Print, broadcast, and social media are filled with all sorts of advice on things you can do to help you cope better with stress in your life. Problem is, most folks find that many of the suggestions do not help them at all. The reason, of course, is pretty simple: we’re all so different, with different experiences, genetics, and preferences, what works for your friend or family member just may not be your cup of tea.
I know people who swear by yoga. The say a session really unwinds them, puts their mind at ease, and helps them keep the pressures of the day in perspective. I know others who say they couldn’t get through the day without taking a few minutes midday to meditate. I also know folks who say stuff like meditation and yoga is nonsense to them, and they deal with their daily stresses by running two miles every evening.
Individual differences! If there is one truth in psychology, it is that people differ, not only in their physical appearance but also in their psychological make-up. It’s a good thing there are so many choices when it comes to coping with stress because that means we can each choose our personal stress weapons.
Just remember, the next time you see one of those lists that proclaim, “Ten ways to cope with _________ (fill in the blank: boss, spouse, kids, family, holidays, etc., etc.), none of them may be for you, and that’s OK. To be effective, any coping technique must fit within your personal “limits” established by your experiences and genetics.
In a recent newspaper column, Florida attorney Cindy Bishop highlighted the book, “Younger Next Year for Women,” by Chris Crowley and Henry Lodge. The authors discuss seven rules that help folks grow psychologically and cope more effectively with life. Their list captures many of the general themes we try to develop in this blog.
The first three rules deal with aerobic exercise and strength training with weights. Just remember that when you decide to follow aerobic and strength routines, you must apply these routines within the limitations of your body. One size never fits all and you must guard against injury. Begin with small steps and gradually work your way up to more challenging routines.
Rule four is financial and says you must spend less than you make. As my mother told me on many occasions, “Son, it’s not how much you earn; it’s how much you spend!” Furthermore, whenever spending habits enter the coping picture, you are wise to “pay yourself first.”
Rule five stresses diet, both quality and quantity. Remember that when monitoring “what goes in,” you must also monitor “what goes out.” We know lots of folks who exercise, exercise, exercise, but then eat, eat, eat.
Rule six focuses on caring for others. From birth, when infants thrive on skin-to-skin contact with primary caregivers, to the teen years and beyond, interacting with and caring for others can involve you in the adventure of life and help put your own problems in perspective.
Rule seven says you must commit to your world by reaching out to your community and developing productive connections with others. Becoming a part of a group, from sporting and civic groups to volunteer activities, will put you in touch with supportive others who will help you thrive.
As I said, these rules fit well with the coping principles we discuss in this blog. Just remember that when you see lists like these, one size does not fit all. You must adapt coping advice to the conditions imposed by your body, mind, and unique environmental circumstances. Also, before applying general advice to your life, you must decide what is under your control and what is not. Whenever applying any coping program to yourself, always focus on your thoughts and actions, and do not try to control those of others. Always consider words of advice within the limits imposed by your circle of control.