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5 Simple Ways to Cope With Stress

5 Simple Ways to Cope With Stress

You can’t control every stressor. But with these smart strategies, you can influence how they affect you.

It’s no secret that being stressed out most of the time can take a toll on your body and mind. In fact, chronic stress may lead to or worsen muscle pain, headaches, gastrointestinal troubles, cardiovascular problems and immune system issues, not to mention anxiety disorders and depression. 

While you may not be able to control your stressors, you can take steps to better deal with them—and help protect your health in the process. Try these accessible strategies for easing everyday tension.

Pinpoint what stresses you out
We all have triggers for stress, whether they're events, tasks or even people. The Sharecare app (for iOS and Android) can help you identify those stressors. It offers an easy way to track your stress levels and help you figure out what makes you most anxious. 

You can also write a list of your triggers and devise problem-solving strategies for the things you’ve itemized. For instance, if you repeatedly lose your keys or your phone, keep a checklist handy for every time you leave a location. Taking an extra minute to scan your surroundings can save you a morning of stress.

Take care of yourself 
Me Time isn’t necessarily spent in solitude, apart from others. Instead, it’s often simply taking time for activities you enjoy and organizing your life around your personal priorities.

To help this along, try writing a list every morning of five positive things you can accomplish during the day. One may be finishing a reasonably sized task. Another may be completing your workout. Make sure to include at least one or two items you really enjoy that are easy to accomplish, like spending 30 minutes with your significant other or chatting with a friend.

Have a coping mechanism you can access quickly 
According to the American Psychological Association’s 2017 Stress in America survey, about half of Americans listen to music or exercise to relieve stress. Around 30 percent of Americans pray and about 10 percent meditate or do yoga. 

When you need a moment away, figure out a quick version of these coping mechanisms you can access. For instance, a few stretches may not give you as much relief as a full yoga routine, but the mini version can be done from your work space when you need a moment.

Address the physical causes of stress
We think and react better when we feel physically well. Sometimes, we’re stressed out because of unmet physical needs that are actually in our grasp to fulfill. These may include getting more sleepeating a balanced diet or exercising more.

To help you get the recommended seven to nine hours of shut-eye per night, think about why you’re not drifting off—and take steps to improve. Are you eating too close to bedtime? Could you play calming music or read a book to quiet your mind? Would turning your phone or television off help you fall asleep?

Rather than overhaul your entire routine, make smaller changes until you find behaviors that work for you—and then repeat them until they become habits.

Reach out for help from others
Talking to friends and family when you have a problem can provide a new perspective and even help you find a solution. For example, if work is stressing you out, check in with coworkers to discuss fine-tuning your process. 

If the problem is more complex or you suspect you may have an issue like anxiety or depression, you may want to seek additional help. A mental health professional can help you learn new coping techniques or determine if medication may benefit you.

Stress affects all of us. But with a few simple strategies and coping mechanisms, you can live a happier, more relaxed life.

Medically reviewed in October 2020. Updated in December 2020.

Sources:

Ortego G, Villafañe JH, Doménech-García V, Berjano P, Bertozzi L, Herrero P. "Is there a relationship between psychological stress or anxiety and chronic nonspecific neck-arm pain in adults? A systematic review and meta-analysis." J Psychosom Res. 2016;90:70-81.
Shields GS, Spahr CM, Slavich GM. "Psychosocial Interventions and Immune System Function: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis of Randomized Clinical Trials." JAMA Psychiatry. June 2020.
Liu M-Y, Li N, Li WA, Khan H. "Association between psychosocial stress and hypertension: a systematic review and meta-analysis." Neurol Res. 2017;39(6):573-580.
Labanski A, Langhorst J, Engler H, Elsenbruch S. "Stress and the brain-gut axis in functional and chronic-inflammatory gastrointestinal diseases: A transdisciplinary challenge." Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2020;111:104501.
Sun Y, Li L, Xie R, Wang B, Jiang K, Cao H. "Stress triggers flare of inflammatory bowel disease in children and adults." Front Pediatr. 2019;7:432.
Kim H-G, Cheon E-J, Bai D-S, Lee YH, Koo B-H. "Stress and Heart Rate Variability: A Meta-Analysis and Review of the Literature." Psychiatry Investig. 2018;15(3):235-245.
Renna ME, O’Toole MS, Spaeth PE, Lekander M, Mennin DS. "The association between anxiety, traumatic stress, and obsessive-compulsive disorders and chronic inflammation: A systematic review and meta-analysis." Depress Anxiety. 2018;35(11):1081-1094.
American Psychological Association. "Stress in America: The State of Our Nation." Stress in America Survey. 2017.
Abdallah CG, Geha P. "Chronic pain and chronic stress: two sides of the same coin?" Chronic Stress (Thousand Oaks). 2017;1.

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