Coping with Stress
Stress can be an awful, seemingly endless cycle. Too much work, not enough time, too many things to do, too much pressure. If stress seems like too much for you to handle on your own, you may want to seek additional help.
However, you can cope with and manage stress. And you can work towards a happier, healthier lifestyle. Here is a plan of attack to beat the stress:
- What's causing the stress?
- What can you do about it?
- Stop your unhealthy coping methods!
- Other Ideas to Cope with Stress
What's causing the stress?
Coping with stress starts with identifying the stressors in your life. Once you find the root (or roots) of the problem, you can adapt and make changes.
When trying to identify what's causing the stress, it's helpful to keep a journal. Every time you start to feel stressed, write it down in the journal. Note the time, date, location, and activity you were doing. Also try answering these questions:
- How did the stress start? What do you think caused you to feel stressed?
- How did you feel physically when the stress started? Hungry? Sleep-deprived?
- How did you respond to the stress?
- What did you do to relieve the stress?
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What can you do about it?
Knowing what caused the stress will help you figure out how best to respond to it. Here are a few ways people respond to stress:
Change the situation
- Avoid the stressor.
If the stress is not necessary, it is helpful to avoid it. You can do this by saying "no" in order to turn down stressful situations, and by minimizing interactions with stressful people.
- Alter the stressor.
If you know that the stress you're experiencing is something that's important (like school work) or won't go away (like money management or relationship issues), make some changes so that you will not be as stressed in the future.
If your stress is coming from work or school, try to plan out your schedule, manage your time better, and tackle projects in small portions at a time. If your stress is coming from relationships with friends or family, try to talk about the situation with others, voice your feelings more often, and be willing to compromise.
Change your reaction:
- Adapt to the stressor.
If the stress is something that you truly can't change (like a traffic jam) consider changing your outlook on the situation. You can do this by staying positive, focusing on the big picture, changing your standards, and looking at the problem in a different light.
- Accept the stressor.
Some things in life just happen. These things may cause stress, and a good way to cope is acceptance.
These might include a learning disability, a natural disaster, or the death of a loved one. Some things you can do include: talking to your friends or mentors for advice, learn to forgive, and use the time to grow as a person.
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Stop your unhealthy coping methods!
Being stressed takes a toll on your health! If you have an unhealthy way of coping (such as stress-eating, sleeping a lot, becoming a hermit, smoking, drinking excessively, or taking it out on others) figure out what unhealthy way you may be using and work on changing to a healthier alternative. These habits are unhealthy.
Here are some healthy ways of coping with stress that will help you get back on track:
- Eat a healthy diet. Make sure to get enough fresh fruits and vegetables.
- Get enough sleep (at least eight hours).
- Socialize, talk to your friends, participate in activities.
- Do not use drugs, alcohol, or nicotine.
- Avoid excessive sugar and caffeine (which can make you crash and experience mood swings).
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Other Ideas to Cope with Stress
Mindfulness and Meditation
- Learn how to energize your mood
- Use breathing techniques to relax
- Try yoga poses to reduce tension
- Meditate to connect the mind and body, and increase awareness
Writing down how you feel can help your health. Thinking about an experience can help you organize your thoughts and see things in a new light. Here's how you can get into the habit of journaling:
- Keep a journal.
- Spend just 15 minutes a day writing.
- You can write about anything you want:
- Positive interactions
- Stressful interactions
- How and why you responded to these situations
- Things that make you happy
- Traumatic experiences
- Highlights of the day
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public health education intern
Reviewed By: Nancy Brown, Ph.D.
Last Reviewed: July 2013
Below are links PAMF accessed when researching this topic. PAMF does not sponsor or endorse any of these sites, nor does PAMF guarantee the accuracy of the information contained on them.
Don't Let Stress Break Your Heart, Duke Medicine.
Stress Management, HelpGuide.org.
Writing about Emotions May Ease Stress and Trauma, Harvard Health Publications.
For More Information:
See our Stress versus Anxiety article.
See our Life Balance article.