May is Mental Health Awareness Month and making sure that you’re taking care of your emotional well-being is a vital part of one’s overall health.
Mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how you think, feel, and act. It also helps determine how you handle stress
Stress is a natural and unavoidable fact of life. And that’s not a bad thing.
A little bit of stress can go a long way in improving your motivation and focus. It can even increase creativity, personal growth, and help you to know when it’s time to run from bears.
Too much stress though — we’re talking those unmanageable and overwhelming amounts (like, ok, bears) — can increase your risk of anxiety, depression, substance use disorders, physical pain, and sleep issues.
Since you can’t avoid stress (much to the delight of the stress ball industry), you can stop it from becoming overwhelming with these tips:
Get Plenty of Rest – Rip Van Winkle had it right.
Something got you stressed? Try sleeping on it. Seriously, it matters more than you think.
In fact, the scientists who study sleep at SleepScore Labs found that “following a regular sleep routine calms and restores the body, improves concentration, regulates mood, and sharpens judgment and decision-making.”
So, not only will quality sleep give you a better chance of solving the Sunday crossword, you’ll be in a better frame of mind to cope with stress by being well-rested. And to optimize your chances of getting a great night’s sleep, stop looking at screens — TV, phones, tablets or computers — at least two hours before turning in.
Listen to Music – More Mozart. Less Metallica.
According to Tim Ringgold, M.T.-B.C., a music therapist with New Method Wellness, not only can music calm your nervous system via your hormones “but it can also help ease stress by influencing your biological processes. For instance, the tempo of the music you’re listening to can automatically slow down or speed up your heart rate, blood pressure, and breathing.”
So, if you’re feeling anxious or stressed, Ringgold suggests listening to slow music (60 to 80 BPM). At this tempo, your body will begin soothing itself as the brain releases pleasure chemicals.
And, who knows, maybe it’ll help you drift off to that all-important sleep.
Think Positively – Channel your inner Ted Lasso.
When you’re in the throes of stress and negative rumination, the advice to “just think positive!” can feel like an impossible task.
But research around positive psychology discovered that “positive emotions can aid health by undoing the physical reactivity” to stress and can foster emotional resilience, health, and overall wellbeing.
With intentional practice, this mindset switch can lead to healthier feelings of gratitude, optimism, and more.
Stay Hydrated – Drink it all in.
Ever wonder why camels seem so chill? Because staying hydrated throughout the day helps the brain function properly which, in turn, goes a long way to combating stress and anxiety.
Psychiatrists from Solara Mental Health found that “Dehydration is the number one cause of stress in your body. In fact, it’s a self-perpetuating cycle: dehydration can cause stress, and stress can cause dehydration.”
When you’re stressed, extra cortisol (the stress hormone) pumps from your adrenal glands. This production of excess cortisol can exhaust the adrenal glands and result in low electrolyte levels.
Low levels of electrolytes can put the brain at a disadvantage when trying to ward off stress and anxiety. Drinking enough water helps to increase the levels of electrolytes and fortifies brain and body function.
Exercise – Drop and give me plenty!
We all know by now that consistent exercise and regular movement of the body can do wonders for our mental health. From everything from relieving stress and improving sleep to sharpening your memory and keeping your weight in check, staying active not only benefits the body but the brain as well.
Especially when it comes to stress. The health professionals from the Mayo Clinic state that getting in regular exercise can “provide stress relief for your body while imitating effects of stress, such as the flight or fight response, and helping your body and its systems practice working together through those effects.”
You’re way too fine to feel this stressed, yeah.
So, yes, stress can be both good and bad for you.
But if you find that too much of it is trending toward becoming a long-term problem, using the stress management techniques listed above can help you alleviate most of its physical, emotional, and behavioral symptoms.