Strategies to cope with family stress

Coping strategies to guide you and your family when dealing with everyday stress and crisis situations.

Stress is normal and unavoidable. It comes in a variety of forms and means different things to different people. We encounter stress in a variety of different situations and in different amounts. Stress can come from ordinary events like heavy traffic or a long line at the store or it can be a result of a crisis event; like the loss of a job or a death in the family. 

How you and your family handle these stressors will predict your future success as both individuals and as a family.  When the stress in your life seems to affect your everyday life, it is time to make a change. There is not a single perfect way to survive the stressful events in your life.  It is more of a process of figuring out what works best for you at a particular point in time. 

Here are some tips to help you work out what works best for you and your family:

  • Identify the stressful event and recognize feelings without dwelling on negative feelings. Try to learn from this event and set up an action plan so that you can move forward.
  • Develop and/or utilize your support system. Your support system consists of the people who may or can fill different roles in your life. For example, your neighbor may be able to assist with childcare or a friend that is a great listener. Use your support system to talk about your feelings and help you cope.
  • Keep busy. Volunteer, help in your child’s classroom, do a relaxing hobby. This may seem difficult to do, but the more your mind is diverted to positive activities the less time your mind has to worry about the stressful situation.
  • Practice deep breathing or mindfulness. When you start feeling yourself get anxious and extremely stressed, step back and do a three-minute mindful breathing exercise. This will quiet your mind and help you relax.
  • Get outside. Take a walk around the house or neighborhood. 
  • Get sleep. Research by the Sleep Foundation has shown when individuals get at least eight hours of sleep, they are less stressed, less sad and manage anger better.
  • Take time for yourself. It is very easy to become caught up in everyone else’s situations and crises. Take time to do something that is important, relaxing and enjoyable to you. Read a book, sit on the porch and enjoy the scenery, go out with your friends for coffee. By taking this time, it will rejuvenate you.
  • Use and develop your sense of humor. Humor and laughter is a great stress reliever and promotes wellbeing.
  • Surround yourself with positive, supportive people. Make an effort to interact and be around people who provide support and encouragement for you and your family.
  • Focus on your health and the health of others in your family. Often during stressful times, individuals will turn to alcohol and drugs as a coping mechanism. Be thoughtful of your eating and drinking habits. It is extremely important to eat healthy and to exercise at least 30 minutes a day.
  • Know when to get professional help. If anyone is feeling overwhelmed and/or depressed, seek assistance from an outside source.

For more information and programs on stress and anger management, please visit Michigan State University ExtensionMSU Extension offers a variety of educational programs throughout the state. To find a program near you, contact your local county office for more information.

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