Mental Health Tips

Coping with Stress

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Stress has several different definitions. For the sake of simplicity, we will refer to stress as physical, mental, or emotional strain or tension. Stress is not always negative and may show up in different ways in our lives. Do any of these apply to you?

Chronic Stress - This refers to daily stress such as caring for family, doing well at work or school, and paying bills. Left unchecked, this may impact your health.

Distress - This refers to common experiences that may have a negative connotation such as having financial problems, getting injured, or receiving some type of punishment.

Eustress - This refers to life changes or transitions that could be seen as beneficial. Some examples are: getting promoted at work or graduating from school.

Coping Tips For Stress

  • Identify the root. Stress can come from several different sources. Identifying which specific aspects of your life may be contributing to stress is an important part in taking steps to manage stress more effectively.
  • Clarify your values. What we deem important in life can influence how we perceive and go about addressing potential problems. We may be firm in some values, but need to be more flexible in others.
    • Do you know what your most important values are? What values do you hold that could stand to be more flexible?
  • Manage expectations. One way to combat stress is changing how you think about it. Two of the biggest culprits of stress may be rumination and having unrealistic expectations. Acknowledging your limitations is not a sign of weakness. We all have different limits depending on the resources available to us; working within those limits is the best we can ask of ourselves sometimes.
    • Do you tend to keep fixating on a stressor after you have done everything you can? If so, what else might be able to capture your attention away from the stressor?

Helpful Activities

  • Tech Breaks. We use technology for so many different things in our lives today. If your source of stress involves interacting with technology, you may have built an association between technology and stress. Even without the association, having too much screen time can cause eye strain and headaches, so having some planned breaks can bring stress levels down.
    • Are there small blocks of time during the day that you could make tech-free? What are three or four activities that you might do during that time instead of using an electronic device?
  • Socialize. Even the most introverted of us require some degree of meaningful social interaction. Sharing what is important to you with someone you care about is a good way to help combat stress.
    • Who are three to four people that you think you may be able to contact. Imagine you are talking to one of those people…what are three challenges and three successes that you would want to share with them?
  • Do Something Creative. Having a creative outlet is a great way to let your mind get a break from all the things that are stressing you out. You may already have creative hobbies or you could take this time to develop a new skill. Remember, the purpose is to reduce stress, not to perfect this skill!
    • Some examples of creative outlets include drawing, singing, dancing, writing, and gardening.
    • Do any of these appeal to you?
  • Tend to Physical Self-Care. We hear a lot about getting enough sleep, eating a balanced diet, and getting enough movement. These are basic considerations, but they are still important for keeping stress in check. Try focusing on sleep, eating, or movement for a week and observe how you feel afterward.
    • Which of the three physical self-care areas that were mentioned tend to be the hardest for you? Let’s make a plan to improve that area this week and then we can look at the others.

Read more about stress at The American Institute of Stress