The past year has pushed our stress levels and mental health to the limit. Our cortisol levels are quite frankly working in overdrive and have been for many months. Almost 41% of US adults in a survey by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported struggling with their mental health or substance use since the beginning of the pandemic.
All of this stress whether triggered by the onslaught of pandemic fatigue, election anxiety, financial distress or other causes is taking a significant toll on our physical health including the brain. As we previously discussed, clinical mental health conditions like depression or anxiety can physically alter the brain and have physical symptoms. A deteriorating state of mental health can also lead to long term negative health outcomes.
With this week’s presidential election, we wanted to provide five helpful tips for de-stressing.
- Take 3 minutes (or more) to move: Physical activity is the ultimate remedy for a stressed or anxious mind. Just moving around for three minutes can significantly improve mood and help break the cycle of ongoing stress. It is even better if you can get 60 minutes or more of exercise each day. Physical exercise can help to make us more emotionally resilient and generally healthier.
- Get Outside: Nature is proven to help our mental states. It can be calming and again encourages physical activity. If you can safely get outside this week, please do it. Your mind and body will thank you.
- Practice Deep Breathing: Many of us are likely shallow breathers. Ideally we should all try to engage our diaphragms when we breathe to promote the calming effects of deep breaths. Try to inhale and push your belly out, which will encourage the usage of your diaphragm. Then exhale and relax your middle.
- Unplug: Staying informed is important, but we can only control so much. Constant “doom-scrolling” can be triggering emotionally. It is best to check once or twice then leave it. Walk away from the phone, laptop or iPad.
- Embrace Distractions: Go ahead a cook, start a puzzle, clean out yours closet. These are all example of positive and productive distractions that can help clear your mind.