By Kelly Bjornstad
In today’s world, nothing stays the same for long. Sometimes it can seem that everything around you is moving all too fast. And the only thing that’s sticking around- the stress and anxiety you get as a result. You may even feel it subconsciously. If you ever feel stressed, worked up, overwhelmed, or burnt out, it’s probably for good reason. But again, these could be stressors that you aren’t consciously acknowledging or giving any credit. It’s helpful to be able to recognize when you feel this way and combat it by controlling what you can, rather than focusing on what’s out of your hands.
The current political climate, midterm elections, wars being fought across seas, environmental pressure, heat waves, etc. are all things that could have an effect on your state of mind. Stress and anxiety can even cause symptoms of physical sickness. Writers from Harvard Health Publishing explain ¨When you are under stress or anxious, this system kicks into action, and physical symptoms can appear — headaches, nausea, shortness of breath, shakiness, or stomach pain.¨ This is not to mention the insomnia, exhaustion, chest pains, and general difficulty in completing everyday tasks that come with stress and anxiety. It’s a constant loop for those who struggle with it. Someone’s pre-existing anxiety causes physical pain, causing them to stress even more.
The first thing you can do to ease these symptoms is to take a break from your phone or computer. It may seem obvious, but many go to the internet to ease or distract their brain, which can actually do more harm than good. It takes one ad, one headline to pop up in front of you for you to start stressing. Health and wellness services at University of Colorado Boulder report ¨If your social platforms feel hostile, overwhelming or are negatively impacting your mental health, it may be time to turn off notifications, mute or unfollow.¨ And Nilagia McCoy from Boston University speaks about social media, adding ¨…create limits for yourself: set a timer that allows you to engage, but reminds you to stop.¨
The second thing you can do to deescalate is take a walk- get out of your current environment. Taking walks or sitting outside somewhere is a great way to distract yourself from your current stressors. Youŕe reminded of all the people around you. It grounds you, in a sense. Vanessa Lancaster from Psychology Today reiterates the message: ¨Take walks in nature. Psycho-physiological restorative responses have been noted in studies that look at people’s reactions to natural surroundings.¨ Fresh air can significantly improve your mood and feelings of panic.
The third thing you can do is listen to music. Music is a powerful tool in drowning out the things around you that you may be trying to ignore. At least for a little while. Maybe you have a favorite song that takes you back to a memory you’d rather be in the middle of right now, maybe you have a song that reminds you of family and friends- or maybe you listen to music because it removes you from all people and outside noise altogether. Psychology Today states ¨Listen to music. Reductions in respiration rates, skin conductance, and muscle tension have all been reported when research subjects are monitored while listening to music.¨ And so the same way stress and anxiety can cause physical pain, methods used to reduce it can take it away.
The fourth thing you can do to minimize feelings of stress and anxiety is to move your body. This could be through dancing, running, working out, stretching, etc. Which are all things you can do either in a small space or surrounding areas. Staff from Mayo Clinic explain ¨Exercise helps prevent and improve a number of health problems, including high blood pressure, diabetes and arthritis. Research on depression, anxiety and exercise shows that the psychological and physical benefits of exercise can also help improve mood and reduce anxiety.¨ And even though getting up and moving may be the last thing you want to do when stressed or anxious, you might find that it’s one of the most effective ways to get out of your own head.
The last thing you can do to dissolve this tension is connect with community, friends, or family. To be around familiar, safe people lifts a huge weight off of your shoulders. Being around people you care about takes you away from feelings of distress and towards comfort and relief. You may even be able to speak with them about the feelings you´re experiencing. Chances are, they´re feeling or have felt the exact same thing. PhD, clinical psychologist and professor of psychology at Pepperdine University, Steven M. Sultanoff says ¨Maintaining a deep friendship requires a level of ´psychological intimacy´ which makes it feel safer to express your deepest fears, worries, and feelings.¨ This also allows the other person to feel that they can do the same with you.
Feelings of stress and anxiety are no joke. Many find it easy to push their personal health and wellbeing aside. A lot of the time, the last thing you want to think about when operating in such a stressful world is solving your own emotional distress. But it’s so important, today more than ever, to know when to get help and take it a step further than turning off your phone or getting outdoors. Though, try to remind yourself that these simple methods are out there and have the ability to greatly improve your mental state.