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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

More by this author

Sarah Browne

Sarah is a writer, speaker and activist who promotes the end of stigma for mental health.

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Last Updated on July 10, 2020

How to Take Control of Your Life with Better Boundaries

How to Take Control of Your Life with Better Boundaries

We all have them—those hurtful, frustrating, offensive, manipulative people in our lives. No matter how hard we try to surround ourselves with positive and kind people, there will always be those who will disrespect, insult, berate, and misuse you if we allow them to.

We may, for a variety of reasons, not be able to avoid them, but we can determine how we interact with them and how we allow them to interact with us.

So, how to take control of your life and stop being pushed around?

Learning to set clear firm boundaries with the people in our lives at work and in our personal lives is the best way to protect ourselves from the negative effects of this kind of behavior.

What Boundaries Are (And What They’re Not)

Boundaries are limits

—they are not threats or ultimatums. Boundaries inform or teach. They are not a form of punishment.

Boundaries are firm lines—determined by you—which cannot be crossed by those around you. They are guidelines for how you will allow others to treat you and what kind of behaviors you will expect.

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Healthy personal boundaries help protect you from physical or emotional pain. You may also need to set firm boundaries at work to ensure you and your time are not disrespected. Don’t allow others to take advantage of your kindness and generosity.

Clear boundaries communicate to others that you demand respect and consideration—that you are willing to stand up for yourself and that you will not be a doormat for anyone. They are a “no trespassing” sign that makes it very clear when a line has been crossed and that there will be consequences for doing so.

Boundaries are not set with the intention of changing other people. They may change how people interact with you, but they are more about enforcing your needs than attempting to change the general behavior and attitude of others.

How to Establish Boundaries and Take Control of Your Life

Here are some ways that you can establish boundaries and take control of your life.

1. Self-Awareness Comes First

Before you can establish boundaries with others, you first need to understand what your needs are.

You are entitled to respect. You have the right to protect yourself from inappropriate or offensive behavior. Setting boundaries is a way of honoring your needs.

To set appropriate boundaries, you need to be clear about what healthy behaviors look like—what healthy relationships look like.

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You first have to become more aware of your feelings and honest with yourself about your expectations and what you feel is appropriate behavior:

  • Where do you need to establish better boundaries?
  • When do you feel disrespected?
  • When do you feel violated, frustrated, or angered by the behavior of others?
  • In what situations do you feel you are being mistreated or taken advantage of?
  • When do you want to be alone?
  • How much space do you need?

You need to honor your own needs and boundaries before you can expect others to honor them. This allows you to take control of your life.

2. Clear Communication Is Essential

Inform others clearly and directly what your expectations are. It is essential to have clear communication if you want others to respect your boundaries. Explain in an honest and respectful tone what you find offensive or unacceptable.

Many people simply aren’t aware that they are behaving inappropriately. They may never have been taught proper manners or consideration for others.

3. Be Specific but Don’t Blame

Taking a blaming or punishing attitude automatically puts people on the defensive. People will not listen when they feel attacked. It’s part of human nature.

That said, you do not need to overexplain or defend yourself. Boundaries are not open to compromise.

Sample language:

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  • “You may not…yell or raise your voice to me…”
  • “I need…to be treated with respect…”
  • “It’s not okay when…you take things from my desk without asking…”
  • “I won’t…do your work…cover for you anymore…”
  • “It’s not acceptable when…you ridicule or insult me…”
  • “I am uncomfortable when…you use offensive language”
  • “I will no longer be able to…lend you money…”

Being able to communicate these without sounding accusatory is essential if you want others to respect your boundaries so you can take control of your life.

4. Consequences Are Often Necessary

Determine what the appropriate consequences will be when boundaries are crossed. If it’s appropriate, be clear about those consequences upfront when communicating those boundaries to others.

Follow through. People won’t respect your boundaries if you don’t enforce them.

Standing our ground and forcing consequences doesn’t come easily to us. We want to be nice. We want people to like us, but we shouldn’t have to trade our self-respect to gain friends or to achieve success.

We may be tempted to let minor disrespect slide to avoid conflict, but as the familiar saying goes, “if you give people an inch, they’ll take a mile.”

It’s much easier to address offensive or inappropriate behavior now than to wait until that behavior has gotten completely out of hand.

It’s also important to remember that positive reinforcement is even more powerful than negative consequences. When people do alter the way they treat you, acknowledge it. Let people know that you notice and appreciate their efforts.

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Final Thoughts

Respect is always a valid reason for setting a boundary. Don’t defend yourself or your needs. Boundaries are often necessary to protect your time, your space, and your feelings. And these are essential if you want to take control of your life.

Start with the easiest boundaries first. Setting boundaries is a skill that needs to be practiced. Enlist support from others if necessary. Inform people immediately when they have crossed the line.

Don’t wait. Communicate politely and directly. Be clear about the consequences and follow them through.

The better you become at setting your own boundaries, the better you become at recognizing and respecting the boundaries of others.

Remember that establishing boundaries is your right. You are entitled to respect. You can’t control how other people behave, but you do have control over the way you allow people to treat you.

Learning to set boundaries is not always easy, but with time, it will become more comfortable. You may eventually find that boundaries become automatic and you no longer need to consciously set them.

They will simply become a natural extension of your self-respect.

Featured photo credit: Thomas Kelley via unsplash.com

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