Relax And Be Cheerful This Holiday

The approaching holiday season invariably fills us with feelings of warmth and joyful anticipation. We can spend more time with family and friends, go on a vacation, take time away from work, relax and get refreshed. That said, unless we welcome the holidays with the right mindset, they can turn into sources of stress and anxiety.

The words “holiday stress” have in fact become part of popular jargon these days and for good reasons. We work all year long and when the holidays are approaching, it is only natural that we will try to make the best of them. However, the problem seems to lie in the fact that often in our eagerness to get the most out of the holidays or the festive season, we sometime end up overdoing things a little and this may often lead to stress, frustrations, disappointments, etc.

Don’t run after a “perfect holiday.” Quit trying to make the perfect holiday. This should be your basic guideline for cutting off the stress factor from your holidays. No matter what we are doing during the holiday season, visiting or preparing special dinners with family members and the friends, we always set certain expectations. And that is only natural. However, as it is with everything in life, things often don’t turn out exactly as we had planned. No matter how diligently you’ve planned your activities some slight disasters may still ensue. Kids may break out in tears when you were least expecting it, or you may get into arguments with your spouse. It is all how you look at it. Don’t see these things as spoiling your vacation. Take them in stride and do your best to make light of them and everyone will be happier for that.

Do not pander to other’s expectations. We often put unnecessary stress on ourselves by putting undue emphasis on other’s opinions and expectations. Giving and receiving gifts, for example, often acts as a common source of anxiety and stress during the holiday season. Have we chosen the proper gifts for such and such a person? Will he/she be happy with the gifts? Don’t fret too much over these things. Gifts do not make the holidays. It is the mutual sense of joy and camaraderie that does. As long as you’ve chosen your gifts with care and thought that must suffice since that is the best you can do after all.

Sometimes, even your kids may feel not happy with their gifts and that may feel bad for you. Nevertheless, don’t let that spoil your mood. Instead, try to reason with them. Kids are kids after all, and we cannot expect them to be all rational all the time, right?

How much money do you have to spend? Closely associated with the problem of gifts is the question of money, especially if money is a bit tight during holiday season. It is common to let the lack of money get in your way of enjoying the holidays to the fullest.

However, it needn’t be so. Come up with some creative ideas. For adults, a White Elephant gift exchange is a good idea. You may also consider some non-material gifts such as framed family pictures or notes or drawings from your kids are good options. Work within your means and those who really care for you will appreciate receiving such thoughtful gifts.

The same goes for decorations and other holiday preparations. Again, do not strive for perfection. The Christmas tree does not have to be the most spectacular in your neighborhood. Instead, try as much as possible to engage family and friends in the process. So, for instance, assign certain responsibilities for decorations to the kids alone. And you can be certain that the kids will be happy and proud of their handiwork and so will you and your guests.

Look back on your year and feel grateful. Finally, take some time to reflect on the past year and dwell on the good things that it has brought you. Of course, there will be a few things that didn’t turn out quite according to expectations. That is only natural (and expected, right?). So, don’t dwell on the negative but reflect on the good things and feel sincerely grateful that they have happened to you. We now know that feeling truly grateful gives us a natural high as these feelings release in our brains compounds such as serotonin and dopamine — responsible for immediately lifting our mood and making us feel happy and serene from inside.

On a final note, the most important thing is to be able to relax and feel joyful. If you can achieve that, the holidays will turn out to be a ‘perfect’ one for you.

A Fox News Radio contributor, Richardson has spent her educational and professional career learning human behavior. She holds a Master of Science in Counseling from the University of North Texas and is working to integrate cognitive behavioral therapy into the treatment programs for many clients. In April 2009, Richardson opened The Brain Performance Center.

 

 

7 TIPS TO GET YOUR BRAIN TO SAY NO TO HOLIDAY SWEETS

Sugar is all around us. We want to fit in and celebrate with our family, friends, and co-workers, yet we know that an over-abundance of sweets has its repercussions. While it may not be as easy as pie, you can say no to the extra goodies that love saying your name. Use these strategies to help your brain say no to holiday cookies and sweets, and make this your most enjoyable holiday season ever.

1. Think About The Side Effects

Think of how you felt when you last ate a box of candy. Sure, it felt great while you were chewing, but did you feel wonderful afterward? Probably not. If your stomach was as hard as a rock, you most likely got sick and wanted to eat a nice meal but was too stuffed to enjoy it.

Eating many sweets daily robs you of eating more of the nutritious food. What’s more, sugar contains empty calories. For example, for the same number of calories, you can possibly eat three or four pieces of favorite fruit instead of one cupcake. This means that you need more sweets to feel full, yet you may not feel satisfied in the end.

2. Remind Yourself That Weight Management is All Year Round

If you treat yourself to dessert occasionally, say once a week, continue to do that around the holidays. Remember that having a routine to manage your weight doesn’t stop around the holidays. If you take a few months off, you might be tempted to go on a fad diet when the holidays are over. Fast weight loss is harder to keep off. Stick to your routine even during the holidays to help say no to excess sugar.

>READ: THE BEST PLAN FOR WEIGHT CONTROL AFTER 50 JUST GOT BETTER! 

3. Moderation is a Lifestyle

 

moderation is key to say no to holiday cookies

Sometimes we make the mistake of thinking that one sweet will ruin our diet. One cookie, one time, won’t ruin it. The repetition does. It’s the consecutive days of eating unhealthy snacks that influences our brain to say yes repeatedly to them. In order to eat sweets and office snacks in moderation, you’ll need to learn the realistic portions of food and how often you should eat them. When eating in moderation becomes a lifestyle, your brain can say no to many holiday temptations.

4. Stick With Your Exercise Routine

Exercise is a mood enhancer, depression buster, and excess weight eliminator. Our bodies are stronger, we stand up straighter and we smile more after an exercise session. It doesn’t have to be stringent or long. Studies show that as little as 5 minutes of daily running improves our health. If you’re one to exercise just enough, skip the excess holiday cookies and sweets. Tell yourself you don’t want to have to step up your exercise plan.

>READ: SECRETS OF OLDER ATHLETES ANYONE CAN ADOPT FOR A HEALTHIER LIFE

5. Say No to Outside Influence and Peer Pressure

 

say no to peer pressure when it comes to holiday cookies

Your family may have a history of diabetes, heart conditions, or other health problems that could have been derailed by maintaining better eating habits. Decide to break the cycle while you celebrate the joyous season. Practice responses before you attend a holiday party such as, “I’m watching my sugar intake today.” You might start a trend. Or simply say, “I’m full,” or “Thanks anyway, but I don’t have a taste for sweets right now. It looks delicious though.” Caring friends, family and co-workers should respect that.

6. Eat Regular Meals and Regular Meal Times

Skipping meals leads to overeating the wrong foods for a quick energy fix. Therefore, another way to get your brain to say no to the extra holiday cookies, cakes and office snacks is to plan a healthy and filling breakfast, lunch and dinner.

>READ: MINDLESS EATING AND WHAT TO DO ABOUT IT

When you get used to filling up on nutritious food, you’ll look forward to preparing and eating it. On that note, there are so many options to select from in the variety of meats, fruits, vegetables, and grains, so only eat what you like. If you don’t prepare food at home that is both healthy and delicious, it’s easy for your brain to say yes to holiday sweets.

7. Bring a Healthy Dish to the Holiday Party

 

Whenever you’re invited to an office party or a family get-together, make a fruit salad, green salad, chicken salad or another type of dish that you can eat too. Look up recipes on how to reduce the calories of your favorite comfort foods. Don’t depend on others to cater to your dietary needs. Come to the event prepared.

The Holiday Festivities are Meant to be Enjoyed

You can be victorious in your efforts of how to get your brain to say no to the extra holiday cookies, cakes and office snacks. Focus more on the company of friends, relatives, and co-workers, and not so much on the food.  Also, keep in mind that the key jubilant months of the year are November and December. That’s only two months out of twelve. This leaves ten months out of the year where the pressure to eat sweets on a regular basis isn’t so high. Remain in control. You got this.

WHAT DO THE HOLIDAYS HAVE TO DO WITH THE LONELINESS EPIDEMIC?

It is thought that the holidays are spent with loved ones and friends. From gift-giving to sharing fine meals, the holidays are synonymous with festive and happy gatherings across the world. However, not everyone looks forward to the holidays. Especially folks that are alone or isolated from their families and friends. This is a season that is supposed to be about happiness and the human spirit. However, for many loneliness gets worse during the holidays. Feelings of isolation deepen when it seems everyone else is surrounded by family and friends. Dealing with loneliness around this time can lead to depression, obesity, and more. It does seem like the loneliness epidemic does get worse during the holidays, but there may be some good news when it comes to treating loneliness.

The Loneliness Epidemic

Whether due to family issues, work-related problems, or society in general, loneliness is rapidly becoming an epidemic across the nation and globe. In fact, a recent study by the Angus Reid Institute found that nearly half of Canadians find themselves alone around the holiday season. Similarly, the number of Americans who feel alone and isolated has tripled since 1985. Industry experts have stated that while praying to God is an ideal solution, it does not negate the growing existence of loneliness for people from all walks of life. With persistent loneliness on the rise, alcoholism and binge-eating seem to be on the rise as well.

>READ: WHAT FACTORS DRIVE WOMEN TO BINGE EATING AT NIGHT?

This is because lonely people tend to feed their emotional problems with food or alcohol. This provides temporary happiness and a break from the norm — loneliness. The rise of social media has also contributed to this mess. We as humans have become digitized and de-sensitized in many ways, which has led to increased feelings of isolation and hopelessness.

Is There a Cure?

The loneliness epidemic is all too real. Whether the blame falls on social media, western politics or the rise of populism/individualism, more people are alone today than ever before. Several case studies and surveys cement the signs and symptoms of isolation. As mentioned earlier, overeating and alcohol abuse is a way for some folks to substitute feeling good for feelings of being alone, neglected or unwanted. However, did you know that researchers are working on a pill to combat loneliness?

What Does the Study Show?

The University of Chicago’s Brain Dynamics Library conducted the study over an eight-week period with placebo or pregnenolone. The latter is a hormone naturally produced by the body’s adrenal gland. The research team monitored participants who consumed both placebo and pregnenolone. Two hours after swallowing the tablets, participants looked at photos of emotional faces and neutral images.

>READ: FEELING LONELY? YOU’RE NOT THE ONLY ONE

Study volunteers conducted tests measuring the scale of loneliness. They found that many respondents had no one they could speak to in times of crisis. Many of their relationships felt superficial, forced and unreal. These respondents also stated they feel alone, isolated, and can no longer hold meaningful relationships with loved ones or friends. Similar studies in animals showed that pregnenolone can reduce threat responses and reactions to feelings of isolation. The latter is one of the main reasons for increased anxiety and panic attacks in humans. It also comes down to fear of the future, death or the unknown.

What Does This Mean for Loneliness and the Holidays?

While the drug cannot formally cure loneliness, developers believe it will reduce feelings of loneliness in human brains. The lead researcher on the project, Stephanie Cacioppo, a reputable neuroscientist, and her team have found that loneliness is not so much about self-preservation or ego. It is simply a desire to connect with others. The idea of the drug is to help people see and accept things as they are — rather than being skeptical of everyone and everything.The drug is still in the study and testing phase so we will have to see how it turns out in the near or distant future.

This holiday season if you are alone there are some things you can try.

Check out our guide for making friends in the digital age.
Consider volunteering. This will allow you to meet new people and increase good feelings since you will be helping others.
If you are dealing with feelings of self-harm this season or if you are self-medicating please reach out to a help group or counselor today.
Take care of yourself and be willing to ask for help if you feel you need it.

BEAT HOLIDAY LONELINESS AND HOST FRIENDSGIVING

We love our holidays in the U.S. so much we are creating informal ones to give us more to celebrate! Friendsgiving is a day where friends come together to eat and enjoy each other’s company. From the combination of the words, you can tell it is a blend of ‘friends’ and ‘Thanksgiving.’ Usually, the participants will share a large meal near or on Thanksgiving day. Some people are serious about Friendsgiving celebrations: there are how-tos, sample menus, and even “rules” for Friendsgiving. However, the day can be as involved or as simple as you would like! Pick and choose from our Friendsgiving ideas below to host a fabulous Friendsgiving event this year.

Why Host a Friendsgiving Meal?

Many women over 50 may wish to spend time with their family on holidays. Sometimes, their children or other family members can live far away though. It may be their year to spend with their spouse’s family. This makes it difficult to get together during the holidays. If this is the case the holidays may be lonely. However, hosting Friendsgiving can benefit mature Americans in many ways including:

  • Gathering with friends that they may not have seen in years
  • The chance to meet new people and make new friends in their community – invite “strays” in your office, neighborhood or groups
  • Learn new cooking skills and taste new meals
  • Indulge in recapping old memories
  • Those who may otherwise be alone for the holidays will get to spend time with people they actually like and start new traditions

Friendsgiving Ideas for Hosting

Friendsgiving celebrations are a day to focus on friends! Especially for people who may be missing family, you will want to wow them so they won’t feel like they’re missing anything. You can unleash the recipe you have been working on and invite some of your friends to showcase their skills. Food is a vital part of any Thanksgiving, and so should be vital to Friendsgiving as well. Traditional foods such as turkey and mashed potatoes can be an option. But remember the essence and value of all of you being together, so spend time celebrating instead of cooking elaborate dishes. It is advisable that you go for easy recipes, have ready-made food, and ensure you spend most of your time sharing the moments precisely as these Friendsgiving ideas indicate. Or, invite everyone early and cook all the dishes together (while maybe drinking wine and playing some danceable/singable music.)

If the thought of cooking at all seems too stressful, so many places offer catered feasts these days…from your local grocery stores, to restaurants, to the group off nextdoor that sells fried turkeys. Order in and laugh at how easy it all is.

>READ: THE MEANING OF FRIENDSHIP: SMALL CIRCLE, BIG SUPPORT

Friendsgiving Activities to Entertain Guests

When planning this celebration, many activity ideas come to mind. Have some fun, research and learn what will be appealing to the people you are inviting. You need ideas that will work with all your friends attending. Some of these unique ideas may include:

  • Make the meal a potluck! Ask everyone to bring their favorite Thanksgiving dish and a story about why it is their favorite. This will be a sweet way to think of Thanksgiving pasts.
  • Have a cookie decorating contest. Provide plain Thanksgiving-themed sugar cookies and some decorations then vote on the best cookie.
  • Volunteer for a few hours as a group. Serve food in a food kitchen, walk dogs at the local animal shelter, or spend time volunteering at a children’s hospital. Everyone will be hungry for a great meal after an afternoon spent giving back.
  • Make your own party favors. Provide some small gourds and craft supplies so people can create their own Friendsgiving masterpiece or set up a photo station and send people home with instant photos of the day.
  • Plan a wine pairing and tasting to try new types of wine and encourage conversation among guests about their favorite combinations.
  • Host after hours or a day later and serve the leftovers – If your friends are spending the big day with family, host it after and let people bring whatever’s left from that feast, including all ready open bottles of spirits. It’s the ultimate in casual fun.

>READ: 12 TIPS FOR HOSTING A DINNER PARTY AND WINE PAIRING

Add an Extra Touch with Friendsgiving Decor!

You may want to be creative with the décor you set up for this day. For example, you can choose a unique color theme. Fall colors can be monotonous. You can break away by setting up totally a different theme color, like copper and green or navy and trendy rose gold. There is no standard Friendsgiving color, and you are free to try anything! Or purchase potted plants for a nice table centerpiece, either synthetic or live. Besides this, you can also purchase additional items to add a special touch of celebration for this day, like candles, name cards and fall-themed napkins. We’ve included some of our favorite options below!

 

HANDLING POLITICAL ANXIETY AS THE RACE GETS CLOSER

The 2020 presidential election is just over a year away; however, things are already heating up on both sides of the political divide. If the 2016 election is any indication, the period leading up to the 2020 election could get quite ugly. This will produce a lot of debates and there will be significant political anxiety as well.

Until the day of the election, there will be a gradual build-up of increasing coverage right around the clock. This will make it difficult for individuals to escape election-related news. If you are already concerned about what it will be like, there are some tips below on handling political anxiety as the race gets closer.

Unplug

Social media has made it so there is no lack of opinions about current events. There is a certain level of anonymity on social media; therefore, these platforms can turn into a vicious war zone of heated back-and-forth arguments between individuals of differing political views.

Political experts are expected to share their thoughts on the election. However, what increases anxiety for many individuals is seeing constant arguments between family and friends over their different stances. For example, if your brother and uncle have differing views and make personal attacks during arguments online or offline, this could negatively impact family gatherings. Social media talks result in a lot of wasted energy and can be extremely unhealthy for individuals.

Avoid Political Commentary

Keeping up with local and national news is important and this includes any newsworthy item leading up to Election Day. However, actual news only takes up a certain amount of television airtime. The same is true for newspapers and magazines. Therefore, for some additional “spice,” political commentary and the creation of “hot takes” are used to extend election coverage as the day approaches.

>READ: STEPS YOU CAN TAKE NOW TO MANAGE STRESS

While good points are made in some of these commentaries at times, the majority of them are only going to increase anxiety and stress. Every publication is more or less biased towards one side or the other and as such, many individuals simple seek out the views of those who are politically like-minded. Nothing is wrong with getting confirmation on your beliefs, however, consistently seeking out the opposition to get their take on issues is unhealthy. A heavy right-leaning or left-leaning media house is not really going to be making any new points.

Television stations are constantly seeking great ratings and views drive the online world. Keep this in mind when you hear controversial statements on these platforms.  Some of these people don’t even believe half of what they are saying! They are simply trying to get a positive and negative reaction from members of the two major political parties.

>EDITOR’S NOTE: Prime Women Media outlets will not be engaging in any political opinions or choosing any sides…so you’ll always have a safe haven of information here. 

Become Involved in the Community in an Objective Way

Going into the presidential election of 2020, among the biggest focuses is boosting the number of voters. Many individuals are not interested in voting in the election. Even though one vote might seem irrelevant in the grand scheme of things, the country needs increased participation in voting.

 

Volunteering to register people to vote is an overall positive move. It assists in spreading a good message, without having to take one side or the other.  This is among the most positive things an individual can do to assist with the upcoming election. Doing a bit of good is sometimes the best way to handle any type of anxiety.

Focus on Loved Ones

Whoever ends up winning the 2020 election, many people will be disappointed. Rather than allowing the election to direct the mood of a household, focus on the important people and things in your life.

>READ: 5 SIMPLE STRATEGIES FOR RELIEVING STRESS

Additionally, you should bear in mind that others may not share your political views. This is quite alright. Regrettably, there are family members who have such strong opinions against each other’s views that it sometimes breaks a family. But, is losing a relationship over political differences worth it in the end?

Regardless of who takes office, residents of the U.S. will continue to have a lot of control over their success and happiness. There is a good reason for the checks and balances system in the U.S. The winning president cannot just take office and change everything in a matter of a few years.

Strive to control what is within your control and do not allow a victory or a defeat to make a huge difference. Embrace your beliefs, work hard pursuing your individual goals and do not allow politics to consume too much of your energy. And if you are facing political anxiety know you’re not alone. The American Psychological Association has resources to help cope with political anxiety, and using our tips above can make a difference.

DEALING WITH POST 9/11 PTSD

Do you remember where you were or what you were doing in the early morning on September 11, 2001? I do. And, I will never forget. After dropping my boys off at school, I’d gone to the nearby gym and was running on a treadmill. I almost stumbled over my own two feet when I saw the first tower go down. I had no idea what had happened, but was in a state of disbelief. This was in Dallas, Texas.

The terrorist attacks that took place in New York City on September 11, 2001, dealt an unrecoverable blow to many. Commonly referred to as 9/11, the planes that flew into the Twin Towers and the Pentagon claimed thousands of lives, not to mention the aftermath victims of cancer or respiratory-disease that passed due to exposure to the area known as Ground Zero. Many people faced dealing with PTSD as a result of the September 11th attacks. PTSD, post traumatic stress disorder, is a psychological disorder that can occur after someone is exposed to trauma.

People who lost a loved one, such as the family members who received a call from someone on the planes, often developed PTSD even though they weren’t at the actual event. First responders who were there to witness the chaos and tragedy first-hand also were susceptible to PTSD. Survivors of the attacks at the sites experienced the disorder through survivor’s guilt and the horror of losing friends and colleagues while witnessing what occurred.

What Exactly is PTSD?

PTSD is one of those terms we’ve all heard, but most of us have a vague idea of what it entails. The triggering traumatic event can include a number of circumstances in which the person affected has a hard time recovering from what they saw or experienced. PTSD can actually change the way a person’s mind functions and manifests itself with a number of symptoms.The Pentagon also has a memorial for 9/11 victims. PTSD is a common post-9/11 diagnosis for many Americans.

Every case of PTSD is different. A number of factors involving the individual impact the level of the disorder: age, pre-existing mental and physical health, event that caused the PTSD, support system and help received.

PTSD can last months to years or can affect a person for the rest of their lives. Depending on the severity of the event that triggered it and factors mentioned above, people’s ability to deal with the disorder in day-to-day life has a lot of variables.

Common symptoms of PTSD

People who suffer from PTSD describe it as a feeling of not being themselves.

  • Some who return to their regular existence, daily routines, family life and responsibilities after surviving or witnessing a traumatic event can find it challenging or even impossible to reintegrate.
  • PTSD sufferers describe the feeling of being uncomfortable in their own skin.
  • Loud noises can trigger flashbacks that heighten their fight-or-flight response, characterized by an increase in heart rate, blood pressure, difficulty breathing and a deep sense of panic.
  • Panic attacks are a common symptom of PTSD, as sufferers can suddenly become overwhelmed by anything that triggers their condition.

>READ: DO YOU HAVE POST-TRAUMATIC STRESS?

Post 9/11 PTSD

Due to the extremity of 9/11, the cases of PTSD that developed after were significant. Not only did the event impact individuals on a personal level, it had a catastrophic impact on a national level. Americans were dealt a huge blow. It threatened their feelings of safety and wellbeing.

People who developed PTSD because of losing a loved one in such a traumatic, senseless and tragic way had grief-related triggers. These people were commonly triggered by airplanes, phone calls that reminded them of the last call they received from their loved one, crashes and threats of terrorism. For these people, memories of their loved one could trigger panic attacks and anxiety.

For people who were at the scene as first responders or who survived the 9/11 attacks, they developed PTSD from what they witnessed or from survival guilt. Witnesses saw awful things: people dead, massive destruction, a national symbol toppled, people wounded and suffering, crying and screaming.

The survivors struggling to justify why they survived, while so many other people didn’t, often report the hardest thing to deal with is the feeling of overwhelming pressure to do something worthy with their lives.

Ways of Dealing with PTSD

One of the best known ways to combat the effects of PTSD is to prevent it from developing. Counseling immediately after a traumatic event is one of the best known ways to stave off the development of the disorder. When victims of trauma have a healthy outlet and place to voice their feelings and concerns, it helps preserve their mental health. Professional mental help is a necessity for many dealing with PTSD related to 9/11 or other traumatic events.

Therapists are finding a technique called EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) to be particularly helpful to move beyond the “stuck” phase of trauma’s impact.

Medication such as anti-depressants is the drug-related way of dealing with PTSD. For some, talking it through and leaning on a support system is not enough, and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors are needed to calm the mind and minimize the symptoms.

If you or someone you know is still struggling from 9/11 PTSD, please reach out for help.

>READ: THE STORY OF LEIGH RICHARDSON: FROM TRAUMA TO BADASS MAMA

>READ: GRIEF HAPPENS IN THE BRAIN: HEALING AFTER LOSS

 

HOW TO EASE FINANCIAL ANXIETY WITH KIDS GOING BACK TO SCHOOL OR COLLEGE

Financial anxiety with kids going back to school/college is no minor issue. Parents are responsible for buying school supplies, saving for college tuition and expenses, and making a budget. If you are not financially prepared for all the expenses, you can get overwhelmed.

Unfortunately, as many already know, stress caused by financial situations can make things extremely difficult on a family and anxiety levels can boil over.  Here are some helpful tips to help you ease financial worries.

Make a Budget and Stick to It

The very idea of making a budget is dreadful to most people, but you should consider this a priority in anything related to finances. Without a financial plan, you are most likely to find yourself in debt. That said, it is crucial to set aside a few minutes to figure out how much your kids’ expenses will be every semester or school year. List all possible expenses including tuition, cost of living, cost of supplies, etc.

After having an overvieWriting down your budget and goals can help reduce financial anxiety as kids head back to schools and colleges.w of expected expenses, write down all your sources of income and start appropriating. Sometimes, the expenses may be higher than all your income combined. If this is the case, research possible scholarships and tuition discounts to take advantage of. If not, look for another income source to supplement your current income.

Having this kind of financial information can reduce your financial stress and give you a chance to plan ahead. Of course, a budget will not work at all if you do not stick to it. It is necessary to check your spending habits once in a while to see if you are on the right track. Therefore, always list down where your money goes, what expenses to expect, and adjust your budget as often as necessary.

Cut Costs Whenever Possible

While parents want to teach kids independence, if your expenses outweigh your income it’s also crucial to cut costs whenever possible. Ask yourself:

  • Do your kids need to stay in an expensive housing option?
  • Can they stay with you while they continue with their studies?
  • Can they get a roommate?

It is important to teach kids about cost-cutting as well. There is a big difference between a want and a need. While kids often want you to buy them nice stuff, it is okay to say no if the items are not necessary. Teaching kids the value of budgeting and cost-cutting not only helps ease your financial anxiety, but also makes them financially wise in the future.

Unfortunately, this is sometimes easier said than done when you are looking into the teary eyes of your child who wants the same expensive trendy shoes as his classmates in order to “fit in”.

>READ: THE GIFT OF STARTING YOUNG: SETTING THE FOUNDATION FOR FINANCIAL SUCCESS

Avoid Credit Card Debt

Remember that credit card debt causes a lot of financial stress. There are many benefits to not using a credit card. For one, you are most likely to avoid temptation. Marketers use a lot of lures like discounts, the illusion of scarcity, free trials, and the like to get you to buy stuff you may not even need. Having a credit card on hand makes it easy to impulsively purchase unnecessary items.

Avoid incurring more debt by not using credit cards as much as possible. Teach your kids not to rely on credit cards as well. Unless you are using a line of credit for business purposes that make you money, use cash or debit for purchases.

Take Advantage of Educational Plans and Funding

As early as possible, plan for the future education of your kids:

  • Research educational plans that help you save for your kids’ college tuition and expenses.
  • For long term horizons, you may want to invest in mutual funds and stocks.
  • For short term horizons, allocate a fixed amount of a portion of your income to get a pre-need plan.

Another way to ease your financial worries is to look into scholarships or grants that your kids can apply for. Many scholarships from various institutions are not claimed because parents do not take the time to do their research. If you run out of options, look into government loans and student lines of credit as a last resort. Remember, it is better for your kids to finish their studies with the help of a loan than to end up not having an education.

>READ: SUMMER IS A GOOD TIME TO TEACH FINANCIAL LITERACY

Final Word

Take control of your life and finances by becoming financially literate. Always make a conscious effort to stick to a budget. Never buy anything that is not necessary and avoid credit card debt. As early as possible, plan for your kids’ education. You can ease yourself from financial anxiety if you prepare for the financial challenges ahead.

And remember, even though your children may be upset now and may not understand why they are not getting everything they want for going back to school, they will when they get older.  And they may even thank you for it!

>READ: ARE YOU THE FAMILY BANK? 

>READ: THE FAMILY MONEY TALK: WHAT TO DISCUSS AND WHY 

 

Keep Your Brain Forever Young

As we age physically, we also age mentally. Many things can expedite that process, like chemotherapy, emotional trauma, injury, medications, or other treatments. The one we all deal with, though, is time. At a certain point, we have to be a little more intentional about “working out” the brain as if it were a muscle in the body.

What Happens in the Brain, Changes the Brain

There are a lot of factors at play in the brain as we age. While we develop new neurons throughout our lives and reach our peak brain size in our 20s, the brain eventually experiences a decline in volume and decrease in blood flow. The miraculous thing about the brain, though, is that studies have shown it can regrow and is capable of learning and retaining new information. In other words, it is capable of neural reorganization.

When the brain changes, we tend to change. Mental tasks become a little more difficult, as do forming new long-term memories and performing certain mental operations. Our cognitive function becomes more of a challenge. Other parts of who we are, like our confidence, social life, or work life may also suffer.

That’s why, to help maintain the brain’s plasticity—its ability to form and reorganize synaptic connections—we have to put in more effort by creating our own mental stimulation and treatment. There are several ways you can do this.

Active Body, Active Brain

Woman CyclingWhen you work out your body, you work out your brain. While I don’t recommend going crazy and starting P90X or other high-intensity training, I do recommend some physical activity. Studies have shown that physical activity is a promising strategy that influences the brain to enhance cognitive function and emotional function, particularly in late adulthood. Exercising regularly is great for refreshing the immune system, which can improve cognitive function and information processing by increasing volume of the hippocampus(the center of emotion, memory, and the autonomic nervous system). So, go for a “fast walk” or purchase a stationary exercise bike so you can “Netflix and cycle.”

Eat, Sleep, Think

By eating right, you’re doing your brain a favor. For years, scientists have suspected that the intake of specific nutrients can impact cognitive processes and emotions. A primary nutrient? Omega-3 fatty acids, which can be obtained from dietary fish. This nutrient can improve synaptic and cognitive functioning “by providing plasma membrane fluidity at synaptic regions.”

Also, give yourself a rest. Circulation and the brain is imperative to the proper nutrients and oxygen reaching the brain cells. To maintain that proper circulation and brain energy metabolism, we must receive the right amount of sleep. Think of it like this: it’s a great excuse to sleep in. But really, make your sleep a priority. Your brain will thank you 5 to 10 years from now. (And when the alarm goes off.)

Multi-Task

Autumn CandlesOkay, that’s a little misleading. Rather, let your senses multi-task. Some studies over time have shown that, if you can’t give your full attention to both activities, you’ll experience a deficit in cognitive function. But, if you allow your senses to multitask, you could be doing some wonders for your brain. (It’s fun, too.) Perform two sensory tasks at the same time, such as watching the rain and listening to jazz. Or, listening to jazz and smelling the Fresh Autumn candle you just lit. Stimulate to form new connections.

Get Artsy

Tap into the passionate part of you that has a soft spot for the arts. That could be music, visual art, drawing, painting, playing an instrument, reading. There are so many options, and they all stimulate the mind in unique, creative ways that help with abstract thinking. One in particular that has become incredibly popular in the last 5 years: coloring books for grown-ups.

Music, whether listening or learning to play it, is always a great choice, as it is complex and multisensory and has a positive influence on neuroplasticity in several regions of the brain. It’s the integration of audiovisual information as well as appreciation of abstract rules that has been shown to improve cognitive skills of attention, control, motor function, visual scanning, and executive functioning.

Change is Good

Making small adjustments or changes to your regular routine can stimulate your brain to create some new thinking pathways, new connections. That could mean just taking a new route to work, eating something new for lunch, changing your computer background, anything simple like that.

Stay Positive

Don’t let the ageist stereotypes about memory decline keep you from being hopeful about your brain’s future functioning. Confidence is hard to craft, but treat yourself kindly, take the measures needed to be healthy all around, and understand that the more positive you are about your memory, the more likely you are to improve it.

Lastly, Use Science

To scientifically assess and improve neuroplasticity and performance, you can always involve professionals and utilize neuromodulation, which can come in the form of neurofeedback, Pulsed Electromagnetic Field Therapy (pEMF), Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation (tDCS), and Transcranial Alternating Current Stimulation (tACS). These stimulating neuro techniques use technology in a non-invasive way to increase blood flow and functional connectivity in the brain. In other words, our brains have taught us how to improve our brains.

This blog was previously posted in Prime Women magazine here.

Brain Health: The Things You Can Do to Make it Stronger

Getting older is something we all struggle with, from the thought of our increased age to the aging of our bodies. Some feel it in their joints and bones, while others notice their minds starting to slow. Aging causes many differences in not just our bodies but also in our brain. Fear not, there are some exercises that can help you stay sharp for many years to come.

As we get older, our cognitive abilities gradually deteriorate. A certain amount of cognitive decline is a normal part of ageing. When getting into your 50’s you can start to see your reasoning skills slow. According to research in the British Medical Journal, middle aged patients saw a 3.6 percent decline in reasoning skills over the past 10 years.

Woman Playing SudokuThere are things you can do to strengthen your cognitive abilities. Playing games that require logic, process of elimination, and reasoning skills such as Clue and Sudoku, can help strengthen those abilities by using parts of your brain that you may not use as much on a daily basis. Challenge your brain in your daily life. Try brushing your teeth with your non dominant hand. By doing this, you’ll be using the other side of your brain to perform the task which expands the part of the cortex that controls tactile information from the hand.

Though everyone is different, in a normal healthy brain, the major thing that happens as we get older is our neurons slow down a bit. According to the Journal of Nutritional Science, people whose diets consisted of fried foods didn’t score well on tests that measured brain function, memory, and learning. Researchers believed that having a poor diet of fried foods contributed to inflammation and a small brain size. Switching out battered and fried foods for grilled and baked items can help reduce this risk.

Other items bad for your brain’s health are high amounts of sugars and trans fats. Research has found that a high intake of trans fats, found in processed foods, like cakes and cookies, can increase your risk of cognitive disorders such as Alzheimer’s. This is due to the possible cause of plaque build up in your brain. To prevent this, ditch the processed sweets for dark chocolate and/or fruit. Brain health, just like your overall health, is greatly affected by sugar!

As you age, your brain will shrink. It’s unavoidable. According to researchers at the University of California, Davis, there are four factors that can speed up the decline in brain volume.

      • high blood pressure
      • diabetes
      • cigarette smoking
      • being overweight or obese

 

Maintaining a healthy diet and exercising on a regular basis can help to avoid this. Quitting smoking can always help with a healthier lifestyle and a healthier brain.

Though we have talked a lot about the effects of an aging brain, you might be confused where the line is between normal aging and a need for serious concern. Here are a few examples to ease your mind. Finding yourself searching for words is likely normal compared to using the wrong words, for example using the word stove when referring to your table. Driving a little slower than your used to is a normal thing among aging drivers, but if you start to react very slowly behind the wheel, or often miss stop signs and red lights, these could be signs of a bigger problem.

No matter how you age, the most important thing is to continue to live your best life. Here are a few things that can not only keep you active, but keep your brain active as well. Keep Learning! Instead of doing the same old thing, think outside the box and try something new. New experiences will build new pathways in your brain, keeping your mind healthy as you get older. You can also spend more time with friends and family. Being social can help keep your mind sharp as you age. The key to an active happy life and brain health is an active happy brain.

This blog was previously posted in Prime Women magazine here.

Cell Phone Addiction is Changing Our Brains

We may not even notice we’re doing it, but it has become a primary form of entertainment, information, and now addiction: the mobile device. The word “addiction” is derived from the Latin word, “addico,” which means “to devote or surrender to” or “enslaved by.” Today, it’s seen as a chronic disease that can actually change our brains’ functioning and structure. Without much awareness, we depend on our smart devices and act on that dependency compulsively.

For adolescents, it’s even more of an issue, with 94% of teens going online using a mobile device daily, and 24% of them going online “almost constantly.” According to 2015 Pew Research, 46% of smartphone owners said “they couldn’t live without” their devices. With the usage prevalence, some researchers even consider it to be one of the greatest addictions of the current century.

A team of South Korean researchers have found that kids who used the internet or messed with their phones compulsively experienced an increase in the neurotransmitter, dopamine, to the part of the brain involved in addiction. In other words, dopamine is part of the reward system of the brain, and rewarding behavior can lead to addiction. Dopamine also plays a role in learning and memory, so repeated exposure causes nerve cells to communicate in a way that associates liking something with wanting it, driving us to pursue it.

Behaviors of Cell Phone Addiction

Cell phone addiction can manifest itself in many behaviors, but it’s mostly a combination of some of these.

  • Checking phone in the middle of the night
  • Anxiety at not having the device with you–even if it’s not lost. Or, feeling a drug-like withdrawal
  • Checking phone as many as 900 times a day (addicted)–while the average person checks their phone 110 times a day
  • Sleep deprivation can be a symptom that affects school performance and increases irritability (61% of teens say cell phone use has negative impact on schoolwork)
  • Usage creates family arguments
  • Have less face-to-face interactions/conversations
  • Isolation from friends and family
  • Cell phone usage becomes a way to escape stress and reality
  • Constant use, even while doing other things, such as driving and walking (11 teens die every day texting while driving)
  • Experience something called “text neck,” which is chronic strain from looking down
  • Eye strain/blurred vision from focusing on blue light and small screen
  • Decreased neural connectivity, affecting emotional control
  • Experience phantom vibrations, which is when we feel a non-existent cell phone alert
  • There are co-occurring disorders, such as deepening depression with lack of human interaction and increase in anxiety when cell phone is not available
  • Sleeping with phone under pillow (90% of 18-29 year olds sleep with their smartphones)

Setting Smartphone Boundaries

In the end, if it interferes with quality of life, relationships, and career, it’s time to set some restrictions for your teens and/or re-evaluate your own dependence. First, create self-awareness about how much data you’re actually using and then restrict yourself or your children’s data usage. For your kids (and you), designate a time without cell phones or devices. We all need to be brought back down to earth; otherwise, we (especially younger ones) are only going to become dependent upon the dopamine released when using an electronic device. Our brains need fresh air and physical/motor activity for good mental health.

Reward this “tech time-out” with positive reinforcement, and ultimately, be a role model. Show your kids–and even your adult family and friends–that life is good when you put down the phone. Connecting with your surroundings and those around you is just as important as (if not more than) connecting with your friends across the country or reading up on the royal wedding.

Is this easy to do? No.

Is it doable? Yes.

Is it necessary? Absolutely.

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