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Self Care for Stressful Times

By Mabel Adams

There is no question that stress levels are higher than usual. These unprecedented times have left all of us feeling tense. The American Psychology Association (APA) performs a survey of adult stress levels every month and you are not the only one feeling more stressed than usual. 67% of adults have reported increased stress in the last year and 1 in 5 adults have reported their mental health is worse today than it was this time last year. Today, it is more important than ever to implement self care! Here are the APA’s suggestions for combating chronic stress.

  1. Reach out to your social circle

It is clinically proven that our relationships bolster our resilience to stress. The APA suggests choosing wisely when reaching out to friends. It is equally important to feel supported by a friend or loved one as it is to share support with others. Think about who in your life is a good listener and is going to best meet your needs. Then, think about who in your life could use your help. Return the favor!

  1. Create a Nighttime Routine

Adequate sleep is so important for our brains and bodies. The Mayo Clinic suggests that adults get 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night. But how do we actually achieve that? The APA tells us that a nighttime routine helps ready the body for sleep, making it easier to fall asleep when the time comes. Action steps include: reducing afternoon caffeine intake, getting into bed at the same time every night, and avoiding screen time at night. Creating a routine can support your natural circadian rhythm and tells your body to produce melatonin, our sleep hormone, helping you to get the right amount of sleep.

  1. Spend time in Nature

Studies show that green spaces help our brains refocus and improves our mood. Breathing in the fresh air, feeling the sun on our face, hearing the birds chirp - - these sensations ground us, calming our nervous system. It does not have to be a day trip to a state park to get your fix of green space. A walk around the block, drinking your morning coffee on the porch, or taking the dog to the dog park are all actionable steps to increase your time outdoors.

  1. Remember to Eat!

It is very common in a stress response that we feel sick to our stomach. People report nausea, loss of appetite, and “stomach in knots” feeling that results in poor nutrition. It is so important to prioritize eating during times of stress. If you don’t have the appetite for a big meal, try incorporating snacks throughout the day. Look for sources of protein, healthy fat, or fiber to keep you full longer. Or maybe meal prepping would work better for you! Find what works!

Ultimately, it is a stressful point in our life times. Give yourself the grace and understanding that you might need right now. Let yourself take more breaks or give yourself the extra day. Most importantly, set yourself up for successful stress management!

Ozbay, F., Johnson, D. C., Dimoulas, E., Morgan, C. A., Charney, D., & Southwick, S. (2007). Social support and resilience to stress: from neurobiology to clinical practice Psychiatry (Edgmont (Pa.: Township)), 4(5), 35–40.

Ulrich, R.S., Simons, R.F., et al (1991). Stress recovery during exposure to natural and urban environments. Journal of Environmental Psychology. 11(3), 201-230. doi: 11016/S0272-4944(05)80184-7

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