Stress is a part of life, but when it gets out of control, it can cause significant mental and physical health issues. The 2022 Stress in America poll, conducted for the American Psychological Association (APA), shows that Americans are feeling the effects of a number of stressors, including inflation, concerns about the future, community violence, work and family responsibilities.
With so many of these stressors out of our control, what can we do to manage our stress in healthy ways? Judy Kotecki-Martin, outpatient therapist at Wyandot Center, says simplifying your life can be a good place to start. She offered up a few tips to help you reduce stress.
- Live simply. This means removing the material possessions and time commitments that drain you – financially and emotionally. Instead of multi-tasking, focus on one task at a time.
- Organize your life. Take a moment to think through what matters to you most in life. Are you spending your time on the people and things that are most important to you?
- Let go of grudges. Forgiveness is for you, not for the person who hurt you. When you let go of the resentment, you give yourself the opportunity to heal, which can reduce feelings of anger, anxiety and depression.
- Create times for rest and renewal. We need quiet times during our day to re-energize. Mindfulness is one way to accomplish this. If mindfulness seems intimidating, Kotecki-Martin says we can learn something from our childhood. “Do you remember being a kid and just laying in the grass watching the clouds? That’s mindfulness.”
In addition to taking steps toward simplifying your life, Kotecki-Martin stresses the importance of taking care of your basic health – moving your body, getting enough sleep and eating nutritious foods. She also points to the healing power of relationships.
If you’re looking for something you can do right now to help reduce stress, Kotecki-Martin points to gratitude and kindness. Taking a moment to stop and write down three things that you are grateful for each day can help you to focus on the good things in your life. Random acts of kindness – without expecting anything in return – can help to reduce stress, while also being a bright spot in another person’s day.
The idea of reducing stress may feel overwhelming. You may be wondering how you’ll find the time and energy to implement one, let alone all, of the changes outlined above. But Kotecki-Martin points to the idea of one-percent improvements. As Alice Boyes, Ph.D., explains, this approach can be particularly helpful if “you’re someone who tends to overcomplicate solutions to problems, and you get stuck in thinking mode rather than taking action.”
"One of the best ways to manage stress is to start with your time. Time is the great equalizer,” says Kotecki-Martin. “We have all been given the gift of 24 hours in a day. When you prioritize what is truly important in your life, it's easier to say 'no' to the less important things that weigh you down."