Despite modern technology simplifying a lot of life’s heavier work, from washing dishes to streamlining public transportation, many people still live with daily stress. In fact, according to the Associated Press, nearly 84% of American adults cited being under a high level of stress last year.
Stress isn’t just an uncomfortable factor in life—it has concrete and tangible effects on the body and mind. In terms of the body, stress can lead to high blood pressure, stomach issues and headaches. In terms of the mind, stress can cause anxiety and can contribute to the formation of negative thinking patterns. In certain cases, this can even affect synapses, according to Touro University.
Oftentimes, we’re prescribed a day of rest by loved ones and friends who’ve noticed we’re low on energy and joy. But how can people tackle stress in a more mindful and incremental way that leads to long-lasting change? After all, we can’t always change a situation like a job or living arrangement at the drop of a dime. So, what can we do in the meantime?
Though the fields may seem different, free solo rock climbing and professional poker players alike rely on visualization to overcome stress when the stakes are high. Free solo climbers spend hours visualizing their goals to overcome jitters while under immense stress, creating imagined scenarios where they find the perfect ledge to keep climbing.
In the latter example, poker players handle uncertainty and fear at the table by visualizing success beforehand. By prepping the mind for the challenges to come, it’s less likely to respond with fear during a live game when the cards aren’t in someone’s favor.
Practicing gratitude in a time of stress isn’t easy. For some, it might feel impossible. However, gratitude doesn’t have to be complicated—it can start with just a thought in which a person ruminates on one thing they’re grateful for. In times of stress, this can be as small as the perfect latte or a pleasing scent.
Gratitude can also be a form of recreation and joy. Nature tends to inspire peace and awe, which makes a local park or the backyard a great location to practice gratitude. All it takes is just a few deep breaths and a few spare minutes to look around and enjoy the scenery. Another options is to write down something they’re thankful for on a small note and keep it somewhere visible during the workday.
Celebrate the Body
Nurturing the body isn’t just about self-care. It’s also about physical health. Those who spend time celebrating the body through physical activity are preventatively protecting themselves against the mental and physical issues associated with stress.
Dancing is a perfect example. Whether joining a Zumba class, rocking out at home alone, or hitting a live show, dancing (as a form of cardio) releases endorphins, which help resolve stress while also encouraging higher quality sleep. Remember, having fun and getting active can be casual and brief—no need to spend an hour on the treadmill.
Take Notes from Friends
Oftentimes, stress can make us feel isolated. We don’t want to burden others with our problems, so we distance ourselves. However, the community is incredibly important for managing stress; sharing our struggles with those who understand us not only validates what we’re experiencing but reminds us that we aren’t alone.
Spending time with the community has been shown to combat the isolating effects of stress, from alleviating the symptoms of emotional distress to improving a person’s self-esteem. Both are critical for long-term wellbeing and can help someone deal with daily stress while they work to improve their situation.
However, not everyone will have a social network available to them—especially if they’re facing the stress of a recent move. Those looking to build community can do so by volunteering at a local agency, joining a nearby fitness group, or taking an educational course.