The American Psychological Association recently released the results of a survey listing the top four areas where Americans are most stressed—the future of the country, money, work, and the political climate. With so much pressure centered around unknowns in both the present and the future, it’s more important than ever that we take the time to find effective, sustainable ways to manage stress and anxiety.
Self-care activities are things you do to nurture and supportyour mental and physical health. When we feel overwhelmed and overworked, we can get burned out—not just with work, but also with our friendships, partnerships and activities we typically enjoy. It’s pretty common for stress to spill out from its original container and into other areas of our lives. Without moments of self-care, we sink deeper into anxiety, depression and exhaustion.
Are you one of the two-thirds of Americans feeling the weight and burden of those top four stressors? Here are some self-care strategies you can use today to help you better care for yourself—and, in turn, more capable of caring for others.
Worried about the future of the country
This the number one stressor for Americans, as reported by the American Psychological Association. Sixty-three percent of U.S. residents report significant concerns about the direction this country is going.
Self-Care Solution: Focus on your sleep. Though you may not see a connection right away, getting a good night’s rest is critical for mental clarity, focus and critical thinking. Start a bedtime meditation routine to help you relax your mind and body so that ruminative fears and worries don’t keep you up.
- Developing good sleep hygiene (helpful sleep habits) – These are tips that go throughout the day up until you want to go to bed. For example: Only being in your bed when you’re having sex or wanting to go to bed. They seem difficult at first, and you don’t have to keep all of them as hard-and-fast, black-and-white rules, but they can be helpful.
- Developing a nightly routine – Whatever it is that can help you slow down. Brushing your teeth, reading a book for 20 minutes, whatever it is that shows your body you’re headed to sleep.
- Avoiding screens or, if you are using them, using computer apps like Shady and/or f.lux; on your smartphone, finding accessibility tips online that can help you make the brightness go lower than it says it can go, and turning on the setting that makes the blue light go down as the sun does, too.
- Using the CBT-i app, developed by VA’s National Center for PTSD, Stanford School of Medicine, and DoD’s National Center for Telehealth and Technology, which has cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) exercises.
- Asking a doctor or therapist for extra help if none of these tips work.
Anxious about the bills piling up
Money is a huge stressor. Did you know that fighting over finances is one of the major reasons married couples in the U.S. end up filing for divorce?
Self-Care Solution:Get organized. Take time to eliminate the clutter in your home—including stacks of unopened bills that could be stressing you out. When you have decor on every wall and every table, disorganized closets filled with items you hardly see or use, you can feel suffocated—mentallyand physically. Getting rid of clutter in your home can motivate and empower you to get rid of clutter in your finances.
Stressed at work—all the time
The United States has one of the strictest workplaces. We work longer hours and take fewer vacations than our European counterparts. Plus, we’re always plugged in—checking email on our phones day and night.
Self-Care Solution: Use your lunch break. You get an hour every day to step away from your desk and shake off the day. Use it for self-care. Go for a walk, listen to a podcast, visit a friend, read a book, get a massage, take a yoga class or any activity that relaxes and restores you.
Concerned about the next election
Self-Care Solution: Unplug. Take 15-30 minutes every day to step away from media, your phone, the television, and the computer, and focus on a relaxing activity. If you’re creative, work on knitting a scarf or painting a landscape. If you are physical, go for a walk, run or bike ride. Just be sure whatever hobby you dive into is one free from interruptions by the news and media.
With our 24/7 newscycle—combined with the two hours a day we spend on social media—we are bombarded by political news coverage. There is almost no escaping it. No matter what side of the aisle you prefer to sit on, everyone is concerned about our combative political climate.
- This is a list of self-care resources for advocates and fighters.
- This is a list of self-care resources for caregivers.
When you are stressed, the quality of your care and ability to prioritize is affected. Your ability to be productive is weakened. Self-care isn’t about putting yourself before others; it’s about being aware of how you feel and how that can influence how you act. Look for opportunities to care for yourself and you’ll also find opportunities to care for others.
General self-care resources:
- Deciding what values you’ll focus on and learning to lessen the importance of the rest.
- Creating a set of tangible reminders of how to get yourself up and going again. This goes hand in hand with developing a self-care plan for your many aspects of health: Spiritual, emotional, relational, physical, and so on.
- Discovering how to live life well, despite having lower energy than you wish you had.
- 21 Tumblr Posts that Have Your Back When You’re Feeling Low: Some introductory words to self-care and encouragement.
- General questions to assess where you are as you begin your journey of caring for yourself better.