How to cope with stress and anxiety
Unfortunately, stress today is our constant companion. Rather than resisting it though (this is futile), it makes sense to find productive ways to reduce our stress and anxiety levels in order to lead a life that is calmer and more fulfilled.
Clever ways to cope better with stress and anxiety:
1. A sense of humour
It’s important to see the funny side of life. Taking yourself or others too seriously will enhance stress and anxiety and there are many health benefits to cultivating a strong sense of humour. Watch comedies and be light-hearted in your thinking about certain situations. When you inject humour into your life you will notice that life becomes more joyful.
2. Maintain perspective
In the moment, we can often catastrophise an event and imagine the worst-case scenario. Our thoughts influence how we feel, and our feelings influence how we behave. If you distance yourself from your thinking (thoughts aren’t facts), you can create some emotional distance to see the situation more realistically. Ask yourself whether you will feel the same way in a week or a month from now. Ask a friend what they would do. Considering alternative viewpoints will help you to realise that the current feelings are temporary. How you feel now will pass. Think about the bigger picture and remind yourself of others who have been through similar and how they have coped.
3. Positive self-talk
Keep your inner chatter (I refer to the self-critical part we all have as the “inner bully”), as optimistic as possible. Instead of saying to yourself, “I am never going to get through this, I am ruined”, say to yourself, “This is really tough right now but I will get through this”.
Talking to yourself negatively only serves to demoralise you. It does not help the situation and is unhelpful in every sense. Be aware of your thinking and challenge your thoughts. Ask yourself where the evidence for your thoughts is. Life is never black and white. You don’t always know what will happen. Expect the best.
4. Real versus hypothetical worry
There is no point in stressing over events or circumstances that are beyond your control. If you are stressed because another person treated you badly and humiliated you, remind yourself that wishing they were different or wanting them to apologise is beyond your control. Focus on how you will deal with this person in the future or work with what you can influence. This is far more empowering. If you find you are a worrier, get into the habit of distinguishing between real worry (the car has broken down and you need to get to work) and a hypothetical worry (what if I lose my job?). Hypothetical worry might not happen, is usually in the future, and can’t be solved at that moment.
5. Get a pet
Research has shown that animals help humans to feel calmer and decrease stress levels. I love my Yorkshire Terrier, he definitely helps to keep me happier and mindful. Being around pets increases our levels of oxytocin – a feel-good hormone.
6. Care less about what others think
When you worry too much about how others perceive you, you lose the essence of yourself in a bid to try to please others and feel accepted. It’s a hollow victory though. The pursuit of approval from others is exhausting and you can approve of yourself right now. Be true to yourself and follow your own path. Others will admire you for it, not judge you.
7. Take time out
Taking time out from work and/or from the source of your stress help to reset your brain. Balance in life is crucial and excess will ultimately lead to problems. Take regular holidays. Spend a limited amount of time with those people in your life that drain you. You either give off positive, negative, or balanced energy. Those that give you negative energy will leave you feeling drained. Limit your time with them.
Get a pen and paper and list the top five values that are important in your life: for example; health, friends, money, love and free time.
List these five items in order of importance. Next, under each item on the list write down what you are currently doing in your life to work towards that aim. Filter out those activities that aren’t that important. The more you solidify what you are doing and where you are going, the more streamlined you become on a daily basis. Stress is often created by taking on too much. Make sure that you know how to say “no”. When we live a life in line with our values, those activities act as a natural antidepressant, improving our mood and leaving us feeling fulfilled.
9. Nurture relationships with friends and family
Friends and family are essential for when the tough times hit. We all need a little help from time to time. Don’t be afraid to ask. Too many of us suffer in silence when we could be reaching out. The more support we have the easier it is to get through stressful times.
Find your own particular stress release system and try to incorporate it into your life as often as possible. (At least twice a week.)
What do you enjoy doing that helps you to relax? Here are a few popular options:
- massage therapy/spa visit
- a hobby such as rock climbing or pottery making
- going for a walk
- sleeping in
- quiet alone time
- listening to music
There are many ways to relieve stress using self-care techniques. Even talking with a friend can help. Keep an eye on your stress levels. Rate your levels if it helps from 1 to 10. (1 = no stress, 10 = highly stressed). When you get above 7 it’s time to take action. Often, we struggle along and learn to live with stress but this can have long terms consequences for health and sanity. Stress and anxiety can be managed and reduced. Knowing the right strategies can make all the difference.
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