Stress and Pain Management Educatio

Life Management Skills:
Coping with health problems or stress

Ineffective coping strategies may help us temporarily feel better or buy time but seldom solve a stressful situation. We all learn ways to cope. Some are less effective than others.

Ineffective coping strategies:

  • Denial: "Everything's fine, no problem" but obvious evidence points to real sources of conflict or concern.
  • Wanting to retreat to a happier, simpler time in the past.
  • Complaining: Can be a release of energy but unless we are talking to the right person our problems are not being resolved. Figure out what you need and who you need to talk to.
  • Alcohol, mood altering drugs, overeating, or isolating oneself.
  • Working harder and harder.
  • Helping others too much at an ongoing cost to oneself.
The stressors and the stress are still there (and sometimes made worse!) when the effects of the chemical or behavior wear off. When we are Hungry, Angry, Lonely or Tired, we are vulnerable to ineffective coping strategies. "HALT" and consider this next list...


Effective coping strategies that can be adapted for individual use.

  1. Take a break. A change of scenery can clear the mind. Go for a walk, call a friend, count to ten.
  2. "One day at a time." Action or acceptance. Face stressors by acting directly when possible. Problem solve. Dwelling on issues without action or acceptance adds to stress. Acceptance at times is difficult because powerful feelings are involved. With loss can come: Shock, anger, peace of mind, sadness and hope. Working with your honest feelings is a way to take it one day at a time.
  3. Use positive calming thoughts and decrease worry ones. This can be difficult because to worry is easy. Worry about yesterday or tomorrow adds to stress. Positive thinking takes practice. We can change our physical state with our thoughts.
  4. Nourish the spiritual part of yourself. Religion, beauty, nature, science and even painful life experiences have been used by people to deepen their sense of spirituality.
    • If religion is important to you, what part (s) of your religious practice brings you closer to God? Take the time to do it! Be here now. God is user friendly.
    • Experience, strength and hope can be gained through painful life experiences.
    • The beauty found in nature, art, music and poetry can provide deep inspiration and peace.
    • Science with the elements of wonder and open-mindedness and the goals of relieving suffering and serving humanity, provides a method to seek what is Truth.
  5. Learn to use a relaxation technique. There are many types. Conscious relaxation reverses the physical stress response. See next section for details.
  6. Establish clear and realistic goals for your personal and professional lives. Manage time, don't let it manage you.
  7. Pace your activity. In managing pain, recovery or a chronic health problem, it is useful to have an activity-rest schedule. This allows you to rest before you get too tired. Over-activity causes a corresponding increase of symptoms and down time. Activity means feet on the floor including standing, moving about or sitting with your feet on the floor. Resting means the feet are up off the floor, including lying down or feet up in a recliner. Have a "sick day" plan for less activity and more rest.
  8. Delegate responsibilities. It is OK to ask for help. Also it is OK to say no and not feel guilty if no is the truth.
  9. Be involved with people, family, friends or support groups. Many communities have support groups that are free of charge.
  10. Therapeutic massage, either from a professional, trained friend or family member, can be very beneficial for your body-mind-spirit. Neck and shoulder, and foot massages are examples. Healing Touch techniques are relaxing.
  11. "Talking it out," is a very good stress buster. It is helpful to share your thoughts and feelings with a family member or friend who is willing to listen. Some also find speaking with a professional provides objective support and encouragement. Locate someone you can trust! Some people find writing in a diary, journal or letter is a good way to "get it out."
  12. Allow your vacation time to be a complete break from routine. Rest a day before you return to work.
  13. Regular exercise improves the body's ability to respond to stress. Stretching and walking are easy, safe ways to release tension.
  14. Good nutrition. Follow your prescribed diet. Try to include more whole foods. Drink plenty of water.
  15. Stop smoking. Even though people smoke to relax, it actually increases the long term stress responses in the body.
  16. Heat, warm water. Hot baths and hot water bottles can work like magic on tired muscles.
  17. Sleep provides relaxation and rest. Avoid regular use of sleeping pills.
  18. Remember to have fun! Humor and simple fun are sure fire stress reducers. Hobbies, music or creative activities give your mind and body a break. Pets can also provide companionship and pleasure for people. For information on humor and healing visit the Carolina Health and Humor Association website here.
  19. Assertive communication skills. Passive and aggressive communication styles tend to draw more stress to people. Be "open, honest, direct and respectful." Be respectful both to yourself and other people. See below for everyone's communication rights. Exercising these rights may cause stress to rise at first but it is a good stress that can over time greatly improve your stress management.
  20. Service: Consider increasing compassionate action in your life. Compassion is touching pain with love
  21. Create a beautiful and relaxing place for you to spend time. Aromatherapy, candles, water, meaningful objects.
  22. Non-drug pain management.

Next:  Relaxation Techniques


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Copyright 2008 Manage Stress Now Updated: 09/20/10