Stress is a part of our daily lives. Whether it be an important project coming up at work, financial struggles, interpersonal relationship rifts, or trying to find a new apartment to move into, it’s something we all have to manage. Stress can pop up anywhere and knowing how to deal with it and incorporate strategies to combat stress can help us cope. Self-care— real self-care, not just the action of buying yourself nice things on a whim, but the work you do on the inside as well on the outside — can be a great strategy to deal with the stress of everyday life. Below are five self-care strategies that are tried and true to help you cope with stress.
A revelation I found out with the help of a medical professional was that I wasn’t actually breathing correctly. The issue is more common than you might think as breathing comes naturally, but correctly breathing is a learned practice. Breathing from your abdomen instead of taking shallow breaths from your upper chest allows you to inhale more oxygen. The increase in oxygen will help you relax and stop the shallow, short, and/or quick breathing you may experience when stressed. A great strategy for practicing deep breathing techniques is the 4-7-8 breathing technique. This involves breathing in for four seconds, holding the breath for seven seconds, and exhaling it for eight seconds. Also known as box breathing, this is a common technique used to help people to calm down when their bodies are in elevated fight-or-flight mode, stressed and need to relax. Try this method for a few minutes when you’re feeling stressed and see how much better you feel.
This might sound simple, but as we age, we become more sedentary. We also spend less time outdoors and within nature depending on our line of work; You may be indoors for 8+ hours a day with little time spent outside. Experiencing nature and changing our scenery can change our perspectives on what we’re currently dealing with, getting us out of our heads and attuned with our bodies. To take it a step further, leave your phone at home. Listen to the sounds of the birds in the trees. Pay extra attention to the newly budding flowers or changing foliage of the leaves around you. The simple pleasures of nature can help us re-center ourselves and leave (some of) our stressors behind.
Many times, our stressors can lead to thought spirals of negative thinking. Journaling is a great way to help get rid of these thoughts while acknowledging them and working through them on paper. Sometimes we may tend to keep our emotions inside, keep the stressors inside, so they fester. They multiply. Journaling and writing through our problems and stress and thinking about potential solutions and acknowledging how we feel can rid us of them. Start with an easy goal of journaling a few times a week as not to deter you if you aren’t able to make it daily. Setting unrealistic goals or those that we can’t complete yet can further exacerbate our stressors and undo the healing that journaling can bring.
Move your body
Releasing stress through movement is an age-old practice. Whether this is dancing in your room to your favorite song, an intense high-intensity interval training (HIIT) workout, or taking a few laps around your local park, moving is key. Incorporate moving your body at least five days a week into your routine will have a positive effect on both your physical and mental health.
Set limits for social media consumption
The rumors are true, having unlimited access to information and other people has negative side effects on our mental health. Social media addiction is a real thing. Especially now with algorithms that are coded to keep users engaged for long periods of time, you can get sucked into endless scrolling for hours without realizing it. Setting time limits on the amount of time we spend on social media will not only give us a break from the outside stimulants but also give us more time to do the things that are good for us, including the other items on this list. If you have an iPhone, there is a setting that allows you to make timers for apps with the swipe of a button. This also allows you to see your current social media usage and set a realistic goal to reduce usage. If you currently use social media four hours a day, starting by limiting your usage to three hours at first will allow you to ease into the change. No one has ever regretted a social media break.