It seems like everyone is an expert on stress these days, at least on experiencing it if not managing it. It’s been a difficult twelve months. Some things are starting to look up at this point, and people are looking forward to moving on with their lives, but much of the underlying stressors are still with us, whether it’s our jobs, our families, our health, our finances, our politics — it’s a big list!
But whatever your situation, there are some practical steps you can take for stress management.
9 Stress Management Tips
Find a Balance Between Work and Home
If there’s a bright side to the pandemic, it’s that many companies finally became more accepting of the idea of letting their employees work from home. Unfortunately, many employees discovered that working from home comes with its own set of unique stresses that can be difficult to overcome. Homelife intrudes on the work; work intrudes on the home life. Soon it’s a tangled mess of short tempers and missed deadlines. It’s exacerbated even more when you’ve got kids who aren’t in school.
Solving this problem can be tricky and depends on your particular situation. Some things that can help: a dedicated office space; an organizational system and process that you rigorously follow; a schedule of work hours that you stick to. Do whatever you can to work while you should be working, and take work out of your brain when work is done for the day.
We can’t overstate how important exercise is, not just for your health but to calm your mind and body. Exercise improves your mental health and mood on its own but gives you added peace of mind when it comes to controlling and preventing physical health problems, boosting energy levels so you can get more done, and promoting better sleep. Exercise is also a great social activity. We recommend a mix of cardiovascular training and strength and at-home stretches to practice during quarantine. In a pinch, a daily 20-minute walk will suffice. Exercise at home can be made easy with inexpensive physical therapy equipment.
As with exercise, the benefits of a healthy diet go well beyond improving your mood. Healthy eating promotes heart health, reduces cancer risk, controls weight, strengthens bones and teeth, and even helps your memory. That’s a whole lot of factors that add stress to your life that can be controlled simply by choosing an apple over a donut for your morning snack.
Limit Alcohol Intake
It may feel good at the time, but overall, alcohol adds stress to your life. It doesn’t take it away. Recent studies have shown that a small amount of alcohol actually has health benefits over none at all—but we’re talking a minimal amount, just 3.5 ounces per week. And if you drink more than that? Things get progressively worse.
Find the Right People
It’s no secret that other people can be the biggest source of stress in our lives. And while it’s not feasible to cut yourself off entirely from the rest of the world to the extent that you can, you should make contact with friendly people. Talking with another person actually releases stress-relieving hormones, as long as it’s a supportive and encouraging conversation.
Follow a Passion
A hobby is a great way to take your mind off the bothering things. Whether it’s gardening, reading, birdwatching, listening to music, or volunteering to do social work, any activity you enjoy will reduce your stress level. Carve out some dedicated time each week to do the things that you love.
Learn a relaxation technique that can calm you either as needed or on a regular schedule. Whether it’s a weekly yoga class (with the added benefit of how it can improve your flexibility and posture) or just breathing for a minute when your Apple Watch reminds you to breathe, it’s a quick and easy method of calming yourself and taking the edge off your day. You can even find a calming moment during your shoulder stretches after a workout.
Without sufficient sleep, the physical and mental stresses on our bodies quickly add up. If stress keeps you awake at night, do what you can to address the root cause and follow the other tips on this page to reduce that stress. The sleep will follow. Regular exercise is great for promoting sleep, as are relaxation techniques. You may also want to institute a lights-out policy after a certain hour, meaning no TV, computers, or phones in bed!
Get Help To Manage Stress
And finally, professional help is always encouraged. A counselor or therapist can go a long way toward reducing emotional stress, but don’t also forget people like life coaches who can help solve employment issues or even organizational experts who can help you take control of that unbalanced work-home life!