5 stress-reducing tips to try this summer
“Summertime, and the livin’ is easy.” That’s what the song tells us. And why not? School’s out, the sun is shining, the birds are chirping. Our stress levels should be dropping, right? But instead, the source of our stress just transfers from one thing to another.
If you’re a college student, anxiety over finals has disappeared, but now your summer job has your stomach in knots. If you’re a parent, anxiety over getting the kids to their after-school activities is gone, but now you’re worried about filling their days with fun.
The list never ends, but you don’t have to surrender to the cycle of stress. Marie Mauter, a licensed clinical social worker and employee assistance program counselor at Advocate Good Shepherd Hospital in Barrington, Ill., says you can set your sights on a path toward a happier and healthier life this summer. She recommends these five stress-reducing tips to help you get on track.
- Eat right
“Avoid or minimize high-fat foods, caffeine and sugar,” Mauter says. “This will help to keep you feeling balanced and less jittery. Also, try to be present and focused when you eat your meals. Avoid multi-tasking while eating because that can lead to mindless overeating.”
- Get regular exercise.
Just 30 minutes a day of walking can help boost your mood and reduce stress, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. Not only does exercise release endorphins, which create feelings of happiness and elevate mood, it also promotes a healthier self-image.
“Find the type of exercise that you enjoy or that makes you feel good,” Mauter says, adding that yoga and qigong are great ways to combine movement with meditation. “These forms of exercise can help reduce stress as much as higher-intensity workouts,” she says.
- Get the right amount of sleep
If summer disrupts your normal routine, it can jolt your sleep-wake cycle. Between seven and nine hours of sleep is recommended for healthy adults. Too little sleep can negatively impact a person’s health, but oversleeping can be harmful as well, resulting in lethargy while you’re awake. Experts recommend going to bed at the same time each night and getting up at the same time each morning to improve sleep habits.
“If it is not possible to get on a regular sleep schedule due to work or home responsibilities, try your best to get in a good amount of sleep by taking naps whenever you can,” Mauter suggests. “Try meditation or breathing exercises if you find yourself struggling with insomnia.”
When dealing with stress, some people tend to isolate themselves. They focus on their problems and sever the connection with others, not realizing friends and family members may be willing and able to help. Don’t be afraid to seek emotional support, Mauter notes.
“It is so important to be surrounded with a good support system and to ask for help when you need it,” Mauter says. “No one can do it all themselves. Be sure the people you keep near will boost you with positive energy.”
- Try a relaxing activity
“Focus on activities that fulfill you,” Mauter says. Explore relaxation techniques or stress-coping programs that incorporate meditation, yoga or tai chi. Consider reading a book, gardening or journaling.
“Be sure to make time for self-care,” Mauter says. “Allow time to rejuvenate with your favorite activities to keep you from feeling depleted or exhausted.”
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health enews staff is a group of experienced writers from our Advocate Health Care sites, also including freelance or intern writers.