1. Breathe Deeply
Taking a deep breath is a cliché for a reason. When we breathe deeply, we activate the parasympathetic nervous system. This is the “rest and digest system”. It tells us that we are safe and that we can stand down. When this system is active our heart rates slow down, our pupils constrict, and our muscles get less tense, therefore relieving our stress.
2. Find Mindful Moments
Most people are hip to the idea of mindfulness at this point, but it’s easy to forget to incorporate it into your day-to-day life. For this reason, I suggest trying it into some habits that you have already established. If you have any daily walks or drives, you might want to consider making those as mindful as possible. Remember to not only pay attention to the current moment but to pay attention without judgment. Whatever is happening is what it is.
3. Spend Time with Animals
Spending time with animals calms our systems. We are unconditionally accepted by animals in a way that may be difficult to experience with other people. Spending time with animals reminds us that we are a part of nature. It slows our breathing and our heart rates.
4. Find Peaceful Places
In Washington DC, finding peaceful places can be difficult. I swear by the book Peaceful Places in Washington DC to help find some lesser-known (and therefore less crowded) spaces. I’d recommend getting creative about this too, though – consider places around your neighborhood or even in your own home where you can get some peace.
5. Drink Enough Water
Being dehydrated affects the body on so many levels. One of these is mood. If you aren’t drinking enough water, you are likely to get irritable, spacy, or out of synch. The old idiom about this is “if you’re thirsty, it’s too late” so remember to be proactive. Maybe carry a water bottle around with you throughout the day.
6. Exercise moderately
Moving your body can be enjoyable and fun. It can also give you endorphins, which are a great stress reliever. People who exercise moderately have better sleep and lower stress levels than other people. Do remember, though, that exercising too much (more than your body wants, when you are injured or when you are ill) or exercising for the wrong reasons (to change your body or bolster your self-worth) can have the opposite effect.
7. Sleep enough
I cannot stress this enough. Sleep is our most important emotional modulator. Of course, I know not everybody is able to truly sleep well: new moms, lawyers trying for partner, and insomniacs – I’m looking at you! But it’s vitally important to do the best you can. If anxiety or stress keeps you awake try to build in a buffer zone before bed where you only do calm things such as reading, taking a bath, etc.
8. Spend time in nature
There’s a reason that forest-bathing became a trend. When people spend time in nature, it makes us feel whole.
9. Contact your friends
Social support is critical for managing stress. The part of our brains that responds to isolation is the same as the one that responds to physical pain. If you can, spend some socially distanced time together. If not, zoom or call.
10. Do something artsy
Being creative helps people i n so many ways – you see things form different perspectives, you take some time away form the churn of capitalistic productivity, and you remember that you have a unique contribution to make to the world. Doing something artsy does not require you to be good at art! A step-by-step project, a household decoration, or even a doodle can help you to tap into this part of yourself.
11. Seek support
If stress is getting you down on the daily, it’s a good idea to talk to a trained psychotherapist to see if you might be dealing with clinical anxiety, and to get help in forming habits that help mitigate the stress. It’s possible to feel healthy, whole and calm – reach out if you think talking with someone might be helpful.