What Are Some Coping Skills That I Can Use To Deal With My Stress?

Question: What are some coping skills that I can use to deal with my stress?

Answer: So let's say you do have that stressful sort of job. What can you do about it? How can you apply coping skills to manage that stress better? The first thing you have to do is to be aware when you're stressed early in the process. To be aware of the negative thoughts you're having. "I can't believe he just said that in this sales meeting," for example. And the kinds of feelings that you're having -- anger, frustration, and so forth.

Once you're aware of the thoughts and feelings in a stressful situation, and have in mind the exact facts of the situation, not "he's putting me down," but "he just said I was stupid for saying we should try telemarketing for this new product." Then you need to evaluate your reaction, you need to ask some questions about those thoughts and feelings in the light of those objective facts, so you can decide whether you need to change this situation, or change your reaction, because that's the only two choices you do have in any stressful situation.

The way to decide is to ask four questions: Is this important to me? Are the thoughts and feelings I'm having appropriate? Would anybody get mad if somebody told them they were stupid for suggesting telemarketing? Is the situation modifiable? Can I get him to not tell me I'm stupid for suggesting telemarketing? And lastly, would it be worth it when I consider the needs of the other people and myself, to take that action?

Any 'no' to one of these questions means this is a time when you want to change your reaction. You can do it by self-talk: "Hey! It's not that important" or "Hey! It's not appropriate for me to get angry with him because he's got a good reason for saying it's stupid perhaps." Or maybe, "It's not worth it to take action because it would disrupt the whole thing, or maybe get me in trouble." Any 'no,' you're going to change your reaction. If you can't stop thinking about it, practice some form of meditation. Deep breathing, saying "slow down" every time you breathe out, something of that sort.

But four 'yes'es, four 'yes'es to these questions means you do need to do something. It's important, it's appropriate to be upset, the situation is modifiable, or at least it ought to be if you're not sure, and it would be worth it to get him to quit telling you you're stupid in these sales meetings. That doesn't mean that you're 007 with a license to kill. It means you need to take effective action, and when it's another person's behavior, that's assertion: "Hey Bill, you just said I was stupid for suggesting telemarketing, I need to let you know that that's kind of upsetting. I don't think it's very helpful. Could you tell me why you think it's a problem, rather than accusing me of being stupid? That would be helpful." Or if it were, or if it's a situation, problem solve. These are all damage control strategies.

Now how are you going to remember those four questions when you're really under a lot of stress? Important, appropriate, modifiable, worth it. "I-A-M-WORTH IT." I am worth it. Tell yourself "I am worth it," and that will bring up these four questions for you.

This is all damage control. Something's happened, you need to deal with it. Much more effective in the long run is damage prevention. This is communication skills, interpersonal relationship skills, speaking clearly. You walk into the room: "This room's too cold!" Everybody's on edge. What if you walk into the room and say: "Gosh…I feel cold." What's more likely to get your message heard?

Listening. Be a good listener. Keep your trap shut until the other person's finished, look like you're interested in what they're saying. When they finish, tell them what you've heard them say. Those are all behaviors that anybody can do. The fourth principle of good listening is a little bit harder. Be prepared to be changed by what you hear. If you can do that, you're going to be flexible and even more effective.

Empathy. Try to put yourself in the other guy's shoes to figure out where they're coming from. It may make you feel less stress when they're doing their number.

And lastly, look for opportunities to inject little positives into your relationships with people in everyday life. A compliment. "I really like the way your hair looks today." "Gee, that's a neat tie you've got on." Look for ways to be positive in your relationships. Being a good listener is a positive you can do.

People who've learned these kinds of skills and put them into practice are the same people who've shown decreases in these frustration, anger, depression levels, and blood pressure, and blood pressure reactions to stress. It's possible to learn to use these skills. And if you do, there's good reason to think you'll be happier and healthier.

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