Ways to Respond to Stress

Most people don’t usually plan how to respond to stress. They tend to react without thinking. What is your usual practice… avoiding the situation, taking emotions out on others, withdrawing, or confronting the situation head on. Largely, it may depend on the situation and potential consequences as to how you respond. It may be easier to confront a friend about his or her irritating tendency to borrow your clothes and leaving you nothing to wear when you really need it than confronting your mother about re-organizing your bedroom. Both may be stressful to you (e.g., lack of control over your belongings). However, the “power” structure is a little different. To determine your best strategy for a given situation incorporate the following outline in your decision process – assess what is important, determine what areas render you vulnerable to stress, and be clear about your expectations.

Assess Your Priorities
By knowing what is of primary and secondary importance, you can order your activities and expectations in light of your energy on a given day. A structure to follow makes it easier to engage in daily tasks. The stress of trying to remember what you should be doing is eliminated.

Stress Vulnerability
If you know that presentations make you nervous or know that negotiating a car deal petrifies you, do not wait until it happens to incorporate your ‘skills’. Practice is essential. By envisioning the stressful condition and acting out your reaction to anticipated stressors, you can become better prepared for the actual event.

Align your expectations of yourself in a given situation with a reality-based view. If you did not study adequately for an exam, rarely attended class, and infrequently turned in homework assignments, it may not be realistic to expect a top grade on the test. Expecting too much of yourself or others can be disappointing if those expectations is not realized. Maintain a realistic perspective to offset misunderstandings. A key problem in this area is perfectionism. Stress is highly anticipated if you feel a need to produce ‘perfectly’ on a consistent basis, try to be someone your are not, or become inflexible with your priorities.

Incorporate Healthy Practices

By incorporating a healthy level of exercise, appropriate eating practices, and relaxation techniques (e.g., yoga, meditation, or free breathing), you lower your risk for becoming over stressed. These techniques can lower blood pressure, strengthen muscles, and reduce tension.

In addition to these areas of stress prevention, consider adopting a “recharge regime” (re-nourishes your emotional battery), accepting change as a part of life, developing a support system, and believing in oneself (you are your best advocate!).

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