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How to manage stress

How to manage stress?

Both problem-focused and emotion-focused strategies are useful for people, depending on what type of the situation is causing stress.


There are some ways in which people can manage (or cope) with the everyday stressful situations. But first, it is important to distinguish the terms Stress and Stressor. The word Stressor refers to the unexpected stimulus or situation outside of us that we might perceive as dangerous for our physical and/or mental state. When we do so, our body starts reacting to such events in the surrounding and Stress occurs. These reactions often include increased heart rate, poor concentration, the feeling of nervousness, etc. Therefore, different people may declare different things as stressors, depending on whether they perceive it threatening in some way. 


So, what are the most effective coping strategies used in order to reduce the stress our body produces? There are two broad dimensions of coping ways, named Problem-focused strategy and Emotion-focused strategy. It is important to have in mind that neither of these strategies is generally being considered as “good” nor “bad”. Rather, both of these strategies are useful for people, depending on what type of the situation is causing stress. When using the Problem-focused strategy, people are concentrating on the problem itself and the ways they can actively change the situation they dislike. Here are some of the ways that are focusing mainly on the problem: analyzing the situation, working harder, influencing the person who controls the situation, using former knowledge to act efficiently, and so on. On the other hand, when applying Emotion-focused strategy, one is concentrating on reducing the unpleasant emotions that follow stress reaction. Therefore, a person can dream about better outcomes, avoid everything that reminds of the difficult situation, blame someone for the current state, or complain to others and thus gain the social support that is needed. 


Some scientists also included Avoidance coping strategy as a way to manage stress. However, it seems that this strategy is not so beneficial as it may seem at the first sight. As much as it is useful to avoid stressful events and thus experience no stress at all, this avoiding behavior doesn’t lead to long-term benefits for one’s physical and psychological health. It is practically impossible to avoid stress in everyday life situations. Also, improving skills to manage stress helps us to deal better with the upcoming threats and be more successful in the future. One example of this coping strategy is procrastination. People postpone their obligations because they perceive it as too demanding to deal with, which consequently leaves them with even more things to take care of. 


New studies encourage some novel approaches to stress managing. One of the techniques is called Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), which is based on the mindfulness approach. It is basically an eight-week group program in mindfulness training, in which participants reflect on their experiences. In addition, in one meta-analytic study, it has been observed that MBSR improved the quality of life, social functioning, and personal development.