Stress is so ingrained in our everyday lives that it’s become an innocent, innocuous term. “Stressed” is an acceptable (and frequent) answer to the question, “How are you?” — and it’s likely to be met with, “Me, too.”
But what is stress, really?
In a nutshell, it’s your body and mind’s response to everyday stimuli. Stress can be a good thing, in some cases — it’s the ultimate motivator — and stress can also be a very, very bad thing. It’s a precursor to plenty of mental and physical health conditions: Stress can precipitate situational depression and anxiety, and even cause migraines. It can lead to heart problems (since stress raises your blood pressure and heart rate), mess with your gut (preempting digestive disorders and weight gain), and influence your reproductive system (whether by making harder to get pregnant or exacerbating PMS).
Studies show that women experience at least two times the amount of stress as men — which makes sense when you consider woman-centric stress triggers, like dealing with societal beauty standards, fighting the wage gap, and trying to “have it all” (work, family, social life, the whole shebang). This is all a very verbose way to say: The stress needs to stop.
As May is Mental Health Month, now is the time to reevaluate your relationship to stress and anxiety. Ahead, 31 ways to keep calm and carry on — one for every single day in May — with less stress and more mindfulness.
Consuming nutrient-dense foods (think: fresh fruits and veggies) has been shown to help your body process and deal with stress.
Take A Probiotic.
Gut health is directly tied to mental health. In fact, the gut and the brain evolve from the same tissue in utero. By keeping your gut microbiome healthy with a daily probiotic, you pass those benefits onto your brain.
Exercise releases dopamine, aka “the happy hormone,” which alleviates stress.
See Your BFF.
When you’re stressed or anxious, the worst thing you can do is keep it all inside. It’s so important to have at least one amazing friend you can confide in and cry with when times get tough.
Loneliness compounds stress — so even if the last thing you want to do is go out and socialize, do it. You’ll thank Nécessité later.
Do Something New.
Whoever said, “Do one thing a day that scares you” was onto something. Trying a new activity takes you out of the stress zone.
Challenge Yourself To Get Out Of Your Comfort Zone.
Sure, binge-watching Real Housewives is a good way to give your brain a break sometimes. But what’s even better is getting off the couch and out of your comfort zone.
Because those totally zen people in the park are onto something.
Sleep is the ultimate nécessité. It’s when the body and brain recharge and recalibrate — so you really do need a full eight hours as often as possible.
Rest and sleep are not one in the same.
Rest means taking it easy during your waking hours — because not every minute of your day should be scheduled and stressful.
Make Facial Massage Part Of Your Skincare Routine.
Grab yourself a Kansa wand and massage the tension away.
There are “acupressure” points in the body that, when stimulated, can lead to an immediate drop in stress. Try it.
You manifest what you think… so think good thoughts.
Start A Journal.
Journaling your hurt and pain out onto the page is a powerful form of release.
See A Hypnotist.
If you’re holding onto old trauma, see a hypnotist or a spiritual coach to help you move through it.
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The deep breathing meditation of Breathwork helps stir up stuck emotions and release them from your body. The result? A clearer mind and less tension.
It doesn’t matter who or what you pray to, either.
Meditation has been clinically proven to reduce stress levels. Take as little as five minutes each morning to sit in silence — it’s going to be your new favorite stress management tool, I promise.
It’s like exercise and meditation in one.
Use Aromatherapy Products.
Essential oils have been shown to regulate feelings of stress, anxiety, and depression.
Dry brushing your body before a shower or bath helps drain the lymphatic system, which is great for your body; while the repetitive motion of brushing is super-relaxing, which is great for your mind.
Burn Palo Santo.
There’s really nothing like the calming scent of burning palo santo.
Is it just me, or does “dancing it out” instantly make you feel better?
Light A Candle.
Turn the lights down, light a candle, and let your mind wander.
Take An Epsom Salt Bath.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: If you don’t take at least one Epsom salt bath a week, you’re missing out.
Try An Infrared Sauna.
Infrared light has been shown to boost energy levels and promote a sense of well-being.
On a practical level, it’s helpful to organize your emails, to-dos, and meeting schedule as well as you can. Because nothing is more stressful than forgetting an important deadline.
Ask For Help.
One of the reasons women are constantly stressed out is that we think we need to do it all on our own. We don’t. Ask your friends, family, coworkers or significant other for help when you need it. Most are happy to oblige.
Have A Sober Week.
Alcohol is a depressant, after all. Experiment with sobriety and see if it improves your mood.
Spend Time In Nature.
Mother Nature is the ultimate therapist. One session with her, and you’ll feel the stress start melting away.
The best thing about this list? Even one little thing can end up making a huge difference in your anxiety levels. Start small, and work your way up.
Photographer Credit: People Images