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10 Ways to Change the Way You Deal With Stress

10 Ways to Change the Way You Deal With Stress
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The way we deal with stress is often learned. We saw our parents handle disappointment, financial woes or crisis in a particular way and our young minds soaked it up. Even as adults, we take note on how to react when we see our boss or mentor behave in a certain way. It gets comfortable and familiar to approach stress the same way every time.

Stress will always exist, and it won’t always defeat us. In fact, scientists have proven there are some benefits to a healthy dosage of stress. It’s how we deal with stress that will make or break us. Here are 10 ways to change the way you deal with stress.

1. Don’t just react to your stress, but take a moment to authentically respond to it.

Some stressful events in life can trigger you to react without much thought, or simply react out of fear or confusion. In these stressful times, our fight or flight response gets activated.

To authentically respond to stress, you need to check in with how you are feeling, what is cropping up for you, and how you can manage this new stress in your life. Sometimes our reaction only increases the stress and we get stuck in a reactive loop, filled with negativity and self-abuse.

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We may not be able to control the situation, but we can develop control of ourselves and change the way we deal with stress. You don’t need to hurl insults, go on a cursing tirade or throw things and have an all out temper tantrum when stress appears, but you can state what you think and feel. The way you choose to authentically respond may change according to your surroundings, whether in the workplace, with your spouse or children, or other family members, or casual friends. Remember that hurting others in the process is not an effective way to heal yourself.

2. Step back and see the wholeness of the issue at hand, not just the particulars.

It’s easy to get caught up in some parts of your stress, but this won’t help you change the way you deal with stress. You will keep running into a wall, as you learn that you can’t change others or things out of your reach. It is in these moments that you can lend your focus to the positive. See the situation in its entirety, and evaluate what the end result could be and how you can maintain that open, welcoming perspective.

3. Learn to accept change and understand stress.

When you truly accept that things won’t always go as planned, and that stress exists, and will always exist, you will start reformulating the way you think about stress. Its power won’t be so invasive and debilitating.

Good stress can be a motivator; it can challenge your long held behavioral patterns and encourage you to approach your issues with strength and vigor. Bad stress, on the other hand, can mess with your sleep, your mental health and overall physical well-being.

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According to this University of Wisconsin-Madison study on stress, those with persistent negative stress had a 43% increase in chance of death. Stress can be a serial killer and will take no prisoners, if you let it.

Don’t be a victim of your stress. Remaining immobilized and stagnant in the fear that your stressful situation has caused is not a way of accepting that stress exists. It is important to be aware of stress, differentiate good stress from bad stress and embrace change so that you can better deal with stress when you encounter it.

4. Create a mindful revolution in your own life.

Practicing yoga, exercising, playing a favorite sport, eating a nourishing meal, attending a religious ceremony, chanting, meditating, paying attention to your breathing, reading a beloved book, writing your thoughts in a journal, listening to calming music, painting, and finding a quiet, safe, cozy place to relax are all ways of creating mindfulness. Mindfulness will change the way you deal with stress.

Imagining your life without nagging stressors is another powerful way of refocusing yourself. Be mindful of how you are reacting to stress. Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn’s Mindfullness-Based Stress Reduction or MBSR is a trusted method in learning more about ways of coping with stress and chronic illness. The Osher Center for Integrative Medicine at the University of California-San Francisco offers a weekly guided course in Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction. The University of Massachusetts Medical School in Worcester also offers a MBSR study group for stress management. There are MBSR courses all over the world, offered both online, one-on-one or in groups. You can find one that suits you best here. If you prefer to do some therapeutic work on your own, try the Mindfullness-Based Stress Reduction Workbook.

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5. Acknowledge your past behaviors towards stress and bid them adieu!

Albert Einstein is quoted as once wisely saying, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” Just because you once had a coping mechanism that seemed to work does not mean it was a healthy or successful choice. And it does not have to continue. You can change the way you deal with stress. There is no set way of reacting to a stressful situation. You didn’t sign a contract and even if you did, this is the time to renegotiate it.

6. Don’t rely on drugs and alcohol to make all your stress go away. It won’t.

There are more beneficial ways of managing stress. Drugs and alcohol might only complicate things. Bad trips, hangovers, disorderly conduct landing you in jail, getting pulled over and ticketed by police for drunk driving or altercations will only add to your stress and worries. Even if you feel great when you first start, you’ll soon understand why there is no masking a wound without cleaning it first. Caffeine, food, sex, cigarettes and prescription medications can also be abused and will not provide positive lasting effects in your effort to change the way you deal with stress. They will only add to your pain and frustration and create another point of stress.

7. Be careful that you don’t engage in stonewalling or outright avoidance when dealing with your stress.

Some may find stonewalling, escaping, outright avoidance or passive-aggression the most protective method in dealing with stressors or pressing matters. Perhaps stress can be so overwhelming that it feels safer to pretend like there is no problem or ignore your own feelings. It may seem appealing to do so, at times, because you think “out of sight, out of mind,” but in reality, you are only injuring your connection with others, yourself and delaying resolve, not for time to reflect but simply with the hope that everything will just go away. You won’t find any change in the way you deal with stress by these actions.

8. Don’t brush underlying issues under the rug.

Ignoring the source of your stress won’t help alleviate anything. You will still awake to the same issues. The longer you evade responsibility or another pressing matter the longer you postpone your happiness and health. Brushing stress under the rug may sometimes be tempting if you view your stress as a weakness or not in line with what is supposed to happen in your life. This is the time to change the way you deal with stress, and have an honest look at your choices and lifestyle.

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9. Make a list of goals that allow you to chip away at stress without chipping away at your self-esteem.

Writing down a list of things you can do or need help with will help you change the way you deal with stress. You can refer to the list throughout your day or week to stay on track. Completing goals will be good for your self-esteem. Try not to fall into negative self-talk, even if you don’t get everything done at once. It is important that you reframe the way you speak to yourself to effectively change the way you deal with stress.

10. Accept help from family and friends, or a trusted source for counseling or therapy.

You are not the only person to ever falter in your goals, and you won’t be the last. In our failure, we sometimes learn more about ourselves than when everything is going along swimmingly. Stressful times are not easy to carry alone, and it’s okay to ask for help.

If you need another person to have a look at your project, or get a second opinion, or if you need to brainstorm a new plan of action, do so. You can seek out friends or family members that you get along with or find a therapist that can offer you a discreet, safe place to air your grievances or reflect on your choices, attitudes, or beliefs and in turn can provide you with professional feedback, clarity and encouragement. Taking the time to build your personal support system, outside of your work life or educational pursuits, is very important in changing the way you deal with stress.

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Last Updated on July 20, 2021

How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)
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You’re standing behind the curtain, just about to make your way on stage to face the many faces half-shrouded in darkness in front of you. As you move towards the spotlight, your body starts to feel heavier with each step. A familiar thump echoes throughout your body – your heartbeat has gone off the charts.

Don’t worry, you’re not the only one with glossophobia(also known as speech anxiety or the fear of speaking to large crowds). Sometimes, the anxiety happens long before you even stand on stage.

Your body’s defence mechanism responds by causing a part of your brain to release adrenaline into your blood – the same chemical that gets released as if you were being chased by a lion.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you overcome your fear of public speaking:

1. Prepare yourself mentally and physically

According to experts, we’re built to display anxiety and to recognize it in others. If your body and mind are anxious, your audience will notice. Hence, it’s important to prepare yourself before the big show so that you arrive on stage confident, collected and ready.

“Your outside world is a reflection of your inside world. What goes on in the inside, shows on the outside.” – Bob Proctor

Exercising lightly before a presentation helps get your blood circulating and sends oxygen to the brain. Mental exercises, on the other hand, can help calm the mind and nerves. Here are some useful ways to calm your racing heart when you start to feel the butterflies in your stomach:

Warming up

If you’re nervous, chances are your body will feel the same way. Your body gets tense, your muscles feel tight or you’re breaking in cold sweat. The audience will notice you are nervous.

If you observe that this is exactly what is happening to you minutes before a speech, do a couple of stretches to loosen and relax your body. It’s better to warm up before every speech as it helps to increase the functional potential of the body as a whole. Not only that, it increases muscle efficiency, improves reaction time and your movements.

Here are some exercises to loosen up your body before show time:

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  1. Neck and shoulder rolls – This helps relieve upper body muscle tension and pressure as the rolls focus on rotating the head and shoulders, loosening the muscle. Stress and anxiety can make us rigid within this area which can make you feel agitated, especially when standing.
  2. Arm stretches – We often use this part of our muscles during a speech or presentation through our hand gestures and movements. Stretching these muscles can reduce arm fatigue, loosen you up and improve your body language range.
  3. Waist twists – Place your hands on your hips and rotate your waist in a circular motion. This exercise focuses on loosening the abdominal and lower back regions which is essential as it can cause discomfort and pain, further amplifying any anxieties you may experience.

Stay hydrated

Ever felt parched seconds before speaking? And then coming up on stage sounding raspy and scratchy in front of the audience? This happens because the adrenaline from stage fright causes your mouth to feel dried out.

To prevent all that, it’s essential we stay adequately hydrated before a speech. A sip of water will do the trick. However, do drink in moderation so that you won’t need to go to the bathroom constantly.

Try to avoid sugary beverages and caffeine, since it’s a diuretic – meaning you’ll feel thirstier. It will also amplify your anxiety which prevents you from speaking smoothly.

Meditate

Meditation is well-known as a powerful tool to calm the mind. ABC’s Dan Harris, co-anchor of Nightline and Good Morning America weekend and author of the book titled10% Happier , recommends that meditation can help individuals to feel significantly calmer, faster.

Meditation is like a workout for your mind. It gives you the strength and focus to filter out the negativity and distractions with words of encouragement, confidence and strength.

Mindfulness meditation, in particular, is a popular method to calm yourself before going up on the big stage. The practice involves sitting comfortably, focusing on your breathing and then bringing your mind’s attention to the present without drifting into concerns about the past or future – which likely includes floundering on stage.

Here’s a nice example of guided meditation before public speaking:

2. Focus on your goal

One thing people with a fear of public speaking have in common is focusing too much on themselves and the possibility of failure.

Do I look funny? What if I can’t remember what to say? Do I look stupid? Will people listen to me? Does anyone care about what I’m talking about?’

Instead of thinking this way, shift your attention to your one true purpose – contributing something of value to your audience.

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Decide on the progress you’d like your audience to make after your presentation. Notice their movements and expressions to adapt your speech to ensure that they are having a good time to leave the room as better people.

If your own focus isn’t beneficial and what it should be when you’re speaking, then shift it to what does. This is also key to establishing trust during your presentation as the audience can clearly see that you have their interests at heart.[1]

3. Convert negativity to positivity

There are two sides constantly battling inside of us – one is filled with strength and courage while the other is doubt and insecurities. Which one will you feed?

‘What if I mess up this speech? What if I’m not funny enough? What if I forget what to say?’

It’s no wonder why many of us are uncomfortable giving a presentation. All we do is bring ourselves down before we got a chance to prove ourselves. This is also known as a self-fulfilling prophecy – a belief that comes true because we are acting as if it already is. If you think you’re incompetent, then it will eventually become true.

Motivational coaches tout that positive mantras and affirmations tend to boost your confidents for the moments that matter most. Say to yourself: “I’ll ace this speech and I can do it!”

Take advantage of your adrenaline rush to encourage positive outcome rather than thinking of the negative ‘what ifs’.

Here’s a video of Psychologist Kelly McGonigal who encourages her audience to turn stress into something positive as well as provide methods on how to cope with it:

4. Understand your content

Knowing your content at your fingertips helps reduce your anxiety because there is one less thing to worry about. One way to get there is to practice numerous times before your actual speech.

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However, memorizing your script word-for-word is not encouraged. You can end up freezing should you forget something. You’ll also risk sounding unnatural and less approachable.

“No amount of reading or memorizing will make you successful in life. It is the understanding and the application of wise thought that counts.” – Bob Proctor

Many people unconsciously make the mistake of reading from their slides or memorizing their script word-for-word without understanding their content – a definite way to stress themselves out.

Understanding your speech flow and content makes it easier for you to convert ideas and concepts into your own words which you can then clearly explain to others in a conversational manner. Designing your slides to include text prompts is also an easy hack to ensure you get to quickly recall your flow when your mind goes blank.[2]

One way to understand is to memorize the over-arching concepts or ideas in your pitch. It helps you speak more naturally and let your personality shine through. It’s almost like taking your audience on a journey with a few key milestones.

5. Practice makes perfect

Like most people, many of us are not naturally attuned to public speaking. Rarely do individuals walk up to a large audience and present flawlessly without any research and preparation.

In fact, some of the top presenters make it look easy during showtime because they have spent countless hours behind-the-scenes in deep practice. Even great speakers like the late John F. Kennedy would spend months preparing his speech beforehand.

Public speaking, like any other skill, requires practice – whether it be practicing your speech countless of times in front of a mirror or making notes. As the saying goes, practice makes perfect!

6. Be authentic

There’s nothing wrong with feeling stressed before going up to speak in front of an audience.

Many people fear public speaking because they fear others will judge them for showing their true, vulnerable self. However, vulnerability can sometimes help you come across as more authentic and relatable as a speaker.

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Drop the pretence of trying to act or speak like someone else and you’ll find that it’s worth the risk. You become more genuine, flexible and spontaneous, which makes it easier to handle unpredictable situations – whether it’s getting tough questions from the crowd or experiencing an unexpected technical difficulty.

To find out your authentic style of speaking is easy. Just pick a topic or issue you are passionate about and discuss this like you normally would with a close family or friend. It is like having a conversation with someone in a personal one-to-one setting. A great way to do this on stage is to select a random audience member(with a hopefully calming face) and speak to a single person at a time during your speech. You’ll find that it’s easier trying to connect to one person at a time than a whole room.

With that said, being comfortable enough to be yourself in front of others may take a little time and some experience, depending how comfortable you are with being yourself in front of others. But once you embrace it, stage fright will not be as intimidating as you initially thought.

Presenters like Barack Obama are a prime example of a genuine and passionate speaker:

7. Post speech evaluation

Last but not the least, if you’ve done public speaking and have been scarred from a bad experience, try seeing it as a lesson learned to improve yourself as a speaker.

Don’t beat yourself up after a presentation

We are the hardest on ourselves and it’s good to be. But when you finish delivering your speech or presentation, give yourself some recognition and a pat on the back.

You managed to finish whatever you had to do and did not give up. You did not let your fears and insecurities get to you. Take a little more pride in your work and believe in yourself.

Improve your next speech

As mentioned before, practice does make perfect. If you want to improve your public speaking skills, try asking someone to film you during a speech or presentation. Afterwards, watch and observe what you can do to improve yourself next time.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself after every speech:

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  • How did I do?
  • Are there any areas for improvement?
  • Did I sound or look stressed?
  • Did I stumble on my words? Why?
  • Was I saying “um” too often?
  • How was the flow of the speech?

Write everything you observed down and keep practicing and improving. In time, you’ll be able to better manage your fears of public speaking and appear more confident when it counts.

If you want even more tips about public speaking or delivering a great presentation, check out these articles too:

Reference

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