What are your stress coping strategies?
Jacob Devaney has written an excellent article on stress and how it will be effectively released from the body.
Devaney’s discussion however focused on the biological aspect of stress. Although biology is a predictor of stress , it is not limited on this realm.
Without a doubt Devaney’s article provides a straightforward and informative discussion.
However it does not tackle other coping strategies.
The article limits itself in the biological perspective and offers few therapeutic techniques.
However, stress is not a product of a single predictor but at least more than what is being discussed in the previous article. Thus the approach must also be numerous.
It is understandable that the article “How to Release the Stress Stores in our Bodies” main purpose is to discuss the biology of stress.
Thus the therapeutic technique also pertains to physical or tangible approaches.
This article of mine however does not aim to criticize the validity and integrity of Devaney’s work.
Instead, its main purpose is to provide additional alternatives on understanding and reducing stress.
Having said that, I would like to discuss some of the most helpful approaches to reduce stress.
These multiple approaches include both biological and psychological approaches.
I believe that by discussing multiple approaches we will be able to fully understand the dynamics of the phenomenon.
To develop a clear view on stress, let me define stress first.
What is stress?
David G. Myers, the author of Psychology book, defined stress as “the whole process by which we appraise and respond to events (threatening events) called stressors that threaten or challenge us”.
Stressors can be of many forms depending on the context or circumstance we are in.
Athletes, ordinary employees, managers, supervisors, military personnel and teachers have different types of stressors and stress level.
Stress is not always bad. There’s a good one.
Good stress is called the “eustress”. This type of stress allows us to be vigilant, be able to appropriately respond to a situation (e.g. job promotion, passed the examination) and to avoid the possible danger.
A bad stress is called “distress”. This kind of stress happens when the stressors impair some if not the overall capacity of a person to perform a given task.
The body of empirical researches are quite consistent on their findings on the effect of stress in the body.
The consensus data suggest that stress, if not handled properly, will cause several types of sickness.
The effect is not limited to biological aspect but also on our psychological dimension.
Some of the most evident biological effects of stress are heart disease and cancer.
Aside from heart disease and cancer, stress can also negatively affect the respiratory system. It makes breathing harder.
Although this may not cause problem for most people, those who have asthma or other lung disease may suffer from hard breathing.
Stress can also affect reproductive systems of both male and female. It can affect testosterone and sperm production and its maturation, and impotence on males.
On females, stress can cause irregular menstrual cycle and painful menstruation.
Above all, women may become less interested in sexual activity.
The effect of stress on the psychological aspect are also many.
Stress can lead to a more problematic state called depression, anxiety disorders, problem in cognitive functioning, and the most popular is personality changes.
Personality changes may involve the following:
- Socially withdrawn
- Inability to communicate well
- Reduced self-efficacy
The different kinds of stress
Acute Stress – it happens when we experience exceptionally or novelty threatening or somewhat undesirable situation.
During acute stress, the body releases hormones that help us alert and sometimes hyperactive.
At this moment you would hear your own heart beat getting fast and loud.
Episodic Stress – it is a frequent experience of acute stress.
This type of stress is mostly observed among individuals who have Type A personality.
People with Type A behavior are overly competitive, aggressive, demanding and sometimes, hostile.
Chronic Stress – is a type of stress that results from a repeated exposure to a threatening situation.
Like acute stress, chronic stress also causes increasing heartbeat, blood pressure, blood sugar, etc.
Stress coping strategies
There are many effective ways of coping stress that involve physical or tangible techniques.
- Aerobic exercise
- Social Support
- Healthy eating
In addition, there are other proven effective stress coping strategies that we can use.
These approaches are psychological rather than tangible and physical.
In line with these approaches, Cohen and Lazarus identified five stress coping strategies:
Direct action response. In this strategy an individual tend to decide whether to engage or flee from the stressor.
Information seeking. In this strategy, an individual tries to evaluate or examine situation to have better understanding on the stressor.
This helps individuals to help predict the possible reoccurrence of the event in the future.
Inhibition of action. Here an individual refrains himself/herself from taking actions in response to the stressor.
This strategy often works on situations that do not last for a long period of time.
Intrapsychic or palliative coping. This strategy involves modification of internal state.
Individuals use defense mechanisms, or engage in several behavioral practices such as alcohol drinking, use of illegal drugs, relaxation and meditation to reduce stress.
Turning to others for help. This strategy involves seeking support from other people such as friends and relatives.
Most stress coping strategies discussed above require time to implement. What if you need immediate response to the stressor?
Fortunately, there are several stress coping mechanisms that you can apply to instant situations.
Below are the eight major coping mechanisms you can use to reduce stress related to your job, school activities, relationship, etc.:
Objectivity – this involves separating negative thoughts from good thoughts. This allows you to have clear understanding on the issue at hand.
As a result, you can be objective enough to design appropriate actions.
Logical analysis – the systematic analysis of the problem at hand allows you to have realistic plans that may lead to effective solution.
Concentration – the ability to ignore disturbing thoughts and feelings in order to focus on the task at hand.
Empathy – the ability to predict and analyse other people’s actions and feelings so that your actions will be aligned with other people’s feelings.
Playfulness – “the ability to use past feelings, ideas and behavior appropriately to enrich the solution of problems and to add enjoyment to life”.
Tolerance of ambiguity – the ability to handle the ambiguous situation and to formulate clear and effective solutions even in complicated situations.
Suppression – the ability to hold one’s emotion and thoughts and be able to wait appropriate time to express such emotions.
Substitution of thoughts and emotions – the ability to consciously change or substitute negative thoughts with positive ones in order to meet the demands of the situations.
Stress in academic settings
The study of Gladys Nakalema and Joseph Ssenyonga (2013) entitled “Academic Stress: Its Causes and Results at a Ugandan University” suggests that stress is negatively affecting the overall academic life of university students.
The stressors of college students are numerous. It includes absence from home, pressure to meet new friends, academic pressures and many more.
The question is what university students can do in order to reduce or cure their stress?
Below are some of the effective techniques to reduce stress among college students (or high school students).
Stress coping strategies among students:
1. Assess stressors and change your responses. This process involves evaluating what makes you stressful and to understand them.
Once you find what causes your stress, focus on it.
The next phase is to change your responses. Try to remain calm and focused during stressful situation.
This will allow you to act appropriately and effectively.
2. Find people who understand you (e.g. family members, friends, classmates, or school counsellors). Social support is one of the most effective ways of coping stress.
3. Learn to laugh. Laughing is the most effective medicine.
Previous scientific studies had found that laughing promotes positive well-being and healthy body. Good news is it’s free!
4. Plan your school activities. Planning is very important in students’ lives.
If you plan all your academic works, you will smoothly sail in your academic journey.
Students who do not plan are most likely cram during exams and deadlines.
Be cautious, cramming is not only bad for your grades; it also affects your health.
5. Relax. Too much of good thing is bad thing. You’re not a robot. Your body needs time to recover all the energy that you spent.
Have a break.
6. Eat healthy foods. Most of the time, students consume instant foods (instant coffee, instant noodles, etc.).
Instant foods are not healthy. Eating those kinds of foods can cause another harm to your body.
7. Mange your finances. Learn the art of frugality. Spend your money only on important needs not wants.
8. Develop mindfulness. This involves interacting with your environment, focusing on positive emotions, and objective reasoning.
We all experience stress at some point of our lives if not all the time. It is the result of our cognitive evaluation on everything that happens around us.
People who most of the time view things negatively are the people who have high level of stress. Thus, stress is a result of negative thinking.
Stress is manageable and can be avoided or reduced simply by adjusting or changing our way of thinking.
We all might see the same thing or event but interpret it differently. Some have positive view, while others’ negative.
To avoid stress, change your way of seeing things. Try to find positive side of a negative event. Don’t focus on its negativity because it’s already negative.
Instead, view it using other lens and you’ll see that what makes negative things negative, is your mind.
You are the only one who colors everything that surrounds you.
YOU are the only cure!
The ultimate solution to your stress is you.