We all know the uncomfortable feeling of stress. It’s not a great place to be, but it can be a difficult place to get out of. We hear a lot about the negative health effects of chronic stress, so let’s switch gears to a more positive perspective and talk about some healthy strategies you can implement for combating stress.
8 Stress-management techniques
Listed below are 8 ways to practice stress management. Pick a few that appeal to you and notice how it makes you feel! Focusing on these healthy habits will help improve your mental clarity and better equip your mental space for handling stressful times.
The benefits of regular, good quality sleep cannot be overstated. If you know there are things you could be doing to set you up for better sleep, it’s time to start addressing them. When it comes to sleep, consistency is key. Create a wind down routine that you implement around the same time each night to get your mind and body ready for rest. This commonly includes your personal hygiene regimen, turning off technology for the day, and maybe a little reading or journaling to decompress. Even little adjustments such as making sure you have a pillow that gives you enough support and comfort can dramatically improve your sleep quality. Getting into a routine of a regular sleep-wake cycle allows your body to settle into circadian rhythm. Having difficulty getting consistent sleep can be a stressor in it of itself. Therefore, trying some of the other strategies listed below first may allow you to then get a better night’s rest. For more on sleep, I highly recommend this book: Why We Sleep; if you aren’t convinced of the importance of a regular sleep schedule, this book will surely do the trick!
As PTs, we love movement, but the truth is, the benefits of regular movement are undeniable. Not only for your muscles and joints, but on a chemical level, exercise can improve your mood. If anything, it serves as a distraction away from negative mental space and makes you feel better just knowing you’re doing your body good. Find a way to incorporate movements you enjoy into your weekly, if not daily routine. Walks are a great example! Other ideas include, yoga, workout classes, Pilates, hiking, or even just taking the stairs. 😊
Take time to explore interests you have outside of work. Creative outlets are an excellent way to decompress. Finding something you genuinely enjoy doing will give you something to look forward to, an activity to work on, and something to even be proud of. Hobbies contribute to your sense of self and worth and serve as positive reinforcement of the joys in life; if anything, they are a mindless activity that alleviates other more negative mental energy. Adding a hobby you enjoy to your day can outweigh other daily stressors you encounter. Some examples include gardening, art, cooking, reading, camping, fishing, biking.
Everyone is different when it comes to what works best for their body as far as food goes. Yet, no one can deny that eating well for you is essential for good health. Keep an eye on what your eating, even in regard to stress management, because feeling good in your body will help you feel better overall. Alternatively, eating poorly not only makes you feel bad, but negatively affects your immunity, that is already weakened by stress. Keep everything in check by eating whole, nutritious foods. This helps to boost immunity, gives you good energy, and allows for better quality sleep!
Breathing & Meditation
you’ve likely heard of or even experienced the benefits of deep breathing. To learn about diaphragmatic breathing, see our blog post, Breathing a Little Deeper, the Benefits of Slowing Down. Essentially, connecting with your breath will help you reduce your stress response and connect you back with your parasympathetic system, or resting state of being. Take it a step further with meditation. Just as much as we need physical exercise, our bodies need mental attention as well. Think of meditation as your brain exercises; as your peace of mind improves, so will your stress levels. The Headspace app is a great away to get started with your meditation practice. In response to COVID-19, Headspace is allowing free access to health care workers and for the unemployed. Calm is another great meditation app. You can find many guided meditations online, or you can simply dedicate 5 minutes of personal peace and quiet each day to get your mind right.
Letting out your thoughts on paper serves as an excellent way to relieve stress. Your journal is a personal outlet that allows the stressful events and thoughts of the day to escape from inside and be put on paper. Try for yourself and see how therapeutic this can be! Another great tool is using your journal for a gratitude list. Actively choosing to recognize and appreciate the things that make you feel grateful in life immediately takes some weight off your stressors. Shift your focus to a more positive perspective and enjoy the benefits of focusing on the good.
The gift of destressing is right outside your window! Getting outside and breathing in fresh air while taking in nature’s beauty is an excellent way to reset your system. Take breathing + meditation outside, or some movement, for a combination of destressing activities if you want to feel extra good! Simply going for a walk around the neighborhood will give you space away from stressors and give you time to reset.
I find that clearing out the clutter in your physical space helps you feel as though you are also clearing mental space as well. Not to mention, feeling more at peace in your physical environment leads to feeling more grounded and less stressed about to-do’s around the home. Carve out some time to organize that room you’ve been meaning to get to, or clean out your closet- it’s amazing how clearing out some unwanted mess that is no longer serving you can make you feel like a weight has been lifted from your spirit! It will at least serve as a productive distraction that you will appreciate yourself for doing!
Implementing your stress management strategies
Pick at least 1 of the above to focus on this week! Mental health is just as important as your physical health and stress management goes a long way in preventing chronic disease. Learning the best stress management practices for you takes time, so be kind to yourself and enjoy the journey!