Rethink How You Respond to Stress

Getting Started

Your reaction to stress may feel automatic at times. But what if the next time you felt stressed, you reacted in a way that calmed you down, helped you feel better, and renewed your energy? With practice, these healthier responses can help you in the short term and in the long term.

Here are some ideas you can try.

  • Interrupt stressful thinking.

    Give yourself something else to think about by listening to a song or a guided meditation.

  • Spend time by yourself.

    Soak in a warm bath. Read a book that inspires you.

  • Renew a feeling of control.

    Do something with mindful attention. Take time to brew a cup of tea. Feel the warmth of the mug. Hear the whistle of the kettle. Smell the fragrance of the tea. Taste the flavor.

  • Practice ways to relieve stress at times when you're not stressed.

    This can help turn it into a habit, so you can rely on it when you need it. Depending on how much time you have, here are a few suggestions. When you have:

    • 1 minute: Close your eyes, and simply focus on the in-and-out of your breathing. If it helps you to focus, count your breaths.
    • 5 minutes: Travel in your mind to a place that helps you feel calm. If you have trouble imagining a place, find a picture or a piece of art that relaxes you. Explore it by noticing as many details as you can.
    • 10 minutes: Eat a piece of fruit. Eat slowly, and savor each bite. What flavors do you taste?
    • 15 minutes: Color with crayons, or doodle. Or find other simple things you could do to relax.
    • 20 minutes: Take a walk. Go outside if you can. Take a few deep breaths. Notice what's around you, the sounds, and how the air feels.
  • Plan your new choices.

    If you're ready to start trying new ways to react when you're stressed, you might think about these questions. They can help you get started. Write down your ideas.

    • When things get stressful, how do I react now?
    • If I handled stress in a new way, how would I feel about myself?
    • What would I want my family, friends, or coworkers to notice about me?
    • What are some things I could do to cope when I feel stressed? (You could pick things from the list in the previous step. Or you may have your own ideas.)
    • When could I start adding new responses to stress into my day?


Current as of: February 9, 2022

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:
Heather Quinn MD - Family Medicine

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