Lesson Learned from Ants: A Powerful Strategy to Manage Feelings in an Instant

Fun fact! Did you know that ants don’t have ears? It’s true! Having had four kids doing online school this past year has really given me the opportunity to learn and relearn a whole variety of fun facts, but relearning about ants reminded me of a beneficial and powerful strategy that can benefit and assist anyone to be able to deal with and manage our feelings in an instant.

My daughter was looking for some help on a school assignment and came to me asking where the “feelers” are in an ant and what they are supposed to do. Her question caught me off guard a little bit but I was able to realize that the “feelers” she was referring to was the ants antenna.

I described the long, curved looking legs on their head and explained that they are very crucial for an ant as ants use their antennae to smell, feel and touch what is ahead of or behind them as they crawl and even use antennas to talk with their friends. So, even though ants have mouths, they don’t use them to talk–{they actually communicate using their antennae to smell pheromones.}

Doing a little more ant research, I also discovered that ants don’t have ears but use their antennas to feel out sounds and vibrations. Kinda ironic that the one insect that is known for being a good listener and following directions, doesn’t even have ears. They actually rely on their antennas to navigate their worlds.

Just as it is vital for the ant to use its antenna or ‘feelers’ in order to navigate in their world, we really need to learn how to use our feelings to navigate in ours. Just like ‘feelers’ serve as a way to get information about what is ahead of or behind the ant, our feelings can likewise serve to help us understand our world as we see it. Our feelings help us to see what is ahead (danger, surprise and what is behind us–reminding us of past hurt or embarrassments). Our feelings are sending us messages, reminders and warnings. When we can recognize what we are feeling, {label it with a name and identify it}, we can then decide what we are going to do about it.

The key is recognizing the messages our feelings are sending us and realize that not every feeling is accurate and that our feelings can change. In fact, we can change our feelings with our thoughts. But how, you ask? The Cost-Benefit Analysis Strategy Technique.

There is a technique known as Cost-Benefit Analysis that is very effective at being able to help us analyze our feelings and change them if needed very quickly. All of you who are math minded or accountants are probably really intrigued right now but even if math isn’t your strongest subject, this strategy is something simple that everyone can use and benefit from.

With the Cost Benefit analysis you would simply list the advantage and disadvantages of a feeling. You can do this in your head or even on a piece of paper.

For instance, an event happens. Let’s say your plane is late and your first feeling you recognize is anger. You would simply mentally list what would be the advantage or disadvantage of getting angry that your plane is late. You can determine within your mind that getting angry isn’t going to change the fact the plane is late and then choose a different feeling and thought. Ex: This is frustrating, but staying angry isn’t going to change the fact the plane is late so I am going to choose to remain calm and look for alternative options and choose to feel hopeful.

You can recognize that your feelings are simply messages, reminders and warnings and that not all feelings are accurate. For example, one of my personal favorites: “I don’t feel like doing it, so you put it off.” If you waited until you felt like doing a task you don’t like, you would never get it done. Instead, you make choices to brush your teeth, make dinner and visit the dentist and it has little to do with your feelings. Using the Cost Benefit Analysis you can mentally weigh the advantages and disadvantages of putting something off because you don’t feel like it. You can decide that it isn’t worth the dealing with all the disadvantages and make a conscious choice to move forward even if you don’t feel like it.

You can even use the Cost/Benefit Analysis strategy with a negative thought you are having. For example: the thought that no matter how hard I try, I always give up. What are the advantages or disadvantages of listening to this negative thought? You can choose to say, this thought isn’t helpful. You can determine that it is not worth it to listen to a thought that is not helpful and then choose to remember the time that you make a difference when you didn’t give up or the difference someone in your life made on you when they didn’t give up on you.

The Cost Benefit analysis also works on changing patterns of behavior: (Lying around and eating when you are feeling sad). What are the advantages or disadvantages? When you recognize a pattern of behavior is not helpful, you can choose to implement a different pattern. Choose to sit outside for a moment or find someone to serve or look to other ways that have been helpful in dealing with sadness for you. You can change your feelings simply by asking yourself if they are helpful to you and then making a choice to change them.

All of our feelings have a purpose but unlike the ants, we can choose what we do with those feelings and we can change our feelings, our thoughts, and even our patterns of behavior. Pretty powerful, huh? Try it out and see how the Cost Benefit Strategy can improve your world in an instant!

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Flip the Switch: A powerful tool that can change your perspective and your life immediately

Flipping the Switch is a simple, yet powerful tool that can help your mind cultivate gratitude and can change your perspective immediately.

The tool is simple. When you feel frustrated or overwhelmed with a particular situation you would simply ‘flip the switch’ and imagine that the opposite holds true. What does that do? Flipping the switch has an immediate affect. It helps to cultivate gratitude for your situation. You are able to recognize blessings that you may have been overlooking and it allows you a path forward. It also allows more joy into your life and grants you energy and motivation to improve and change your circumstance.

For example, if you are frustrated with the size of your house you would ‘flip it’ to being homeless. This doesn’t mean that you can’t improve your housing situation if needed but it does allow you to be grateful for what you have when you consider what life would be like if you had nothing at all. And when you are feeling gratitude, you take better care of your belongings and you have a greater appreciation for what you do have. You see things more clearly and are more able to find ways to improve your situation rather than dwelling on what you don’t have.

If you are feeling frustrated about the limited options of schooling for your kids or your grandkids, you would imagine what life would be like for them having no school and having no opportunities to learn at all. While it doesn’t take away the difficulties you are facing, it does allow for gratitude to work in your life and to recognize opportunities you do have but might be overlooking due to the frustration. You become more aware of what opportunities they do have and ways to maximize them. You feel and express gratitude for those teachers or technology that they do have. You become part of the solution–looking for ways to improve their education rather than feeling hopeless and powerless to help.

If you are feeling frustrated with an aspect of your job, you would flip the switch and imagine what it would be like not to have a job at all—where you were prevented from having a job–no money, no opportunity to grow or learn, no sense of accomplishment in making a difference in the life of someone else. Flipping the switch allows you to recognize what you would actually miss the most and then feel gratitude for those aspects despite those aspects that can be frustrating. It can even lead you to a new path that you might not have been considering. It allows you to recognize what you enjoy most about working and by concentrating on that you are able to move forward instead of stay stagnate in a negative circle of frustration. Positive employees tend to have higher job performance and gratitude for your opportunity to work allows you to be more positive about your employment.

If you were overwhelmed with your your kid(s), you would flip it to not ever having them in your life AT ALL. While everyone can and should benefit from breaks as a parent–flipping the switch means you would imagine them COMPLETELY never a part of your life. And not just for that moment after you stepped on a LEGO for the hundredth time–imagine what your life would be like never having ANY of the moments with them. Who would you be without them? What qualities and characteristics have they helped you develop because they were there? Flipping the switch allows you to not only remember but also reexperience positive feelings– that feeling when they looked to you for help and your arms were sufficient to provide all the help and healing they needed. The feeling that you had introducing them to something new and watching the thrill of excitement. The feeling when you enter a room and as they recognized you and brightened simply because you were there. You would flip to a memory of them that makes you smile like as a little girl in pig-tails with with a big, black smile from oreos covering all their face or when they were dressed up like Darth Vader and making all the sounds of a light saber battle. Flipping the switch allows you to find reasons to be grateful especially during those moments when it is hard to find a reason. Even if that reason is they are helping you to become a more patient person. You recognize that having them in your life is helping you to become a better person than you would be without them. It can inspire you to grow together to improve.

So the next time you are feeling frustrated or overwhelmed, try “Flipping the Switch” and look for the blessings that are there but might have been overlooked. Flipping the switch allows gratitude to immediately work in your life. It is just like a flipping the switch on a light in a dark room that allows for the ability to see things that we would have missed if we continued to stumble in darkness. And gratitude turns what we have into enough.

If this has been helpful for you, please take a moment to like and share. Thank you!

Journaling: A Simple Task with Profound Benefits {9 Reasons You Need To Write, Right Now}

There is power in simple, small things. For instance, all of us have felt that power at one point in our lives from just a simple hug that made a tremendous difference. During this particular time of social distancing, hugging isn’t an option for many of us. However, there is a simple and small thing that can make a huge difference in our lives in the midst of uncertainty when it is apparent now more than ever how much of life is outside of our control. There is power in simplicity that we just often overlook. This simple task doesn’t have a particular method you have to follow. There is no recipe. There is no determined outcome you need to achieve or a set number of required reps or word count. And it isn’t graded. This is something that anyone (including any child who can write) can do and reap the numerous benefits. The task is simply journaling.

I realize that I just probably shocked many of you with that response. What could possibly benefit me from journaling? However, there are several proven benefits from journaling and small things can and do bring about great and profound results. Here are just a few:

Journaling Allows Your Mind to Process

Journaling allows your mind to process in a way that no other method can. Journaling allows you to center your feelings and allows you to realize what it really on your mind. It allows you to problem solve and declutter things that are weighing on your mind but you didn’t exactly realize how or what. It is a way to gain the clarity that we all crave and need. It more importantly allows you a way to get out of the constant feedback loop of your thoughts as your thoughts escape on paper and allow you instead to be able to move forward.

Journaling Allows You to Focus on You and Become Your Best Self

Journaling allows you to unplug and without the pressure of meeting anyone’s expectations. Instead of attempting to write a post that is going to generate the most likes, you are instead able to spend a little time pondering and reviewing your life and the direction it is heading. You don’t need to worry about punctuation or spelling or the reactions of others. You can take a step back from the pressures of work, school and even your social life and decompress taking time to get to know who you are. Knowing who you are, what you stand for, what you dream or envision for your life and family allows you to be present in relationships and develop honest and healthy connections and become your best self.

Journaling Allows for Growth and Change

Journaling allows you to recognize opportunities for growth and change and to recognize what is working well in you life and what you want to continue doing. You will find that the more sentences that start with “I” will allow you be be the change that you are seeking in life. It only takes one variable in an equation to change the outcome and there is real power in pondering and deciphering for yourself what the outcome is that you are seeking and even more importantly what you can personally do to become that agent of change. For instance, if I really at my core decided that I want a family that is more loving, I can look for way to share kindness myself and recognize and support the kindness I see in others. Journaling is the best way to being able to determine what you really value at your core and gives you an opportunity to give a voice to the dreams that you have inside you and create goals that are meaningful and valuable.

Journaling Increases Your Emotional Intelligence

Journaling helps you give a name to a feeling and makes you more emotionally intelligent. When a feeling has a name, it is much easier to know how to manage that feeling and helps you to navigate difficult issues that often are overpowered with unnamed feelings. Your emotional intelligence is key in being able to create and recreate connections. It allows you to decompress and assist your brain to be able to regulate and manage your emotions in a way that nothing else can.

Journaling Can Improve Your Emotional and Physical Health

Researchers have found that journaling for as little as four minutes a day resulted in measurable difference in a person’s mood and and sense of well being. Additional research by University of Texas at Austin psychologist and researcher, James Pennebaker, found that regular journaling strengthens immune cells (T-lymphocytes) and resulted in a decrease in health problems and an increase in immune system functioning. Researchers have also found that students who wrote about meaningful personal experiences for 15 minutes a day over the course of several days in a row felt better and got higher grades in school.

Journaling Allows for Hindsight and Perspective

Reviewing journal entries is a great way to remind yourself how much feelings can change–even very powerful feelings. When you reread what you write, you actually feel the feelings that you felt when you wrote it and can quickly notice how much feelings can fluctuate and change and how temporary they are. Rereading the entries allows you insight that coupled with hindsight is beyond powerful. You aren’t just thinking back on events in your life, but you are experiencing the feelings you felt then with your feelings now and are able to recognize steps that lead to your personal success and steps that do not. Reviewing journal entries is also a unique way to see and recognize patterns–healthy or unhealthy–and help you to make decisions that can lead you to reach the life you have determined for yourself. Journaling gives you an inside perspective and ability to reflect that simply relying on your memory does not.

Journaling Allows You to See God In Your Life Regardless of the Challenges

It is hard in this life to feel like your life is being guided and directed especially amongst such uncertainty. There is a poem that is pretty famous but that is always been one of my favorites. It is titled, “The Footprints”. It recounts how it was only after a man looked back on his life that he realizes how he was carried and that he was guided and directed even and especially during his darkest times. Journaling allows you to see His footprints in your life.

Journaling Allows Us to Deal With Things That Are Outside of Our Control

We all love to feel in control. The examples are endless–from the weatherman who is supposed to predict the future and our outfit for the day—to even the school lunch calendar which can make or break your kid’s heart. Routine makes us feel good, like we control the outcome. Journaling is a great way to realize it’s okay not to have all the answers. It helps you focus on what you do know and the resiliency and strength we don’t always recognize in ourselves becomes apparent as we have daily examples of reactions to events that are outside our control.

Journaling Makes You Happier

Best selling Author and Top podcaster, Gretchen Rubin, devotes her life to seeking for ways and habits to be happier. She actually advocates for something she calls the ‘one sentence journal’ and even has a top selling one sentence journal and she has been journaling for 10 years. She has found that journaling doesn’t have to be a long task, but that it can and does make you happier. You don’t have to worry about the length of your journal entries or the content, but being consistent in writing can and will make you have a happier outlook on life.

There is power in simple and small things. Journaling is one proven way that you can reap a myriad of benefits that are proven to improve your mental health, and your relationships. So, make a moment to spend time journaling- start with just a sentence or thoughts on a topic of your choice or take an inventory of your relationships and life goals and where you are headed. When life seems out of control and you need to clear your head, don’t neglect the small and powerful gift that is the small act of journaling. I can promise you will be amazed at the results.

Finding Purpose and Comfort in the Uncomfortable

Something that we all strive for is comfort. Your favorite sweatshirt or cozy socks. Your favorite spot on the couch. Even comfort foods that vary from macaroni and cheese to your Grandma’s Chocolate Chip Cookies. We all seek and enjoy comfort. However, this quest for comfort can come at a cost when we also avoid the uncomfortable parts of life. It is important to know that there is a purpose in being uncomfortable. It in is the uncomfortable that growth happens. One of the greatest lessons we can learn for ourselves and that we can teach our kids is to find comfort or purpose in the uncomfortable.

It is difficult for us as parents to watch our kids struggle or experience pain. Just like observing a butterfly emerging from a caccoon is difficult, our initial reaction to watching our kids or loved ones struggle is to alleviate their condition. However, it is important to realize that there is a purpose to their moments of struggle. When these moments occur, there is a phrase that I tell myself which helps me deal with the uncomfortable and at times painful moments when our kids are struggling and learning. The phrase is: “This is their break out moment, what’s my role?”

That role can and does vary. Maybe it is helping them brainstorm solutions, maybe it is offering to work with them to clean up the mess they made, maybe my role is to simply listen. It is important to remember that these trials and trying times are also times of learning and growth and that they have a purpose.

I have a friend who noticed that her son had a tendency to be shy and it was difficult for him to talk to people. She decided she would assist him with this by taking him to a fast food restaurant and then forget on purpose to ask for water cups. She would then have her son go and ask for them. This was a task that her son told me filled his whole body with fear but little by little with each dinner outing with his mom, he was able to recognize what he was capable of. Bob Marley was once quoted as saying: “You never know how strong you are until being strong is your only choice”. It isn’t the task that changes, but our ability to deal with being uncomfortable increases and we recognize our inner strength. Her son’s ability to learn and grow during this uncomfortable period helped him to be able to cope and develop a skill set so impressive he actually recently was awarded a drama scholarship.

My friend’s brother who is a professional theater director and choreographer recently came from New York to visit and sat in on my friend’s ballet class that she teaches. While ballet is a very formal and precise dance form, it didn’t shock my friend that her brother had her class ballet dancing like zombies. It was very much out of their comfort zone so he even had them turn out the lights to do the exercise where no one could watch them. His purpose was to have them try something new and outside of the box–to test themselves and to be uncomfortable. It is being able to find a purpose in the uncomfortable that we are able to learn and grow—consistently reaching, exploring and growing.

So, give yourself {and your kids, and your spouse, and others} permission to grow. Growth means you are not perfect. We all have areas of growth so give yourself permission to learn. Know that learning means not getting it perfect the first time and sometimes completely failing and that is okay. Give yourself permission to try new things and also permission that you don’t need to happy with the results but that you can always evaluate and continue to modify, learn and grow.

Give yourself permission to fail, to not get things right the first time. There is a difference in failing on purpose than trying something new and not liking the results. The entire airline industry would not even exist if it wasn’t for the Wright Brother’s ability to view their failure as opportunities to learn. We can and should do the same for ourselves and others. There is extreme pressure to be perfect–to be the perfect child or to be the perfect parent or present the perfect instagram picture or perfect post on facebook. It is important to give yourself permission to grow–that those moments when we fail or make mistakes as a child or a parent or a spouse or a friend are unintentional moments. They are teachable moments where we can learn, grow and become better and stronger. Remember that there is a purpose in failure and an opportunity for growth and learning.

We are all here on Earth to learn and grow. It is important to see yourself through God’s eyes. He sent His son not to condemn us but to give us hope that we could change, that there is a purpose to struggles and adversity and a way to improve and become better. God, who knows all things including everyone of our strengths and weaknesses loves us. Knowing that as a human, with weaknesses and faults we are loved by Him who knows more than anyone in the universe is evidence that we matter. We are loved in our imperfections and we don’t need to be perfect. We don’t need to need to compare our strengths or our weaknesses to others. We are loved for who we are. He provided a way to fix mistakes, grow and improve. Look at yourself and others through His lens and you will find that we are capable of more than we ever realized.

Knowing that it in is the uncomfortable that growth happens, allows us to deal and handle these breakout moments. Take comfort in knowing that these breakout moments have a purpose and allow us be become better and stronger than we ever would have thought possible without them. So in our quest for comfort, take courage in knowing that we don’t need to avoid the uncomfortable moments. Giving yourself and others permission to learn, grow, and even fail from time to time will allow them to improve, succeed and soar at heights we never realized they were capable of flying.

The Power of Reflection: The Greatest Tool We Can Use to Achieve Our Goals

Our minds really enjoy a good book—meaning that our minds love things that have a beginning and an ending. In fact, we love it so much it can often become our downfall. I have not worked with a couple who didn’t have an initial goal when they decided to get married to have a happy marriage. However, life is much more fluid than books and it is often not full of neat and tidy beginning and endings. Even the seasons in the weather have transitions. For instance, my daughter was born on April 7th. On any calendar regardless if the groundhog saw his shadow, April 7th is most definitely spring. In fact, the calendar will tell you that the first day of spring is actually March 19th. But the night she was born, it snowed. And it shouldn’t snow in spring. But this is a good reminder of what progress looks like. It is in constant motion and not something that we can necessarily control. But there is one strategy that makes all the difference with our minds and it is something that we can control: the ability to reflect. This is the tool that actually provides the most success in establishing, monitoring, and creating the happy endings our minds desire.

Reflection is a vital tool for success in any goals. It takes honest reflection to evaluate where you are and where you want to go. What do you want to see happen? What are the desires of your heart? How do you want things to be? I think one of the biggest mistakes people make is to think that you only reflect once in order to create or set your goals but true success lies in learning to reflect more often.

Modern travel is a great way of showing the value of reflection. If Christopher Columbus never checked and made course corrections, it is safe to say that he never would have landed on the island. Planes in order to reach their destination or goals constantly are reverting back to their flight plan to make sure they are in alignment and traveling to where they want to go. Reflection is a tool that does the same things for the goals we have for ourselves. It is important to be able to check in and ponder or reflect on where we are in our progress with our goals in order to determine if we are indeed progressing where we want. We might not be able to control how fast we arrive at our destinations, but we can always control which way we are facing and that alone is the most important factor for reaching our intended destination.

If you continue on the path that you are on, where are you going to end up? Is that where you want to be? A reflection question that I have asked couples I have worked with is, “If everything stays the same as it is now and nothing changes, what is going to be the end result?” It takes a conscious decision to make a change in your life. But it requires reflection in order to see what changes need to be made. It is helpful to know that you can continue to change as you continue to reflect and make course corrections.

Reflection allows you to put yourself in the equation. If you want to be change the result or the answer in an equation, you do not need to change all of the variables. You only need to change one thing on the right side of the equation and the result is guaranteed to be different. If your goal is to have a healthy and happy marriage, what are you doing to make that happen? Reflection allows you look to yourself to be the change that will change the result.

Events in our lives often cause a reflection. Getting pulled over for a traffic ticket, finding out a loved one is in the hospital or that they suddenly passed away or hearing the words, “You have cancer” will cause us to stop and reflect on our lives. However, you do no need to wait for an event such as these to be able to reflect and make sure your life is in alignment and headed in the direction that you want.

So, make a time for reflection. Whether it is part of your daily commute, while you exercise, while you take a shower, while you fold laundry or while you take communion or the sacrament. Reflect on where you are in your goals and whether or not you need to make any course corrections. Ask yourself if there is something you should stop/start doing that would make you more successful at your goals. We are all works in progress and goals help us become better versions of ourselves. Consistent reflection allows us to be more mindful and successful at progressing in our goals. It really is the greatest tool we can use.

Top 9 Proven Strategies to Manage Stress {Including the Science Behind How They Work!}

Managing stress is a life skill that we all need to learn. These are 9 top strategies that are scientifically proven to help alleviate and manage stress.

#1: Meditation (Prayer): Research suggests that daily meditation or prayer may alter the brain’s neural pathways, making you more resilient to stress. A study conducted by Harvard Researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital revealed that meditation rebuilds the grey matter in our brains in just 8 weeks. It is important to remember that mediation does not mean to ’empty your mind’ but rather is the process of letting your thoughts and feelings flow without judgment. You do not need to be in any particular position (standing, sitting or kneeling etc), but it is a state of peace and self-awareness.

#2: LOL! A good belly laugh doesn’t just lighten the load mentally, it lowers cortisol, your body’s stress hormone and boosts brain chemicals called endorphins, which help your mood.

#3: Deep Breathing: Deep Breathing counters the effects of stress by slowing the heart rate and lowering blood pressure. It also allows more oxygen to go to the brain which slows down the amygdala and allows the prefrontal cortex to return to functioning.
Basically you can break your brain into two parts with two distinct functions- a part that feels and a part that is logical and makes plans. When the one side of your brain gets overwhelmed or flooded, the logical side that calms and creates a plan on how to address being overwhelmed stops working. By simple just breathing you allow necessary oxygen to the logical side of your brain allowing yourself to come up with a plan. Try it out- before you make a big decision or begin to get mad at your children or upset at a coworker, take a deep breath and notice how much better you are able to think and thus make more logical, thoughtful choices rather than reacting to the emotions. There is true power in the deep breath, so just breathe!!

#4 Music: Listening to soothing music has been proven to lower blood pressure, heart rate and anxiety. Test this one out for yourself: Listen to 30 seconds of each song and see if you notice a difference in your heart rate and mood.

#5: Get Active: All forms of exercise can ease stress by helping the brain to release feel-good chemicals including endorphins, domamine and seratonin.
A study published in Neuropsychopharmacology revealed that regular exercise increases the level of tryptophan in the brain (an amino acid used to manufacture serotonin). While the research differs on how long to exercise in order for the body to release the chemicals, studies suggest it varies between 10 -30 minutes.

#6: Be Grateful: Gratitude has been shown to activate the hypothalamus in the brain which is responsible for regulating all kinds of bodily functions- including hunger, sleep, body temperature, metabolism, and how the body grows. Studies done by researchers at Indiana University and at Harvard have discovered that these neurological benefits experienced by their study participants were shown to be longer lasting. Something as simple as writing down three things you’re grateful for every day for 21 days in a row significantly increases your level of optimism, and it holds for the next six months.  Journaling about gratitude can be a fantastic way of being able to focus on things in your life which bring joy and that you should be grateful for. Cultivating gratitude is a game changer.

#7: Sense of Smell: This one is bound to raise some eyebrows, but your nose can become a powerful ally and can transport your thoughts quicker than almost anything. It highlights a different area of your brain and can highlight positive memories and the feelings associated with those memories instantaneously. Lotions, chapsticks, gum, cookies, flowers-really anything with a fragrance can change your mood in a split second. If you haven’t tried it, this is one that might just surprise you.

#8: Get Outdoors: A change of scene also forces your brain to be able to reboot as it has to process new visuals, hearing, even sense of touch from the difference in the weather. Being outside in the sun allows your body to absorb vitamins that also affect your brains ability to function.

#9: Holding Your Loved Ones (Even Animals!): “Cuddle” Hormones (oxytocin) can actually turn off stress hormones. So go cuddle with a loved one and watch a movie or spend time with a loved pet. Connection is a powerful way to alleviate stress.

Learning to manage stress is an important tool that everyone needs to learn in order to be successful. These 9 strategies are scientifically proven to help you manage the stress you experience as a part of life- test them out and see what impact they make in your stress level. Remember, practically speaking: