Stress is a natural and very common part of daily life. But some days are naturally more stressful than others: You have a job interview, you know your schedule is going to be packed, you’re hosting a houseful of guests for a holiday meal — You have got the point.
And the current backdrop of negative global news events (inflation, war, political conflict and climate change) has put Americans’ daily stress levels at an alarmingly high level, survey data show.
“Many of us find ourselves overwhelmed and stressed by our increasing life tasks and responsibilities; juggling a heavy workload, household chores, and child-care responsibilities,” says Monica Vermani, PsyD, a clinical psychologist in Toronto and author of A Deeper Wellbeing: Conquering Stress, Mood, Anxiety, and Trauma,
It’s often when we take on other people’s stress and let their stress rub off on us that we begin to feel out of control, says Gail Saltz, MD, clinical associate professor of psychiatry at NY Presbyterian Hospital and New York University. Weill Cornell School of Medicine in New York City. and host of How can I help you? Podcasts from iHeartRadio.
Peta-Gay Sandiford, a licensed mental health counselor at Empower Your Mind Therapy in New York City, agrees that even mental health professionals (myself included) struggle with managing stress and keeping it from becoming overwhelming during busy days. Have to work “It’s a lot to make sure I’m always present and doing my best to meet my other responsibilities,” she says.
Vermani, Sandyford, and others vow to prepare before those days with what stress-busters they know the list of stressors can go off the charts.
1. Don’t Skip Self-Care
While it may seem like the last thing you want to do — or have time for — on heavy, busy days, it’s important to maintain a self-care routine these days, too. We start to feel stressed because our activity levels (what we’re doing) exceed our energy levels, explains Vermani — and self-care is all you can do to refill your cup and get those energy levels going again. Do to fill with.
Maybe it’s taking a walk outside, cooking a nutritious dinner, writing in a gratitude journal, or dancing to pop music. These can all be things that help you recharge your energy, says Sandiford. “Remember that if you don’t take care of yourself, you can’t take care of anyone else.”
2. Schedule in 15 Minutes of Fun
Incorporate an element of pleasure into daily activities; Something that brings you joy and interest, and keeps you engaged.
Whether you classify it as “fun” or “self-care,” engaging in any pursuit you love and rest assured will make the stress melt away, Sandiford says. Running, biking, walking in nature, listening to music, and painting are among her personal favorites, and she sets aside at least 15 minutes per day for one of those activities—especially on days when she predicts they will be challenging.
3. Set reminders to check in when you’re breathing
When stressed, Varmani notices she can only walk with shallow breaths all day. So she sets a reminder on her calendar to pause between clients and take deep, nourishing breaths. It’s a good daily habit to have, but it’s especially important on days when stress levels run high, she says.
You can try taking a few full, gentle breaths for a count of 4 and exhaling slowly for a count of 6; So just pay attention to how you feel. Research has found that this style of moving, deep breathing calms the sympathetic, or fight-or-flight, nervous system, which helps the body feel less anxious.
4. Have an Affirmation Ready
Thinking about being unable or unwilling to manage a situation causes stress, says Varmani. To counteract rumination and reduce the stress response, she repeats a positive affirmation—some call it a mantra—to encourage feelings of being empowered and capable of managing the demands of the day.
According to Varmani, here are some of her favorite simple affirmations that “are a great source of strength, grounding, and resilience”:
- i can do it
- i am able
- I am worthy
- I’m safe, sound and protected
When you know a day might be stressful, start it from a place of strength by repeating one of these affirmations first thing in the morning.
5. Plan ahead to avoid overcommitting
Some of the most common triggers of an emotional meltdown are feeling overwhelmed or tired. Doctor. Saltz says that part of her strategy for not letting these feelings get her down is to plan ahead as much as possible or not overcommit herself.
“Instead of committing to do something because ‘I feel like I should,’ I aim to plan for what I feel like doing. If I’m hosting a dinner party, for example, I Make it a potluck so I’m not responsible for every dish,” Saltz says.
“Most of my anxiety comes from walking down the gangplank, despite feeling like I don’t want to,” she says. Making an effort to prevent overwhelming situations before you’re even in them (or spot them in time enough to change course) means you’ll feel less stressed and frazzled, she says.
6. Do 5 Minute Relaxation Exercises in Their Back Pocket
Haley Perls, PhD, a sport and performance psychologist in Denver, likes to practice deep abdominal breathing when she finds herself in stressful situations. She puts her hand on her stomach and takes slow, deep breaths in and out.
“When I inhale, I focus on feeling my abdomen expand. When I exhale, I feel my abdomen contract. I like to remember: Control my breath, control my Control stress. It brings me back to center and momentarily distracts me from stress and brings me to a place of perceived control in both my mind and body,” says Dr. Perlas.
Perlas says that mind-body relaxation techniques are among the best stress busters. And there are many exercises you can do in just a minute (or a few) whenever, wherever you feel overwhelmed.
When she has a full five minutes, Perlas says she likes to find a quiet place to lie down, take deep breaths, and try to clear her mind so it tends to more peaceful feelings. Could
7. Remember personal strengths
When she finds herself on the brink of catastrophe and imagining worst-case scenarios, Varmani tries to flip the script by replacing a negative thought with a more accurate and adaptive one.
To put this into practice, Perlas likes to remind herself of her strengths — and she goes with them. She knows she’s a good listener, so in situations where she anticipates conflict or is anxious to get her point across, she focuses on that skill instead of the potential fight ahead.
“When I lead with a force, I give myself the best chance to feel confident. Confidence reduces anxiety and helps me put my best foot forward,” Perlas says.
8. Ask for Help
Saltz says most of her stress is related to “anticipatory anxiety” rather than the day itself or the event itself. So when she sees anticipatory anxiety creeping up, she tells her inner circle she needs extra support.
“It will literally relieve me of the burden of any tasks that need to be accomplished, while also leaving me feeling mentally and emotionally lighter,” says Saltz.
Vermani surrounds herself with people and resources who can help her manage her stress levels, coach her through negative thought patterns, and help her see the good amidst the bad. And yes, those people include her own mental health care team.
Sandiford adds to that sentiment, “Therapist needs therapy, so I connect with someone who can help me process all my feelings in an environment where I feel validated and supported.”