Stress is a fact of life. But it shouldn’t be your whole life. Unfortunately, for millions of people, it is. Roughly three-quarters of US adults say that stress and anxiety affect them on a daily basis, while 27% say they are so stressed they feel almost unable to function.
These worrying statistics are a blatant reflection of how mental health is suffering all over the world and how prevalent the need for intervention really is.
Fortunately, there are ways for us to take our mental health into our own hands and start working towards a more balanced and manageable state of mind. Learning how to manage stress and anxiety is a crucial life skill that can empower you to not only feel happier, calmer, and more in control of your life but also put you in a position where you can help others do the same.
From small, free, everyday habits to seeking professional support, here are a few ways you can move past a survival mindset and start thriving.
How To Manage Stress And Anxiety
1. MOVE YOUR BODY
It’s no secret that exercise helps us to cope with stress and anxiety. But it is so damn true that it is worth repeating if it means people will finally get the message. There are so many reasons why exercise is widely considered the most effective and reliable method for dealing with everyday stress and anxiety:
- Produces endorphins (feel-good hormones)
- Reduces cortisol (the stress hormone)
- Increases your overall health and wellbeing
- Makes you feel confident and strong
If you’re feeling overwhelmed with stress, take a look at how much physical movement your body gets. If it’s less than two hours a week, you likely need more to support your mental health.
2. EAT ENERGIZING, NOURISHING FOOD
Good food is nature’s medicine. Of course, you don’t get penicillin apples or Lexamil potatoes. However, you do get an enormous variety of nutrient-loaded fruits, veggies, nuts, and seeds that provide your body and mind with all the essential minerals and proteins for high energy and cognitive function.
Focus on consuming as many fresh, colorful, and whole-grain foods as possible to boost your natural energy levels and equip your body with all the nutritional basics it needs to feel stable and strong.
3. HAVE A LAUGH (OR SEVERAL)
A little bit of laughter can go a long way in dark times. When comical moments arise, welcoming that feeling of humor can provide a moreish sense of relief that everyone needs to lead happy, stable lives.
Find people, movies, or situations you know you can rely on for a chuckle and let yourself relax and enjoy the lighter side of life. You can even try laughter yoga or laughter courses if you need help learning to laugh again, or reasons to smile.
Adequate sleep is another vitally important aspect of good mental and physical health. Getting the same amount of sleep each night (between 6 and 9 hours) will give you pep and mental resilience.
But rest isn’t just about sleep. It’s also about simply relaxing your body and mind in other ways, such as reading, meditating, or simply lying in a hammock. Rest is essential for keeping those cortisol levels down and making it easier to combat spikes of stress or anxiety.
5. DISCOVER WHAT MAKES YOU FEEL GOOD
Thriving in the face of stress and anxiety can look different for everyone.
The same things that make you feel good may not be as effective for somebody else. This is why it’s important to identify your unique tools for creating and sustaining a lighter, happier existence.
Set aside some time to think about moments when you have felt truly alive. It could be spending time alone in nature, getting lost in a good book, preparing a delicious meal, or anything that you have access to regularly that makes you feel better.
Once you have identified what activities or situations make you feel good, do everything you can to schedule them into your routine. Doing things that make you happy will alleviate stagnant energy and inspire you to feel less bogged down with the stress of life.
6. EMBRACE LOVING PHYSICAL TOUCH
Gentle, consensual physical contact with people you love stimulates the production of oxytocin and endorphins, otherwise known as the “happy” hormones. These hormones stave off depression and anxiety and help you to relax.
Sexual activity is also a great stress buster if you’re in a healthy, happy relationship. Whether you enjoy regular sexual intercourse, playing sexy games, or any other intimate acts, this type of physical release puts your happy hormones into overdrive.
7. SEEK THE HELP OF AN EXPERIENCED PROFESSIONAL
As helpful and transformative as the items on this list are, sometimes, on their own, they are not enough. If you feel like your stress and anxiety levels are reaching a point that is seriously debilitating, seek help. Counselors, therapists, and psychologists are there because their support and guidance can make a world of difference.
8. HAVE A PLAN – AND COMMIT TO IT
One of the most important things anyone can be taught about improving their own mental health is to choose something, anything, and stick to it.
You don’t need to do all of the things on this list to experience decreased stress or anxiety. But choosing at least one or two to really commit to can have an exponentially positive effect. Even if you only have the time or energy to do just one of the things on this list, you will have taken a crucial first step in the journey toward sustainable mental vitality.
KEEP DESTRESSING SIMPLE
Exercise, diet, socializing, a healthy sleep schedule, and the other tips on this list are not revolutionary ideas. But they are effective. There’s a reason why we recommend them consistently, regardless of who you are or what your unique struggle is.
By making sure your body and mind’s basic needs are met, you can provide yourself with a solid foundation for building up a truly gratifying and fulfilling life.
So, when you feel down and you’re not sure what to do, go back to the basics.
Eat properly, sleep properly, and do things you love. Don’t overthink it—these are some of life’s simplest and most valuable tools for maintaining control over the realities of stress and anxiety.
Remember: consistency is key! Don’t give up. With the right approach, things can always get better.
As an editor, Ellen Klein covers topics such as financial management and risk management, as well as health-related topics. She’s a realist and believes that planning for life’s unknowns is best. When she’s not busy with volunteer social work, she can be found scribbling away at her keyboard.