Stress is like the surprise party you didn’t ask for. It’s a pillar of obligations, a traumatic event, an uncomfortable conversation – and the list goes on. Everyone has their own versions of stress, but it’s unmistakably agreeable that feeling anxious over how overwhelming life can be hits each person at one point or another.
With everyone having been there just like you, that means there are an infinite number of ways to combat stress. But because there are an infinite number of stress-relieving ways, that means not every single coping method will be the healthiest for one’s well-being. For example, too much stress can lead to unhealthy coping mechanisms such as substance abuse, suppression, and isolation – and no one wants that!
Think of it this way: stress and anxiety are toothless tigers, but they’re still tigers. You’re afraid of getting hurt, but you just need to fight them the right way! Here are five healthy ways to cope with stress.
1. Embrace and accept the fact that you’re stressed and overwhelmed
More often than not, we automatically view stress as an element in our lives that should be eliminated. Who can blame you though? Stress floods in the most unpleasant feelings and drives your mind bonkers. However, with that negative connotation in mind, it would actually do mental health and bodies good if everyone stopped viewing stress as the enemy and just accepted it.
Furthermore, take an alternative perspective to see stress as a sign that tells your body it needs to do something – whatever that may be. For example, that source of stress can encourage you to confront the stressful situation that you have been avoiding or power through a demanding and difficult task at hand. This brilliant idea comes from Kelly McGonigal in her TedTalk, “How to Make Stress Your Friend”, which brings to light that stress can be a positive element in our lives as long as we befriend and embrace it.
2. Utilize the adrenaline-pumping energy stress brings to be productive on other areas in your life
Usually, your fight-or-flight response kicks into overdrive when you feel overwhelmed and anxious. The last thing you want to do is work and be productive…or is it? Of course if school or work is your source of stress, don’t dive head-first into instantly finishing their assignments or projects when you feel unable to take them on – it will make you feel worse!
Take a step back from the source of stress for an appropriate amount of time and be productive. Being productive in this case is to think of alternative things in your life that may require attention. Are there errands you have been putting off, such as laundry that needs to be done, or organizing and cleaning the house or your car?
Again, stress doesn’t always have to be seen as a negative experience. Rather, you can utilize the anxiety and negative reactions that comes with it and harness your energy into bringing balance to other areas of your life. Then, when you’re ready, tackle the stress with confidence!
3. Articulate your stress by writing it down or speaking to someone about it
Everything seems much more frightening and awful in your head. Therefore, by writing down your thoughts and emotions regarding a current stressor, you’re able to give stress a physical, less intimidating, and tangible existence. While it seems counterintuitive to write what about is upsetting, you eventually come to relax once the words have sunk onto the paper. By writing, you’re able to look back on the stressor, develop awareness over how it was making you feel and function, and eventually develop a calm way to face it.
An alternative way to articulating your stress is to speak to someone you trust. Whether that’s a friend, a parent, or a therapist, you can bet that a weight will feel lifted off your chest and shoulders. It’s due to the assurance that someone you trust is hearing you out, listening to you attentively, and can ease the burden by simply acknowledging your issue or relating to you in their own way. Plus, talking to another person won’t make you feel alone.
4. Treat yourself to your own individual and unique self-care method
Is there something particular to you that always calms your nerves? Taking a bath, reading, screaming the lyrics to a great song and even napping in the middle of the day are just a few of the many examples. Focusing on oneself is a never a bad idea, especially when deadlines or a current situation is on your mind.
Self-care is vital in both times of stress and every day of your life, for that matter – and you know what’s best for yourself in times of trouble and anxiety. Even if you only have minutes in the day, take those five minutes to be selfish in a good way.
5. Take yourself out of the stressful environment or mindset you’re in and exercise
When all else fails, getting the body moving pumps well-needed endorphins and dopamine through your veins. Plus, it’s completely okay to completely get your mind off whatever is stressing you out. Exercise has the ability to reduce not just stress, but depression, anxiety, and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. Additionally, getting fit and looking great never hurt either! To make exercising even more relaxing, take care to workout outdoors – like run along the beach at sunset, go hiking in the early morning, or get a fierce boxing routine in during the early afternoon. The type of exercise you choose does not matter, as long as you are making the best of your body’s physical capabilities in this classic self-care and stress-relieving method.
To reiterate, stress is inevitable and everyone will always go through it. But with that in mind, it’s important to develop habits and coping mechanisms that aren’t damaging or destructive when stress happens. However, there’s no need to worry since you’re equipped with five more ways to cope with stress in a healthy manner. As time goes on, you will figure out even more methods that work best for you and you won’t be afraid to take on stress the next time it decides to show up uninvited.