When unexpected changes to our routine, work life and social life collide with concerns about our health, we are all vulnerable to stress and anxiety. As we focus on staying well, it might be easy to overlook our mental and emotional health.
During stressful periods, it’s easier to feel overwhelmed by our thoughts, worries or even fears. With practice, you can learn simple tips and strategies to ease the burden of stress and its effects on both your mind and your body.
Try these coping strategies when you feel stressed or worried:
- Take a break. Stepping away, even momentarily, from the problem at hand can help you break the cycle of stressful thoughts. Listening to a favorite song, stretching or taking a few slow, deep breaths can help clear your head.
- Plan time away from media. Be intentional about the news and the social media content you consume. Ongoing, passive exposure to these can cause added tension and stress. Keep some time in your schedule each day to be free of reading, listening to or watching the news and scrolling social media.
- Eat healthy, balanced meals. It can be easy to skip a meal or rely on junk food when you are operating outside of your regular routine. Planning meals ahead and keeping healthy, energy-boosting snacks on hand will help you avoid mental and physical slumps throughout the day.
- Limit alcohol and caffeine. If you are feeling stressed, it can be tempting to reach for an extra cup of coffee, a sugary soft drink or alcohol, but each of these choices can intensify anxiety and even trigger panic attacks. Drinking water throughout the day, instead, will keep your body hydrated and help protect you from mental and physical stress.
- Rest. A body and mind under heightened stress needs additional rest. Listen to your body. Take breaks when you need to. Going to sleep and waking up at the same time each day can help ensure you get enough sleep at night.
- Exercise. Moving your body releases feel-good endorphins, can increase your focus throughout the day and will help you sleep better at night. Don’t put pressure on yourself to complete a grueling workout routine. Taking a walk or riding a bicycle are great options, too.
- Take deep breaths. Deep breathing can lower your blood pressure, refocus your mind and release tension in your muscles.
- Do the best you can. Some days, doing your best means you excel so much that you even impress yourself. Other days, doing your best can mean accomplishing far less. Understand that both efforts are valid. It’s just as normal to have a difficult day as it is to have a good one.
- Practice positive self-talk. Being hard on yourself only increases your stress. Try speaking to yourself the way you would speak to a friend or loved one. Be gentle and encouraging. Recognize your feelings without passing judgment.
- Practice gratitude. In tense moments, remind yourself of the things you are grateful for. Expressing gratitude can help balance your perspective and ease your stress.
- Learn what prompts your anxiety. Paying attention when you feel added stress can help you identify potential patterns. Writing in a journal can help you recognize these prompts.
- Talk it out. Tell friends and family you’re feeling overwhelmed and let them know how they can help you. It can feel scary to admit when you’re not feeling your best. Talking to a doctor or therapist is also a powerful tool in managing stress and worry.
Putting these tips into practice may feel like a challenge at first, but just like trying a new workout, it gets easier as the newness wears off. Your healthy body and your healthy mind are worth the effort. Use these strategies to build your resilience when you have a hard day and they will help you make way for all the better ones to come.
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