7 tips for coping with modern day stress
Stress is unavoidable in today’s world. There are bills to pay, debt, traffic jams. difficult people, relationship issues – the list is infinite. Finding ways to cope with modern day stress will put you ahead of the pack in terms of effectiveness, happiness levels and quality of life.
Here’s how: ACCEPTS
When we engage in activities, we give our brains a rest from the continuous worrying. Activities that require engagement and thought are a great way to alleviate stress. One of the main principles of mindfulness involves being in the moment and when you are highly focused on playing a sport, exercising or doing a hobby, you give yourself a psychological break from anxiety and stress.
Give something back to the community – do something for someone else. When we focus on something other than ourselves, we take the focus off our own worries and engage with someone else. Helping others can also help us to feel gratitude, especially if we are helping those less fortunate than ourselves. Spread a little love and kindness – always a great antidote for stress.
Comparisons need to be used wisely. Never compare yourself negatively to someone else. We all tend to do it, assuming others have better and more exciting lives than we do. Facebook is a bad culprit for this, increasing the feeling of deprivation. This type of comparison is unhelpful as it never helps us to feel better about ourselves.
It can be helpful though to compare yourself to those that aren’t doing as well as you are as this encourages perspective and helps us to feel more gratitude and appreciation for what is good in our lives. It is equally useful to compare times in your life when things were worse and how you managed then – remind yourself of your strengths and previous examples of your resilience.
Do something that will create a happy emotion for you to counterbalance your stress. Watch a funny movie or put on inspiring or soothing music. Have a pillow fight with someone, be playful. Choose the opposite behaviour to improve your mood. Stress tends to lead to isolation, rumination and feeling sorry for ourselves. Try to get yourself out of that funk but doing something fun.
Some thoughts tend to want to stick around. Learn to let go of worrisome thoughts. Picture them as leaves floating past you on a stream. You can watch them float by, you don’t need to pick each one up and focus on it. You can’t stop thoughts but you can choose how long you want to focus on them. Imagine writing your problem on a piece of paper, crumpling it up and throwing it away. Dismiss thoughts that are unhelpful.
Choose thoughts carefully. We all tend to engage in thinking errors. Examples: mind reading: where we assume we know what someone else is thinking when in fact we don’t know for sure. We often assume negative thoughts and this leads to further stress. Watch what your inner ‘mental diet’ is – what are you feeding yourself mentally? Is it balanced and fair or is it self critical and full of catastrophising (imagining the worst). Stop the self torture. Replace negative thoughts with more neutral ones. Example: Negative thought=I am never good in social situations. This will create anxiety. Another more neutral thought: I may not feel comfortable in social situations but that doesn’t mean I can’t handle them.
Find safe physical sensations to distract you from intense negative emotions. Wear a rubber band and snap it on your wrist, hold an ice cube in your hand or eat something sour that you like. This focuses your mind on something other than your worries. Remind yourself of the difference between a real worry (eg. your car has broken down) and a hyopthetical, non-real worry. (example: what if the bus is full tomorrow and I don”t get a seat?) “What if” worries are wasted mental energy.
There are many strategies we can use to manage stress. We cannot stop stress altogether but knowing how to cope with stress can make the difference between sinking and swimming.