There are many different reasons why people may experience stress, including work-related pressures. Fortunately, there are various ways to deal with work stress and alleviate its negative impact on mental and physical well-being. Significant life events like being unemployed, separating from a partner, or losing a loved one are common sources. However, people don’t always consider how stress can originate from typically positive experiences too, such as purchasing a new home or obtaining a desired new job. Or, stress may not even originate from external sources. It may come in the form of internal thoughts and beliefs that negatively impact other areas of your life.
If left unaddressed, external and/or internal stressors can build up until you feel overwhelmed and experience negative effects. Ongoing, unaddressed stress is sometimes referred to as “chronic stress”, which is constant and persists over an extended period of time. Chronic stress can interfere with your mental health, physical health, and daily functioning, which is why learning to cope with it in a constructive way can be so important for your well-being.
Recognizing The Signs Of Chronic Stress
When chronic stress goes untreated, its symptoms can evolve into larger problems. According to Yale Medicine, symptoms of chronic stress may include:
- Significant changes in sleeping or eating patterns
- Low energy levels
- Difficulty focusing
- Social isolation
- Physical aches and pains
- Increased substance use
These symptoms are just a few of the mental and physical difficulties that stress can cause.
Harmful Coping Strategies To Avoid
It's not uncommon for people to adopt harmful behaviors as coping mechanisms for stress, which may negatively impact their mental health and those around them. Often, an individual may not realize that what they're doing is a response to the daily stress they're experiencing. That's why awareness is the first step towards a healthier life in terms of stress management. Here are some common unhealthy coping mechanisms for chronic stress. If you recognize any of these in yourself, it may be helpful to consider some of the healthy ways to cope with stress and promote well-being that we'll list next.
Sometimes people turn to substances like drugs and alcohol to cope with their stress. While finding certain coping strategies to relax and unwind is generally a good idea when faced with extreme stress levels, excessive use of drugs and alcohol is typically not the answer. It may have a negative impact on your physical and mental health, as well as other aspects of your life, such as relationships and employment. Plus, they're likely to simply dull the feelings associated with any issues you may be facing rather than offering a healthy coping way to deal with them. Studies also suggest that those who have experienced difficulties with substance use disorder in the past may be at a higher risk of relapse under stress.
Other Escapist Behaviors
Escapist behaviors are ones we might engage in to ignore or avoid reality. When practiced in healthy ways, some level of escapism can be helpful as a coping strategy. It can provide us a break from stressful events and allow us to recharge. However, relying on these methods excessively so that we consistently avoid reality, can be counterproductive. Moreover, some escapist behaviors may cause other problems. For example, watching hours of TV to avoid getting important work done can set you back at work or in school. Going on an online shopping spree when feeling stressed can lead you to spend money unwisely and end up with financial stress as well. Instead, consider adopting coping styles that promote well-being, such as deep breaths, relaxation exercises, or seeking social support.
Striving For Perfection
Some people believe that to overcome chronic stress and manage stress, they must work hard to achieve perfection in the portions of their life they do have control over. However, pressuring yourself to achieve perfection can often have the opposite effect, making you feel stressed and feel anxious. Research shows that perfectionistic tendencies correlate with mental health issues like anxiety and depression, so it's clear that being self-critical and holding yourself to impossible standards may only make matters worse—especially during a stressful event or traumatic events. Instead, focus on developing healthy coping strategies like problem solving and practice relaxation exercises to maintain balance and well-being.
Helpful Coping Strategies To Try
Recognizing unhealthy coping mechanisms is typically part one of improving your response to stress; replacing them with healthier strategies is generally part two. That said, the coping mechanisms that work for someone else may not be right for you. That’s why it may be helpful to try a few until you find what works best for your situation.
Learn To Identify And Address The Root Issue
When you’re experiencing high levels of stress, it can be easy to misidentify where it’s coming from. For instance, if you’re under a lot of stress at work, you might be short or impatient with your partner, causing stress in your relationship too. Recognizing that the root cause is your job and not your partner can be an important step in managing this stress. You can then take action to adjust things in your work life and make things right with your partner, letting them know that work is causing the issue and not them. If you fail to get in touch with the true origin of your stress, it can be that much more difficult to resolve it and the effects may seep into other areas of your life.
A wealth of research now exists indicating that meditation can work as an effective coping mechanism for stress. Mindfulness meditation in particular can make a difference because it helps an individual cultivate a stronger awareness of the present moment. Over time, you may be able to then sense when stress is coming on and use breathing techniques or other strategies to help calm yourself and avoid letting it take over.
Build A Regular Exercise Routine
Build a regular exercise routine to not only contribute to disease control but also reduce the stress response. Studies indicate that physical activity can change the body’s hormonal responses and affect dopamine and serotonin transmitters in the brain. Both chemical changes can affect the body’s physiological response to stress by boosting mood. There is a strong and growing body of evidence demonstrating the many benefits of physical activity.
Other research suggests that exercise may help because of the time-out theory. It simply states that when an individual engages in exercise, it provides their mind and body with a “time-out” to process and recover from the day’s stress.
How A Therapist Can Help You Cope With Stress
Speaking to a mental health professional is one of the most effective ways to learn to cope with stress and prevent it from impacting other areas of your health and life. There are many different methods that therapists may use to treat chronic stress, including metacognitive therapy (MCT), cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), psychodynamic therapy, and more. The right therapist can help you isolate the sources of your stress and provide a structured plan for coping with it. Additionally, if your stress levels are causing or related to a mental health condition like depression or anxiety, they can also help you address those symptoms.
The type of therapy that’s best for your situation will typically be decided by your therapist after an evaluation. However, you can generally choose the format that feels most comfortable for you. If you prefer meeting with someone in person, you can search for a provider in your area. If you prefer getting support from the comfort of your own home, you might consider virtual therapy. A platform like BetterHelp, for instance, can match you with a licensed therapist who you can meet with via phone, video call, and/or online chat to address the challenges you may be facing. Research suggests that online therapy can be just as effective as in-person sessions for a range of concerns, so you can select the option that feels right for your situation.
What is the best coping mechanism for stress?
The best coping mechanism for stress can vary widely depending on your individual stress levels, life circumstances, and other personal factors. That said, some of the best coping mechanisms for stress may include:
- Meditation practices such as mindfulness or deep breathing techniques.
- A regular exercise routine, emphasizing forms of movement you enjoy and can commit to doing regularly: for example, dancing with friends or going on daily walks.
- A well-balanced diet of nutritious foods that taste and feel good to you, supporting both your physical and mental health.
- Self-care activities such as journaling, spending time with loved ones, crafting, yoga, reading, or anything else that leaves you feeling recharged and energized.
As you try different coping mechanisms, you may find that some work better for certain kinds of stress. For example, an exercise class may feel better on a day when you have more energy, while you might prefer a gentler activity like reading after a particularly stressful day.
Most people can build a repertoire of skills for coping with stress in different areas of their lives.
What are the 5 types of coping strategies?
Healthy coping strategies can be categorized into five broad types:
- Problem-focused or problem-solving strategies, which directly address the source of stress. These strategies may involve planning ahead, establishing clear and healthy boundaries, or writing down a clear plan to tackle the stressor.
- Emotion-focused strategies, which target the feelings, worries, or emotional pain associated with a specific stressor. Common examples include journaling or meditation.
- Meaning-focused strategies, which use cognitive techniques to help individuals understand the meaning behind stressful experiences. These strategies may be especially useful for people healing from trauma and/or anxiety by improving their sense of competence and appreciation for life.
- Support-seeking strategies, which involve seeking support and stress relief from family, friends, healthcare workers, or other relationships and communities.
- For some people, religious coping strategies play a large role in their stress management. Religious coping occurs when people seek comfort, support, or guidance from a divine or spiritual source, often through prayer or by joining a religious community.
What are the 4 coping mechanisms?
What are the 4 types of coping with stress?
What are 3 examples of stress coping mechanisms?
Three examples of stress coping mechanisms include:
- Watching a funny, uplifting movie with a friend to lighten your mood while spending time with a loved one.
- Scheduling an appointment with your therapist to talk through a stressful event.
- Creating a “to-do” list to tackle a specific task or stressor.
What are the 8 different coping strategies?
Based on the Coping Circumplex Model (CCM), the eight different coping strategies are:
- Positive emotional coping, which may involve positive and/or humorous reinterpretations of stressful events.
- Efficiency, a combination of positive emotional coping and problem-solving.
- Problem-solving, a combination of cognitive and behavioral efforts to resolve a problem.
- Preoccupation with the problem, characterized by a large focus on problem-solving, but to an extent that may harm a person’s emotional well-being.
- Negative emotional coping, which could include emotional venting, ruminating, and focusing on the negative aspects or emotions of a stressful situation.
- Helplessness, a combination of negative emotional coping and problem avoidance.
- Problem avoidance, or avoiding thinking about the problem by procrastinating, giving up, or otherwise limiting efforts to resolve the issue.
- Hedonic disengagement, a combination of problem avoidance and positive emotional coping. This strategy preserves emotional well-being in the present by avoiding information about the problem.
While some researchers recognize other forms of coping, the CCM encompasses a wide range of coping tendencies, which may be healthy or unhealthy depending on the individual situation.
What are the three 3 basic coping strategies?
While there are many different ways to categorize coping skills, psychologists commonly identify these 3 basic coping strategies:
- Task-focused strategies, which emphasize problem-solving.
- Emotion-focused strategies.
- Avoidance-focused strategies.
These categories come from the Coping Inventory for Stressful Situations (CISS), a self-report measure developed to assess coping styles.
What is the most used coping mechanism?
Because stressors and personalities come in so many forms, psychologists and researchers struggle to identify the single most used coping mechanism.
As a broad category, one of the most common coping mechanisms may be social support, which can include spending time with loved ones or consulting with a mental health professional. Trusted people in your life can offer opinions, advice, and encouragement in response to a stressful situation.
What is a healthy coping mechanism?
A healthy or “adaptive” coping mechanism can reduce stress and promote feelings of comfort, balance, and confidence in your ability to handle life’s challenges. Some examples of healthy coping mechanisms include:
- Asking for help from trusted people
- Setting realistic goals
- Creating healthy boundaries between yourself and people, places, or situations that cause significant stress.
What are positive coping mechanisms for mental health?
Positive coping mechanisms for mental health promote positive changes that can be incorporated into your daily routines. Some examples include:
- Reframing stressful situations as opportunities to learn or grow.
- Challenging negative thought patterns to encourage healthier behavior: for example, combatting racing thoughts with mindfulness meditation to improve your sleep.
- Practicing deep breathing exercises.
- Seeking therapy, if available or desired.
Regardless of your interests or current needs, you can develop a variety of positive coping mechanisms to improve your mental and physical health.
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