Do you find yourself reaching for a beer or glass of wine when you’re feeling stressed? Turning to alcohol to relieve stress is not uncommon, but it is not a long-term and healthy solution to coping with the negative effects of stress.
Many people are experiencing higher levels of stress and anxiety right now due to the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak. By finding ways to cope with those feelings that don’t involve alcohol, you can improve both your physical and mental health and help reduce your cancer risk.
One of AICR’s Cancer Prevention Recommendations is to limit alcohol consumption, as research shows that consuming alcoholic beverages increases the risk for six cancers. If you do drink, limit your consumption to 2 drinks for men and 1 drink for women per day. For cancer prevention, it’s best not to drink alcohol.
The next time you are experiencing feelings of stress, try one of these five coping mechanisms:
Regular physical activity has numerous health benefits. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) notes that the benefits that physical activity has on brain health happens immediately after a moderate-to-vigorous physical activity session. This includes reduced feelings of short-term anxiety, improved sleep and improved cognitive function. There is also evidence that regular physical activity can improve long-term anxiety, deep sleep and executive function.
From a physical health standpoint, being physically active and exercising can lower your cancer risk, help you have a healthy weight and lessen your risk for many chronic diseases.
Call a friend or family member
Connecting with people you trust about how you are feeling can help you deal with stress and anxiety. While you may not be able to connect with someone face-to-face, having a conversation with a friend or family member over the phone can allow you to open up about your feelings or take your mind off of the stress of the day.
Eat a well-balanced meal
Eating a heavy or highly processed meal can make you feel lethargic and it doesn’t contain the nutrients your body needs to help you live healthier. Use this extra time at home to experiment in the kitchen with new recipes and find healthy foods that you enjoy eating.
Not sure what a well-balanced meal looks like? AICR’s New American Plate model recommends the center of your plate be filled with colorful fruits and veggies, whole grains and beans. If you eat meat, you can include a modest 3-ounce serving as well.
Whether you want to try a new healthy meal for breakfast, lunch, dinner or to snack on, you can visit AICR’s library of healthy recipes to find recipes that are not only delicious, but have been created with cancer prevention and healthy survivorship in mind.
Take a break from the news and social media
Watching, reading or listening to the news every day through the television, online or social media can heighten your feelings of stress and anxiety. Repeatedly hearing about the COVID-19 pandemic and other things that are out of your control can be upsetting, so turn your attention to what you can control and do an activity you enjoy instead.
Read a book, take a walk or play a board game with your family.
Try a relaxation exercise
The National Cancer Institute (NCI) states that many people with cancer have found that doing relaxation or imagery exercises has helped them cope with pain and stress, but these general techniques can help anyone cope with feelings of stress.
When getting started, be sure to find a quiet place where you will not be disturbed and direct your attention to your body and your breath. Once you have created this space, try any of these techniques offered by the NCI, including breathing and muscle tensing, slow rhythmic breathing and imagery.
While the COVID-19 outbreak has affected our world, we can focus on what we can control and take care of our own health. Give one of these coping mechanisms a try the next time you are experiencing heightened feelings of stress. Your mental and physical health will thank you!