How to Deal With Stress

How to Deal With Stress
Gorka Jiménez Pajares

Written and verified by the psychologist Gorka Jiménez Pajares.

Last update: 12 January, 2023

Society today is increasingly fast, demanding, and often overwhelming.  As your coping resources are limited, it’s likely that, at some point, you’ll experience stress symptoms. For example, tiredness, rapid heartbeat, certain skin reactions (such as psychogenic dermatitis), or irritability. For this reason, we’re going to address the question of how stress should be handled. We’re going to give you five ways of dealing with it.

As human beings, we all require a certain degree of stress to live. This is called activation, and it’s useful to identify it and understand that, in its proper measure, it’s favorable. That’s because it acts as the engine that ensures you remain functional and connected to your environment. In other words, it allows you to live. Before talking about how to deal with stress, we’re going to define it.

Stress

“I can’t take it anymore”, “How long is this going to go on for?”, “I’m exhausted by this situation”. Do these words ring a bell? As a matter of fact, stress encompasses two elements: the agent that causes it and the response issued as a result. It could be defined as a special state you find yourself in due to overexertion. Indeed, stress implies overexertion and the subjective feeling it produces is tension or pressure.

When an event appears that upsets your balance, you do your best to ride out the storm and return to your state of equilibrium. This process is called allostasis. It consists of the search for and maintenance of stability or internal balance through continuous changes and adjustments over time.

Stress occurs when some alteration occurs in the normal functioning of the organism due to the action of an external or internal agent. The organism, in these circumstances, reacts in an extraordinary way, making an effort to counteract the imbalance.”

-Bonifacio Sandín-

stressed girl
When we experience stress, we think that we don’t have enough resources to deal with what’s happening to us.

How to deal with stress

What does it mean to deal with stress? For the professor of psychopathology, Amparo Belloch, coping with stress implies the efforts in terms of the behaviors, thoughts, and emotions that we put into action to deal with stressful situations. Consequently, we reduce the state of discomfort that stress induces.

1. Identify your weak points

Do you avoid or confront stress? Although it may seem counterintuitive, many people use avoidance in order to distance themselves from a problem or stressful situation. Therefore, it can grow and become even more distressing. Among the behaviors that imply avoidance are:

  • Oversleeping
  • Eating hypercaloric foods in high amounts.
  • Excessive use of tv, video games, or social media.
  • Drinking too much alcohol or using other drugs, such as cannabis.
  • Waiting for a miracle to happen.

“Throwing yourself into work or other activities; ‘going out’ to forget about the problem; concentrating on other things are avoidance strategies.”

-Bonifacio Sandín-

However, sometimes it’s necessary to avoid stress by stopping and reconnecting. When you find yourself feeling overwhelmed by what’s happening to you, avoiding contact with the situation can be useful. That said, you mustn’t do it excessively, since over-avoidance isn’t helpful.

Limit your avoidance. Give it a beginning and an end and stick to it. It’s useful to stop and reconnect but, if you disconnect too much, you risk getting lost.

2. Life is movement

As we’ve already mentioned, avoidance is a good companion in the short but not the long term.  Make sure, when dealing with stress, you include behavior that involves movement. Go outside, walk, run, go to the gym, ride a bicycle… If it’s possible, easy to do, and involves moving around, it’ll be fine.

Life is movement. Facing stressful situations that happen to you with behaviors that involve body movement can be really helpful in releasing tension.

3. Connect with others

As human beings, we’re biological entities designed to interact. So, if you isolate yourself in a stressful situation, it’ll be harmful to you. It’s useful to relate to those you love and who love you.

  • Ask a friend for advice or help.
  • Talk to someone who can help.
  • Tell a family member what’s happening to you.
  • Ask for guidance on what to do.

Your social network will provide you with energy and also different points of view to enrich you, making the decisions you make more accurate.

4. Examine your attitude

Do you focus on the problem, the emotion, or both? Focusing on the solution implies following a series of concrete steps. It involves establishing an action plan, thinking about what steps to follow, and then implementing them.

On the contrary, focusing on the emotion means you’re conscious of the way in which you interpret (denial, reevaluation) or treat (avoidance, confrontation) what’s happening to you to mitigate your stress.

  • What does what’s happening mean to you?
  • Can you extract something positive from the situation?
  • Is it really as important as you’re imagining it to be?

It’s all about regulating the stress response. Changing, for example, the relational meaning of what’s happening is a very powerful way to reduce stress and emotion.”

-Bonifacio Sandín-

man thinking
To manage stress, it’s essential to face it, either with a problem-solving strategy or one related to focusing on emotion.

5. Develop your coping resources

Establish an action plan and stick to it. To do this, you can make use of the D’Zurilla and Goldfield troubleshooting technique. Grab a pen and paper and answer these questions. Your answers could result in a tailor-made coping kit that’ll help you make decisions and move forward.

  • What’s the nature of your problem? What happened? How do you define it?
  • What solutions do you have? Carry out a brainstorming exercise. It doesn’t matter if your solutions sound crazy. At this stage, quantity is more important than quality.
  • Choose one of your alternatives.
  • Put it into practice.
  • Evaluate the results. If it works, congratulate yourself. If not, choose another of your alternatives.

Finally, you must bear in mind that having problems is a perfectly natural part of life. Trying to ‘treat’ all your problems is unfeasible, as well as harmful. You must learn to live with them. That said, when you get stuck and feel stressed more than you should, it’s worthwhile examining the situation to ensure its consequences are minimal.

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  • Belloch, A. (2022a). Manual de psicopatología, vol I.
  • Cífuentes López, I. C., & Villegas Moreno, M. J. (2022). Estrés y afrontamiento en pacientes con cáncer de mama.
  • López, Y. C. V., Patrón, R. A. M., Valenzuela, S. E. C., Pedroza, R. I. H., Quintero, I. D. E., & Zavala, M. O. Q. (2022). Nivel de estrés y estrategias de afrontamiento utilizadas por estudiantes de la licenciatura en Enfermería. Enfermería Global, 21(1), 248-270.

The contents of Exploring Your Mind are for informational and educational purposes only. They don't replace the diagnosis, advice, or treatment of a professional. In the case of any doubt, it's best to consult a trusted specialist.