Stress is not always bad. Good stress can help us get out of dangerous situations or make decisions that are best for our safety or health. For example, if you see an out of control driver on the highway, good stress tells you to pull over and get as far away as you can from that driver to avoid injury.
It is all the other stressors we can experience throughout our days that can create long-term health problems if not addressed properly. Some stressors are acute and others can be chronic.
According to the American Stress Institute, the top stressors of people surveyed in 2017 were the future of our nation, work, money, politics and crime.
Learning to cope with negative stressors is an important way to live better mentally and physically.
It can be tempting to turn to easy coping skills, even if they are not healthy. Knowing the difference between what is good and what is bad when it comes to coping is key to having a better day, week month and life.
Keep reading to learn more about some of the best and worst ways for coping with stress.
Worst Ways to Cope with Stress
Self-medicating means you find a drug, a drink, or a food that makes you feel better in the moment. And that is key; it is only making you feel better in the moment, on a temporary basis. Over-indulging in legal or illegal substances will only lead to more problems.
Alcohol, drugs and even food can cause a spike in the “happy chemicals” in your brain and gut. They give you the sense that everything is going to be okay. However, too much of this type of coping can make it hard for your brain to create its own “happy chemicals” in the future.
Self-Medicating can hinder sleep patterns that are necessary for your body to recover from stressful events. But do not oversleep or hibernate, as this too can be a bad way to cope with stress.
If you want to stay in bed and sleep rather than face your day, this could be a signal of having too much stress. And while sleeping stress away sounds like a good idea, it never works. You are just putting off what you will have to do later to cope.
Over-sleeping could also be related to deeper symptoms of depression or anxiety. These are serious issues that need to be handled with the help of a therapist or therapeutic activities. Spending too much time in bed keeps you from the many benefits of being outdoors, including getting proper exercise, oxygen and sunlight.
Sure, shopping and buying trendy merchandise can make us feel happy. But just like drugs and alcohol, the feeling of relief from stress is temporary. In the long run, you have spent money you could have used more wisely.
You may have even increased the amount of debt you owe, which can in itself lead to depressive symptoms. In the end, the old saying of, “money can’t buy happiness”, is true.
Ignoring Your Stress
It would be nice if we could put our heads down and ignore every bad thing that happens throughout our life. If you ignore it, it will grow bigger and stick around for a long time. Stress does not just disappear. You must face your stressors and deal with them in order to get rid of them.
After dealing with the stressor, make a point to avoid that particular stressor in the future.
Best Ways for Coping with Stress
Activities That Get You Moving
One of the best ways to manage feelings of stress and anxiety is to participate in some kind of activity that gets you moving. You don’t even have to move around for long. A few minutes of activity can help reduce tension.
Some activities include taking a brisk walk around the block; yoga stretching; play basketball, even if it is with one of the mini hoops you can play at your desk; walk the dog; clean a room in your house; or garden.
Laughing (a Lot!)
Laughter has healing abilities and it can definitely help reduce stress. Laughter benefits both your physical and mental health, allowing you to feel better, even in high stress times.
There are many ways to find a source for laughing: watch a comedy movie or television series; listen to a comedian; hang out with a funny friend; play with your pet; read the comics section of the newspaper; watch funny home videos; recall funny memories; and make funny faces at yourself in the mirror.
If you are not healthy mentally and physically, it will be hard to combat the effects of stress. Taking care of your personal needs, and making yourself a priority, is a must. When you take the time to meet your own needs, you will be able to better cope with stress.
Listen to your body and your mind. Figure out which parts need improvement and work on them. Don’t be afraid to reach out for support and help in overcoming stressors.
Why try and figure out the answers all by yourself when there is someone out there who already has them? You are putting more stress on yourself when you don’t seek help. There are all types of therapists who are trained to help you cope with stress.
From cognitive behavioral therapists and life coaches to yoga and meditation instructors, you can find the person who can help you overcome obstacles you face. If you can’t sleep, learn relaxation techniques. If you need to vent, speak with a mental health therapist.
There is no one size fits all for coping with stress. Taking advantage of the knowledge multiple therapies can offer will give you many strategies you can use on more stressful days.
There are hundreds of activities you can enjoy to reduce stress. Start today and choose the best coping method for you.