Stress stems from just about every aspect of our lives. And, we all have ways to deal with life’s challenges and obstacles, no matter their size.
Coping refers to the strategies we use to adapt, tolerate or manage stressors. There are healthy and unhealthy ways to cope with stress, so it’s essential to understand what behaviors are considered harmful to recognize, correct and avoid them when the next challenge arises.
Why is it important to learn to cope with stress in a positive way?
Stress is inevitable, and knowing how to deal with it in positive ways can benefit our long-term health. Even a little pressure is good for us and necessary to keep us on alert and performing at our best.
But, too much stress, especially over long periods, can result in negative consequences. In addition, the onset of several stressful events at one time can result in negative feelings and a reduction in physical health. High levels of prolonged stress can lead to chronic inflammation, which can lead to a wealth of physical health issues such as:
- Inflammatory bowel disease
What are considered harmful ways to cope with stress?
Throughout the pandemic, people have struggled physically, emotionally, and financially, turning to unhealthy habits to help cope with their new reality. 42% of Americans said they relied on unhealthy habits to get through the pandemic.
Here are a few of the most common unhealthy coping strategies. They’re harmful because they don’t help you effectively manage the stressor or situation. Some could manifest as unhealthy habits like drinking too much, smoking, spending money or emotional eating:
- Acting out: Giving in to pressure to misbehave
- Avoidance: Avoiding potential sources of stress
- Denial: Refusing to acknowledge the problem
- Emotionality: Unregulated emotional outbursts
- Rationalization: Creating logical reasons for bad behavior
- Self-harming: Intentionally damaging the body
- Trivialization: Minimizing the enormity of stressors
Positive Coping Strategies
Reverting to positive thoughts after a setback is not typically our first response. However, it is vital for building resiliency and getting back on track. Some positive coping methods include:
- Immediate and root-cause problem-solving. What can you fix right now? What can you learn about the problem to fix it for good?
- Ask for help. Learn to take comfort and assistance from close friends and family or talk to a mental health professional for even more support.
- Find the good. A lot easier said than done, but is there anything that can be gained from this situation? Is there an opportunity to grow in your career, emotionally or spiritually?
- Engage in self-care. Getting enough sleep, eating a healthy diet and regular exercise can dramatically impact your perceived stress and help you feel more ready to address it in a positive way. Practicing self-care also allows us to build resiliency and positively respond to future challenges and stressors.
- Try mindfulness activities. Practicing gratitude, meditation, and journaling can help you gain a new perspective and make room for problem-solving to reduce stress.
- Make time for hobbies you enjoy. While it’s not healthy to ignore your stress entirely, taking time to engage in activities you enjoy can help you cope with stress. Try listening to music, reading, playing a game, working on a puzzle or socializing with friends to put space between you and the problem to help re-frame the situation.
No matter what stressors you face and how you deal with it, there’s always room to grow. With time and focus, positive coping strategies can become second nature.
What Employers Can Do
Simply put, employee benefits that only focus on physical health miss the mark when it comes to helping employees realize their potential and live a fulfilling life, personally and professionally.
Promoting and supporting employees’ physical and mental health isn’t simply good for business. It’s a necessity to achieve a productive, healthy, engaged, driven and loyal workforce.
Only when a wellness program is all-encompassing can employees identify and release what is holding them back in life, gain a new perspective and focus on becoming the best version of themselves both in and out of the office.
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