One of the most pressing issues modern adults face is that we are all so darn stressed out! With competing responsibilities piling up on top of us, at times it feels like we are drowning from constant pressure and stress.
If you want to live a happy life, it’s super important to find healthy ways of coping with stress, so that you don’t fall into any poor habits that can send you into a downward spiral.
Today I’m going to share 8 of my best tips to help you build healthy habits for coping with stress.
8 Healthy Ways To Cope With Stress
1- Start Journaling To Cope With Stress
Journaling is a practice that many, many people have found to be the core reason why they are successful, why they are able to achieve goals, and more importantly – why they are able to find meaning in their life.
It is one of the best stress-relieving activities you can do because it helps you sort through your problems and issues in ways that you may not feel comfortable sharing with others outwardly and openly.
The way I like to use my journal to cope with stress is to first write a list of everything that stresses me out, then free-form write underneath each point exactly what’s really bothering me. Just letting it flow helps relieve so much pressure.
Sometimes at the end of a journaling session I find that the issue isn’t that pressing. Other times, I can gain clarity on what steps I can take to improve my situation.
If you try this for yourself, you’ll notice that tt won’t be long and you’ll be able to go back and review your journal entries. This can be a big help to you in seeing patterns of behavior, reactions, instances that cause you stress. Of course, once you see what the problem is you can then find the solution.
2- Use Gratitude To Cope With Stress
Practicing gratitude has so many benefits! But how can you practice gratitude every day in a way that makes sense?
Well, the most obvious is getting your thoughts out on paper by starting a gratitude journal, but that’s not the only way to practice gratitude.
If you’d like, you can keep it as simple as jotting down 3 to 5 things (more if you’d like) that you are truly grateful for. It should take a couple of minutes, be pleasant and not feel like a burden. It doesn’t have to be a full-blast gratitude journal, if that makes sense.
Other ideas include recording audio or snapping pictures, stating gratitude affirmations while in the shower or while looking in the mirror, or just telling others things that you appreciate about them.
Possibilities are endless, but you can’t hold more than one thought at a time. So the more you think about what you’re grateful for, the less you’re worrying about what stresses you out.
3- Get Creative To Relieve Stress
It’s so easy to let stress bum you out until you feel like doing not much of anything at all. Or maybe part of your stress is due to the fact that you’re so darn busy.
But… once you find a fun, creative, productive outlet that you are passionate about, you’ll find so much release of tension and pressure in your life!
It is such a huge stress relief to turn your pain and stress into something uniquely yours that did not exist before.
I do not believe you need to be a creative person by default to embark on a new journey toward something creative.
There are so many options to explore.
Is there anything you ever wanted to learn but didn’t really have space or time to before?
Even if you suck at it, who cares? If you enjoy it, it doesn’t matter!
Take up painting, drawing, an instrument, a new type of dance, gardening, start a side hustle, start a blog, write creative stories or poetry, make jewelry, learn to sew or make crafts, bake desserts, collect rocks, learn a new language…
The point is possibilities are endless. But you need to engage in constructive activities that bring you joy and help you relieve stress, so you relieve tension in a healthy way.
4- Use Your Support System
If you have a support system such as good friends, a loving spouse, or even an online support group — use it! If not, and your stress seems to be piling up to a point where you feel overwhelmed, there is no shame in seeking therapy or counseling to help you get back on track.
I know I personally was so reluctant to find help for some of my more pressing issues in life. Once you get so used to having high levels of discomfort, it’s easy to imagine that things can’t or won’t ever be any better. This isn’t further from the truth!
You CAN live a life that you love, but you have to be willing to do what it takes to get there.
So do yourself a favor, check your different options and see what’s out there. You might be so surprised by what you find!
5- Make Sure Your Base Needs Are Met
This is one of the few tips for how to healthily handle stress that you can do in-the-moment.
It may seem like a no-brainer but having a checklist for all the things that you need to maintain during times of high-stress is key.
You’d be surprised at how easy it is to forget to eat (eating healthy or even eating at all), drink water, sleep enough, exercise, maintain your physical appearance and other important self-care tasks when you’re stressed out.
But ironically, neglecting these things leads to more stress, which can send you into a crazy downward spiral that you do NOT want to get into!
Keep A Checklist
I recommend just keeping a short checklist that has the following 6 items on it:
1. Have I eaten today?
Sometimes we can get so stressed out that we skip meals. Or we stress eat the wrong things (like ice cream and chips), neglecting to eat the right quality foods that nourish our bodies.
You’re not expected to eat more perfectly than normal when you’re dealing with stress. But skipping meals altogether or eating too many foods that lead to digestive issues is not in your best interest during low times.
Check this box only if you’ve eaten at least two meals that day, and if you’ve included some variety of traditionally healthy foods, like fruits, veggies, and lean meat.
2. Have I consumed enough water?
Water is important for our overall well-being. It’s important to stay hydrated because water regulates our appetite.
When you’re dehydrated you feel crappy, regardless of other issues in your life.
Check this box after you’ve had at least 32 ounces of water. Shooting for 64 is even better, but 32 is better than none.
3. Have I slept enough?
Sleep deprivation can cause depression, anxiety, and other problems, even on your best days!
If you are already stressed out and neglect to get enough rest, you’re compounding your issues.
Check this box only if you’ve gotten at least 6 hours of sleep (or however many you normally get).
4. Have I cared for my personal hygiene?
You don’t have to step out (or stay in) looking like a fashion model, but it’s true that when you look better, you tend to feel better.
Putting minimal effort into your physical self-care will elevate your mood some, and you’ll be more presentable to the outside world as well.
Check this box if and only if you’ve taken a shower or bath, brushed your teeth, styled your hair and put on a presentable outfit that actually matches. (Friendly note: yoga pants and a tank top are OKAY… just make sure they fit well and the colors match)
5. Have I exercised at all?
Not saying you need to do full-on marathon training here, or even actually hit the gym. But moving your body in some fashion releases tension, gets you to focus on something other than your problems for a while, and expends energy, among other things.
Even 10 to 20 minutes of light to moderate focused body movement is beneficial.
Light yoga, walking, or calisthenics indoors are all great options.
Check this box after you’ve moved your body for at least 10 minutes.
6. Have I communicated with someone who makes me feel good?
Humans are social creatures. Even if you’re super-introverted, you will still benefit from healthy, positive interaction with someone who brings you joy.
It doesn’t have to be a lengthy session, but just checking in with someone you care about at least once each day is beneficial. And it’s a lot easier than you think.
Hugging and signing to your child before you put them to bed at night. Positive communication with your spouse or significant other. Phoning your mother, cousin or best friend. Or honestly, even cuddling your dog counts.
The point is to interact at least once daily with someone who makes you feel good, in a way that you truly enjoy.
Even if you have to go to a job you hate, make sure you end your day with having positive communication of some sort.
Check this box if you’ve had one positive conversation (or cuddle session) each day.
6- Have A Destructive Outlet
Yes, you read right.
Most of the time we try to focus on peaceful, uplifting, constructive things, true. But I argue it’s equally as important to have a destructive outlet. It’s also important to release pent-up energy and frustration. It has to go somewhere, right?
What has worked for me in the past is to go to my car, turn on the music loud and just… scream. Like I mean as loud as I can.
It sounds totally bizarre if you’ve never done it before but letting totally loose and letting it ALL hang out in a safe, private space is AMAZING.
Nobody judges you. Nobody sees you. It’s just you and your raw emotion being released into the air and it WORKS.
Another idea is to take a pillow and punch the hell out of it. I mean, beat that sucker ALL the way up!
If you have a gym membership and there’s a punching bag, have at that too. But I prefer quick, easy things that don’t require any extra effort on my part. So, screaming in the car and showing pillows who’s the boss is right up my alley.
Give it a whirl and let me know what you think!
You’ll look crazy, but you’ll feel so much lighter. And nobody will see you anyway.
7- Help Someone Less Fortunate
Finally, my last tip for beating stress in a healthy way is donating your time to a cause that will help someone less fortunate than you.
There is something about giving that is incredibly healing.
We human beings are all connected whether you like to admit it or not.
While it may seem counterintuitive to focus on others when you yourself are struggling, doing something kind for another person uplifts their state of being and yours.
This may not be something you do every day, especially if you’re pressed for time.
But if you’re in a long-term period of stress, taking time to focus on someone else and improving their life can work wonders for your psyche and mood.
Give it a try!
8- Breathe With Purpose
Chances are good you’re saying “breathe with purpose? What the heck are you talking about? If I didn’t breathe I wouldn’t be alive!”
I know, it sounds “off” doesn’t it? And yet, studies have proven that most of us breathe without thinking – and we breathe shallow breaths. When you breathe deeply you can feel a difference throughou your body. Your heart rate slows, your shoulders relax, your mind calms a bit. Really, it does. Try it now – two deep breaths.
Using this mindfulness technique will help you calm down, lower your blood pressure, and slow your initial stress related reaction. This is breathing with purpose and can be a vital step in learning about your body reactions, keeping them in check and dealing with your stress before it causes physical injury or illness.
Create A Plan To Cope With Stress
You’ve got some ideas. What now?
Now your job is to come up with a plan that you can try when things go sour.
You don’t need to do ALL the things in the above list, but some combination of them will prove useful down the line.
For example, when I feel something negative creeping up, I get creative. I write a blog post that I think might help someone else, complete with designing graphics that get my brain active in a pleasurable way.
As part of my self-care strategy, I’ll try to do a quick yoga session, take a hot bath, put on a cute, comfy outfit and style my hair so I like what I see in the mirror.
Playing silly games with my toddler before bed at night uplifts my mood, as does chatting with my mother a bit.
These things cover my self-care, creative outlet, and positive communication checkpoints and really help me to just feel better when I’m stressing hard. The same can be true for you!
It’s not going to correct the stressful situation or eliminate it completely straight away. But when you do these things you’ll feel much better than if you don’t try at all.
You should aim at least have one or two versions of things you can try so you aren’t caught off guard.
Even if you don’t fully believe this will work, take a couple minutes and write some things down!
It takes little effort on your part and it might come in handy when you least expect it.
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You CAN Find Healthy Ways To Cope With Stress
Stress is an inevitable part of adult life for every person on Earth. You can’t escape it.
The best thing is to be as prepared as you can to navigate all the different life situations that will come your way.
When the stuff hits the fan, what will you do? You should be able to list off a few things without hesitation. That’s how you know you’ve prepared.
Draft Your Action Plan Right Now
So what are you waiting for?
Take these points into consideration and come up with a few different plans for when tough times hit. At least have two variations.
They may not cure all your ills 100%. But you’ll be a lot better off if you are proactive rather than reactive when it comes to managing your mental health and stress if you really want to live a happy, healthy life.
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Related Personal Growth Posts:
- 7 Ways To Practice Gratitude Daily WITHOUT A Gratitude Journal
- 5 Ways To Boost Your Sense Of Inner Peace
- 3 Ways To Use Positive Thinking To Raise Your Self-Esteem