Stress Management - HelpGuide.org (2023)

stress

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.

Stress Management - HelpGuide.org (1)

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.

(Video) Relaxation Techniques For Stress Relief Helpguide.Org Relaxation Life...

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.

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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]

(Video) Stress Management at Zamorano Youtube#4

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

  1. Reach out to a colleague at work.
  2. Help someone else by volunteering.
  3. Have lunch or coffee with a friend.
  4. Ask a loved one to check in with you regularly.
  5. Accompany someone to the movies or a concert.
  6. Call or email an old friend.
  7. Go for a walk with a workout buddy.
  8. Schedule a weekly dinner date.
  9. Meet new people by taking a class or joining a club.
  10. 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.

(Video) How To Keep From Stressing Out with Rick Warren

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

    Get more help

    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)

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    (VIDEO) How To Relax: 8 Relaxation Tips for Your Mental Health (Mind)

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    Last updated: October 12, 2022

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    What are the 5 stress management? ›

    5 tips to manage stress
    • Use guided meditation. Guided meditation is a great way to distract yourself from the stress of day-to-day life. ...
    • Practice deep breathing. ...
    • Maintain physical exercise and good nutrition. ...
    • Manage social media time. ...
    • Connect with others.
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    What is stress management PDF? ›

    In its broadest definition, stress management interventions are designed to assist people to cope with stressors and with the negative emotions, physiological arousal and/or health consequences that arise from these stressors by changing their cognitive and emotional responses to the trigger events.

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    9 foods that help reduce anxiety
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    Who runs HelpGuide? ›

    The site was launched in 1999 by Robert and Jeanne Segal, Monika White, and the Rotary Club of Santa Monica. In the ensuing 20 years, HelpGuide has grown from a small local project to an internationally recognized mental health and wellness website that reaches millions of people each month.

    Where is HelpGuide based? ›

    HelpGuide.org International is a nonprofit 501 (c) (3) organization based in Santa Monica, California. It is dedicated to providing information about mental health and wellness. The site features a series of articles that impart advice on topics such as sleep, exercise, healthy eating and communication skills.

    What is ABC of stress management? ›

    A = Accumulate Positive Experiences. B = Build Mastery. C = Cope Ahead. ENGAGE IN AN ACTIVITY THAT MAKES YOU FEEL CONFIDENT - AND - CONTINUE. PRACTICING THIS SKILL.

    How can I reduce stress quickly? ›

    Breathing Exercises

    This is one of the easiest stress reduction practices because you simply focus on your breathing. Sit or lie down in a quiet place, take a deep breath through your nose and breathe out slowly through your mouth, or your nose if it feels better.

    Does crying relieve stress? ›

    Many people associate crying with feeling sad and making them feel worse, but in reality, crying can help improve your mood - emotional tears release stress hormones. Your stress level lowers when you cry, which can help you sleep better and strengthen your immune system.

    What is the importance of stress management? ›

    Stress management gives you a range of tools to reset and to recalibrate your alarm system. It can help your mind and body adapt (resilience). Without it, your body might always be on high alert. Over time, chronic stress can lead to serious health problems.

    What are the benefits of stress management? ›

    What are the benefits of managing stress?
    • Sleep better.
    • Control your weight.
    • Have less muscle tension.
    • Be in a better mood.
    • Get along better with family and friends.
    1 Aug 2021

    What are the types of stress management? ›

    Let's look at different types of stress management activities you can do to make stress work for you.
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    • Eat healthily. ...
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    Which fruit is best for stress? ›

    Citrus Fruits and Strawberries Contain Vitamin C, Which Help Fight Stress. Some studies have found that high levels of vitamin C may help ease stress levels.

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    The B-vitamins in bananas, like folate and vitamin B6, are key to the production of serotonin, which can help improve your mood and reduce anxiety. For an extra stress-busting boost, top bananas with almond, peanut, or cashew butter.

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    B-complex, vitamin E, vitamin C, GABA, and 5-HTP are 5 vitamins commonly used to help with anxiety and stress.

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    Melinda Smith (born 1971) is an Australian poet. Smith won the poetry section of the Prime Minister's Literary Awards in 2014 for her collection Drag Down to Unlock or Place an Emergency Call.

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    If you are in crisis, please seek help immediately.

    Call or text 988 or chat 988lifeline.org . Text MHA to 741741 to connect with a trained Crisis Counselor from Crisis Text Line . Call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room. If you are in need of support, but not in crisis, consider reaching out to a warmline.

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    How do you get diagnosed with Cptsd? ›

    To be diagnosed with PTSD, an adult must have all of the following for at least 1 month: At least one re-experiencing symptom.
    ...
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    1. Flashbacks—reliving the trauma over and over, including physical symptoms like a racing heart or sweating.
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    What causes stress?
    • Feel under lots of pressure.
    • Face big changes in your life.
    • Are worried about something.
    • 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 is the ABC model? ›

    ABC is an acronym for Antecedents, Behavior, Consequences. It is used as a tool for the assessment and formulation of problem behaviors and is useful when clinicians, clients, or carers want to understand the 'active ingredients' for a problem behavior.

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    Adrenaline increases your heart rate, elevates your blood pressure and boosts energy supplies. Cortisol, the primary stress hormone, increases sugars (glucose) in the bloodstream, enhances your brain's use of glucose and increases the availability of substances that repair tissues.

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    Chronic stress — stress that occurs consistently over a long period of time — can have a negative impact on a person's immune system and physical health. If you are constantly under stress, you may experience physical symptoms such as chest pain, headaches, an upset stomach, trouble sleeping or high blood pressure.

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    Warnings signs of stress in adults may include:
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    • Avoiding family and friends.
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    What are your signs of stress? ›

    If you are stressed, you might feel:
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    • Over-burdened or overwhelmed.
    • Anxious, nervous or afraid.
    • Like your thoughts are racing and you can't switch off.
    • Unable to enjoy yourself.
    • Depressed.
    • Uninterested in life.
    • Like you've lost your sense of humour.

    How long does stress last? ›

    How long does stress last? Stress can be a short-term issue or a long-term problem, depending on what changes in your life. Regularly using stress management techniques can help you avoid most physical, emotional and behavioral symptoms of stress.

    What happens when you don't manage stress? ›

    But ongoing, chronic stress can cause or worsen many serious health problems, including: Mental health problems, such as depression, anxiety, and personality disorders. Cardiovascular disease, including heart disease, high blood pressure, abnormal heart rhythms, heart attacks, and strokes.

    What is the best definition of stress? ›

    What is Stress? 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.

    What are the features of stress management? ›

    Stress management includes self-care, managing one's response to stress, and making life changes when in a stressful situation. The benefits of stress management include good mental health, clear cognition, and reduced blood pressure.

    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.

    Is stress mental or physical? ›

    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.

    What is the first stage of stress? ›

    1. Alarm reaction stage. The alarm reaction stage refers to the initial symptoms the body experiences when under stress. You may be familiar with the “fight-or-flight” response, which is a physiological response to stress.

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    Stress hormones include, but are not limited to: Cortisol, the main human stress hormone. Catecholamines such as adrenaline and norepinephrine. Vasopressin.

    When was HelpGuide published? ›

    When HelpGuide was launched in 1999, Jeanne was the content manager and Robert the technical and operations manager. Robert's challenge is to have HelpGuide continue and expand its unique role in helping people improve their.

    Who is Melinda Smith Ma? ›

    Melinda Smith M.A.

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    Does social media negatively affect mental health? ›

    The negative aspects of social media

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    How can I get help for myself? ›

    If you are in crisis, please seek help immediately.

    Call or text 988 or chat 988lifeline.org . Text MHA to 741741 to connect with a trained Crisis Counselor from Crisis Text Line . Call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room. If you are in need of support, but not in crisis, consider reaching out to a warmline.

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    Melinda Smith was appointed Chief Service Delivery Officer in October 2016. In this role, Melinda leads the Service Delivery Group which is responsible for a broad range of the ATO's foundation services for all segments of the community.

    What is the problem with anxiety? ›

    Having an anxiety disorder does more than make you worry. It can also lead to, or worsen, other mental and physical conditions, such as: Depression (which often occurs with an anxiety disorder) or other mental health disorders. Substance misuse.

    What social media does to your brain? ›

    Researchers believe that since social media competes for your attention with the promise of continuous new content, heavy social media users become less able to ignore distraction in general, which leads to poorer cognitive performance and shrinks parts of the brain associated with maintaining concentration.

    How social media causes anxiety? ›

    A 2018 study suggests that social media use could result in a fear of missing out (FOMO). FOMO could in turn lead you to compare your experiences with others, sometimes creating a sense of inadequacy. This inadequacy may turn into social anxiety symptoms if you feel like you don't “fit in” in certain social situations.

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