A few days ago, I was working with one of my clients who had been struggling with stress management. I was befuddled myself because this young man had a plethora of coping strategies to use, but he was kept falling further and further backwards every time I saw him. It took me a second, but I thought to myself, “Maybe he just doesn’t know how to approach his triggers.” It reminded me of an old counseling trick to help organize stressors.
It’s called the ERC list. It stands eliminate, reduce, and cope with. It offers a way to put stressors into categories and help you decide how to best attack the stress.
Eliminate is the easiest is the three. This is the one people tend to use the most without even thinking about it. Our natural tendency usually is to avoid negativity or eliminate it. Avoidance is not always a bad thing. Let’s say you are grocery shopping, and someone cuts in front of you in line. Depending on the context, it might not be worth the time and effort to confront the individual and better to simply eliminate that stress. Another example might be a “toxic” individual in your life taking advantage of you. It sometimes comes down to you eliminating that individual from your life and cutting ties.
Reduce is slightly more difficult. This includes situations where you can cut down on the stressor cannot totally get rid of it. For instance, there might be a co-worker of yours that just annoys you. You still have to work with them, but maybe you cut down on your time around them. Maybe you engage in a fun activity to lessen feelings of anxiety.
The most difficult one for most people to do is cope with. These are the situations that we cannot get rid of and have to just deal with it. You are not getting along with your family, but you live with them. You have to deal with it. There might be a supervisor at your job that you do not see eye to eye with, but you deal with it. Grin and bear it.
Keep in mind that stressors might fall into multiple categories across different situations and over time. One helpful step for some people is to write a lost of coping skills under each category as a way to handle stressors when they fall in that respective column.
– The Caring Counselor