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14 Effective Strategies for Dealing with Stress Not Involving Alcohol or Drugs

stressPeople are suffering more from the negative effects of stress today than at any other time in history. Children as young as 10 years old are on medication for anxiety and depression, and about a million people commit suicide each year because they are unable to cope. It can be tempting to turn to alcohol or drugs in an attempt to manage stress, but this just makes things worse in the long-term. Here are 14 effective strategies for dealing with stress that do not involve turning to substance abuse for relief:

1. Learn to Look at the Bigger Picture

Most of the things people become stressed over are insignificant or unnecessary. It can be a great help to just put things into perspective. Does it really matter if a person cuts you up in traffic? Are you even going to remember that your boss snapped at you in a month’s time? Think back to some of the things that stressed you out in the past – was it always necessary? Sometimes it can be helpful to look at yourself from the bigger picture – is what’s happening to you really that big a deal?

2. Develop Some Self-Compassion

One of the most effective things you can do to manage your stress levels is to develop some self-compassion. This involves learning how to self-soothe. Instead of getting annoyed with yourself when things start to go wrong, show yourself a bit of kindness. This greatly increases your ability to handle stress.

3. Learn to Live in the Present Moment

One of the biggest sources of your stress is likely to be thoughts about the future. Maybe you are worried about what is going to happen with your career, or if you are going to develop some type of nasty disease. The reality is that the worst things that happen in life tend to appear unexpectedly, so worrying about things that have not happened yet is worse than a waste of time because it also damages your health. Living in the present moment means accepting the fact that you cannot predict the future. It also means recognising that the outcomes for most events in life, even those that appear dire at the time, are neutral or positive. Things are far more likely to turn out okay, so it makes no sense to worry about the worst outcome.

4. Learn Mindfulness Meditation

Mindfulness meditation is a good technique for dealing with stress as it allows you to become more objective about your thoughts (seeing the bigger picture) while also teaching you to live in the present moment. There are now thousands of books and courses dealing with mindfulness, but this is one of the simplest things in the world to learn. It is remembering to be mindful that is more challenging – you become better at it with practice, not by reading or learning about mindfulness.

5. Keep a Daily Journal/Diary

Keeping a daily journal is the same as having a release valve for your stress. You can write down everything that is bothering you; it can offer the same benefits as sharing your problems with a friend, although it is recommended that you do both.

6. Stop Taking Life So Seriously

Life is a crazy ride so a bit of humour along the way will make the ride far more pleasant. There are many serious problems in the world, but this does not mean that you have to be serious all the time. Learn to laugh a lot more – and most importantly, do not take yourself too seriously.

7. Learn to Let Go

One day you are going to die and all or you possessions will be taking away from you. It is a scary thought, but it is also a powerful reminder of the futility of always trying to accumulate more wealth. You can spend the rest of your life being stressed as you try to build up your stock of possessions, but it is all going to be taking away from you at the end of the road. Is it worth get so uptight about this stuff? By learning to let go of the need to have more and more, you can dramatically cut the amount of stress in your life.

8. Share Your Problems with Friends

Sometimes, discussing your problems with a friend can mean that they are able to offer a solution, but most of the time this is probably not going to happen. It is still worth doing though as talking about your problem can lighten your load. It is also likely that things would appear much bigger when they are just banging around inside your head.

9. Don’t Make Mountains Out of Molehills

Catastrophising is a behaviour that people can pick up because of alcohol or drug abuse. This tendency to make mountains out of molehills can be used to manipulate others. For example, if you describe something terrible that has just happened to you, other people may be more willing to forgive any bad stuff you did while drunk or high. Catastrophising can easily become a habit, meaning that even a small problem can feel like a major disaster.

10. Learn to Take Deep Breaths

Deep breathing exercises are a powerful tool for taking control of your stress levels when things are going wrong. It is important that you learn to do these techniques beforehand so that you will naturally start to take deep breaths during a crisis.

11. Go for a Daily Walk

Exercise is another effective tool for managing your stress levels, but you do not have to spend hours at the gym every day to enjoy the benefits of it. Going for a one hour walk every day is a wonderful way to rejuvenate your mind and release stress. You may start your walk feeling wound up, but you will always feel better by the end of it. Once you get into the habit of going for a walk every day, it just becomes a natural thing to do and does not require any real effort – no more than brushing your teeth.  Mornings and evenings are a great time to go walking and, if you can be out in nature, so much the better.

12. Make Time for Contemplation

Just sitting in silence for 10 minutes every day can product similar effects to meditation. This may sound an easy thing to do but, if you are used to being constantly distracted, you may find the silence uncomfortable in the beginning. Once you get into the habit of doing this every day, it can become an excellent tool for managing your stress levels.

13. Get a Hobby

Spending an hour or so each day focused on a hobby is also effective as a technique for managing stress. This could include things such as gardening, learning a new language, trainspotting, or stamp collecting – whatever makes you happy.

14. Keep a Gratitude List

A gratitude list is a simple technique in which you jot down all the good things currently in your life. This is something that you should do every day; it can completely transform your attitude towards life. The more grateful you feel about what you have in your life, the less stress you are going to feel about the things you do not have.

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