EFFECTIVE COPING STRATEGIES
Listening to your body
Decreasing stress (if possible)
Hardiness means becoming physically, mentally, and emotionally stronger so that when a stressor occurs you are “fit” to cope with it. Techniques to increase Hardiness include:
- Get More Physical Exercise – a physically fit body deals with stress more easily.
- Practice Relaxation – regular relaxation helps keep your day-to-day stress level lower. Relaxation can also be used during periods of high stress to take the edge off.
- Develop Good Sleeping and Eating Habits – keeping your body well rested and nourished helps prepare you to deal with stress effectively.
- Reduce Your Use of Alcohol, Nicotine, and Caffeine – frequent use of drugs weakens your physical and mental ability to cope with stress. These drugs also intensify the stress response within your body.
- Find Activities That You Enjoy – people who enjoy life are highly motivated to deal with stress effectively so that they can get back to the things that make them happy.
- Create a Support System – scientific studies over the past 20 years have shown that people who both give and receive love, affection, and support are better equipped to deal with stress. Taking the time to develop close relationships with other people is rewarding in many ways, both short-term, as well as long-term.
Changing Your Outlook
The ability to cope with stress is partially determined by a person’s outlook or attitude. If someone is always expecting the worst, or feels like they are being controlled by other people, then the continuous challenges of life will undoubtedly cause a lot of stress. Alternatively, people have the ability to develop attitudes about life that make it less stressful and more enjoyable.
- Develop a Sense of Humor About Yourself and Your Problems – humor is an excellent tool to help people see that things might not always be as bad as they seem.
- Develop the Ability to Understand that Being Wrong or Making Mistakes is OK as Long as You Learn from It – many people have been taught that making mistakes means that they are stupid, bad, worthless, etc. This type of thinking leads to unnecessary stress. The ability to see mistakes as learning opportunities decreases stress levels considerably when attempting new and different things.
- Take Responsibility for Your Own Feelings – One of the most significant stressors for many people is the feeling that other people are controlling them. This type of feeling on a regular basis leads to feelings of powerlessness, hopelessness, and continual frustration. It is only when we begin to take responsibility for our own feelings, and develop our capacity to choose how to deal with situations and events, that we can begin to understand the many ways we do have control over our own lives.
- Know Your Own Strength and Abilities – An in-depth awareness of, and belief in, your many strengths and abilities provide a feeling of confidence that you can cope effectively with stressors as they arise.
- Understand and Accept the Fact that You Cannot Control Everything – many people believe that they need to control everyone and everything around them. Since this is impossible, it is inevitable that stress will arise as they continually encounter the reality of the limits of their control. Acceptance of the realities of life is a very effective for coping with stress.
Listening to Your Body
One of the first steps in learning how to deal with stress more effectively, is to learn to recognize as early as possible when you are becoming stressed about something. Your own body is probably the most important indicator that you are becoming stressed. By paying attention to the signals your body sends you, you can often identify the source of the problem sooner and more easily.
The Stress Responses listed below will be useful to remind you of the changes that occur in your body when it prepares to face something challenging. Be sure to pay attention to secondary symptoms of the stress response as well – sore shoulders from muscle tension, fatigue, etc.
The Stress response
- Muscles tense
- Heart rate increases
- Rapid and shallow breathing
- Increase in blood pressure
- Cold and/or clammy hands and feet
- “Butterflies” in the stomach
- Feeling “fidgety”