Six Tips for Coping With Stress

Creating a few moments of peace can be the best medicine. 

Woman meditating demonstrating coping skills for stress

Stress is how the body responds to demand, whether it’s related to daily situations or to a sudden negative event, such as losing a job.

Everybody gets stressed sometimes, but stress that lasts for a long time can be hazardous to your health. “People may experience physiological changes, such as headaches, stomachaches or muscle tension,” explains Barbara A. Prempeh, PsyD, Mental Health Clinician at Metro Regional Diagnostic and Treatment Center at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center. “Chronic, long-lasting stress can lead to conditions like high blood pressure and serious issues in the gastrointestinal or immune system.”

Fortunately, we can learn to reduce stress and protect our health by using some basic coping strategies.

1. Get Grounded in the Moment

Use the “5-4-3-2-1” technique, Dr. Prempeh advises. “Notice five things you see in your environment— perhaps a lamp, a chair and so on,” she says. “Then notice four things you physically feel, such as the clothes on your back or cold air. Next, notice three things you hear, two things you smell and finally one thing you taste. This exercise helps bring you into the present moment and allows you to get out of your mind and your stressful thoughts.”

2. Breathe Deeply

This relaxation technique can be done anywhere, whether you’re sitting at a desk or standing at the kitchen sink. “This should be really deep breathing, where you breathe in through your nose and allow your stomach to fill up, then exhale and allow your stomach to deflate,” Dr. Prempeh says. “Take two minutes to do this. Release tension in your neck by turning it gently from side to side.”

3. Take a Break

Sometimes you need to walk away from a situation for a while to reduce its stressful effect. Getting enough rest is a key way to take a break and to refuel. “In order to function well, adults need seven to eight hours of sleep each night, and children need nine or 10,” Dr. Prempeh says.

4. Focus on the Positive

An attitude adjustment is a proven method of stress relief. To nurture positivity, try keeping a gratitude journal. “At the end of the day, notice what things worked out well for you and write them down,” Dr. Prempeh advises. “Allow yourself to realize what you’re grateful for having experienced that day.”

5. Talk to Friends or Family

“Holding things inside can be overwhelming,” Dr. Prempeh says. “Make sure you have a supportive network you can talk to, whether friends or family, to tell them about the stressors you’re experiencing.”

6 Talk to a Therapist

Sometimes a trained professional is best positioned to help you find your way out of a stress cycle. “It can be very helpful to talk to a neutral person,” Dr. Prempeh says, “one who can provide you with new techniques to cope with the stressors you have in your life.”

To learn about services at Metro Regional Diagnostic and Treatment Center at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center, call (973) 753-1180.