Managing your stress is an important life skill. There are natural times in our lives that are more worrying than others. Deadlines, bills, major projects, and the like can all increase our anxiety levels if not managed properly. However, if you learn to recognize when you are worried and how it affects you, you can develop strategies for improving your mental health. Here we share tips for how to take care of your mental health during times full of tension. Specifically, we will show you how to recognize, monitor, and manage stress.
When Tension Piles Up
Unchecked anxiety can have negative consequences. According to nhlbi.nih.gov, heightened anxiety levels can cause difficulty sleeping, negatively affecting your energy and mood. Additionally, stress can impact your focus and clarity, making it difficult to think clearly or work effectively. According to mayoclinic.org, excessive strain can also cause changes in your behavior, resulting in angry outbursts or other mood swings, for instance. Furthermore, because worry and dread flood your body with hormones in a natural response to prepare for danger, chronic stress can cause depression, heart disease, or other health issues. However, the tips we share here can help you avoid these consequences.
1. Recognize When You Are Stressed
The first step to managing your stress is recognizing it. According to intermountainhealthcare.org, you can likely identify that you are feeling under pressure based on your body’s physical response. Your heart may begin to beat faster, you may feel jittery or queasy, or your hands may be shaky. These types of bodily reactions could indicate that you are experiencing some strain on your mental health. So take a moment to consider what may be causing it. Ask yourself if you are feeling stressed.
Anxiety is also often linked to other conditions. For example, anxiety and depression have a high chance of existing simultaneously. According to psychiatryonline.org, “41.6% of individuals with 12-month major depression also had one or more anxiety disorders over the same 12-month period.” Additionally, anxiety can occur when you are under constant pressure to the point that you believe nothing will get better, and this can lead to depression. Clevelandclinic.org also suggests that symptoms of depression can include feeling hopeless, anxious, and having difficulty with memory and eating. If left unchecked, depression can worsen, leading to self-harm or suicide. But learning to identify your emotions is a great first step to preventing this from happening.
2. Monitor Your Mental Health
To help you recognize patterns and triggers, consider monitoring your emotions throughout the day or week. A colored mood meter, where each color has an emotion related to it, could help. Simply choose a color that resonates with you, see if the associated emotion is accurate for how you feel, and then take note of the day and time. You can also observe your feelings with moodily, an app you can use as a daily personal diary to share notes with a counselor. See if you feel different at the end of the day or week, and then consider the causes.
Another tool you can use is the Wellness Wheel to see what areas in your life need attention. To use this tool, first rank each section of the wheel based on your satisfaction with different areas of your life. Use “1” to indicate you are least satisfied and “10” for most satisfied. Then color the number of spaces on the wheel to correspond with your ranking. This highlights which areas need the most attention. Focus on improving the lowest-ranked areas over the next 3-6 months with specific, actionable steps. For example, if one of your low-ranked areas is physical health, you can commit to at least 20 minutes of designated physical activity each day and three visits to the gym each week for the next four months. Then re-visit the Wellness Wheel in three months to assess your progress, readjusting as needed.
Actively overseeing your wellness may give you a different perspective on your day-to-day life. Observing negative emotions like grief and stress, as well as positive emotions like joy and gratitude, and then reflecting on the potential causes can help you identify patterns and triggers. Knowing the triggers can help you set goals to avoid them and instead create situations that cause more positive feelings. Remember that this type of goal-setting should not add to your stress but rather motivate you to take control of your senses. We suggest starting with one monthly goal and rewarding yourself upon achieving it. With time, you should see your negative emotions decrease.
3. Be Proactive
Once you know how to recognize and monitor your stress, it is easier to devise strategies to take care of it. Start by asking yourself: What do I do well to cope? What don’t I do so well? and What do I need to learn to do better? Then proactively brainstorm and develop stress management techniques that work for you. For instance, you can try taking a quiet break without technology, exercising or doing other forms of physical activity, using sensory tools (i.e. fidget spinners, poppets, or infinity cubes), taking deep breaths (try “Square Breathing” or “Take 5”), or listening to music. The key is finding what works for you, which may require some experimentation.
You can also strive to prevent your anxiety from rising by routinely practicing self-care. First, make sure to eat correctly, get an adequate amount of sleep, and exercise regularly. With your physical health attended to, you can focus on your mental health. Consider positive affirmations like I am capable, I overcome my challenges, I believe in myself, I can make a difference in the world, and I like myself for who I am. Other ways to improve your mental health include picking up a new hobby, making new friends, meditating, and learning something new. While these techniques are certainly helpful in improving your mood, knowing when to ask for professional help is also essential.
Counseling and Therapy
Generally speaking, counseling focuses on one specific issue and is considered a short-term treatment. In contrast, therapy treats a broader range of topics and more complex problems. Depending on what is triggering your anxiety, you may want to consider talking to a counselor or a therapist to help address the underlying causes of your concern. According to goodtherapy.org, “Talking to a therapistabout stress can be a key part of addressing and reducing it in the long term.” A professional can help you understand your thoughts and teach personalized strategies to improve your mental health.
Stress can be detrimental, especially when left unchecked. However, you can improve your mental health by recognizing, monitoring, and managing your emotions. We at WorldWise Tutoring understand that mental health concerns can hinder learning. Thus our tutors are dedicated to teaching their students individualized emotional awareness and self-regulation techniques to help their students with the pressures associated with school, work, and life. Hire a tutor today!