Coping With Stress

All of us confront stress everyday; in traffic, while late for work, when the children refuse to do their homework, when we have financial problems, etc. It would be unrealistic to wait for a stress-free life as things will not always turn out as we expect and we will go through stress when we meet unexpected situations.

While we all have similar experiences, why is it that some of us cope better with problems? The answer lies in the wrong things we know as right, in the sentences we tell ourselves and in the methods we use to cope with stress.

  • Stress is actually a healthy situation…If there were no stress in our lives we would lose our motivation in life and after a while find ourselves sitting at home doing nothing. High levels of stress harms our functions, our concentration and therefore lowers our performance. However a moderate level of stress motivates us to handle new situations and helps us concentrate. For example, a student who has an examination the next day. A student with no stress will not study at all and most probably fail the exam. A student with high stress will be so focused on his stress and performance the next day that he will not be able to study properly and perform as he would like. Meanwhile a moderate stress level will keep the student’s attention alert and at the same time motivate him.
  • We all have rules, however if we don’t show any flexibility or adapt them to situtations, this will also cause stress. We call this insistence. The sentences usually include ’’ should or must ’’. For example; ’’ Everything should be as expected ’’, ’’ I must be successful in everything I do ’’, ’’ My children should achieve higher in school ’’, ’’ I mustn’t be late for my appointment”, ’’ Everyone should love me ’’, ’’ I must never be sad ’’.
  • As one can see, such sentences limit a person’s actions and life. The person who has no control over exterior factors can not handle a stressful situation as he has no flexibility. In order to cope with stress, one must soften these sentences .’’ I plan everything but things may not turn out as I expect ’’, ’’ I would be happy if everyone loved me but this is not something that I can control so not everyone may love me ’’, ’’ I don’t like being sad but if I am, it’s not the end of the world, I can handle it ’’.
  • From time to time we all can have negative feelings. The loss of a loved one, after being diagnosed with cancer, the loss of a job…The unexpected and uncertain things cause stress. Therefore, it’s normal for us to go through stress under such circumstances. Knowing what awaits us and accepting these conditions and feelings will minimize our stress. Sadness, worry, anger, regret are some of our healthy negative feelings. Expecting and experiencing these feelings will comfort us. However depression, anxiety, rage, guilt mean that we are going through unhealthy negative feelings. In this case one must seek the guidance of a professional.
  • In human relations, there is tension everyday. The way to avoid this is to express ourselves without judging the other person. It will be useful to express the stressful situation, and how you feel about the other person’s reaction and how you would like for the other person’s reaction to be. Saying; ’’ You always do this, you were always an irresponsible person ‘’ will make that person feel judged and angry and will make the situation get even worse.
  • We all have days in which we rush around, trying to get things done. We can feel like leaving everything behind and running away, afraid that we won’t be able to accomplish anything. This is another reason for stress. Making a list of things to be done in an order of importance and acting accordingly will reduce our stress. Trying to do everything at once and running from one task to the other will make us lose our concentration and not get things done properly. Therefore it’s better to do one thing at a time.
  • We sometimes forget to make time for ourselves,thinking about our home, work, school, partner, children, etc. Being involved in an activity that we enjoy and that relaxes us will change our mood and help us look at things from a healthier point of view. This may be going to the cinema, taking a walk, fishing, going to dance classes or just sitting at home listening to music and having a cup of coffee. Whatever it may be, we mustn’t neglect these activities that make us feel better.
  • Eating a diet rich in fresh, fibre-rich, non fat foods will also make us feel more energetic, relaxed , alert and positive. It is also important to have regular sleeping hours. An adult should get 6-8 hours of uninterrupted sleep. Being involved in sports activities also disciplines a person. Such people are better at making plans and applying them and therefore are less exposed to stress.

Psychologist Özlem Ataoğlu