Stress is a natural part of life. Feeling stress is by itself an okay thing. Its purpose is to trigger our fight or flight response when danger is presenting itself. Stress alerts us when it is time to make a change. However, it’s important to remember that stress, left untreated, threatens both our mental and physical health.
We all know that to beat stress and feel more relaxed, we are supposed to do things like exercise and eat healthy. Though these are good things to do when you’re stressed, to live a more relaxed life overall, more is needed. In order to make a significant change in your life and your mental health in regard to stress, there are more things you can do. As a mother of two and a business owner, I experience my fair share of stress. In addition, throughout my career, I’ve counselled many individuals and families who struggle with a significant degree of stress in their lives. Here are ten mental health strategies that I’ve found to be helpful in making long-term and positive changes to your overall stress levels.
10 Ways to De-Stress Your Life
We’re not meant to go through this life alone. We all need people in our lives that we can lean on with our frustrations and stresses. Simply knowing that you’re not alone is a de-stressor. When you feel overwhelmed by stress, find someone in your network to talk to. Even if they’re not able to do anything, it’s helpful to share your frustrations, and to have someone listen. You also may benefit from a fresh perspective on your situation. Regularly connecting with friends and family will help ensure that you have support when you need it. In addition, to build a lasting support network, make sure to be that listening ear for others in your life when they need it too.
Let your supports challenge you.
Most often we are stressed about something because we have unhealthy thinking habits that are causing us more stress. While it’s tempting to talk to others that see things our way, we can try talking with a friend or family member who can challenge our perspective. When we’re in the middle of a difficult situation, it’s easy to think only about the negatives. Talking with someone who is willing to be honest with us, and help us see the bigger picture, can help bring us back up from a negative spiral of thoughts.
Count your blessings.
Learn to identify the positives. If all we look at is the negative, we begin to feel very down and stressed. When we are aware of the positives in our lives, we are more able to be relaxed and not allow the little stresses to overwhelm us. Sometimes all we need is a little reminder. If you find yourself focusing on the negative, find a way to make the positives in your life easy to remember. Call a close friend or family member and have them remind you. Or, try writing down some positive truths, and hang them in a spot where you’re likely to see them each day. Sometimes we need to see and hear the truth to let it sink in and change our perspective. Whatever you choose to do, just be sure to make the positives in your life easy to recall.
Don’t assume others’ motives.
When someone reacts to us in a way that makes us feel offended, try to not to assume the worst of them. Everyone has his or her own stressors. Maybe the lady in the grocery store who rushes by you is not trying to be rude, but is in a hurry because an emergency has happened with her kids. Perhaps she lost track of time and her kid will be sitting on the side of the road after being dropped off by the bus. Or maybe the person who is driving too close to you and honking their horn is on their way to see a friend or family member in the hospital. Making assumptions and becoming angry in these circumstances only hurts us and increases our stress.
Know your priorities.
Though the demands of life can seem endless, we simply can’t do everything well. If we’re not careful, we can easily become overcommitted and overscheduled. Between work and social and family obligations, it can easily get to a point where we feel like we are constantly running around. When we know what our priorities are, we’re able to make better decisions about how to spend our time. It becomes easier to say no and not allow our schedules to become over packed.
Pick your battles.
When you know your priorities it makes it easier to pick your battles. Engaging in every possible argument will leave you feeling more stressed and defeated, and you’re not likely to see progress. Yes, it’s frustrating when your kids throw their coats on the floor when they come in. And they still haven’t picked up that mess they made three days ago. Your spouse left the dirty dishes in the sink again and spent money you didn’t have. The potential battles of life can be endless. By picking your battles and focusing on only one thing at a time, you’re more likely to feel less stress, and more likely to see progress.
It is easy to feel like we have to work as hard as we can for as long as we can, but we need breaks. I don’t know about you, but my to-do list seems endless. And it grows…every day. Many of us are guilty of wanting to do so many things on our list in order to feel ‘accomplished’ at the end of the day. However, our minds need breaks. Yes, productivity is a good thing. However, a well-deserved break can help you relax and feel recharged.
Make time for the little things.
In an overscheduled and hectic culture, it can be easy to miss the little joys in life. For example, when your child wants to give you a hug as you are trying to get them into the car, stop and give them a hug. Hug them as long as they want to be hugged. Or when your friend texts to say hi, take the time to say hi back. These things bring joy to our lives, which will help us feel more relaxed.
Take one task at a time
When it’s time to focus on working, take one task at a time. Our culture of cell phones, social media, and technology seems to have decreased everyone’s attention span. Jumping from one thing to another can be stressful and leave things undone. Use your priority list to stay focused on what needs to be done first and continue on from there. There’s only so much of you to go around.
When you don’t get everything done, forgive yourself. A lot of our stress comes from our own negative thoughts about ourselves. We are not perfect, and we all need room to make a few mistakes. You still love your family and friends when they aren’t perfect. Don’t you desire the same forgiveness for yourself?
So, in summary, often stress can be reduced by these simple adjustments to our attitude and perspective. It’s not always easy in the moment, but the reward of lower stress can be well worth the effort.
About the Author: Charity Ritter LISW-S
Charity Ritter MSW LISW is one of the founders of LIVE Wellness Center, ltd. Charity received her Master’s and Bachelor’s degrees in Social Work from The Ohio State University. Charity holds a License as a Licensed Independent Social Worker in the State of Ohio. She received her training working with adults at Riverside Methodist Hospital in the Psychiatric Inpatient unit as well as outpatient counselling at Vineyard Counseling Center.
After receiving her degree, she worked with children and families at the Rosemont Center where she received training and experience in working with children and families with a variety of mental and behavioral health issues. She received experience working with sexually reactive youth and in advocating for and providing outpatient therapy for children and families with significant mental health and behavioral health issues.