Everyone experiences stress and bad days from time to time – even the most seemingly carefree and positive people. And military members who have to deal with deployment, frequent moves, and other challenges, are at increased risk of anxiety.
While life may sometimes seem overwhelming, understand that you are far from alone. If you are having one of those days – or weeks – here are some stress management tips you can use to help relieve your tension and enhance your mind, body, and spirit.
8 Military Stress Management Tips
- Acknowledge your feelings – It’s ok to feel bad – it happens to everyone. Honor your emotions and give yourself permission to feel the way you do. Find a comfortable space and take some deep breaths. Think about how you are feeling and how your body is reacting to the tension. Once you acknowledge your discomfort, you can use some of the following strategies to combat it.
- Exercise – Physical activity has been widely shown to improve mood and reduce anxiety. Exercise is an excellent stress management strategy that can help you feel better by releasing the “feel-good” brain chemicals like endorphins and serotonin. It can also help prevent or improve health issues like diabetes and high blood pressure. You don’t have to run a marathon to reap the benefits of exercise either. A research study conducted by Jeremy Sibold, assistant professor of rehabilitation and movement science at the University of Vermont, Burlington showed that as little as 20 minutes of moderate exercise of day boosted the mood of study participants for up to 12 hours later.
- Take 3 and let it out – Vent and complain – but keep it short. Share your thoughts verbally with a family member or friend, or write them down in a journal. It can be scary to let your feelings out but honesty is important. The key is to limit your venting session to just three minutes. This is enough time to communicate what you are going through, without dwelling on it and making your bad mood worse.
- Practice gratitude – Take a few minutes to make a list of the top 20 things you are thankful for in your life. Robert Emmons, a psychology professor at the University of California at Davis, is an expert on gratitude and has found that an “attitude of gratitude” can boost mood and feelings of optimism and other positive emotions. Instead of looking at what you don’t have, think about all that you do Acknowledging the positive aspects of your life can help you realize how much good surrounds you every day.
- Perform small acts of kindness – Being extra kind is probably the last thing you feel like doing when you’re grumpy and stressed, but performing small acts of kindness can actually improve your mood dramatically. It takes the focus off of you and places it onto others. The acts can be as small as giving a compliment, sending a nice text message, or holding the door open for the person behind you. The Random Acts of Kindness Foundation website features several studies that show how being kind can improve the health and well-being of not only the people who receive the act, but those who practice it as well.
- Take a nature walk – Get a few friends or family members together and stroll through a park, walk on a beach, or hike on a trail. Being in natural sunlight and surrounded by nature and breathing in fresh air can improve emotional health, and when combined with exercise and socialization, the mood-boosting benefits are even greater. Read this study by the University of Michigan to learn more about how group nature walks enhance mental well-being.
- Nurture yourself – During difficult times it is important to make yourself a priority. Pamper yourself by taking a long bath, watching a funny movie, listening to your favorite music, lighting scented candles, or doing something else that you enjoy.
- Eat foods that make you “happy” – No that doesn’t mean a pint of ice cream or bag of chips. It means eat foods that contain nutrients that are known for improving mood and increasing energy. Psychiatrist Drew Ramsey, author of The Happiness Diet, suggests eating foods such as mussels, salmon, Greek yogurt, and kale to help maintain better mental health.
Stress and bad moods are a normal part of life, but they don’t have to take over your life. Try fighting your funk with these strategies and get some relief from negative emotions. In time you’ll discover what works best for beating your blues and keeping your spirits high.