4 secrets to managing stress

With the holidays right around the corner, you may be wondering how you'll survive meeting everyone's expectations. According to the American Psychological Association's (APA) Stress in America survey:

  • 42% percent of adults say they're definitely not or aren't sure whether they are doing enough to manage their stress
  • Another 20% say they never engage in activity to help relieve or manage their stress

With today's hectic schedules, persistent stress can have long-term effects on your physical and mental health. Stress management is an essential element of self-care , and can go a long way towards maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

Start managing your stress today by practicing these four tips.

Tip #1: Say no

Whether it's an added responsibility at work or a favor for a friend, we often put more on our plates than we can handle. The APA's survey shows that having a long list of "To-dos" is one of the top causes of stress for adults in the United States. To keep from overextending yourself, it's important to remember that it's okay to say no. Keep self-care as a priority in that "To-do" list. Though it may feel like you're disappointing someone if you can't take on a task, committing to a manageable workload will allow you to devote more time and energy to both your work and yourself.

Tip #2: Take a break

Stress may weigh particularly heavily when you feel like there is outward pressure to finish a task – whether it's a family member's expectations, a social obligation or a work deadline. If you can't say no to the stressor, remember that it's okay to take yourself out of the situation, even if it's just for a momentary breather. Set down the phone, leave the party or walk away from that tricky assignment for a few minutes.

Meditation can be a great way to recenter and regain perspective when things feel overwhelming. Go for a walk, or do some light stretching. Try reading a book or talking to a friend. Whatever you do, make sure that it offers the chance to decompress, so that you can go back to the situation with renewed energy and fresh eyes.

Tip #3: Check in with your body

While stress may feel like only a mental strain, it poses many physical health risks as well. From high blood pressure to chronic back pain, stress can come with a slew of unpredictable symptoms. If you're feeling stressed, do a quick checkin with your body. Are you sore? Tired? Hungry? Eating healthy and getting a good night's sleep are often the key to long-term stress management; when your body is well-rested and refueled, it's much easier to face stressful situations with positivity and open-mindedness.

Tip #4: Get involved

Volunteering can be a restorative, mindful way to manage stress. In a study administered by the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), researchers found that those who volunteer have lower mortality rates, greater functional ability, and lower rates of depression later in life than those who do not volunteer. Volunteering often provides people with a sense of productivity and gratitude, both of which are integral to managing stress.

Furthermore, the CNCS found that offering support to another person has more noticeable long-term health benefits than receiving support yourself. Community service projects and nonprofits are always looking for volunteers. Find something that works for your interests and lifestyle and get out there!

While stress is sometimes unavoidable, learning how to manage it is invaluable. Figuring out the stress relief techniques that work for you can go a long way towards helping you live a healthier, happier lifestyle and truly enjoying the holiday season.