Stress is inevitable; learn how to cope with it

Published 4:59 pm Saturday, February 1, 2014

By Julie Hale

Austin High School Social Worker

Crying children, piles of dirty laundry, an irritating co-worker, credit card bills, oversleeping, a relationship on the rocks, bullying, work deadlines, a car that won’t start … these are all things that many people have dealt with from time to time. These are common stressors in everyday life. Stressors are events or situations that challenge our sense of well-being. Some of these stresses (i.e. oversleeping) are fairly brief and get you going. Other stressors (crabby co-workers or fighting with your partner/spouse) can be more chronic and, over time, damaging to one’s emotional and physical health.

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“I feel stressed out,” is most often spoken when one feels like there is too much to deal with, is overloaded and feeling under pressure. His or her sense of well-being is threatened or challenged. And, typically, the more stressors one experiences — the greater sense of “stress” one likely feels.

Not everyone perceives situations the same way. We have varying interpretations about what is stressful and what matters. What is minor to one person seems catastrophic to another. It is often our thoughts and reactions to the stressors that can make or break us. We are constantly evaluating situations that confront us in life. In this evaluation we determine if something is a threat, what we can do to deal with it, and what resources we have at our access. If we conclude that we lack adequate resources to effectively deal with the situation, we identify it as “stressful.” Conversely, if we conclude that our resources and skills are more than enough to deal with the situation, it seems less “stressful.”

In learning to cope with stress, it is important to learn that what matters more than the event itself is how we think about the event. How one perceives the stressful event may be the largest single factor that impacts one’s physical and mental health. This can be illustrated through a final line in Charles Swindoll’s “Attitude” which states, “I am convinced that life is 10 percent what happens to me and 90 percent how I react to it.”

In addition to learning how to react to situations in a less negative way; self-care is one of the greatest tools in learning how to manage and cope with stress. Ways to increase good self-care include:

—Exercise: One of the simplest and most effective ways to manage stress because it releases our “feel good” hormones, and expends negative energy and thoughts. It builds a person’s physical and mental well-being.

—Good nutrition: Eating a balanced diet with lots of fruits and veggies is another tool in good self-care.

—Establish a good sleep routine: Most people need 8 hours of sleep to function at their best.

—Relaxation exercises: Practicing relaxation techniques through deep breathing, meditation, yoga or massage.

—Being assertive:  It is okay to say “no” to extra responsibilities or commitments.

—Reduce your caffeine intake.

—Do not turn to alcohol or drugs — they will not help you manage your stress more effectively.  Stop consuming them completely, or cut back on your usage.

—Talk:  Express your thoughts and worries to family, friends, work colleagues and your boss.

—Make time for yourself every day.  Use the time to get organized and to pursue your own interests.

If these different strategies are not enough to manage the stress you experience, consider seeking professional help. Talking to your doctor or a therapist can assist you in better being able to manage the stress you are struggling with.