HOW TO DEAL WITH STRESS? DIFFERENT COPING STRATEGIES

We all have been in stressful situations. Stress is such a normal thing these days that we consider is just as a part of our life.

Have you ever talked about your worries with someone else and felt that they do not react to it the same as you do? They do not react the way you do, because we all have our definition of stress. For some people situations like divorce, loss of a loved one, losing a job, getting in a conflict, are the ones that create a lot of negative thoughts and feelings. But some people might feel stressed out in the situations that we consider as pleasant, like buying a house, getting into a new relationship, going to university, or flying to a tropical island. Stress is so unique for everyone. And what we consider to be stressful depends on our thoughts and personal experiences that shaped us.

women sitting near the window and smiling with her eyes closes and hand put on the heart

The same uniqueness you can find with the way we react to stress.

Have you ever noticed how you deal with the situations that cause a lot of unpleasant feelings?

Have you ever observed the way you respond or cope with the feelings that stressful situations created?

I have to admit that I haven’t noticed where the wrong stress management led me. I always considered myself a very stressful person, because I used to overthink and create scenarios that didn’t make sense but literally drove me crazy! But I just thought that this is just who I AM and I have to get used to it… Honestly, I didn’t know that there are ways to learn how to deal with stressful situations and use simple techniques to manage it. Instead, over the years of stressful living, I drowned myself in misery, I learned to suppress my thoughts, ignored my feelings, found relief in alcohol and basically ate all my worries.

It was a very long journey to the point when I noticed that those methods aren’t helping anymore, and actually cause more damage than relief. But one thing led to another and I found that there are things that I can do that helps to overcome stress and brings back peace of mind.

Please note that I am not a medical professional and this blog is based on my own experiences and discoveries. I gathered everything that I learned about self-development and self-healing. If you feel that you need more help, please, contact professionals in your area. 

What are Coping Mechanisms?

Coping mechanisms are the things you do when you are exposed to stress (whatever that is to you). Luckily, our bodies are designed to react to stressful situations very quickly (sometimes even before we record it as stress). Our primitive part of the brain is responsible for our survival and stress is marked as a great danger, so, as this danger occurs, we can quickly respond and protect ourselves (fight-or-flight system). [1]

Now, we all respond to stress at a physical and thought (emotional) level. 

When we are faced with a stressful situation, our brain reacts to it and automatically releases a few hormones, known as cortisol, adrenaline and norepinephrine, which sends signals to different parts of our bodies to work in a certain way. That’s why you might notice contracted muscles, pounding heart, loss of appetite, headache, nausea, weakness, sweating or chills, hot flushes or you might even faint. It’s a bit different every time, depending on the situation.

Besides the physical matter, you respond to stress on an emotional/thought level that’s why you might start feeling strong emotions, like anger, guilt, anxiety, panic, resentment, sensitivity, numbness, etc. [2]

These emotional responses are natural and mostly depends on your thoughts, thinking patterns, perception of life and even your past experiences or the way you’ve been raised. Emotional response arises from a much deeper part of you and the way you deal with whatever comes your way is what it is called Coping Mechanisms. 

Coping mechanisms are the strategies people use in the face of stress and/or trauma to help manage painful or difficult emotions. 

These coping mechanisms help you adjust to stressful situations while helping to maintain your emotional well-being. [3]

Coping Strategy Styles

There are a few known coping styles, one is problem-focused, or instrumental, and another is emotion-focused. [4] It’s easier to understand the difference between two if you ask a question: “Do I need to change the situation or do I need to find a way to better cope with the situation?”

Problem-focused coping style is helpful when you need to remove the stressor in your life. For example, if your work is the main reason that causes a lot of anxiety, worries or stress, you probably would consider changing the job.

Emotion-focused coping style can be used whenever you feel that it’s physically impossible to change the source of your stress or simply you don’t want to change it, so you turn to find the ease by looking deeper into your feelings. For example, if your partner left you, you look for a way to get through it by being kind to yourself, slowly changing your thoughts or focusing on the future.

Some sources say, that there are active or avoidant coping mechanisms. Active coping mechanisms usually involve awareness of the stressor and taking an action to reduce it. Avoidant coping is opposite – ignoring and avoiding the cause and emotions that follow.

Sometimes we find ways that give us temporal relief. Short-term distraction might be a great way to cope with the stress, sometimes it’s very healthy to step back and put your attention on something else before dealing with unpleasant situations, thoughts or emotions. But, needless to say, it’s important to remember that distracting should be used just as a temporal relief. Constant distraction can easily become a habit and in a long-term, it might negatively affect your life.

Unhealthy Coping Mechanism

Unhealthy coping strategies are that might have a negative impact or even damage our mental or physical health in the long-term. Usually, we use these coping strategies as a temporal relief as they create a fake feeling that our worries disappeared. We use them as a quick and easy escape when we can’t handle uncomfortable or unpleasant feelings. The thing is that being a quickly accessible relief it can become a habit or addiction.

Here are a few well-known examples of it:

  • Unhealthy self-soothing: Self-soothing might be healthy in moderation as a little distraction but it might easily become a habit and quickly turn into an unhealthy addiction. Some examples of unhealthy self-soothing could include overeating, binge drinking, using drugs or drowning in online shopping or video games.
  • Isolating: While dealing with stressful situations, some people might want to spend some time alone, which is a great way to deal with it to the point of total withdraw from friends or family, social and even work life.
  • Avoiding: Running away or avoiding the problem, suppressing or ignoring the feelings that come up is a coping strategy that creates a fake image of removing the stress. But this doesn’t help, because the stressor is still there and following along or comes up from time to time.
  • Venting to others: Talking to your friends about your worries is a great way to release stress and look for answers, but sometimes people can’t get over their worries by thinking and talking about it many times over and over again. They get too stuck in their own story without a way out.
  • Self-harm: Extreme stress or trauma can lead people to use self-harm as a coping strategy.

You can also be interested about SELF-SABOTAGE and how to overcome SELF-DOUBT.

Healthy Coping Mechanisms

Whether you are feeling stressed, sad, lonely or angry, there are many different strategies that might help you to handle it or at least calm you down. Healthy coping strategies are the ones that help you to feel better but don’t have a negative impact on the long-term. It has an ability to soothe you, temporarily distract you, lift your mood, change perspective, or help you tolerate or handle your negative emotions. 

Here are a few examples of healthy coping mechanisms:

  • Breathing exercises: When you are caught up in a stressful situation focusing on breathing might be a great way to reduce stress. Deep breathing sends a message to your brain to calm down and relax. And then the brain sends a message to the body to do the same. When your body and mind are calm and grounded – you can think clearly and make better decisions.
  • Reaching out for support: One of the good ways to reduce stress, anger, sadness, or worries, is to talk it out or seek support in your environment. Friends and family (or therapist) are the ones that will listen, understand, and guide you to find a way to let go or get through those emotions. 
  • Relaxation: There is a number of mindful relaxing activities can help you cope with stress. Relaxing activities may include practising meditation, sitting in nature, listening to soft music, taking a bubble bath or hot shower, drinking tea or reading a book, or whatever else you find relaxing.
  • Physical activity: It’s not a secret that exercise can be a natural, healthy and very beneficial form of stress relief or a way to deal with traumatic events. It can be running, yoga, swimming, walking, dancing, team sports, and many other types of physical activities.
  • Problem-solving: This coping mechanism calls for taking initiative in finding the problem that is causing stress and then making a decision for action that might help to remove or reduce it. Like, if you are in a toxic relationship and it causes you a lot of stress, you might consider leaving your partner or going to therapy.
  • Humour: Having a little laugh is a great way to prevent stressful situations from becoming overwhelming. 

You might be interested about MINDFUL LIVING and how to CHANGE YOUR LIFE.

Find what’s best for you

Coping strategies are very unique for everyone so what works for someone else might not work for you. When I am feeling sad, going for a walk works best to calm down. But it might not be the best option for you, because walking makes you think more about the reason why you are sad, but watching a funny video for a few minutes works better. 

Sometimes you might find that different strategies work with different emotions. You might notice that going for a run when you are angry helps to let go of anger, and reading a book is a great way to cope with loneliness.

It’s important to find and develop coping strategies that would be most useful for you. You might need to experiment before you know what technique to use in different situations.

Everything that is mentioned here is just a small part of what psychology has discovered about coping mechanisms over the years of researches. There are plenty of coping mechanisms that are found to be helpful to deal with stress or trauma.

I think the most important part is to become aware of your thoughts, feelings and emotions, and then find a way to cope with it in a way that would help you to overcome it instead of ignoring and suppressing it.

Please remember, that you are not alone in this world and help is always there.

Love you loads,

findthelightt


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