When we feel overwhelmed by stress, it sometimes seems insurmountable, and we find ourselves wondering how to cope. Fortunately, small changes in outlook and lifestyle can make a big difference in how we feel and how we approach the stressors we face. Having a clear plan for coping with stress can help you feel empowered, and enable you to take more effective action, shedding your stress and feeling more relaxed and effective in your life. The following small changes can create big stress relief. This plan can help you to cope with stress simply and effectively.
- Short-Term Stress ReliefWhen you’re feeling stressed, it’s important to be able to calm your physiology and reverse your stress response. This can help you to physically relax, gain emotional footing, and tackle your stressors with a more level-headed approach than you may have access to if you were in the midst of a stress reaction. Activities like breathing exercises can work quickly and effectively to restore a sense of calm, so you can take steps toward managing the stressors you face.
- Long-Term Stress ReliefCertain habits can promote resilience to stress, as well as increase overall wellness. For example, those who exercise or meditate regularly tend to become less stressed in the face of a difficult challenge. It’s important to practice at least one of these habits in your daily life as a way to manage your response to the stressors you face in life. These resilience-promoting practices can not only help you to relieve stress as you engage in them, but can help you to be less reactive to stress that you encounter in your future activities and daily life.
- Emotion-Focused CopingFocusing on coping techniques that reduce your emotional experience when you are dealing with stress can help you to get less “triggered” by the difficult experiences you face. Talking to a friend who is a good listener, somebody who will validate your feelings and support you in feeling better about what you are facing, is an emotion-focused coping technique. Emotion-focused coping works well by diminishing the distress you feel about what is going on in your life (rather than directly addressing challenging issues), but it also can enable you to respond more effectively in stressful situations precisely because you aren’t emotionally overwhelmed: you may have access to more effective solutions if you remain calm and level-headed in the face of your stressors. In this way, emotion-focused coping strategies help you to know how to cope with the general stressors you face, and directly address how you feel while you are doing so.
- Solution-Focused CopingNot surprisingly, solution-focused coping techniques are about how to cope with stress by focusing on solutions to the very problems that are causing the stress in the first place. Creating boundaries in your life is a solution-focused coping strategy in that it helps to diminish the stressors you face. Solution-focused coping directly attacks stressors, and indirectly helps you to manage emotional stress by reducing the challenges you face. Solution-focused coping often requires a more specialized approach than does emotion-focused coping, depending on which problems you are trying to address.
- Try MeditationMeditation is an effective, versatile stress reliever that can be used for short-term stress relief, long-term stress relief, and emotion-focused coping. There are a multitude of different meditation strategies that can be effective, so there should be a meditation technique that fits your needs and personality quite nicely.
- Exercise RegularlyRegular exercise brings greater resilience to stress, and it can start relieving stress within three minutes! This makes it an effective stress reliever for the short-term, the long-term, and for emotion-focused coping as well. The trick is to find an exercise habit that fits well with your lifestyle and personality, so you’ll want to stick with it.
- Utilize Social SupportMaintaining a supportive circle of friends is an effective way to cope with stress because friends can be utilized for emotion-focused coping (when they offer a supportive ear) as well as solution-focused coping (when they help you to brainstorm solutions). Friends contribute to greater overall happiness, and can provide positive peer pressure as well.
- Get Ongoing Stress Management SupportTackling stress on a consistent basis is key. Making changes one small step at a time can lead to a lifestyle transformation. One of the most effective ways to cope with stress on an ongoing basis is to have a steady stream of simple steps that can lead you to a less stressful lifestyle and a more resilient frame of mind.