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caramel apples and slowing down

It’s that time of year! Apples and pumpkins! I have actually never tasted a caramel apple in my life, so when I happened upon a recipe for it, I knew we had to try it. We are taking fall break this week, so we are all happy about that too! The apples weren’t half bad aesthetically, so yay!

Anybody else on a break this week? You know I find it funny that we have more gadgets and technology to make our lives easier and save time, yet we are super rushed and super busy ALL THE TIME. Does anyone take time to visit with real people anymore? Sit on the front porch and sip some tea? This stress and anxiety is wreaking havoc on our bodies and our mental health. Stress can cause fatigue, inability to concentrate, and irritability. Chronic long-term stress can cause overeating, bad decision making, and our bodies to become more susceptible to illness.

From a mental health view, it is vital that we slow down a wee bit. Did you know that 70% of American report feeling stressed or anxious daily? The American Psychological Association states that Americans also have been profoundly impacted by the COVID pandemic. It has changed work, education, social relationships, and the economy to name a few. Nearly half adults report they snap at people more often, get angry more quickly, and yell at loved ones.

Too much stress can cause too much cortisol, a hormone that can cause trouble sleeping, heart disease, headaches, anxiety, depression, memory, concentration, and weight gain. The happy hormones include dopamine (associated with pleasurable sensations), serotonin (helps regulate mood), oxytocin (the “love hormone” that promotes trust and bonding), and endorphins (natural pain relievers in response to stress and discomfort).

I am preaching to myself as well. I always feel driven to stay ahead, get on top of tasks, over achieve, you know…Different parts of the country report higher levels of stress and where I live in middle Tennessee, people live with the same level of stress as those in Los Angeles, California, among other large cities. A “fast-paced”lifestyle truly does exist.

I am not one for wallowing in problems without looking for solutions and I love helping clients problem solve as well! Fortunately, there are some quick ways to help.

Get outside. Sunshine can boost endorphins and serotonin levels. Fresh air cleanses the body, and also enables us to experience God’s beautiful creation. How intelligent a Designer for creating a world that naturally relaxes humans and draws people closer to Him?

Move It. Exercise can help with insomnia at night and give energy throughout the day. Exercise produces the happy hormones and has a positive impact on emotions. Most doctors suggest 30 minutes per day at least three times per week. Walk in the early morning while the world is still asleep or take a stroll in the afternoon and soak up some of that sunshine. Watch a few videos for free online or take a dance class. Whatever gets you going!

Music. Interestingly, especially music that gives chills gives an increase in dopamine! Just listening to any enjoyable music can help enable a good mood. I listen to Alexa while I put away groceries or mop in the kitchen. Sometimes we even listen to Christmas music in the summer time just because it is happy.

Sleep. Rest is essential for health. Lack of it can contribute an imbalance of hormones, which can have a negative effect on mood. Of course! We send toddlers to bed when they are crabby because we know they need sleep! Seven to nine hours is ideal to maintain proper rest. It is difficult to find this, however, due to work schedules, children, or trying to pack everything in a day. Make sure to try going to bed about the same time and waking up about the same time every day. Create a dark, quiet environment by blackout curtains, no screens or bright lights, and cool temperature. I always face the decision at the end of the day to enjoy some quiet time to myself finally or go to bed and get some extra rest!

Manage stress. Write out stressors in life in paper. Eliminate unnecessary jobs, tasks, and there obligations. Keep what is important. If clutter is creeping into the house, take time, little by little, to clean out and throw away. If it is just a sock drawer one Saturday, take everything out of that sock drawer, throw away those with holes and no longer fit, and keep what is needed. Maybe it is a closet. Expect it to be a process and tackle one drawer or one closet at a time. Begin throwing away trash when it is in hand the first time. When getting out of the car, collect all trash or stuff that fills it and put it away. Then, it never needs a major cleaning overhaul. Same goes for housekeeping.

Eat well. Aim for a fruit and veggie at each meal. Drink water, water, water. Enjoy a dessert, just be sure it does not serve as the main event.

Spend time with God. Depending on children’s ages, work schedules, and school schedules, time will look different for everybody. Even as I am writing, I have broken up a few fights, heard monstrous thuds from upstairs, and watched a three-year-old have a tantrum on the floor like a wild animal when she did not want to go to the restroom. I get it, it's tough and sttill super necessary! Whether it is in the middle of the night or in the middle of the afternoon, read His Word and sit in His presence. Ask Him for help with stress and ask for wisdom in how to handle it.

These are simply some quick ideas on how to reduce stress and slow down and is not meant to be a complete fix. I work with many clients who are stressed out, including children in elementary school. If you are feeling really low and discouraged, a counselor might be helpful for you. Simply talking out loud to someone relieves a lot of worry and can support moving forward. Counseling really is beneficial (believe me, I know!). Counselors can help guide people away from catastrophizing, or expecting the worst from scenarios.

I have been loving a song from Phil Wickham called "It's Always Been You." For those of you who may struggle with anxiety as I have, listen to the encouraging message this song speaks!

My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart.

Psalm 73:26

Praying for you all as you tackle your week!




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