Stress is a natural part of life. We experience it when we’re feeling overwhelmed or dealing with unexpected obstacles. This is especially true when you’re navigating your teen years, trying to discover who you are and where you fit in the world.
While stress can sometimes be beneficial in pushing us through difficult situations and making us stronger, there are times when it takes a toll on our health. This past year has been no exception, with many of us feeling a great amount of stress as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
If you’ve felt anxious, worried and isolated, you’re not alone. Something as unprecedented as a pandemic is bound to cause stress. But how does stress manifest and what can you do to manage it?
You may be stressed if you’re:
- Having trouble sleeping
- Experiencing frequent headaches
- Noticing changes in your appetite
- Having difficulty concentrating
- Often worrying about things you can’t control
While you may not be able to completely rid yourself of stress, there are ways to cope with it that enable you to continue moving forward without feeling like the weight of the world rests on your shoulders. Here are seven effective ways to manage your stress:
One of the best ways to tackle stress is to simply acknowledge it. Take a seat somewhere comfortable, think about one thing that’s causing you stress and ask yourself if it’s something you can control. If the answer is yes, make an action plan to solve the problem. If it’s no, visualize yourself letting go of the worry. You can also keep a mindfulness journal or download an app for breathing exercises and other relaxation techniques.
The pandemic has likely shaken up your daily routine, which can be stressful if you’re a creature of habit. It’s important to make time for me-time. Give yourself the grace to do something for yourself each day, like taking a bubble bath or watching your favorite TV show. Self care is just as important as your daily responsibilities.
Get more sleep.
According to the National Sleep Foundation, you need 8 to 10 hours of sleep per night to function at your best. That’s easier said than done during a pandemic when you’re more likely to lay awake worrying about the unknown or scrolling through your newsfeed. Since it’s easy to fall down a rabbit hole of trending topics online, consider reducing your screen time in exchange for more dream time. Disconnecting from that blue light will help you get the sleep you need to feel your best.
Being active improves your mood. Unfortunately, many of us have abandoned our fitness routines during the pandemic, having relied on gyms and other indoor spaces to help us stay in shape. If you’re not ready to venture into a group setting, stream online fitness classes or YouTube workout videos at home. Better yet, exercise outdoors: walk around the block, run through the park or do yoga in your backyard. Even just a few minutes of stretching can relieve a lot of tension.
What you put into your body affects your mental health just as much as your physical health. When you’re stressed, you’re more likely to eat junk food that isn’t as nutritious as whole foods that fuel good vibes. During the pandemic, you may have come to rely on sweet treats and snacks as a source of comfort – and that’s ok in moderation. Pay attention to what you eat and how it makes you feel, and adjust accordingly. Pack your diet with water, fruits, vegetables and lean sources of protein.
Do more of what you love.
While it’s important to arm yourself with credible information on how to stay safe during the pandemic, it’s just as imperative to disconnect from it. This is where your hobbies come to the rescue. Make time to do the things you enjoy, whether it’s picking up a page-turner you’ve been meaning to read or learning a new skill, like how to make sourdough bread. Making time for a hobby will not only relieve stress, it’ll also prevent you from burning out.
The pandemic has made it hard for us to connect in person with the people we love. Stress can be a heavy burden, especially if it’s stemming from other emotions like loneliness. The best thing you can do is talk about how you’re feeling. Call, video chat or meet with a friend or family member (while following proper social distancing and safety measures). Seek professional help from a mental health counselor, parent or teacher you can trust. There’s always someone who’s willing to listen, but the first step is asking for help.