Step 3 – Learning stress management techniques

Welcome to the Stress Management Blueprint!

This is a 5 step online course, on how to deal with stress in your life. The course is designed as a series of blog posts, regularly posted to our site. These blog posts will teach you all the steps necessary to actively start dealing with your stress, and live a less stressful life.

By explaining the core concepts of stress, the problems it may carry, and how to best address them, you will be guided through the different steps that you need to know, to effectively learn to reduce the stress you’re feeling in your life.

This is step 3 out of 5 in a series of blogposts designed to guide you through how you best deal with stress. For the other parts of the series, see:

Step 3. Dealing with your stress – learning stress management techniques

In the third post of the Stress Management Blueprint-series, you’re going to learn about stress management techniques and coping with stress. The various methods will be introduced and explained to you briefly, so that you know what you can do and how to do it. There is quite a large scientific basis for a lot of the stress management techniques, which speaks for their merit in decades of dealing with stress. We will however not go in to the scientific details in the functioning of the techniques, rather we’d put emphasis on what they actually are. It is however good to know that these are serious and solid techniques, used successfully worldwide solely for the purpose of reducing stress among people. This post will be structured into two primary ways of dealing with stress, both useful for you to learn. First off stress management, teaching you effective ways of how to think about stress, and how to mentally deal with it. The second is coping with stress, that is a more practical take on how to deal with stress, and what methods you can use in order to reduce it. The three coping methods focused on are:

  • Problem focused coping
  • Emotionally focused coping
  • Coping through social support

These will be explained further on, and there will also be a brief mention of physical stress reduction, and dealing with tensions of the body.

This is the first opportunity you get to actually start learning ways of handling your stress concretely. Keep the thoughts from step 2 in mind while reading this post, in order to maximize the benefit you get out of reading about these techniques, and how they could function in your life. All set? Let’s get started!

Changing the way you think about stress

Changing the way you think about stress should be the first thing you learn when learning stress management techniques. This is not a particularly easy thing to do, and it can take a long time, but it is by far worth it.

The technique is based on you first identifying the way you think about a stressor currently. You do this in order to gauge your own response, how strongly you react to the situation, and find your particular pattern of thoughts. After identifying your pattern of though, the pattern can be changed. Through changing your pattern of thought, the initial stress response can become less severe.

Usually, taking assistance from the stress journal is very helpful for this particular technique. Try to explain the situation, rate how strong you feel the stress response is on a scale of 1-10 and why you think you’re stressed. You can use the four bullet points from the stress journal for this:

  • How am I feeling right now?
  • What situation am I in? What’s happening right now?
  • How stressed am I on a scale of 1-10?
  • What do I think is causing my stress?

Once you have identified the reaction, and noted it down, you need to take some time away from it, to cool off. You can’t be in the situation and make a clear judgement about your own reaction, it has to be made later on, when you have some distance to the problem.

When you return to the stressor, after having slept on it, you should analyze the situation as well as your response.

  • Was you reaction reasonable to the situation?
  • Could there have been any misinterpretations?
  • Are you overreacting or focusing on problems instead of solutions?

Then put these thoughts in to perspective of the bigger picture.

  • Does it really matter a lot that this particular thing went wrong?
  • Does it affect your life in a big way?

Don’t downplay the importance of your own emotions however, and don’t question your own judgement too much. Sometimes it’s reasonable and rational to become upset and stressed, and you have to accept that you are human, and that it is totally okay.

Practicing this however gives you a lot of clarity of how you react in a stressful situation, and it can definitely be good to have in mind for the future. Before you know it, you might start realizing that things aren’t the end of the world, even if you’re in the midst of the situation – and you save yourself a lot of energy.

This method is important, as you need to understand how your mind works when you are stressed, in order to be able to change the way you think in the future, about new situations, and therefore become less stressed. It is however a long term prospect, and not something that is achieved over a day. Try combining this exercise with the stress journal, in order to find out your thinking patterns.

Positive self-talk

Positive self-talk is also a very useful technique for dealing with stress, which is important to address when learning stress management techniques. There is no big secret to it, you just talk to yourself in a soothing and calm fashion. This is mostly effective once you are being subjected to stress, and is aimed at bringing your stress levels down, so you can start functioning normally again. So if you start feeling stressed about something, a good idea is to confront the main reason to why you are stressed. Ask yourself questions – why am I stressed right now? Once you identify the cause, you should ask yourself what the worst thing that could happen is? Is it also reasonable that this thing will happen? It most often is not, and you can take a breath. What is realistic in this situation, what might actually happen?

Try picturing yourself doing this in a stressed situation, for instance worrying over failing an exam. Is it really realistic that you’re going to fail, even though you studied, and have done well in the past? Even if you fail, is that the end of the world? What is instead likely to happen? If you’ve passed everything else so far, why wouldn’t you pass this as well? Of course you’re going to pass, there’s no reason to believe otherwise!

You should use this as a method of guiding yourself through every step of your stress reaction, and you will come to find that confronting all of these negative thoughts, often turn them into something more realistic, and less stressful. When stressed, the body has a tendency to expect the worst, a great system if you ever were to be in a situation where you need those capabilities. Mostly, however, the stress we face isn’t about a life or death situation, but it can be good to remind yourself of this. Furthermore, trying a soothing approach will calm down your nerves, make you relax a little bit more, and make stress less likely to cloud your judgement. It’s not about convincing yourself that everything is perfectly fine all the time, but instead taking a realistic approach instead of expecting the absolute worst case scenario.

This can naturally be hard to keep up, especially when you’re in the stressful situation already, but it is really a good skill to learn, and it will definitely help you in your stress management. Learning how to take control of your mind and body, rather than letting it control you.

For more in depth material on how to handle stress through these methods, read our article on Stress Management Techiques, which you’ll find here. Next up in this post on learning stress management techniques, we are going to focus on different ways of coping with stress.

Coping with stress can be challenging, but far from impossible. Learning stress management techniques will give you some concrete tools for reducing your stress.

Coping mechanisms

Problem focused coping

Problem focused coping is the most straight forward method you can use to deal with stress, but not always the easiest. It basically concerns dealing with the actual problem at hand, as soon as possible, getting to the root of the problem. If you for instance feel stressed over a deadline, you start working on your project. If you’re stressed over having too many curricular activities, you decide to quit some of them. If you’re stressed about a social interaction, you stop interacting with the person in question, or talk to them about the problem. You get the picture. Taking care of the problem immediately, instead of letting it affect you over a longer period of time.

It is the most effective way of reducing stress, but properly identifying the problem is not always simple, and it might be even harder to deal with if it is a problem that is outside your control. In these cases, you need to use another type of coping mechanism.

Emotionally focused coping

If you happen to be in a situation where you lack influence of the outcome, a good idea is to shift focus to dealing with your emotions instead. This way, you can assert some control in an otherwise strained situation. A good way to do this is to engage your own emotions, to let them out and to address them personally. If someone for instance is being rude to you at work, and you have no way of getting around the problem, you can just think about how it affects you emotionally instead. Why is it hurting your feelings? Is it something you have to take personally? Perhaps the best thing to do is to not care about this persons opinion of you.

Always try to lift the focus of your own personal well-being in the situation, try to find ways to let off steam and allow yourself to think about what is stressing you out. Eventually, this can help you get back the feeling of control, and acceptance over the things you cannot change in life, taking the worst edge off the stress, and allowing you to start focusing on other things instead.

Coping through social support

Coping through social support is all about finding relief in your stressful moments, from people in your life. This can be seeking advice, just being able to vent or simply having someone listen and care about you. This is a very easy method to use, and you have probably already tried this before. It is perhaps not the most efficient method, as it doesn’t help with the actual problem, but it is beneficial to have support while also using other methods of dealing with your stress. The feeling of not being alone, not having to face all of the problems by yourself and that people can relate to your situation and empathise, is usually very gratifying.

Coping mechanisms are very bound to the stressor you feel is bothering you, and sometimes you will have to pick and choose between the methods, where as in other cases, you might be able to use all of them at once. This is why it is important to always start with the stressor, when it comes to coping, identifying what the problem is, and then addressing it. Combining this with the mind exercises introduced as stress management techniques, you’ve really prepared yourself for any stressful situation. We will however go further into detail on when you should use the particular coping mechanisms in the next post of the series, so you can learn how to apply these methods to your life.

For more reading on coping mechanisms, take a look at this article.

Managing physical stress

Finally, the effects stress has on your body is of course something worthy of being addressed as well. As the stress response releases hormones in your body, making it tense, agile and ready for engagement, physical exercise is a perfect way to stave off the negative effects of a prolonged exposure to such a response. It effectively uses the body’s anticed state for something productive, as improving your health, and reduces the amount of stress hormones in your blood stream. Any exercise is good exercise, and it could be something as simple as just taking a walk when you feel that things are overwhelming.

Something as simple as 30 minutes of exercise each day has some proven long term health benefits, so focus for you should be to find a form of exercise you enjoy, rather than you feel forced to do. This way, it will be easier for you to actually incorporate it in your life. What is important to keep in mind, however, is that physical stress is mostly a way of dealing with existant stress, and you might want to consider what the real cause of your stress actually is. This way, you can avoid the problem before it even arises, and not just treat the symptoms of it.

We will not go further in to detail here, about how to use physical exercise as stress relief, but if this is something that interests you, we highly recommend this article.

Physical exercise can be a great stress relief.

We have now introduced some general methods of stress management, and outlined what they entail. In the next step, we will focus on some of these methods, as well as some new thoughts on how you can best take advantage of what you have learned so far, in order to apply it to your life. And thereby taking one big step towards dealing with the stress in your life.

Summary of the next steps

4. Applying the appropriate techniques to your life. In this 4th step, you’ll learn what stress management techniques are right for you and what’s causing your stress.
5. How handle future stress. In this last step, we will talk about how you can make sure that you continue to actively deal with your stress, and how you can plan your future stress management so that you’ll actively work to transform your stress into something positive.

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