Stress: Coping with it and leading a more balanced life

Everyone copes with stress, but many cope with it in unhealthy ways, says Baylor College of Medicine psychiatrist Dr. Asim Shah.

Aiming to avoid stress completely is unrealistic, he says, but there are ways to eliminate daily stresses and learn to manage stress in ways that are healthier and will ultimately make you happier.

Unhealthy coping mechanisms


  • Eating or drinking: Shah says that when people are stressed, they often overeat or drink alcohol to numb their feelings. Overeating or drinking is unhealthy and may cause weight gain and depression, he says.
  • Withdrawing: Stressed-out individuals may opt to stay home and withdraw in front of the television, rather than talking or being with friends and family.
  • Anger: Some may become angry from their stress levels and lash out at others in an attempt to self-soothe.

Shah says to remember that stress in life is normal—and that no one will ever be able to completely avoid stress—but it’s best to adapt to it, accept it, and deal with it in healthy ways.

Healthily managing stress

Although stress can’t ever be fully eliminated, Shah says there are ways to avoid some triggers in life as well as successfully managing stress in healthy ways.

  • Consider the people in your life who cause stress: If you feel that a certain person in your life causes an immense amount of stress, think through how best to handle it. Although you won’t be able to avoid your spouse or your boss—and you shouldn’t!—you might be able to avoid interactions with a friend who regularly causes negative feelings. In any case, aim to create clear boundaries, compromise, or respectfully express to this individual how they’re causing stress so that you can work it out.
  • Don’t take on too much responsibility: Shah says that sometimes, the biggest problem people have is that they frequently give too much of themselves. Take responsibility for only as much as you can fulfill—don’t take on too much when you don’t have enough time or energy.
  • Look at the big picture: We often focus on the negative, Shah says. Try to look at the big picture, whether in the workplace or at home. Attempting to focus more on the positive aspects of every situation will help mitigate stress.
  • Take time for yourself: Often, people feel stressed because they don’t take enough time for relaxation. Set aside time every day to do small, free things that you enjoy—go on a walk, listen to music or comedy, call a friend, play with a pet, watch a movie, and do whatever it is that you love. Shah says that watching the news can often be stressful, so although it’s important to be aware of what’s going on in the world, he recommends making sure to take other time to do something inherently relaxing.
  • Vent: Shah says that it’s often helpful for people to vent, whether talking with a friend who’s a great listener—not someone who will provide unsolicited opinions—or to a professional therapist.

Maintaining a healthy lifestyle

Although it’s unrealistic, and even abnormal, to have a stress-free life, coping with it in healthy ways will allow you to consistently feel better and stay healthier.

Eating well, exercising, and consistently getting at least six straight hours of sleep every day will help lower stress levels, says Shah. He recommends making sure to spend time doing activities you enjoy every day, or resuming hobbies you’ve enjoyed in the past.

What are some ways that you effectively deal with everyday stress?

– By Jordan Magaziner



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