There are countless large-scale factors that can contribute to ongoing stress including inflation, politics, and violence. And unfortunately, Americans’ stress levels are showing little sign of going down. The American Psychological Association’s Stress in America 2022 report shows that we continue to be battered by stressors that are largely outside our control.
Stress can take a real toll on both your physical and mental health. More than three-quarters of survey respondents reported stress-related health impacts, from headaches and fatigue to feeling anxious or depressed. And a stunning 27% stated that on most days, they could not function due to overwhelming stress. This number was especially high among young Americans, with almost half of those under age 35 and more than half of Black respondents under age 35 reporting an inability to function.
Fortunately, there are things you can do to help lower your stress levels, even when the world around you is swirling with potential stressors. Read on for ways to relieve stress from resident Medical Director Dr. Naueen Safdar.
Take regular breaks
We live in a 24-hour news cycle, and it’s easy to fall into a rabbit hole of doom scrolling on your phone or another device. Couple this with remote work arrangements that make it hard to disconnect, and it’s easy to see how stress constantly builds. So make a habit of taking breaks. At least a few times a day, turn off the TV, put down your devices and escape it all. Take a hot bath, go for a nature hike, or make an actual phone call to a friend. If possible, try a full-day electronics ban at least once a month.
Care for your body
Physical exercise can dramatically reduce stress and build your health and fitness. Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate activity per day. Prioritize sleep, and build in downtime every day. Also, choose healthier dietary options, limit alcohol consumption and quit smoking. Each of these choices can help naturally lower cortisol levels to manage stress better.
Talking about your anxieties can help put them into perspective and help you feel less alone. Reach out to a trusted friend or relative. Talk to your faith leader. Find a support group. It doesn’t matter exactly who you speak with as long as they make you feel heard, validated and supported.
Seek professional help
Ongoing stress can rapidly spiral into mental health disorders such as anxiety or depression, which require professional treatment. If the tips above don’t help you get your stress under control, or if your symptoms are starting to get worse, seek professional help. Your primary care doctor can refer you to a mental health expert who is trained in helping people overcome these challenges. Many people need only a few sessions to start feeling significantly better.
Life has been stressful for several years, and ongoing stressors remain. But you don’t need to struggle in silence. The tips above can help you reduce your stress levels and boost your mental and physical health.