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How To Manage Stress When You Can’t Change The Source

Have you ever had a problem at work, where half the stress is knowing that you can’t change the problem? Whether it’s a difficult co-worker or unreasonable hours, this stress is a special sort of beast, compounding over time until the mere mention of the problem can send paralyzing anxiety up your spine and rob your days of goodness.

You may have read about the 4As of stress, but if you haven’t, here are the 4 ways you can handle a stressor. Obviously this article infers option #2 is not possible:

  • Avoid the stressor

  • Alter the stressor

  • Adapt to the stressor

  • Accept the stressor

Hot Stress Reduction Tips Right Out of the Oven!

1. Identify the Source

Some issues are novel, but a lot of problems are activating damage that already exists within us. If you had an overbearing parent, perhaps it is possible you will be particularly sensitive to micromanagement. In the same way, the next time you identify a recurring stressor, see if it has roots in your past. Then the problem becomes an opportunity to heal rather than suffer.

2. Consider Journaling

The secret to minimizing stress is exploring it. What is causing your stress? How does the stress make you feel? What do you do in reaction to stress? What do you do to cheer yourself up? How do you want to manage it going forward? Write it out to help process it and reflect.

3. Share Your Feelings Early and Often

If something or someone is bothering you, communicate your concerns with a trusted loved one or therapist. If you don’t talk it out, you risk becoming resentful, and preoccupied by the space the stressor consumes within you. Naming the stressor aloud reduces the stress itself, unearths potential solutions, and distributes the weight of the stress between yourself and others, making it easier to manage.

4. Reframe the Problem

Is it a traffic jam or an opportunity to listen to that book on tape? Is meeting your demanding boss’ expectations also pushing you to develop yourself as a professional? Reframing is not necessarily about finding a silver lining, but stress can make us myopic and and miss the more benign or even positive context to the stress.

5. Take a Big Picture Breath

A stressor might be a major problem, or something that has compounded in our minds and is really quite small in reality. Will it affect you down the line? Remember to stop and remind yourself of the bigger picture.

6. Practice Optimism

Telling ourselves that we will be okay, and that there is a time in the future in which we will be through the current stress we’re experiencing, can be a powerful tool in managing stress in our present. Practicing optimism is a valuable tool in all things.

7. Don't Try to Control Uncontrollable Stressors

Stressing about stress is a special sort of discomfort we have all experienced, and trying to control the uncontrollable is simply compounding it. For instance, say you have a big presentation you’ve worked hard on, and right before the meeting, the topic changes. You could frantically try to recreate the presentation, or gather information from stakeholders so you can facilitate a new conversation, rather than present. Letting go of Plan A is hard, but holding onto it is a recipe for stress. In these times, instead of focusing on what you can’t control, turn your gaze to what is within your control to affect and change.

8. Learn to Forgive

If we could create a forgiveness pill that worked, we’d be billionaires. Forgiveness can be difficult and often takes time and mental energy to achieve. It’s also the best gift you can give yourself, so take your time, but learn to forgive so you can let go of the pain and hurt.

We’ve all had that immovable stress. The nagging, exhausting, and seemingly endless feeling of being trapped in an unwelcoming situation. With these tips, hopefully you’ll feel less trapped and more empowered to continue leading your life on terms you can accept and don’t feel compromised by. Good luck and remember, we’ve all been there. And please, reach out with some of your own tips on how we can all manage stress when we can’t change the source!

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