Healthy coping mechanisms for stress

Do you want the good news or the bad news? The bad news is that there is no pill you can pop that will make stress disappear (BOO!)… but the good news is that there are lots of healthy coping mechanisms for stress that you can apply (HOORAY!), and that’s what I’m sharing in this week’s blog and YouTube video. So… get comfortable and let’s talk about better mental health!

I call this one ‘I have so many questions about this including why do they look like they’re doing a dance and why does the clock look like a cartoon character ready to break into song about the meaning of stress?’. I may have had a little too much time on my hands when thinking about it…

Want to watch the video version of this post instead? Here it is:

In this post, I’m talking about healthy coping mechanisms for stress and I’ll be sharing five simple tips that you can apply immediately.

Why am I talking about healthy coping mechanisms for stress?

I’m talking about it because the opposite of ‘healthy’ is ‘unhealthy’, and a lot of the things we do to let off steam or deal with feeling stressed aren’t particularly good for us. I know that going to the pub after work might seem like a good idea (and all things in moderation) but I can tell you from personal experience that alcohol becomes less effective over time and some of us can then find ourselves using it more and more frequently to try and get the same result (I did that with alcohol and with food, until I could barely fit through the door anymore; feel free to watch the video linked above for a flashback to what I looked like in January 2021, before I finally started working on my emotions instead of eating them).

I’m not just singling out alcohol either; a lot of the coping mechanisms that we might use to deal with stress and anxiety aren’t particularly healthy, and although it may appear to ‘take the edge off’ in the short-term, in the long-term we can find that some coping techniques become less effective or stop working altogether. So today’s video is all about healthier coping strategies you can apply.

There are two things that I want to say upfront that underpin everything I say today:

(1) There are no quick fixes: And in fact when I said about ‘unhealthy’ coping mechanisms a moment ago, most so-called quick fixes fall into that category. For example, ignoring or suppressing feelings of stress and anxiety can often lead to the situation becoming much worse in the long run, so the healthy way to approach it is to deal with issues early — and I’ll come back to that in a minute.

And the second piece I want to say is that:

(2) Prevention is better than cure: And what I mean by that is that good mental health and wellbeing is a daily practice that takes time, effort and perseverance. Think of it the same way as your physical health (and in fact, your physical health has a direct effect on your mental health just like your mental health has a direct effect on your physical health!). If you look after your body every day and are mindful of what you consume, you tend to have better physical health… well, your mental health is the same. So if you put in the time and effort every day to proactively manage your mental wellbeing, you’ll find that — over time — that adds up to deliver great results. If you wait until there is an issue, you’ll often find it takes more work to resolve the problem… so please consider everything I’m saying today as being a means of encouraging you to make both your physical and mental wellbeing a priority every day, and to be proactive about looking after both!

So with all that in mind, here are five ways to manage stress in a healthy way — starting with:

  • Manage your time effectively — if traffic is horrendous on your way to work, leave 5-10 minutes early. If your train or bus constantly gets you to work with only minutes to spare, catch an earlier one. For the sake of a few extra minutes, being able to feel less-rushed makes a huge difference (I used to get to work early, log in and then go and grab myself a coffee to ease into the day). You can apply this idea to the way you work as well: instead of trying to do too much, be realistic about what you can achieve and manage your time effectively. Instead of constantly overpromising and missing deadlines, instead choose to underpromise and overdeliver (for example, if something will take you four hours to do, commit to it being done in eight hours — you give yourself a buffer in case anything happens, and if you’re able to deliver it ahead of schedule then even better because that makes you look like a superstar!).
  • Move your body — and even just a short walk can have a big impact on your sense of wellbeing, and the thing with physical activity is that it helps you to channel your emotional energy. If you’re feeling stressed, go and take a brisk walk to burn off some energy or if you just need to sit for a bit, then go outside and get some fresh air. The more you move, the more energy you release. Speaking of, my next tip is…
  • Write it out — because a lot of the stuff that goes on in our head will stay there unless you release it, so get it out! Grab some paper and a pen and just write and write and write until you run out of steam (don’t worry about what you write and you don’t have to go back and read it!)… and I recommend using an actual pen and paper here instead of your phone, because it helps you to channel that energy out of your body. OK, so next…
  • Deal with issues early — when you out things off they can often cause a lot more stress in the future (not to mention the little voice in your head that keeps on reminding you it needs to be done); I talked about this in Episode 99 of my podcast, about avoidance. The other reason why I say to deal with issues early is that a lot of small issues can be prevented from turning into enormous problems if they’re just dealt with swiftly, so make life easier for yourself and get into the habit of addressing issues quickly if and when they arise. And that leads to my next tip…
  • Take things one day at a time — because we have no idea what tomorrow will bring, and worrying about it won’t change the outcome; it will just take you away from finding peace of mind today! I talked about worry in Episode 95 of the podcast if you’d like more information about how to deal with it. Choose to focus on today and take things one day at a time, and as you become more comfortable with doing that you will find that it becomes easier to focus on the current day without becoming too stressed about what  may or may not happen tomorrow.

Whatever you choose to do is up to you; remember, better mental health begins with what YOU choose to do today!

If you’d like more advice on how to manage stress, check out Episode 8 of the Let’s Talk About Mental Health podcast, Let’s Talk About… Stress.

Want more? Listen to the weekly Let’s Talk About Mental Health podcast on your favourite podcast service (click here for links to different services via Podfollow) and subscribe to my YouTube channel, Better Mental Health, for weekly how-to videos.

Thanks so much for joining me today, take care and talk to you next time!

Jeremy 😃

Jeremy Godwin (@jeremygodwinofficial on Instagram) is an Australian writer, content creator and coach who focuses on better mental health. His weekly podcast Let’s Talk About Mental Health has more than 650,000 downloads and listeners in over 150 countries, and in it Jeremy shares practical advice for improving and maintaining mental health that is grounded in quality research and personal experience. He also presents a weekly show on YouTube, Better Mental Health, which focuses on simple advice for how to manage different aspects of mental health. Jeremy’s style is direct-yet-supportive, and his own experiences with depression and anxiety (along with his formal qualifications in psychology and sociology) allow him to provide advice that is both impactful and sensitive.

#managingstress #bettermentalhealth #letstalkaboutmentalhealth #improveyourmentalhealth #mentalwellbeing

This article draws from Episode 12 of the Let’s Talk About Mental Health podcast, written and produced by Jeremy Godwin © 2019. This article © Jeremy Godwin, 2021.

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