3 Ways to Cope With Stress

How do you cope with your stress?

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People are feeling more stressed out than ever. The majority of people say they are stressed by things like money, work, the current political climate, violence and crime, and worries about the future of the country.

So how can we deal with all this stress? There are three big ways to cope with stress. Let’s think about stress like weight… but instead of physical weight, it’s emotional weight.

If you are trying to lift too much physical weight, you have three options.

First, you can reduce the amount of weight. Second, you can build more muscle. Or third, you could improve your mental game. We know from sports 90% is how you think about it.

The same is true of emotional weight. When you are stressed, you have three options.

3 Ways to Cope With Stress

First, you might be able to reduce your stressors.

To do this, list all your stressors and put checks by the ones you can take care of later or just get rid of altogether. But the truth is sometimes you can’t reduce your stressors – or at least not enough to really make a difference.

That means you have to rely on the other two options. The second option is to increase your coping. This is kind of like building muscle. The way you build emotional muscle is by using good coping strategies.

Coping strategies are things you do – or could do – that help you reduce your stress. It could be talking to friends, walking your dog, journaling, cooking, building something, listening to music, meditating, or anything else that works for you.

You can always use this option, so it’s a good idea to write down a list of 5 to 7 strategies that can work for you. When you feel stressed, pull out the list and do one of the activities on your list.

“What is your favorite stress management technique?”

The third option for dealing with stress is to change your thinking. Most stress is about the meaning of the stress. Take an example.

Let’s say two people have to give a presentation in front of a group of 20 people. The first person is sweating bullets and rates his stress as an 8 on a 10 scale. The second person is cool and calm and rates her stress as a 2 on a 10 scale.

What’s the difference? Well, the first person is probably having thoughts like, “What if I embarrass myself in front of everyone?” “What if I stumble over my words?” “I worry people will see me sweating.” Things like that.

The second person is probably having thoughts like, “It’s only a five minute presentation.” “If someone judges me for my presentation, then I probably don’t want them in my life.” “I’m going to be fine no matter how this goes.”

It’s the same stressor, but it affects one more than the other because of how he’s thinking about it. Changing your thinking might not eliminate your stress, but it can reduce a lot of the weight of it.

So, those are the 3 big ways you can cope with stress:

  1. Reduce your stressors (if you can).
  2. Increase your coping.
  3. Change your thinking.

None of these will make all your stress disappear, but they can help you cope a lot better. You don’t want your life to be completely stress free.

Just like lifting physical weight builds strength and muscle, the same is true of emotional weight. When you deal with stress, you build emotional muscle and that makes you more resilient. But using these ways of coping can let you manage your stress in healthy ways.

What are your favorite stress management technique?

Dr. Dave Verhaagen
Dave Verhaagen is the author or co-author of eight books, including Therapy with Young Men and Parenting the Millennial Generation. As a licensed psychologist who earned his Ph.D. in psychology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, he has served as clinical director for three mental health agencies and is the founder and former CEO of Southeast Psych, a large psychology practice in Charlotte, NC. He is one of fewer than 5% of psychologists in the U.S. to be certified by the American Board of Professional Psychology (ABPP) and he is a Fellow of both The American Board of Clinical Psychology and The American Board of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology. His work has been featured several times in USA Today, Newsweek, and dozens of newspapers around the country. He works almost exclusively with young adults (16-29 year olds) in his clinical practice. Dave is a popular speaker at local, state, and national conferences. He has been married to Ellen for 26 years and they have four young adult children: Daniel, Christy, Maddie, and Abbey.Fun facts: He once broke a finger tucking in his shirt and broke another finger making his bed. He worked in radio for seven years on-air. He is a bad magician. He still dresses up each year for Halloween. Do with this information what you will.

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