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10 Good and 10 Bad Things About Procrastination

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“Don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today.” – Benjamin Franklin

“There’s nothing to match curling up with a good book when there’s a repair job to be done around the house.” – Joe Ryan

 

Everyone procrastinates. Some, in fact, are proficient at it. While I used to count myself in that category, I’ve made a conscious effort to change my ways in recent years and I must say I’ve been quite successful in the endeavor. Still, the urge to put off what must be done occasionally plagues me. So, I found the research on what’s good and what’s bad about procrastination so fascinating I just had to share it. Here, then, are 10 good and 10 bad points to ponder about procrastination.

10 GOOD THINGS ABOUT PROCRASTINATION

While much of the literature about procrastination – and public consensus – is that the habit is bad, there are some studies and research pointing out the opposite.

  • Procrastination helps you learn to manage delay.

The ancient Greeks knew a thing or two about living the good life. In fact, Greek philosophers highly valued procrastination, as much as stating that it is good to learn to manage delay. Of course, there’s a significant difference between active and passive procrastination, where the former can be considered good and the latter – just sitting around doing nothing, for example – is decidedly in the category of bad. Knowing when to act, even though that may mean delaying action, is good advice.

  • Procrastination provides time to reflect on what’s most important.

You need time to think about what matters most in life. Not in the sense that you’re contemplating weighty philosophical issues, simply what’s most important to you. By taking your time to think through some things – or think of nothing at all so that your mind can clear, you’ll discover the kernels of importance that reside in your mind and heart. Then, you can act accordingly.

  • Much better decisions may result from procrastination.

Rushing in to deal with this or that task, project or item on your list of things to do doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll be done well or provide any meaningful satisfaction for their completion. You might also find yourself accepting projects and tasks that aren’t right for you, that you’re ill-equipped to handle, shouldn’t do because they’re someone else’s responsibility, or it’s simply not the right time to get started on them. Just because something is on a list is not always a green light to work on them. By procrastinating, your decision may be better informed as a result.

  • Prioritization may be the offshoot of procrastination.

If you’re putting off things, procrastination could help you jumpstart prioritizing. This is helpful to get rid of unnecessary tasks, things you might have begun that weren’t worth your time, at least now.

  • Cooler heads prevail when you procrastinate saying you’re sorry.

While you might feel pressure to apologize when you’ve wronged another and anxious to get it over with, if you push yourself to do it immediately, who knows what might come out of your mouth? This is a case where allowing yourself time to think carefully about what and how (and perhaps where and when) you’ll issue the apology will result in a better, sincerer apology. Even if it’s taking an hour or so and breathing in and out deeply, you’ll be in a calmer state of mind and your tone of voice and body language will be more relaxed.

  • You can get other things done on your to-do list when you engage in active procrastination.

Sure, there might be some doozies on your to-do list, tasks or projects that are complex, complicated, time-consuming or just difficult, onerous and not something you want to dive into. You know you’ll have to deal with them eventually but tending to the half dozen or so small items on your list allows you to get a lot done, be more productive and feel a sense of accomplishment. This might be all you need to then tackle that big one you’ve been putting off.

  • Procrastination allows your mind to process.

Even when you’re not consciously thinking about what’s on your do-to list, your subconscious is. This may lead to an innovative or creative solution to the issue, task, project, errand or chore you’ve put off doing.

  • Active procrastination offers health benefits.

Research by Chu and Choi in 2005 found that active procrastinators were not paralyzed by worry. They also had lower stress levels, exhibited less avoidant tendencies, and had healthier self-efficacy.

  • Your most creative ideas may come through procrastination.

There is a school of thought that the first ideas or solutions to problems aren’t the best ones. Those are often the result of deliberating for a time to sort through different options and arrive at the most appropriate. Call this dwell time or mind-wandering or an example of the creative process. If it works, use it – sparingly. Some things can’t wait while you procrastinate.

  • Procrastination is normal.

Instead of agonizing that you’re guilty of a bad habit by your procrastination, embrace the realization that procrastination is normal. If it doesn’t get out of hand or become chronic, you shouldn’t have a problem.

 

10 BAD THINGS ABOUT PROCRASTINATION

The list of what’s not so good about procrastination includes some well-known (and likely quite familiar) observations that each have some measure of truth.

  • Procrastination can lead to poor academic performance.

While this may seem like a no-brainer, a study by Case Western Reserve University determined that college students who procrastinated experienced higher levels of stress, increased episodes of illness, and poorer grades by semester’s end.

  • Higher levels of stress associated with procrastination may be linked to poor self-compassion.

Research by Sirois published in Self & Identity suggested that lower levels of self-compassion could explain some stress levels procrastinators experienced and observed that targeted interventions to promote self-compassion could be beneficial for those individuals.

  • Procrastination promotes negative feelings.

A study by Pychyl et al. reported in Personality & Individual Differences examined the phenomenon of negative feelings arising from procrastination by students. Negative affect resulted from the first instance of procrastination before an exam, yet self-forgiveness tended to reduce procrastination and negative effect on a subsequent exam.

  • Procrastination may have a genetic component.

Are you destined to be a procrastinator because of your genetic makeup? Several studies debate this origin of procrastination, or at least whether genetics is causative. A study by Gustavson et al. published in the journal from the Association for Psychological Science found confirmation for their postulation that procrastination is a by-product of impulsivity. Not only is procrastination heritable, both share a great deal of genetic variation, and an important aspect of this shared variability is goal-management. Even though you may be predisposed to procrastinate, however, doesn’t mean you can’t do something about it.

  • Procrastination is self-defeating behavior.

While the debate goes on over the good versus bad points about procrastination, some scientists say that procrastinating conflates positive behaviors such as pondering and prioritizing. Furthermore, procrastination for any number of seemingly good reasons leads to the self-defeating habit of genuine procrastination, which is the absence of making progress.

Some say that procrastinating helps motivate them to do their best work under pressure. While that may be true for some small number of people, it isn’t the general outcome. Crashing to accomplish that oh-so-important project or school paper or business presentation at the last minute will probably not be your best work. Self-talk to the contrary is just an excuse.

  • With procrastination, you get things done, but they’re the wrong things.

Shoving the important task to the bottom of the list and focusing on several easy and quick-to-do ones you could do any time gives you the false reassurance that you’re accomplishing a lot. Granted, this example of procrastination allows you to get things done, yet they’re the wrong things – or are out of priority.

  • You add to the workload of others when you procrastinate.

No one likes having work dumped on them that another employee fails to do. That creates resentment, adds to the dumped-on employees’ workload and sets the stage for feelings of anxiety and piled-on resentment.

  • Procrastinators may be paralyzed by fear of making a mistake, a loss of self-worth.

People aren’t inherently lazy when they engage in procrastination. Just ask them. They’ll come up with a dozen distinct reasons for their delay to act. At the heart of the problem of procrastination, at least for some individuals, may be a paralyzing fear of making a mistake and thus suffering a loss of self-worth.

  • The end-product of chronic procrastination may be mental health issues.

A longitudinal study of the costs and benefits of procrastination, performance and stress found that procrastination is a self-defeating behavior pattern characterized by short-term benefits and long-term costs, including an increase in mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem.

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This article was originally published on Psych Central.

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Best Ways to Spend Idle Time

Best Ways to Spend Idle Time

Photo by Pacto Visual on Unsplash

 

If you ever feel like there just isn’t enough time in the day to get things done, you’re probably overstressed, overworked and overcommitted. On the other hand, do you sometimes recognize that time stretches on, like you’re in a slow-motion movie, and it seems like this moment will last forever? How can two different views of time exist? Here are some of my favorite quotes on time that may serve as reflection on the best ways to spend idle time – and be time well spent.

Spend time with family.

“I absolutely love spending time with my family.” – Kevin Alejandro

You may not get to choose your family, yet you do choose whether to spend time with them or not. Too often, though, we tend to take family for granted, feeling they’ll always be there – until they’re not. Use spare time to do something with family, for it will always be some of the best idle time you’ve ever spent.

Find the beauty in each moment.

“Time is but the stream I go a-fishing in.” – Henry David Thoreau

When was the last time you looked at your surroundings? Really looked, not just allowed what’s there to serve as background? There’s true beauty all around, if you but make a conscious choice to look at it and be amazed by its power to enrich and nourish you.

Reflect on your blessings.

“I think, every time I’m on the mountain, I’m just so thankful to be there.” – Chloe Kim

I’m grateful to be alive, having experienced a brush with death more than a few times. Some might call me lucky, while others just marvel I’m still here. Nevertheless, what those life-threatening experiences taught me is to be profoundly appreciative of life. I’ve been blessed with many gifts, not the least of which is my ability to find the positive in almost any situation.

Relax.

“The time to relax is when you don’t have time for it.” – Sydney J. Harris

Why put off doing what relaxes you when the science proves that relaxing activities help refresh, restore and revitalize your body, mind and spirit? Take a half hour for meditation, or engage in restorative yoga, or surrender to a luxurious massage. If something relaxes you, you’ll reap enormous benefits from using the time you have to do it.

Enjoy your passions.

“If biking is your passion, set aside time to enjoy a good ride.” – Patrick Dempsey

I’m passionate about many things. For example, I find the wilderness awe-inspiring and mysterious and treasure memories of driving, hiking, fishing, swimming and exploring America’s great national parks. That wilderness is also dangerous and ever-changing doesn’t lessen my passion to be in it. I just exercise appropriate caution. I have other passions as well, some of which many share. These include gardening, walks in nature, creating tasty and low-fat desserts, writing, decorating, shopping for the best deals, and painting. It isn’t the what but the fact that I do what I’m most passionate about. Whatever time I spend with my passions is the best time.

Have a cup of tea.

“Tea time is a chance to slow down, pull back and appreciate our surroundings.” – Letitia Baldridge

I love a good cup of tea. My favorite for the past year is green tea, sweetened with Stevia and organic honey. Perhaps some of the research around the anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties in tea swayed me when I first started drinking in during convalescence from a hospital stay, although I have to admit tea drinking is totally different from my daily latte experience. I do appreciate my surroundings when enjoying each of them, and I value the time I spend treating myself to both.

Walk in nature.

“The butterfly counts not months but moments, and has time enough.” – Rabindranath Tagore

Whatever the season, nature is always there to be experienced, appreciated and treasured. Personally, I’m fond of trail walks, possibly because there are numerous nature trails near my home. Whenever we travel, though, I’m always keen to explore the local trails and plan our lodging to take advantage of the most scenic trailheads. There’s a sense of peace and belonging I get from walking in nature. For me, it’s a kind of meditation. I’m conscious of breathing in and out, being in the present, fully aware and alive. What a wonderful and welcoming way to spend a little time. Besides, as  research shows, nature walks, especially in groups, can help banish stress and increase well-being. And, for women with depression symptoms, regular walking can improve their quality of life.

Play with your cat.

“Time spent with cats is never wasted.” – Sigmund Freud

You needn’t be a cat person, or even have a cat in your household, to derive benefit from playing with a feline. It can be a friend’s cat, or the beloved furry friend of a loved one, family member, neighbor or co-worker. I’ve owned several cats over the years and they’ve always amazed me with their never-ending curiosity, playfulness and independent spirit. Hearing and feeling them purr fill me with a sense of contentment and joy. I can be watching TV, listening to music, or just sitting back doing nothing else but playing with the cat. Nothing against dog-lovers, for spending time with dogs ranks just as high in satisfaction. In addition, pets have healing powers and much more, according to research. They make you feel less lonely, for one thing, which is incredibly useful for shut-ins and those without family.

Be flexible.

“Summertime, this is the time that you flex.” – Cardi B

Each season presents unique opportunities to spend free time. My favorite season has to be summer, however, since there’s invariably good weather (occasional thunderstorms notwithstanding) and myriad activities to choose from to have a good time. The key, I find, is to be flexible. If you’re intent on going for a hike and a friend invites you to go swimming, have lunch at a favorite café, shop a great sale, the more willing you are to rearrange your free time to accommodate this unexpected gift the more likely you’ll be glad you did.

Make a choice.

“Time flies. It’s up to you to be the navigator.” – Robert Orben

While it’s true that each day contains just 24 hours, how you spend your time is very much your choice. Even if you must work, that’s a choice. Doing chores is a choice. Taking a break now and then is a choice. So is parceling out an hour for doing what you want, pursuing an interest, investigating something new, making new acquaintances. No one else dictates – or should be allowed to tell you – what you can or cannot do with your time. Own your destiny. Choose how you spend your time.

Savor a favorite food.

“We all need to make time for a burger once in a while.” – Erica Durance

Who doesn’t love a good burger? Whether its angus beef, turkey, salmon or veggie, burgers have long been a go-to form of comfort food for millions of people. The same holds true for many other favorite dishes, whether exotic cuisine or homecooked meals. That’s why turkey dinners are so scrumptious, why the smell of bacon makes you salivate, why the aroma of baking pies brings back your childhood. Instead of wolfing down a favorite food, pause and take in everything about it that’s special. Really savor it. This is the essence, I think, of mindful eating.

Make someone feel important.

“No matter how busy you are, you must take time to make the other person feel important.” – Mary Kay Ash

If you want to go for the gold, use some of your spare time to go out of your way to make someone else feel important and loved. This act of self-generosity doesn’t need to entail spending money. Indeed, often it’s the mere act of conscious listening to what the other person has to say that results in them feeling important, the center of your attention for that brief span of time. Acknowledge what they say, offering words of encouragement, comfort, congratulations, assistance or whatever the person seems to need most. Doing so sincerely and without haste will make you both feel you’ve made good use of the time.

Cherish the moment.

“Time itself comes in drops.” – William James

Time isn’t like a daylong downpour. It doesn’t present itself in four-hour blocks. Instead, time is seconds and minutes, more like gentle drops of rain. Once this moment is gone, it’s forever lost. For this reason, be mindful of the fleeting nature of time and make a concerted effort to live in the present and cherish every moment.

Feel empowered.

“The time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time.” – Bertrand Russell

I believe that every day I deserve to chuck my schedule aside for a while and do whatever I feel drawn to do most. I’m not talking about completely abandoning what must be done, just taking a short hiatus from tasks and responsibilities. The knowledge that I’ll return to my work or chores with a sense of renewal and feeling newly motivated further encourages and empowers me to do what I want with my idle time.

 

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This article was originally published on Psych Central.

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11 Ways to Simplify and Enjoy Your Life More

 

11 Ways to Simplify and Enjoy Your Life More

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“Our life is frittered away by detail…simplify, simplify.”Henry David Thoreau

 

If the idea of simplifying your life is appealing, you might be more motivated and likely to get started on this goal if you can find an easier way to do it. Complicated lists filled with difficult tasks won’t get the job done.  What will, however, are ways that are both easily-understood and generally easier to do and have the added benefit of helping you get more enjoyment out of life. Here are 11 to try.

Streamline your to-do lists.

Most efficiency and time-management experts recommend streamlining items on your to-do lists. There’s good reason for this, since having less items staring you in the face daily helps remove the gnawing impediment of impossible-to-achieve success. Maybe you have 20 tasks, projects and objectives you’ve told yourself are essential. That’s too many. No wonder you get frustrated and abandon or put off working on them. Start by paring the numbers, doing away with the nonessential and non-value-added ones.

Focus on quality, not quantity.

It’s easy to lose enthusiasm and get lost in the muddiness of details, timelines and complexity of too many goals. Instead of generating momentum, the opposite is likely to occur. The solution? Once you’ve pared your to-do lists, focus on delivering quality results, not half-hearted and hastily completed items that add up to an arbitrary and too high a number. Remember, you’ll get more satisfaction out of producing a quality result than several that are less-than-your-best effort versions.

Do what matters most to you personally.

Simply put, when you do what you find valuable and focus on what matters most to you personally, you’re much more likely to be motivated to begin with and to follow through to completion. Tackling goals, projects and tasks that you don’t feel strongly about or that don’t align with your values will drain your enthusiasm as well as your energy. It will also add complexity to your life that will leave you feeling less satisfied overall. On the other hand, when you get to work on what excites and interests you, time will fly, and it will seem less like work and more like fun. Isn’t that a terrific way to enjoy your life more?

Create desirable goals and create workable plans to achieve them.

In line with streamlining to-do lists and focusing on quality over quantity, another highly-recommended way to simplify your life and enjoy it more is to create desirable goals and workable plans to achieve them. You may identify an overarching goal, such as getting your college degree, buying a home, getting married and starting a family, or a few seemingly-unrelated goals, even some that are tangential. If it stimulates your interest enough to research and pursue, it’s worth adding to your list. Keep in mind that goals and plans are a work-in-progress strategy, something you revise as your interests and objectives change, you achieve some and identify others. It’s also a great feeling to tick off the successes as you make your way through your goal list.

Eliminate sources of stress – and find effective ways to keep stress at bay.

Stress, especially chronic stress, depletes you in every possible way. There are numerous physical consequences of stress, as well as emotional and psychological ramifications of this insidious condition. Learn how to recognize stress, whether the cause is something at work, relationship oriented, self-generated, or environmental. Get rid of the stress sources that you can and then research and put into practice effective ways to keep recurring stress from negatively affecting your life. One proven method to reduce stress is exercise, and experts say almost any exercise will help to manage stress.

Focus on a few true friends.

Trying to please 100 friends or follow up and stay in contact with a 1,000 or more social media contacts is a losing proposition. Casual contacts, commenting on posts, celebrating milestones is one thing, but you simply cannot maintain high-quality friendships with that many individuals. Instead, single out those who you value as true friends. Spend one-on-one time with them as often as possible and practical and be truly with them when you are together. This is both satisfying and personally enriching as well as adds to your overall well-being and life enjoyment.

Clean out your closets and de-clutter your surroundings.

A UCLA study on “The Clutter Culture” found that the need to constantly reward ourselves with material things, to offset the stress of the workplace and life in general, instead contributes to increased stress. At least it did for moms in the survey of American families. One of the quickest ways to get busy simplifying your life is to literally clean out your closets and buckle down to declutter your surroundings at home. Researchers in the study found that participants mentioned parking their cars on the street, so they could store accumulated stuff in the garage and piling the dirty laundry in the shower because there’s no other convenient place to stash it out of the way. How many of us have garments and objects ferreted away in the closet and drawers that have never been used, still have the price tags on them and have gone out of style? Start with your wardrobe and keep going from there. Once you’ve got piles of things you never wear or use, are still serviceable and potentially useful to others, donate them to a worthy charity. Recycle, repurpose or toss out everything else. Trust me, this suggestion is very effective in both simplifying your life and helping you find more joy in it.

Practice gratitude daily.

There must be something you’re grateful for, even if what that is does not spring immediately to mind. Start by acknowledging the gift of life today. Go on to express mental thanks for all that you’ve been given, whether that’s good health, recovery from illness, accident or injury, a satisfying job, plentiful friends or something else. Being grateful is a personal sentiment in the sense that you’re putting out to the universe a thank-you for what you value. The more you practice gratitude daily, the more your well-being will improve and the happier with your life you’ll be.

Enrich your spirituality.

Along with expressing gratitude every day, find ways to nourish and enrich your spirit and your spirituality. This may mean going to the church, temple or synagogue or being outside in nature and reflecting on a Higher Power. It may involve meditation, yoga, visualization exercises, imagery, focused breathing or some other technique to connect you to your inner self and the overarching meaning of life. A sense of connectedness to the universe, to the God as you know Him or Her is always beneficial in expanding your enjoyment of this precious life on earth, altogether fleeting and worthy of spending what time you have well.

Make time for yourself.

It isn’t selfish or self-centered to carve out time to do what gives you pleasure. On the contrary, making time for yourself is an endeavor that’s both life-affirming and produces a sense of joy and satisfaction. Go for that walk in nature. Meet with friends. Relax with a good book. Garden. Pass the hours involved in a hobby, gardening, sports or other form of relaxation or activity. You’ll know you’ve simplified your life if you feel good about allocating time in your daily schedule to do what you like. It will also make today much more enjoyable.

Live in the present.

In addition to creating space and room in your life through simplification of non-essential, non-value-added items and activities, focusing on doing what matters most to you personally, spending time on yourself, eliminating sources of stress, prizing a few true friends, creating desirable and workable goals and plans, exercising gratitude, nurturing your spirituality and embracing quality over quantity, you’re primed and ready to accept and practice living in the present. This is also called mindfulness. Frankly, the present is when you live. You cannot relive the past or experience the future. Today is it. Make the most of today by fully being present in the moment. It doesn’t get any simpler or better than that to enjoy your life more.

 

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This article was originally published on Psych Central.

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10 Easy Ways to Increase Your Energy Levels Naturally

10 Easy Ways to Increase Your Energy Levels Naturally

Photo by Jared Erondu on Unsplash

 

“You are responsible for the energy that you create for yourself, and you’re responsible for the energy that you bring to others.” – Oprah Winfrey

 

I’m all about doing what I can do in a better way. This includes taking proper care of my health and watching my energy levels throughout the day. There’s no denying that a busy lifestyle contributes to a drain on how much energy you feel you have, yet there are natural ways to boost your energy levels that are easy and relatively quick to do. After doing my research, I’ve discovered that science backs up the merits of the following 10 easy ways to increase your energy levels.

Lower stress.

Stress is a huge culprit when it comes to drained energy. When you’re stressed-out, you’re likely worn out as well. If you suffer from chronic stress, the effect is cumulative and can result in worsening physical and mental conditions over time. Most stress is the result of anxiety, worry about things you have no control over or agonizing over making the wrong decisions, even worry about decisions you know are right. In short, living with non-stop stress will zap your energy like an electronic bug killer. Figure out healthy ways to lower your stress levels and you’ll find that you have more energy daily.

How can you lower your stress? Do whatever relaxes you, whether that’s reading an engrossing novel, going for coffee with a friend, watching a favorite TV show or movie, exercising vigorously, gardening, playing sports, working on a hobby, taking a drive, going out for dinner and so on. It isn’t what you do but how relaxing the activity makes you feel that will lessen the tension and reduce stress.

Eat more nuts and fish.

Studies of women with magnesium deficiency showed that the women felt physically exhausted much of the time. Why? When you have magnesium deficiency, your heart beats faster and requires more oxygen to get things done. Natural sources of magnesium that are low calorie and delicious include almonds, cashews and hazelnuts, as well as fish such as halibut. Recommended daily magnesium allowances are 300 milligrams for women and 350 milligrams for men.

Get out and walk.

Perhaps one of the simplest ways to boost energy levels is to go out for a walk. How can it be that engaging in physical activity such as walking increases your energy? It sounds contradictory, yet the science is sound. A brisk 10-minute walk is enough to elevate energy levels and the effects last up to 2 hours. Do regular daily walks and you’ll have not only increased energy and stamina, your mood will also improve.

Drink lots of water.

Another nasty culprit causing lack of energy is dehydration. Simply put, when you’re dehydrated, your body is starved of life-saving water. You may not realize that you’re thirsty, though, and by the time that you do, you’re likely dehydrated. Sometimes, you think you’re fatigued when the truth is that you’re dehydrated. You also might confuse hunger with thirst, thinking you need to eat something when what you really need is water. There is a simple solution: drink lots of water at regular times throughout the day. Strive for eight 8-ounce glasses of water daily. If you have trouble downing that much plain water, go for fruit-flavored, sugar-free water. In so doing, you’ll be benefiting every organ in your body, including muscles, which are re-energized with water. You’ll also find that you’ve got a little more energy by exercising your water-drinking habit.

Cut back on sugar.

Besides contributing to a thicker waistline and more pounds on the scale, eating a diet high in sugar will also leave you feeling drained. While sugar initially spikes blood sugar and provides an energy boost, that increased energy is short-lived, quickly followed by a rapid blood sugar drop. You may feel wiped out consequently. If you’re like me, however, adding a natural sweetener to morning lattes and hot tea is an absolute must. I’ve become an aficionado of Stevia, a no-calorie natural sweetener that tastes 30 times sweeter than table sugar. Another natural sweetener I’ve decided to try is coconut sugar, which has 20 calories per teaspoon (the same as table sugar), but it is an excellent alternative to regular sugar for baking.

Meditate.

If you’re a fan of yoga, you might already know that the Savasana pose (also called the corpse pose) is beneficial in reducing fatigue. I was unaware of this, not being very proficient in yoga, yet willing to learn. The Savasana pose is what you do at the end of your yoga session. It looks like taking a quiet nap on the floor while resting on your yoga mat. You are resting, yet fully conscious for the 10-20 minutes you allocate for this restorative energy exercise.

Eat breakfast every day.

Your mother probably told you that breakfast is the day’s most important meal. That advice echoes what nutrition experts have said for years. It’s tempting to skip this vital meal, though, especially when busy schedules mean every minute counts, yet don’t fall for that excuse. It doesn’t have to be a long, sit-down affair for you to gain the benefits of breakfast. Just make sure you eat wisely. Go for breakfasts that help you power up your morning. As Harvard Medical School experts points out, include whole grains, fruit and protein – and eat at home, not from a fast-food eatery.

Add power snacks to provide energy between meals.

It might seem a long way to dinner or your next meal, especially if you’ve been engaged in vigorous physical activity or concentrating on a complex work project. The healthy solution here is to snack on some power foods to give yourself an instant energy lift. Do a combination of fat, protein, a little bit of fat and fiber and you’ll be doing yourself and your energy levels a favor. Try a low-fat, low-salt (or salt-free) cracker with peanut butter or enjoy yogurt with a small handful of nuts.

Try a 1-hour power nap to prevent burnout.

Experimental research conducted by the National Institutes of Health found that participating subjects who took a 60-minute power nap were able to prevent burnout. Like physical effects of stress that cause fatigue, mental performance during repeated cognitive tasks, especially stressful ones, can simulate feelings of fatigue and low energy levels. While not everyone has the luxury of taking a 1-hour nap every day, if you do opt to take time for a snooze, remember that 60 minutes is more beneficial in preventing burnout than a half-hour nap.

Tend to your emotional health.

Depression and anxiety often make you feel exhausted, tired all the time, lacking energy and desire to do much of anything. If you are otherwise healthy, yet you feel constantly fatigued, examine your life for what may be bothering you emotionally. If you’ve experienced depression or anxiety that persists for two weeks or more, consider getting professional help. Psychotherapy can help you overcome these debilitating issues and help regain your normal energy.

 

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This article was originally published on Psych Central.

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7 Tips on Calming the Noise of Life

8 Healthy Reasons to Ditch Your Bad Habits

10 Ways Nature Helps Your Well-Being

 

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7 Tips on Calming the Noise of Life

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Photo by Dominique Knobben/Unsplash

“Forget about your life situation and pay attention to your life. Your life situation exists in time. Your life is now. Your life situation is mind-stuff. Your life is real.” – Eckhart Tolle

 

Things tend to get jumbled up in everyday life. What you feel you need to do and what you should be doing for yourself often wind up being far apart. With so many distractions, so much of the mind-stuff going on, no wonder it seems like you’re spinning your wheels. How can you get back on track and stop getting diverted by every demand that you’re confronted with?

Here are some tips on calming the noise, distractions and mind-stuff of life.

Rein it in.

It helps to bring your attention back in, centering it on what’s happening right here and right now. All that other stuff? It’s just a mental maelstrom. Nothing good can come of obsessing over each and every thing. The only way out of this mind mess is to reclaim a sense of calm and stillness that resides inside of you. Then you’ll be able to pay attention to the moment, to find the richness and goodness and meaning in life as it exists in the present. For it is true that you only live in the present. You cannot physically inhabit the past or move around in the future. Time travel isn’t possible – not yet, anyway. The reality is here and now. How you choose to live your life is entirely up to you. No one else can make those choices – although some may try to influence yours.

Take time to reflect.

Make time for yourself each day to do some self-reflection. Go into a quiet room, a bathroom, or outside in nature, and sit comfortably and be still for 5-10 minutes. Have nothing else on your agenda but this quiet time for you. Allow your thoughts to come and go and acknowledge the mind-stuff that seeks to derail you and then let it go, gently, without anger or judgment. You’ll get the hang of this with practice. The result will be an ability to come back to the present less distracted and more in tune with the moment.

Eliminate unnecessary demands on your time.

Rid yourself of too many demands. Stop saying yes to everything others ask of you. Know your limits and be adamant that you have the right to say no. This gives you a little breathing room and helps you avoid accepting obligations you have no time, energy or desire for. It might be hard to do at first, especially if you’ve never asserted yourself this way, but you have every right and need to do this for your own well-being.

Learn to prioritize.

Prioritize what is meaningful and deserves your attention. This will help you avoid getting lost in details of some project or task that is better left to someone else, or that you can set aside for later. When you have a clear sense of what needs to be done and when, you’re less likely to feel the pressure to get on to the next thing. You’ll be more inclined to stay in the present, doing your best with your life now.

Be willing to ask for assistance.

Ask for help. It’s OK to ask your spouse, partner or loved ones to support your efforts to simplify your life. Work out arrangements so tasks are equally shared so as not to be a burden on any one person. This not only creates some breathing space, it also serves to improve the overall living situation. Everyone benefits from a little less chaos and more moments of harmony.

Reduce use of electronics and social media.

While staying connected is a good thing, overuse of all those handy electronic devices and an obsession with social media only tends to increase the noise of life. The key is balance. One way to tamp down excessive use is to remove the temptation. Instead of placing your smartphone within easy reach, leave it in a desk drawer across the room, turned off or muted so you’re not automatically drawn to answer incoming calls or respond to incessant tweets.

Practice patience.

No doubt the demands of life have you tied up in knots at times, racing to meet deadlines, worried you’ll disappoint others, anxious to get needed information from others and trying to stay on top of everything. Not only is this mind-stuff frustrating, it’s also self-defeating. The harder you press, the more disappointed and anxious you’re likely to become. When you introduce patience into your life, however, it’s like you hit the return button on the computer, ending a sentence and giving yourself pause before going on to the next thought, action or word. Practicing patience helps you be more accepting of others and yourself, instills a sense of perspective and smooths out some of those rough and raucous edges of life.

 

This article was originally published on PsychCentral.

 

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Related Articles:

7 Tips to Use Time Wisely

5 Ways to Find Peace of Mind

Combat Stress With Mindful Walking

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My 10 Favorite Ways to Relax

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Photo by Joshua Earle/Unsplash

It’s a stressful world out there. No wonder we need a break. While I’m not particularly stressed most days, having stumbled upon and adopted several effective stress-busting techniques, I still find that it’s sometimes difficult to unwind and relax. Fortunately, I’ve come up with some relaxation techniques that work wonderfully for me. Maybe they’ll help you, too.

Being With My Loved One

To me, there’s nothing more relaxing than spending time with my loved one. I consider him to be my best friend, so what could be better than being together, sharing conversation, cooking, discussing every subject under the sun, planning trips, going out to dinner or for coffee or shopping, even driving on vacation with no set destination in mind. When you have this level of comfort with someone else, it’s an instant pick-me-up. This is not to say there aren’t the occasional disagreements, but we treat each other with respect and dignity.

Enjoying a Professional Massage

If you want to have all the kinks worked out after a brisk exercise or physical therapy regimen, or if you just want to lay on the massage table and let an expert masseuse go to work, there’s nothing that comes close to a professional massage to help you unwind and relax. All those tight muscles, sore from workout, sleeping in the wrong position, hunched over the computer, doing exacting work of any kind – benefit immensely from massage. It’s one of my favorite ways to spend 50 minutes, or an hour and a half if I’m on an island at a resort where longer sessions are available. Besides, who wouldn’t want to splurge on something that makes you feel so great?

Hiking in the Woods or Nearby Trails

I’m fortunate to live close to a series of mountain trails. By close, I mean a few blocks away. No need to drive to the trailhead. A quick walk get me there. I love hiking and walking in all the seasons. Being in California, there’s not snow where we live, but it does get cold. Springtime, however, is my favorite for trail adventures, though. Everything is fresh and beginning to bloom. How wonderfully restorative.

Reading a Good Book

I’ve always been a voracious reader. When I was a kid, I’d borrow seven books from the library each week. Don’t ask me why it was seven. Maybe it was all I could carry. I made it a point to learn as much as I could from those books, often reading under the covers with the aid of a flashlight until my parents reminded me to get to sleep. I love mysteries, thrillers, the occasional love story, biographies and more. Diving into a good book is a guilty little pleasure that I’ll never tire of.

Luxuriating in a Hot Bath

If you have a Jacuzzi tub or a large tub with therapeutic jets, take advantage of how relaxing a soak in this tub can be. If my back aches or I’ve got pain between my shoulder blades from being too long at the computer, or hours spent behind the wheel, nothing eases the ache or melts my stress away like luxuriating in a hot bath. I like to use lavender-scented bubble bath or essential oils, but even Epsom salts will do in a pinch.

Taking Photographs

I’ve never taken a professional photography class, although I’ve perused several books on how to take great pictures. Over the years, however, I’ve bought a number of cameras that help idiot-proof my picture-taking to the point where I can be fairly certain I’ll come out with a few respectable shots. I love scenic photos, as well as pictures of various flowers and plants. The more unusual and unique, the better. I also like taking impromptu shots of loved ones and friends. Capturing someone’s raw emotions when they’re not posing generally results in some extraordinary pictures. I can lose myself on a trail shooting photo after photo, or spend some time setting up just the right perspective and angle. At any rate, taking photographs is always relaxing to me. With digital cameras, there’s no need to go to the expense of having them printed. Digital is so much easier to immediately share with others, too.

Watching an Exciting Movie

I grew up going to the movies as a means of relaxation. My brother and I used to go to the Saturday matinees to see the double features plus cartoons. It’s all different now, when the price of a single movie approaches the cost of a meal out. Still, whether it’s at the cinema, a rental movie from a kiosk, a new release out on VOD or an old favorite on TV, I get a thrill out of watching all kinds of movies. To me, it’s exciting, entertaining, and allows me to put aside any problems or worries for an hour or so.

Getting Creative in the Garden

All my life I’ve loved to work in the garden. Actually, work isn’t the appropriate word. It’s more a labor of love. I’ve pored through gardening books looking for color schemes and layouts I think might look good in the various yards I’ve been privileged to own (or rent). No matter how small the area, I can always find a way to beautify it through gardening. Not only that, but I love cutting flowers to create tabletop centerpieces. The fragrance in the house reminds me that this is the result of my creativity in the garden. It’s extraordinarily relaxing – although not the weeding part.

Practicing Culinary Skills

Thinking about cooking reminds me of the time when I was a young girl and I found a cookbook with 101 recipes for chicken in my mother’s kitchen credenza. She worked a lot and didn’t have time to spend a lot of time making dinner. Sometimes, my dad was the chef (he really had been a chef in his 20s), while more often it fell to me to whip up a meal. You guessed it. I made excellent use of those 101 chicken recipes. To this day, I love a good chicken dinner. But I also love following a recipe and getting good enough at practicing it that I can add some creative touches to make it unique. The family loves my skills in the kitchen as well. Besides, when you’re cooking, you must pay attention. Talk about being present. To me, it’s a form of mindfulness meditation.

Getting My Hair Done

Some might consider this just a girl thing, but when it comes to letting my hair down (literally) and having my hair stylist do a thorough wash, condition, blow-dry and style, there’s nothing like this kind of instant tension-reliever. It helps that she does a deep scalp massage during the wash and rinse. When her expert fingers exert pressure, I can feel the tension melt away. Granted, I can’t afford to get my hair done every week, but that means it’s even more of a treat on the occasions when I do. My partner likes when I cut his hair, probably for the same reason. I know what feels good on my head and neck, so I give him that gift as well.

 

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Related Articles:

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10 Quick Ways to Take a Much-Needed Break

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Photo by Lindsay Henwood/Unsplash

“To experience peace does not mean that your life is always blissful. It means that you are capable of tapping into a blissful state of mind amidst the normal chaos of a hectic life.” – Jill Bolte Taylor

 

Grabbing lunch on the run, trying to multitask while glancing at the clock, staring with dread at the mountain of reports yet to go through – no wonder you’re frazzled, anxious, feel the tension rising – and it’s only mid-day. You need a break. Better yet, you owe it to yourself to take a break.

Maybe you think you don’t have time for it, but you can reward yourself – and considerably damp down your stress level – by making use of these 10 quick ways to take a much-needed break.

Take the long way to the next meeting.

Better yet, take the stairs. Walk fast or slow, whatever you choose, but do give yourself the time to get in a bit of aerobic exercise from walking. Be sure to take some deep breaths along the way. Getting oxygen into your lungs lowers blood pressure, eases anxiety, improves mood and clears your mind.

Sip a full glass of water.

Besides hydrating your body, slowly drinking 8 ounces of water gives you time to hit the pause button on whatever else you’re trying to get done. It’s not so much that you’re avoiding responsibilities as that you’re doing something incredibly positive for your own well-being. Aim to do this several times during the day for added benefit (and greater peace of mind).

Cup your eyes.

This simple exercise is one you can do anywhere. Cup your hands over your eyes so there’s no light coming through. Open your eyes and hold your hands in place for at least 1 minute, longer if possible. Allow your eyes to become accustomed to the dark, feeling the peace inside. After you’ve counted to 60 or however long you want the break to last, take your hands away. Your eyes will feel refreshed and so will you.

Gaze at nature wallpaper.

If you spend a lot of time at the computer, this is a break that’s a no-brainer. Download and install a breathtakingly beautiful screenshot of nature: mountains, river, forests, water, flowers, birds, whatever draws you in. You can even customize a rotating set of views to keep your interest level high. As you gaze at the wallpaper or photo display, let your mind take you there. This works especially well if the shot is a place you enjoy visiting or want to spend time in soon or someday.

Pick a bouquet.

If you have a flower garden available, take a few minutes to gather a bouquet. Even if it’s a single flower, spend a few minutes taking in the intricacies of a rose, an iris, chrysanthemum or other blooming beauty.

Daydream.

This suggestion is a personal favorite. When everything mounts up and I need to catch my breath, musing about things I’d like to do, places I want to go and people I anticipate spending time with or projects or goals on my wish list helps me transport myself away from the current hustle and bustle and off somewhere enticing. Best of all, daydreaming doesn’t cost a cent, can be done anywhere (except when driving or operating machinery), and may motivate action.

Go for a brisk walk.

This break takes a little longer than a leisurely stroll to the next meeting. The best way to get exercise and give yourself some time away from the grind is to mosey outside and get in a brisk walk. Aim for 10-15 minutes at the least and use the time to see what’s going on around you. This means you’re not checking your smartphone or thinking about what’s next on your to-do list. Be in the present. Enjoy the outdoors.

Light a scented candle.

Unless you’re allergic, the recommendation to light up a fragrant candle can help elevate your mood, change the dynamics of your cubicle, work space, home or study. There’s something mesmerizing about staring at the flickering flame as well that does wonders to put some space between tasks.

Indulge in a leisurely bath.

OK, so you can’t do this one at the office. But you can allocate some much-needed time for relaxation at home. Use Epsom salts to ease muscle tension or soothing oils or bath salts in a bubble bath.

Limber up with a few stretches.

Sitting at a desk or behind the wheel for long periods of time wreaks havoc on the body. An aching neck, sore back, tight leg muscles and other body parts that clamor for relief can get it with a few sensible stretches. Not only will you get out the kinks, you’ll probably have better posture after regular stretching.

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Related articles:

10 Ways Stress Harms You

Combat Stress with Mindful Walking

5 Ways to Find Peace of Mind

10 Quick Ways to Beat Stress

Self-Care: The Most Important Person to Take Care of Is You

10 Tips to Decrease Work Stress

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7 Tips to Use Time Wisely

Photo by Andy Chilton/Unsplash

Photo by Andy Chilton/Unsplash

“Time is what we want most, but what we use worst.” – William Penn

 

While we know that time is precious and a scarce resource, at that, how often do we find ourselves wasting what little time we do have? Frittering away hours at the computer, playing video games, watching endless hours of TV, and any number of other voracious time-wasting activities can leave you feeling edgy, restless and incomplete.

For good reason, since nothing good comes from deliberate squandering of time.

This isn’t the same as when you make a conscious choice to engage in a hobby or pastime or recreational or leisure activity. Everyone needs time to play, to rest and recharge, and to gain a new perspective on life. Play time helps lower stress levels, eases tension, and provides the opportunity to see things clearer and without distraction. Solutions come easier after taking the time to play.

But time that you waste? That’s just gone for good. The question becomes, how do you use time wisely? What tricks or tips can help? Here are a few to consider:

  1. Jot it down.

Go through your day in your mind and jot down everything you did, noting when you did it, how long it took, and what the result was. This exercise helps to identify time wasted.

  1. Analyze wasted time.

Next, analyze those times you wasted. What was it you were doing immediately before or after? Try to determine if you needed a break from something strenuous, complex or time-consuming or if you were avoiding the next thing on your to-do list. This analysis helps to narrow down instances where you choose wasting time over taking constructive action.

  1. List must-do items or tasks.

Make a separate list of things that are must-do items. This list can be for today or things you must do daily. This may include getting up and going to work, preparing dinner for the family, taking medications or vitamins, walking the dog, taking out the trash and so on. Are there things you do that you could streamline or make easier? Could you combine some so that you’re not repeating ground? For example, set the medications or vitamins alongside your breakfast so that you take them right after (or before) you eat. Take out the trash when it’s time to walk the dog.

  1. Prioritize what must get done.

Staring at a list of must-to items won’t get them done. Put them in order of importance. This helps in rearranging your schedule to accommodate what must be done. For example, that big project that’s due at work should take priority, or the boss needs an update every morning at a certain time. Nothing should be allowed to get in the way of taking care of high-priority items.

  1. Schedule a break.

Build in some slack time. This can be a 10-minute break in the morning and afternoon to go for a quick walk or grab a coffee or chat with your neighbor or co-worker. Getting up to stretch your legs puts a period at the end of what you were doing and is a nice transition from one activity to another.

  1. Add variety.

Vary your schedule. If you find that your biggest time wasters are because a lot of what you’re doing every day is boring or repetitive, jazz it up by allocating different days for different tasks. When you know you’ve got an hour on Wednesday to go bowling or have lunch with a friend, other items on your task list won’t seem so challenging. Variety also adds spice to life.

  1. Be present.

Be in the moment. Instead of always thinking you don’t have enough time, savor the present moment. Whatever you’re doing, whether it’s a task or something you enjoy, really be there. This adds to the appreciation of time, that precious commodity.

Related Articles:

10 Ways to Make Mondays Better

Time-Saving Tips for Early Risers

How to Be Even More Effective

My 10 Favorite Ways to Waste Time – And Not Feel Bad About It

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10 Ways Stress Harms You

Photo by Breno Machaco/Unsplash

Photo by Breno Machaco/Unsplash

It’s a stressful world out there. Time-crunched, sleep-deprived, overwhelmed at work, home and school does not produce good health, just the opposite. Key among the culprits is stress, sometimes inevitable, but always requiring attention.

In order to begin to find effective approaches to deal with stress, it’s first important to know the many ways stress harms you. Here are 10 findings from research that show just how bad stress is for the human body.

High levels of financial stress can make you look older.

As if you don’t have enough to worry about, a new study published in July 2016 in the journal Research on Aging finds that people with high levels of financial stress looked older and appeared to have aged more over a nine-year period than people with a higher level of confidence in their financial control.

Women’s fertility may be negatively affected by stress.

Research finds that stress appears to lower a woman’s chance of becoming pregnant, particularly stress experienced around the time of ovulation. Stress disrupted the signaling between the brain and ovaries, reducing the chance of ovulation.

Stress can make you fat.

It’s not just that gooey chocolate donut that will add pounds to your frame, but a build-up of stress can wreak havoc by packing on weight. That’s the finding of researchers at Stanford University School of Medicine who say that stress triggers a hormone called Adams1 which generates fat in the human body. In addition to increasing your waistline, this stress-induced fat also accumulates around organs like the pancreas and liver, which increases risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

Stress may wipe out benefits of a healthy diet in women.

Researchers at Ohio State University found that the prior day’s stressful events seemed to eradicate any health benefits women might have gained from eating a healthier breakfast that’s rich in “good” monounsaturated fats. The study’s lead researcher, Janice Kiecolt-Glaser, said stress complicates the way the body processes food.

Early-life exposure to stress can lead to adult illnesses.

Researchers at the MDI Biological Laboratory in Bar Harbor, Maine studied zebrafish embryos chronically exposed to the stress hormone cortisol for just a few days and found that they developed into adults with signs of chronic inflammation and abnormal immune systems. Early-life exposure to chronically elevated levels of cortisol results in lasting developmental changes affecting processes in adult life that are critical to immune system function and regulation.

Stress may exact the greatest toll on younger women with heart disease.

A study of nearly 700 men and women with heart disease found that stress was harder on women aged 50 or younger. They were nearly four times than either men of the same age or older women to have reduced blood flow to the heart. Reduced blood flow can often lead to a heart attack. The study suggested that younger women, who juggle work, family and financial responsibilities and routinely feel stressed need better assessment of life’s stressors and more support coping with them.

Prolonged stress affects short-term memory.

A study from the University of Iowa found a potential link between stress hormones and short-term memory loss in older adults. High levels of cortisol – a natural hormone present in the body that surges when a person is stressed—are the culprit. Short-term spikes in cortisol help a person to cope and respond to life’s challenges, but abnormal spikes like those experienced during long-term stress can wreak havoc on memory by “weathering the brain.”

Stress is linked to breast cancer.

Researchers at the Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey are studying a link between stress and breast cancer, specifically in the p53 protein. The protein, say researchers, reacts to large numbers of stress signals. If p53 becomes malformed, it could spark an uncontrollable reaction, causing cells to continuously reproduce, and those cells would be considered cancerous. About one in eight women will develop aggressive breast cancer over the course of their lifetime. According to the Department of Defense Breast Cancer Research Program, more than 40,000 women are expected to die in 2016 due to breast cancer.

Depression, emotional stress may cause type 2 diabetes.

Longitudinal studies suggest that not only depression, but also general emotional stress are associated with an increased risk for the development of type 2 diabetes.

Emotional stress is a trigger for eczema.

The National Eczema Foundation cautions that emotional stress is one of the common triggers for eczema, although it is not known why. In some people, their eczema gets worse when they realize they’re stressed, while others get stressed because they have eczema and their flare-up worsens.

Note that this is not an all-inclusive list of the ways stress harms you. Research continues to uncover how untreated stress punishes the body and mind. If you’re plagued by chronic stress, find effective ways to cope with it. This may include getting professional help, although there are many approaches you can take on your own, including meditation, mindful walking, prioritizing tasks, deep breathing, guided imagery and more.

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10 Tips to Decrease Work Stress

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10 Quick Ways to Beat Stress

My 10 Favorite Summertime Stress-Busters

5 Ways to Find Peace of Mind

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Forgetful? 8 Tips to Help Memory

Photo by Stefanos Martanto Setyo Husodo/Unsplash

Photo by Stefanos Martanto Setyo Husodo/Unsplash

 

“We try many ways to be awake, but our society still keeps us forgetful. Meditation is to help us remember.” – Thich Nhat Hanh

 

The days leading up to a holiday are often filled with chores, errands and obligations. Not only do you find yourself with endless lists of things to do, but you often neglect good self-care in the process. No wonder you forget details, fail to live up to your obligations, or walk around in a fog.

Everyone has bouts of forgetfulness from time to time. It’s generally nothing serious and doesn’t linger. If forgetfulness does become persistent and begins to cause problems in your life or that of your loved ones, see a doctor to rule out any medical issue.

For the occasional memory problems, however, here are eight tips that may help.

Learn how to make and use lists.

Far from being a bother, lists are very effective in helping keep track of important tasks and goals. When you take the time to construct a list, you’re removing the burden of trying to keep too many things in your head. By eliminating this logjam, you’re freeing up memory. Listing things on paper is much simpler and more effective than juggling, and dropping, them in your head.

Get a good night’s sleep.

Lack of sleep is one of numerous causes of forgetfulness. In addition to waking up grumpy, insufficient sleep messes with your memory. You forget details, don’t remember what you told yourself the night before was important. The solution is to make it a habit to get a good 8 hours of sleep each night, more if you’re a teenager or young child.

Avoid drugs and alcohol.

As the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) warns, one of the ways alcohol affects the brain is by impairing memory. Memory deficits can occur after only a few drinks, increasing in length and severity with more drinks consumed. Binge drinking – consuming five or more drinks in about 2 hours for men, four for women – causes blackouts. These are serious episodes where you wake up and don’t remember anything from the night or day before.

Drug use, whether prescription or illicit substances, can produce similar impairment in memory. Some drugs also interact with other medications and significantly impair memory when used in combination with alcohol.

The best way to protect your memory is to avoid drugs and alcohol, especially to excess.

Meditate.

Clearing your head of all the conflicting messages can give you more than just peace of mind. It can also aid memory. For centuries, people have been practicing meditation to produce a sense of harmony and balance, as well as the calming influence it bestows. And studies have shown that mindfulness meditation helps with attention span and memory. When you meditate, you’re not shutting off all thoughts as much as you’re acknowledging them and letting them go. The resulting peace of mind disentangles those internal conflicts you felt and allows your memory to recalibrate. Also, try mindful walking to ease stress and help with memory.

Do one thing at a time.

Unless you’re a professional juggler, you can’t juggle more than one thing at a time. In a similar manner, trying to do more than one thing at a time is likely to result in a less-than-favorable outcome for both. Not only that, but you don’t focus completely on the task at hand, thus splitting your concentration and causing your memory to work overtime when it doesn’t have to. The clear solution is to do one thing at a time. Then you can move on to the next item, task, project or goal with a clear head and a sense of accomplishment.

Eliminate distractions.

How can you concentrate on a project that’s on deadline when you’ve got your social media messages flooding in, the phone’s jangling nonstop, you allow interruptions from your co-workers or seek out distractions to keep you from tending to the job? In addition to wreaking havoc with a work, school or home assignment or duty, constant distractions produce a confusing effect that’s bad for your memory. When you eliminate distractions, however, you facilitate full use of your mind without overtaxing it.

Make use of reminders.

Sticky notes, post-its, alerts, reminder calls and emails are a great way to keep from forgetting important things. There’s nothing wrong with using these to ensure you never miss what must be done. That way, even if you didn’t get enough sleep last night, are ill, overstressed, had too much to drink or too much on your to-do list, you’ll have a ready reminder at hand.

Take time to relax.

Not only do you not want to be that dull boy (“All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.”), but you want to have quality time for yourself. This means making sure that you take time to relax. Whether the relaxation takes the form of a hobby, walking outdoors, going to a movie with a friend, shopping, recreational activity or sport doesn’t matter. You and your memory need some downtime, time that you spend doing something you enjoy.

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