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How To Balance Family And Work To Reduce Stress

How To Balance Family And Work To Reduce Stress

Because Americans are so busy these days, they are becoming more stressed. Back in the 1950s, the workers would go to their job, put in their eight hours, and come home to relax. Today, people bring work home. They constantly check their office email through their smartphones, respond to inquiries immediately (even if it’s time for dinner), and read reports late into the evening. This ability to be constantly connected is harming people’s health. It’s time we go back to finding that balance between work and family life.

Many personal development books suggest that incorporating play time and leisure into your work week is necessary. In fact, many companies require employees to take off vacation time to relax and recharge their batteries. However, before you can reconnect with your family, you first have to reconnect with yourself. You must find coping skills for anxiety and deal with your stress, whether it stems from home pressures or work-related issues.

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Ways To Reduce Stress

  1. Meditation is a great form of reducing stress because it forces you to forget the world around you and be quiet. You listen to your own breathing and your thoughts. You are able to find peace, even if only for a short time. This 15-minute-a-day activity can improve your health and eliminate your anxiety.
  2. Yoga uses breathing and exercises to help you reduce your stress. In many of the moves, you have to focus on a fixed spot to keep your balance. This focus forces you to remove those work pressures from your mind. As you get more limber, you can try deeper breathing and focusing techniques that improve your ability to let go of stress.
  3. Exercise is important for health and reducing stress. The more movement you create, the healthier your heart is. When the heart is healthy, you have less stress, less anxiety, and more energy to conquer those problems. Exercise also allows you to reduce weight, lower blood pressure, and think clearly.
  4. Prayer can reduce stress and anxiety. The Bible says to give your burdens to God. He will take care of them for you. If you pray, you soon will relax. You might even figure out the answers to your problems.
  5. Singing is not a common therapy for anxiety and stress, but it works. When you sing, you tune into your emotions. If you sing songs you like, you will get rid of the problems that worry you. Breakthrough Performance Workshop teaches people how to use singing to remove stress.
  6. Acupuncture relieves anxiety and stress. According to the Jade Tree Wellness Center, acupuncture uses pressure points to relieve anxiety.
  7. Massage Therapy is another way to reduce stress. Therapeutic massage is designed to heal tension in your muscles. This tension is often caused by stress.

How To Balance Family And Work

Once you have relieved your stress and anxiety, you are better equipped to handle crises at home or in the office. You can listen to the complaints of your children and not think of them as purely criticism. You can think clearly to come up with a solution. At work, you will focus more on problem-solving and what needs to be done. Still, you can do things to keep the two forces from stressing you out.

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  1. Family Fun Days or Nights. Dedicate one night or day a week to your family. Turn off the cellphones or ignore them. Do something fun. Every week, ask a different family member to choose. This makes each member feel important.
  2. Regular Meals. It is so hard today to have everyone at the dinner table and engaged. Even while eating together, so many members are using their phones. Try to make it a rule that no phones are allowed at the table. Get together regularly for food.
  3. Talk. It doesn’t matter what the subject is. Find something to say to your spouse or children. Don’t make the conversation about issues, but about other things, such as movies or other interests. Ask about your kid’s dreams and encourage them.
  4. Family Vacations. They might be costly, but you and your children need them. Plan a vacation somewhere so you can relax. Even if you can’t travel, you can take off a week and do things with your family around your hometown.

Experts agree that reducing stress is essential in balancing your work life with your family life. Take these steps to eliminate the negative forces in your life and replace them with positive influences.

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Featured photo credit: 10 Ways to Instantly Reduce Stress at Work via lifehack.org

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Last Updated on July 17, 2019

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

What happens in our heads when we set goals?

Apparently a lot more than you’d think.

Goal setting isn’t quite so simple as deciding on the things you’d like to accomplish and working towards them.

According to the research of psychologists, neurologists, and other scientists, setting a goal invests ourselves into the target as if we’d already accomplished it. That is, by setting something as a goal, however small or large, however near or far in the future, a part of our brain believes that desired outcome is an essential part of who we are – setting up the conditions that drive us to work towards the goals to fulfill the brain’s self-image.

Apparently, the brain cannot distinguish between things we want and things we have. Neurologically, then, our brains treat the failure to achieve our goal the same way as it treats the loss of a valued possession. And up until the moment, the goal is achieved, we have failed to achieve it, setting up a constant tension that the brain seeks to resolve.

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Ideally, this tension is resolved by driving us towards accomplishment. In many cases, though, the brain simply responds to the loss, causing us to feel fear, anxiety, even anguish, depending on the value of the as-yet-unattained goal.

Love, Loss, Dopamine, and Our Dreams

The brains functions are carried out by a stew of chemicals called neurotransmitters. You’ve probably heard of serotonin, which plays a key role in our emotional life – most of the effective anti-depressant medications on the market are serotonin reuptake inhibitors, meaning they regulate serotonin levels in the brain leading to more stable moods.

Somewhat less well-known is another neurotransmitter, dopamine. Among other things, dopamine acts as a motivator, creating a sensation of pleasure when the brain is stimulated by achievement. Dopamine is also involved in maintaining attention – some forms of ADHD are linked to irregular responses to dopamine.[1]

So dopamine plays a key role in keeping us focused on our goals and motivating us to attain them, rewarding our attention and achievement by elevating our mood. That is, we feel good when we work towards our goals.

Dopamine is related to wanting – to desire. The attainment of the object of our desire releases dopamine into our brains and we feel good. Conversely, the frustration of our desires starves us of dopamine, causing anxiety and fear.

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One of the greatest desires is romantic love – the long-lasting, “till death do us part” kind. It’s no surprise, then, that romantic love is sustained, at least in part, through the constant flow of dopamine released in the presence – real or imagined – of our true love. Loss of romantic love cuts off that supply of dopamine, which is why it feels like you’re dying – your brain responds by triggering all sorts of anxiety-related responses.

Herein lies obsession, as we go to ever-increasing lengths in search of that dopamine reward. Stalking specialists warn against any kind of contact with a stalker, positive or negative, because any response at all triggers that reward mechanism. If you let the phone ring 50 times and finally pick up on the 51st ring to tell your stalker off, your stalker gets his or her reward, and learns that all s/he has to do is wait for the phone to ring 51 times.

Romantic love isn’t the only kind of desire that can create this kind of dopamine addiction, though – as Captain Ahab (from Moby Dick) knew well, any suitably important goal can become an obsession once the mind has established ownership.

The Neurology of Ownership

Ownership turns out to be about a lot more than just legal rights. When we own something, we invest a part of ourselves into it – it becomes an extension of ourselves.

In a famous experiment at Cornell University, researchers gave students school logo coffee mugs, and then offered to trade them chocolate bars for the mugs. Very few were willing to make the trade, no matter how much they professed to like chocolate. Big deal, right? Maybe they just really liked those mugs![2]

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But when they reversed the experiment, handing out chocolate and then offering to trade mugs for the candy, they found that now, few students were all that interested in the mugs. Apparently the key thing about the mugs or the chocolate wasn’t whether students valued whatever they had in their possession, but simply that they had it in their possession.

This phenomenon is called the “endowment effect”. In a nutshell, the endowment effect occurs when we take ownership of an object (or idea, or person); in becoming “ours” it becomes integrated with our sense of identity, making us reluctant to part with it (losing it is seen as a loss, which triggers that dopamine shut-off I discussed above).

Interestingly, researchers have found that the endowment effect doesn’t require actual ownership or even possession to come into play. In fact, it’s enough to have a reasonable expectation of future possession for us to start thinking of something as a part of us – as jilted lovers, gambling losers, and 7-year olds denied a toy at the store have all experienced.

The Upshot for Goal-Setters

So what does all this mean for would-be achievers?

On one hand, it’s a warning against setting unreasonable goals. The bigger the potential for positive growth a goal has, the more anxiety and stress your brain is going to create around it’s non-achievement.

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It also suggests that the common wisdom to limit your goals to a small number of reasonable, attainable objectives is good advice. The more goals you have, the more ends your brain thinks it “owns” and therefore the more grief and fear the absence of those ends is going to cause you.

On a more positive note, the fact that the brain rewards our attentiveness by releasing dopamine means that our brain is working with us to direct us to achievement. Paying attention to your goals feels good, encouraging us to spend more time doing it. This may be why outcome visualization — a favorite technique of self-help gurus involving imagining yourself having completed your objectives — has such a poor track record in clinical studies. It effectively tricks our brain into rewarding us for achieving our goals even though we haven’t done it yet!

But ultimately, our brain wants us to achieve our goals, so that it’s a sense of who we are that can be fulfilled. And that’s pretty good news!

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Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com

Reference

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