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Last Updated on January 12, 2021

15 Coping Strategies for Stress That You Should Learn

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.

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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).

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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

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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.

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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

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Last Updated on April 19, 2021

How to Clear Your Mind and Be More Present Instantly

How to Clear Your Mind and Be More Present Instantly

You may be wondering how to clear your mind. Maybe you are facing a tough presentation at work and really need to focus, or perhaps you’ve got a lot going on at home and just need to relax for a few minutes. Whatever the reason, having a clear mind can help you find your center.

The only problem is that you can’t completely erase the thousands of thoughts you have each day. The goal is to be able to observe those thoughts without engaging with each one of them.

The good news is that clearing your mind and returning to the present moment comes from a simple act of acknowledging that you’re overwhelmed in the first place. A path to better mental health and overall quality of life starts here.

What Happens When You’re Not Present?

We’ve evolved to keep looking and working towards a future goal. The very nature of our careers is to make sure that we’re setting ourselves up for the future. Our thoughts and, therefore, our habits and actions consistently point in the forward-moving direction, whether it’s in your relationship, career, or goals.

The point at which this becomes harmful is when we become too stuck in this forward motion and can’t reduce stress in the short or long-term. The result of this is burnout.[1] It’s a term that is most often used in the workplace, but burnout can happen in any area of our life where you feel like you’re pushing too hard and too fast.

The idea here is that you’re so engrossed in the forward movement that you take on too much and rest too little. There is no pause in the present because you have this sense that you must keep working.

On a physical plane, the body takes a real hit with burnout. You feel more muscle fatigue, poor concentration, insomnia, anxiety, poor metabolism, and so much more.

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These symptoms are the body’s way of throwing you red flags and warning you that you must slow down. But because your mind is so preoccupied with this forward momentum, it disconnects you from listening to your body’s signals. The only time you really hear them is when the signals are too loud to ignore, such as during serious illness or pain.

As we can see, not being present is something that snowballs over time. Eventually, it can cause serious mental, emotional, and physical ailments. 

To help you deal with this, you can check out Lifehack’s Free Life Assessment to see where you may be off balance. Then, you can check out the points below to keep moving in the right direction.

How Do We Come Back to the Present?

Answering this question will answer the question of how to clear your mind because they go hand in hand. There are many tools you can use to begin a mindfulness practice.

To reiterate, mindfulness is simply defined as the act or practice of being fully present.[2] Tools that allow you to step into this practice include meditation, journaling, a body-centered movement practice such as Qigong, or simple breathing exercises.

Underneath it all, however, is one technique that acts as a universal connector, and that is acknowledgment. This term may not sound like a technique, but its power truly flourishes when put into practice.

For us to come back to the present moment, we have to acknowledge that we have trailed off into the past or the future. Likewise, for us to clear our mind, we have to acknowledge that our mind is overwhelmed, distracted, or scattered.

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This simple act of pausing and catching ourselves in the moment is how we can build our acknowledgment practice. So, the next time you find yourself overwhelmed at work with mental to-do lists, pause. Acknowledge your state of mind and say to yourself that you’re overwhelmed. This sends a signal to your whole being that you’re aware of what’s going on.

It cuts the cords of illusion, denial, and ignorance. You are now building your awareness of yourself, which is an incredibly potent gift.

How to Clear Your Mind

Now that you’ve acknowledged where you are and how you feel, you can take action and learn ways to clear your mind. You can take a few moments away from your desk or to-do list, and practice something to ground yourself back into the present moment.

1. Take a Walk

Grounding yourself can be as simple as taking a walk and admiring the changing of the leaves. This practice is also known as “forest bathing,” and it doesn’t necessarily need to take place in a forest. It can be in your favorite park or even walking around your town or neighborhood.

Bring your attention to the senses as you enjoy your walk. Can you tune in to the sounds of your footsteps on the earth? Can you notice the smells and take in the sights around you while staying present in the moment? Can you touch a leaf or the bark of a tree and allow the texture to teach you something new?

Such a practice does wonders in clearing your mind and bringing you back to the now. It also connects you more deeply to your environment.

2. Box Breathing

As you’re learning how to clear your mind, a mind-clearing practice may look like sitting down and going through a nourishing meditation or breath practice. Breathing is, honestly, the easiest and best way to clear your mind. Even taking a few deep breaths in and out and feeling and noticing the breath will bring you right back to the present moment.[3]

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In yoga, we call this breath Same Vrti, meaning a 1:1 breath ratio. It can also be translated as “box breathing.” The idea is to make the length of your inhales and exhales the same, as this allows you to take in more oxygen and slow down the chatter of the monkey mind. It also kicks on the parasympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for rest and digestion, offering many health benefits in the long run.

This will allow your heart rate to slow down so that you can reduce any anxiety you may be feeling. It also aids in digestion, as the metabolism is back on track, and helps you physically process food and drink properly.

3. Add Meditation

how to meditate and clear your mind is also helpful when you want to clear negative thoughts and relieve stress. In fact, following your breath is a meditation in itself. Adding a visual, like imagining gentle ripples on a lake or clouds passing along a beautiful blue sky, can give the mind something to attach to without running through the train of your thoughts.

On the other hand, if you are mentally overwhelmed and meditation sounds like more stress, tuning in to a guided meditation session can be alleviating. It often helps to hear the voice of a teacher or guide who can walk you into more peace and contentment with their words and energy. If you can’t find such a guide in a local studio, turn to the many meditation apps on your phone, or YouTube.

4. Write Your Thoughts

Alternatively, another powerful practice for when you’re learning how to clear your mind is sitting down and writing out all of the thoughts in your head. We call this a “brain dump,” and it is an effective method for simply releasing your thoughts so that you can mentally breathe and process things better.

Grab a piece of paper and write out all of the thoughts that are pressing for your attention. The idea is not to analyze the thoughts or fix them, but to give those thoughts an exit so that you can move on with your day without fixating on them aggressively. This can look like a laundry list of thoughts, or a diary entry.

Afterward, feel free to close your journal or rip up the paper as part of your stress management. You don’t need to hold on to what you wrote, but it does help to see the expression of what you’re holding on to mentally. Likewise, this practice is very potent to do at night before bedtime. So many of us struggle to sleep soundly with many thoughts bouncing back and forth, and this exercise before bed can allow us to enter a deeper level of rest.

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Regardless of what you do, understand that practicing mindfulness is a lifelong process. With life’s ups and downs, it’s stressful to attach yourself to the practice of being mindful and in the present moment because it’s never guaranteed that you will be present for 100% of your life.

In this practice, what matters more than anything is intention. Our intention of staying present and sticking to our mindfulness practice is what will encourage us to keep coming back to it, even when we forget.

Final Thoughts

With the thousands of thoughts that we have in our head each day, it can sound overwhelming to even tackle this and try to learn how to clear your mind. The technique, however, is powerful, simple, and effective.

It all comes down to first recognizing and acknowledging that we are overwhelmed, stressed, or far away from the present moment. That acknowledgment acts as a wake-up alarm, inviting us to examine our state of mind and take action.

In this way, not only are we clearing our minds in a manner that works for us, but we’re also building our self-awareness, which is a beautiful and powerful way of being in the world.

More Tips on How to Clear Your Mind

Featured photo credit: Elijah Hiett via unsplash.com

Reference

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