In compiling an extensive list of coping and stress management ideas, I realized that they all seem to fall into one of two categories: dealing with stress you already have, and avoiding new stress (or, minimizing it).
Let’s face it, some stress cannot be avoided. “Living a stress-free life” is a wonderful notion, but stuff happens over which we have no control. Perhaps we should change our perception and strive to “live a stress-minimized life” instead. Changing that one word in the dream lowers the bar and removes the pressure, which is a good example of avoiding new stress!
I think it’s important, however, to understand the two coping categories in order to put the topic in perspective so it seems less daunting. After all, if you try too hard to reduce your stress, that in and of itself can be stressful. The concept of only two types of strategies makes it sound easier and more manageable.
For purposes of illustration, let’s look at some examples of each type of technique. Forgiveness is a way of reducing stress that you already have because it frees you from things that are upsetting you. Exercise and mediation both take your mind off troubles, which is a way of coping with those troubles. They also have physiological benefits that help you to deal with the physical effects of stress on your body.
What about maintaining a positive attitude and steering clear of arguments with your spouse? It seems to me that those are good examples of avoiding new stress; if you maintain a positive attitude, things that might have otherwise bothered you will just pass on by. Arguments with anyone are stressful; arguments with your spouse are even more stressful. If you can decide that some things just aren’t worth it and then agree to disagree, you can end the argument with tempers and egos intact and without stressful baggage.
I will submit, however, that some techniques could be considered “crossovers,” in that they both reduce current stress and help you avoid new stress. Take laughter; laughing has the effect of distracting you from things that are stressing you (dealing with current stress) and altering your physiological state to better equip you to fight the physical effects (also dealing with current stress). The key to laughter is that it also puts you in a better mood, which could be just what you need to let new things pass you by without upsetting you (avoiding new stress).
Can it really be that simple? What have I missed? Can anyone come up with additional categories?
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