Coping Skills for Stress and Anxiety

We all get stressed at times, some of us more than others; these coping skills for stress and anxiety will help you discover how to solve the problem of an overly stressed mind. They are based on CBT and Occupational Therapy and are freely available to all.

(This is part of my free CBT series)

In life, we are built to experience stress in the short term, but our stress levels are prolonged with our modern lifestyles, and this is unhealthy. For some of us, myself included, it can be debilitating when stress and anxiety kick in.

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I have attended many courses on coping skills for stress and anxiety, and I want to share with you what I have learned with regards to problem-solving, in the hope it will help you manage your anxious thoughts.

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What is Stress?

Stress is linked to the fight and flight response, and in the olden days, this proved useful, such as when we needed to run from a rampaging lion or tiger. However, nowadays you don’t often see these in suburbia, especially when walking around the supermarket.

We needed our fight or flight response to keep us safe and alive; the adrenaline which pumps through us was to help us run or to fight. But now, it is scarce we seldom need this response, but it still lives within us.

Our pressures come from non-immediate threats such as money worries, social status, work, the internet. We deal more with trolls than wolves, and we have a constant bombardment of what we should be doing or should look like and should be living like.

Our brains have not adapted to this long term exposure of stress, and the initial adrenaline to get us ready for the fight or flight is prolonged, and it switches to cortisol. If our cortisol levels remain high for long periods, it can lead to memory loss, depression and anxiety. Stress also affects the amount of Serotonin in the brain; it lowers the levels, which results in depression.

In a nutshell, too much stress makes us unhappy.

[AF] If you would like professional CBT support, I recommend Online Therapy where you are assigned your own personal CBT therapist.

The Stress Bucket

We are all born with a stress bucket; some peoples are larger than others, meaning they can cope with more stress, while others have smaller buckets, meaning they cope less well. The size of the bucket can change depending on what is going on in your life; sometimes, we can cope more because we are happier than when we are lower in the mood.

stress bucket
Stress Bucket – Google

Every day we will have different things that will fill our bucket up. It could be work, family, other relationships, physical or mental health problems, or both money or society’s demands. Anything that is deemed stressful to you can fill the bucket up, and you need to make sure your tap is working on releasing some of the pressure, which I hope this article will help you with.

Grab a pen and a piece of paper.

Draw yourself a large bucket on your sheet of paper; now start writing the things in your bucket at the moment; it could be a job loss, money worries such as debt or an unpaid parking fine. You could be having marital problems, or your kids are in trouble at school. You might be worried about your pet’s health, or you might be concerned about the ecosystem of the world.

Add your concerns to the bucket.

Your bucket can get fuller and fuller over time until it eventually overflows, and this is when you are no longer able to cope with everyday life and when you need to put coping skills for stress and anxiety into practice. It can only take an extra drop to overflow the bucket. You can go from managing to stress overload by a single drop, and you suddenly find yourself unable to cope anymore.

Sometimes we need extra taps; one will not do; we need to put as many taps into our bucket as possible.

Ask yourself what taps you have to release stress; it could be going for a run, meditating, knitting, watching a comedy series, cooking etc.

Problem Solving

coping skills for stress and anxiety

To make more taps, we need to solve some problems, and the following is what I have learned:

  • Make time – solving a problem takes time and concentration, the long term goal is to be free of the problem and sometimes it cannot be fixed in ten minutes. It may take many weeks, so you need to set yourself some time aside to work on the problem, and face up to it and not bury it in the bucket and hope it will go away.
  • One by one – write down your problems and deal with them one at a time, this will help you stay on track and keen, you won’t be overwhelmed.
  • Write it down – make sure you write your problems down, if they are in your head they can become muddled and your thoughts will become cluttered and the problems will merge into on huge problems. Writing it down on paper will clear your brain. If you could have thought the problem through you would of solved it by now, so always write things down to seperate the problems.

Some issues which may occur:

  • There isn’t a problem – or there is but it is out of your control. Remember you can only control you, not what other people do. If there is something wrong and you can do nothing about it, then it might be you need to distract yourself from what is happening and make sure you are taking care of yourself.
  • The problem is too big – if the problem is too big or has been going on for a long time we can struggle to see what it is we actually need to change, Make sure you really break the the problem down into bite sized chunks and manageable steps. You might not be able to solve the problem in one go, but a bit at a time will go towards solving it.
  • You need help – everyone needs help sometimes either because we are completely overwhelmed and can’t see what the best option is, or sometimes because it is just not possible to solve the problem on our own. Find someone or some organisation which has your best interests at heart.
1. Identify the problemBe clear and focus on facts rather than feelings.
2. List all the possible solutionsBe as creative as possible, don’t worry yet about whether they are good or bad ideas.
3. Evaluate Your ideasWrite down the pros and cons of each idea then choose the ones that sound best.
4. Set a SMART goalSpecific
Measurable
Achievable
Realistic
Timed
5. Implement the SMART goalStick to your goal and do what you have planned.
6. Evaluate the outcomeIf it worked, great. If not go back to step 2 and get more ideas.
Taken from the Occupational Therapy Booklet on coping with stress.

The Coping Skills for Stress and Anxiety Summary

I hope you can see a way forward with your stress and anxiety when it is caused by problems either within yourself or outside influences. Using the SMART technique has helped me in many ways. If you have never heard of this before please see the below.

  • Specific means simple, sensible, significant.
  • Measurable means meaningful, motivating.
  • Achievable means agreed, attainable.
  • Realistic means reasonable and resourced, results-based.
  • Time bound means time-based, time limited, time/cost limited, timely, time-sensitive.

I wish you all the best and continue to look out for other free CBT articles on the website.

Peace & Blessings

Lou

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