How to cope with stress and anxiety
Stress is a normal part of life. It can even be a good, healthy response at times, as in the stress you feel that motivates you to study before a test or run away from a fire. No one lives a stress-free life, and most everyone – even the most successful among us – experience times when stress gets in the way of doing their best.
If you feel stress and worry are affecting your ability to function and enjoy life, there are things you can do to feel better. Here are some proven stress-reducing techniques you can try at home. As with any health concern, if you feel your symptoms are severe or hard to deal with on your own, it’s important to call your doctor to discuss treatment options.
Mindful meditation, which involves focusing on the present without thinking about the past or future, is an effective way to reduce stress, psychological pain, and depression.
Take a deep breath. We’ve all heard this expression when things get stressful – and for good reason. Breathing deeply has been shown to lower stress in the body. Fast breathing, increased heart rate, and high blood pressure all decrease as deep breathing works to relax you.
Exercise is proven to affect your brain and give you a better sense of well-being, which can reduce anxiety. Also, the more sedentary we are, the less efficient we are at responding to stress. Try taking a walk or riding your bike for some activity with the added benefit of an uplifting change of scenery.
There’s a well-established connection between mind and body, especially when it comes to your stomach. Good nutrition goes a long way toward overall health and preventing serious mental health disorders like depression.
When it comes to sleep and anxiety, they’re kind of like the chicken and the egg. Which comes first? It could be either, as anxiety causes sleep deprivation, and sleep deprivation causes anxiety. Bottom line: Make getting enough sleep a top priority.
Your social network is a great resource for reducing stress. And although social media can be a good tool for connecting with people, meeting them face-to-face is proven to be the most effective at improving your mental health.
The general advice: Say yes to any invites that come your way, and reach out to get together with family and friends as often as possible. Just meeting for coffee or taking a walk in the park can do wonders to make you feel connected to others and less stressed.
DIY spa treatments
Professional spa treatments can take up a lot of time and money, but here are some quick, effective techniques you can do all by yourself at home.
- Soak a hand towel in hot water, and place it around your neck and shoulders. Close your eyes and relax until the towel cools down.
- Place a tennis ball between your back and the wall. Lean into it gently for up to 15 seconds. Repeat in any other spots that feel tense.
Indulge in music and art
Music can be a good distraction from whatever is troubling you, and can also calm your brain and reduce anxiety. Soothing music in particular can lower anxiety by lowering your blood pressure and heart rate.
Creative expression through art has also been shown to help people suffering from depression and anxiety. Make time for drawing and painting – and say yes to that local art class you’ve been thinking about.
Laugh it off
It always feels so good to laugh. But did you know that laughter also lowers the body’s stress hormone? If you give that funny friend a call or tune in to your favorite comedy show, there’s a good chance you’ll end up more relaxed.
Assess your stress
Managing stress and anxiety is the key to a healthy, happy life. How you control it depends on how much you experience it, how much it affects you, and how well you lessen its effects on your overall well-being. If at any time you feel overwhelmed or unable to cope or relieve your anxiety and stress, call your doctor to discuss your condition and treatment options.
To help you make meaningful, manageable changes to your lifestyle, Blue Shield offers a suite of total health programs called Wellvolution®, which you can join at no additional cost. These programs offer lifestyle-based approaches to health. For example, the Walkadoo® program can keep your body moving, the Diabetes Prevention Program can help you lose weight, and QuitNet® can help you quit smoking.
You can also take advantage of the many discounts our plans offer – on fitness equipment, massage, acupuncture, chiropractic care, vitamins, and supplements.
Join the Wellvolution
Wellvolution can help you improve your well-being through diet, activity, stress management, and social support.