Advice for dealing with stress
There are a number of components to helping yourself cope with stress.
A. Problem Solving Approaches
Stress can be most effectively dealt with by using your logic and your intelligence to help you reason out the situation, rather than being swept away in panic and despair by your emotions. Various techniques that can help you to achieve this are:-
1) Try and divide the problem into its various components
2) Consider, and write down, the various possible solutions, and the positives and negatives of each solution
3) Force yourself to think about positive aspects, especially the fact that you have previously dealt with stressful events with a good result
4) Avoid being carried away by sweeping negatives, such as ‘everything is going to be a disaster’, or ‘things will never recover from this situation’
5) Avoid being controlled by “I should” or “I must”
6) Discuss problems with a person or people you can trust, such as your partner, friends or colleagues, and seek advice, but do remember you are seeking advice, not being told what to do. Many people giving advice mistakenly think they are issuing orders!
7) Trust your logic and your IQ to help you out as they have done before, and remind yourself repeatedly “I coped before, and I can cope with this, even though it is unpleasant”
B. Learn to relax
There are various relaxation techniques, all of which have a lot in common. Fundamentally, if you force your body to relax, your mind will automatically relax also. Achieving physical, and therefore mental, relaxation can be done by:
1) Repeatedly taking 30 seconds out of your day to breathe slowly and deeply, forcing your muscles to relax as you breathe out, and at the same time, telling yourself mentally to “relax”. Ideally, doing this once every 10 minutes throughout the day will program your brain into staying relaxed.
2) An alternative technique is to devote 10 to 20 minutes each day to do some physical relaxation techniques, typically involving tensing and relaxing the muscles in each leg, each arm, and your whole body in turn, again telling yourself to “relax”. Some people find this technique can be done alone, whereas other people find it useful to buy pre-recorded relaxation cassettes to help them to do this.
3) Techniques such as yoga, meditation, tai chi, or self hypnosis all considerably help relaxation, and operate on the principle that the intense relaxation in the states allows you to simultaneously program your brain to stay relaxed for the next 24 or 48 hours.
C. General health guidelines
Stresses less likely in those who have general good physical health, and who are careful to eat a balanced diet, exercise reasonably, and avoid excessive caffeine, excessive alcohol, excessive food, and excessive cigarettes.
It is also important to take time off such as weekends and holidays, and ideally to do some enjoyable non-work activities. During these phases, which may seem “a waste of time”, your brain is actually recovering from the pressures of an intense life.
Ensuring you follow a good sleep pattern is also very useful, and various non-medical health food medications can sometimes help for mild problems sleeping.
D. Dealing with conflict
Conflict is a major source of stress in the life of many people. It is important to be calmly confident if possible, when facing a conflict situation. It is also very useful to KEEP YOUR VOICE DOWN when in a conflict situation, thus automatically pressurising the other person to do the same.
Learning off certain suitable phrases, in the hope that they will come to mind when facing a conflict situation, can also be very useful, phrases which indicate you are willing to be reasonable, but wish to postpone the matter which is making the other person angry.
Useful phrases include:
1) “Let me think about it” in response to being asked or told to do something by somebody else, which you regard as unreasonable. This gives you a few moments to think without being pressurised to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ on the spot.
2) “I see your point of view and I will think about it; do you see my point?” This can be a useful technique when someone clearly is adamant they are right about something, and are trying to get you to submit and agree.
3) “Let’s drop the subject for the moment” and “let’s agree to differ” are phrases obviously designed to allow both parties to calmly back away from an unresolved conflict situation, particularly one which seems to be progressively escalating.
E. Modifying your personality characteristics
Certain personality characteristics can increase your susceptibility to stress, whatever benefits the same personality characteristics may give you. Examples include:
1) Perfectionism – this personality characteristic may bring practical success, but at the cost of intense emotional effort which is physically and mentally tiring. Furthermore, more and more efforts have to be used to achieve progressively less in the way of extra rewards or benefits. If you are driven by perfectionism, it is useful to step back mentally, and try to judge your behaviour and standards by standards of those around you.
2) Being excessively timid – being submissive to the wishes to other people all the time does not make them appreciate you more, but makes them see you as inappropriately weak. A useful motto is “don’t be nice, be fair”. If the positions were reversed, and someone said no to you, or expressed an opinion, you might be disappointed, but you would not think that person was being unreasonable; accordingly, it is not unreasonable of you to say no or express certain opinions. Learning to be more confident, or more assertive, is a skill everybody has to learn at some stage, and there are many useful books and short courses to teach this particular technique.
3) Type A behaviour – this refers to people who are continuously time pressured. Unchecked, this certainly leads to considerable stress. Accordingly, it is very useful to copy the pace of other people, even if it seems inefficiently slow in the beginning. Other techniques, whereby you avoid the temptation to take the benefits resulting from Type A behaviour, would hopefully slowly wipe out the habit within you. An example would be to force yourself to pull into the side of the road and wait a few minutes if you have run a yellow light.