I work with many clients who are under a great deal amount of stress which leads them to either feel anxious and/or depressed. My job as their clinical therapist is to better understand why the client is stressed and then to provide coping strategies to better manage their stress.
I recently read an article from The New York Times, that touched on this very topic, “How to Be Better at Stress” by author Tara Parker-Pope. Below are Tara’s key points about how to better manage stress.
- Stress Exposure. While it may sound silly, one very efficient way to better manage stress is to expose yourself to it. Scientists refer this to as “stress inoculation” which is similar to getting exposed to a virus. Once you have a virus, you will likely be less affected by it the second time you get it. The same is true for stress. Below are three small phases of stress inoculation.
- Education. Educating yourself about the stress is helpful. For example, if you are going through a break up, talk to others (who you trust) who have also experienced a break up in the past. The more you know about the topic, the more you likely will be prepared for how to manage it.
- Rehearsal. Putting yourself in the similar situation can help reduce the stress you may be experiencing. For example, I personally used to hate public speaking in school, so I would practice public speaking among my friends before my presentation. Getting a small dosage of the exposure of what the stressor was, helped me feel less stressed when presenting among my classmates in school.
- Implement. The final stage would be to implement both the education and rehearsal and embracing the stressful situation. If you avoid the stressful situation, it will likely make you feel more stressed about it. The same idea would be similar to any sort of firefighter, police man, doctor, or nurse type of careers. They train those helping professionals by exposing them to a similar case prior to them doing it on their own. For example, when a house is on fire, the fire fighters are fully prepared to do their job successfully due to being in a similar type of environment prior to then with extensive training.
- Resilience. Practicing resilience is another key component in practicing coping with stress. In the book, “Resilience: The Science of Mastering Life’s Greatest Challenges” by Dr. Steven M Southwick and Dr. Charney, they came up with a number of wonderful suggestions about ways to practice resilience to help you better manage stress. Below are a few ideas of theirs I find to be most helpful.
- Optimism. People have choices everyday whether they want to subscribe to optimism or pessimism. When subscribing to optimism, it can help you better be able to adapt to a stressful situation.
- Positive role model. When we see other people who have faced adversity, not only can it inspire us, but can help us look at what type of actions and values of theirs they implemented, to then help us better manage our stress when faced with a similar experience.
- Social Support. I frequently encourage clients to reach out to their trusted support systems when feeling stressed, whether it is their partner, family, friends, or colleagues. Reaching out to others helps make a stressful situation more manageable.
- Body Movement. There is a huge connection between a healthy body and a healthy mind. When we move our body, it not only relieves stress, but helps us feel happier due to the endorphins.
Part 2 of this blog post will further discuss the importance of body movement and how exercising your mind (through meditation, journaling, and breathing techniques) can help reduce the impact stress has on us.