Advertising

Last Updated on January 12, 2021

15 Coping Strategies for Stress That You Should Learn

Advertising
15 Coping Strategies for Stress That You Should Learn

Now more than ever, we’re easily overwhelmed in our life. From career and personal growth, to families and maintaining healthy relationships; it seems that finding the right balance to juggle it all is a futile effort.

In an age where technology is advancing rapidly, as are we with it, it can be easy to run on auto-pilot most days. That kind of conditioning catches up with us, when we’re finally burned out and crashing from too many meetings, schedules, and priorities.

Stress washes over us like a tidal wave, and we’re left scrambling to pick ourselves up in the same order as before. What causes even more undue stress in that moment is our tired inability to cope in ways that are healthy and effective, long-term. According to the latest statistics from the American Institute of Stress, the largest portion of caused stress comes from job workload. To that extent, 65% of employees stated that workplace stress was responsible for significant issues, such as eye-strain, difficulty sleeping, and other physical impairments, like carpel tunnel symptoms and low-back sensitivities from sedentary office settings [1].

In such instances, we’re quick to jump to fast solutions, like too much caffeine to keep energized, and poor self-care habits at home, such as lack of motivation to eat healthy or exercise. Our coping mechanisms turn into bandaid-type fixes that don’t teach us how to deal with stress in ways that promote health and well-being, long-term.

The following list recommends coping strategies for stress that take us out of our reactive state, and into a mindset that is more aware of our stressors. This awareness is a key step into developing controls that will help you not only deal with stress, but do it in a way that continues to promote healthy habit patterns.

1. Conscious Breathing

When we become stressed, we tend to lose touch with our conscious breathing awareness. In other words, we hold our breath, or fall into shallow breathing. This, in turn, affects the body on a cellular level, and kicks on the sympathetic nervous system, which primes us for reaction. Unfortunately, many of us tend to stay in this reactive state for long periods of time, constantly jumping at or running after tasks, sensations, and more stress.

What’s worse is that consistent shallow breathing not only causes more tension in the jaw, neck, low back, and other body areas; but it also significantly reduces a certain type of white blood cell that is responsible for warding off diseases, infections, and inflammation [2]. Our breath is literally keeping us healthy and alive.

When facing a stressful situation, a good practice is to pause and return to your breathing. Long, deep breaths in and out have shown to promote a sense of calm and re-centering, necessary for returning to the issue at hand with a clearer head.

Ensuring that your breath fills your belly and your lungs is vital in promoting diaphragmatic breathing that will not only ground the body, but also the mind.

Tune into the below video for an animated breathing exercise if you get caught up in a stressful situation:

2. Journaling

Sometimes, we just need to write down our feelings and sensations in the moment, as we’re experiencing them. Journaling has long been a practice many have turned to for its healing benefits.

Advertising

Similar to a diary, journaling is a way of writing down our thoughts and getting them out of our head; more importantly, that release is beneficial in cutting off the overthinking cycle of thoughts that keep us disconnected from our bodies and our environment.

You can either keep the journal entry and revisit it later, once the stressors have been resolved; or you can crumple it up, burn it, or tear it up, and notice the surrender in that manner.

Here’s a how-to guide on journaling: Writing Journal for a Better and More Productive Self (The How-To Guide)

3. Exercising

One of the best ways of getting out of our head when dealing with stress is to instead, come into the body.

Exercising is a powerful tool in redirecting our energy into something that is not only healthy for us, but also distracting. Moving the body floods our system with endorphins, which are natural painkillers that help with mood, sleep, and reducing irritability.

Finding the right exercise for you is entirely open to what stressors you’re facing. For example, running is a great option if you’re feeling angry or pent-up with frustration. On the other hand, yoga could be a beneficial suggestion if you’re feeling lethargic and tense, and need some grounding, re-energizing, or relaxing.[3]

Here’s a nice demonstration on stress-relieving Qigong exercises:

4. Meditation

Sitting down in silence might not sound like your idea of managing stress, but so much of our stress stems from the thoughts that we have in our mind. Naturally, it would make sense to tackle that stress head on, all pun intended.

Meditation can be done anywhere and anytime, and all that’s required is a set number of minutes to simply close your eyes and tune into your breathing. There are many apps that offer guided meditation sessions for anyone who is a beginner or just needs support on their meditation journey.

Apps such as Headspace and Insight Timer offer free guided sessions from meditation teachers all over the world.

You can also take a look at this Guided Morning Meditation for Beginners (That Will Change Your Day).

Advertising

5. Technology Disconnect

Everything we do is powered by the Internet, so much so, that without it, we often feel uneasy and disconnected. Ironically, too much of social media or checking work emails while at home is disconnecting us from ourselves.

Consider taking tech-breaks throughout your day, whether it’s taking a 30-minute lunch break without your phone, or going home from work and unplugging. Use the free time to do what brings you most joy in that moment – maybe a cup of tea outside!

Or try these 5 Simple Ways to Unplug and Be More Mindful In Your Life.

6. Think This, Not That

This is a powerful practice and skill to develop that will rewire your brain and the thinking patterns we often fall prisoner to in stressful situations.

How many times have you gotten upset at something and made the situation worse by going down the rabbit hole of negative thoughts? Most of us!

By becoming aware of these negative thought patterns as they come up, we can instead, choose better ones. Positivity and coping skills are a practice ingrained over time, and it comes from choosing better thoughts and patterns from the stressful ones we’re used to.

Watch Mel Robbins’ video below as she explains this concept, and gives simple tips on implementing this in your life:

7. Simplify Your Morning Routine

So many of us want to get as much done as possible in any given day. It’s natural to want to cross every item off of our to-do list, but not doing so often causes us more stress and worry, and for what?

Simplifying your morning routine gives you more headspace to prioritize tasks in a way that doesn’t feel crowded and overwhelming.

Try preparing kids’ lunches (or your own) the night before, or laying out your clothes or work items before you head to bed. In the morning, sit down with a list of things to do that you can write down, instead of trying to remember everything as the day unfolds.

Starting your day off in a way that works for you will help you manage stressors better: 15 Ways to Simplify your Morning Routine and Have a Great Morning

Advertising

8. Affirmations and Mantras

Mantras are words or phrases that are repeated often to bring about concentration, focus, and present moment awareness.[4] When you’re faced with a stressful situation, reminding yourself of this word or phrase can bring you back to a sense of grounding and peace, so that you can re-approach the problem with a new sense of clarity.

Here’re 10 Positive Affirmations for Success that will Change your Life.

9. Getting More Sleep

Our society is notorious in celebrating work done on meager hours of sleep. We’ve come to idolize people and their abilities in being able to pull all-nighters and complete their work with little to no rest. Unfortunately, this is also creating more stress in our life.

Getting 7 to 9 hours of sleep every night is crucial in setting up a foundation of effective and healthy performance the next day. Not only will we wake up brighter, happier, more rested and ready to take on the day; but our cognitive abilities will be restored to deal with any stressors in ways that are healthy, safe, and effective.

10. Eat Wholesome, Balanced Meals

When we’re under stress, we tend to go for fast food that is readily available, but not necessarily healthy. So much of what we eat contributes to how we feel, and in turn, how we control the rest of our day, stressors included.

Ultra-processed foods that are high in sugar and fats not only affect our mood, but our gut, as well. When the balance between good and bad gut bacteria is off, inflammation is quick to follow, as are a slew of gut-related diseases.[5]

We can’t stave off stress on a system that’s deprived of healthy nutrients, which is more of a reason why balancing your plate with enough dark-leafed vegetables, nuts, healthy fats, and protein is a must. Learn How to Find a Healthy Eating Plan That Actually Works for You.

Also, don’t forget the water!

11. Be Assertive Instead of Aggressive

Stressful situations can expound frustration, and leave us feeling more aggressive than we’d like to be. Maybe we snap at our colleagues or family members, or lose our cool at the meeting or in an argument. These instances can leave a mark that is often difficult to reverse, once the stressors die down.

Learning how to be assertive instead of aggressive is a fine-line balance, and one that can help you speak your truth and get your point across, all the while keeping emotions in check and under control.

12. Know What To Control and What to Release

By nature, we like to control outcomes, situations, and sometimes, others. In stressful situations, pawning after that desire to control can often give us more hardship than we’d like.

Knowing when to let go of a situation, conflict, or person can be a powerful practice in alleviating that stress. It can also benefit you in being able to distinguish when and how to release what no longer brings you reward, joy, or purpose.

Advertising

We’re not meant to control everything, and accepting that can be a truly liberating experience.

13. Open Up to a Friend, Colleague, or Family Member

We’ve all heard the phrase, “no man is an island.” That’s even more true when we’re going through a hard time. Often, we like to isolate and face our struggles head-on, only emerging after we’ve resolved the problem and come out victorious.

However, there is support and vulnerability in opening up to someone you trust. It allows you to put down your burden, not for anyone else to fix, but to simply quit carrying it around in silence.

Opening up that channel of communication and confession also puts you in a beautiful position to receive feedback and perspectives that you might not have considered before.

14. Learn to Say No

There are simply not enough hours in the day to accomplish everything we want to do, let alone to take on more from others who invite us, ask us, or suggest to us.

Learning when and how to say no can vastly release the burdens of needing to meet other people’s expectations. It can also open you up to focusing on your own tasks and priorities, which may decrease in size once you cut out the tasks you’ve taken on from others.

15. Make Time for Fun

Even though stress comes from many things and in many different shapes, it also stems from our lack of incorporating fun into our lives. By doing this, you can cut the stressors at the core, distracting yourself from what pains you to connect to something that brings you joy!

Think of activities or hobbies that you haven’t done in a while, or have always wanted to try. Make it a priority to schedule this activity soon, and then go and enjoy it fully! Notice how you feel when you give yourself permission to play.

Final Thoughts

Stress is a part of life. With so much to juggle in any given day, we’re aligned to meet stressors around every corner.

How we react to them, however, is entirely in our control. There are coping skills that we can practice that will put us in a better position to deal with stressful situations that keep our health and well-being prioritized and strong for years to come.

More About Coping with Stress

Featured photo credit: Jacob Sedlacek via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] The American Institute of Stress: Workplace Stress
[2] Headspace: How Shallow Breathing Affects Your Whole Body
[3] Mayo Clinic: Exercise and Stress: Get Moving to Manage Stress
[4] The Chopra Center: What is a Mantra?
[5] Harvard Health Publishing: Gut Feelings: How Food Affects Your Mood

More by this author

Aleksandra Slijepcevic

Accredited and Certified Vinyasa Yoga Teacher writing for Health & Fitness

How To Get Rid Of Your Social Media Addiction How To Do Focused Meditation Any Time How to Clear Your Mind and Be More Present Instantly 5 Powerful Self-Care Ideas for When Life Is Stressful How Adding Flow Yoga to Your Workout Routine Boosts Your Gains

Trending in Mental Wellness

1 How To Do Focused Meditation Any Time 2 Does Anxiety Make You Tired And Why? 3 Does Depression Make You Tired And How? 4 Overwhelmed at Work? 17 Ways to Manage Work Anxiety 5 Why Am I Depressed If My Life Is Fine?

Read Next

Advertising
Advertising

Last Updated on November 8, 2021

How To Do Focused Meditation Any Time

Advertising
How To Do Focused Meditation Any Time

Do you often feel stressed for most of your day? Maybe you always feel a burden that you just can’t get rid of? Focused meditation might be your answer.

In this article, I’ll explore what focused meditation is, how it differs in the pool of many styles of meditation, and how to implement and start this practice today. Likewise, I’ll highlight the benefits of a focused meditation practice for your overall health.

What Is Focused Meditation?

Meditation is the practice of becoming self-aware through breath and attention to connect the mind, body, and spirit.[1] Meditation as a whole can change the structure and function of our brain. That being said, focused meditation or a guided meditation for focus is by far the best one. Meditation for focus and concentration can come in different forms. Experienced meditators use the following:

  • Mindfulness – this meditation involves us to be focusing on your breath and observing thoughts. This allows us to focus on our feelings without becoming too absorbed in them.
  • Concentrative – a meditation that gets us to focus on a particular point; be it a word, breath, object, or a point in the space you’re meditating. This is meant for us to pay attention to that point and prevent our minds from getting distracted.
  • Moving – this meditation involves gets us to focus on slow and repetitive movements similar to yoga or tai chi. The goal is again to be focusing on your breath while relaxing your body and mind with the movements.

Focused meditation, also known as concentrative meditation, is the practice of meditating and bringing your attention to one single object. This object can be something practical and tangible, such as a mandala painting or a candle flame. It can also be something abstract, such as a phrase (also known as mantra) or a sound (such as Om).[2][3]

Whatever you settle your attention on becomes the focal point. None of these object examples are better than others—they are simply choices depending on what you’re looking to get out of your practice. For example, practitioners will choose candle gazing to interpret the images the flame makes in the shadows while others will choose a mantra because that particular phrase or word empowers or heals them.

How Does It Differ From Other Meditation Styles?

All meditation styles and practices overlap and build on each other. Their basic foundation is the same: to bring the practitioner insight and introspection.

Advertising

There is no right or wrong way to meditate, however, the various types of meditation can enhance particular qualities. Based on your personality and needs, one type of meditation may be more useful to you than the other. The 9 types of meditation are:

  • Mindfulness meditation
  • Spiritual meditation
  • Focused meditation
  • Movement meditation
  • Mantra meditation
  • Transcendental meditation
  • Progressive relaxation
  • Loving kindness meditation
  • Visualization meditation

Focused meditation, specifically, is the practice of focusing on one single object for the duration of the practice. How this differs from other meditation styles is that it gives the practitioner something tangible to do: focus. It’s almost like giving your mind an action to perform—listen to this sound, repeat these words, watch this flame, etc. This is also one of the reasons why this particular meditation style is great for beginners!

One of the biggest challenges in any meditation practice is that the mind gets carried away and we lose ourselves to random thoughts. This “obstacle” is actually a style of meditation in and of itself called Vipassana.[4] However, in focused meditation, we give the mind something to do so that it’s not simply left to its own devices. This type of meditation is beneficial for beginners and for practitioners who prefer some structure and guidance to their meditations.

The Benefits of Focused Meditation

In this style of meditation, what you’re really doing is exercising your mental muscles. Your brain is highly affected by dedicated and concentrated meditation practice.

Scientists have performed countless studies on focused meditation and have found that active meditators have more gray matter volume in their brain and, therefore, offsetting the cognitive decline that comes with aging. So, not only does practicing focused meditation help you learn how to focus better on certain tasks, but it also improves similar functions, such as memory. [5]

Likewise, it helps in reducing symptoms of depression and anxiety, which our society is currently crippled with.[6] By settling your attention on an object, you are essentially building your ability to observe your thoughts and sensations from a place of objectivity. This allows you to detach from negative self-talk that is often the breeding ground for depression and other mental illnesses.

Advertising

From a guided meditation for focus to practicing it yourself, daily meditation for focus comes with several benefits:

  • It’ll reduce stress
  • Help you to control anxiety
  • Enhance your self-awareness
  • Improve attention span
  • Helps you to focus on the present moment
  • Increase your creativity and imagination
  • And boost your patience and tolerance for things.

How to Practice Focused Meditation

Here are six tips to help you practice focused meditation. Based on your availability and interest, these tips may change and evolve. That’s the point: to create a structured practice that caters to your needs.

1. Find a Comfortable Seat

As with any meditation practice, comfort is truly key. The physical body responds to meditation practice by alerting you to whether it is comfortable and supported or stressed out and in pain. This is best observed in practitioners who tend to slouch and lose the tall, supported spine that is essential to meditation practice.

A simple rule in meditative sitting is to ensure that your hips are higher than your knees. Therefore, choosing to sit in a chair instead of on the floor may be a smart decision or perhaps propping yourself up on a cushion. For meditation techniques overall, it does not matter how you sit. All that matters is that you are supported and comfortable sitting for some time.

2. Choose Your Object of Focus

Every meditation training session is going to be different because no single day is the same for any one person. Therefore, experienced meditators know that choosing an object is more about listening to what you need at this time versus following any doctrine or “rule.”

If you’re not sure and have a hard time deciding, make focusing on your breath and pay attention to the inhale and exhale is a good option. Then, assign each inhale and exhale a number, and once you reach 10, start over. This is one of the simpler methods of keeping your mind occupied—by giving it a task. This also trains your mind, and over time and with practice, your mind will easily focus on an object without too much effort.

Advertising

3. Set Your Desired Time or “Go With the Flow”

If you have a structured routine and would like to stick to your schedule, by all means, set a gentle timer for how long you’d like your meditation to be. This is also your opportunity to throw out the notion that any meditation has to be a certain length of time to be correct—it does not.

Likewise, if you have the time, you can also listen to your body and come out of your meditation when you feel it’s right to do so. This is often a beautiful practice of listening and tuning in.

4. Relax Your Body as You Focus on Your Meditation

Typically, when we are focusing on something, we tend to tighten our body. Observe this next time that you’re concentrating on something: your jaw will tighten and your shoulders will squeeze up towards your ears.

As you sink into your meditation, keep this in mind and check in with your body every once in a while. Let your shoulders sink down your back and release any tension through your jaw and face. Lastly, relax your brow and let your eyes be heavy in their sockets. Then, return to your object of meditation. Observe if your meditation changes at all by relaxing your physical body.

5. Return to Your Breath and Object When You Get Distracted

Notice that I didn’t say “if you get distracted.” That’s because you definitely will drift off with random thoughts or get pulled away from your object of focus. In meditation, distractions are almost guaranteed. Therefore, it’s your opportunity to practice detaching yourself from feeling guilty or inadequate to continue.

Over time and with practice, you will find it easier to stay with your object of focus. In the meantime, however, notice when you get distracted. Pause and take a big breath in and out. Check in with your physical body and relax. Once you’re ready again, return to your object of focus. Meditation is simply one long cycle of wandering and coming back to yourself.

Advertising

6. Journal Your Experiences

When your meditation practice has ended, another powerful practice is to jot down any experiences that you felt. There may have been insights and “downloads” that you acquired during your session that you may want to record.

Likewise, you could write about any challenges that you faced. These are great lessons that will continue to show up for you, and it’s nice to keep a journal of them to see how they evolve and progress over time (and they will). Lastly, you can write about what works and what doesn’t, as far as picking your objects of meditation go. This way, you can learn what you most associate with and feel comfortable with.

While these steps are simple, it’s easier said than done. Whether you’re starting out with a guided meditation for focus, loving kindness meditation, or transcendental meditation, anticipating failure the first time you try these things is healthy. Furthermore, congratulate yourself for even making slight progress like noticing and returning to the present moment and noticing the sensations you experienced.

Final Thoughts

If practicing meditation causes you to feel distracted and unsupported, give focused meditation a go! With the help of an object to bring your attention to, it structures your meditation time and offers guidance and support.

Dedicating yourself to this style of meditation will help increase your memory, reduce stress and anxiety, and promote better cognitive function. Even though any style of meditation is a powerful way of taking care of your mental health, focused meditation gives your mind a tangible task with which to grow and strengthen.

More About Focused Meditation

Featured photo credit: Lua Valentia via unsplash.com

Advertising

Reference

Read Next