Coping With Stress
What is stress?
Stress is defined as any change that you must adapt to in our ever changing world. In particular, stress is any demand (force, pressure, strain) placed on the body and the body’s reaction to it. Stress is experienced by everyone who is living, working, and breathing at this very moment. It is a fact of life you cannot avoid. Stress, itself, ranges in intensity from the negative extreme of being in physical danger to the joy of completing a desired goal. All stress is not bad. It is important to identify how you respond to stressful events. This will determine the impact that these experiences have on your life.
Assess your current stressors and explore ways that you respond to them.
- Generate a list of current events that produce stress in your life.
(i.e., moved to new location, work or school demands, balancing priorities, job promotion)
- Brainstorm how you cope with stressful experiences. Assess if you have a healthy or unhealthy coping style. For example:
Healthy Coping Styles - Unhealthy Coping Styles
- exercise - alcohol or drug use
- down time for selfcare - avoidance of event
- balancing work and play - procrastination
- time management - initiate schedule - overeating
After identifying stressors and coping styles, you can begin to modify your behavior.
- Be aware of your physiological and emotional reaction to stress.
- Recognize what you can change (your reactions to stress, internal thoughts).
- Utilize healthy coping skills.
- Incorporate good coping skills into your repertoire, increasing your options.
- Practice healthy coping skills daily even when intense stress is not present (this prepares you for times when you may feel overwhelmed).
- Recognize what activities you consider relaxing.
- Be specific when exploring your options:
– going for walks
– meeting with friends
– reading for pleasure
– listening to music
– taking a bath
- Be realistic about the amount of time that you can dedicate to "downtime".
- This time should be incorporated into your daily routine.
- Remember this is called BALANCE- not be used as a procrastination tactic.
- Begin practicing relaxation techniques
– guided imagery
– deep breathing exercises
– progressive relaxation (muscle relaxation)
- Decide which relaxation technique works for you and practice daily.
- Find several techniques that work for you so you have an array of options.
Stress Management Techniques
- Along with improving your ability to relax, you must assess diet and other strains on your body.
- Aerobic exercise can reduce anxiety up to 50%.
- Good nutrition (a well balanced diet) will improve your ability to appropriately respond to stress.
- Get an adequate amount of rest each night.
- Reducing caffeine intake will help you manage your anxiety (2 ½ cups of coffee doubles the epinephrine level).
- Smoking cessation is important, as nicotine is also a stimulant.
- Biofeedback techniques can help up to 80% of migraine sufferers.
- Acupuncture has also shown promise.
- If you have multiple stressors (deadlines, increased responsibilities), you must prioritize your time.
- Initiating a time management schedule remains a positive way to reduce stress and anxiety.
- Break large demands into small, manageable parts. Work through one task at a time.
- Do what needs to be done first, leaving other things for tomorrow.
- Identify your goals and work toward them.
- Take direct action when stress arises- identify your needs and articulate them; Be intentional about what you can do.
- Acknowledge your thoughts and feelings concerning the stressors in your life.
- Develop a support network to rely on in times of need.
- Remember to be kind to yourself and not dwell on the "shoulds".
- Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff…and It’s All Small Stuff New York, NY: Hyperion, 1997. Carlson, R.
- The Relaxation and Stress Reduction Workbook Oakland, CA: New Harbinger, 1988. Davis, M., Eshelman, E., & McCay, M.
If additional support is necessary, please contact the University Counseling Service (UCS) at 335-7294.
This handout was created by Carolyn Mildner, M.A. for the University Counseling Service, The University of Iowa.