Life can be stressful, and certain seasons and situations of life are more stressful than others. If you are dealing with a difficult situation, it’s natural that you will be under more stress than usual. Even during everyday activities and tasks, stress can creep up on you. Fortunately, there are ways that you can learn how to manage stress on your own.
In this article, we provide a list of eight self-care tips that you can use to help manage stress.
1. Exercise Regularly
Getting 30 to 60 minutes of exercise per day can help alleviate stress and anxiety. Exercise prompts your body to produce endorphins, which are sometimes called “feel good hormones.” These are what contribute to a runner’s high. You don’t have to run to enjoy the effects of endorphins, however; you can walk, jog, swim, dance, or play tennis. You also don’t have to put in an hour’s workout each day. Instead, try breaking it up into three or four 10-minute sessions of activity. Get creative with the way in which you get in your exercise. For example, you could park farther away from your office building and walk in or take the kids to the playground or the soccer field and join in on their fun.
2. Get Enough Sleep
If you’ve ever been sleep-deprived (and who hasn’t?), you know how difficult it can be to handle the rigors of daily life. When you are in the midst of a stressful situation, you might find it hard to get the sleep that you need. Once you are sleep-deprived, it’s harder to deal with stress. It can become a vicious cycle if you don’t take steps to make sure you’re able to sleep enough.
There are several ways to improve your sleep. Here are a few tips:
- Have a regular bedtime and wakeup time. It might take you a few days to adjust, but once you start going to bed at the same time each night, your body will start to anticipate sleep.
- Keep your bedroom at a cool temperature.
- Don’t use electronics before bed.
- Talk to your doctor about taking melatonin for a few weeks to jump-start serotonin production at the right time of day.
3. Avoid Stimulants
Caffeine and nicotine can make stress feel worse. If you are currently addicted to either of these, however, then stopping cold-turkey can make you feel even more stressed out. Cut back gradually or talk to your doctor about ways to stop. Nicotine, in particular, is a difficult habit to break. With caffeine, it usually only takes a few days to a week to feel better after stopping, but you’ll likely have headaches and irritability while you adjust. If you aren’t willing to cut it out completely, at least limit it.
Alcohol is not a stimulant, but it’s good to avoid it while you are under stress. Alcohol lowers your inhibitions and you might be more likely to get yourself into a situation that you later regret, which can cause even more stress.
4. Take a Break
Take some time to just get away from the stressful situations in your life. Take a break from the stress by going for a walk, sitting by the water for 15 minutes, or stargazing. Try to leave the house if you’re finding that being home is making you feel more stressed. If you can’t leave the house or you find your home to be your sanctuary, light a candle and enjoy a bubble bath or a good book. Look for little pleasures of life and think of ways that you can regularly take a mini-vacation, even if it’s just 15 minutes at a time.
5. Find Something to Laugh About
Laughter can be the best medicine when it comes to stress. Make plans with your friends to see a funny movie or look up your favorite comedian online. Think about what makes you laugh and seek it out. Read satire or a book of limericks. If you have a friend who always makes you laugh, make a lunch date. If you are with others and the conversation turns to serious topics that make you feel stressed out, don’t be afraid to say that you really just need to laugh and have fun for a short period of time.
Meditation and deep breathing are relaxation techniques which can help you relieve stress. There are many different ways to meditate. Simply close your eyes and focus on one word or sound while taking slow, deep breaths. Paying attention to your breathing can help you focus inward, away from your troubles. You can also listen to a guided meditation audio recording. Try progressive muscle relaxation or guided imagery exercises.
Journaling can help manage stress because it gets your thoughts out of your mind, at least temporarily. Take a few minutes to write down your most pressing thoughts about your day. You can also start a gratitude journal. By writing down things that you are thankful for, you will begin to get into the habit of looking for the beauty in your days. This can reduce your stress, make you more thankful, and keep anxiety and depression at bay.
8. Connect With Others
One last way to manage stress is to take the time to connect with those around you. Whether it’s spending more time with your spouse or children, making plans to see old friends, or volunteering to help others in the community, finding people to “click” with and creating supportive relationships can go a long way toward making you feel that life is a little less overwhelming and stressful than it’s seemed lately.
Don’t Be Afraid to Ask For Help
Learning how to manage stress can often be done using these self-care suggestions. However, if you are finding that you aren’t able to keep your stress levels under control, it might be time to seek outside help. Talk to your primary care doctor, who might recommend that you see a counselor. A good therapist will walk you through different ways to help yourself get through stress and anxiety. They also act as someone to talk to and bounce ideas off of. In some cases, patients find that a short stint on medication helps them get through rough patches. Work with your mental health care professional to find the solution that works best for you, whether that is self-care or professional care.