Category Archives: Stress Management

Seven Novel Strategies for Spring or Anytime Cleaning to Prevent Cancer

By Hui Xie-Zukauskas

Spring flowers-fly-garden_PexelsFlowers are blooming and birds are singing as spring arrives after a long winter. Spring cleaning is a buzzword now. Some people are excited about cleaning for fresh and renewed homes; in contrast, others see spring cleaning as a daunting task and feel overwhelmed even just running down a long checklist. Either way is understandable.

Here is the point: spring cleaning doesn’t have to be one-size-fits-all, and you can gain cancer prevention benefits out of different kinds of spring cleaning. You will know why after reading the novel yet actionable ideas and strategies I outline here.

1.     Manage spring cleaning with a workable goal.

It’s desirable all rooms and corners of your house spotless, but it’s not a must. So, setting a priority (e.g., the kitchen or bedroom) can be very workable, especially when time is not on your side. Furthermore, your goal is more achievable when you make spring cleaning a family function. A bonus is that working together as a family helps foster responsibility for kids. It’s of course important to do chemical-free cleaning (e.g., e-cloths, baking soda, and vinegar) if you can.

2.     Clean out junk foods to optimize your heart health and for cancer prevention.

Go to your refrigerator and your pantry and you will likely find foods or drinks containing some cancer-causing ingredients such as:

  • Trans fat: it increases your bad cholesterol (LDL) and at the same time lowers your good cholesterol (HDL). Therefore, it is not only a double whammy on your heart, but also a fireball for inflammatory diseases such as cancer.
  • Sweeteners: commonly used aspartame causes various illnesses from birth defects to cancer.
  • High-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) or refined sugar: cancer cells have sweet teeth!
  • Genetically-modified organisms (GMOs): both GMOs and the chemicals used to grow them have been shown to promote tumor growth.
  • Processed meats: they contain cancer-promoting agents like sodium nitrite and sodium nitrate.
  • Canned food containing BPA.

3.     Clean mental clutter to lower stress and enhance immunity.

  • Get rid of stress.
  • Get rid of negative thoughts, worries, and self-doubts.
  • Take a yoga class, a bath, or a walk; treat yourself to a massage or go out for lunch or dinner with a friend; whatever works best as a stress reliever for you, just do it.

4.     Clean your mouth to reduce oral cancer risk.

  •  Quit smoking.
  •  Avoid alcohol.
  •  Make a daily habit of brushing and flossing your teeth.
  •  Schedule a dental cleaning and oral cancer screening.

5.     Clean the fat in your body to gain long-term health.

Obesity is a risk factor for certain cancers, in addition to increasing the risk for cardiovascular disease and diabetes. So, by promoting fat breakdown, you may compensate certain aspects of obesity that cause diabetes. Certainly, you cannot gain a healthy weight overnight, but you do have options to modify your diet and lifestyle starting with cleaning out junk foods and taking actions such as:

  • Stay away from high-fat and high-sugar foods.
  • Start or continue a balanced diet rich in fresh veggies, fruits, proteins, and fiber.
  • Burn some fat by exercising and being more physically active.
  • Drink more water or tea instead of sugar- or sweetener-rich drinks.

6.     Clean the air to remove pollutants that cause cancer and allergies.

  • Check for and remove asbestos, a lung cancer-causing agent.
  • Test for radon level while increasing ventilation in your house. Radon is a radioactive but colorless, odorless gas.
  • Install an air freshener, which is a great aid to cleaning indoor pollutants.

7.     How about “digital cleaning”?

In this digital age, our lives are influenced by digital devices in many ways. “Digital hazards” can affect your health more than you may realize. You can help detox yourself from them simply by doing the following:

  • Clean your inbox. This can be a jump start of a “digital detox.” Eliminate all junk mail, and if possible stop those pesky unwanted emails from arriving in the first place. Delete old and useless email, and organize your inbox in more efficient ways.
  • Clean out all electronic wastes, such as old cell phones or other electronic devices, and take them to a safe disposal location designated by your local government. Donate your old computer to a cause if it’s still functional.
  • Clean viruses, spyware, and malware that may be in your computer. Backup your files and organize your passwords – whatever you do to make your computer run faster and less vulnerable to cyber threats, it will make your stress level lower and your life easier.
  • Keep your bedroom free of iPads, iPhones, and other digital devices as much as you can, because they are hazards to your snoozing, and consequently your health.

Of course, you can do more beyond these lists, but you get the idea.

I hope these strategies provide valuable insight into some small, easy, and quick steps you can take towards lowering your cancer risk. Spring or anytime cleaning of the areas outlined here can be a great strategy for cancer prevention and other health benefits.

 

Image credit: by Pexels

How to Enjoy a Happy and Stress-proof Holiday Season

By Hui Xie-Zukauskas

Stress_is-it-friday-yet-704781-mHoliday Season is approaching! Are you excited or stressed out? The primary cancer risk factors during holidays are stress and unhealthy diet. We have covered the diet factor in a number of previous blogs, and let’s focus on coping stress here.

Holiday realities

The holidays are both a wonderful and stressful time of the year. Besides the usual work load and family commitments, we have new functions or activities, as we rush around trying to meet looming deadlines. Parties and social events, holiday shopping, decorating, trips, holiday meals, going to the new movie releases, entertaining the guests, … see how much we try to cram into the festive season! It gives me a headache just naming all the things.

The key danger of stress

Now imagine doing all that. It’s certainly a recipe for stress. Holiday stress normally falls into categories of financial, physical, psychological/emotional drains. Stress has a negative effect on your health. This is not just a theory. Many studies have found key mechanistic evidence at the cellular level. Chronic stress and/or depression can increase the body production of cytokines, that is, immune-modulating substances. One of them is called interleukin-6 (IL-6). High serum levels of IL-6 have been linked to risks for several adverse conditions, such as cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, mental health complications, and some cancers.

The relationship between stress and cancer is complex. Many factors may come into play. However, research has demonstrated that stress factors (e.g., the death of a spouse, divorce, social isolation, and medical school examinations) alter some white blood cell functions and promote immune dysfunction.

Additionally, many people who are stressed end up eating, drinking and smoking more but exercising and sleeping less, which would certainly worsen negative consequences for our health. Taken together, stress reduction is of importance for many health reasons.

Anti-stress-1-183748-mWin control over stress with top 8 effective tips:

Since mental stress can translate into negative physical changes in the body, this year I challenge you to have a stress-proof holiday season, and let the joyful spirit of the season boost your immune system! Here is how you achieve that.

1.      Plan ahead based on PBS. The keywords are Prioritize, Be realistic, and Simplify (PBS).

2.      Take it easy. Make the holidays enjoyable rather than perfect. If a card cannot get to its destiny on time, give the person a surprise call on that holiday morning! If you don’t feel like cooking or baking, buy some packaged prepared meals as an alternative, or go without one or two “traditions”. Instead of spending hours in the malls or sitting in the traffic, shop online for gifts to save time and get good deals.

3.      Tap the resources within your family, from neighbors and friends. Do what you enjoy, and make it fun for everyone. If you love decorating trees but hate shopping or dishwashing, trade chores within the family, so everyone picks up their favorite task.

4.      Create a budget within your means to avoid “New Year Depression” on debt. Folk wisdom tells us to shop ahead of time for bargains. However, we all can be creative and spend less, believe it or not. If your budget doesn’t allow you to buy expensive gifts, buy a small one. Everyone appreciates a gift regardless of its size. If it’s too costly to attend a fancy party, organize a new, fun activity to celebrate at home or go to a movie.

5.      Listen to your body and take care of it. If you are tired, acknowledge it; if you need a treat or massage, get it; and if exercises or physical activities make you feel good, go for it.  Also, be sure to get enough sleep.

6.      Practice stress-relieving techniques, particularly those that work for you. Breathe deeply, meditate freely, visualize a peaceful scene, or listen to soothing music. Enjoy some quiet time or “down” time for yourself, especially when you feel over-stressed or under uncomfortable conditions. Caution! Just because the letters in desserts can be used to spell stressed, it doesn’t mean you need to relieve stress with desserts. Avoid over-eating, particularly high sugar and/or high calorie foods.

7.      Laugh, laugh, and laugh! Laughter is an effective medicine.

8.     The holiday season is a time of Family, Friends and Fun! This is perhaps the most important tip of all! Connecting with others for laughter or fun, and love is the best stress-reliever as well as the most effective immune-booster. Please remember, for some, this is a time of loneliness and depression. Invite them to your home; show kindness to them. If you are alone during the holidays, reaching out to help others can benefit your own physical and psychological well-being.

If you like this post, please share it.  Sharing is caring and giving.

Image credit: by brainloc and Allyson

Health: It’s What We Are Most Grateful for Though Often Taken for Granted

By Hui Xie-Zukauskas

Gratitud for Health_CPDThe annual holiday season is approaching us. It’s supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year, despite all there is to do to prepare for family festive activities. Yet many people stress out during the holiday season because they focus on what they don’t have or negativities.

But it is much wiser to be thankful.

Have you pondered for a few minutes what you are most grateful for?

I am grateful for many things in my life. One very important thing is my health. Without it, I don’t know if I would enjoy much of anything, even my time with my family and my energy for helping others. Here I share several ways I’m grateful for my health.

I’m grateful for each breath because it’s a gift of life.

I’m grateful for the oxygen I inhale because it’s a feeder/supporter of life.

I’m grateful for the carbon dioxide I exhale because it takes with it anxiety, frustration, and negativity.

I’m grateful for each step I take and each move I make because they are signs of my physical vitality.

I’m grateful for my heart and immune functions because they fight off illnesses from cold or flu to heart disease and cancer.

I’m grateful for my normal aging because I gain more wisdom over the years.

I’m grateful for my laughter because the sound helps lighten stress and bring bliss

I’m also grateful for being able to feel pain because pain could be my body’s alarm about a health concern, as well as an experience shared with many who are suffering.

The list can go on and on…

In reality, feeling and expressing gratitude can foster your happiness and boost your health. So, let your heart and days be filled with the spirit of the season—joy, peace, love, giving, harmony, and gratitude.

Let us spread the spirit of the Holidays!

 

Wellness & Fun Tips for End of the Summer

By Hui Xie-Zukauskas

kids-chase-a-bubble-at-a-family-picnic-397582-mLabor Day can really make you feel like the end of the summer. As you know, after this weekend various popular summertime attractions will close, including pools. For some people, summer is a relaxing break from work and a happy time with their families. For others, they may have struggled with hectic schedules and unusual stressful workloads.

From a health and wellness perspective, how can you take advantage of Labor Day weekend to relax, renew and recharge? I’ll offer these cancer prevention strategies and tips as a farewell to summer:

  1. Go to book or music festivals, food and wine festivals, as well as an outdoor event in town. It can relax your mind, foster your joy, and promote your fitness as you walk and move around.
  2. Enjoy healthy meals and family picnics. This is the time when you can pack some antioxidant-rich foods, try out some healthy recipes, cook and share delicious food with your family and friends.
  3. Have a fun for fitness. Have you heard anything like Family Backyard Triathlon? What a creative idea and a marvelous way to get everyone move more! Certainly, you can do it at a local park too. Whether it’s a jump rope, push-ups, run or holding a yoga pose, these challenges are more beneficial than TV and internet times. Also pleasurable are team sports.
  4. Head for the beach or lake. In addition to those on the road trip already, if you live nearby the beach, there is always something for everybody, for a family fun activity. Yet again, be mindful for sun safe and sun protection.
  5. Practice your well-deserved stress-relieve treatment. This long weekend is a great opportunity to de-stress, hence to strengthen your immune function. Enjoy a peaceful time for yourself, a treat, a walk, or anyway that works for you.

Whatever you do, wish you the most happy, healthy, and adventurous Labor Day Holiday ever!

 

Image credit: by hortongrou

A New Strategy for Developing Healthy Habits

Ghandi-Quote_Keep thoughts positiveMahatma Gandhi once said, “Your beliefs become your thoughts, your thoughts become your words, your words become your actions, your actions become your habits, your habits become your values, your values become your destiny.”                                                      

This wisdom from Gandhi can be applied not only for the sake of inspiration for personal development but also for motivation to develop healthy habits. Today, let’s talk about a strategy for many seemingly small battles that may be necessary for living a healthy lifestyle.

This strategy is to embrace Gandhi’s chain of connections, thoughts → words → actions → habits, by starting out with thoughts and then formulating those thoughts into words, which then influence your actions and finally lead to healthy habits.

For example, if you feel a craving for sugar or sugar-rich food, tell yourself “I can pass it up” or “I want to eat healthier food,” and say it out loud. Then do something to counteract the desire for sugar, such as eating some veggies or fruits or taking a walk. Each time when your craving comes back, think about your valuable health, repeat your words and your practice, realizing that the process of thoughts-words-behaviors-habits is connected with your results.

Since too much stress can influence us to eat too much or make other unhealthy choices, it is also very helpful for developing healthy habits to do the following: If you feel stressed out, give yourself a break. Shift your focus to relaxation or find something to laugh about. This can help keep your mind healthy, which is important because a healthy mind and healthy brain guides you to function more effectively as you move toward accomplishing whatever you do.

Let me reinforce this new strategy by citing another famous quotation from Gandhi – “Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.”  

 

Image credit: By getorganizedwizard.com

Coping with the Holiday Stress

By Hui Xie-Zukauskas

Family-unity_istock-photo-17507571Here we are in this festive Holiday Season full of beauty, joy, love, and cheer. But do you know that medical research shows that one of the clinical triggers for heart attack is holidays like Christmas and New Year’s day? Evidence also indicates that stress management can reduce the risk.

Holiday stress can come in various forms and levels, and from a wide range of activities, including gift shopping, cooking or baking, entertaining, partying, and traveling. Today, I’ll provide 30 strategies that can help you cope with stress during the Holidays and into the New Year.

First, understand stress versus your needs

Stress is a fact of life, even during the Holidays. It occurs when things seem to be going wrong or there’s too much to do and not enough time. One basic way to deal with things when you feel overwhelmed and stressed out is to set priorities and put things in perspective. Keep these points in mind this Holiday season:

  • Materials or gifts might bring you a moment of sensation or joy, but cannot fulfill your inner happiness.
  • Meeting outside social obligations and expectations might seem important, but it can’t replace time for family, friends, and fun.
  • Adjust your standards and any unrealistic desires so as to find happiness or contentment through satisfactory alternatives. Refocus on the “haves” instead of the “have-nots.”

Here are 30 easy ways to reduce holiday stress and change your mood:

  1. Have a dinner with your friend(s).
  2. Go for a long walk on a new route.
  3. Delegate family duties, such as cleaning or baking, to make it a teamwork time.
  4. Give yourself a time-out period. Just take a break.
  5. Go on a tour to see Christmas lighting decorations.
  6. Buy yourself a treat. It could be flowers, a delicious dinner, or whatever makes you feel special.
  7. Take a hot bath.
  8. Laugh, laugh, and laugh! You can easily find reasons to laugh and lighten up by going out to a bookstore and locating a humorous book, finding humorous pages online, or watching a funny video. Or, you can just laugh for no reason other than it makes you feel good.
  9. Watch an inspirational movie.
  10. Meditate.
  11. Start a gratitude journal.
  12. Take a yoga class. It surely reduces stress.
  13. Listen to music and dance with the beat. “Dance like nobody is watching.”
  14. Get a massage or spa treatment, a manicure or a pedicure, whatever you prefer.
  15. Breathe deeper, taking long, slow, deep breaths.
  16. Write a letter to an old friend.
  17. Call up an old friend out of blue to catch up or tell a joke.
  18. Read a magazine.
  19. Take a trip down memory lane by looking through those old photos.
  20. Try a new fitness movement or a new class at the gym.
  21. Go for a bike ride (by yourself or with your family).
  22. Work in your garden, decorate with a signature plant.
  23. Re-arrange your surroundings (a room or the office) and keep it clutter free.
  24. Go shopping or window-shopping to see what’s new in the marketplace.
  25. Visit a pet store or maybe buy a new pet for yourself.
  26. Create or try a new recipe.
  27. Volunteer to help a neighbor, a friend, or your community.
  28. Take a nap
  29. Have a good night’s sleep.
  30. Go outside and gaze at the sky or stars at night.

And one more for good measure: Learn to say NO. Don’t let “Yes” and “Yes” overwhelm you. Trust that people around you, at home or work, will understand when you say “No” once a while.

Choose whatever works best for you out of these de-stressing techniques. Think up your own additions to the list. Finally, remember these important “3Fs”:

The Holiday Season is a time for Family, Friends and Fun.

 Have a wonderful and safe Holiday!

 

Image credit: iStock

How to Foster and Practice Gratitude

By Hui Xie-Zukauskas

Gratitude_Bird-w-quoteHoliday seasons are a wonderful time for love and appreciation, but one could be so easily wrapped up with materials and hectic activities that the individual may forget about gratitude, leading to stress, depression or other negative emotions. A key ingredient for a happy holiday season is gratitude.

Gratitude implies both the thankfulness for help from others and a conscious, habitual focus on all positive aspects of life. Counting blessings has a proven effect on the well-being of humans.

Today, I’m going to emphasize the power of gratitude, and show you top 10 ways to cultivate gratitude.

Power and Benefits generated from gratitude:

  1. Gratitude helps us appreciate the world and connect the people around us.
  2. Gratitude helps us put things or situations into new, different perspectives.
  3. Gratitude helps us refocus on what we have instead of what we lack.
  4. Gratitude helps us reduce stress, increase healing and improve well-being.
  5. Gratitude makes us happier and healthier.

Remember: “It’s not happiness that brings us gratitude. It’s gratitude that brings us happiness.” So, there is no reason not to find something you are grateful for on a daily basis. Here is how you do it.

My name tagTop 10 ways to foster and practice gratitude:

  1. Do it the first thing in the morning. That’s a part of my daily routine. It can set a positive mood or mentality for the day ahead. Pray and thank God regardless of any form of religion.
  2. Use visual or decorative reminders, such as photos, famous quotes, cards or posts.
  3. Apply all your senses and appreciate what you see, hear, smell, taste, feel and touch. One of my favorite analogues is – Only when you’ve lost an arm (just one of the two) can you realize how precious it is.
  4. Count blessings with your family. This gives each member the opportunity to express appreciation for Three Blessings that he/she experienced during the day, week or month. This is also an effective way to sow gratitude seeds in your kid’s mind. I gave my parents credits for their influence on this.
  5. Write “Thank You” note (via cards, emails, or text messages) to people who helped or inspired you and those with whom you enjoyed time.
  6. Say “Thank You” more often and sincerely. Do not take any small, simple things that others do to make your life easier for granted.
  7. Keep a gratitude journal. There are plenty of tips on how to do so, but the key is to take notes regularly and consistently, if not daily.
  8. Practice meditation or yoga. These activities involve concentration on the present moment without judgment and expectation. You can also focus on what you are grateful for, e.g. pleasant sound, beautiful view, comfortable posture, etc.
  9. Replace complains with thanks. Whenever you encounter a tough situation in life, even unfairness, be thankful for the learning opportunity. Recalling difficulties in the past, you’ll discover how satisfied you are with what you have.
  10. Act on appreciation by doing someone a favor or supporting a great cause. Hey, we all know that actions are louder than words.

At the end, gratitude is strongly associated with well-being. Therefore, let’s promote wellness through fostering gratitude with simple practices regularly.

 

Image credit: By BK

Learn How to De-Stress Effectively and Quickly

By Hui Xie-Zukauskas

Have you ever had stress? I raise my hand first. However, let’s focus on why you need to de-stress and how.

calm-and-relaxation-2-899193-mMs. Antoinette Tuff is a remarkable example of handling an extremely stressful and dangerous situation with compassion, calm and courage. Facing the shooting standoff at an elementary school, she made the armed gunman surrender peacefully by sharing her personal life struggles with him, and prevented a tragedy like Newtown shooting. At the end, nobody was hurt and hundreds of kids were safe.

Stress is inescapable, though the magnitude may vary. From an illness or death of a loved one, divorce, loss of job, debt and a serious health issue to a bad day at work, a parking ticket or traffic jams, and a conflict with someone, you may experience sorrow, worry, anxiety, fear, frustration or anger, depending on the situation.

How can stress contribute to heart disease and cancer? 

sorrow-and-worry-692910-mAlthough the direct effects of stress on these illnesses still remain less clear, considerable research has shown that stress-related psychological factors change the human body in various ways:

  1. Stress can increase inflammation. Research reveals that higher levels of C-reactive proteins, a protein that responds to inflammation, occur when individuals engage in a stressful situation. Prolonged stress and negative emotions also alter the normal immune response, resulting in the production of pro-inflammatory chemical messengers to trigger inflammation, instead of regulating inflammation. As discussed in our previous posts, inflammation plays an important role in many diseases such as cardiovascular disease and cancer.
  2. Stress can negatively impact the immune system. The stress of everyday life has been shown to significantly bring down the immune response. The immune system is a critical element when it comes to preventing, intensifying and/or treating chronic illnesses such as heart disease and cancer.
  3. Stress can facilitate free radicals production. Free radicals in your body participate in the aging process, infections, chronic inflammation, and DNA damage, eventually causing various cancers.
  4. Stress is a contributor to the progression of illnesses. Stress-related psychosocial factors (e.g. depression, anger and anxiety) have an adverse effect on cancer incidence and survival, as well as on the development of heart disease and its level of intensity. Some studies actually suggest that chronic stress is a primary cause of more than 95% of all types of disease conditions.

Because stress can impose chaos on both the mind and the body, minimizing or managing stress is a must for your healthy, long, and productive life.

Here are 10 effective strategies and tips to reduce or minimize stress:

1. Ensure a restful sleep.
65% of American adults suffer from sleep deprivation. Having at least 6-7 hours of sleep is essential for a relaxed body and mind, plus a less stressful day ahead.

2. Maintain gratitude and positive attitude.
Gratitude keeps you happy, so express appreciation for simple things. Positive attitude gives you an optimistic outlook and constructive perspectives. I believe this strategy is profoundly helpful to practice daily. I’m grateful for my loving family, for having knowledge, skills I can help people, making the world a better place, and for the opportunity I can serve.

3. Identify a trigger or stressor, and find the solution(s) for it.
Numerous factors can cause stress, as we talked about earlier. Now the question is – what’s yours? Next, use all your senses such as sights, smell, sound, taste, and touch to find out the best solution to your problem.

4. Exercise, exercise and exercise.
It’s a really effective stress-reliever, a great way to improve your body, your mind and your overall feeling.

5. Have fun and a sense of humor even if it seems hopeless or powerless. Try to take your mind off your problem.

6. Practice your unique stress-relieving techniques.
It could be soothing music, meditation, a relaxing message or a weekend get-away-trip. It could also come in simple things like deep breathing or a hot bath or playing with kids, as long as it works for you.

7. Enhance overall well-being.
Mental and emotional well-being is not separated from other areas of your life, so maintain and enhance other areas of well-being such as family well-being, financial well-being, career well-being and relationship well-being.

8. Have a balanced diet.
Physical factors (e.g. poor diet, mal-nutrition and food allergy) can play a substantial part in mental and emotional difficulties. So, eat well, and eat a lot antioxidant-rich foods.

9. Choose your priorities and have realistic expectations.
If you have trouble with time management or saying “NO”, you need to pick your battles. Set a priority for the most important, yet urgent, and also avoid putting things off.

10. Show love to someone or a cause. 
This is one of the lessons that Antoinette Tuff taught us through her action under weighty stress. Her kindness, love, compassion and connection with the troubled young man made a difference in the outcome of the Georgia elementary school shooting that day.

Finally, believe everything will be OK to 69% of employees who consider that work is a significant source of stress, and to more than 50% of adults who say that family responsibilities are stressful (based on American Psychological Association’s data).

Next time when stressed, let’s think of Antoinette Tuff, a true hero and an inspiring role model. Also remember: “Push past the pain”, and “It’s going to be alright, sweetie”.

Image credits: by mancity and by juliaf