Eight Effective Stress Management Strategies

[NOTE: This post was updated December 2017]

In this post, I want to share eight useful stress management tips and strategies.

Stress may be defined as “the experience of a perceived threat (real or imagined) to one’s well-being, resulting from a series of physiological responses and adaptations” (Donatelle, 2009, p. 62). There are two kinds of stress, eustress refers to stress associated with positive events, and distress refers to negative events. “Stress can be associated with most daily activities” (p. 62).

Strategies to manage stress include: assessing stressors, changing responses, and learning to cope. Find out what works best for you—it may be taking mental or physical action; downshifting; changing the way you think; managing your emotional responses; exercise, relax & eat right; yoga, qi gong, tai chi, deep breathing, and progressive muscle relaxation; learning time management; managing your finances; or using alternative stress management techniques—will help you better cope with stress (Donatelle, 2009).

Six Ways To Relax Your Mind (WebMD; Donatelle, 2009; MayoClinic):

(1) Writing/Journaling – Write about things that are bothering you. Write for 10 to 15 minutes a day about stressful events and how they made you feel. This helps you identify sources of stress and finding ways to manage them (WebMD).

(2) Discussing Feelings – Talk, laugh, cry, and express anger when you need to. Talking with friends, family, a counselor, or a member of the clergy about your feelings is a healthy way to relieve stress (WebMD).

(3) Doing Things You Enjoy – This can be hobbies, volunteer work, etc. Take time to engage in activities that you like (WebMD).

(4) Focusing on the Present – One thing we all struggle with (at one time or another) is the tendency to jump to conclusions or “fortune-telling” where we assume we know what the future holds or what “will” happen (Williams, Edgerton, & Palmer, 2010). Another tip for being more present-minded is meditation (MayoClinic). Check out a nice meditation exercise here.

(5) Cognitive Restructuring – The modification of thoughts, ideas, and beliefs that contribute to stress. “To combat negative self-talk, we must first become aware of it, then stop it, and finally replace the negative thoughts with positive ones—a process referred to as cognitive restructuring” (Donatelle, 2009, p. 79).

(6) Downshifting – “Today’s lifestyles are hectic and pressure-packed, and stress often comes from trying to keep up [with others]” and trying to “have it all.” “Downshifting involves a fundamental alteration in values and honest introspection about what is important in life” (Donatelle, 2009, p. 78).

Two Ways To Relax Your Body (WebMD; Donatelle, 2009; MayoClinic):

(1) Exercise – Regular exercise is one of the best ways to manage stress (WebMD; MayoClinic).

(2) Relaxation Techniques – Breathing exercises, meditation, muscle relaxation, yoga, qi gong, and tai chi can help relieve stress (Donatelle, 2009; MayoClinic; WebMD).

Stress has an enormous impact on the human body (See this Washington Post link). Stress affects the nervous system, respiratory system, cardiovascular system, gastrointestinal system, etc.). “Successful stress management involves mentally developing and practicing self-esteem skills, focusing on positive thinking about yourself, and examining self-talk to reduce irrational responses” (Donatelle, 2009, p. 79).

Finally, there’s a concept called psychological hardiness:

“Psychologically hardy people are characterized by control, commitment, and an embrace of challenge. People with a sense of control are able to accept responsibility for their behaviors and change those that they discover to be debilitating” (Donatelle, 2009, p. 75-76).

Hardiness is the “foundation of an individual’s ability to cope with stress and remain healthy” (Donatelle, 2009, p. 76).

Written By: Steve Nguyen, Ph.D.
Leadership + Talent Development Advisor

References

Donatelle, R. (2009). Health: The basics (8th ed.). San Francisco: Pearson Benjamin Cummings.

Mayo Clinic — Exercise: 7 benefits of regular physical activity
https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/fitness/in-depth/exercise/art-20048389

Mayo Clinic — Stress Relief
https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/basics/stress-relief/hlv-20049495

Mayo Clinic — Video: Need to relax? Take a break for meditation
https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/multimedia/meditation/vid-20084741

Washington Post: Stress and Your Body
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/graphic/2007/01/22/GR2007012200620.html

WebMD: Stress Management – Ways to Relieve Stress
http://www.webmd.com/balance/stress-management/stress-management-relieving-stress

Williams, H., Edgerton, N., & Palmer, S. (2010). Cognitive Behavioural Coaching. In E. Cox, T. Bachkirova, & D. Clutterbuck (Eds.), The complete handbook of coaching (pp.37-53). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.