What Coping Strategies Can Help Manage Stress?

From Meditation to Journaling, Three Highly Effective Ways to Manage Stress

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According to the annual Stress in America survey, most Americans of all ages are stressed, and a significant proportion feels their coping abilities are inadequate. Further, they report feeling that stress is affecting their health, both physically and emotionally.

The survey results tend to fluctuate a little each year, but the findings generally show the same pattern: People face a variety of stressors, and they need to find effective ways to relieve stress in their lives. Stress is more the rule than the exception. It's important to manage your stress levels in a healthy way; below are a few strategies that may help you. 

Calming Coping Strategies

First, it’s helpful to calm your physiology so you reverse your stress response. When your stress response is triggered, you process information differently and you can feel physically and emotionally taxed. If this state is prolonged, it can escalate to chronic stress.

One useful tip to calm yourself is to go to a quiet place and take deep, long breaths. Breathe in, hold for five seconds, then exhale slowly. Repeat several times. This exercise can help soothe your nerves and slow a racing heart. Other calming strategies might include meditation and aromatherapy.

Emotion-Focused Coping Strategies

With emotion-focused coping strategies, like maintaining a sense of humor and cultivating optimism, the situation doesn’t change, but your perception of it does. These strategies are great to use in situations where you have little ability to control what happens, and you need to see your stressors as a challenge instead of a threat. Other emotion-focused techniques for coping with stress include:

  • Journaling about your emotions
  • Practicing loving-kindness meditation to increase self-compassion
  • Using visualization strategies to increase positive feelings 

Solution-Focused Coping Strategies

Sometimes there’s nothing you can do to change a situation, but often you’ll find an opportunity to take action and actually change the circumstances you face. Solution-focused coping strategies can be very effective for stress relief; often a small change is all that’s required to make a huge shift in how you feel.

For one thing, one change can lead to other changes, so that a chain reaction of positive change is created, opportunities are opened up, and life changes significantly. Also, once an action is taken, the sense of being trapped with no options—a recipe for stress—can dissipate quickly.

It’s important to be thoughtful about which actions to take, as each situation may call for a unique solution, but a less-stressed mind can more easily choose the most beneficial course of action. While these techniques can be time-consuming, reducing your stress is necessary to improve your well-being and mental and physical health. Solution-focused techniques include the following:

  • Using time-management strategies when you feel overwhelmed by a busy schedule
  • Talking to HR if you feel overwhelming demands or harassment at work
  • Using conflict-resolution strategies to mitigate the stress in a relationship 

If your stress levels do not decrease, it may be a good idea to talk to a therapist or your primary healthcare provider. They can help you identify ways to minimize your stress and develop nutrition and exercise plans to maintain your health as you handle your other obligations. Through coping strategies and good self-care, you can manage your stress healthfully and avoid long-term problems. 

Get Advice From The Verywell Mind Podcast

Hosted by Editor-in-Chief and therapist Amy Morin, LCSW, this episode of The Verywell Mind Podcast shares how you can change your mindset to cope with stress in a healthy way.

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A Word From Verywell

Everyone has stress in their lives, and stress levels vary depending on the day. Having healthy coping strategies in place can help you keep your stress at a manageable level. If, however, you're struggling to manage your stress, seek professional help. A mental health provider can help you manage your stress in a healthy way.

4 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. American Psychological Association. Stress in America 2020; A national mental health crisis.

  2. Perciavalle V, Blandini M, Fecarotta P, et al. The role of deep breathing on stressNeurol Sci. 2017;38(3):451-458. doi:10.1007/s10072-016-2790-8

  3. Dimitroff LJ, Sliwoski L, O’Brien S, Nichols LW. Change your life through journaling--The benefits of journaling for registered nursesJNEP. 2016;7(2):p90. doi:10.5430/jnep.v7n2p90 

  4. Lukić J, Lazarević S. A holistic approach to workplace stress managementŠkola biznisa. 2019;(1):130-141. doi:10.5937/skolbiz1-21872

By Elizabeth Scott, PhD
Elizabeth Scott, PhD is an author, workshop leader, educator, and award-winning blogger on stress management, positive psychology, relationships, and emotional wellbeing.