Stress: 8 tips for coping with your frenemy
5/30/2019 by Nikki Rose, LICSW, MSW and Cait Earle, LICSW, MSW
It's good for both your mental and physical health to manage stress. These eight techniques can help you bring it under control:
- Prioritize. Make a "to-do" list of all your assignments and tasks, then order them by importance or deadline. Break down bigger things into smaller and more manageable pieces. Make sure you're setting yourself up for success so that you feel the positive, "I did it!", which can serve as a springboard for starting the next task.
- Manage your time. Find a planner or search online for a schedule template to lay out your projects and commitments. It can help to see all that's on your plate before jumping in.
- Exercise. Exercise releases the "feel-good" endorphin brain chemicals that help our mood, giving us a natural "high". Exercise can take the form of workouts or classes or activities such as gardening, cleaning and walking to the bus or school. Mayo Clinic recommends at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity every day.
- Follow a sleep schedule. Most teens need eight to 10 hours of uninterrupted sleep; adults typically need seven to nine hours. Create and stick with a sleep schedule to ensure your body is consistently getting the time it needs to recharge, heal and process emotional experiences. On weekends, try not to stray too far from this schedule. Also, have a bedtime routine you regularly follow to cue your brain to prepare for sleep.
- Eat well. Make sure you eat three balanced meals that cover three of the five food groups, have healthy snacks, and hydrate with water throughout the day.
- Be mindful. Make mindfulness a part of your lifestyle to bring nonjudgmental awareness into your daily routines. It means being present in the moment with your environment, those around you, and with yourself (thoughts, feelings, intentions, values, etc.). Notice things with curiosity and openness, rather than with expectations, comparisons and criticism. Research shows there is a direct link between mind-wandering and unhappiness; check out this TED Talk for more information.
- Enjoy and relax. Regularly do things that bring you joy. Schedule them in so it's sure to happen. Practice breathing from your diaphragm and learn to regulate your body on your own. The more we practice what seems to be a basic task like breathing, the more control we have over it. Having practiced it, we'll be able to draw on it to calm down during a stressful time.
- Seek professional support. Sometimes these coping strategies aren't enough, and it may be helpful to seek professional support from a mental health provider who can teach and coach you on a variety of coping strategies. Helpful therapies for stress include cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) and acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT).
Nicole (Nikki) Rose is a clinical pediatric social worker in Employee and Community Health (ECH) at the Baldwin Building and Mayo Family Clinic Northwest. She has been in ECH's Division of Integrated Behavioral Health (IBH) for the past two years. She previously worked in Pediatric Endocrinology and the Mayo Addictions Program.
Caitlin (Cait) Earle is a clinical pediatric social worker. Before joining ECH, she worked in Mayo Clinic's Pediatric Transitions for four years and now sees IBH patients in the Baldwin Building.