Whether you like it or not, stress is a part of life. Some stress is necessary to stimulate you and keep life interesting, but too much stress for too long can exact a costly toll on your physical and mental well-being. Although you can’t avoid the stress that life brings your way, you can learn to handle and cope with it successfully. Here are some simple methods for coping with stress:

  • Assess your stress. List all of the positive and negative changes, challenges and demands you’ve encountered in the past year. Even making a list can alleviate some anxiety because it will help you see exactly why you’ve been under so much pressure.
  • Change what you can. Although some things on your list are out of your control, many have factors that you can do something about. For example, if you’re in a difficult relationship or have unresolved issues from your past, you can get counseling to seek guidance and learn coping skills.
  • Eliminate nonessential activities and commitments that crowd your schedule, and learn to say “no” more often. Create a realistic schedule based on your priorities.
  • Boost your body’s defenses. Make healthy eating, exercise and sufficient sleep a no-exceptions rule in your daily routine. Stop using drugs, alcohol, or other unhealthy habits as an escape from your troubles. These things only alleviate stress-related symptoms temporarily without addressing the root problem.
  • Treat yourself right. Give yourself credit for what you accomplish, and quit placing unreasonable expectations on yourself. Allow time for a pleasurable, relaxing activity each day, such as reading a good book, taking a warm bath, or working on a favorite hobby.
  • Share with others. Take a break in your day to engage in meaningful conversation with a loved one. Share your thoughts, feelings and concerns. Take the focus off of your own problems by thinking of someone else. Do a favor, get out and meet your neighbors, or write a letter to a long-lost friend.
  • Tickle your funny bone. Laughter is an invaluable tool for easing tension and putting things in perspective. Look for little ways to be silly like writing your “to do” list in crayon, calling your coworker a funny nickname, or reading a good joke book.

Reprinted with permission from Total Wellness Newsletter. For a refreshing stress break in your day, visit the American Massage Therapy Association’s “Massage Room” at for stress-related articles, a stress test and an online “massage.”