Sanity-Saving Techniques for Coping with Stress

Feb 8, 2024 | WELL-BEING

The world we’re navigating is chock full of stressors. The stress isn’t going anywhere. It’s up to us to learn to deal with it. The only way to manage stress is to adopt healthy coping mechanisms. Let’s take a deep breath and unpack some sanity-saving techniques to help us cope with stress.

HOW TO COPE WITH STRESS — A CAUTIONARY TALE

Not long ago, I was driving home with my son from his school. I had to pop by the post office to mail some boots I sold on Poshmark.

As we pulled into the parking lot, I realized my timing was awful. There were no parking spaces available. Two drivers in front of me attempted to back out of their spaces at the same time. They were at a stalemate. Neither was pulling forward to allow space for the other to back out. 

While waiting for them to hash it out, I noticed a car backing out toward my SUV. The driver was a few feet from colliding with us. I tapped my horn to alert I was behind him.

The male driver jumped out of his car and approached my window. He was so close, he spit on my car as he screamed, “F-you, you f’n b—! Get out of my way, you f’n b—.” It was horrifying not only to me, but to my thirteen-year-old son.

Unwilling to roll down my window, I pointed to the stalemate in front of me and then to the cars in line behind me. It was obvious I was unable to drive forward or backward. He didn’t care. He continued to scream and spit.

Finally, the stalemate in front of us ended. I was able to move forward, park, and console my rattled little boy.

I watched as the unstable man left the parking lot. I waited to exit my SUV until he was out of sight..

As I walked toward the building, several people approached to console me. One said, “That guy must be a miserable human being.” Another said, “What did he expect you to do, ram your SUV into the cars in front of you?” A sweet elderly man said, “You did everything right honey, including staying silent.”

Now, I have a temper. It takes a lot to light me up. But when triggered, it ain’t pretty. I’ve done a lot of work to manage my stress and anger. It’s an ongoing process I have to focus on.

The world we’re navigating is a perpetual stress dealer. It’s important we take responsibility and learn to cope with life’s stressors. Screaming, spitting, and belittling will get us nowhere.

WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU DON’T COPE WITH STRESS?

Chronic stress manifests as emotional turmoil. But it can have a significant impact on your entire body. Here are some of the medical problems linked to chronic stress:

Mental Health Issues Anxiety, depression, and insomnia can occur from chronic stress. The constant fight-or-flight response can disrupt sleep patterns and leave you on edge.

Cardiovascular Problems Stress hormones can raise blood pressure. This increases your risk of heart disease, stroke, and even heart attack.

Weakened Immune System Chronic stress can suppress your immune system. This makes you more susceptible to infections and illnesses.

Digestive Issues Stress can wreak havoc on your gut. This leads to problems like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), constipation, and heartburn.

Muscle Tension and Pain Chronic stress can manifest as headaches and fibromyalgia.

Skin Problems Stress can worsen existing skin conditions like eczema and psoriasis. It can even contribute to acne breakouts.

8 TOOLS TO HELP COPE WITH STRESS

I’ve experienced five of the six health issues above due to stress. Those of us who are fifty or older have to be vigilant about coping with stress. Otherwise, we’ll make our doctors even wealthier.

Here are eight ways to cope with stress:

1. Mindfulness Meditation – Embracing mindfulness can be a powerful antidote to stress. Meditation requires focusing on the present moment. This grounds us in the here and now. Dedicating a few minutes daily to meditation can reduce stress and promote clarity.

I’m not great at meditation, but I try. I check-in with the Headspace app every morning.

2. Physical Activity – Physical activity is the best stress-reliever. Going for a walk or taking a yoga class releases endorphins. Endorphins are our body’s natural mood lifters.

My adrenal glands are shot due to the chronic stress of my childhood. High intensity workouts exacerbate my health issues. So I stick to long walks and weight training.

3. Creative Outlets – Writing, painting, and DIYing diverts your mind from stressors. Creativity offers a sense of imagination and accomplishment. This fosters a positive mindset.

This blog has been a calming creative outlet. Learning and sharing through writing is like meditation to me. Writing this article helped me wash away the day’s stress.

4. Nature Connection – Spending time in nature has profound stress-reducing effects. Nature has a calming influence on the mind and body, helping put stress into perspective.

Walking my dog brings both of us so much joy. Watching him react to lizards and rabbits makes me giggle. Our nature walks are a necessary grounding activity for me.

5. Mind-Body Practices – Yoga, tai chi, and qigong combine physical movement with mental focus. This promotes relaxation. Gentle exercise can be effective in reducing physical tension.

I’ve never tried tai chi or qigong, but yoga is my jam. I haven’t been to a class since before COVID, but I plan to restart my practice soon.

6. Deep Breathing You can do deep breathing exercises anywhere, anytime. Diaphragmatic breathing or guided breathing exercises help activate the body’s relaxation response. This calms the nervous system.

Mediation and yoga are fantastic for breathing exercises.

7. Social Connections Nurturing positive social connections can be a powerful buffer against stress. Spending quality time sharing experiences can provide emotional resilience during challenging times.

I don’t have friends where we currently live. But I have a handful of ride-or-dies all over the country. Although I wish I could grab lunch with them, I cherish our precious phone calls and texts.

8. Aromatherapy Certain scents like lavender and citrus have stress-relieving properties. Incorporating aromatherapy through essential oils can create a soothing environment, promoting relaxation.

I’ve shared before the grounding effects sage and Palo Santo have on me. The ritual of cleansing our home with these earthy scents brings me instantaneous calm.

SHOP TOOLS TO COPE WITH STRESS

Shop Tools to Cope with Stress - Julie Pedraza

Shop tools to cope with stress via my Etsy collection — WELL-BEING.

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HOW TO COPE WITH STRESS – THE GIST

Adopt a diverse range of stress-relieving activities. Go for a walk in nature. Get creative. Cultivate mindfulness. Stress relieving activities can help pave the way for a more resilient you.

Remember, self-care is not a luxury. It’s a necessity. Investing time in activities that bring you peace is a step towards a much healthier and happier you.

As always, thank you for being here and sharing the articles you appreciate most. Be sure to subscribe to future posts below. And if you have questions or suggestions, leave a comment or drop a note. My mind and inbox are always open.

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