Fight Stress With These Science-Backed Coping Strategies

Ah, stress. It’s that old friend that loves to pop in when you least expect it. And even when you do, handling stress is never easy. How can you chill out when you can’t even think straight? What’s worse is that stress comes in so many shapes and sizes. Everything from work and family to health and dating can contribute to the endless pit of mental chaos.

During these times, it helps to know what coping techniques work for you. But it’s not about choosing just any path. Healthy coping should help you work with or move past the issue, not avoid it. Most importantly, you should be able to grow as a person.

So how is it done?

Coping Strategies To Avoid

Before diving into the science-backed ways of coping, let’s look at how not to cope:


1. Drinking Alcohol

Drinking lots of alcohol induces greater stress response

A glass of red at the end of a long day won’t hurt. However, using alcohol as a crutch isn’t the best idea. It’ll actually induce a greater stress response by stimulating cortisol, the stress hormone, from the adrenal glands.1


2. Eating Poorly

Unhealthy food is comforting but bad for your body

When you’re stressed, it’s common to feel like nothing but pizza or ice cream will bring comfort.2 In fact, roughly 38 percent of adults use junk food for stress relief!3 Eating sugar is especially addicting, as sweets increase feel-good endorphins.4 Unfortunately, it’ll have the same effect on your waistline.


3. Suppressing Emotions

levels of cortisol increases when feelings are pushed aside

Pushing your feelings aside won’t help. It increases levels of cortisol, making it hard for the immune system to function properly.5 6 It’ll also mess with sleep and promote other unhealthy behaviors.7 8


Coping Strategies For Stress

There are two major ways of coping. Together, they target both sides of the situation: your feelings and the source of stress.

Positive Emotion-Based Coping

Emotion-based coping skills are designed to reduce the symptoms of stress. It doesn’t address the source of stress, a separate technique in itself. Instead, healthy emotion-based coping is about finding peace within yourself. It can even pave the way for taking action.


1. Sleep

getting enough sleep helps you cope with stress

Yes, it can be that simple. Getting plenty of sleep is one of the top ways of coping, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.9 Snoozing enhances your brain’s stress response, helping you face the situation at hand.10


2. Exercise

physical activity helps release pent up stress

Physical activity is an excellent way to release pent up emotion. Plus, like sleep, exercise improves the body’s ability to handle stress. Even your brain and central nervous system will get a stress-busting workout.11

3. Spend Time With People

talking about issues helps release stress

There’s a reason why social relationships reduce mortality.12 Receiving support and love from others can keep you sane! By making time for loved ones, you can talk it out and take a break.

4. Meditate

Meditation benefits anxiety, tension and depression.

Meditation won’t solve a problem, but it’ll keep your brain in check. Studies have found benefits for anxiety, tension, depression, and even pain.13 If meditation isn’t your thing, try yoga for a stress-busting stretch.

Positive Solution-Based Coping

Solution-based coping is about finding a remedy. This main concept is that a person already holds the tools to figure it out. With certain actions and techniques, you can “unlock” that solution.14

1. Find What You Can Change

 figure out what you can change

Instead of focusing on what happened, focus on what needs to happen now. Do everything you can to change aspects that you can control. In some cases, this simply means learning and moving forward.

2. Use “I Feel” Statements

Confront issues to get past them

Confrontation is hard, but often, it’s needed to handle an issue. Start by avoiding an attack on the other person. Begin with “I feel…” to allow room for empathy.

3. Learn A Lesson

Take note of issues so you know how to deal with them next time

This goes hand in hand with finding what you can change. Every problem is a lesson in disguise, so take note. It might be what you need to handle or prevent similar issues.