If you aren’t stressed out, congratulations. You are in the minority. Most people deal with stress on a daily basis.
We live in a society that values hard work but undervalues good rest. If you are feeling overwhelmed by life, it’s time to identify what’s behind your anxious thoughts. When you consider what’s causing your stress, do any of these situations sound familiar?
1. You’re Not Spending Enough Time Outside
The pandemic caused a lot of people to retreat from social life. Have you been holed up in your living room binge-watching TV show after TV show? If so, you need to get out of the house.
Mental health experts tout the stress-busting effects of getting outdoors in nature, so grab a friend and head to the park. A walk around the block might be enough to shake off the stressors of the day. Or try a new sport that gets you out on the water, like paddle boarding.
Step away from the screens and observe the world around you. Spending time in nature helps you to wonder about the more abstract miracles of life.
It allows you to step out of your rut and realize that the world is bigger than just your problems. That knowledge can make your problems seem smaller and less challenging.
2. You’re Moving Too Fast
Are you waking up late and rushing to work, only to eat breakfast at your desk (if at all)? Maybe you have started to use browser tabs as a to-do list — and the list is long. Do you have an activity planned every night of the week? Overscheduling yourself catches up eventually, making it feel like the world is closing in on you.
Take note of times you use phrases like “crazy busy” to describe your life. They’re a good sign that you need to slow things down. You deserve some unassigned time to process your world and reflect on your life.
There are a few ways to break yourself out of this “go, go, go” mentality. The first one is just putting your phone down and turning off your computer. Believe it or not, it is OK to just sit and think with no agenda.
Alternatively, grab a notebook, journal, or even just the back of an envelope and start writing. Reflecting on your life is empowering and helps you focus on what is important. Plus, naming your worries and concerns lessens their power.
3. You’re Unhappy in Your Job
Going to an office that you dread every day is not a great way to live life. There’s no doubt that finding a new job can be intimidating and uncomfortable. But leaving a bad job is better than staying in it.
Start by making a plan. Make yourself a list of doable tasks and tackle them one by one. Do you need to update your résumé or LinkedIn profile? Are there skills you need to learn so you can change professions? Seek out a mentor to help you navigate the job market.
Perhaps quitting your current job isn’t a possibility right now. If that’s the case, start thinking about some coping mechanisms. For example, find a friend to talk to about frustrating moments, schedule a massage, or take a long lunch break. Do you have vacation or personal days stored up? Use them — and don’t answer your work email while you do.
Related Resource: Eight Ways Graduate Nurses Cope With Stress
4. You’re Not Getting Enough Rest
A poor night’s sleep can ruin your day. A week of poor sleep? That can dim your whole outlook on life. And it’s not just your mental health that suffers. According to the CDC, adults who don’t get enough sleep are more likely to live with certain chronic health conditions.
Getting into a better nighttime routine can have a real impact on your quality of sleep. Along with engaging in soothing pre-bed activities like reading or taking a warm bath, look to eliminate potential sleep disruptors.
For starters, swear off caffeine in the afternoon and evening; if you want a hot beverage, try herbal teas instead. Stop looking at screens an hour before bed, as the blue light disrupts your body’s natural rhythm. If you need to, sleep separately from your snoring partner or use earplugs. If none of those tactics does the trick, pull out the melatonin.
5. You’re Not Eating a Healthy Diet
Are you coping with your stress by eating rich meals and overdoing it on desserts? Are you managing your moods with alcohol, cupcakes, or potato chips? These foods may make you feel better in the short term, but in the long term, they exacerbate your anxiety symptoms.
When you’re struggling with stress, try adding magnesium, calcium, vitamin B, and Omega-3 fatty acids to your diet. Magnesium and calcium work together to help your nervous system communicate.
Meanwhile, vitamin B has been found to elevate mood, while Omega-3s may ease anxiety symptoms. These nutrients are found in all kinds of fresh vegetables, fish, lean meats, and whole grains.
Be careful not to let your relationship with food add to your stress. There is nothing wrong with the occasional piece of cake. But try to work some broccoli into your diet; it can only help.
Being stressed out is natural, but it doesn’t have to be normal. Boost your body’s ability to cope with stress while eliminating some of the stressors you have control over.
And ask for help if you need it! Sometimes anxiety needs to be evaluated by a professional. If your stress is disrupting your daily life, give your doctor a call. To fully overcome your stress, it might be time to talk to someone.