Ten Tips To Sweep Out Stress–Declutter Your Life

Hi everyone,

So sorry I’ve been MIA these past two weeks–keeping up with added running around on my to-do list and not all of it mine, lol. Hopefully, life will return to normal sooner than later.

Lucky for me I’ve got wonderful friends sending great content this way. Then I get to share with you! Here are Diane Lang’s top ten tips for minimizing stress. (Thanks, Diane!)

BIO: Diane Lang – Positive Living Expert and psychotherapist – is a nationally recognized author, educator, speaker, therapist and media expert. Lang is extremely mediagenic and offers expertise on a variety of health and wellness topics about creating balance and finding happiness through positive living. Lang offers expertise in multiple mental health, lifestyle and parenting needs.  In addition to holding multiple counseling positions, Diane is also an adjunct professor at Montclair State University and Centenary College.

     

1. Basic needs – Make sure your basic needs are met. Keep a journal for a week of what you eat, how much sleep you get, did you exercise, etc. At the end of the week you can get a clear picture of what’s going on in your life and what changes you can make.

2. Gratitude – start your day off with gratitude checks – this will help you see things clearly and change your perspective.

3. Can/can’t control – work on what you can control. If we continue to work on things we have no control over, we will always feel frustrated and stressed.

4. Social support – have a support system set up.

5. Self soothe – when things become stressful and you’re feeling out of balance, find ways to calm down by doing activities that soothe you such as a bath, talking a walk, listening to music, etc.

6. Pay it forward – we always feel happier when we help others.

7. Exercise is the one of the best and most natural ways to de-stress. If we walk four times a week for 30 minutes, each time we get the similar results as taking an anti-anxiety drug.

8. Nature instantly calms us – spend more time outdoors.

9. Add variety to your life and spice it up. Every time we try something new we get a boost of happiness – when you’re happy you are less stressed.

10. Enjoy the simple things in life – take the small things you love like a cup of coffee, talking to your friend, reading a book and actually enjoy it. Spend time doing that one activity.

I love how number 10 ties it all together, as every one of these suggestions really is simple and easy to employ. I try really hard to incorporate each one but sometimes fall short with #4 and #9.

Your turn! How do you destress? Any of the above areas you feel a need to work on? Did you get the Halloween candy yet?

Have a great week, friends,

Joanna

Is YOUR Family on Technology Overload?

Hi all! School is underway, things are busier–again–and this parent is often (uh always) trying to keep up. Ever-evolving technology adds more pressure to our time-crunched situations. Here are some tips/ideas for staying sane in a world that moves way too fast and never seems to sleep. 

Parenting Issues Caused by Technology Overload. Help!

   

Summary:  Therapist, author and Positive Living Expert Diane Lang addresses a common question clients ask her: “How can I be a good parent with all these distractions? Between my cell phone, texting, e-mails, etc. I feel I never get a break.” Today’s technology overload creates three main fixable problems that parents should address with these specific tips listed below.

Fixable Problem #1: We Are Always “Plugged In”: Parents always felt overwhelmed and busy, but now with all the added technology, our work weeks are much longer and we feel like the world never stops. The new work week looks way different then the days of 40 hours a week. Most people work 60-80 hours a week due to longer commutes and always being “plugged in” due to technology. But this is just part of the battle…

Fixable Problem #2: Communication Issues Within Families:Technology also causes communication issues within families. I hate to tell this true story, but it nails the point. I was at dinner the other night and I saw a family of four sitting around the table waiting for their food. The mom was reading the menu but the dad and the two kids were all texting or searching on their phones. It made me sad to see a family actually have the opportunity to spend quality time together and not take advantage of it. Unfortunately, this example is quite common and becoming the norm. I know in my own household if I’m in the house and my husband is outside in the yard, he will call me on my cell before walking inside to talk to me.

Fixable Problem #3: Instant Gratification and Laziness: We have created a society of instant gratification and laziness. We see the problems in kids as a result. Their lack of physical exercise, social skills and obesity are big issues today. It’s one thing to have a group of friends, but nowadays we hear kids say “I have over a 100 friends on Facebook” but yet they only have met a few in person.

Five Tips to Fix: Because of the technology overload, we are up against new issues in parenting and relationships in general and there are no new rules or handbooks to help families handle this situation. However, some basic tips still apply to keeping a happy, healthy home:

1. Communicate – we always tell parents to spend quality time with their kids. It used to be have family dinners together. We now have to add to the dinner that there should be no technology! The dinner table should be a sacred time where everyone joins in the conversation: parents, children and other family members. Ask open ended questions that cannot be answered with a “yes” or a “no.” 

2. Be an active listener – in the world of technology, we don’t have as much face to face time BUT when we do it’s important to be a good listener. Make sure to have direct eye contact. Watch your non-verbal language, show you’re listening by nodding your head, facial expressions, etc. Listen to the whole story or question, pause to think about it and then answer. Really listen when someone talks – don’t think about your answer or another topic while they are speaking. Show you care.

3. Socialization is a key factor in our happiness.  Join in with family events, the community, friends, etc. Make sure a lot of your socialization is in person; we need face to face interaction.

4. Lose the attachment – all the latest technology is great and helpful, but we don’t NEED it. Don’t allow your life to be controlled by technology. Have technology free times such as after 8pm at night and during dinner time as mentioned above. This is your time to spend with family, read a book, etc.

5. Be a good role model – you teach your kids through your actions. Kids are visual learners so if your kids constantly see you on the phone, texting, etc. they will follow suit. If you’re ignoring your kids to text or sitting at the dinner table with your laptop or TV on, you will have your kids repeat the same behavior. Kids will imitate what they observe. What do you want them to see?

Visit Diane at her website: www.dlcounseling.com.

As always, pertinent, practical information that’s right on time! Thanks to Diane for sharing her wisdom and for allowing me to pass it on to you! And please feel free to SHARE below–I thanks ye!

Have a great day,

Joanna

Starting Fresh in September!

Welcome to the third week of September–already! Fall is upon us and before you know it…okay, not going there. 😀

I am blessed with great friends who pass along great content. This is Diane’ Lang’s most recent addition to her collection of informative, inspiring posts. As always, my thanks! 

   

I always look at September (right after labor day) as a fresh start. We all go back to work, kids go back to school and college starts. It’s the time of year when life can be chaotic. This is the time to remember that your lifestyle = your levels of depression or happiness. How we treat ourselves plays an important role in our moods and our health. Let’s make this September a great start to the new school year.

Here are a few tips/reminder on having a healthy, happy lifestyle:

1. Make sure your basic needs are met: we are more relaxed in the summer. Life is easier going but once we go back into full swing we tend to sleep less, drink more caffeine and eat terrible. If we don’t take care of our basic needs, we will feel stressed and unbalanced. Take inventory the first week by writing down in a journal: what you are eating, how many hours of sleep you’re getting, did you exercise, etc. This will give you an honest indicator of what is really going on in your life and from there you can make changes.

2. Even though the days are getting shorter and its getting cooler out, we still need plenty of sunlight and fresh air. We feel calm when we spend time in nature. Sunlight also lowers our stress hormones and reduces anxiety. We also get Vitamin D from sunlight which is great for our bones and our moods. Get outside and enjoy the cool, crisp fall air. Add some exercise to your outside experience by taking a nature walk, apple picking, pumpkin picking, etc.

3. Boredom – boredom leads to frustration. We should never be bored, there is so much to see and do in this world. If you’re bored, it’s a sign your not living life to the fullest.

4. Professional and personal development – keep growing and learning. If we stop we become stale and stagnate. Stagnation can lead to depression. Make sure that every few months you do something to broaden your horizons. For a lot of us, we can multi-task by taking a professional development class and getting the credit at work or towards our licenses.

5. Take time to enjoy the simple things in life – this gets harder as we get busy but even just sitting down for dinner with the family (without technology) and enjoying a good conversation will give you a boost of happiness.

6. Going back to school and work sometimes leaves us with little time to enjoy activities we love. Make sure to add some” flow” into your life by doing activities that you enjoy so much you forget about time and you’re in the moment.

For more information visit Diane’s website at: www.dlcounseling.com

Diane Lang, MA
Counseling Educator
www.dlcounseling.com

Diane Lang on Starting Off the School Year!

As much as I don’t look forward to summer’s unofficial end, it is what it is. (At least it’s US Open Tennis time–no Rafa this year but I’m sure the tournament will be exciting just the same and I’ll be every bit as addicted to it as usual! :D)

So back-to-school takes on so many connotations, but it usually means more for parents (and kids) to do in the morning. From her outbox to my inbox (and shared with the author’s permission), here are some ideas from positive living expert Diane Lang for the day-to-day of the upcoming school year, applicable to moms, dads and anyone in the get-the-kids-off-to-school role. 

     

It’s back to school time again and as a working mom, it’s always a struggle to get myself and my kids ready for school. Here are some tips to start the school year off right – once you have momentum it makes the school year routine easy!

1.  Start the day off right with a healthy breakfast : The morning time is very busy in most     households. Trying to get the kids ready at the same time you need to get ready for work can seem almost impossible on some mornings. But if you can get through one thing in the morning it should be a healthy breakfast for both you and your family.

Breakfast is so important: It helps the kids focus and concentrate. Here are some easy, quick breakfast suggestions:

–  Cereal and fruit – My daughter loves cheerios with blueberries and strawberries on top.

–  Multi-Grain or whole wheat toast with peanut butter or

–  Apple and/or Banana with peanut butter – the peanut butter will help them remain full for the
morning.

–  Make a fruit salad on Sunday evening and in the morning give a bowl of fruit salad with a yogurt
on the side. Some kids love taking the yogurt and mixing the fruit in.

–  The non-traditional breakfast – any leftovers in your fridge? Have any leftover with a glass of fruit
juice. It’s not the norm but we do know that any breakfast is better then NO breakfast!! (I’m liking this one–makes for great lunches too.) 

2.  Contact – Stay in contact with your teacher. The quick, easy way is through e-mail. Most teachers  check e-mail every day and respond quickly. I have my daughter’s teacher’s e-mail in my address book and the school website as one of my favorites. The school website always posts all the news, events and weather issues. It’s a good way to stay involved and  connected. Involved parents mean a successful child.

3.  Sleep – A week or so before school starts, get your kids back on schedule. If kids don’t get enough sleep their academic careers will suffer. Mom’s we need sleep too – we should all try for 8-10 hours. The norm for most adults is 5-6 hours, that is not good enough and we will pay the price by being fatigued, irritable and eating unhealthy. So, moms, get back on routine with your children by going to sleep early. Try to go to sleep around the same time every night and waking up around the same time every morning to keep your body on a good sleep schedule. Make sleep  and a nutritious breakfast “A Must” for the whole family. If you keep a healthy lifestyle as a mom you will be a great role model for your kids!

4.  Physical Activity – This is so necessary for children. They need to burn fuel during the day to help keep them healthy. Obesity has become a HUGE problem for teens. Kids do not get enough physical activity at school; as moms, we must do more. As adults we tend to live a sedentary life especially if we have a job where we sit all day. So, set up family activities that involve exercise. In the warm weather – biking, swimming , hiking, walking, etc.

– As the months get colder try apple and pumpkin picking.

– Join your local gym, College or YMCA for the inside pool. Sign up your children for an after school activity or sport. It’s a good way for the kids to socialize, have fun, meet new friends and get healthy!

5.  Set up a Homework schedule. Make it the same time everyday. My daughter does her homework for 30-45 minutes a day right before dinner at the kitchen table. I cook while she does her homework. If she has any questions, I’m right there to help her and keep an eye on her.

6.  Good Habits – I have made reading a nightly habit. About 15-20 minutes before bed – we read together. It’s a good way to relax before bed, spend quality time and keep up with her reading skills. I’m starting the reading habit early (Pre-school) so when she is older she will continue to read before bed. Reading is a great end to the day – it helps with creativity, imagination, language skills, problem solving, memory, focus, and attention. If you start young, you will start a bedtime ritual that could go on for many years to come.

For more information visit Diane’s website: www.dlcounseling.com

Counseling Educator
www.dlcounseling.com

So there you have it, friends! A wonderful compilation of ideas to make the start of the school year a little less stressful and keep it so as it progresses! Check in Friday for a simple, wholesome breakfast recipe that’s right along those healthy lines Diane talked about. And please, if you’d kindly take a moment to SHARE I’d so appreciate it.

Thanks and have a great day,

Joanna

Cottages, Campgrounds and Family Times

Hi all,

Thoroughly enjoyed guest-blogging with fellow author Babette James last Friday. We chatted about what I wish I’d known–and done differently–after having been published. I also shared a sneak-peak of the cover prototypes for No Matter Why and its sequel, No Matter What. If you missed it, you can still check it out here. (Just remember to come back, lol.)

  (My cottage kitchen. Those are the original battens forming the wall behind the sink. We saved the sinktop and built the base with treated lumber. Sorry about the poor picture quality. Took these with my Motorola Q phone at least 3 cell phones ago.) 

“Who would have thought hanging out and playing cards could be so much fun?”

That’s what my older son said, as he, my younger dude and a buddy for each sat around the oversized antique chestnut table in the dining room at my cottage-in-the-PA-country woods, built somewhere between 1872 and 1905. (The development, originally a tent community, had about 88 structures at one time. About 30 remain.) Within half an hour of arrival, this Mac-loving, tech-savvy boy was feeling his connection to Mother Earth and remembering how much we all love it there. (Yep. Even moi—once I got past the overwhelmed one gets when you see the mess awaiting, the one I helped make when we closed the place up last October.)

Mind you, each kid, (now just a few months away from turning 16 and 14) grumped and moaned about heading out for a few days. “It’s so boring,” was the expected complaint. (Hey. They both have 3G via Verizon. No excuses.) But, with a friend each in tow, my ‘suburbia (?) boys’ found a happy reminder of how much they loved the “Little House in the PA Woods,” as this fan of Laura Ingalls Wilder loves to say. In fact, the older guy made sure Dad confirmed ‘getting’ the cottage when Dad and Mom ‘go.’

  One of the beds we found when we bought the place.

Like the lunatic with unresolved control issues I’m sure I have, I cleaned. (Went once last year and the place has only been attended only by men in between.) With hubby, the boys worked tirelessly on a mini-bike; hiked through the woods; went swimming at a nearby pool; played cards late into the night; built a fire ring with flagstone, campfire to go with it and whittled sticks for marshmallow roasting. (We teased our campground neighbors that ours was the bigger and better blaze, and we had marshmallows. They had awesome homemade desserts. ‘Nuff said.)

  Not sure what kind of wood this awesome chest and mirror are made of. It’s my favorite and the only piece I’d take if we ever sell the place. The mirror alone weighs 20 lb or more. It’s REALLY heavy for its size. What’s amazing is everything we needed was there. I bought next-to-nothing for this little haven. 

I’d hoped to write, but my brain just don’t seem to be goin’ there these days, so I brainstormed and read while my inner editor critiqued—she is SO annoying. (And hubby wakes up too early these days. ;)). I did, however, see one couple who reminded me they are the inspiration between one of my works-in-progress, so maybe that will translate into the major re-write I want to do soon.) When I wasn’t reading, cleaning or cooking (those boys have to eat), I socialized with other folks on our little development. I even sneaked in one good walk off site. Can’t do it on the grounds—one winds up talking for hours.

 My bedroom (second floor), taken from the screen-enclosed porch that leads into it. The dual set of French doors still have the intricately-tooled hinges that may have been handmade. I love waking up, looking up at the steeply-pitched ceiling and then into the trees outside the porch.

Guess the point of my ramblings is this: amazing how simple things that reflect simpler times refresh our souls. Hubby didn’t seem to need his TV much. I’m sure kids texted but they didn’t do Netflix or games until in bed, circa 2 AM or later the three nights we stayed. (And with 3G, we even managed a little Wi-Fi for the grownups to check email, lol.) Me? I’m always thrilled to be in such a natural setting and hope to clean less and enjoy more on our next trip.

 

  A view from my enclosed screen porch on the second floor. During the summer the weather is warm enough to sleep with the French doors open. This is one scene I get to enjoy immediately upon waking up. 

 

 

 

 This handsome thing kept showing up one year, even after animal control services took him. I called him Kirby. Kids thought Pancake suited him. 

Until next time,

Joanna

Force A Solution?

Not always the way to go for me.

Good day, friends. Hoping this Tuesday finds you all well.

Wow. This calendar year is flying; Memorial Day weekend (and the French Open Tennis Championships :)) both start next week. Then a few more weeks to another school year closing–where does time go?

Brings me to how busy this past weekend was–all good–but I wasn’t able to get something new together. I have three works-in-progress going on right now and struggling a bit with direction for each. I can do internal stories pretty well; those external plots get me crazy. Translation: I’ve been getting myself a little nuts with plotting books, templates, etc and am so jumbled with ideas I’m getting nowhere. So, because this older post is a great illustration of where I am right now in my writing journey, I thought I’d pop it up here again. I’d love to know your thoughts on the subject. And, as always, if the article speaks to you and you believe someone else can benefit from it, please click a SHARE button before you go!

The 30-40-minute meal I promised Stephanie should be up Friday! Hope to see you then 🙂

Have a wonderful day,

Joanna

You Can Retrain Your Brain!

Happy new week, everyone! Hope you enjoyed the weekend. For those of us who had spring break, it’s (hear the song in your head): “Back to life, back to reality.” On the upside, I’m looking at a few weeks until the Memorial Day break, then summer comes, extended school year program (my ‘break’ job), etc.

Life coach and good friend Diane Lang dropped another one of her gems in my inbox. Y’all know how I love to share all the positive thinking articles she passes on. Here is her latest:

      

Retrain the Brain – Making changes!

1. Thought patterns produce feelings. Feelings produce actions.

What you think = Feel=Believe = Who you are!

Watch what you’re thinking – it’s very powerful.

This means you can change your thoughts and control your actions. (It’s a matter of practice!)

2. What type of thoughts are you having?

You can’t make changes until you’re aware of what you need to change. Awareness is key!

Know Physical signs of negativity – The red flags of stress, anxiety, anger, etc. Do the Snap 2 Awareness Test* and find out how negative you are. Find out your triggers. (Diane speaks about this tool in her book, Creating Balance.)

3. Negative thoughts are irrational; positive thoughts are rational. A lot of character traits are learned along with habits/thought patterns. You can unlearn them and learn new thoughts/habits.

4. Clear you’re emotional debt –What are the old thoughts/habits you’re holding onto?

Why? What need is it fitting? Like fear, guilt, comfort, etc.

5. Forgiveness – forgive yourself for your old thoughts/habits, etc. You were only doing what you thought was best, you were trying your best. If you don’t forgive yourself you will hold onto past hurts, anger and not move forward. Quick way to live in the Now: forgive yourself so you can move on and forward. Forgiveness puts you in the power position, back in the driver’s seat.

Use compassion, empathy and love to forgive

6. Emotional detox – you can’t change if you’re surrounded by toxic, negative people and environments.

7. Positive Affirmations – this needs to be done each and every day. Morning and night. They are most powerful done in front of a mirror. Say them everyday until it becomes a habit. This starts changing your thought patterns.

EXAMPLE: If you think you’re no good, worthless, no-one cares, etc, then your affirmation should be: I love and accept myself.

8. Every time you have a negative thought or comments imagine a symbol that means STOP!  The hand up, stop sign, red light, etc. Something that symbolizes a change in behavior.

9. Change your words and how you talk to yourself. Remove negative words such as: Can’t, couldn’t, shouldn’t, maybe, etc. Replace with

I can.

I will.

Choose.

My choice.

I’m free to, etc.

10. Learn what you can and can’t control.

EXAMPLE: I can’t control what someone says or does but I can control how I respond to it. (A great way to do so is to take a step back before responding or reacting. Takes practice too.)

11. Visualize the change – What do your changes/goals look like? How will you feel? Act? How has your environment or people changed?  Use your senses to imagine your dreams/ goals/ changes.

12. Be patient and kind to yourself – it takes time to change at least 6-8 weeks.

No instant gratification.

Be realistic.

Baby steps.

Keep up motivation with positive reinforcement.

Change one habit at a time.

*Note: The Snap 2 Awareness test is not an actual quiz but more of a tool. Wear a rubber band for a day and snap it every time you say or think something negative. At the end of the day, count how many snaps you have by keeping a tally score on a little memo pad. The normal amount is 175-200 snaps a day. Doing so helps make you aware of your negativity.

For more information visit Diane’s website atwww.dlcounseling.com or e-mail Diane at Lifeline36@aol.com

Diane Lang, MA
Counseling Educator
www.dlcounseling.com

Counseling Educator
www.dlcounseling.com