It's common to feel frenzied with a busy schedule, but it's possible to enjoy life and thrive with a hectic lifestyle - if it's loaded with good stress, the kind that's energising and motivating. How do you tell good stress from bad?
Stress that's good
Facing something with enough excitement to override any fears.
Having a filled-to-the-brim schedule that still contains several activities that you look forward to and enjoy doing.
Having more commitments that you care about - marriage, motherhood, valued employee and community volunteer.
Working towards a valued goal and knowing that life will slow down once you achieve it.
Feeling challenged and alert - primed to tackle the task at hand.
Being tired enough to get restful, deep sleep.
Stress that's bad
Facing something with a mixture of dread, worry and anxiety.
Having an overloaded schedule stuffed with obligations that you don't enjoy and wouldn't fulfil if you had a choice.
Feeling that what you do is unimportant, unfulfilling and not worth the effort and time.
Feeling out of control and overwhelmed, with no end in sight and no help on the horizon.
Wanting to stay in all the time rather than take a stab at getting through the day.
Having restless sleep, ulcers, back pain or recurrent illnesses.
Spread The laughter (RD May 2008 Edition)
You're healthier now, having chuckled your way through some of the pages in this issue of Reader's Digest, than you were before you started reading.
Laughter reduces stress, improves memory and helps keep our hearts healthy. The ability to laugh is hard-wired into our systems, and new research shows that it's not only good for us, it's contagious. There's a reason sitcoms are funnier when we're in a group: when we see someone laugh, our brain seems to activate "mirror neurons" that send us into the same fit of laughter.
A little fun can lead to a more positive approach in everyday situations, says psychologist Kelly McGonigal. She teaches guided laughter, a group technique in which you prep your body for the physical work of laughter to reap the benefits: joy and social interaction. "All the efforts we put into reducing stress we ought to put into laughing," McGonigal says. A good giggle helps you:
Scorch kilojoules. Laughing for 10 to 15 minutes increases your heart rate by 10-20 per cent, which means you can burn an extra 40-165kJ a day. Over a year, that can add up to around two kilograms in weight loss.
Ease pain. In a US study, experts discovered that children tolerated pain better than usual when watching a funny TV programme.Stay healthy. Humour increases the production and effectiveness of natural killer cells that stomp out germs. These cells are elevated for at least 12 hours after just an hour of watching, say, Will Ferrell run around in his underwear.
Love Hurts But Can Also Heal (RD January 2008 Edition)
Researchers at Ohio State University had married couples create minor blister wounds on their skin, then discuss a neutral topic. Two months later, the test was repeated, but this time couples talked about a point of conflict. The result: Couples took longer to heal after airing disagreements than when covering neutral ground. Hostile couples who were critical and sarcastic healed slowest and produced less of the proteins linked to healing.Dr Brian Baker, an associate professor of psychiatry at the University of Toronto, performed another study that showed the physical effects of marital harmony. Married couples with mild hypertension wore blood-pressure monitors for 24 hours and completed a questionnaire about the quality of their marriage. Bad marriages raised while good marriages lowered blood pressure for couples.''Marriage tends to be good for your health, but it's the quality of your marriage that's important,'' says Baker.