8 Ways to Effectively Manage Your Stress

Table of Contents


Stress is your body’s response to changes and new circumstances or situations in your environment. Stress is a part of life and impossible to avoid or eliminate. Therefore, managing your stress to reduce its negative impact is critical for physical and emotional health and wellness.     

What is Stress Management?

Stress is your body’s response to changes and new circumstances or situations in your environment that require your attention. Unfortunately, encountering change, and the stress that results from that, are unavoidable in life. However, sometimes stress can be useful! Good stress (called eustress) helps to motivate you to take necessary action in your life and can improve performance. Stress also can cause physical or mental distress, especially if it is chronic or overwhelming. This type of stress prevents the body from being able to relax and reset.   

At first glance, defining stress management seems straightforward and self-explanatory.  Stress is a part of life and impossible to avoid or eliminate. Therefore, managing your stress to reduce its negative impact is critical for physical and emotional health and wellness.     

Managing stress often means eliminating those stressors and using strategies and tools to cope with what you can’t change. Some ongoing or chronic stressors are unavoidable, like a global pandemic, illness, or the crisis of a family member; however, there may be options to avoid or reduce other stressors.

How Can Stress Affect The Body?

How Can Stress Affect The Body?

Physical Symptoms of Stress

  • Achiness, pain in the body, or muscle tension
  • Elevated or racing heart or pain in the chest
  • Sleep disturbance 
  • Fatigue or exhaustion
  • Headaches, dizziness, or shaking
  • High Blood Pressure
  • Digestive issues or stomach pain
  • Decreased desire for sex
  • Increased susceptibility to illness 

Emotional Symptoms of Stress

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Panic or panic attacks
  • Sadness
  • Anger or rage
  • Shutting down or feeling numb or apathetic
  • Inability to concentrate, problem solve, or make decisions
Why is Stress Management Important?

Why is Stress Management Important?

Just like stress is a guaranteed part of life, we also can guarantee that people are able to develop coping strategies and habits to manage their stress. Sometimes people find unhealthy ways to try to cope with and manage stress. If you don’t manage your stress intentionally and in healthy ways, the consequences of unhealthy coping behaviors and strategies can have a negative impact on your life. 

Some unhealthy coping strategies may look like:

  • Substance use and abuse (smoking; alcohol; prescription, over-the-counter, or illegal drug use)
  • Disordered eating behaviors (eating too much or too little)
  • Numbing behaviors (excessive phone, internet, or TV use)
  • Withdrawing from friends and family, or becoming overly social with others as an avoidance tactic
  • Sleeping too much
  • Lashing out in physically or emotionally violent ways at other people
  • Gambling
  • Self-harming behaviors
  • Compulsive sex or shopping 

How Can You Prioritize Stress Management in Your Life?

  • Know Yourself
    • Assess Your Stress Levels
    • Identify your stressors
    • Identify your healthy strategies for coping with stress
  • Attend to Stress Management, on a Daily Basis
    • Check in with yourself
    • Set goals and structures to be able to use your coping strategies. This may look like having daily practices that you always use, even if you’re not feeling stressed right at the time. 
  • Invest in Support
    • If managing your stress feels overwhelming or inaccessible, or you notice yourself going to unhealthy behaviors, reach out for help.  
    • Consult a mental health professional to help you get on the right track.

Wellbeing Strategies 

Focus on the Basics: Sleep, nutrition, and hydration are essential elements of physical and emotional health and make managing your stress much easier.

Learn and Practice Mindfulness or Meditation: There are many ways to learn about and practice mindfulness or meditation. Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) is an evidence-based course that teaches these skills. Meditation, yoga, tai chi, qi gong, and martial arts all have elements of mindfulness.

Develop a Toolbox of Relaxation Techniques, Breathing Techniques, & Grounding Techniques: Explore body-based relaxation supports like massage, acupuncture, float tanks, sound therapy, and so on. Use your app for guided relaxation, breathing techniques, grounding techniques, and MSBR programs.

Exercise: Find something you enjoy, and move your body! Walk more, and practice walking with relaxed limbs and a smile on your face.

Invest in Friendship and Community: Positive Social Support is an evidence-based treatment for anxiety and depression, and it can help build resilience and prevent these symptoms as well!  Spend time with other people who are less stressed!

Focus on Joy, Fun, and Laughter: Making time for joy, fun, and humor can give your body and mind a break from stress and build resilience against further stress.

Cultivate a Positive Mindset and Attitude: Practicing gratitude and appreciation, affirmations, and visualizations can lessen stress. Assume that stress and stressors are temporary and will change and that all problems are solvable. Focus on small immediate actions, be consistent, take breaks, and be patient. 

Make Time for Therapy or Wellness Coaching: Individual, couples, or group therapy or coaching can provide a dedicated space with a trained professional to focus on your mental health and stress management with a trained and informed guide. It is always okay to reach out to your healthcare provider or a mental health professional if you need more help. You are not alone!

Scholarly Sources

Antoni, M. H., & Dhabhar, F. S. (2019). The impact of psychological stress and stress management on immune responses in patients with cancer.  Cancer, 125(9), 1417-1431. https://doi.org/10.1002/cncr.31943

Benjet C. (2020). Stress management interventions for college students in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. Clinical psychology: Science and Practice, e12353. https://doi.org/10.1111/cpsp.12353

Carlson, L. E., Toivonen, K., & Subnis, U. (2019). Integrative approaches to stress management. The Cancer Journal, 25(5), 329–336. https://doi.org/10.1097/PPO.0000000000000395

Cleveland Clinic. (2021, January 28). Stress. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/11874-stress

Cozzolino, M., Girelli, L., Vivo, D. R., Limone, P., & Celia, G. (2020). A mind-body intervention for stress reduction as an adjunct to an information session on stress management in university students. Brain and Behavior, 10(6), e01651. https://doi.org/10.1002/brb3.1651

Dartmouth College Academic Skills Center.  (n.d.).  Stress management. https://students.dartmouth.edu/academic-skills/learning-resources/stress-management

Mayo Clinic. (2021, February 26). Stress management: Stress basics. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/basics/stress-basics/hlv-20049495

Scott, E. (2021, February 22). Stress management: an overview of stress management. verywellmind. https://www.verywellmind.com/stress-management-4157211

Shahid, R., Stirling, J., & Adams, W. (2018). Promoting wellness and stress management in residents through emotional intelligence training. Advances in Medical Education and Practice, 9, 681–686. https://doi.org/10.2147/AMEP.S175299

USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work. (2018, April 18). Why stress management is important: Self-care tips that anyone can put into practice. https://dworakpeck.usc.edu/news/why-stress-management-important-self-care-tips-anyone-can-put-practice

Worthen, M., & Cash, E. (2018, July 19). Stress management.  StatPearls Publishing.  https://europepmc.org/article/NBK/nbk513300

Yang, E., Schamber, E., Meyer, R., & Gold, J. I. (2018). Happier healers: Randomized controlled trial of mobile mindfulness for stress management. Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 24(5), 505–513. https://doi.org/10.1089/acm.2015.0301

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