Our modern lives are chock-full of more stressors than any generation prior has had to deal with. While the annual working hours have remained relatively stable for the last few decades, there are a lot of variables in today’s society that our human brains have struggled to keep up with — simply put, the rate of change in the modern world has not given our brains enough time to evolve and adapt to the new environment. As a result, we easily become stressed and anxious, leading to poor coping habits, health problems, and decreased life satisfaction. Is there a way out of this crazy cycle? Perhaps, if we are willing to do the work to get out of our negative habit loops and contend with our issues in a healthier way. Here are a few tips to help minimize stress and anxiety while breaking those bad habits.
Meditation is an excellent way to calm our minds, engage with the present moment (instead of regretting the past or worrying about the future), and eliminate negative thought loops. Different types of meditation can accomplish this, including visualization meditation, breathing meditation, or mantra mediation. A meditation app, such as the Breathe app by Dr. Jud, is a great place to start. Since guided mediation sessions are usually brief and simple, they’re easy for even total beginners. Many guided meditations and mindfulness apps are available for free, making them a very accessible resource for anyone.
Taking our minds off of daily stresses is often a bit easier when we can move our bodies in an intentional way, focusing on form and fluidity of movement while taking in the sensation we experience. Simply going on a walk and taking in our surroundings is one way to practice mindful movement, but yoga, qi gong, tai chi, and even dance such as ballet are excellent ways to get our blood flowing and tame busy thoughts.
Keeping a journal or diary is a great way to get stress and anxiety out of our heads and down on paper instead. Journaling can help us make sense of our emotions, detect unhealthy thought patterns, or build new habits through practices such as gratitude and positivity lists. Writing our thoughts also gives us the advantage of being able to look back on past life seasons, track cycles of progress or regression, and reflect on the course of our life journey so we can make informed decisions regarding future actions.
Tackling poor health habits is a tricky task, since a combination of many factors may contribute to one bad habit. To approach habit intervention effectively, a more holistic approach may be helpful. For example, to combat emotional eating, we can consider a mindful eating app such as Eat Right Now. By practicing general mindfulness habits and applying the concepts to eating behaviors, we can decouple craving and eating, helping reduce emotional eating.
Research has shown that a variety of essential oils can help reduce feelings of stress or anxiety while improving our overall mood. Some excellent natural fragrances to try for calming the mind and body include rose, frankincense, lavender, neroli, and orange. These can be added to a diffuser, used in scented candles, added to a room spray, or even mixed into a hot bath. Always check with a healthcare provider to ensure that chosen aromatherapy scents are safe for those who will be exposed to them.
When life seasons demand a lot of us, it’s easy to sacrifice the time we need for our own self-care. To combat stress and anxiety, it’s critical to maintain healthy self-care habits during these demanding seasons. Perhaps this means taking time alone each day, maintaining a regular exercise routine, committing to a consistent sleep schedule, or planning regular getaways. If workloads are still too demanding, we can also consider adjusting work schedules, outsourcing household tasks, and asking our community for tangible help during whirlwind seasons. Life burnout is a real struggle for many of us, but we can avoid it or mitigate it to some degree by prioritizing our own needs.
Sometimes the best way to manage our stress and anxiety is to learn how to say “no”. Whether it’s at work or in the home, we need to be confident in our boundaries and willing to pump the brakes when someone asks too much of us. Conversely, we also need to respect others’ boundaries in order to maintain healthy relationships and avoid tension with those we’re close with.
Decreasing stress and anxiety is a huge undertaking, but we can manage both by establishing healthy habits, eliminating poor ones, and taking care of our own needs in creative ways. These changes may not eliminate stress overnight, but they will bring us well on our way to improving our situation. With a little practice, we can get into a better place, supporting healthy habits for a lifetime.