Read a book, meditate, pray—or some other form of stress relief—every day.
Read a book, meditate, pray—or some other form of stress relief—every day. (For Spectrum Health Beat)

Phew, 2018! What a year!

Between political ups and downs or the deaths of beloved icons such as Aretha Franklin, Stephen Hawking, Stan Lee, and Kate Spade—we could go on and on—it seemed 2018 put many of us through the wringer emotionally.

Looking for ways to cope with stress seems a wise way to put the year behind us and move forward.

Breathe deep. Relax your shoulders. Still your mind. And then consider these 8 suggestions from psychologist Jared Skillings, PhD, ABPP.

Get spiritual

Give yourself time to consider the purpose and meaning of your life. Prioritize what is most important. When you identify those priorities, it can help you to “keep the main thing the main thing,” Dr. Skillings says.

Forgive

People who walk around with resentment build up significant stress in their minds and bodies. Forgiving those who have done you wrong can help you break the mental control a circumstance has over you. Dr. Skillings stresses that there is a difference between forgiving and forgetting.

“You don’t want to be naïve and forget people have treated you badly or been abusive,” he said. “But it is important to try to gain closure so you can move forward with your life.”

Develop a stress-release practice

Take time every day for one activity that relieves stress. Meditate, pray, take a hot bath, read a book—pick any activity that you enjoy doing.

Get musical

Listening to music can be a mini break from the stress of work or other responsibilities. Explore an unfamiliar type of music. Find a new band that you enjoy. Or return to some old favorites—listening to music from happy times is a proven mood booster.

Be social

Spend more time with friends and family who add to your life. Look for ways to improve your social support—find a new friend or join a community group.

Say thanks

In the midst of challenges or loss, try to remember to be thankful for what you do have—the things and people in your life.

Be goal-oriented

It is tempting to aim big—get your home organized, lose weight, get in shape. But it can be difficult to measure progress or to overcome a setback when goals are too big or too vague. Dr. Skillings advises setting goals that are SMART—specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely.

Take action

Taking care of physical health can help you cope with stress. The last three tips all touch on that mind-body connection:

Increase physical activity: Even walking five to 10 minutes is helpful.

Work on eating healthier: Cut down on alcohol, fried foods and sugary foods.

Go to bed on time: Do your best to get a good night’s sleep.