When you are stressed, it’s easy to ignore your needs. Stress management is a key player in staying on top of your mental health. When you can function despite external stressors—with healthy routines and coping skills—you put yourself on a path to better mental health maintenance.
When developing stress management tactics that work for you, it is important to give yourself grace in the process. Building routines and skills takes time, and you haven’t failed if you slip. The goal is management of your emotional health, not perfection.
Routines and their uses vary from person-to-person. You may make your bed every morning or go for a walk 3 times a week. No matter what your routine is or what you want it to be, there are a few things you can focus on to make yours successful:
- Start small. You don’t have to change everything at once. Slowly adding or removing steps will help the task feel less daunting. For example, if you want to exercise every morning, start by exercising one or two mornings a week. Over time, you can add more mornings until you have built a daily habit.
- Add to or swap parts of habits you already have. If you want to read more, grab your book during your breakfast or coffee time. If you want to spend less time on your phone, swap 5 minutes of scrolling for 5 minutes of reading.
- Leave space for free time. You don’t need to fill every moment of your day with a task. Carve out some time to do things you enjoy or to relax. Your body and mind need rest.
- Don’t give up if you miss a day. No routine is going to be perfect. If you miss a day, you can try again tomorrow. Focus on the progress you’ve made and give yourself grace.
Want to work on healthy routines but aren’t sure where to start? Check out ideas below:
- Build a better bedtime routine
- Exercising for your mental health
- Make a healthy grocery list
- Process your thoughts in a journal
- Learn how to clean and tidy your living space
Coping with stress
In the moment, stress can be overwhelming. When you find yourself struggling to function amidst a stressful situation, turning to a trusted coping method can be helpful.
Some coping methods include:
- Deep breathing. Slow, controlled breathing helps lower your heart rate and make you feel calm, even if you are stressed. There are many deep breathing techniques you can try to decide which works best for you.
- Journaling. When you are overwhelmed with thoughts, it is often helpful to put them somewhere else. Jotting down what you’re thinking in a journal, the notes app on your phone or even a sticky note can help stop a negative or overwhelming pattern of thoughts and reduce stress.
- Exercise. Something as simple as a 15-minute walk can improve your mood, clear your head and take your mind away from a stressful situation.
- Spending time with friends and family. Talking with people who love and support you can help put a stressful situation in perspective and help clear negative thoughts from your head.
It may not be possible to avoid a stressful situation, but it is okay to set boundaries and take care of yourself while you interact with them. Doing so is better for your mental and physical health in the short and long run.