12 Top Tips for Handling Stress
BY BETH DOUGLAS
Stress management has always been a critical health and social-related topic. Let’s face it. Our mental health is dependent on being able to maintain perspective and manage life’s peaks and valleys without getting stuck in
unhealthy patterns. According to a recent study by the World Health Organization, the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in a 25% increase in prevalence of anxiety and depression worldwide.
In addition, The American Psychological Association (APA) 2020 survey reveals that Americans have been profoundly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, and that the other external factors listed in previous years as significant sources of stress have become magnified. These compounding stressors are having real consequences on our minds and bodies. Nearly 2 in 3 adults (65%) say the current amount of uncertainty in our nation also causes them stress. So, what can we do to manage stress and keep a positive outlook?
Turn off the News
While it may be beneficial to have a grasp of what is going on in the world, it is not necessary to become overwhelmed by it. Many of today’s news topics, albeit interestingly controversial, are not yours to solve. Simply
put, do what you can to influence the things over which you have control, and let the rest go. Prioritize your time for things that generate feelings of well-being.
Take a Walk
Physical exercise releases endorphins, which trigger a positive feeling in the body, similar to that of morphine. For example, the feeling that follows a run or workout is often described as “euphoric,” known as a “runner’s
high,” can be accompanied by a positive and energizing outlook on life. In addition, cardiovascular activity has been proven beneficial for both heart and brain health.
Deep breathing and yoga breathing can have a tremendously calming effect on the body, mind and spirit. Recent evidence suggests that the practice of pranayama has positive effects on measures of clinical stress and anxiety. Slowed breathing also modulates the activity of brain regions involved in emotional processing, particularly the amygdala, anterior cingulate, anterior insula and prefrontal cortex.
Count Your Blessings
A positive outlook and gratitude for what we have can create a huge shift in how we feel and what we perceive is possible. Positive energy most often yields a positive result by the simple the law of attraction. If we become focused on negatives, positives can seem nonexistent. But listing your blessings serves as a reminder of all that is good in life. Make a list, if you need to, to remind yourself of all of the things for which you are grateful.
The National Library of Medicine states that there are measurable benefits of engaging in artistic creative activities such as making music, writing, dancing and crafts. Artistic creative activities have been shown to modulate emotions (rapidly changing reactions to events in the external or internal environment), and result in positive mental health. Most of us can find at least one fun creative outlet if we try.
Listen to Your Favorite Music
The healing power of music is undeniable. Music can not only trigger powerful memories, but also boost the brain’s production of the hormone dopamine. This increased dopamine production helps relieve feelings of anxiety and depression. Music is processed directly by the amygdala, which is the part of the brain involved in mood and emotions. It reduces stress.
Make a List of Things You Want to Do
A ‘to do’ list is a great way to focus on the positive things you can change or accomplish. Lists are great tools for decreasing anxiety, providing structure and giving us a record of everything we’ve accomplished in a day. The trick is to reframe your to-do list as a set of miniature goals for the day and to think of your checklist items as steps in a plan. This is a constructive way to channel your energy.
Take a Baby Step
Plan something. Once you take a first step, you will have a sense of accomplishment. Small steps can lead to a good cycle of success breeding success as you establish habits, hit mini-goals and note your progress. This increases confidence and can be the best way to make great strides and hold onto the gains long-term. It can be something as small as completing a household chore that you have been putting off.
A good laugh has great short-term effects and actually induces physical changes in your body. Laughter can: • Stimulate your organs and increase your intake of oxygen-rich air. It also stimulates your heart, lungs and muscles, and increases the endorphins that are released by your brain. Activate and relieve your stress response. A rollicking laugh fires up and then cools down your stress response, and it can increase and then decrease your heart rate and blood pressure.
Spend Time with Family or Friends
A Medical News Today study on social isolation concluded that “social relationship–based interventions” represent a major opportunity to enhance not only the quality of life but also survival. It has been proven that spending
social time with others can improve mood and reduce risk of depression, anxiety and many other mental health problems. Social connection also improves your brain performance, including memory, and lowers your risk of developing dementia later in life.
Try Something New
A famous Emily Dickinson quote comes to mind… “The only difference between a rut and a grave is the depth of the hole.” Sometimes we need to disrupt our routine, break out of our old habits and force ourselves to leave our comfort zone. Why not do that “thing” you may have been a little hesitant to try? Seize the day! What have you got to lose, really?
Seek Professional Assistance
Asking for help is a sign of strength, not weakness. For times when you cannot seem to identify effective ways to alleviate stress, seeking a mental health professional is a wise decision. A professional therapist is best suited for evaluating your symptoms helping you through the process to a better emotional state. Often times, there are recommended treatments and therapies that can allow you to live a happy, fulfilling life.
In short, mental health is as important as physical health. Do not ignore the symptoms of stress taking its toll on your mind, body and spirit. Heart attacks, strokes, ulcers and a host of other physical signs can indicate that you need to address the stressful conditions in your life. Don’t wait too long and allow a chronic health condition to adversely affect your life. When you make a concerted effort to address the underlying reasons for your stress, you are well on your way to a happier, more fulfilling path!