“Let it go, Let it go!” Hah! It’s in YOUR head now. So what does Elsa have to do with coping with stress? (Other than turning off the DVD.) There are two primary effective coping mechanisms for stress, one is Problem Solving and the other is Letting Go. Both are great in different circumstances, but one has been pulling ahead in the recent research.
Problem Solving is taking action. If you’re stressed about entertaining the family during an upcoming holiday break, buying a visitor’s guide and going through TripAdvisor reviews of local establishments takes action and diminishes stress. By taking an active role and breaking down the stressors into “projects” the stress level can decrease. This kind of coping works well in situations where you have control over the outcome – vacation plans, learning a new skill, writing a thesis, etc.
So what happens when you’re dealing with a stressful situation where you don’t have control over the outcome? In 2009 researchers studied a group of people in a highly stressful situation wherein Problem Solving wouldn’t help them deal with the stress. These people were going through IVF, in vitro fertilization treatments for infertility. IVF treatments are very intense but are generally uncontrollable. The researchers found that people that dealt with the stress by “Letting Go”, mentally diving under the wave and emotionally riding through it, had a higher pregnancy rate.‡
Mindfulness is a technique anyone can use to let go. Take a breath and notice what your feet are doing, how do they feel in your shoes? Are you barefoot? What surfaces are they in contact with? Can you feel your individual toes? Take a moment and just notice. Now, what were you worried about? Do you feel a little calmer?
We constantly deal with stress in our lives, it’s part of the world that we live in. Next time that you’re cut-off in traffic, stuck in the dentist’s chair, or waiting on hold listening to a voice reassure you that your call is important ask yourself, What Would Elsa Do?
‡ Rapoport-Hubschman, N., M.D., et al., ‘‘Letting go’’ coping is associated with successful IVF treatment outcome. Fertility and Sterility, Vol 92, No. 4, Oct 2009