Understanding Stress

Stress management comes in many shapes, ways, and forms. Essentially it comes down to what works for you. When things are feeling hectic and overwhelming, what will help bring you some calm? Below are a few things to keep in mind.

  • Stress is the body’s way of responding to perceived threats. Some stress can be a good thing, helping us to focus on a task or take action and problem solve. Bad stress is when we feel overwhelmed and feel like we cannot deal with the problem. Prolonged negative stress can have an impact on our overall health. Think of stress as an indicator of how much you care about something rather than something to worry about.
  • Being mindful means that we pay attention to our thoughts, feelings, sensations, and surrounding environment in each moment. When we pay attention to the moment, it helps us to not stress what may or may not happen in the future.
  • To help you try staying in the moment check out this 10-minute guided meditation session.

Three Ways to Manage Stress

  1. Positive Self-Talk

Let’s be honest, we all talk to ourselves! Sometimes we talk aloud but usually, we do it in our heads. Self-talk can be positive (“I can do this” or “everything will be OK”) or negative (“I’ll never get better” or “I’m so stupid”). Negative self-talk increases stress. Positive self-talk can help you calm down and control stress. With practice, you can learn to shift negative thoughts to positive ones. For example:

Negative to Positive

“I can’t do this.”> “I’ll do the best I can. I’ve got this.”

 “Everything is going wrong.” > “I can handle this if I take one step at a time.”

 “I hate it when this happens.” > “I know how to deal with this; I’ve done it before.”

 “I feel helpless and alone.”> “I can reach out and get help if I need it.” “I can’t believe I screwed up. > “I’m human, and we all make mistakes. I can fix it.”

To really make it work, practice positive self-talk every day — in the car, at your desk, before you go to bed or whenever you notice negative thoughts. It is a great practice to teach kids, too!

  1. Emergency Stress Stoppers

Emergency stress stoppers are actions to help you defuse stress in the moment. You may need different stress stoppers for different situations, and sometimes it helps to combine them.

Here are some ideas:

  • Count to 10 before you speak or react.
  • Take a few slow, deep breaths until you feel your body un-clench a bit.
  • Go for a walk, even if it is just to the restroom and back. It can help break the tension and give you a chance to think things through.
  • Try a quick meditation or prayer to get some perspective.
  • If it is not urgent, sleep on it and respond tomorrow. This works especially well for stressful emails and social media trolls.
  • Walk away from the situation for a while and handle it later once things have calmed down.
  • Break down big problems into smaller parts. Take one step at a time, instead of trying to tackle everything at once.
  • Turn on some chill music or an inspirational podcast to help you deal with road rage.
  • Take a break to pet the dog, hug a loved one or do something to help someone else.
  • Work out or do something active. Exercise is a great antidote for stress.
  1. Stress-Busting Activities

Doing things, you enjoy is a natural way to relieve stress and find your happy place. Even when you are down, you may find pleasure in simple things like going for a walk, catching up with a friend, or reading a good book.

When stress makes you feel bad, do something that makes you feel good, even if only for 10 or 15 minutes. Some of these activities may work for you:

  • Make art. Draw, color, paint, or play a musical instrument
  • Work on a scrapbook or photo album to focus on good memories
  • Read a book, short story, or magazine
  • Meet a friend for coffee or a meal
  • Play a favorite sport like golf, tennis, or basketball
  • Do a hobby like sewing, knitting, or making jewelry
  • Play with your kids or pets – outdoors if possible
  • Listen to music or watch an inspiring performance
  • Take a walk in nature
  • Take a relaxing bath and feel the stress wash away
  • Meditate or practice yoga
  • Work in the garden or do a home improvement project
  • Go for a run or bike ride to clear your head

The key is to find your groove and make it a practice. You will be amazed at how quickly you may start to feel better once you disrupt the cycle of stress.

Stress Management Modules

Everyone feels stressed from time to time. Some people, though, say that they feel incredibly stressed most of the time. While stress is not always bad, too much stress can affect your well-being.

Wellness Module: Stress and Well-Being

We deal with problems almost every day. Fortunately, we can solve most of our daily problems by thinking up a solution on the spot or using a strategy that worked in the past.

Wellness Module: Problem-Solving