Take Time to Care

by | May 1, 2024

May brings us to the time to focus on our mental wellness/wellbeing. This is such an important piece of our wellness, I wanted to start with how we might define mental wellness/wellbeing with a special focus on caregivers. 

First Lady Rosalynn Carter’s famous quote reminds us, There are only four kinds of people in the world — those that have been caregivers, those that are caregivers, those who will be caregivers, and those who will need caregivers.” The business of caregiving is unavoidable and a necessary part of all of our lives.

“Mental wellbeing is how we respond to life’s ups and downs.” In this simple mental wellbeing definition lies deeper meaning and implication for our lives. It includes how a person thinks, handles emotion (emotional wellness), and acts.

These traits—which are all actually skills we can practice and develop—are all part of mental wellbeing:

  • Self-acceptance
  • Sense of self as part of something greater
  • Sense of self as independent rather than dependent on others for identity or happiness
  • Knowing and using our unique character strengths
  • Accurate perception of reality, knowing that we can’t mind-read and that our thoughts aren’t always true
  • Desire for continued growth
  • Thriving in the face of adversity (emotional resilience)
  • Having and pursuing interests
  • Knowing and remaining true to values
  • Maintaining emotionally healthy relationships
  • Optimism (hope—the mindset that things can improve)
  • Happiness that comes from within rather than being dependent on external conditions
  • Determination
  • Action (in contrast to a passive mindset and lifestyle, waiting for things to get better)

People who develop and experience wellbeing also have what psychological researcher, Angela Duckworth, calls grit. Grit is comprised of passions and perseverance and means showing up for life. It’s a never-give-up attitude. Grit doesn’t mean never failing, for failure is part of success and life itself. Grit means getting back up when you fall.

Together, all of this defines mental wellbeing. It’s purposely moving ever forward with determination and direction.” (*excerpt from https://www.healthyplace.com)

Our mental and emotional health and wellbeing is a serious subject so this month I really wanted to rely on some experts and data to highlight the need and importance for us.

In this first article, How Caregiving Really Affects Mental Health, data from a national poll of 2,012 American adults ages 18+ show that caregivers suffer from anxiety and depression at higher rates than non-caregivers. In the May 2022 survey, 36% of caregivers said they suffer from depression/anxiety, a figure that is 114% higher than reported by non-caregivers. In addition, sixty percent of caregivers said they are anxious at least once a week, compared to only 39% of non-caregivers, and caregivers are 90% more likely than non-caregivers to experience anxiety daily. The Survey also showed that while 70% of caregivers agreed that they need regular mental/emotional health breaks (compared to only 50% of non-caregivers), and 56% acknowledged that taking a day off from their responsibilities (e.g. family, work, etc.) is unrealistic for them.

Next, in this scientific study, Physical and Mental Health Effects of Family Caregiving, it states, “Evidence on the health effects of caregiving gathered over the last two decades has helped convince policymakers that caregiving is a major public health issue.” And yet, we are still advocating for more resources and support. The study also says that there are also positive effects to caregiving, caregivers reported “that caregiving makes them feel good about themselves and as if they are needed, gives meaning to their lives, enables them to learn new skills, and strengthens their relationships with others.” 

It is a constant balancing act, so, what I would like to offer you this month is a 14 day plan to begin to put your mental and emotional health as a priority. I recommend that you track your daily actions in a journal of some kind so that you can reflect on each step.

14 Days to a Better You

It is sometimes hard to define whether the worst part of stress is its source – work issues, family problems, or keeping up with a house that is in constant need of cleaning or fixing; OR is it the effects on you – tight muscles, anxiety, or sleeplessness. Here is a “prescription” to take back your mind, body, and spirit – fourteen days to finding your mental and emotional calm.

Day 1: Survey your support system. I call this my “Lifeboat”.  Make a list of 3-5 people you could turn to for advice and a helping hand. Just knowing that they are there can make you feel more resilient. Send them a note letting them know they are in your boat how much that means to you. 

Day 2: Plant something. Even if it is just a small pot of herbs for your kitchen or an air plant or succulent. Studies show that gardening can help shift the focus away from stressors and give you a sense of calm. And if gardening isn’t your “thing” perhaps just buying yourself a bunch of flowers would help.

Day 3: Take a break. Have a cup of tea. Regularly drinking black tea can lower stress hormones and induce feelings of relaxation. (This is one I can easily remember! I love tea!)

   

Day 4: Get a massage. Even a short 15-minute shoulder or foot massage can chip away at accumulated stress and calm your nerves. Even a quick hand massage can help – press your thumb and forefinger of one hand between the fleshy part of your hand between your thumb and forefinger on the other hand. Hold for 60 seconds. And make sure to do both hands for maximum benefits.

Day 5: Get distracted. Play solitary games like solitaire or sudoku, or do crossword puzzles. Find one that you really like so that you become so absorbed you lose track of time. (I am a crossword puzzle fan.)

Day 6: Be grateful. Make a list of three to five specific things you are grateful for. When you focus on the good in your life it flips a switch in your brain and stress will recede. Make this a daily practice.

Day 7: Think Pink. A bubblegum shade of pink has been shown to have a soothing effect so add a little pink to your wardrobe or your home or office space. It can be as easy as using pink Post-it notes.

Day 8: Take a Drive. When you can, change your commute to take a more scenic route to or from work or just running errands. This will give you a chance to either set your thoughts for the day or unwind on the way home.

Day 9: De-tangle Yourself. Make a point to stand up and stretch if you have been sitting for more than 45 minutes. Consciously release the tension that has built up in your neck, shoulders, back, etc. And, BREATHE! Three deep breaths!

Day 10: Lend a Hand. Reaching out to someone else in need gets you away from your own worries and can often put things in perspective to make you feel better about your own circumstances. 

Day 11: Laugh a Little. The minute you start laughing your body turns on the feel-good endorphins that boost your mood. And you double the dose when you’re laughing with someone.

Day 12: Turn off the Tube. TV’s constant bombardment of information can add to feelings of anxiety so give yourself a night off. Find a more relaxing visual or aural stimulation – like reading or listening to music.

Day 13: Put up a Stop Sign. When stressful thoughts start creeping in, visualize holding up a bright red stop sign. Take three deep breaths and decide your next turn. Turn towards a more positive thought.

Day 14: There is a Bigger Plan. As problems arise, ask yourself, “Will this matter in three months? Three years?” Try to see the bigger picture and take small steps to a better outcome.

Just writing these down has given me a chance to assess some of my own stressors and I will be taking my own advice for the next fourteen days. I’d love to hear if any of these ideas resonated with you.

If you are ready to take control of your health and wellness journey, Alaka’i Associates is here to be your guide. Contact me for a free 30 minute discovery call to get started.

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UNDER A FULL MOON AND A GUIDING STAR

“Under a Full Moon and a Guiding Star is a poignant and powerful testimony to the human spirit.   It takes great courage, and much love, to bear one’s soul in an effort to care for others.  Lani’s courage and great love for her family, culture, and others, is apparent as she courageously shares many valuable tools she employed in her healing process and while fulfilling her self proclaimed purpose of caring for others.  Thank you Lani for your brilliant work and warrior spirit.  You speak from the heart and your love and light show through each page, from beginning to end.”   Debbie C., NC 

ORDER YOUR COPY TODAY AND SHARE YOUR REVIEW WITH ME AND/OR ON AMAZON. MAHALO!

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Feeling the burn on daily stress? These five ingredients can help. 

Right now, it seems like stress is just a part of life. Taking care of kids, working hard on our careers, and paying the bills – not to mention current world events – can put us in a daily pressure cooker if we’re not careful. 

While stress levels fluctuate with changing conditions, and even though some days even reducing stress might seem like more of a pipe dream than an actuality, it doesn’t mean we have to become victims. And we certainly don’t need to simply sit back and take it. 

There are a few things you can do to reduce stress right now. Spending a few minutes deep breathing, for example, can drastically reduce feelings of stress. Getting plenty of rest at night and regular exercise can also take stress levels down a notch or two. 

But few of us actually consider the effects that diet can have on our stress levels. We are what we eat, and food can help our stress levels either go up or down (down is better). If you’re feeling frazzled, it’s a good idea to take inventory of your diet because food might be playing a bigger role in your stress levels than you think. 

So which foods reduce stress? That’s what we’re here to help you find out. 

L-Theanine 

It’s widely known that tea can have a calming, relaxing effect on the body. In its caffeinated form, it’s a better alternative to black coffee in the morning. And a nice decaffeinated tea is the perfect way to wind down during the day. But what’s at the heart of tea’s calming properties? An anxiolytic called L-Theanine. L-Theanine is found in tea leaves and some mushrooms, and it comes with a number of health benefits. It also has positive effects on the brain, including promoting a greater sense of relaxation and lower stress while also promoting healthier, sustained energy without overstimulation. From promoting cognitive performance, to aiding in focus and mental acuity, there’s a lot to love about L-Theanine.* 

Ashwagandha 

Ashwagandha, “most commonly known as Indian ginseng,” is an ingredient used for centuries in ayurvedic medicine. Ashwagandha is a small shrub that you can find in India or North Africa – or your local natural food store if that’s more convenient. It’s also an adaptogen, which means Ashwagandha can help your body manage stress by combating the effects of cortisol – the stress hormone. But Ashwagandha’s stress-reducing powers don’t end there. It’s also been used as a way to support memory enhancement and restful sleep due to a group of chemical compounds called withanolides.

Lavender 

You may have heard fans of essential oils extolling the calming, relaxing benefits of lavender. You might have then written those claims off as woo-woo nonsense. Lavender, however, actually works, and there’s a good scientific reason why. Lavender helps calm the brain and nervous system. It also has been shown to support healthy cortisol levels. So go ahead and give lavender a try. You might like it. 

Ginger 

You might use ginger in your stir fry recipe. Why not? It’s delicious. But it’s also one of the natural ingredients to reduce stress. That’s because the presence of ginger, which helps counteract the effects of everyday stress and promotes a healthy inflammation response. 

If you want to incorporate more ginger into your diet, we recommend using natural ginger to do the job. It’s also available in supplement form, but recommended doses vary. Ginger increases the level of two of the most important chemicals – serotonin and dopamine. Serotonin is your “happiness molecule” and it’s critical for sustaining a positive mood. Dopamine, on the other hand, is called the “motivation molecule because it helps you focus and remain productive. 

Tulsi

The name sounds regal and the actual herb lives up to it. Tulsi is known as the queen of herbs, and it’s found in India, Australia, West Africa, and some Middle Eastern countries. It is considered a sacred plant by Hindus, and it also comes with both antioxidant and adaptogenic properties that help the body manage stress. Specifically, Tulsi helps by calming the mind and having a positive effect on memory and cognitive function.  

Tulsi mitigates stress by helping support healthy cortisol levels. Often called “the stress hormone,” cortisol regulates and controls the influence of many of the physical and emotional changes that occur in the body in response to stress. Cortisol plays an important role in the body, releasing a boost of energy and strength in times of “flight or fight.” That’s great – except that our bodies aren’t built to remain in a constant state of stress. Regular use of Tulsi helps to balance the body on all levels and support its response to everyday stressors.

Take Control of Your Stress Levels

If you’re feeling overwhelmed, you’re not alone. We all deal with stress and anxiety on some level. In many ways, our minds weren’t built to handle the pressures of modern life. That’s why it’s important to take control of our stress levels instead of simply accepting them as a part of daily life. 

Unfortunately, there is no one-size-fits-all, silver-bullet solution to living a stress-free life. First of all, we’re all different. What works for you might not work for anyone else. Activities like mindfulness, deep breathing, and yoga can give you a good start. Then take a look at your diet and see if there are any proven stress-reducing ingredients that you can substitute into your meals or routines. Replacing coffee with tea, for example, is a simple first step to bringing more calm into your life. From there, experiment and adapt. Biohacking is, after all, a highly personalized journey. And one that you’ll really enjoy.

By Greg Fox 

* The views expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of LifeVantage or any other agency, organization, employer or company

** LifeVantage’s Marketing team may from time to time publish blog articles reporting information and research from third-party sources. The views and opinions expressed by these third-party sources as reported in LifeVantage blog articles are those of the authors and experts quoted therein and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of LifeVantage.

Alaka’i Associates can help guide you to these healthy resources and more…

https://lanialmanza.lifevantage.com/us-en/

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