Coping with Stress

What is Stress?
Modern life is full of hassles, deadlines, frustrations, and demands. As such, stress is inevitably a part of our lives. However, stress is not always bad. In small doses, it can help you perform under pressure and motivate you to do your best. But when you are constantly running in emergency mode, your mind and body pay the price. The most dangerous thing about stress is how easily it can creep up on you. You get used to it. It starts to feel familiar – even normal. You do not notice how much it is affecting you, even as it takes a heavy toll.

If you frequently find yourself feeling frazzled and overwhelmed, it is time to take action to bring your emotional and physical system back into balance.

Stress management starts with identifying the sources of stress in your life. However, your true sources of stress are not always obvious, and it is all too easy to overlook your own stress-inducing thoughts, feelings, and behaviours.

  • Common external causes of stress
    • Major life changes
    • Work pressures
    • Relationship difficulties
    • Financial problems
    • Being too busy
  • Common internal causes of stress
    • Inability to accept uncertainty
    • Pessimism
    • Negative self-talk
    • Unrealistic expectations
    • Perfectionism
    • Lack of assertiveness

There are many healthy ways to manage and cope with stress, but they all require change. You can either change the situation or change your reaction. When deciding which option to choose, it is helpful to think of the four As: Avoid, Alter, Adapt, or Accept.

1. Avoid unnecessary stress
Not all stress can be avoided, and it is not healthy to avoid a situation that needs to be addressed. You may be surprised, however, by the number of stressors in your life that you can eliminate, for instance:

  • Learn how to say “No”
  • Avoid people who stress you out
  • Take control of your environment
  • Avoid hot-button topics
  • Pare down your to-do list

2. Alter the stressor
If you are unable to avoid a stressful situation, try to alter it. Often, this involves changing the way you communicate and operate in your daily life:

  • Express your feelings instead of bottling them up
  • Be willing to compromise
  • Be more assertive
  • Manage your time better

3. Adapt to the stressor
If you are unable to change the stressor, change yourself. You can adapt to stressful situations and regain your sense of control by changing your expectations and attitude:

  • Reframe problems
  • Look at the big picture
  • Adjust your standards
  • Focus on the positive

4. Accept the things you cannot change
You cannot prevent or change stressors such as the death of a loved one or an economic recession. In such cases, the best way to cope with stress is to accept things as they are. Acceptance may be difficult, but in the long run, it is easier than railing against a situation you cannot change:

  • Do not try to control the uncontrollable
  • Look for the upside
  • Share your feelings
  • Learn to forgive

Beyond a take-charge approach and a positive attitude, you can reduce stress in your life by nurturing yourself. When you regularly make time for fun and relaxation, you will be able to handle life’s stressors better when they inevitably come.

Managing stress is all about taking charge: taking charge of your thoughts, your emotions, your schedule, your environment, and the way you deal with problems. The ultimate goal is a balanced life, with time for work, relationships, relaxation, and fun – plus the resilience to hold up under pressure and meet challenges head on.

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