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Stress Awareness Month – Seven Ways to Mentally Refresh
Nobody is immune to stress. That’s why this Stress Awareness Month, evolvedMD, a company committed to elevating mental health conversations, would like to take the opportunity to identify simple ways to cope with stress before it takes a toll on your overall health.
While often discussed, stress is not often defined. Stress is a physical, mental, or emotional factor that causes bodily or mental tension. Many different situations can trigger stress, but letting it linger for too long can leave us overwhelmed and unable to cope.
With U.S. adults more stressed than ever according to a survey from the American Psychological Association and worse, chronic stress increases the risk of developing mental health problems such as anxiety and depression – stress plays an unbelievably significant role in wellness. While experiencing stress is normal episodically, it’s important that you take necessary action to manage it effectively.
If you’re currently experiencing stress and don’t know how to combat it, try the following tips and exercises below:
Tips and Exercises for Combatting Stress
Identify What’s Stressing You Out
Acknowledging stress is part of the battle. The other is identifying the cause(s). Things tend to pile on top of each other and overwhelm us but having an itemized list can help you prioritize what to tackle and how.
For example, are you worried about meeting the deadline on a big project at work? Maybe your annual performance review is coming up and you’re worried you may come up short and miss out on that promotion. Whatever the case, write it down. From there you can create a step-by-step guide for tackling them head on. To meet the deadline on that big project, you can write down that you’ll work on it for 20 minutes uninterrupted and then take a short five-minute break, and then repeat the cycle X number of times.
Exercise: Create an itemized list of the things stressing you out. Then create a step-by-step guide for how you’ll tackle it.
Accept the Things You Can’t Control
We have control over how we manage work, family, and other aspects of our lives, but not over high gas prices, inflation, the Russian invasion of Ukraine, you name it. Worrying, trying to gain control, failing, and worrying again will only amplify your stress.
What we can control is our attitude, effort, and where we focus our energy. Remember that itemized list you just created? You can control how those items impact your life, so it’s better to focus your efforts there rather than wasting time and energy on things you can’t control. Ultimately, don’t be too hard on yourself—your goals and ambitions are far more important than external stressors.
Exercise: Complete a mindfulness exercise that will take your mind off the things you can’t control.
Be Comfortable Putting Yourself First
Self-care is essential to managing stress. This doesn’t mean getting pampered occasionally; self-care must become a fixed part of your daily routine to maintain good physical and mental health. Best of all, self-care looks different for everyone. Whether it’s going hiking, listening to relaxing music, or exercising our creative muscles, there is a near infinite number of activities and possibilities to pursue.
Exercise: Choose one new self-care activity you’ve never tried before.
Remove Yourself from Negativity
The news, social media, and other sources of information are chock-full of negativity that can impact your mood and increase stress. Although technology use has increased across the board, it’s on us to remove ourselves from the situation and replace it with something positive. This doesn’t mean you’re ignoring what’s happening in the world; it’s all about striking balance. When the negative stories become too much, remove yourself from the situation and surround yourself with positive people, the great outdoors, or a funny book.
Exercise: Leave your phone behind and go outside for an hour.
Re-balance Home and Work Lives
Spending too much time at the office, working remotely, or otherwise not carving out personal time will only amplify stress. As the lines between personal and professional lines blur, it becomes increasingly important for us to master our time. How do we become more intentional about striking a balance? Use your calendar. It’s useful for much more than managing work meetings. Use it to plan out and schedule both your personal and professional lives. That means even scheduling time on your calendar for your favorite self-care activities.
Exercise: Intentionally schedule time in your calendar or planner to enjoy time for fun and relaxation.
Reconnect with Your Passions
Our passions give us a sense of purpose and a chance to disconnect from daily obligations that may cause stress. Maybe you’ve noticed that you’re spending less time than you’d like pursuing your hobbies, whatever they may be. The good news is that you can pick it up again no matter how long it’s been since you let it slide. Even better, you may have discovered a new passion to pursue along the way—the more the merrier.
Exercise – Pursue a hobby or creative outlet.
Seek Professional Help
If the stress is too overwhelming and you feel it’s negatively impacting your physical and mental health, you don’t have to fight it alone—seek professional help. Schedule an appointment to see your primary care provider, therapist, or another professional you trust. Depending on where you receive care, the practice may integrate behavioral health services which gives you the opportunity to see your primary care provider and a licensed mental health professional in the same building.
Exercise: Make an appointment with your primary care provider or therapist.
In recognition of Stress Awareness Month, we hope these tips and exercises help you cope with whatever stress you’re experiencing in your personal and professional lives.