Coping Strategies for Stress

By Kathy Batesel

Don't let stress get the best of you. Figure out how it affects you and what to do about it!
Don't let stress get the best of you. Figure out how it affects you and what to do about it! | Source

Kill Stress Before It Kills You!

Most people think of stress as what happens when they feel pressured or when bad things happen to them, but even joyous occasions can cause stress. Planning a wedding, for instance, is stressful!

According to the American Psychiatric Association, more than half of all adult Americans feel concerned about the level of stress in their lives, and three-quarters of those surveyed reported having high to moderate stress within the month prior.

Fatigue, addictions, and insomnia are noticeable physical results of feeling stressed, but the effects go deeper: Stress is estimated to be a factor in about 40% of work absenteeism, four times higher than non-fatal illnesses and injuries, and it makes us more susceptible to illnesses, too! Stress is believed to play an important role in allowing inflammation in the body, which means besides depression, stress may play a major role in fibromyalgia, arthritis, and even obesity.

It's more important than ever to understand what causes us to feel stress and how to get rid of it.

Your Experience...

Do you experience physical symptoms of stress?

  • Yes, quite often.
  • Sometimes.
  • Rarely.
See results without voting

Symptoms of Stress and Anxiety

In most articles on this topic, you'll find a typical list of symptoms of stress:


Physical

  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Loss of appetite
  • Overeating
  • Muscle pain or tension
  • Headaches
  • Decreased sex drive
  • Upset stomach

Emotional

  • Easily irritated / angry
  • Excessive worrying
  • Depression, sadness, and feelings of hopelessness
  • Difficulty concentrating or staying motivated and focused

Behavioral

  • Overeating
  • Smoking, drinking, or other compulsive behaviors
  • Withdrawing from others
  • Abandoning responsibilities

What you won't find as often is what happens when these things take hold in your life!

Why These Things Matter

  • Relationships suffer
  • Our work performance suffers
  • We have a harder time experiencing pleasure
  • We get sick faster, for longer, and more often than we used to

In short, stress reduces our quality of life in a gradual, insidious way. We may not realize how much effect it's having on us, because we don't think of stress when we think of how bad we feel. We're too focused on more immediate causes, like what we ate for lunch.

Evaluate Your Stress Level

Use the table below to determine how stress if affecting your life today. Afterward, we'll look at the kinds of stresses that may be creating these effects, and examine effective ways to rid yourself of these problems so you can have more pleasure in your life, be more productive, and have better relationships with your family and friends.

Even if you know of a direct cause that is making you have one of these symptoms, count it in. Stress is likely to be an indirect contributor. Count up the total number of signs that you've noticed in the last few months.

Signs of Stress

Physical Symptoms
Mental Symptoms
Emotional Signs
Behavioral Signs
Frequent illness (colds, flu, sinus, etc.)
Feeling indecisive
Feeling anxious or negative regularly
Restless or easily bored
Frequent tiredness
Difficulty concentrating
Feelings of hopelessness or depression
Changes in eating habits
Unexplained aches and pains
Less sensitive to others
Sarcastic or cynical outlook
Unable to relax
Excessive perspiration
Making mistakes more often
Lower self-esteem
Indulging in addictive substances
Unusual heart beat or palpitations
Higher degree of forgetfulness
Feeling dissatisfied with home or job
Compulsive behaviors like cleaning
Tense muscles
Confusion or muddy thoughts
Low motivation
Poor time management
Headaches
 
 
Angry outbursts
Upset stomach
 
 
Withdrawing from other people

Your Stress Results

If you have experienced more than three or four of these things over the last several months, stress has been taking its toll on your life.

Sometimes it's easy to think, "Well, I have this illness that's causing me to have these symptoms." The truth is that your symptoms will decrease at least somewhat if you can reduce the stress in your life.

Take a look at whether your symptoms fall mostly into a single category, or whether it's affecting several areas of your life. This will help you understand how to develop a personal strategy that will be most helpful.

Causes of Stress

Believe it or not, we all need some stress in our lives. Having too little stress can create the same effects as having too much. When we have an optimal amount of stressors, we function at our best. We rise to meet challenges that come our way. We feel good about our performance. We are mentally engaged and interested in what's happening around us.

Plus, some stress is called "eustress." The "eu" prefix refers to something desirable or good, much like the word euphoria or euphimism. The opposite of eustress is distress, the kind of stress we experience when we're worried about losing our jobs or an argument we've had with someone we love.

Another way to measure stress involves looking at the kinds of events that typically create stress. How many of these have you experienced in the last year?

Eustress
Distress
Chronic "small events"
Marriage in immediate family
Death of a family member
Poor work environment
Child's graduation from high school
Loss of a family member in another way
Too much or too little workload
Job promotion
Death or loss of a good friend
Child's problems at school
New Job
Getting arrested
Regularly caught in rush hour traffic
Adding a family member / childbirth
Parenting problems
Volunteer activities
Competitive hobbies
Relationship problems
Chronic health issues (allergies, diabetes, etc.)
 
Financial problems
 
 
Serious illness in family member
 
 
Being diagnosed with a serious illness
 

In Your Experience

How many of the stressful events above have you experienced in the last 12 months?

  • 0-3
  • 4-8
  • More than 9!
See results without voting

Coping with Stress

In the next few sections, I'll break out techniques you can use to address the specific ways stress is affecting your life based on the table you saw above. If you had most of your symptoms in the "emotional" category, start there. If you found that stress has more of an effect on the way you feel physically, ignore the emotional tips for now and get straight to the physical coping.

Learn How To Think Positively
Learn How To Think Positively

Hypnosis and relaxation programs often fall short. I like this one because it combines several successful techniques into a single session for the best results.

 
How to do Self-Hypnosis
How to do Self-Hypnosis

If you'd like to learn how to use self-hypnosis for more than physical relaxation, this product will teach you how to induce trance states that you can use for other purposes, too, like weight control, financial success, & pain management.

 

Reduce Physical Stress

Tight muscles, frequent headaches, and a burning stomach are no way to go through your day!

Here are some tips to use whenever you're feeling less than your best:

  • Take a brisk walk, climb stairs, or do sit-ups for five or ten minutes.
  • Develop an exercise program you can do a few times a week.
  • Take a yoga class.
  • Get a massage.
  • Visit a chiropractor.
  • Learn these neck and shoulder relaxation techniques you can do anywhere.
  • Learn deep breathing techniques like the one shown in the 5-minute video shown here.
  • Learn self-hypnosis or use a CD to achieve the same effect. (Take a look at the book and CD shown at right to get started.)

All of these techniques can help to reduce the physical effects of stress. Some of them can be used quickly for an immediate effect, while a couple of them require some advance planning. For ongoing benefits, a regular exercise routine has the most lasting and noticeable impact.

In Your Experience

How often do you experience symptoms of mental stress?

  • Every day, or nearly every day.
  • A few times a week.
  • Once or twice a month.
  • Less than once a month.
See results without voting

How would you rate your diet?

  • I eat healthy and avoid caffeine.
  • I could do better, but I'm doing pretty well overall.
  • Ha! I don't want to answer this question at all!
See results without voting

Mental Stress

If you notice stress affecting the way you think and feel, you're not alone! The "fixes" for mental stress may be harder to achieve, but never fear - it *is* possible!

One of the most important aspects to managing mental stress has nothing to do with the way you think, but everything to do with the way you eat! Managing your meals will start reducing stress within a matter of a few days.

  • Replace caffeine with a healthier alternative.
  • Avoid alcohol, cigarettes, and other non-necessary drugs whenever possible.
  • Reduce the white foods in your diet: sugary and starchy foods like breads, rice, potatoes, and desserts can cloud thinking and force our bodies to divert energy from the brain to the metabolism.
  • Eat plenty of colorful foods - green and orange vegetables, fruits, and nuts.

Also, work to teach yourself some new thought processes that prevent stress from conquering your mindset:

  • When faced with a problem, look for the opportunity it presents.
  • Develop assertiveness skills.
  • Remember that you cannot control other people, and they cannot control what you think.
  • Choose not to participate.
  • Say no when you feel dread at being asked to do something.
  • Remember that your current situation is temporary.
  • Pray.
  • Ask for help, whether you need to talk or need to delegate a task.
  • Find ways to turn negative thoughts into neutral or positive ones.
  • Train yourself not to take on too much at once.

As they say in 12-step programs, "Life by the inch is a cinch. Life by the yard is hard." If you don't master your mind right away, don't give up! It's not easy to change the negative self-talk that's been a part of your life since you were young. Keep practicing, because the more you work on this, the more control you'll have in your life. I've got a couple items that can make this a bit easier for you:


The Stress Answer: Train Your Brain to Conquer Depression and Anxiety in 45 Days
The Stress Answer: Train Your Brain to Conquer Depression and Anxiety in 45 Days

This guide provides exercises you can use when you're feeling stressed. Many positive reports about how well Dr. Lawlis' exercises work!

 
You Can Be Happy No Matter What: Five Principles for Keeping Life in Perspective
You Can Be Happy No Matter What: Five Principles for Keeping Life in Perspective

Dr. Carlson's book is especially effective for people whose mental stress produces feelings of depression. He offers specific steps for coping that can completely eliminate the need for medication or counseling.

 
The Guide to Compassionate Assertiveness: How to Express Your Needs and Deal with Conflict While Keeping a Kind Heart
The Guide to Compassionate Assertiveness: How to Express Your Needs and Deal with Conflict While Keeping a Kind Heart

Don't worry - being assertive doesn't mean making everyone mad! Learn how to be assertive without alienating others using the principles in this book.

 

Emotional Stress

Because our emotional state is almost entirely the result of our thought processes, my recommendations for coping with emotional stress are nearly identical to the suggestions I've made for mental stress. I encourage anyone experiencing emotional stress to use those suggestions in addition to these:

  • Avoid watching the news on television or reading about it over the Internet.
  • Surround yourself with upbeat people.
  • Do something you've always enjoyed but haven't gotten around to lately - a hobby, spend time at a place you want to visit again, visit a longtime pal you haven't talked to in ages, or simply color in a coloring book.

Time Management Can Reduce Pressure

Time Warrior: How to defeat procrastination, people-pleasing, self-doubt, over-commitment, broken promises and chaos
Time Warrior: How to defeat procrastination, people-pleasing, self-doubt, over-commitment, broken promises and chaos

Not the same ol' stuff. Check out this non-linear approach to managing your schedule.

 

Behavioral Signs of Stress

When stress has become such a permanent fixture in your life that it's showing up in the way you act, it can produce entirely new stress triggers! You've probably heard of "kick the dog" syndrome - I'm mad at my boss for treating me badly, but since I can't tell him off, I come home and take out my stress on my husband. He doesn't want to argue with me, and instead, gets irritated with the dog and kicks her away when she wants attention. Behavioral stress has a tendency to spread beyond ourselves and affect other people, who also have a lot of stress in their lives, and so on. There's a domino effect when our behavior reflects how stressed out we are. Now I'm mad that he kicked the dog, and we get into an argument. It's the hundredth time, and he retaliates by announcing he wants a divorce. UGH!

I'm exaggerating and oversimplifying to make a point. In reality, behavioral stress does produce responses from others that create new problems and give us more to worry about. Maybe not quite as quickly as I've described, but its effects wear on relationships with the people we are supposed to love and support even as we're miserable because of it.

To cope with behavioral stress, try these tips:

  • Ask family members to honor a 15-minute "decompression time" for you when you get home from work. This will help you mentally transition to a new environment before having to listen to others' stresses.
  • Learn not to shoot the messenger! When you hear bad news, focus on what happened and avoid making critical statements or assigning blame.
  • Keep a journal that you can use during your decompression time or at the end of your day to write out what's stressing you, and ideas you have for dealing with it.
  • Develop time management skills.
  • Get organized.
  • Be willing to step away from arguments temporarily and discuss them when you're not feeling stressed - which may be a day or two later if your stress is unusually high.
  • Schedule time for yourself away from all stress - a bubble bath, a night out with friends, or a camping trip can be just the ticket for getting yourself to a more tolerant mindset.
  • Practice the tips identified for physical stress relief when you feel your stress creating signs of irritation. Feel your stomach tensing up at what someone said? Go ahead and take that short, brisk walk!


Create Your Own Stress Plan

You are the only person who is with you from the day you're born until the day you die, so treat yourself well! Learning to manage stress is a unique experience. No two people experience stress in exactly the same way, so there is no one-size-fits-all solution.

By honing in on the areas where you most need relief, you can begin developing a plan that's just right for you.

As you develop your stress-reduction skills, you'll find more happiness in your relationships, more success at work, and an improvement in your quality of life.

More by this Author


Comments 33 comments

CarNoobz profile image

CarNoobz 3 years ago from USA

Wow! That's a lot of great info in there, Kathy.

I've been struggling with anxiety for years, so this hub hits close to home. For me, I've found that meditation/breathing exercises help...even just a minute or two can really work wonders.

Voted up


jellygator profile image

jellygator 3 years ago from USA Author

Thank you, CarNoobs! I hope you found something new to try from this list, too. If you did, please let us know how it works for you!


Anthony Binks profile image

Anthony Binks 3 years ago from Northern Ireland

Thanks for all the information.

Sometimes when stressed no matter what type it is very hard to find a way past it but your tips will help.


rakesh brahma profile image

rakesh brahma 3 years ago from GURGAON, NEW DELHI

amazing work... i seek to learn from you kathy..:)


jellygator profile image

jellygator 3 years ago from USA Author

Thank you both for such kind words!


Cristale profile image

Cristale 3 years ago from Florida

This hub came at the perfect time for me. I am wanting to make some positive changes within my life this new year and dissipating stress is awesome. Thank you for the valuable information!


jellygator profile image

jellygator 3 years ago from USA Author

Glad to be helpful, Cristale! I hope your upcoming changes bring you joy and prosperity.


Amanda108 profile image

Amanda108 3 years ago from Michigan, United States

This is such a helpful article! I'm bookmarking it for later use. :)


jellygator profile image

jellygator 3 years ago from USA Author

Thanks, Amanda! Feel free to share it on Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest if you think your friends and family could benefit, too.


alwaysamber 3 years ago

Very great hub! I get stressed a lot and these are such great coping mechanisms! I can't wait to use them the next time I am under a lot of stress.


GoodLady profile image

GoodLady 3 years ago from Rome, Italy

Really helpful and thanks. I've had a ton of stress in my life - coping with it sensibly is most important and your tips are spot on.

Congratulations on your HOTD award which you completely deserve of course!

Voting and sharing!


jellygator profile image

jellygator 3 years ago from USA Author

Thanks, Amber and Penelope!

Penelope, I know you've coped with plenty of stress. You're a great role model in my eyes.


starbright profile image

starbright 3 years ago from Scandinavia

Brilliant hub with tons of useful information. Stress and anxiety can be so energy draining and bring about all kinds of nasty stuff. Wonderful hub.

Voted and shared!


jellygator profile image

jellygator 3 years ago from USA Author

Thank you, Starbright!


Jo_Goldsmith11 profile image

Jo_Goldsmith11 3 years ago

Thank you so very much for writing this article. You have been so helpful in so many ways! :) Boy! I am still stressed out, I guess. Thank you for the resources I need to get back to having a stress (minimal) free life. Your article reflected clearly how to reach that healthy place in your life. Shared and thumbs up. :)


jellygator profile image

jellygator 3 years ago from USA Author

Thanks, Jo! I hope you get the relief you're seeking quickly!


Darknlovely3436 profile image

Darknlovely3436 3 years ago from NewYork

informative..


jellygator profile image

jellygator 3 years ago from USA Author

Thanks!


Sunshine625 profile image

Sunshine625 3 years ago from Orlando, FL

According to the responses in your polls that quite a few people have stress in their lives. I'd like to know who doesn't? What a dull life they must lead. Ha! Excellent hub! Well researched!


jayshreepattanaik profile image

jayshreepattanaik 3 years ago from INDIA

nice procedure of relaxing stress it is really advisable to keep a life stress free


jellygator profile image

jellygator 3 years ago from USA Author

LOL Sunshine... I'd like to think of it as a "relaxed life!" Jayshreepattanaik, I am not sure there is a life that's completely stress free, unless maybe we count mental ward patients who are too drugged to care.

Thanks for reading and commenting guys!


Briana Faye profile image

Briana Faye 3 years ago from California

Great hub with a lot of very useful and practical information! I very much enjoyed the read!


Monis Mas profile image

Monis Mas 3 years ago

Very good hub. I needed it! I am dealing with a large amount of stress right now, and I need some relaxation techniques to calm down. It's isn't easy, but it's worth a try!


prasetio30 profile image

prasetio30 3 years ago from malang-indonesia

Very inspiring hub and I learn many things here. Thanks for writing and share with us. Voted up!

Prasetio


DON BALDERAS profile image

DON BALDERAS 3 years ago

Daily stress comes with a grip. This will greatly help. I won't lose any if I try it. Thanks.


DzyMsLizzy profile image

DzyMsLizzy 3 years ago from Oakley, CA

Congratulations on HOTD!! You've worked hard to provide a lot of great info here!

Sadly, the particular stresses in my life have no escape clauses; a husband on the heart-transplant waiting list, meaning his physical ability is so diminished that ALL the housework and household chores now fall to me, instead of the equal split we used to share; his own mental state has been adversely affected by all of this, so it also falls to me to keep straight all of his medications, and generally being 'nurse,' which I was never trained for; I have an bum knee myself, so have my own physical issues; we are seniors on an extremely low fixed income, and it is always a challenge to buy healthy food and still manage our other bills; and so on...there are no 'fixes' for any of these stressors. All I can do is live one day at a time...and hope for improvement someday.


jellygator profile image

jellygator 3 years ago from USA Author

DzyMsLizzy, I'm sorry that what you're going through is so intense. Stress busters won't eliminate the problem, but they can help you get through it a little better.

Thank you to everyone for taking the time to read and comment!


jellygator profile image

jellygator 3 years ago from USA Author

Thanks, Shahpriya, and I wish the same for you!


Rosie writes profile image

Rosie writes 3 years ago from Virginia

This is an excellent hub - easy for anyone to read and very helpful in giving people strategies to identify and cope with different types of stress. Bookmarked for my own personal use, voted up and useful.


jayshreepattanaik profile image

jayshreepattanaik 3 years ago from INDIA

thanx........


jellygator profile image

jellygator 3 years ago from USA Author

Thank you both!


Faith A Mullen profile image

Faith A Mullen 3 years ago

Great hub! I am in the process of changing jobs and have been letting the stress eat away at me I'm afraid. This was a good reminder of techniques to destress. Exercise is one of my favorites. Voted up :)


jellygator profile image

jellygator 3 years ago from USA Author

I hope you find wonderful success in your job, Faith!

I just started exercising again yesterday, not because of stress but for my health overall. (I felt like I was gonna die FROM it, though!) But I have to say, I felt great afterward.

Hope your stress gets under control and that you take some time for you. Thanks for reading, Faith!

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