We all know that stress is a part of life, with perceived challenges or threats, both real and imaginary, creating stress. However, we have control in how we deal with stress through cognitive appraisal. Prior to the stress response there is a primary appraisal where we evaluate the significance of the event and a secondary appraisal where we identify how to cope or take advantage of the situation.
Stressful events occur in our everyday lives. It is important to cultivate coping mechanisms to deal with negative, uncontrollable, and ambiguous situations that cause us stress.
The field of mind-body medicine offers techniques to reduce stress, which can ultimately prevent diseases. I used some of the techniques during my first job out of college, where I perceived threats and challenges on a daily basis for a year. In moments of high stress I found these coping techniques very helpful.
1. Changing Your Negative Environment
Changing your environment can be as small as going for a walk to get away from the perceived challenge/threat and take a breath. Sometimes this might mean a bigger change. In my case I had to walk away from the job because I realized that I was unable to change the prospects for recovery in the environment.
2. Adjusting For Negative Events
Sometimes you are unable to avoid the negative event from taking place. Try adjusting your attitude towards the event by mentally preparing yourself to not get emotionally invested. For example, if the event is with another person I found the shielding technique helps – put an imaginary shield over you that protects you from the person’s words.
3. Maintaining A Positive Self-Image
Most people tend to seek external validation – myself included. I tend to constantly compare myself to others, and question, “Why am I not enough?” To create a positive self image say an encouraging phrase out loud, such as“I am enough” and work on believing it. This will dispel limiting negative self-talk and create a new confidence. Another practice is repeating a love and kindness mantra. I like, “May I be free. May I have peace. May I find grace and courage,” but find one that works for you.
4. Reaching Emotional Equilibrium
When you are stressed you are in a highly emotional state. The stress can result in anger, worry, sadness, and other negative emotions. Having a daily meditation practice is the best way to find an emotional equilibrium in a stressed state because you learn to distance yourself from your thoughts. I like to imagine my mind as a blue sky that is always clear, the thoughts are just clouds passing by. Other meditations include our Soft Belly Breathing and Journey of the Breath.
5. Creating Satisfactory Relationships with Others
In a stressed state you may feel very separated from others because you are absorbed with yourself. I noticed that I tend to feel alone with my thoughts and feelings resulting in isolation. In this state, getting out of your head and turning to friends and family for support helps you realize you are not alone.