Bea’s Six Ways to De-Stress Before the Holidays

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 The holidays are coming fast!  Are you still running out for last minute gifts?  Stressing over how much you’ve spent?  Trying to figure out a menu that satisfies everyone, even your fanatically vegan sibling?  Worrying about what Uncle Bob will say when he’s had a couple of drinks?  Hoping that your sister doesn’t bring over that tatted up guy with the earrings in his eyebrows?  Yikes! 

Well it’s time to take a deep breath and unwind a little bit. 

Here’s what Bea does to de-stress before Christmas:

  • Takes a walk.  Bea took her dog for a walk while the snow fell today, and there’s nothing like the lovely silence that snow creates, andf the stark beauty of white snow on bare tree branches, surrounded by white sky.   Even the wind that hit her when she turned that corner toward home felt invigorating.  Too cold or too hot in your town to walk outside? Try a walking DVD in front of your TV. 

  • Watches a holiday classic movie on television.  You just can’t beat The Christmas Story, which weirdly enough, seems to last all afternoon.  (Oh yea, it’s that marathon they usually do of that movie!) And Elf is another favorite.  If you’re looking for an oldie but goody, what’s more satisfying than “It’s A Wonderful Life?” 

  • Spends the evening wrapped in a blanket, reading a book (fiction, memoir, inspirational – she loves ’em all)  by the fireplace. Simply watching the fire can be very relaxing.  Adding a nice cuppa coffee with a little bit of Bailey’s Irish Cream added to it?  Heaven. 

  • Takes a car ride with the hubby to check out the Christmas light displays people put up.  Bea and Mr. B. usually vote on the best and the most pitiful.  (Ever see that program on television that highlights holiday light displays around the country?  Some of these folks are obsessed – it’s like a full time job for them)

  • When that Christmas tree is finally decorated and its lights are glowing, there’s nothing more peaceful than lying on the couch with the lights off, simply looking at that tree and thinking about the real meaning of the season.  Oh yea, and don’t forget the Christmas music in the background – one of her favorite CDs is Josh Groban’s Noel.

  • Every December there’s a special Girls’ Night Out with her best buds – a nice dinner, women’s only conversation, and giving each other small but thoughtful gifts to show we care about each other.  We all know, ladies, that “Ya gotta have friends!” 

These are just a few of Bea’s favorite things to do to get ready for Christmas.

What kinds of things to you do to de-stress before your holiday

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Face Life’s Challenges with HelpGuide

Need a top-notch resource to help you, a family member, or a friend face life’s daily challenges?  HelpGuide, a non-profit website established in 1999, is your answer. 

The loss of their daughter led Robert and Jeanne Segal’s life led them to start HelpGuide. Rather than be defeated by Morgan’s suicide, they decided to help others by providing unbiased, expert knowledge about  mental health issues, aging, family and relationships, and more.  You can read more about the Segals and their team of experts here.

I read “How to stop worrying” with interest, since I inherited my mom’s “worrywart” gene and over the years, have had to learn how to relax and take care of myself emotionally. 

Quick stress relief” talks about how to recognize stress and your body’s response to it, as well as how to relieve stress in simple yet effective ways.

I was relieved to discover that my occasional memory lapses are simply a part of aging, not Alzheimer’s, and that I can actually help keep those memory cells alive. Give me wrinkles, let my body sag, Lord, but please don’t let me lose my mind!

  • If you’re a parent, you may want to check out the childhood challenges link – which has articles about autism, learning disabilities, ADHD, and more. 
  • Coping with a death of a loved one or the break-up of your marriage?  Take a look at the topics under the grief and loss link.
  • If you’re a caregiver, the caregiving and support  topics can help you choose senior housing for your loved one and  cope with caretaker burnout or end-of-life care.

This is just a small sample of the types of guidance you’ll find at HelpGuide. 

Life can be tough – most of the time, there are no “Hollywood endings,” and life certainly doesn’t follow a script.  It’s good to have a place to go to get the knowledge and expert advice you need to cope with life’s challenges.  HelpGuide is one of those places. 

Improve your Wellness with Tai Chi

Like yoga, tai chi is a practice that dates back to ancient times. Tai chi originated in China as a martial art, meant for self-defense.

Today, it is an exercise practice that can reduce stress and may even improve your sleep!

The Mayo Clinic experts point out that scientists have only just recently begun to study the effects of tai chi on the body and the mind. However, there is evidence that this practice provides both mental and physical health benefits.

Dr. Paul Lam demonstrates Beginning your journey with Tai Chi

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It’s Summer Vacation Time!

Mr. and Mrs. Boomer are leaving town as you read this, going on a long overdue vacation. North Carolina, here we come!

Why Bea loves going on vacation:

  • When she’s out of town, work is just a very, very, dim memory.
  • She gets to eat out every day.
  • Exercise routine? What exercise routine? (Nope, she doesn’t even go to hotel fitness centers)
  • Bills, housecleaning, laundry, ironing Mr. B’s shirts. . . who cares?

She can read trashy magazines, or a good book. She can just relax. She can walk around barefoot. All mind clutter seems to disappear. She can eat an ice cream cone at midnight if she wants to.  She can sit on the porch of that cabin in Cherokee, NC, watching the fireflies and sipping on a Bailey’s on the rocks. 

Now this is living.  It doesn’t take much to please old Bea.

Vacations are good for our health and wellness, in fact, they’re necessary! And we don’t take enough of them, according to CBS News.  Here are some good reasons to take vacations.

If you’re gonna give Bea the line that you don’t have time for a vacation, then try a “stay-cation” with these ideas from Better Homes and Gardens.

But, please just do it!  Find time to relax, refresh your body and mind, and enjoy life.  Hey, in these tough times, vacations or stay-cations are more important than ever!

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Mental Health America – Dedicated to Mental Wellness

I grew up with a parent who suffered from depression and other mental health issues. He drank to ease his pain.  I became a person who often questioned her own mental wellness. In my darkest moments, I thought of myself as “just like him” ~ without the alcoholism.

My deepest wish throughout my life has been to achieve peace of mind. Today, for the most part, I feel thankful for my life, happy, and more serene than I ever thought I could be.

It took me a long time to realize that I didn’t have to be like my dad. I could simply choose another path. Instead of concentrating on negative mind clutter, I chose to focus on the good.

A simple choice, but not always an easy one, since it meant changing a lifelong habit.

The Mental Health America (MHA) website can help me stay on this path to mental wellness and peace of mind.
This non-profit organization has been around since 1909, and its goal is to help all of us to become “mentally healthy.” It dedicates itself to this goal by:

  • Providing information: Factsheets about mental health/mental illness topics such as anxiety disorders (this includes a section for military troops and their families), children’s mental health topics, depression, eating disorders, and more.
  • Providing help: Factsheets about treatment options, including the national suicide prevention lifeline,  local support groups, inpatient treatment, insurance questions, and more.
  • Taking action: Mental Health America has an “Advocacy Network” that works toward changing the laws to protect America’s mental health.

Mental Health America also works toward raising public awareness of mental health issues, as described here

Live Your Life Well is a special wellness program sponsored by Mental Health America, which provides us with the 10 tools we need to live our life well in this stress-filled, fast-paced world of ours.  Some of these may sound simple, but they are based on scientific research.  They’ve been proven to make a difference in our mental health.

Do you know a military family?  MHA provides resources to help them cope with war-related mental health issues.

So if you simply want to learn about mental health issues, find help/treatment for yourself or a loved one, or take action to advocate for our national mental health, take a look at MHA and it vision.

One nice feature about the MHA website: you can increase the font size of the webpage content.  Very cool if your eyes are aging!

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Don’t Let Stress Mess With You!

We all know that stress can’t be avoided. If we’re alive and kicking, we’ve got stressors, and nowadays there’s plenty of them to be found. The question is, how to we keep stress from making us sick, physically and mentally?

First, of course, it’s important to recognize the symptoms of stress, so we can deal with it before it takes control of our lives. When I’m stressed, for example, I often get an upset stomach, neck pain, and tend to overreact to minor irritations.

Many of us cope with stress by reacting in negative ways:

  • Overeating,
  • Excessive drinking,
  • Compulsive shopping,
  • And getting angry at your loved ones, just to name a few.

It seems that we do these things without giving them much thought. We’re simply looking for short-term stress relief, not realizing these actions can be as harmful to us as the stress itself. 

It is possible to cope with stress in positive ways, if we can learn to change our habits.  By doing so, we can not only relieve and learn to manage day-to-day stress, and can also improve our health and wellness at the same time. 

Over the years, I’ve realized that regular exercise is a great way to deal with day-to-day stress. This is an option that is highly recommended by experts.   The Mayo Clinic, for example, in its article Exercise: Rev up your routine to reduce stress, talks about:

  • How exercise reduces stress
  • Simple tips on starting an exercise program, and
  • How to stay motivated

And the American Council on Exercise (ACE) website, an excellent fitness resource that’s been around for 25 years, also emphasizes the importance of exercise in fighting stress.

Exercise is just one way to manage stress. Leo Babauta, of the Zen Habits blog, provides some tips in his post 10 Simple Ways to Live a Less Stressful Life.

Leo’s number one tip, and my favorite, is: One thing at a time. He’s simply pointing out the need to focus and rid yourself of mind clutter (particularly effective at work when it seems like a hundred things are going on at once). Another good tip is to “do something calming.” 

By the way, focusing on your breathing, as simple as that may sound, can be very calming.  John Travis, M.D., M.P.H., wrote about the importance of breathing in his Breathe for Life article at the Healthy.Net website

Help Guide, a non-profit health and wellness resource, provides some great strategies for reducing, preventing, and coping with stress.

The site also lists related articles and links for managing stress. Help Guide is definitely a wonderful resource for learning how to mess with stress before it messes with you!

Finally, in her usual humorous way, Crabby McSlacker of Cranky Fitness made some great points about simply learning how to meditate in order to make relaxation a part of your daily life.  Check out her Relaxation: Will Someone Please Put A Gun to My Head? post.

To find out how stress affects us, body and mind, check out If you’re breathing, you’ve got stress.

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If You’re Breathing, You’ve Got Stress!

This is the first of a two-part series about Stress. In this post, I’ll talk about what stress is and how it affects us, physically and mentally.
In part two, which will follow on Thursday, July 1, I’ll talk about ways to reduce stress in our lives.

Got stress? Dumb question, hmm? I haven’t met anyone who has ever said, “Yea, I live a stress-free life.” Everyone I know has at least one stressor they’re dealing with, and some people seem to live in a constant state of stressness.

Second question: Would you choose to avoid stress altogether, if you could? Not me. I mean, really: Life without any stress would be dull and boring, don’t ya think?

After all, there’s good stress – moving into a new home, planning your wedding (unless, of course, you take lessons from those Bridezillas on television – in fact, that show will give you stress), having a baby, planning a second honeymoon, getting ready for college . . .

Then there’s the bad stuff – you or someone you love gets cancer, you have a car accident, you lose your job, a loved one dies . . .

So we really don’t need a complicated definition of stress: MedicineNet defines it as simply: “forces from the outside world affecting the individual.”

Based on that definition, it’s pretty darned hard to avoid it, even if we wanted to! I guess we could just build some kind of pod, and live in it, alone, with no television, computer, or other outside influence, but then we would go crazy from the solitude and wouldn’t that be stressful?

These forces cause a physical response in our bodies, called the “fight or flight response,” as shown in this Medical News Today article. This response from your body is meant to protect you in a stressful situation, for example, when you’re faced with a life-threatening challenge.

However, stress overload, which can happen when you’re dealing with several “outside forces,” can cause both mental and physical symptoms. Example:  you’re going through a divorce and you’re the primary caretaker for an aging parent. 

Mental symptoms of stress include:

  • Fatigue
  • Insomnia
  • Lack of focus on tasks
  • Feeling cranky and anxious

Physical symptoms from stress overload are described at eHealthMD, and the article also points out that many addictions are connected to chronic stress.
Here’s the bottom line:  Too much stress can hurt us and its physical symptoms may even lead to those two life killers:  heart disease and the Big C, cancer.  Here are just a few of the examples of how chronic stress affects our lives. Yikes. 

To learn about how to deal with stress, check out my post, Don’t let stress mess with you.

Related articles:

The Mayo Clinic’s Stress Assessment test

Chronic Stress and Aging

50 Common Signs and Symptoms of Stress

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May is National Mental Health Month

How has life been for you the last few years? More difficult than usual? Things in our country and the world have certainly been changing, and not necessarily in good ways; permanent job layoffs, nationwide increases in house foreclosures, bankruptcies, dwindling retirement accounts . . . 

I often wonder what the future will be like for our children and grandchildren, in a nation where the middle class appears to be disappearing. 
How have these changes affected your peace of mind?

The turmoil in the economy, due to state revenues being slashed and the decline of house values led to major budget concerns in my own workplace, a local government. Additionally, our workforce has shrunk, because of earlier retirements and job vacancies not being filled. 

Bottom line?  A major decline in morale and an increase in stress among the employees. 
Where can you go to find some real-life ways to reduce your stress and improve your mental health?

You may want to try the Live Your Life Well program, which was created by Mental Health America as a theme for this year’s celebration of  Mental Health Month, a May tradition since 1949. 

At Live Your Life Well, take a quiz to find out just how stressed you are, and check out their 10 proven tools to help enhance your well-being.  The program also shows you how to get started using these tools.
Also, find out how stress hurts your body and mind.

Additional resources from the Mental Health America website:

We all know that life isn’t easy these days. And that means that taking care our ourselves, emotionally, physically, and mentally, is simply more important than ever.

Do you know of any other websites that provide resources for people facing today’s myriad of challenges?  Please share them with Bea Boomer’s readers.

Self-Talk and Your Emotional Wellness

Bea talks to herself – a lot. Must be an age thing. Or could it be a trait of her astrological sign, Gemini, the twins? Since she’s like two people (yea, one of them is evil, just ask Mr. B.)  she’s allowed to converse with herself. (Or maybe she simply needs therapy. Whatever.)

How about you? Do you have an internal conversation going on all day? If so, are you always berating or picking on yourself for small mistakes? Is your emotional wellness suffering because negativity thrives in your mind?

What about at night, when you should be relaxing, and instead are going over all the bothersome stuff that went on during your day? 

For many of us, the bad stuff starts to gnaw at us at night, when we’re not filling up our time with activities and our body is trying to unwind.

This type of negative thinking only leads to:

  • Stress
  • Excess worry
  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Fear

Is your internal self-talk negative or positive? It may sound weird, but you are what you think.

If you are constantly putting yourself down, and predicting that things are going to go badly, life will often reflect that negative outlook. On the other hand, clearing out these negative thoughts can make a big difference in how you view the world and how the world responds to you.

This has been Bea’s experience in the last couple of years. Change in attitude led to change in perception which then led to a happier set of twins.

Yep, believe it or not, Bea was born moody. Ask her friends, her hubby, her siblings – oh yea, they’ll tell you some stories about Ms. Gemini. One minute UP, one minute DOWN, she was like a walking mood ring.

Then  one day, she simply decided “I don’t want to live this way anymore.” (wow, really profound, eh?)

She learned how to change her attitude. She learned how to obtain a sense of serenity (Right on, Deepak Chopra).  But believe me, it wasn’t Instant Karma. It isn’t easy, and it’s still a work in progress. But what the heck, life’s a journey, isn’t it?  And Bea is working to make that journey a happier, more fulfilling one.

6 Things Bea does to Improve her Outlook:
• She reads motivational books and actually works to apply the principles described in these books.

• She’s learned how to re-wind that self-criticism tape that ran through her head and replace it with positive self-talk. (This takes practice!)

• She listens to inspirational/motivational CDs before bed – which help clear her mind of worrisome thoughts. Better sleep = Happier Bea.

• Every night, she makes a mental list of ten things she’s grateful for and thanks God for them.

• She compares her life to other people’s lives, and usually finds that her life is just peachy compared to some others she’s seen. (Watch the news if you really want an eye-opener! Crazy bad things are happening to people on the eleven o’clock news.)

• She chooses happiness. (Yea, after all those years of thinking she was just meant to be a cynical gloomy gus, she realized that she had been making a choice to be a crab ass – what a concept, Bea!)

Guess what?  People who say that “Life’s a B**** and then you die?”  They’re wrong.

Ain’t rich, ain’t young, ain’t no Victoria Secret model – but glad to be “Bea?”  Yep. And I’m willing to bet that if you really think about it, you’re glad to be YOU, too.

You can find audio programs at the Brain Sync website. 

This Success Conscious article talks about some action steps you can take to enhance positive thinking.

You can take Henrik Edberg’s “Positivity Challenge” here.

Christina’s site is called The Benefits of Positive Thinking, and she has a list of positive thinking books here.

Bea’s Quotes of the Day:

All that we are is the result of what we have thought. The mind is everything. What we think, we become. (Buddha)

Our lives are not determined by what happens to us, but by how we react to what happens; not by what life brings us, but by the attitude we bring to life. A positive attitude causes a chain reaction of positive thoughts, events, and outcomes. It is a catalyst . . . a spark that creates extraordinary results. (Author unknown)

Most folks are about as happy as they make up their minds to be. (Abraham Lincoln)

Time Is On Your Side (Not)

This is the thing I hate about getting older: Time goes too darn fast! It’s downright scary.

Remember when you were in elementary school and the school year went on forever?

As a freshman in high school, senior year seemed a hundred years away. You could barely hang on until you reached sixteen so you could drive.

After you graduated, you couldn’t wait until you were 21 – yea, then you’d be an “adult.” How cool would that be?

When I was young, I tried to run up that hill of life, in a rush to reach all those milestones. What the heck was I running for?  When I got to the top, I slipped, and started rolling down the other side, faster than a speeding bullet!

When I talk to people my age and older, we often ruminate about how quickly time goes now. We can’t figure it out, and we can’t stop it.

Sigh.

So here I am, pondering how to manage my time, and father time is laughing behind my back. (OK, he’s laughing in my face!)

Since I can’t control how fast time is going, and I want to accomplish so much, (you know, before it’s too late!) I have to learn to be more productive with the time I do have.

We all have the same amount of hours in a day, but did you ever notice that some people get a lot accomplished with those hours, while others of us simply can’t find the time to get anything done?

I never seem to get “around to it.”

I never find the time at home to do all those things I really want to do:

  • Organizing the basement.
  • Filing important papers.
  • Organizing family photos onto CDs.
  • Working on my writing projects.
  • Reading all the books on my “Gotta Read” list.

How about you? Do you say to yourself, “If only I had more time, I would (fill in the blank).”

There is hope, you know. Even if we can’t control how fast time goes by, we can take charge of our time.

I like Sam Zolin’s “6 Simple Tips to Improve Personal Productivity.”

Get tips for organizing your time at work and at home here.

Managing your time can also help you manage stress.

And of course I don’t want to forget to stop all my activities once in awhile and just BE.
Be present. Be happy. Be content just being alive.

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