What’s in our stress coping skills toolbox?
Stress, for the purpose of this article, is the response we have to challenging situations that cause us to change or act in a particular way to keep ourselves balanced. Stressors or triggers could be physical or psychological in nature. The stress response we experience, also known as the fight, flight or freeze response, causes involuntary physiological reactions in our body. We’re ready to take action, if necessary. When the stressor is more psychological in nature, as in relationship issues or job and school demands, the stress response becomes more chronic and in danger of depleting our bodies, potentially leaving us feeling exhausted.
The good news is there are helpful ways of coping with stress, and stopping stressful situations from affecting us negatively. Our first powerful protector is…Awareness! Learning to be mindful and aware of what situations stress us out, as well as how we are responding to these stressors, often without even realizing we are doing this, can be very helpful. It’s difficult to change what we’re not aware of.
Another stress-coping skill is one that we always have with us. You may have guessed it:…Breathing! Under stress, we often hold our breath without realizing. When feeling panicky, our breath becomes rapid and shallow. We actually take in more oxygen and breathe out more carbon dioxide. Result? Feeling light-headed, clammy, sweaty, even tingling in our extremities. All this to say: breathing is a powerful tool in our stress-busting tool-kit!
Doing simple breathing exercises mindfully can really change the way we feel. Try this: Sit or lie down, whichever is most comfortable. You can close your eyes or just soften your gaze. Breathe in through your nose for a count of 4. Hold your breath for a count of 2. Breathe out for a count of 4. Repeat for a few minutes. Once your breathing returns to its normal rhythm, be aware of how you are feeling.
More stress coping skills for our toolbox to follow in my next post – stay tuned!!