Counseling Center

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We all experience stress—it’s part of being human. Believe it or not, stress is not always a “bad” thing! In fact, experiencing “optimal” stress energizes and motivates us, allowing us to overcome obstacles and rise to the challenges we face. Because no two people are just the same, we all experience stress in different ways and may feel the effects of stress at different points and in reaction to different stressors. Too much stress (or prolonged stress) can negatively impact physical, emotional, and mental wellbeing, making it difficult to cope.

You might recognize some of these common signs of stress from your own experience:

Tips for Coping with Stress

Emotional:

  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Feeling out of control
  • Worrying, obsessing
  • Irritability, frustration
  • Mood swings, crying spells
  • Boredom, lack of interest
  • Feeling helpless/inadequate

Mental:

  • Difficulty making choices
  • "Out of it"
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Poor memory
  • Racing/repetitive thoughts
  • Misunderstanding other

Physical:

  • Muscle tightness
  • Headaches
  • Quick heart/breathing rate
  • Fatigue
  • Appetite/weight change
  • Stomach pain, cramps

Behavioral:

  • Excessive screen time
  • Increased substance use
  • Over- or under-eating
  • Short temper
  • Increased nervous habits
  • Sleep problems

Fortunately, there are some great strategies for reducing unproductive stress and using productive stress to our advantage. Try out a few of these strategies to see what works best for you. Remember, we’re all different, so it’s okay if your strategies look different than others’ as long as it’s what’s best for you!

Reduce Stress:

  • Eliminate unnecessary stressors from your life/schedule
  • Limit energy and time devoted to highly stressful activities, relationships, thoughts
  • Use time management and organization skills to decrease excess stress
  • Journal to get stressors down on paper and off your mind
  • Get plenty of physical activity and movement to release stress and tension
  • Be aware of your reactions, noticing ways your reactions may be amplifying stress
  • Take breaks to recharge

Reframe Stress:

  • Remember, stress is normal and experienced by everyone
  • Differentiate between productive and unproductive stress
  • Recognize ways that stress keeps you energized and motivated
  • Be curious about reactions to stress, don’t avoid the feelings
  • Instead of getting upset about your body’s reactions to stress, recognize them as normal, and appreciate what your body does for you
  • Keep timeframes in mind – feelings do not last forever and neither does stress

Cope with Stress:

Symptoms of Stress
  • Soaking in the bathtub
  • Planning a vacation
  • Looking through old pictures
  • Going to a movie
  • Jogging, walking
  • Listening to music
  • Getting a massage
  • Taking care of plants
  • Going swimming
  • Doodling
  • Exercising
  • Playing a game
  • Doing arts and crafts
  • Learning a musical instrument
  • Making a card or gift for someone
  • Cooking
  • Going hiking
  • Going out to dinner
  • Lying in the sun
  • Volunteering
  • Reading magazines
  • Doing a puzzle
  • Doing chores around the house
  • Dancing
  • Going camping
  • Singing in the house
  • Practicing religion/spirituality
  • Going to the beach
  • Painting
  • Going for a drive
  • Joining a book club
  • Gardening
  • Going to a play or concert
  • Making lists
  • Playing with animals

Handouts/Websites:

Podcasts/Videos:

Books:

Applications:

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