If you’ve been feeling especially stressed lately, whether from a tough period at work or home, or from anxiety and renewed feelings of trauma in response to recent news cycles, you’re not alone. But there are some strategies you can use to mitigate the impact of these feelings on your well-being and ability to function on a day-to-day basis.
Every evening, when you get home from work or school, try one or a few of these methods to reduce your anxiety and increase your mental well-being. Because to function, to work, and to channel your anger and agita towards action and change, you need to wake up with hope.
Skip the evening news and pick up a book
Give yourself permission to turn off the news and read some fiction instead. Research from the Journal of Experimental Psychology has demonstrated that reading fiction (rather than the news or even a non-fiction book) can actually make us better citizens by improving our social cognition — which is to say, our ability to process information in social situations. Unplugging and disconnecting from the news cycle for a while won’t make you a bad citizen — it’ll actually help you become a better one.
Reading fiction can make us feel more empathetic, too — and empathy, when you’re feeling frustrated, angry or hopeless, is essential to apply to yourself and helpful in facilitating crucial connections with others.
Take a walk
Another great way to unplug, destress and center yourself when the ground seems to be shaking beneath your feet is actually taking your feet out to the street or the park for a walk.
This can help for a lot of reasons: Recent research from the University of British Columbia shows that even moderate physical activity like a brisk walk aids with de-stressing and mood enhancement, and just spending time outside around nature (be that an urban park or suburban forestry) can help alleviate feelings of depression. Taking a walk means moving around, observing the world around you, getting out of the house and choosing an activity off your devices. Do it tonight, and you may wake up to find yourself happier, healthier and stronger as you face your day.
Spend some time with your pet
Research in Anthrozoös and other journals has shown that time spent with animals has lots of benefits for our mental health — and those benefits stem from all aspects of pet care, from chatting to and cuddling with your furry friend to the responsibilities of feeding, walking and grooming an animal.
So if you’re feeling stressed, angry or generally blue, don’t outsource pet care to your partner or a dog walker. Instead, throw yourself into the work. You may find that you feel happier, less isolated and more purposeful.
Make a phone date with a friend
If you don’t have an animal friend (or even if you do), make time to talk to your human friends during the week. It can be hard to make time to see friends if you have a busy work schedule, and social engagements tend to get pushed to the weekend. But even if you’re not getting dinner with a friend, make time to call someone up: Talking through your anxieties with someone who cares about you and understands the way you think can be deeply fulfilling and helpful. Stanford University research has shown that feelings of connectedness are incredibly important for mental health. You’re not alone in your stress, worry and even dread — not alone in feeling them, and not alone in dealing with them, either.
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