Adversity comes at us from the moment we are born. Infants get hungry and tired. Toddlers grapple with language and self-control. As children develop through adolescence to become teenagers, life grows ever more complicated. Developing relationships, navigating school and exercising independence — the very stuff of growing up — naturally creates stressful situations for every child. Come adulthood, we are no strangers to stress.
Being emotionally well is more than just handling stress. It also involves being attentive to your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, whether positive or negative. Emotional Wellness implies the ability to be aware of and accept our feelings, rather than deny them, have an optimistic approach to life, and enjoy life despite its occasional disappointments and frustrations.
At each developmental stage, mindfulness can be a useful tool for decreasing anxiety and promoting happiness. Mindfulness — a simple technique that emphasizes paying attention to the present moment in an accepting, nonjudgmental manner — has emerged as a popular mainstream practice in recent decades. It is being taught to executives at corporations, athletes in the locker room, and increasingly, to children both at home and in school.
Meditate A few minutes of practice per day can help ease anxiety. It's simple. Sit up straight with both feet on the floor. Close your eyes. Focus your attention on reciting -- out loud or silently -- a positive mantra such as “I feel at peace” or “I love myself.” Place one hand on your belly to sync the mantra with your breaths. Let any distracting thoughts float by like clouds.
Breathe Deeply Take a 5-minute break and focus on your breathing. Sit up straight, eyes closed, with a hand on your belly. Slowly inhale through your nose, feeling the breath start in your abdomen and work its way to the top of your head. Reverse the process as you exhale through your mouth.
Be Present Slow down. Notice how the air feels on your face when you’re walking and how your feet feel hitting the ground. Enjoy the texture and taste of each bite of food
Reach Out Your social network is one of your best tools for handling stress. Talk to others -- preferably face to face, or at least on the phone. Share what's going on. You can get a fresh perspective while keeping your connection strong.
Tune In to Your Body Mentally scan your body to get a sense of how stress affects it each day. Lie on your back, or sit with your feet on the floor. Start at your toes and work your way up to your scalp, noticing how your body feels.
Decompress Place a warm heat wrap around your neck and shoulders for 10 minutes. Close your eyes and relax your face, neck, upper chest, and back muscles. Remove the wrap, and use a tennis ball or foam roller to mssage away tension.
Laugh Out Loud A good belly laugh doesn’t just lighten the load mentally. It lowers cortisol, your body’s stress hormone, and boosts brain chemicals called endorphins, which help your mood. Lighten up by tuning in to your favorite sitcom or video, reading the comics, or chatting with someone who makes you smile.
Crank Up the Tunes Research shows that listening to soothing music can lower blood pressure, heart rate, and anxiety. “Create a playlist of songs or nature sounds (the ocean, a bubbling brook, birds chirping), and allow your mind to focus on the different melodies, instruments, or singers in the piece,” Benninger says. You also can blow off steam by rocking out to more upbeat tunes -- or singing at the top of your lungs!
Get Moving You don’t have to run in order to get a runner’s high. All forms of exercise, including yoga and walking, can ease depression and anxiety by helping the brain release feel-good chemicals and by giving your body a chance to practice dealing with stress. You can go for a quick walk around the block, take the stairs up and down a few flights, or do some stretching exercises like head rolls and shoulder shrugs.
Be Grateful Keep a gratitude journal or several (one by your bed, one in your purse, and one at work) to help you remember all the things that are good in your life.