You’ve heard the line about not sweating the small stuff, but when it comes to actually destressing your life, taking action is often easier said than done. Spring, often referred to as the season of new beginnings, is the perfect time to identify your sources of stress and figure out ways to manage them (or, if you’re able to, eliminate them all together).
If you’ve decided to dip your toes in the stress-reduction pool, here are seven habits that can help you get in a more positive headspace this spring.
Cultivate a garden
Getting your hands dirty in the garden not only exposes you to mood boosting vitamin D, it also gives you a chance to interact with stress-relieving bacteria found in soil. Since transitioning from an agricultural society, fewer people are exposed to beneficial microbes found in soil and rural environments that benefit our physical and mental health. And if that’s not reason enough to grab your shovel and some seeds, other studies have shown that gardening can lead to higher emotional well-being, increased quality of life and — surprise — healthier eating habits.
Decrease clutter with some spring cleaning
Clutter and disorganization has been shown to negatively affect mental health, leading to stress, anxiety or depression. And while spring cleaning typically encourages deep dives into junk drawers and the purging of closets, that same mindset can be applied to many aspects of your life. Reevaluating your financial needs, for instance, ensures your money is working for you all year long, especially if you’re interested in saving for the future. Plus, pay attention to bonus offers this season; some banks offer $100 to $700 just for opening new accounts.
According to The American Institute of Stress, getting outside diminishes time pressure, distracts us from stressful everyday routines and alleviates mental strain, leaving us feeling more fulfilled, relaxed and recharged. Studies show that spending anywhere from 10 minutes to 120 minutes in nature results in more positive mental health and overall well-being. You’ll also be in a better mood thanks to the uptick in endorphins and serotonin that kicks in whenever you’re outside or doing physical activity.
Take a day off
While now might not be a great time for a full-blown vacation, it’s okay to take mental health days when you need to recharge. Burnout is real and can make you feel detached from your work or relationships, cynical, or uninterested in things you used to enjoy. Giving yourself permission to take a much-needed break — whether that means soaking in a hot bath with your favorite book, unplugging for a few hours or going for a drive — can leave you feeling rested, re-energized and more productive.
Get moving and eat healthy
Diet and exercise play key roles in keeping stress under control, so make sure you’re staying active and maintaining healthy eating habits. To safely stay in shape, the Cleveland Clinic suggests sticking to non-competitive endorphin-producing aerobic activities like Tai Chi and strength or weight training. Try to limit caffeinated or alcoholic drinks (both can lead to increased levels of cortisol, the stress hormone) and instead, drink plenty of water, exercise or get outside if you’re feeling overwhelmed. Herbal teas and foods rich in vitamin C, magnesium, omega-3 fatty acids and complex carbohydrates are also known to reduce stress.
Start a new hobby
As author Leo Tolstoy wrote, “Spring is the time of plans and projects,” so why not make time for a new hobby you’ve been meaning to try? Give baking or cooking a shot, learn a new language, play an instrument, paint, knit or write in a journal. Studies show maintaining hobbies over time decreases feelings of depression, because it forces you to take a break to do something you actually enjoy. For more of a social connection, consider joining a group associated with your new talent.
Find your focus and get enough sleep
According to the Mayo Clinic, low-impact stretching and deep-breathing activities like yoga and guided meditation can be very helpful in lowering stress, encouraging you to slow down and focus on your breath, keeping you in the moment and taking your mind off your troubles (if only for a few minutes). Getting enough sleep is also important so your body can have a chance to reset — stress and sleep deprivation are so intertwined. Stick to a routine so your brain will know when it’s time to go to bed and you’ll wake up feeling more refreshed.