Stress is a chronic problem across the nation. According to a survey performed by Paychex, more than 70 percent of American workers are moderately to severely stressed. Unfortunately, this seems to be the norm. Some even believe that if you’re not stressed, you’re not doing enough.
According to the American Psychological Association, the reasons for a person’s stress are varied. Most (63 percent) say they’re stressed out by the future of our nation. Sixty-two percent also said that money was a top stressor, 61 percent said it was work, 57 percent cited the current political climate, and 51 percent named violence and crime as the top reason for their mental tension.
Stress can create a variety of physical and psychological symptoms, ranging from stomach aches and headaches to anxiety and depression. In order to escape some of these symptoms, stressed individuals use coping mechanisms.
Unfortunately, coping mechanisms are not always healthy. In many cases, stressed individuals will turn to drugs or alcohol, forming a dependence that’s not easy to shake.
“There is a clear connection between experiences of stress and brain dominance. Low brain dominance equals high, chronic stress and proclivity toward addiction for relief,” says Dr. David Rubenstein, a southern California psychologist and expert in stress reduction.
Anyone seeking addiction recovery in unhealthy ways should work for a more positive impact. Here are some healthier methods of coping with stress that anyone should try.
1. Take Care of Yourself
Eating right, exercising, and performing basic hygiene tasks are three of the most powerful stress relievers there are.
- Stop stress eating: First and foremost, eat at least three meals per day, and don’t skip breakfast. Avoid reaching for comfort food and instead grab a fruit, vegetable, or yogurt for a snack. Drink plenty of water throughout the day, and let your body heal itself.
- Exercise at least 150 minutes each week: This is the CDC recommendation for a healthy lifestyle, and it works on stress. Take a walk on your lunch break, swing by the gym before or after work, or buy a treadmill for your home. Exercise is one of the best mechanisms for relieving tension throughout the body and helping you balance mind and body.
- Be clean and well-groomed: When you’re overwhelmed, it’s tempting to skip the shower and careful grooming in favor of finishing a project or catching your favorite show. However, a clean, well-groomed body often translates into a tidy, organized mind. It’s amazing how much better you’ll feel after you’ve attended to your hygienic needs.
2. Get More Sleep
The average person needs between seven and nine hours of sleep, but it’s not uncommon for stressed adults to get six hours or less.
“Sleep can definitely reduce levels of stress,” says Dr. Raymonde Jean, director of sleep medicine at NYC’s St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital Center. “With that, people can have better control of their blood pressure. It’s also believed that sleep affects cholesterol levels, which plays a significant role in heart disease.”
For your health and vitality, make some adjustments to your daily schedule to get more sleep. If you’re struggling to sleep well, discuss potential changes and medical options with your doctor.
3. Go on Vacation
You might be thinking that a vacation will only put you more behind, increasing your stress levels. However, taking a few days for yourself actually reduces stress and helps you work more productively, according to a study from the American Psychological Association.
“A number of studies have shown that taking time away from the job can have physical and psychological health benefits,” says Steve Blake, VP of Clinical Operations at Managed Health Network, Inc. “Workers who don’t take advantage of the vacation time that they’re eligible for could be shortchanging themselves in terms of benefits to their health.”
4. Talk to Someone
It’s not always easy to share your vulnerabilities. Some struggle to share things even with their closest friends and family. However, opening up to a supportive individual or group can be one of the best ways to reduce stress and alleviate related symptoms.
It might not feel natural to you, but try calling a close friend or family member to vent your stress. Text them if it’s easier for you. You’ll probably feel much better after.
If you don’t have a support group you can trust or you don’t feel comfortable sharing with others you know, consider seeking professional help. A counselor will proactively listen as you talk through your feelings, giving advice where it’s needed.
There are also support groups designed to help individuals reduce stress. Sometimes it’s easier to talk to strangers about your problems, so it might be worth a shot.
Stress can take over your entire life, but it doesn’t have to. You can use healthy coping mechanisms to take back your life.