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4 Coping Strategies for Stressful Times
Stress is a natural part of life. Deadlines, appointments, bills, family and community obligations will always be there. No matter how stressful your life is, there are still healthy ways to cope with stress.
If you are living with high levels of stress, you are exposing your body to elevated levels of stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol. Long-term stress can increase your risk of developing anxiety, depression, digestive problems, headaches, heart disease, sleep problems, weight gain, and memory and concentration impairment.
While there are many healthy ways to manage stress, there’s an equal number of unhealthy coping mechanisms. Not only are these bad habits not relieving tension, but they are also compounding the adverse effects of stress on your body. Unhealthy habits can include consuming too much caffeine or alcohol, compulsive spending, emotional eating, withdrawing from family and friends, lashing out at others, and spending too much time watching TV or on the computer. Becoming aware of how you handle stress is a crucial part of learning how to manage stress through healthy choices.
Effective Ways to Cope with Stress
If you can change your attitude about things that might be annoying or frustrating, you can change your stress level. And that means that you can improve your health and well-being.
- Take a daily break. Every day, give yourself 15 to 20 minutes to sit quietly and breathe deeply (this is one of our 10 Essentials). If possible, close your eyes and picture someplace calm that you find relaxing.
- Focus on gratitude. Cultivating a sense of gratitude can improve your mood and increase your resilience to stress. One of the best ways to foster gratitude is to keep a gratitude journal. Every day jot down a few things that went well, as well as people, places, or experiences you are grateful for that day. During times of stress or sadness, you can read past entries and revisit happy memories.
- Talk your way around stress. Instead of keeping feelings bottled up, try to find productive ways to talk about them with the people involved. This includes asking for help when your to-do list is just too long.
- Exercise your right to joy. Stay active and stay positive. There are big emotional, as well as physical, benefits of exercise. So, walk, swim, bike, hike – anything to get moving. You’ll shed tension while you improve your health.