heart rate
  • Increases in heart rate reactivity.

These effects were better with one’s own pet, but the effect occurs with non-familiar, friendly animal interaction as well. As little as 5-15 minutes of stroking a dog showed effects. That’s a pretty powerful effect.

Human-Animal Interaction also had a subjective decrease in anxiety and fear in subjects. Some studies also looked at pain and noted that individuals with a dog often used less pain medication and had fewer overall doctor visits.

But That’s Not ALL!

An Amazing Hormone

The peptide hormone called oxytocin is produced in the hypothalamus and released into the circulatory system via a network of oxytocin containing nerves through sensory stimulation. Oxytocin has many effects on the human body, but particularly increases


  • Eye Contact
  • Empathy
  • Trust
  • Social Skills
  • Positive self perception

Oxytocin also deceases depression and counteracts aggression.


Oxytocin has great benefits for the body as well. And warning….this might start sounding familiar.

  • Decreases blood pressure
  • Increases the function of the parasympathetic system
    • the parasympathetic system works as a brake on the sympathetic system, so better function is a really good thing.
  • Decreases subjective experience of anxiety
    • Subjects report feeling better

Tying It ALL Together

So how do pets and oxytocin interact? Well it’s conjectured that given the effects of Human-Animal Interactions that pets are actually causing this to occur in the body, though there are no definitive studies showing causation there is so much overlap that there is a growing belief that the two are indeed connected. In fact in one study just making eye contact with your dog was sufficient to show changes in oxytocin production. How cool is that?

So it seems that pets can and do decrease stress. I have seen this in my practice. It’s so amazing to see people change in their mood and stress levels after getting a pet.

So, if you can afford one (and I recommend checking your local animal shelter) both at the beginning and through the animal’s life. And if you have the time to spend with your pet I wholeheartedly recommend adding a pet to your life. Not only will you likely feel less stressed, but you just might live longer as well!

Now having a pet isn’t the only way to improve your life don’t forget to get optimal sleep, eat well, and get some exercise.

How has having a pet enriched your life?

Thanks for dropping by and have a great day~ Lynda