Strategies to handle stress
Tips for Coping with Stress|Publications|Violence Prevention|Injury Center|CDC
Many of us are facing challenges that can be stressful, overwhelming, and cause strong emotions in adults and children. Public health actions, such as physical distancing, can make us feel isolated and lonely and can increase stress and anxiety.
After a traumatic event, people may have strong and lingering reactions. Learning healthy ways to cope and getting the right care and support can help reduce stressful feelings and symptoms.
The symptoms may be physical or emotional. Common reactions to a stressful event can include:
- Feelings of fear, shock, anger, sadness, worry, numbness, or frustration
- Changes in appetite, energy, desires, and interests
- Difficulty sleeping or nightmares, concentrating, and making decisions
- Physical reactions, such as headaches, body pains, stomach problems, and skin rashes
- Worsening of chronic health problems
- Worsening of mental health conditions
- Increased use of tobacco, alcohol, and other substances
It is natural to feel stress, anxiety, grief, and worry during traumatic events such as mass shootings, natural disasters, or pandemics. Below are ways that you can help yourself, others, and your community manage stress.
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Healthy Ways to Cope with Stress
Feeling emotional and nervous or having trouble sleeping and eating can all be normal reactions to stress. Here are some healthy ways you can deal with stress:
- Take breaks from watching, reading, or listening to news stories, including those on social media. It’s good to be informed but hearing about the traumatic event constantly can be upsetting. Consider limiting news to just a couple of times a day and disconnecting from phone, tv, and computer screens for a while.
- Take care of yourself. Eat healthy, exercise, get plenty of sleep, and give yourself a break if you feel stressed out.
- Take care of your body.
- Take deep breaths, stretch, or meditate.
- Try to eat healthy, well-balanced meals.
- Exercise regularly.
- Get plenty of sleep.
- Avoid excessive alcohol, tobacco, and substance use.
- Continue with routine preventive measures (such as vaccinations, cancer screenings, etc.) as recommended by your healthcare provider.
- Get vaccinated against COVID-19 as soon as possible; get a booster shot if you are age 18 or older.
- Make time to unwind. Try to do some other activities you enjoy.
- Talk to others. Talk with people you trust about your concerns and how you are feeling. Share your problems and how you are feeling and coping with a parent, friend, counselor, doctor, or pastor.
- Connect with your community- or faith-based organizations.
- Avoid drugs and alcohol. These may seem to help, but they can create additional problems and increase the stress you are already feeling.
- Recognize when you need more help. If problems continue or you are thinking about suicide, talk to a psychologist, social worker, or professional counselor.
Check out Taking Care of Your Emotional Health for more information and resources.
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Helping Others Cope
Taking care of yourself can better equip you to take care of others. Helping others cope with stress through phone calls or video chats can help you and your loved ones feel less lonely or isolated.
Helping Children and Youth Cope with Stress
Children and youth often struggle with how to cope with stress. Youth can be particularly overwhelmed when their stress is connected to a traumatic event—like a natural disaster, family loss, school shootings, or community violence. Parents, caregivers, and educators can take steps to provide stability and support that help young people feel better.
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Tips for Parents and Caregivers
It is natural for children to worry when scary or stressful events happen in their lives. Talking to your children about these events can help put frightening information into a more balanced setting. Monitor what children see and hear about stressful events happening in their lives. Here are some suggestions to help children cope:
- Maintain a normal routine. Helping children wake up, go to sleep, and eat meals at regular times provide them a sense of stability.
- Talk, listen, and encourage expression. Listen to your child’s thoughts and feelings and share some of yours. After a traumatic event, it is important for children to feel they can share their feelings and that you understand their fears and worries.
- Watch and listen. Be alert for any change in behavior. Any changes in behavior may be signs that your child is having trouble and may need support.
- Stressful events can challenge a child’s sense of safety and security. Reassure your child about his or her safety and well-being. Discuss ways that you, the school, and the community are taking steps to keep them safe.
- Connect with others. Talk to other parents and your child’s teachers about ways to help your child cope. It is often helpful for parents, schools, and health professionals to work together for the well-being of all children in stressful times.
Tips for Kids and Teens
After a traumatic event, it is normal to feel anxious about your safety and security. Even if you were not directly involved, you may worry about whether this type of event may someday affect you. Check out the tips below for some ideas to help deal with these fears.
- Talk to and stay connected to others. Talking with someone you trust can help you make sense out of your experience. If you are not sure where to turn, call your local crisis intervention center or a national hotline.
- Take care of yourself. Try to get plenty of sleep, eat right, exercise, and keep a normal routine.
- Take information breaks. Pictures and stories about a disaster can increase worry and other stressful feelings. Taking breaks from the news, Internet, and conversations about the disaster can help calm you down.
Tips for School Personnel
School personnel can help their students restore their sense of safety by talking with the children about their fears. Other tips for school personnel include:
- Reach out and talk. Create opportunities to have students talk, but do not force them. You can be a model by sharing some of your own thoughts as well as correct misinformation.
- Watch and listen. Be alert for any change in behavior. Are students withdrawing from friends? Acting out? These changes may be early signs that a student is struggling and needs extra support from the school and family.
- Maintain normal routines. A regular classroom and school schedule can provide a sense of stability and safety. Encourage students to keep up with their schoolwork and extracurricular activities but do not push them if they seem overwhelmed.
- Take care of yourself. You are better able to support your students if you are healthy, coping and taking care of yourself first. Eat healthy, exercise, get plenty of sleep, and give yourself a break if you feel stressed out.
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Mental Health and Crisis
Resources and Social Support Services
- Food and Food System Resources During COVID-19 Pandemic
- Disaster Financial Assistance with Food, Housing, and Bills
- Coronavirus Resources for Renters
- US Department of Labor Coronavirus Resources
- If you are struggling to cope, there are many ways to get help. Call your healthcare provider if stress gets in the way of your daily activities for several days in a row.
- During times of extreme stress, people may have thoughts of suicide. Suicide is preventable and help is available. More about the risk of suicide, signs to watch for, and how to respond if you notice these signs in yourself or a friend or a loved one, can be found here.
- Free and confidential crisis resources can also help you or a loved one connect with a skilled, trained counselor in your area.
After a natural disaster, it’s normal to feel different and strong emotions. Coping with these feelings and getting help when you need it will help you, your family, and your community recover from a disaster. Resources to help with coping and stress after a natural disaster are available for teens as well as parents and professionals.
If you are in crisis, get immediate help:
- Call 911
- Disaster Distress Helpline: call or text 1-800-985-5990 (for Spanish, press “2”) to be connected with a trained counselor.
- Call or text 988
- Chat at 988lifeline.org
- National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-7233 or text LOVEIS to 22522
- National Child Abuse Hotline: 1-800-4AChild (1-800-422-4453) or text 1-800-422-4453
- National Sexual Assault Hotline: 1-800-656-HOPE (4673) or Online Chat
- The Eldercare Locator: 1-800-677-1116 TTY Instructions
- Veteran’s Crisis Line: 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or Crisis Chat or text: 8388255
Find a health care provider or treatment for substance use disorder and mental health
- SAMHSA’s National Helpline: 1-800-662-HELP (4357) and TTY 1-800-487-4889
- Treatment Services Locator Website
- Interactive Map of Selected Federally Qualified Health Centers
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- How Right Now
- Coping with a Disaster or Traumatic Event
- General Public: Care for Yourself [348 KB, 1 page]
- Young Adults: Care for Yourself [839 KB, 1 page]
- HHS ASPR TRACIE COVID-19 Behavioral Health Resources external icon
- Food and Food System Resources During COVID-19 Pandemic
For Families and Children
- Helping Children Cope during the Pandemic
- Helping Children Cope with Emergencies
- Coping After a Disaster [1. 9 MB, 20 pages]– A Ready Wrigley activity book for children age 3-10
- Teen Depression
- Family Caregivers: Care for Yourself [732 KB, 1 page]
- Students: Care for Yourself [688 KB, 1 page]
- Food Assistance Programs
For People at Higher Risk for Serious Illness
- Serious Illness Care Program COVID-19 Response Toolkit
- Older Adults: Care for Yourself [911 KB, 1 page]
For Healthcare Workers and First Responders
- Emergency Responders: Tips for Taking Care of Yourself
- Disaster Technical Assistance Center
- First Responders: Care for Yourself [770 KB, 1 page]
- Clinicians: Care for Yourself [685 KB, 1 page]
For Other Workers
- Working Adults: Care for Yourself [818 KB, 1 page]
- Critical Workers: Care for Yourself [719 KB, 1 page]
- Teachers: Encourage Your Students to Care for Themselves [976 KB, 1 page]
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Ways to Manage and Reduce It
Written by WebMD Editorial Contributors
In this Article
- 1. Exercise
- 2.Relax Your Muscles
- 3.Deep Breathing
- 4.Eat Well
- 5.Slow Down
- 6.Take a Break
- 7.Make Time for Hobbies
- 8.Talk About Your Problems
- 9.Go Easy On Yourself
- 10.Eliminate Your Triggers
These days it’s hard not to get overwhelmed once in a while. Between juggling work, family, and other commitments, you can become too stressed out and busy. But you need to set time aside to unwind or your mental and physical health can suffer.
Learning how to manage your stress takes practice, but you can -- and need to -- do it. Here are 10 ways to make it easier.
Working out regularly is one of the best ways to relax your body and mind. Plus, exercise will improve your mood. But you have to do it often for it to pay off.
So how much should you exercise every week?
Work up to 2 hours and 30 minutes of moderately intense exercise like brisk walks or 75 minutes of a more vigorous exercise like swimming laps, jogging or other sports.
Focus on setting fitness goals you can meet so you don’t give up. Most of all remember that doing any exercise is better than none at all.
2.Relax Your Muscles
When you’re stressed, your muscles get tense. You can help loosen them up on your own and refresh your body by:
- Enjoying a massage
- Taking a hot bath or shower
- Getting a good night’s sleep
Stopping and taking a few deep breaths can take the pressure off you right away. You’ll be surprised how much better you feel once you get good at it. Just follow these 5 steps:
- Sit in a comfortable position with your hands in your lap and your feet on the floor. Or you can lie down.
- Close your eyes.
- Imagine yourself in a relaxing place. It can be on the beach, in a beautiful field of grass, or anywhere that gives you a peaceful feeling.
- Slowly take deep breaths in and out.
- Do this for 5 to 10 minutes at a time.
Eating a regular, well-balanced diet will help you feel better in general. It may also help control your moods. Your meals should be full of vegetables, fruit, whole grains, and lean protein for energy. And don’t skip any. It’s not good for you and can put you in a bad mood, which can actually increase your stress.
Modern life is so busy, and sometimes we just need to slow down and chill out. Look at your life and find small ways you can do that. For example:
- Set your watch 5 to 10 minutes ahead. That way you’ll get places a little early and avoid the stress of being late.
- When you’re driving on the highway, switch to the slow lane so you can avoid road rage.
- Break down big jobs into smaller ones. For example, don’t try to answer all 100 emails if you don’t have to -- just answer a few of them.
6.Take a Break
You need to plan on some real downtime to give your mind time off from stress. If you’re a person who likes to set goals, this may be hard for you at first. But stick with it and you’ll look forward to these moments. Restful things you can do include:
- Tai chi
- Listening to your favorite music
- Spending time in nature
7.Make Time for Hobbies
You need to set aside time for things you enjoy. Try to do something every day that makes you feel good, and it will help relieve your stress. It doesn’t have to be a ton of time -- even 15 to 20 minutes will do. Relaxing hobbies include things like:
- Doing an art project
- Playing golf
- Watching a movie
- Doing puzzles
- Playing cards and board games
8.Talk About Your Problems
If things are bothering you, talking about them can help lower your stress. You can talk to family members, friends, a trusted clergyman, your doctor, or a therapist.
And you can also talk to yourself. It’s called self-talk and we all do it. But in order for self-talk to help reduce stress you need to make sure it’s positive and not negative.
So listen closely to what you’re thinking or saying when you’re stressed out. If you’re giving yourself a negative message, change it to a positive one. For example, don’t tell yourself “I can’t do this.” Tell yourself instead: “I can do this,” or “I’m doing the best I can.”
9.Go Easy On Yourself
Accept that you can’t do things perfectly no matter how hard you try. You also can’t control everything in your life. So do yourself a favor and stop thinking you can do so much. And don’t forget to keep up your sense of humor. Laughter goes a long way towards making you feel relaxed.
10.Eliminate Your Triggers
Figure out what are the biggest causes of stress in your life. Is it your job, your commute, your schoolwork? If you’re able to identify what they are, see if you’re able to eliminate them from your life, or at least reduce them.
If you can’t identify the main causes of your stress, try keeping a stress journal. Make note of when you become most anxious and see if you can determine a pattern, then find ways to remove or lessen those triggers.
Health & Balance Guide
- A Balanced Life
- Take It Easy
- CAM Treatments
The best stress management strategyThe best stress management strategy | Big Ideas Personal qualities and skills
Article published in Harvard Business Review Russia Peter Bregman
Imagine that you are in the Bahamas, rocking on a yacht, drinking a cool cocktail and listening to the sound of the waves.
Relaxing atmosphere, isn't it? But not for my friend Rob*.
Generally, Rob doesn't worry. For many people, his daily job would be terribly stressful - he is in real estate and has to deal with a huge number of continuous problems, with tenants, with banks, with lawsuits, with property management, with an ever-changing market situation. But Rob faces these challenges day in and day out and doesn't lose his composure.
Why is he nervous on such a beautiful day on his own yacht? For the same reason most of us get nervous: disappointed expectations. Rob needed to make a very important phone call, but his cell phone was not working. He found himself caught between what was supposed to happen according to his plan and what actually happened.
This is the main cause of stress, affecting us more and more every day, because our expectations are constantly rising, partly due to unprecedented innovations in technology.
In a sparkling interview with Conan O'Brien, comedian Louis C.K. said that even when everything is perfect at a particular moment, no one is happy. He shared a story about how he flew on an airplane and, for the first time in his life, used the Internet at an altitude of ten thousand meters. He was shocked! The person sitting in the same row with him was also happily surfing the World Wide Web, when suddenly the connection was cut off. The man started throwing his hands up in the sky and yelling, “What the hell? It's all nonsense!
"As it quickly turned out, the universe owes him something that he was sure existed 10 seconds ago," commented Louis C.K. I myself fall into this trap, as do most of the people around me. We expect more and more, not only from technology, but from each other and from ourselves.
Usually Rob is calm and relaxed in the face of his constant problems - precisely because they are constant. He is waiting for them. Tenants always complain. Banks are always short on information. Lawsuits happen. The market situation is changing. All these phenomena are routine, and he has routine reactions to each of them, so he does not fall into stress.
But on that sunny day on his own yacht, he expected his cell phone to work. And when it turned out that there was no signal, and, given the distance from the coast, there was no other way to contact the person he needed, unfulfilled expectations led Rob to a stressful state.
So what do you do about disappointment and stress caused by unfulfilled expectations? You have two options: either you change the reality around you, or you change your expectations.
There are situations when it is possible to change reality. Does your subordinate constantly piss you off?
Try to help him work better. If it doesn't work, you can fire him.
But it often happens that the surrounding reality is not easy to change. What if it’s not a subordinate who disappoints you, but a colleague? Or even an entire department? You can't fire everyone. Of course, you can just stop working with them, but you can hardly afford it. You can quit yourself, but this, in turn, is fraught with new stresses.
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Recently Pro Business wrote what stages of stress exist and how to recognize each of them. This time, psychologist Elena Solodkaya will talk about the possibilities of dealing with stress.
— We all sometimes find ourselves in difficult situations and at the very least psychologically cope with them. Sometimes it's bad, sometimes it's poor. And how to cope "in a rich way"?
Stress is an acute discomfort that occurs when our physical, personal and social well-being is threatened. But it is not the danger itself that is fundamentally important (it can just invigorate and mobilize), but the lack of resources to overcome it. For example, there is a check at work tomorrow, and the documents on transactions for the past month are in complete disarray and there is simply no time to fix it.
As a result, the first reaction will be excitement, selfless throwing at the embrasure and extinguishing the fire from all hoses. In our case, the manager will sit at work all night, frantically trying to put the documents in order. Then, if it was not possible to solve the situation with a swoop (the check was delayed), a dull addiction sets in. And if the situation cannot be resolved (you are the leader in the organization being checked and, therefore, it will be difficult to fire you just like that), sooner or later exhaustion comes and you begin to "take" resources from areas that were not at all intended for this - lash out at loved ones, get sick, lose pleasure and taste for life.
What are coping strategies and how do they work
American psychologist Richard Lazarius created a whole theory about coping strategies - the so-called coping strategies.
The concept of "coping" (from the English "to coping" - cope, endure) is translated in Russian-speaking psychology as "coping behavior" (from the old Russian "lad", "cope", i.e. "cope", "bring to order”, “subjugate circumstances”). Usually, coping strategies are understood as conscious and purposeful efforts of an individual to resolve conflicts and fight their emotional background - anxiety and tension.
There are two main styles of behavior in a stressful situation.
1. Problem oriented. The main goal is a rational analysis of the problem, the creation and implementation of a plan for resolving a difficult situation, seeking help, finding additional information, etc.
2. Subjectively oriented. His features are an emotional response to the situation, attempts not to think about the problem, involving others in his experiences, the use of alcohol, drugs, etc. As a rule, it is characterized by a naive, infantile assessment of what is happening.
At first glance, in overcoming stress, only the struggle with the source of the problem is effective. However, it happens that forces are not equal - we do not have enough resources to radically change the situation. Then attempts to adequately work with the source of trouble may not work. And instead of "beat" ("act"), the reaction "freeze" or "run" can go. That is, we can act not directly, not on the source of the problem, but indirectly - change its cognitive perception (that is, its formulation) and our own emotional state.
The most famous and popular emotionally adaptive (i.e., effective in dealing with stress) coping strategy of this kind is “you can’t change the situation, change your attitude towards it.” Well, the stories about sitting on the shore waiting for the corpses of enemies floating past are from the same series.
But seriously, emotional-cognitive coping can also give positive results.
So, in the cognitive sphere constructive reactions are:
- Active processing of problems
- Adaptation (in the form of a search for new resources and options for changing the situation)
The following are considered less effective, but still relatively adaptive:
Non-adaptive forms in the cognitive sphere - distraction and switching thoughts to others, ignoring a difficult situation, refusing to overcome difficulties.Photo from the MEGOGO Facebook page
In the emotional sphere is called adaptive forms:
- Self-control and resulting balance
It is easy to see that all these forms of coping, although they do not directly affect the environment, but help to preserve and increase their own resources - peace of mind, a sound mind, a cold-blooded look at the problem. And there, you see, the situation may change by itself, or the accumulated information and determination will be enough to move on to the phase of active actions aimed at its transformation.
Emotional unloading and reaction of feelings can also be considered conditionally adaptive. The latter is usually understood as an expression of the accumulated emotional burden in some convenient place and form. In a conversation with friends and relatives, while playing sports, art, in a psychologist's office ... That is, in situations where our emotionality is appropriate and supported.
But suppression of emotions, resignation, fatalism, self-blame are clearly maladaptive strategies.
Cognitive and emotionally-oriented coping is especially appropriate if the source of stress is not entirely clear or there are several disturbing situations at once - for example, both at work and at home. Then the achievement of emotional balance and the search for new views on the situation becomes a preliminary and necessary stage in the transformation of the problem.
It is important not to forget about the main quality of coping - awareness. The distinction between conscious and unconscious ways of coping with stress, in my opinion, is useful, but rather conditional. As people say, a good thought comes later. And all the fullness of awareness can appear only "in hindsight".
Clarified that coping strategies are purposeful and conscious actions. But what uncontrollably slips by itself is psychological defenses .
Thus, the following characteristics of conscious adaptation (coping) are distinguished:
- Plasticity and adaptability to the situation
- Acceptance of "Later Effect" (working on long-term strategic goals)
- Realistic perception of self and situation
This can be learned. For example, in the cases we are considering (unwillingness to check), the following behavior will be effective:
- Highlight significant (including in the long term) goals
- Objectively (and therefore - weighed and calmly) evaluate resources
- Consider the possibility of attracting additional resources (ask for help, work on some of your qualities and habits)
- Initiate priority tasks
Accordingly, the characteristics of unconscious behavioral reactions (psychological defenses) will be as follows:
- Not amenable to self-control and management
- Inertia (rigid and not adapted to the requirements of the situation)
- Aimed at immediate removal of the emotional stress that has arisen
- Do not assume thoughts about prospects
- There is a distorted perception of reality and oneself
This may be, for example, an attempt to distract. Socially - to start helping colleagues or relatives, "chemically" - to use alcohol or other substances, emotionally - to anything that can cause strong feelings. Or expect the problem to resolve itself. Or blame yourself and others: “I’m not ready”, “I can’t”, “I can’t do anything” - and so on, until the time for a potential change in the situation runs out.
As a summary
You can read about ten times how wonderful coping strategies are, but whether you remember them at the right moment is a big question. From all this it is clear that coping with stress is an important science.
What do you recommend?
1. Work on becoming aware of your unconscious defenses. It's difficult, but possible. How? After all, it is clear that these invisible rakes do not accidentally fall out of our sight. Therefore, if the situation has gone far and states of anxiety and / or confusion have begun to appear more and more often, you need to contact a specialist.
2. If you have already figured out who you are and what you want from life, you can work on the coping strategies themselves: increase their flexibility, efficiency, and diversify the assortment.