So you’re feeling stressed. Now what? You could try to ignore it, but that can cause your stress to build. It’s better to try and cope.

Coping is the thing we do to reduce (or simply tolerate) our feelings of stress. Coping takes conscious effort – it doesn’t just happen automatically. We learn coping mechanisms from watching our family and friends. And while some coping mechanisms can be healthy and beneficial, others are less than ideal. Lashing out at others, overindulging yourself (on food, alcohol, shopping, etc.), or simply giving up are all examples of negative coping techniques. They might provide an immediate release of tension, but they can lead to more problems down the line.

So if you’re feeling stressed, try “constructive coping.” Constructive coping involves confronting your problems directly and realistically. You should learn to recognize when you’re reacting to stress in a negative way. And you should make an effort to stay healthy, and not let your body become vulnerable to the damaging effects of stress.

Try following these four steps:

  1. Identify the source of your stress.
  2. Come up with a plan to reduce your stress. Make sure that your plan is healthy and appropriate! For instance, you could exercise, use relaxation techniques, or talk to a friend. (Try Googling “How to Reduce Stress” for even more ideas!)
  3. Put your plan into action.
  4. Evaluate the success of your plan. Was it effective? Was there more that you could have done? Make adjustments as necessary until you determine a plan that works for you.

After trying constructive coping, if you still find it difficult to deal with stress, consider contacting the Johns Hopkins Faculty and Staff Assistance Program (FASAP). They can provide additional support and assistance.