Stress Awareness Month has been observed every April since 1992 but seems particularly important this year as we transition from worrying about being infected with the coronavirus to anxiety over vaccine availability. It’s still a precarious time for many, and everyone is stressed from the constant disruption to their lives. The resulting stress can have a negative impact on our minds and bodies, leading to a variety of ailments.
Managing stress has always been an important part of health and wellness for each and every one of us, but it wasn’t until the past year that we truly began to understand how important it was to carve out space for it in our lives. While we often cannot directly fix the source of stress, there are coping methods that we can employ to manage the aspects that are within our control. Whether yours is due to work, school, family, or life events, these tips can teach you how to be a little calmer and manage the stress in your life.
While we often cannot directly fix the source of stress, there are coping methods that we can employ to manage the aspects that are within our control.
1. Identify Your Stressors
An effective stress management strategy begins with identifying the source of the tension. It’s not always easy, especially when there’s so much going on, but when you slow down and take the time to connect the dots, you’ll be on the path to a more relaxed state of mind. Make a list of all the situations, concerns, and challenges that may be causing worry, and make changes accordingly. If you’re not getting enough sleep, put away your phone earlier or turn off the TV to allow your body to wind down. If it’s about a big work deadline, break the task down into manageable steps with dates to accomplish them by. Some stressors may be obvious to pinpoint, while others require a little bit of introspection.
2. Let Go
When it comes to problems you can’t solve with lists and limited exposure, don’t waste time fixating on them and how insurmountable they are. It’s natural to fret over unexpected or bad situations, but if worrying about them won’t fix the issue, why invest so much time and energy? One of my favorite sayings these days is “If it’s out of your hands, your mind should have freedom from it as well.” Focusing on the circumstances that you can wield control over concentrates your energy on problem-solving rather than ineffectual rumination, which can boost your self-esteem and mood.
Worrying about it won’t fix the issue. One of my favorite sayings these days is “If it’s out of your hands, your mind should have freedom from it as well.”
3. Do What You Love
Emotional and mental ailments are just as consequential as physical ones and should be treated as such. In the same way that you would hydrate or take painkillers for a headache or rest a sprain, choose an activity that you enjoy to self-soothe when you feel run down. If yoga is your go-to for stress management, make time for a session. Whether your preference is an intricate coloring book, a puzzle, or a warm bath, prioritize your self-care by making your activity of choice a regular occurrence.
4. Take Care of Your Body
As I mentioned earlier, there’s a connection between emotional wellbeing and physical health. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle that incorporates exercise and a balanced diet can be one of the best things you do to combat stress. Exercise lowers stress hormones like cortisol and releases endorphins that boost your mood. As for diet, complex carbs in whole grain foods spike serotonin production, the vitamin C found in oranges and bell peppers curbs stress hormone levels, and vitamin E bolsters the immune system for better stress management.
5. Get Organized
The lack of strategy when tackling work and life tasks can create a lot of stress. Having an organized schedule not only provides a list of all actionables in one easy-to-consult place but can lend a sense of control over situations that might otherwise seem chaotic. Creating a schedule is also a healthy way to establish a work-life balance. Work and home life become clearly delineated, so that you’re not overworking yourself, or losing out on valuable sleep because of disrupted sleep patterns.
6. Talk to a Professional
Sometimes you need to talk to someone who has a better understanding of human emotions and how they work, and that’s okay. It can be a little difficult to be objective when we are the subject matter, so certain stress triggers might not be as obvious to us as they would be to a therapist. Being vulnerable isn’t easy, but therapy gives you the space and guidance that you need to learn how to share the things that trouble you as you learn valuable coping strategies. Your worries are valid and deserve to be heard, so if you feel like you need help, don’t be afraid to reach out.
Check out our review of the most popular online therapy platforms here.