In the last couple weeks, a large portion of American families returned to school for the ’20-21 school year. While some returned to the actual school building, many others embarked on a new era of virtual learning. Although studies show virtual learning is not a perfect substitute for in-person learning, school districts around the nation are projecting an air of optimism. They promise high-quality education with accountability measures in place. Still, parents question how they are supposed to juggle their own careers and simultaneously supervise their child’s education. The pressure can be overwhelming, and despite knowing we are not going at this alone, many people are feeling lonely and defeated right out of the gates. Without a doubt, we could all use some stress management tips to get us through our days.
That said, if you are feeling borderline crazy lately, know that you are in good company. Still, self-care is necessary if you want to survive. So, check out these stress management tips to keep you sane, so that you can get your kids educated, and still get your job done.
Seven Tips to Live By
While these stress management tips may seem obvious, sometimes when we’re feeling scattered and defeated, remembering what is good for us doesn’t come easy. So, take a deep breath, and review these one at a time. If at any point you feel dizzy or lightheaded, you may take a break and come back to pick up where you left off.
Sleep is arguably the most important of the trifecta known as the three pillars of health. These pillars include sleep, diet and exercise. While you can live for a long time without much food or exercise, lacking sleep will have dire consequences.
Unfortunately, many of us have neglected our bedtime for so long that we aren’t even aware we have a problem. Think about it this way: for months many of us didn’t have to drive into a workplace. So, we didn’t have much sense of urgency about getting to bed at a decent time. Now that many of us are returning to work, we are getting up earlier, but not necessarily getting to bed earlier. This can cause a lot of stress, and we might not even realize how much it’s affecting us.
Tip: Settle down earlier in the night, and turn off devices. Try to get into bed 15 minutes earlier three days in a row, then 15 minutes earlier again. Repeat that pattern until your schedule allows a full 7-8 hours of sleep per night. Don’t forget to pay attention to how you feel as you are getting more sleep!
Meditation is the act of focusing the mind in order to achieve mental clarity and a sense of calm. There are different ways to meditate, including focusing on a thought or an object, or practicing mindfulness.
As we are bombarded from all sides by information, we realize we don’t know who to trust about anything. With all the talking at us, it’s hard to even decipher our own thoughts or feelings.
I know, I know. You aren’t exactly the “new age” type. Well, for the record, meditation isn’t actually a new age concept, per se. Countless religions and pagans alike have meditated for millennia in order to find focus and clarity. So, you don’t need to subscribe to any kind of religious belief in order to see the benefits of meditation. Plus, meditation is a great stress reliever!
Tip: Make your goal to spend time meditating each day. You can start with 5 minutes when you wake up or before you go to bed. Some experts recommend setting your intentions. For example, you can repeat the mantra “I will remain positive despite my circumstances” several times. As you say the words, envision challenging scenarios you might encounter throughout the day, and then see yourself having a better reaction than you normally would.
Eating is a must. Can I get an amen? Especially during COVID, eating sometimes seems like the only thing to bring us pleasure. All the takeout, right? Tip ‘em $20, because Lord knows those front-liners earned it.
However, eating for pleasure and eating for health are two very different things. Unless, of course, you actually dig veggies. T. Colin Campbell says in his acclaimed book The China Study, “The answer to the American health crisis is in the food that each of us chooses to put in our mouths each day.” Preach, TCC! Heeding his advice means making healthy eating choices, even when we are eating out of boredom. Especially during a pandemic, it’s important to get the proper vitamins and nutrients in order to help boost your immune system.
Tip: As you fill your online shopping cart, be intentional about loading it up with enough fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Then, at meal time, eat your fruits and vegetables first, and eat your meats, eggs, and dairy with the leftover room in your belly. If you make plants a priority, they will work to make your health a priority. No dead cow can accomplish what an apple a day can.
Take one down, pass it around… just teasing, we’re talking about water here. Since up to 60% of the human body is water, we need to take this resource seriously. Besides acting as building blocks for cells, water also regulates body temperature and helps flush waste out of our system. Being dehydrated can leave you foggy in the head and feeling stressed.
So, while you were holed up at home, you might have been getting enough water. At least, you were drinking enough beverages and staying hydrated, not exerting too much energy out in the elements. Now that things are slowly reopening, you might be depleting your water supply more than you realize. So, make sure your water intake keeps up with your physical output—even if your output is in the workplace.
Tip: Carry a reusable water bottle around! Make every effort to finish it, even if it makes you run to the restroom frequently. Once your potty habits start leveling off, make a goal of drinking two of those water bottles per day, until you work your way up to eight 8-ounce glasses of water. Besides experiencing reduced stress, you will probably notice your skin is clearer, and you might even see other health benefits as well.
Yes, breathing is a autonomic process. This means, you shouldn’t have to think about breathing in order for it to happen. It’s much like your heart beating, digestion, or eating a Twinkie. Ok, so maybe eating a Twinkie isn’t part of the autonomic process, but swallowing one is! However, I’m not actually talking about your automated breathing, we want to take a look at your intentional breathing.
Lately, I’ve found myself holding my breath without even realizing it. I’ve actually had people remind me to breathe, because it’s clear I need to draw in a life-giving breath. Stress can wreak havoc on how much oxygen we bring into our bodies, and in return not breathing enough can exacerbate stress.
Tip: Practice the 4-7-8 breathing technique at least once per day. Breathe in four counts, hold seven counts, and breathe out eight counts. Repeat two more times, for a max of 3 sets. You might find this helps you feel less stressed, and if you do it before bed, you might even conk out faster.
Exercising is not necessarily a one-size-fits-all concept. Furthermore, exercise does not need to be dreaded. Exercise is simply getting your heart pumping, breathing going, and maybe releasing a few drops of sweat. If those things aren’t happening, you might be confused about what exercise is.
Whether it’s running, yoga, jazzercise, Taebo with Billy Blanks, or just taking a quick 10 minute walk, relieve some stress quickly with exercise. Most people don’t feel worse about themselves after exercise. Unless, of course, they go for a jog, break an ankle, roll down a hill, and land in a stagnant pond. I’m sure that’s happened to someone before, so I can’t say everyone feels better after exercise. Anyway, exercise is just plain good for you.
Tip: Pick something you enjoy and just do it. Nike had it right with that tag line. Don’t overthink it. Just do it. Get ‘er done before you lose your nerve, whether it’s when you first wake up, over your lunch break, or as soon as you get home from the workplace. Lace up those running shoes, or put on that helmet—good hair day be darned! It will be worth the effort—just you wait and see.
Indulging is simply allowing ourselves to take pleasure in something. This doesn’t necessarily mean we need to eat the whole pint of Ben & Jerry’s Half-Baked (although, if that’s your infrequent indulgence, go for it!). You can indulge in anything that you enjoy. One person’s trash is another person’s indulgence. That’s what they say, right?
Now, self-care shouldn’t need to be under the indulge header, but alas we don’t do it enough for ourselves. This is where you ask yourself, “What will make me feel better?” Then, do it. Now, be careful, because there is a such thing as overdoing it. In fact, it’s possible to overdo each and every one of these stress management tips. (For example, once I saw someone meditate herself to sleep right at her desk at work. That didn’t look good to the boss.) So, be sure to make sure you check yourself and indulge appropriately.
Tip: Schedule your daily or weekly indulgence so that it doesn’t mess you up. Also, it doesn’t mean you need to indulge in the same thing all the time. I, for example, indulge in wine only on the weekends, because I get up early to run during the week. My weekday indulgence is dark chocolate. You do you, and you’ll be happy.
Stress Management Tips and Your Future
If you don’t take care of yourself and mind some stress management tips now, there’s a good chance it can ruin your future. So, remember if you don’t do anything else, pick something from the list of seven tips. Sleep well, meditate, eat better, stay hydrated, breathe with intention, exercise, and for the love, indulge in something you enjoy! If at all possible, go for all seven tips. If you just can’t right now, then pick one or two and give them ago. Any one of these stress management tips is beneficial in it’s own right.