I spend a lot of time on TSM talking about what some of the best practices for stress management are. But part of the problem for people who are constantly stressed out is that they’re using a lot of negative coping methods to help control their stress. What ends up happening is that they wind up living in a constant state of stress and never really deal with their issues.
This post is dedicated to some of the negative stress management skills people use that should be avoided.
Drinking a case of beer to “take the edge off” isn’t a good way to deal with stress. Some people have the habit of automatically looking for a bottle after a hard day’s work or whenever they start to feel stressed out. While there are some studies that show that drinking in moderation might help reduce stress, the general consensus is that alcohol does more harm than good when you’re already stressed.
Alcohol is seen as a coping mechanism for some people. The problem with using alcohol to cope with stress is that you can start to become reliant on it, which can lead to alcoholism. And then we’re talking about an addiction.
What’s even more interesting is that some people turn to drinking due to a genetic predisposition. That’s not an excuse or justification, but figuring out why you use alcohol to cope with stress will help you start to fix the issue.
Another reason alcohol doesn’t necessarily help reduce stress is because it can dehydrate you, and dehydration actually causes stress. So if you ever find yourself in a situation where you’re stranded and the only thing left to drink is booze (a la Pitch Black) drink slowly.
If you want to drink something to relieve stress, try a glass of water.
#2: Smoking Cigarettes (or other drugs)
A pack a day keeps the stress away! Not really.
Smoking relieving stress is a huge myth. The active ingredient in cigarettes is nicotine, which actually causes anxiety and tension. So the cigarettes or death sticks as I call them, that you’re smoking are actually making you feel worse than you already do.
But then why do some people feel more relaxed after smoking? According to doctors at the University of East London, it’s actually a psychological addiction. What ends up happening is that you get addicted to the nicotine, and become reliant on it to keep a normal mood. Any time you’re not smoking, you get stressed out because you want a cigarette to feel “normal”.
The same concept pretty much applies for all other drugs. You rely on the feeling you get while you’re using the drug to hold you over until you use it again. Addiction is a nasty battle to get into and tough to overcome.
#3: Eating the stress away
Emotional eating in general isn’t a good idea. Whether you’re pigging out because you’re sad about a breakup, nervous about a big presentation, or even if you’re celebrating something good. We don’t tend to make healthy choices when we’re eating based off emotion, and overeating due to stress is no exception.
According to this study, stress affects the way a majority of people eat. Have you ever heard of “eating away the pain?” It’s just another myth about relieving stress that contributes to negative health effects.
When you’re halfway through a bucket of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream with your face covered in chocolate or a family size bag of Doritos, you’ll probably realize that it’s not really helping you out at all.
When you’re regularly eating unhealthy foods, it can increase your blood pressure. As a result, stressful situations become even more stressful because of your high blood pressure. So while there might not be a direct connection, it’s all very closely related.
It also doesn’t help that the source of some people’s stress is a hectic lifestyle that doesn’t include much time for preparing healthy meals. So breakfast, lunch and dinner consist of whatever fast food joint is open and has the shortest line.But you have to break the cycle.
The way you feed your body plays a major role in your body’s response to stress.
#4: Ignore it
A while back, I wrote an article for Hack College about effective stress management techniques. In that article, I touched on a technique called the 4 A’s. The 4 A’s are different ways of handling stressors:
The point of these methods was to help you understand how to tackle your stressors head on, and I specifically mentioned that avoiding or ignoring stress isn’t healthy.
Ignoring things in your life that are stressing you out doesn’t fix anything. The stressor will never stop, and will become a fixture in your life.
Let’s say you’re stressed out because your neighbor’s dog Fluffy keeps pooping on your yard and they never pick it up. If you choose to just ignore it, then you’re going to be picking up after Fluffy for the rest of your life. If you address the situation and let your neighbor know that you don’t appreciate the little gifts Fluffy leaves you every morning, you can eliminate that stressor from your life.
Avoidance is a technique that a lot of us use for the small daily stressors we encounter. By themselves, they might not seem like such a big issue. But when you have 10-15 seemingly small stressors that you’re dealing with every day, it becomes a mountain of stress that’s hard to manage.
#5: Becoming a sloth
As appealing as it sounds to lay around in a juice stained t-shirt and your underwear watching Jerry Springer and surfing the internet all day, it’s not going to relieve your stress. In fact, it might make you start feeling depressed.
When you’re resorting to this type of stress management technique, you’ve pretty much thrown in the towel and allowed for stress to completely take over your life. You’ve probably become so overwhelmed with all the stressors in your life that you just want to give up and basically become a sloth. But it aint healthy!
Thinking that letting yourself go for a little bit will give you some time to repair usually doesn’t turn out the way you planned. Instead of becoming a temporary break, it develops into a new destructive lifestyle.
To avoid this, it’s best to not let the stress in your life become unmanageable. Try some of the tips from my list of 170 stress management techniques before you get to that dark place. If you’re already at that point and came across this post while you were searching for ways to handle your stress, then it might be time to seek some professional help and talk to a therapist. You might discover that you have deep rooted issues that are contributing to your stress.
Managing stress is important, but you have to know how to deal with it in the right way. All the methods I talked about here will more than likely just make you even more stressed out, and cause a ton of new psychological and physiological issues for you. TSM is all about addressing your stress in a way that’s healthy and productive. You can bounce back from any stressful situations with the right coping skills.