Ah, stress…I’ve become all too familiar with it.
Unfortunately, I know I’m not the only one. Everyone appears to be stressed these days, and it is often worn as a badge of honor. It seems as though stress equals busyness which equals success. But this is not something to flaunt; it puts both our physical and mental health at risk.
I’ve felt more overwhelmed than ever these past few months. Being a senior in high school has meant that it’s time for me to apply to colleges…and the application process has added a lot of weight to my load of pre-existing worries. Let’s just say I had a slight mental breakdown a few weeks ago, and it definitely was not my prettiest of moments. However, this episode made me realize how much I had been neglecting self-care and the importance of prioritizing my mental state.
We all have to face the pressures that come with this deadline and that drama and alllllll of life’s other troubles, but how we handle it is what will determine our overall wellbeing. I’ve compiled a list of 10 ways I cope with stress, ranging from movement to pampering to venting!
1. Take a walk. Movement and nature do wonders for boosting mental health. Taking evening walks around my neighborhood while watching the sun set is the perfect reminder to slow down and appreciate the little things! I love listening to podcasts while I walk; my favorites are health and wellness-related, but a guilty pleasure of mine are Bachelor Nation podcasts (the Ben and Ashley I Almost Famous podcast is my top pick!).
2. Sweat it out. There’s no doubt that intense exercise (like running and HIIT) can be beneficial, but limiting strenuous workouts may be best in order to avoid increasing your cortisol levels even further. Nothing leaves me drenched in sweat like a hot yoga class does, and it’s one of the best forms of exercise for stress-relief in my opinion. An hour of hot yoga challenges my strength and willpower, but also relaxes me with the deep stretching and focus on breathing. I always leave feeling physically and mentally detoxified.
The most important thing is to enjoy the exercise you are doing. Don’t add to your stress by forcing yourself to work out in ways that you dread!
3. Stretch your body. If doing chaturangas in a 100 degree room doesn’t quite appeal to you, then simply try taking a few minutes to perform some basic stretches. When stress builds up, your muscles contract, and devoting 5-10 minutes to stretching your body will help to ease the tension and improve circulation. You’ll feel much more relaxed and revitalized!
4. Get clean and cozy. When life is piling high with one trouble after another, a long, hot shower may be just what you need to feel sane again. Although we all take showers anyways (at least that’s what I would hope…), try making the experience a bit more luxurious. Play music and take your time lathering up in a scented shower gel, then smooth on some body butter and slip on your favorite pair of pajamas (brownie points for fuzzy socks).
5. Spoil yourself with a massage or facial. I’m typically not one to spend money on getting pampered- I’ve only gotten a massage and facial once in my life. But, hey, no shame in treating yo’self from time to time. If you are on a budget, applying a face mask at home is a great way to show yourself some self-care.
6. Freshen up your manicure. There’s something about perfectly painted nails that makes me feel so majestic…anyone else? Go get a manicure at a salon or give yourself a fresh coat of polish (I suck at painting my own nails, so I tend to prefer the former).
7. Escape through entertainment. Binge-watching Netflix won’t erase all your problems, but sometimes, you just need a distraction to take your mind off your worries. Indulging in a good book, TV show or movie is one of my favorite ways to check out. All I need to unwind is 20 minutes of New Girl or an episode of Grey’s Anatomy (speaking of which…who else watched the season premier of Grey’s on Thursday?).
8. Talk to someone. It’s far too easy to bottle up your issues, but this will only cause your stress to build overtime. Instead, reach out to a close friend or family member and talk through whatever may be overwhelming you. Even if they don’t have much advice to offer, having someone supportive to vent to can be extremely beneficial!
9. Turn to God. When life gets busy, I tend to put Jesus on the back burner. Recently, I have recommitted to deepening my relationship with God by spending time in His Word each day and being more purposeful with my prayers. When my faith is strong, the problems in my life have no power over me. I encourage you to pray for guidance through times of struggle and cast your anxieties on the Lord (Psalm 55:22). He does not want us to be worried, and there’s no reason to be! You can rest in knowing that God has your life under control.
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” (Philippians 4:6 NIV).
10. Journal. If there’s one thing I’m constantly recommending, it’s journaling. The benefits are endless; I talked about how journaling improves mental health here. Not only will it cleanse your mind by moving all your brain-clutter onto paper, but journaling will also allow you to put things into perspective. You may be surprised by the insignificance of certain issues once you’ve written them down. Setting aside time to flush out your thoughts is a therapeutic practice that you should definitely incorporate into your life!
These 10 coping mechanisms have helped me to manage my stress, and I hope you’ll turn to some of them the next time you’re feeling overwhelmed. What is your favorite strategy to relieve stress?