ad collaborative post // Stress seems to be everywhere these days. The unique pressures of the pandemic added even more weight to already overburdened shoulders. However, too much tension can take a devastating toll on your mental and even physical health.
Finding coping mechanisms that don’t cause more harm than good is crucial. Hitting the bottle and similar escapist routes compound your troubles — and leave you with wicked hangovers.
What should you do? Here are five healthy ways to cope with stress:
1. Get Mindful
Perhaps you notice yourself snapping at your kids more than usual. However, would you recognize the physical manifestations of excess stress? Taking the time to tune into yourself mindfully could alert you to a need for change.
For example, stress impacts cardiovascular health, and heart disease remains the No. 1 killer of men and women worldwide. You probably recognize a racing heart when another car gets too close on the freeway, veering into your lane. Ongoing, chronic stress can elevate your blood pressure as your body produces excess cortisol, a stress hormone designed to help you deal with the prolonged onslaught.
Many people turn to substance use to deal with excess stress, but this “treatment” can multiply pressure by causing problems in your work and family lives. For example, some people misuse prescription drugs like Adderall to push through challenging workweeks and wash them down with weekend Xanax and alcohol to take off the edge. This cocktail combo further devastates cardiovascular health while causing personality changes. It can even lead to legal trouble.
As much as it may seem like you don’t have the time, take at least five minutes each day to sit quietly, tune into your body and listen to what your stress is telling you. Quieting your mind allows the subconscious space to play and provides you with necessary self-care cues. Try to focus only on your breath, observing intrusive thoughts nonjudgmentally like a scientist before letting them go.
Learn how to perform a body scan to recognize how stress manifests physically in your body. You might notice a clenched jaw, tight shoulders or an aching lower back. Mindfully performing progressive relaxation exercises can ease your burdens while lowering blood pressure and counteracting some of the effects of all that daily pressure.
2. Engage in a Hobby
Hobbies make life worth living. They give you something to look forward to with no expectations other than fun and recreation. Why not find something new to love?
For example, you might find comfort in learning how to knit. Did you lose yourself in fiction as a child? Why not rediscover your love of reading as an adult? There’s nothing wrong with being a gamer — it can even double as a valuable social outlet, especially if you remain isolated because of pandemic concerns.
3. Work It Out
Exercise is perhaps the best remedy for too much stress. It mitigates your adrenaline and cortisol levels by letting your body do what it was designed for under pressure — fight or flight.
However, you don’t have to go to a boxing gym or train for a marathon unless those things are legitimately your jam. You can get an effective workout by docking your iPhone and dancing around your living room for a half-hour. Most people can walk, and it’s free — all you need is a supportive pair of shoes.
4. Talk It Over
You can’t fight off most of the stressors people encounter today like humans once did with hungry lions. Processing the emotional toll wreaked by job losses, excessive rent increases, divorces and grocery inflation takes talking with another human being.
Find someone you trust and can confide in once a week. Your partner may serve this role — but please keep date night sacred and reserve some time for mutual venting. A best friend or trusted relative may be your confidante if you’re single.
Try to select people who are validating and encouraging. You want to avoid the overly positive to the point of toxicity types who gloss over concerns like crushing rent increases with platitudes like, “oh, things always work out.”
However, you also want to stay away from Debbie Downers, who only see the dark side. Your best choice is someone who says, “Wow, that’s rough,” but helps you brainstorm meaningful ways to overcome your issues.
5. Learn to Breathe
You already have the best free stress-fighter there is — your breath. Learning to control it can quell panic and mitigate many physical manifestations of excess tension.
You can practice various techniques. Many people gravitate toward boxed breathing, where you inhale for four counts, pause for four seconds and exhale the same length.
You can also try 2-to-1 breathing, exhaling twice as long as you inhale. These methods tap into your parasympathetic nervous system, the side that tells you it’s time to rest and digest. They also massage your vagus nerve, which plays a crucial role in your body’s anxiety response.
Healthy Ways to Cope With Stress
Stress is everywhere these days. It’s an unavoidable reality of adult life, but learning how to mitigate its effects is crucial to your overall health. Try one of the five healthy ways above to cope with pressure. You’ll feel better and decrease your chances of long-term health trouble.