Guest Blog by Brad Krause
How often do you hear someone say “I’m stressed!” — and how often is that person you? We lead such busy lives that feeling stressed has almost become a fact of life. Stress is a normal response to anything that is different, whether bad or good, but stress becomes a problem when it leads to poor physical and mental health. However, making time for basic self-care can help you get a handle on stress for a healthier, happier life.
Even though some stress is normal, we can often prevent it by making regular self-care a priority. Psychology Today describes self-care as mindfully paying attention to yourself “in a way that ensures that you are being cared for by you.” Below are a few of the best self-care practices to prevent and manage stress better.
Check in with Your Body
Do you ever have a pounding headache, and when you stop to think about it, you realize you’re thirsty or hungry? Self-care involves checking in with yourself so you realize when you need food or water, when you need rest, or when you have sore muscles or tension.
This is why muscle relaxation is an important part of self-care. Caring for sore muscles releases that tension, which is especially important if you’re on your feet a lot or work out regularly. Pay special attention to tired feet because they are the foundation that allows you to do other activities. Getting a foot massage is great, but when you don’t have the time or money for professional massage (the average cost of an hour-long massage is $60), at-home foot massagers are ideal.
Unwind to Improve Your Sleep
Being stressed can really make it hard to get a good night’s sleep, but at the same time, being well-rested is key to warding off stress. To stop this vicious cycle, find a bedtime routine that helps you unwind at night so you can get the sleep you need. According to Shape, it’s important to make relaxation your primary goal, rather than sleep. If you’re trying too hard to sleep, rather than relaxing, the ensuing anxiety can actually keep you awake.
Find Ways to Work Out
These days, you can’t go anywhere without running into one article or another that touts the many benefits of staying in shape. Thankfully, you don’t need to do a lot to keep your body healthy. For example, taking a walk once a day through your neighborhood can provide you with a lot of healthy exercise, especially if you’re not the type who enjoys working out. So, look for ways to incorporate light to moderate exercises into your daily routine. This might involve joining a gym — seniors enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan have access to SilverSneakers fitness centers — or joining a group of friends for an impromptu yoga session. Whatever you do, make sure it’s something you enjoy so you’ll stick with for the long term.
Use Relaxation Techniques
Sometimes, the best way to relax is to dedicate a few minutes to using relaxation techniques. There are several types of relaxation techniques you can try, including deep breathing, guided imagery, meditation, and progressive relaxation. You may want to add one of these to your bedtime routine, but they can also be done throughout the day. And don’t wait until you’re in maximum stress mode — these can be both preventive and restorative.
Turn to Nature for Self-Care Staples
Using natural remedies and supplements in your everyday life can do wonders at keeping stress from overwhelming you. One of the most relaxing ways to use natural remedies is to have a cup of warm tea, such as lemon balm, valerian root, or chamomile. Using essential oils is another easy way to incorporate natural remedies into your routine. Diffuse lavender oil in your home or car, and add it to a bath whenever you have the opportunity.
Cope with Stress Proactively
Coping with stress in a healthy way is a very important form of self-care. Our mental health suffers when we let stress add up without dealing with the underlying problems. The best way to do this will be different depending on the situation. It often helps to put the problem into perspective and remember similar situations you’ve gotten through in the past. Sometimes, we end up feeling stressed because of overcommitment. It can be hard saying no, but when you do, you free up time to do more of what brings you joy.
Another way you can cut down on stress in your life is to simplify your surroundings. If your home is filled with clutter or items you no longer need, you can get rid of those possessions and eliminate some of the anxieties in your daily life. What’s more is you can take some of those items and sell them on the second-hand market, which has exploded in recent years. So, take stock of the items you can part with, decide which need to head to the trash and which could make you some money, and start eliminating some of that stress. Take your decluttering efforts even further by hiring a cleaning service to give your home an intensive cleaning. In Cambridge, these services will likely cost you $116 to $244, but it’s well worth the cost.
Self-care is about doing simple things on a daily basis to put your needs first, and sometimes that means saying no to things that don’t fit into that equation. Whatever we have going on, everyday self-care is essential for better mental health. Stress will always happen, but self-care can keep it from taking over our lives.
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