Avoiding problems is a band-aid approach to handling life’s challenges that makes things worse.

According to Christina Smith, LMHC, “Avoidance is a maladaptive coping skill that offers the mind an escape from uncomfortable thoughts, feelings, and/or experiences. It may seem like avoiding discomfort could be helpful, however, it results in never addressing the actual issue. In fact, avoidance may create a cycle of behavior that exacerbates feelings of anxiety and depression, making it much harder to problem solve, cope, and heal.”

When our dreams start to crumble and our plans fall through, and we feel overwhelmed and stressed, facing the situation and dealing with the problem reduces stress and eventually makes things better.

Avoiding or escaping from a situation increases our risk of developing emotional and physical problems due to increased anxiety and stress. 

The Body’s Response to Stress

The body releases hormones, such as adrenaline and norepinephrine, into the bloodstream when it feels endangered, which helps in emergency situations when we must act fast to protect ourselves. 

Unfortunately, ongoing stress in our relationships, jobs, and finances, or when our plans fall through, can cause adverse physical reactions, resulting in emotional issues and illnesses.

Ongoing feelings of anxiety, worry, and fear cause some people to experience back pain, depression, fatigue, headaches, high blood pressure, shortness of breath, insomnia, problems with relationships, weight gain or loss, and upset stomach.

Healthcare professionals recommend eating a healthy diet, exercising, and sleeping seven to eight hours nightly to help the body manage stress and reduce the long-term effects of chronic stress.

But what else can we do?

Here are some tips for coping with stress when your plans fall through or your life starts feeling overwhelming.

Be Aware and Acknowledge When You Feel Stressed

Try not to ignore the symptoms that come with feeling stressed. You have to be aware of a situation before you can do something about it. 

Some people clench their fists or feel muscle tension in their necks when feeling anxious or stressed. Others get short-tempered and snap at people; some lose their appetites or binge on their favorite comfort foods; others will notice their breathing is shallow. 

The body responds to stress physically and emotionally. 

What are some ways you react to stress?

Next time you feel stressed, anxious, or worried, become more aware of your reactions and acknowledge your feelings, whether you feel stressed, anxious, or worried, or all three. 

Once you become aware and acknowledge your feelings and physical reactions, you can cope with the situation by taking necessary action.

Identify The Source

Dig deep by asking, “Why am I feeling stressed, anxious, or worried?” 

Ask the question more than once to get to the underlying root cause. You might have to ask the question six or seven times to identify the true source.

Once you know the reason(s) for your feelings, it’s time to do something about the situation. 

Sometimes you can remove the event, person, or place from your life. 

Often you can’t.

So you must create an action plan to respond to the stressful person, place, or event.

The first place to start is by adopting a more flexible attitude.

For example, how does getting stressed and upset make things better if the weather ruins your plans for a family picnic at the park? You can’t control the weather. Next time have a backup plan in case it rains.

As a rule, although it isn’t easy, please try not to stress over things you cannot control. Respond and adapt as best you can. Have a positive outlook and search for the silver lining and opportunities. What more can you do? 

Another source of stress is important meetings and job interviews. The best way to handle those situations is to prepare as best you can. You can write questions in advance and practice asking them or role-play with trusted friends. Preparation reduces stress (it doesn’t eliminate it). Dress your best; be on top of your game. Walk into the situation with your best version of yourself.

Change Your Perspective

One of the best ways to reduce stress when your dreams start unraveling or your plans fall through is to change how you see things. 

You can view the situation as an overwhelming obstacle that floods your soul with stress and defeats you, or you may see it as a challenge or opportunity to become better or improve your life. You might even be able to reframe the situation from being a dreaded problem into an exciting adventure that brings out the best in you. 

Other Stress-Reducing Strategies

Some other things you can do to cope with feelings of worry and stress include: talking with a trusted friend or counselor, setting realistic goals and breaking them down into manageable daily or weekly tasks, and enjoying activities that bring you peace, like certain recreational activities, hobbies, or participating in a faith community.

Roger Crawford said, “Being challenged in life is inevitable, being defeated is optional.”

Don’t let stress, worry, or anxiety ruin your life.

By practicing these stress-coping tips, you’ll be healthier and happier, have a better outlook on life, and make steady progress on unlocking your best life. 

Photo by Anthony Tran on Unsplash

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