Are your friends as stressed out as you are lately? Well, you’re not alone. Web M.D. reports that 30% of Americans are losing sleep because of personal finances, job fears and the economy. CNN cited a study that reports 60% of people polled feel angry and irritable, 53% suffer from fatigue, 47% report frequent headaches and 35% have upset stomachs.
Like it or not, we have entered an era of uncertainty. The question becomes, how do we cope with stress in this unpredictable world of ours? While it’s impossible to get rid of stress altogether, here are six suggestions to manage stress better, so that it doesn’t negatively affect your mind and body.
1. Get some sleep
Lying awake all night wondering whether you’ll have a job tomorrow won’t accomplish anything except tire you out earlier the next day. Part of dealing with financial difficulties is accepting that there are some things you have no control over. Plus, lack of sleep contributes greatly to irritability and depression. The body requires rest to restore serotonin, which is an essential mood influencer. So, consider nighttime your “time out” from worrying – and get some shut-eye.
2. Stay active
Go for walks, take your four-legged friends for a run at the dog park, or relieve some aggression by whacking golf balls at the driving range – or tennis balls on the court. Not only does physical activity keep you in shape, it increases the production of endorphins, which are other chemicals in the body specifically designed to reduce stress and enhance your mood.
3. Talk about it
Of course it’s good to air your feelings with close friends and family members. However, if you just can’t shake your negative thinking, consider joining a support group. People who share your same experiences are sympathetic. Plus, talking through problems is therapeutic. Or start a running or hiking group where you can air your thoughts out and get exercise with close friends at the same time.
4. Make adjustments
Reframe your perspective on issues. Rather than seeing layoffs, loss of income or lifestyle cutbacks as your demise, see these events as temporary obstacles – and opportunities for transforming your life. Don’t tell yourself you’ve lost everything you’ve worked for – your new circumstances are simply an opportunity to change your direction to one that suits you better. After all, life is all about change, growth and discovery. Ups and downs are a part of everyone’s journey.
5. Enjoy distractions
Each time you start becoming overwhelmed by stress, tell yourself to give it a rest – then immediately distract yourself with something enjoyable. It doesn’t matter what it is! Go get a latte or some ice cream, grab a book and go to the park, or go see a movie. The act of interrupting negative thoughts helps diminish their power, and helps improve your mood.
6. Seek tranquility
A bad day at work can be forgotten easily – most of the time. Simply meeting some friends for drinks and a few laughs will usually put the bad day behind you. When you’re feeling prolonged periods of unhappiness, however, or continuously experiencing pressure, finding a place that comforts and soothes your soul is important in keeping anxieties at bay.
Many people find yoga and meditation to be particularly helpful. If you’ve never practiced these traditions in the past, this may be the perfect time to try them out. Conceptually, meditation is one form of yoga, but both activities are designed to cleanse the mind of mental impurities and provide balance and a sense of calm.
Alternately, find a nearby place of natural beauty, such as a park or a garden. Sure, it doesn’t sound like much – and it won’t change your situation. But when you sit amongst trees, flowers, sky and grass, your body and mind relax automatically. The “mini-vacation” is one of life’s much-ignored remedies for relieving tension, but it is incredibly powerful in its transformative effect. Find the time of day that’s most beneficial – be it in the morning before you start the day, on your lunch hour, or after work. You’ll be amazed at how much healing can occur when you simply take some time out to watch the sun set.
7. Have fun
If you’re currently experiencing financial difficulties, you’ve probably cut back on spending. However, eliminating pleasurable activities from your life altogether will only hinder your mood further without reducing your stress. Now more than ever, it’s important to spend time with friends and family taking part in fun activities that take your mind off of your troubles.
You may not be able to afford to go out as often, but there are endless, inexpensive ways to enjoy life. Go on a picnic, host a (board) game night with friends, take the kids hiking, invite friends over to watch a sporting event or movie, spend a day at the beach, or check local listings for street fairs, farmer’s markets and other admission-free events.
No matter what, at least once weekly you’ll want to make a date – at least with yourself – to do something fun, even if you’re not in the mood. Every activity presents distraction, mental stimulation and opportunities for enjoyment.
You can’t know how long this pervasive feeling of unrest in the world will persist – which is why it’s important to find ways to manage your anxiety. If you believe that every cloud has a silver lining, you’ll be able to look at today’s challenges as the building blocks for tomorrow.
Perhaps you’ll fall into a new career you never envisioned, or maybe today’s introspection will lead to a heightened spiritual awareness. Changed circumstances always bring new possibilities – and with them, opportunities.
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