3 Free Tools To Help Manage Stress, Straight From An M.D.
With social media available at our fingertips, it's easy to replace mindfulness with mindless scrolling. These distractions from the present moment have eroded our ability to properly manage stress. And according to Heather Moday, M.D., most people are underestimating the effects that stress can have on overall health.
"In fact, if I had to pick one thing that people avoid in their wellness programs, it's managing their stress," she said on the mindbodygreen podcast. One reason being, stress management isn't as tangible as getting blood work done or measuring your steps.
"We get busy, and we just think it's not that important because it's not something that you can grab with your hands," she said.
Moday shared her top three tools for managing stress, regardless of your busy schedule. Bonus: They're free!
Most stress is caused by fear of the future or reliving trauma from the past, according to Moday. When we live like this, we are not focused on the present and therefore have a harder time dealing with new stress responses.
"What meditation and mindfulness does," she said, "is constantly brings us back to the present moment and allows us to be much stronger."
When mindfulness and meditation are practiced daily, they promote resilience in the face of stress. "It just takes our mind away from something that hasn't happened or that thing that happened 10 years ago," she said.
Another thing she called "super, super important" for managing stress was journaling. The act of writing down your emotions as they arise can help you deal with past traumas and issues, she said.
Journaling has also been credited with promoting creativity and improving memory, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and, of course, for managing stress by releasing information overload. Reading back through the writing can help people make sense of their feelings and challenges, as well as their strengths and successes.
Sleep for a full 8 hours.
The fact that sleep deprivation can negatively affect our health is not new knowledge, but how much sleep do you need to manage your stress?
"I really like people to get eight hours," Moday said, and the American Psychological Association agrees. A report from APA found that people who sleep fewer than eight hours each night experience higher stress levels, which causes them to feel irritable, angry, and overwhelmed. "You go below seven," Moday said, "and I think it's a little dicey."
All three of these tools are rooted in mindfulness, and the practice of mindfulness is ongoing and daily. "And you know what? It's free," she said. "You don't have to have a fancy place to go. You don't have to have money. You don't have to have a fancy education. All you have to do is get quiet."
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Abby Moore is an editorial operations manager at mindbodygreen. She earned a B.A. in Journalism from The University of Texas at Austin and has previously written for Tribeza magazine. She has covered topics ranging from regenerative agriculture to celebrity entrepreneurship. Moore worked on the copywriting and marketing team at Siete Family Foods before moving to New York.