Coping With Stress: Causes & Strategies

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“You need to accept that mastering the art of coping with stress takes time, and it’s a journey full of setbacks!”

By Marwa T. Faqihi


The question seems so simple on the surface: how can I cope with stress? Ironically, it’s difficult to find the answer when you are already drowning in an ocean of thoughts accompanied by overwhelming, never-ending tasks.

The first step is acceptance: mastering the art of coping with stress takes time, and it’s a journey full of setbacks! However, through discipline and practice, you can develop better coping mechanisms and adapt more quickly when needed. Once you acknowledge that it’s a long-term process, you’re well on your way to finding ways to cope with stress in healthy and sustainable ways suited to you.

Before developing coping strategies, it’s crucial to understand what stress actually is. Stress takes different forms for each person. Its symptoms can be mental, such as when a student is constantly worried over a deadline they don’t want to miss. It could be physical, such as when a dancer feels their body clenching before going up on stage to perform for the first time. It could be emotional – as when a bride-to-be is planning her 500+ guests wedding in between honeymoon confirmation emails.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2018), stress is defined as a reaction to a situation where a person feels threatened or anxious. It could occur in positive situations, like preparing for a wedding; or negative situations, like dealing with a natural disaster. And the symptoms accompanied by stress could be physical, emotional or both.

There are both differences and many similarities between people’s reactions to stress – one or more might be familiar to you. Below are some of the common reactions of stress and its symptoms (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2018):

  • Shock and numbness
  • Feeling sad, frustrated and helpless
  • Anxiety about the future
  • Frequent anger, tension, and irritability
  • Feeling guilty
  • Difficulty concentrating and making decisions
  • Regular crying or feeling like crying often
  • Reduced interest in preferred activities
  • Wanting to be alone
  • Sleeping too much or too little
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nightmares or bad memories
  • Recurring thoughts of the event that initially triggered stress
  • Headaches, back pains and stomach problems
  • Heart palpitations
  • Having difficulty breathing
  • Starting or increase the frequency of bad habits, like smoking or use of alcohol or drugs

Now that you understand what stress is, the factors that might cause it, and its various symptoms it’s time to answer the big question: how can you cope with day-to-day stress?

  • A healthy body and a healthy mind go cohesively together. So the first thing you need to do is to take care of yourself. That could be in the form of eating healthy, exercising regularly, getting enough hours of sleep and taking a break when you feel stressed out.

Pro tip: remind yourself to take it easy.

  • Talking to others might give you the illusion of presenting yourself as weak, but we all need to remind ourselves that everyone goes through stressful situations. Sharing your problems and your feelings will ease the process of coping with stress. Talk to a parent, a sibling, a friend, a counselor or anyone you feel comfortable with.

Pro tip: sometimes we would rather stay quiet to spare ourselves (and others) from re-living the stressful situations we go through, this will only slap us harder later on.

  • The inhale of a cigarette, the high of a drug, or the rush of alcohol might feel like they are helping with the stress you’re going through. However, these habits actually increase current stress symptoms, decrease coping abilities, and present even more problems and health-related stress in the long run. Make it a goal to end this vicious cycle and replace these harmful habits with healthier ones.

Pro tip: treat your body like it’s your own baby.

  • We tend to think of taking breaks as wasteful of time and productivity. However, breaks not only help in reducing stress, but studies show they also reset your chain of thoughts and boost your creativity and productivity. So give your mind what it deserves, take a break when you feel stressed, then you can get back to your task stronger with better results.

Pro tip: change up your routine every once in a while. Have a cookie if you’re on a strict diet, or try working in a different spot than usual.

  • And finally, recognize when you need more help. It is not shameful to speak to a professional about your problems or when you’re having harmful thoughts. In fact, asking for help might be the hardest step – everything after that will fall into place.

Pro tip: frequent visits to a professional will make you more aware of your behavior and will teach you to know the symptoms of stress before it affects you negatively!

Dealing with stress is not easy, and learning how to cope with it will be an intense journey. But you will never master it unless you believe you can. Start by applying at least one of these tips, and stick to them no matter how difficult it gets, and I assure you that it will eventually pay off.


– Marwa T. Faqihi



  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, (2018). Retrieved from