Dealing with stress.
We all have ways of coping and dealing with stress; so called coping strategies that we resort to in times of stress. Some work, some just add more stress!
The problem is that we tend to get stuck in our ways and stick to our strategies ‘no matter what’ although deep down we might even know this is not the best way of dealing with the type of stress we are under at that time!
When you are in this coping trap, it is important to stop and aim to find new ways to deal with your stressful situation rather than relying on old habits. In fact, research support the fact that people who have more options i.e. several coping strategies to choose from tend to be able to deal with stress and cope better with life in general than those who only use a couple of strategies repeatedly.
Imagine using the same coping strategies you used to apply when you were younger this might over time as you naturally age not be as useful. What if life throws you great stress in ways you have not prepared for? What if you have to deal with something traumatic or unexpected such as trauma, an accident or perhaps a so-called life stressor such as bereavement, getting a promotion, getting married or just moving house? Your old trusted coping strategies might not be as effective for these new stressors!
Having worked many years with clients in a group setting environment at one of the local hospitals for the Physical Health Clinical Psychology department I have often found myself feeling amazed at how few long term healthy coping strategies people have developed over their life time. People often state one or two coping strategies in how they tend to deal with stress. This is a common problem.
Even though we may suspect a particular way of dealing with stress doesn’t really work in the long run with all our problems we still continue using this method! Perhaps if we had a few more options we might start using a wide range of strategies next time we are stressed. Often the problem occurs when we find there is a quick solution to our pain or stress ie if a strategy works short term we might perceive the benefits to outweigh the gain and continue with coping strategies that do not work long term. For example, someone who is feeling stressed but numbs the pain with alcohol. This in turn may over time lead to alcohol dependency with various related physical health problems, emotional problems and consequently relationship difficulties.
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