Stress is caused by three emotions: fear, anger, or sadness. The bad news is that you can’t avoid some stressors. They will always be part of life. What’s important is how you react to them. You trigger negative responses when you doubt your ability to cope with what life presents you. The good news is that we all have available to us many approaches to help reduce the harmful impact of stress. You can become “stress hardy.”
Stress is an inevitable part of life. The key is not to avoid stress, but to learn to recognize your own personal stressors and to develop coping mechanisms that will help you deal with unavoidable stress.
Here is a sequence of three steps that have been helpful to me in coping with stress–and that I have seen work for others.
Lie down and get comfortable. Then mentally scan your body head to toe. Become a witness to your own stress responses by reflecting on any tension and on your emotions: fear, anger, or sadness.
Try to make a sudden break with the stressful situation by saying to yourself: “Stop!”
Slow your breathing, and count your breaths from ten to zero several times. Then again scan your body head-to-toe, first tensing then relaxing each part of the body. Let yourself feel inert (heavy or like jelly). Finally, focus on a pleasant thought, place, or image.
START A STRESS JOURNAL
A stress journal can help you identify the regular stressors in your life and the way you deal with them. Each time you feel stressed, keep track of it in your journal. As you keep a daily log, you will begin to see patterns and common themes. Write down:
- What caused your stress (make a guess if you’re unsure)
- How you felt, both physically and emotionally
- How you acted in response
- What you did to make yourself feel better
One other thing that has proven helpful to many is to develop some of the following habits of stress hardy people:
- Recognize your unique stressors.
- Don’t let problems in one life area spill over to other areas.
- See troubles as temporary (“This will pass”).
- See meaning in troubles.
- Focus on immediate matters: “What do I do right now?”
- Don’t “awfulize.” Ask: “What’s the worst that can happen and how likely is that?”
- Ignore others’ “shoulds”…as in, “You should . . .” Turn inward. Trust yourself.
- Know you are not alone. Take consolation from knowing others face similar or worse problems.
- Trust you can cope. Seek options. Don’t get trapped.
- See the opportunity in troubles.
And finally, science proves optimists can better handle stress. So….. do you see the glass half full or half empty?