Every day of our lives we face events that cause us stress. Although most of these events are minor in the grand scheme of things, there are situations that clearly can be considered major sources of stress like an approaching marriage or divorce, or trouble at home or work.
You may need help from others, like a professional counselor, to judge the degree of stress a situation is putting on you. Once that is done, you can put in order what you need to get done. You will also need to look at the resources that are available to help you understand and work through the problem.
When you’re faced with a highly stressful event in your life, the following methods may help you cope:
- Avoid unnecessary changes in your life. Instead, reserve what energy you do have for dealing with the stressor at hand. If possible, try to make your work and home environments stable while working out the primary problem.
- Quiet your mind. In times of stress, the mind makes things appear worse than they are by creating endless versions of approaching disaster. Because the body can’t tell the difference between fact and fantasy, it responds with a greater physical response.
- Keep in the present. You can calm both your mind and your body by keeping your mind in the present. The present is hardly ever as stressful as an imagined future or past full of regret. To keep your mind in the present, center your attention on your breathing, a sound or visual pattern, a repetitive movement, or meditation.
- Bravely and aggressively face the stressor. Resist any temptation to ignore whatever is causing stress. Instead, carefully think about the seriousness of the problem without blowing it out of proportion. Ask yourself, “What is the worst thing that is realistically likely to happen?” Then remind yourself of all the good things that will still be a part of your life even if the worst happens. In addition, confirm your view of the stressor by talking with others. Make a special effort to speak to family, friends, or co-workers who have dealt with similar experiences.
- Review your coping responses. Confidence is helpful in fighting stress and it builds on memories of past successes. Review successes you’ve had with other stressful life situations. Recall some of the exact things you did to cope.
- Take action. Commit yourself to a reasonable course of action to deal with whatever is causing you stress. Action is powerful in helping you to reduce stress. Research shows that the body lowers the amount of epinephrine, a powerful stress hormone, when a person shifts into action. Don’t avoid taking action because you fear you’ll make the wrong decision. Remind yourself that there are many different ways of successfully dealing with a stressful situation.
- Take time out to relax. At least once or twice a day, take time to calm down by relaxing. Some suggestions are listening to soothing music, taking a walk, gardening, reading, or exercising. You could also choose to do more formal relaxation like deep breathing or meditation.