This hasn’t been an easy year for any of us. Whether you faced a lay off, lost income, or had to delay your financial plans this year, you’re not alone. Stress levels are high and we’re all feeling the pressure of the COVID-19 pandemic.

There may be light at the end of the tunnel. There’s hope that the recession won’t last long, and we’ll get through this. But for now, if you want to take a pause to reflect and unwind, you should.

Self-care and your mental health should be a priority right now. And these tips for de-stressing can help set up you for brighter and better days to come.

1. Organize your home

Clutter and disorganization can subtly drain you of energy and wreak havoc on your mental health. When you don’t have a comforting home base, challenging situations or hard days can feel even worse. Organizing doesn’t have to be extreme—you don’t have to Marie Kondo your entire life or alphabetize your books—it can be as simple as removing clutter from your living spaces, getting rid of clothes you haven’t worn in years, or cleaning out your fridge. Not only is this a therapeutic stress management tool, but it gives you more space, which can help you feel less stress and anxiety.

2. Get into nature

There are several scientifically proven benefits for getting outside. One study even found that just 20 minutes in nature significantly lowers your stress hormone levels. Simply spending time outside in the fresh air is a great way to slow down and practice mindfulness. It’s like free therapy you can get whenever you want. Plus, vitamin D helps your body function more efficiently, and that includes how the body manages stress and anxiety.

3. Practice breathing

You’re only a few breaths away from a better mood! Taking time out of your day for breathing exercises might be exactly what you need to keep you in a state of calm.  Before starting your day, take a few moments to sit in a comfortable seat and practice deep breathing. Exhale the air from your lungs, inhale slowly through the nose for four counts, and then exhale for five counts. Do 5-10 rounds of deep breaths. It only takes 5 minutes, and it’ll set you up for success in more ways than one.

4. Get your heart rate up

Endorphins are a stress reliever: it’s as straightforward as that. And it doesn’t have to be intense physical activity. Even a 20-minute walk a day can do wonders for your overall wellness and help you de-stress.

5. Meal prep (and then actually cook!)

Beyond helping keep your budget in check, there are many  therapeutic reasons to prepare yourself a nice homemade meal. Some health care clinics and counselors actually use “cooking therapy” to help people suffering with anxiety, depression, or other mental health issues. If you're coming off a stressful situation and need to calm down, turn to all those healthy eating ideas filling up your Pinterest, heat up the oven, and focus on the present moment.

6. Get Creative

Grab your coloring book. Giving your mind something simple to focus on has de-stressing benefits. By letting your body take over and your mind let go of its normal pattern of thoughts, it’s like you’re giving your stress hormones a little time-out. If coloring isn’t your jam, try journaling or dancing. Any relaxing hobby you enjoy is good for your well-being.

7. Create a Monthly Budget

Yes, we’re serious. Spending some time creating a budget might sound like the opposite of de-stressing, but hear us out: By creating a plan, you empower yourself to have more control over your financial situation. Because money worry is one of the leading causes of stress, being proactive about your finances might just help you boost your bank account and your emotional well-being.

8. Rethink your sleep schedule

A lack of sleep can cause stress. Unfortunately, you can get caught in a bad cycle as stress can also make it difficult to fall asleep. Good sleep habits, such as keeping a regular sleep schedule, are key to self-care.

While many people may not be able to get as much sleep as they’d like, there are a few simple changes that could help. For example, avoiding stimulants (such as caffeine or alcohol) in the evening, limiting light and screen exposure at night, and having a pre-bed routine are proven ways to help you fall asleep quicker and lead to higher-quality sleep.

9. Talk to a friend

A quick phone call or socially distant picnic date with a trusted friend, family member, or even a coworker could help you get a reprieve from your stressors. You may get a new perspective on your situation or suggestions for how to approach a particularly tricky problem. You may not come away with a grand insight, but you’ll hopefully have a little fun—which will automatically lower stress.

10. Listen to relaxing music

Listening to music is an easy way to find stress relief. The right tune can alter your frame of mind and help put you in a happier place. There are playlists of calming music online, and songs that are created to help people de-stress. However, any song that evokes joy in you could do the trick. Want to up your wellness game? Incorporate breathing exercises while you listen to your favorite tunes.

This year hasn’t been easy, but these tips for de-stressing will let you better prepare for the upcoming holiday season and the year ahead. You got this!

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