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Tips for Managing Stress


Recent studies indicate that all of us experience some degree of difficulty and worry as a result of interpersonal or work-related stress and tension. Why is it that some individuals seem unaffected or even motivated by pressure-filled situations while others feel overwhelmed, frustrated, or depressed? The difference lies in how we handle the effects of stress. The degree to which you experience stress or react to it is determined by the kinds of stressors you experience and your degree of physical, mental, and social resiliency. The kinds of stress that you experience at work and at home fall into two categories. These include uncontrollable and controllable events.

Uncontrollable Events

These include such things as the loss of a job, sickness, the death of a loved one, a natural calamity such as a violent earthquake, or other serious events with deep emotional consequences. When something is uncontrollable, it just happens. You can combat this by doing the following:

  • Talk about your feelings with another person who understands.
  • Realize that your actions control some of your emotions.
  • Practice exhibiting other kinds of emotions by doing something that brings pleasure (i.e., leaving the situation, meditating, or doing something kind or helpful for another person).

Controllable Events

These include situations where you can impact the positive outcome of the event. You encounter most of the stress that you experience in these situations.

Time Stressors. These generally result from having too much to do in too little time.

Encounter Stressors. Encounter stressors generally are a result of strained interpersonal interactions, such as work conflict, low levels of trust, and low flow of communication.

Situation Stressors. These arise from the environment a person exists in, such as working in unfavorable conditions, working long hours, getting married, starting a new job, having a baby, experiencing rapid changes in life events, etc.

Anticipatory Stressors. Anticipatory stressors include potentially disagreeable events that threaten to occur or unpleasant things that have not yet happened but might happen.

Strategies for Eliminating or Reducing Stress

By increasing your physical, mental, and social resiliency, you will be more equipped to handle, and even eliminate, the stress that comes your way.

Eliminate time stressors through better time management.

  • Make a daily list of things that need to get done.
  • Have a place for things, and keep things in their place.
  • Prioritize your tasks. Do the most important things first.
  • Divide up large projects.
  • Don’t procrastinate.
  • Keep track of how you use your time.
  • Set deadlines.
  • Do something productive while you wait.
  • Complete at least one task or project every day.

Develop a positive problem-solving approach to deal with encounter stressors.

  • Set clear and realistic goals.
  • Develop a specific action plan to achieve the goals.
  • Identify methods of determining progress.
  • Recognize and reward success.

Overcome situational stressors by developing self-confidence.

This will require you to become more effective in establishing relationships with others.

Overcome anticipatory stressors.

By prioritizing, planning, and preparing, you can reduce anticipatory stressors.

Build Resiliency To Handle Stress

Take care of your body.

  • Exercise regularly.
  • Eat a balanced diet from the five food groups.
  • Avoid harmful fats and sugars.
  • Eliminate or significantly reduce alcohol, tobacco, and caffeine intake.
  • Eat more whole foods (grains, vegetables, fruits, etc.).

Balance your lifestyle.

  • Balance life with intellectual pursuits. Read, watch, observe, and learn.
  • Have a healthy sense of humor. Enjoy life and have fun.
  • Become active socially with friends and in the community.
  • Be willing to admit mistakes, learn from them, and forget them.
  • Live within your means. Continually improve, but be satisfied with what you have.
  • Reserve some time for religious pursuits or meditation.

Invest in your interpersonal relationships.

  • Supportive social relationships provide opportunities to share your frustrations and disappointments and receive suggestions and encouragement.
  • Give of yourself to others.
  • Believe in others, and contribute to their growth and development.
  • Be validating. Preserve others’ autonomy; be open and honest in your communication with others.

Temporary Stress-Reduction Techniques

Muscle Relaxation

This consists of relaxing the different muscle groups in the body one by one. The technique involves tightening up a single muscle group (hands, legs, etc.) for five or ten seconds and then completely relaxing it.


Imagery involves visualizing an event or situation that is pleasant, relaxing, and peaceful to relieve anxiety or pressure.


This technique involves optimistically redefining a situation as manageable. Some examples include:

  • “There are several alternatives available to me.”
  • “In the long-run, this really isn’t so critical.”
  • “I’ve solved problems like this before.”
  • “Others have faced similar problems and made it through.”

Deep Breathing

Deep breathing consists of taking several successive, slow, deep breaths, holding them for five seconds, and exhaling completely. The focus is on the breathing so the mind can be cleared and the muscles can relax.

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Implementing these strategies will significantly reduce the number of stressful situations you encounter and will help you successfully handle those that remain.

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