Sports as a Stress Reliever

sportsEveryone has heard about the dangers of stress. In addition to being a contributing cause to life-threatening illness, it can interfere with concentration, problem-solving, and even sleep. Finding effective ways to combat stress is a key element to health in the 21st century. While some people chose relaxation through massage, yoga, or mediation as a way to decrease stress, others head out to engage in their favorite sport. Enough studies have linked the positive effects of sports on stress that more and more doctors treating stress-related illness are recommending regular physical activity for their patients.

Physical Benefits

Sports produce measurable changes in body chemistry and physiology.  Most people have heard of runner’s high, which happens when the body releases endorphins during strenuous activity.  These chemicals elevate the mood, which significantly reduces stress for at least 90 minutes to two hours after the activity ends.  Best of all, the effect is not limited to running, as most people participating in sports report similar feelings of euphoria after a game, match, or race.

Other physical changes occur after exercise, training, or participating in sports.  These include reduced electrical activity in tense muscles, relaxed blood vessels, lower blood pressure and lower heart rates. In short, following a game or race, athletes have reduced stress and tension in their bodies.

Mental Benefits

By focusing concentration on sports, individuals stop thinking about the situations and circumstances that cause worry, anxiety and stress. Sports usually require removing oneself from daily environments, whether to a pool, basketball court, or natural setting. That removal also aids in achieving distance from the various stressors in life.  Outdoor and extreme sports are especially helpful in this regard as participants are out in the natural world and/or placed in death-defying situations.

Some sports offer a cathartic aspect that also reduces stress.  Therapists sometime recommend that patients release stress and anger during a game by imagining the source of their problems as the ball they are hitting or throwing. Impact sports such as football, boxing, hockey are good for this as well.

Playing sports can lead to other good behaviors that can improve health and overall well-being.  For example, the self-confidence that comes from good performance on the basketball court can lead to higher self-esteem and better decision making in other parts of life. Better sleep routines, healthier nutritional choices and avoidance of sedentary activities can also follow.

photo by: Ernst Vikne

How to Cure Depression without Medication

Approximately 50 percent of people who suffer from depression do not benefit from prescribed anti depressants, according to Gracelyn Guyol an author and researcher who cured herself naturally from depression and bipolar. She also states that those who do find benefit from anti depressants, discontinue using them due to the side effects. Medication does not cure depression, what it does is temporarily mask the symptoms which then leads to addiction. The most effective way of beating depression is without medication, knowing what techniques can assist you, and being committed to your treatment will eradicate depression permanently.

It is essential that you know as much about depression as possible, and the range of symptoms that are associated with its different types. This will assist you in finding the most effective methods of self treatment. A helpful book to begin with is “Depression for Dummies,” by Laura L. Smith. This book covers all you need to know from the different types of depression and the symptoms; it also discusses techniques, and methods you can use to cope with the disorder.

There are certain types of depression that are caused by an underlying medical problem; you first need to go to the doctors to ensure that this is not the case. If you have a medical condition that you are unaware of, you will not be able to cure your depression unless the medical condition has first been dealt with.

There are a number of conditions that can cause depression; these include stroke, Lyme disease, diabetes, Huntington’s and Parkinson’s disease, brain trauma and multiple sclerosis.

Depression leads to isolation, this can make your condition worse as you are alone with the negative thoughts which are the cause of your depression. Go out with friends and family, join a support group or become a volunteer. Anything that keeps you in regular contact with people will help to manage the symptoms of the condition.

According to Dr. Segal you should speak to a therapist, the simple act of talking about your problems can help. Your therapist will be able to assist you in getting to the root cause of your condition; when this has been discovered, he/she can develop a treatment plant to help you to cope with the symptoms.

Start exercising for at least 15 to 30 minutes per day. You don’t need to do anything strenuous or go to the gym, going for a walk every day is enough. This helps to relieve stress which is one of the main reasons why people become depressed in the first place. Exercise also releases dopamine and serotonin, these are chemicals responsible for your mood; when released, you will start to feel happier.

There are several relaxation techniques that can treat depression, at the same time as stimulating feelings of well-being. Some of the better techniques include mediation, visualization, yoga and deep breathing exercises. Not all techniques are going to work with everyone. Therefore, you will need to try out different methods to see which of them works best for you. Once you have determined this, you will need to incorporate it into your daily routine in order to experience the full benefits.

About the author
Grace Pamer is a work from home mom and the author of www.RomanticFrugalMom.com, one woman’s on going quest to get her family to go green whilst keeping romance alive in her marriage. Check out her love letters for him section if you need help writing a love letter to your nearest and dearest because of a hectic schedule because ethical living starts at home.

Image via Creative Commons

February 15, 2012Permalink 1 Comment

The Dangerous Myth of Teen Suicide – Doing It For Attention

In 15-24 year olds, suicide is the 3rd leading cause of death. In 5-14 year old children, it is the sixth. These alarming statistics show that youth and teen suicide is a serious problem with our younger population. Unfortunately, many of these suicides could have been avoided if friends and family recognized the warning signs and ignored the dangerous myth that these suicidal threats were “for attention.”

If an adult man was depressed and verbalized to others that he desired to end his life, in most cases that threat would be taken seriously by those around him. Other adults would immediately recognize that his thoughts and words were out of character. The danger with teens who threaten suicide, however, is that their threats are often dismissed as being dramatic, attention-seeking or overly emotional because they are frequently in a moody or irritable state. Teens become emotionally distraught very easily in their everyday lives. Like “the boy who cried wolf,” it can be difficult to distinguish when a child is being sincere.

Err on the side of caution

The number one rule of thumb should always be to err on the side of caution. Never make the dangerous assumption that a child is only “doing it for attention.” A common mistake that adults make, when dismissing a child’s suicidal thoughts, is that they look for reasons to justify why a child is so upset. A recent break up with a boyfriend or girlfriend is an excellent example of an excuse that is used to rationalize away these extreme emotions. However, if a child has already been emotionally distressed over other life challenges such as parents divorcing, worries about the future, problems with peers in school or failing grades, the breakup of an important relationship can be the final emotional trigger that leads a teen to feel suicide is the only way to end the pain.

Another common mistake that occurs is when adults fail to see that what they are labeling a cause of depression is actually a symptom of depression. In a recent true story, a 17 year old teenager began engaging in risky behaviors. He was drinking, doing drugs, his grades were failing and he broke up with his girlfriend of 14 months for no apparent reason. Feeling lonely and regretting his mistake of ending this important relationship, he wanted his ex back, but she declined and had moved on. He began threatening suicide to his ex-girlfriend, continually messaging her that his life was hopeless. Initially, she told no one about his suicidal thoughts simply because he asked her not to. Eventually, she told his mother and her own parents, but they did nothing and stated directly he was “doing it for her attention.” Fortunately, the young girl didn’t give up and finally found an adult who would listen. It took two direct suicidal threats and two calls to 911 for the young man to finally be taken seriously. He is in inpatient treatment and is getting the help he needs.

That is the kind of help that private drug rehab in Indiana and in other parts of the United States can bring.

In the above example, adults believed the teen’s regret over breaking up was why he was messaging her “dramatic” suicidal thoughts. However, his breaking up with her out of the blue was actually a symptom of his severe depression, including the other signs such as drug use and falling grades. Many adults and even counselors lack the whole picture of what a teen is feeling inside. Looking for an easier explanation to minimize the seriousness of the suicidal threat puts many depressed teens in harm’s way. In this story, the depression was actually due to severe emotional abuse in his household. He turned to drugs to dull the pain, and pushed away his girlfriend. Outsiders only saw a young man who was distraught over a relationship and drew dangerous, inaccurate conclusions from there.

Adults and teenagers both need to understand that youth who threaten to take their own lives actually do commit suicide. No one who commits suicide truly wants to die, they merely feel hopeless that their internal pain will never stop. Exclaiming to others that they want to die can often be a first step in preparing for the tragic end result of carrying out on those threats. In no instance should anyone dismiss threats, feeling they have an explanation for why a teen is feeling so upset. Every 100 minutes one 15-24 year old will take his or her own life. Many of these young adults will commit suicide because no one took their cries for help seriously, dismissing them as merely “doing it for attention.”

About the Author
Grace Pamer is a mom of 3, avid writer and widley known as the love letters lady. She runs a popular section called love letters for him on her Romantic Frugal Mom blog, a guide which helps couples to compose love letters for their nearest and dearest.

Image via Creative Commons

January 19, 2012Permalink 1 Comment

Food as a Drug of Choice

Researchers have long known that food and eating can release similar chemicals from our brains as those involved in drug addiction; eating and using drugs both release dopamine. This certainly explains a lot about how so large a segment of our population has reached levels of obesity never before seen. With all of the modern stressors that are placed on people, particularly during the last few years of such uncertain economic times, “comfort foods” may have become a little too comforting.

What have we learned?

Some studies have even suggested that the diversity in our foods also plays a part in the high levels of overweight people. By keeping our food varied and interesting, we tend to eat more, whereas a limited menu would not cause a physiological response as we’d tend to be bored by it. Boring meals, it seems, may be a plus when it comes to losing weight.

A study reported in August’s issue of The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition seemed to bear out the fact that as people are exposed repeatedly to the same foods, even those which they love, they become less interested in that food. This was true in both ‘normal’ sized participants and obese individuals.  This supports what the researchers called “habituation”, which spells out the disinterest in the drug of choice; in this case the drug is food. In fact, the authors of the study came to the conclusion that a reduction in variety may be strategically important for those who want to lose weight.  That might be one reason why Atkins and other very restrictive diets work so well.

What does it mean?

Neural activity is similar whether eating or craving a favorite food; these activities are also similar to those who abuse drugs, as reported in the Archives of General Psychiatry. This study correlated people with higher food addiction scores with their greater brain activity during the anticipatory phase before the time they actually got to eat the food. This led researchers to conclude that their obesity may often be the result of an addictive process. This study measured the neural activity with fMRI while anticipating a chocolate milkshake, and also during consumption of that milkshake.  The participant’s food addiction scores directly corresponded to activation in certain areas of the brain known to be important in eating motivation as well as substance abuse.

No associations were shown between BMI and the participant food addiction score. Those same scores were found to correspond with emotional eating, however. This led the researchers to question whether a more representative group might provide more accurate results.

How can it help?

Further studies are sure to follow, and should provide even greater understanding of obesity and physiology. True food addictions can be broken down so that there are more effective ways to treat them.  Now that it’s known that meal monotony likely leads to a reduction in calorie consumption, balancing that concept with enough variety to still provide adequate nutrition will be vital.  Other studies will report on differences in healthy weight people and the obese, and hopefully give us enough information to optimize eating plans for each segment of people.

Biking is an extremely helpful exercise when attempting to lose weight. Buy yourself a good quality bike and helmet, and also compare bike insurance, before setting out on long but healthy rides.

Pull Yourself out of Depression

If you are suffering from depression, you know that it is mentally, emotionally, and even physically exhausting. It can be difficult for others, even your spouse or close family members, to understand how you’re feeling, and even harder for them to know how to help. Fortunately, there are some definite positive steps you can take on your own towards recovery. Though you may wish for giant leaps forward, these small baby steps will lead you in the right direction, and get you there in time.

The key to feeling better is to use your limited resources and energy to plot a few small goals, and then follow through on them. These can be as simple as taking your dog for a walk or planting some flowers– the important thing is to get yourself moving and headed toward that place where you will once again enjoy life.

When a person is depressed, it is hard to look at things objectively, and seeing every glass as half empty can add to the depression fog. It is very important to maintain any existing close relationships—your friends and family will want to help you, but they will not know that they need to unless you ask for help, or they spend enough time with you to know something is amiss.

Depression is very common. In fact, one out of every seven Americans suffers from a depressive illness each year. It is not something for which the sufferer should feel ashamed. Often, the depression takes over in our minds and makes it difficult to sort things out, and getting the support of a trusted friend can work wonders. Let the people you love most know what you’re dealing with, and ask for their support. Even if you’d rather lay on the couch all day, make yourself go to planned social functions– you just might have a good time.

Consider joining a support group. There are lots of groups, and it can be helpful to hear what other people are going through, and share your own pain. Sometimes, just knowing that you’re not alone can be quite helpful. If you do not think you could bear a face-to-face meeting, perhaps an internet support group would be helpful. It is often easier to open up anonymously, and you may find that you are helping others as much as they are helping you. What a great way to recover your self-worth!

Another idea that might also help is to do some volunteer work. It can make you feel wonderful to help someone else. Why not check around and find a cause you believe in to throw yourself into? (If it involves puppies or other small animals, so much the better.)

Join a club that meets frequently, sign up for a cooking or exercise class, or make regular trips to the doggie park with your best friend. These things help you meet new people and get interested in life again. Why not have coffee or lunch with one of your new (or old) friends? Take a walk in the park with a buddy you meet in Pilates class, or go out to dinner, a movie, or a ball game. All of these things can help get you back on track, slowly but surely.

One final great idea– take a road trip and see the sights! Our world is big, and there are beautiful things to see in every area. Buy or lease a campervan, obtain great campervan insurance, and set out to leisurely explore the beauty that is all around you!

Trust Me There’s More: Finding the Hidden Strength

As a society we mainly focus on the identification of one’s weaknesses. With this unhealthy fixation with failure how can we expect individuals to thrive? Personal growth is often times concerned with providing what are essentially bandaids for our weaknesses; this supposedly makes for more rounded individuals. What if that’s just a broken paradigm? What if we’re going about this all wrong?

What if we broke the mold and focused on our strengths? While it would be foolish to suggest blind ignorance of the weaknesses every individual has why give that the lion’s share of the attention?

Many people go throughout their entire lives unaware of their strengths. Why is that?

Why Strengths Seem Hidden

The areas in life that we are strongest at are the ones that come easiest. Human beings tend to be self-centered and let’s face it, aren’t we often guilty of assuming that others should see the world just the same way we do? The truth is, they don’t. What comes so easy to you is probably not so simple for someone else. Our strengths are so natural that they come to us like breathing; it’s automatic.

Here’s another analogy; imagine that humans somehow developed a method for communicating with fish. What would a fish say to a human when asked what it’s like to live and breathe water? What do you think the fish would say? The fish wouldn’t have any idea what we were talking about; the best case scenario is that they would know what water was but think of it as mundane and not worth much thought. “It’s water; it’s just there. Tell me more about this air you humans live in! What’s that like?”

How to Identify Strengths

If you can’t see your own value or merit for yourself how on earth can you identify your strengths? That’s easy, you can’t! You will have to rely on other people to give you feedback on their perceptions since they have the essential distance with which to make the observation.

Think back; what do your friends and coworkers most often say about you? What are you known for at work? Is there a  particular task you often end up being assigned? For example, I know a friend who is the equivalent of the biblical Joseph; give her a bag of chips and she can divide it 5 different ways equally without even trying. This extends to more ambiguous tasks like scheduling. Her strength is in resource management and she would be wise to consider a career in that area. When told this she said she had never thought of it.

In addition to thinking back over what people have observed in the past consider polling certain trustworthy individuals in your life and writing down what they say. Look for patterns and take them seriously; these are more than likely your strengths.

Another great practice is to start identifying the strengths of those around you; as one comes to understand others they come to better understand themselves.

Playing to your strengths in business and life can maximize successes and lead to a higher quality of life.

This guest article was contributed by Jennifer Bell from Health Training Guide.  Check out her site to learn more about physician and surgeon training and other exciting health careers.


Recovering from Low Self Esteem and Depression

According the National Institute of Mental Health, approximately 18.8 million adults are living with depression in any given year. Characterized by feelings of despondency and hopelessness, many people who are depressed also suffer from a marked lack of self esteem. They may think they are worthless, ugly, or a horrible person. While psychiatric medications can help some individuals, many people feel that the side effects or health risks are unacceptable. Luckily, there a plethora of natural, holistic approaches to easing depression that do not involve medication.

Causes of Depression and Low Self Esteem

There is no one-size-fits-all explanation as to why these conditions occur. Sometimes it is a combination of events that come together to create them and sometimes it is a single, life-changing event that brings it on full-force. Here are a few situations and conditions that have been heavily indicated as factors contributing to depression.

  • the diagnosis of a serious or chronic condition, especially those that are painful
  • the death, illness, or incarceration of a partner or other loved one
  • unacceptably-high levels of ongoing stress such as war, living in poverty, or being a single parent
  • a history of sexual, physical, or emotional abuse
  • giving birth (known as Post-Partum Depression or Baby Blues)

Combating Depression and Low Self-Esteem Without Drugs

While medications exist that can help level out brain chemistry in order to lift your mood, some people find the side effects unacceptable. Dizziness, insomnia, blurred vision, gastrointestinal distress, and a feeling of being emotionally flat-lined are not at all uncommon and can negate any positive effect of the medication. Fortunately, there are many non-drug practices you can use to fight off the negative emotions and feelings of both depression and low self esteem.

Regular Exercise

The American Psychological Association has stated that regular exercise releases endorphins into you blood stream, which in turn lifts your mood. What’s better is that you don’t need to become an elite athlete or a gym rat to reap the benefits. Here are some simple ways to incorporate a little exercise into your daily routine.

  • walk at least 30 minutes a day, wandering your own neighborhood with a friend, your dog, or with your iPod
  • do a quick 15-minute routine as soon as you wake up with some weights or calisthenics
  • dance at length in your own living room to your favorite music

As you begin to see the effects of your exertions, congratulate yourself. Are your legs more defined? Is your waist whittling away? Be proud of yourself and your body! If you’re exercising to lose weight as well as combat depression, take pictures for yourself so you can look at your progress when you’re feeling down.

Socialize

Laughter is the best medicine, with a sympathetic ear coming in a close second. Make a point of going out with friends or having them over at least once a week. This is especially true if you work from home or are usually otherwise home alone a lot of the time. Depressed people will often withdraw and wall themselves in. Engaging others in conversation, laughing, or even venting about your feelings to a trusted friend can help you sort through your emotions and feel better about yourself. Reaching out to others can help break down the barriers of depression and self-loathing, allowing you to see how much others care for and love you.

Develop an Affirmation

You are in control of your inner monologue, so tell it what to say! Instead of thinking ‘the world is horrible’ or ‘I’m so ugly’, repeat a positive affirmation to yourself. You can do this aloud or in your head. Choose, instead, to tell yourself ‘I am a beautiful human being’, or ‘I choose to love me’. While this may sound hokey, hearing yourself say positive, soothing things can do wonders for your mental state.

While depression and poor self esteem can seem crippling, there are steps you can take to help alleviate them without filling a prescription. Regular exercise, socializing with friends, and stating affirmations to yourself can all work toward creating a happier, more confident you!

If you or a loved one is in crisis or feeling suicidal, reach out to a hotline or professional in your area. Self-help is not a replacement for crisis care.

How I Use Faith To Cope With Panic Attacks

Faith has been my biggest ally in facing my fears and learning to overcome panic attacks.

Faith is the Opposite of Fear. Faith is not believing that God can, it’s knowing that He will.

What or Who Can I Have Faith In?

Honestly, it doesn’t matter. It just has to be something greater than yourself that loves you. You can have faith in in God, a Higher Power, the Universe, a relative that has passed on, angels, anything.

I have a loving Higher Power, whom I choose to call God.

When I put my faith into my Higher Power’s hands, I am trusting that He loves and cares for me unconditionally. He is always there to help me. This is key and something to keep in the forefront my mind as I learn to face my fears.

Because of my faith, I firmly believe that I have the right to a full and happy life. By choosing to recover from panic attacks and anxiety, I am reclaiming that right every day.

Because of my faith, I know that the challenges of coping with panic attacks and anxiety have made me into a powerful, competent woman. I can share my experiences and try to help others who are still suffering.

Because of my faith, I am learning to I see the glass as half full, not half empty. I look back at my past with no regrets. I am blessed today with a very rich life, filled with wonder and possibilities. I may stumble and have setbacks with anxiety, but I know I’m moving in the right direction.

Because of my faith, I realize I don’t have to accept my life at face value. When fear and panic attacks ruled my life, I was just accepting what life gave to me and not doing anything about it. All I saw was fear and
restriction and this is the way I lived. As I learned to live my life with faith, I realized I didn’t have to accept this reality. I could learn a better way of living. This is one of my God-given rights.

A large part of learning to overcome anxiety and panic attacks is that you actually have to expose yourself to the things that you fear. This for me would have been impossible without faith. As I learn to challenge my fears, I know my Higher Power is on my side. He holds my hand and walks beside me every step of the way. And this brings me comfort when I am scared.

Today I am a recovering anxious person. I work a wonderful program that has really helps me deal with anxiety and actually diffuse panic attacks. Now that I no longer fear my anxiety, I have freedom and truly enjoy my life. I have learned that the other side of panic is real peace and healing.

Please read my Panic Away review for more information. If you struggle with panic, have faith- there is hope, there is help!