Improving Mental Health by Dealing with Stress in Everyday Life
Stress is an inevitable part of life. It's not even necessarily a bad thing. In the best scenarios, it is positive, the kind of excitement that you feel when you're starting something new, such as a job or relationship. It can motivate you to greater accomplishments. Striving to eliminate it from your life completely is not realistic, and it wouldn't lead to a very satisfying existence if you did. Instead, the trick is to learn how to manage it better.
Noticing and Naming
Understanding that there is positive and negative stress can be revelatory because if you pay attention, you can notice that you experience many of the same physical symptoms in both situations. If you love roller coasters, while you're waiting in line for one or while you're on one, you might experience a pounding heart. You might feel the same way while you're waiting for news about tests you just had at the doctor's office. Notice that in the positive situation, you feel this physical sensation as something exciting and positive while in the anxiety provoking situation, your experience is negative.
You don't have to force yourself to feel happy and excited about difficult situations, whether it's waiting for news from a doctor or anything else, but you can start to pay attention to those symptoms and notice that you can interpret them in a neutral way. This helps avoid a feedback loop in which your pounding heart reminds you of your fear which heightens your stress even further. It can be helpful to simply observe what's happening to you physically or where your thoughts are going. It can also help to ground yourself physically in other ways, by noticing and naming what your five senses can perceive around you.
Connect with Others
The tips above are useful for helping you cope in the moment, but it's also important to learn how to deal with stress as an ongoing thing in your life. Strategies for doing this can also help with chronic stress, which is also very common but different from the acute version. Ongoing situations can contribute to the chronic kind, such as money, relationship, or work problems that can't be resolved.
One of the best ways to cope with both kinds is by connecting with others. This can take several different forms. If spending times with friends or family members is generally a positive experience, simply doing that can help you relax. You may also want to talk to one or more of them in a more focused way about your issues, or you could talk to a professional, such as a therapist.
Helping others is another excellent way to improve your overall well-being. It can feel good to do so, and it can also put your own problems into perspective. In addition, it can give you a sense of belonging, particularly if you do it in an ongoing way. The help that you give can really make a substantial difference in another person's life.
You could look to volunteer programs that pair you to be a mentor to a younger person. As a mentor, you could have a significant effect on the career path they choose or other choices they make. You could help them attend college, whether by assisting them in researching schools and scholarships, or getting even more involved, cosigning on a student loan that they wouldn't otherwise be eligible for.
This can make a huge difference in whether they are able to attend college. Be sure to review student loan cosigner requirements and make sure you understand your obligations if you take a step like this. Even if you don't have time to become a mentor or devote yourself to ongoing volunteer work in some capacity, small acts of kindness toward others can add up and go a long way toward reducing your own stress.
The usual recommendations about getting enough sleep, exercise, and nutritious food, as well as avoiding unhealthy habits all apply. Unfortunately, stress has a way of making it hard to sleep or make good choices, so it can be helpful to have other techniques you can use as well. Some find it helpful to think of or even write down three things they are grateful for each day. Changing the way you talk to yourself about things can help reduce stress as well.
In a tense situation, rather than berate yourself or anticipate the worst, think about how you would speak to a dear friend, or another loved one. Look for challenges and set goals to build your confidence. While you can't escape all forms of stress, doing what you can to get away from people and situations that make your life difficult and unpleasant without adding any value can also be a valid and useful strategy.