Everyone has stress, and we all deal with it differently. Since National Stress Awareness Day is Nov. 2, it’s important to understand what it is, how it can affect people, and how to manage it.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, “stress is the physical or mental response to an external cause.” It’s always around, whether it’s a rapidly approaching project due date, relationship issues, or forgetting to bring your potatoes to a potluck. It can be beneficial if you need a burst of motivation or momentary energy. Still, too much stress can negatively impact your sleep patterns, heart health, digestive system, and a trove of other areas.
Individuals need to take actions that will reduce stress. Luckily, there are a lot of ways to manage it effectively and easily.
Identifying stressors is always a good place to start. And while that might sound obvious, some are hidden or easily overlooked. A simple way to begin is to:
- Sit with your thoughts
- Practice mindfulness
- Try to figure out what is causing tension
- Ask yourself questions
- Challenge your beliefs
- Focus on a new idea that helps steer you away from triggers
The first way to deal with stress is to understand what is creating it, so determining triggers is essential.
Exercise will always be at the top of every list for wellness tips and tricks. After all, it’s a great way to maintain a healthy lifestyle. If you’re not into bodybuilding or CrossFit, you can still find lower-effort ways to exercise. Activities like walking for 30 minutes, crushing your grandparents in pickleball (or getting crushed by them), or taking the stairs count. It’s okay not to push yourself to your limit every time you work out. Any movement is better than none at all!
Healthy Diet and Sleep
Maintaining a healthy diet has tremendous benefits for one’s physical and mental health, including lowering stress.
Stress is tied to a chemical called cortisol; eating anti-inflammatory foods will help reduce the cortisol in your body. Try consuming foods like fish, poultry, fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and healthy fats if you’re particularly anxious.
Getting between seven to nine hours of sleep is beneficial for several reasons, but reducing stress is high on the list. Yes, getting a healthy amount of sleep will not only make you feel better but also make you feel less anxious. If you’re having trouble sleeping, try to lay off the caffeine and limit screen time close to bedtime.
Journaling and Meditation
Journaling and meditation rely on self-reflection, which is key in pinpointing triggers. For example, if someone journals every time they feel tension, that person will eventually be able to determine what specific thing, event, action, or person is causing them stress.
Meditation is, to some extent, the mental version of journaling. Some forms of meditation involve letting go of angst and stress.
Remember that if the practice becomes annoying or trying, stop doing it. Forcing yourself to do something you aren’t finding relaxing is not a recommended way to destress.
Talk to a Licensed Therapist
Some types of stress are worse than others. If you’re particularly anxious, scheduling an appointment with a licensed professional could make a positive impact. Unmanaged stress can lead to mental health issues, so having someone to talk to is always worth it.
National Stress Awareness Day falls on the first Wednesday of November each year, but being aware and managing it every day is a worthwhile measure. Taking one small step at a time will have your future self-thanking you. Celebrate the day and do something relaxing!