Taking care of your emotional health is as important as taking care of your physical body. If your emotional health is out of balance, you may experience high blood pressure, ulcers, chest pain, or a host of other physical symptoms.
When you feel good about yourself, it’s much easier to cope with life’s little ups and downs as well as bigger events, such as divorce or a death, says Jeff Gardere, PhD, a clinical psychologist and an assistant professor of behavioral medicine at Touro College of Osteopathic Medicine in New York City.
Here are 10 ways you can practice better stress management and boost your self-esteem. These strategies will help you stay resilient through everyday stresses and when larger personal issues arise.
- Grow Your Circle of Friends to Expand Your Support System
“It’s very important that you have a support group of friends and family,” Dr. Gardere says. “You need people whom you can talk to about your problems — people who will listen to you when you need to get things off your chest — so that you know you’re not alone in whatever it is.”
- Learn More to Lessen the Fear of the Unknown
“Knowledge is power,” Gardere says. If you have a problem, learn whatever you can about the issue or the health condition you’re facing. The more you know, the less you will fear what might happen, Gardere says.
- Get Moving to Improve Mood and Lessen Anxiety
Any form of exercise that you enjoy will do. “Regular exercise works as a good partner for people who are on medication,” Gardere says. Exercise also works well for people who have mild or moderate depression and don’t need to be on medication. Think of it as a great tool for stress management.
- Have Sex to Build Confidence and Self-Worth
Intimacy within a committed relationship has all sorts of emotional benefits — it can help make you feel good about yourself and boost self-esteem. “Figure out a schedule that works for you and your trusted partner — that could be once a week or three times a week or twice a month,” Gardere says.
- Develop a Passion by Investing Time in a New Hobby
Everyone should have at least one hobby, Gardere says, whether it’s taking care of plants, collecting antiques, or listening to music. You should do something that brings you some real joy — a passion that’s all yours and that no one can take from you. Having a hobby and taking pride in it is a great way to boost self-esteem.
- Eat and Drink Healthfully and in Moderation
Alcohol can be a good stress reducer, but you must indulge in extreme moderation, Gardere says. The same advice applies to indulging in food. You can eat what you want and enjoy it as long as you eat smaller portions and get regular exercise, he says. Maintaining a healthy weight is important for your physical and your emotional health.
- Meditate or Practice Yoga to Relieve Stress
These types of activities are effective for stress management. Meditation is a focused form of guided thought. Yoga and tai chi, while movement-oriented, are also proven stress busters.
Other stress-reducing techniques include deep breathing and progressive muscle relaxation. If you’re unsure of how to get started, take a class and learn how to practice on your own for 30 minutes, three times a week.
- Manage Your Time by Setting Weekly Goals
If you make a schedule and set goals for yourself for the week, “you’ll be more on top of your days, and when you’re more on top of your days, you’re more on top of your life,” Gardere says. As you cross off the tasks on your to-do list, you will feel a sense of accomplishment which will help reduce stress, he adds.
- Get Enough Sleep to Maintain Energy and Increase Productivity
“People who get a good night’s sleep wake up with more energy and tend to be more productive,” Gardere says. If you are overly tired, every task and responsibility can seem exaggerated, and even small problems will feel like big ones.
- Learn to Say No and Refrain From Overextending Yourself
If you try to do more than you can handle, you will only end up frustrated and stressed out. If someone asks you to do something you absolutely can’t do, say no. At the very least, ask for help. And if you can’t do it, explain why kindly but firmly.
Nurturing your mind is as important as nurturing your body, and it will make you better able to handle whatever life throws at you. However, if your emotional problems are serious and you can’t seem to shake them yourself, or if you’re having issues with anxiety or depression, it’s very important that you see a mental health professional and get help, Gardere says.