How to Cope With Stress

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHow stressed do you feel right now in your life? We all cope with stress at some point or another. Some of us may even be dealing with stress on a daily basis.

How do you currently cope with your stress? When I was younger, my main coping mechanism was just to work longer and harder. After all, I thought, isn’t that what it takes to be successful? The problem was that while I was able to keep up and maintain that pace for the first decade of my career, it wasn’t a long-term solution and took a toll on my health.

Now that I know that self-care has to come first if I want to be more effective and help others, and am clearer on my mission in life as well as what’s truly important to me, I am dealing with stress in a very different way. As I am noticing my own life getting more stressful at the moment and am hearing from my clients as well as friends and co-workers who are dealing with increased stress, I am focusing on more actively managing stress again. Getting regular sleep, eating healthy, having a daily meditative practice and engaging in regular physical activity help tremendously, but there is even more we can do!

I was struck by a study I recently read that stated that even though there is a perception that leaders have higher stress levels than non-leaders due to higher demands in their work, they found that the opposite was true. Leaders actually have lower levels of the stress and less anxiety than non-leaders because they possess a greater sense of control. (Source: Leadership Is Associated With Lower Levels of Stress )

How can we apply this learning to our lives that are filled with ever increasing demands? How can we increase our sense of control to help us reduce our stress level?

I found an excellent article that explains some of the possible coping mechanisms based on feeling in control really well. (See: Stress Management)   I have adapted the suggestions somewhat to make it a little simpler.

In essence, there are 3 ways you can be in control in a stressful situation:

1. Change the situation by avoiding it

2. Change the situation by altering it

3. Change your reaction to the situation by accepting it and adapting to it

1.      Change the situation by avoiding it

Ask yourself if there is any way you can avoid unnecessary stress-inducing situations by:

  • Saying “no.” Be willing to say “no” when you have too much on your plate already or if the request will add too much stress
  • Limiting your exposure. Limit the amount of time you spend with a person who consistently causes stress in your life and you can’t turn the relationship around.
  • Taking control of your stressful environment. If going to the supermarket is unpleasant can you get your grocery delivered? If listening to the news is stressful, how about limiting your exposure to it? If traffic causes extra stress, can you find a different route or change the time you go on the road?

2.      Change the situation by altering it

If you can’t avoid a stressful situation, see if you can alter it by:

  • Working out a compromise. Maybe you cannot avoid doing something completely, but you can change how it gets done, how quickly it needs to be finished or how much of it needs to be done.
  • Asking for help. Who else can help you with what needs to get done? There is no rule that says that you have to do everything yourself. Be willing to ask for help and support.

3.      Change your reaction to the situation by accepting it and adapting to it

If you can’t change the situation, you might as well accept it. Complaining about it and wishing it was otherwise will only cause you more stress. Instead, focus on changing yourself and how you view the situation You can adapt to the situation by:

  • Finding a different perspective. For example, you may be viewing traffic as something that slows you down and is annoying. That is one perspective. See if you can find others. Another perspective could be that traffic is an opportunity to listen to your favorite music or a time to regroup and wind down.
  • Changing your standards. Oftentimes, we want things to be done a certain way. Stop causing yourself unnecessary stress by demanding perfection. Be willing to be ok with “good enough.”
  • Focusing on the positive. Take a moment to think about what you are grateful for in this situation and in your life. The practice of gratitude will change the way you think and help you keep things in perspective.
  • Remembering what’s most important in your life. Look at the stressful situation and ask yourself how important it is in the long run. Will it matter in a month? A year? Is it really worth getting upset over? If the answer is no, focus your time and energy elsewhere.
  • Learning to forgive. We live in an imperfect world and we all make mistakes. If you are carrying any anger or resentments, work on letting them go. By forgiving and moving on, we are freeing ourselves from negative energy.

As you are taking a look at the situations that are causing you stress in your life – can you avoid them, alter them or change your reaction to them? Write down as many options as you can think of and take a look at them. What is one step you could take today that will help you reduce your stress?

Manuela loves helping smart and creative women bring more balance, happiness and success into their lives through Professional Life Coaching!

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