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10 Ways to Change the Way You Deal With Stress

10 Ways to Change the Way You Deal With Stress

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 September 18, 2020

13 Helping Points When Things Don’t Go Your Way

13 Helping Points When Things Don’t Go Your Way

For the original article by Celestine: 13 Helping Points When Things Don’t Go Your Way

“We all have problems. The way we solve them is what makes us different.” ~Unknown

“It’s not stress that kills us, it is our reaction to it.” – Hans Selye

Have you ever experienced moments when things just don’t go your way? For example, losing your keys, accidentally spilling your drink, waking up late, missing your buses/trains, forgetting to bring your things, and so on?

You’re not alone. All of us, myself included, experience times when things don’t go as we expect.

Here is my guide on how to deal with daily setbacks.

1. Take a step back and evaluate

When something bad happens, take a step back and evaluate the situation. Some questions to ask yourself:

  1. What is the problem?
  2. Are you the only person facing this problem in the world today?
  3. How does this problem look like at an individual level? A national level? On a global scale?
  4. What’s the worst possible thing that can happen to you as a result of this?
  5. How is it going to impact your life in the next 1 year? 5 years? 10 years?

Doing this exercise is not to undermine the problem or disclaiming responsibility, but to consider different perspectives, so you can adopt the best approach for it. Most problems we encounter daily may seem like huge issues when they crop up, but most, if not all, don’t have much impact in our life beyond that day.

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2. Vent if you have to, but don’t linger on the problem

If you feel very frustrated and need to let off some steam, go ahead and do that. Talk to a friend, complain, crib about it, or scream at the top of your lungs if it makes you happy.

At the same time, don’t get caught up with venting. While venting may temporarily relieve yourself, it’s not going to solve the problem ultimately. You don’t want to be an energy vampire.

Vent if there’s a need to, but do it for 15 to 20 minutes. Then move on.

3. Realize there are others out there facing this too

Even though the situation may be frustrating, you’re not alone. Remember there are almost 7 billion people in the world today, and chances are that other people have faced the same thing before too. Knowing it’s not just you helps you to get out of a self-victimizing mindset.

4. Process your thoughts/emotions

Process your thoughts/emotions with any of the four methods:

  1. Journal. Write your unhappiness in a private diary or in your blog. It doesn’t have to be formal at all – it can be a brain dump on rough paper or new word document. Delete after you are done.
  2. Audio taping. Record yourself as you talk out what’s on your mind. Tools include tape recorder, your PC (Audacity is a freeware for recording/editing audio) and your mobile (most mobiles today have audio recording functions). You can even use your voice mail for this. Just talking helps you to gain awareness of your emotions. After recording, play back and listen to what you said. You might find it quite revealing.
  3. Meditation. At its simplest form, meditation is just sitting/lying still and observing your reality as it is – including your thoughts and emotions. Some think that it involves some complex mambo-jumbo, but it doesn’t.
  4. Talking to someone. Talking about it with someone helps you work through the issue. It also gets you an alternate viewpoint and consider it from a different angle.

5. Acknowledge your thoughts

Don’t resist your thoughts, but acknowledge them. This includes both positive and negative thoughts.

By acknowledging, I mean recognizing these thoughts exist. So if say, you have a thought that says, “Wow, I’m so stupid!”, acknowledge that. If you have a thought that says, “I can’t believe this is happening to me again”, acknowledge that as well.

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Know that acknowledging the thoughts doesn’t mean you agree with them. It’s simply recognizing the existence of said thoughts so that you can stop resisting yourself and focus on the situation on hand.

6. Give yourself a break

If you’re very stressed out by the situation, and the problem is not time sensitive, then give yourself a break. Take a walk, listen to some music, watch a movie, or get some sleep. When you’re done, you should feel a lot more revitalized to deal with the situation.

7. Uncover what you’re really upset about

A lot of times, the anger we feel isn’t about the world. You may start off feeling angry at someone or something, but at the depth of it, it’s anger toward yourself.

Uncover the root of your anger. I have written a five part anger management series on how to permanently overcome anger.

After that, ask yourself: How can you improve the situation? Go to Step #9, where you define your actionable steps. Our anger comes from not having control on the situation. Sitting there and feeling infuriated is not going to change the situation. The more action we take, the more we will regain control over the situation, the better we will feel.

8. See this as an obstacle to be overcome

As Helen Keller once said,

“Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experiences of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, vision cleared, ambition inspired and success achieved.”

Whatever you’re facing right now, see it as an obstacle to be overcome. In every worthy endeavor, there’ll always be countless obstacles that emerge along the way. These obstacles are what separate the people who make it, and those who don’t. If you’re able to push through and overcome them, you’ll emerge a stronger person than before. It’ll be harder for anything to get you down in the future.

9. Analyze the situation – Focus on actionable steps

In every setback, there are going to be things that can’t be reversed since they have already occurred. You want to focus on things that can still be changed (salvageable) vs. things that have already happened and can’t be changed. The only time the situation changes is when you take steps to improve it. Rather than cry over spilt milk, work through your situation:

  1. What’s the situation?
  2. What’s stressing you about this situation?
  3. What are the next steps that’ll help you resolve them?
  4. Take action on your next steps!

After you have identified your next steps, act on them. The key here is to focus on the actionable steps, not the inactionable steps. It’s about regaining control over the situation through direct action.

10. Identify how it occurred (so it won’t occur again next time)

A lot of times we react to our problems. The problem occurs, and we try to make the best out of what has happened within the context. While developing a healthy coping mechanism is important (which is what the other helping points are on), it’s also equally important, if not more, to understand how the problem arose. This way, you can work on preventing it from taking place next time, vs. dealing reactively with it.

Most of us probably think the problem is outside of our control, but reality is most of the times it’s fully preventable. It’s just a matter of how much responsibility you take over the problem.

For example, for someone who can’t get a cab for work in the morning, he/she may see the problem as a lack of cabs in the country, or bad luck. However, if you trace to the root of the problem, it’s probably more to do with (a) Having unrealistic expectations of the length of time to get a cab. He/she should budget more time for waiting for a cab next time. (b) Oversleeping, because he/she was too tired from working late the previous day. He/she should allocate enough time for rest next time. He/she should also pick up better time management skills, so as to finish work in lesser time.

11. Realize the situation can be a lot worse

No matter how bad the situation is, it can always be much worse. A plus point vs. negative point analysis will help you realize that.

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12. Do your best, but don’t kill yourself over it

No matter how bad your situation may seem, do your best, but don’t kill yourself over it. Life is too beautiful to worry so much over daily issues. Take a step back (#1), give yourself a break if you need to (#6), and do what you can within your means (#9). Everything else will unfold accordingly. Worrying too much about the outcome isn’t going to change things or make your life any better.

13. Pick out the learning points from the encounter

There’s something to learn from every encounter. What have you learned from this situation? What lessons have you taken away?

After you identify your learning points, think about how you’re going to apply them moving forward. With this, you’ve clearly gained something from this encounter. You’ve walked away a stronger, wiser, better person, with more life lessons to draw from in the future.

Get the manifesto version of this article: [Manifesto] What To Do When Things Don’t Go Your Way

Featured photo credit: Alice Donovan Rouse via unsplash.com

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