How to Handle Stressful Situations (2024)

You can't always avoid stress, which is why it is important to know how to handle stressful situations. Getting better at managing stress is a great way to become more resilient and able to confront future challenges.

Press Play for Advice On Managing Stress

Hosted by Editor-in-Chief and therapist Amy Morin, LCSW, this episode of The Verywell Mind Podcast featuring professor Elissa Epel, shares ways to manage stress. Click below to listen now.

How to Handle Stressful Situations (1)

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Often when people face a new and stressful situation—a job that’s a bit too challenging, a thorny relationship hurdle that will take a while to sort through, a change in lifestyle that feels like a step down from what they had—they feel overwhelmed at the thought that they may have to deal with this stress for an extended time.

People who worry about long-term stress have reason to be concerned: chronic stress, the type of stress that is continual and unchanging, can take a heavy toll. It can negatively impact both physical and mental health.

The good news is that you can mitigate the stress of virtually any situation, even if it is there to stay for a while. If you are facing a challenging life situation, or wondering if it gets easier and how to speed the process, try stress relief strategies that can help.

These techniques can help significantly if you face a life crisis or overwhelming stressor. But ff your stress feels unmanageable, seek help from a mental health professional.

Identify the Source of Your Stress

The first step toward handling stressful situations is to figure out what it is that is stressing you out. Understanding which aspects of the situation make things difficult for you can help you develop strategies to manage these feelings.

Identifying the cause isn't as always as easy as it sounds. While you might recognize that starting a new job or moving to a new area is stressful, being able to point to the specific aspects of the situation that are difficult for you is important.

For example, knowing you are stressed about meeting new people at your new job can help you cope with the social aspects of work.

Writing in a journal can often effectively decrease stress and anxiety. It can also be a useful tool for learning more about your stress sources and how you typically cope with stressful situations.

How to Keep a Stress Journal

Consider situations where you might feel anxious, stressed, or overwhelmed, and ask yourself:

  • What was it about the situation that caused you to feel stressed?
  • What did you think about the situation?
  • How did it make you feel?
  • What did you do in response to the stress?
  • What did you do to relieve the stress?

Have the Right Attitude

You can’t always control what you are facing, but you do have a choice in how you face it. You can choose the attitude you take, which can help determine whether you view each situation as a threat or a challenge.

Research shows that viewing something as a challenge helps you mobilize resources and bring your "A game" to the situation more easily. Viewing the same situation as a threat can lead to greater stress and worse performance.

There are a number of problems associated with avoiding the source of your stress. This approach is known as avoidant coping and while it provides temporary relief, it can actually make stress and anxiety worse in the long run.

Understand the Role of Attitude

Your attitude can help to determine how stressful a situation feels for you, and how you approach your options. In fact, attitude can affect which options you see and do not see, which can also affect your stress levelsand the outcome of your actions.

Examine Your Thought Patterns

Your thought patterns may feel automatic, but you can choose where your focus lies. Research has found, for example, that thought patterns can contribute to increases in the stress hormone cortisol.

To begin to make that choice, it helps to become aware of your habitual thinking patterns. This exercise can help you to see these patterns more clearly and can help you to relieve stress in the process.

Practice Positive Self-Talk

Positive self-talk means using more optimistic language in your head, and focusing more on possibilities. It involves more than merely trying to look on the bright side, although that is part of it.

Learning how to shift your focus can help alter what is possible for you. For example, instead of focusing on the negative aspects of a situation that are out of your control, you might instead focus your attention on areas where you can make a positive change.

Change What You Can

Sometimes there are certain aspects of a situation you can change, even if you cannot change the overall situation. Focusing on what you can control can help you feel more empowered and less helpless when you are handling a stressful situation.

For example, you may, for financial reasons, be unable to quit a job you don’t enjoy. However, you can connect with co-workers more, alter your attitude while you’re at work, and use your break time for stress management activities. All of these can alter how you feel when you are at this job.

Try Solution-Focused Coping

Solution-focused coping means taking action to change your life where you are able. Examples of solution-focused ways to handle stress include:

  • Finding ways to manage your time more effectively to make a stressful situation easier to handle
  • Taking steps to minimize aspects of the situation to make it less anxiety-provoking
  • Relying on conflict-management skills to deal with difficult interpersonal relationships that contribute to stress

These changes can be large in scale or small but targeted. Change can bring stress, so it’s important to choose the changes that matter most.

Find and Eliminate Tolerations

Tolerations are those nagging stressors in your lifestyle that you put up with almost without realizing it, but which bring you constant low-grade stress. The thing about tolerations is that they add up to bigger stress.

Cutting out tolerations can relieve stress so you can tolerate more things you can’t change.

Create a New Life Plan

Knowing where you want to go and having a plan for the future, can help to minimize stress in the present. Planning changes according to your values and priorities can be helpful and inspiring, even if you can’t bring those plans to fruition for a little while longer.

One study found that people who balance living in the moment and making plans are the most resilient in the face of daily stress and stressful situations.

Build Resilience

If you can’t do any more to change your situation, you can still reduce the stress you feel as you manage your daily life. Certain activities can promote resilience, help you feel less stressed overall, and help you be less reactive to the stressors you face when they rear their ugly heads.

Practicing resilience-building activities can help you develop new skills for managing stress. The more they become an automatic habit, the less your stressors will bother you.

Self Care

Everything feels more stressful when you are tired, hungry, and run down. It also means that you have fewer coping resources at your disposal. This means that you are more likely to react to stress rather than respond to it. Or you might let things snowball until things become even more overwhelming.

Focus on taking care of your body, and you will have a greater ability to handle frustration and stress in your life overall. Do things that make yourself feel good and cared for, whether that's getting a massage, reading a book, or enjoying a relaxing spa day at home.

Exercise

Exercise is one of those wonderful stress relievers that can build resilience by helping you to blow off steam. Better still, regular exercise can help you to become less reactive toward stress.

Because of that and the obvious health benefits of exercise, this is a powerhouse of a stress reliever that should be worked into your schedule when at all possible.

Exercise for Panic Disorder

Meditation

Meditation can help you to remain centered in the face of stress and can help you to regain a sense of peace when you are feeling off-balance. Many meditation techniques work well, so try a few and stick with a favorite technique that feels right.

Over time, you should find yourself reacting to stress with less intensity and more able to remain calm and peaceful.

Meditations for Stress Relief

Positive Attitude

Maintaining a positive attitude is one thing you can do to make everything in your life feel easier. A positive attitude also helps you to get along better with others (which can lead to greater social support and less conflict) and can help you to remain feeling good, even when things around you are not so great.

A Word From Verywell

It would be great if you could simply avoid or eliminate the stressors in your life. Unfortunately, that's only possible to an extent. There will be times when you are all faced with unpredictable or unavoidable stressors when you need to rely on resilience. You may not be able to change everything in your life, but these tips can help you handle stressful situations.

How to Handle Stressful Situations (2024)

FAQs

How to Handle Stressful Situations? ›

When deciding which option to choose, it's helpful to think of the four A's: avoid, alter, adapt or accept. Since everyone has a unique response to stress, there is no “one size fits all” solution to managing it.

How do you handle a stressful situation interview question? ›

How Do You Handle Stress Interview Question and Answer
  1. Understand why the interviewer is asking this job interview question. ...
  2. 2. Make a list of your soft skills. ...
  3. Add context to these skills with a relevant, impactful example. ...
  4. Focus on your positive actions, not your negative feelings. ...
  5. Don't deny your stress.

What are 7 tips to avoid stressful situations? ›

7 Tips to Avoid Stress
  • Take care of yourself. Avoid drugs and alcohol as they can add to stress. ...
  • Engage in self-relaxation. ...
  • Take breaks when needed. ...
  • Seek out social support. ...
  • Connect with others socially. ...
  • Maintain a normal routine. ...
  • Give back to others.

What are the 4 A's of stress management? ›

When deciding which option to choose, it's helpful to think of the four A's: avoid, alter, adapt or accept. Since everyone has a unique response to stress, there is no “one size fits all” solution to managing it.

What are the 5 types of coping strategies? ›

There are five main types of coping skills: problem-focused strategies, emotion-focused strategies, meaning making, social support, and religious coping. Within each category are specific, practical coping skills that adolescents can incorporate into their lives on a daily basis.

What are 3 ways to respond to stress? ›

Here are some stress relievers:
  • Count to 10 before you speak or react.
  • Take a few slow, deep breaths until you feel your body un-clench a bit.
  • Go for a walk, even if it's just to the restroom and back. ...
  • Try a quick meditation or prayer to get some perspective.
  • If it's not urgent, sleep on it and respond tomorrow.
Oct 4, 2021

How do you say you can work under pressure? ›

How to demonstrate your work under pressure abilities on your resume:
  1. Provide examples of your planning skills.
  2. Explain why you work well under pressure, and how pressure helps you to do your work more efficiently.
  3. Describe your experience working under pressure and how you learn to work well during deadlines.

How do you handle conflict example answer? ›

Example: “I actively readjust my attitude during a conflict situation. This means that I strive to listen to the other person's point of view without becoming defensive. I also attempt to move the confrontation to a private space to avoid further complications.”

What are the 5 A's to help avoid stress? ›

For adults, Maness suggests the “5 A's” in order to deal with stress and anxiety. The A's stand for Avoid, Alter, Accept, Adapt, and Assert. “Avoid alcohol and drugs,” suggests Maness, “Alter your schedule so you have time to eat healthy, exercise, relax and sleep.

What is ABC of stress management? ›

A = Accumulate Positive Experiences. B = Build Mastery. C = Cope Ahead. ENGAGE IN AN ACTIVITY THAT MAKES YOU FEEL CONFIDENT - AND - CONTINUE. PRACTICING THIS SKILL.

What does the ABC of stress include? ›

ABC pushes you to analyze three aspects of a situation: Adversity. Beliefs. Consequences.

What are the 5 steps in the stress model? ›

There are five stages of stress; fight or flight, damage control, recovery, adaption, and burnout.

What are 3 helpful coping strategies? ›

What are some common coping strategies?
  • Lower your expectations.
  • Ask others to help or assist you.
  • Take responsibility for the situation.
  • Engage in problem solving.
  • Maintain emotionally supportive relationships.
  • Maintain emotional composure or, alternatively, expressing distressing emotions.
Nov 24, 2020

What is the most effective coping strategy? ›

Relaxation. Engaging in relaxing activities, or practicing calming techniques, can help to manage stress and improve overall coping. Physical recreation. Regular exercise, such as running, or team sports, is a good way to handle the stress of given situation.

What is the most common response to stress? ›

  • Increased heart rate and respirations.
  • Increased blood pressure.
  • Upset stomach, nausea, diarrhea.
  • Increased or decreased appetite which may be accompanied by weight loss or gain.
  • Sweating or chills.
  • Tremors or muscle twitching.
  • Muffled hearing.
  • Tunnel vision.

How do people respond differently to stress? ›

Some people are naturally more sensitive and reactive to stress. Differences in temperament, a collection of inborn personality traits that can be observed as early as infancy, can cause some people to be naturally more resilient in the face of stress while others can feel more threatened and less able to cope.

Can you tell us about a situation when you have had to work under pressure? ›

Share a specific example

Think of a time you worked well under pressure. Perhaps it was when you had a tight deadline or an unexpected change to a project. Share how you managed to thrive under such circumstances and stay focused on your work. Use this example to prove that you can handle stressful situations.

Why should we hire you? ›

The first thing you should do when answering “why should we hire you?” is to highlight any skills and professional experience that are relevant to the position you're applying for. To make your answer all the more valid, make sure to always back up everything you say with examples, experiences, and achievements.

What can you bring to the company? ›

Think about:
  • your enthusiasm for the profession and the employer and your desire to make your mark.
  • your personal qualities, such as your drive and willingness to learn.
  • the skills the employer seeks and how you have demonstrated them in the past – your answer should show why you would be competent in the job.

What is your biggest accomplishment? ›

'My greatest achievement' examples could include:
  • Giving a great presentation at work.
  • Beating sales targets.
  • Training for and completing a marathon.
  • Organizing a successful charity event.
  • Mentoring a coworker or fellow student.

What do you say in Tell me about yourself? ›

Your answer to the "tell me about yourself" question should describe your current situation, your past job experience, the reason you're a good fit for the role, and how you align with the company values. Tell the interviewer about your current position and a recent big accomplishment or positive feedback you received.

What is the 5 5 5 rule for stress? ›

First, you may want to start with a simple deep breathing exercise called the 5-5-5 method. To do this, you breathe in for 5 seconds, hold your breath for 5 seconds, and then breathe out for 5 seconds. You can continue this process until your thoughts slow down or you notice some relief.

What is the best key to relieve stress? ›

Advertisement
  • Get active. Virtually any form of physical activity can act as a stress reliever. ...
  • Meditate. ...
  • Laugh more. ...
  • Connect with others. ...
  • Assert yourself. ...
  • Try yoga. ...
  • Get enough sleep. ...
  • Keep a journal.

What reduces stress and anxiety? ›

Reduce Stress in 10 Minutes and Improve Your Well-Being
  • Be active—Take a dance break! ...
  • Close your eyes, take deep breaths, stretch, or meditate.
  • Write three things you are grateful for.
  • Check in with yourself—take time to ask yourself how you are feeling.
  • Laugh!

Where does stress start? ›

The stress response begins in the brain (see illustration). When someone confronts an oncoming car or other danger, the eyes or ears (or both) send the information to the amygdala, an area of the brain that contributes to emotional processing. The amygdala interprets the images and sounds.

What thoughts come to the mind when you re under negative stress? ›

There is a loss of interest and energy in our daily tasks. Also, there is disappointment with oneself and a feeling of worthlessness. Always doubting their skills and focusing on the targets is lost.

What are the 6 areas of stress? ›

There are six main areas that can lead to work-related stress if they are not managed properly. These are: demands, control, support, relationships, role and change.

What are the three components of stress? ›

Selye noted that a person who is subjected to prolonged stress goes through three phases: Alarm Reaction, Stage of Resistance and Exhaustion. He termed this set of responses as the General Adaptation Syndrome (GAS).

What are the 3 types of stress list and explain what they do? ›

According to the American Psychological Association, the three types of stress — acute stress, episodic acute stress, and chronic stress — can all make us feel out of sorts or even ill, but chronic stress is often ignored.

What is the 3 3 3 rule for anxiety? ›

Look around you and name three things you see. Then, name three sounds you hear. Finally, move three parts of your body — your ankle, fingers, or arm. Whenever you feel your brain going 100 miles per hour, this mental trick can help center your mind, bringing you back to the present moment, Chansky says.

What are the 10 ways you can avoid or prevent stress? ›

10 Tips to Manage Stress
  • Exercise.
  • Relax Your Muscles.
  • Deep Breathing.
  • Eat Well.
  • Slow Down.
  • Take a Break.
  • Make Time for Hobbies.
  • Talk About Your Problems.
Apr 29, 2023

What are 6 strategies to reduce or avoid stress? ›

Eat a well-balanced diet, get enough sleep, and exercise on a regular basis. Engage in self-relaxation. Try muscle relaxation, breathing or meditation exercises, prayer, yoga, or swimming to reduce stress. Spend time with nature or listen to quiet music.

What are 6 ways to reduce stress? ›

Ways to Reduce Stress
  • Take Short Breaks. If your work environment or your home life is the cause of your stress, take breaks. ...
  • Exercise Regularly. ...
  • Get Enough Sleep. ...
  • Eat Healthy. ...
  • Make Time for Yourself. ...
  • Don't Be Afraid to Seek Medical Care.
Jul 10, 2014

What are 12 healthy ways to deal with stress? ›

Stress relievers: Tips to tame stress
  • Get active. Virtually any form of physical activity can act as a stress reliever. ...
  • Eat a healthy diet. Eating a healthy diet is an important part of taking care of yourself. ...
  • Meditate. ...
  • Laugh more. ...
  • Connect with others. ...
  • Assert yourself. ...
  • Try yoga. ...
  • Get enough sleep.

How to calm yourself down? ›

Relaxing and calming exercises
  1. Take a break. Focus on your breathing. Listen to music.
  2. Spend some time in nature. Try active relaxation. Think of somewhere else.
  3. Try guided meditation. Get creative.

Why can't I handle stress? ›

Stress intolerance can occur when the body starts to struggle to manage even small sources of stress, causing a cycle of stress and decline as this problem compounds. This can be a very dangerous situation, particularly as AFS progresses and stress intolerance symptoms start to set in.

Why do I get stressed so easily? ›

Mental health conditions, such as depression, or a building sense of frustration, injustice, and anxiety can make some people feel stressed more easily than others. Previous experiences may affect how a person reacts to stressors. Common major life events that can trigger stress include: job issues or retirement.

What are the 15 ways to cope with stress? ›

Here are 15 evidence-based ways to relieve stress.
  • Get more physical activity. ...
  • Follow a healthy diet. ...
  • Minimize phone use and screen time. ...
  • Consider supplements. ...
  • Practice self-care. ...
  • Reduce your caffeine intake. ...
  • Spend time with friends and family. ...
  • Create boundaries and learn to say no.
Jan 20, 2022

What are the first 5 steps to managing stress? ›

5-step guide to managing stress
  1. Step 1: Identify whether you are stressed.
  2. Step 2: Identify your stressor.
  3. Step 3: Identify the reason for stressor.
  4. Step 4: Identify and apply an appropriate stress management strategy.
  5. Step 5: Evaluate.

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