A life without stress only happens in the movies.
Real life is a lot more different.
When the coffeemaker doesn’t work in the morning, we get stressed.
When traffic jam seems like an eternity, we get stressed.
And when we arrive at the office only to see our boss’s eyebrows already meeting each other early in the day because of something we’ve done, we get awfully stressed.
The hard truth is stress is everywhere, at any time and with anyone.
It is undeniable.
So what can do we do about it?
We surely should not sulk in one corner or shout out our memorized curses.
The first and effective way to deal with stress is to accept it exists for you and me.
When we acknowledge that stress lingers around, then you wouldn’t have to be caught off guard every now and then.
Since you know stress is just around the corner, you can prepare your best defense against it.
Next thing you have to do when you are stressed is to simply take responsibility.
It takes courage to admit one’s fault, but the reward will be worth it.
Peggy Drexler, Ph.D., a research psychologist and an Assistant Professor of Psychology at Weill Medical College, Cornell University, says “Stress is usually real. It’s warranted. But there is a choice.
When you accept responsibility for stress, you own it. And when you own it, it can’t bring you down.”
Let’s be honest.
Accepting responsibility for a stress is easier said than done.
So apart from this strategy, there are other ways that can be practiced to cope with stress.
Is joining or forming a social support group one of them?
A lot of people swear by the magic of interacting with people who are undergoing the same problems because through it, they see their situation in another light.
But for almost 200 students who completed a daily diary that aimed to report their stress levels and anti-stress techniques for three to 14 days, support group seemed to fall short of the expected relief results.
The diary enumerated their most bothersome failures during the day, the strategies they used to cope with the failure, and how satisfied they felt towards their anti-stress action as the day ended.
The other coping strategies included in the diary were the following: using emotional or instrumental support; self-distraction; denial; religion; venting; substance use; self-blame; and behavioral disengagement.
The study was done by Dr. Joachim Stoeber and Dr. Dirk Janssen from the University of Kent’s School of Psychology.
Published by the international journal “Anxiety, Stress & Coping”, the study concluded “that social support by others was not an effective strategy.”
So what exactly worked for the surveyed students?
According to Psychology Today, techniques such as positive reframing (trying to see things in a more positive light, looking for something good in whatever stressful thing that happened), acceptance, and humor proved to have positive effects on the students’ satisfaction.
The more they used these anti-stress strategies with their everyday failures, the more they felt satisfied at the end of the day.
Stoeber said: “The finding that positive reframing was helpful for students high in perfectionistic concerns is particularly important because it suggests that even people high in perfectionistic concerns, who have a
tendency to be dissatisfied no matter what they achieve, are able to experience high levels of satisfaction if they use positive reframing coping when dealing with perceived failures.”
“It’s no use ruminating about small failures and setbacks and drag yourself further down,’ the professor added.
“Instead it is more helpful to try to accept what happened, look for positive aspects and — if it is a small thing — have a laugh about it.”
A study on by Melissa B. Wanzer, EdD, professor of communication studies at Canisius College in Buffalo, N.Y., seems to back up Dr. Stoeber and Dr. Janssen’s finding on humor as an effective coping strategy.
In her paper, Wanzer looked specifically into medical professionals who face diverse and odd situations every day at hospitals and care centers.
Wanzer said she wondered how do health care providers care for terminally ill people manage to come back to work each day?
In her large-scale surveys with them, their answers appeared to be unanimous: Humor.
“If employees view their managers as humor-oriented, they also view them as more effective,” said Wanzer.
“Employees also reported higher job satisfaction when they worked for someone who was more humor-oriented and used humor effectively and appropriately.”
But there is no need to force one’s self to be particularly funny when it’s not their natural character.
Forcing it may even become another source of frustration, hence, more stress.
For this specific concern, Wanzer suggested the following: “Self-disparaging humor, making fun of one’s self, is a very effective form of humor communication, as long as it is not done excessively.”
As for other applicable strategies, Drexler suggested taking up yoga classes, reducing caffeine, breathing deeply, working for a charity near you, reconnecting with family members (or friends), letting go of hostility, starting fitness exercises as other effective means to combat stress.
Drexler’s list includes support groups, so there’s nothing bad about trying it out despite the study by Stoeber and Janssen. It just might work for you.
Interestingly, Drexler defined stress in an unconventional manner, liking it to a bumper sticker definition that is certainly be less clinical, but more topical: “Stress is what happens when the mind must override the body’s natural desire to choke the hell out of somebody who richly deserves it.”
So go ahead, undergo it, feel it, and take control of stress. The keys to outlive your daily stressors are simple, if only you give them a serious and constant try.
They might not work like magic pills – because magic pills are in the movies only – but these coping strategies will surely dissolve stress one step at a time.