How do you cope with stress?
Different ways to approach stress; and tips on coping. Are you an 'Avoider' or a 'Stresser'?
Some researchers have suggested that there are two main ways to cope with stress – one way is to just get away from it all, and the other way is to worry and try to get the situation resolved as soon as possible. Some people are clearly one type or another, while others use a combination of both approaches throughout the course of their daily lives.
People who take this approach block out stress by blocking out their environment. This approach can help, but sometimes leads to denial and suppression. It can also be part of a tactic to avoid decision-making. Some people block out their environment by using drugs or alcohol, so it is important to make sure you use healthier ways to avoid stress.
- Healthy ways to block out stress include meditation, reading, taking a hot bath, or going for a run. See our range of fact sheets on complementary therapies for more information on ways to relax.
- You may need to learn to be more aware of your body’s responses to stress, in order to alleviate them or understand more about what causes you stress.
- You may also need help from a therapist if there are stresses that you cannot ignore, such as the death of someone close to you or losing a job, or if you are in denial or suppressing your worries.
Many people who take this approach tend to worry and may be highly strung. They may get upset in situations they can’t control. If you think you may fall into this category, or if you know you need to deal with a situation you would normally avoid thinking about, see the tips below on how to manage your stress:
- Write down your worries. Allow yourself a set time to go over them and think of solutions for them one at a time – some problems need attention as they will not go away on their own. When the time period you have set is over, put aside your worries until the next time period.
- You may be aware of physical symptoms such as tension in your muscles, or butterflies in your stomach. You can exercise to help with these, but it may be best to choose a sport that requires concentration - more relaxing forms of exercise such as swimming and yoga will allow you to continue brooding about your concerns.
- If you notice that you are more irritable with others than usual, try taking some time out when you feel yourself beginning to lose control. You could try explaining to them that you are currently under pressure and that you don’t mean to fly off the handle at them. This may help you regain control and also help them to be more understanding and supportive of you when you need it.
Are there any general tips on coping with stress?
There are many things that we all need on a daily basis in order to reduce the symptoms of stress. These include ensuring we have enough sleep; eating a balanced diet; not smoking or drinking too much; cutting down on caffeine or seeking alternatives such as hot ginger drinks or other natural remedies; and making sure we play for about 4-6 hours of the week – this could be sports, doing a hobby such as painting or pottery, or just spending time doing not much either alone or with friends, but whatever it is, it should be something that you are committed to and that you look forward to. Make sure that you view these things as a high priority – as high as or higher than work or other commitments.
Should I seek help from a professional?
If you are finding that stress is beginning to take over your life, you could visit your GP and/or a complementary therapist on how to cope with symptoms and reduce levels of stress in your life. You may be referred by your GP to a counsellor to help your work through some of your problems. You may also find it helpful to speak with your manager at work if your problems are work-related, as they have a legal duty to protect you from any health or safety risks arising from work-related stress.
For more information on coping with stress, see
- Our coping with stress factsheet
- The 'Dealing with my stress' section of the Health and Safety Executives website
- Anxiety UK have a good page on Stress with guides, publications and advice
- Stressedout.org has this Stress and the City eBook [PDF]