Managing Your Stress

Reviewed Jul 18, 2017

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Summary

  • Managing stress is vital to your health and well-being.
  • Lifestyle changes, relaxation techniques and changing your outlook can help you to manage stress.
  • Making small changes will keep you from feeling overwhelmed.

Nonstop stress is a reality for many people. Some people choose to live a fast-paced lifestyle. Others have ongoing burdens, such as chronic illness, marital conflict or money problems. Others take on caregiving roles that demand time and emotional investment.

Your body and mind are designed to recover and recharge after periods of stress. But this cannot happen if stress persists. That is why finding healthy ways to manage stress is vital. Here are some ideas to help you take control of your stress:

Find the cause of your stress and make a change. Not all stressors can be avoided, but many can. For instance, let’s say that you tend to overcommit. Set limits and be ready to say “no” without guilt or excuses. If you have job stress, ask your boss to set clear priorities. Be willing to work out conflicts and misunderstandings with the people in your life. Built-up anger or resentment is a stressor you don’t need. 

Reframe your stress. People can build up stress in their minds to the point that they lose perspective. Setting expectations that are too high can have the same result. Try to take an objective look at the stressors in your life. Are they really so bad? Are you seeking perfection where perfection isn’t needed? Can you view a stressful challenge as an opportunity rather than a burden? How would you advise a friend in your situation?

Get enough sleep. This may seem impossible, especially if your stress keeps you lying awake at night. Your sleep troubles may stem, in part, from poor bedtime habits. Try these tips to improve your sleep quality:

  • Go to bed and wake up at the same time each day.
  • Avoid late-night snacking, alcohol or rousing activities.
  • Don’t read, work or watch TV in bed.
  • Make your bedroom cool, dark and comfortable.

Take time to relax. Find a few minutes each day to let off steam and wind down. Relaxation techniques, like deep breathing, have been proven to induce your body’s relaxation response. This is how your body naturally recovers from stress and restores normal body function. Prayer and meditation are other ways to return to a calm state and shore up the inner strength to manage stressful moments.

Eat right and exercise. This is a toughie. Stress is very good at spoiling good intentions to eat right and exercise. So, as you can, make small changes to improve your lifestyle. First, avoid emotional eating—that is, eating too much or eating unhealthy foods to deal with stress. Second, find a physical outlet, such as brisk walking. Exercise is also a physical way to release stress and can improve sleep (see above).

Lean on friends and family. People feel stressed when they don’t have the resources to cope with the demands they face. Ask people who love and care about you for help during stressful times. Ask others to help by listening to your cares and concerns or for help with household chores or with taking care of your kids so that you can have a few moments to yourself.

Get ready to manage your stress

Making a change—even one that is good for you, like taking steps to manage stress—is easier said than done. A 2011 stress study by the American Psychological Association found that participants reported lack of willpower and lack of time as the main obstacles to making lifestyle and behavior changes to reduce stress. Willpower or self-control is something we can learn.

If you are reading this article, then you are ready to start managing the stress in your life. Make a plan to deal with your stress. Take on one change at a time. Otherwise, making too many changes at once will become a source of stress. Don’t expect all your stress to go away. But do expect to feel less stress and more control.

When stress won’t go away

Some people feel trapped by stressful relationships or situations. If stress continues to be a problem for you even after making changes, get help. Talk to your doctor or a mental health provider. Your doctor may suggest medicine to help with stress and worry. Therapy can help you recognize and change behaviors and situations that contribute to the stress you feel. The good news is that you have options to deal with stress so that you can start feeling better.

Resources

American Psychological Association
(800) 374-2721 or (202) 336-5500
www.apa.org

National Institute of Mental Health
(866) 615-6464 or (301) 443-4513
www.nimh.nih.gov

Mental Health America
(800) 969-6642 or (703) 684-7722
www.mentalhealthamerica.net

American Institute of Stress
(914) 963-1200
www.stress.org

Stress Management: Approaches for Preventing & Reducing Stress. Harvard Health Publications, 2011.

Overcoming Anxiety, Stress, and Panic by Chris Williams, MD. Hodder Arnold, 2010.

By Christine Martin
Source: American Psychological Association; Stress Management: Approaches for Preventing & Reducing Stress. Harvard Health Publications, 2011; Overcoming Anxiety, Stress, and Panic by Chris Williams, MD. Hodder Arnold, 2010.
Reviewed by Lily Awad, MD, Associate Medical Director, Massachusetts Behavioral Health Partnership

Summary

  • Managing stress is vital to your health and well-being.
  • Lifestyle changes, relaxation techniques and changing your outlook can help you to manage stress.
  • Making small changes will keep you from feeling overwhelmed.

Nonstop stress is a reality for many people. Some people choose to live a fast-paced lifestyle. Others have ongoing burdens, such as chronic illness, marital conflict or money problems. Others take on caregiving roles that demand time and emotional investment.

Your body and mind are designed to recover and recharge after periods of stress. But this cannot happen if stress persists. That is why finding healthy ways to manage stress is vital. Here are some ideas to help you take control of your stress:

Find the cause of your stress and make a change. Not all stressors can be avoided, but many can. For instance, let’s say that you tend to overcommit. Set limits and be ready to say “no” without guilt or excuses. If you have job stress, ask your boss to set clear priorities. Be willing to work out conflicts and misunderstandings with the people in your life. Built-up anger or resentment is a stressor you don’t need. 

Reframe your stress. People can build up stress in their minds to the point that they lose perspective. Setting expectations that are too high can have the same result. Try to take an objective look at the stressors in your life. Are they really so bad? Are you seeking perfection where perfection isn’t needed? Can you view a stressful challenge as an opportunity rather than a burden? How would you advise a friend in your situation?

Get enough sleep. This may seem impossible, especially if your stress keeps you lying awake at night. Your sleep troubles may stem, in part, from poor bedtime habits. Try these tips to improve your sleep quality:

  • Go to bed and wake up at the same time each day.
  • Avoid late-night snacking, alcohol or rousing activities.
  • Don’t read, work or watch TV in bed.
  • Make your bedroom cool, dark and comfortable.

Take time to relax. Find a few minutes each day to let off steam and wind down. Relaxation techniques, like deep breathing, have been proven to induce your body’s relaxation response. This is how your body naturally recovers from stress and restores normal body function. Prayer and meditation are other ways to return to a calm state and shore up the inner strength to manage stressful moments.

Eat right and exercise. This is a toughie. Stress is very good at spoiling good intentions to eat right and exercise. So, as you can, make small changes to improve your lifestyle. First, avoid emotional eating—that is, eating too much or eating unhealthy foods to deal with stress. Second, find a physical outlet, such as brisk walking. Exercise is also a physical way to release stress and can improve sleep (see above).

Lean on friends and family. People feel stressed when they don’t have the resources to cope with the demands they face. Ask people who love and care about you for help during stressful times. Ask others to help by listening to your cares and concerns or for help with household chores or with taking care of your kids so that you can have a few moments to yourself.

Get ready to manage your stress

Making a change—even one that is good for you, like taking steps to manage stress—is easier said than done. A 2011 stress study by the American Psychological Association found that participants reported lack of willpower and lack of time as the main obstacles to making lifestyle and behavior changes to reduce stress. Willpower or self-control is something we can learn.

If you are reading this article, then you are ready to start managing the stress in your life. Make a plan to deal with your stress. Take on one change at a time. Otherwise, making too many changes at once will become a source of stress. Don’t expect all your stress to go away. But do expect to feel less stress and more control.

When stress won’t go away

Some people feel trapped by stressful relationships or situations. If stress continues to be a problem for you even after making changes, get help. Talk to your doctor or a mental health provider. Your doctor may suggest medicine to help with stress and worry. Therapy can help you recognize and change behaviors and situations that contribute to the stress you feel. The good news is that you have options to deal with stress so that you can start feeling better.

Resources

American Psychological Association
(800) 374-2721 or (202) 336-5500
www.apa.org

National Institute of Mental Health
(866) 615-6464 or (301) 443-4513
www.nimh.nih.gov

Mental Health America
(800) 969-6642 or (703) 684-7722
www.mentalhealthamerica.net

American Institute of Stress
(914) 963-1200
www.stress.org

Stress Management: Approaches for Preventing & Reducing Stress. Harvard Health Publications, 2011.

Overcoming Anxiety, Stress, and Panic by Chris Williams, MD. Hodder Arnold, 2010.

By Christine Martin
Source: American Psychological Association; Stress Management: Approaches for Preventing & Reducing Stress. Harvard Health Publications, 2011; Overcoming Anxiety, Stress, and Panic by Chris Williams, MD. Hodder Arnold, 2010.
Reviewed by Lily Awad, MD, Associate Medical Director, Massachusetts Behavioral Health Partnership

Summary

  • Managing stress is vital to your health and well-being.
  • Lifestyle changes, relaxation techniques and changing your outlook can help you to manage stress.
  • Making small changes will keep you from feeling overwhelmed.

Nonstop stress is a reality for many people. Some people choose to live a fast-paced lifestyle. Others have ongoing burdens, such as chronic illness, marital conflict or money problems. Others take on caregiving roles that demand time and emotional investment.

Your body and mind are designed to recover and recharge after periods of stress. But this cannot happen if stress persists. That is why finding healthy ways to manage stress is vital. Here are some ideas to help you take control of your stress:

Find the cause of your stress and make a change. Not all stressors can be avoided, but many can. For instance, let’s say that you tend to overcommit. Set limits and be ready to say “no” without guilt or excuses. If you have job stress, ask your boss to set clear priorities. Be willing to work out conflicts and misunderstandings with the people in your life. Built-up anger or resentment is a stressor you don’t need. 

Reframe your stress. People can build up stress in their minds to the point that they lose perspective. Setting expectations that are too high can have the same result. Try to take an objective look at the stressors in your life. Are they really so bad? Are you seeking perfection where perfection isn’t needed? Can you view a stressful challenge as an opportunity rather than a burden? How would you advise a friend in your situation?

Get enough sleep. This may seem impossible, especially if your stress keeps you lying awake at night. Your sleep troubles may stem, in part, from poor bedtime habits. Try these tips to improve your sleep quality:

  • Go to bed and wake up at the same time each day.
  • Avoid late-night snacking, alcohol or rousing activities.
  • Don’t read, work or watch TV in bed.
  • Make your bedroom cool, dark and comfortable.

Take time to relax. Find a few minutes each day to let off steam and wind down. Relaxation techniques, like deep breathing, have been proven to induce your body’s relaxation response. This is how your body naturally recovers from stress and restores normal body function. Prayer and meditation are other ways to return to a calm state and shore up the inner strength to manage stressful moments.

Eat right and exercise. This is a toughie. Stress is very good at spoiling good intentions to eat right and exercise. So, as you can, make small changes to improve your lifestyle. First, avoid emotional eating—that is, eating too much or eating unhealthy foods to deal with stress. Second, find a physical outlet, such as brisk walking. Exercise is also a physical way to release stress and can improve sleep (see above).

Lean on friends and family. People feel stressed when they don’t have the resources to cope with the demands they face. Ask people who love and care about you for help during stressful times. Ask others to help by listening to your cares and concerns or for help with household chores or with taking care of your kids so that you can have a few moments to yourself.

Get ready to manage your stress

Making a change—even one that is good for you, like taking steps to manage stress—is easier said than done. A 2011 stress study by the American Psychological Association found that participants reported lack of willpower and lack of time as the main obstacles to making lifestyle and behavior changes to reduce stress. Willpower or self-control is something we can learn.

If you are reading this article, then you are ready to start managing the stress in your life. Make a plan to deal with your stress. Take on one change at a time. Otherwise, making too many changes at once will become a source of stress. Don’t expect all your stress to go away. But do expect to feel less stress and more control.

When stress won’t go away

Some people feel trapped by stressful relationships or situations. If stress continues to be a problem for you even after making changes, get help. Talk to your doctor or a mental health provider. Your doctor may suggest medicine to help with stress and worry. Therapy can help you recognize and change behaviors and situations that contribute to the stress you feel. The good news is that you have options to deal with stress so that you can start feeling better.

Resources

American Psychological Association
(800) 374-2721 or (202) 336-5500
www.apa.org

National Institute of Mental Health
(866) 615-6464 or (301) 443-4513
www.nimh.nih.gov

Mental Health America
(800) 969-6642 or (703) 684-7722
www.mentalhealthamerica.net

American Institute of Stress
(914) 963-1200
www.stress.org

Stress Management: Approaches for Preventing & Reducing Stress. Harvard Health Publications, 2011.

Overcoming Anxiety, Stress, and Panic by Chris Williams, MD. Hodder Arnold, 2010.

By Christine Martin
Source: American Psychological Association; Stress Management: Approaches for Preventing & Reducing Stress. Harvard Health Publications, 2011; Overcoming Anxiety, Stress, and Panic by Chris Williams, MD. Hodder Arnold, 2010.
Reviewed by Lily Awad, MD, Associate Medical Director, Massachusetts Behavioral Health Partnership

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