One of the best ways to improve how we deal with stress is by changing how we behave when something goes wrong.

For a lot of people, we find ourselves overeating, aggressively driving, drinking,  not sleeping, or picking fights as a way to deal with stress. These are so obviously unhealthy, and there are much better ways to deal with stress, but how do we get organized around that?

This is my favorite stress-coping activity. It will help you replace unhealthy coping strategies (like the ones listed above) with much healthier options.

To refocus your coping mechanisms and de-stress in a healthy way, pull out a piece of paper with two columns. Throughout the day and during stressful situations, take note on one column all the unhealthy ways you deal with stress.

Then sit down when you have time and choose healthy strategies you can use instead. Replace the “unhealthy coping mechanism” with a “nourishing coping mechanism.”

Here are a list of my favorite coping strategies:

  • Taking a walk
  • Sitting quietly in meditation for 10 minutes
  • Listening to a mediation CD
  • Drawing
  • Dancing
  • Taking a drive
  • Making a to-do list
  • Drinking tea in a quite space
  • Taking a bath
  • Pampering yourself with home beauty treatments
  • Calling a loved one
  • Chugging a glass of water
  • Jumping rope / Jumping jacks for 1 minute
  • Stretching
  • Journaling

Try to match up an unhealthy strategy with a healthy one. For example, if one of your strategies is drinking alcohol, replace that strategy with sipping tea. If another coping mechanism is picking fights, try taking a warm bath when you feel that urge. Or instead of overeating, call a loved one or chug a glass of water.

Give yourself a game plan – even if it seems overly thought out. Get organized around your stress so that it feels manageable and focused. Stress comes from feeling out of control. If you plan to deal with stress effectively, and actively use your own advice – you ARE in control! And you’ll soon realize stress has less of an impact than you think.