Sometimes a stressful situation just lasts a moment
— like getting through a school play audition or making the foul shot that could
win the game.
But life also can bring situations that might keep
us stressed for a few days, weeks, or months. Even if we're not always thinking about
this stress, it can be like a background soundtrack playing in our lives.
If you're like most people, you've faced these kinds of lasting stressful situations.
Feeling unprepared or unhappy about the situation increases the stress. Stressful
situations can wear us down over time. Finding ways to deal with them can help us
Build Good Coping Skills
How well — or how poorly — we get through a stressful situation depends
a lot on us. How we deal with stressful situations makes all the difference.
Here are some steps you can take to cope with a stressful situation.
1. Understand the Situation
Take some time to think about the situation you're facing. Try
to describe your situation in a sentence or two. What's stressful about this situation
for you right now? It can help to write down your thoughts. For example: My
family just moved, so I switched to a new school in the middle of the year. The stressful
parts are not knowing anyone, missing my old friends, and dealing with all new schoolwork.
Notice and name the feelings you have about the situation. Accept
your feelings — it's understandable to feel the way you feel, given your situation.
It can help to write down your feelings, too. For example: I feel lonely
and sad because of missing old friends and my old school. I'm mad that we had to move,
especially now. I'm worried about keeping up in math and social studies. I feel left
out because I'm the new kid. I guess anyone would feel this way if they were in my
Learn more. Learn all you can about the situation you're dealing
with. This might include reading about it, talking to others, or finding out what
others in your situation have done and what to expect. Learning helps you feel more
confident and prepared — plus it reminds you that you're not the only one who
has gone through this.
2. Commit to a Positive Attitude
A positive attitude helps stop you from being dragged down by unhappy feelings.
A positive attitude also boosts the problem solving that a stressful situation
A positive attitude helps us see the possibilities within a situation, while negative
thinking narrows our view.
Don't dwell on the negative. Don't get stuck dwelling on negative
feelings — or focusing on the bad aspects of your situation for too long. Your
power lies in how you react to — and cope with — the situation you're
facing. Be aware of any negative thoughts (like "I can't do this"), and replace them
with more encouraging words. This is the time to believe in yourself. For example:
Others have switched schools before and come through it. I know I can manage this.
Notice and appreciate life's good stuff. Be sure to notice some
positive things in your life, too. Yes, even now. Each day, think of three things
you're grateful for. Gratitude helps
fuel a positive attitude and keeps problems — even the big ones — in perspective.
3. Take Action
Decide what you can do. Pinpoint which parts of the situation
you have the power to change or influence for the better.
Think of actions you can take to improve any part of your stressful situation. For example: Ican talk to the guy who sits next to me in social studies
class. I'll ask if he'll share notes and study with me. That could help me make a
new friend — plus catch up in social studies.
Get support. Find someone to talk to about your situation. Ask for help or advice. Be with people who believe in you, make
you laugh, and help you feel good about yourself. Sometimes just a listening ear helps
a lot. It helps you know that someone understands and cares about what you're going
Care for yourself. Take especially good care of yourself when
stress in your life is high. Be sure to eat nutritious foods and minimize junk food.
Get daily exercise and sleep.
Do something every day that helps you relax — whether it's yoga, a soothing
bath, cooking, playing with your pet, taking a walk, listening to music, or playing
Stressful situations can test our strength, for sure. Whatever you're facing, it
can help to think through the situation, accept the emotions you feel, and keep a
positive attitude. Focus your efforts on what you can influence, get support, and
care for yourself. All these things can help you cope with your situation, lessen
the stress, and help you come through feeling strong and confident.