Everybody deals with stress throughout life, but the way it presents itself can be different for every person. With individuals being asked to shelter in place spending long periods of time in one location, stress may be exhibiting itself in different ways. How does stress affect you?
Mental stress can manifest itself through headaches, tiredness, low energy and even insomnia. If you notice that certain events make you feel this way, you can practice self-care to prioritize yourself, your health and stress management in order to deal with the stresses of everyday life.
Before we dive into ways to reduce stress, it is important to first recognize the root of your stress and why it won’t go away without your intentional intervention.
Our bodies are designed to handle stress for only short periods of time. When a bear is chasing you your body responds by raising your blood pressure and pulse to pump more oxygen through your muscles. Instinctually, your body prioritizes what you need for survival and puts everything else on the back burner. But your body doesn’t know the difference between running away from a bear and the everyday issues that contribute to chronic stress, which leads to a constant stressed-out state of mind for much longer than for what we were designed.
This fight or flight response was meant to get us away from danger and then to be turned off. But when the stressors don’t go away, our health and wellbeing suffer. This is where we can practice putting the stress aside with self-care. While self-care can look different to each person, here are a few ideas to help get you started.
Quiet your mind
When you want to turn down the volume in your head, pay more attention to your senses by meditating, breathing exercises, going on a walk, taking a warm bath or lighting candles and burning essential oils. You can also write down what is stressing you out, followed by writing down things you are grateful for. Journaling our thoughts in this order helps us reduce negative self-talk and improve mood.
To take your mind off things, put more intention into doing the things that you enjoy such as painting and drawing, playing with your cat or dog, watching your favorite movie, or video, chatting with friends. Or you can get creative and try something new such as baking, knitting or crafting. Pick up that book you have been meaning to read for years, start organizing your collection of playing cards.
Get active and
Exercising a little bit everyday has been proven to help boost overall happiness. Find an active outlet such as hiking (we have great trails in Arizona), yoga or kickboxing. Since we’re spending more time at home, many individuals have made their exercise videos available for free. Be sure to fill your body with healthy fats and proteins while avoiding your sugar intake. Focusing on your physical health, including what you eat has a positive impact on your mental health.
Edward O’Brien is a program director for Southwest Behavioral & Health Services.