Coping with Stress

Written by the Healthline Editorial Team | Published on August 18, 2014
Medically Reviewed by Brenda B. Spriggs, MD, MPH, FACP on August 18, 2014

Coping with Stress

Some people have a hard time coping with stressful events that others handle easily. For example, the average person might feel slightly anxious prior to flying on an airplane, but if that anxiety is debilitating and keeps them from getting near an airport, they likely won’t be able to overcome this stressor without the help of a professional.

There are things you can do to cope with the presence of stress on your own, and there are things that a professional can do to assist you.

Independent Coping Skills

If you’re able to isolate your major stressors, you can work (by yourself, with friends and family, or with a professional counselor — or a combination of these) to create individual resolutions to each issue.

For example, if the loud personal phone calls of the person in the neighboring cubicle rattle your nerves and make it hard for you to focus at work, you could talk with your manager about changing cubes. You could also ask if headphones are permitted in the office, as long as you’re still able to hear your phone ring. In these ways, you avoid personal conflict with your office mate and resolve this stressor.

Take a Break

Mounting stress and pressure may begin to weigh down on your shoulders like a load of bricks. Before you let it get the best of you, take a break. Feeling drained? Don’t reach for a cup of coffee or soda for energy. Take a walk, go outside, and get some fresh air. While you are there, clear your mind and breathe deeply.

A mental break is just as important as a physical one, so don’t think about your stress while you are away from the stressor.

Get Support

Your support system — friends, family, and coworkers — may be your best asset in the fight against overwhelming stress. They can help you identify stressful situations before they’ve become more than you can handle. They can also help you organize your schedule or let you vent frustrations about stressful situations.

Get Regular Exercise

An integral part of nurturing your health, physical activity can boost your feel-good endorphins, counteract the damage stress is doing to your body, and get your mind off what stressing you. Can’t squeeze in a full 30 minutes each day? Three short 10-minute sessions are just as beneficial.

Relaxation Techniques

Relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, yoga, stretching, visualization, and massage are all great ways to work out the physical and mental effects of chronic stress.

Professional Help for Stress Management

If you are unable to reduce your stress or prevent future stressful episodes despite your best efforts, ask your doctor for a referral to a mental health specialist who treats anxiety and stress.

It’s important to recognize the role a professional’s help can play in conquering stress and anxiety. They can help you find ways to reduce the impact stress has on you. They might suggest meditation, visualization, or talk therapy. These techniques allow you to reduce your stress load while counteracting any negative physical impacts.

They can also teach you how to face stressful situations without buckling under pressure. Strategies to deal with stressful situations may include visualization of possible future scenarios, pre-scripted responses to requests or demands you cannot handle, or role-playing ways to resolve conflict.

Services mental health professionals can provide include cognitive or behavioral therapy, biofeedback, and hypnosis.


Psychologists and doctors can use hypnosis to put you into a deeply relaxed state. This helps minimize the physical impact stress will have on your body. Hypnosis can then be used to alter the way you act and the responses you have to particular stressors.

Talk Therapy or CBT

Allowing yourself to talk about and work through situations helps release stress and anxiety. It might be more beneficial to do this with a person who isn’t intimately connected to you, such as a spouse or best friend. This is especially true if they are part of the stress. They may ask questions that encourage you to think deeply about the root cause of a stressor.

If stress has become debilitating, a doctor or therapist may use cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) to change the way you think about or react to particular stressors. If you understand why you react the way you do, you may be able to change your response.


Biofeedback measures your body’s response to stress in real time — for example, your heart rate, muscle tension, breathing, and brain waves. When you recognize your body’s response to stress, you can employ relaxation techniques like deep breathing, yoga, meditation, or visualization faster and hopefully with better success. Because biofeedback works in real time, you can try a variety of relaxation techniques to see which works best at calming your stress responses.

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