How to Lighten the Load and Cope With Stress

Where in your life is stress a noticeable concern? Maybe you get stressed out from work, family responsibilities, or financial concerns.

Whatever leads to stress in your life, even with your best efforts to manage it, if you have too much going on it can catch up with you.

When stress catches up with us, it can take a toll on our physical and emotional health.

Stress can lead to tension, headaches, irritability, fatigue, and lack of concentration just to name a few, and it can spill over into our relationships and professional life.

How do you know when you’re beginning to get stressed out? What are your stress symptoms?

When you notice these symptoms starting to appear it’s time to use coping skills before stress gets overwhelming.

There are many ways to cope with stress. Some stress can be dealt with and resolved directly, where as other stress is just a part of life and needs to be managed as it appears.

Here are the two main ways to cope when confronted with stress.

Problem-focused coping – This type of coping is active and involves finding a solution to your problem or dealing directing with resolving the stressor.

Emotion-focused coping – This type of coping is about dealing with the emotional ramifications of stress by developing coping strategies that distract and calm the mind. This can be used alongside problem solving or in place of it if the problem can’t be solved.

Techniques for Problem Focused Coping

First off, if the problem can be solved, solve it!

Many times we forget how much influence we have in eliminating our stress. Sometimes the problem is related to our lifestyle and there are simple changes we can make to alleviate stress.

Four Steps to Problem Solving

  • Brainstorm several solutions
  • Think of the consequences of each solution (both good and bad)
  • Choose a solution
  • Evaluate your choice and reevaluate

Living a balanced life

We all have many roles and responsibilities that require our attention. Some are more important than others, but we still want to make ample time for each.

Finding time for work, family, friends, health, and fun is important for psychological well-being.

Keep up with physical health through exercising daily and eating a nutritious meal or snack. Find even 15 minutes a day for some physical activity.

Get support from relationships by talking to a friend, family member, co-worker, minister, or a counselor. Make time to deepen and grow your relationships so when you need support you have a network.

As well, make time for your hobbies and leisure activities by doing something fun every day. Take just a few minutes for something you really love to do.

Most importantly, take one thing at a time. Don’t bite off more than you can chew. It’s not about how much you can do but managing all your responsibilities effectively.

Avoid burnout and be aware of stress

When stress emerges it is often from time-pressure and being overworked. We all forget, or want to ignore the fact that we can’t do it all! We want to take on more without giving something up. Doing so will ultimately come back to burry us.

If we’re constantly on the go we need to eventually take a break for some R&R.

In order to avoid burnout recognize when your stress symptoms are emerging, and be willing to take a break or have a time-out. Prepare for projects and responsibilities early, and give yourself ample time.

As well, eliminate all thoughts or sentences that start with “What if…” When you feel overwhelmed with work and responsibilities the least unhelpful thing to do is lose sleep over it because you’re thinking of all the horrible scenarios that could play out.

Stay mindful and aware of your stress.

Techniques for Emotion Focused Coping

Remind yourself that even if you are dealing with a chronic issue stress is manageable. If you can’t solve the problem you may need to cope by managing your emotions.

The following are some suggestions to do so.

Meditation and peaceful imagery

Using meditation can be a wonderful practice to calm the mind and develop greater awareness in order to cope with stress.

A few ways to utilize meditation would be practicing deep breathing, visualizing what you want to happen, practicing mindfulness, and doing muscle relaxation exercises.

Mindfulness can help us watch our thoughts and work through negative self-talk. Pay attention when you’re dwelling on mistakes and weaknesses and start to replace this negativity with more helpful and empowering statements.

Take a mental break by going to your “happy place.”

Maybe you’re on the beach and can imagine the sound of the waves, the sun on your skin and the sand in your toes.

Maybe it’s relaxing to visualize yourself fishing on a calm lake as the sun is rising and birds are chirping.

Finding an image that helps you calm down and relax instead of getting worked up and stressed out is the goal.

Lastly, use deep breathing to help calm the mind and body. It can be as simple as taking three deep breaths in through your nose to the count of 4, holding this for 2 seconds, and then exhaling out your mouth to the count 7.

Continue this until you feel relaxed.

Do something you love

A great strategy to process emotions is to work on a creative project or engage in enjoyable activities. You can read or watch something inspirational, write in a journal, or work on art as a way to distract your thinking and uplift your mood.

When you enjoy yourself, whether gardening, seeing friends, or going for a walk, you relax your emotions.

Consider a few simple activities that you enjoy doing that help you relax and unwind.

These are just a few stress reducers you can try.

Sometimes our stress has a direct solution and other times we will need to cope by calming our mind and body. You can create your own healthy stress reducers or use the list above, either way you’ll feel better and stay healthier if you do.

Joe Wilner is a coach, writer, and speaker who inspires and empowers people to live a full, meaningful, and thriving life. Connect with him through the blog and follow him on Twitter @shakethegrind.

Photo credit: ‘North Mountain Lake‘ by Big Stock



Erin shows overscheduled, overwhelmed women how to do less so that they can achieve more. Traditional productivity books—written by men—barely touch the tangle of cultural pressures that women feel when facing down a to-do list. How to Get Sh*t Done will teach you how to zero in on the three areas of your life where you want to excel, and then it will show you how to off-load, outsource, or just stop giving a damn about the rest.

8 Responses to How to Lighten the Load and Cope With Stress

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