Stress accumulates. No matter how we try to minimize it, it piles up over time and becomes a problem, both mentally and physically. And the more we try to live up to our own expectations and adhere to the responsibilities we have, the faster it builds up.
Overcoming these stressors is an important factor for a longer, healthier life. It’s also a key factor in the successful treatment of anxiety. Finding better ways to cope with stress can help us reduce its impact on our daily lives, and weather what lies ahead.
Different Ways to Deal with Stress
There are good and bad ways to deal with stress and anxious thoughts, however. Maladaptive coping mechanisms like distracting social media posts and drinking can help in the short-term, but they can do more harm than good, devolving into endless doomscrolling and substance abuse. Constructive coping skills, on the other hand, help you become a more resilient and happier person.
1. Walk It Off
The first method for stress reduction is a simple one: walking. It can be on a treadmill, in a park, at the gym, around the neighborhood, with a dog, with a cat, with a friend, or alone. A long walk, hike, or trip on foot can help clear your thoughts, refresh your mind, bring inspiration, and combat stress.
If you tend to work from a desk, try and get at least one good long walk-in per day. Not only do you reap the physical rewards of keeping your body and joints moving, but you claim the mental rewards, too.
2. Do Something Mentally Engaging and Soothing
There are many activities and hobbies that can be soothing for the mind, helping you enter a psychological state of “flow.” Flow is described as a state wherein the mind is engaged and challenged, but in a positive sense. When an activity draws you in and captivates you fully, you enter “flow.”
This can be incredibly soothing, and it can serve as a form of mindfulness, being immersed in the moment rather than lost in thought. Examples of activities you can try to enter a physical flow include knitting, carving, playing a musical instrument, enjoying an immersive video game, or drawing.
3. Spend Time in the Sun
There are pros and cons to sunlight exposure, and while too much of it is certainly unhealthy, we shouldn’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. We need enough solar radiation to stimulate our own production of vitamin D, a process that has a significant and documented impact on mental and physical health.
In addition to keeping us healthy, the sun can also be mentally soothing. Being out in the sun, whether for a walk, or to take advantage of the weather to clear up a few outdoor chores, can genuinely lead to improvements in mood and wellbeing. Just don’t catch a heatstroke and take of your skin.
4. Gardening Work
Spending time outside seems to generally help promote mental health, but we can take things a step further. Plant something.
Gardening, whether it’s trimming your hedges and cleaning up the backyard to creating your own personal little Zen garden, has a marked effect on mental health, especially anxious thoughts and stress. Surround yourself with greenery and reap the benefits.
5. Consider Journaling
Introspective writing can help you organize your thoughts, challenge intrusive thinking, practice mindfulness, and if you’re in therapy, it can be a way for you to revisit what you’ve discussed or learned that day and recontextualize the lessons you’ve drawn from that session.
6. Spend Time with Friends
Ideally in person, but over the Internet is fine, too. It’s good to be introspective from time to time and challenge your thinking but be wary of spending too much time alone!
We need others around us, and with modern technology, there are a dozen ways to stay in touch and organize a quick video call every once in a while, or better yet, meet up for a weekend lunch from time to time.
7. Get More Sleep
Never underestimate the importance of a good night’s rest. Even half an hour of missing sleep per night can rack up and become a significant sleep debt over time, and that sleep debt can have an impact on your cognitive abilities, mood, and endocrine system. Keeping a healthy sleep schedule and getting enough rest per night is important for your mental and physical health.
8. Create A Healthy Sleep Ritual
While important, getting enough sleep can be very challenging. Sleep hygiene is a term used to describe one’s quality of sleep, from your bedtime to the quality of your rest (deep versus light sleep), to the quality of your sleep rituals, or the consistency with which you go to bed and fall asleep.
9. Change the Lights
The color and warmth of your lights at home and at work can have an impact on your stress levels as well. Take as much advantage of natural light as possible, and when you need extra illumination, opt for adjustable LED lamps and ceiling lights.
Choose warm colors when you want things nice and cozy, or colder colors for productivity. Dim the lights before bed and reduce your screentime an hour before sleeping.
10. Aromatize Your Surroundings
Aromatics can help soothe you and reduce stress, even if only because they remind you of a day at the spa.
You can take your pick between incense sticks, scented candles, and diffusers – the latter is usually the healthiest option, and the most versatile, as you can simply swap out the essential oil you’re planning to diffuse in your room.
11. Less Caffeine
It pains some people to hear this, but a mighty love for coffee can contribute to a number of serious stress issues, including perhaps the greatest offender, poor sleep.
You don’t have to quit caffeine, but reducing your coffee intake for a month or so can give you an idea of whether you may have been drinking too much coffee recently. The same goes for any other source of caffeine, including certain carbonated beverages, energy drinks, commercial teas, and pre-workout supplements.
12. Get a Few Recommended Supplements
Dietary supplement advice is one of the last things you should look up online. While many supplements are virtually harmless, there’s still such a thing as inappropriate dosing, and some supplements interfere with medication in ways you might not expect. Even if you don’t take any medication and follow all the package recommended doses, you might still be spending money on a nutrient you get more than enough of from your diet.
For proper recommendations for herbal and dietary supplements to combat stress, go talk to your doctor and discuss your medical history, diet, and blood levels. Some supplements have the potential to help reduce stress levels, from conventional minerals like magnesium and zinc to herbal supplements like ashwagandha and rhodiola.
Trying Different Ways to Reduce Stress & Anxiety
Tackling stress can be difficult, but don’t think of this list as a one-and-done to-do list. Instead, try a few things out and figure out what kind of stress relief you can utilize consistently throughout your day-to-day to help.