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
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
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
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.
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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.
|↑1||Alcohol Alert. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.|
|↑2, ↑4||Fullerton, Donald T., Carl J. Getto, William J. Swift, and Ian H. Carlson. “Sugar, opioids and binge eating.” Brain Research Bulletin 14, no. 6 (1985): 673-680.|
|↑3||Stress and Eating. American Psychological Association.|
|↑5||Lam, Suman, Sally S. Dickerson, Peggy M. Zoccola, and Frank Zaldivar. “Emotion regulation and cortisol reactivity to a social-evaluative speech task.” Psychoneuroendocrinology 34, no. 9 (2009): 1355-1362.|
|↑6||Kiecolt-Glaser, Janice K., Lynanne McGuire, Theodore F. Robles, and Ronald Glaser. “Psychoneuroimmunology: psychological influences on immune function and health.” Journal of consulting and clinical psychology 70, no. 3 (2002): 537.|
|↑7||Americans Engage in Unhealthy Behaviors to Manage Stress. American Psychological Association.|
|↑8||Kiecolt-Glaser, Janice K., Lynanne McGuire, Theodore F. Robles, and Ronald Glaser. “Psychoneuroimmunology: psychological influences on immune function and health.” Journal of consulting and clinical psychology 70, no. 3 (2002): 537.|
|↑9||Coping With Stress. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.|
|↑10||van Dalfsen, Jens H., and C. Rob Markus. “The influence of sleep on human hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis reactivity: a systematic review.” Sleep Medicine Reviews (2017).|
|↑11||Exercise Fuels The Brain’s Stress Buffers. American Psychological Association.|
|↑12||Holt-Lunstad, Julianne, Timothy B. Smith, and J. Bradley Layton. “Social relationships and mortality risk: a meta-analytic review.” PLoS medicine 7, no. 7 (2010): e1000316.|
|↑13||Marchand, William R. “Mindfulness-based stress reduction, mindfulness-based cognitive therapy, and Zen meditation for depression, anxiety, pain, and psychological distress.” Journal of Psychiatric Practice® 18, no. 4 (2012): 233-252.|
|↑14||Brasher, Kitty L. “Solution-Focused Brief Therapy: Overview and Implications for School Counselors.” Alabama Counseling Association Journal 34, no. 2 (2009): 20-30.|