While our tendency to worry and feel anxious about the future might have been a helpful evolutionary advantage in the past, in the modern world this “adaptation” often turns into a hindrance.
Planning and worrying about our work, family, or budget often boils over from its useful functions and enters every area of our mental life. Learning strategies to manage stress is a crucial part of staying healthy and happy. Here are some different approaches to consider.
3 Effective Ways to Manage Stress
1. Curb Internet Use–
Are you getting home from work, only to find yourself munching on dinner while you mindlessly surf the Internet? While watching funny cat videos can certainly be a stress reliever, psychological studies have shown that non-purposeful and non-engaged use of the Internet can be a predictor of depression and boredom.
When all you want to do is read blog post after blog post, your body might be trying to tell you that it’s time to change something in your life. You don’t have to cut out all mindless Internet browsing, but you might want to give another one of the activities on this page a shot instead.
Some people hear the word “meditation” and they immediately get images of new-age religions, burning incense, or complicated yoga poses. Meditation doesn’t have to be any of these things (unless you want it to be)—at its most basic form, meditation is simply shutting your mind down from the usual worries and letting your brain “air out.”
Recent scientific studies have shown that even short periods of sustained meditation can change how your brain works; you can literally train your brain to be calmer and less stressed out.
If you’ve never meditated before, start by meditating for only five minutes. Find a quiet space where you know you won’t be interrupted, and put your cell phone on vibrate. For some people, it helps to focus on an object, like a lighted candle, while they meditate. Sit comfortably on the floor or on a chair, and focus all your energy and thoughts on your breathing.
Consider how your diaphragm feels as your breath in, and as you exhale. Don’t explore any thoughts, problems, or worries that come up; if your mind wanders (and it will) don’t berate yourself—just refocus on your breath. Check out this University of Wisconsin primer on meditation, for more resources and direction.
Do you know that you should exercise for the physical benefits, but for your mental health? Yep, according to a study published in the Journal of Affective Disorders. Over 400 adults were followed for 10 years, and their levels of physical activity and depression were measured.
More exercise was associated with less depression, even when factors like age, gender, medical conditions, and stressful life events were controlled for. The study’s authors noted that “exercise coping,” using physical activity to help with major life stressors or medical problems, is especially helpful.