Stress serves a purpose. It allows us to judge situations and determine if a fight, freeze, or flight response is necessary or the best coarse of action. This was useful back in the caveman days, but today we aren't being chased and eaten by a saber tooth tiger. And some of the long-term effects of stress can pose serious problems including severe depression and anxiety.
There is no way to eliminate all stress from our lives (without maybe moving into the mountains to be a monk), but we can do things to help reduce the effects it has on us. Here are some continued tips to bring your world into a more centered, balanced state:
· Exercise regularly as much as you can, even if it's only walking to the mailbox, or corner store. Join a group that walks around the neighborhood. (*Though please keep you and your neighbors safe during these trying times by still practicing social distancing and mask wearing if you do so in accordance with state mandates.*) Take walks in parks and reconnect with nature. If you have a dog, using them to make sure you are getting out walking daily is a great way to reconnect with nature. Even if you don’t have a pet, don’t be afraid to take a silent walk with a friend or family member or even by yourself to not only stay healthy but let your mind clear and regroup.
· Work on eliminating negative coping mechanisms. So many use alcohol and stress eat when things get rough. The idea of drinking alcohol and overeating to help cope with things is a downward spiral for actually making problems worse. Some people will drink a caffeinated drink to help them get through the day. But drinking too much could cause you to not be able to sleep at night. There is always a balance of using a small coping mechanism at first to cope. But when we let it take over, our coping mechanisms can become problems in themselves. By redirecting our attention to improving things in our lives rather than just getting by, our bodies can still learn to cope with the daily stresses but in a healthier manner.
· Eating a healthy diet and drinking water. This is one way to transform a negative coping mechanism into something positive. Staying properly hydrated effects so much of how our bodies function properly. If you are only getting your daily water amount from your food and other drinks like coffee, soft drinks, juices, alcohol, etc. … this may be affecting you more than you realize. Keeping a water bottle with the recommended daily amount for your weight on your desk and taking sips throughout the day is a great way to meet those water goals. Start small by replacing junk food with healthier snacks. Try to incorporate one or two healthier meals into your weekly diet slowly. By giving our bodies good quality fuel, we let it work more efficiently and it isn’t constantly trying to deal with bad things you were feeding it. Not only will this make you feel better overall but will also free up energy for your body to handle stress that is thrown at it.
· Another way to help reduce the effects of stress is to join or participate in a regular relaxation class, like yoga, tie chi, or any mindful mediation. These classes could have a cost, but there are several places that offer them for free. Some people find having a designated class time with a other people keeps them accountable to keep doing it. If you can self-motivate or money is tight, there are free apps and CDs/DVDs from the library or for a low one time cost
· It is Okay to say "No". Often we put ourselves in situations where we feel uncomfortable with what is going on(feeling overwhelmed and stressed out). And it sometimes a good thing to just say No to whatever it is that is making us feel that way. It is not your job to be everyone’s go to person, support system, or savior all the time. Learning to say NO to people and actually taking care of YOURSELF is incredibly important in reducing stress, and therefore being able to effectively help others down the road.
· Be good to yourself, when you are felling overwhelmed, just remind yourself that you are doing the best you can with what you got. And it will all be okay in the end. No matter how bad the situation, there are always ways for things to improve. There may not always be a perfect solution but it can get better with the right attitude and effort. When we lose faith in ourselves, things only get darker. Remembering that you’ve fallen down before and still picked yourself back up can be enough to help your pull through. All you can do is your best at that time and that is what matters. Keep pushing on. It’s also okay to reach out a hand and ask for help when you need it. Even if others can’t help directly, they may be able to remind you of your own strength and that might be all you really needed!
Here are several other methods you can use to relax or reduce stress, including:
Deep breathing exercises
Progressive muscle relaxation.
Mental imagery relaxation.
Relaxation to music.
Counseling, to help you recognize and release stress.