Tried-And-True Coping Strategies to Turn to When Stress Strikes
Stress is a big, broad term. It can come in many shapes and stripes. Many of the stressors that Patrice Douglas’s clients experience revolve around work and family. They feel “overwhelmed, unappreciated, and stuck.”
Psychotherapist Stephanie Dobbin, LMFT, CGP, works with healthcare professionals, who frequently feel stressed about their jobs: “the long hours, the tedium and pressure of having to complete documentation in a timely manner, the unpredictability of being on-call, and feelings of frustration and inadequacy as they attempt to juggle home, family, and career.”
Maybe you can relate to these stressors. Maybe your stress comes in a different form. Or maybe your stress feels especially immense and nebulous, and you’re not sure where it’s coming from.
The first step to coping with any stressor is to try to pinpoint what’s causing it, and why, said Dobbin, a relationship and group psychotherapist who specializes in helping busy healthcare professionals have happier relationships and less stress in Rochester, NY. “Sometimes even the act of reflecting for a few moments is a coping strategy in and of itself, because clarity can be reassuring and calming.”
To delve deeper, Dobbin suggested jotting down your responses to these questions:
- “What am I feeling?” (You might jot down angry, sad, or hopeless.)
- “What am I thinking?” (“Thoughts are sentences in our mind: ‘I hate that my job is so demanding’; ‘I never seem to get any time to myself.’”)
- “What circumstances are contributing to the way I’m feeling?” (“Stick to the facts: ‘I’m working 80 hours a week’ or ‘My partner is saying I’m not doing enough at home.’”)
Next, Dobbin noted that there are two approaches: coping strategies help us to reduce our discomfort in the immediate moment; and a longer-term plan helps us to resolve the root of the stressor. The latter might “include having a difficult conversation you’ve been putting off, expressing feelings you’ve been avoiding, or saying no to someone or something that is draining you,” she said.
The below tried-and-true strategies mainly focus on coping in the immediate moment, along with a tip that addresses successful solutions.
Recognize old coping strategies (that don’t work). This is crucial in moving forward toward a healthier, more satisfying life. Everyone develops “coping strategies starting from a very early age that help us ‘survive,’ whether we experience anything profoundly traumatic or not,” said Erin K. Tierno, a licensed clinical social worker and founder of Online Therapy NYC, where she specializes in helping dynamic, intelligent, driven, busy people to connect in healthier, more fulfilling relationships through online therapy.