The good stress

When I think of “stress,” my brain starts whirring, my heart starts pounding, I start to sweat, and I’m not happy. Most people, I think, react the same way to most stress. In fact, the World Health Organization defines stress as “any type of change that causes physical, emotional or psychological strain.” And when this type of stress continues, it can become “distress” which leads to anxiety and overwhelm. But there is a “good” stress – called “eustress.” 

Stress can be beneficial

Eustress can be a beneficial emotion, leading to “positive emotional arousal, leading to activation and engagement” with the world around us, according to a paper in the National Library of Medicine. 

Exercise is stressful, but "good" stress.
Exercise is “good” stress

So, eustress is “manageable, acute, and short-term.” Think of exercise as an example. We’re placing stress on our bodies when we exercise. But exercise by definition is short-term, and the stress we put our bodies in is acute – we voluntarily raise our heart rates or work our muscles in a way that’s different from their normal state. And the reason that we exercise is to become more fit, release endorphins and improve our mental well-being.

Nurtures our well-being

“Eustress is the physical, mental, and/or emotional tension that is placed on the mind and body when we engage in activities that actually nurture our well-being and foster growth,” says Andra Brown, a NY-based licensed mental health counselor who specializes in anxiety, racial identity, and stress. Brown says that eustress can make us excited and motivated. When we feel eustress, we feel compelled to act in a positive manner. Our mindset improves when we’re under eustress. And when we act positively, our resilience grows.

If I get an idea for an article, and I know it’s a good one, I’m fired up. I open a new Google Document and write rapid-fire until that idea is down in black and white. 

Stress and exercise

I’m not excited to exercise, as you know. But, once I push “Play,” the music comes on and the instructor gives the first direction, I start moving and can forget about everything else. Good stress indeed!

Public speaking can even be eustressful

Brown emphasizes that eustress triggers can increase productivity. Think about the last time you spoke in front of a small group of friends about a subject you’re passionate about. Even though public speaking may usually terrify you, when it’s about a topic that’s near and dear to your heart, you probably spoke eloquently and far more succinctly than you believed you could.

As you’ve seen in previous articles, exercise generates energy. Even if I’m tired before a workout, I feel energized afterward! Exercise, therefore, is positive stress. It feeds our body and mind.

I try to combine distress and eustress

Listening to the news, on the other hand, is “distress.” It brings on feelings of anxiety and is practically debilitating. I do like to know what’s going on in the world, though, so I pair watching the national news every day with a calming Sudoku puzzle. On one hand, I’m anxious, but on the other, I’m solving a puzzle. I’m hoping that the eustress outweighs the distress. Indeed, Brown says that during moments of eustress, we are able to perceive certain challenges as less threatening.

So, there’s no need to fear stress – just do everything you can to make it good stress.

Invisible benefits of exercise

I agree with Khloe Kardashian

I’m not a Kardashian fan. I don’t follow any of them. But I read an article about how Khloe Kardashian loves the invisible benefits of exercise, and I have to agree with her. Kardashian turns to exercise for the “mental release” it gives her. Exercise gives her power over her life – it’s one thing she can actually control. And it’s true – you decide what kind of exercise you want to do. You decide when to do it. How hard to exercise, and how long your session should be. I choose to exercise at an intense level. I get the most out of the 30 minutes I’m willing to spend on exercise.

It’s not about the scale

It’s not about losing weight – Kardashian says she hasn’t stepped on a scale in ages. Because a scale is just numbers. If you’re happy with how you feel, how your clothes fit, and you’re healthy, then your weight shouldn’t matter so much. 

Exercise for confidence

An intense workout makes me happier.
An intense workout leaves me happier in a short amount of time

Kardashian also extols the confidence that exercise gives her. We’re powerful when we improve our heart, our muscles and our bones. Exercise not only improves our physical health, but our mental health too. The mental release is one of the invisible benefits Khloe Kardashian finds in exercise. I’ve often written that when I’m in a bad mood, my sister won’t talk to me until after my workout. I’m in a much better mood then. The endorphins released during an intense workout make me happier and makes everyone less depressed. After a good workout, we’re much more able to face any difficulties with the confidence boost we get.

Improve your mindset with exercise

Exercise is good for your mindset too. That’s another invisible benefit of exercise. Kardashian admits to previously having unrealistic goals, like cutting out all sugar or working out five days a week. But now, with her consistent fitness practice, Kardashian is all about seeing exercise as a tool for wellness. And that’s a very healthy outlook. I don’t exercise because I want to fit into Size 2 jeans. That’s never going to happen. I exercise because I want to remain strong and independent, and do the things I want to do. Exercise is part of my healthy aging routine.

Harness your anxiety

The last couple of years have shown most of the world that anxiety can be generalized and no one is immune from it. Everyone has had some degree of anxiety for most of the last two years. And it doesn’t seem to be easing up. I’ve written about what to do to ease your anxiety, but what would happen if we could harness our anxiety and make it work for us?

The possibilities are practically endless

I think of all the worries we, collectively, have expressed the past several months and am just floored by the possibility of the anxious energy that could have been put to good use. If I could have harnessed my anxiety, I could have another book written. Our leaders could have developed a plan for world peace. On second thought, maybe not that last one.

But, if we could harness our anxiety, our productivity would soar! 

Put your anxiety to use

Matt Higgins, author of Burn the Boats: Toss Plan B Overboard and Unleash Your Full Potentialexplains four ways to put your anxiety to good use.

Tip #1 – Find supporting data

Matt’s first tip is to find a study to reassure you. Matt was worried about how his lack of sleep might affect his performance in a marathon. So, he found results from a study indicating that sleep deprivation did not matter in marathon performance. Of course, the study did find that mental performance was adversely affected, but not physical. Matt competed in that marathon and improved his time by a significant amount.

Data is not always reassuring, but somebody somewhere will have gone through what you are, so a quick search is worth the effort.

Tip #2 – Meditate

Meditation boosts resilience.
Meditate with a friend…

The second tip: meditate daily. “Meditation has been shown to boost resilience, emotional intelligence, creativity, relationships, and focus—and I’m going to be another voice telling you that it should be a key tool in your anxiety tool kit.” I recently decided to meditate for a short time every day. Just a couple of minutes. Sometimes it’s a guided meditation, other times I just sit with my eyes shut and take my brain on a mini-vacation. Matt says he’s not perfect about his new daily meditation habit, but firmly believes in it, as self-care is essential.

Tip #3 – Add people

Next – add people to your cause. I’m a firm believer in friends and community. And when your friends join you in a cause, it’s just natural that your joint anxiety plummets. Not to mention, you get a ton of stuff done. But pick the right friends – every person has different beliefs and ways of getting things done.

Tip #4 – Acknowledge that you need help

Finally – don’t hesitate to ask for help. Acknowledge that you need help. Don’t forget that being vulnerable is one step to growing your self-confidence. Matt tells of a friend whose anxiety manifested in ways that were negatively affecting his performance at work. He intervened and helped the friend to tone down the intensity of his emotions. That friend went on to a succeed in a very difficult profession.

So – make your anxiety work for you. First – narrow down the subject of your anxiety and then identify ways of making it be productive for you.

Think Small … and Big

Achieving small goals may make you happier.
Achieving small goals may make you happier

You know I like to divide my big goals into bite-sized pieces. That way I can celebrate all the small wins on the way to that big one. But I’ve also learned to think small … and big. Just because I have big goals doesn’t mean those are the only ones. I also have small goals to achieve. And those are the ones that may be keeping me happiest.

Goals changed with the pandemic

Writer Alexis Jones admits to also being on the small goals bandwagon. Not too long ago Alexis was focused on the big career goals, her 5-year plan. But then the pandemic hit. Everything was uncertain. Plans were canceled, no one went into work. Most goods were delivered. Businesses were shuttered. 

The world changed, and made Alexis take a hard look at her goals. They didn’t make sense at the moment, so she adjusted her thinking. Alexis still worked at her long-term goals, but she also made smaller and more immediate and personal goals. She made a goal of a consistent mid-day walk to clear her mind. Alexis also reached out to friends to maintain relationships that had been neglected. As a result, Alexis says she’s closer to some goals she felt were too big to tackle, like improving her mental health and mending relationships.

Achieving small goals sets you on the path to bigger things

Psychotherapist Natalie Jones says that Alexis is not alone. Achieving small goals is a sure-fire way to put you on the path to achieving larger goals. “Micro goals are the ones that really sort of help us to feel good about ourselves,” says Dr. Jones. And not just that. Achieving small goals gives us the momentum to look forward to bigger things. When we accomplish the small things, it helps us know how to go about setting and achieving the bigger goals, or “give us data to gauge about ourselves and what it’s going to take in order for us to get the big stuff done,” Dr. Jones says.

My own mini-goals? I decided to meditate for 2 minutes a day a few weeks ago. I take my brain on a mini-vacation. Sometimes I listen to a guided meditation. Other times I just sit with my eyes closed. Other times I just picture my favorite spot by the water and listen to the waves. I think I’m happier, calmer, and more reasonable as a result.

So, think small … and big, for your happiness.

Pick a new hobby for your health

Pick a new hobby for your health! One of mind: hang out with dogs!
Pick a new hobby for your health! One of mind: hang out with dogs!

It’s winter. It’s cold. I don’t want to go outside for any length of time. I don’t want to go anywhere because, well, it’s cold. But staying home is dull. What to do? Start something new. Pick a new hobby for your mental health! Dr. Eric Smiltneek, a family medicine and addiction medicine doctor at Aurora Behavioral Health, says that hobbies have “great value for our happiness and positivity.” In short, hobbies are good for our mental health. 

Do your research, but pick one!

There are so many things to choose among that could hold our interest. Do your research – think of hobbies that you could picture yourself doing, then find out if there is special equipment or knowledge that would be useful in pursuing that hobby. But according to Dr. Smiltneek, don’t spend too much time on that research. Pick a new hobby and start getting happy.

The macaron experiment

Last year I made French macarons. I … almost … perfected the piping technique. I got those perfect little “feet” on the pastry, the outer crunch and inner fudginess. The sizes of the macarons were kind of random, but the finished products were delicious. And while I was in macaron baking mode, the rest of the world slipped away. 

Hobbies lower stress and grow happiness

Hobbies are great for lowering stress, anxiety and blood pressure. People who enjoy hobbies are at lower risk for depression. Growing our optimism grows our happiness, and leads to greater resilience. And we all need resilience for our healthy aging.

And hobbies grow our resilience

And people who enjoy hobbies can do it either individually or in a group. One recommendation for growing our resilience is to make connections with others. Hobbies can help us do that. When we’re in a group enjoying a hobby, we automatically have something in common. It’s easier to talk to others about that thing we have in common. If I were to continue my macaron-baking hobby, I’d certainly join a class to improve my piping skills! 
For more on meeting every challenge and growing your own resilience, download the ebook today.

5 Tips for Budget-Friendly Self-Care

If your idea of “self-care” is a high-end spa, think again. We all need self-care. It’s not an indulgence. We’re all wired tightly these days, and anything we can do to improve our mindset, grow our resilience, and do what we need to do for our healthy aging is helpful. But when we think of “self-care,” we think of facials, massage, and one-to-one training. Here are some tips for budget-friendly self-care that will leave you feeling like a million bucks.

What is “self-care?”

First – what, exactly, is “self-care?” According to Dr. Jennette Berry, a family medicine physician, it’s “anything that helps you recharge and take care of yourself so, in turn, you’ll be well to take care of the people who count on you.”

Budget-friendly or free!


Exercise. Get moving! You think I’m a fitness nut because I recommend exercise at every turn? Maybe so, but exercise not only helps with your weight loss goals, it also gives you energy. Exercise helps you fight disease and boosts your immunity. It helps you sleep at night. It aids in our healthy aging goals. And exercise puts you in a better mood! So, go outside for a brisk walk. Or check out popular YouTube fitness videos. Many gyms offer complementary first-classes. See if you like one of those before you make a longer-term commitment.


Meditation is an extremely budget-griendly self-care process.
Meditating lets your brain go on vacation.

Check out for a few minutes. Sit comfortably and think of absolutely nothing. It’s like your brain going on vacation for a bit. If you can’t turn your mind off, do a guided meditation. Dr. Berry says that meditation helps lower stress, controls anxiety and improves sleep. Download my short guided Garden Walk meditation. Less than 5 minutes and you’ll feel more calm. 

Take a bath

Dr. Berry says that the hot water will help you sleep and is also beneficial for aches and pains. Why not try some aromatherapy with bath salts while you’re at it? Lavender is soothing and smells wonderful.


Writing in a journal daily can help track your moods and symptoms. It can also help track your triggers – the things that happen or people say that start your feelings of stress and anxiety. Journaling your gratitude can also improve your mindset and help you get happier. You can’t be unhappy if you’re grateful. And journaling about your day can also help your memory.

Read books

Exercise your mind. Books can take you on adventures you can’t even dream about. They help you learn about other people and other cultures. Public libraries now offer not only hard copies of books, but also digital and audio-books as well. Dr. Berry says that reading is not only relaxing, it can also slow the progression of dementia.

How many of these budget-friendly self-care steps do you do daily? Easy, soothing and painless – they all contribute to our resilience and healthy aging.

Mix it up for less pain

Mix up your workouts for less pain
Mix up your workouts for less pain

Your doctor and your friends have all told you that you need to exercise. So, you’ve decided to start an exercise program for your healthy aging. But now what? What to do? You have pain in your hips and you don’t want to make it worse. Here’s a simple solution: mix it up for less pain! Fitness pros call it cross training. I call it the key. 

Benefits of cross training

When you mix it up and cross train, according to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, you’ll work practically every muscle in your body. You’ll work your muscles in different ways too, reducing the risk of overuse injuries also helping you to adapt to new activities. And since you’re doing different exercises on different days, you won’t get bored. When you’re not bored, you’ll look forward to your workouts. An extra added bit of motivation! 

Less pain when you mix several types of exercise

Dr. Sarkis Bedikian, an orthopedic surgeon at Advocate Trinity Hospital, says that if we’re not careful, our repetitive exercise routines and everyday behaviors could cause long-term damage to our hips and increase our risk of needing joint replacement surgeries later in life. Dr. Bedikian says to minimize wear and tear from repetitive motion by mixing several types of exercise into your routine. 

What is cross training?

Cross training combines different aspects of exercise. You’ll do cardio conditioning, strength training and flexibility work all in one week. For example, you’ll do 3 days of aerobics (cardio conditioning – get your heart rate up), 2 days of strength training (for muscle and bone strength) and 1 day of flexibility work in a single week.

Get that heart rate up!

If you love music and you like to dance, here’s a 30 minute aerobics routine from YouTube that’s great for all levels. You may have to practice some of the moves a few times to get the choreography – I sure did. But it’s lively and fun and gets you moving. For your cardio work, you can also walk / run – make sure it’s intense enough for your fitness level. 

Strength training

I’ve written before about the importance of adding strength training to your exercise regimen. Remember that you don’t need weights for your strength training – your body weight can be put to good use. Plank variations and push-ups can be incredibly intense too. It’s amazing how much sweat drips off of me when I’m holding a plank!


So that I can easily stand up and sit down, lean over and pet my dogs, I do a flexibility workout once a week (usually Pilates). I also incorporate some into every other routine during the week. It seems to keep my joints lubricated, important for my healthy aging. 

You’ll not only have less pain when you mix up your exercise routine, you’ll feel better, be stronger and more flexible.

Start with kindness

I started the New Year with kindness to myself and ignored the calendar.
I started the New Year with kindness to myself and ignored the calendar.

The New Year started for me with an unwelcome guest: food poisoning. I think it was from a bag of organic spring mix. It looked beautiful, tasted great, and we used it well before the “best by” date, but… You never know. New Year’s Day is usually a day for planning, goal-setting, scheduling with different colored pens. It makes my want-to-be-organized soul happy to see my little planner book all marked up. But that didn’t happen this year. I just didn’t have the energy. Instead of feeling guilty about not doing what I normally would do, I actively decided to start with kindness. Kindness to myself.

Sense of freedom

And by not going crazy with my colored pens, I felt a sense of freedom, despite feeling physically terrible. Obviously there were still things that had to get done, like caring for the dogs, but aside from that, I just relaxed, read my book, and drank water and ginger ale. 

Starting the year with kindness, making that conscious effort to be kind, has done wonders for my mindset. More peace, looking both outward and inward. And knowing that everything that has to get done will get done. I’ll make time for important things and try to let go of other, less crucial items.

Healthy aging depends on a positive mindset.

Generally happier people live longer than unhappy people or those who look on the negative side of things. Happy people have greater resilience and are more able to bounce back from hardship. So, perhaps, my conscious decision to start with kindness this year will increase my resilience!

Get the important stuff done

Starting with kindness, though, does not mean that important activities will be left undone, though. Exercise is important to my physical and mental well-being, and makes me a better person to be with, so my regular workouts will certainly continue. I’ll still prepare my lessons and craft my articles with care. 

By starting with kindness, perhaps I’ll be less focused on getting things done and be happier on the journey.

4 steps to improve your confidence

Many struggle with New Year’s Resolutions. To make some and then have them fall by the wayside is disappointing. I don’t make resolutions for just that reason. How about not making resolutions but taking action on improving something we all could use more of? Here are 4 steps to improve your confidence in the new year.

Grow and expand your mindset

Confident people are always learning. Learning new ways to do things, learning more about the world. Also, they’re learning more about themselves. Confident people are curious about pretty much everything, so want to learn. By learning more about the world, we open ourselves to different cultures and different values. People in other parts of the world do commonplace things differently than we do. And this can be completely unexpected – things that, once we’re exposed to them, we think that it makes perfect sense. 

Take time to exercise and meditate to fuel your mind and your body.
Exercise (friend optional) fuels your mind and your body. It also improves your self-worth and confidence.

Angeli Gianchandani, professor of marketing at the University of New Haven says that confident people are “avid readers and focus on self-care, making time to meditate and exercise to fuel their minds,” she says. “It is the power of their ideas and imagination to think beyond the ordinary that sets them apart.”

And confident people are unafraid of trying new things. They’re not afraid to fail. Confident people see projects that don’t go quite right as experiments. Try again and succeed! “Those who invite discomfort are able to achieve more, take more significant risks and break through barriers, and are open to facing new challenges,” says Gianchandani. “Discomfort is a form of self-growth, pushing yourself mentally to overcome fear.”

Accepting discomfort helps to eliminate the “what-if” mindset. All those bad case scenarios we’re so used to running through in our heads.

Be vulnerable

The next step to improve your confidence is to ask for advice and admit that you’re wrong (when you are!) Don’t be afraid of making mistakes. We all make mistakes. You’re only human, after all.

“Having courage means forgetting about being perfect,” says Jonathan Alpert, author of Be Fearless: Change Your Life in 28 Days. “So often people don’t pursue things because they feel it has to be just right. They ruminate over how to approach things, conduct themselves, or say something to the point of getting filled with anxiety and either not taking any action at all or doing so in a way that lacks confidence.”

Don’t be so afraid of making a mistake or worry about doing something wrong that you’re paralyzed into inaction.

Be kind to yourself

Another step to improve your self-confidence is to just be kind to yourself. No negative talk! “Recent research has shown self-compassion was associated with self-worth,” says Michele Patterson Ford, Ph.D., a psychologist and senior lecturer in psychology at Dickinson College.. “Knowing your value is an important component of feeling confident in oneself. Self-compassion, however, may actually provide the benefits of high self-esteem without the potential problems associated with high self-esteem, like being egotistical. The compassionate side tames the potential to be self-absorbed.” 

You know you’re worth it, but you don’t rub it in others’ faces! We know that compassionate resilience is the way to healthy aging and happiness in the future. 

Speak up!

The last step to improve your confidence is to speak up. This is the hardest thing for us introverts. Know that what you say is right and can help others. Jonathan Alpert says there will always be people who doubt you, but don’t let that stop you from speaking up, taking a chance, and doing what you believe in. “Criticism just means you got people thinking,” he says. “Many who have taken confident and bold steps have faced resistance. Stay focused on what you believe in and forge ahead.” No one can take your beliefs away from you. If you’re firm in them, stick with them going forward.

3 Morning rituals to start your day positively

Have a day filled with wonder!

I woke up yesterday and could not remember what day it was… The day before was unremarkable. I didn’t do anything out of the ordinary. And all the days are running together. But then I thought of something special I had planned for later in the day which lit a spark. (I planned to design a cover for my new fitness journal that’s in the works.) And suddenly the day filled with wonder. I did the 3 things to start my day positively, and the rest of the day was bright and happy and full of purpose.

It stands to reason – if your day starts well, it will progress the same way. So, let’s consider the start to the day. Everyone has morning rituals. Are yours positive? Do they inspire you to find light in your day? 

Wake up

Paul Valery, a French poet and essayist, said “The best way to make your dreams come true is to wake up.” He recognized he wouldn’t get anything done by lying around in bed all day. You need to wake up and get moving to make things happen. So, start your day positively by actually getting out of bed when your alarm goes off rather than hitting the snooze button and turning over. I have it easy – if I don’t get up when my alarm goes off my dogs will step on me…

One positive thought

“Just one small positive thought in the morning can change your whole day.” The Dalai Lama knows a great deal about having the right mindset. To create positive energy which will follow you throughout the day, start with a positive thought from the moment you wake up. So even if you don’t have something special planned for the day, think of something positive and that will create positive energy for your day. You’ll grow your resilience with your optimism and create that uplifting mindset. Most days I choose happiness! Whatever else I have going on, happiness makes the day brighter.

Today is my future

“My future starts when I wake up every morning.” Jazz Musician, Miles Davis, realized the value of a fresh and positive start to every day. Embrace this attitude by reminding yourself from the moment you wake up just what you’re striving for and why this is important. Reach forward toward your goals. Davis also was famously frustrated by fellow musicians retreating – going backward rather than forward: “Instead of going forward he was going backwards. I told him not to lose what he brought from Chicago, but some guys just go backwards, man.” (about Darryl Jones, bassist) 

Every day: wake up and stretch. Have a positive thought while brushing your teeth. And remember that today is your future: it’s going to be great!