Coping Skills to Reduce Stress
When was the last time you had a breather? It’s easy to accept the status quo and to make excuses that stress is just part of daily life. American culture is well known for the John Wayne phenomenon where we praise people who play through the pain and accept difficulties as a test of stoicism. However, here’s an alternative to that mindset: rather than allowing pain as something that is normal, treat it as an indicator of something that can be corrected and improved through building better habits for ourselves. Having too much stress in your life can affect your weight, blood pressure, ability to get a good night’s sleep, and cause problems with bedroom activities.
In the last two posts, we discussed anxiety and panic attacks and how to deal with them. Today, we’re taking a big picture look at stress in general and ways to decrease it.
Ways To Defeat Stress
- Practice saying “no.” Decreasing your obligations and time commitments, especially with things you’d rather not do in the first place will help alleviate lots of stress. If you find it difficult to say “no,” start by practicing with people you love and explain to them that you need to work on setting better boundaries for yourself. You can even have your friends and family do a role-play with you so that you can practice for when you really need it.
- Find something that you want to control and ask yourself whether this is in your realm of responsibility or not. If it is, see to it that you’re working on letting go of control over the factors which you have little to no influence. Instead of wishing for things to be different, perhaps create a mantra for yourself about how you can’t control everything. The Serenity Prayer, made famous from AA offers one example: “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, The courage to change what can be changed, and the wisdom to know the difference.”
- Keep a notepad by your bed and write down your “to-do” list for the next day. This can help nervous minds settle in for a good night’s sleep and focus on something other than the duties of the next day. Review all of the things on the list from the previous day and cross them off. Many people notice a feeling of accomplishment and positive reward when they cross things off lists. Doing this will reinforce the small but positive victories that occurred throughout the day.
- Decrease sugar in your diet and make sure that you’re not relying on alcohol or caffeine to deal with stress on a regular basis. Everything in moderation. It’s easy to binge eat when stressed or indulge in foods that give us a fast, cheap positive response from all the sugars and fats that we’re consuming.
- Set aside time for exercise. The natural release of endorphins will help alleviate the feelings associated with stress as well as present an outlet for that nervous energy. Mixing up your fitness routine can also help stay engaged in utilizing exercise as a regular habit, which leads to more results that we want in our mental and physical health.
- Have a hot cup of tea. Taking the time to drink a cup of tea when you’re stressed can help it melt away. Use that time to journal about what’s causing your stress, how you responded to it in the moment, and what you are going to do (or already have done) to overcome that stress.
- Unplug! We know– it’s ironic to read about the value of unplugging on a blog, and when was the last time you did it? Instead of looking for ways to pass the time online, turn off the phone for 30 minutes, shut down the tablet or computer and do something else. Write someone a letter and stick it in the mail, draw, knit, bake, or play some music. Do anything except look at a screen or television.
Remember, you don’t have to overcome 100% of the time in order to be an overcomer. Technically, you just need 51%. We’re all human and are prone to stress, worry, anxiety, and fear. If stress is getting the better of you, you can be empowered to improve your habits and master it. If you’re finding that you need more than just natural coping skills for helping to manage stress or anxiety, please consider giving us a call. Here at the PTI, we seek to put people first and make things as easy and streamlined as possible so that you can get the best and most efficient care. Our offices in Baton Rouge and Covington / Northshore areas are standing by and offer an assortment of services including therapy, medication management, and assessment. You’ve got nothing to lose and everything to gain by trusting us as your mental health provider.