Everyone feels stress daily in multiple ways. Relationships, work, holidays, tragedy, special events, school, housework, and traffic are just some of the many stressors we experience at some point. Stressors may not always be easy to identify, but they are still present.
Luckily we have a choice in how we respond to stress and what responses we use to cope with the stress.
How Do We Cope?
Everyone copes with stress in their own way. While many turn to quick fixes that make the stress go away temporarily, such as drugs, alcohol, gambling, eating, etc., these temporary negative coping strategies can potentially create more stress and problems in the long run.
A more positive way to cope with stress includes:
a) identifying the stressor(s)
b) managing our thinking as we interpret the stressors
c) considering the consequences of our actions
d) changing our thinking to healthy ways of coping.
We can also practice healthy stress management techniques. How individuals apply these techniques may be very different for every person.
Consider implementing some of the following common research-based techniques that have been found helpful when coping and dealing with stress:
1. Breathe deeply
When people are stressed, they sometimes have a tendency to hold their breath or breathe quicker than normal causing their bodies to react and get tense. Taking deep breaths from the diaphragm, rather than the chest, can help calm nerves and anxiety.
2. Visualize calm
Go to a happy place or think of calming scenes such as a warm tropical beach or a cabin in the snowy mountains.
Physical activity releases the happy positive chemicals that can help fight against illness and help individuals to feel better naturally. When stressed, take a walk, stretch, and focus on having straight posture. It can also be helpful to roll the shoulders backward and forward five to ten times slowly to relax the neck and shoulder muscles.
4. Take up a hobby
Spend some time doing something enjoyable such as knitting, playing a sport, or reading. Taking part in a hobby can help with thinking more clearly and feeling more energized in order to take on daily challenges.
5. Just say no
When individuals realize they can’t do everything, they often feel more at ease and capable to deal with the stress they can control and handle. Research suggests making a list of attainable goals for the week and working toward achieving one goal every day. Crossing off a completed goal on that list can boost self-confidence!
Hint: assign tasks to friends and family who are available to help. If no one is available, prioritize tasks and check each one off as it is completed.
6. Have fun!
Learning to laugh at ourselves and see the humor in any situation can reduce stress. Smiling (even when not feeling happy) and laughing are good for the body because they help generate the positive chemicals in the body and help it to physically relax.
7. Talk or write it out
For many, it helps to talk about what he/she is experiencing with a friend, loved one, or professional who can be trusted and is not involved in the stressful situation. People with little to no social support are more likely to engage in sedentary behavior, alcohol or drug use, and too little or too much sleep, which can often cause more stress. Others who don’t want to talk about issues also find that writing a description of the stressor and feelings in a journal is often helpful in venting intense feelings and thinking more
8. Get pampered
On occasion, some individuals find it can be helpful to do something nice for themselves that they normally wouldn’t do, such as getting a massage or buying a treat.
9. Take a time-out
Get away from the stressful situation and play a round of golf or go to a movie. While taking a break will not make the problem go away, having a positive temporary distraction can allow time to calm down and rethink the response to the stressor.
10. Learn to recognize the warning signs
Everyone responds differently to stress but recognizing common stress symptoms such
as headache, insomnia, digestive issues, and anxiety can help individuals to take action to cope with stress earlier rather than later.
Research provided by Naomi Brower and Kimberly Stanley
- Chao, R. (2011). Managing stress and maintaining well-being: Social support, problem-focused coping, and avoidant coping. Journal of Counseling & Development, 89(3), 338-348.
- Singer, T. (2010). Stress less. New York, NY: Hudson Street Press.
- Weiss, B. L. (2003). Eliminating stress, finding inner peace. Carlsbad, CA: Hay House, Inc.
- Wheeler, C. M. (2007). 10 Simple solutions to stress: How to tame tension and start enjoying your life. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger Publications, Inc.