Life can be stressful—that’s just, well, life. The key to living a healthy, stress-free life is to learn how to manage stress and find ways to let it go.
In 2015, Popular Science magazine noted that 33% of U.S. adults reported stress had an impact on their mental health. While acute stress isn’t harmful, chronic stress can lead to serious mental (and physical) health issues, which can cause anxiety and depression. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by stress now is the time to find ways to ease the tension.
Take some time each day to practice self-care and do something that speaks to your heart. Some ideas are:
1. Get organized. A study conducted by UCLA found those surrounded by physical clutter experienced an overload of the senses, leading to stress and an impaired ability to think creatively. Take a moment to organize your home and office to relieve stress and give your brain a break.
2. Hang out with your pet. If you’re feeling stressed, go hang out with your pet. Regardless if you’re a dog or cat person, or whatever animal you connect with, spending time with your four-legged friend can reduce stress and lift your mood.
3. Practice gratitude. In our crazy lives it’s so easy to ignore what is great about our lives and only focus on what is wrong with them. Shift your mindset by writing down 5-10 things you’re grateful for. Not only will this shift your focus on what is going right in your life, but you’ll reduce your stress and be happier all around as well.
4. Stop overcommitting. Do you have a hard time saying "no?" For many of us, we fall into the category of not wanting to disappoint other people which means we usually put ourselves last on the list of things we need to do. To reduce some of the stress in your life start practicing saying “no” more often. Not only will this stop you from overcommitting yourself, but it will allow you to focus on doing those things that interest you.
5. Positive thinking. If you don’t think positive thinking is that important, think again. Science shows that by keeping your thoughts positive you not only fight stress, but you can extend your lifespan, boost your immune system, improve your relationships and so much more.
6. Identify triggers. Because stress is a natural part of life we’ve all experienced situations which left our heart racing. To help you know what triggers stress (and what you can do to better manage stress), learn to identify your triggers. You can do this by paying attention to your body’s stress response, keep a stress-awareness journal, or explore other ideas for knowing your triggers.
7. Get a massage. When you are feeling stressed a massage might be the perfect solution for you to reduce stress and improve relaxation. There are various massage therapy techniques and styles to explore, which means you may have to visit a few massage therapists to find the right one for you.
8. Essential oils. Aromatherapy is an excellent way of letting go of the stresses of the day. Grab your favorite essential oils (try lavender, chamomile, marjoram, or lemon) and soak in a warm bath. If you don’t have time for a bath put a dab of the oils on your third eye, temples, or other pressure points on your body.
9. Do an art project. Unless you live under a rock you’ve probably heard of adult coloring books. These are hugely popular right now and, according to the American Art Therapy Association, creating art allows us to deal with internal conflict, acknowledge our feelings, and reduce anxiety.
10. Walk it off. Getting outside and taking a walk around your neighborhood or at a local park is another great way to reduce stress. You can also turn your stroll into a meditative walk where you practice being mindful of each step, each breath you take. Choose a comfortable pace and find your rhythm in your breaths.
As our lives become busier finding ways to identify and manage stress is important. The more you can take time for yourself (even just a few minutes each day) the happier and healthier you will be.