The Top 10 Self-Care Strategies for Stress Reduction

You can't always control the circumstances that life throws your way, but you can control how well you take care of yourself. This is vital for building resilience toward those stressors in life that you can't eliminate for several reasons. When you're too tired, eating poor nutrition, or generally run-down, you will likely be more reactive to the stress in your life. You may even create more problems for yourself by reacting poorly rather than responding from a place of calm strength.

Conversely, when you're taking good care of your body and mind, you can be more resilient toward whatever comes, use the resources you have in your life to their fullest, and become less reactive toward the stress you face. Taking proper care of your body, soul and mind can keep you in optimum shape for handling stress, which gives you as much resilience as possible to help you manage those uncontrollable things in life. The following are some important basic self-care strategies that can keep you functioning well and ready for life's challenges.


Get Enough Sleep

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Sleep is very important for your emotional and physical well being. Lack of sleep can negatively impact your ability to handle stress, be productive, and function properly. Unfortunately, busy schedules and stress can make sleep more elusive. Between having too little time to sleep, having a hard time falling asleep, and getting poor-quality sleep from stress, getting adequate shut-eye isn't always easy, but it is vital.

Fortunately, there are many things you can do to support your sleep habits, from using time management strategies to carve out more time, to finding relaxation techniques to help you fall asleep and get quality sleep all night. And if you really aren’t able to get enough sleep at night, don’t underestimate the value of a power nap!


Maintain Proper Nutrition

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Many people aren’t aware of the extent to which this is true, but a poor diet can actually make you more vulnerable to stress. Ironically, stress (and the things in your life that cause it) can make it more difficult for you to maintain a healthy diet, which can contribute to more stress. If you're too busy, you may find it more difficult to find time to cook healthy meals, and you may be more tempted to eat unhealthy 'convenience' foods, which can exacerbate stress. Being too busy can also create stress, and feeling stressed can make you crave unhealthy foods as well, contributing to a vicious cycle. While hectic schedules can make it harder to get proper nutrition, a poor diet is not inevitable. Learn how to maintain a healthy diet when stressed. You may be surprised by how much stress you can handle when your body is well-nourished.


Exercise Regularly

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Exercise can be great for you physically and mentally. It provides a stress release and keeps your body healthy. It also helps your body release endorphins, which increase your feelings of overall well-being. Exercise classes can offer social support and group motivation, or home workouts can offer health benefits that are cheap and convenient to get before you start your day.  Regular exercise can be a long-term solution for building resilience to stress, a short-term way to blow off steam, or both.  Learn about the ​positive effects of exercise to relieve stress, and find resources for getting started with an activity that suits you. (Hint: Pets make great workout buddies!)


Maintain Social Support

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Social support can keep you healthier and happier, creating a buffer against stress, and it's an easy stress reliever to utilize. Friends can pick you up when you’re sad, provide insights when you’re confused, and help you have fun when you need to blow off steam. Learn how to cultivate supportive friendships and expand your social circle so you’ll have someone to lean on when stressed. Don’t forget, it’s important to provide a supportive ear when your friends need it, too! Develop effective listening skills so you will be a better support to your friends and loved ones.


Find Hobbies

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Having some “down time” is important, and hobbies can provide a nice distraction from stress and help you stay ‘in the moment,’ which is also a great way to relieve tension. Artistic expression has been found to be a great stress reliever, even for those who don't see themselves as particularly creative. Drawing and gardening are great stress relievers, but just about anything you enjoy can work. There are many unconventional stress relievers that can provide some fun and distraction from stress.


Pamper Yourself

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Taking care of your body on the outside—with a spa treatment, for example, can work wonders for your internal state. Don’t overlook the importance of pampering yourself on a regular basis. This can come in the form of a massage day, a movie date, or a simple cup of coffee, depending on what you find to be relaxing. It can help you feel great about yourself and feel ready to take on the world.


Keep Your Mind Sharp

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If you maintain the attitude that stress is a challenge—rather than a threat, you are better able to handle it. By keeping your mind sharp, you are more equipped to solve the problems and take on the “challenges” that life presents. You may want to dive into learning more about a subject that fascinates you. School may have been stressful, once you don't have to worry about grades, learning becomes a way to focus and sharpen your mind. Games like crossword puzzles, Sudoku, and trivia challenges can be fun to play and a way to relax when you are feeling stress.


Have The Right Attitude

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Much of what you experience in life can feel more stressful or less so depending on your point of view. Looking at things from an ​optimistic frame of mind can not only decrease your stress level but bring you more success in life and more. You can even change ingrained negative thought patterns to more positive ones by using positive affirmations. Are you an optimist? If you're not sure, this quiz on optimism and stress reduction can tell you.


Process Your Emotions

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Keeping your emotions bottled up may lead to an emotional explosion later on. It’s generally healthier to listen to your feelings, process them, and try to understand them. Consider them ‘messengers’ that tell you when something is not right with your world. A great way to process emotions is the act of journaling. When you write about your feelings, and potential solutions to your problems, you can reduce stress in your life and even see some health benefits.


Maintain a Spiritual Practice

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Research shows that a lifestyle including religion or spirituality is generally a healthier lifestyle. Many people, especially seniors, use prayer as a major stress reliever and strategy for emotional health. You can use prayer to enhance your spiritual side, or use meditation of you don’t feel comfortable with prayer. Spiritual practice is deeply personal, and whatever your practice, it should nurture your soul.

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