Stress 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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
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