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.
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. Here are ten mental health tips that could be helpful in making long-term and positive changes to your overall stress levels.
- Feel your feelings
Acknowledge your feelings, pay attention to them and figure out what caused them. Are you feeling anxious? Why? What caused it? It could be anxiety, or depression, but also happiness, fear, anger, or whatever. Feelings have a reason, they’re what control our behavior and have deep evolutionary origins. If we learn to listen to them, we can also learn where did they come from and how they affect our lives.
Sometimes you’re mad at something and just want to forget about it, but it’s better to just sit down for a moment and focus on it, feel that painful thing inside you and understand what is it and why it’s there. And then you can act on it and cause true, meaningful improvements to your life and wellbeing. Otherwise, it will always be somewhere in your head waiting to hurt you.
- Reframe unhelpful thoughts
The way we think, feel and behave are linked. Sometimes we develop patterns of thoughts or behaviors that are unhelpful so recognizing them, and taking steps to think about things differently, can improve your mental health and wellbeing.
The thing you’re upset about is probably not the thing you’re upset by. You can handle a lot–when you reach your limit, there’s probably a big pile of upsetting things that got you there. The one you’re thinking about is just the one on top. The one you should be trying to fix is the biggest one, and it’s usually closer to the bottom of the pile than the top. So be aware of your thoughts.
- Small progress is still progress
A tiny bit of progress is better than none at all. Healing and coping isn’t an all-or-nothing situation. If you’re too depressed to take a shower, but you can manage to brush your teeth, great! You don’t have to do the full program for it to be a success. Maybe tomorrow you’ll shower instead, or you’ll just freshen up at the sink.
You can’t manage to do a full 45 min yoga flow, but you can do the 10 mins of light stretching? Great! Any physical activity is better than none.
- Counter negative thoughts with positive ones
Negative thoughts are just a part of life, but they don’t have to consume you. Instead of trying to ignore those thoughts altogether, try countering them with positive statements.
For example, if you’re feeling anxious and regretful about staying in bed till noon one day, follow that with a reminder that you really needed some extra rest and alone time this week. You can get back out there tomorrow.
- Surround yourself with good people
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.
- Practice conscious beathing
Learning focused deep breathing tips to help when you’re feeling anxious or overwhelmed is a good first step. It won’t solve any underlying problems immediately, but in the meantime, learning some breathing techniques
A) gives you something to focus on and ground you to the reality outside of your mind and
B) has actual physical benefits for your brain that help relieve stress and anxiety.
- 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. 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.
- Be in the present
If we take time to be aware of ourselves and be in the present moment, noticing our own thoughts and feelings, and the world around us, we can gain a better perspective. Sometimes this is known as being more mindful.
Try meditating, mindfulness and/or prayer. Relaxation exercises and prayer can improve your state of mind and outlook on life. In fact, research shows that meditation may help you feel calm and enhance the effects of therapy.
- Break up the monotony
Although our routines make us more efficient and enhance our feelings of security and safety, a little change of pace can perk up a tedious schedule. Alter your jogging route, plan a road-trip, take a walk in a different park, hang some new pictures or try a new restaurant.
Do small new things every day if you feel like life is monotonous. These small things can really change your days and even make you feel productive!
- Take breaks.
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. 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.