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5 Tips For Surviving Finals Week

School can be stressful too, not least when your finals are just around the corner. An editorial in the Nevada Sagebrush has 5 tips to keep in mind in order to ace those tests:

  1. Excercise
  2. Treat yourself to a bubble bath or hot shower
  3. Make lists
  4. Eat good food
  5. Study!

Studying isn’t everything, as outlined in the full article (link below). Or as they summarize it:

The most important thing is to remember that, no matter how bad things seem now, in two weeks this will all be over. Congratulations to those who graduate and good luck to the rest of you poor saps who have to do this all over again next semester. May your grades be good, your anxiety quiet and the overwhelming panic kept at bay at least for a little while.

Reblogged from: Nevada Sagebrush

Why Stress Isn’t Always a Bad Thing, Tapping Into Flow States And More

Stress is usually something we consider bad – and for good reason. However, that is not the full story actually. There are ways in which stress can be positive, or at least turned into something useful.

You see, your brain releases a large number of hormones and neurotransmitters in response to your cognition. When you are in danger, this leads to the release of dopamine, adrenaline and serotonin to help make you more alert, stronger and faster.

This is the fight or flight response and it’s you at your most powerful.

The problem is that many of us are stressed a lot of the time now and we don’t know how to turn off that fight or flight response. Thus we try to eliminate stress and think we would be a lot happier if we could.

But the reality is that stress in and of itself isn’t a ‘bad thing’. Rather, stress is a valuable tool that we should tap into when necessary. The key is not to eliminate stress but rather to control it. In this post, we will look at some ways you can do that.

What is a Flow State?

A great example of stress as a positive thing is the flow state. Flow states are states of heightened concentration, increased focus and lightning reflexes. Often they are engaged when we partake in extreme sports, or when we’re completely focussed on our work or a conversation.

But essentially, the neurotransmitters associated with flow states are very similar to those associated with stress. The only real difference is that you are producing more anandamide (the ‘bliss’ hormone) and more serotonin. In other words, the only real difference is that you are enjoying the experience rather than being afraid of it.

So if you can tap into that when you’re next stressed, then in theory you can experience those same heightened reflexes and attention whenever you need them.

waterfallbliss

The key is simply to try and see the stressful situation not as something scary but rather as an opportunity to learn and to develop yourself further. View it as a challenge and your body will adapt accordingly.

Eustress

Another example of ‘positive stress’ is what’s known as eustress.

Eustress is the type of stress that motivates us to do things when we need to. For example, eustress is the type of stress you experience when you have an exam coming up. This may not feel very nice – but that stress is actually what stops you from spending all day sleeping and motivates you to get up and revise. Studies show that people with no stress response don’t succeed as well in life and end up letting their talents go to waste.
This is something to note next time you need a kick up the rear – just remind yourself why what you’re doing is important and why you need to focus on it. If you can do this, then you can tap into the positive power of stress and stop seeing it as your enemy.

The rest of the time? Just try to distance yourself from that stress response and tell your body ‘thanks but no thanks’. If you remind yourself why you don’t need to be stressed, often this is enough to do it!

Important Reminder About Judging Others

“We tend to judge others by their behavior, and ourselves by our intentions.”

Unknown

Reblogged 4 months ago from beamindful.tumblr.com

Male Athletes More Likely to Choke Under Pressure?

In the world of sports I don’t think it is controversial to claim that men are often perceived as the “stronger sex”. In terms of absolute performance in – running faster, throwing/jumping longer etc. – that is of course mostly the case.

But when it comes to the mental side of things being born male is not necessarily an advantage, at least according to this new study:

 

Male athletes are far more likely to choke under pressure than their female counterparts, according to new research. The new study from researchers at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) […]

“Our research showed that men consistently choke under competitive pressure, but with regard to women the results are mixed,” said Dr. Mosi Rosenboim of BGU’s Department of Management.

Reblogged 4 months ago from psychcentral.com

What are the most powerful words in the universe?

“What are the most powerful words in the universe? The ones you use to talk to yourself.”

Karen Salmansohn

Reblogged 4 months ago from beamindful.tumblr.com

Back To Basics Guided Meditation: For beginners & returning meditation users

A short guided meditation and inspirational video from Jason & friends at Meditation Masters TV. Let go of stress & anxiety and begin to change your life for the better today.

 

Music: Christopher Lloyd Clarke
Written By Amelia Schmelzer
Voice: Jason Stephenson

Reblogged 4 months ago from www.youtube.com

Development of Cognitive Skills in Children

Crawl before you walk, walk before you run! When it comes to development, this phrase is certainly true. Before children learn to talk and are […]

 

French Psychologist Jean Piaget, proposed the development of cognitive skills during childhood occurs in 4 distinct stages. Each stage builds upon the previous one. Piaget’s theory was ground breaking at the time, as it was previously thought that children didn’t develop cognitive skills until they began to acquire language.

Teaching mindfulness and simple brain games to your children is a very good idea, they will benefit from these things for the rest of their life. But do you know how children develop their cognitive skills?

 

Reblogged 4 months ago from blog.cognifit.com

How And Why I Got Started With Meditation

Now I can enjoy watching television again without the risk of mentally tuning out all the time

A few years ago I would probably have told you I wasn’t “the type” of person interested in meditation. I was under the impression that it was this intangible mess of wishy-washy yet elaborate set of practices I wouldn’t have the patience to do in the first place.

When I was younger I had spent many years practicing various traditional martial arts like Karate and Aikido. And in those there where always a few minutes of meditation at the start of the class, sitting in an uncomfortable position called “seiza” in Japaneze, with your legs folded underneath your thighs.

For most westerners this is NOT a comfortable way to sit.

For most westerners this is NOT a comfortable way to sit.

I remember all I could ever thing during these brief moments of stillness was “can we get going with the training already, my knees hurt!” (which indeed they did, I have long legs and can’t sit comfortably in this position to this day).

Many years later I was recommended to try out Yoga in order to improve both health and flexibility. I started a beginners course of Ashtanga Yoga at my local yoga center, that in their advertising insisted that this was indeed just the physical exercises of Yoga – without any of the explicitly spiritual pursuits that are tied to this art.

While that was mostly true they still started every practice with mumbling some completely incomprehensible harangue in Sanskrit. Phonetically speaking it sounded completely ridiculous to me and I could never bring myself to mumble along, in fact I had a hard time keeping a straight face.

Combined with the many prolonged static, stretching poses that I didn’t find particularly interesting or enjoyable my days as a yogi didn’t become many. I want to add that the instructor of the course was a very nice individual that I think did a good teaching job. Fully traditional yoga just wasn’t for me, that’s all.

But hold on Robert, wasn’t this a story of how you got started with meditation?

Yes indeed, I’m coming to that now…

There are times in your life when it becomes unambiguously clear that you need to make a change or take action on something.

In terms of when I understood that I needed something like meditation I can give you the exact moment this realization dawned on me:

It was about five years ago, I had been working intensely at a big project at work. On that Tuesday evening my wife and I where going to watch the latest episode of one of my favorite British crime series on television. I had really been looking forward to just relaxing in front of the TV.

However, for some reason my mind just seemed to wander elsewhere the entire time. I tried to bring my focus back to the television program, but constantly found myself thinking about what I was going to do in my big work project tomorrow, next week etc. Worrying and obsessing about things I in hindsight know where actually rather trivial.

Towards the end of the 1,5 hour show my wife, who had also been working hard lately, had dozed off. As the end credits rolled she asked me the obvious: “What happened? Who did it, who was the murderer?”

To my own horror I couldn’t answer that question. In fact, I could probably not have given a good recap of the basic plot of what I had just watched if my life had depended on it!

I felt awkward and ashamed. But more than anything I was angry with myself. I had definitely been awake the whole time, right in front of the show I really enjoy and had been looking forward to all week – yet I had for all intents and purposes missed the entire thing!

I promised myself this silly mishap would never happen again.

But it did – and with increasing frequency. To my own annoyance I found myself repeating this zombie like behavior often while watching TV. And much worse, it had started seeping into other areas of my life as well.

I listened to family and friends talking to me, going through the motions of  saying “uh-huh” and nodding here and there but not actually paying attention to what they where saying.

At night I would sometimes mentally keep “working” on some mind-numbingly repetitive task four hours on end. In the morning I wasn’t always sure if I had actually slept or not.

I began to realize I needed help of some kind but was unsure of where to turn. I had always been reluctant to seek medical help unless it was really, really necessary.

Then fate intervened, or something…

By pure coincidence I read an article in a magazine produced by my local hospital district. It was about recent developments in psychotherapy and how things like ACT (Acceptance and Commitment Therapy) and CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) where being used as effective and drug free treatments for burnout, anxiety, depression and similar conditions.

Modern medicine has proven that Cognitive Behavioral Therapy can be an effective treatment.

The article also mentioned that these methods could prove useful even for people who have never sought professional help for these types of symptoms. It talked about how thoughts are only that, thoughts – they do not define who you are.

The article also described a simple exercise that anyone could try out. Basically it was only to sit down (comfortably this time!) for a while, observe and calm your breath for a few minutes and then observing any feelings and sensations that came up without trying to control or “judge” them in any way. If the thoughts really started to wander wildly the advice was to gently bring your attention beck to your breathing.

According to the doctor in the article this kind of exercise could be very beneficial to practice for a few minutes a day for all people, in order to increase awareness of what’s going on inside you.

That word, awareness, really struck a chord with me. It felt like exactly what I had been lacking during the last few weeks. Combined with the very simple approach and the fact that this apparently was a method used by modern psychiatric doctors I though: why not, I’ll give it a shot!

Still skeptical, I didn’t really expect that it would make much of a difference. But I really made an effort to do the exercise for about five to fifteen minutes a day. It was sort of awkward at first but after only a few days it was actually something I was looking forward to.

While I can’t say I felt any drastic change happening I somehow felt calm and more focused afterwards.

After about a week I started noticing my awareness of my own thoughts and everything around me had really improved. I didn’t tune out when watching television or talking to others anymore and I had the best night of sleep in a long, long time.

I was absolutely gobsmacked how something so simple could have such a profound effect on my general well-being! It felt like I had simply omitted doing something natural and mandatory like eating or sleeping.

So while I continued doing the simple exercise I had learned in that article almost daily, I started doing more research about the topic in my free time.

This modern approach to meditation, because I still think that is a good name for it, is deceptively simple, has nothing to do with gurus or obscure religious beliefs. It can be practiced almost anywhere and it is entirely free!

Over the years I have developed and refined the exercises I use to suit me and my lifestyle. I’ve very informally taught the basic principles to family and friends, who have all been thankful and (even if I say so myself) quite impressed.

I’ve never considered any of it to be “my” meditation though. I have no intentions of becoming a “guru” teaching any form of strictly ritualistic routine. I believe firmly in understanding the basic principles, giving some very basic (we’re talking the equivalent of counting sheep here folks!) exercises a go with an open mind and then progressively adapting it to what works best for you.

If you are interested in how I currently view this type of meditation, how and why it can be beneficial for virtually anyone as well as how to implement it seamlessly in the busiest of lifestyle, you can read more about it in my highly practical guide called Calm Your Mind.

Calm yourmind alternate cover

What do you think of the above story? If you have had similar experiences or perhaps currently find yourself in the zombie-like state I describe I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comment section below.

The Reason Stress is Really Bad for You

You’ve probably heard many times that stress is really bad for you, perhaps once too often even. It’s something that is constantly rammed down our throats and we’re constantly being reminded how stress can cause heart problems, cause weight gain and generally cause all manner of problems.

This is not news then. What we don’t get told so often is precisely why stress is so bad for us or what it actually does to negatively impact on our health. Read on then and we’ll look at the reasons why stress is actually such a problem and what you can do to prevent it– or at least to limit the negative consequences.

Stress and Your Physiology

The first thing to note is that stress has a profound and direct effect on your physiology. That is to say that it increases your heart rate, it increases muscle tension and it causes your blood to actually thicken. All of this is intended to make us more efficient at combat and better able to run away in order to escape danger. This is all controlled by the body releasing specific hormones – and those include dopamine, adrenaline, cortisol and glutamate among others. These are our ‘stress hormones’ (though some of them are more accurately described as neurotransmitters).

As the heart rate increases and the blood vessels dilate, more blood is sent specifically to the muscles and to the brain with the intention of enhancing focus and physical performance.

This is great news again for fighting and for getting away from danger. But what it also means is that blood is being directed away from your other systems – away from your immune system for example and away from your digestion. When you’re being chased by a lion, or falling off a mountain, those things just don’t really matter quite so much!

cavemanillustration

The Long Term Problem

The problem then comes when this is allowed to continue over a longer period of time. In the wild, chronic stress didn’t really exist: we wouldn’t have to worry about things like debt or having a mean boss!

And when stress doesn’t go away, that means that your immune system and your digestion never get the attention they need. This is why you can end up getting heartburn or becoming ill when you’re constantly stressed.

Meanwhile, your body is consistently releasing adrenaline and your heartrate is consistently beating hard. Eventually this can become a problem as well as you become more and more likely to suffer a heart attack. And remember, your blood pressure has also gone up – making you significantly more likely to experience very high blood pressure.

Likewise, this prolonged state of arousal can lead to a number of other issues. For instance, the heart working this hard for this long can potentially put a lot of strain on you and maybe even lead to a heart attack. Likewise, the constant secretion of adrenaline can eventually lead to ‘adrenal fatigue’. At this point, the body has exhausted its supply of adrenaline, leaving you exhausted and potentially even depressed.

So, as you see, even though we experience stress factors that are very different than those our ancestors encountered the physiological effect is actually very similar.

So unless you eventually want to start behaving like a cave man (or woman) it is definitely a good idea to learn a few tricks on how to calm your mind and thereby reduce the stress levels in your entire body.

The Best Cure For The Body…