How to deal with stress

Ways to cope with stress

Stress is an inevitable part of life and so you’ll never be able to avoid stress completely. The best way to cope with stress is to learn how to deal with it and here are 10 ways to do just that ...

Some stress can be good, and we can all thrive under a certain amount of it — so our goal should not be to eliminate stress completely, but to learn how to manage it and how to use it to our advantage.

Just as there are many sources of stress, there are also many ways of dealing with it — all of which work around changing the sources of stress and/or changing your reaction to it. Here are's  top tips on how to deal with stress:

Change how you react to stress

One simple solution would be to say ‘stop stressing!’ to yourself — which, if you say it out loud, will stop your train of thought when you’re stressing too much. Of course, it’s not always easy to stop stressing, as stress is an instinctive reaction — and some stressors will be out of our control. The best way to deal with stress is to make a conscious decision to change your reaction to it when stress occurs. So, when you begin to feel stressed about a particular problem, say ‘stop stressing!’ to yourself and try to put the problem into perspective.

Recognize when you’re feeling stressed

Look for the warning signs of stress. Symptoms include tension, exhaustion, loss of or increased appetite, sleeplessness or oversleeping, headaches, and crying, among others. Compulsive behavior and ‘escaping from problems’ through the use of alcohol or drugs are also often indications of stress. Recognising the signs of stress should set your alarm bells ringing so that you can start to apply some of the techniques for coping.

Avoid situations that make you stressed

Of course, avoiding events or things that lead to stress is not always possible — or even beneficial — but it can sometimes be a good idea. If you find that you always become stressed in certain situations, then it might be good to stay away from stressors where possible. For example, if you get stressed about queuing in supermarkets and traffic jams, then why not get someone else to queue or do the driving occasionally?

Don't worry about things you can't control

Some things can drive you up the wall so much that you’ll feel like you’re about to explode, but the actual stressors causing you to feel this way may be out of your control. Why freak out just because the weather’s not good or there’s a problem at work that you can’t avoid? If you accept a situation that you can’t control then it will be more bearable for everyone concerned — yourself included!

Work to resolve conflicts

Unresolved conflict with other people is an unnecessary source of stress. Try to resolve conflicts whenever possible rather than wasting energy worrying about them. Even if you try but you’re unable to resolve it, then at least you have tried — which will mean you’ll worry a lot less by knowing that you’ve done everything you could possibly do.

Use stress to your advantage

A little stress can be used to help drive you on to achieve something. Sometimes you’ll need an adrenalin rush to focus the mind and ready yourself for something. For example, think of a person about to do a parachute jump for the first time: if they don’t get an adrenalin rush, then they’re unlikely to go through with the jump. So, stress can be used to your advantage — provided that you don’t allow it to overpower you.

Share your problems

Talking about a problem with a partner or friend may make all the difference to your stress levels. Bottling up things often makes them feel worse than they actually are — which can make you get things out of perspective. Talking about a problem can eliminate or reduce your worry about it — so the saying ‘a problem shared is a problem halved’ is very true.

Have a good cry

There is a tendency among people (especially men) to try to suppress their tears because they fear they will be seen as weak — but crying is actually a great way to relieve tension. Frequently you’ll hear people saying ‘go on, have a good cry — it’ll do you some good’. These people already have the wisdom of knowing the benefits of letting out all those pent-up emotions.

Throw yourself into a hobby

Find a hobby — in other words, throw yourself into an activity so you can escape from your worries for a while. Anything from reading a good book to doing spot of gardening can take your mind off things — and the more frequently you do it, the greater the benefits will be. Hobbies can provide a good bit of escapism without having to resort to other methods of escapism such as alcohol or drugs.

Maintain a balance in life

Getting a good balance in your life goes a long way to minimizing your stress levels. If you’re doing far too many hours in work, and/or bringing your work home with you, then the chances are that your home life is suffering as a result. And if you’re stressing about work, then you’re probably also stressing about those things at home that are being neglected. So, always make sure your ‘time off’ really is time off!

Ask for and accept help

If you feel like you’re drowning under the weight of people’s expectations, then enlist some help. Whatever the source of the help — whether it’s your friends, family or work colleagues — there’s no shame in actually asking for or accepting it. Some people are just too stubborn for their own good to accept help, even when in reality they really need some. If the extent of your stress is huge, then it might be a good idea to seek some professional help by talking to your doctor — which you shouldn’t feel embarrassed about, as many people will need to do this.

Set realistic goals

Don’t overload yourself in the workplace and at home by setting unrealistic goals. Nobody is a superhuman being capable of taking endless jobs on board and constantly balancing them all. If a situation is becoming far too stressful and unmanageable, then cut back on what you’re doing in that situation. Always ask yourself: can some of the tasks I’m doing be delegated out to others to lighten my load? All too frequently people have too high expectations of themselves and then are too afraid to back out of them — but if you just deal with the priorities and delegate other tasks when appropriate, then you’ll be less likely to become overly stressed.

Welcome change as a challenge

Adjusting to a significant change in our lives can sometimes be extremely stressful. Moving home or changing your job, for example, can be the most stressful things that you do in your life — but if you see them as positive challenges rather than a negative changes, then any stress that accompanies the changes will be less likely to affect you.

Take control

See if there is something you can change or control in a stressful situation. Doing nothing won’t alleviate your stress, whereas if you’re decisive and take on a problem in the short-term then you’ll be able to alleviate your stress in the long-term. Stress can be reduced if you’re willing to be bold and do something about it.

Learn how to make yourself relaxed

Meditation and breathing exercises have been proven to be very effective in controlling stress. Practise clearing your mind of disturbing thoughts, as this will mean you’ll be less likely to dwell on them. Take a break for a few moments at frequent intervals during the day, so that you have opportunities to relax and clear your head.

Get enough sleep

This is often easier said than done, but getting a good amount of sleep is an important factor in your ability to cope with stress, as a lack of rest will simply aggravate your worries. If possible, maintain regular sleep patterns by getting the same amount of sleep every night. Different people need different amounts of sleep — but as long as you’re getting at least six hours sleep a night, you should be able to stay healthy and be less stressed.

Work off stress

Exercising regularly is a good way to deal with stress because it is a healthy way to relieve your pent-up energy and tension and rid yourself of excess adrenalin. Exercising releases endorphins in the body which make you feel good — plus if you exercise your body will be in a better shape, which will add to your overall self-esteem. The type of exercise activity need not be overly taxing — a brisk walk or a spot of gardening may be sufficient, for example — although more challenging forms of exercise such as swimming, cycling and jogging will give you even greater benefits.

Avoid self-medication or escapism

Alcohol and drugs can mask stress, and as tempting as they are as coping mechanisms, they won’t ultimately help you to deal with your problems. Also, a bad hangover is unlikely to help you confront your problems the next day! If you do resort to such methods of coping, then they may well become habits in the long run — and habits which will be hard to break.

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