We all experience stress at some point. Many of us are feeling it during these unique and uncertain times. So, it is important to have an active plan that can help manage that stress – and even prevent it.
“The bigger picture is to create a lifestyle of well-being,” said Steve Fisher, Director of Outpatient Expansion and Special Projects at the Mental Health Center of Denver. “A subset of that lifestyle is being intentional when it comes to reducing stress in your life and managing the remaining stress effectively.”
Self-Assessment & Developing a Plan
Creating and sustaining a lifestyle of well-being begins with a self-assessment. So, take an inventory of who you are and what is important to you. Examine the dimensions of your life such as physical, psychological/emotional, career, intellectual, spiritual, interpersonal, financial, environmental, and community. Then, create a well-being plan based on your own insight into who you are. For instance, start with including an adequate amount of sleep, nutrition, hydration and exercise.
Then, add activities that create positive emotions for you, like love, joy, happiness, calmness, peace, confidence or mastery. Consider adding the following to your plan: tending to relationships, practicing deep breathing and relaxation exercises, or playing sports.
“Knowing your own unique values, goals and interests will help you determine how you create well-being,” Steve said. “Being thoughtful and proactive about creating a plan can dial in the stress management we need in our lives.”
Techniques to Manage Stress
Actively incorporating activities you enjoy into your lifestyle – no matter how small they seem – can help manage stress. Try to participate in activities you can do both individually and with others, such as family members.
“Exercising is awesome for stress management,” said Zaneta Evans, Program Manager of Healthy Living at the Mental Health Center of Denver. “There is an opportunity now with COVID-19 to be creative. Turning on your favorite song and dancing can even help because t gets the juices flowing throughout your body.”
For example, try doing some type of physical activity at home, like taking a walk outside.
“We often don’t allow ourselves to disconnect and rest,” Zaneta said. “Turn your devices off if you can. Disconnect from social media and the news.”
By getting proper rest, your body is able to naturally process the course of our day. This helps us refuel.
Listening to Music:
Turn on your favorite genre or try listening to something new.
Try painting, coloring, or another type of creative medium. Use magazine images or photos to create a collage of fond memories, a favorite family vacation or a vision board.
Putting a Puzzle Together:
Involve your family if you can and work together on completing a puzzle.
Reorganizing or Decluttering Your Home:
Getting rid of things you no longer need can be very freeing. It can also help get you moving around.
Self-care is also unique to everyone. Try taking a hot bath or find a quiet place and read a book.
Try using a gratitude journal, taking note of what you are thankful for in your life. So, write down your thoughts to process your day or something that has you worked up.
“Meditation can look different for everyone,” Zaneta said. “It’s all about getting still and getting grounded with your senses. Some people use prayer as a tool for meditation if it is part of their beliefs.”
Talking to Someone:
It can be helpful to talk to someone who won’t put pressure on you, and who you can speak to about your ideas, thoughts and concerns.
“Maybe that’s a support group,” Zaneta said. “We are all experiencing COVID-19, and it is impacting us in different ways. We don’t have these stressors alone. You are not the only one.”