Because each of us is different, there is no one “correct” way to cope with stress. However, there are a number of different things that can be done, and it is helpful to look at both short and long-term solutions to reducing stress.
- Identify your problems. Is your job, your relationship with someone, or money worries causing you stress? Are unimportant, surface problems masking real, deeper ones? Once you are fairly sure you know what the problem is, you can do something about it.
- Solve your problems. Start thinking about solutions. What can you do, and what will be the consequences? Should you be looking for a less stressful job? Do you need marriage counseling? Should you talk to a financial expert about money management? What will happen if you do nothing? If you follow this problem-solving strategy, you should be able to make some changes to take the pressure off yourself. This long-term way of reducing stress in your life is something everyone, sooner or later, will need to do.
- Talk about your problems. You may find it helpful to talk about your stress. Friends and family members may not realize that you are having a hard time. Once they understand, they may be helpful in two ways: first, by just listening to you vent your feelings and second, by suggesting solutions to your problems. If you need to talk with someone outside your own circle of friends and relatives, your family doctor may be able to refer you to a mental health counselor.
- Learn about stress management. There are many helpful books, films, videos and courses to help you cope with stress. There are also counselors who specialize in stress; ask your family doctor for a referral to one. There may also be community college courses and stress management workshops available in your community.
- Reduce tension. Physical activity can be a great stress reducer. Go for a walk, take up a sport, dig in the garden, clean the house. You may find it helpful to learn some relaxation exercises. These can be as simple as deep breathing – slowing inhale through your nose until you cannot take in any more air, and then exhale through your mouth. Another simple exercise is stretching – stretch and relax each part of your body, starting from your neck and working downward; exhale as you stretch, and inhale as you release the tension. If you make a habit of taking pressure off yourself by getting rid of your tension, you will find yourself less stressed and more able to solve the problems that caused your stress in the first place.
- Take your mind off your problems. You may be able to get rid of stressful feelings temporarily by getting busy. If you get involved in hobbies, sports or work, you can give yourself a “mental holiday” from your stress. Not thinking about your problems for a while can give you a little mental distance from them and make them easier to solve later on.
Preventing stress: Once you have lowered your stress level, it is wise to look for ways to prevent excessive stress from building up again. The best way to cope with stress is to prevent it. Some good ways to do this are:
- Make decisions. Not making them causes worry and, therefore, stress.
- Avoid putting things off. Make a weekly schedule, including leisure activities as well as chores.
- Delegate. Get others to do tasks that they can handle so that you are not trying to do everything by yourself.
Remember, it is impossible to have a completely stress-free life. Your goal should be to avoid getting to the third stage of stress where your energy stores are drained. As long as you do not get stuck in the third stage of the stress response, you will avoid becoming chronically stressed.