Summer is here and although it usually means longer days and more sultry restful nights for many, summer can also induce more stress in our lives. Summer induced stress can be brought on by feeling a greater need to meet the recreational demands of young children and/or increased family obligations such as excursions to the homes of extended family members, planning and attending family reunions, taking vacations or simply completing needed projects around the house. People often find lots to do during the summer months; they are masters at "filling-in" just about every hour of the day, given the fact that sunlight continues in perpetuity. Now couple this with serving as the primary caregiver for an ailing or disabled loved one or the reality of limited resources, be they human or financial. All of the above scenarios can elicit undue stress. So the question is: How does one effectively reduce the level of stress in his or her life during one of the most active times of the year? Below are some tips that may help folk to lead a more de-stressed life.
ENJOY THE WEATHER
The sun lives in California and it simply visits other places. Basking in perfect weather might be a "no-brainer" for most people living in sunny California but for some, this ritual might be a real challenge. Research has long suggested that there exist a correlation between mood and weather, albeit minor. However, conventional wisdom (supported by research) suggests that weather can have more than just a "little" effect on a person's mood. This is commonly referred to as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), a condition in which profound mood shifts are associated with a significant decline in temperature and shortened days. It should be noted that SAD is actually a specific form of depression that is often associated with excessive eating or sleeping—or the opposite—depending upon the age and/or gender of the individual. So, now that summer is here, make certain to go outside regularly and enjoy the sun, visit the beach, engage in outdoor sports or exercise often because pleasant weather really does improve one's mood and broadens cognition. These are two very important reasons why engaging in outdoor living can be beneficial during the summer season.
If you have been feeling more stressed lately, what you may be eating might not be helping your situation. When stressed, people typically begin to crave sweets, so instead of choosing a bag of candy, French fries or potato chips, try a bag of sweet potatoes chips, spinach, avocados, turkey or salmon. These choices not only help you stay fuller longer, but they have many other health benefits as well. For example, turkey contains an amino acid called L-tryptophan that releases serotonin, which is the natural "feel good" chemical in the brain. When serotonin is released in our brain it causes us to feel like we are on "cloud 9" and it relaxes us too. This natural calming effect helps to make us feel less stressed. So stock your refrigerator and kitchen cabinets with a variety of healthy foods and snacks for the entire family.
ADOPT AN ATTITUDE OF GRATITUDE
Constantly rehearse all of the good and "mountain top" experiences that have occurred in your life and limit thoughts about the deltas or times of vulnerability—those low points in your life and times. As a matter of fact, try to demonstrate an attitude of gratitude, regardless of your current station in life. It's all relative anyway; someone is always going to be a lot worse off than you and there will, invariably, be someone who is in a better place and space than you currently find yourself. The benefits of adopting a "grateful spirit" is far-reaching and has an indelible impact on one's psyche. And while this is really not a new concept, researchers have now discovered an association between "feelings of gratefulness" and maintaining good health over time. Studies in positive psychology are now taking a much closer look at how virtues such as gratitude and "counting one's blessings" can lead to psychological and physical well-being. Hence, philosophers and religious leaders, alike, extoll the many benefits of possessing the virtue of gratefulness. Finally, according to Elizabeth Heubeck in a WebMD article, "gratitude research" actually suggests that feelings of thankfulness have tremendous positive value in helping people cope with daily problems, especially stress.
THINK HAPPY THOUGHTS
Ever get caught in a negative thought cycle that you just can't seem to break? Continuing to ruminate or perseverate on negativity, however, can actually become quite toxic, not only to your thought processes but also to your physical health and well-being. There's some research that indicates that this type of habit can be broken, but first, let's do further unpacking of this issue. Research tells us that over-thinking or focusing on the negative thought for too long increases our sadness, unhappiness and pessimism, and takes us on a downward spiral that leads to hopelessness and maybe even depression. However, to break this cycle, the individual may need to find a distraction or make a deliberate attempt to stop him/herself from rehearsing the negative thought. Additionally, attempting to limit the time or setting a finite period to allow oneself to "wallow" in the negative thought can help to ameliorate one's thinking. Speaking to a friend or writing down the toxic thought may also be a good way to get it out of one's mind and "clearing one's head". By taking some action to address the negative self-talk, a person can move closer to resolving what's really been troubling him or her. Speaking to a helping professional might be helpful in assisting one in resolving the issue or thought. Finally, identifying the warning signals (preoccupation with a negative thought, prolonged sadness or anger, etc.) may be what helps the individual to avert the process of getting stuck in the future, which can ultimately lead to a less stressful life.