Practical Suggestions For Managing Stress, Anxiety, And Depression

When we take a look a look around, we cannot escape the fact that there are many things happening in our lives, homes, communities, states, countries, the world, and our planet that are having an effect on us. It can often be difficult to manage stress.

In my 30 years as a substance abuse counselor, life recovery coach, employee assistance professional, and corporate trainer, I have never seen such a dramatic collective increase of stress, anxiety, and depression.

Building resilience is one effective way to improve symptoms related to these mental health concerns.

Merriam-Webster’s dictionary defines resilience as, “An ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune.” Most people think of resilience as the ability to bounce back after adversity or a stressful situation.

As resilience research has evolved, we have come to understand that resilience is the ability to successfully adapt and effectively cope in the face of adversity such that recovery is beyond bouncing back or “surviving” to an improved state of being or “thriving.”

The experience of stress, anxiety and depression is not only emotional but also physical and physiological. Learning healthy ways to cope and manage has never been more important. This article provides practical and healthy suggestions for building resilience by managing symptoms related to stress, anxiety, and depression.

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23 Actions You Can Take Today

1. Do a physical activity for at least 20 minutes, 3 to 4 times a week.

Taking a walk, dancing to your favorite playlist, cycling, roller skating, yoga, swimming, carefully going up and down stairs, or jumping jacks are a few options. Our bodies have a natural desire to relieve or release stress-related hormones, like cortisol, adrenaline, and norepinephrine. Doing a physical activity, regularly and consistently, releases stress hormones versus having them build up inside in our body which can lead to toxicity and stress-related illness. It also increases “feel good” chemicals like endorphins, serotonin, dopamine, and stress neutralizing chemicals like oxytocin.

2. Spend time in the sun to re-energize.

The sun increases Vitamin D, a necessary nutrient to boost immunity, bone health, and improve cognition and symptoms related to depression.

3. Body of water.

Try looking at a lake or pond, laying on the beach, swimming, or being on a boat. Stay in the present by focusing on what you are experiencing through your senses (What do you see, hear, smell, and feel?). This is a mindfulness practice that can quiet your thoughts by shifting your focus.

4. Take a bath or foot soak with Epsom salt (minimum 20 minutes).

The magnesium in the salt will help to ease muscle tension and promote sleep. Add an essential oil like lavender to boost results.

5. 4-7-8 Breathing.

This breathing technique has been scientifically proven to decrease symptoms of stress, anxiety and help with sleep if practiced regularly. Proper form is important: Sit up straight or lay down on your back. Start with a 4 second inhalation through your nose. Keep your shoulders and chest down and expand your belly with air; this is called diaphragmatic breathing. Hold for 7 seconds, then exhale through an open mouth for 8 seconds. Do 4 repetitions at least once a day. Doing a breathing exercise increases oxygen in our blood and decreases a build of carbon dioxide.

6. Drink chamomile tea.

Chamomile tea can naturally promote sleep and help with relaxation.

7. Limit caffeine, Nicotine, and sugar.

These chemicals have a stimulating effect.

8. Unplug to recharge.

When we see and hear too much fear-provoking or violent information (news and social media) it causes the release of stress hormones. Just as your phone needs time to recharge, so do we. Disconnecting by taking a digital detox each day can help you manage stress, sleep better, and spend time doing other activities.

9. Listen to music.

Happy, soothing, dancing, or sing-along music. Listening to the right kind of music can improve our mood.

10. Do some gardening.

Whether it’s pulling weeds or planting seeds, both can be helpful in relieving stress.

11. Release oxytocin.

Oxytocin is a chemical that neutralizes stress hormones. Release it by laughing, hugging a loved one, eating chocolate, and petting a pet.

12. Meditation, used for thousands of years, is very effective to help you center and relax.

There are many free apps and videos for beginners. Put your earbuds in and limit distractions. Beginner meditations are less than 15 minutes. Developing a regular meditation practice will give you a few minutes of mental rest.

13. Try a weighted blanket.

Adding heaviness to you comforter or buying a weighted blanket can help ease anxiety, manage stress, and promote sleep.

 14. Use essential oils or candles.

Lighting a scented candle or diffusing essential oils like lavender, ylang-ylang, and chamomile can promote relaxation and take the edge off nerves.

15. Focus on gratitude.

When negative thoughts become overwhelming, focusing on gratitude can help to neutralize them. Write a daily gratitude list of 5 things you are thankful for (try to make them different each day).

16. Grounding technique.

While there are many others, the Five Senses technique is a common grounding technique. In this exercise, you’ll identify 5 sights, 4 sounds, 3 physical sensations, 2 smells, and 1 taste (say them out loud). This increases awareness of your surroundings and can make you feel more present and connected versus future focused which often increases anxiety.

17. Practice progressive muscle relaxation technique.

Tighten and relax muscle groups in your body from head to toe. For example, starting with your forehead, tighten and squeeze your facial muscles, hold for 10 seconds (breath in and exhale) and release, then work your way down your body (shoulders, biceps, triceps, hands, etc.).

18. Clean and organize.

Cleaning a drawer, closet, or room exerts energy and relieves stress. The result helps us to feel accomplished, have clearer thoughts, and feel at peace.

19. Sound therapy.

Listen to white noise, rain, ocean waves, or the song of a singing bowl. All of these can be found with a search online. Find one that is soothing and relaxing.

20. Use a heated a blanket.

If you don’t have a heated blanket, you can put a towel, robe or blanket in the dryer for 15-20 min. Take it out and wrap yourself in it like a warm hug. Feel your stress melt away.

21. Herbal Supplements.

Talk with your health provider about taking natural herbal supplements: St. John’s Wort (depression), or Ashwagandha (managing stress and anxiety), melatonin (sleep), or valerian root (stress and anxiety).

22. Find your words.

Check out an online resource designed to make it easier to open up about mental health and empower more people to ask for help, take action, and support others like

23. Shift your focus.

Remember that your peace of mind can be determined by your point of focus. What you chose to focus on will determine how your feel. Focus on positivity, health, and healing.

Help Is Always Available

24/7 hotlines are always available to you. Access the National Suicide Lifeline at 1-800-643- TALK (8255) or the Anxiety/Panic Disorder Information Hotline at 1-800-64-PANIC (72642). To get in touch with someone to discus rehabilitation options for substance abuse or mental health disorders, call a treatment provider for free here.

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Dayna Smith-Slade, MAC

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  • Dayna Smith-Slade is a nationally certified Master Addictions Counselor (MAC), licensed Substance Abuse Professional (SAP), and Substance Abuse Expert (SAE) with over 29 of hands-on experience in the addiction field.

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