Method #1: Identify the Stressor
Sometimes, stress is just present. You feel stressed and anxious even though you can’t quite put your finger on it. The “not knowing” is even more stressful than whatever the actual situation is. Take a moment to think precisely about what’s stressing you. What exactly about your situation is stressful? For example, if you’re studying for an important exam or working on a project at work, then you might identify the stress as concerns about failing that exam or doing a bad job and not being able to get the career you desire or promotion you were looking for.
Simply identifying the stressor makes you less stressed. Rather than feeling big, scary, and intangible, you’ve now “boxed it in.” Now that the stress has a form or shape, you can do something about it.
Method #2: Make a Plan
Now that the source of your stress is identifiable, make a plan to solve the problem. It could be a very simple, one-sentence plan, but simply knowing that there’s a potential solution can help reduce the stress. For instance, let’s say your stressor is financial problems. You’ve identified that. Now, make a plan for earning more or spending less. Do you need to skip your morning coffee? Do you need to get a better job? Do you need to sell something? Do you need to start a side business? Just the act of making a plan that you believe you can follow will reduce your stress. And carefully working through that plan helps chip away at the stress. Making small, measurable progress is, above all, very helpful.
Method #3: Focus on What You Can Control
Some people want to control everything and help everyone. They want to solve world hunger, improve the climate, stop wars, and more. Little do they realize that there are many things they can’t control.
A simple technique is to ask, “Can I do anything about this?” If the answer is “no,” then forget about it. Did you watch the news on TV and now you’re stressed out? Can you do anything about it? No? Then, forget about it. Maybe even skip the news if it only gives you stress.
If you can’t control it, don’t worry about it. Psychologists call this having an internal locus of control. People who have too much of an external locus of control feel helpless and give up fairly quickly before making an effort to do anything.
Method #4: What’s the Worst that Could Happen?
Another easy-to-use strategy is simply asking yourself, “What’s the worst that could happen?”, and often even the worst-case scenario is not that bad. Maybe there aren’t any consequences, or the consequences actually aren’t that severe. But if you don’t ask that question, you won’t get clarity on the reality of your situation.
Method #5: Plan to Be Early
How much of people’s stress is due to poor punctuality? For some people, it’s a lot. Why is traffic so stressful for some people? Because they’re running late for work, to a meeting, or to get home. You can’t change the traffic situation, but you can change how early you leave to get to your next destination. And it’s far better to overestimate your time to get to your destination than to underestimate it.
Method #6: Look for the Positive
Even when something bad happens, there’s a silver lining in anything. There’s always something good that comes out of a bad situation. And although it may be difficult to look for what’s beneficial/advantageous in a bad situation, it can be very helpful to reduce stress.
Method #7: Distraction
Fortunately, humans can only think about one thing at a time. Often, a distraction to occupy your mind will be enough so that when you go back to thinking about the stressor, you can actually think about it more clearly and more strategically. The best kinds of distractions involve activities you enjoy like reading or exercise.
Elixuer Staff Writer