How To Cope With Stress During Life’s Challenges
Updated August 27, 2020
Medically Reviewed By: Lori Jones, LMHC
Life can be challenging. That’s something that everyone is experiencing in one way or another as we face the coronavirus pandemic. But outside of that, we may find ourselves dealing with things like job stress, job loss, divorce, health problems, moving, and more. Life is full of transitions, both good and bad, that can add stress to your life. Learning how to cope with stress can be an important factor for your mental and physical health.
Signs of stress in your life
Before you can learn how to cope with it, it helps to learn how to acknowledge stress in your life. If you’ve already been used to living with stress, it may be more difficult for you to notice the signs of it during the challenging times that you face. It may not seem as out of place as it should because you feel used to it.
Learning how to identify when your stress levels are rising is the first thing that helps in learning how to cope.
Some of the signs of high-stress levels that you should look for in your life include:
- Muscle pain
- Ringing in the ears
- Constipation or diarrhea
- Diminished sexual desire
- Chest pains
- Trouble concentrating
- Change in appetite
And, those are just a few of the symptoms that you could experience. If you notice these in your life or other health problems that are out of the ordinary from the way you normally feel, it’s important to look into why it’s happening. It can be wise to talk with a doctor to rule out any possible causes for the symptoms you’re experiencing. They can help you rule out more serious conditions so you can begin to learn how to cope with stress.
Understanding the danger of stress levels
If you read through the symptoms of stress, you’ll probably get a good idea of why you don’t want to let it linger in your life. It can cause all kinds of symptoms in both your physical health and mental health. However, those symptoms can also lead to even more serious problems.
Stress has been linked to problems such as eating disorders, depression, diabetes, and heart problems. Unfortunately, you don’t have control over the fact that sometimes you’re going to be faced with challenges in life. However, you can learn stress management techniques that can help you cope with it in a healthier way.
How to cope with stress
The following strategies can help you cope as you experience stress in life. While these can be helpful when you’re in the midst of life’s challenges, they can also be helpful for dealing with the small everyday stresses that you may experience.
Learn to meditate
Many people find that meditation is an effective form of stress management. While some people connect meditation with certain types of religion, it can also be used in a completely non-religious way. It is commonly used to help with stress and anxiety.
There are several different types of meditation that you can participate in. They all have the basic principles of needing to be in a quiet location, using deep breathing techniques, being comfortable, and learning to focus your attention. When you are meditating, you are working to be in the present moment. It’s also about allowing yourself to experience your feelings and thoughts without judging them. As thoughts enter your mind, you simply let them pass through without attaching emotion to them or judging the emotions that you do feel.
If you are new to the idea of meditation, there are many different free apps that you can use to get started. These apps include guided meditations so you can simply press play and get started once you’re in a quiet setting. Practicing meditation on a regular basis when going through life’s challenges may be able to help you learn how to cope with the stress and difficult emotions that you may be experiencing.
Focus on self-care
When you’re going through a difficult time in life it’s easy to lose focus on taking care of yourself. You may get caught up in the stress of the situation, or there may be more demands placed on your time and energy. When this happens, it can become easier not to prioritize the time that you spent doing things for self-care because it feels like there are too many other things happening.
This can include things such as getting enough sleep at night or staying properly nourished. High levels of stress can cause things such as insomnia and changes in appetite. You may not feel hungry, which can make it easy to skip meals. Or, you may struggle to fall asleep so it feels easier to just try to stay awake.
At the moment, these things might seem easier but when you continue to skip meals or rest, it can take an impact on both your mental and physical health. It’s important to take care of yourself, especially when you’re going through challenges.
Self-care also includes activities such as journaling, exercising, spending time with friends, or reading. It’s about doing activities that help you to recharge and re-energize. The actual activities themselves may look different for each person. Finding what works for you can be helpful in learning how to cope with stress.
Prioritize your tasks
Another stress management strategy that may be helpful in your life is learning how to prioritize your tasks. Time management may become a problem if there are extra demands coming at you from every direction. And when you are struggling with stress you may find that it’s difficult to stay on task and get things done. Because of this, it can be helpful to re-establish your priorities for the current situation.
For example, you may have been able to take on extra tasks such as baking cookies for the school bake sale in the past, but if you are going through a difficult health situation, it may not be wise of you to do right now. When you hit one of life’s challenges, it can be helpful to take time to sit and think through what your priorities are at that moment of your life. Then as new things come up, you can see if it fits within your priorities before agreeing to do it.
You may find that it’s helpful to set some things aside until you’re able to have more control over your stress in a healthy way. And, this can help you to feel like you’re succeeding at the end of your day instead of constantly falling behind.
Connect with a support system
Having a strong support system can help you deal with stress in your life. While this may not be a stress management strategy, it’s important to have people that you can connect with and turn to during difficult times.
The American Psychological Association conducted a stress survey that found while the vast majority of people said they had someone that they could turn to for emotional support, 55% of them also said that they could have used more support when going through a difficult time.
You may have friends, family, and co-workers in your life that you know care about you. But that’s different than having a few trusted people that you know you can turn to in difficult times. That’s why it can be helpful to work on building a support system for your life even when you feel like things are going well at the moment.
Continue to connect with friends and family during this time instead of only expecting them to be there for you when things aren’t going well. Chances are good that if you don’t feel close to someone when things are going well then you might not feel comfortable reaching out to them when you’re struggling.
If you don’t have close relationships with people in your life that you’re comfortable sharing your emotions with, work on connecting with others and building friendships. While we may be able to connect easier with people online, it’s also helpful to have people that you can talk to face to face when you need to. But the most important thing is that you do have people you can turn to if you’re struggling with stress, anxiety, and difficult emotions.
What to do when you’re struggling to manage stress
Sometimes life’s challenges can feel like more stress than you’re able to handle on your own. When you feel like this, it can be incredibly helpful to talk with a licensed therapist. Even when you have a support system that you can connect with, there are times when it’s helpful to talk with someone experienced in treating people struggling with things like stress and anxiety.
A licensed therapist can help you as you navigate through challenging times. They can assist you in learning coping strategies that you can apply in your life. While many businesses and professionals have closed their doors right now due to safer-at-home orders, online therapists like those at BetterHelp are still available to help you cope with the stress that you’re facing.