By Cynthia Germanotta, Born This Way Foundation President + Co-Founder and Colleen Werner, ChannelKindness.org Reporter
In today’s fast-paced, overworked, hectic society, stress seems almost inescapable. And while stress obviously impacts mental health, according to the American Psychological Association, it also has the potential to affect nearly every system of the body.
So in honor of Mental Health Awareness Month and #StressFreeSaturday, here are two of our favorite ways to reduce stress:
One: Dance! (Or the physical activity of your choice)
Growing up, we both participated in numerous ballet classes, performed in recitals, and made countless friends along the way. Dance has played a significant role in our lives - as a way to have fun, as an opportunity to express ourselves, as a mechanism to find community, and - perhaps most importantly - as an outlet to relieve stress.
While we happen to love dance, we know that physical movement of many varieties can be great tools to manage stress and mental wellness generally. Activities like dancing (and running and yoga and swimming and walking and…) can help you clear your head, release negative emotions you may be feeling, become confident in your own skin, and connect with others.
For examples, studies have proven that dance improves one's mental health. In one study, Swedish researchers divided 112 teenage girls who were struggling with physical and mental health problems into two groups - one of which took dance classes twice a week for eight months, while the other group served as the control. The girls who took the dance classes reported a boost in their mood, stress level, and other positive effects.
Two: Be kind!
As much as we love dance, our other favorite way to reduce stress is through kindness.
When we say we love kindness, we mean it. One of us co-founded an organization focused on fostering kinder communities, and one of us is a Channel Kindness Reporter, dedicated to finding and spotlighting acts of kindness.
We love it not just because it’s the right thing to do for other people, but because it’s the right thing to do for yourself.
One of the most crucial things we’ve learned in our journeys to reduce stress in our own lives is that while we are all individuals, we are constantly surrounded by others. As a result, helping reduce stress for others can have a positive impact on our individual mental health and the wellness of communities as a whole.
Carrying out small acts of kindness for others may make all the difference. Whether it’s helping an elderly neighbor run an errand, or letting a friend vent about what’s on their mind, there are many simple things we can do that can help cut down on someone else’s stress load. In turn, doing what we can to help create a kinder world can be an incredibly gratifying way to reduce stress for ourselves and for others.
So the next time that you find yourself overloaded with stress, try one of these strategies! Go for a run, take a long walk, or break out your best dance moves. Then try doing something for someone else - buy a cup of coffee for the person behind you in line, leave a positive note on a table for someone to find, or even just smile at someone as you walk down the street. The smallest actions can make the biggest impact.
You’ll feel better, and so will someone else.