How to Deal with Stress? 10 Practical Tips & Exercises from Psychologists
Although we cannot get rid of stress in our lives, we can learn how to deal with stress. Stress is the reaction of your body to changes. By changing the different sides of your life, you will soon notice that you both physically and emotionally better tolerate stress.
To answer the question “How to deal with stress?”, it is important to understand what exactly stress is.
What Is Stress?
First of all, not every kind of stress is bad. A certain amount of it can even be useful. For example, for inspiration or adding energy to action. That’s why many people choose extreme types of recreation and sports. But if there is too much stress, it becomes a real problem, even if the situation is positive.
Different people are dealing with stress differently. What is really stressful for some, may not be a problem for others. The understanding of how stress affects our thoughts, feelings, and perceptions helps to deal with it.
So, what is stress? Stress is not just nervous tension. It is the body’s response to any changes in conditions that require adaptation. The problem of stress lies not in its existence but in its quantity.
Psychologists single out three stages of stress development:
The stage of anxiety. At this stage, the mobilization of adaptive and protective resources of the body takes place. A person is in a state of tension and alertness. There is a significant energy and strength surge. The symptoms of psychosomatic illnesses can disappear. Although, by the third stage they return with a triple force (of course, only if you allow the stress to develop to the third stage).
The stage of resistance occurs if the stress factor is too strong and prolonged. It is characterized by the absence of signs of anxiety. Adaptive resources of the body are being spent at this time. If the stressful factor continues to exert its influence for a long time, then the third stage develops.
Stage of depletion. In this case, the energy is exhausted. The physiological and psychological defense breaks down. Again, there are signs of anxiety but they are a “call for help.”
Our reserves of adaptive energy are comparable to the inherited wealth: you can take from your account but you cannot make additional contributions.
10 Practical Tips on How to Deal with Stress from Psychologists
Stress is a protective reaction of the human body to what happens to it in life. It is accompanied by emotional tension and load on the psyche. Stress appears when a person thinks that they are not able to cope effectively with the situation that has occurred.
Our emotional state and our health depend on how we react to stress, to this or that situation. That’s why it is very important to learn how to deal with stress on your own and in time.
Find out where the stress comes from
When a person experiences stress, it seems that absolutely everything is going wrong. Emotional depression and weakness are reflected in all spheres of life. At the same time, the initial cause of stress is most often only one factor. Having identified and eliminated it, you will quickly come back to a normal state. Try to determine the reason. Perhaps this is a difficult project at work, a conflict in a relationship or the media that affect you.
If you’ve managed to find out the cause of stress – congratulations, you took the first step to getting rid of it.
Find out how you can influence the situation or how you can deal with it
While being in a stressful state, you can overlook obvious and simple solutions. Talk to your friends, relatives, visit a psychologist or just reflect upon the trouble in a relaxed atmosphere. If you can solve the situation – do it as soon as possible. Waiting only increases the stressful state. Perhaps, there will be a difficult conversation, a difficult decision, but after that, you will surely feel relief. Take action! And if the situation is beyond your control – just minimize contact with it. Wear earphones, do not watch TV, do not communicate with unpleasant people without the need.
Do what pleases you
Select a week, a day or at least a few hours for your favorite occupation. Many people think that stress takes inspiration away. And it indeed may be so. At the same time, any activity distracts from inner worries. Sport, household chores, even simple everyday tasks will allow you to escape from obsessive worries and calm down a little.
Manage your time
Do not allow yourself to waste time on useless suffering from the same thoughts, Internet surfing, social networks, chats, complaints, unconstructive dialogues. Control yourself and your time. Praise yourself when doing something useful and necessary. Allocate enough time to sleep, exercise and walk in the fresh air.
Create a list of useful techniques to combat stress
Choose for yourself the methods that are the best for you. For example, if you are stuck in a traffic jam, then an audiobook helps you cope with stress. When you are worried before a public performance, breathing techniques help you. To charge vivacity in the morning, you smile in front of a mirror. It should be your personal list. Replenish it every time you manage to successfully cope with a difficult situation.
Free yourself from useless affairs
Analyze your day. Are you really doing something that brings you closer to your goal? Do you do what you like? Who needs what you spend your time on? Of course, it’s impossible to completely get rid of useless things. However, try to reduce them to a minimum. Free yourself. Perhaps there are people around you who will do these things with pleasure.
Avoid factors that increase stress
It has long been proven that the lack of sleep, unhealthy food, alcohol, excessive consumption of coffee make you more vulnerable to the influence of external factors. It’s in your power to stay away from these stress factors.
Keep strong emotional boundaries
It often happens that the source of stress is the people around you. For example, a neighbor who caught you near the door and spent about 15 minutes of your time on useless chatter, an impolite driver on the road, a relative who called and for over an hour talked about her problems. The more you are emotionally involved in the problems of others, the more often you put yourself under stress. Correctly, politely, and clearly let such people understand that you also have important things to do and have no time for such conversations.
Split anxiety and care up
Every time during an emotional and complex conversation, ask yourself: what can I really do in this situation/for this person? Realize that it will not become easier for anyone if you worry, lose sleep, or experience stress. If you want to help a person, express it in action. Help financially, introduce people who can help. Finally, just listen and support.
Know how to forgive yourself and others
Develop tolerance. Remember, all people are different. Everyone has the right to their own point of view. Everyone has the right to make a mistake. Refrain from telling anyone anything too emotionally. If you have arguments and it is important for you to make this person listen to you, do three things: make sure that this person is ready to hear you, calmly state your own facts, give the opportunity to think over. And before trying to convince anyone, ask yourself a question: why do you personally need it and what prevents you from accepting another point of view?
When a person finds themselves in a stressful situation (not only a negative situation can be stressful but also a positive one can cause a storm of emotion or euphoria), then mental operations and attention are overlapped by overwhelming emotions. The person, in this case, can behave either too actively (up to the panic) or passively (up to the state of stupor). The reaction depends on the type of the nervous system of an individual. Of course, the correct evaluation of the real state of affairs is far from complete at this moment. The picture of events is very distorted: the stronger the emotions are, the less conscious the actions become.
The first thing that is useful to reduce stress level is to add awareness to understanding the real picture of events through the techniques of activation of attention (concentration of attention) and techniques for relieving emotional stress.
Relaxation is a method that allows you to get rid of any kind of stress and tension (physical, mental) partially or completely. It is a useful and easy method that anyone can master, regardless of the education or any inclination to psychoanalysis. However, for a successful application of this method, one condition is necessary – adequate motivation. This means that if you want to master this technique, you should be guided by the question of how to deal with stress and know why you are trying to master it.
The essence of the method is a relaxation of stressed muscles. The mastery of this technique will require patience and perseverance.
Music. There is a huge amount of quiet, pacifying music. Choose the composition that meets your requirements. Comfortably sit in a warm bed or in a soft armchair in a darkened room. You can fetch a blanket. Order your muscles to relax to the sound of music. Enjoy the peace and tranquility of music. Free yourself from the effects of stress.
Visualization. This exercise involves presenting pleasant mental images. You can imagine the flight of birds against the background of a serene blue sky or the pacifying surface of the sea, the “moon track” or funny kittens. This exercise can be successfully combined with the previous one. It can be performed independently or with the participation of a facilitator (psychologist, psychotherapist) giving specific instructions.
Massage and self-massage. Massage should last about an hour. It should necessarily be performed by a professional massage therapist. Self-massage involves stroking and rubbing your hands, feet, and face. Self-massage of the forehead is also useful. It brings relax and a sense of relief.
Techniques for activation and concentration of attention (when emotions take over and consistency of actions is lost) are associated with the concentration of attention and verbal communication. For example: counting with gaps (not just in order from 1-20 or vice versa, but in a more complicated way: in reverse order in two or three figures, with division, multiplication). Attention to certain objects and the naming of them; recollecting dates, complex, large or foreign words, etc. Thus, the brain begins to work more actively.
Autoregulation of Breathing
This is another popular and effective method that allows you to get information about how to deal with stress.
Usually, no one thinks about breathing. However, at a moment of extreme excitement, a lot of people experience difficulties breathing. Sometimes, after a strong fright, people involuntarily hold their breath. Proceeding from this, scientists have suggested that after studying the processes of regulation of breathing, they will find the answer to the question of how to deal with stress.
For this purpose, a number of breathing exercises were developed. The advantage of respiratory gymnastics lies in its simplicity and accessibility. You can perform these exercises in any position, provided that the spine is in either a horizontal or vertical position. This position allows you to perform exercises without tension, naturally and freely. The head during therapy should be straight.
Breathing Exercises for Coping with Stress:
Breathe in and out. With such exercises, you should know that the inhale excites, exhale – calms down. Therefore, it is necessary to correlate the number of inhales and exhales in proportion 1:2. For example, on the count of one breathe in, two, three – breathe out. Exhalation should be slower. 20 minutes of such gymnastics is enough to relieve stress.
Abdominal breathing. In this case, a countdown from ten to one is used. The inhalation is carried out by the belly. Exhale each time when you pronounce ten. At this moment, it is necessary to imagine how the tension leaves the body, starting with the head, descending to the feet and moving into the ground.
One of the most effective methods for getting rid of stress is art. In practical application, this method is a creative activity of its own. Namely, any person can independently, without the help of a specialist express their feelings with the help of an artist’s brush or a poet’s/writer’s pen. It is clear that each of us has different talents. Someone likes to play music, another one – knitting. Some people get pleasure from carving. Others – from banal soap making and so on.
In psychoanalysis, this method is called sublimation. It is the redirection of internal energy to other objects, activities or creativity. In the fight against stress, transforming activities brings a good result.
In addition to special techniques and methods, an organization of your day and workspace can also help to cope with stress. For these purposes, psychologists recommend:
- Put your workplace in order. Throw out extra items and rubbish. Put everything on the shelves and in proper places. Representatives of psychoanalysis believe that organizing workplace helps a person to sort out their thoughts as well.
- Unload the schedule. Sometimes an unnecessarily busy working day is the main cause of stress. Take away some things or move their solution to another time. It is important to “delete” everything that is unimportant and of low-priority.
- One step at a time. Having planned a deed, do not try to make a couple more along the way.
- Pay more attention to physical activity (walking, fitness).
- Organize proper and balanced nutrition, intake of vitamins.
- Acquire one useful habit every month. For example, eat an apple before dinner.
In a state of stress, the body goes through the same changes as during physical exertion. These are increased heart rate, muscle tension, increased respiration, changes in blood pressure, acceleration of metabolism. Therefore, regular physical activity is an opportunity for the body to be trained to bear stress more easily. Physical exercises will help you cope with the current stressful situation.
Physical exercises associated with breathing training (walking, running) are the most effective for adaptation to stress.
Drink less coffee and alcohol. Smoke less
There are some changes that you can make to your diet to deal with stress. First, reduce the consumption of coffee. Caffeine is a stimulant and it causes your body to react just like under stress. Therefore, your body can be more sensitive to various life events and it is more difficult to adapt to them. In addition, coffee can trigger panic attacks. If you are used to drinking a lot of coffee – reduce its use gradually, so as not to experience withdrawal syndrome in the form of constant inhibition and drowsiness.
Another stimulant is nicotine. Nicotine can cause almost the same physiological reactions as coffee. Try to reduce the number of cigarettes smoked per day. However, a sudden quitting can be a stress for the body as well.
Alcohol can cause anxiety some time after its use. Even if at the time of its use you experience relaxation, after a while, the liver will process ethyl alcohol into formaldehyde which causes anxiety. Hangovers are often accompanied by vegetative disorders and therefore can trigger anxiety. In addition, if you take any medication, alcohol reduces its effect on the body.
Finally, watch what you eat, how regularly you eat, and at what time you eat. By following a healthy diet, you will allow yourself to feel physically better.
Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help
And finally, in order to understand your feelings, you need to find out the true cause of nervous tension. And these are not external stimuli that provoke stress. This is what is hidden inside – personal psychological problems. They do not allow living the way you want. They induce inadequate actions, cause stress to increase. Their roots are usually hidden in the past – in childhood, in previously experienced situations. It is this past that predetermines the future. You cannot change it but you can eliminate the trail of disappointment and pain left by this past.
Getting rid of this mental problems will expand consciousness, fill life with bright colors and positiveness, will not let you dive into the black waters of stress.
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By Maria Shevtsova
Born in Belarus, 1985, a pedagogue and family psychologist. Taking action in support groups organization and social adaptation of the people with mental disorders. Since 2015 is a chief editor of the undepress.net project, selecting the best and up-to-date material for those, who want to get their life back or help someone dear, who got into mental trap.
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