Accept

Sometimes we have no choice but to accept things the way they are. For those times try to:

  • Talk with someone. You may not be able to change a frustrating situation, but that doesn't mean your feelings aren't legitimate. Phone or schedule a coffee break with an understanding friend. You'll feel better after talking it out.
  • Forgive. It takes energy to be angry. Forgiving may take practice, but by doing so you will free yourself from burning more negative energy. Why stew in your anger when you could shrug and move on?
  • Practice positive self-talk. It's easy to lose objectivity when you're stressed. One negative thought can lead to another, and soon you've created a mental avalanche. Be positive. Instead of thinking, "I am horrible with money and will never be able to control my finances," try this: "I made a mistake with my money, but I am resilient. I'll get through it."
  • Learn from your mistakes. There is value in recognizing a "teachable moment." You can't change the fact that procrastination hurt your performance, but you can make sure you allot more time in the future.

Adapt

Thinking you can't cope is one of the greatest stressors. That's why adapting — which often involves changing your standards or expectations — can be most helpful in dealing with stress.

  • Adjust your standards. Do you need to vacuum and dust twice a week? Would macaroni and cheese be an unthinkable substitute for homemade lasagna? Redefine success and stop striving for perfection, and you may operate with a little less guilt and frustration.
  • Practice thought-stopping. Stop gloomy thoughts immediately. Refuse to replay a stressful situation as negative, and it may cease to be negative.
  • Reframe the issue. Try looking at your situation from a new viewpoint. Instead of feeling frustrated that you're home with a sick child, look at it as an opportunity to bond, relax and finish a load of laundry.
  • Adopt a mantra. Create a saying such as, "I can handle this," and mentally repeat it in tough situations.
  • Create an assets column. Imagine all of the things that bring you joy in life: vacation, children, pets. Then call on that list when you're stressed. It will put things into perspective and serve as a reminder of life's joys.
  • Look at the big picture. Ask yourself, "Will this matter in a year or in five years?" The answer is often no. Realizing this makes a stressful situation seem less overwhelming.

Choosing the right technique

Stressors good and bad are a part of every life. Practice applying these techniques to balance your stress equation. With practice, that once-hefty backpack will become your private bag of tricks. Soon, you'll be able to pull out just the tool that will keep you hiking through life at a steady clip.

Jul. 23, 2013 See more In-depth