May is Mental Health Awareness Month. Regardless of what month it is, it always is a good time to check in with your mental health.
It is normal to feel stressed, frustrated, nervous or angry, especially following the pandemic. Over time, stress manifests as increased tension in our minds and bodies, and can disrupt our daily emotions, physical well-being and behaviors. However, healthy habits can minimize the impact of stress.
Dr. Matthew Simmons
Dr. Matthew Simmons is a fellowship-trained sports medicine physician with Northside Hospital Orthopedic Institute Sports Medicine.
Dr. Spencer Lee
Dr. Spencer Lee is a fellowship-trained pulmonary disease and critical care specialist with Cherokee Lung and Sleep Specialists.
Physical Activity and Exercise
Multiple studies have shown a mix of aerobic and resistance activity is best for stress relief. When time is limited, any activity will do. Be creative and make the most of opportunities that arise throughout the day.
- Take the dog for a walk around the block.
- Use the stairs instead of the elevator at work.
- Do 30 minutes of parking-lot yoga, while waiting for a family member.
- Enjoy a stroll with your Saturday morning coffee.
These simple, exercise-based activities can have a large impact on stress reduction and your overall health.
Another tip: embrace technology as part of your stress relief. Fitness podcasts, meditation apps or exercise-coaching software are great ways to help facilitate activity. Fitness trackers also are helpful for those who like to follow step counts and calories burned, and for encouraging reminders throughout the day.
Sleep is an integral part of stress reduction. Getting an average of eight hours of consistent, meaningful sleep each night can reduce feelings of stress and anxiety, and improve quality of life. It allows the body to relax, recharge and rebuild, improving your energy and hormonal balance. It also has been shown to impact cholesterol levels and reduce your risk for heart disease.
To help make your sleep schedule consistent, determine if you are an early riser or a night owl. Find what works for you, then set your alarm to wake up and go to bed at the same time every day — including weekends.
Practicing deep, slow breathing, even for just 15-20 seconds once or twice daily, has been shown to reduce stress, increase oxygen to the brain and promote relaxation. The technique continues to be recommended throughout the medical community.
Try setting a time each day and work your way up to 20 minutes of deep breathing as a regular habit.
With the demands of life ever-growing, a few minor changes in your daily activities may make an indelible impact on the repercussions that stress contributes to our everyday lives.
However, when lifestyle changes are not enough, don’t hesitate to look for help from a licensed mental health professional. Call or text 988 to access trained crisis counselors 24/7, or visit 988lifeline.org.