7 effective ways to cope with stress

Have you been feeling extra stress lately? If yes, you’re not alone. It’s no surprise that Americans are reporting higher levels of general stress in 2020 than in years prior.1 Stressors for many Americans are related to the possibility of illness, volatile finances, job loss, working from home, their children’s education and access to health care, to name a few.

When facing these challenging times, an increase in your stress level is a normal, natural response. However, there are negative and positive ways to deal with stress.

If you deal with stress in a negative way, you may find yourself experiencing exhaustion, irritability, trouble concentrating, changes in sleep or appetite, racing thoughts, memory problems, anger, sadness, and a weakened immune system. If you handle stress in a positive way, you may find that these challenging times can actually help lead to personal growth.

Stress is an inevitable part of life, and many of the stressors in your life are out of your control. But what you do have some control over is how you respond to stress. To help you keep your emotional compass headed in a positive direction, we’re going to share seven effective ways to cope with stress.

1.) Practice constructive thinking.

Oftentimes when people are faced with a stressful situation, their brain sounds the alarm. A destructive, running tape starts to play in their brain, thinking about all the things that could go wrong. This type of thinking causes panic and a negative response to stress. 

People who are resilient to stress, on the other hand, are able to change their internal dialogue and steer their thoughts away from the panic-inducing negative. One way to help yourself slow down the train of negative thoughts is to find a relaxation method that works for you—something that tells your mind and body, “I’m okay.” Breathing techniques, mediation, yoga and faith are a few common ways people manage their thoughts and stress. Find what centers you—and work that into your days.

2.) Know the facts.

From 24-hour news stations to social media, we’re being overexposed and inundated with news. Constant exposure to negative news can lead to negative stress. Luckily, this is something that’s relatively easy to shut off. Give yourself breaks from watching the news and checking your feeds. Maybe limit yourself to 30 minutes of news a day. Get the facts you need to know—in moderation and from trustworthy sources—and then shut it off.

3.) Keep things in perspective.

Not to equate the current situation with past situations, but some people find that they can better cope with today’s stress when they remember that our society has gone through many great challenges, pains and sorrows in the past—and overcome them. On a more personal level, when facing stress, think about hard times you’ve been through, and the growth it’s created for you. Focusing on this growth can help you manage today’s stressors in a positive way.

4.) Maintain relationships.

We’ve all become familiar with the phrase “social distance,” but most people don’t do well when they’re isolated. Rather than “social distance,” we encourage you to think “physical distance.” Don’t let keeping physical distance stop you from connecting with people. From Zoom to FaceTime, phone calls to texting, there’s never been more ways to stay connected with people, virtually.

5.) Stay physically healthy.

When faced with stress, many people withdraw, become inactive and resort to unhealthy eating or drinking habits. However, it’s harder for your body to cope with stress when it isn’t receiving the physical care and nutrition it needs to thrive. Simple things like eating well, getting rest, exercising and making time for connections with friends go a long way in helping you cope. Also, try to maintain routines regarding work and home activities and responsibilities. Routine is generally comforting for humans and can help support your physical health.

6.) Have fun.

Between working from home, supporting your children during virtual learning, and keeping up with your home and responsibilities, it may feel like there’s no free time. However, it’s important to not let your responsibilities consume you. Find what recharges you, whether it’s spending time outside or engaging in a hobby, and carve out time every day to enjoy these activities.

7.) Know available resources.

We all need extra support from time to time.  If you feel like you need outside support to deal with your stress, know where you can find it. Whether it’s from a spiritual leader, mentor, therapist, neighbor or best friend, get support for yourself if you’re using ineffective stress coping techniques.

We’re here for you.

We hope these seven techniques help you cope with the unprecedented stressors we’re all facing. Remember that Washington National is here for you. Visit our website here to discover all the ways we’re supporting our customers, associates, agents and partners through these challenging times. 

1American Psychological Association, Stress in America 2020: Stress in the Time of COVID-19, Volume One, May 2020.
Health Advocate, Establishing Emotional Balance in Challenging Times, https://engage.vevent.com/index.jsp?eid=6194&seid=1159#/main/simplify, 2020.