Managing one’s stress and anxiety is by far easier said than done. Discovering your personal balm, what soothes you specifically, is the key to finding relief. For some it is working out (lucky them!) For many of us, it is connecting with friends, watching TV, engaging in a favorite hobby or just plain sleeping. In order to find out your specific strategy, tap in to the last time you felt rested and content, not necessarily gleefully happy, just rested and content. What were you doing? What happened most recently? Then ask yourself, “what am I naturally drawn to, to reduce stress?” Once you have identified that thing, making it a habit is how management occurs. Start by making a list of the things you enjoy, regardless of how small. Gardening, reorganizing your space, watching shows about luxury real estate, singing in the bathroom, whatever moves you, put it on the list. This list now can serve as your go-to list of strategies to manage stress and anxiety.
Often, we need to cleanse away that which is creating stress before we enact our strategies. Drink water, take a shower, detox for a bit from social media and stressful information and just reset. Picture yourself starting over whatever is creating stress. With every single breath, every new moment, we are given the chance the start over. Imagine yourself resetting that event that is stressing you the most. The following is a list of “reset” methods:
- Delegate – get things off of your plate, decide what is actually your problem to solve and leave those that aren’t alone!
- Declutter – this refers to piles of paper, old food in the fridge and sometimes people! Clearing your physical and mental space can be an instant stress reliever.
- Keep a realistic to-do list – putting 100 things on your daily to-do list likely leaves you going to bed frustrated and anxious and waking up with the same anxiety when 98 of those things are still undone. Choose just a few things that can realistically be accomplished during a given day and win at those!
- Eat and sleep well – eating healthily and sleeping for a full night are the first habits to go when we get overwhelmed by stress, but these are the most reliable stress relievers! Be intentional about your food and sleep diet.
- Mind the app – Download a relaxation app and set a reminder to stop and regroup every hour. Smart watches, electronic fitness monitoring devices and our phones are great tools to remind us to take a breather. Find an app you enjoy and let it remind you to reset every so often.
- Take a daily walk – the weather is breaking and sweater weather is upon us! Throw one on and take a quick walk outside. You might be surprised at how even a short time in nature eases the mind and prepares you for your next task.
- Take breaks from social media – suicidality, anxiety, depression and dissatisfaction with relationships and life in general has been statistically correlated with social media use. Give yourself some days off. You won’t miss anything and your peace has been prioritized!
- Complete a gratitude exercise – studies have linked gratitude with forgiveness, increased positive emotions such as happiness, and reduced stress. Keep a daily gratitude journal and take a few minutes each day to jot down what made you thankful on that day.
Dr. Kanika Bell is a licensed psychologist, specializing in clinical and forensic psychology, in the Atlanta area. She received her undergraduate degree in psychology from Spelman College and received her Masters and Doctoral degrees in clinical psychology from Auburn University. She is co-owner of A.T.L. Psychotherapy and Consulting Services, LLC in Atlanta, GA where she provides therapy to children, adults, couples and families. She is also an Associate Professor in the Department of Psychology at Clark Atlanta University. Dr. Bell’s passion is assisting clients and students in recognizing and maximizing their greatness. Her most recent project is a co-edited volume entitled Black Women’s Mental Health: Balancing Strength and Vulnerability and is currently working on an additional volume focusing on the particular mental health needs of Women of Color.