Learning how to cope with stress is important for healthy aging.
The effects of stress impact on your looks and health so you need a few tricks up your sleeve to help you cope when it matters.
Here’s eight practical tips – coping strategies in the jargon – that will help you manage stress better when life throws the bad stuff your way.
Time out is a great coping strategy for stress. In a short term stressful situation – something like a highly charged argument or conflict – taking time out for 5-10 minutes works wonders.
If you are suffering ongoing stress – time out works here too. Taking a day away from anything that you feel puts pressure on you. If you’re experiencing stress at work – take a day off work. It may be the opposite of what you feel you should do but putting some distance between yourself and the thing that threatens to overwhelm you is the right approach.
If you’re experiencing stress at home – walk away from your chores and go out for a day. Do something you enjoy instead – an activity you can lose yourself in and focus on to the exclusion of anything else.
If you feel your family are demanding too much of you, put some distance between you by going out alone or with a close friend outside your family. Maybe your children are young and a babysitter isn’t available – try taking them out into a different environment – a change of scene can be like time out.
Successful coping strategies often mean putting in place some golden rules to avoid stress becoming a problem. What helps is having some practical ways of managing the things that cause stress.
- Know your own capabilities and understand your limits
- Don’t stretch yourself too far or accept impossible targets
- Learn to ask for and accept help
- Learn to say no – As hard as it can be to believe, most people will respect your need for personal time away from responsibilities
- Never allow yourself to feel guilty for time you spend by yourself
- Find a way to let off steam in a way that causes no harm to others – for instance try punching pillows or screaming and swearing in an empty room.
- Choose your friends wisely – supportive people are far more valuable as friends than those who are critical and judgmental
- Talk about your worries and fears to someone who is prepared just to listen – describing your worry to another person very often puts the anxiety in perspective. Hidden fears can seem huge in your mind – communicated they suddenly seem less important.
Stress can often make us angry. Sometimes we can even be abusive towards those around us and especially those we love. A great coping strategy is to learn to express your anger in an assertive rather than an aggressive manner.
Damaging ways of expressing anger can include uncontrolled fits of temper which seem out of proportion to the provocation. Or you may be overly critical or sarcastic with other people without them understanding what they’ve done.
On the other hand – not dealing with the source of your anger and turning it in on yourself will lead to depression or a physical symptom like high blood pressure.
If you are stressed in a relationship – try writing down what angers you about the other person’s behavior. Just doing that enables you to be more objective. Write down the points in a positive way – describe what you want the person to do differently not what you hate them doing.
Find a moment when the behavior is not present to raise the subject and communicate what it is you want to change. You may be amazed at the positive response you get – or you may realize the behavior is less important to you than you thought.
What is important for coping with stress is that you act to take control of situations that cause you stress. Feeling powerless is in itself highly stressful. Taking practical steps – however small – to deal with what is stressing you is the best way there is of managing stress.