If your everyday wellness plan includes exercise, good sleep, and whole foods, you’re way ahead of the stress-reduction game. Those habits (things you do consistently) are going to be good insurance against everyday stress. But life does throw us curve balls. A job loss, a failed relationship, unexpected financial hardship, a health scare, or a global pandemic can come out of nowhere, leaving even the most secure person feeling vulnerable.
But even in our vulnerability, we can be thoughtful about our actions and the choices we make to help us cope. My favorite approach is to utilize those nicer coping mechanisms that are not going to undo the hard work I did up till then.
This is when you lean on your support systems, take healthy shortcuts, and remember to breathe.
Here’s what I mean.
1. Connect with family and friends.
Fifty-seven percent of people turn to friends or family to help them manage their stress, according to the American Psychological Association. In times of hardship and loss, your family and friends can help lighten your emotional load and be that anchor you need to stay afloat.
YOUR ACTION PLAN NOW: Nurture, protect, and build those healthy relationships.
2. Step away from your problems.
Stepping away from your problems isn’t the same as avoiding them, it’s about giving yourself a breather. If you’re overwhelmed, taking a step back can help you see your options clearer and is just a sensible survival tactic.
YOUR ACTION PLAN NOW: Have 2-3 escapes. Going for a long walk is a quick escape. Going to Bear Mountain for the weekend either alone with your journal or with some friends can certainly help when you need a longer escape. And running home to the parents when life is more serious (like now) is just what healthy people do—there is no shame in it.
Stepping away puts you in a new environment with a whole new perspective on your problems.
3. Crank up the music.
Music connects us with our emotions, with others, and with ourselves. It’s one of the easiest, quickest, and nicest ways to distress IMO. If it makes you want to get up and dance, even better. Physical activity, when you’re feeling down, can move the stress in your body to eliminate it or make it more bearable.
YOUR ACTION PLAN NOW: Create your ideal Defunk Playlist.
4. Use CBD oils.
CBD is still in infancy, but research suggests that CBD oils can vastly reduce stress when taken on a regular basis. Something else to try is aromatherapy. Scents like lavender are known to have a calming effect as us.
YOUR ACTION PLAN NOW: Test a few CBD oil manufacturers and formulations.
5. Go swimming or hydration therapy.
Being underwater or floating is shown to have a calming effect on the mind. A good sensory deprivation tank experience can leave you floating on air afterward. Ditto for a couple of laps in a pool or nearby lake.
YOUR ACTION PLAN NOW: Learn how to use hydrotherapy to relieve stress and find your local version of Just Float.
6. Do some retail therapy.
This old standby may be a little harder to do now during COVID, but even online browsing can help you escape from your problems!
YOUR ACTION PLAN NOW: Nevermind, I think you’ve got this one.
7. Cut back on unhealthy coping mechanisms.
We all have guilty pleasures that we indulge in from time to time. But in states of emergency, we can’t afford to.
Because you’re under stress, doesn’t mean you can afford to cut back on exercise, good sleep, meditation, and eating whole foods. Instead, you find the low-stress way to keep up: Now during COVID, for example, people are using services like Hello Fresh and Freshly to keep up with their healthy eating. Others are managing (and preventing insomnia) by cutting down on or totally avoiding social media and TV. Then there are others who are using the extra time on our hands to log in extra meditation sessions, which might remind you to let go.
YOUR ACTION PLAN NOW: Pay attention to the effects that social media and your entertainment consumption have on you.
8. Take “stress-pills”.
When used in moderation, these stress pills and other support you get from a bottle or plants can keep you calm and help you ride out the storm.
YOUR ACTION PLAN NOW: Read the Healthline article and do more research around beta-blockers and other supplements to relieve stress and anxiety.
9. Do something creative.
Coloring mandalas or any type of visual art are creative exercises we can all do, which makes the point, you don’t have to be super creative to do something creative. Creativity invites imperfection and the very act of doing something calming and absorbing can move you away from your current problems.
YOUR ACTION PLAN NOW: Put together a creative kit with the supplies you might use to get creative.
10. Vino and chill.
Wine has a “calming effect” on the brain allowing us to de-stress after a day of hard work. But that’s not all. Scientists have found that wine may have long-term benefits for our mental health when consumed in moderation. If you’re feeling stressed, a light meal paired with 1.5 glasses of wine, candles, and chill music will reduce your stress levels in minutes.