8 Ways to Deal With Stress When You Totally Suck at It

stressed woman

If you’re like me and are easily frazzled, the usual ways to deal with stress don’t work. Here are 8 that actually do.

While I’m the first one to read about new ways to deal with stress, I seem to be the last one the tips actually work for. It’s likely because I’m highly sensitive, so anxiety is an uber-natural part of my repertoire – and handling stress, not so much. For many of us, stress management skills don’t come naturally as it is, never mind wondering if we’re allergic to them altogether.

Here are 8 ways to deal with stress that will actually make a difference the next time you’re feeling verklempt:

1. Clearly define your reaction to stress

We all react to stress differently, and the best way to figure out how to manage your stress is to become mindful of your physical reaction to it. For me personally, there are times when I feel restless, edgy and completely lose the ability to breathe in. I start my day off strong, but by the end of it I’m as uptight as Lilith Sternin.

You might clench your jaw, or develop a nervous habit, or cry when your shoelace comes undone – know your triggers so that you can sense the stress brewing and stop it in its tracks.

2. Replace shitty habits with healthier ones

A recent study revealed we’re just as likely to turn to healthy habits during times of stress as we are unhealthy ones. Most advice about being healthy focuses on self-control, whereas this study revealed it might be best to learn how to let go instead: “Everybody gets stressed,” says Wendy Wood, Provost Professor of Psychology and Business at USC and lead author of the study. “The whole focus on controlling your behavior may not actually be the best way to get people to meet goals. If you’re somebody who doesn’t have a lot of willpower, our study showed that habits are even more important.”

3. Relax through active rest

If meditation stresses you out even more, or if you’ve done so much deep breathing you’re on the verge of fainting, then let me introduce you to active rest. One of my favorite ways to deal with stress, it’s essentially mastering the art of singletasking: Choose a simple task, like doing a crossword puzzle or knitting, doing dishes or folding laundry – anything that keeps your mind occupied and your hands busy. It’s a great way to take a breather while keeping your restlessness in check.

4. Deal with it right away

The ironic thing about stress is how contagious it is: Once one thing stresses you out, it causes a domino effect until the smallest things set you off. (My breaking point a few weeks ago was a pop-up window. I wish I was joking.) If you’re a detail-oriented person where the smallest problems stick to you like velcro, deal with them stat. Don’t let them pile up. Taking the ten minutes to get it off your mind seriously makes a world of difference – otherwise, beware of pop-up windows.

5. Find a venting buddy

If you have a friend who’s going through a similar stressful period as your own, become each other’s venting buddy. Be there for each other any time you have something you really need to get off your chest, and celebrate your victories together every time you meet a de-stressing milestone.

6. Take control of your life

When face-to-face with a stress spiral, we forget that we don’t have to live this way. Schedules can be cut back. Social obligations can be turned down. Me time can be penciled in. You put the stress into your life, and you can just as easily take it out. There’s busy, then there’s busy, and there’s a very fine line between the two: You have the power to choose the stress-free(ish) side of the line.

7. Give yourself time to prepare

If you have an upcoming obligation that’s sure to throw you into a frenzy, take the time to prepare ways to deal with stress as it comes up. The more prepared you feel, the less likely stress will get to you.

8. Slowly cut your schedule

Schedules are a tricky business, and most of us unintentionally overbook ourselves, either thinking we can handle more than we really can or not taking into account potential roadblocks and distractions. A rule of thumb that works wonders for me: Write out the to-do list you think you can handle… then cut it in half.

What are your favorite ways to deal with stress?

Related on EcoSalon:

Stressed, Anxious, Frayed? 24 Simple, Effective Ways to Quiet Your Mind in 24 Hours or Less

Stressed Out? These Are the Top 10 Reasons Why

Treating Stress the Natural Way

Image: anna gutermuth

Krissy Brady

Krissy Brady is a women’s health + lifestyle writer who’s so out of shape, it’s like she has the innards of an 80-year-old. Instead of learning how to crochet, she decided to turn her emotional baggage into a writing career (genius, no?). You can follow her shenanigans on Twitter (you know, if you want).