Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Immediately Improve Your Mood With This Simple Action

To listen to this new, "Less Stress More Joy" podcast episode, click the player below or go to https://www.spreaker.com/episode/17670713

Can a Forced Smile Change Mood and Emotion?

A large meta study by researchers at the University of Tenn. and Texas A&M looked at 138 scientific studies with more than 11,000 participants to determine if facial expressions - including the simple smile - can affect mood and emotional state. 

The answer, "absolutely yes!"

Results may be short lived, but there are measurable changes in mood and emotion when you smile, frown, or scowl.

4 Easy Actions to Improve Emotional Wellbeing

This episode summarizes study findings and offers three easy actions to improve your emotional wellbeing.

They are:

  • Take periodic breaks throughout the day. Stop what you’re doing, sit or stand comfortably, and take take three comfortable breaths as you yawn, sigh, and stretch.
  • Smile! Smile whether you feel like smiling or not. Hold the smile for at least 15 to 20 seconds or more.
  • Say the word, “Peace” and allow the vibration of the word to flow through your body as you smile.
  • Again, breathe comfortably as you yawn, sigh, and stretch and smile again before returning to your activities. 

For more Stress Mastery methods visit the, “Mind Over Stress Show” website at http://MindOverStress.us. 

Stephen Carter

Stress Solutions, LLC | www.EFT-MD.com | Podcast: www.MindOverStress.us 

Here are study related links:

"The Key to Happiness? Just Smile Study Suggests"; https://www.studyfinds.org/key-to-happiness-smiling-more-frequently/

"A Meta-analysis of the facial feedback literature: Effects of facial feedback on emotional experience are small and variable"; https://psycnet.apa.org/doiLanding?doi=10.1037%2Fbul0000194

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Choosing the Right Mindset for This Stressful Time

With all of the uncertainty and fear around the coronavirus pandemic, how are you coping? Are you reacting with fear or responding with a plan?

Note: to listen to the, "Mind Over Stress" podcast covering how to choose the right mindset to get you through this challenging time, click the embedded podcast player below. The full blogpost follows.

As I write this post, the world is dealing with a massive coronavirus pandemic affecting directly more than a million people across the globe. Millions more are on various types of stay at home requirements.

There is a nonstop drumbeat of government and media messaging pointing to dire human and economic consequences. In the U.S., three years of stock market gains were wiped out in a matter of weeks. Schools are closed, toilet paper, milk, and an array other items have been stripped from store shelves. 

People are being laid off and many who continue to work are doing so from their homes. In the U.S., the federal government passed a $2.2 trillion relief package to help soften the economic blow.  There is talk that yet another round of relief money will be needed. It is a challenging time for all of us.

The Big Question: What Does This Mean for Me?

As with any major event, our brains are wired to ask, consciously or unconsciously, “What does this mean for me?”

Initially, we may react with a strong fear response because of confusion and uncertainty. 

After the initial shock, it's easy to enter into disempowered thinking patterns marked by thoughts such as, 

“ This can’t be happening. This is so unfair. Whose fault is this? How could ’they’ allow this to happen? I’m going to starve! I’m going to die. We’re all going to die!" ... and so forth. 

You have undoubtedly seen posts on social media founded on fear and blame.  

Let's Look at the Bigger COVID-19 Picture

I encourage you to look at the bigger picture of the coronavirus situation. This doesn’t mean ignoring or minimizing the impact, but it does mean looking beyond the headlines and social media noise.

As I write this post, the Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus Resource Center reports there are nearly 1.5 million reported cases world wide. Of those cases, there are nearly 82,000 deaths. 

In one positive glimmer of good news, nearly 275,000 people have recovered. 

The vast majority of those who died had underlying health problems before contracting COVID-19. Some health experts suggest there is larger number of people never tested who had the virus and recovered, making the recovery rate even higher.

It’s vital we continue taking needed precautions such as social distancing and other measures recommended by health officials. That’s simply common sense.

Why a Fear and Blame Mindset Makes a Difficult Situation Far Worse

This does not mean we need to be frozen in place or or stay stuck in a fear and blame reaction mindset. If we do that we loose the ability to make the best decisions we can make given the situation we face. 


Because when the brain perceives danger, physiological changes happen to include redirection of blood away from those parts of the brain where conscious thinking and reasoning occur. In addition, our immune and healing systems can be weakened. These are the very systems we need to help us prevent or fight the COVID-19 virus.

How to Create a Response Mindset Rather than a Reaction Mindset

If you find yourself in a constant flow of disempowering fear and blame thinking, I encourage you to recognize what is happening. Stop, allow yourself to take a walk, engage in calm deep breathing, and decide to ask yourself a few empowering questions to create a response mindset rather than a stress reaction mindset. 

Say to yourself, 

"I recognize there are circumstances I can control, circumstances I may be able to influence, and circumstances beyond my control”

Early on, focus entirely on those circumstances you can control. Once you’ve made all the decisions and taken all the actions you can take in this first category, you can then consider those circumstances you may be able to influence. Give no thought or effort to circumstances beyond your control.

This in effect means you’re creating an action plan rather than reacting from a mindset of fear and blame.

Examples of a Response Mindset

As examples, in relation to the “circumstances I can control” category, you can take action to ensure you have an adequate supply of food and other essentials. Make a list of what’s on hand and then determine what’s needed. This does not, by the way, mean you should buy enough toilet paper for the next three years. Remember to include pet needs if that applies.

The next item on your action plan might be having calm, supportive conversations with your children and perhaps others in your extended family. With children, reassure them we are going to get through this situation. 

Listen to any fears they express in a supportive way, and again reassure them we will get through the situation. 

Talk to your children about how they're doing with school work and how they will continue to learn as we get through this challenging period. 

Remind them about the importance frequent hand washing and of social distancing when they’re outside.

Item 3 of your plan may be to make arrangements to create or improve an appropriate work at home environment if that applies. If you’ve been laid off, your next step may be to apply for unemployment or otherwise make necessary financial decisions to help you through the coming weeks.

I suggest you create a written plan and adjust the plan as circumstances change. 

Summary of Stress Reduction Suggestions

  • Choose a response mindset rather than a reaction mindset;
  • Keep stress as low as possible to ensure you’re at your best in brain, mind, and body;
  • Recognize what you can control and what is out of your control;
  • Focus on decisions and actions within your control;
  • Create a written plan - even if that is only done in short bullet point fashion - and adjust your plan, decisions, and actions as circumstances evolve.

In summary, I encourage you to choose a response mindset rather than a reaction mindset. 

It’s vital to keep stress as low as possible to ensure you’re at your best in brain, mind, and body. 

Recognize what you can control and what is out of your control. Focus on decisions and actions within your control with a written plan you adjust as circumstances change.

Stephen Carter

CEO Stress Solutions, LLC | www.EFT-MD.com | Podcast: www.MindOverStress.us

Sunday, December 29, 2019

3 Step Secret for Mindful Walking

Say the word, “Meditation” and the image that comes to mind is likely a person seated in a Lotus posture with legs crossed, back erect, and fingertips touching in what’s called a Mudra pose. 

Say, “Walking Meditation”, and the image likely coming to mind is a person walking deliberately through the various sections of a labyrinth. A labyrinth is a complex set of pathways requiring someone’s full attention to navigate through the maze.

But the truth is you can practice Walking Mindful Meditation virtually anytime you choose whether you're walking long distances or simply walking a few feet across the room.

Why Walking Meditation is So Calming and Easy to Do

Anytime you enter into Mindful Awareness you're releasing stress. Why? Because when you're attending to the present moment, the mind isn’t creating stories about what can go wrong in the future or looking back at yesterday’s memories ruminating about some wrong done to you or done by you. 

The Present Moment is a place of peace. When you’re in this Present Moment, your brain hemispheres are in balance and your mind and body are functioning in an optimum way.

Here’s a question I often hear when recommending walking meditation to clients: 

“Steve, how can I be in Present Awareness while I’m walking? Doesn’t the act of walking affect my ability to stay relaxed?"

Here’s the 3 Step Secret

  • Before beginning to walk, stop whatever you’re doing;
  • Allow three comfortable, calming breaths; then,
  • Bring attention to your body and observe yourself get up and walk;
In a few seconds you’ll be able to settle your attention into full awareness of your movement. Simply notice your movement step by step. Stay in mindful awareness as you walk. Just notice. Be present. That is enough.

Whether you’re walking across a room, around the block, or to some other destination a mile away, focus your awareness on the walking movement. If thoughts intrude, as soon as you notice those thoughts, say in mind or out loud, “That’s a thought” and then let the though dissolve as you return attention to your walking.

When you arrive at your destination, you may choose to smile and allow three more comfortable, calming breaths. It’s now time to engage in whatever activities you need to perform. But you’re now going to engage in those activities with a fresh, relaxed mind and body.

Try Mindful Walking for Yourself

I suggest having a go at Mindful Walking to experience it’s benefits. You’ll likely feel calmer and more centered after your experience whether the walk takes only 30 seconds or 30 minutes. The calming benefits of Mindful Walking can last for hours.

I would love to hear about your experience of Mindful Walking! Email me at CarterMethod@gmail.com to share your results.

You Can Hear This Guidance in a, "Mind Over Stress" Podcast Episode

The guidance in this blogpost was included in episode 21 of the, "Mind Over Stress" podcast. To listen, click the podcast player link below.

To hear other stress dissolving episodes, visit the podcast website at www.MindOverStress.us.

To listen to other, “Mind Over Stress” and, “Less Stress More Joy” podcast episodes, visit us at, www.MindOverStress.us. To learn about Stress Solutions, LLC company services, visit our www.EFT-MD.com website.

Blessings in abundance,

Stephen Carter

CEO Stress Solutions, LLC | www.EFT-MD.com | Podcast: www.MindOverStress.us

Sunday, November 24, 2019

My Best Tip to Avoid Holiday Stress and Promote Harmony

"No" symbol (circle with a diagonal line) over word "Stress"
It’s holiday time. A time when family and friends gather to tell the same jokes and stories to the same people who heard them last year and years before. Along with those stories and jokes, the holidays can often bring a special kind of stress.

As CEO of Stress Solutions, LLC for 11 years, I’ve been dedicated to helping people avoid stress and - if stress can’t be avoided - to release stress for a sense of calm and peace in mind and body. 

My One Best Tip for Holiday Harmony

With the holidays ahead, I would like to share what I believe to be the one best holiday stress avoidance tip given the current political climate. That tip is:

When getting together with family and friends, avoid conversations about national politics. 

Why? Let us count the ways:

  • No matter how passionate, persuasive, or logical you are in stating why your beliefs are “the truth”, you will not convince anyone who holds contrary beliefs to change those beliefs.
  • The current state of political discord makes reasoned civil discussion virtually impossible between too many people who hold strong opinions about our current President or those vying for the Democratic party nomination.
  • It’s highly probable if conversations gets heated, honest differences and reasoned discussion will be abandoned and replaced by ad hominem attacks on your intelligence, your character, your beliefs, or all of the above. Depending on who you say positive things about, you risk being labeled a socialist, a communist, a racist, anti-LGBT, etc., etc., etc.
  • These kinds of conversations introduce an energy of conflict and ill-will into what should be a fun, enjoyable gathering.
  • Fractured relationships from such strident discussions can be hard or sometimes impossible to mend.

How to Handle Political Discussion

If you attend family, work, or other social events over the holidays it’s pretty much guaranteed someone will ask you, 

“So, what do you think about the situation with Trump?” or something similar. 

From a conflict avoidance (and thus a stress avoidance) perspective, I suggest offering a reply along the lines of:

“Things in Washington are a mess, that’s for sure. I guess we’ll need to wait and see how it all works out.”


“You know I’m so tired of the political noise in Washington, I simply tune out.”

How about?...

“It’s a mess. Hey, have you been following the (insert team name here, weather event, etc.)? 

If your conversation mate insists on pursuing a political discussion, you can choose to listen politely. A response of, “interesting” or something similar will work well followed by something like, “Hey, I’m going to get a snack. We’ll talk more later”.

Avoid Temptation

Avoid Temptation - You’ll Thank Yourself for Doing So

As tempting as it may be to engage in political discussion, if you want to keep your stress level low and conversations cordial, resist the temptation. Remember, there’s nothing you can say to make other people change their minds. Let go of any need to, “set the record straight” and tell others what’s really going on.

As you leave the gathering and on your way home, you’ll thank yourself for being smart. 

The holidays can be stressful enough without adding heated political conversation to the holiday punch. Be kind to yourself and avoid the drama. 

Listen to Companion Podcast Episode

Listen to the companion "Mind Over Stress" podcast episode  for this post by clicking the player below.

Stephen Carter

Stress Solutions, LLC | https://www.EFT-MD.com | Podcast: http://www.MindOverStress.us

Friday, July 5, 2019

How to Escape the Multitasking Trap - 3 Simple Steps to Release Stress and Improve Performance

How often do you get caught up in the hectic swirl of trying to juggle six tasks at once, only to do none of them well? 

“If I only push harder”, you say to yourself; "I can do better!"

“Yes, I will redouble my effort and do even more so all of these tasks get done!”. 

The Truth About Multitasking

Here’s a seldom heard truth: The parts of your brain handling conscious procedural tasks typically associated with day-to-day cognitive activities aren’t wired for multitasking. Your brainstem and midbrain sections handle parallel processing tasks with ease. The prefrontal cortex, that brain region where conscious cognition occurs, handles one task at a time.

What is actually happening when you think you’re multitasking? Your attention is moving rapidly from one activity to another. Five seconds here, three seconds there, and 10 seconds to several minutes of confusion trying to figure out what to do next. 

With each transfer of attention, there is performance friction. There is a time and brain energy cost every time you change focus. We are serial processors trying to make believe we have the ability for parallel processing. We don’t.

Trying to multitask results in your brain using up energy faster than your physiology can recharge the batteries. Your body tries valiantly to keep up, but as your energy wanes, you hit a brain performance wall.

Stress and It’s Effect on the Sympathetic Nervous System

Here we have an old friend named Stress begin knocking on our emotional door. One major stress trigger is the perception that we have too many tasks to complete in a given time period without the necessary resources.

Under stress the Sympathetic Nervous System, also called the Fight or Flight response, becomes hyperactive. Blood flow to higher brain regions including the Prefrontal Cortex, that area where rational thought normally hangs out, is reduced in favor of energizing large muscle groups in preparation to fight the tiger or run to safety.

The simple fact is we become significantly more stupid when we’re highly stressed. This makes it virtually impossible to perform well any of the tasks we so valiantly attempt to complete.

3 Simple Actions for Better Performance

What are the antidotes for the multitasking trap?

First, recognize multitasking is a myth. Your brain is wired to attend to one conscious task at a time. This is physiological fact.

Second, use what are called Focus Intervals. Schedule ONE task at a time and stick with that task until it’s done or you’ve worked on that task for no more than 45 minutes.

Third, take short, three to five minute breaks every 45 to 60 minutes. Get up, walk around, stretch, run in place, engage in relaxed diaphragmatic breathing, or engage in other energy restorative activities before returning to work.

Want extra bonus points? Turn off your phone and close out from all social media sites. They’re distractions that waste time and take energy away from productive, higher value activities.

Listen to the Podcast Episode for This Post

Listen to the companion podcast by clicking the player below or click: https://radiopublic.com/mind-over-stress-WDJEJ7/ep/s1!3512e#t=2


For more Stress Mastery and Mindful Living tips, visit us listen to the latest “Mind Over Stress” podcast episodes at http://MindOverStress.us.

Stephen Carter | CEO Stress Solutions, LLC | www.EFT-MD.com | Podcast: www.MindOverStress.us 

Thursday, June 13, 2019

How Can a Simple "Thank You" Note Create Emotional Wellbeing

Note: This post is a summary of the, "Mind Over Stress" Podcast, "Can a "Thank You" Note Enhance Emotional Wellbeing.

To listen to the podcast, click the player below or click the link if you don't see a player.

Photo of handwritten "Thank You" with pen
In this episode, you’ll discover why taking just two or three minutes to write a short note of appreciation can create positive feelings of self-worth for the person receiving the message AND for the person writing the message. That would be you!

What Research Tells Us About the Power of "Thank You" Notes:

So what does the science tell us about writing “Thank You” notes? Is it worth doing? Is it difficult? Who benefits?

What stops you from writing notes of appreciation? Does it feel awkward? Are you afraid you won’t know what to write? Are you concerned the recipient won’t really appreciate receiving that kind of message?

Researchers from the University of Texas at Austin and the University of Chicago published the results of their research into "Thank You" note writing in the journal, “Psychological Science”. They asked participants to write a letter of gratitude to someone who had done something special or nice for them. After writing the message, participants were asked to anticipate how recipients would react.

What were the results? Letter writers overestimated how awkward recipients would feel. They underestimated how surprised and pleased recipients would feel.

Dr. Amit Kumar of the University of Texas Comments:

Lead author, Dr. Amit Kumar, assistant professor in the McCombs School of Business at the University of Texas, said,

“We looked at what’s correlating with people’s likelihood of expressing gratitude - what drives those choices - and what we found is that predictions or expectations of that awkwardness, that anticipation of how a recipient would feel - those are the things that matter when people are deciding whether to express gratitude.”

He added anxiety about what to say and fear that recipients would misinterpret the intent, stopped many people from expressing gratitude to others. 

He continued, 

“What we saw is that it only takes a couple of minutes to compose letters like these, thoughtful ones and sincere. It comes at little cost but the benefits are larger than people expect.”

Your Personal Experience of Receiving a "Thank You" Note:

Think back to a time you received a note from someone expressing appreciation for a gift or something you did. How did you feel? What did you think about the person who wrote the note?

A Simple "Thank You" Note Template:

Here’s a template you can use to craft a short “Thank You” note:

First, think about the act of kindness. Allow yourself to really feel gratitude.

Use a simple, straightforward opening such as,

“Thank you for…”
“It was wonderful of you to…”
“I really appreciate you taking time and effort to…”

Add one to three sentences briefly describing the action, gift, or kindness. 

Close the body of your message with one or two sentences describing how the action, gift, or kindness affected you, such as,

“The flowers are beautiful! I feel so warm and loved every time I look at them!”
“I feel blessed to have you as a friend!”
“You really are a Knight in Shinning Armor! Your kindness is very much appreciated.”

End with an appropriate close such as,

“With heart-felt appreciation,”
“Blessings in abundance,”

Or other close appropriate to the person and your relationship with that person.

What's Next?

I encourage you to take a few minutes and write a "Thank You" note to someone who showed you kindness. You’ll boost their self-esteem and you will feel really, really good about acknowledging that kindness. 

To paraphrase the old joke about voting in Chicago, “Write early, and write often”. Your short notes of appreciation will go a long way to helping create a kinder, happier world one person at a time.

To hear other “Mind Over Stress” podcasts and to subscribe so you never miss an episode, visit us at www.MindOverStress.us

Stephen Carter | Stress Solutions, LLC | https://www.EFT-MD.com | "Mind Over Stress" Podcast: http://www.MindOverStress.us 

Sources and Resources:

“Writing a “Thank You” Note is More Powerful Than We Realize, Study Shows”

More information: Amit Kumar et al, Undervaluing Gratitude: Expressers Misunderstand the Consequences of Showing Appreciation, Psychological Science (2018). DOI: 10.1177/0956797618772506
Journal information: Psychological Science