We are winding down National Recovery Awareness Month and National Suicide Awareness Month. Both of these issues can be made worse by interpersonal tensions and stress. With COVID-19 still disrupting how we live and the intensifying election propaganda, we need to intentionally make time for self-care. Below are a few self-care tips for stress management.
Deep breathing can relax your nervous system. Draw in a breath for the count of four and let it out for a count of four. Focus only your breath and let all other thoughts go. Focus on your breath from one to several minutes letting go any disruptive thoughts and feelings. This is a simple way to begin a stress management practice.
When you feel upset, stressed or angry your body is producing stress hormones. One way to bring this back into balance is exercise. Try taking a long walk in your neighborhood. Hike a nature trail. Start a couch to 5k program. 30 minutes four times a week may be enough to take the edge off of your stress response.
Develop your creative side as a way to process your emotions. Try drawing or painting pictures as a way to ground yourself and practice mindfulness. Write a poem about the things that are generating your strong emotions. Visit a local art gallery for inspiration. One treasure, the Cleveland Museum of Art has free entrance. Try finding your way of expression. It is a powerful way to cope with stress.
A practice that is becoming more popular is taking the time to observe nature or be in the forest. This fall, make sure you take time to be in the woods and enjoy the season’s changes. If you can't be outside try the indoor exhibits at the zoos within an hour drive. Observing animals or being in the woods slows our pace and gets our focus off of what seems to be so urgent.
The Mayo Clinic says that one way to find stress relief is through spirituality. At its core spirituality helps to give your life context. It arises from your connection with yourself and with others, the development of your personal value system, and your search for meaning in life. For many, spirituality takes the form of religious observance, prayer, meditation or a belief in God. Spiritual practices help us make sense out of chaos and can help us navigate the most difficult life situations.
-Jerry Strausbaugh, EdD, LPCC-S, Executive Director, Appleseed Community Mental Health Center