Welcome to Day 5 – our 5th module in the series on stress, “Coping with stress”. If you missed the beginning of this free stress management course, then you might want to start here.
In fact we strongly recommend that you view all of this course (including watching all of the videos). This will help you to really appreciate why we are suggesting the tasks in this module.
The modules from the start are:
- Day 1 – Introduction to Stress Management.
- Day 2 – Causes of Stress.
- Day 3 – Symptoms & Effects of Stress.
- Day 4 – How to Relieve Stress – Quick stress relief tips.
- Day 5 – Stress Management Strategies – Coping with stress in the longer term.
- Day 6 – BONUS DAY!!!
On Day 4, we looked at some of the things that you can use when ‘the heat is on’ and you need some immediate stress relief. However, they are really only designed as quick fixes.
This module takes this a step further by looking at the things you can do, which are not always going to give you that immediate relief from stress. However, they are designed to help you cope with stress in the longer term.
Where appropriate, we will tell you the rationale for any of these suggestions – so it makes sense why you are doing them.
Nobody is going to wave a magic wand over the reasons for your stress. However, little steps in the right direction, when added together, WILL make a massive difference. Think of marathon runners…. when they were babies they could barely put one foot in front of the other…. NOW look how far they can go.
Just imagine how much better your life will be in (say) 3 months’ time, after you’ve started to implement these ideas.
Remember don’t judge the value of these ideas without trying them out first……..
Mind-set for a healthier life?
We touched on mind-set at the beginning of Day 1 and also in Day 4 (it’s that important!!).
Now we are going to really throw a curve ball at you. The results of the studies presented at TED, by health psychologist Dr Kelly McGonigal, are absolutely astonishing.
She explains that she fears what she has been teaching about stress for the last 10 years is doing more harm than good. These were basic concepts that we have all been taught about stress.
How to make stress your friend.
Next, Dr Mike Evans talks about the single most important thing that you can do for your stress.
So you can see from the above videos that your mindset has a major role to play.
Coping With Stress – Stress Management Strategies
In this next video we are going to learn the following concepts:
Three coping mechanisms:
- Taking back (perceived) control of your life.
- Social support.
Four stress management considerations:
- Cognitive flexibility.
Nobody is expecting you to do all of the above, just the ones that fit in with your lifestyle. The more you can do the better. However, we have A LOT more ideas below and go into a lot more detail.
Handling Stress Relies On Being In Control
We touched on this on Day 4.
Coping with stress largely depends on how much control we have over that area of our lives causing the stress. We tend to get more stressed in areas of our lives where we have no control (or we THINK that we have no control). And if we have no control then we are less likely to be able to put into place measures to reduce our stress.
For example, it is often believed that people higher up in an organization are under more stress than, say, office workers. However, studies have suggested, that people at the bottom of a company are actually more stressed. This is because they have less control over their jobs, or the direction that the company is going in.
Of course, a lot depends on the personality and make-up of the person under stress as well. One person may find a particular job or task stimulating, whilst another would find the same job extremely stressful.
Those who are flexible enough to change, or are good at problem solving are, generally, more able to cope with stressful situations. A study at the University of Chicago concluded that those best able to deal with stress had three common characteristics:
- They were engaged with their work (i.e. were excited by and fully committed to it).
- They had a feeling of being in control of their lives.
- They were happy to take on the ‘challenge of change’.
Other factors to remember if you’re feeling under stress are:
- Remember the 80:20 rule.
- Do not always strive for, or expect, perfection.
- Do not mull over things that have gone wrong in the past.
- Move on and leave bad things behind.
“That’s easier said than done!!”
Whatever problems you might have, we have a number of measures to help.
Key Life-style Changes To Reduce Stress
Of course with any suggested changes in life, it is easy to read them off a website. However, it is less easy for you to take meaningful action with them – especially if you are stressed out.
That’s why we have tried to make this as easy as possible….. the rest is up to you.
1. Exercise, Rest and Relax.
We recommended an exercise session in the last module, as a way of burning off immediate stress. However, we need to think of an exercise routine as more of ‘a way of life’.
When we are stressed our muscles tighten. Constant tightening of muscles produces more stress and so this leads to a vicious cycle. We can break this cycle in one of two ways:
- Eliminate the stressful situation.
- Do something to break the muscle tension.
Eliminating the stressful situation may be easier said than done, depending on what the situation is. We can however exercise to break the muscle tension. This can be as simple as:
- Going for a brisk walk or run.
- Completing a 30 minute aerobic exercise.
- Undertaking a session of yoga.
Whichever exercise you choose to undertake, always ensure that you warm up first and cool down afterwards. And then once you’ve completed the exercise, take time to sit back and totally relax – maybe whilst you are having a bath.
“What benefits this can bring in my situation?”
The benefits of exercise followed by a relaxation session are two-fold:
- During the period of exercise your brain would actually switch off from your problem, even if it’s only for a few seconds. You will have to focus on what exercise routine you’re doing or, if you’re out walking, you might be distracted by the surrounding areas. In either case, you will find that ideas, which can help you with your stressful situation, will suddenly pop into your head.
- Studies have suggested that if you undertake aerobic exercise for 30 minutes, four to five times a week then the capacity for your heart rate to return to normal, after stressful events, is boosted.
Relaxation, on the other hand, enables you’re breathing to slow down and your blood pressure to reduce. Both of these remove the negative effects of stress (see videos in Module 3 for the effects of stress on the body).
2. Prioritize your work and activities.
The phrase ‘work-life balance’ has never been more relevant than it is today. People who are suffering with a stressful career are likely to suffer an element of stress at home. Likewise, those who are experiencing a stressful home-life are likely to have moments of stress at work.
In many cases, stress grows as a result of spending too much time at work. This can lead to:
- Frustration and guilt about not spending enough time with the family.
Or, in the cases where people are single, they often:
- Start to experience frustration because they are not able to have a more active social life.
In either case, people start to stress that they are a ‘slave to their jobs’.
Making a decision to prioritize, or at least start to balance elements of your life which you have been neglecting, can lead to a reduction in stress. Of course this is easier said than done.
This is where realistic goal setting and effective time management can be key. Be wary of setting yourself, or agreeing to, unrealistic deadlines. Remember the maxim, if something can go wrong, it probably will go wrong. You only need to have a couple of deadlines which get delayed, then the pressure can start to build very quickly.
It is not weak to say “no” to requests on your time. Unfortunately, for many people, saying no is actually a challenge. However, those that are able to assert themselves correctly, are far more likely to come across as professional and clear in what they’re trying to achieve.
“But I’m just overwhelmed with….. Everything!!!”
Overwhelm is a typical cause of stress, which we have so far not mentioned. If you do feel overwhelmed, just take time out to stop and assess the situation rationally and realistically.
3. Clear out what’s not serving you.
- Take time, even if it’s only 15 minutes, to write down exactly what you’re feeling overwhelmed about.
- Write down everything.
- Consider, in the overall scheme of things, what is no longer important to be on that list.
- Now cross off anything that you feel can be wiped out of your life immediately.
- Even if you can only remove two or three items, it is 2 or 3 items you no longer have to deal with.
- You need to be ruthless with this – some things have to go, otherwise you are going to end up resolving NOTHING on that list.
The simple act of writing the items down on a list, releases the pressure in your head. This, in itself, will give your brain more breathing space to start working on the solutions. Try it…. it really DOES work.
You might need to do this on a regular basis as well. We certainly use this technique on a monthly basis to clear out “stuff”.
There is a lot you can do to reduce the feelings of overwhelm. In the next few weeks we will be releasing two free online courses:
- Successful Goal Setting.
- Successful Time Management.
If you want to be informed of when these courses are released, then please sign up to our article notification list in the box, at the top of the right hand column.
Nutrition is vitally important to our overall health…. and this includes our propensity to get stressed.
Unfortunately, we are not able to give a full nutrition lesson here. However, we can highlight some key points that you might want to take into account, when thinking about on-going stress.
It’s typical for people who are under stress to immediately want one (or more) of the following:
- A coffee.
- A cigarette.
- Other recreational drug.
Unfortunately, they are all stimulants. When you are in a stressed (stimulated) state, they are the worst things you could be putting into your body.
They might seem as though they are giving you ‘temporary relief’ but, in the longer term, they are not helping at all. Instead, if you are looking for that quick fix then consider the ideas we have on Day 4 of this stress management course.
- Vitamins – Make sure you are getting the right vitamins and minerals in your diet.
- Salt – Cut down on your salt intake. If you have a lot of salt in your diet this can increase your blood pressure. This is not good for your stress levels or your heart.
- Processed Food – Reduce your intake of processed food. Processed food contains a high level of salt which again is not good for you.
- Junk Food – Cut out junk food. It is too easy in today’s fast paced world to ‘grab something quick to eat’. Much of this fast food (including microwave meals) contains poor nutrition. Junk food has too much fat, salt, sugar and additives. None of these are a good combination with a stressed-out body.
None of the above should be a surprise to you. Unfortunately, too many people are avoiding this basic advice (then wonder why illness and disease rates are rising).
5. It’s good to talk.
Talking to others about problems is a bit of a cliché, but it really does help. Remember the benefits, on stress levels, of close bonds with others. This was discussed in the National Geographic video on Day 3 of this free course.
If you can talk to someone about your problems, it gets the problem off your chest (or more importantly out of your head). In addition, if you’re talking to the right person there is a good chance that they will be able to do something for you.
If you don’t talk, then people don’t know about your suffering. People are always willing to help – that’s what humans do.
6. Stress Management Techniques.
Whilst initially you might think that this is just another “quick win”, we are looking at these 3 videos to help you think differently about stress over a longer period of time.
Relaxation Affirmation Hypnotherapy
We would recommend that you listen to this video every night, before you go to sleep, for 28 days. Just make it part of your nightly routine.
** Never play this video in a moving vehicle or whilst working with machinery.
Coping With Anxiety, Stress & Tension: Positive Affirmations to Help Ease Anxiety & Calm The Mind.
Emotional Freedom Technique
We have a couple of videos coming up that are a bit different to what you might have learnt about stress management in the past. Watch these with an open mind and you will be pleasantly surprised at the results.
New York Times best-selling author, Gabrielle Bernstein goes through an EFT (Tapping) routine for stress in the following video. If you don’t know about EFT we highly recommend that you read this article first.
How to Reduce Stress.
You can pick up The Tapping Solution Book, mentioned in this video, from the following links:
We also like Brad Yates for tapping. Here is his video using the emotional freedom technique for stress management.
Feeling Overwhelmed – EFT with Brad Yates.
“But isn’t this just wishy-washy stuff that don’t really work?”
This is all about your attitude (or mindset as we mentioned above). If you are in a stressful situation then we appreciate that you are less likely to be open-minded. Stress is a situation that needs to be taken seriously.
We would also say that it isn’t going to be one simple technique which will make everything better. Many of the techniques we suggest on this website do go hand in hand. Therefore, it may be that you do need to look at more than one technique, in order to help you become more assertive and reduce your levels of stress.
Each of the above techniques are proven to help people boost their confidence and become more assertive. We would highly recommend that you research each of these techniques and give them a try. What have you got to lose?
Whilst we have already started to produce free information on some of these methods, we shall be making a lot more information available in the next few months. Therefore, it is well worth signing up to our website updates, so you get automatic notifications, as soon as our articles are published.
The stress management ideas that we’ve presented in this module are not just to be used once and then forget all about them. These are mini life-style changes. You need to do them regularly to really see success.
Of course there is a lot more to these processes, then the 3 to 4 lines we have devoted to each topic here. However, if you take a look round this site, you will start to see the power that some of these personal development tools possess. You’ll also come to realize that they can singularly, or as a group, easily reduce your current stress levels.
Whatever the causes of you stress, the first thing to do is to try and relax. Okay, that’s much easier said than done, but we do have some relaxation techniques available on this site and so the easiest thing that you can do is simply sit and watch a few videos.
Once you are relaxed you’ll get much more clarity of thought. And once you have that, you can very often find the first step in resolving your problem.
Remember, admitting to suffering from stress is not a sign of weakness. A sign of weakness is to not to admit to your levels of stress at all.
We hope that you found this article on how to handle stress helpful. However, stress can be a serious complaint. Therefore, if you believe that you are suffering with unmanageable levels of stress, then you should always seek the guidance of a medical professional.
We would be really grateful if you could share this article using the social media links below. The bigger we become the more we can continue to serve you.
** BONUS DAY – Further information to help you cope with stress [COMING SOON] **
IMAGE CREDITS: Stressed Young Woman & Man Comforting A Woman (David Castillo Dominici) / Woman With A Weighing Scale (stockimages) / Lady Writing On Notebook (adamr) all at freedigitalphotos.net