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Simple Steps for Managing Stress in Your Life

Learning to manage stress successfully begins with our willingness to take an honest look at ourselves.

Although people and situations do contribute to stress, the events that affect people from the outside are beyond their control.

It is too easy to blame stress on other people or situations that the individuals cannot control. It is more productive to take personal responsibility for the stress that an individual experiences and to look for things that he or she can change. It is more effective to learn to “manage” stress than to simply “reduce” stress.

One can reduce stress, briefly, by taking a vacation or just by pulling the covers back over his or her head in the morning. However, the vacation will not last forever, and eventually one will need to return to face all of the things that he or she wanted to escape. Instead of hoping that the stress will disappear, one can remember that stress will always be a part of life. Success and happiness will depend on how well one can cope with, or manage, the stress.

Managing stress requires individuals to take responsibility for their own thoughts, feelings and behaviors. When people look at their stress this way, they may find that they need not to be so afraid.

Taking an active role in managing stress means that people need to begin actively searching for it. Stressful events can be viewed as obstacles or as opportunities to learn how to manage them better. Identifying stressful situations is actually good news; individuals have taken the first step in managing their stress. They did not create stress by looking for it; they only found what was already there. When people find what causes their stress and begin to understand why it is stressful, they can work to manage the stress more successfully.

Commitment To Change

Once people have identified the stress in their lives, they need to commit themselves to creating change. It takes time and energy to make change happen.

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For many people, the most difficult part of learning to manage stress is finding the time. It may seem that time pressure is one of the main causes of stress; there is just not enough time to accomplish what life demands. When people feel overwhelmed, it is difficult to begin. How can they find the additional time necessary to learn to manage stress?

This attitude misses the point. Many people spend more time, energy and money on their cars than they do on themselves. They are more likely to take the time to change the oil in the car than to take a few minutes to stop and give themselves a break. But just like a car, if people do not take care of themselves, they will not function as well and will eventually break down.

Taking the time to manage stress is good preventative maintenance for life. The time that it takes is more than repaid in increased efficiency and happiness.

Stress Management Techniques

Many techniques can help to manage stress. No one technique is best for everybody. Each person must decide what will work best for him or her. It is not helpful to recommend exercise for someone who hates physical activity, and it is difficult for someone to meditate if they hate to sit still. All stress management techniques are simply tools. These tools can help someone learn to work more skillfully with stress and to have new and more effective ways to deal with difficult situations. They must, however, be actively applied. Even though someone has learned to use a hammer, he or she still needs to get the hammer out of the toolbox every time he or she needs to drive a nail. Likewise, just because someone has learned stress management techniques, he or she still needs to take them out of the stress management toolbox and put them to work.

Simple Steps for Managing Stress in Your Life

Steve Bressert, Ph.D.

Steve Bressert, Ph.D. is a retired professor and clinician in clinical psychology. He writes occasionally for Psych Central and other mental health and psychology publications.

APA Reference
Bressert, S. (2020). Simple Steps for Managing Stress in Your Life. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 22, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 29 Jul 2020 (Originally: 17 May 2016)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 29 Jul 2020
Published on Psych All rights reserved.