13 Ways to Get Rid of Stress

When fall and winter will roll around, I know that the time will come when I let stress get the better of me. I’ve been seeking out books, blogs, and any other literature I can find on ways to deal with stress, before stress and overeating mix. Here is something from Change your Brain, Change Your Body by Daniel G. Amen, M.D., a book that discusses how the brain is key towards fixing and changing your life habits. It is not an exact excerpt as I have changed around a few words and phrases to make it easier to digest and understand.

Although most of the book covers highly technical stuff that I am not that interested in, despite having studied biology in college, there is a really great appendix that discusses all the great supplements you can take to help with proper brain functioning and as a result, avoid things like too much stress, lack of sleep, depression and the like.

Calming the Stress in Your Life So You Can Have A Better Body

Here are sixteen different ways to help you calm stress so you can have better skin, immunity, and a trimmer figure. Pick four or five ways that you like the best.

1. Meditate on a regular basis

A brain scan imaging study indicated that a meditation session helps tune people in by increasing attention span and thoughtfulness. It also showed part of the brain calming down, resulting in diminished anxiety and worrying, which in turn helped foster more relaxation.  The best part is that a Chinese study showed that it doesn’t take a long time to learn how to meditate. Simply meditating for 20 minutes over a period of five days resulted in decreased cortisol, the hormone that is produced when your body deals with stress (too much of this hormone leads to a lot of bad stuff like depression and even obesity).

One way to meditate: Kirtan Kriya.

2. Take a yoga class

Many yoga classes promote mental calmness, self-awareness, and a focus on being in the present moment–all of which bring about a sense of relaxation and well-being. Yoga has solid scientific evidence that it can be helpful for reducing a number of physical ailments like high blood pressure, anxiety, asthma, heart disease and lung disease.

3. Learn to delegate

You don’t need to attend every party, take on every project, or volunteer for everything that comes your way. Two of the greatest life skills you can learn are the art of delegation and the ability to say no. Too often, just to please others, we agree to do things without first asking ourselves if the request fits into our own lives. When someone asks you to do something, respond with “Let me think about it.” And then really do think about it.

4. Practice gratitude

If you want your brain to work better, be grateful for the good things in your life. A brain scan indicated that the brain looks different after practicing gratitude)than it does after focusing on worries and fears. In fact, the frightened brain indicated decreased activity in two major parts of the brain. The cerebellum had shut down and there was low activity in the temporal lobes, especially the left one.

The cerebellum deals with physical coordination. Low cerebellum activity also disables people from thinking their way out of problems, processing information effectively, and enables them to become more easily confused. The temporal lobes on the other hand, deal with mood, memory, and temper control. Problems in this part of the brain are linked to depression, dark thoughts, violence, and memory problems.

Positive thought patterns change the brain in a positive way. Practicing gratitude literally helps you have a brain to be grateful for. Besides, focusing on the good things in your life can make you happier regardless of your circumstances. Showing gratitude on a daily basis is one of the keys to increasing your sense of joy, happiness, and life satisfaction.

Get started now: Write down 5 things you are grateful for everyday. The act of writing helps to solidify things in your brain. When depressed patients did this exercise daily, they actually needed less antidepressant medication.

5. Get enough sleep

When you sleep sufficiently, you allow your brain and body to get the rest it needs. You replenish it and revive it, making the brain ready to tackle challenges for the next day.

6. Get moving physically

There is no doubt that exercise is a stress reliever. You don’t have to go to the gym and be a slave to the machines. Walk around, go biking, practice yoga, and anything else that gets your heart rate going. Exercise can actually be the single most important thing you do for your brain.

7. Breathe

The simple act of breathing delivers oxygen to your lungs, which in turn helps it get delivered to the rest of the body. Controlled breathing also has several immediate benefits. It helps your brain run more efficiently, relaxes your muscles, and regulates your heartbeat.

As you inhale, let your belly expand. This pulls the lungs downward, allowing you to take in more air. When you exhale, pull your belly to push the air out of your lungs. This expels a lot more air than in normal breathing, which helps you inhale more deeply. Keep breathing this way and your stressful feelings can even diminish completely.

8. Listen to soothing music

Music has healing powers that can bring peace to a stressful mind. Classical music, ambient sounds, nature sounds, and even white noise can all help towards reducing anxiety and calming your nerves. On the other spectrum, heavy-metal music and music with lyrics consisting of hate and despair induces stress. If you have children, teach them to love classical music when they are young. A list:

  • Don Campbell, Mozart as Healer, Essence, Healing Powers of Tone and Chant
  • Compiled by Joan Z. Borysenko, Inner Peace for Busy People: Music to Relax and Renew
  • Michael Hoppe, Solace
  • David Lanz, Beloved
  • Dean Evenson, Arctic Refuge, Ascension to Tibet, Healing Dreams, Healing Sanctuary, Music for the Healing Arts, Native Healing, Peace through Music

9. Lavender

Smell is highly connected to the emotional part of your brain. The scent of lavender has been used since ancient times for its calming, stress-relieving properties. Countless studies have shown that lavender helps reduce cortisol levels and promotes relaxation and stress reduction. You can find this natural stress reliever in the form of oils, candles, sprays, lotions, sachets, and potpourri. Other scents that have a relaxing effect include geranium, rose, cardamom, sandalwood, and chamomile.

10. Live in the present

Seethed over a comment from your spouse that was said a few weeks ago? Constantly worrying about whether you will be promoted or not? Living in the present is a simple concept, but hard to implement.

Eckhart Tolle’s book The Power of Now, encourages people to shed the pains of the past, stop fearing the future, and live in the present moment. He believes that the present is all we really have, that we can’t change the past, and that it is what we’re doing right now that shapes our future.

11. Avoid substance abuse

Consuming caffeine, eating sugary snacks, drinking alcohol, and smoking are some of the most common and some of the worst ways to deal with stress. Drinking a large caffeine drink before a test can only amplify stressful feelings than those that you might have experienced normally. Moreover, people often reach for a glass of wine or alcohol to calm the effects of stress. Drinking actually induces stress and elevates cortisol levels (stress hormone). It also diminishes your ability to cope with stress. The same goes for smoking.

12. Laugh more

Laughter counteracts stress and is good for the immune system. Laughter lowers the flow of dangerous stress hormones that suppress the immune system, raise blood pressure, and increase the number of platelets that clot and potentially lead to fatal coronary artery blockages. Laughter also eases digestion and soothes stomachaches, a common symptom of chronic stress. Laughter truly may be the best medicine when it comes to stress relief. The average child laughs hundreds of times a day, whereas the average adult laughs only a dozen times a day.

Read funny books. Watch funny movies and videos. Go to a comedy club. Read joke books (The Far Side by Gary Larson warrants itself here). You get the idea, just laugh!

13. Seek help for chronic stress

People tend to have negative attitudes about seeing psychotherapists, but they are akin to something like a life consultant. When a great business has troubles, it is likely to deal with the problems head-on and find the best consultants to help. We should behave the same way in our personal lives. In dealing with stress, seek out biofeedback therapists, hypnotherapists, and people who do a form of psychotherapy called eye movement desensitization and reprocessing, or EMDR, which helps them deal with anxiety, past traumas, and performance enhancement.

7 Ways to Combat Emotional Eating

Many people reach out for comfort foods after a bad and stressful day at work, when depression strikes (especially during certain seasons like fall and winter), or when suffering from low self-esteem and confidence issues. Fortunately, there are a few things one can do to avoid sabotaging one’s diet and good lifestyle habits.

1. Journal

Although it might sound silly to some of you, how many online blogs were the result of someone deciding to blog their thoughts in the public blogosphere? Whether you feel comfortable typing out your feelings or putting pen to paper, write down what is upsetting you and bothering you. Several studies indicate that the simple act of writing down what bothers you and seeing it put in word reduces a lot of the stress and pressure from those unwanted feelings.

2. Talk to others

Talk with someone who is close to you, whether it be your mom, dad, sibling, significant other, or best friend. Let them know what is bothering you. The simple act of disclosing hidden fears, worries, and sad feelings is enough to make you feel lighter and more hopeful.

3. Make a list

Take one minute everyday to write down a few things (the more the better) you are grateful for. It can be something good that happened the day before, or something you are always grateful for, like a supportive spouse, friend, or coworker.

4. Exercise

You’ve heard it before, but exercise can do wonders for your mood. Take baby steps if you have to. Even starting with five minutes of exercise a day can do amazing things for your state of mind.

5. Find inspiration

Here is a helpful website: BecauseICanDoIt.com. This terrific website seeks to motivate and help people move forward, avoid procrastination, and take control of their lives. It’s easy to find inspiration from motivational YouTube videos and the like.

6. Journal Version 2

Write down your upsetting feelings. And after you do, write down a few things, as if you are talking back to these feelings. Sometimes, irrationality overtakes rationality and stepping back, even for a little bit, can help you see where some of your negative thoughts are over the top and when they are hinting at something deeper. Here’s an example:

I had a horrible day at work because of Julie’s constant snide remarks about my work progress. Everybody likes what I do except for her. It ruined my whole day.

Who is she that she can easily control me? That’s what she wants! Tomorrow, I will see her snide remarks as a compliment to my dedication, incredible work-ethic, and desire to achieve, whereas she only moves forward in life when she can put down others and make them feel miserable. 

7. SAMe

If the above do not work, try the supplement SAMe. SAMe, or S-adenosyl-methionine, is produced from the amino acid methionine. In turn, SAMe helps produce important brain chemicals like dopamine and serotonin.  Chemicals like these are necessary for proper brain function.  When depression takes over, SAMe doesn’t get produced as much and neither do the other brain chemicals that rely on this important substance. Although best to discuss with your doctor and/or nutritionist, when you feel depressed, try taking 200 to 400 mg of SAMe two to four times a day.

11 Healthy Ways to Kick Cravings

I’m pretty sure the following scenario seems familiar. You’ve had a great few days of eating clean, being more active, and taking care of yourself when suddenly a big, unquenchable craving hits you hard. What follows is a torrid love affair with all kinds of not-good-for-your-body food that would make even the biggest glutton blush. What is one to do?

1. Japanese Pickled Plums (Umeboshi)

Keep a healthy dose of Umeboshi plums for whenever you get impaled with intense cravings for sweet food. Not only will you satisfy your sweet tooth, the sour punch will help combat any recurring sweet cravings from sabotaging your healthy lifestyle. Umeboshi plums, like any other plums, also aid with digestion.

Not this: Sweet food | But that: Umeboshi plums

2. Pickle Chips

Pickle chips are not the same kind of chips you’d see at the supermarket. Whenever you have a craving for junk food, especially chips, what you are really craving is the crunchiness and texture. Thinly sliced pickles can be flavored with different kinds of herbs and spices and contain far less calories than normal chips. Pair your pickle slices with garlic and dill, paprika and crushed red pepper, or a little smidgen of butter.  Pickles are loaded with salt, so it might not be a good option for those watching their salt intake.

Not this: Chips | But that: Thinly sliced pickles

3. Raw Nuts

Everybody is aware of the health benefits of raw nuts–in moderation. When your chocolate cravings are kicking you in the gut, opt for raw nuts instead. Usually, chocolate cravings are your body’s way of screaming for more magnesium, which raw nuts contain plenty of. Do try to avoid roasted, toasted, or salted nuts as they end up doing more harm than good. Try not to eat too many as the calories can add up quickly. A handful, say 10 or so, should do the trick. If your chocolate cravings are still not met, indulge in 2 squares of dark chocolate, making sure it’s 70% cocoa or more. Not only will you get an important dose of necessary antioxidants, the slight bitterness will add dimension and stop your chocolate craving in its track.

Not this: Chocolate | But that: Raw nuts

4. Broccoli

How did broccoli top a list of craving quenchers? Whenever you are craving a cheeseburger, fatty steak, or anything fatty really, your body might be in need of more calcium. Eating broccoli actually quells those fatty cravings as it is a great source of calcium. Nosh on some steamed or raw broccoli and drizzle some healthy dressing on top.

Not this: Fatty food | But that: Broccoli

5. Fish

Whenever you have an intense desire to inhale a package of potato chips, pretzels, salty crackers, or any other salty food, opt for fish. Your body most likely needs more salt, but instead of ingesting unhealthy, processed salt, eat fish, which naturally contains chlorides, the compound that constitutes regular table salt.

Not this: Salty food | But that: Fish

6. Red Meat

So it’s almost your time of the month and you’re having a massive craving streak. This is usually the result of low zinc levels, which is common pre-menstruation. Combat this by opting for steak. You can also use this as a chance to try out bison, ostrich, boar and other game meat. The novelty of it allows cravings to subside more easily.

Not this: PMS-cravings | But that: Red meat

7. Beans

Although important for Jack, beans are also important for us as well. When you want to devour a whole loaf of bread, eat beans instead. Usually, bread cravings stem from your body’s desire for more nitrogen. Beans contain plenty of it and also come in a variety of types and flavors. Lima beans are especially delicious.

Not this: Bread | But that: Beans

8. Raisins

Binge eating is a monster of an issue. It’s one of the main reasons most people pack on pounds and quickly too. When you feel that your vices far exceed your logic, reach for raisins. Physiologically, binge eating is your body’s way of wanting more tryptophan, an important amino acid. Raisins contain plenty of them, while also satiating a sugar craving.

Not this: Binge eating | Raisins

9. Yogurt and Fruit

Ice cream can be the devil. Not only is it one of the fastest ways to gain a few pounds, it also contains a boatload of sugar per ounce. Opt for healthy plain yogurt, although Greek yogurt is superior, blended with frozen fruit. It’ll taste like ice cream, but without the hefty calories, fat, and sugar. Don’t have a blender? Top your yogurt with fresh fruit instead.

Not this: Ice cream | But that: Yogurt and fruit

10. Fake and Bake

When craving fried food, try out this healthier alternative. First preheat your oven to 450 degrees. Slice and dice a chosen vegetable–sweet potato, zucchini, eggplant, green beans, or anything else you can think of–strips that resemble french fries. Dip the strips in egg whites and then into a 1:1:1 mixture of  Parmesan cheese (feel free to omit this if you don’t want to use cheese), coconut flour (anything but white flour will work well), and bread crumbs (whole wheat is best). Bake for at least 10 minutes or until the edges starts to brown.

Not this: Fried food | But that: Fake and Bake Veggies

11. Sushi

Have you recently found yourself raiding for snacks? That’s usually the result of low vitamin D levels. The raw fish in sushi is one of the few foods that contain natural sources of Vitamin D.

Not this: Snacks | But that: Sushi

5 Top Body Wrap Spas in the U.S.

Summer can be quite stressful. While on vacation, I actually went into one of the best known spas in New York City and it appears on this list as well. It was amazing and I could literally feel as if all the stress had disappeared. Body wraps are a special type of spa treatment and have become highly popular options for regular spa goers. If you have never had a body wrap treatment, then you should definitely get one. In addition to being insanely relaxing, body wrap treatments also promote detoxification and weight loss. Body wrap treatments also might be the perfect cure for your bloating woes. Here are some of the best body wrap spas I’ve had the great fortune to visit throughout my life.

Red Door Spas by Elizabeth Arden

If there ever were a luxury body wrap spa to exist, then this would be it. Elizabeth Arden is known to make some of the most invigorating and amazing skin care products. Her body wrap treatments are nothing less than what one would expect for spa services from such a renowned line. The best wrap treatment available at Red Door Spas is the phyto-organic, shea butter wrap. Aside from leaving your body as smooth as that of a baby’s, your skin will be wonderfully exfoliated, glowing and succulent. The best part is that there are multiple locations throughout the states.

BodyWrap Spa

Although the spa’s website might turn you off, don’t let it. This is another top body wrap spa, winner of the Bodywrap Spa Best of Columbus, Ohio Award for both 2011 and 2012. Their ultimate steam therapy is a sensational wrap treatment. In addition to purifying and detoxifying your body of harmful toxins, the steam portion of the treatment promotes water loss, helping you feel lighter and less bloated. Also try their Cellu-Smooth Green Coffee Body Treatment for your bloating problems.

Bliss Mind & Body Spa

This relatively small, no frills spa in Glendale, California has one of the most unique body wrap treatments. They offer the Formostar InfraBody Wrap. This treatment uses deep infrared heat to hyperactivate key enzymatic and metabolic functions to promote massive calorie burning in a short 50 minute session. Although they claim you can burn up to 900-1400 calories, clients have noted this amazing treatment still left them feeling and looking slightly more toned. This treatment is also unique for clearing up all the disgusting toxics polluting your beautiful body. The deep heating also relaxes muscles, giving you a warm, yet entirely pleasing experience.

The Stay Spa & Resort

Wisconsin’s very own The Stay Spa & Resort is yet another luxury spa offering several body care treatments. Their Aroma Body Wrap is their only wrap treatment and for good reason. Indulge your senses while detoxifying, moisturizing, and soothing your tired, moisture-hungry skin. Enjoy the benefits of a complete body exfoliation with AVEDA products. If you love green skincare, then this wrap is perfect for you as AVEDA is a green skin and hair care line. The included scalp massage will make you feel both senseless and powerless, as there are hundreds of nerve endings located just in your scalp that will make you tremble with bliss. You will be in for the ultimate treat with this body wrap experience.

Acqua Beauty Bar

A body wrap spa list without one of New York’s top body wrap spas wouldn’t be any kind of list at all. This celebrity musician loved spa is always booked for good reason. It is one of the best places for instant slimming. Their body slimmer treatment includes highly concentrated seaweed clay, which allows alpha hydroxy acids to slough away dead skin cells. Acqua Beauty Bar also claims that this clay helps promote cellulite drainage, especially for the thighs and glutes. Caffeine is also used, a key ingredient for detoxification and water reduction for your body wrap treatment.

Spring’s Top 3 Scents

Stuck inside with some winter blues? Jump to the upcoming spring season with the these 3 hot perfume picks. Whether your style favors flowery notes or sensuous thrills, one of these will surely be your new fave.

1. Daisy Eau So Fresh. 

Marc Jacobs Daisy Eau So Fresh AD-1

This is Marc Jacob’s update of his most popular fragrance, Daisy. Want to smell charming, sweet, and lovely? This is it. Daisy Eau so Fresh is a playful fragrance that contains a base of violets, wild rose,  apple blossom, white musk, cedarwood, and plum. And on top of that, you will find delicate hints of natural raspberry, grapefruit, and pear. Mmm, spring.

Marc Jacobs Daisy Eau So Fresh Eau de Toilette $88 for 4.2 oz, $72 for 2.5 oz.

2. Flora 

gucci profumi 012

Want a more subtle fragrance that’s as seductive as it is tasteful? This is a sophisticated scent that is based on the young and elegant woman embodying everything Gucci represents. This is also for those who want to feel like a modern-day, refined princess. Based off of the Flora scarf Gucci designed for Monaco’s Princess Grace in 1966, notes of Citrus Accord, Peony, Osmanthus Flower, and Sandalwood will have you reliving your childhood dreams, but of course, in a more sophisticated manner.

Gucci Flora Eau de Toilette, $53 for 1 oz.

3. Flowerbomb

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Although out since 2005, this oriental perfume is a consistent bestseller. Be warned that this explosive fragrance that is not for the shy. Invigorate your senses with notes of bergamot, green tea, Sambac jasmine, Centifolia rose, freesia, and Cattleya orchid. What other delectable way is there to smell sweet, yet spicy?

Viktor & Rolf Flowerbomb Eau de Parfum, $75 for 1 oz.

His Hands: Sudden Fiction

Here is a short piece I wrote that was just published in the Tufts Magazine. I’m quite proud of it and wanted to share.

The long olive-brown fingers were long and feminine in form but were distinctly masculine in character, stature, and presence. The skin glistened with a matte dewiness, giving the fingers the freedom needed to maneuver strategically over the German keyboard. The fingers stroked each key, neglecting the umlauts and focusing only on the English letters. The fingers stood taut, rigid with attention. Energy coursed through each cell, waiting to be harnessed. These fingers had great experience with the keys. All ten fingers worked in harmony in the dark. For at least some minutes, all you could hear was the pitter patter of these ten fingers swiftly, surely, and determinedly dancing atop the keys. But, soon, the fingers almost began to quiver from such strenuous activity and soon stopped. The fingers hung limp. But although they were limp, the fingers rested peacefully, knowing they had satiated their desire.