Habits you can incorporate into your daily life to keep your mind and body healthy during adversity.
Feeling pressure is an unavoidable part of life. We usually learn how to navigate our everyday stress, but what happens when it becomes overwhelming? According to an article published this month in the New York Times, the current unemployment rate in the United States is thought to be at its highest point since the Great Depression. (1) It’s estimated to be around 13 percent and could continue to rise.
Even if job security is not the main source of stress for you, there are numerous reasons to feel stressed. Perhaps you’re worried about the health of your loved ones, struggling to care for your children and family, forced to drastically change your work environment or schedule, or simply have a sense of feeling out of control.
No matter how hard you try to minimize stress in your life, sometimes it’s unavoidable. However, learning how to manage this stress may help you stay healthy even under pressure. In this article, we’re going to look at some habits you can incorporate into your daily life to keep your mind and body healthy during adversity.
How Stress Affects Your Body
Thousands of years ago, the biggest causes of stress in our ancestors’ lives were avoiding wild animals and finding enough food to survive. These days, the biggest causes of stress in the western world have changed. According to The American Institute of Stress, financial burdens, pressures of work, and poor health are among the top sources of stress in the United States. (2)
Whether you’re worried about your car payments or escaping a hungry bear, your body has the same reaction to stress—it releases hormones like cortisol and adrenaline. These hormones are meant to increase your body’s energy production to escape the cause of your stress. (3) However, when cortisol and adrenaline levels remain elevated, they can do more harm than good to your health.
Prolonged stress can negatively impact your physical health and mental health. You may experience symptoms such as: (4,5)
- Inability to think clearly
- Irritability or anger
- Feelings of helplessness
- Emotional numbness
- Low sex drive
- Digestive discomfort
- Poor sleep quality
Many people also undergo behavior changes as a result of stress such as withdrawing from their loved ones or using drugs and alcohol more frequently. (6)
Tips to Stay Healthy Under Pressure
You can try your best to reduce the amount of stress in your life, but some situations are out of your control. It’s important during times that are uncertain and hectic that you find what works for you. Give yourself some grace. You might not be able to do things exactly how you once did. Using techniques like the following can help ease your mind and keep your mental, emotional and biological health in check.
1. CREATE A DAILY ROUTINE AND DAILY HABITS
If you’re under a lot of pressure, you might find your mind is hazy and you aren’t able to think clearly. Creating a daily routine and good daily habits may help.
- Set a regular sleep schedule. Healthy morning habits can bring order to our lives and kick-start a daily routine that benefits our overall well-being and productivity. Research suggests that an irregular sleep schedule can potentially wreak havoc on your health, impacting blood sugar, circulation, body fat and cholesterol levels. (7)
- Set daily goals. Setting daily goals brings a level of control and prioritization to your day. Try making a list of a few tasks that you want to accomplish each day. Even if you don’t complete all of your goals, writing them down and prioritizing them can help set your intentions for the day.
- Try time blocking. Time blocking involves planning out every moment of your day in advance and dedicating specific time “blocks” for certain tasks. Be sure to include your entire day from work, lunch, social media breaks, working out, family dinner, all the way to bedtime. Scheduling where your time goes during the day will not only guard against distractions, but also multiply your focus.
2. LEARN HOW TO STAY GROUNDED
In uncertain times, it can become more difficult to keep moving forward without spinning out of control, and letting stress get the best of you. How do we manage everything going on around us, and still keep our feet planted firmly on the ground? To “stay grounded” means that you have the ability to stay calm and connect to the core of who you are even in the midst of uncertainty. It’s about feeling in control of your mind, body and emotions. Here are a few techniques you can try to ground yourself:
- Meditate. A number of studies have found that meditation can help lower your blood pressure and help you manage stress. (8) A simple way to meditate for beginners is to sit or lay in a comfortable position for two minutes, close your eyes, breathe normally, and focus on how gravity is holding your body to the floor. There are many apps, like Calm, and other resources to help you find the right meditation that works for you.
- Breathe. Take a deep breath. Hold it for 5 seconds. Now let it out. You might notice a difference in how you feel already. Breathing techniques are a powerful tool to ease stress and make you feel less uneasy. During your deep breathing, place one hand on your chest and the other on your stomach. Focus on how your belly fills with air, and how your chest rises and falls. If you need deep breathing examples, simply do a google search for “deep breathing gif”, and you’ll find helpful visuals to guide your deep breathing exercises.
- Notice the little pleasures. It’s human nature to notice the bad over the good, but when you notice the good, you can experience joy throughout the day in the simple, small pleasures of life. It might be standing up and stretching after you’ve been sitting; laughing when something’s funny; enjoying the sunshine for a moment; or sipping on a cold or hot beverage. Learn to notice opportunities like these to feel the little joys each day.
3. ASK FOR HELP
If you’re feeling overwhelmed with stress, it might be time to reach out and ask for help. Having a support system can help you realize that you’re not alone in how you are feeling or what you are going through. You may find it encouraging to hear that they are feeling stressed as well, and you can work through it together.
- Talk to friends or family. Talking through your emotions to your family members or a close friend may help you manage feelings of worry and hopelessness.
- Join an online group. Joining an online support group where you can share ideas with friends or peers may help you feel like you have a safe place where you can open up. There are support groups you can join on Facebook, or you can start your own!
- Embrace your community. By supporting the people around you, they’re more likely to support you too. If you are struggling, there are many churches and organizations that are offering support in their communities for people in need.
- Talk with a therapist. Many people find talking to a professional counselor helps them learn stress management techniques, and ways to cope during difficult times.
Online Therapy Resources
For some people, connecting with a professional counsellor may be the best option for stress management. Some of the most commonly used paid online therapy services include:
There are also free resources available to you. You can do a google search for free counseling in your area. Mental Health America is offering in their site tools to reduce worry and hopelessness, information on support groups, and resources for immediate response.
It’s a good idea to take steps to reduce stress in your life. Keep in mind that as humans we have the capability to modify what we perceive as stressful and how we respond to it. You can try the management techniques like those we’ve mentioned in this article to help calm your mind and stay healthy under pressure. However, if you’re still finding that you’re feeling overwhelmed by stress, it might be time to talk to someone about it. If you are in a situation where friends and family are not your main social support system, there are many resources that your city, county and other community support groups are now offering.
This content is for informational and educational purposes only. It is not intended to provide medical advice or to take the place of medical advice or treatment from a personal physician. Readers of this content are advised to consult their doctors or qualified health professionals regarding specific health questions. Neither the author(s) nor the publisher of this content take responsibility for possible health consequences of any person or persons reading or following the information in this educational content. All readers of this content, especially those taking prescription or over-the-counter medications, should consult their physicians before beginning any nutrition, supplement or lifestyle program.
- Hannibal, K. E., & Bishop, M. D. (2014). Chronic stress, cortisol dysfunction, and pain: a psychoneuroendocrine rationale for stress management in pain rehabilitation. Physical therapy, 94(12), 1816–1825. https://doi.org/10.2522/ptj.20130597
- Wong PM, Hasler BP, Kamarck TW, Muldoon MF, Manuck SB. Social Jetlag, Chronotype, and Cardiometabolic Risk. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2015 Dec;100(12):4612-20. doi: 10.1210/jc.2015-2923. Epub 2015 Nov 18. PubMed PMID: 26580236; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC4667156.