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Stressed? This 7-step plan will help you respond better

No one can avoid stress all together. But you can change the way you respond to prevent it from becoming a long-term problem

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If COVID-19 taught us anything, maybe it’s that some things are out of our control. Life is going to throw us curveballs — from unexpected bills to unwanted diagnoses to delays to global pandemics — no matter how much yoga or deep breathing we practice.

It’s not the absence of these stressors that defines our wellbeing; it’s how we are able to respond to them that makes us mentally strong, psychologists say.

Dr. Meredith Coles, professor of psychology and director of the Binghamton Anxiety Clinic at Binghamton University, pointed out that stress (and the anxiety it causes) helps us survive and thrive: “It motivates us to … get out of the way of a speeding car.”

But our bodies aren’t designed to constantly be under that pressure. And we have to learn healthy ways to deal with the stressors that don’t go away, adds Dr. Seth J. Gillihan, psychologist in private practice in Haverford, Pennsylvania. “Key is being able to process the stress, so it’s not building to a breaking point.”

When the body registers a situation as stressful, the body prepares for physical danger (the “fight or flight” response). The heart pumps faster to send more blood to your muscles, your pupils dilate so you can see better, and you become hyper-vigilant.

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