Stress is real, y'all, and I should know: I'm a medical social worker, and I cope with a great deal of stress daily. It doesn't matter it's a patient's minor needs or a life and death situation: I'm there.
My patients are very important to me, but thanks to the number of crises I face on a daily basis, it can be difficult to prioritize the cases that will take precedence. Before long, I find that I have over-extended myself. This literally happens every day.
Stress consumes me, and I find myself in an unhealthy bubble of other people's sadness, grief and illnesses. Yes, it sucks. But I love what I do. It's a privilege to be present and helpful at a time when someone is the most vulnerable.
This seems to be a similar situation for many working professionals. It's not specific only to people working in health care. I'm sure you love your job as much as I love mine, but that doesn't mean your day-to-day schedule isn't too hectic for you.
Regardless of what you do, all work is stressful. It can take a toll on both mental and physical health.
There are some serious side effects to stress. Sometimes, they're not noticeable.
But trust me: Stress is real. According to the Mayo Clinic, stress can affect your body, mood and behavior. Symptoms can vary, but headaches, fatigue, problems with sleep, anxiety, irritability, overeating, undereating, exercising less often and substance use are all signs of heightened stress.
In order to stay healthy – so that I don't quit my job or lose my mind – I constantly engage in self-care. Self-care is a guarantee that I'm also being taken care of. It's all about maintaining a work-life balance.
Here are a few things you can try to do to help manage and cope with stress:
Exercise feels good, and it'll get your happy endorphins moving. Exercise can boost your mood and decrease any social withdrawal symptoms you might experience.
Go to the gym, go for a run or take your dog for a walk. It doesn't matter what activity you choose. Just have fun.
2. Get social.
Spend some time with the people you love the most, and do something pleasant. If you surround yourself with positive emotions, you step out of your professional role and just refresh.
Laughter truly is the best medicine. Laughter has a positive effect on both the body and mind, and research shows that it's an effective way to reduce stress. Who doesn't love to laugh?
There is something therapeutic about writing things down, especially when those things are your thoughts and feelings. Writing is the simplest form of expression.
Don't even think about writing eloquently. Just dump all of those real, raw thoughts on that sheet of paper. If needed, crumple the paper and throw it away. Although it may sound silly and kind of insane, releasing and disposing those thoughts can feel very liberating.
5. Get your art on.
Art, in any form, is a helpful way to manage stress. Whether it's painting, drawing or doing DIY projects in your home, art can be relaxing.
I've recently taken a liking to adult coloring books. They're all the rage these days, apparently.
I absolutely enjoy coloring, and find it to be extremely therapeutic. Not only will this activity allow you to zone out and focus on the motions of those pretty colored pencils, but it will also positively stimulate your brain. Adding relaxing music can amplify your experience as well.
I've recently explored several types of meditation, and they've all been equally inspiring. Clearing your mind is key, but relaxing your body and focusing on your breathing are also vital components.
Not only is it nice to take a quick break – even if only for a few moments – but meditation can also provide long-term benefits such as increased self-awareness, learning to focus on the present and having a more positive outlook on life. There is a significant amount of room for progress, so the possibilities are endless.
7. Chill with Mother Nature.
Most jobs consist of cubicles and being confined within four walls for the majority of the day.
But you need to take the time to get outside. Take a walk, go for a run, lie on the grass with the sunshine on your face while watching the leaves blow in the wind: Whatever it is, spend some time with nature. It makes a big difference.
8. Just breathe.
Stop and breathe. This can be done anywhere and at any time. No one has to know.
Take a few moments to engage in deep breathing. Letting more air into your lungs can decrease both your heart rate and blood pressure. This can significantly decrease anxiety and help with your stress response.