Coping Skills for Stress

Written by: Corinne Carter, Relationship Therapist

When we first meet with clients, we always ask the question: "what are your goals for counselling?"  One of the most frequent answers that we hear from clients is that, through counselling, they want to develop "better coping skills" for dealing with times of stress.

Everyone experiences stress in different ways, and there are countless unique and creative coping strategies available for you to try when you're up against a stressful situation.  Stress, in and of itself, is not a negative thing; in fact, it's a necessary part of life!  Rather, it's the way that we respond to stress and think about stress that can be problematic.  The next time you're experiencing a difficult/painful/stressful situation, consider trying one (or all!) of the following coping strategies:

1. Focus on what you can control; accept what you can't:  There are many things in life that we can't control, such as the behaviour of other people.  Instead of worrying about the reactions of others, focus on how you can respond differently in stressful situations.  Ask yourself, "what is changeable in this situation?"  By highlighting what is changeable, you can then create an action plan to deal with those particular aspects of your circumstance.  Accept that there are some things you cannot change.  Acceptance doesn't mean that you're giving up or that you don't care.  Rather, it means acknowledging that certain things are outside of your control.  By accepting what is outside of your control, you will have more capacity for making changes to those areas where you do have an influence.

2. Take care of yourself:  Self-care is important for lessening the impact of stress on our bodies, hearts, and minds.  Making sure that your physical self is taken care of is critical; if your physical needs are neglected, then it will be even more difficult to face emotional and mental stressors.  Getting enough rest, feeding and nourishing your body, burning off excess energy through exercise, etc. are all important elements in caring for ourselves.  Connecting with others - accessing the support of loved ones - is another vital element of self-care.  Self-care doesn't need to be complicated, expensive, or time-consuming - taking 10 minutes to do something good for yourself is better than nothing!

3. Remember your resilience:  In times of stress, it's easy to lose sight of the challenges you've already overcome.  When we feel overwhelmed, we often forget just what we're capable of!  By remembering past challenges and the ways you've worked through them, you can access "lost" coping skills (i.e., coping skills that you already have, but have forgotten over time).  Perhaps the coping skills you've used in the past are no longer strategies that you consider helpful.  Recalling those coping skills can still be useful for more closely examining how you'd like to respond to stress differently now.

If you'd like to speak with one of our therapists to develop coping skills, or preferred ways of responding to stress, please feel free to contact our office at: 905-665-8150