Change can be stressful, and major life changes can be highly stressful whether negative…death in the family, divorce, job loss…or positive…relocating for a new job, marriage, the birth of a child. The following strategies can help you cope with stress…whether it’s only a little or a lot.
1. Exercise your faith practice.
Focus upon your personal life-mission and intentionally remind yourself about how it integrates with your daily tasks. Pray. Meditate. Ask for strength. Trust it will be provided.
2. Ask for help.
Positive social support that encourages as well as provides feedback is helpful. Intentionally seek out those who will speak truth with you and set necessary boundaries with those who will not. Make a special effort to speak to family, friends or co-workers who have dealt with similar experiences.
3. Avoid other unnecessary changes in your life.
Make major life decisions when you are at your best; not reactively. Instead, reserve what energy you do have for dealing with the stressor at hand. If possible, stabilize your work and home environments while working out the primary problem.
4. Quiet your mind.
In times of stress, the mind makes things appear worse than they are by creating endless versions of impending disaster. Because the body can’t tell the difference between fact and fantasy, it responds with heightened physical response. You can calm both your mind and your body by keeping your mind in the present, which is seldom as stressful as an imagined future or regrettable past.
5. Courageously and aggressively face the stressor.
Resist any temptation to ignore the ramifications of change. Instead, carefully appraise the seriousness of the problem without magnifying it out of proportion. Ask yourself, “What is the worst thing that is realistically likely to happen?” Then remind yourself of all the good things that will still be a part of your life even if the worst occurs.
6. Take inventory of your coping responses.
What has worked for you in the past? Confidence is a valuable ally in combating stress, and it builds on memories of past successes. Review successes you’ve had with other stressful life situations. Recall some of the specific things you did to cope. Do them.
7. Differentiate between what you do and do not have control over.
Commit yourself to a reasonable course of action to deal with the stressor. Action is a powerful stress-reducer. Research shows that the body lowers its production of epinephrine, a powerful stress hormone, when a person shifts into action. Don’t avoid taking action because you fear you’ll make the wrong decision. Remind yourself that there are many different ways of successfully dealing with a stressful situation. Let go of what you cannot change and intentionally engage in tasks where you do have some control.
Change often means losing someone or something important to you. “Lean into” that sadness and acknowledge it. Say goodbye as you say hello to what is new.
9. Take time out to relax.
At least once or twice a day, take time to decompress by relaxing – perhaps by listening to soothing music, taking a walk, gardening, reading or exercising. You could also choose to perform a more formal relaxation technique such as deep breathing or meditation.
Wondering just how stressed you are?
Stress is additive. It piles up. Stress affects both mind and body and without your being aware of it, stress can add up to dangerous levels that can have serious health consequences. Try the Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale, a well-known tool for measuring the amount of stress you’ve experienced within the past year. If you’re experiencing the warning signs of too much stress, reach out for professional help either from your primary care physician or a mental health professional.