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10 Proven Tools to Combat Stress and Promote Wellness

By Marcia Pinck
From financial worries to family responsibilities, from changes to job status or housing alternatives, Americans are dealing with ever-increasing stress in their lives. A CDC study showed that rates of distress vary by geographic region. Florida was ranked 43rd among the 50 states when resident survey respondents reported that in 14 out of the previous 30 days their mental health – including stress, depression, and emotional problems – was "not good.” One critical life point of increased stress is experienced by persons who may be encountering a health crisis. Co-occurring depression exists for at least one-third of those who are dealing with a physical health condition, such as multiple sclerosis, and is even more prevalent in those who are family caregivers for these individuals.

Live Your Life Well™ is an innovative program offering tools to help all Americans combat stress and promote well-being. Developed by Mental Health America, the nation’s leading advocacy organization addressing the full spectrum of mental and substance use conditions and their effects nationwide, the Live Your Life Well program provides research-based information, coupled with strategies that can help combat stress and promote well-being. It emphasizes that mental health is more than the absence of illness – it’s about being able to handle life’s challenges.

“Research is clear that good mental health is essential for overall health and well-being,” said Sonja Lyubomirsky, Ph.D., noted author of The How of Happiness: A Scientific Approach for Getting the Life You Want and a psychologist at University of California Riverside. “There are actions that people can take that can improve their mental health and increase their well-being, and even modest changes can make a real difference.”

Live Your Life Well offers scientific evidence for a range of concrete actions that promote mental wellness. Written in consumer-friendly language, the program offers dozens of easy-to-follow suggestions from behavioral health experts and tips on sustaining the advice.

The Live Your Life Well program details 10 manageable, common sense tools and many of their benefits. These 10 tools are listed below. Just as Americans have learned there are things they can do to reduce their risk of heart disease and other illnesses, people can learn to protect their mental health in tough times and also to improve their mental well-being throughout their lives.

Connect with Others

Human are social animals. We tend to do much better when we feel supported, valued and understood. Some ways to build connections include joining a book club or other group, enroll in a class where you and your classmates share a common interest, or boost existing connections by committing a certain amount of time with friends or family without the distraction of phones or TV.

Stay Positive

Thinking negatively can drag down your mood and your health. But don’t let that worry you. Experts say you can learn to be less gloomy. Some ways to stay positive include not assuming the worst, keeping a gratitude journal of anything that makes you smile or remembering your achievements.

Get Physically Active

Our bodies were built to move, especially when they’re pumping out stress-induced hormones. Some ways to make sure you exercise include scheduling physical activity as you would any other appointment, make a commitment to work out with a friend, walk faster and further when you stop for groceries, or take the stairs at work.

Help Others

If you help your neighbor, it’s good for her but it’s good for you too. Some ways to help others include volunteering at a community agency, offer your smile to those you meet, or tell someone what you admire about them.

Get Enough Rest

Sleep may seem like a waste when there’s so much to do, but you’re more likely to succeed at your tasks if you get enough rest. Some ways to create good nights include avoiding caffeine six to eight hours before bed, destressing yourself by turning off daytime worries and next day preparation at least one hour before bed or avoid sleep frustration by getting out of bed when you can’t fall asleep after 15 minutes and waiting until you feel more tired.

Create Joy and Satisfaction

Go ahead kick up your heels or just kick back. Feeling good is good for you. Some ways to increase joy and satisfaction include listening to a humor CD, doing something you loved as a kid, or identifying the high points of your day and doing more of those activities.

Eat Well

Our bodies – and our brains – need good fuel to function well. Some ways to promote good nutrition include eating regularly scheduled meals – skipping meals can make your blood sugar drop which may leave you nervous or irritable. Sustain your energy and ability to resist junk food by packing healthy snacks such as nuts or raisins, or balance a variety of nutrients to maintain brain functioning maintains a good mood and clear thinking.

Take Care of Your Spirit

Taking care of your spirit means connecting to whatever you consider meaningful and holy, whether that’s God, nature, art, or something deep within yourself. Some ways to connect with your spiritual side include prayer or focus on your notion of God, talking with others who share similar spiritual beliefs and learning from each other, or reading inspiring texts for insights that can enrich your life.

Deal Better with Hard Times

Most of us will face particularly tough times in our lives, such as illness or a loss. Having ways to cope with these challenges can protect your health and well-being. Some ways to deal with especially hard times include tackling problems by making a list of possible solutions. Pick one and break it down into manageable chunks, getting support from other people who have gone through similar situations and can offer concrete advice and a real understanding of how you feel. Or write about an upsetting event to organize your thoughts and file the problem away.

Get Professional Help if You Need It

If the problems in your life are stopping you from functioning well or feeling good, professional help can make a difference. You can be well – vibrant, strong, alert and productive. You can feel well – comfortable, confident, gratified and grateful. You can live your life well.