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In the Spotlight

Stress and Your Well-Being

Contributed by Richard Harvey, Ph.D.

Feeling stressed seems to be part of life in today's world. Job demands, uncertainty about the future, concerns about our health, our family, and our finances all contribute to higher levels of stress for us. The fast pace of life and all the things going on in the world today also brings more stress. What makes us feel stress may be different for every person. Having too much stress in our everyday life does not feel good, and affects our well-being, our quality of life, and if it goes on too long, our health as well. Too much stress going on for too long puts a lot of "wear and tear" on us both physically and mentally. Although we may not be able to do away with many of the things or situations that stress us, we can control how we react to those things. We do not have to feel so stressed. Here are some things you can do to change your reaction to stressful things or situations and reduce how much stress you feel:

Change Your Thinking

Your mood (sad, unhappy, nervous, stressed, and so on) comes mostly from your thoughts and what you are telling yourself, even if you are not aware of it. You can control your mood and your stress by choosing what you let yourself think about and what you tell yourself.

When you are feeling too much stress, make yourself aware of the thoughts going on in your mind. Are these thoughts making you feel worse? Upsetting you? If so, then replace them with more positive thoughts, on purpose! Think about stressful situations more reasonably and sensibly instead of having thoughts that upset you. For example:

  • This is not the end of the world.

  • Actually, if I think about it, this is not all that bad.

  • This is just part of life and I can deal with it.

  • I will just deal with this one-step at a time.

  • This too shall pass.

  • I do not have to like everything going on, but I will get through it just fine in the end.

You can also make a list of several positive thoughts about yourself that you can use, such as:

  • I can control my reaction to this situation even if I cannot control the situation.

  • I accept the things I cannot change.

  • I am a good person.

  • I am going to be calm and relaxed.

Other things you can do

  • Make physical activity part of every day.

  • Eat a healthy diet with lots of fruit and vegetables instead of sweets and junk food. Drink plenty of water too.

  • Get enough rest.

  • Take a nice long shower or bath.

  • Take a break from stressful situations. Take a few deep breaths, daydream for a few moments, or take a few days away from the situation if you can.

  • Break big tasks or problems down into little parts, and tackle one at a time.

  • Learn how to relax and practice relaxing regularly. Click here for the relaxation recording.

  • Arrange to have some quiet time for yourself each day.

  • Take time to do things you enjoy.

  • Talk your troubles over with someone you trust to help you think through things.

  • Plan ahead and pace yourself so you are not late or always in a rush.

  • Listen to music, play music yourself, paint, or express yourself artistically.

  • Have a hobby.

  • In your mind picture yourself handling difficult situations calmly and effectively.

Learn More

Stress (Medline Plus)

Estrés (Medline Plus) (en Español)

Stress (American Psychological Association)

Stress Management (Mayo Clinic)

Updated/Reviewed: September 30, 2009