Ten Tips (+1) on Coping with Stress and Anxiety

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Anxiety is a signal our mind and body gives us that danger is near. The danger may come from internal or external sources. We feel the press of living through the stresses we experience. a Stress is cumulative, as it draws upon our personal and physical resources. Different people have individual tolerances for higher-than-normal levels of stress and anxiety. a When feeling over-burdened, excessive stress and anxiety can lead to lowered self-esteem and depression. In such a situation, the goal of psychotherapy is to validate your emotional experience, adjust the negative self-assessment engendered by emotional overload, and help you find the path of support and positive developmental change. a Often, anxiety and stress are heightened by being caught between untenable choices in life, or between people we love (or even, sometimes, fear). These problems can be explored and understood in psychotherapy.

Below are some tips about what many have found to be at least temporarily useful coping skills for living with stress and anxiety. They are not foolproof. If you are feeling very distressed and your life is suffering, there is no substitute to talking with a professional.

  1. Be flexible. Know what you can change and what you can't, go with the flow, be open to changes.
  2. Laugh more. Watch a funny movie, tell a joke, read the comics.
  3. Breathe slowly, deeply, and well. Relaxation begins with slow, deep breathing from your diaphragm.
  4. Learn to say "no". It's hard to say no sometimes, but recognize you can't do everything, pace yourself.
  5. Go ahead and make mistakes. No one's perfect. The only way we really learn is from our mistakes. Accept them as the natural process of growing in wisdom.
  6. Play... with a lover, a friend, a child, a pet. Having fun is the natural way of lowering the body's stress hormones. Stress tenses, play loosens.
  7. Get active. Exercise brings out the body's endorphins, natural pain-killers and pleasure-producing substances produced inside every one of us.
  8. Eat well and avoid stimulants. A healthy diet makes the body strong and increases a sense of well-being. Watch those double-lattes. Caffeine and nicotine put more stress on our musculature and nervous system.
  9. Talk to others. Sharing life's difficulties and problems with another person, whether a co-worker, friend, spouse, lover, or counselor, allows one to shed the weight of burdens shouldered alone.
  10. Face your difficulties. Problems have a tendency to mount quickly, until there can seem so many as to be overwhelming. Tackle them one at a time. Set achievable goals. Your day will seem appreciably lighter after even one dreaded task is tackled.

    Plus. . . 
  11. Allow yourself to mourn. Changes, even good changes, can bring a sense of loss for how things used to be. You have the right to grieve this loss. In fact, everyone needs that time. . . to adjust, to reminisce, to care, to process.

If you suffer from excessive stress, anxiety, or panic attacks, you may wish to consult with a psychologist or other mental health professional. In my experience, anxiety and stress problems are especially amenable to therapeutic help.

Online? If you want more information right now online, a good place to start is Mindtools.com for learning more about managing stress. There's also good information about anxiety, panic and stress at the appropriately named site, www.anxiety-panic-stress.com. LB Information has developed an online stress reduction exercise that web visitors may wish to try for themselves. The site is called  Visual Self-HypnosisStress Management Tips and Tools  (mindtools.com) is another site you might want to check out. Get Real-time Online Anxiety Screening from the California Psychology Network.

If you're interested in the kind of approach I take to therapy for stress and anxiety and panic disorders, you can read an article on Psychodynamic Treatment of Panic Disorder, by Fredric Busch, MD and Barabara Milrod MD, originally published in Psychiatric Times (March 1997), and posted at PanicDisorder.about.com. The article is written for professionals treating panic disorder, but may be of interest to those suffering from such problems, or wondering what kind of theory informs the kind of treatment therapists like myself engage with their patients.

Stress in the Dot-com world? Click here to see what I told CNN, as broadcast on their show, CNNdotCom, July 1, 2000. The article is out-of-date now, painfully so, as the industry is hit by economic slowdown and massive layoffs. However, I think my comments are still pertinent, in regards to the gap between expectations and reality in the tech industry.

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Last modified: December 07, 2011
Copyright 1999-2001 Jeffrey Kaye, Ph.D.

All material provided on this website is for educational and informational purposes only. Direct consultation of a qualified, licensed health care provider or therapist should be sought as necessary for any specific questions or problems. This web site should not be construed as offering either medical advice or professional services; no therapeutic relationship is established by use of this site. Please do not send emails to this site or anyone associated with it that may include confidential information. A link to any other web site from this site does not necessarily imply any approval, recommendation, or endorsement of such site.