Have you been feeling overwhelmed, burned out, or stressed? Whether you are experiencing the stress of your busy day-to-day activities or significant life stressor, there are several basic steps you can take to improve your mental health and well-being. Coping mechanisms for stress are linked to your physical and mental health and the health of your relationships with those you care about.
12 Practical Ways to Manage Stress
Integrating some of these basic ideas into your daily and weekly routine will help you manage your stress and feel more optimistic.
Many people experiment with these concepts, often making each of them a habit and a regular part of their lives.
Connect with other people.
Should you look back in your life to happy times you will notice that happiness is shared. Good relationships are like fertilizer for our mental health, we thrive when we have good, healthy relationships with other people. These relationships help us to establish and maintain a sense of belonging and healthy self-esteem, allow us to share in positive experiences, help us to receive, and give emotional support to those we know.
Prioritize quality time.
Building robust relationships is often not something that comes quickly. For those busy at work, it is important to spend time with your family each day. This is often the case when families keep to a fixed time to eat dinner together.
For time spent together to have a positive impact on your relationships and reduce stress, several elements need to take place, such as eye contact and communication. Look to be motivated by your care and love for the other person as you interact with them and you will discover that you make eye contact, ask more questions, respond thoughtfully to their answers, are less focused on yourself, and enjoy the experience more. So will the other person to whom you are giving positive attention.
Look to remove things that obstruct this flow from developing. If a TV show or music speaker is on and suppressing the opportunity to interact, turn it off. If your phone keeps beeping for your attention as your chat groups connect, put it away.
Stay in touch.
Staying in touch with people can sometimes feel like you are the only one reaching out and investing in the relationship but remember it might be you this time. Next time it may be them – so look for a chance to arrange a day out with those friends or family whose relationship you treasure.
Find friends at work.
Often the quantity of time that we spend working results in us getting to know our colleagues and forming friendships with them. Nurture these at lunchtimes. Everyone needs to eat, so do not miss the opportunity that sharing lunch time with your colleague gives to you as you challenge and support one another.
Serve the friendship.
Sometimes it will be the case that the friend or family member whose relationship you value is unable to come to you. If that happens, consider simply being the one who travels for the sake of the relationship. Yes, it does mean more effort to always do all the traveling required for an in-person meeting but, remember when you first formed the relationship? It’s unlikely that the person was always unable to travel.
Or there may be a similar barrier: Perhaps they are struggling to afford the travel costs required or connectivity fees to have a video chat with you. Why not find a way to sponsor this? Remember not to let a virtual connection substitute for a real one. By sharing time and space you and your friend benefit from the relationship.
Being physically active helps you enjoy the benefits that having a strong and healthy body brings. But we know that our hearts, body, and mind are all co-dependent within an incredibly designed matrix, and so a healthy body assists us to improve our mental health too by increasing our self-esteem, helping to achieve the challenges and goals we have set ourselves, and benefitting from positive changes in our moods through exercise causing the chemical mix in our brain to change.
How much exercise do you need?
The World Health Organization recommends that if you are between 18 and 64 years old, you need to be out and about with an elevated heart rate (achieved when walking briskly) for an average of 150 minutes each week, as well as two days a week where you take part in activities that strengthen muscle groups, for your mental health to benefit from regular exercise.
Starting is the hardest part.
That phrase is one you have heard before. There is a lot of truth to it. Search for ‘couch to 5k’ or find out how to start swimming, cycling, dancing, or other fun ways to exercise. The requirement is not that you must spend hours in the gym. Instead, focus on finding activities you enjoy and work them into your schedule, such as inviting a friend to be a regular jogging partner.
Learning new skills is also a method you can enjoy putting to practice to improve your mental health, your confidence, and your self-esteem. Learning new skills also helps you to connect with others and can build your sense of purpose.
Find time to learn.
There are many ways to bring learning into your life through your regular activities. Some of these could be learning how to cook something new, perhaps experimenting with healthier ingredients that can be substituted for what you regularly use. Volunteering for new responsibilities at work such as mentoring or improving your presentation skills will help extend you, as will working on a DIY project. Fixing a cupboard door, a bicycle, or something more complex can be a healthy challenge, and there are many tutorials on how to do this online. More options can be starting a course at a nearby college, learning a new language via a mobile app, or starting hobbies such as painting or a new sport. Each of these will help you exercise your brain as you learn new skills.
Being kind and giving to others is, according to research, very beneficial to your mental well-being and helps to reduce stress. It not only creates good feelings about yourself but also a sense of reward. It strengthens your purpose and self-worth and helps you to connect with other people.
As you know, kindness comes in all shapes and sizes and from an encouraging smile to volunteering in your local community, there are innumerable ways to express generosity and kindness. Try some of these ideas: Expressing your gratitude for something done for you; spending time with those who need support or company; offering your help to someone in cooking or yard work; or rolling up your sleeves and helping in your community through a school, hospital or library.
Paying attention to the present moment is often described as mindfulness. Being mindful involves being aware of your thoughts, feelings, your body, and the world around you. How is your painfully stubbed toe making you feel towards your colleague who is asking for you to empathize with him or her after he or she has made a mistake? Or how did your late night contribute to the little patience you displayed to other drivers during your commute this morning? By being more aware of the world around you, you are better able to take control and understand yourself better. This can positively and proactively change the way you feel about life and how you approach challenges.
If you’re looking for additional help to establish coping mechanisms for stress beyond this article, or perhaps even if someone you love is unable or unwilling to recognize the challenges he or she faces, please browse our online counselor directory or contact our office to schedule an appointment. We would be honored to walk with you on this journey.
“Joy,” courtesy of Ava Calvar, Unsplash+, CCO License; “Woods and Sun,” courtesy of Kevin Wolf, Unsplash.com, CCO License; “Laughter with Friends,” courtesy of Priscilla duPreez, Unsplash.com, CCO License; “Tending to the Plants,” courtesy of Ava Calvar, Unsplash+, CCO License