9 Self-Care Strategies to Reduce Stress

StressVintage photo of relaxing young woman in nature is a normal part of our lives that can motivate us to accomplish projects that we might not otherwise pursue. Reacting to stress in a healthy way can give us the jump-start that we need to meet our deadlines, complete our school or work assignments, and to look for effective solutions to our problems. Rather than wasting time ruminating over the pressures we face, we are able to view life’s many challenges as opportunities to learn and to grow.

For many people, however, constant worry can become a serious problem, leading to both mental and physical health issues. Our causes of stress can include, among others, high demands at work, family problems, financial difficulties, traumatic events, divorce, illness, or the loss of a loved one. Unfortunately, many people deal with these types of issues in unhealthy ways by overeating, drinking or using drugs, excessive caffeine consumption, becoming a workaholic, or developing chronic anxiety or depression.

In order to deal with stress in a healthy manner, we need to implement some self-care strategies into our lives. The following are some effective ways of reducing the stress we face on a daily basis:

  1. Create a healthy work-life balance. If you are a workaholic constantly trying to complete the next project, learn to set some limits for yourself. Technology often allows us to continue to work even after we’ve gone home for the day. We need to learn to establish healthier boundaries, however, in order to avoid becoming burned out or getting sick. Determine a cutoff time for work so that you can decompress at the end of the day and enjoy some much-needed leisure time. Learning more effective time-management strategies can also be helpful.
  2. Establish your priorities. If you find yourself with too many commitments and not enough time to get them all done, take time out to consider which ones can be delegated or eliminated and keep only the ones that are most important for you.
  3. Include self-care practices in your daily routine. Make sure you incorporate some time in your schedule each day to nourish your body and soul. Even if you have only a few moments to spare, you can enjoy a warm bath, listen to relaxing music, or watch the sunset.
  4. Engage in a physical activity several times a week. Going for a jog or working out are great ways to get rid of excessive stress. If you don’t have time to go to the gym, take a walk around the block on your lunch hour. Moving our bodies can keep us physically fit and healthier, which can make us feel better emotionally as well.
  5. Spend some time in nature whenever possible. A change of scenery is always helpful for changing our viewpoint about whatever is troubling us. Enjoying a trip to the park, watching the waves at the beach, or gazing at the stars are all wonderful ways to commune with nature that can help us to put our problems into perspective.
  6. Avoid emotional eating. When we feel stressed out, we often have a tendency to try to comfort ourselves by eating unhealthy foods, which only leads to negative feelings about ourselves afterward. Become more mindful of your eating habits when you are dealing with pressure, and have some healthy snacks on hand to fall back on rather than reaching for another doughnut or cookie.
  7. Limit time spent on social media. When you have already spent a full day at work, try to avoid spending too much of your leisure time connected to yet another computer or device. Allow yourself to connect with your friends on social media for a limited amount of time each day and then unplug and unwind. Many people spend too much of their time online, which contributes to their already stressful days.
  8. Practice meditation or relaxation techniques. Start a meditation practice, which can lead to lowered stress levels and a sense of greater equanimity. If sitting in meditation feels too daunting for you, practicing relaxation for 10 minutes a day can bring about many healing benefits for your mind and body. Numerous relaxation CDs are available to help you get started.
  9. Be creative! Once a week, try to set aside some time to do a hobby or other activity that you enjoy. Exercising our creative muscles is enjoyable and can also help to generate new ideas and solutions to problems you may be dealing with.

Stress is an ongoing issue that we all have to deal with. If we do not find healthy ways in which to handle our daily pressures, they may end up taking a toll on our physical and mental health. If you have tried some or all of the suggestions listed above and are still having difficulties dealing with stress, you may want to consider talking to an empathic other, whether this be a friend, family member, or therapist, in order to obtain the help needed to start to experience a more peaceful frame of mind, even in the midst of an otherwise hectic life.

© Copyright 2014 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by Wendy Salazar, MFT, therapist in San Diego, California

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • louis

    October 29th, 2014 at 1:22 PM

    All of the things listed above are great strategies for taking care of ourselves and the one that I have to be most mindful of is that one that reminds me not to overeat when stressed or feeling overly emotional. I know that there are people who think that this is a malady that only impacts women but believe me this is something that I struggle with as a man too! I have had to stop and literally ask myself if this cake or whatever it is is going to solve my problems, and even though it may feel good in the moment I have to accept that long term it will cause me far more harm than what it does good. Little life lessons that I have to remind myself of every day.

  • mika

    October 29th, 2014 at 4:10 PM

    creating that perfect work- life balance is the ideal way to make your life worry free!

  • Alicia

    October 30th, 2014 at 3:51 AM

    You have to understand though that all of these things take time, many of them are about forming a healthy habit in your life and while they may work you may have to give them actual time to work.

  • Leelee

    October 30th, 2014 at 2:11 PM

    It might sound crazy to some people but I absolutely agree with the physical fitness aspect and how this helps keep me sane. I used to hate the thought of even exercising but now that it has become a habit I don’t stay sane without it! If I can go the gym, go for a wlk, do somehting to stay active, it doesn’t really matter what it is, I need that time to clear my head and to ward off all of the stress that has a tendency to build and build throughout the day. This is the perfect time of year with the weather to put those tennis shoes on and get a move on.

  • Michael

    October 31st, 2014 at 3:57 AM

    I am that one person that everyone always knows that they can count on but the problem with that is that I often find myself in a situation where I can’t say no, and then I am over committed and then you know what that means… STRESS! So I need to figure out how I can take a step back and learn to say no every now and then but how to do that in a way where feelings are not hurt and I am not feeling guilty about having to set some priorities in my life. I think that all of this comes from an extreme need to please but what I do in the end is please a whole lot of other people but never myself.

  • dara

    November 2nd, 2014 at 10:28 AM

    I find that unfortunately most of us are so worried about taking care of others but we forget to take care of ourselves. However it is critical that if we want to be our best for others then we have to be the best for ourselves. That means being very mindful of all of the above strategies and using those we feel the most comfortable with to smooth out our little stressed edges.

  • Lindall

    November 3rd, 2014 at 4:52 AM

    I love to paint, not pictures but just to get in the house and paint. Yes the walls have all had some color changes, but they all look good (I hope!) and it is therapeutic for me, rolling the paint on. Kind of crazy sounding, I know, but sometimes I will spend all weekend doing little decorating changes because that’s what helps me release some of the stress form the week,

  • Garrett

    November 4th, 2014 at 2:49 PM

    It might take some time for you to figure out exactly what could work for you.
    There could be some things that you think that you would enjoy and then you do them and say what a waste of time
    And then there could be something else that you are a little wary about and find that you really do enjoy.
    It really is all about giving yourself a little bit of freedom to try something new and to not be so scared of the out come.

  • teea

    December 26th, 2014 at 2:27 PM

    What I have found helpful in terms of self care is to take some time, not rush in, to learn to take astep back sometimes. So this might mean spending five minutes in bed before I get up, thinking about the day to come, the challenges, what my things are, basically preparing myself. It also means pausing before offering my time or support, reflecting on how I feel and what my getting involved might mean etc. I’m finding stepping back a little helps me feel calm and see thise around me (and their problems) in petspective. We have to care for ourselves and slow down.

  • Laurie

    February 14th, 2016 at 9:18 AM

    I have major anxiety and stress I can’t seem to get rid of. I constantly over commit to doing things I don’t really want to do. The last two days I’ve been having major stomach issues. I have Fibromyalgia from stress. It’s time for a change, at least the things I have control over.

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