Forcing Stress Relievers That Are A Poor FitMany people try stress relievers because they seem like they “should” work, and force themselves to stick with them even if they cause more stress. For example, one reader mentioned that she had a type A personality and found meditation to be difficult because of this. She didn’t shun stress relief techniques completely, but she did opt for more active stress relief strategies like exercise.
Another client noted that yoga classes work great for her, except when she’s particularly busy in her life; when she’s too busy, all she can focus on is what she should be doing instead, and she ends up leaving classes more stressed than she had been to begin with.
I’m not recommending you give up stress relief techniques when you need them the most, or give up entirely on techniques like yoga or meditation, but finding the right fit at the right time is important. Because many people give up altogether if their stress relief techniques aren’t working for them (thereby missing the stress relief benefits entirely), it’s important to remember that if one strategy doesn’t work well for you right now, another will. And as you find stress relief with one set of techniques, other strategies may feel easier for you. Keep looking for the right techniques for you!
Engaging in Rumination and Co-ruminationSometimes talking to a good friend about what’s troubling you can take the load off your shoulders, and can even strengthen your relationship. However, if you fall into the habit of talking about problems -- focusing only on the negative feelings and not on solutions to the problems or ways of working through these feelings -- you may fall into the trap of rumination or co-rumination, which can be a negative experience for both of you.
When talking to friends about the stresses of life, don’t just dwell on problems and negative feelings. Look for areas of growth and insight. Think about problems, but then do something about them. Try journaling, brainstorming with friends, and focusing on solutions, and then get active and work on making changes or engaging in activities that can change your focus, lift your mood, and help you to feel less stressed.
Ignoring the Stress
Meditation, exercise, and other stress relief techniques are commonly-sought ways to relieve stress, but sometimes people consciously or unconsciously try to deal with stress by just powering through it. People who fall into this approach essentially ignore their stress by practicing no formal stress relief techniques in the hopes that their stress will pass quickly and things go "back to normal" soon.
While it can be harmful to dwell on stressors without giving thought to how you might manage them, it’s also harmful to ignore signs of stress that you may be feeling. Stress symptoms can act as signals to let you know when you’re experiencing too much stress and need to make changes in your life. If you ignore the signs your body and mind are giving you to let you know you’ve experienced too much -- feelings of overwhelm or exhaustion, for example -- you may find yourself battling burnout, stress-related health problems, or other issues.
Also, because of the wear and tear stress causes, it's still best to manage the effects of stress as you experience it, even if a solution is not far off. If you find yourself feeling overwhelmed by stress, take a minute to examine your feelings and see where they’re coming from. You may be able to make changes in your lifestyle or coping style that can help minimize the stress you’re feeling, and you can live a healthier existence. Note: If you find that you need more help than this article can offer, it’s a good idea to talk to your doctor about ways to manage stress.
Don't Miss Out On These Ways To Relieve Stress!There are many free resources on this site that can help you to manage stress and live a healthier lifestyle. The free weekly newsletter can help you to stay up to date on helpful tips, timely advice, and the latest research on stress and stress management, as well as a stress management blog with a steady supply of stress tips and ideas. There are free e-courses on stress-related topics to walk you through the process of learning and making healthy changes. There’s also a Facebook page about Stress Management that supplies many of the same resources and more, conveniently delivered to your news feed.
Take advantage of some or all of these resources and make stress management a regular part of your lifestyle. You’ll be glad you did.
Which ways to relieve stress may work best for you? Take The Stress Reliever Personality Test to find out.
American Heart Association, news release, March 23, 2011
Byrd-Craven J, Geary DC, Rose AJ, Ponzi D. Co-ruminating increases stress hormone levels in women. Hormones and Behavior, March 2008.
Darr, Wendy; Johns, Gary. (2008). Work strain, health and absenteeism: A meta- analysis. Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, Vol 13(4), 293-318.