No matter your age, everyday stress can turn into a real monster if left unchecked, never mind when something significantly worrisome like illness or financial troubles pop up. Even worse, without a tried-and-true method for coping with stress, the physical and emotional effects can have a cumulative impact that leaves you feeling hypersensitive, desperate and hopeless.
While stress is an inevitable part of life for everyone, many of us are just not equipped to handle it without metaphorically (or even literally) losing our minds. It’s so important to build an arsenal for effective stress management, but doing so is something that takes intentionality, and it’s definitely an ongoing process. In the meantime there are some practical things you can do right now to stop stress in its tracks.
Self-Care. These days, the idea of “self-care” might seem a bit cliché or even make your roll your eyes a bit, but honestly the effects of just taking a little bit of time to tend to yourself on a regular basis are undeniable. Whether that means a mani-pedi twice a month, reading for 30 minutes each day or indulging yourself in a $2.99 face mask, that tiny bit of time that you set aside just for you can often be enough to reset your emotions and empower you to move forward and solve problems rather than dwelling on them.
Getting Outside. Even if you are not an outdoorsy person, the benefits of a bit of fresh air and some Vitamin D are wonderful. There are very few people who step outside on a sunny day, feel the breeze in their hair and the sun on their cheeks and don’t experience an immediate mood boost. Vitamin D deficiency has actually been linked with depression, a weakened immune system and fatigue — all things that can affect a person’s ability to handle stressful situations rationally and gracefully. Get outside and soak up some sun (with SPF protection, of course)!
Exercise. No, you don’t need to run miles or engage in a hardcore crossfit-style workout — you just need to get your body moving and your blood flowing. When you exercise, mood boosting endorphins are released, you give your body an outlet for releasing negative energy and it gives you some dedicated time to clear your mind, which can allow space for a change in perspective.
Meditation. Meditation is a skill that takes time to perfect, especially for those of us who have brains that are constantly “on.” However, once you figure out how to empty your mind and simply focus on being present in the moment you will be able to calm yourself any place, any time — it’s an invaluable tool. Try starting with guided meditations until you are capable of quickly getting yourself into and out of a meditative state.
Volunteering. Sometimes all you need to release some stress is a change in perspective. When you can focus on what is good and right in your life, the source of your stress becomes secondary. No matter what your situation is, there is likely someone out there even less fortunate than you are. Spending some time working with people in need will help you learn to focus on your own blessings rather than stressing and worrying about things you can’t control.
Also read: 6 Strategies to get a handle on stress