Friday, January 27, 2012

STRESS! We All Have Some, So What Can We Do About It?

Stress is a fact of life and all of us experience it in some way and to some degree each day. There are major life stressors, like moving, break-ups, car accidents and health problems, along with the minor stresses that we must confront every day. A stressful day for one person might mean managing a demanding schedule so that she doesn’t disappoint anyone who is relying on her; for another person it might be having too many things to do at one time. A third person might create her own stress by setting unrealistic deadlines. Someone else might be stressed because she leaves things to the last minute. Another might worry about what will happen if things don’t get done on time, begin to pile up, and then fall through the cracks.

Our “10 Years Younger in 60 Days” guest this week was yoga teacher and life coach Katrine Barclay, who helped us to understand what stress is and how it impacts our lives, and gave us tips to help us cope with and reduce stress.

One of the ways in which we can better understand how stress affects us is to identify how we respond to stress. When our prehistoric ancestors were confronted by stress – for instance, if they were being chased by a mountain lion – they typically chose a “Flight” or “Fight” response; they either turned and fought the mountain lion or they ran away. Many of us still respond to stress with a Flight of Fight response; some of us also choose another response, which is to Freeze and do nothing until the cause of the stress goes away.

Katrine Barclay de-stressing the Adair "family" 

Katrine shared a very helpful worksheet with us with suggestions on how to cope with stress depending on how you respond. For instance, if you are a Flight Stress Response Type, you might try doing one thing at a time; work with your “feet on the ground”; practice meditation or gentle yoga or a low key exercise; or try slow, deliberate walking or calm, quiet stretching. For Fighter Types, try taking a brisk walk or engage in mindful, invigorating exercise; practice gentle, flowing yoga; just walk away – in other words, take a time out; meditate; practice slow breathing or try shoulder rolls. For anyone whose response is to Freeze, try walking meditation or standing and upwards stretching; practice moderate, mindful eating and sleeping; go for a fast walk, jog or run; engage in a vigorous yoga practice; increase your movement; or use breathing techniques that create heat.

Once you are aware of the stressors in your life and how you typically respond to them, you can make changes that will help you cope or eliminate the stress. Putting an event into perspective is useful. Katrine says it is all about “not believing everything you think.” Many times we make up stories about a situation that are not valid. She suggests checking in with our self and always asking “Is it true? Yes or no, unequivocally?” Many of us, she says, spend a lot of time with COWS – all the Could-a, Ought-a, Would-a, Should-a things that our mind deals with every day, and that steal a lot of our energy and add stress to our lives. A simple “Is it true?” asked each time might help us see a situation for how it really is.

So, what can you do if you are really stressed – for instance, you are cooking breakfast for 20, the boiler breaks, and one of the guests asks for a fresh cup of coffee? Katrine suggests, “slow down to hurry up.” Sometimes all it takes is a few seconds to take a couple of deep breaths to put everything into perspective and help you see how to proceed without totally losing it.

Katrine’s suggestions for ongoing life changes to manage stress include taking time off – “work-free” vacations; getting plenty of rest, eating right, and exercising; getting outside; paying attention to stress signals and choosing to relax; going on a “media fast”; making positive, self-care choices; building a time every day to “do nothing”; play every day.

Our evening with Katrine ended with a guided relaxation exercise that left us feeling calm and relaxed and we left Week #7 of “10 Years Younger in 60 Days” with a handful of tips and tools that each of us can use to better manage and reduce the stress in our lives.

For more information about Katrine’s Wellness At Work yoga classes at WREN or her life coaching services, including stress management, contact her at (603) 823-7441 or

Healthy Snack:
Chef Orlo Coots prepared not just one, but two healthy snacks for us this week: really yummy “Dive into the Dark Side” Bars, and Lifestyle 180 Quinoa and Fruit Pudding, which was less enthusiastically received -- by some because it contains bananas and by others because of the texture.

“Dive into the Dark Side” Bars
Makes 24 bars (1 ounce each), about 110 calories each

1 cup toasted walnuts
3/4 cup golden raisins
3/4 cup sweetened dried cranberries
5 brown rice cakes, broken into chunks
2 TB agave nectar
2 TB orange juice
1 TB vanilla extract
1/4 tsp cinnamon
7 ounces 70% and 3 ounces 85% dark bittersweet chocolate bar, broken into chunks
5 TB 2% milk

Place walnuts in food processor and pulse until chopped. Add raisins and cranberries and pulse until mixture is finely chopped. Add rice cakes; process until finely chopped. Add agave nectar, orange juice, vanilla, and cinnamon; process until mixture holds together. Transfer mixture to an 8-inch square glass baking dish; cover with plastic wrap and press into a firm, even thickness. Remove plastic wrap.

Combine chocolate and milk and place over a double boiler of simmering water. Cook, stirring constantly, until chocolate is melted and smooth. Spread chocolate evenly over rice cake mixture, cover, and refrigerate at least 1 hour before serving. Cut into 12 (3- x 2-inch) bars.

Lifestyle 180 Quinoa and Fruit Pudding
9 servings, 130 calories per serving
(Pudding has 4 grams of fiber and 3 grams of protein and only 1 gram of fat)

1 cup organic quinoa
2 cups water
1/2 cup dried apricots
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup unsweetened apple juice
1 tsp grated orange zest
1 tsp almond extract
1/2 tsp cinnamon

Rinse quinoa in cold water if saponin has been removed; if not, rinse in hot water. Add rinsed quinoa to boiling water; reduce heat to low, and simmer for 7 minutes. Add dried apricots and cranberries and simmer until liquid is absorbed, about 5 to 7 minutes. While quinoa is cooking, combine remaining ingredients in food processor and puree until smooth. Remove quinoa from heat, combine pureed mixture with quinoa, and mix well. Place in serving bowls and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Next Week:

This is it! Week #8, and the conclusion of “10 Years Younger in 60 Days.” A little birdie told us we might be having a pool party to celebrate our accomplishments; we don’t know yet if that means sitting around a pool and dipping our toes in the water, or a vigorous game of pool in Adair’s Granite Room. Stay tuned for next week’s wrap-up.

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