4 Proven Ways to Deal With Stress Without Shutting Down, Giving Up or Taking Meds | Entrepreneur (2024)

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Stress happens. In fact, stress is perfectly normal and, in some cases, even be beneficial.

There are two types of stress. "Acute stress" is a leftover survival technique that protects us from danger. It's simply your reaction to an immediate threat and is commonly known as the "fight or flight" response.

Chronic stress, however, is a different beast. This is the stress that we face daily, such as an overbearing boss or money-pit of a house. This can drastically affect both your mind and body.

Common symptoms of chronic stress include irritability, anxiety, depression, headaches and insomnia. It can undermine your digestive, muscular and immune systems, making you more vulnerable to everything from the common cold to cancer. Chronic stress can also do some serious long-lasting damage to your brain. Here are some of the worst effects of chronic stress on the brain:

Related: The Impact Of Chronic Work Stress On Your Employees

Creates free radicals that kill brain cells: Stress produces an excess of a steroid hormone cortisol. This can lead to the creation of free radicals that can punch holes in the brain cell walls. You can make you more susceptible to unhealthy habits and addictive behaviors.

Makes you forgetful and emotional: Studies have found that electrical signals in the brain that are associated with factual memories weaken. However, areas in the brain associated with emotions strengthen.

Creates a vicious cycle of fear and anxiety: Stress builds up a part of the brain known as the amygdala. This is your fear center. So, stress can result in a cycle of fear and stress.

Halts the production of new brain cells: Cortisol stops the production of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). This is a protein that keeps brain cells healthy and forms new ones.

Contributes to depression by depleting critical brain chemicals: Chronic stress can also reduce levels of serotonin and dopamine. These are simply happy chemicals in your known called neurotransmitters. Without them people become depressed and more likely to develop addictions.

Puts you at greater risk for mental illnesses of all kinds: Some research suggests that stress predisposes people to mental illness. This can include panic disorders, depression, PTSD, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, drug addiction and alcoholism.

Makes you stupid: Stress also makes your brain freeze at the worst time, such as during a job interview.

Shrinks your brain: Cortisol is also responsible for stopping the production of new neurons in hippocampus. This is the part of the brain that stores memories. This can affect decision making, working memory and control of impulsive behavior.

Related: Stress Literally Shrinks Your Brain. Here Are 7 Ways To Reverse This Effect.

Let's toxins into your brain: The blood-brain barrier protects your brain from harmful substances. Stress makes this barrier more leaky, leaving you vulnerable to pathogens, heavy metals, chemicals and other toxins that an unstressed brain can shield against.

Increases your risk of dementia and Alzheimer's: While there is "magic bullet" to prevent Alzheimer's, studies are showing that stress can play a role. Chronic stress elevates cortisol, which contributes to dementia in the elderly and accelerates its progression.

Causes brain cell suicide: Stress can also cause cells to age prematurely. This could put you in a greater risk of Alzheimer's, heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.

Chronic stress contributes to brain inflammation and depression.

Did you know that your brain has it's own immune system? It's a group of cells called microglia that protect the brain and spinal cord from infections and toxins. Stress can activate the microglia, which leads to brain inflammation.

Related: Managing Your Mental Health as an Entrepreneur

Chronic stress shouldn't be taken lightly. It has drastic effects on you both physically and mentally. And, because of this, it's no surprise that stress would make you want to shut down.

Instead of shutting down, here are four proven ways to stop stress immediately.

1. Remember: This too shall pass.

"Laundry is piling up, the baby has a fever, and your boss wanted that report yesterday. Sound familiar?" writes Jamie Long Psy.D. "No one managing his or her own life is devoid of stress. Too much stress can lead to excessive worry, nervousness, dread, upset stomach, or difficulty breathing."

The first step in overcoming these negative feelings is to recognize that this is a normal emotional state. It's most commonly identified as anxiety."

"Although it's uncomfortable, the negative feelings WILL PASS," adds Long. "Fighting the anxiety can make it stronger. Paradoxically, accepting that you are feeling anxious helps activate the body's natural relaxation response."

2. Increase oxygen flow.

Dr. Bruce Rabin, medical director of the Healthy Lifestyle Program at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, says that an increase of oxygen flow to the brain can reduce stress. This calms down the regions that get activated by stress. This causes those stress-hormone levels to rise.

The best way to increase oxygen glow is by exercising. But, what if you can't leave work or hit the gym? Kathleen Hall, a stress expert, suggests hanging a jump rope on the back of your office door. When you need to de-stress, just pull it for a quick exercise. Also, consider jumping jacks or sit-ups, which you can easily pull off in your office.

"Exercise relaxes tense muscles that become tight and rigid when you experience stress," says Hall, chief executive of The Stress Institute in Atlanta, Ga.

The Stress Institute is an educational and training firm that focuses on the effects of stress and how to relieve it. "Exercise delivers oxygen to the brain, vital organs and muscles immediately and produces endorphins that soothe your mind, body and soul."

Other options would be to meditate, do yoga stretches or take 10-minute walk outside. You can even work on breathing exercises. One simple breathing exercise to start with is just by inhaling for a count of four and then exhaling for a count of four

Another less obvious way to take-in more oxygen? Laughter.

3. Prioritize and delegate.

"You cannot do everything so prioritize your list and pare it down until it is doable," writes Allen Vaysberg. "Practice the rule of five and only do things if they fall into your top five. If they don't then delegate and ask your husband/wife to do that thing you know they hate doing but you are sick of handling." Learn to delegate. I personally do this with my calendar.

4. Shift your focus.

Finally, if you want to eliminate stress, then shift your focus and get re-centered. Meditation and visualization are both great at achieving this. But, there are also lesser known ways, such as chewing gum, counting, singing, and rocking in a chair.

Repetitive motions, such as knitting, have also been found to soothe anxiety. As does talking to your best friend. Helping others is good way to shift your focus and change your perspective. Professor Cary Cooper, an occupational health expert at the University of Lancaster, says that people who help others, through activities such as volunteering or community work, become more resilient.

"Helping people who are often in situations worse than yours will help you put your problems into perspective," said Professor Cooper. "The more you give, the more resilient and happy you feel."

If you don't have time to volunteer, at least do a favor for someone every day. It can be as small as helping someone to cross the stress or purchasing coffee for colleagues.

"You can learn to manage stress," says Dr. Emanuel Maidenberg , a clinical professor of psychiatry and biobehavioral sciences at UCLA. "You can develop a set of tools for bringing the level down. That can't happen overnight though. You have to practice."

4 Proven Ways to Deal With Stress Without Shutting Down, Giving Up or Taking Meds | Entrepreneur (2024)


What are the 4 ways to manage stress? ›

Take deep breaths, stretch, or meditate. Try to eat healthy, well-balanced meals. Exercise regularly. Get plenty of sleep.

What are the 4 steps in coping with stress? ›

Fortunately, there are 4 steps to help reduce stress and cope with the inevitable stressors of everyday life:
  • Avoid. Believe it or not, it is possible to escape some of the minor stressors that tend to trouble people: ...
  • Alter. Communicate clearly and let people know your expectations. ...
  • Accept. ...
  • Adapt.
Mar 8, 2021

How do you deal with stress without shutting down? ›

If your stress is getting out of control and you need quick relief, try one of these tips.
  1. Get active. Almost any form of physical activity can act as a stress reliever. ...
  2. Eat a healthy diet. ...
  3. Avoid unhealthy habits. ...
  4. Meditate. ...
  5. Laugh more. ...
  6. Connect with others. ...
  7. Assert yourself. ...
  8. Try yoga.

What are the ways to cope with stress? ›

10 Ways to Manage Everyday Stress
  • Balance work and play. Make time to work on your tasks and goals (like schoolwork, chores, or practice). ...
  • Plan your day. ...
  • Stick to your plan. ...
  • Ask for help when you need it. ...
  • Use the positive energy of stress. ...
  • Deal with problems as they come up. ...
  • Eat good foods. ...
  • Get enough sleep.

What is the 4 step process for managing stress? ›

Expand your stress management toolkit by mastering these four strategies for coping with stress: avoid, alter, accept and adapt. When we feel the effects of stress weighing us down, it's like lugging a backpack that's becoming heavier by the minute.

What are the 4 A's of dealing with stressful situations? ›

Dealing with Stressful Situations: The Four A׳s

When deciding which option to choose, it's helpful to think of the four A's: avoid, alter, adapt or accept. Since everyone has a unique response to stress, there is no “one size fits all” solution to managing it.

What are the 4a strategies for stress? ›

The 4 A's is a nice and simple framework that groups the four main ways of coping with stress: avoid, alter, adapt and accept. Two additional things to consider when applying this framework are whether the stressor is important to you and whether it's within your control.

What are the 4 strategies to avoid or limit stress? ›

Avoid drugs and alcohol as they can add to stress. Eat a well-balanced diet, get enough sleep, and exercise on a regular basis. Engage in self-relaxation. Try muscle relaxation, breathing or meditation exercises, prayer, yoga, or swimming to reduce stress.

What is the 4 stage stress response? ›

... Moreover, stress reveals itself in four stages; alarm, reaction, adaptation, and exhaustion or burnout (Butto, 2019) .

How to calm nerves quickly? ›

How to calm your nerves
  1. Practice deep breathing.
  2. Listen to calming music.
  3. Talk to a friend.
  4. Get moving.
  5. Sniff a calming scent.
  6. Admit that you're nervous.
Apr 6, 2023

What are the 5 A's of stress management? ›

“5 A's” to help manage stress
  • Avoid. Some types of stress are unavoidable, such as stress-induced by death, disease, or an accident. ...
  • Alter. Stress may be caused by situations that you usually address as your daily routine. ...
  • Adapt. Recognize that things happen, plans alter, and emergencies occur. ...
  • Accept. ...
  • Active.

What are 5 ways to reduce stress? ›

What you can do to address stress
  • Be active. ...
  • Take control. ...
  • Connect with people. ...
  • Have some "me time" ...
  • Challenge yourself. ...
  • Avoid unhealthy habits. ...
  • Help other people. ...
  • Work smarter, not harder.

What can you do immediately to calm down? ›

How to Calm Down Fast
  • Just breathe. Breathing seems like the most natural thing in the world. ...
  • Close your eyes and count to 10 slowly. It really works! ...
  • Chew a piece of gum. ...
  • Phone a friend – preferably a funny one. ...
  • Smell lavender. ...
  • Curl up with your cat or dog. ...
  • Listen to calming music. ...
  • Exercise your body.
Feb 6, 2024

What are 7 ways to manage stress? ›

7 stress management tips to find relief
  • Take a minute (often) “Sometimes the most important thing in a whole day is the rest we take between two deep breaths.” — ...
  • Build awareness. ...
  • Recognize when you're in fight-or-flight. ...
  • Set boundaries. ...
  • Make time for stress-relief. ...
  • Take time to nourish your body. ...
  • Wind down properly.
Aug 10, 2023

What are the 4 basic sources of stress? ›

Don't have much or any control over the outcome of a situation. Have responsibilities that you find overwhelming. Don't have enough work, activities or change in your life. Experience discrimination, hate or abuse.

What are the 4 concepts of stress? ›

Stress is a central concept in biology and has now been widely used in psychological, physiological, social, and even environmental fields. However, the concept of stress was cross-utilized to refer to different elements of the stress system including stressful stimulus, stressor, stress response, and stress effect.

What are the 4 parts of the stress process? ›

The stress process consists of four stages: (1) a demand (which can be physical, psychological, or cognitive); (2) appraisal of the demand and of the available resources and capability to deal with the demand; (3) a negative response to the cognitive appraisal of the demand and the resources with various levels of ...

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