For a Happy Life, Skip the Strife

Ukraine, Covid, Politics, Inflation – sometimes the news can get you down, or at the very least, make you anxious – as can working long hours, worrying about a loved one, or experiencing financial hardship. All of it takes a toll on your body:  anxiety can increase your blood pressure and heart rate, cause heart palpitations and upset stomachs, and lead to extreme fatigue and other conditions.

We hear time and time again that the less stress you have in your life, the healthier you will be. So, what can you do to relieve some of the stress and anxiety you may be experiencing?

“When you feel stressed and think it may be affecting your health, it’s time to change the subject,” says John Mastronardi, Executive Director, The Nathaniel Witherell. “Not that it’s always easy, but according to medical professionals, there are steps you can take to help ameliorate difficult situations.”

  1. Art matters. Feeling down? Try to focus on something beautiful. According to The Wall Street Journal, there is new research suggesting that viewing art can improve one’s mental health. So a visit to a museum could be something to add to your list. “Though making art has long been regarded as a form of therapy through self-expression, recently, the passive participation—the looking at art—is now being assessed as a different way of improving mental health.  
  2. Exercise matters. Exercise is a great way of reducing stress because it can divert your attention away from something that’s making you anxious. Exercise also gets your heart rate up and changes brain chemistry to create more space for anti-antianxiety neurochemicals. The American Psychological Association also recommends exercise because it leads to a sense of accomplishment, self-care, and it can “build the mind’s muscles.”
  3. Eating well matters.Set aside a little time each day to take a walk, do some stretching, and prepare healthy meals. You don’t have to give up carbs altogether, just choose foods with complex carbs like those found in vegetables, beans and whole grains over the other kind of carbs – those found in cake, ice cream, cookies, and pasta – as they contain starch and sugar or are highly processed. You may get an energy rush from all the sugar, but it will be short-lived. Plus all that sugar is not so good for your health.
  4. Get some sleep. At the end of the day, a good night’s sleep can do wonders. Sleep heals. Most adults need anywhere between 6 to 8 hours of solid sleep a night. For a restful sleep, try not to eat or drink just before bedtime. And if you like catching a nap during the day, try to confine it to 15-20 minutes.
  5. Smile. It’s a good idea to start each day in front of a mirror with a big smile – even if you don’t feel like it. The face that’s smiling back at you will alter your mood. Hold that smile for at least fifteen seconds. Think about what you are grateful for, and then, take a deep breath and do what we recommend above in #1, 2, 3 and 4.

For further information, contact Justine Vaccaro, the Witherell’s Director of Social Work, at 203-618-4257.



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