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Practical, Healthy Self-Care Steps for Coping with a Stressful Day

Whether you woke up on the wrong side of the bed, have contracted a serious case of The Mondays, or bore the brunt of your boss’s foul mood, everyone experiences a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day once in a while. They’re an inevitable part of life — but it’s how you deal with them and what you do to bounce back that really counts.

All too often, Americans turn to unhealthy coping mechanisms to boost their mood or blow off steam after a stressy day. There’s a reason so many bars offer discount drinks, free food, and other enticements during happy hour! Other people might binge on guilty pleasure food, forget their troubles by taking illicit drugs, or stop by the casino in the hopes of parlaying their paycheck into a substantial windfall.

Of course, you’re not doing yourself any favors if you start the next day with a hangover, a stomachache, or a sense of regret. That’s why we’ve compiled a list of practical actions you can take to shake off stress, recover from a lousy day, and push the reset button for a fresh start tomorrow.

Let Yourself Vent — To a Point

Sometimes, the best way to cope with a stressor is to vent about it. And we all know that keeping your feelings bottled up inside isn’t a good approach. But mental health experts also warn about going too far in the opposite direction. This is known as ruminating, and it can make your problems worse.

Ruminating is when you keep on thinking or talking about the same issue — usually a negative one — past the point of productivity. Getting caught up in a problem, or replaying a scenario over and over again in your head, can prevent you from moving on or finding a solution.

It’s OK to give yourself a certain amount of time to obsess over the issue, but then take steps to stop ruminating. If you’re venting to a friend, change the subject.

Unplug for the Evening

Want to really destress? Turn your phone off and keep your laptop closed — or, if you’re unwinding with a movie on Netflix, log out of your social media accounts for the evening.

After a difficult day, constantly scrolling through IG and Facebook may be more likely to kickstart your feelings of FOMO, jealousy, resentment, or irritability. You might take your anger out on friends or followers, make impulsive posts that you’ll regret the next day, or start to get down on yourself.

“One of the biggest benefits of social media is that it can help people feel less alone,” says Amanda McDonald, a psychiatrist in Ft Myers FL. “But spending too much time on these sites may be a blow to your self-esteem. Remember that a lot of work goes into those ‘effortless’ photos, and so it can be very damaging to your psyche to judge yourself by social media’s standards.”

You might find that the movie’s much more enjoyable without pausing it every few minutes to post about its plot, or that you actually enjoy reading a paragraph with no hashtags in it. A few hours of unplugged living will do you a world of good — and the memes will still be there in the morning.

Move Your Body

Physical exercise is one of the best ways to stave off the ill effects of stress. If you belong to a gym, grab your favorite workout playlist and hit the treadmill or the racquetball court. Not a gym rat? Weather permitting, a nice long walk, jog, or bike ride will almost certainly clear your head. Or simply put on some upbeat songs and dance it out for 15 or 20 minutes.

Many people find gentle stretching or some simple yoga poses to be beneficial for both the mind and body. It’s a little like a moving meditation. Focusing on the rhythms of your breath, as well as warming up your muscles, can be a fantastic way to relax before bed — and can improve your sleep, too.

Exercise Your Creativity

There’s nothing like a sweeping historical saga, trashy reality show, or funny romcom to distract you from your real life, but for the most part, watching TV isn’t very fulfilling. Indulging your inner artist can be a surefire remedy for pent-up stress, and you’ll have something to show for your efforts, as well.

Spend a few hours with your camera, knitting needles, embroidery hoop, watercolors, pastels, or jewelry making supplies. Give hand-lettering a whirl, bake up a cake and decorate it, or pen a poem that expresses how you feel. You don’t have to share your creative endeavors with anyone if you don’t want to, either. This is purely for your own enjoyment.

Remember, Tomorrow Is Another Day

Hopefully, one of these healthier coping mechanisms will cheer you up and help you put this bad day behind you. If all else fails, there’s no shame in going to bed early and getting a jump on tomorrow!

Do you have any unique hobbies to help yourself destress? What’s your favorite way to relax and recharge? Share your thoughts in the comments below!