Rhonda's Top 7 Tips to Nip Stress in the Bud

RhondaSmithLCSWTipsToNipStress

Stress can be both physically and emotionally overwhelming and has been linked to many medical and mental health issues. Here are 7 tips to help you nip stress in the bud:

1) Connect with others – Seek out support from family, friends and pets.

2) Manage your time – Take the time to write out a to-do list. As you complete the tasks on your list, cross them off and pat yourself on the back.

3) Avoid unhealthy coping – Just say no to relying on alcohol, drugs, or smoking as they only provide temporary relief without addressing the source of your stress.

4) Get some exercise – Hiking, salsa dancing, boxing. Whatever you prefer, pick something you love and get moving.

5) Mental imagery – Take some time to visualize yourself conquering a difficult situation. What would that look like and how would you feel?

6) Get some rest – Sleep deprivation can lead to irritability and increase overall stress. Wind down 1 hour prior to bedtime by doing things that relax you like reading a soothing book or drinking a cup of hot tea.

7) Set goals – Jot down a few short or long term goals for yourself and post them up where you can see them each morning.

Try one or all of these tips.  Your mind and body will thank you for it!

Supporting New Parents

While becoming a new parent can be exciting and wonderful, it can also be extremely stressful. Keep some of these tips in mind the next time you encounter a new mom or dad:

What Not to Say
1) “You’re doing it all wrong” – Part of the joy and at times anguish of being a new parent is figuring out the best way to raise your child. While newborn parents may make some mistakes along the way, do not rob them of this experience. Mastering the balancing act of parenthood is an achievement that they can and should have the opportunity to experience, without criticism.

2) “Why aren’t you breast feeding?!/Why aren’t you using formula?!” – Infant feeding has been a really hot topic, especially over the last several years and remains a controversial issue. It’s not uncommon for parents and others individuals to have strong views on this issue, but berating newborn parents for choosing an option you don’t agree with is never OK. Their baby, their decision.

What Not to Do
1) Don’t bombard newborn parents with the latest infant statistics, trends, gadgets and techniques. While there is nothing wrong with some good tips here or there, try not to go overboard. Becoming a new parent is already overwhelming and you don’t want them to feel more anxious than they already are.

2) Don’t assume you know what their baby needs. It can be very irritating for newborn parents to hear that their baby is hungry when they’ve just finished eating, sleepy when they’ve just taken a nap, or have a dirty diaper when it has just been changed. Comments like these can often be received as criticism for newborn parents and can be very frustrating to hear.

What To Say
1) Offer words of encouragement and affirmation. Sometimes a simple “You’re doing a great job” can do wonders to boost a newborn parent’s mood.

2) Normalize any struggles they experience early on with your own as a new parent, is applicable. By doing so, newborn parents may feel less isolated and more confident in the abilities.

What to Do
1) Offer to help whenever possible! Many newborn parents are too embarrassed to ask for help. Whether you can deliver some meals, do a load of laundry or wash some dishes, ask to pitch in frequently.

2) Listen to newborn parents without judgement. While parenthood is a common experience overall, people can and do respond to it very differently. While the experience can be exciting, it is not uncommon for newborn parents to feel stressed, overwhelmed, disappointed, or even incompetent. So, instead of assuming how they feel, stop, listen and be there to provide support and encouragement.

As friends and family, do your best to uplift new parents by supporting them in the way that they would prefer. Transitioning into parenthood can be a rocky and uncertain road and there is nothing more comforting than the support of your “village.”

Relationship Reset: 5 Tips to Stop Relationship Patterns Dead in Their Tracks

RelationshipReset

Feeling as though you are committing the same relationship mistakes again and again can be both overwhelming and frustrating. Check out these tips to get a fresh start.

#1. Are you ready?: Ask yourself if you are willing and ready to endure some discomfort as you charter new territory by approaching your relationships differently. While it may be unsettling at first, the potential for happy and fulfilling relationship possibilities are endless.

#2. Take a closer look: In order to make change, we must examine our thoughts, feelings and behaviors. What are your thoughts about your last relationship? How do those thoughts make you feel? When you experienced those feelings while with your partner, what did you say or do in your relationship? The answers to these questions may lead you to a deeper understanding of how and why you repeat the same relationship patterns time after time.

#3. Remember the family factor: Many of us often try so hard to either replicate or reject the experiences of our parents that we find ourselves getting into trouble as a result. Whether through therapy, prayer or self-reflection, examine what your family taught you about relationships and how these lessons may or may not be serving you well today.

#4. You’re worth it, right?: Examine your own self-image and compare the kinds of relationships you’ve had in the past with the kind of relationship you are seeking. Do you feel in your heart that you deserve to be happy?

#5. Move on: Learn how to move on from past relationships by forgiving your former partner and yourself for past mistakes. Don’t bring your baggage from your last relationship into the next.

Positive Relationship Rituals for Couples

PositiveRelationshipRituals

Relationships are living, breathing organisms that need to be nurtured on a daily basis. Relationship rituals are behaviors that a couple participates in on a regular basis to communicate their thoughts and feelings, verbally or non-verbally. Demonstrating these behaviors is a way of signaling to your partner that you support him or her in a way that no one else can. Long-lasting, healthy relationships are those in which you choose to be with your partner again and again each day and these rituals serve as a reminder of that.

It’s no secret that an “inside joke” can bond people together like nothing else. In times of stress, it is critical that couples maintain their relationship rituals whenever possible to keep them grounded, connected and supported. In 2011, The Communication Quarterly published a research study regarding the necessity of relationship rituals to maintain a satisfying relationship. It concluded that participating in relationship rituals led to the development of a small but very powerful cocoon of two, providing support and the space to share and express intimacy.

My Top 4 Recommended Relationship Rituals

#1. Practice mindfulness together – For a few moments each day, stop what you’re doing, close your eyes and join hands in silence. Doing so will keep you grounded, focused and decrease stress. Prayer and/or meditation can also be incorporated is applicable.

#2. Keep it Sexy – While you may not be able (or want to) have sex everyday, why not talk about it? Compliment your partner’s appearance, give them a pinch here and there or let them know how much you are looking forward to your next encounter. Engaging in sexy talk and touch keeps things fresh and let’s your partner know they’ve still got it.

#3. Perfect your “hello” and “goodbye” – Chances are, if you’ve been together for awhile, you already have a special way that you say “hello” and goodbye”. Whatever you do, keep it up! There’s nothing like wishing your partner well as you embark on your day and greeting them when you see them again.

#4. Allow yourself and your partner alone time – This one may be surprising, but giving yourself and your partner the time and space to do things solo or with friends on a regular basis is an essential relationship ritual for most successful relationships. Giving one another both physical and psychological space allows for a deeper emotional connection and a stronger appreciation for one another.

Is Long-Distance Love Right for You?

LongDistanceLove

While it may not always be the goal, it can and does happen. So when life’s circumstances land you in the middle of a long-distance relationship, use these tips:

1) Be clear about what your expectations are of one another from the beginning. Don’t wait to establish ground rules once trouble arises. Instead, let your partner know what you expect from them and vice versa.

2) Work together to determine the maximum amount of time you all will spend apart without seeing one another in person. Even if you live thousands of miles away from your partner, it’s important that you sacrifice and make the commitment to meet up with one another at the mutually agreed upon times. Long distance relationships are hard work, but this is a great way to demonstrate your ongoing commitment to your partner.

3) Don’t bother driving yourself crazy regarding who your partner is with or what they are doing every moment of the day. Whether long distance or local, trust is the cornerstone of all successful and long lasting relationships.

Is Hidden Stress Hindering You?

While it’s normal to experience low levels of stress, severe and prolonged exposure can lead to serious physical and emotional issues. While trouble at work or family problems are common, here are some less notable situations that may be sending you into a tailspin:

1) Over committing – We’ve all been guilty of it from time to time, but saying yes to completing a task that you know you do not have time or energy for is bad news all around. This kind of pressure we place on ourselves will not only stress us out but can lead to letting others down, which in turn causes even more stress! It’s a horrible cycle that must be broken and it is essential that you make your physical and emotional state a priority. So, instead of committing to an appointment, errand, event, or task that you know you will struggle to complete, have the courage to just say no.

2) Holding Grudges – While it’s not uncommon to be upset by someone else’s actions, holding grudges keeps you in a constant state of anger, preventing you from experiencing any peace or contentment. People who hold onto these situations often relive the event in their minds time and time again, obsessing about what was said, what could have been said, what should have been done, etc. Prolonged anger leads to stress and its effects can have both physical and emotional implications. The next time you feel resentment building, focus on acknowledging your anger and the thoughts you are thinking when you become angry. Once you begin to breakdown your own thoughts and beliefs, you will feel some emotional relief, making it possible for you to forgive the other person for your OWN well-being.

3) Don’t be tardy – Being habitually late can place an unnecessary amount of stress on your plate. From the rush out of the house to racing through traffic, showing up late can be downright unnerving. So, take the time to set your alarm 20 minutes earlier. You’ll save yourself the headache (and angry stares) when you arrive to your destination on time.

4) Toxic Friendships – It’s tough when you have invested so much time and energy into a friendship, but not all friendships are meant to last a lifetime. There can be times when maintaining these relationships take an extreme emotional toll. Take a step back and assess your stress level while interacting with friends to determine whether the friendship is worth keeping. If so, accept them for who they are and how they enhance your life, understanding that each individual has strengths and weaknesses within a friendship. If not, cherish the good times you had, the lessons you learned and move on.

As 2016 comes to a close, commit to making 2017 less stressful by keeping an eye out for the hidden stressors in your life.