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Whether it’s the normal stress in your day to day life or stress arising
from a difficult situation that brought you to this book, all of us could
better learn how to effectively deal with stress. Just like any other skill,
stress management is something learned. Unfortunately, most people
regard stress as something they are helpless to control, and so few even
try to take steps to deal with the stress in their lives.

There are two primary methods for dealing with stress:

1. Dealing with stress by limiting or avoiding stressful experiences

The most obvious path is to try and evade stress by eliminating the
source of it. While this may seem like an impossibility, there are often
far more ways to reduce stress than people realize. We tend to fall into
patterns of both thought and behavior, often unaware that simple
changes to these patterns might be able a to bypass many sources of
stress altogether. For example. . .

A)    Through habitual behaviors we often get ourselves into stressful
situations that needn’t be. For instance, someone who is chronically
late or rushed for work may experience a great deal of stress that sets
a pattern which continues throughout the day, when setting her
alarm clock 15 minutes earlier and sliding her schedule slightly
might completely eliminate this stress.

B)    We feel stress when life rubs up against our expectations, many of
which are flawed or unrealistic. By altering our expectations we can
greatly reduce stress.

C)    Stress is often induced by triggers in the environment that can be
avoided. Learning what triggers our stress and then avoiding it can
lower our overall stress load.

These are just a few examples. All told, there are a number of ways to
either reduce or eliminate the stress in our lives so that we spend less
energy dealing with it in the first place.

2. Learn better coping methods for dealing with stress

When we’re unable to eliminate stress, then we must do things that
improve our perceptions of it and our ability to cope with it. Most people
consider the havoc that stress causes to be an intractable and uncontrol-
lable part of their lives. But as psychologist Robert Epstein points out, “a
traffic jam might make us feel stressed one day but not the next,” a clear
example of how we sometimes tolerate stress better than other times.
Which also means we could handle ALL stress better by learning and
practicing better strategies for dealing with stress. This can be achieved
in several ways:

A)    Attitude is everything, and often times our ability to manage stress
boils down to how we approach it. By learning to relate to the stress
in our lives in a different way, we can lessen its grip on us.

B)    By learning skills that allow us to interrupt stressful thought patterns
and stop ruminating about stressful experiences, we can reduce the
impact that stress has in our lives.

C)    Stress is often caused by overreactions or false appraisals of a
situation. By recognizing and altering these catastrophic ideas, we
can reduce the amount of stress we endure.

D)    Anticipation: By anticipating stressful situations before they arise
and having reasonable expectations that some stress will occur, you
place yourself in a position of control that allows you to better cope
with stress.

E)    By practicing coping techniques that allow us to better live with
stressful situations.

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