Stress— it can come from a lot of places. Work, family, friends can all cause stress and in a recent study, it was found that the recent pandemic has caused a significant impact on the mental health of people all over the world.
With the new virus that has caused a lot of debates and has made headlines— confusion, anxiety, depression and nervousness are expected to be seen more in our society.
We always think of stress as something negative but it is only when the stress is too strong or has persisted for a long time that it can cause mental disorders like depression, anxiety or personality disorders, otherwise, research has proven that stress is an important factor for our mental development (1) right from childhood.
To say that we need to avoid stress is not a solution because the reality is, stress is everywhere.
There is no escaping something that is a part of our daily life.
So how can you cope with stress? Here are a few tips that you may or may not have heard of yet:
The acceptance that stress is a part of our daily lives is important. When we accept that stress is here to stay, you worry less because you accept that it is part of our lives as human beings.
Stress is important especially in dangerous situations because it activates our fight or flight response. Without stress, we could never accomplish tasks effectively nor have increased brain functioning. The acceptance and your positive perception of stress is the first step in coping.
- Active Coping
Active coping is a way of finding a strategy to eliminate the cause of your stress. It has been shown that active coping decreases anxiety, stress, and even depression. (2)
It is a way to help identify what is causing your stress and will also help you find ways to reduce it.
For instance, if you are a student and your stress often involves not getting a good grade in a quiz one way to actively cope to decrease your stress is for you to find smart ways to study. Active coping is when you are aware of your stress and you are making conscious efforts to deal with it.
Planning is a way to cope with stress because oftentimes, stress is caused by the feeling of not knowing what to do when in a certain situation.
One good example is when stress is because of an unknown outcome like trying to apply for a new job. Waiting for the final call can be tough but if you have a plan for all possible scenarios, no matter the result, you already know what to do.
- Mental Disengagement
Mental disengagement is a form of distraction. This means that by not thinking about your stressor, you try and cope with it until the time that you need to deal with what’s causing your stress.
This is a double-edged sword because not facing your problem might mean a delay in finding a solution but at the same time, distracting yourself can also be good for your mental health especially when the stress that you are dealing with has been a burden for a long time.
Exercise has been postulated by thousands of researches to decrease stress and anxiety and this is true.
Medical literature tells us that the positive outcome of exercise on stress, anxiety and even depression is through the biochemical and physiological mechanisms involved. With exercise, endorphins (or the happy hormones) are released in the body and at the same time, improve neurotransmitter and mitochondrial function happens. (3)
- Social Support
What is social support? It has been defined as the “support accessible to an individual through social ties to other individuals, groups, and the larger community.” (4)
Social support is a very important way to cope with stress because “talking it out” is one way of admitting that we have stress and hearing inputs of other people can give us a good view of what to do with our problems.
Social support is significant in keeping your psychological and mental health intact. Research has found that having positive social support has not only helped people cope with stress but also has a positive impact on the overall health of patients especially those with chronic diseases like cancer, rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis.
- Positive Reinterpretation
Positive reinterpretation is simply seeing the good in the bad or looking at a stressful situation and finding what’s good in that situation.
A good example is when you know how stressful going in to have your tooth surgery can be, but when you apply positive reinterpretation, you can reassess the situation and think that the removal of your bad tooth can alleviate you of your pain and avoid further risk for infection.
Laughter is definitely the best medicine. This is why a little humor goes a long way to help you cope with stress. Humor does not only mean distracting yourself with something funny but looking at things from a lighter perspective.
- Purposeful Relaxation
Purposeful relaxation is the use of deep breathing exercises, meditation and relaxation of the muscles to relax the body. This is not only good for coping up with stress but also with panic attacks or general anxiety.
- Rest and Sleep
Rest and sleep are a form for your body to restore energy lost and as a form of reset. A decrease in rest and sleep are connected to increase anxiety and stress. Sleep and stress are interconnected. Stress increases cortisol, cortisol is a hormone that stimulates alertness and vigilance in a person, thus resulting in increased blood pressure and heart rate. During the night, cortisol decreases in preparation for sleep. When you have higher cortisol at night, your sleep-wake cycle is disrupted resulting in poor sleep and thus also increases the propensity for stress and anxiety.
These are just some ways to help cope with stress. What coping mechanism will work for you will depend on what your stressors are. No matter what your coping style may be, as long as it works for you, there is no right or wrong!
- Kay J, Tasman A. Psychological factors affecting medical condition. In: Kay J, Tasman A, editors. Essential Psychiatry. New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons; 2006. pp. 811–22.
- Van Berkel H. The relationship between personality, coping styles and stress, anxiety and depression.https://ir.canterbury.ac.nz/handle/10092/2612.
- Carver C.S. (2014) Active Coping. In: Michalos A.C. (eds) Encyclopedia of Quality of Life and Well-Being Research. Springer, Dordrecht. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-94-007-0753-5_17
- Mikkelsen, K., Stojanovska, L., Polenakovic, M., Bosevski, M., & Apostolopoulos, V. (2017). Exercise and mental health. Maturitas, 106, 48–56. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.maturitas.2017.09.003
- Lin, N., Simeone, R. S., Ensel, W. M., & Kuo, W. (1979). Social support, stressful life events, and illness: a model and an empirical test. Journal of health and social behavior, 20(2), 108–119.