April is Stress Awareness Month, meant to spread awareness on its harmful effects, healthy coping strategies and the many misconceptions that exist. Many know that stress can negatively affect our mental health, leading to issues such as depression, insomnia, overeating, substance use or social withdrawal, but did you know that chronic stress can also affect our physical health? Stress can lead to issues like high blood pressure, decreased immune system health or a higher risk for diabetes, just to name a few. Luckily, there are many healthy ways to mitigate or cope with stress.
Make time for self care
It’s important to remember—your emotional health is just as important as your physical health. You may feel that adding self-care to your to-do list will only add to your stress. Whether it’s a few tips from this list or something else entirely, like painting your nails or reading a mystery novel, remember that we all need time to recharge. If we take care of ourselves properly, we are better able to take care of everything else.
Maintain structure and stability
Routine can be helpful for all of us. Even if you don’t typically thrive under structure, a daily routine can allow you to feel in-control during times of stress, improve your focus, organization and productivity and help you tick off your to-do list more efficiently. It can also help your body learn what to expect, regulating your sleep schedule, your digestive system and more.
Don’t be afraid to say “no”
Setting boundaries can be hard, but it begins with shifting your perspective. Remind yourself of your value. If you simply don’t have the time, energy or emotional capacity to do something for someone else, you are allowed to say no. Sometimes, they may respect you more for it, and it is a good start for setting boundaries. Don’t let others take advantage of your kindness.
Get more sleep
The body and mind need a minimum of seven hours of sleep to repair themselves each night. Create a consistent routine for rest in order to balance your circadian rhythm. Many studies show that adults who sleep fewer than eight hours each night report higher stress levels than those who sleep more than eight hours per night.
Taking a few moments to focus on your body, your breath and the present moment helps clear the mind of stress and worry. It can help ground us, reducing anxiety and reinforcing the mentality of “one day at a time.” Picture your mind like a jar of water filled with sand. If we find a moment to be still and calm, the sand will settle to the bottom, leaving the water on top crystal clear.
Focus on your breath
Deep breathing can be a helpful way to practice mindfulness—a greater awareness of what is happening inside us and around us in the present moment. Simply concentrate on your breathing; in and out. When we focus on our breath, we are grounded in the here and now, reducing anxiety and worry over the past or future and reminding us that now is all we can control, and all we have. Deep breathing can also help us to regulate our body and emotions, slowing our mind and our heart rate.
Even the simplest form of exercise, like walking, can help us de-stress. Virtually any exercise can be a way to get out of our minds and focus on our bodies, our movement and our breathing, increasing our endorphins, too!
Spend some time outdoors
Studies have shown that as little as ten minutes in a natural setting can reduce stress and help us feel happier. A walk through your neighborhood, some sun-basking or even yard work… These ten minutes can even improve your focus and lessen physiological markers of stress, like blood pressure and heart rate.
Take a break from the technology
Technology can cause us to feel overwhelmed from an overload of information, or undervalued from constant perfection portrayed on social media. Give yourself a break by finding a few hours each week to step away from your devices. Spend that time on something else from this list!
Talk it out
Whether in-person or online, therapy can provide a safe, supportive and confidential space to talk openly and honestly about your feelings. When you’re able to verbalize something, it can take the power away and lessen the burden.
If you think you may need some help coping with stress, our care team is on standby to help at (713) 660-1592 or firstname.lastname@example.org