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STRESS! Just typing the word makes you feel unpleasant. Knowing the word and associating the word with past stress makes you remember the hard times. And all that.. leads to more stress.

Impossible to avoid, difficult to navigate, devastating to ignore, stress has grown with the ongoing pandemic, added to other pre-COVID global, national, and intrapersonal issues. Since it can’t be avoided, how does one handle stress now?

Thankfully, as stress has plagued humanity from the moment that the first hominids walked upright, we’ve learned to cope with this unavoidable human constant. Small, sustainable lifestyle changes aid in dealing with daily anxiety.

Breaking down stressors, social interaction, and dietary/fitness changes aid in handling stress.

1. Break down your stressors

Facing your stress is an excellent first step. But, if you’re reading this and have a million things on your plate, that sounds less like legitimate advice and more like psychobabble. And saying “face your stress”  is just babble, if you face all your stress as some monolithic behemoth, unwilling to move off your chest.

This is where breaking down your problems comes in. Take your problems, and break them into the smallest units you can until you find something you can manage.

Let’s assume you owe a few dozen bills. Rather than looking at these bills as one debt monster, look at each bill separately.

Determine which one is the most pressing bill, then start hacking away at that. If you can’t pay the full bill up front, try talking to the entity to whom you owe the bill. You’d be surprised at how many companies are willing to work with you. They are, after all, people just like you, and people may be willing to negotiate.

Talk to the other companies you owe bills to, and see who is willing to negotiate. Companies will often be willing to set up arrangements, or even accept a smaller amount.

Breaking down a problem into its individual components can help you to see what is manageable, and what steps can be done to make that problem shrink or disappear.

2. Social interaction

Seeing your friends in person is not an option at the moment. However, this does not mean that you can’t talk to anybody at all. Video chatting is easier than ever, and often can be done for free. Many social media websites offer up video chatting services, and numerous apps exist for the same purpose.

If you don’t have a smartphone or a laptop with video capabilities, you still likely have access to a phone. While you don’t get to see the person on the other side, you can still have a conversation. And who knows, they might need it just as much as you.

And these aren’t the only methods of long-distance communication. Instant messaging, e-mail, text messaging, even physical mail (be careful, of course) can be used to communicate with friends and loved ones.

3. Dietary/fitness changes

Being stuck mostly indoors can cause its own health issues, which can lead to stress. Reduce this by taking the time to make healthier choices.

Now is the perfect time to start a fitness routine. You don’t need to train to run a marathon or deadlift your body weight, just start simply. Walking around your neighborhood, developing a body-weight strength training routine, even just walking in your living room while the tv’s on works as a start.

Small nutritional changes have big impacts, too. Some foods that aid with stress support include dark chocolate, nuts and seeds (Brazil nuts are great for stress relief), and any food with Omega-3 fatty acids.

Aiding one’s nutrition with supplements can provide excellent health benefits if done thoughtfully. Products with ingredients that have adaptogenic components like L-Theanine and Rhodiola have stress-reducing qualities.

Don’t Be Afraid to Change

If you take nothing else from this article, take the following; incremental change is better than nothing and can lead to greater change as those increments add up. And these increments help you to handle stress so much better.

Removing smaller problems leads to fewer problems overall; phone calls lead to closer relationships; walking a little leads to walking more; making one dietary change can lead to easier changes down the line. Try these little things, and ramp up as needed. Rome wasn’t built in a day; neither is your defense against stress.

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