Do you find yourself continually unable to focus? You are not alone. According to The Washington Post, people all across the nation report being unduly stressed as of March last year. Are you look for healthy choices to help in coping with stress? Many people report that their stress levels leave them struggling to stay on task at work, to work up the motivation to exercise, or even to complete day-to-day tasks, like sending a package or going to the grocery store.
It is more than feasible that working at home while parenting, increased loneliness and social isolation, and experiencing a significant departure from our past routines, and adjusting to a new normal are all to blame, but that is not all. “On top of those might be stress brought on by the coronavirus pandemic, racism, political tumult, climate disasters, and a foreboding sense of uncertainty,” The Washington Post continues.
The Post recommends getting plenty of sleep, regularly exercising even when you do not feel particularly motivated to do it, and limiting your news intake to an hour a day at most. Remember, it is important to set aside time before or after your workday — not during it — to read the news.
See below for more healthy choices for coping with stress.
1. Spend Time With Close Friends
Strong friendships are essential to our health and happiness, Time magazine and the journal Personal Relationships reveal. In fact, maintaining close friendships staves off depression, helps you heal faster, and may even increase longevity.
What are the best ways to maintain these friendships as the global pandemic continues to take its toll?
That depends on your particular circumstances and comfort level. If you and your friends have been vaccinated, you may feel comfortable meeting as a small group to enjoy pizza and wings in a local pizza shop. If not, meeting outdoors for a socially distanced picnic or hike may feel more prudent. Do whatever makes you feel at ease, make time to see friends in-person, and keep tabs on friends in between plans.
2. Visit Family Members
When coming up with a list of healthy choices for coping with stress, do not forget to visit family members. Visiting family — and particularly visiting family in nursing homes or independent living communities — can be an enriching experience. Here is what you will take away from it:
- Strong social relationships boost longevity. According to Thrive Global, 48 studies reached the same conclusion. That conclusion is that strong social bonds predict longevity. Those who have close friendships and family bonds outlive those who do not.
- Familial relationships put an end to loneliness and promote meaning. Spending time with family creates meaning. You are much more likely to remember a weekend, milestone, or even if you spend it in good company. That holds true for you and your family members.
- New experiences make us happier and improve our memory. If our routines look the same day after day, we tend live less mindfully and retain fewer details throughout the day. Doing this too often can lead to time passing by like a blur. Spending time with family and, even better, having new experiences with family improves mood, increases neuroplasticity, and helps the brain create new memories.
3. Clean Your Home
Cleaning your home may not be one of your favorite healthy choices for coping with stress, but science shows that you should give it another chance. There are many benefits of cleaning as a coping mechanism, including:
- Lower cortisol levels. Messy and cluttered environments result in high cortisol levels. Tidying up lowers cortisol levels and leaves you feeling happier.
- Cleaning temporarily boosts excitement and adrenaline. When you think of an adrenaline rush, you probably don’t think about cleaning. Even so, a study by Mr. Clean reveals that cleaning raises your heart rate, heightens feelings of excitement, and mimics a traditional adrenaline rush.
- A clean home makes you happier. When it comes down to it, cleaning ought to be one of your top healthy choices for coping with stress because it packs quite the punch. Cleaning makes you feel accomplished, grants you greater peace of mind, and ultimately leads to better sleep, sharpened focus, and more productivity.
- Cleaning is associated with other healthy habits. Do you want to eat healthier and be more kind and compassionate towards others? Start by cleaning your home. No, really. According to a study published in Sage Journals, keeping a clean home lends itself to other constructive habits, like working out more and being a more generous person.
Stop putting off cleaning your countertops and engineered hardwood flooring. Studies show that you’ll be happy you did.
4. Stop Putting Things Off
Speaking of putting things off, procrastination only contributes to stress. Regularly procrastinating may cause hypertension, illness, anxiety and depression, mental distress, and reduced life satisfaction, according to The New York Times. Putting off important things weighs heavily on your shoulders — and on your mind. Use these tips to put an end to procrastination and begin tackling once daunting tasks, like tax preparation.
- Make a to-do list. Whether you are forgetting things you have to do or you feel overwhelmed by the sheer number of things you must do, a to-do list can help. You can use a to-do list to help prioritize tasks and to feel a greater sense of accomplishment. Striking an item off your to-do list feels good and fosters a sense of accomplishment, even if it is something small.
- Break tasks into smaller steps. Sometimes, a single task can feel like too much, and that explains why we continually put it off. Fix this by breaking intimidating items on your to-do list into smaller steps. For example, if your car is well past-due for tire changes or a tire rotation, think about how to distill what may seem like a huge undertaking into several smaller — and more accessible — steps. For example, start by calling three places to ask for an estimate. The next step is comparing these estimates and making a final decision, and the last step will be calling to schedule an appointment with that particular company or an auto mechanic.
- Eliminate distractions. If your primary trouble is focusing, do yourself a favor and eliminate as many distractions as possible. Turn your phone off or put it in a desk drawer. Keep only work-related tabs open. Set a timer and devote yourself to one task at a time. After completing several tasks, take a short walk or get up and stretch to refocus and mentally prepare yourself for the next project.
5. Invest In a Practical Home Improvement Project
Healthy choices for coping with stress can still be somewhat indulgent and feel like a treat. In fact, they may be more effective that way.
A record number of households have made home improvements within the last year and will continue to make home improvements well into 2021. While you are stuck at home, do what you can to make sure that it is a comfortable, pleasant, and enjoyable place to be. To do that, consider small or not-so-small home improvements that are practical but will also make your living space more desirable.
For example, if you enjoy drinking your morning cup of coffee out on the back porch, consider a new awning installation. The awning will protect you and your coffee from the rain, and make it possible for you to enjoy your ritual in all types of weather. Take it one step further by transforming your outdoor space. If you like to spend large amounts of time outdoors, consider investing in a custom patio. Build the patio of your dreams. The patio can be practical with plenty of seating for guests and outdoor kitchen features, like a grill, stovetop, or mini-fridge. Add a cozy fire pit or lounge area by the pool for that little extra something.
6. Make Exercise Fun
Most of us are well aware that exercise is one of the best healthy choices for coping with stress, but that doesn’t mean we are motivated to do it. If you are severely lacking in the motivation department, changing the way you look at exercise can help.
Yes, exercise is one of the most effective healthy choices for coping with stress, but that doesn’t mean it has to be a chore. If lifting weights or spending hours on the treadmill or elliptical seems like a nightmare to you — don’t. There are plenty of other ways to work up a sweat. Try dancing, hiking scenic trails, rollerblading, kickboxing, basketball, kickball, Frisbee, or any other physical activity that genuinely appeals to you. Look for special, fitness-related events in your local area. Fun-themed 5Ks or yoga with dogs, yoga with goats, or yoga with tigers (behind safe and secure enclosures, of course) may be the extra push you need to get out there and do the thing.
Don’t forget that the right exercise isn’t just fun, but it will also help relieve symptoms of niggling or chronic pain, like low back pain.
7. Prepare Healthy, Balanced Meals
Overeating or indulging in too many sweets may be tempting at the time, but eating well is one of the most demonstrably effective healthy choices for coping with stress.
A diet of nutritious, healthy meals boosts energy, focus, and promotes greater well-being — and don’t forget about snacking. Snacking the right way also keeps stress at bay. Many fruits and vegetables promote calm and lower stress hormones, like cortisol. For better moods, snack on aromatic citrus fruits, broccoli, sweet potatoes (make sweet potato fries in the air fryer without oil), and blueberries. Seeds are also proven to be beneficial. Pumpkin seeds, for example, contain lots of magnesium, and that magnesium helps you relax and stay calm.
8. Schedule Annual Check-Ups
When was the last time you went to the dentist? What about the last time you headed out to the doctor’s for an annual physical? Often, people put off these critical appointments due to anxiety. They are afraid of the unknown. However, delaying preventative care can actually lead to more problems over time.
Scheduling and keeping appointments are among one of the top healthy choices for coping with stress because it helps you look after your body and your mind. Head out to the local dental clinic for a biannual cleaning. If you have a cavity, they will be able to fit you in for a filling and then that tooth will no longer nag at you from time to time. Similarly, catching chronic conditions in their early stages, like diabetes type II, can lead to better health outcomes. If you catch it early, you may be able to better manage it using diet, exercise, and other measures, and that will keep you healthier overall.
9. Talk To A Mental Health Professional
Healthy choices for coping with stress do not exist in a vacuum. While there are many strategies that we can tackle on our own, sometimes going it alone feels isolating — or next to impossible. Even if you are experiencing some measure of success, having the support of a qualified mental health professional can help tremendously.
Finding a mental health professional that is the right fit for you can be something of a process. Talk to your family physician for a referral. He or she may have a recommendation based on years of experience. Many mental health professionals will also schedule a phone interview with you for free. Take advantage of this free time to evaluate potential therapists or mental health counselors and determine if they are the right fit for you.
Now more than ever, we need healthy choices for coping with stress. Overwhelmingly, Americans are unfocused, under-motivated, and understandably stressed out by the pandemic and tumultuous political and social environment. Combat this stress as healthfully as possible by talking to a mental health professional, eating right, making exercise enjoyable, spending time with friends and family, and cleaning your home. Many of these tools are strategies you can use now and well into the future — even after the pandemic is over.