What is stress?
Stress is a natural response that manifests physiologically and psychologically. We all experience it now and then, especially when dealing with things we deem challenging, like juggling several types of work, preparing for a wedding, and having financial troubles.
We also experience stress when we go through something threatening (especially traumatic experiences), like being ganged up by bullies, getting a subpoena, and being told you'll be fired if you make a mistake.
Other examples of stressful situations include losing a loved one, going through a divorce, getting into an accident, and losing your home to a fire. All of these situations can be referred to as stressors.
Whenever we get stressed, our bodies release cortisol and adrenaline hormones.
The former helps regulate our stress response and our blood pressure, helps our metabolism, and helps manage our sleep-wake cycle, but too much of it can lead to weight gain, muscle weakness, a spike up in blood sugar (which can lead to diabetes), and weaken our bones.
The latter can help us focus on what we're dealing with, but too much of it can cause anxiety and nervousness. We might even start shaking and feel tingles in our bodies. It can even prevent us from sleeping when we're supposed to, which can lead to insomnia. Those with pre-existing heart problems become more at risk of heart damage, too.
Given the adverse effects of having too much of these hormones, we can say that stress can lead to a wide variety of mental and physical health problems. For the benefit of our mental health and physical health, we need to develop healthy coping methods for managing stress.
By effectively managing stress, we can prevent it from leading to mental health issues like anxiety disorders and depression, as well as physical health issues like hypertension, stroke, and diabetes.
How does one manage stress effectively?
Whether the stress experienced is academic stress, stress in the work environment, stress due to interpersonal conflict, psychological stress, or any stress, healthily coping with stress is essential. We can do so by having a coping strategy composed of various coping skills and mechanisms to help us regulate our emotional responses, fortify our psychological resilience, and help us soothe ourselves to calm down.
To manage stress effectively, a person must first identify and understand their specific stressors (these can change over time) because understanding them is half the battle. They can do so by seeing a specialist to discuss their stressors. Specialists who focus on mental health can help guide people to unpack what they feel when faced with stressors, and they can issue assessments like the Perceived Stress Test to evaluate a person's stress levels.
Once the person adequately identifies these stressors and understands how they affect their overall well-being, they can determine what coping mechanisms and skills they can add to their coping strategy.
What are examples of such coping skills?
Learning time management.
Schoolwork and office work are everyday stressors, and depending on their school or employer, the demands might be higher than others, leading to increased stress levels. If that is the case for a person, what they can do is learn time management. Time management can teach a person to set realistic goals and personal deadlines.
They can learn how to break down their work into manageable steps and determine what they should prioritize first instead of becoming flustered and overwhelmed by the amount of work they must do.
Make the necessary lifestyle adjustments.
Some people cope with stress in unhealthy ways. Some end up committing substance abuse or alcohol abuse as a way to manage. Some overeat. These are just examples of unhealthy ways of coping and can lead to various health issues on top of the adverse effects of stress they might already be dealing with.
Suppose this is the case for a person. In that case, they can attend counseling or therapy programs that focus on getting rid of addiction-related behaviors so they can unlearn these addictive behaviors and adopt healthy lifestyles to help them recover and maintain excellent overall physical well-being.
Even if they don't have addiction-related behaviors or negative psychological responses, making healthy lifestyle adjustments can still help. Having a healthy, hearty meal, especially one with vegetables and food that gives omega-3 fats, can regulate cortisol levels.
Regular exercise can also reduce stress because exercising can distract us from our stressors.
Practice deep breathing exercises and mindfulness.
Deep breathing exercises and mindfulness can help people calm down whenever their stress makes them anxious. These are exercises that they can do when they have free time, especially after doing something stressful. They can think more clearly and determine how to work through the stress by calming down.
Mindfulness is another exercise they can do because it's known for its anti-depressant and anti-anxiety effects. It lessens stress response and lowers our blood pressure. It can even combat specific stress responses like overeating and taking substances.
How does this Coping Strategies for Stress PDF work?
Now that you know the gist of stress and what examples of coping skills and strategies people can adopt to combat the effects of stress and navigate themselves around the challenges they face, we'd like you to know that we created a Coping Strategies for Stress PDF handout.
This PDF contains a list of exercises and instructions people can try and adopt to combat varying stress levels. Here are the coping skills listed in the PDF:
- The 4-7-8 Breathing Method (taking deep breaths can help lower stress)
- Counting from 1 to 10
- Mindfulness Meditation
- Lifestyle Changes List
- Finding Humor (because laughing at a problem sometimes helps)
- Positive Self-Talk
- Positive Thinking
If you happen to be a mental healthcare professional (psychologist, counselor, cognitive behavioral therapist, etc.), you can use this PDF as a handout to give to patients so they can have a list of coping strategies to refer to when dealing with stress.
If you're not a mental healthcare professional and stumbled upon this guide, you can use it if you need ideas on coping with stress.
Coping Strategies for Stress PDF example:
Now that you know what to expect from our coping skills PDF, we'd like to discuss what's in store for you.
Each coping skill listed has its section accompanied by the question: Did this work for you? There are two checkboxes, one for YES and the other for NO. You only need to pick one. If a particular skill or strategy worked for you, add it to your roster of coping mechanisms!
Some sections are fillable (Positive Self-Talk, Positive Thinking, Finding Humor). While people don't have to write anything down on them, they can do so if they want to engage in thought exercises to help them build resilience against stress.
If you like what you see and believe this is an excellent handout to issue to patients, or if this has a list of coping strategies you think will help you manage stress, feel free to download our Coping Strategies for Stress PDF template!
Other resources for stress management:
The Perceived Stress Scale
Earlier, we mentioned that specialists can assess people using a Perceived Stress Test. They will use the Perceived Stress Scale to do just that. This scale will be answered by the person being evaluated. They only have to answer the following questions:
- In the last month, how often have you been upset because of something that happened unexpectedly?
- In the last month, how often have you felt you could not control the important things?
- In the last month, how often have you felt nervous and stressed?
- How often have you felt confident about handling your personal problems in the last month?
- In the last month, how often have you felt that things were going your way?
- In the last month, how often have you found that you could not cope with everything you had to do?
- In the last month, how often have you been able to control irritations in your life?
- In the last month, how often have you felt that you were on top of things?
- In the last month, how often have you been angered because of things that happened outside your control?
- In the last month, how often have you felt difficulties were piling up so high that you could not overcome them?
The scale has a set of answer options:
- 0 = never
- 1 = almost never
- 2 = sometimes
- 3 = fairly often
- 4 = very often
The fourth, fifth, seventh, and eighth questions are reverse-scored.
Here are the designations that perceived stress scores fall under:
- Scores ranging from 0-13 would be considered low stress.
- Scores ranging from 14-26 would be considered moderate stress.
- Scores ranging from 27-40 would be considered high perceived stress.
Stress Management Worksheets
If you're a therapist or counselor specializing in treating patients with high-stress levels, having an extensive roster of clinical tools, including assessments like the Perceived Stress Scale above and stress management worksheets, would be best.
Stress management worksheets can help people think about their stress, which they might not have had the opportunity to do if they're always overwhelmed by stress. Some worksheets will have people unpack their stress and identify what causes them. They also ask patients how they plan on tackling these stressors or what they can do to cope.
Some even have goal-setting portions to remind themselves about what they're striving for, which gives them an excellent reason to combat stress.
Why use Carepatron as your therapy software?
Thanks for reading this guide! We hope this was an excellent refresher about stress, and we hope our Coping Strategies for Stress PDF helps you or your patients work through anxiety and attain a healthy overall well-being.
While you're still here, we'd like to ask for your time to check more of the Carepatron platform if you haven't. We have various helpful features, and we're confident they're cool enough to convince you to consider us your number-one mental health EHR and therapy practice management software. We won't get into our features here, but we'd like to discuss one related to this guide: our resource library.
Our resource library is one of our most popular features. It's a massive collection of clinical and non-clinical healthcare resources that cover numerous healthcare fields, topics, and practices, especially mental health.
If you're a therapist, counselor, or similar mental healthcare professional looking to build a roster of tools to help patients work through stress, we'd like you to know we have guides about the Perceived Stress Scale and two examples of stress management worksheets you can read. They're linked above!
Suppose your patient has anxiety and depression as a result of stress. In that case, we have scales that can be used to assess the severity of their anxiety and depression symptoms, similar to how the Perceived Stress Scale measures stress levels.
We also have cognitive behavioral therapy worksheets to help patients reframe their thinking when dealing with stress. Unhelpful thoughts can be replaced with positive and more helpful thoughts.
What's great about these resources is that they're all free, so feel free to read as many guides as you want and download as many templates as you need to build your resource roster.