What Coping Strategies Can Help Manage Stress?

From Meditation to Journaling, Three Highly Effective Ways to Manage Stress

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According to the annual Stress in America survey, most American people of all ages are stressed and a significant proportion feels their coping abilities are inadequate. Further, they report feeling that the stress is affecting their health, both physically and emotionally. The survey results tend to fluctuate a little each year, but the findings generally show the same pattern: people need to find effective ways to relieve stress in their lives, and they face a variety of stressors. And these findings can very likely apply to people of all countries as we all face stress in our lives.

With people feeling more and more stressed as they grapple with competing priorities, demanding schedules and worrying about money, stress is more the rule than the exception. With all of these things going on, it can be easy for your health to be impacted. It's important to manage your stress levels in a healthy way; below are a few strategies that may help you better control your situation. 

Calming Coping Strategies

First, it’s helpful to calm your physiology so you reverse your stress response. When your stress response is triggered, you process information differently and you can feel physically and emotionally taxed. If this state is prolonged, it can escalate to chronic stress.

One useful tip to calm yourself is to go to a quiet place and take deep, long breaths. Breathe in, hold for five seconds, then exhale slowly. Repeat several times. This exercise can help soothe your nerves and slow a racing heart. 

For other ideas, try these strategies to calm down quickly, or these 5-minute stress relief strategies for some quick coping strategies. Calming strategies include the following:

  • Meditation
  • Breathing exercises
  • Aromatherapy 

Emotion-Focused Coping Strategies

There are two main types of coping strategies: emotion-focused coping strategies and solution-focused coping strategies. These include coping strategies like maintaining a sense of humor and cultivating optimism, where the situation doesn’t change, but your perception of it does. These strategies are great to use in many of the situations you’ve mentioned where you have little ability to control what happens, and you need to see your stressors as a challenge instead of a threat or change the way you respond to your circumstances in order to diffuse some of the stress involved.

Some more emotion-focused techniques for coping with stress include:

  • Journaling about your emotions
  • Practicing loving-kindness meditation to increase self-compassion
  • Using visualization strategies to increase positive feelings 

Solution-Focused Coping Strategies

Sometimes there’s nothing you can do to change a situation, but often you’ll find an opportunity to take action and actually change the circumstances you face. These types of solution-focused coping strategies can be very effective for stress relief; often a small change is all that’s required to make a huge shift in how you feel.

For one thing, one change can lead to other changes, so that a chain reaction of positive change is created, opportunities are opened up, and life changes significantly. Also, once an action is taken, the sense of being trapped with no options—a recipe for stress—can dissipate quickly. It’s important to be thoughtful about which actions to take, as each situation may call for a unique solution, but a less-stressed mind can more easily choose the most beneficial course of action.

These types of solution-focused techniques include the following:

  • Using time-management strategies when you feel overwhelmed by a busy schedule
  • Talking to HR if you feel overwhelming demands or harassment at work
  • Using conflict-resolution strategies to mitigate the stress in a relationship 

While these techniques can be time-consuming, reducing your stress is necessary to improve your well-being and mental and physical health. If you're feeling overwhelmed, work through these strategies in order to calm your nerves and allow yourself to relax.

If your stress levels do not decrease, it may be a good idea to talk to a therapist or your primary healthcare provider. They can help you identify ways to minimize your stress and develop nutrition and exercise plans to maintain your health as you handle your other obligations. Through coping strategies and good self-care with exercise, good food and plenty of sleep, you can manage your stress healthfully without long-term problems. 

A Word From Verywell

Everyone has stress in their lives. And stress levels are going to vary depending on the day.

Having healthy coping strategies in place can help you keep your stress at a manageable level. If, however, you're struggling to manage your stress, seek professional help. A mental health provider can help you manage your stress in a healthy way.

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