Mental Health Stress Hacks
I’ve walked through lots of stressful times on my mental health journey. Some of them I handled with grace and ease while others resulted in a full-blown meltdown.
I’ve had to learn the hard way that managing stress is really important and you can’t just ignore the warning signs of burnout.
Now I take stress really seriously and I use the tips below to help keep life from overwhelming me and causing massive amounts of stress in my life.
Stress is unavoidable and all of us are going to walk through difficult seasons. Having a plan for what you need to do when you start to feel stressed out can help you manage difficult times and prevent burnout and breakdowns.
I hope these mental health stress hacks give you some ideas of things you can do in your own life to manage stress.
Spend Time with Positive People
Nothing will make you more stressed than surrounding yourself with negative stressed out people. You take on the energy that is around you. Whenever I get stressed out I deliberately limit my time around negative people and intentionally try to spend more time around positive people. After you have a conversation with someone notice how you feel. Do you feel heavy and weighted down? Do you feel positive and more optimistic? If you’re struggling to manage stress be very intentional about who you spend time with. We don’t have time for negative people or anyone who brings us down.
I used to think that I didn’t like meditation or that I was bad at it. I started using the HeadSpace app to learn how to meditate and it has been a game changer for me. It’s much easier for me to use guided meditation then to do it on my own. The app actually teaches you how to meditate in a really simple way which made me feel like I could do it. I started by doing five minutes at a time and then worked up to fifteen minutes. If you’ve never meditated before start with short sessions and work your way up. If you want to try the Headspace app they have a free ten-day course that teaches you how to meditate. Ever since I started regularly meditate I feel clearer, less stressed and more confident. If you’ve never tried it I really suggest that you give it a shot!
When I’m stressed out I start journaling several times a day. I make sure to have a complete to-do list where I can write down any tasks I think of that I need to do. Having my day planned out helps me manage stress when I’m really busy or have a lot of things I need to do. I also use my journal to write out how I’m feeling and to work out any negative thoughts I’m having. Journaling is a great way to get really honest with yourself because you don’t ever have to show your journal to anyone. Knowing that I am the only one that will ever see my writing helps me be really transparent and dive deep into my thoughts and feelings. If you still find that you worry about someone finding your journal or reading your thoughts rip the pages out when you’re done writing and tear them up. This way you know for certain that no one will ever read your writing and you have the freedom to be completely honest.
If you’re stressed out it is vital that you get some kind of exercise every day. Working out can help your brain chemistry stay balanced and it gives your body a healthy way to process stress. Being stressed out is extremely hard on your body so it’s really important that you take excellent care of yourself. When I am feeling stressed I like to add morning and evening walks with my dog. I usually turn on a podcast and just kind of zone out while I walk around my neighborhood. I also have a membership to a really nice women’s only gym. I used to go to a budget gym but I didn’t like going to it and I never felt very comfortable there. The gym I go to now has a steam room, sauna and is just a really nice environment to be in. Brainstorm how you can make exercise more enjoyable and make adding it into your daily routine a priority. When I’m really short on time I use home workouts and I can get in a great workout at my house in 20 minutes.
Giving yourself a creative outlet can be a great way to unwind and cope with stress. Give yourself permission to work on a project and deliberately only focus on that. When your mind starts to wander towards work or your source of stress gently refocus on what you are working on. This is a great way to practice staying in the moment and to help you stop worrying about the future or dwelling on the past. Be intentional about working on your creative project in the present moment. Try drawing, painting, dancing or building something. Any activity that takes your focus off of what is stressing out will work.
I hate to even think about how much time I spend on my phone. Recently I realized I had a lot of unhealthy habits with my phone and technology in general. I’ve been working to intentionally unplug every day and at night I lock my laptop in my office and turn my phone off. This has been great for my mental health and has greatly lowered my stress levels. Give yourself a time at night where you deliberately unplug for the rest of the night. I’ve also spent entire weekends off of the internet and it’s always had a really positive impact on my mental health. Try deleting all your social media and news apps for the weekend and focus on staying in the present moment. It’s amazing how distracting I find my phone and social media. When I remove the distraction I’m able to be much more intentional with my thoughts and time.
Most of the time when I’m really stressed out it’s because I’ve been having very poor boundaries. I struggle to say no and I often end up over-committing and have too much on my plate which I find very stressful and overwhelming. If you’re walking through a stressful time it’s really important to practice having strong boundaries. Don’t commit to doing any extra activities or tasks and be very intentional about trying to limit what you have to get done. This is a great time to practice saying no and being assertive without feeling guilty. Remember, you don’t owe anyone your time and you don’t need to do things to please other people if it’s at the expense of your mental health and well being. You’re an adult and you are in charge of how you spend your time. People that really care about you will respect the fact that you have a lot going on and you can explain to them that you need to limit your activities to try and manage your stress.
When I’m stressed out I’m always tempted to live on takeout food and just eat whatever is quick and easy. This inevitably makes me feel like crap and ends up making getting everything done even more difficult. If I know I have a stressful season coming up I’ll make sure to go to the grocery store and stock up on lots of easy healthy meals to have on hand. I stick to simple meals like fish and vegetables or salads to try and minimize the stress involved with preparing meals. It takes a little extra effort to prepare healthy food but it’s so worth it in the long run. Nothing is more stressful than being in poor health and stress lowers your immune system and can result in you getting sick. I also try to drink a ton of water and take daily vitamins when I’m really stressed. These precautions are simple but make a big difference in the way I feel in the long run. In order to get everything done, I want to do I need my body to be functioning at an optimized level.
When I have a lot to do it can be really tempting to start cutting back on sleep. I’ll stay up late to try and squeeze in some extra work hours but this inevitably ends up making me feel exhausted and even more stressed out. Stress is really hard on your body and if you have a lot going on you need to make sure you’re getting plenty of rest. If you’re having a hard time sleeping try meditating before bed, using an oil infuser with lavender oil and take melatonin at night. Ensuring your body is properly rested will make you more able to handle stressful situations and help you be more productive during the day.
It can be tempting to turn to alcohol when you’re stressed out. A lot of people will have a drink at night to take the edge off and to try and wind down after a stressful day. Drinking alcohol can have negative effects on your body especially if you start drinking it as part of your daily routine. Alcohol dehydrates your body and interrupts your quality of sleep. Research has shown that drinking alcohol can actually compound the effects of stress on your body. It’s important that you find healthy coping skills you can use during stressful times instead of turning to have a drink. If you find that you can’t go without alcohol reach out to get professional help. When I notice I am drinking alcohol too often I will do a dry 30 challenge and give up alcohol for thirty days. Spending this time away from alcohol helps my body feel better and I find that I actually don’t even miss drinking. Happy hour used to be a big part of my social life and giving up alcohol for a month at a time helped me make new friends and find new ways to socialize.
If you have too much going on get someone to help you and move some of the tasks off your plate. Ask your family to pitch in and take over some of the things you’re usually responsible for or let your friends know you need extra support. If you don’t have friends or family to lean on make an appointment to talk to a therapist. If you can afford it pay extra to free up some of your time. Hire someone to clean your house and pay to have your groceries delivered. Brainstorm ways you can free up some of your time and get some things off of your plate. Cancel plans if you need to or figure out if it’s possible to cut your hours at work or to take some vacation time. Freeing up time always makes me feel more relaxed and I end up getting way more done when I’m not stressed out and overwhelmed.
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