Five Common Stressors and How to Handle Them

Dr. Angela Seabright
Kara Middleton

| 5 min read

Every morning we wake up hoping for the best for the day, but that is not always the case. Stress is an entity that has potential to impact all of us in various ways throughout the day.
Luckily, there are quick and easy ways to alleviate those stressors and help us focus on the task at hand.
Here are five common stressful situations and some tips for coping:

Getting stuck in traffic

Traffic is part of the morning grind for many. Unless we’re leaving our humble abodes at 6 a.m. every day, we’re probably going to get stuck on the highway. Add in other drivers’ morning moods and we’ve got a recipe for a bad start to the day.
Take a very deep breath. While driving humans have a tendency to hunch shoulders and tighten hands around the wheel. If deep breathing doesn’t help, think of the mood you would like to be in and try to shift toward feeling that way. If all else fails, let out a yell. No need to be explicit, but practicing primal scream therapy can be therapeutic. This psychotherapy has proved to by psychologists to help temporarily alleviate stress in college students during final exam week.
Tip: Make a playlist or listen to a podcast that will help you feel good in the morning. Having a subtle distraction can make the morning commute more manageable.

Waiting in long lines

Queuing up can be fun if you’re going to a concert for a favorite band, but less so returning a package to the post office. It can feel like a waste of time.
Keeping calm and collected is key to keeping stress levels low. Bring a book or small task that can have your attention while you wait. Remember to be self-aware. Talking on the phone with someone may be nice for you, but can be annoying to those around you. Think of others while you wait and to remember everyone else has places to be as well.
Tip: Fidget spinners are a great tool when waiting in line. Facts behind fidget spinners.

Running behind schedule

Most of us have been there. You slept through your alarm and forgot to brush your teeth. You’re going to be fifteen minutes late.
In this situation talking out loud to yourself can help. When there are many different thoughts racing in your head, talking out loud can be helpful to organize thoughts and prioritize needs in a constructive way.
Have you grabbed your lunch? Do you have your work badge? Did you remember to eat breakfast? Moving through a mental checklist gives you a verbal confirmation. Keep the talk positive. Don’t beat yourself up about an accidental late start, cheer yourself on.
If you’re late, you’re late. There is no way to reverse time. You will get to your destination when you get there. Constantly checking the time only builds to anxiety and ultimately doesn’t help you to be productive and level minded.
Tip: Keep your keys, wallet, IDs and other essentials all in the same place every single day. Get in the habit of setting your clothes out the day before and make sure you always have more gas in your car than you think you need. You never know when you could hit traffic and run out. This will help give you fewer things to worry about in the morning.
Bonus: When you arrive late somewhere always thank the person who waited for you. Apologizing can be added on, but lead with a “thank you for being so understanding and patient.”

Not getting enough sleep for the day

Sleep is crucial for functioning. Most people need 7-9 hours of sleep to feel rested. Without that, many become grouchy and irritable. Coffee is, of course, an easy way to wake up, but new studies show there is a prime time for consumption.
Before snapping at others, count to five. Patience is your friend. You may not want to since you’re tired, but talking with someone can be very beneficial. Drink lots of water throughout the day to stay hydrated and avoid a worse mood. If you feel overwhelmed with stress and the inability to stay focused take a quick walk. Deep breathing and stretching your limbs can do wonders.
Tip: If you often have trouble sleeping at night, make it a point to figure out what is keeping you up and change up your schedule. Eating too late, being on a cell phone, or stressing about work can all impact your sleep. Take steps to address any causes of the problem or talk with your doctor.

When you have deadlines approaching

Some people thrive during stressful situations and others crumble. When you have three deadlines approaching and you’ve barely finished the first one, a little panic can arise.
Making a list of what needs to get done will help you organize. Allocate chunks of time to do the work (maybe an hour or two) then take a quick 10-15 minute break from your screen or conversation. Taking a break, drinking water and staying positive will keep your stress low. Using progressive muscle relaxation techniques can help your body stay relaxed and keep your mood elevated.
Tip: If you feel overwhelmed with work, ask a coworker to help you out. Whether it is simply getting their opinion on something or sending a draft for them to edit, having one less thing to worry about can help substantially.
Photo credit: A Healthier Michigan

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