Dan Randall, Managing Life's Stress, River Falls, WI
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2012 Stress Management Tips

November & December: Can Stress Mak You Sick?

Over the next three or four months, there will be a lot going on that can cause stress in our lives. With holidays pending in November and December, we have the joys of spending time with family and friends but also the sadness of family and friends who will not be joining us this year. We also have all of the work involved with getting ready for these holidays. Then, in January and February, we have all of the bills that will come in the mail telling us how much we owe for what we purchased so we could have a few days of good food, drink and socializing. It is very important that you take care of yourself during this period and here is why.

STRESS affects your heart, weight and skin. It is also linked with “poorer wound healing, an increase risk for developing depression, the common cold and influenza, as well as associated with increased symptoms among those with chronic illnesses.

Confronted by sudden danger, the human body instantly pumps the bloodstream full of adrenaline. This hormone, along with cortisol, raises your blood pressure, heart rate and blood sugar which temporarily gives you additional strength, speed and stamina. In an emergency, stress can save your life.

On-going stress influences your ability to function and may lower your immunity. Even your genes can be affected because stress changes the protein output of our DNA.

Some specifics: Heart – Stress creates an environment where heart attacks and even sudden death become more likely. Stress has been found to increase cardiovascular risk by up to 50%. Stress lowers estrogen production which reduces protections against heart disease in women.

Headaches – Stress changes the balance of chemicals in the brain in a way that may contribute to the narrowing of blood vessels which could cause migraines. Stress is also a factor in tension headaches. The physical reaction to stress such as tension in the neck and shoulders, grinding of teeth or clenching the jaw, may make headaches worse.

Skin – Stress can exacerbate many common skin conditions such as acne, psoriasis, hives, and rosacea. It may lead to hair loss, brittle nails, herpes outbreaks and shingles.

Cancer – Although there is limited evidence linking stress to cancer, we do know that chronic stress can weaken a person’s immune system which may make a person more susceptible to certain cancers associated with viruses.

By taking time to take care of yourself during the next few months, you will be better able to have fun and stay healthy.

Source: Dr. Ranit Mishori, Dr. Sheldon Cohen – Carnegie Mellon – Pittsburg, Dr. Elissa Epel – U. Cal, Dr. Joel Dimsdale – U. Cal, Dr. Stephen Manuck – U Pittsburgh.

October 2012: A Little Laughter Goes A Long Way

This month I thought it would be fun to just have a laugh. I got this from a friend who got them from Grins and Snickers.

I was in the six item express lane at the store quietly fuming. Completely ignoring the sign, the woman ahead of me had slipped into the check-out line pushing a cart piled high with groceries. Imagine my delight when the cashier beckoned the woman to come forward looked into the cart and asked sweetly, "So, which six items would you like to buy?"

Smith climbs to the top of Mt. Sinai to get close enough to talk to God. Looking up, he asks the Lord, “God what does a million years mean to you?”

The Lord replies, “A minute”.

Smith asks, “and what does a million dollars mean to you?”

The Lord replies “a penny”.

Smith asks the Lord, “can I have a penny?”

The Lord replies, “in a minute.”

All eyes were on the radiant bride as her father escorted her down the aisle. They reached the altar and the waiting groom. The bride kissed her father and placed something in his hand. The guests in the front pews responded with ripples of laughter. Even the priest smiled broadly. As her father gave her away in marriage, the bride gave him back his credit card.

Three friends from the local congregation were asked, "When you're in your casket, and friends and congregation members are mourning over you, what would you like them to say?"

Artie said, "I would like them to say I was a wonderful husband, a fine spiritual leader, and a great family man."

Eugene commented, "I would like them to say I was a wonderful teacher and servant of God who made a huge difference in people's lives.."

Al said, "I'd like them to say, 'Look, he's moving!'"

Keep Moving My Friends!!! Dan

July 2012: Waste Management

So often our day is predicated on what we have going on in our minds. Often times that activity is nothing but junk stuff that we are thinking about. Chatter that includes stuff that doesn’t matter, doesn’t do us any good or stuff that causes us to have negative thoughts about our lives. Some people call this “stink’n think’n". Sound familiar? It happens to all of us at one time or another, but when it starts happening on a regular basis, it is time to do something about it.

One of the very first things you can do is to start thinking about anything good in your life. As you do this, your good list will grow and begin to take over your thoughts of the bad things in your life. I know that sometimes we think there is nothing good in our lives, but that is just that old stink’n think’n that is blocking us from seeing the good. It can be powerful stuff, but the good stuff is pretty powerful too.

You can also try to clear your mind by focusing on your breathing and use some relaxation techniques. Use one of your lifelines and phone a friend. You can also just get down on your knees and ask God for help.

June 2012: Expectations

I work part time as a ranger at one of our local golf courses. In this position I see people from all walks of life coming out to enjoy the great game of golf with their friends. Being on a golf course on a beautiful day is, or can be, one of the most relaxing activities a person can do. It baffles me why so many people seem to throw away this opportunity to enjoy and relax because of the expectations they set for themselves and for the day in general. There are very few golfers who make their living playing golf. Oh sure, there may be a few side bets that players engage in, but winning or losing will not make a big change in their financial status. So I wondered why people get so upset on the course.

I’ve seen people throw their clubs almost as far as they have been hitting the ball. I’ve seen them smash their club into the ground in a rage over a bad shot. I’ve seen people kick their golf cart as if it was the cart’s fault for them missing a putt. I’ve heard players yelling at other players because they aren’t going fast enough, and I’ve heard more four letter expletives than I care to mention. Fortunately, this is only about 10% of the people who play golf but 10% is still a lot, and I think it all comes down to the expectations they set for themselves that cause them to lose it.

In golf, as in life, we are not perfect. In golf you’re given a handicap to help compensate for not being perfect, and even those with no handicap wish they had a handicap on some days. Let’s face it, we just are not going to hit that ball the way we want each and every time. Some days it seems like we can never hit it the way we like. It is the same with life. Some days we just don’t get what we expected to get out of the day.

Another example comparing golf and life relates to time. At all golf courses there is a “pace of play” set by the course managers which says about how long it should take a group of four people to play a round of golf. Normally this runs around four hours and 20 minutes, give or take 10 minutes, based on the length and difficulty of the course. If you are with a group of two or three golfers instead of four, the amount of time will be the same if you are behind other groups of four. So you can’t expect it to go any faster. If the weather is bad or there are a large number of families or beginner golfers playing that day, you may not finish in that normal pace of play. This is true even when driving to work. If on a normal day it takes you 35 minutes to get to work, that doesn’t mean that you will make it in that time every day. Construction, bad weather or heavier than normal traffic is going to lengthen that time just as in golf.

So what to do? The only thing we can do is to set “realistic” expectations for ourselves and for the day. When it comes to our performance, we need to accept that we are not going to be on the mark each and every day, and we are going to make bad shots or decisions at times which will affect that performance. This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be trying to be better or get better but accept the mistakes and move on. As for time, plan ahead and determine if the normal for today is going to be the same as other days or if there are extenuating circumstances which may alter what has been normal. Don’t waste your time on being upset. Set some realistic expectations and get the most enjoyment out of your game and your life.

May 2012: Today Is the Day

This has been a very strange year for weather around the country. Some parts of the upper Midwest have experienced one of their best/easiest winters and their warmest March on record. Others parts are receiving record high temperatures while others are seeing freezing temperatures which are causing challenges to their crop production. Still others are receiving a record number of tornadoes, which are destroying property and lives.

Other than seeking protection when the warnings are sounded, we have no control over these events. We only have control over what we do today. We can plan all we want for tomorrow and the days, weeks, months and years to come, but tomorrows are not promised to us. So, we have today and we must determine what do we want to accomplish today?

It has been announced on every news channel that we are seeing more and more people who experience depression. There are soldiers returning from foreign assignments in war zones, adults losing their jobs and homes and young people who are bullied or ignored by their piers being diagnosed with this debilitating disease.

We can’t do anything about what has already happened and we cannot be assured of what’s to come tomorrow and beyond, so we need to focus our attention on today. What can we do today to help ourselves either out of depression or from getting depressed? If you see signs of depression in those close to you or you see them developing in your life, call someone and ask for help. Don’t wait until tomorrow, as tomorrow may be too late. Get the help you need today and let someone know things aren’t right in your life. There’s a quote that says, “get up, get dressed and get going”. This is what you have to do today and take action to set yourself on the road to recovery. There’s another quote that says “free beer tomorrow” but when tomorrow comes it is today and the beer isn’t free today, but tomorrow. So don’t bet on tomorrow, bet on today and take action to help yourself. Seek help anyway you can.

April 2012: Get Relief from Saying NO

In a previous monthly tip and also in my book, I have given you ways to say no without actually saying no. Now I’m sharing with you what the Mayo Clinic tells us about why we should say no more often. After you review this message, go to my August 2008 Tip of the Month.

Stress relief: When and how to say no.
Sure it's easier to say yes, but at what price to your peace of mind?
Here's why saying no may be a healthier option for stress relief.
Is your plate piled high with deadlines and obligations that you're trying to squeeze in between meetings? Are you trying to cram too many activities into too little time? If so, stress relief can be as straightforward as just saying no.

Why say no?
The number of worthy requests isn't likely to lessen, and you can't add more available time to your day. Are you doomed then to be overcommitted? The answer is no, not if you're willing to say no. It may not be the easy way, but it is a path to stress relief.
Consider these reasons for saying no:

When to say no
Sometimes it's tough to determine which activities deserve your time and attention. Use these strategies to evaluate obligations — and opportunities — that come your way.

How to say no
No. Nope. Nah. See how simple it is to say one little word, allowing you to take a pass on tasks that don't make the cut? Of course, there will be times when it's just not that easy. Here are some things to keep in mind when you need to say no:

Saying no won't be easy if you're used to saying yes all the time. But learning to say no is an important part of simplifying your life and managing your stress. And with practice, you may find saying no gets easier.

March 2012: Let Them Help

I recently returned from my annual mission trip to Honduras where I spent time at a small children’s home doing whatever needs to be done. This year we were building some bunk beds and doing some construction on the new school room being built at the home. It was winter break and therefore all of the children at the home were out of school and anxious to help. The team of adults was fairly skilled in the area of construction and we knew we could really forge ahead and get a lot done. But…then there were the young children who wanted to help and we knew they would slow us down. What to do?

We did what was right. We let the children help with holding the boards as we cut them; drill the screws in the boards on the bunk beds; carry lumber and assist us with other aspects of the project. The most difficult part was making sure the children kept both their shoes and their safety glasses on at all times.

So did it take us longer to do the project? Sure it did. Did we get the project completed? Sure we did. Looking back on that week at the children’s home, we realize that we also had a lot more fun doing the project with the children’s help than we would have had without their help.

For those of you who are around children who want to help, let them help. It may take a little longer, but it will get done and you will have more fun. What a great way to build good relationships with children! What does this have to do with stress management? Spending time and having fun with children will lower your stress level.

January 2012: Fresh Start

Happy New Year! During and after the holidays, we seem to become overwhelmed with life in general. Not only have we just gone through the busiest season of the year because of the holidays, but for many who are in our nation’s work force, you have just gone through the dreaded month and year end reporting period. This is often the make it or break it time of the year for many. January and February doesn’t offer us a break from this hectic time. For many, it becomes even worse because it is at this time that all of the payments come due for those things purchased in the previous two months. Life comes at you from all directions. So what should we do?

First of all, step back, take a deep breath and take a fresh start approach. The key is not to try and fix everything all at the same time. Determine what it is that has you in turmoil and write it down. Your list might include financial issues, unfinished projects on the job, health issues or unique family matters to name only a few. Did I say write them down, well that’s what you should do.

Now get someone: a family member, a friend, or a professional to help you determine your priorities and then make your plan to address the #1 issue first. If you don’t make a plan, you’ll find yourself running around in circles and only making the situation worse. Once you get the first issue resolved, then move on to the next priority issue. You will be surprised at how quickly you can resolve even the most difficult issue you have and you’ll start to regain control over your life. Now good luck and get started.

Note: It is time for me to take some time off. So, there will be no February tip of the month. See you again in March. - Dan

Tips from 2013

Tips from 2011

Tips from 2010

Tips from 2009

Tips from 2008

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