How Do You Respond to Stress?

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Stress can be positive or negative. While positive stress can serve a purpose and isn’t necessarily a bad thing, negative stress generally serves no purpose and leads to problems such as lost sleep, weight gain, and mood swings (among others).

But many of the problems associated with negative stress are associated with the way we respond to that stress, rather than the stress itself. This means if we can change the way we respond to stress, we can change the impact it has on us.

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What’s your stress response character?

There are three primary ways we can respond to stress. They are:

  • The escape artist: this person prefers to live with their head in the sand when it comes to stress. They’re always trying to get out of or away from the stressful situation. Denial is often one of their primary tactics for dealing with stress.
  • The distractor: this person won’t deny their stress, but they’ll do whatever they can to distract themselves from it. Procrastination is the distractor’s best friend – they’ll put off dealing with the stress as long as they can by doing other “more important” things.
  • The solver: this person focuses on finding solutions to the stress and if there aren’t any solutions, they try to relax and not worry. They face their stress head on and without delay.

The first two are less-than-ideal ways of dealing with stress, while the third is what we all should strive to be. If you find that you’re an escape artist or a distractor, this is nothing to be upset or embarrassed about. Many of us are.

You also might notice that you fit perfectly into one response, or that you take a little from a couple of categories, depending on the specific stress you’re facing.

It is important to be honest with yourself about how you respond to stress. Click To Tweet

It is important, though, to be honest with yourself about how you respond to stress. You can’t change your response if you’re in denial about it. By admitting to being an escape artist or a distractor, you can look for the specific actions you take and start actively seeking to change them.

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What can you do to become a solver?

There are a few simple steps you can take to change from being an escape artist or a distractor and become a solver.

  1. Focus on finding a solution. It’s easy to wallow in self-pity, worry about potential problems resulting from the stressful situation, and try to ignore the stress. But it’s important that you focus your attention on finding a solution. You might meditate on it, ask for advice or help from others, or do some research. Keep your thinking solution-oriented.
  2. Keep your head down and implement your solution. Once you’ve found a solution, or what you think will be a solution, start implementing it. Don’t spend too much time overthinking whether it will work, or the potential negative outcomes. If it seems like a good solution, go with it.
  3. Avoid solutions that only relieve your pain short-term. It’s easy to find a quick fix that will make you feel better for a little while but doesn’t solve the problem long-term. If it’s absolutely necessary to implement a short-term fix until you can find or implement a long-term solution, do so. But whenever possible, avoid the quick fix and instead, find the solution that truly solves the problem.
  4. Be self-aware. This might be the final step, but it’s possibly the most important. If you want to become a solver, you need to be self-aware and notice when you’re slipping back into old habits. Once you notice that you’re backsliding, you need to be willing to shift out of the comfort of your usual behaviors and into the discomfort of doing something new and different until the new behavior becomes a comfortable habit.

It takes time to change the way you respond to stress, just like it takes time to change anything else. You’ll move forward, then lose traction and go backward. Don’t give up, and don’t beat yourself up when it happens. Cut yourself some slack, take a breath and start moving forward again.

Photo by Simon Migaj on Unsplash

It takes time to change the way you respond to stress, just like it takes time to change anything else. Click To Tweet
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