Don’t allow stress to get the best of you. Here are some tips on de-stressing that you can carry into the new year.
With winter upon us and shorter, darker, and colder days ahead, it can be increasingly difficult to fight stress while keeping our mood and energy levels high. For some, this may be a symptom of Seasonal Affective Disorder. For others, these feelings may last year-round. Unfortunately, attempting to decrease our stress levels, better our mood, and nurture our minds isn’t daily practice. For women especially, taking care of ourselves remains on the backburner in favour of family, friends, school, and our careers.
Although men also experience decreases in mood, high stress levels, and have higher rates of addiction, women have higher rates of mood and anxiety disorders. Almost half of all women (49 per cent) surveyed said their stress has increased over the past five years, compared to four in 10 (39 per cent) men. So, how do we turn self-care into daily practice? How do we stay positive throughout the year and challenge stress head-on? Here are seven ways you can boost your mood and preserve your energy despite life’s stresses, and what you can do to seek help beyond the suggestions offered in this article:
1. Get rid of clutter to reduce your stress and clear your mind
For starters, grab a large garbage bag, open your closet, and get rid of clothes you no longer wear. Choose a donation service in your area and give back! You can also try decluttering your work space, which could help with productivity. And remember, clutter doesn’t stop in your physical space. Delete old emails, apps you never use, and the text thread from that ex you had a falling out with. Even something as simple as deleting alarms that you no longer need can provide a sense of satisfaction.
2. Eat a healthy diet free of processed foods
Farmer’s markets are a great place to start, although most markets in the city are seasonal. Shop the perimeter of the grocery store, where the most nutritious foods are found. Check the labels and avoid foods that are loaded with high fructose corn syrup, refined carbohydrates, and sodium. These things can contribute to an imbalance in your brain, which will manifest in your mood. Try your best to keep away from fast foods—they provide temporary satisfaction but have longer-lasting negative effects (guilt, lethargy etc.).
3. Get moving
A rigorous hour-long circuit isn’t necessary—simply going for a walk outside can clear your mind. Take the stairs when you can, and if you do have a gym membership, talk yourself into going. If you need an extra push, find a gym partner or hire a personal trainer. Starting with 20-30 minutes of exercise a day will not only clear your mind, but will have you feeling better about your appearance.
4. Say “no” when you need to
Do not allow anyone to guilt-trip you into doing anything you simply don’t have the . Sometimes, saying no will do wonders for your energy—whether it’s to your friends, your partners, or your employers. Saying no can be hard for us to do, so it can require an internal (or external) self-lecture. Now, repeat after me: self-care does not equate to selfishness.
5. Keep friends in check
We love our friends and appreciate when they confide in us, but sometimes their problems become our own. If you find that the same friends call you almost every day to unload their problems onto you, reconsider your reaction. Try suggesting long-term solutions for their problems. Remind them of the positive things they can look forward to. If all else fails, put your phone on silent and take a night off.
6. Make time to do the things you love
This can be anything from relaxing in a bath of Epsom salts to joining a dance class. Sometimes, life becomes too busy to keep up with hobbies we once loved. It’s necessary to schedule time for yourself—even it’s just an hour. Gardening is a great stress reliever, buy some basic gardening gear and you’re in business.
7. Take a break from social media
There are many great things that social media has to offer. It’s where we get most of our news from. It’s where networking becomes doable for folks who aren’t as outgoing as their peers. It’s also where we come for a good laugh (many comedians get their big breaks from social media, actually). However, it can also be draining. Bad news on social media travels as fast—if not faster—than good news. Scrolling through Twitter and Facebook everyday only to read about a celebrity passing away, a genocide occurring in another part of the world, a slew of sexual assault allegations in various industries, or politics in general, is enough to drain your energy and decrease your mood. Turn your phone off if you must. After all, sleep experts recommend not using your phone in bed.
Try these seven steps to de-stress and boost your mood, and make sure to practice self-care daily. However, if you experience a significant decrease in your mood and require solutions beyond the scope of this article, please seek help. Symptoms may include feelings of prolonged sadness, loss of appetite, significant changes in your sleep pattern, and reoccurring negative thoughts. Confide in someone you trust (a support system is always necessary), see a medical doctor, or try online resources where healthcare professionals and mental health advocates are available for a free consultation. Caring for your mental health is one of the most important things you can do for yourself.