Everyone deals with some amount of stress from time to time, but stress can easily spiral out of control and begin to take hold of your daily life. When stress starts to pile up, you can feel more anxious, depressed, or even physically ill, and you may also feel hopeless as you try to cope with your stressors and fail to find adequate solutions. Often, people will turn to unhealthy means like drugs, alcohol, impulsive behavior, over- or under-sleeping, or binge eating to handle stress, but these strategies will only worsen the problem and cause further health concerns.
While you can't have complete control over every factor that contributes to your stress, you can find healthier alternatives to negative coping mechanisms so you’re better equipped to face daily challenges and avoid the trap of anxiety, depression, and related behavioral issues.
Know the Signs of a Problem
It can be tough to recognize when you are under too much stress and need help. You may find that you reach for junk food more often without thinking, or that you lose your temper easily in tense situations. Paying attention to your behavior—and being willing to listen when someone close to you points out changes in your behavior—will be an important step in tackling the issue at hand.
Ask for Help
Even if you recognize a stress problem, you might not know where to turn to find coping strategies. Speaking with a therapist is a good first step, because there may be many psychological influencers at play, and you may have some lingering baggage that you need to sort through in therapy sessions. You can also find help from your primary care physician or a close friend—just remember that talking about your stress with someone else can help you avoid bottling it up and letting it get worse.
Replace Negative Thoughts with Positive Ones
One of the strategies you may learn by visiting a therapist is cognitive behavior therapy, which involves recognizing negative thoughts and replacing them with more positive thought patterns. For example, when you feel yourself thinking that you are scared or unfit to take on a challenge, it can be helpful to replace that thought with a positive affirmation. Simply stating “I can handle this” may be enough to change your pattern of thinking and relieve the self-doubt that piles on your stress.
Identify Stressors that You Can’t Control
A common mistake in stress management is trying to control things that are uncontrollable. You may not be able to immediately fix your financial wellbeing or make your mother-in-law any more pleasant to talk to, but you can change how you approach these stress-inducing situations. Don’t hesitate to express your feelings to people who cause you stress when the time is right. You can also reframe problems to view them as opportunities. For example, if you are unable to afford a family vacation, take the time to explore your home town by discovering nearby nature attractions or attending free local events, which are particularly abundant around the holidays.
Incorporate More Exercise
Stress is agitating, but you can use the negative energy that it gives you to accomplish something positive. Rhythmic exercise like running, swimming, or dancing can be particularly therapeutic, and these activities will give you somewhere to channel your energy so you can better reduce the urges for impulsive behaviors you may regret later on.
It isn’t always easy to find the time to take care of yourself, which is why MeMD now offers convenient and private therapy sessions online. This way, you can find the help you need without adding even more tasks to your daily schedule.