Long-term ways to cope better with stress

It's stress awareness day, and - as a reminder - there are (unfortunately!) several major causes of stress that many of us feel, and understanding them better can help us deal with the stress more effectively.....

Most people get stressed when they feel under a lot of pressure, face big changes in their lives, are worried about something (and unfortunately, there is always something) or if they are not having much or any control over the outcome of a situation. Sounds familiar? Those aren’t the only common stresses but certainly ones that many of us can identify with.

Stress would be no problem if it wouldn’t come with mental and physical symptoms that make us ill. The list of stress-induced illnesses is long and goes from feeling overwhelmed, trouble in decision making and being more emotional to sleeplessness, panic attacks, high blood pressure and low energy, to name a few.

All of those are bad for our overall health and some of them may need direct attention from a medical professional. If in doubt, maybe better get yourself checked out, the sooner stress is treated the better!

Some stress related feelings might not show in clear or strong (physical) symptoms, and may not need medical attention, but leave us with a “general feeling of being stressed”, this discomfort and slight anxiety is a sign that we need to change things.  Circumstances are different for every single one of us, but that doesn’t mean we cannot all try to improve how we manage those circumstances and the feelings that arise.

How can we deal with those “smaller” symptoms of stress?

First, find the cause of that stress. It is stress awareness day, so exactly the day to think of this thing in the back of our minds niggling. Or you know the cause and are dealing with it by hoping for the best (which is not even a bad idea), but maybe are not quite clear how the best could happen.

Next step is to deal with the stress in a structured way (as often the stress itself comes from the lack of clarity on a problem).


Acute stress management

When you are in acute stress, a few deep breaths are necessary to get your body into a calmer state. Take yourself out of the situation and actively find a calmer place. This signals to the brain that we aren’t in fight or flight mode, the senses can calm down.

The next thing is to write down the stress factor and how it can be dealt with. This itself helps the brain not to get spiralling around stressful thoughts.

If it is in your control, start with the smallest step you can take to a solution.

If it is out of your control, take the smallest step to acceptance and show yourself some love and care. 


Longer-term stress management

For the longer term, there are more conscious and structured ways to approach to “hoping for the best” and the good thing is that this can be repeated for future stressful situations.

Regular exercise is a proven tool to fight stress.  Good sleep hygiene has also proven to be useful.  And so is a balanced diet. 

Another great step at any point of time, is to work on your mindset around stress. Circumstances can’t be changed most of the time so we have to ride the waves we are given instead of being flooded!  

Too big a workload or an unrealistic deadline to be met? Ask for help or re-prioritise, also question your own standards, you are human.

Not in control of a situation? Find what is affecting you the most and be self-compassionate. Try to actively let go of negative thoughts.

In a loud and noisy environment that stops you thinking clearly? Remove yourself if you can (or put headphones on).

Big changes in your life? Hope for the best, but make a plan how you can actively help yourself to navigate those changes in a way that is helpful.

This is all obvious, but often not when we are in the middle of it. Yes, it is hard to see the wood from the trees when we are in the middle of it, that’s why it helps to work on our mindset all of the time, not only in high-stress times.

We are only human, with all our strength and weaknesses. Some things will emerge unexpectedly, and we need to be in a positive overall state so that we can have the resilience to deal with such things.

Against daily stress, we can remind ourselves that we have what we need to get through the day, that we have the power to control our thoughts and that good things are coming our way.

Stress is easy to see, our inner strength and resilience might be hidden away a bit and a positive affirmation can act as a great reminder. A day started on a positive note is much more likely to stay that way.

We hope your day is not too stressful today and encourage you to say this out aloud:

“I let go of all thoughts that stand in the way of my happiness!”