Setting Goals to Cope With Stress

Coping with stress should be goal-driven. You need to ask yourself: What are my goals? How can I reach my goals in a positive way? Will my decisions create more or less stress in my life?

Setting goals includes establishing priorities and keeping things in perspective. Some stressful situations are serious and may require professional counseling in order to be resolved. Other situations that may seem stressful for the moment are not threatening to your life or your lifestyle.

An important step in establishing goals is setting priorities. You can’t do everything you want to do or have to do, and trying to do everything usually leads to a lot of stress. That is why you have to prioritize your activities; that is, put them in order of importance to you.

When you set priorities, you need to think about your values and your goals. You can start by making a list of the tasks you have to do and want to do, with the most important ones first. Then do one task at a time, checking it off as it is completed. As you make your list, ask yourself, “Is this task necessary?”

Most importantly you can say no in some situations.

Give yourself permission to say no once in a while (but not all the time) to things you ought to do. When you feel pressured to do things you don’t want to do, you are only wasting both physical and emotional energy.

You can cope with stress by saying no to something that will add to your stress. “I was honored when our senior class president asked me to be the chairman of the prom committee,” says Jeff. “I had to think about it. I’m already involved in a lot of sports and activities in school, many hard classes, and even a part-time job. I finally said no, although that made me feel bad. I’m already stressed; adding one more thing would probably make me crazy.”

When your stress is the result of a serious problem, such as the illness or death of a family member, you may have to think differently about the way you do things. You may need to postpone some decisions you are asked to make and some of the activities you are asked to take care of. This is the time when you have a right to say no to some requests.