Coping With Stress
At different times in our lives, we all must deal with stress. The causes of stress and people’s reactions may differ, but the coping mechanisms and psychological techniques can really help you to “thrive” rather than just “survive.”
There are healthy ways to deal with stress. First, you should evaluate the situation and determine what is manageable in your circle of influence and strive for “emotional ability.” You can learn to Stop – Pause – Think and Act rather than React.
Remember there are always options and ask yourself if the rewards are worth the stress level you are experiencing. Like a standard shift on a car, that has several gears, pace and times yourself; downshift when necessary rather than always being in fifth gear. Ask yourself, “is this situation critical, important or nice to do?” You can get through any situation if you set realistic expectations and give yourself a realistic time frame to complete a task. Don’t be afraid to ask for help as it is a sign of strength and not a weakness; don’t be shy to say “no thanks” to a task, if other important priorities and time constraints prevail.
Various techniques exist, and it is important to add laughter and humor to defuse a situation and don’t always take yourself too seriously. It’s good to find a quiet area, decompress, and practice some simple breathing exercise, or visualize that you are in your favorite vacation spot, such as the beach or the mountains. Physical exercise is the best anti-depressant and will always reduce your blood pressure and heart rate. Do try to walk every day for 30-45 minutes.
How can I know if I have stress?
Everyone has stress — it is whether the stress is mild, moderate, severe or extreme. Mild stress helps us perform better and creates feelings of joy and excitement. When stress is perceived as a threat or potential danger, and more severe, then our brain and hormones (adrenaline and cortisol) can influence our body and mind.
The symptoms of stress may be physical, psychological, behavioral or cognitive:
- Physical signs may include: muscles tense up, increased heart rate, blurred vision, migraine headaches, TMJ (joint disorder), back pain, fatigue, constipation, stomach ache.
- Psychological symptoms may include: feelings of loneliness, isolation, irritability, sadness, anger, moodiness, shortness of temper, defensiveness, etc.
- Behavioral symptoms may include the following habits: overeating, excessive drinking, sleeping too much or too little, smoking, nail biting, road rage, being overly critical, etc.
- Cognitive signs may include: forgetfulness, poor concentration, loss of humor, constant worrying, inability to think clearly, etc.
Are there psychological techniques you can use to cope effectively?
Yes. Try these:
- Visual imagery. Imagining peaceful places such as the beach or the mountains can help to make you calm.
- Mental rehearsal. If you practice a presentation in advance of actually doing it, and you perceive a positive outcome, it can reduce your stress.
- Concern is preferable to excessive worry. If you have a plan of action, and a support system, you can reduce anxiety and complete the goal.
- You can learn, unlearn and relearn new habits which takes about 3 months.
- Try to remain calm, cool, collected and in control.
- Try to practice “mindfulness” — staying in the moment.
- Have hope and faith and try to see the positives in life; not just the negatives.
What does it mean to be resilient?
Life is full of ups and downs that can produce stressful events or circumstances. What’s important is how you manage the stress.
How? You can start by trying to be like bamboo. Bamboo trees are able to withstand fierce storms by having the ability to bend and bounce back from the wind. A more rigid wood will always fall victim to storms. Bamboo trees can survive in parts of the world where wind storms are frequent because bamboo trees are more resilient. The goal is to remain flexible, adaptable to the situation, and find healthy strategies. Learn to hit your own Reset button to bounce back and re-group.
The first step in becoming more personally resilient is learning to forgive, both yourself and others. It is vital that past failures or disappointments are put aside so you can live in the present and start to add a new chapter to your life that is more rewarding, positive, and successful.
How important is stress management?
- Health care expenditures are nearly 50 percent greater for workers who report high levels of stress; $300 billion spent per year on stress related issues.
- Workers who must take time off from work because of stress, anxiety, or a related disorder, will be off the job for an average of 20 days.
- Women report more stress than men at work with headaches and sleep related problems; men actually take more sick days because of stress.
- A stress management program based on a cognitive behavioral approach in the workplace will assist in the decreasing or preventing depression and anxiety.
De-stress for a healthy lifestyle
- Eat nutritional foods — fruits and vegetables
- Exercise daily
- Don’t smoke
- Get enough sleep — 7 to 8 hours per night
- Manage your time well
- Stay organized, set priorities and remember what you value
- Develop a support system of family, friends and colleagues
- Find a healthy outlet — an interest or group that gives you passion
- Strive for good work/life balance and more flexible work schedule
- Enjoy vacations without guilt and remember that enjoyable memories outweigh materialistic possessions
Breathing exercises to help relieve stress
Sitting in a chair:
- Uncross your arms and legs, close your eyes, and relax your muscles.
- As you inhale, imagine that your belly is a big balloon that you’re slowly filling with air.
- Slowly inhale through your nose and exhale through your mouth.
- Take two to three slow and deep breaths, and maintain a nice breathing rhythm.
- Repeat entire process four times.
- Open your eyes, re-adjust and notice how you are more relaxed and feel balanced.
It’s good to practice this exercise a few times daily.
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