Nov 02, 2022 9:00 AM

Author: Huntsman Mental Health Institute

Información en español

Mental health professionals have warned that enduring extraordinary stress and unprecedented circumstances for multiple years has long-lasting effects. In today’s world, there’s no shortage of either.  

"High levels of prolonged stress are particularly worrisome because it will begin to challenge your ability to cope," says Tracy Farley, director of Behavioral Health Adult Services at Huntsman Mental Health Institute. "When people consistently feel overwhelmed, they often turn to alternative ways to cope with their stress, like alcohol or drugs, which will make them feel worse." 

Improving our collective mental health will require effort from everyone, but we can take simple steps now to reduce stress in our daily lives. Just a small amount of time and self-care can have a big impact on our happiness. 

Farley recommends some quick, everyday strategies that will help reduce stress and improve our own mental health: 

Practice mindfulness

Mindfulness is living with awareness and intention. Practicing mindfulness means you take time each day to rest, reflect, and reconnect, building a potent inner resource that lets you enjoy the good, be present in your life, and bounce back from stress. Others may prefer prayer or meditation, but the key is sharpening your mind and learning to live in the now. 

Disconnect from tech

Our ability to connect with the world through technology has helped millions of people continue to live their lives through the pandemic, but it can also be a serious source of stress. Taking a break from social media, news feeds, texts, and calls can provide valuable perspective, ease the tension from stressful headlines, and help you work on mindfulness. 

Move your body

The link between physical activity and reduced stress has been established for a while, but it can be difficult to get motivated to get to the gym. Consider starting with a short walk around your neighborhood. A brisk, daily walk by yourself or with members of your household in the fresh air can make a big difference. Even a brief session of aerobic activity will decrease tension, improve your mood, and decrease anxiety. 

Prepare an easy, healthy meal

Research has shown that certain foods can help reduce stress. This includes healthy, vitamin-rich foods like salmon, okra, and spinach, along with crowd favorites like dark chocolate, potatoes, and oranges. Taking time to cook and eat a favorite meal can also help you relax after a stressful day. 

Reach out to friends and family

Research shows that more socially connected people tend to be happier, live longer, and have fewer mental health problems. Maintaining your close relationships can improve your ability to deal with stress, lead to better self-esteem, and lower cardiovascular risks. 

Turn to the things you love and enjoy

Ask yourself: What has worked for me in the past? What do I find essential? What do I truly value? When we get stressed, we get tunnel vision and lose focus on what our priorities actually are. We also forget the coping skills that have worked well for us in the past. Think of a time in your life when things were going well. What things did you do, and what things did you eliminate? The past few years have been challenging. You are resilient and capable. 

Although reducing stress in your life will help benefit your mental health, sometimes that’s just not enough. If you or someone you love needs expert help, don’t hesitate to reach out. 

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