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Living with high levels of stress can take a large physical, mental, and emotional toll. Sometimes stress is helpful, like when it motivates you to get things done. But when that stress starts inhibiting your ability to do everyday things you should consider taking preventive measures.
Common signs of stress can be easy to miss. You may blame your insomnia on other things like your mattress, but it can actually indicate anxiety. Stress can manifest through mental and physical health issues like anxiety, irritability or anger, depression, headaches, muscle/chest pain, stomach issues, and more.
Here are some healthy ways to cope with and manage stress:
Focus on yourself
Carving out some “me” time can seem like an unattainable luxury, but it’s necessary for maintaining a healthy mind. Practicing guided meditations, writing in a journal, or doing an activity that you enjoy can all be small ways to give yourself time to relax. Check out other ways to work self-care into your schedule.
Take care of your body
You may have heard people go on runs to “burn off some steam” or go to the gym to “unwind”. Physical activity can boost mood and improve your sleep, meaning better stress management skills. Changes in diet can also reduce stress levels. See which foods help reduce stress and anxiety.
Connect with others
Having meaningful connections around you can boost mental health and help you deal with stress more productively. Trusted friends or family members can help you identify what’s stressing you out as well as ways of reducing the impact of those stressors.
Practice the four A’s
The four A’s of stress management are: Avoid, Alter, Accept, and Adapt. You can commonly practice them by ‘Avoiding’ unnecessary stress and stressful situations by saying “no”. You can ‘Alter’ the situation for the better by using “I” statements and clearly expressing what makes you uncomfortable. ‘Accept’ that things don’t always go as planned and ‘Adapt’ to those changes. Learn more about the four A’s here.
Don’t take things too seriously.
Keeping a sense of humor can be a good coping mechanism. Remembering to laugh at yourself or your situation can have actual health benefits. Laughing decreases stress hormones and helps your body ward off the effects of stress in many ways. Not taking things too seriously is also a good way to maintain a sense of perspective. Remember that what seems like a big deal right now likely won’t seem that way in 3 months- let alone 3 years.
Don't overload yourself.
Having too much on your plate is a recipe for stress. Think carefully before accepting new responsibilities. Count to 10 before you respond to someone’s request. If you have the time, sleep on it. Or mentally break down big problems into smaller, more achievable ones.
Talk with professionals
If you still find yourself struggling with stress after trying a few of these tips, consider seeing a professional. Professional advice on managing stress can significantly enhance quality of life. If this seems overwhelming, first try finding a type of therapy that works for your specific needs and go from there.
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