Stress: coping with the stresses of life

Stress: coping with the stresses of life

Sometimes stress takes over. Coping strategies for major stressful life changes or negative situations can help you maintain a positive self-image—and your balance.

Why is it important to learn how to manage stress?

Typically, you adjust to or tolerate negative events or realities in an attempt to maintain a positive self-image and emotional balance. Coping occurs in the context of life changes that are perceived as stressful. Psychological stress is usually associated with negative life changes, such as the loss of a job or a loved one. However, all changes require some adaptation. Even positive changes — like getting married or having a baby — can be stressful.

Change causes stress because change requires us to adapt and adapt. Too many changes in a short period of time often creates the impression that we are not in control of events. These perceptions contribute to low self-esteem and may even contribute to the development of anxiety or depression. In some cases, physical illnesses can develop or worsen when a person's ability to adapt to change is overwhelmed by too much change.

Coping requires adjusting to unusual demands or stressors. It requires more effort and more energy than is required in everyday life. Prolonged mobilization of effort can contribute to an increase in stress-related hormones and eventually to physical breakdown and illness.

Stressors that need to be overcome can be acute, such as moving to a new home or experiencing marital problems. There are also longer-term stressors such as chronic pain, chronic disease, or long-term financial problems.

The effect of many acute stressors occurring over a relatively short period of time can be cumulative and profound. Those who experience marital separation, the death of an aging parent, and changing jobs within a short period of time may struggle to maintain their physical and emotional health.

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What are some common survival strategies?

Some common coping mechanisms may prompt you to:

  • Lower your expectations.
  • Ask others to help you.
  • Take responsibility for the situation.
  • Engage in problem solving.
  • Maintain emotionally supportive relationships.
  • Remain emotionally calm or, alternatively, express anxious emotions.
  • Challenge pre-existing beliefs that no longer adapt.
  • Directly try to change the source of stress.
  • Stay away from the source of stress.
  • Look at the problem from a religious point of view.

Experts agree that survival is a process, not an event. You can alternate between several of the above coping strategies to deal with a stressful event.

People differ in certain coping styles or prefer to use some coping strategies over others. These differences in coping styles usually reflect differences in personality. Rigidity in coping with difficulties may help less than flexibility in coping - the ability to choose the most appropriate coping strategy in accordance with the requirements of various situations.

However, some situations that require coping can elicit (cause) similar coping responses from most people. For example, work-related stressors are more likely to prompt problem-solving strategies. Stressors that are perceived as changeable are more likely to evoke problem-solving strategies, while stressors that are perceived as unchanging are more likely to elicit social support seeking and emotion-focused strategies.

What can we do to protect ourselves from stress and improve our chances of successful survival? Perhaps the most important strategy is to maintain relationships with those around you that support emotional content. An extensive field of research shows that emotional support protects people from the negative effects of stress.

It's especially important to evaluate your overall lifestyle when you're facing significant stress. Engage in stress reduction activities to help your overall approach to dealing with stressors. Try:

  • Get enough quality sleep.
  • Follow a balanced diet.
  • Get regular exercise.
  • Take short rest periods throughout the day to relax.
  • Take a vacation away from home and work.
  • Do something enjoyable or fun every day.
  • Do relaxation exercises such as yoga, prayer, meditation, or progressive muscle relaxation.
  • Avoid caffeine and alcohol.
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