Are you human? If the answer is yes, then you get stressed out sometimes. Caring for yourself is important because you are valuable. And it is a gift to everyone around you because it helps you become your best self to share with them. Here are some simple ways to take care of yourself when you’re under stress:
1. Eat healthfully
We often get stressed out when we feel like we don’t have enough time. And when we feel we don’t have enough time, it’s easy to pick the quickest and most convenient foods available, which often aren’t the healthiest. Or, sometimes we want a quick burst of happiness, so we reach for an easy pick-me-up food, like chocolate. (Trust me, I’m super guilty of this one.)
The problem is foods with high sugar and fat contents often contain chemicals that cause our blood sugar to spike and then crash, leaving us to feel worse than before. They also lack the nutrients to keep us healthy.
Intuitive eating is much more sustainable than dieting. (And way more fun.) It just means choosing to eat when your body wants to but not eating so much that you get uncomfortable. As you get better at listening to your body, you’ll begin to realize how much it craves healthy food and nutrients. This might seem intimidating, but replacing unhealthy options bit by bit with healthier choices can make a world of difference. If you need inspiration for what to cook, try websites like Simple Truth with healthy recipe ideas. You might discover a new hobby along the way!
Exercise has a host of brain and body benefits: Not only can it stave off diabetes and give you healthier lungs and heart, but it also decreases levels of stress hormones like cortisol. Plus, it produces endorphins that can have a powerful positive effect on mood.
But getting motivated and fitting it in can be tricky. There is no one type that is good for everyone. My favorite kind is yoga. But you can also run, lift weights, hike, do gymnastics, dance or anything else that suits your fancy. The key is to develop a routine that feels good to you and stick with it.
3. Take a break
Sometimes, we need to just stop what we’re doing and step away from the stress. We need a few minutes to watch Netflix, look at random web pages, sleep, take a walk or read a book. Having time to recharge can give us the mental break we need for a fresh perspective. When we feel like we’ve taken care of ourselves, we feel more prepared to face what is in front of us.
4. Connect with loved ones
I often find that I become most stressed when I feel disconnected from my support system. But when I watch a movie, play a game or share a hug or a laugh with my family and friends, it reminds me that I’m not in this alone. It’s been proven that having strong connections with awesome people decreases your chances of stress and depression. Spend time with wonderful people and be healthier? I’ll take that.
Because I’m human, I can be a bit self-centered, especially when I’m going through a stressful time. Sometimes I just need a reminder that it isn’t all about me and that everyone has challenges in their lives. Serving others can give us awesome health benefits like an endorphin rush and decreased depression. But most importantly, it allows us to step outside ourselves and join with other people. In my thoughts, our ultimate purpose in this world is to connect meaningfully to others, and anything that will fulfill that purpose will increase our joy and decrease our stress!
6. Pray or meditate
If you aren’t religious, meditation is a great option to focus and calm your mind. If you’re interested in meditation but aren’t sure where to start, UCLA has some guided meditation resources.
If you’re a person of faith, connecting to God through prayer is an amazing way to destress. When we connect with Him, we can give Him our worries and fears. This is often easier said than done, but it can also be a great way to help us learn to let go and realize that someone greater than us is in control.
Originally published on September 18, 2017.