The Top 3 Ways To Manage Your Stress This Mental Health Awareness Month
Stress and anxiety come with the terrain of being a human being in an uncertain world. Personally, I find it unrealistic to think we could permanently transcend these aspects of life. After all, our stress response is wired for survival and safety. But with practice, we can learn to manage these feelings, so that instead of stress and anxiety controlling us—it's the other way around. And it's not as hard as you think.
3 reliable practices for nurturing mental health
Anyone else ever been stressed out by all the different ways to deal with stress? Meditation, essential oils, supplements, breathwork, bodywork… It's hard to know where to start and what actually works. As a yoga and meditation teacher and wellness writer, I've pretty much tried it all. But the practices I can always rely on to find my calm are actually the simplest ones. And in the spirit of Mental Health Awareness Month, I'm sharing them with you!
1. Online therapy
I'll admit I was initially skeptical of online therapy. I'm the kind of person who thrives on face-to-face connection and eye contact. But ongoing in-person therapy is also like paying a second rent, so last year I decided to see what BetterHelp was all about (it's up to 50% more affordable than traditional in-person therapy). After a quick questionnaire, I was paired with a therapist in under 48 hours and had my first session that week.
When you're feeling down, in-person therapy can feel like a lot of effort. Not only has BetterHelp been easier on my wallet and my schedule, but it also brings the same quality of help as therapy IRL. My therapist turned out to be perfect for me, and I continue to be surprised by how much work we accomplish screen to screen. With options to meet via video, phone call, or unlimited messaging, ongoing mental health support finally feels accessible.
I've found that mental health is most impactful when it happens on our own terms—when it's comfortable and convenient. With online therapy, I have professional advice as close as my phone—and in today's world, that means a lot.
2. Mindful movement
Every day brings a different stressor—relationship squabbles, climate headlines, keeping my plants alive, to name a few. But all stress has one thing in common: It traps us in our heads. Stress and anxiety are rarely caused by something happening in the present. As one study1 describes, "human anxiety is largely driven by future-oriented hypothetical threats that may never occur."
Stress and anxiety live in the mind, which is why connecting with the body is so effective. Because our body can only exist here and now, movement anchors us into the present moment. And the more mindful the movement, the better. Practices like yoga asana invite us to increase body awareness, helping to interrupt the thought patterns at the root of our stress. Tai chi, qigong, and walking meditations are other forms of mindful movement for stress management.
3. Nutritious and intuitive eating
One of the practices I continue to work on, with inspiration from my BetterHelp therapist, is healthy and intuitive eating. It might sound fundamental, but in a modern world—how often do we really sit down for a nutritious meal, without a screen, and savor every bite? Food is grounding; it connects us to our senses and can soothe the nervous system2. Plus, a healthy diet fosters a healthy gut, and our gut produces serotonin and dopamine3, which are neurotransmitters that influence mood!
When times get tough, the simple practice of nourishment can help us feel better at the most basic level. When my body feels properly nourished, I have the fuel and stamina to show up for my mental health. And if you're in need of some mood-boosting recipes, try some of my personal faves, like this Mood-Boosting Golden Latte and Citrus Chickpea Salad.
The bottom line
These days, everyone has a different idea of what stress management should look like. It could look like an infrared sauna or sensory deprivation tank, but for me, it's the simple and timeless practices that always pull through. Through mindful movement and nutritious eating, I feel at home in my body. Through consistent online therapy with BetterHelp, I feel calm in my mind. I think of online therapy as an investment in my mental health, and in return, I receive tools to handle anything that comes my way.
Stress and anxiety have a way of making everything feel out of control. But with these three practices, you have support right at your fingertips. You can even start right now! And in case you need a little extra motivation: mindbodygreen readers can save 25% off their first month of BetterHelp using code MBG25.
Devon Barrow is a Branded Content Editor at mindbodygreen. She received her degree from the University of Colorado. When she's away from her desk, Devon is teaching yoga, writing poetry, meditating, and traveling the world. She's based in Boulder, Colorado.
Devon's first book, Earth Women, is coming soon. To learn more, join the mailing list, and receive updates, head to www.devonbarrowwriting.com.