How to Overcome the 5 Top Challenges of Remote Freelance Work

To an outsider looking in, the notion of liberating yourself from a corporate environment and controlling your own success as a freelancer probably seems like nothing less than a dream. So much so that (as a slideshare study presented by Upwork shows) 57.3 million Americans were freelancing as of 2017. (Freelancing In America 2017 used the figure of 36 percent of the U.S. workforce).

Theirs is a world I’ve shared: Before I became a business owner with employees, partners and 1099 contractors, I too was a freelancer and so came to understand the unique challenges freelancers face. I know from experience that pursuing an entrepreneurial venture alone can give you the freedom to decide “how, when and where”; but working as a remote freelancer often presents a host of other challenges.

Working remotely, for instance, can feel isolated and lonely. You are no longer operating in your area of expertise and are constantly challenged by the burden of self-promotion and the struggles inherent in time management, travel between clients, invoicing and chasing after payments, to name just a few.

Here are some solutions to five of the top challenges I myself have faced:

The burden of self-promotion

Marketing doesn’t come naturally to many freelancers, yet a business cannot continue to grow without it. This means that a freelance cake decorator, dog groomer and technical writer all need to worry about ways to advertise their services.

The solution if this applies to you? Start creating content, whether it be video, audio (podcast) or written. Content is the key to showcasing your expertise. Content will allow people to discover you, and content will help solidify your expertise.

Contributors like me are always looking for valuable experts, and for tips on hot trends, news or perspectives. If you’ve already started creating content, it will allow you to prove your expertise.

Follow contributors who write about topics you’re looking to provide your expertise on, and reach out on social platforms like Twitter or Instagram (Instagram DM still being the absolute best way to reach someone you’re hoping to connect with).

My advice with this approach is to focus on the relationship. Everyone in media is constantly pitched new stories, but not all those stories are worth covering. However, if you focus on building the relationship and have a unique perspective, a journalist or contributor will be more inclined to speak with you versus constantly reading one cold pitch after another from you. Buzzstream is a good tool to use to help you find different people from the press.

Working in a lonely solo void

While the freedom in remote freelance work may appeal to many, working in solitude may not, as FastCompanydocumented in a recent article. Human nature requires support and interaction, and constant isolation can wear you down. Our bodies only work at an optimal level for approximately 90 minutes at a time, so take your laptop and head to the nearest cafe for some company.

Co-working spaces are also all the rage these days, Harvard Business Review reported, as freelancers and small business owners are often looking to become part of a community. A well-designed work environment combined with a well-curated work experience enables coworkers to thrive in a way that office-based employees cannot.

What’s more, regular in-person huddles with stakeholders can enhance your productivity, through brainstorming and synergy. Be sure to incorporate meetings throughout your work week to break the silence and keep your motivation levels up.

Another tip: Set up your own branded corporate conference room on a virtual meeting platform to coordinate with clients, and put in some face time when proximity is an issue. I love platforms such as ClickMeeting, which offers features like screen sharingand white boards — features which enable collaboration and immediate feedback virtually.

These types of advanced tools also create the illusion that you’re not working by yourself in an office all day and gives you some refreshing face time with clients, contractors and anyone else involved in the business.

Struggling with your calendar

As a solopreneur, you are forced to wear many hats, and you need to manage your time carefully. And given that some tasks will be outside your comfort zone, you may be prone to pushing them off once in a while — or doing this as a chronic habit. But be careful here: Battle your procrastination by adhering to a rigid schedule, to ensure that the job gets done and your limited time is utilized well. Tools like Toggle can help you with time management and ensure you’re staying on top of your to-do lists.

I like to follow the Pomodoro rule for completing tasks. This technique can help you power through distractions, keep you hyper-focused and help you get things done in short bursts while taking frequent breaks to clean your brain and refocus. It’s sort of like short high-intensity weight training, versus long, slow cardio. The Pomodoro Technique consists of short bursts of work followed by a short rest break. You:

  1. Create your list of tasks.
  2. Prioritize the list.
  3. Set the Pomodoro to 25 minutes (the Pomodoro in this context being a timer).
  4. Work on the task until the timer rings, then put a check on your sheet of paper.
  5. Take a short break (5 minutes is recommended, but play around with what’s best for you).
  6. After every fourth Pomodoro, take a longer break (like 20 to 30 minutes).

The goal is to accomplish your tasks in short bursts. Ideally, each task can be done in one to two Pomodoros. The goal is to hold a limit to how many Pomodoros you do per day. Then, repeat the cycle the next day. I’ve found that my productivity shoots up under this technique. Here’s a great web app to track your progress called the Pomodoro Tracker.

Scope creep

What is scope creep? Scope creep describes those extra little client requests here and there. The need that that website you just created suddenly has for extra pages at the time of delivery. That graphic-design gig you took on that keeps accruing more and more changes …

Sometimes the creep is subtle, and sometimes it’s massive. But, if you let the scope creep once, it will never stop creeping.

The best, most obvious way to deal with scope creep is a thorough contract which clearly states that any additional work will be billed accordingly. I love BidSketch for quick, effective, template-rich contracts. If you create a contract once, you can save it and reuse it.

BidSketch also has contract templates for specific industries. You can send the contract and have your client sign it electronically with the click of a couple of buttons, which helps you keep a record of the signed document to reference should any of the obstacles described below come up:

Chasing clients for payment

You produced. You invoiced. You waited. But still … crickets.

Payments are undoubtedly the most aggravating and awkward part of freelance work. So, protect yourself: Ensure a contract is in place for every job, and stipulate that you charge interest for late payments. Set up automated email reminders upon invoicing.

A software like Invoicely can help you with invoicing, with reminders to make sure you are on top of your finances. Invoicely works well because it allows you to set up late fees for invoices that are paid late or not at all. This is another tactic to help make sure clients pay on time.

The best tip I have learned is that you should always wait to deliver the final project until you have the final invoice paid. That way you retain ownership of the work before a client can run off without paying.

Unfortunately, this is an obstacle that you will face. If you embrace this fact and plan for it, you won’t be shocked when it does happen. There is no shame in picking up the phone and speaking directly to your client. If you speak on the phone, make sure to follow up via email, to have a paper trail.

You are entitled to payment for your services. Take legal action as needed. I like RocketLawyer for free contracts for entrepreneurs and freelancers, if the situation dictates.

Remote freelancing presents as many challenges as it does benefits, despite the allure of flexibility. But, if being a freelancer brings you one step closer to fulfilling your dreams, then don’t allow any obstacles to deter you. If you’re the type of person who dreams of working for yourself, you will have what it takes to make it. Stay focused, stay inspired and stay hungry — to learn and grow.

Source: entrepreneur.com ~ By: Andrew Medal ~ Image: pixabay.com

How to Take Calculated Risk to Achieve More and Become Successful

Risk is something we all have to face in our lives but appreciating its value and impact on our lives is not always easy.

I asked my social media friends on a survey whether they felt risk was a good thing and 100’s said yes and yet I know from my clients that this doesn’t equate to 100% of people taken every risky action they could to achieve more and live a life that fulfils them.

Take the client that needed a coaching session to get them to take the jump into self employment. They knew in their heads that with over 20 years at the pinnacle of their career, they could do it. But they needed their coach to be the one that took the training wheels off and said “let’s do this!”

We don’t all take the risks we should in life. What makes a risk feel too big? What external impactors change our perception of risk and what’s the difference between good risk and bad? When should we be risk adverse? And how can we work out the difference and step up to take the risks that could change our lives (for the better)?

What is calculated risk?

Let me ask you:

“Would you cross a 3 lane road of fast moving traffic?” The answer is likely to be “no” right?

What about if I asked “Would you cross 3 lanes of traffic at night?” Still a “No?”

What about if I said “Would you cross 3 lanes of traffic that had a pedestrian crossing?”

Look how the risk changes. It is the same road with the same cars, but we’ve gone from a risk that we are unprepared to take to one that has an element of control and expected outcomes. That is what a calculated risk is.

Would you quit your job right now and set up in business on the street corner in an hour’s time? No of course not. However, would you quit with a plan of action in a set period of time? Possibly?

The thing about calculated risk is that humans have to deal with their perceptions or reality, their emotions, feelings and even beliefs to be able to take on risk. And that is why you may see 100% of people saying “Take the risk”. However if questioned further, I could probably find at least one occasion where every single person should have taken the risk and they didn’t.

I’ve seen people turn down contracts, delay travelling, delay saying “yes” to marriage, delay quitting their job and even delay having their hair chopped off because they’ve not been able to calculate the risk with an outcome that they deem will be satisfactory.

Is all risk calculated?

In a speaking engagement, I once re-enacted the moment when the hero of the film is hanging on for dear life to the side of a mountain. There’s no hand places left going up. They can’t go down and there’s no way out, the baddies are shooting at them from every angle and you think “there is no way out of this!” and then miraculously they let go tumbling through the air, landing in a helicopter that flies into view being flown by the gorgeous incredibly clever side kick.

Risk is a bit like that.

The first time James Bond, Jack Reacher or Lara Croft let go and went in a new direction, they were probably experiencing massive levels of fear. However, by overriding that fear, they were able to create a new definition of what is possible. It’s not called mission impossible for nothing.

But how can we know it’s a good idea to jump and when it’s going to lead to impending doom?

Interestingly, children seem to be risk blind for a while. It is adults that stand behind them shouting “don’t do that, you will fall and break your neck!” Do children stop doing stupid things? A and E departments would argue no.

But if we didn’t take on risk we’d never learn to walk. The first time you pulled yourself up on to your legs and stood there jumping up and down with a grin that says “Look what I can do” was sheer joy, not so much fun the next time you tried it and nearly removed your nose. Most parents will have a story of how their child made their hearts leap with absolute terror as they did something stupid, but risk needs us to test its limits or we will all be still sat in baby gyms unable to reach the cool toys.

The reason some people achieve great things is because they are prepared to test their risk limitations.

How to grow your risk tolerance to achieve more?

Here I’ve aimed to break down what you need to keep your eyes peeled for, how to fix what you find and what you need to do so that you can calculate risk and achieve more with the following methods:

The RRIS method

R – Research everything you aim to achieve.

But also know when to stop researching and get on with it. The amount of clients I’ve worked with who are so ready they could be the most intellectual person on the planet on their area of expertise.

It’s easy to get in the trap of “doing just a bit more research” to get you out of taking action. So do your research and use the other tips to help you to take action on your knowledge.

R – Rationalize your reality.

I often hear clients say things that once said back to them they can quickly (and often embarrassingly) see that it’s just not true. They’ve twisted reality to enable them to stay safe.

Question what you believe to be true and the results you perceive to be impossible to avoid. Do you have evidence to prove your reality or are your thoughts just enabling your comfort zone to stay the same size?

Comfort zones are like big thick duvets. Glorious in the middle of winter with the rain battering the windows and you are curled up safe and warm, but hideous in summer, when the same duvet can wrap itself around you becoming a sweaty trap for your legs to get caught in.

If you know that a comfort zone is twisting your reality, you can be like two versions of my clients:

  1. They like to get so far out of their comfort zone that they can’t see it any more. They do big actions putting into action the right support to achieve them. Learn and move on.
  2. They would literally feel stuck in fear if you offered them option 1, therefore they like to do things in small tiny morsel sized bites. If this is you, arrange to challenge your beliefs around anything in your life (not just related to the calculated risk to achieve more).

If you like structure, start the day in a way you wouldn’t. Get dressed before you brush your teeth, listen to a different radio station, choose a different route to work.

Silly things that make you think about what you are doing can help you see that different is not bad. Different can be exciting, new, rewarding and so much else. And tiny steps can be right for some.

I – Ideas can reduce or inflame our capability for calculated risk.

Before you do anything, somewhere in your head it was a thought. When you really appreciate this, you are able to see that before you take on any risk, you have to have the ideas behind it to achieve.

Ideas like this will be exciting, life changing, and will work and make my career. What phrases would you create to describe the result of your idea?

If you notice they are negative, where’s your evidence? Clients often tell me that I make them take risks. As a coach, that’s impossible. My job is to enable them to see what they really want and overcome the beliefs and obstacles towards going for it.

Once we are faced with our facts on our skills, past successes and capabilities, we can’t help but ask “what is stopping you?” By doing this, you are creating solid foundation to get great results because your ideas are positive and not made up of illogical untruths like “it won’t work”, “what if I fail”, “it’s not done like that”, “I will end up looking stupid”.

S – Success over scares

It is a calculated risk and therefore something that is worth investing in and going for when our level of fear is reduced and our belief about success is raised. Where do you stand on this scale?

Scared! vs Success!

Now add in the following words to the above scale. Where would they sit?

  • Staying safe
  • Stuck
  • Self esteem
  • Stopping myself

Can you start to see how there is a big gap between scared and success? And between the two there will always be elements of feeling safe or stuck and worrying about whether you can do it. The important thing to remember is that you will never completely bridge the gap between scared and successful. A little fear is really good for you.

I’ve never had a speaking engagement where I don’t feel a little nervous. 9 years ago that wasn’t nervousness that was absolute terror. And I once read “it’s not stage fright, it’s performance energy.”

What description would you like to use do describe your calculated risk? If you were to say it out loud, would it be a positive sentence or one that reduce you to fear? Your words and finding your place on the scared to success scale could define your likelihood of success.

The know-it kit

Taking the risk is scary, from the client that wanted to confront their boss of 10 years and make a suggestion that they knew flew in the opposite opinion of their boss, to the singer who is too scared to stand in front of an audience. The important thing is to remember that you are in control of the risks you take and a know it kit can help.

Know the times you’ve been successful.

Lot’s of clients will tell me that their fear is overriding their beliefs about what can be achieved. At times like that it’s no good to think something different and expect it to magically make it seem easy.

Get the facts on your side. As much as you heart will fill your head with negativity, hanging on to the facts of what you’ve already done in life is something you can’t argue with.

Know the skills you have.

As above, when we take on a risk, we need to know we’ve got what we need to get the results we want.

Know that mistakes are good.

No exceptional rise to success didn’t have set backs, no great inventions didn’t have failures (with many of those becoming inventions in their own right) knowing that mistakes are an opportunity to learn and good for the end results can ensure you take action even when the fear is raising its ugly head.

International Vocal Coach Gemma Milburne shared,

“I think many of the greatest singers are the most willing to take risks. You have to risk going out of tune, making mistakes, sounding awful, in order to get REALLY good at singing. As a vocal coach a lot of what I’m doing is helping singers to face that ‘mental’ risk that’s in a person’s head.”

Know the people you can trust.

When everything is in place, you’ve got the evidence, you’ve done your research, you are accountable, focused and ready for action, sometimes just a chat with the right person can be all you need.

Who is in your Know it Kit? You can trust them to say what you need them to say. And not just “you will be great dear, go for it.” Having the right people there that will challenge, empower and ensure you’ve ready in every capacity to make it happen.

Before a petrified public speaker has taken to the stage or a client has walked into a room to go for their big dream, I’m often the one they text as they walk in for that last minute reminder that they’ve got this.

Know the way you have to feel.

And lastly, don’t forget that even with the right words from the right people, it is still down to you.

Sometimes cultural beliefs and feelings can slip into our mindset, other people in the same industry can tell us “it’s never been done like that” and it can knock our focus and derail our thoughts.

How do you need to feel to get the results you want? If I told a person from 200 years ago that they could fly anywhere on this planet in the same day, I’d likely have been locked up. Our beliefs change with time and experience. Do you want to be the person that creates the thoughts and beliefs of the future? Or wait for someone else to have taken the risk (and the glory!) and to leave you wishing “I wish I’d taken that risk”?

Face your fear and take risks

Looking back to myself years ago, Mrs. Nervous Wreck lacking in confidence…

She looked up at the chandelier that was taller than her house and tried to focus her thoughts. No amount of “thinking positive” was working and she just wanted her spleen to burst so she could end up in hospital safely away from this extravagant room and all these people. How could she ever have thought it would be a clever idea to speak to a room full of her peers?

Less than 5 months prior to this moment, she’d stood in front of just 25 business owners and faffed, and fumbled through her words, feeling like a complete fake wishing to never see any of these people ever again. Heck even a career in a local fast food place would be better! She’d made a memorable impression but for all the wrong reasons and one of the audience had taken great delight in reminding her of her epic fail, so what had driven her to do it again?

That was me but for some reason, I’d decided to take the risk and speak on another stage in front of more people.

In many ways, I was hardly recognizable from 9 years ago to today when I’m described as “one of the best speakers I’ve ever heard” and “changed my life in one hour.” Clearly my ability and attitude to speaking to an audience changed but what else?

It was how I faced my fear and how I grew my risk tolerance to achieve more.

By taking my advice on how to take calculated risks, you will gradually find yourself becoming braver and embracing more opportunities. You’ve got this!

Source: lifehack.org ~ By: Mandie Holgate ~ Image: pixabay.com

4 Branding Tips That Will Make You Stand Out

For my fans and followers, this list may be familiar territory, but that doesn’t mean you are successfully applying the advice to your business—and, more important, the list can be a reference point to ensure you are not developing bad branding habits that will make you disappear in the sea of sameness of your industry.

Collected here are four brand tips that are essential to developing a brand that gets noticed, remembered, and shared and doesn’t just blend in with the competition.

Not included here are the metaphoric meanings of different colors (red is urgent, blue is calm, blah blah blah…) or lessons on design of any kind. Design is crucial to having an effective brand, but your visual brand is a small, albeit important piece that should come much later in the process of developing your brand as a whole (like choosing a font or determining whether your logo is text or an image), especially when you have successful servicebusiness where you are making sales person to person. Nice-looking, consistently colored brands that promise “better” results are more than a dime a dozen.

These tips address the more important question that your brand ought to answer if you want it to help you get the right clients, which is “Why you?”

1. Don’t be about “good customer service,” “having knowledge and experience in your industry,” or anything else that any client would want from any company they hire for anything .

Who is the client that is not interested in good customer service? Who sells something they don’t know a lot about or have experience in? Don’t sell what customers already expect from all services. You might as well say “trust me,” which might be the most untrustworthy statement there is. Why do you have to tell me to trust you? I wasn’t even skeptical before you said that!

2. Ignore your favorite big box brands like Nike, Apple, and Starbucks.

If you are unsure of what to say, how to look, or how to market, do not use successful global companies for inspiration! First, these are product companies, so they are not comparable (just one of the millions of differences between Apple and your IT services company). Second, you should not be emulating the ways their brands speak and operate if you are a small business or—especially—an individual selling your own services.

If you’re seeking out ideas, look toward businesses with which you have more in common. Is another creative freelancer or high-end consultant in your area or industry achieving the things you want? Whose copy, look, or attitude is inspiring or attractive to you? Break down what you like about them and what draws you to them in detail so you can actually get some useable ideas on what you could do in your own brand. Then, don’t copy them, but do find your own way of applying those ideas. If you copy them you will reek of inauthenticity.

It’s okay to look for ideas outside of yourself—after all, you’ve gotta start somewhere, but it ain’t with Apple—so forget about the big guys completely and look for inspiration in your own stratosphere.

3. Find your haters.

Most of us avoid hearing or finding negative feedback about our service, but if the way you do things is not a turnoff to at least some people, then you don’t have anything to offer  (beyond the hundreds of others just like you selling a service without any style or angle). Of course, your service is not hate-able, but what could reasonable people dislike about your methods?

The trick here is not to just write off completely those who would dislike your style as jealous haters. If everything you do is an attempt to be appealing to potentially everyone (which is impossible), you will end up with a useless, stale, generic brand message and you will be forgettable and have a difficult time closing potential clients.

Finding what is unlikeable about your way of doing business is the key to finding who would love to work with you—and pay handsomely for your services—because you are speaking directly to them in their exact language.

4. Have a brand goal.

Goals are great, right? We have them for our finances, business, and relationships, so why don’t you have a goal for your brand? Why do you have a brand and what do you want to get from it?

The hard part is getting granular because—sorry to tell you—“getting more clients,” “making more money,” or “growing” are not goals. They are hopes and dreams, unless you get specific. “More money” is a hard one to reach—how much more until you’ve made it? You probably already have a vague idea in mind, so just say it out loud or better yet, write it down. Have the guts to admit to yourself what you want.

Your brand goals should be no different. If you’ve only sold by referral up to this point, maybe you want at least four potential ideal clients to call you out of the blue every month because you have a noticeable, memorable, shareable brand. Maybe you want your brand to be able to justify raising your price by 25 percent. Once you know what you’re aiming for and what your brand is supposed to be doing, you can make the right decisions on how to invest your time and money in it, and have a brand that actually works for you—not one that just looks nice or, worse, looks like all the other guys.

These brand tips are simple in theory but often difficult in practice. They require going beyond website copy and elevator pitches that sound “correct” but are actually boring and generic. They mean ignoring the opinions of others and believing in your own abilities and expertise. And they require you to get real with yourself about what you really want. But that’s the work necessary to separate yourself from competitors and the sea of sameness.

Source: Forbes.com ~ By: Pia Silva ~ Image: pixabay.com

 

14 Things You Can Do Every Day To Protect Your Mental Health As You Age

Aging brings you face to face with the loss of loved ones, children leaving the nest and physical changes such as reduced energy levels. These types of events can “give rise to negative emotions such as sadness, anxiety, loneliness and lowered self-esteem,” according to the American Psychological Association. Growing older can also come with a slew of positive changes like the opportunity to travel, more time to spend with grandchildren and the chance to take on a new hobby.

“But any kind of change, even joyful changes, can bring up a variety of emotions, including anxiety, overwhelm, loneliness and depression,” said Connie Habash, a licensed marriage and family therapist in Menlo Park, California. Therefore, it’s essential to make your mental health a priority, especially throughout your later years.

Here are a handful of ways in which you can emotionally support yourself throughout the journey of growing older:

1. Meditate

“Meditation is a great way to protect your mental health as you age,” said Jodi Baretz, a licensed clinical social worker and author of Mindful Is the New Skinny. “Not only does it train your brain to focus and improve your attention, it also decreases anxiety and increases your ability to enjoy the everyday moments of your life.”

Baretz added that meditation can also increase your tolerance of the uncomfortable and help you become less reactive, which decreases stress and emotional overwhelm. And studies show that it may go a long way in preventing age-related cognitive decline.

2. Stay connected

As people get older, there can be a tendency to withdraw from others. Retirement, friends passing, kids moving away all contribute to this social isolation. But it’s important to trade a night in with Netflix for an occasional dinner out with friends.

“The most important thing you can do is stay in communication with others,” said Colleen Mullen, a licensed marriage and family therapist at San Diego’s Coaching Through Chaos. “Find a new social group, swim, play Bingo, join a walking group or book club.” Mullen also noted that staying socially connected keeps your mind in a healthier place, which can in turn positively boost your overall well-being.

3. Adopt an attitude of gratitude

Studies suggest that taking a moment to count your blessings can boost your happiness. “Practicing gratitude has been demonstrated to help people manage stress, decrease depression, increase empathy and decrease aggression,” Mullen said.

Steven M. Sultanoff, a clinical psychologist in Costa Mesa, California, suggested ending your day by recalling three things that you are grateful for at the moment.

4. Check in with your body

Between smartphones, television and a 24/7 news cycle, our minds are always busy. But mindfulness has been linked to reduced anxiety and the reduction of mental stress. However, a “mindful body scan” may help whenever you are feeling overwhelmed, according to Karinn Glover, an assistant professor of the department of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Albert Einstein College of Medicine.

The process is simple: Spend five to 15 minutes breathing deeply and focusing your thoughts on your body, sensations, areas of discomfort or tension, starting at your feet and moving upward progressively until you get to the top of your head, Glover said.

“It’s a wonderful way to practice getting in touch with your body so stress and tension don’t become overwhelming,” Glover added.

5. Get moving

“Exercise increases blood flow to the brain, which brings oxygen, which helps prevent the dreaded ‘brain fog’ that so many women complain about once they reach a certain estrogen-deprived age,” said Maria Shriver, founder of The Women’s Alzheimer’s Movement and Move for Minds — the organization’s annual fundraising initiative. For the best results, the organization recommends a combination of aerobic exercise and weight or resistance training.

6. Try something new

“Keep an open mind,” said Susan London, director of social work at Shore View Nursing and Rehabilitation Center. She suggested taking any opportunity possible to step out of your comfort zone.

“You never know the kinds of experiences you might have as a result of this, and it could change the course of your life without you even realizing it,” London added.

Shriver also advocated for challenging your mind. “Mental activity offers benefits to brain health. Learn something new to create new neural connections,” Shriver said. Try studying an unfamiliar language or taking up an instrument.

7. Pop a probiotic

Approximately 90 percent of serotonin (the neurotransmitter in the brain that releases feel-good chemicals) is made in the belly, along with other important mood-regulating neurotransmitters, said Sarah Morgan, a functional nutritionist and founder of Buddies In My Belly.

“The neurotransmitters made in the belly directly impact brain functions like mood, memory, focus, sense of well-being and more,” she explained.

Research suggests that taking a daily probiotic may help ward off depression. Morgan also recommended eating a diet high in plant foods that are rich in prebiotic fibers to keep your gut bacteria “healthy and happy.” This includes vegetables, nuts, seeds, fruit, beans and whole grains.

8. Form a new routine

Many Americans strive to retire by the age of 65. But sitting at home all day with nothing to do can take a toll on you emotionally. According to Ramani Durvasula, a professor of psychology at California State University, “having a routine can provide meaning and purpose, which many view as two of the most essential ingredients for health.” Sign up to volunteer, take on a part-time job in an industry that has always fascinated you, try a new hobby, become a mentor or get involved in local civic activities.

9. Get your Zs

“As you age, unfortunately, insomnia becomes an issue for many Americans, afflicting almost half of adults over the age of 60,” said Bill Fish, a certified sleep science coach and co-founder of Tuck.

A lack of sleep can lead to mental health ailments such as anxiety and depression. And a 2012 study linked sleeplessness with an increased risk of Alzheimer’s.

“Your brain goes through a rebooting process each night, essentially recharging itself, so we feel brighter and refreshed in the morning,” Fish said. “If you aren’t achieving the recommended sleep of seven to nine hours per night, you aren’t giving the brain a chance to recover to take on the day ahead.”

10. Practice self-love

Developing a compassionate relationship with your body will go a long way in helping you to combat any dissatisfaction that may coincide with the process of aging. Richard Matzkin, psychotherapist and co-author of Art Of Aging, suggested practicing positive affirmations and visualization to achieve this.

“The thing that kills self-love most is negative self-judgment,” he said. “You can counter this with positive self-talk. When negativity arises, rather than allowing yourself to be drawn into self-defeating, negative thoughts, replace it with thoughts about what you like about yourself.”

11. See a therapist

If you begin to feel sad, frustrated or anxious, you might want to consider giving therapy a try.

“Therapists can help identify counterproductive patterns in thinking and emotion that will help you get back to loving life quickly, should you hit a rough spot,” said Whitney Owens, a licensed clinical psychologist in Las Vegas.

Grief can also be a reason to call in a professional. There is no shame in getting support from an experienced practitioner who understands what you are going through.

“Don’t ignore the signs. If you are experiencing grief for an inordinate amount of time, usually longer than a year after the loss of a loved one, don’t be afraid to seek help,” London said.

12. Keep a positive support system

Having a good support system can help to tackle conditions like stress and depression. Surround yourself with people who love and care about you. That also means cutting out toxic people.

“Stop catering to people who suck your drive. Let them go,” Durvasula, the professor of psychology, said.

13. Laugh out loud

Next time something makes you laugh, take note and try to include more of that in your life.

“Happiness goes hand-in-hand with laughing, and humor is a great stress reliever,” said James Polo, a psychiatrist in Tacoma, Washington. “Mentally fit individuals tend to take time to celebrate funny things and laugh about them out loud.”

14. Spend time in nature

Going outdoors can improve your physical and mental health. So whether you spend time in your yard pruning the bushes, going for a hike in the forest, or simply sitting in a local park to take in the peace and serenity, getting outside may help to brighten your day.

“The feelings of awe and gratitude when we stand atop a stunning vista or when we see a rose slowly bloom in our garden, uplift us and maintain our appreciation of the beauty that we have in our lives all around us,” Habash said.

Source: huffingtonpost.com ~ By: Nicole Pajer

Is Inflammation Messing With Your Body?

The term “inflammation” has been popping up everywhere lately, right? Whether you’re reading about anti-inflammatory diets or having brunch with your friend who won’t shut up about the (admittedly pretty excellent) benefits of probiotics, inflammation has become weirdly… trendy. But it’s also confusing—after all, isn’t “inflammation” also what happens when you slam your finger in a door?

How can something that seems so basic also be the cause of heart disease or depression? With a little help from the experts, we broke down the different types of inflammation—so the next time your hypochondriac friend brings up the subject, you’ll be ready.

Acute Inflammation

This is the kind that happens when you stub your toe—in this case, inflammation is part of the body’s natural defense against invaders like bacteria and part of the system that repairs damaged tissue after an injury.

This classic biology textbook illustration shows what happens when you get a splinter, for instance: First, defense cells recognize that something is wrong and send out the signal for other cells to report to duty. In response, mast cells release chemicals that cause the blood vessels in the area to dilate. This creates little holes that allow white blood cells and fluid to exit the vessel, begin to fight the invading microbes, and heal any tissue damage. And that fluid is what causes swelling. Once the injury is fixed, the micro war is over, and everything goes back to normal.

Of course, your body doesn’t always do what it’s supposed to. Allergic reactions happen when your body mistakenly identifies a substance as harmful and releases antibodies, triggering the above battle scene—even though there’s really nothing to fight. And sometimes it doesn’t even take a full-on allergy—just a milder intolerance—to make that happen.

“If you’re putting something in your body that it doesn’t agree with, that can set off an inflammatory reaction and a whole host of issues,” says Deepa Verma, M.D., AIHM. Those issues can be the classic allergy symptoms like itchy eyes and a runny nose—or potentially less-obvious responses, like bloating or irritable bowel syndrome.

The Chronic

While inflammation is a natural part of the healing process, when it’s constantly being triggered—whether by potentially harmful microbes or cases of mistaken identity (allergies and stress)—that can lead to a dangerous situation.

Josh Axe, DNM, DC, CNS, says that long-standing inflammation is often an underlying finding in autoimmune diseases. “Over time, this can lead to an increased risk of many serious conditions, including heart disease and cancer. Not only that, but it can also exacerbate symptoms of inflammatory diseases like Crohn’s and rheumatoid arthritis.”

It would be handy if chronic inflammation were as obvious as an ingrown toenail, but Axe says it often takes a more subtle form before it leads to those above-mentioned diseases.

“Fatigue, extra belly fat, high blood sugar, and digestive problems are a few of the symptoms that may signify chronic inflammation,” he says.

The Inflammation-Disease Link

The science on how inflammation affects the body is still relatively new. Some diseases aren’t necessarily caused by inflammation, but inflammation can trigger their worst symptoms. We know that inflammation of the intestines in Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis causes intense pain, diarrhea, and nausea, as it becomes difficult for food to pass through the GI tract and for nutrients to be absorbed through the intestinal wall. The autoimmune diseases rheumatoid arthritis and lupus also result in inflammation throughout the body.

The list of correlations (but not quite causation) goes on: Studies have shown that the proteins released during the inflammatory process might promote cancerous tumor growth. Obesity can cause inflammation in adipose tissue (wherever the body stores fat), which in turn makes the body resistant to insulin (leading to diabetes).

Studies have shown that suppressing inflammation with drugs can drastically reduce the risk for heart attack and stroke. They’re still trying to work out the details as to why that works, but the prevalent theory, according to the American Heart Association, is that the immune system forms a blood clot around ruptured cholesterol plaque, which in turn blocks the flow of blood to the heart or brain. Researchers have concluded that both Alzheimer’s disease and depression are the result of inflammation in the brain.

Medicinal First Responders

Just as aspirin and ibuprofen help the swelling and pain in your muscles, those anti-inflammatory drugs have been shown to help chronic symptoms too. Corticosteroids are the next-level solution, used to treat serious issues like asthma.

But scientists such as Adam Moeser, an associate professor at Michigan State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine, are working on a way to target the process before it even starts. He and his team discovered the receptors in mast cells that signal an immune response during stress, and the next step is to figure out how to block that receptor from setting off a false alarm.

Can You Eat Your Way Out Of This?

According to Axe, such staples as corn and soybean oils, pasteurized dairy, processed meat, and refined carbohydrates can promote inflammation in the body—and there’s research to back that up. And if one of Verma’s patients complains of any inflammation-related symptoms, she tests their blood to determine any underlying food intolerance that may be triggering a histamine reaction.

More importantly, there’s a lot of evidence out there about the good foods we should be eating to prevent inflammation. That good-old Mediterranean diet—lots of grains, fruits, and vegetables; a little red meat; plenty of fish—is an easy place to start. Foods high in fiber promote healthy gut bacteria, so you’ll keep those intestines happy. And fruits and vegetables rich in antioxidants, like blueberries and leafy greens, help the body neutralize the free radicals that cause inflammation.

“Oftentimes, medications are used to simply treat symptoms without treating the root of the problem,” Axe says. “I’ve had several patients with heart disease taking a slew of medications designed to lower cholesterol levels and keep blood pressure in check. Ultimately, upping their intake of anti-inflammatory foods like fruits and vegetables has actually been key to reversing heart disease, restoring heart health, and going medication-free.”

Just don’t go thinking you can have a salad and be done with this process. “Going back to old eating habits will cause symptoms to return and will continue to wreak havoc on health,” Axe warns.

Chill Out

If this article has alarmed you in any way, don’t panic—stress may also be a factor in inflammation (fun!), and it seems like we have our prehistoric ancestors to blame.

“If we’re faced with any kind of stress, the body responds initially with immune activations to protect ourselves while we decide between fight or flight,” Moeser says.

Retraining the brain from its primitive fight-or-flight patterns can be done through self-care practices such as yoga and meditation—and another proven method is just to hit the gym. “Besides switching up your diet, getting in more regular physical activity can also have a major impact on alleviating inflammation,” Axe says.

When you’re done with your workout, go hang out with your friends—science says it’s a way to lessen inflammation. Whether you choose to talk their ears off about inflammation, of course, is on you.

Source: greatist.comBY SABRINA WEISS