Here are nine evidence-informed coping strategies that are supportive for stress management.
1. Move the body
Moving the body (i.e., exercising – walking, swimming, running, biking) for at least 20 minutes/day helps support the body’s stress response by reducing stress hormones and stimulating production of endorphins which helps support the relaxation response of the body.
2. Eat nourishing foods and hydrate
Eating whole foods rich with nutrients supports the body when experiencing stress. Often the body craves junk food during times of stress (i.e., high sugar/high fat) due to high cortisol levels, however eating lots of fruits and vegetables helps to support the body’s energy level that is needed to deal with life’s challenges. Visit our blog post for more information regarding nutrition and mental health.
3. Get enough rest
Getting 7 – 9 hours of sleep per day helps the body to calm as it helps to decrease cortisol levels, regulates the immune system, regulates mood, and helps a person to think more clearly. Visit our blog post on making sleep a priority for tips on how to get better sleep.
4. Get into nature
Study after study shows nature is a powerful medicine when it comes to our mental health and helps to support the management of stress. It’s important to take time to pause and take in the beauty of the natural world.
5. Do something that brings meaning and purpose
During times of stress, usually the first thing we STOP doing are the things we love. It’s important to take time to engage in pleasurable activities that bring us a sense of meaning and purpose during times of stress.
6. Gather with friends and family who bring joy and energy to life
We are wired to need human connection. During times of stress, there is sometimes a tendency to self-isolate. It’s important to reach out and spend time with friends or family who have a positive influence on our lives.
7. Practice conscious relaxation
Whether it’s taking time to do breathing exercises, practice progressive muscle relaxation, take a yoga class, or meditate – practicing conscious relaxation supports the nervous system to calm during times of stress.
8. Reframe thinking
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is one of the most well researched modalities for dealing with stress and anxiety. This approach helps a person to understand how their thoughts influence their emotions, which in turn influences behaviors. By intentionally noticing unhelpful thoughts and reframing them, it can help a person to manage emotions and reduce stress.
9. Seek professional help
Seeking a mental health provider during times of feeling overwhelmed and burnt out can help a person learn how to manage stress more effectively.
According to the American Psychological Association, the on-going stress of the last two years suggests that most Americans are enduring the unrelenting stress, and they are not recovering well. There continues to be a great sense of grief and loss over what life ‘used’ to be like. Supporting people to grieve the experiences they feel like they’ve lost and reframe what they’ve gained may be a helpful technique. In addition, helping people to plan in an unpredictable world is another important tool in supporting patient’s and clients. Judson Brewer, a Neuroscientist and mindfulness researcher, explains that uncertainty = fear + anxiety. He shares that during times of uncertainty, it’s helpful to plan in short timeframes. A helpful question that clients can learn to ask themselves is, “Do I have enough information to make a decision right now? Is worrying helping me, or is it just leading to more worry?”
Stress continues to remain high for the majority of Americans, and behavioral health providers are on the frontlines of supporting people to manage the massive amount of stress the last two years have had. As you support your patient’s and clients remember to also care for your own health and well-being by monitoring your own stress levels and taking time to care for yourself. You can learn more about stress first aid and and combatting compassion fatigue here.