7 Healthy Ways to Cope with Stress
Why Are We Stressed?
2020 has brought a new level and intensity of stress to our lives.
Working from home, balancing childcare and family responsibilities are pushing many professionals into a new reality around which their regular coping skills need to adapt.
You may not be able to see many of your friends or family during this time.
You may have a parent or loved one whose health is even more at risk given the pandemic.
You may have lost your job.
Unhealthy coping behaviors can be seen everywhere:
Overworking, overeating/drinking, binge-watching, blaming, avoiding or gossiping about others
Here are 7 healthy ways to help you cope with stress you are facing right now.
1. Your Behaviours
Commit to becoming aware of how you behave when you are stressed and anxious.
Write out a list of the ways you are currently coping with stress and anxiety.
What methods are healthy, and which are unhealthy?
Take your list of coping strategies. Write a healthy coping strategy beside each unhealthy one.
Write out some commitments about your behaviours.
“If I start to eat junk food, I will choose to eat fruit, nuts or veggies instead.”
“If I become irritable, I will write about why, and explore what will help release my irritation.”
2. Your Physical Health
A study published by the American Journal of Psychiatry in 20018 found physical activity can provide protection against depression regardless of age and geographical region.
Exercise helps with stress and anxiety. It gives you a way to release tension that can built from stress at work and at home. Commit to exercising regularly. Decide today to make it a priority in your life. Start simple if needed.
Commit to 10, 15, 20 minutes a day to start.
A short walk can go a long way in bringing endorphin levels up, giving you space for yourself , and reducing stress.
Note: It is always best to check with your doctor if there are any health considerations you need to make.
3. Your Thoughts
The University of Rochester Medical Center found journaling can improve mental health by managing anxiety, reducing stress, and coping with depression.
If possible, use pen and paper. It activates more of your brain – motor skills, memory and creativity.
If something at work upsets you, write about it.
If you get in an argument with your spouse, write about it.
If you are struggling to parent or care for a family member, write about it.
Write about what you are grateful in the middle of the stress.
Commit to making this a regular daily or weekly habit.
Regular journaling can help reduce the impact events in your life on your stress level.
Over the long term, you will get better at handling stressful situations when they arise.
4. Your Breathing
Breathing is essential to life.
How we breathe can impact how we feel and our overall health.
Start with brief moments throughout the day and focus on your inhale and exhale.
You could do it every time you sit in your chair, before you pick up the phone or when you get in your car.
Harvard Medical School has done some research on the benefits of breathing.
5. Your Sleep
How much sleep are you getting each night?
1 in 4 adults aged 18-34 and 1 in 3 aduslts aged 35-64 are not getting enough sleep. (Statistics Canada)
The Canada Mental Health Association has found 4 ways sleep impacts your mental health.
a. Sleep impacts your mood
b. Sleep impacts the way you think
c. Sleep influences your behaviours
d. Sleep impacts your body
Start to become aware of how much sleep you are getting each night. Commit to getting at 7 to 9 hours every night. Notice how your mood, your thoughts, your behaviours when you are and aren’t getting enough sleep. If you are not getting enough sleep, identify what aspect of your routine you can change to help with getting more sleep.
6. Your Goals
“If you want to be happy, set a goal that commands your thoughts, liberates your energy and inspires your hopes.” – Andrew Carnegie
When things get stressful, a great way to cope is to remind yourself of your goals.
If you have clearly defined goals (eg. work, self, family), this can be a great way to bring yourself back on track to where you are headed.
For example, if you goal is to feel happy, fulfilled, focused and peaceful, ask yourself – what would help you in a stressful moment to move closer to your goal?
What are your goal(s) related to your mental wellness?
What helps you move closer to experiencing your goal?
7. Your Support Network
“Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it. I do that every day. Asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness, it’s a sign of strength. It shows you have the courage to admit when you don’t know something, and to learn something new.”
– Barack Obama
It is so important to remember that you are always surrounded by support.
If you are struggling, ask for help.
You don’t have to do it alone: Talk to a partner, friend, counsellor or coach.
The article is courtesy of Aaron Solly, Founder of Engage Coaching Group.