Stress is our body’s way of preparing to meet a difficult situation. Our stress response helps enhance our ability to work well under pressure, but it can be problematic when it overreacts or fails to turn off and reset. Chronic stress can potentially take a toll on our mental and physical health but having a “toolkit” of strategies can help us manage it. It can be beneficial to approach stress in a holistic way that includes action-oriented, acceptance-oriented, and emotion-oriented techniques.
Action Oriented Approach: We may have the urge to bury our heads in the sand when overwhelmed, but avoidant coping usually increases stress and anxiety as pressures mount. An action-oriented approach involves identifying our stressors and developing strategies to reduce them. For example, managing our time more effectively can help structure and prioritize the shape of our workday, while incorporating time for relaxation, social opportunities (or time alone), and sleep – habits crucial to self-care.
Emotion-Oriented Approach: Stress is often in the eye of the beholder. Emotion-oriented approaches focus on our thinking and our perception of difficult situations and how well we are able to handle them. It’s important for us to become more conscious of our unhelpful thought patterns, whether it be catastrophizing minor events or looking at situations through a negative filter. Although our thinking patterns may be deeply conditioned, awareness of these patterns creates the opportunity to restructure them. Generally, the more optimistic our thinking and beliefs are, the more positive the outcome.
Acceptance-Oriented Approaches: What if all else fails and we are not able to change the situation? We may want to adopt the acceptance-oriented approaches which involve taking care of our mind, body, and spirit in the face of adversity. Focus on your self-care by paying attention to healthy sleep, exercise, and nutrition habits.
Remember, there is no one right way to manage stress and what may work some days may not work others. For these reasons, it’s essential to have an assortment of stress relief tools we can draw upon. For more information on the above approaches and more detailed coping strategies, check out the Stress Busters Workbook.
MindTools (2010). Stress busters workbook. Mind Tools Ltd. Retrieved from https://trio.dixie.edu/wp-content/uploads/sites/19/2015/06/StressBusters.pdf