From my research and experience, I would say that the first line of defense against stress in times of crisis is to check how you perceive what's happening to you, and try to think like an optimist. When I say 'think like an optimist', I'm not merely throwing out a vague suggestion that you 'try to be happy'--there are specific thought patterns that optimists follow when facing challenges and stressors; pessimists have opposite patterns. (Follow these tips to develop traits of optimists, and test your level of optimism now, so you can know where you're coming from--you may be surprised!) A quick strategy to keep in mind is to try to see potential stressors as a challenge vs. a threat.
I would also suggest that you find supportive resources in order to manage your situation and experience minimal stressors in your life while you're going through tough times. In times of stress, the people in your life can be the most helpful resources: they can offer supportive ears (and warm arms), creative solutions to problems you face, and practical help in the form of dinners and the like. (Perhaps this is why research shows so many benefits of social support.)
I would also recommend that you maintain at least one (but preferably as many as you need) way to relieve stress that really works for you. It could be meditation, exercise, music, or prayer. Just find something that works for you, and make it a regular part of your life.
These are my recommendations as a stress expert, but personally, we all have our own ways of coping with stress. Effective coping usually involves a combination of strategies to address thoughts about the situation, a mobilization of resources, and some ways to calm the body in the meantime, as mentioned above. However, the specific strategies we choose may differ from person to person. I often try reframing and gratitude work, talk to those I'm close to (my husband and best friends), and try to get plenty of exercise, try to keep up with prayer or meditation--and have a stash of chocolate (which I only recommend as a stress reliever in small doses). For others, a different combination of stress relievers would be the winning combination, though it might be similar.
I recently asked readers to share their strategies for coping with crisis, and have received some nice responses so far. Read responses from other readers who have great ideas, and please consider sharing your own tips that work. Remember, when it comes to the stresses we face in life, we're all in this together!
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