Stress is common and, unfortunately, not something you can totally avoid in life. It can be tricky, though, too, because, believe it or not, there’s such a thing as both good and bad stress. Thankfully, though, plenty of excellent stress therapy options and coping mechanisms can help you manage the harmful types of stress when you need to.
When you learn how to deal with stress effectively, you can minimize the impact it has on your day-to-day life and protect your overall mental health. Keep reading to learn stress management techniques that’ll be a game-changer in how you cope with (and overcome) stress in your daily life.
Stress Management Techniques
There are several coping tools known to reduce or eliminate the effects of stress. They generally can fall into 1 of 3 categories:
- Action-oriented (where you do something)
- Emotion-oriented (where you change how you feel about something)
- Acceptance (where you learn to accept things that you have no control over)
In some cases, a healthy way to deal with stress is to take action in effort to change or improve your situation. This is known as action-oriented stress management strategies.
For example, if you’re finding it difficult to concentrate, try putting your phone on silent, turning off any noise, playing white noise in the background, or working to reduce the number of distractions around you.
“Meditation and mindfulness are recommended techniques. Using your senses can help you change a stressful situation. You can look for same-color items in a room, identify sounds or smells, or touch items to feel different textures.”
It’s not always possible to change a stressful situation with direct action. If that’s the case, you can often learn how to manage stress by changing the way you think about it. Emotion-oriented stress management strategies help you alter negative thought processes that encourage stress.
For example, positive thinking and cognitive restructuring (changing your thought processes — more on that in a bit) can help you shift the way you see events in your life.
“You can practice reframing, thinking positively, or acceptance. These practices allow you to concentrate on the thoughts that you want to have, instead of the ones that your brain sends.”
At some point in life, chances are you’re going to wind up in a stressful situation that you have little-to-no control over. When this happens, one of the best things you can do might be to learn to accept the reality you’re living in. Even if you can’t control every aspect of your life, acceptance can help you change how your body responds to a stressor or stressful situation.
For example, instead of trying to change someone you’re in a relationship with — whether it be a romantic partnership or a platonic one — focus on coming to terms with who they are, as they are.
Note…if you truly can’t live with someone’s behaviors, decisions, or beliefs, you might need to take an action-oriented approach and decide if you should end the relationship.
“Acceptance is a helpful practice that can help you when positive thinking isn’t an option. It allows you to reflect and decide how to better move on while having unwanted negative thoughts or emotions, including stress.”
10 Tips for Coping with Stress
The following tips for stress management can be instrumental in allowing you to take control back. You don’t have to let stress rule you.
- Cut out distractions
- Establish boundaries
- Work on assertiveness
- Improve your time management skills
- Use positive affirmations
- Adopt the ABC technique
- Try cognitive restructuring
- Take steps to improve your health
- Become more resilient
- Talk about your feelings
1. Cut out distractions
Action-oriented: A stressful event, like a tight deadline, will only bring you more stress when you’re surrounded by distractions. If your attention is being divided because of message notifications, loud music, or a noisy work environment, it’s time to take action. Work to reduce the distractions around you, so you can focus on what needs to be done.
2. Establish boundaries
Action-oriented: Part of learning how to cope with stress, including workplace stress or emotional stress, is working to protect yourself from any type of stressor by setting healthy boundaries, including the people around you. Stress management techniques like establishing boundaries can allow you to recognize your needs and ensure they’re met. Whether you ask people not to call you after a certain time or you request that family members let you know before they stop by, boundaries are a great way to reduce the amount of toxic stress in your life.
3. Work on assertiveness
Action-oriented: It can be difficult to speak up about your wants and needs, especially when you want to please the people around you. By learning how to be assertive, you can take action and communicate your needs in a clear, firm, appropriate way. Assertiveness can help you avoid conflict and reduce workplace stress.
4. Improve your time management skills
Action-oriented: It’s hard not to be stressed when you don’t have enough time to get everything done. If you frequently run out of time, focus on finding ways to better manage your days. By prioritizing time-sensitive tasks, you’ll begin to use your time more effectively and complete tasks without the added pressure of time.
5. Use positive affirmations
Emotion-oriented: Learning to challenge negative thoughts is important when you’re taking an emotion-oriented approach to stress management. One way to retrain your brain and focus on the good is by reciting positive affirmations in the mirror at the start and end of each day. Studies show that positive affirmations can reduce the impact negative feelings have on your life.
6. Adopt the ABC technique
Emotion-oriented: Originally developed by psychologist Dr. Albert Ellis, this emotion-oriented technique can teach you how to deal with stress by focusing on becoming more optimistic. The premise is that the more positive you are, the better any outcome will be.
- A stands for adversity, which refers to the sources of stress in your life
- B stands for beliefs, which is the way you think about stress
- C stands for consequences, which is the impact that your beliefs have on stressors in your life
7. Try cognitive restructuring
Emotion-oriented: Cognitive restructuring is a technique that asks you to identify unhealthy or negative thought and behavior patterns so you can work to change them. Cognitive restructuring is the cornerstone approach in cognitive behavior therapy (CBT).
Research shows that CBT is a highly effective modality in learning stress management. It’s an emotion-oriented stress response that can train you to think about the events in your life in healthier ways.
8. Take steps to improve your health
Acceptance-oriented: Poor diet, a lack of sleep, and a sedentary lifestyle can all make symptoms of stress worse. If you’re working on accepting stress in your life, it’s important to recognize that you need to take care of yourself. Increasing your physical activity and sleep are just a few ways to improve it. Even taking small steps to improve your health can have a significant impact on your stress levels.
9. Become more resilient
Acceptance-oriented: Resilience is a powerful tool. When you’re resilient, you can bounce back from tough or stressful events and learn from your experiences. People who master resilience tend to be happier and have fewer negative outcomes as a result of stress.
10. Talk about your feelings
Acceptance-oriented: Recognizing that you need help can be a huge part of this approach to managing stress. Instead of bottling up your feelings, find opportunities to let them out. You could chat with supportive friends, write about your feelings in a journal, or work with a therapist who can provide you with advice and guidance. If working is adding to your stress, be vocal with your boss or HR department. Asking for a mental health day could do wonders for your stress level (and many companies and organizations now offer this).
Find Support Through Talkspace
Stress is often unavoidable, but with the right approach, you can learn how to manage stress. Stress management techniques are important tools you can use when you’re dealing with the difficult things life throws your way. By identifying and evaluating the sources of your stress, you can find the most effective approaches to overcome them.
If your stress levels are interfering with your work, relationships, productivity, or sense of self-worth, you may need outside help. With support from a professional, you can develop coping mechanisms that help you manage stress on a short and long-term basis. This way, you can make sure that stress doesn’t keep you from enjoying your life.
We experience stressful moments in our lives daily, but when stress becomes a long-term and chronic problem, it can lead to an anxiety disorder. Seek help sooner rather than later for a better outcome.
Talkspace is an online therapy platform that makes getting expert guidance a snap. It’s a convenient, affordable, and accessible approach to therapy. Our therapists are skilled and experienced, and they’re ready to help you tackle stress — or anything else you’re struggling with — so you can live your best life, keeping your stress levels in check.
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3. Bajaj B, Khoury B, Sengupta S. Resilience and Stress as Mediators in the Relationship of Mindfulness and Happiness. Front Psychol. 2022;13. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2022.771263. https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2022.771263/full#B82. Accessed June 30, 2022.