When was the last time you felt good? Like really, truly happy and content?
According to a recent poll by the American Psychological Association, not only has it been a while since we’ve felt good, but we’re currently dealing with a ridiculous amount of stress, especially when it comes to the future of our country.
Last August, 71 percent of Americans reported feeling a physical or emotional symptom of stress at least one day that month. In January, 80 percent had symptoms such as tension headaches or feeling overwhelmed or depressed.
I’ll admit that I have been concerned about the future of our country for the last decade. A big part of my professional life is invested in news and analyzing such stories, but I go to great lengths to ensure that the national discussion doesn’t wield the power of stress over my life.
Many of my depressed friends often question how I am able to stay optimistic and upbeat when people like me are entrenched in sad or troubling stories.
So given the unfortunate polling numbers and the questions, I thought I’d share some of the ways that I combat stress and depression from controlling my outlook.
Every day I deal with stories or discussions that upset me. But when I start to become more frustrated than hopeful, I will disengage and spend some time searching for positive or uplifting stories of triumph.
For every negative article I share or post, I will always try and find at least two that remind me that good people not only exist, but that they’re thriving.
Not only does that help me, I like to think it inadvertently helps those who choose to view what I have to say or share.
Quite often when I’m stressed out, I find that I am not sleeping nearly as much as I should be. Whether it be a quality night’s sleep or sneaking in a nap, committing time to snoozing not only refreshes, it boosts my mood.
Is what you’re dealing with interfering with your ability to fall asleep? Something that works for me is plugging into a guided meditation on a digital device (free on most social media sites) and my focus on the meditation distracts my brain from everything else and in the process, I am lulled into a blissful sleep.
Don’t be afraid to say no
At times my life can be a roller coaster when it comes to events and responsibilities. I can become so busy that I even forget to eat. And I love to eat. It’s the best part of the day.
So when I come across invites or requests and I am already dealing with a lot and am starting to feel burnt out, I will respectfully decline.
As grateful as I am for everything that comes my way, I am only at my best when I have taken care of myself. Sometimes that means taking an afternoon to read or an evening to laugh at a dumb movie. It’s self-repair that I need and therefore it makes it much easier to say no.
Often when I experience something dark or am dealing with hard realities, I go out of my way to find something beautiful or inspiring for perspective.
This could be as easy as punching up a motivational speech on YouTube or heading to the beach to catch the sunrise. Doing simple stuff like this really helps me remember that the universe is a big place and that focusing on one upsetting thing when there is a big, beautiful world out there is small of me.
When researchers at the London School of Economics zeroed in on the connection between volunteering and measures of happiness in a focus group of American adults, they found the more people volunteered, the happier they were.
I do what I can to help others, even if I don’t have a lot of time to commit to something.
For example, Panda Express is a place I frequent at least once a week. It seems like for the last few years I’ve been asked at the register whether I would like to round up the price of my meal and donate it to the children’s hospital or not.
It’s quick and it doesn’t break the bank since it is a little amount each time. So it’s my pleasure to give and I always walk away feeling better than I did when I walked in.
Of course, there’s nothing like really committing time and seeing the faces of those you can give back to in person. It’s why for the last five years I have jumped at the opportunity to read to a third grade class.
Not only do the kids love having a visitor that comes to share stories and encourage literacy, I feel like they teach me how to be more grateful and kind hearted every time I see them.
There are many ways to give back and it sure helps to keep stress out of your life.
Wade Heath grew up in Lodi. Reconnect with him: www.Facebook.com/Wadewire