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Tips and strategies for managing stress like a pro

Like it or not, stress is a part of life. A certain amount of stress can be useful because it can spur you to action. But it’s a fine line — you don't want to let it build up to the point where you experience stress overload.

Here are some suggestions to get that stress level down:

  • Follow the basics. You've heard it a million times before: stay healthy by eating right, exercising and drinking plenty of water. But stress can zap your energy, making you feel like you would rather sleep than exercise. Plus, for many of us, stress increases our desire for salty, sugary and caffeinated foods and beverages. Fight the urge to sit in front of the TV and eat a bag of potato chips, though. Instead, decrease your stress level by grabbing an apple and going for a walk.
  • Get plenty of sleep.  Although stress can make you want to sleep more, many people who are under stress have difficulty sleeping. If you're one of those people who lie awake thinking about problems, you may find it helpful to focus on the following ways to get a restful night's sleep:

- Make sure your bedroom is dark, cool and free of distractions.

- If you can't fall asleep after 30 minutes, get up. Do something relaxing like reading for 20 minutes, then try again to get to sleep.

- Write down your thoughts and concerns.

- Focus on your breathing. Take nice slow inhales and then full exhales.

  • Know the source of your stress. What's causing your stress? Family issues, money trouble, problems at work or a general sense of dread? Knowing the source of your stress can help you to focus your stress-fighting efforts. Try keeping a stress journal. Write down when you feel stress and the events that led to these feelings. Think about one or two changes you can make to reduce this stress. Reward yourself when you've made a positive change.
  • Organize your life. Did you know clutter can raise your stress level? If you have a house, car or office with excess clutter, you're increasing your stress level daily. Get organized by setting up a system that encourages you to always put items in their place. If you don't know where to start, don't worry. Devote 10–15 minutes every day to getting organized and start anywhere.
  • Manage your time.  Do you plan your day or just let it happen? Planning your day with beginning and end times for tasks and events helps you stay on track. Good time management can help cut the stress that comes from being rushed.
  • Relax. Think about what you find relaxing, such as listening to music, gently stretching, meditating, spending some time alone, reading or a hobby. Make sure you give yourself time each day to do something that helps you relax.

Keep a positive outlook. We all have an internal voice. What's your voice telling you? You can make your internal talk positive. Focus on good thoughts and let angry or stress-filled thoughts go. Reassure yourself that this stressful time will pass.

Need help with creating and sticking with healthy habits like stressing less? The Attain by AetnaSM app helps you go beyond fitness by rewarding you for taking care of your health. Plus, you can earn points for hitting daily and weekly activity goals. Download today in the App Store. Already using the app? Head over to the “Actions” tab in the app and start building healthy habits today.

This material provides a general overview of the topic. Health information is not a substitute for diagnosis or treatment by a therapist, physician or other health care professional. Contact a health care professional with any questions or concerns about specific health care needs.