Coping With Stress

Are you stressed out?

  • Do you easily get frustrated?
  • Are your muscles always tense?
  • Does your jaw feel tight and ache?
  • Do you find yourself not having enough time?
  • Do you feel tired and worn out?
  • Have you had an increase in physical illness?
  • Do you have trouble sleeping?
  • Do you have trouble remembering things?
  • Do you feel tense, anxious or uptight?
  • Do you worry about things too much?
  • Do you rely on drugs or alcohol to cope?
  • Are you concerned about getting burnout?

Stress can come from minor hassles (daily annoyances, traffic jams, missed rides, lost car keys) or major changes (births, deaths, promotions, layoffs, marriage, divorce). Stress is a normal part of life, but too much stress can be harmful to you. If you answered yes to some of the questions above, you may want to work on learning ways to control your stress--so your stress does not continue to control you.


  1. Stress is neutral--the key is the individual's reaction, not the event. If one feels threatened, not in control, then that situation is perceived as stressful.
  2. There are many ways to manage stress. The key is to find what works for you.

Make a commitment to change.

  1. Identify the stressor by assessment or daily log.
  2. Get rid of it, change it, avoid needless stress, if possible.
  3. Alter your perception of it--don't sweat the small stuff.
  4. Learn skills to manage stress effectively.

3. Some methods of managing stress:

Relaxation Techniques: Breathing awareness.
Progressive muscle relaxation.

Instant Relaxation: Take a deep breath and hold for 5 seconds.
Exhale slowly and tell all your muscles to relax.
Imagine a pleasant thought or scene, e.g., the seashore or the mountains.

Behavior Drills: Once a stressor is identified, prepare a behavior drill for when it occurs.

Cognitive Restructuring: Refuting irrational belief.
Using affirmations and positive self-talk.

Self-care for College Students

Communicate with yourself: Avoid cognitive distortions--automatic negative thoughts that lead to stress. Replace negative messages with positive messages and affirmation. Talk to yourself as you would a cherished friend.

Communicate with others: Use a way that is honest, clear, and caring. Find a support group. Join a campus organization. Examine your relationships. Ask yourself, "Does this relationship promote my mental, physical, or spiritual health?" If the answer is no, then learn to let go.

Humor/laughter/play: A sense of humor keeps things in perspective and works as an antidote to drudgery, depression, and conflict. Look for positive humor in your life experiences and seek out other people you can laugh with. Do something you enjoy every day to help improve your attitude.

Exercise and eat right: Exercise releases tension, relaxes, lifts spirits, and increases energy. It helps the body to burn up the excess adrenalin produced in response to stress. Avoid caffeine, nicotine, alcohol, and drugs. Eat healthy foods and drink plenty of water.

Sleep: Try to get your required amount of sleep. Get up at the same time every day. Sleeping in confuses the body clock. Establish relaxing bedtime rituals.

Time management: Set objectives and prioritize them. Concentrate on what is important to you, set aside the less important issues. Take on no more than you can handle. Be willing to assertively say "no." Don't waste time on trivial matters.

Examine life goals: Decide where you are going and set reachable goals. Work on quality rather than quantity and "being" rather than "having." Reward yourself.

Utilize campus resources: Most campuses have a place to exercise, organizations to join, and a place to get personal counseling, career advice, or academic help. You can find these resources on your campus webpage. Take advantage of these services--your tuition helps pay for them!

Ideas for Self-nurturing Activities

  1. Enjoy a bubble bath.
  2. Go for a walk.
  3. Share a hug with a loved one.
  4. Relax outside.
  5. Exercise.
  6. Pray or meditate.
  7. Attend a caring support group.
  8. Listen to music.
  9. Daydream.
  10. Do "stretching" exercises.
  11. Reflect on positive qualities: "I am . . . "
  12. Watch the sunrise or sunset.
  13. Laugh.
  14. Practice yoga.
  15. Dance.
  16. Create a collage representing "The Real Me."
  17. Receive a message.
  18. Reflect on: "I appreciate . . . "
  19. Write thoughts and feelings in a personal journal.
  20. Attend a favorite athletic event.
  21. Do something adventurous.
  22. Star gaze.
  23. Swing, slide, or teeter totter.
  24. Play a musical instrument.
  25. Work with plants (gardening).
  26. Learn a new skill.
  27. See a special play or movie.
  28. Work out with weights.
  29. Ride a bike or motorcycle.
  30. Make a nutritious meal.
  31. Draw or paint a picture.
  32. Play like a child.
  33. Swim, float, or wade in a pool.
  34. Take time to smell the roses (and other flowers).
  35. Relax on a beach.
  36. Do aerobics.
  37. Visit a special place.
  38. Reflect on: "What I value most in life."
  39. Visit a museum art gallery.
  40. Concentrate on a relaxing scene.
  41. Enjoy a cool, refreshing glass of water or fruit juice.
  42. Enjoy the beauty of nature.
  43. Count blessings: "I am thankful for . . . "
  44. Sing, hum, or whistle a happy tune.
  45. Read a special book or magazine.
  46. "Window shop."
  47. Practice diaphragmatic breathing.
  48. Tell yourself the loving words you want to hear from others.
  49. Attend a special workshop.
  50. Go sailing or paddle boating.
  51. Take a vacation.
  52. Create with clay.
  53. Practice positive affirmations.
  54. Pet an animal.
  55. Watch a favorite TV show.
  56. Reflect on successes: "I can . . . "
  57. Write a poem.
  58. Make a bouquet of flowers.
  59. RELAX: Watch the clouds.
  60. Make yourself something nice.
  61. Visit a park.
  62. Read positive motivational literature.
  63. Smile and say: "I love myself."
  64. Phone a special friend.
  65. Go horseback riding.
  66. Go on a picnic in a beautiful setting.
  67. Enjoy a cup of herbal tea.
  68. Participate in a favorite sport.
  69. Practice a relaxation exercise (or listen to a relaxation tape).
  70. Reflect on: "My most enjoyable memories."
  71. East a nutritious meal at a favorite restaurant or cafe'.
  72. Participate in a hobby.
  73. Imagine achieving goals and dreams.
  74. Create your own unique list of "self-nurturing" activities.

If you want to learn these and other stress management techniques, you can sign-up for the Stress and Anxiety Management Group. This experiential group meets weekly each semester for six, 60-minute sessions. It is one of many groups that are offered at the University Counseling Center each semester. For more information, call (936) 294-1720.

Sam Houston Counseling Center

1608 Avenue J., Box 209  | Huntsville, TX 77341-2059  | Phone: 936.294.1720 | Fax: 936.294.2639