Stress and anxiety are unavoidable parts of life that everyone experiences from time to time. While mild levels can motivate us to take action or rise to challenges, chronic or severe stress and anxiety can negatively impact both our mental and physical health. Learning to manage stress and anxiety effectively is crucial for overall wellbeing. In this article, we’ll explore tips for overcoming stress and anxiety in daily life.
Identify Your Stressors
The first step in managing stress and anxiety is identifying situations, events, people, or thoughts that commonly trigger these feelings for you personally. For some, major life events like moving, changing jobs, or planning a wedding can be major stressors. For others, financial issues, workplace dynamics, or family responsibilities tend to cause more daily strain. Difficult relationships, traumatic experiences, health issues, and negative thought patterns can also contribute to stress and anxiety. Spend some time reflecting on when you tend to feel most stressed or anxious day-to-day. What seems to precede these feelings? Making note of your unique stressors can help you anticipate and prepare to cope with them.
Practice Relaxation Techniques
When you start to feel stressed or anxious, it’s important to engage your body’s natural relaxation response to calm both mind and body. Simple techniques like deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, and meditation can activate this response quickly and help relieve symptoms. Try closing your eyes and taking 10 slow, deep breaths, inhaling and exhaling fully each time. Or systematically tense and relax each muscle group in your body one by one. Apps like Calm provide guided meditations if that appeals to you. Find techniques that you can implement daily, even if only for a few minutes, to give your nervous system a break.
Take Care of Your Physical Health
Our mental and physical health are closely interconnected. Self-care like eating a balanced diet, exercising regularly, and getting enough sleep helps manage stress hormones and leaves you more equipped to deal with challenges. Avoid unhealthy coping mechanisms like excess alcohol, drugs, or junk food. Hydrate with water, take a walk outdoors, stretch, or take a hot shower when feeling anxious. Soothing physical touch from a pet, loved one, or massage therapist can also help release tension. Listen to what your body needs in the moment and provide that care.
Reframe Negative Thoughts
Stress and anxiety often stem from worry, rumination, and negative thought patterns like catastrophizing or all-or-nothing thinking. When you notice your mind spiraling, pause and try to reframe the situation. Ask yourself if the worst case scenario you’re imagining is likely, or if it’s possible to see things in a more positive light. Remind yourself of tools and abilities you have to cope or handle what comes your way. Therapy and mindfulness techniques can help disrupt unhealthy thought habits and give more realistic perspective. Be kind to yourself in the process.
Prioritize and Set Manageable Goals
Take an objective look at your schedule and responsibilities. Are you trying to juggle too many tasks each day? Are you setting unrealistic standards that set you up for disappointment? Overbooking and placing excessive pressure on yourself can fuel anxiety. Try to pare down and prioritize what’s most important. Break large assignments into doable steps. Only commit to what you can reasonably handle and give yourself permission to say no to additional asks when needed. Stay organized and don’t be afraid to ask others for support as well.
Let Some Things Go
Part of reducing stress involves accepting that some things are out of your control. You can take positive action when it’s warranted, but past a certain point you have to let go. Traffic jams, long grocery store lines, other people’s opinions, and even big disappointments are a part of life. Allow yourself to move on instead of ruminating. Practice mindfulness techniques to stay grounded in the present moment when anxious thoughts arise. Fretting over what you cannot change wastes energy better used on what you can.
Connect with Others
Don’t isolate when stressed or anxious. Spend time with supportive loved ones, even if just chatting over the phone or video call. Sharing feelings and seeking counsel can help give perspective when you’re feeling overwhelmed. Let people close to you know specific ways they can support you in managing stressors as well. Reach out to find community with people experiencing similar challenges through local groups or online forums too. We’re all in this together.
Laugh and Find Humor Where You Can
It’s true that laughter really can be the best medicine when you’re stressed or anxious. Watch a funny movie, read a lighthearted book, listen to a comedy podcast, or look up silly jokes online. Find activities that get you giggling and leave you feeling uplifted. Infuse humor and playfulness into social interactions. Being able to laugh at adversity and find the lighter side of difficult situations can help protect your mental health.
Get Professional Help If Needed
For chronic, severe, or debilitating stress and anxiety, seeking help from a mental health professional can be very beneficial. Therapists can help you identify core issues, learn coping mechanisms tailored to your needs, and make a plan for moving forward. Your doctor may also recommend anti-anxiety medication in some cases. There are many resources available if your symptoms start significantly impacting quality of life. Prioritize self-care and don’t hesitate to ask for support.
Making lifestyle adjustments, practicing relaxation techniques, reframing thoughts, connecting with others, and availing yourself of professional help when warranted can all help manage stress and anxiety. Be patient and compassionate with yourself throughout the process. The goal is progress, not perfection. With time and consistency, building skills to overcome stress and anxiety can help you live each day more fully and peacefully.