In this age of social media and especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, many are aware that social media can be both a good thing and a bad thing. Many have found that social media offers a great way to connect with other people and ease loneliness. This has been supported in several studies-but only if the connections are meaningful. Excessive or non-connection-promoting social media usage is associated with increased stress, increased loneliness and isolation, and lower self-esteem. It’s important to manage your social media usage to avoid stress and negativity. Tracking your usage is a good first step towards healthy social media usage, allowing you to be aware of and monitor your social media usage.
A hobby can be almost anything that you enjoy doing in your free time. And this is a good thing, too, since engaging in your hobbies has been shown to lower stress and increase overall well-being. While any hobby can provide a healthy distraction and emotional release, some hobbies have specific benefits. For example, creative activities have been shown to lower cortisol levels and improve moods. Team hobbies, on the other hand, improve social support and lower depression and anxiety. And having a support system through a shared interest can offer more emotional relief than you may realize.
Having too many commitments means lots of stress, rushing, lost sleep, and unhealthy meals. Even then, it can be hard to say no when people ask you to do something or take on more responsibilities. But doing so can damage your health from the effects of long-term stress and overall just leave you with low energy and a bad mood. A healthy level of commitment, on the other hand, allows you to take care of your health, spend time doing things that are enjoyable, and better fulfill your other obligations. Saying “no” can be hard, but most people won’t hold it against you if you are polite. When faced with a new request, ask yourself if this is where you want or need to spend your time and energy.
Everyone has been hurt or wronged by someone, whether through a small action or a major betrayal. Holding onto that anger and resentment, however, is damaging to your physical and mental health. Anger triggers the stress response, so chronic anger leads to chronic stress. Forgiving can lessen stress, improve mental health, and benefit phsyical health. It can reduce pain, improve cardiovascular health, and lead to better sleep. A good place to begin is by remembering and reflecting on the event. Then you can try to empathize with the other person, and let go of expectations for apologies. It’s important to forgive deeply and truly, not just because you feel obligated to. Mark your forgiveness with some kind of action: talk to the other person, confide your feelings to someone you trust, or even just write about your forgiveness. Many of us also harbor damaging anger towards ourselves, so remember to forgive yourself too.
Taking care of yourself is an important ongoing task that sometimes gets lost in the busyness of life. Self care, defined as anything you do to take care of yourself physically or emotionally, is important for building resilience and well-being. Good self care can not only lower stress, but also improve physical and mental health. Taking steps towards a healthy lifestyle, addressing your emotional needs, and taking time to relax are all components of self care. If you’re not sure where to start, making a list of things that you enjoy is a good first step. From there, you can make goals on how to incorporate more of those into your daily life. It may seem overwhelming, but it’s okay to start small-even just a few minutes a day can be beneficial-and then work on bigger goals over time. Try different things, and adjust your goals if something isn’t working for you or is harder than originally planned.
An ages-old strategy for processing your feelings and lowering stress is simply to talk to someone else about your problems. Letting out your emotions, whether through talking or writing, removes the stress of holding in painful emotions. Repressing those emotions takes a lot of effort and relieving that effort lessens the stress response. As an extra, talking about your problems and feelings can help you to better understand yourself and your emotions. What “talking about your feelings” actually looks like can vary depending on the person and their needs at the time. Sometimes venting about problems to a friend is helpful, while at other times talking through a conflict is better. There are also times when talking to a therapist is helpful, especially if you’re struggling. Talking to someone you trust is important and so is making sure that they’re prepared for the conversation.
Having supportive relationships brings a whole host of benefits, including lower stress, greater happiness, and even increased longevity. However, it’s important to set boundaries in your relationship, whether its at work, with friends or family, or in a romantic relationship. Strong, healthy boundaries support life balance and healthier relationships, while weak boundaries can cause resentment, conflict, and stress. A life without boundaries leaves you constantly pulled by others’ needs and expectations, without being able to assert any of your own. Boundaries are tools to protect your physical and mental and be sure your needs are met. A healthy boundary doesn’t exert control over others, just establishes your needs. Setting boundaries can be scary, but the people who care about you will recognize and support you in meeting your needs.
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