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good and bad ways to deal with stress
Health,  Healthy Living,  self-care,  Stress

Chronic Stress: Unhealthy and Healthy Coping Skills

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Today is National Stress Awareness Day which is held on the first Wednesday of every November. Today is an opportunity to recognize and reduce the chronic stress factors in your life. I have published 2 posts about stress and how to deal — this is the second. Here is the link to the first.

15 Unhealthy Coping Methods

Your world is full of stressors. Exposure to long-term stress can alter your genes, increase inflammation in the body, and cause a wide variety of serious health issues that affect the body and mind.

Learning how to cope with chronic stress in healthy ways is vital to reducing and managing stress. However, there is a variety of unhealthy methods that people use to cope that they may not even realize that they’re doing.

1. Vices

For the purposes of this list, vices include drinking, smoking, and general substance abuse, none of which actually alleviate stress levels.

When you’re under stress, it may seem like that extra cigarette is relaxing you and making you feel better, but… it’s not. Just like alcohol and drugs, cigarettes provide temporary relief from your stress, and once it wears off you just need another hit to get that state back.

In truth, these habits have a serious impact on your long-term health and increase your risk of depression, anxiety, and a host of physical diseases. According to one study, those who are under chronic stress are at greater risk of addiction. Falling into this cycle will do nothing to benefit you and will only cause more problems that will need to be dealt with in the future.

2. Denial: What Problem?

Denial is not a stress management tool. In fact, it often causes more harm than good, since ignoring your stress only makes it worse. Managing it is the only way to properly get things under control.

There’s a difference between taking a mental health time-out and avoiding the situation. If you ignore the issues, you won’t process them nor will you understand what you’re actually dealing with. The best way to handle this type of situation is by putting a plan in place and acting on it to relieve your stress.

3. Stress Eating

Food often serves as a crutch, much like the vices we mentioned above. While food may provide you with relief initially, it can spiral out of control quickly. The reason for this is that your mind (and your body) starts to associate eating with the negative emotions you experience (because that’s when you indulge) so you’re intensifying those emotions.

Do you reach for a snack every time you experience a bit of sadness, anger, or stress? This can fuel obesity, increase the risk of heart disease and stroke, and cause a variety of gastrointestinal issues.

4. Feeding The Negativity

Lots of people will immediately think of the worst-case scenario when they experience an issue that’s particularly upsetting. However, it will only intensify your stress levels if you have the tendency to blow things out of proportion.

When you feel stressed out, it’s easier to look through a negative lens and feed negative self-talk. Remedy this by changing your tone with yourself, and adjust your self-talk to a tone you would use with a close friend going through struggles instead.

5. Compulsive Spending

When you are chronically stressed, you feel that there’s a void inside you that needs to be filled. One of the ways people fill it is with retail therapy. There’s a stark difference between a small pick-me-up gift for yourself and spending money on things that you don’t need or have the money to afford. This increases financial difficulties, which is another stressor that will only fuel your stress.

6. Going Into Hibernation

While there may be something comforting in the thought of building a fort of pillows and blankets to hide behind, it’s certainly not the most effective way to handle stress. You may feel like you need to catch up on sleep but oversleeping can just fuel your exhaustion.

In fact, according to one study, there’s a link between oversleeping and a high BMI, which of course, increases risks of diabetes and heart disease. All of which will exacerbate the stress you are already experiencing.

Other Unhealthy Ways to Deal with Stress

  • Self-criticizing
  • Nail-biting
  • Angry or violent outbursts and abuse of others
  • Not eating
  • Surviving on coffee
  • Yelling at co-workers, employees, kids, spouse, or friends
  • Social isolation
  • Sitting too much instead of engaging in physical movement
  • Using recreational drugs or abusing mood-altering prescription medication.

These are some bad ways to cope with stress — the next section covers some good ones.

7 Healthy Coping Skills

In the previous section of this post, we saw some bad ways to deal with chronic stress. In this section, it’s important that you know how to cope with chronic stress appropriately.

1. Positive Thinking

Are you a glass-half-full type of person? Or, do you see the glass as half empty? As it turns out your proclivity for optimism or pessimism might just be having an impact on your quality of life.

The optimistic among us are far more proficient in dealing with life’s stressful situations, which reduces how stress affects them.

2. Managing Your Emotional Response

It’s impossible to eliminate every stressor in your life, but what you can do is develop positive coping strategies to deal with the stress that you can’t get rid of.

Just remember this – the stress is your body’s response to something, not something in and of itself. This should make it easier to identify positive coping strategies. It’s all about managing your response to the stress you experience, rather than trying to micromanage the stress that you experience.

3. Time Management

A key skill in managing stress is managing time, this means prioritizing your schedule and responsibilities, using your time wisely and making sure there is time for rest and relaxation.

Do you find it difficult to say no to anyone who asks you for help, or asks a favor of you? This type of behavior could be fueling your stress directly because every time you say yes, something else is impacted. It always results in more stress, so you need to learn how to manage your time effectively and take me time without feeling bad about it.

4. Work-Life Balance

It might not be easy to strike a balance between the work, home, and relaxation parts of your life. But it’s a necessity if you want to live a stress-free life. This can be even more complicated for those who are caring for aging relatives, dealing with relationship strife, or experience financial problems. It makes it more difficult to focus on work.

Whether your problem is that you focus on work too much (or not enough), when you learn how to strike a balance it will mitigate your stress and its harmful effects.

5. Meditation

There is a variety of techniques for meditation, which means you are more than likely to find one that you feel comfortable with. It not only helps to calm your racing mind; meditation also relieves stress. It allows you to focus your attention on breathing (or a calming image) and just be still and at peace with yourself.

6. Stay The Course

If you have previously turned to unhealthy coping methods don’t lose hope if you have a slip-up. It isn’t the end of the world if you pick up a cigarette or have a drink, but don’t allow them to creep back in as a habit. Instead, focus on how you can regain control.

7. Use Your Social Network

Your social network provides support through the most stressful times. It isn’t a support group where you share your problems with others struggling with the same thing, it’s your friends and family. Simple things like a chat on the telephone, grabbing coffee with a friend, or going out to the movies with your family bolsters your personal relationships and offers respite when you’re under stress.

Bottom Line

It’s easy to see why people slip into unhealthy ways, they are often easier and quicker fixes. However, there are plenty of ways you can cope with your chronic stress issues in a healthy manner. They may take a bit of effort, but they are far more effective than unhealthy alternatives.

Loving Life — The Reboot!

Dominique

This article provides general information and discussion about health and related subjects. The information and other content provided in this article, or in any linked materials, are not intended and should not be construed as medical advice. Consult your own physician for any medical issues that you may be having.

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