Coping With Stress
Even though the causes of too much stress are often beyond our control, you can learn to contain stress so that it works for, and not against you. Here are some strategies for keeping yourself on an even keel:
1. Deal with the cause. If tension comes from your relationship with a partner, talk out your differences. The longer you try to contain yourself, the more stress you'll build up.
Learn to pace yourself. No matter how hard you try, you can't be in high gear all the time. Allow for rest points. One good way to do this is to set goals and then take time out to reward yourself once you've reached them.
3. Realize your limits, and plan around them. Don't take on more than you can handle. If you have a number of must-do tasks, tackle them one at a time, in the order of their urgency.
4. Learn flexibility and accept imperfection. Go easy on yourself. Take care of things as you can, and don't worry about them the rest of the time. Don't expect perfection from yourself and others.
5. Talk out your troubles. Learn to talk things over with someone you trust. It releases pressure, makes you feel better, and sometimes can help you see a new side to your problem, or turn to a professional listener, such as a counselor. There's nothing weak about knowing when to ask for help.
6. Develop a positive and outgoing disposition. If you look at the bright side of things and beyond yourself, you won't concentrate on failure. There is also evidence that positive emotions help fight disease, while negative ones produce or intensify illness.
7. Learn to distance yourself. When you find yourself in a heated argument, stop and ask yourself, "Is this something really worth fighting for?" If not, give in. You may find other people will do so, too.
8. Make the most of your time. Try to work as efficiently as you can in blocks of time, and don't do everything yourself. Learn to delegate.
9. Plan for change. Coping with the unexpected is a great source of stress, but you don't have to be caught off guard. Even if you cannot clearly avoid certain changes, you can predict them in some cases and reduce the shock by being prepared.
10. Don't fight the inevitable. It's a waste of time. A better approach is to accept what you cannot change.
11. Eat sensibly, and get plenty of rest. When your body is run down, a lot of things look worse than they really are, and your ability to cope with them is also reduced.
12. Exercise. A physical workout is a great tension releaser. Find something that you like to do, and schedule it into your life.
13. Get away from it all. Take some time every day to be quietly with you. You can train yourself to relax by deliberately tensing and relaxing your muscles, by deep breathing, by thinking about and visualizing pleasant scenes, and by meditating.
14. Have fun. Plan to do something you enjoy on a regular basis, whether it is a hobby or a night on the town. Of course, these are not the only steps to fight stress. Nor is stress the same experience for each individual. What bothers one person does not bother another. Still, regardless of the techniques you use, the only way to manage stress is to find release valves in your daily routine and in your attitude toward life.
15. Breath. Remember you can’t deal with your emotions if you don’t breath deeply. Your breathing should be from your abdomen. If you want to know how to breathe just watch a young child’s natural breathing.
Copyright ©1995 David Greenfield, Ph.D., LMFT