Sunday, February 26, 2012

7 Soothing Foods and Calming Scents To Fight Stress

I read an article about this. According to psychologists, the part of the brain that processes smells is located very close to the part of the brain that stores emotions and memories. So…when you smell something you like you take deeper breaths. This lowers your blood pressure and your heart rate slows which results in relaxation.

Here are 7 scents and tastes the article claims will help fight stress.

1) The Scent Of Lavender
British researchers tested two groups at dental clinics. For one group they diffused lavender oil with a ceramic candle warmer at the start of the morning. With the second group they substituted water for the lavender oil. The group with the lavender oil reported significantly lower anxiety levels. Since the mere mention of the word dental usually creates stress, this should work well in normal situations.

2) The Scent Of Coconut
People who breathed in coconut fragrance saw their blood pressure recover more quickly after a challenging task. Researchers think inhaling pleasant scent enhances alertness while soothing response to stress. Of course, for those of us who don't like coconut...well, 'nuff said.  :)

3) The Scent Of Apple
If you like the smell of green apples, then embracing their aroma may help to alleviate headaches. Some people with chronic migraines found some pain relief after inhaling green apple fragrance at the start of a headache.

4) The Taste Of Tea
Drinking caffeinated black, green or oolong tea varieties may result in a more alert state of mind. Researchers think an amino acid in these teas may work synergistically with caffeine to improve attention and focus.

5) The Scent Of Peppermint
In a study, it was discovered that those who sniffed peppermint oil every two hours had a lower hunger level, experienced fewer cravings, and ate significantly less. The greatest effect comes from inhaling the scene, but peppermint gum, mints and flavored water also work to a lesser degree.

6) The Taste Of Carbohydrates
Eating carbohydrates can stimulate the release of serotonin, the brain's feel good chemical. Go for the whole grains which deliver more fiber and nutrients than refined grains.

And finally...the best for last.

7) The Taste Of Chocolate
It shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone that chocolate relieves stress. Or more specifically, dark chocolate. But be warned, chocolate does have a significant number of calories. Watch out because this could become a Catch-22 situation. You eat the chocolate to relieve stress, then you stress out because of all the calories so you eat more chocolate to relieve that added stress which causes more calorie related stress so you...

Well, you get the picture.  :)

Sunday, February 19, 2012

10 Warning Signs Of Midlife Crisis

The silver-haired 50-something-year-old suddenly trading in his life in the suburbs, his wife of 25 years and his sensible car for a Harley motorcycle and a 21 year old girlfriend is certainly the stereotypical image of midlife crisis.

Obviously every period of doubt or depression that occurs in middle age is not connected with the panic about getting older. But how do you know if what you are experiencing is actually the anxiety of midlife crisis or not?

I recently read an article about 10 warning signs that say you might be going through midlife crisis. I'd like to share them with you here.

1) You have a growing sense of regret over unattained goals.

2) You have new feelings of being self-conscious around more successful colleagues.

3) You now place a new emphasis on remaining youthful when the effort previously seemed unimportant.

4) You desire to spend more time alone than previously, or with certain peers who could be characterized as youthful or as those who are comfortable in their own skin.

5) You have developed a new tendency to abuse alcohol.

6) You place a new importance on acquiring unusual or expensive items when the same purchases were previously considered frivolous or impulsive.

7) You are experiencing a sharp increase in self-criticism with a corresponding decline in self-compassion.

8) You now obsess over your physical appearance in areas where you previously didn't pay that much attention because everything was okay.

9) You place an unusual amount of pressure and stress on your children to excel in a variety of fields.

10) You enter relationships with younger partners than previously considered viable.

Even though midlife crisis is usually and traditionally associated with middle-aged men, it certainly applies to women, too. Now, where did that 25-year-old bronzed stud of a lifeguard disappear to (she asks as she slowly rakes her gaze across the men at the swimming pool)?

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Valentine's Day—The Good And The Bad

The Good:

Valentine's Day is that time of the year when cards, flowers, candy, jewelry, and other tokens of affection are given to loved ones in the name of St. Valentine. But who is St. Valentine and why do we celebrate his holiday every year?

One legend says Valentine was a priest in the third century in Rome. Emperor Claudius II decided single men made better soldiers so he outlawed marriage for young men. Valentine defied Claudius and continued to perform marriages for young lovers in secret. Claudius ordered him put to death.

Another story has Valentine killed for attempting to help Christians escape harsh Roman prisons where they were beaten and tortured.

And yet another story says Valentine was the one who sent the first 'Valentine Greeting' while he was in prison. He fell in love with a young girl, possibly the jailor's daughter, who visited him while he was imprisoned. Before his death, he wrote her a letter and signed it 'From your Valentine,' an expression that has transcended time to continue as a common expression for the holiday.

St. Valentine's Day, as we know it today, is a combination of both Christian and ancient Roman tradition. One theory says we celebrate Valentine's Day in the middle of February to commemorate the anniversary of Valentine's death or burial which probably occurred around 270A.D., while others believe that the Christian church may have decided to celebrate Valentine's feast day in the middle of February in an effort to 'Christianize' celebrations of the pagan Lupercalia festival.

According to the Greeting Card Association, an estimated one billion valentine cards are sent each year, making Valentine's Day the second largest card-sending holiday, surpassed only by the exchange of Christmas cards. Valentine's Day is celebrated in Canada, Mexico, the United Kingdom, France, and Australia in addition to the United States.

The Bad:

The St. Valentine's Day massacre—the most spectacular gangland slaying in mob history.

Al Capone ('known' to be the mastermind, but never charged for the crime) had arranged for his chief rival, Chicago mobster George "Bugs" Moran and most of his North Side Gang, to be eliminated on February 14, 1929. The plan was simple and deviously clever, yet Capone's primary target escaped any injury. Capone distanced himself from the execution of the plan (and the execution of his rivals) by spending the time at his home in Florida.

A bootlegger loyal to Capone was to draw Moran and his gang to a warehouse to receive a shipment of smuggled whiskey, the delivery set for 10:30AM on Valentine's Day.

The morning of February 14 was cold and snowy. A group of Moran's men waited for Bugs at the red brick warehouse at 2122 North Clark Street. Moran was running late. When his car turned the corner onto Clark Street, he spotted a police wagon pulling up to the warehouse. Assuming it was a raid, he watched as five men, three of them dressed in police uniforms, entered the building. Moran and the two men with him, immediately left the area.

Inside the warehouse, Moran's men were confronted by the hit men disguised as police. Assuming it was a routine bust, they followed instructions when ordered to line up against the wall. The hit men opened fire with Thompson submachine guns, killing six of the seven men immediately. The seventh man, with twenty-two bullet wounds, survived the attack but died after arriving at the hospital.

The newspapers instantly picked up on the crime, dubbing it the "St. Valentine's Day Massacre." The story appeared on front pages around the country, making Capone a national celebrity. But to his dismay, this new found celebrity also brought a new level of attention from federal law enforcement culminating in his conviction for tax evasion and incarceration at Alcatraz.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Chocolate—The Food Of Love

Valentine's Day is just around the corner, the day the chocolate industry happily counts its profits. Certainly other items also come to mind such as cards, flowers, and jewelry. But chocolate reigns supreme for the holiday.

The history of chocolate goes back over two thousand years. Cocoa has long been associated with passion, romance, and love. It's a concept that goes back to the Aztecs with archaeological records indicating that the Mayans were consuming cocoa as long ago as 600 B.C., possibly even earlier than that.

The Aztecs believed it was a source of spiritual wisdom, energy, and sexual power. It was widely served at wedding ceremonies. The ancient civilizations of Central and South America did not know chocolate as we do today. They consumed cocoa as a drink, its naturally bitter taste possibly altered by adding chili peppers to the water and cocoa.

When the Spanish explorers first brought cocoa home with them in 1585, they experimented by mixing it with sugar and vanilla to make a sweeter tasting drink. The result was a type of hot chocolate popular among the upper classes who were the only ones who could afford it. Cocoa was also added to baked goods to give them added flavor. By the first half of the eighteenth century cocoa production had increased and the price fallen so that it became affordable to the general population of Europe and also the European colonies in the New World.

By the nineteenth century things were moving along nicely for those involved in the manufacture of chocolate. In 1828, Conrad van Houton of Holland invented a process to make a refined cocoa powder which increased the output of the usable powder from a given crop of cocoa beans which further lowered the price.

The first chocolate candies as we know them today were invented in the 1860s by Cadbury, a British candy maker, who was also the first to sell them in a heart-shaped box for Valentine's Day.

Another big advance came in 1878 when a Swiss chocolate seller, Daniel Peter, invented a process for making candy out of milk chocolate—a process picked up by Nestle. In 1913 Jules Sechaud, a Swiss chocolate maker, created the first chocolate candy with cream and other fillings and the modern soft centered chocolate candies were born.

And thus chocolate candies joined the ranks of flowers and jewelry in the courtship ritual.

Chocolate, including chocolate candy, is liked by most people, but women tend to have a somewhat greater affinity for it than men. Chocolate is more than food. It not only fills your stomach, it also makes you feel good. Many people believe that chocolate is an aphrodisiac. While it is true that chocolate does contain organic substances which have a physical feel good affect on the body, the amounts are not that great.

Critics claim the benefits of eating chocolate are small compared to the sugar and fat contained in a chocolate bar. However, the best chocolate—dark chocolate with high cocoa butter content rather than milk chocolate—has no added fat with a high percentage of cocoa solids and correspondingly less sugar. Chocolate will never be considered a health food based on its nutritional value, but it is still good for you. It's good for your heart, relieves stress, and makes you feel good. What more could you want?

Chocolate has long been associated with passion, romance, and love. This association goes all the way back to the Aztecs. Valentine's Day is a celebration of romance. Chocolate is both an everyday pleasure and a token of love. Valentine's Day and chocolate make a perfect match. Men have long known in dealing with women that chocolate is always a safe gift. Chocolate is given as a token of love and is equally viable as a peace offering when he has done something to anger his love.

Chocolate—the all purpose taste treat that's good any time of the year.