2020 and 2021 have been weird years. Viral pandemics, quarantines, fires, hurricanes, political feuding, home/online schooling, racial injustice, the rise of new variants, everything shortages, and whatever 2021 wants to throw at us with the time remaining. That’s way too much stress piled on at once for even the calmest, most relaxed, and well-adjusted. We're all struggling a bit, but there is hope. Here are a few ways to deal with stress.
Know it Will Get Better
This isn’t the way life will always be. Yes, it feels like forever, or like there’s just another crazy thing around the corner, but that is the way people felt during previous world wars, the Depression, and previous pandemics too. 2021 may still has a few surprises in store for us, but time will bring us better days. You need to know that, feel it, and expect them. This is important to your mental health. Things will get better.
Get a Massage
Delta brought back some social distancing and masks so we are craving human touch and connection. Go get a massage. Massages reduce tension, stress, and anxiety. They improve flexibility, circulation, and skin tone. They also aid the lymphatic system, which is a vital part of the immune system.
Tea it Up
Tea can be soothing, calming, and rejuvenating. They are also meditative, warm, and reassuring. There are hundreds of teas that can reduce your stress, but some of the best are chamomile, lavender, peppermint, valerian, passionflower, turmeric, holy basil, ginger, and matcha. Some of these rely on aroma to reduce stress, like chamomile, lavender, holy basil, and peppermint. Some pack in antioxidants that aid with tension and pain, like turmeric and ginger. Some have natural ingredients that directly affect well-being, like valerian, passionflower, and matcha green tea. These last three are potent, so use them wisely, usually only once or twice a day.
Feels like we’ve been holding our collective breath for two years, just waiting on the next crazy to pop up. Take a moment and just breathe. Close your eyes and take deep breaths, paying attention to the movement of air in and out of your body. Focus on the moment. This is you breathing in this moment, this is you living, this is you surviving anything thrown at you. Breathing this way is a mild form of meditation that reduces anxiety, stress hormones, and worry. Try it daily.
There are plenty of other ways you can meditate. Try a guided meditation. You can find thousands online for free. Sit or lay down and allow the soothing voice of another to guide you through this mental ritual for removing stress.
Stretch and Move
Yoga, tai chi, and other exercises that focus on stretching, soft movements, and breathing combine many of the benefits of massage and meditation into one. They improve flexibility, circulation, lymphatic circulation, and mood.
Other forms of exercise also reduce stress hormones. These hormones aren’t necessarily a bad thing. They are designed to help you deal with stressors. This is very beneficial in a fight or flight situation, but less so when the stressors are intangible and inescapable. That’s when you mimic fight or flight through a solid workout. Running, biking, hiking, weight lifting, and other exercise that really gets things moving automatically reduce stress and anxiety. Use them.
Take a Walk
A walk is one of the simplest and least strenuous forms of exercise. You wouldn’t expect it to reduce those stress hormones as effectively as some of the ones mentioned above, but it can. Try a walk in nature or along a less traveled road with trees. The combination of movement, fresh air, and greenery can improve mood, reduce stress, and combat depression.
Adaptogen to Survive
Adaptogens are herbs and foods that help the body deal with stress. Ginseng, astragalus, ashwagandha, holy basil, maca, reishi, gotu kola, eleuthero, rosemary, cordyceps, licorice, and turmeric are just a few to consider. You can take supplements, add them to food, or use them as tea. Rotate them, so your body doesn’t get used to one and stop responding.
Laugh Out Loud
Laughter may not be the best medicine, but it is a medicine. Things don’t feel all that funny right now, but you should find a way. Laughing reduces stress. Indulge in a funny show, a comic routine, or a video call with friends who always make you smile. Let the laughter flow.
Find a Hobby
Most of us have been struggling a little with time management as our routines are broken. This can make it hard to do things we enjoy. This is not binging television. This is doing something that feels productive and meaningful to you. Carve out a section of time each week to focus on something you want to do. Play an instrument, sing, garden, build, create, dance, and enjoy that special feeling that only comes from making yourself better at something you truly love.
Build Yourself Up
It is easy to tear down. You feel unproductive, wasteful, bored, lonely, gross, and unhappy a lot at the moment. You sit home too much. You’re gaining weight. You’re not doing enough with your free time. You’re sick of not seeing family and friends. You feel like garbage. Avoid the temptation to criticize yourself for all of this and more. You are not alone. We all are feeling these things. We are all trying to scrape by in our new normal.
You are amazing for having done so this far. You have survived a difficult time. You have done great things. Build yourself up. Tell yourself nice things about you. Remind yourself that we’re all struggling, but that makes us beautiful, flawed humans who deserve to be celebrated. Set the pity party aside and throw yourself a real party. You’ve earned it.