Article from guest contributor, Jane Sandwood
Stress is a significant concern in modern society, in particular for Generation Z, who consistently reports higher levels of stress than previous generations. With figures like this, it’s clear we need a fresh approach to understanding and managing stress. So what can we do to help ourselves? A holistic approach is vital: taking care of mind and body and learning when to accept anxiety.
Managing Stress by Caring for Your Body
The evidence seems to support the idea that our mental and physical health are linked. Unfortunately, stress can push us to make unhealthy decisions like poor eating or skipping exercise. Those decisions leave us feeling deprived and a cycle unfolds. Harvard researchers have found that persistent stress elevates cortisol levels in the body and can cause us to overeat, in turn impacting on our long-term health. Common coping mechanisms including caffeine, sugars, and alcohol. But reaching for simple a solution doesn’t always help. Some may make matters worse by spiking blood sugar or disrupting sleep.
As hard as it may seem, managing mental stress requires making positive decisions for our physical health: rest, exercise, a diet rich in whole foods. Training is especially critical in promoting good mental health as any form of physical activity can increase endorphins and boost mood. Studies show people feel calmer after exercising for 30 minutes and continue to reap the benefits for several hours! Not ready for a session at the gym? Even a simple walk outside can bring perspective, improve sleep and reduce the symptoms of anxiety and depression. A healthy body contributes to a healthy mind.
Self-Awareness Is Part of Stress Management
The battle against stress isn’t won entirely outside the mind. Research suggests that self-awareness is key to managing stress. Self-awareness allows us to see the value in the challenges rather than fearing them. The first step towards mental well-being is to nurture a good understanding of ourselves and to learn how we cope. Taking responsibility for ourselves and considering how we fit in the world allows us to use challenges to grow. Self-awareness enables us to build resilience, increases our ability to empathize with others, and provides us with the tools we need to make healthy decisions and perform at our peak, consequently building our defenses against stress.
Stress Happens: Accepting Is Part of Coping
Sadly, there’s no cure for preventing stress entirely. Framing our mentality around that is vital in preparing for it. We must recognize that no matter how well we take care of ourselves, stress will happen to all of us. Accept that it is an important part of self-care. When stressed, try to remind ourselves that we are prepared to deal with the emotions we’re feeling. We might carve out time to journal, bond with friends and family, or meditate. Relaxation is just as important as productivity and allowing time for it enables us to reduce and defend against stress.
The modern world is a stressful place for everyone, and the younger generation is particularly poised to face it. Armed with the knowledge of how to reduce and manage the stress in our lives and harness it for good, it’s possible for us to bring our stress levels down.