Stress is inevitable, but managed well, stress can promote emotional and intellectual growth and resilience as we age.
This six-step plan can help you manage stress at any age:
Identify your triggers. Once you know what’s stressing you—work, a relationship, kids, a health issue, caregiving—you can sometimes reduce or prevent the stress. Identify practical steps to improve the situation. Even if changing the trigger isn’t possible, a shift in perspective may help mitigate stress. For example, if a friend is aggravating you, step back and adjust your expectations so you can keep this bond.
Stay active. Physical activity releases feel-good endorphins. Take short (think 10 minutes) walking breaks several times a day; these breaks can be a powerful tool to channel stress. If solo exercise isn’t your thing, join a yoga, salsa or kickboxing class.
Stay connected. Maintaining healthy relationships with supportive friends and family promotes resilience. If your family is far away, build connections with neighbors, a faith family or even pets to help you feel positive and energetic.
Schedule fun. The daily rush shouldn’t consume your life. Plan your short-term and long-term fun. Make a date to binge a favorite program. Plan a monthly game night with friends and ask them to bring goodies. Identify the activities that make you smile and schedule them.
Press pause. After experiencing major change, high demand or significant loss, stop and rest. Creating time and space for rest means saying no to invitations and requests for help, at least temporarily. Consider spending quiet time every day. Contemplation, reflection and breathing creates calm.
Reframe how you think about stress. Stress responses—faster heart rate and breathing—evolved to improve our performance during stressful situations. Acknowledging stress’ evolutionary value may improve your performance and, paradoxically, reduce feelings of stress.