Many of us have a fast-paced lifestyle, so stress has become part of our daily routine. Yet, long-lasting, high-stress levels can affect both our physical and mental well-being. Chronic pain and heart disease are only two of the main issues we could develop if we do not learn how to manage our stress levels. Below, we’ll introduce you to five healthy coping mechanisms for stress that you can use in a variety of situations to minimize, tolerate, or avoid stress altogether.
In some cases, a situation is out of our control or we simply need a way of managing our emotions. Emotion-based coping mechanisms involve ways of dealing with your stress in a healthy way.
For instance, if you have a work presentation and prepared very well, but you are still stressed or make negative predictions, you can distract yourself by reading a book, playing with your kids, taking a bath, exercising, or going out with your friends. These activities are meant to distract you temporarily from negative feelings.
It's important to keep in mind that everyone has good days and bad days. Talking to someone can help you lower your stress; sometimes, we just need to take a break and rest.
Cognitive reframing is technically a type of emotion-based coping mechanism. It refers to changing the way we look at a specific event or situation to make it less stressful. For instance, instead of experiencing stress if you lose your job, you could see it as a unique opportunity to get a higher-paid job or finally switch careers and get your dream job.
Cognitive reframing is useful when you tend to be stressed as a result of your thinking patterns, such as despite being well prepared for your work presentation, you can’t stop imagining something bad will happen.
Journaling often helps with cognitive reframing, as you can take notes whenever you notice a bad thinking pattern surfacing. Then, you should challenge the accuracy of these thoughts – for instance, if you are well prepared for your work presentation, why are you still stressed about being not ready?
Cognitive reframing is about challenging negative thoughts that cause you stress and changing them into positive ones, such as thinking about a potential promotion after your successful presentation rather than imagining all possible blunders.
Some people experience high levels of stress because they are pessimists – sometimes, our minds may just keep creating scenarios that are negative and make us stressed without a real reason.
Meditation is a helpful practice, as people who meditate learn how to quiet their minds and have better control over their thoughts and, subsequently, their stress levels.
The problem-based approach entails identifying the problem, or the root cause, that is causing your stress and eliminating it. Although it cannot be applied to every single stressful situation, using this method can be highly useful in many situations.
For example, if you are stressed about an upcoming presentation at work, a healthy problem-based mechanism is to prepare well, ask coworkers or friends for advice on what you can improve, and create a clear plan on how you can deliver the best presentation. This will help you minimize stress by increasing your confidence in your skills.
In some cases, stress could be caused by a more major situation – such as being in a toxic relationship, or you loathe your job and it causes you major stress. Problem-based coping could involve ending the relationship or changing jobs.
In this case, it’s best to consult a professional before making a drastic change in your life. A personal therapist online could help you identify the cause clearly and provide you with additional or alternative stress coping mechanisms – such as how to manage your workplace relationships or how to establish healthy boundaries in your relationship.
It’s important to note that healthy problem-based coping is based on actually addressing the source of the stress. If you use it to avoid your problems, it turns into unhealthy habits.
For instance, if you are worried about your financial situation, and you opt to go shopping or spend time with your friends instead of addressing the problem (i.e., create a budget, look for a higher paid job), this only masks the source of your stress temporarily and will worsen it over time, making coping more challenging.
While problem-based and emotion-based coping mechanisms address managing stress after you’ve already experienced it, proactive coping means focusing on what you can do to avoid the stress in the first place.
Proactive coping includes looking at your daily schedule or habits and finding ways to minimize your stress before it affects you, such as:
Another example of when proactive coping is highly useful is when dealing with stress caused by financial situations. Budgeting and planning your finances ahead can avoid this type of stress altogether since you know what you need to do to avoid being in a critical situation.
No matter what we do, no one is perfect. If you constantly feel stressed, it’s important to go easy on yourself and be at ease with the fact that we cannot control everything in our life. Finding the right way to deal with stress is important for our well-being, and seeking help when we feel overwhelmed or burned out helps us learn how to cope with such situations.
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