Identify Your Typical Tactics for Dealing with Stress

“There must be quite a few things that a hot bath won’t cure, but I don’t know many of them.” – Sylvia Plath

We all handle stress differently.  Before beginning the process of modifying one’s coping mechanisms for dealing with stress, it is important to take inventory of one’s current tactics for handling stress.  Try not to be excessively harsh with yourself if your current go-to methods of handling stress aren’t the healthiest.  What matters is that you are interested now in creating new healthy ways of dealing with the inevitable stressors of life.

The Relaxation and Stress Reduction Workbook (Davis, Eshelman, & McKay, 2008) offers some common ways of coping with stressful events that are adapted from the Coping Styles Questionnaire (Boyers, 1999).

Common Tactics for Dealing with Stress

Try reading through these typical coping tactics and notice which ones you find yourself engaging in.  What themes do you notice amongst your most common tactics for dealing with stress?

1. I forget about my own needs, put my head down, and just work harder.

2. I look to friends for support and conversation.

3. I overindulge in my favorite foods.

4. I gravitate towards physical exercise.

5. I tend to get cranky/irritable and take it out on those around me.

6. I take some time out/space to relax and unwind by myself.

7. I smoke a cigarette or drink coffee/soda.

8. I actively confront my source of stress and try to change it.

9. I withdraw emotionally and just go through the motions of my day.

10. I reframe my thinking about the situation, putting things in a better perspective.

11. I sleep more than I really need to.

12. I take some time off from work/school to have a bit of space.

13. I go shopping and purchase something to make myself feel better.

14. I joke around with friends and laugh to make myself feel better.

15. I drink more alcohol than usual.

16. I immerse myself in a hobby/interest that I really enjoy.

17. I take over-the-counter or prescription medicine to make myself feel/sleep better.

18. I focus on maintaining a balanced/healthy diet.

19. I just put my head in the sand/ignore the problem and hope that it goes away.

20. I pray, meditate, or enhance my spiritual life.

21. I worry about the problem a lot, but feel afraid to take action.

22. I remind myself to focus on what I can control and accept the things that I can’t control.

How did it feel to read through this list of common tactics for dealing with stress?  Could you identify with some of the tactics mentioned?

The even-numbered tactics are considered healthy/constructive ways of dealing with stress, while the odd-numbered tactics are thought to be less constructive/healthy.  If you found that you utilize more unhealthy coping mechanisms for dealing with stress than you would like, consider which of the healthy approaches to dealing with stress you can integrate into your life.  Try picking just one healthy coping mechanism that you can use today.

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Boyers, J. (1999). Coping styles questionnaire. Santa Clara, CA: Kaiser-Permanente Medical Center and Health Styles.

Davis, M., Eshelman, E.R., & McKay, M. (2008). The relaxation and stress reduction workbook. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger Publications, Inc.

Featured image: Spa in DVN by Dennis Wong / CC BY 2.0

About Laura K. Schenck, Ph.D., LPC

I am a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) with a Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology from the University of Northern Colorado. Some of my academic interests include: Dialectical Behavior Therapy, mindfulness, stress reduction, work/life balance, mood disorders, identity development, supervision & training, and self-care.

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