Stress Awareness Month: Tips for Managing Stress and Anxiety
April serves as Stress Awareness Month, giving us an annual reminder to find ways to avoid (or manage) stress and anxiety. With the COVID-19 pandemic, vaccine rollout, and struggling job market, this has no doubt been one of the more stress-inducing times in recent years.
While stress and anxiety affect a majority of adults in the United States, there are many things we can do to help relieve this tension. None of these recommendations on their own will eliminate stress, of course, but using several of these methods in tandem can lead to a better overall feeling and improved general health.
1. Improve your diet
Many people eat and drink excessively when dealing with stress or anxiety, leading them to potentially gain weight. While eating unhealthy foods may feel good at the moment, the long-term effects outweigh the short-term benefits. Eat a balanced diet and try to stick to natural, whole foods when not feeling well.
2. Exercise regularly
Exercise is a proven stress reducer as elevating your heart rate can release endorphins that will help your mood. Exercise gives your mind an activity to focus on and can help relieve anxiety. Taking part in regular exercise—whether it be a trip to a gym or something simple in your home —can have lasting stress-relieving benefits.
3. Reduce screen time
This has been especially difficult during the pandemic where people have spent more time at home as opposed to enjoying outside activities. Too much time on screens, though, can increase stress. The average adult spends 11 hours per day on screens. While some of that may be necessary for work, try to limit screen time during non-work or school hours.
4. Eliminate alcohol and tobacco
The nicotine in cigarettes places additional stress on the body. It increases physical arousal while reducing blood flow and breath. Those who smoke may find themselves in an elevated, stressed-out state. Too much alcohol use can also be negative. It can impair judgment and increase feelings of depression in those who drink excessively.
5. Reduce caffeine
Many people enjoy a cup of coffee in the morning; that’s totally fine. However, make sure caffeine consumption stays under control. Too much caffeine can make you feel irritated, increasing your stress. Also, try to avoid caffeine after noon as it can take up to 12 hours for the drug to break down in your system. Caffeine late in the day can keep you up at night or disrupt your sleep.
6. Reduce stress triggers
Stress triggers are different for everyone. Look at the things in your life you know cause stress and attempt to reduce them. Many of us overcommit and can benefit from saying “no” more often, as well as asking for help when needed. Additionally, take some time just for yourself to do things that you enjoy—whether it’s going for a walk, reading a book, or working on a puzzle.
7. Make a list
Sometimes we can feel anxious when we know there are lots of things that need to be done. Making a list and crossing things off as you complete them can not only help you feel organized but give you a sense of accomplishment as things get finished.
8. Avoid procrastination
Waiting until the last minute to do something is an easy recipe for success. Plan out the things in your life that need to get done and tackle them in an organized manner. It may be difficult to tackle some tasks but getting them out of the way will bring a sense of relief.
9. Spend time with loved ones
This can be difficult during the time of COVID-19, but staying in contact with loved ones can be of tremendous benefit. Even if it’s sending text messages or a teleconference call, interacting with those you care about can have an uplifting effect on your mood and reduce stress.
10. Listen to soothing music and practice deep breathing
The music can help relax you and taking deep breaths can slow down your heart rate. If you find this helpful, it may be beneficial to take a yoga class or try meditation. Any activity that allows you to take time away from the demands of everyday life can help you feel relaxed and centered.
11. Spend time with a pet or volunteer with animals
Most pets show nothing but love, and spending time with them can help reduce stress. If you don’t have a pet, call your local animal shelter to see if there are times you can volunteer.
Mental health is important; especially during these difficult times. Make sure you develop the right routine for your lifestyle. For more advice on how to destress, check out these tips from Entrepreneur.