Mental Health Week is happening starting May 7th, so let’s conduct an experiment, shall we? For the next while, when you greet friends and family with a “How are you?” take note of how many of them respond with “busy” or “stressed.” You might find that these are the two most common responses after the typical, yet often meaningless, “I’m fine.”
Here’s the thing: We’re stressed because we’re busy. But we’re also busy because we’re stressed. Or unhappy. Or trying to avoid the things in our lives we don’t want to see.
It’s a vicious cycle. One that can be impossible to hop off unless you first commit to slowing down. And once you’ve cleared some space to think, acknowledge the things in your life that you aren’t happy about, and find the source of your stressors, only then can you truly get to work on your mental well-being.
So let’s start by working on what’s making us feel stressed. Here are 5 things you can do to reduce your stress this week and beyond:
- Take a technology break. If you’re one of those ceaselessly busy folks, it can be really tough to unplug. But seeing that too much technology can negatively affect our anxiety levels AND our sleep, why not commit to taking a 30-minute technology break before bed each night? No screen time makes it easier to unwind (read: de-stress), which is the perfect way to fight insomnia and get a better night’s sleep.
- Meditate. Meditating for as little as 10 minutes each day is a relaxing way to combat stress. Experts agree that it’s an effective antidote to the “fight or flight” response experienced during times of high stress. If you’ve never meditated before, or are concerned it will be too challenging, the “relaxation response” is as straightforward as repeating a meaningful word or phrase for the duration of your meditation. (Just make sure you can find a quiet spot that is free of distractions before you begin.)
- Go for a walk in nature. If meditation really isn’t your thing (or if quiet time is hard to come by in your household), why not make a habit of going for a nature walk? You can use this time to meditate or to simply be mindful. Breathe in the fresh, clean air. Take in the sights and sounds of nature. Feel the breeze (or the rain… or the sun…) on your cheeks. If you are often stressed, try to get out for a walk at least 3 times a week. It doesn’t have to be a long hike—short, frequent walks are a more effective way to de-stress anyway. Find a park near you to take a stroll.
- Start a journal. There’s a reason people call writing “therapeutic.” It’s a great way to express yourself without fear of judgment or spending big bucks on a therapist. All you need is 15-20 minutes—Maybe during your technology break? See point #1—to get your thoughts down on paper. You can start by writing down what’s stressing you out, and then try digging a little deeper to discover the triggers. Once you’ve got a better understanding of what’s bothering you and why, end your journaling session with one thing you’re grateful for. Why? Because there are many benefits to practicing gratitude, and it never hurts to end things on a more positive note.
- Smile at least once a day. Ever heard of smile therapy? It’s a thing! Not only does smiling activate tiny molecules in our brain (called neuropeptides) whose job is to fight stress, it also releases “feel good” hormones, like serotonin. Plus, smiling is contagious. If, for example, you and your team are under a lot of pressure at work, flashing a smile might be the simplest way to diffuse a stressful situation. (Pro tip! If you’re in no mood to smile, simply fake it ‘til you make it! Your smile doesn’t have to be real in order to reap the benefits—and once you start feeling a little more relaxed, a real smile will come naturally.)
Incorporating these quick and easy practices into your week (and beyond) is sure to help you de-stress at home and at work. We know you’re busy—but that’s precisely why we’ve selected some of the simplest ways to minimize your stress. The time commitment is minor, but the benefits could be HUGE.
Join us is putting our mental health first not just for Mental Health Week – but all year round!