Ways To Cope With Chronic Stress
“Its key to recognize stressful situations as they occur because it allows you to focus on managing how you react,” Dr. Stoll says. “We all need to know when to close our eyes and take a deep breath when we feel tension rising.”
Use these tips to prevent or reduce chronic stress.
1. Re-balance Work and Home
All work and no play? If youre spending too much time at the office, intentionally put more dates in your calendar to enjoy time for fun, either alone or with others.
2. Build in Regular Exercise
Moving your body on a regular basis balances the nervous system and increases blood circulation, helping to flush out stress hormones. Even a daily 20-minute walk makes a difference.
3. Eat Well and Limit Alcohol and Stimulants
Alcohol, nicotine and caffeine may temporarily relieve stress but have negative health impacts and can make stress worse in the long run. Well-nourished bodies cope better, so start with a good breakfast, add more organic fruits and vegetables, avoid processed foods and sugar, and drink more water.
4. Connect with Supportive People
Talking face to face with another person releases hormones that reduce stress. Lean on those good listeners in your life.
5. Carve out Hobby Time
Do you enjoy gardening, reading, listening to music or some other creative pursuit? Engage in activities that bring you pleasure and joy research shows that reduces stress by almost half and lowers your heart rate, too.
6. Practice Meditation, Stress Reduction or Yoga
Take Stock Of What The Root Causes Of The Stress Are
First, I ask them to think about either their stress right now, at the moment, or to think back over the past day or week to the moments in which they were most stressed. What was happening then? Where is the stress coming from now?
There are usually external stressors that also relate to more deep-seated stressors .
Once weve identified the stressors, then we can break it down to whats within the persons control and whats outside of it.
Once weve defined what is not within control, I ask them if its possible to simply accept those circumstances and shift our attention to those things that they can control. We come up with strategies for taking action in the areas they can control to reduce their stress.
In the example described above, this might be a number of things: having a conversation with your kid and agreeing that youll create a sign that lets them know when its not ok to interrupt, or perhaps its having a conversation with coworkers to preemptively let them know that kids are home and you might expect an interruption.
When someone is stressed, theyre in the middle of a complex, usually pretty uncomfortable, chemical reaction in the body. And when this process is happening, its much more difficult for that person to access the logic and reasoning part of the brain.
So, dont say Everythings going to be fine because someone whos stressed cant really hear that.
Things To Say To Someone When Theyre Stressed
At this point, it seems like stressed is a permanent state of being. Whether youre stressed about the current state of the world, work, school, finances, relationships, or anything else, it can be overwhelming and, frankly, exhausting. Luckily, having a support system you can count on is one way to lighten the load.
Part of being a good support system is just being there. The next part is knowing what to say. Thats the trickier of the two because everyone responds to stress differently. Its not a one-size-fits-all solution.
To help you get started, weve compiled a list of 8 things to say to someone when theyre stressed.
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When You Causes Trouble Try To Use I Instead
It may seem like a simple word choice, but using you and superlative statements too often in an argument can lead to longer fights and more stress for your partner if you arent careful.
Using I language is often better received than you language, which comes off as accusatory and can lead to defensiveness, explains Jennifer Henry, licensed professional counselor and director of the Counseling Center at Maryville University in Missouri.
For example I feel really disappointed and unimportant when Im planning on a date night and you end up canceling it taps into the way the situation makes you feel versus Every time we make plans for a date you end up bailing at the last minute,’ Henry says.
If Negativity Slips In Allow Yourself To Let It Go
Try this exercise now. Pick up a pen or pencil and form a tight fist around the pen. Hold it tight for a moment. Now open your hand with the palm facing up. Let the pen roll around in your hand. Notice how the pen is not attached to you.
The pen could represent a person, negative thought, or nasty comment. These comments, thoughts or people, like the pen, are also not attached to you.
Take a moment as you imagine the problem more negative feeling shrinking in size. Then take a deep breath and as you do imagine that feeling is flowing up into your shoulder. As you exhale breathe that feeling down into your hand and make a fist.
Take another slow deep breath in and as you exhale open your hand as you blow away and throw away the stress. As you exhale you could also repeat either out loud or in your mind let it go.
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Take A Few Deep Breaths
Perhaps the easiest thing you can do, anywhere or anytime, is to stop and take a few deep breaths. This automatically cues the bodys relaxation response. Inhale deeply through your nose for three counts hold your breath for two counts, then exhale for four counts. Continue, focusing on feeling how your chest rises and falls with each breath.
Be Sure To Validate Their Emotional Experience
Even if you may not fully understand or directly relate, reassuring them that their emotions make sense can help them feel less alone and even help reduce the impact of the stressful experience.
Heres a few examples of some language you can use to help validate others emotions:
- Sounds like you are pretty worried about that, huh? I would feel the same way.
- I can tell you are feeling some pressure right now. I can tell how much you care about this.
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Couples Counselors Are Always Available To Help
Even after youve committed significant effort to de-stress your relationship, it may still be too difficult to entirely handle it on your own.
Especially if theres a deep hurt or theres been prolonged periods of stress, you could consider couples counseling to help improve your relationship, communication, and manage stress in your lives.
Having an objective party sit with you and help you talk through your challenges can be tremendously eye-opening and can lead to so much growth and healing, says Henry.
A counselor can give you and your partner new approaches for working through your concerns and can help you both to really express your feelings and feel heard, Henry adds.
Help Them Identify Their Triggers
Your independent observations of someone’s behaviour can help them identify patterns that they hadn’t noticed before.
This can be a sensitive topic, as it will mean drawing attention to negative thoughts or feelings, so remaining calm, objective and non-judgemental is important.
In the same way, you could also help someone identify situations and activities that help them to feel less stressed and more in control. For example getting outside for a walk, taking a relaxing bath or reading a book.
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Learn How To Express Your Emotions
When you notice a tightness in your jawline and realize that you may grind your teeth or clench your jaws, this can be an indication of holding in the frustrations.
It may also mean that there are words you are not expressing. It could also just mean that you are stressed, or perhaps, it is all of the above.
If you realize that you are not expressing yourself fully, you may be guided to at least say what you need to telepathically/energetically if you feel that you are unable to verbalize the words.
In those instances that you feel annoyed, bothered, or triggered, in that moment state aloud or in your mind, This bothers me. This is affecting me. I feel annoyed. This is causing me stress.
Express whatever wordage that would apply. In doing so, you are choosing to clear the energy at that moment rather than allowing it to build.
Melissa Wesner, LCPC, LCMHC
Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor | Owner, LifeSpring Counseling Services
When someone is telling us about their stress, anxiety, or pain, we sometimes feel pressured to alleviate it. Seeing someone we care about experience distress makes us uncomfortable, which is likely the reason we try to fix the situationso they can feel better.
One important thing to remember is that its not our job to fix it, and our friend or family member is likely not telling us about their stress, so we can problem-solve for them.
Some responses that we can offer when someone is stressed are:
Avoid Judgment And Blame
If someone you love is depressed and no longer able to do the activities they used to, including working or helping around the house, you may feel like they are lazy. When you get frustrated, try to remember that someone who is depressed isn’t lazythey’re ill. Everyday activities like cleaning the house, paying bills, or feeding the dog may seem overwhelming, if not impossible, to someone who is depressed.
If your loved one’s responsibilities around the house are piling up, you may not be able to take them on yourself.
In addition to resisting the urge to blame your loved one, try not to blame yourself either. Know that it’s OK if you need to ask for help.
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Make Time And Space For Them To Express Their Stress Without Judgement
One of the most helpful gifts we can give others, especially during a peak time of stress for all of us, is to make space for another person to share anything and everything they need to express about their stress, without comparisons, judgment or advice.
Because I am a trauma therapist, people sometimes make the mistake of thinking that I believe the best way to help people through trauma is to share my trauma-related expertise with those I support.
Often, its less important for me to give those I serve insights, and more important to create a radically safe space where they can feel and express whatever helps them reconnect to the people and values that make life meaningful for them.
When we connect, we survive.
Beth Epley, Psy.D.
Counselor of Student Services, Kansas City University
To someone dealing with stress, I would say its important we remember that stress is not the enemy. We want and need some degree of stress in our lives to keep us stimulated and engaged.
The key is to manage our stress in a way that we can stay in, or regularly return to, that sweet spot, of not too much or too little stress.
Helping Children And Youth Cope With Stress
Children and youth often struggle with how to cope with stress. Youth can be particularly overwhelmed when their stress is connected to a traumatic eventlike a natural disaster, family loss, school shootings, or community violence. Parents, caregivers, and educators can take steps to provide stability and support that help young people feel better.
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Don’t Get On Their Emotional Bus
Stressful people will try to take you on an emotional ride with them. They get angry, you get angry, and yelling happens. They get sad, you get sad, and everybody’s sad. Don’t get on their emotional bus. Listen, talk, and communicate, but don’t let them control you by triggering unnecessary negative emotions.
Helping A Friend With Stress
Got a mate whos always stressed out? Sometimes people arent coping and they need a friend to step in and help them out. Learn about some of the common causes of stress, figure out whether you should step in if someone is showing signs of stress, and get some tips on how to help them or how to recognise when theres something else going on.
Ask For Help Or Ask How You Can Help
One of the hardest things to do when youre stressed out is to ask for help.
Sometimes you may feel too overwhelmed to ask for help, or be in such a high-stress situation that you dont even know what kind of help you need. If youve ever felt this way, your partner has definitely felt it, too.
Thats why the best thing you can do is take a breath and ask them what kind of help they need. For example, a pile of dirty dishes may not normally be a big deal to your partner, but if they feel stretched to the limit already, that pile of dishes is going to look impossibly large.
You can respond to your partners stress by simply asking them about it and how you can support them. We are more likely to miss the mark when we assume, Hardy says. I would recommend taking something off their plate When you give them less to worry about in other areas, you are supporting them inadvertently.
Youve Done It Before You Can Do It Again
As humans, we sometimes forget how strong and resilient we are. Try to remind them of all the things they thought they couldnt do and all of the challenges theyve overcome in the past. Remind them that theyve done all of this incredible stuff before, so this time will be no different. Maybe all they need is a new perspective on failure and success.
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Show Your Understanding And Support For Them
If you are in the presence of someone who is stressed, the best you could do is to show youre understanding of the way they feel and that youre supportive of them. But do it sincerely.
So, what do you say? It all depends.
There are no two people that process feelings and events in the same way. We all have had our own, unique journeys and we all are gifted with our unique way to experience love, happiness, tragedy, stress.
There are different things that can cause us to stress out in the first place. On top of that, we let other people on a different level of closeness to us. So, it all depends also on how close we are to the person we would like to help.
If its for my brother, a highly successful professional with his own opinion on everything and everybody, I would just call him, talk about everything but the problem he has, and after some time I will let him approach the subject himself and tell me what he thinks, what he feels and just listen to him organize his thoughts and sort out his feelings, and make his own plan to deal with the situation.
And if it is a person I work with. I would find a task we can do together. I will be encouraging and will suggest that if they want to talk, I do offer my time and any means I could be supportive of them.
See If Some Of The Items On Their Stress List Are Actually Things They Are Taking On That Belong To Other People
For example, clients often feel the stress of friends and family. Remind them to take an inventory of what they actually have control over.
If they do not have control over a situation, reality check this. Ask them to give themselves permission to put some of those stressful items back on the other person if appropriate.
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Breathing And Relaxation Exercises
Many people find exercises that focus on breathing and muscle relaxation to be helpful in relieving stress. The playlist below will help you to understand how stress works and start feeling better. These exercises can be done anywhere and are designed to help you feel more relaxed in general, as well as helping you feel calmer if you are becoming stressed.
This playlist is free to download, and you can also stream it using the Soundcloud website or app. You can download and listen to individual tracks if there are particular exercises that work best for you. If you’re listening to it for the first time, it’s best to start from the beginning.
To access a BSL version of this playlist, .
Find out more by checking out these 10 stress busters.
Help Them Reconnect With The Present
When someone you love is in the throes of anxiety, your first instinct might be to urge them to calm down or to just relax. But this may not be possible, because anxiety has a physical component that you cant always think your way out of. Anxiety is triggered when we perceive a threat, and that perception, accurate or not, causes a release of adrenaline, says Shatté. It activates the sympathetic nervous system, an age-old way to get us to flee from danger. We sweat, and we even get dry mouth as a way to preserve moisture. Any activity that requires blood or energy shuts down, so we get cold feet and tingling fingers. These sensations are real, so dont invalidate them. Instead, help your loved one reconnect with the present moment. You can do this by asking them to close their eyes and notice their body or whats going on around them: the feeling of their feet touching the ground, the weight of their hands in their lap, the quiet hum of an air conditioner or heater.
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