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Stress Less and Smile More: Try These Proactive Coping Strategies!

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Traditional stress research has tended to focus on the things that we can do when we get stressed. However, latest coping research suggests that there are some things that we can do before stressful events occur, so that we can cope better when stressful events occur. As a result we will smile more and stress less!

Traditional stress strategies

Traditional stress management strategies focus on what we could do when life becomes stressful. They include things such as planning, building physical resilience, improving leisure behavior and making changes to the work environment. For instance, we might learn to plan ahead so that we can reduce the number of things that we need to get done in any one day. We can make sure we get a good night's sleep, exercise sufficiently and eating well. There is often a focus on developing work-life balance, making sure that we learn to relax and have some fun. Finally, these strategies might involve discussing undue work stress with management and possibly reducing one's workload. Traditional stress management strategies are very useful when undue stress enters our lives. But is there anything that we can do to prevent stress before it happens?

New proactive coping strategies

Latest coping research argues that it is not enough to merely be armed with coping strategies, should an untoward event occur in our lives. Unplanned and potentially stressful events will happen. Therefore, we can be proactive and prepare in advance. If we lose a job, there is a death in the family, or we injure ourselves for instance, we will be better equip to cope.

A lot of our ability to cope has to do with our attitude. If we see an event as awful and something we won't be able to cope with, then we will feel overwhelmed and very stressed. However, if we see an event as something that will teach us life lessons and help us to grow, than we will feel less overwhelmed. Here are some strategies that you might want to try:

- Develop a positive spiritual or philosophical approach to life: Acknowledge that life can be challenging. That is 'just life!'. If we do this, rather than feeling merely hard done by when something goes wrong, we will challenge ourselves to stay positive and do the very best we can for ourselves and others.

- Establish important priorities: Knowing which things are important to us in life, can help us make positive decisions when things go wrong. In other words, we know clearly where to put most of our time and energy and which things we need to let drop off.

- Seek personally meaningful goals: This links to the point above. Set personally meaningful goals in all areas of life including family, health, spirituality, work etc. This keeps us motivated throughout the good and not so good times.

- Maintain some reserves: Knowing that we have very little lee-way in our life if things go wrong, can create a lot of stress. So, put aside some finances 'in case' you need it and make sure that your life is not so crammed full that you can't take some time out to cope, should an emergency arise.

- Plan proactively: Plan your life well so that you will not be in reactive mode, but can take the time to think through a problem, should it arise.

Don't let stress rob you of your joy!

Stress has a habit of robbing us of our joy and sense of fun in life. When we feel stressed, we can feel overwhelmed and worry that we cannot cope with everything in our life. However, if we plan proactively, we will have the tools and resources to not only cope, but to grow and even thrive as we grow through the tough times. In other words, we will be stressing less and smiling more!


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: DR KATHRYN OWLER
Dr Kathryn Owler is the Director of The Joyworkz.com Center for Fun and Wellness at Work. She is also an Associate Researcher at AUT University, Business School, where she researches and publishes on workplace wellness and fun at work. See http://www.joyworkz.com

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