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7 stress-free ways to kick off the new year

7 stress-free ways to kick off the new year

January can be one of the most stressful months of the year. Why? New Year's resolutions. The added pressure we put on ourselves to perform and be our best selves.

If you are experiencing feelings of stress, pressure, and other emotional hardships, know that you are not alone. Life these days is challenging, and many of us are experiencing unprecedented levels of anxiety, sadness, anger, and strain.

Important note: If you or someone you know are in a crisis or feeling suicidal, call 911 and seek immediate professional help.

On top of everyday challenges, experiencing a particularly stressful event in our personal lives—or even a stressful community issue, such as COVID-19—can cause our mental health to plummet. The Centers of Disease Control and Prevention states the symptoms of stress and common reactions to a stressful event include:

  • Disbelief and shock
  • Tension and irritability
  • Fear and anxiety about the future
  • Difficulty making decisions
  • Feeling numb
  • Loss of interest in normal activities
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nightmares and recurring thoughts about the event
  • Anger
  • Increased use of alcohol and drugs
  • Sadness and other symptoms of depression

Whether due to a stressful event, or to underlying mental health issues, the effects of this type of emotional strain on the body can be damaging. It can even lead to serious conditions such as high blood pressure, suppressed immune system and increased susceptibility to illness.

If you’re struggling, ask for help and seek professional support—but it’s also important to take steps to care for ourselves during stressful times. When we make it a priority to care for our mental health, we’re better able to care for and support our loved ones and our community. Here are our top recommendations for coping with stress and managing mental health:

1. Care for your physical body

Caring for your body’s physical needs is an important step in managing your mental well-being, too. Prioritize sleep, as your brain and body need rest in order to recharge. Eating healthy and exercising regularly can also boost both physical and mental health.

2. Check in with yourself

During stressful times, it’s important to check in with yourself throughout the day. Take a moment to pause and mentally scan your body. Notice what your body is telling you in the moment. You may notice muscle tension, fatigue, pain, hunger, thirst, rapid breathing, etc. Tend to the basic needs you notice in yourself, just like you would care for a loved one.

If you are feeling anxious or upset, try taking 10 deep breaths (in through your nose, out through your mouth), or try some gentle stretching or meditation. Other self-care activities include taking a walk, riding your bike, snuggling with your pet, writing in a journal, crafting, coloring, taking a hot bath, or reading a book. When you check in with yourself regularly, you’ll get better at identifying what you need and what will make you feel better at different moments.

3. Take a media break

stressed man looking at his phone

Reading constant updates about current world events can be upsetting and mentally draining, particularly during times when your mental health is already stretched. Consider taking a few days for yourself to relax and reset.

4. Reach out to friends and family

Feeling connected to others is important for managing our mental health. When you are going through a stressful time, try talking to people you trust about how you’re feeling. While you may want to withdraw from your loved ones, surrounding yourself with people who support you will help you feel better and recover faster. Remember that we all deserve to be cared for, and that everybody needs a little extra support sometimes.

5. Try out a daily routine

A stressful event can interfere with the rhythm of our day-to-day life, which can cause us to feel even more out-of-sorts. Establishing and maintain a simple routine during times of uncertainty is one way to relieve stress. Be sure to include self-care in your routine (eating regularly, hydrating, taking breaks during work and checking in with yourself) and try to be as consistent as you can, while giving yourself grace and understanding that things don’t always go as planned.

6. Practice self-compassion

When you are not at your best, try to be there for yourself in the same way that you would be there for a friend going through a hard time. Ask yourself, “what would I say if I were talking to a friend who was in my current predicament?” Then, repeat the answer to that question towards yourself. Other tools for fostering self-compassion include loving-kindness meditations and positive affirmations.

Therapist talking to clients during therapy session

7. Seek professional help when needed

If you feel stressed and anxious for an extended period, or if you notice that stress is having an impact on your work, relationships, or functioning in other areas, talk to your healthcare provider about possible treatment options. If you are feeling suicidal, call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room for immediate help.

To learn more about our Behavioral Health Services, click here.

To contact our Behavioral Health Center, please call 504.962.7020.