Skills to handle stress and pressure are always useful, but especially in times of total uncertainty. It’s not without reason that Confucius said, “May you live in interesting times“.
In psychology, so-called coping strategies are distinguished, which help to handle negative emotions.
What is not working?
Unfortunately, we don’t always work with emotions right. Some techniques only exacerbate the initial problem, so they are called negative strategies. As soon as you notice that you are starting to use one of these four methods, stop.
In general, this is a situation where a person blames himself for what happened. “You don’t know how to do anything!”, “Late again” are just a couple of examples of self-accusation. In any case, such a strategy does not help solve the problem, but takes away the strength.
Imagine that your energy is pool water. When there are difficulties in life, it flows out because you spend your energy both on solving the problem and on experiencing it. But if you also blame yourself, then instead of patching up this hole, it’s like pounding your fist against the wall and punching a new hole. Self-accusation gives you new reasons for stress, depriving you of energy.
What will help: do not blame or scold yourself for what happened. Better think about the future and plan concrete actions to help solve the problem.
There are people who think in detail about negative or stressful events. Scrupulously going through what went wrong, we are more and more deeply immersed in the negative experience – this process is called rumination.
Remember how you felt, chasing your thoughts around in a circle. I don’t think it was pleasant, because that’s how you experienced stress for a long time, transferred it from past to present. The result is the same as when you self-involved: you create a new emotional problem instead of solving an existing one.
What will help: a positive refocus strategy (see below).
Sometimes we tend to greatly exaggerate the troubles and misfortunes that have fallen on our shoulders, and expect even more terrible consequences. Simply put, we make a big deal out of it. I realized that this strategy was ineffective when I entered university: it turned out that all the stress of school grades and unlearned homework was not worth a penny.
What will help: a strategy to refocus on planning.
Another inefficient option is to look for people who can be blamed for what happened. This way we take responsibility off of ourselves and no longer feel guilty. But at the same time, we do not analyze our role in what happened – and therefore we cannot learn useful lessons from our experiences.
What will help: a strategy for positive review.
5 effective strategies how to handle stress and pressure
Refocus on planning
Do not reproduce negative emotions, do not blame yourself and others. Focus on thinking about specific steps to help you deal with the problem.
For example, you missed the job you wanted. Try to get the most objective information: ask the recruiter about the reasons for this decision, talk to colleagues, check your skills level. In this way you will have a deeper understanding of the situation and will be able to plan specific actions based on previous mistakes.
When I was writing, I realized that I was having a hard time with my chosen subject. Instead of panic and denial, I decided to find out if there was any way to solve the problem. It turned out that this was the last day that students could apply to change the topic. There was little time, but I used a planning strategy again against panic. I made a concrete plan for a letter to the supervisor, who helped him make a quick decision. I successfully changed the topic.
How to use: If you notice that something is bothering you again and again, do not panic and do not fall into melancholy. Make a concrete plan to solve the problem – even if you think it is unrealistic. Usually you can change the situation at least a little. And if you do nothing, the problem will not give rest and will take more and more power “in the passive mode.
In error or failure, you can find positive aspects or lessons that will help you achieve your goal in the future.
- What kind of action led to a result that I don’t like?
- What would I do in a situation like this in the future?
- Did it teach me anything useful?
To learn effectively, you need to be able to learn from experience, especially from mistakes and failures. This will make it easier for you to adapt to different situations.
To enhance the effect of this practice, you can keep a personal diary. I couldn’t “sell” my idea – I’m describing the situation and trying to find a reason: “Yeah, I didn’t say anything about advantages over competitors”. There’s no need to fall into self-accusations and blame yourself for the final failure. Your goal is to find concrete actions that will help you improve your results in the future.
How to use: for each negative situation, describe how this experience can be useful in the future.
Placement in perspective
Compare your situation with other possible outcomes, even more unpleasant. During a crisis, you could have been cut back, you would have had to look for a new job – in fact, you only got a 20% pay cut.
How to use: imagine circumstances where things could have gotten worse, or find them online. Celebrate the happy outcome of your situation!
We all face problems. When we accept the existence of a problem, it is easier for us to start minimizing or eliminating its negative effects.
American psychologists have found that people who were afraid of spiders, better cope with the phobia when speaking out loud their feelings. The other two strategies – denial of fear and distraction – did not help.
Sometimes it seems that to admit a problem is to admit that you are weak and unable to overcome difficulties. But the situation will not go away if you deny its existence. If you accept the problem, you will take the first step towards solving it.
Without the stage of acceptance, all subsequent events would be impossible. To begin to solve the problem, it is necessary to recognize its existence.
How to use: Speak out loud or write down how you feel about the situation. It is important not to lie to yourself and to describe your feelings honestly.
Everyone has a problem. Sometimes accepting or planning is not enough to completely handle stress and pressure, and then pleasant memories come to the help.
When I’m sad, I accept that feeling. Sometimes things don’t really work out the way I want them to. And then I remember what good things have happened in my life and it really makes me feel better.
How to use: this strategy should not be applied too often. Remember the experiment with fear of spiders: switching does not help to overcome the deep fear. The strategy will only work if you are not deeply entangled in negative thoughts, so use it in conjunction with other strategies.
It is not always possible to apply the right strategy the first time. But if you start practicing, then you will handle it better and better.