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Published on December 31, 2019

7 Tips for Coping with Stress Effectively

7 Tips for Coping with Stress Effectively

Stress can happen to anyone, anywhere at anytime.

It can be mild or intense. It can be short or long lived.

It can lead to panic, sadness or inability to handle things. Or it can be dealt with effectively.

You don’t have to let stress control you. Instead, coping with stress is possible.

“The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another.” – William James

Stress can either define your life experiences or be something that motivates you. Instead of worrying all the time, use that energy for positive motivation.

Stress can stop you, if you let it. You only need to let life happen and learn to go with the flow in order to cope with stress. Give up the notion of total control because it does not exist.

When stress happens, we are either pushed forward or stopped in our tracks. We either let it help us rise or let it sink us down. The choice between the two are in coping skills.

You can be having a great day and suddenly something happens that lets you down, and suddenly the whole day is ruined. You will rise though, if you learn that stress is a part of life, and that you don’t need to control it. You only need to find a way to cope with it.

Some signs of stress are elevated heart beat, sometimes leading to panic or panic attacks. Sweaty palms, fear rising, catastrophizing the worst will happen, feeling pressure, having a timeline to solve your problem or complete a task… This is how we start to experience stress.

People and circumstances can stress us out. It can be daunting to solve every problem on your plate. But it’s possible to solve some problems effectively with coping skills so you can tackle that to do list. It’s not possible to solve problems WITH stress. In fact, stress can hinder us from success when we let it take over. You need tools to do the job well done. These tools are helpful when dealing with stress to overcome difficult situations.

You only need to learn to cope, not control it.

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Some effective ways to cope with stress are the following:

1. Break down Your Task or To-Do List

The first step towards clearing it is writing it down, so you create a to do list. But what do you do once you get there? Do you start with the easiest task and work your way to the most difficult? Do you start with the most urgent or the most important or a mix of both?

Breaking down your task list can help you cope with stress. You will find that people, circumstances will change that lift the stress from you, but your attitude in any situation is what keeps stress truly at bay.

Start with prioritizing your task list. What are your long-term goals? What satisfies most of that for you? You can decide to act on tasks that help you in the longterm the most while also tackling the urgent, right here right now needs of your life.

Mind Tools says:[1]

“With effective time management, you can take control of your time and get on top of your to do list.”

Breaking down your task management is about what is most important to you in life and your day to day functioning:

  • Write down all your tasks that need done, in no particular order.
  • Color code, flag or whatever method you like-urgency and importance in a ranking order that you decide.
  • Take out a calendar or planner and plot out when you will tackle each task.
  • Prioritize each day what you need to get down and follow this method.
  • Start over and do it all over again regularly.

A to-do list is more than just task and time management. It is about priorities. When you know your priorities, you are less stressed about choices you have to make.

Learn more tips about using to-do lists here: The Right Way to Make a To Do List and Get Things Done

2. Find a Good, Therapeutic Outlet

When you find an outlet, it can include therapy, but it also can be coping skills that you pick and enjoy. It’s something that lets out the stress.

Exercise, journaling, talking to someone or to a therapist, listening to music, meditation, cooking, relaxing in general, reading a good book, watching a movie or TV show… What you do is up to you.

Once you pick a coping skill, your stress will decrease and your ability to COPE will increase. You will then be able to perform the task at hand. You will be able to use your coping skills to achieve your goals. Once you have less stress, you can resume working.

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You can decide what you do with your time, even when stress is daunting and big. You can decide to spend your time your way. You can rest. You can recharge. You can find strength again when you use your coping skills. You just need an outlet for the stress.

You can’t just push through everything in life and decide not to feel. Let yourself feel. Feeling is not the enemy. Lack of focus is. You can be focused on a task ahead and still decide to feel. You can even use that feeling to motivate you. The key is to let it out.

Stress management is not just about overcoming stress. It’s using it. It’s not letting it control you. It’s effectively coping you so you can still breathe.

3. Schedule Breaks for Yourself

It’s very important to recharge. When you are creating a to do list, you need to ask yourself, “When is the best time for me to recharge and relax so I don’t let this overwhelm me?” This isn’t the same as procrastination. You give yourself a timer and let yourself rest when you set it.

Scheduling breaks in your day is something many of us forget to do.

According to Harvard Business Review,[2] it says that you should trying even switching up tasks to keep yourself from being overwhelmed and burned out when you are problem solving.

“When you’re working on tasks that would benefit from creative thinking, consciously insert breaks to refresh your approach. Set them at regular intervals- use a timer if you have to.”

It says that this may be indeed the best use of your time, to schedule breaks, to get better results.

Be guilt free in your pursuit of the best problem solving skills. Taking breaks will actually enhance your skills leaving you with less stress overall.

4. Meditate to Release Tension in Body, Mind and Soul

Meditation and mindfulness can help in each circumstance with learning how to use our inner strength to grow and give. We can learn from meditation that life is a current, and we can either swim with it or get pulled under. This is very important to note when we are stressed.

Meditation can help us release stress sometimes more than anything else. It brings us very much into the present. Worrying is about the future; stress is an emotional response to worry and pressure that tends to feel very negative. But we can dial it down with meditation so that we can deal.

Mindfulness is about using the present moment to the best of your ability. You can be meditative in it with the simplest of tasks. It’s grounding yourself with each moment in terms of using the task at hand to be present.

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You can be cooking, washing your hands, eating, or walking outside. All you need to do is breathe and be in the moment in order to meditate.

It can even be as simple as releasing tension in your body. Unclench your jaw. Release your shoulders from your ears. Release all tension from your whole body by thinking of each body part’s release. Start with your head and go down to your feet and toes. Do it as often as you like.

Learn how to meditate easily: Meditation for Beginners: How to Meditate Deeply and Quickly

5. Be Grateful

Stop what you’re doing. Think about what you still have. Rather than seeing the odds as against you, see what you have already done and already have. This will help you to move forward.

You are still alive. You still have tools that you can use to help you. You have resources. You have people; you are not alone. You have abilities. Where you lack, you can ask for help. So you only need to be grateful.

It doesn’t mean you discount the pain you have had in any situation, but you acknowledge what you can do with it. You are not over. This stress will not define you or decide for you. You can use what you have right here and right now to make a difference.

Write a gratitude list daily. Even if you only think of three things to be grateful for, that is more than enough. Remind yourself of this list of gratitude to help you cope with the stress you feel. Through realizing what you still have, you can find better solutions and release the stress from overtaking you.

Your thoughts have power. Using gratitude to defeat stress is something you can do daily. You can actually train your brain to be more grateful by coming up with at least three things daily that you are grateful for.

6. Find the Motivation

Finding motivation for many can be difficult. But you’re not like other people. You are the only you in this whole universe. That means what motivates you may be different from what motivates someone else. You may decide to pursue things other won’t agree with or understand. That’s okay. The key is that you have decided something. And that often comes with a lot of stress.

When you are stuck, it’s up to you to find the motivation. You can let situations define you or you can reclaim your story. You can stand for something. You can do a social good. You can help a friend. You can release the negativity by focusing on the positive. It’s up to you. You have control here. You have some power. You have some say.

According to Barking Up the Wrong Tree, a science based answers and expert insight blog that has been featured on The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Wired Magazine and Time Magazine, there are 3 steps to motivating yourself backed by science:[3]

They are getting positive, rewarding yourself and getting peer pressure are the best ways to motivate yourself.

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It also says,

“Think of yourself as a motivated, productive person. Research shows how people feel about themselves has a huge effect on success.”

When you decide to be positive, you make a decision to not let the stress or negativity weigh you down or define you. Reward yourself because you deserve goodness and you deserve happiness and you deserve to be recognized for your work in life.

Lastly, getting peer pressure is about letting others in on your goals. That helps you stay motivated and stay moving forward.

7. Ask for Help

When you are struggling, you don’t have to have all the answers. You just need a healthy outlook and to let input in. You will be better with stress when you have others to help you. Even if it is a professional such as a therapist or an expert such as someone in your field, or a friend, or family member you trust, all that matters is that you’re not afraid to need help.

Perfection is something we all strive for, but we can’t have because it doesn’t truly exist. We can get close to it, but there’s always a way to do something better that will be found out in the future.

So, ask for help. Ask for people’s input. Don’t be afraid to get feedback. Maybe there’s a more effective way to do something. That will lead to less stress and more productivity.

If you find it difficult to ask for help, these tips can help: How to Ask for Help When You Feel Silly to Do So

Final Thoughts

Stress is unavoidable. It will always be present in our most trying times. You can either learn to cope with it or let it ruin you.

It doesn’t have to control you in the way it has been. You can make the change today, right now to take your power back. These 7 tips for coping with stress effectively can do just that.

Good luck!

More Tips on Stress Relief

Featured photo credit: Doğukan Şahin via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Mind Tools: Time Management
[2] Harvard Business Review: To Be More Creative, Schedule Your Breaks
[3] Barking up the Wrong Tree: How To Motivate Yourself: 3 Steps Backed By Science

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Sarah Browne

Sarah is a speaker, writer and activist

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Last Updated on November 9, 2020

10 Real Reasons Why Breaking Bad Habits Is So Difficult

10 Real Reasons Why Breaking Bad Habits Is So Difficult

Bad habits expose us to suffering that is entirely avoidable. Unfortunately, breaking bad habits is difficult because they are 100% dependent on our mental and emotional state.

Anything we do that can prove harmful to us is a bad habit – drinking, drugs, smoking, procrastination, poor communication are all examples of bad habits. These habits have negative effects on our physical, mental, and emotional health.

Humans are hardwired to respond to stimuli and to expect a consequence of any action. This is how habits are acquired: the brain expects to be rewarded a certain way under certain circumstances. How you initially responded to certain stimuli is how your brain will always remind you to behave when the same stimuli are experienced.

If you visited the bar close to your office with colleagues every Friday, your brain will learn to send you a signal to stop there even when you are alone and eventually not just on Fridays. It will expect the reward of a drink after work every day, which can potentially lead to a drinking problem.

Kicking negative behavior patterns and steering clear of them requires a lot of willpower, and there are many reasons why breaking bad habits is so difficult.

1. Lack of Awareness or Acceptance

Breaking a bad habit is not possible if the person who has it is not aware that it is a bad one.

Many people will not realize that their communication skills are poor or that their procrastination is affecting them negatively, or even that the drink they had as a nightcap has now increased to three.

Awareness brings acceptance. Unless a person realizes on their own that a habit is bad, or someone manages to convince them of the same, there is very little chance of the habit being kicked.

2. No Motivation

Going through a divorce, not being able to cope with academic pressure, and falling into debt are instances that can bring a profound sense of failure with them. A person going through these times can fall into a cycle of negative thinking where the world is against them and nothing they can do will ever help, so they stop trying altogether.

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This give-up attitude is a bad habit that just keeps coming around. Being in debt could make you feel like you are failing at maintaining your home, family, and life in general.

If you are looking to get out of a rut and feel motivated, take a look at this article: Why Is Internal Motivation So Powerful (And How to Find It)

3. Underlying Psychological Conditions

Psychological conditions such as depression and ADD can make it difficult to start breaking bad habits.

A depressed person may find it difficult to summon the energy to cook a healthy meal, resulting in food being ordered in or consumption of packaged foods. This could lead to a habit that adversely affects health and is difficult to overcome.

A person with ADD may start to clean their house but get distracted soon after, leaving the task incomplete, eventually leading to a state where it is acceptable to live in a house that is untidy and dirty.

The fear of missing out (FOMO) is very real to some people. Obsessively checking their social media and news sources, they may believe that not knowing of something as soon as it is published can be catastrophic to their social standing.

4. Bad Habits Make Us Feel Good

One of the reasons it is difficult to break habits is that a lot of them make us feel good.[1]

We’ve all been there – the craving for a tub of ice cream after a breakup or a casual drag on a joint, never to be repeated until we miss how good it made us feel. We succumb to the craving for the pleasure felt while indulging in it, cementing it as a habit even while we are aware it isn’t good for us.

Overeating is a very common bad habit. Just another pack of chips, a couple of candies, a large soda… none of these are necessary for survival. We want them because they give us comfort. They’re familiar, they taste good, and we don’t even notice when we progress from just one extra slice of pizza to four.

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You can read this article to learn more: We Do What We Know Is Bad for Us, Why?

5. Upward Comparisons

Comparisons are a bad habit that many of us have been exposed to since we were children. Parents might have compared us to siblings, teachers may have compared us to classmates, and bosses could compare us to past and present employees.

The people who have developed the bad habit of comparing themselves to others have been given incorrect yardsticks for measurement from the start.

These people will always find it difficult to break out of this bad habit because there will always be someone who has it better than they do: a better house, better car, better job, higher income and so on.

Research shows that in the age of social media, social comparisons are much easier and can ultimately harm self-esteem if scrolling becomes a bad habit[2].

6. No Alternative

This is a real and valid reason why breaking bad habits is difficult. These habits could fulfill a need that may not be met any other way.

Someone who has physical or psychological limitations, such as a disability or social anxiety, may find it hard to quit obsessive content consumption for better habits.

Alternately, a perfectly healthy person may be unable to quit smoking because alternates are just not working out.

Similarly, a person who bites their nails when anxious may be unable to relieve stress in any other socially accepted manner.

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7. Stress

As mentioned above, anything that stresses us out can lead to adopting and cementing an unhealthy habit.

When a person is stressed about something, it is easy for bad habits to form because the mental resources required to fight them are not available[3].

We often see a person who had previously managed to kick a bad habit fall back into the old ways because they felt their stress couldn’t be managed any other way.

If you need some help reducing stress, check out the following video for some healthy ways to get started:

8. Sense of Failure

People looking to kick bad habits may feel a strong sense of failure because it’s just that difficult.

Dropping a bad habit usually means changes in lifestyle that people may be unwilling to make, or these changes might not be easy to make in spite of the will to make them.

Overeaters need to empty their house of unhealthy food, resist the urge to order in, and not pick up their standard grocery items from the store. Those who drink too much need to avoid the bars or even people who drink often.

If such people slip even once with a glass of wine, or a smoke, or a bag of chips, they tend to be excessively harsh on themselves and feel like failures.

9. The Need to Be All-New

People who are looking to break bad habits feel they need to re-create themselves in order to break themselves of their bad habits, while the truth is the complete opposite.

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These people actually need to go back to who they were before they developed the bad habit and try to create good habits from there.

10. Force of Habit

Humans are creatures of habit, and having familiar, comforting outcomes for daily triggers helps us maintain a sense of balance in our lives.

Consider people who are used to lighting up a cigarette every time they talk on the phone or eating junk food when watching TV. They will always associate a phone call with a puff on the cigarette and screen time with eating.

These habits, though bad, are a source of comfort to them, as is meeting with those people they indulge in these bad habits with.

Final Thoughts

These are the main reasons why breaking bad habits is difficult, but the good news is that the task is not impossible. Breaking habits takes time, and you’ll need to put long-term goals in place to replace a bad habit with a good one.

There are many compassionate, positive and self-loving techniques to kick bad habits. The internet is rich in information regarding bad habits, their effects and how to overcome them, while professional help is always available for those who feel they need it.

More on Breaking Bad Habits

Featured photo credit: NORTHFOLK via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] After Skool: Why Do Bad Habits Feel SO GOOD?
[2] Psychology of Popular Media Culture: Social comparison, social media, and self-esteem.
[3] Stanford Medicine: Examining how stress affects good and bad habits

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