We all need a little help learning how to manage stress
We live in a culture that is always “on.” We spend our days tethered to our phones, never truly leaving work behind even when we leave the office. We endlessly scroll through social media, watching our friends have seemingly round-the-clock fun and adventures, and suffer from that modern affliction known as “fomo,” or “fear of missing out.” We over-pack our calendars and schedule every minute of our children’s lives, shuttling constantly from one activity to the next. And even when we do take some time to relax and watch television, we keep just one eye on whatever is on Netflix while the other is back on our phones, texting and play games.
Our days are filled with a frenzy of activity. Because of our addiction to devices and consuming too much media, when there are pending threats like natural disasters, tragedies, injustices, or economic crises, it’s all exacerbated. It’s good to get news and to be kept up to date, but there’s a limit. Our “always on” culture has led to a society that is riddled with stress and the illnesses it causes.
There’s no solution to completely eradicate stress and pain. In our world, the only real certainty is that terrible things sometimes happen. Fortunately, there are ways to modify our behavior both for our own health and in order to better serve those around us.
6 Strategies for how to manage stress more effectively
1. Take a break from the news
Turn off the television and put your phone away. Dwelling on awful situations won’t alter their course. This type of behavior will only lead to more angst and fear. The emotional response to crisis situations is complex. Acknowledge your emotions and accept them rather than trying to control them. But cutting down on how much corruption you allow to enter your thoughts via the news is a crucial component in helping you mitigate the effects of stress reactions.
2. Take care of your own needs first
To take care of others, we must take care of ourselves. This is one of the most important things to know about how to manage stress. Self-care means making sure you’re getting plenty of sleep and eating healthy. Take lots of breaks throughout the day and a few short walks. Give yourself a facial with a luxurious Dead Sea mud mask. Trade massages with your partner or a friend. Read for pleasure. Exercise, meditate, and engage in deep breathing. Anything you enjoy is a form of self-care, and it’s beyond necessary.
3. Get support from others
There’s power in community. Sharing can help to normalize feelings and reactions to an event. Listen carefully to others and share your own feelings and experiences. Recognize that we are all vulnerable. You won’t feel so isolated or alone and will be less likely to dwell on your individual problems. Being apart of a communal activity provides such a strong sense of support, something we all need and always will.
4. Write in a journal
It can be liberating to journal. Writing your private thoughts down is for your reference alone. It doesn’t need to conform to any literary standards. No one’s going to judge your grammar or sentence structure. Most importantly, writing can be a very helpful way to work through your feelings and get more clarity about how things are affecting you. With so many out there, such as a watercolor spiral journal or a simple, genuine leather journal, finding one that’s as unique as you are is a breeze.
5. Focus on what you can control
We often obsess about the things we can’t control. There’s a strong tendency to overlook things that we actually can control that tend to make life easier. Practicing mindfulness allows us to be in the present moment rather than focusing on past regrets or future worries. Enjoy the now, and when you catch yourself ruminating and stressing over things that we have no ability to influence, choose to stop and redirect your thoughts.
6. Have an attitude of gratitude and practice kindness
Consider writing letters of thanks to first responders. Donate food and supplies to victims of natural disasters. It’s human nature to come together and be kind and more appreciative of each other during times of crisis. This behavior supports our survival. For example, the immediate aftermath of 9/11 was a time of great solidarity for America. Wouldn’t it be great if we could come together like this even in the absence of a disaster? The truth is, we can as individuals. Not only is it vital to help and do nice things for others, but it feels incredible too. And it offers a small sense of control, which we all crave.
Life is hard. But when we explore the opportunities and possibilities that come out of difficult circumstances, they become easier to accept. These challenging situations also often become a fundamental part of our personal growth. But in the midst of things, remember to be gentle with yourself and practice what you know will mitigate your stress. Learning how to manage stress is the easy part. Choosing to do so might take a bit of practice. Start today!