According to the American Psychological Association, the United States is facing a mental health crisis that could yield serious health and social consequences for years to come. This was brought on by the stress created by the pandemic, leaving many people extremely anxious and riddled with worry. With that in mind, it’s crucial that people prioritize relaxation and stress-reduction in order to protect their mental health. The good news is there are numerous simple actions to take that can help.
“Being busy became such a trend, as though busy equated success,” explains Katie Sandler, personal development and career coach. “Now freedom and flexibility are the symbols of success,” she continues. “It’s hard for people to chill out when their systems are programmed to be going nonstop and working nonstop. It takes a minute to down regulate the system in order to actually reduce stress and chill out.”
In a Pew Research Center survey, at least 60 percent of adults reported they sometimes feel too busy to enjoy life, with 12 percent saying they felt that way all of the time. Living like this is one sure way to increase stress and anxiety levels. Experiencing long term stress can lead to a variety of health problems, including heart disease, obesity, cognitive decline and depression, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Here are five ways to chill out and de-stress.
- Mindfulness. Keeping yourself in the present moment can go a long way toward helping you lower stress, anxiety, and even depression as well as help you get better sleep and establish a better sense of well-being. Mindfulness is something that everyone can learn and practice anywhere at any time.
- Connect with people. Getting together with people we enjoy being around helps us laugh, feel connected and make us happier. Those populations who are the healthiest in the world, such as the Blue Zones, tend to get together for social interaction regularly. Join a group or find some friends you like to be around and meet up on a regular basis. If you don’t feel comfortable being in person – create zoom social events; something is better than nothing.
- Be in nature. There are many health benefits from spending time in nature. Even a view of nature helps us feel better and can improve our mood. Be sure to get outdoor time, taking walks, biking, gardening, or doing something else you enjoy. Nature-deficit disorder is real. Whatever you choose, just be sure to spend time outside and in nature.
- Schedule free time. With the busy lives that people live today it may be necessary to put free time on the schedule. This way it will be a part of your plan and you will have to give it your attention. Don’t let other things crowd out your scheduled free time.
- Set the intention. The first part of making your life less hectic is to set the intention that you are going to chill out. Setting the intention will get you to formulate your thoughts, plans, and goals. Determine what you want, what you will do to make it happen, and what you want the outcome to be.
With a bachelor’s degree in psychology and a master’s in mental health counseling, Sandler has a strong foundation in mindfulness-based stress reduction, and has worked in hospitals and private practice. She helps clients identify a plan for personal achievement, take steps to reach goals, and hone in on areas that need to be worked on. She provides them with meaningful tools they can use to help bring calm and insight into their lives.
“You can’t continue to put off reducing your hectic and stressful lifestyle,” added Sandler. “Having a more relaxing life with less stress takes being proactive and making some changes. You have to put work into it. Some of it may seem counterintuitive, but what you get back is beyond rewarding.”