World Mental Health Day was a few days ago, and it had me thinking about the last few months (or should I say most of 2019). Before starting my second year of medical school, I was stuck in The Bahamas during Hurricane Dorian. As many people can imagine, the experience is something that I will never forget. When I finally returned to school, adjusting took some time because my mind was constantly on my family and friends back home.
We live in an era where stressors are all around us, and for most it has become the norm. Careers, life events, and social media puts more pressure on us to perform and be “exceptional” that we sometimes forget to reflect on what truly matters. Us. Here are 5 tips to deal with stress that may affect your everyday lives.
1. Say no.
It can be easy to overextend yourself for family or friends knowing that you are already dealing with a full plate. Creating boundaries is an important aspect of self-care. It’s not always a fun experience to turn away someone you care about when they ask for help, but peace of mind is better than creating stressful situations for yourself. Not only do we have to create boundaries for others, but for ourselves. Telling yourself no is just as important. Acknowledge your limits and sticking to them will give you the freedom to truly take care of self.
2. Declutter your mind.
Don’t allow your thoughts to become your reality. When your mind is racing and saturated, chances are your body isn’t far behind. When work is overwhelming and seems to be present long past clocking out; when your mind is always on what needs to be done next or what assignment is due…pause. Unpack your thoughts. Write down everything that is taking over your mind and organize them. This will give you a chance to think about what is most important, and what you need to say no to (see number 1).
When you’re feeling the stress of a day or a week, channel that energy into physical movement. Exercise is known for releasing endorphins, which stimulate our brains to make us feel happy. Making exercise a part of your routine can keep your mind occupied, your brain happy, and your body healthy. Who doesn’t want that?
4. Spend time with those who matter.
When I’m feeling overwhelmed, stressed, or sad, my first instinct is to pick up the phone and call my best friend. Even if I’m not saying anything, their presence alone can put me at ease. In tough situations, getting out of our environment and spending time with loved ones may be the best thing for you. Vent, laugh, eat ice cream, cry. Whatever it may be, allow yourself to be vulnerable in that moment.
5. Be patient with yourself.
In my case, when I felt like I was in over my head, I started to beat myself up for it. But it’s a part of life. We all get stressed, we all have moments of anxiety and sadness, we all feel burdened down. The goal is not to get rid of these moments, the goal is to work through them. Identifying and understanding your triggers can help you avoid them, and learn how to deal with them.
Mental and emotional health matters just as much as physical health does. If you feel like you cannot do it alone, there are professionals who are confidential, caring, and willing to help. Talking to someone about your issues is not shameful — it’s brave. I hope that these tips can help you or someone you know cope with stress on a day-to-day basis.