April is National Stress Awareness Month, and it's a perfect time to refresh your skills or pick up a few new stress management tools for you and your family. Keep reading for tips from experts at Pine Rest Christian Mental Health Services.
Adequate sleep is a huge stress buster!
"Restful sleep is a must-do if you truly want to keep your stress from going into overdrive. Putting some good sleep habits in place, can help you achieve better sleep on a every night basis," said Ron Devries, Ph.D.
Focus on your breathing.
"You can regulate intense emotions, including stress and panic, with calming activities such as four-square breathing or box breathing," explained Kym Hansen-Duell, LMSW, ACSW, who offered steps to accomplish this:
- Envision a box and breathe in while mentally tracing the top side of the box.
- Now breathe out as you trace the right side.
- Breathe in as you trace the bottom side.
- Finally, breathe out again as you trace the left side.
Exercise regularly—but don't start with the unattainable!
"Instead, start by checking with your doctor if you have any health concerns. Then, simply get more active," said Jean Holthaus, LISW, LMSW. "Walk around the block and gradually build up to 30 minutes. Exercise will help you to feel less anxious, have more energy, sleep better and feel less depressed."
Reduce exposure to your triggers.
"You don't have to have a mental health diagnosis in order to be more sensitive to different topics," said Kim Kunze, Psy.D. "We have all faced difficult things and some of us are simply more sensitive to certain issues. I have friend who blocked PETA advertisements from Facebook because she loves animals, and the information would upset her to the point of tears."
Disconnect from digital updates.
"Digital technology allows us easily connect to information. In the wake of a stressful event, however, it can serve as a constant reminder of our stress," said Elizza LeJeune, LMSW. "Give yourself a break from social media and news headlines throughout the day. Turning off the TV and logging off of your phone for a set amount of time can be extremely beneficial for mental health."
Reset your expectations.
"When our own personal expectations for ourselves and others is not met, we feel disappointed, guilty, anxious, upset and more conflict is likely to increase," explained Kevin Neumann, LMSW, CAADC. "The challenge today is to remember to adjust our expectations to align with our new reality—that things are difficult right now, that doing less might be wiser than striving to do more."
"Throughout the ages, spiritual people have encouraged each other to find something to be grateful for even in the worst situations," said Rev. Karl VanHarn. "Recent research has shown that grateful people tend to be happier, healthier and more fulfilled. Being grateful helps us deal with stress and be at our best."
Rev VanHarn offered a simple exercise called "three good things" to try:
- Each day, write down three good things about your day, anything you feel good about or thankful for.
- Try to include why you believe each of these things is good.
- Repeat this activity for at least one week.
Feel your feelings.
"Allow yourself to feel—joy, anger, sadness, relief, loss ... Don't be afraid to express your feelings and be willing to allow others to be with you in your emotion," Holthaus continued. "Give your emotions a time and a place to be expressed by engaging in activities specifically for that purpose."
Take time for "me time."
"Putting everyone first and yourself last, usually leads to burn out...like a car that only receives gas and no maintenance," said Melissa VanderLaan, CTRS. "Taking time for self-care helps you to be your best when you're supporting others."
Learn more about managing stress at Pine Rest's website.
Courtesy of Pine Rest Christian Mental Health Services.