Topic 2 Specific strategies to handle stress

2.1. Cognitive restructuring

->Same technique described in Topic 1: specific strategies to handle anxiety but applied to stressful situation

  • It consists of identifying and challenging maladaptive thoughts. These will then be replaced by more appropriate ones and the emotional disturbance caused by these thoughts will be reduced or eliminated.
  • The technique involves discussing negative automatic thoughts that occur in situations that provoke anxiety or other emotional disturbance (e.g. “They think I’m boring”) and replacing them with more rational beliefs or thoughts (such as “I can’t read other people’s minds, they’re probably tired now”).

It is not an easy technique, but you can do some actions. Check this video if you are interested!

2.2. Distraction and sense of humour

->Distraction was presented in Topic 1: specific strategies to handle anxiety.

  • Encouraging distraction and sense of humour is a good measure to prevent anxiety and/or stress situations or to alleviate them. In addition to facilitating the shifting of attention away from problems, it helps to relativise the importance of problems.
  • One of the effective ways to manage an anxious and/or stressful response is to change our focus of attention, breaking the chain that maintains the anxiety and allowing us to be in a state to handle the situation.
  • Distraction techniques consist of voluntarily shifting our focus of attention from our thoughts and sensations to another stimulus that allows us to reduce our anxiety and/or stress.
  • For the selection of the task we must take into account: 1) that it arouses our interests, and, 2) it is important that the task involves a relevant behavioural implication for the person, that is to say, that we are active subjects when carrying out the activity.

2.3. Problem solving

  • A situation becomes a problem when it cannot be solved effectively. Repeated failure to solve a problem causes chronic discomfort, anxiety and a sense of helplessness, making it difficult to find new solutions.
  • Problem-solving techniques try to help the individual to decide which are the most appropriate responses to a situation. This technique consists of several steps:

1.Identification and description of the problem in a clear, quick and precise manner.

2.Search for possible solutions or answers to the problem analysed from different points of view.

3.Application of a procedure of analysis and weighting of the different response alternatives to decide on the most suitable solution to the problem.

4.Choice and execution of the steps to be taken for its implementation.

5.Evaluation of the results obtained by implementing the chosen solution.

2.4. Social support

  • Social relations with other individuals often serve as a source of psychological or instrumental help. A social group can become a reference that facilitates the individual’s better adaptation and integration into reality. It is therefore essential to establish and develop social networks that provide social support to the individual.
  • Many people find in their supporters (friends, relatives) help to deal with stress. However, this does not work for everyone. You have to look for what you need and what works for you.

2.5. Good sleeping and eating habits

  • The development of good eating habits is a recommended measure for the prevention of stress. The energy demands we currently receive from our environment determine the need to maintain an adequate energy balance in order to respond to these demands and not develop deficiency problems.
  • Physical and mental fatigue are among stress triggers, so having time to rest every night is a great way to de-stress.

Check this video to know how the food can affect our brain:

2.6. Regular exercise

  • It is well known that having a good physical condition has very positive effects on stress prevention. It is therefore recommendable to exercise regularly in order to increase the individual’s physical resistance to the effects of stress and enhance psychological resistance. In fact, exercise forces us to shift our attention away from psychological problems and allows us to rest and recover from previous mental activity.
  • Physical exercise moves the body and improves its functioning and physical capacity. As a result, you will be better able to cope with stress, which increases your capacity for physical work and improves your cardiovascular, respiratory and metabolic functions.

If you are interested in knowing more about the benefits of the exercise for our brain, then, check this video of the neuroscientist Wendy Suzuki:

2.7. Self-care activities

  • Taking care of yourself means asking yourself what you need and answering honestly. It can be as simple as going to bed early after a long day at work or take a long relaxing bath, or as difficult as studying the habits we have created and their long-term effects.
  • Taking care of ourselves means identifying and making better decisions about our physical, emotional, mental, financial and spiritual needs. Self-care is the set of actions taken to provide mental, physical and emotional health.

Watch this video to find out more about self care:

2.8. Mindfulness

  • It is a meditation-based practice that consists of training the attention to be aware of the present.
  • Mindfulness is about letting thoughts flow without resistance or judgement, simply observing how they come and go. It is important to differentiate between the fact of focusing attention and the attitude with which it is done. In addition to focusing attention on the present, one should adopt an attitude characterised by curiosity, openness and acceptance.
  • Mindfulness practices can be formal or informal. Formal mindfulness practice requires a minimum of 45 minutes a day doing mindfulness meditation exercises. On the other hand, informal mindfulness practice consists of applying mindfulness skills in any everyday action such as eating or walking.

Check this short video to find out how to practice mindfulness: