Reading – The Great Escape from Stress

Reading – The Great Escape from Stress

I just finished the Twilight Saga by Stephenie Meyer and I have to say that I really enjoyed it.  I had shied away from books for a while, but since Twilight is such a big teen pop-culture breakthrough, I finally read the books- and I’m glad I did because now I want to read more often.  Here are some facts about reading:

It can take us to exotic lands, with powdery white beaches and clear azure skies.  It can take us back in time—even to prehistoric days—or forward to the Big Brother world of the 25th century.  It can fill our eyes with tears or make us laugh aloud.  Reading opens a window to the world, giving us a vision of things we never dreamed possible.  But, though you might not realize it, reading can also reduce your stress level.

For one thing, reading can help with problem-solving, which, in and of itself, can relieve stress.   Say you are overweight, and that is contributing to your stress. It seems that the more weight you gain, the more stressed out you become, and the more you eat.

By reading books about good nutrition, you can learn to plan meals that are low-cal and low-fat.  As a result, your weight problem might disappear—and your stress level will be greatly improved.

Reading can also be relaxing.  When you curl up with a good book, you put the rest of the world at bay.  You take time out to travel to distant worlds, to learn about different time periods, and to expose yourself to out-of-this-world philosophies.  You are essentially taking a vacation of the mind—but one that can be relatively cost-free, especially if you live near a library.

Reading can be a source of great hope, which can also help to relieve your stress.  Through biographies, you can read about famous people and learn how they overcame their struggles.  These stories of triumph might inspire you to seek ways to overcome the challenges in your own life.  Inspirational books can send your spirit soaring, enabling you to accomplish things you never dreamed possible.

Of course, there are instances when reading can raise your stress level.  For instance, if you are studying for a test, or reading about tragedies in your local newspaper, you might find your stress level skyrocketing.  That is why it is important to be choosy when it comes to your reading material.  If you’re feeling stressed, pick up a book that will relax you—perhaps a travel book, a cookbook, or a book of poetry.  Resist the urge to read something that could simply make you feel more troubled.

Self-help books are particularly effective in helping to reduce stress.  They allow you to explore your feelings and the triggers that lead to stress.  And they recommend such techniques as listening to soothing music, playing a musical instrument, playing cards, or engaging in deep breathing in order to deal with stressful situations.

Or you might buy a book to learn about a hobby that can further reduce your stress.  Perhaps it’s needlepoint, woodworking, or crochet.  It may be origami, calligraphy, or stenciling.  You can learn how to refinish furniture, paint, renovate your kitchen, or redecorate your bathroom.  You can either build upon a skill you already have, or learn a new one from scratch.

It has been shown that reading novels can relieve depression, so it should come as no surprise that such an activity can also reduce your stress.  When you read a novel, you travel to a distant place, metaphorically speaking.  This allows you to use your imagination freely as you try to picture characters and settings.  It’s a wonderful escape from the pressures of everyday living, and can allow you to return to your life feeling more refreshed.

Reading also forces you to concentrate—concentration which might be otherwise lost due to stress.  As a result, you learn to exercise your mind—an exercise that can bear much fruit.  Thanks to your reading, you may notice you find it easier to remember things which can, in turn, reduce your stress level.

If you find that you don’t like to read, you might start with graphic novels.  These comic book-like creations might appeal to you because of their interesting pictures.  Or you might simply start with glossy magazines.  In the long run, it doesn’t matter so much what you read as how much you read.  Read in the grocery line, at the bank, or while pedaling your stationary bike.  You’ll quickly find that the more you read, the more you will want to read, and the less stress you will feel.

Bloggers Unite World Aids Day

Bloggers Unite

Bloggers Unite

I’m over a month late, but Dec 1, 2008 was Bloggers Unite World AIDS Day.  Better late than never.

More than 33 million people are living with HIV worldwide, including 2.5 million new cases in 2007 alone. For the United States, the latest numbers indicate that more than 1 million Americans are living with HIV-and one in four of them did not know it.
Behaviors associated with drug abuse are among the main factors in the spread of HIV infection in the United States.

Drugs can change the way the brain works, disrupting the parts of the brain that people use to weigh risks and benefits when making decisions.

This site connects you to information about the link between drug abuse and HIV infection. It contains information for young people, parents and teachers, and the media with links to our latest research findings and news updates. Read on to Learn the Link between drug abuse and HIV and to help us Send the Message.

Help Animals in Need

cute-kittenweeeThe ASPCA was founded in 1866 as the first humane organization in the Western Hemisphere. The Society was formed to alleviate the injustices animals faced then, and we continue to battle cruelty today. Whether it’s saving a pet who has been accidentally poisoned, fighting to pass humane laws, rescuing animals from abuse or sharing resources with shelters across the country, we work toward the day in which no animal will live in pain or fear. Learn more about the ASPCA »
http://www.aspca.org/

Come and join us in the fight to end animal cruelty—become an ASPCA Member today!

January is National Blood Donor Month

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January is National Blood Donor Month

Start off the new year right, by donating blood to the Red Cross or your local blood bank in honor of National Blood Donor Month. The process only takes an hour of your time, and results in lifesaving platelets or pints of blood for those in need.

Hundreds of thousands of healthy people with good, visible veins  donate blood every year. I have seen the Red Cross donation truck parked at shopping malls, grocery store parking lots, and schools and there are donation centers located nationwide. All blood types are needed and with more traffic accidents happening during the winter season, clean backup blood is sparse this time of year.

The first month of the year has been recognized as National Blood Donor Month since 1970. According to the American Association of Blood Banks, now known as AABB, in the United States every day, “approximately 39,000 units of blood are required in hospitals and emergency treatment facilities for patients with cancer and other diseases, for organ transplant recipients, and to help save the lives of accident victims.” The AABB works in conjunction with the American Red Cross and America’s Blood Centers and their main goal is to help those in need of blood, especially in harsh winter environments due to illness, accidents, and unforeseen weather conditions.

In order to donate blood, you have to meet certain donor requirements. The most important is that you must be at least 17 years old in order to give blood voluntarily, although some states do consent at 16 with written parental consent. You must be at least 110 pounds, you should be healthy meaning without infection, not on antibiotics, without a fever, and generally feeling well on day of donation. You may only donate if you have not given blood within 8 weeks.  The rest of the guidelines are available here from the American Red Cross.

CEO of America’s Blood Centers, Jim MacPherson says that a major shortage during the cold season could risk lives if people don’t try to donate on a regular basis. “To avert critical blood shortages this winter, we need citizens across the country to schedule an appointment to donate blood…. Blood has a shelf life of only 42 days, which means it constantly needs to be replenished. Donors can give blood every 56 days, or six times a year.”

Teachers and students around the country can also benefit from blood donor month without even having to donate blood. Because elementary age students are unable to donate, donation centers offer classes and demonstrations on how a blood bank works including the different types of blood, the blood donation process, all while providing a community service and an informative lesson plan for schools and home school families.

By inviting a spokesperson to talk to your class or organizing a field trip to your local blood bank, teachers can inspire their students to do more in the future and donate themselves. If you are too young to donate or have non-viable veins like me, you can still help by offering a monetary donation or simply by volunteering your help during this important donation window. Once the New Year is over, the champagne is gone, and the parties are cleaned up, think about donating blood this January, you might even get a slice of pizza or a free t-shirt.

New Year’s Resolutions

happy_new_year_fireworksNew Year’s Resolutions

I hope you all are enjoying the holidays and no matter where you live, I hope you have a happy and festive new year.  New Year’s Eve has always been a time for looking back to the past, and more importantly, forward to the coming year. It’s a time to reflect on the changes we want (or need) to make and resolve to follow through on those changes. Did your New Year resolutions make this top-ten list?

1. Spend More Time with Family & Friends

Recent polls conducted by General Nutrition Centers, Quicken, and others shows that more than 50% of Americans vow to appreciate loved ones and spend more time with family and friends this year.  Work shouldn’t always come first!

2. Fit in Fitness

The evidence is in for fitness. Regular exercise has been associated with more health benefits than anything else known to man. Studies show that it reduces the risk of some cancers, increases longevity, helps achieve and maintain weight loss, enhances mood, lowers blood pressure, and even improves arthritis. In short, exercise keeps you healthy and makes you look and feel better.

3. Tame the Bulge

Over 66 percent of adult Americans are considered overweight or obese by recent studies, so it is not surprising to find that weight loss is one of the most popular New Year’s resolutions. Setting reasonable goals and staying focused are the two most important factors in sticking with a weight loss program, and the key to success for those millions of Americans who made a New Year’s commitment to shed extra pounds.

4. Quit Smoking

If you have resolved to make this the year that you stamp out your smoking habit, over-the-counter availability of nicotine replacement therapy now provides easier access to proven quit-smoking aids. Even if you’ve tried to quit before and failed, don’t let it get you down. On average, smokers try about four times before they quit for good. Start enjoying the rest of your smoke-free life!

5. Enjoy Life More

Given the hectic, stressful lifestyles of millions of Americans, it is no wonder that “enjoying life more” has become a popular resolution in recent years. It’s an important step to a happier and healthier you! Just get out and try something new! Take up a new hobby or try your hand at skiing. Go to a theater performance, or head to the local spa.

6. Quit Drinking

While many people use the New Year as an incentive to finally stop drinking, most are not equipped to make such a drastic lifestyle change all at once. Many heavy drinkers fail to quit cold turkey but do much better when they taper gradually, or even learn to moderate their drinking. If you have decided that you want to stop drinking, there is a world of help and support available. E-mail me if you want more details.

7. Get Out of Debt

Was money a big source of stress in your life last year? Join the millions of Americans who have resolved to spend this year getting a handle on their finances. It’s a promise that will repay itself many times over in the year ahead.

8. Learn Something New

Have you vowed to make this year the year to learn something new? Perhaps you are considering a career change, want to learn a new language, or just how to fix your computer? Whether you take a course or read a book, you’ll find education to be one of the easiest, most motivating New Year’s resolutions to keep.  Most local colleges and universities offer distance and adult education programs.

9. Help Others

A popular, non-selfish New Year’s resolution, volunteerism can take many forms. Whether you choose to spend time helping out at your local library, mentoring a child, or building a house, there are many nonprofit volunteer organizations that could really use your help. If your time is really in short supply, maybe you can at least find it in you to donate the furniture, clothing and other household items that you no longer need, rather than leaving them out by the curb to fill up our landfills.

10. Get Organized

On just about every New Year resolution top ten list, organization can be a very reasonable goal. Whether you want your home organized enough that you can invite someone over on a whim, or your office organized enough that you can find the stapler when you need it, these tips and resources should get you started on the way to a more organized life.

If this isn’t one of your New Year’s Resolutions, please leave a comment to let others know what you’re doing to improve your life throughout 2009.

My Memorable Blog Posts from 2008:

The Last Autumn Leaf

Beyond the Storm

The Calling

Harmony of the Worlds

Staying Positive in Tough Times

Turn Around the Negative Self-Talk

Anima Mundi

The Optimism Test

Flow

The Key

The Breakthrough