Do you ever feel stressed? The American Psychological Association’s latest study shows that stress levels are going up in America. We are stressed about work, money and the economy. I’m stressed about those things and many others, and I’m guessing you might be as well. Recently, I’ve tried more stress relief / stress management methods than I can count. In honor of May being “Mental Health Month”, here is a rundown of what has worked for me and can work for you, too.
Mindfulness and meditation
If you thought meditation was a “new age” thing, think again. More and more people are practicing meditation. Even the Mayo Clinic is touting the benefits of meditation. Taking 5, 10 or even 30 minutes out of your day to clear your head will almost certainly have a positive impact on your stress level. The best part of meditation is that you can do it anywhere–no classes, props or investment required. You just need a few minutes to spare.
How to start: After you finish reading this post, go sit somewhere quiet and take 5 minutes to close your eyes and quiet your mind.
Starting a new project
One of the best benefits of starting a new project is that it gives you something to focus on other than the stress in your life. The feeling of working toward something big will override some of your stress. Your new project could be a blog, a business, a book or something else entirely.
How to start: Brainstorm a list of potential projects. Only you will know what you’ve always wanted to do.
Yoga and other exercise
Exercise is good for your body and your mind. It’s clear that exercise helps people who are feeling stressed and depressed. It kickstarts your endorphins, improves your mood and helps you sleep better. I’m highlighting yoga because it’s often called “physical meditation”. It’s meditation that utilizes your whole body, including your brain.
How to start: Pick an activity you’d like to try. It might be yoga, running, bellydancing, pilates, mountain biking, etc. Find an introductory class and sign up.
Volunteering and helping others
When you’re feeling stressed, it can be hard to find the motivation to sign up for a volunteering commitment. The benefits are definitely worth it, though. You’ll feel good about yourself and have a new sense of meaning and purpose in life. It will also help you put things in perspective: your problems won’t feel so insurmountable when you are working with someone who is going through a much more difficult period in their life.
How to start: Identify a few organizations that help a cause you care about, then look for volunteer opportunities on their websites.
Sometimes something as little as organizing a messy desk can help you feel less stressed. Another big part of making changes is saying “no” more often. It’s hard to say “no”, but taking on more commitments is usually the last thing you need when you’re feeling stressed out. Say “yes” to the things that help you, but don’t be afraid to say “no” when the time just isn’t right. You may not be able to change everything that is causing you stress, but you can probably change something.
How to start: Identify one thing that stresses you out during the week and design a plan to make it less stressful. If making dinner for your family after a long day at work stresses you out, try dividing up the cooking duties or making a weekly meal plan each Sunday.
In honor of May being Mental Health Month, I’ll be writing more in-depth posts about all of the stress management techniques I mentioned here. Check back or follow me on Twitter if you want to learn more about mindfulness, yoga, starting your own business or other stress-management techniques.