While it may seem like there’s nothing you can do about stress at work and home, there are steps you can take to relieve the pressure and regain control.
The importance of managing stress
If you’re living with high levels of stress, you’re putting your entire well-being at risk. Stress wreaks havoc on your emotional equilibrium, as well as your physical health. It narrows your ability to think clearly, function effectively, and enjoy life. It may seem like there’s nothing you can do about stress. The bills won’t stop coming, there will never be more hours in the day, and your work and family responsibilities will always be demanding. But you have a lot more control than you might think.
Effective stress management helps you break the hold stress has on your life, so you can be happier, healthier, and more productive. The ultimate goal is a balanced life, with time for work, relationships, relaxation, and fun—and the resilience to hold up under pressure and meet challenges head on. But stress management is not one-size-fits-all. That’s why it’s important to experiment and find out what works best for you. The following stress management tips can help you do that.
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Tip 1: Identify the sources of stress in your life
Stress management starts with identifying the sources of stress in your life. This isn't as straightforward as it sounds. While it's easy to identify major stressors such as changing jobs, moving, or going through a divorce, pinpointing the sources of chronic stress can be more complicated. It's all too easy to overlook how your own thoughts, feelings, and behaviors contribute to your everyday stress levels.
Sure, you may know that you're constantly worried about work deadlines, but maybe it's your procrastination, rather than the actual job demands, that is causing the stress.
To identify your true sources of stress, look closely at your habits, attitude, and excuses:
- Do you explain away stress as temporary (“I just have a million things going on right now”) even though you can’t remember the last time you took a breather?
- Do you define stress as an integral part of your work or home life (“Things are always crazy around here”) or as a part of your personality (“I have a lot of nervous energy, that’s all”)?
- Do you blame your stress on other people or outside events, or view it as entirely normal and unexceptional?
Until you accept responsibility for the role you play in creating or maintaining it, your stress level will remain outside your control.
Start a stress journal
A stress journal can help you identify the regular stressors in your life and the way you deal with them. Each time you feel stressed, keep track of it in your journal or use a stress tracker on your phone. Keeping a daily log will enable you to see patterns and common themes. Write down:
- What caused your stress (make a guess if you’re unsure).
- How you felt, both physically and emotionally.
- How you acted in response.
- What you did to make yourself feel better.
Tip 2: Practice the 4 A's of stress management
While stress is an automatic response from your nervous system, some stressors arise at predictable times: your commute to work, a meeting with your boss, or family gatherings, for example. When handling such predictable stressors, you can either change the situation or change your reaction. When deciding which option to choose in any given scenario, it's helpful to think of the four A's: avoid, alter, adapt, or accept.
|The four A's – Avoid, Alter, Adapt & Accept|
|Avoid unnecessary stress|
|It's not healthy to avoid a stressful situation that needs to be addressed, but you may be surprised by the number of stressors in your life that you can eliminate.|
|Learn how to say “no.” Know your limits and stick to them. Whether in your personal or professional life, taking on more than you can handle is a surefire recipe for stress. Distinguish between the “shoulds” and the “musts” and, when possible, say “no” to taking on too much.|
|Avoid people who stress you out. If someone consistently causes stress in your life, limit the amount of time you spend with that person, or end the relationship.|
|Take control of your environment. If the evening news makes you anxious, turn off the TV. If traffic makes you tense, take a longer but less-traveled route. If going to the market is an unpleasant chore, do your grocery shopping online.|
|Pare down your to-do list. Analyze your schedule, responsibilities, and daily tasks. If you've got too much on your plate, drop tasks that aren't truly necessary to the bottom of the list or eliminate them entirely.|
|Alter the situation|
|If you can't avoid a stressful situation, try to alter it. Often, this involves changing the way you communicate and operate in your daily life.|
|Express your feelings instead of bottling them up. If something or someone is bothering you, be more assertive and communicate your concerns in an open and respectful way. If you've got an exam to study for and your chatty roommate just got home, say up front that you only have five minutes to talk. If you don't voice your feelings, resentment will build and the stress will increase.|
|Be willing to compromise. When you ask someone to change their behavior, be willing to do the same. If you both are willing to bend at least a little, you'll have a good chance of finding a happy middle ground.|
|Create a balanced schedule. All work and no play is a recipe for burnout. Try to find a balance between work and family life, social activities and solitary pursuits, daily responsibilities and downtime.|
|Adapt to the stressor|
|If you can't change the stressor, change yourself. You can adapt to stressful situations and regain your sense of control by changing your expectations and attitude.|
|Reframe problems. Try to view stressful situations from a more positive perspective. Rather than fuming about a traffic jam, look at it as an opportunity to pause and regroup, listen to your favorite radio station, or enjoy some alone time.|
|Look at the big picture. Take perspective of the stressful situation. Ask yourself how important it will be in the long run. Will it matter in a month? A year? Is it really worth getting upset over? If the answer is no, focus your time and energy elsewhere.|
|Adjust your standards. Perfectionism is a major source of avoidable stress. Stop setting yourself up for failure by demanding perfection. Set reasonable standards for yourself and others, and learn to be okay with “good enough.”|
|Practice gratitude. When stress is getting you down, take a moment to reflect on all the things you appreciate in your life, including your own positive qualities and gifts. This simple strategy can help you keep things in perspective.|
|Accept the things you can't change|
|Some sources of stress are unavoidable. You can't prevent or change stressors such as the death of a loved one, a serious illness, or a national recession. In such cases, the best way to cope with stress is to accept things as they are. Acceptance may be difficult, but in the long run, it's easier than railing against a situation you can't change.|
|Don't try to control the uncontrollable. Many things in life are beyond our control, particularly the behavior of other people. Rather than stressing out over them, focus on the things you can control such as the way you choose to react to problems.|
|Look for the upside. When facing major challenges, try to look at them as opportunities for personal growth. If your own poor choices contributed to a stressful situation, reflect on them and learn from your mistakes.|
|Learn to forgive. Accept the fact that we live in an imperfect world and that people make mistakes. Let go of anger and resentments. Free yourself from negative energy by forgiving and moving on.|
|Share your feelings. Expressing what you're going through can be very cathartic, even if there's nothing you can do to alter the stressful situation. Talk to a trusted friend or make an appointment with a therapist.|
Tip 3: Get moving
When you're stressed, the last thing you probably feel like doing is getting up and exercising. But physical activity is a huge stress reliever—and you don't have to be an athlete or spend hours in a gym to experience the benefits. Exercise releases endorphins that make you feel good, and it can also serve as a valuable distraction from your daily worries.
While you'll get the most benefit from regularly exercising for 30 minutes or more, it's okay to build up your fitness level gradually. Even very small activities can add up over the course of a day. The first step is to get yourself up and moving. Here are some easy ways to incorporate exercise into your daily schedule:
- Put on some music and dance around.
- Take your dog for a walk.
- Walk or cycle to the grocery store.
- Use the stairs at home or work rather than an elevator.
- Park your car in the farthest spot in the lot and walk the rest of the way.
- Pair up with an exercise partner and encourage each other as you work out.
- Play ping-pong or an activity-based video game with your kids.
The stress-busting magic of mindful rhythmic exercise
While just about any form of physical activity can help burn away tension and stress, rhythmic activities are especially effective. Good choices include walking, running, swimming, dancing, cycling, tai chi, and aerobics. But whatever you choose, make sure it's something you enjoy so you're more likely to stick with it.
While you're exercising, make a conscious effort to pay attention to your body and the physical (and sometimes emotional) sensations you experience as you're moving. Focus on coordinating your breathing with your movements, for example, or notice how the air or sunlight feels on your skin. Adding this mindfulness element will help you break out of the cycle of negative thoughts that often accompanies overwhelming stress.
Tip 4: Connect to others
There is nothing more calming than spending quality time with another human being who makes you feel safe and understood. In fact, face-to-face interaction triggers a cascade of hormones that counteracts the body's defensive “fight-or-flight” response. It's nature's natural stress reliever (as an added bonus, it also helps stave off depression and anxiety). So make it a point to connect regularly—and in person—with family and friends.
[Read: Social Support for Stress Relief]
Keep in mind that the people you talk to don't have to be able to fix your stress. They simply need to be good listeners. And try not to let worries about looking weak or being a burden keep you from opening up. The people who care about you will be flattered by your trust. It will only strengthen your bond.
Of course, it's not always realistic to have a pal close by to lean on when you feel overwhelmed by stress, but by building and maintaining a network of close friends you can improve your resiliency to life's stressors.
Tips for building relationships
- Reach out to a colleague at work.
- Help someone else by volunteering.
- Have lunch or coffee with a friend.
- Ask a loved one to check in with you regularly.
- Accompany someone to the movies or a concert.
- Call or email an old friend.
- Go for a walk with a workout buddy.
- Schedule a weekly dinner date.
- Meet new people by taking a class or joining a club.
- Confide in a clergy member, teacher, or sports coach.
Tip 5: Make time for fun and relaxation
Beyond a take-charge approach and a positive attitude, you can reduce stress in your life by carving out “me” time. Don't get so caught up in the hustle and bustle of life that you forget to take care of your own needs. Nurturing yourself is a necessity, not a luxury. If you regularly make time for fun and relaxation, you'll be in a better place to handle life's stressors.
Set aside leisure time. Include rest and relaxation in your daily schedule. Don’t allow other obligations to encroach. This is your time to take a break from all responsibilities and recharge your batteries.
Do something you enjoy every day. Make time for leisure activities that bring you joy, whether it be stargazing, playing the piano, or working on your bike.
Keep your sense of humor. This includes the ability to laugh at yourself. The act of laughing helps your body fight stress in a number of ways.
Take up a relaxation practice. Relaxation techniques such as yoga, meditation, and deep breathing activate the body's relaxation response, a state of restfulness that is the opposite of the fight or flight or mobilization stress response. As you learn and practice these techniques, your stress levels will decrease and your mind and body will become calm and centered.
Tip 6: Manage your time better
Poor time management can cause a lot of stress. When you're stretched too thin and running behind, it's hard to stay calm and focused. Plus, you'll be tempted to avoid or cut back on all the healthy things you should be doing to keep stress in check, like socializing and getting enough sleep. The good news: there are things you can do to achieve a healthier work-life balance.
Don't over-commit yourself. Avoid scheduling things back-to-back or trying to fit too much into one day. All too often, we underestimate how long things will take.
Prioritize tasks. Make a list of tasks you have to do, and tackle them in order of importance. Do the high-priority items first. If you have something particularly unpleasant or stressful to do, get it over with early. The rest of your day will be more pleasant as a result.
Break projects into small steps. If a large project seems overwhelming, make a step-by-step plan. Focus on one manageable step at a time, rather than taking on everything at once.
Delegate responsibility. You don't have to do it all yourself, whether at home, school, or on the job. If other people can take care of the task, why not let them? Let go of the desire to control or oversee every little step. You'll be letting go of unnecessary stress in the process.
Tip 7: Maintain balance with a healthy lifestyle
In addition to regular exercise, there are other healthy lifestyle choices that can increase your resistance to stress.
Eat a healthy diet. Well-nourished bodies are better prepared to cope with stress, so be mindful of what you eat. Start your day right with breakfast, and keep your energy up and your mind clear with balanced, nutritious meals throughout the day.
Reduce caffeine and sugar. The temporary “highs” caffeine and sugar provide often end with a crash in mood and energy. By reducing the amount of coffee, soft drinks, chocolate, and sugar snacks in your diet, you’ll feel more relaxed and you’ll sleep better.
Avoid alcohol, cigarettes, and drugs. Self-medicating with alcohol or drugs may provide an easy escape from stress, but the relief is only temporary. Don’t avoid or mask the issue at hand; deal with problems head on and with a clear mind.
Get enough sleep. Adequate sleep fuels your mind, as well as your body. Feeling tired will increase your stress because it may cause you to think irrationally.
Tip 8: Learn to relieve stress in the moment
When you're frazzled by your morning commute, stuck in a stressful meeting at work, or fried from another argument with your spouse, you need a way to manage your stress levels right now. That's where quick stress relief comes in.
The fastest way to reduce stress is by taking a deep breath and using your senses—what you see, hear, taste, and touch—or through a soothing movement. By viewing a favorite photo, smelling a specific scent, listening to a favorite piece of music, tasting a piece of gum, or hugging a pet, for example, you can quickly relax and focus yourself.
Of course, not everyone responds to each sensory experience in the same way. The key to quick stress relief is to experiment and discover the unique sensory experiences that work best for you.
Authors: Lawrence Robinson, Melinda Smith, M.A., and Robert Segal, M.A.
Last updated: November 2021
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Stress Management – Learn to manage your stress. (American Heart Association)
Stress Management: Enhance Your Well-Being by Reducing Stress and Building Resilience – Special Health Report from Harvard Medical School. (Harvard Health)
Tolerating Distress – Workbook and information sheets to help you manage feelings of distress. (Centre for Clinical Interventions)
Building Your Resilience – Learn how to increase your resilience in the face of stress and hardship. (American Psychological Association)
(VIDEO) How To Relax: 8 Relaxation Tips for Your Mental Health (Mind)
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Last updated: October 21, 2022
Preventing and managing long-term stress can lower your risk for other conditions — like heart disease, obesity, high blood pressure, and depression. You can prevent or reduce stress by: Planning ahead. Deciding which tasks to do first.How do you manage stress essay? ›
Strategies for Stress Management
Try to avoid people who stress you out. Further, if you cannot avoid a stressful situation, try altering it. Express your feelings don't bottle them up and manage your time better. Moreover, you can also adapt to the stressor if you can't change it.
There are many different conceptualizations of coping strategies, but the five general types of coping strategies are problem-focused coping, emotion-focused coping, social support, religious coping, and meaning making.Is stress important in our lives? ›
Surprisingly, stress can actually be a good thing. In fact we need stress to get things done and stay safe. It can motivate us or allow us to be proactive about problems in our lives.Why is stress important in our lives? ›
Some stress is good for you. While too little stress can lead to boredom and depression, too much can cause anxiety and poor health. The right amount of acute stress, however, tunes up the brain and improves performance and health.What is stress management in simple words? ›
Stress management offers a range of strategies to help you better deal with stress and difficulty (adversity) in your life. Managing stress can help you lead a more balanced, healthier life. Stress is an automatic physical, mental and emotional response to a challenging event. It's a normal part of everyone's life.How do you prepare for stress? ›
- Understand Your Stressors. Every stressful situation is a combination of small stressors. ...
- Make a Plan. Now, you know your stressors and have some knowledge how to deal with them. ...
- Visualize Success. ...
- Reward Yourself. ...
- Reserve Time for Relaxation.
Stress management is defined as the tools, strategies, or techniques that reduce stress and reduce the negative impacts stress has on your mental or physical well-being. A variety of techniques can be used to manage stress. These include mental, emotional, and behavioral strategies.What are the 7 tips for stress management? ›
- Track your stressors. Use a journal to identify which situations create the most stress and how you respond to them. ...
- Set limits. ...
- Tap into your support system. ...
- Make one health-related commitment. ...
- Manage your devices. ...
- Enhance your sleep quality. ...
- Seek additional help.
- Lower your expectations.
- Ask others to help or assist you.
- Take responsibility for the situation.
- Engage in problem solving.
- Maintain emotionally supportive relationships.
- Maintain emotional composure or, alternatively, expressing distressing emotions.
- “You're not alone.”
- “I'm your #1 fan!”
- “It's ok to take a break.”
- “How can I help?”
- “Your feelings are valid.”
- “You've done it before! You can do it again.”
- “Focus on one thing at a time.”
- “I'm here if you want to talk.”
Indeed, stress symptoms can affect your body, your thoughts and feelings, and your behavior. Being able to recognize common stress symptoms can help you manage them. Stress that's left unchecked can contribute to many health problems, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity and diabetes.How do people live with stress? ›
- Re-balance Work and Home. All work and no play? ...
- Build in Regular Exercise. ...
- Eat Well and Limit Alcohol and Stimulants. ...
- Connect with Supportive People. ...
- Carve out Hobby Time. ...
- Practice Meditation, Stress Reduction or Yoga. ...
- Sleep Enough. ...
- Bond with Your Pet.
Stress can cause mental health problems.
And it can make existing problems worse. For example, if you experience lots of stress, this might lead you to develop a mental health problem like anxiety or depression. Or a traumatic period of stress might lead to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Stress can be defined as any type of change that causes physical, emotional or psychological strain. Stress is your body's response to anything that requires attention or action. Everyone experiences stress to some degree. The way you respond to stress, however, make a big difference to your overall well-being.What is the most important cause of stress? ›
According to the American Psychological Association (APA), money is the top cause of stress in the United States. In a 2015 survey, the APA reported that 72% of Americans stressed about money at least some of the time during the previous month.Why stress management is important for students? ›
Why is stress management important for college students? If left unaddressed, stress can lead to depression and anxiety in students. This can, in turn, negatively impact school and work performance and personal relationships with family, friends, co-workers, and peers.Why is stress management important and how does it affects your life as a student Brainly? ›
With the help of stress management, it helps to get out from the harmful effects of stress. Stress management is useful in strengthening broken relationships and it helps in bonding relationships. Stress management helps in dealing with the stress arising in today's hectic life.What should avoid during stress? ›
- Sugary drinks and foods.
- Processed foods, such as chips, cookies, frozen foods and ready-made meals.
- Foods high in trans fats and excessive saturated fats, such as fried foods, red meat, full-fat dairy, butter and baked goods.
The first step in managing stress is recognizing it in your life. Everyone feels stress in a different way. You may get angry or irritable, lose sleep, or have headaches or stomach upset.
Stress is a feeling of emotional or physical tension. It can come from any event or thought that makes you feel frustrated, angry, or nervous. Stress is your body's reaction to a challenge or demand. In short bursts, stress can be positive, such as when it helps you avoid danger or meet a deadline.What are the symptoms of stress? ›
- Irritable, angry, impatient or wound up.
- Over-burdened or overwhelmed.
- Anxious, nervous or afraid.
- Like your thoughts are racing and you can't switch off.
- Unable to enjoy yourself.
- Uninterested in life.
- Like you've lost your sense of humour.
This article presents the three most important keys to managing stress, sleep, weekly “recharge” time and daily breaks.What are 10 ways to manage 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.
- Time stress.
- Anticipatory stress.
- Situational stress.
- Encounter stress.
- Talk to someone you trust add. Talking to someone you trust about what's making you anxious could be a relief. ...
- Try to manage your worries add. ...
- Look after your physical health add. ...
- Try breathing exercises add. ...
- Keep a diary add. ...
- Complementary and alternative therapies add.
Two of the main types of coping skills are problem-based coping and emotion-based coping. Understanding how they differ can help you determine the best coping strategy for you. Problem-based coping is helpful when you need to change your situation, perhaps by removing a stressful thing from your life.What to say to someone who is stressed and angry? ›
Try to keep quiet and neutral and let them vent if needed until they are in a better emotional state to be able talk about the situation in a more rational manner. Try to validate their anger and the situation, apologize if you were in the wrong, and show empathy or understanding for their feelings.What to say to motivate someone who is stressed? ›
“I am so proud of you!”
Telling them you're proud of them can help them feel calmer and more confident about handling things. Just knowing they've impressed someone whose opinion matters to them can change their perspective on the situation. Your pride in them may be the motivation they need to change their focus.
Why is stress management important for college students? If left unaddressed, stress can lead to depression and anxiety in students. This can, in turn, negatively impact school and work performance and personal relationships with family, friends, co-workers, and peers.
The benefits of tackling stress are clear: There is an improved quality of working life; when staff feel happier at work, they perform better and deliver better outcomes for people who use services. Managing change is much smoother when 'stress' is managed effectively.What is stress management very short answer? ›
Stress management offers a range of strategies to help you better deal with stress and difficulty (adversity) in your life. Managing stress can help you lead a more balanced, healthier life. Stress is an automatic physical, mental and emotional response to a challenging event. It's a normal part of everyone's life.How can you apply stress management skills in your everyday life as a student? ›
Finding time for exercise might be a challenge, but there are strategies that you can use to add more physical activity to your day. Some ideas that you might try include: Doing yoga in the morning. Walking or biking to class.
Good time management is essential if you are to handle a heavy workload without excessive stress. Time management helps you to reduce long-term stress by giving you direction when you have too much work to do. It puts you in control of where you are going and helps you to increase your productivity.What is the most important in stress management? ›
Take up a relaxation practice.
Relaxation techniques such as yoga, meditation, and deep breathing activate the body's relaxation response, a state of restfulness that is the opposite of the fight or flight or mobilization stress response.