Have you ever went to talk to someone when you felt stressed, thinking it would help, and didn’t feel better afterward? Then you talked someone else and the opposite was true? You felt better… Me too.
De-Escalate Not Just Validate
I tried to figure out why this was. I thought processing with someone was good.
Well it is, and it can be.
The problem was when I talked with certain people about what was causing me stress the problem was still there at the end of the conversation. Sometimes I felt even more ramped up with emotion.
When I talked to my husband or a close friend, the opposite was usually true.
The problem was still there but it felt smaller, more manageable. What what the difference?
With some people in my life conversations reaffirm and validate your feelings, but in the end you still have to manage those feelings. With other people the actual conversation helps you manage your feelings by looking at it from another perspective or providing potential paths forward if you need it.
This was the difference between the first and second scenario.
So I found if I was stressed I needed to go to a friend that would help me calm my anxiety with reassurance, strategies if I needed them, or another perspective. Validation and someone who matched the intensity of my emotions was not the best fit. This makes sense now because if I’m stressed about something about work, likely a colleague may also be stressed about this same situation and we’ll feed off each other’s negative emotions instead of calming each other down and thinking of other ways of looking at it or strategies to work through it.
Not all Stress Management Strategies are Created Equal
Some strategies validate your feelings and help you acknowledge your stress. Others help you deescalate in order to be in the mindset to tackle it.
I learned I tend to eat to cope with stress, usually sweets. I didn’t feel better, my problem was still there, and I ended up feeling guilty.
When I listened to calming music or took a walk, I found myself less stressed and ready to think of ways to address my problem that was causing me stress.
Consider which strategies you use and how they make you feel after. Do you feel better, worse, the same? Do you feel ready to tackle your problem or have another way of looking at it?
Use this editable worksheet to help you work through these questions.
I’m Stuck What do I do?
Next time I feel stressed, resist the strategies I go to but know they don’t work.
Go right to my strategies I know work.
What do I do if none of my strategies help?
Think about a time when you were calm. What were you doing? Is this something you can do right now?
Is this activity healthy / good for you? If not, is there another activity that is healthier you could try?
My strategies, I can’t do in the moment. What do I do?
Take deep breaths.
Understand the root of your stress and a task that can reduce it. Mine is often about being overwhelmed, so I need to stay calm and start small to tackle a task to feel better.
Is it something you can control? If it isn’t, reframe your thinking.
How do I know what strategies to try?
Consider what the cause of your stress is.
Is it something in your control? The unknown? Time sensitive? Financial related? Interpersonal related?
Make a list of things that make you calm and people that help you see situations in a different way that help calm you. Try one or multiple strategies to regulate the negative emotions flooding you.
Once you’re calm, consider supports you need to move forward. What is one small action step to help cope?
You got this.
May you find ways to calm the stressful seas in your life.