Stress management tips

What is stress and how can you recognise your stressors? We take a look at this and offer some stress management advice and tips.

stress relief

Stress is the emotional and physical strain caused by our response to pressure from our reality

The key to managing stress

Whether it’s from an outside source or caused by our own behaviour or attitude, the key to managing stress is about gaining clarity on your stressors, and applying techniques (like the ones in this article) to your life. Managing the stress in your life takes commitment and the capacity and willingness to change. 

Our bodies have an amazing ability to respond very quickly to stressors, which is known as the ‘fight or flight’ response. This ‘fight or flight’ response worked well for us when our stressors were more urgent/life-threatening (running away from an animal etc.) but nowadays our stressors tend to be chronic/ongoing (money worries, looking after loved ones, work pressures).

Chronic stimulation can lead to tension, irritability, inability to concentrate, and a variety of physical symptoms that include headaches and a fast heartbeat. Therefore, we need to actively promote our relaxation.

You can read more about our ‘fight or flight’ response in this article – Fight or Flight versus Rest and Digest.

Take charge

It’s almost impossible to live without some stress and most of us probably wouldn’t want to, because it gives life some spice and excitement. But if stress gets out of control, it may harm your health, your relationships, and your enjoyment of life.

Managing stress is all about taking responsibility: make note of your thoughts, your emotions, your schedule, your environment, and the way you deal with problems. The ultimate goal is a balanced life, with time for work, relationships, relaxation and fun – plus the resilience to hold up under pressure and meet challenges head-on.

Steps to managing your stress

Find out what your personal stressors are

Look at your daily routine with an objective and subjective point of view. Your true sources of stress aren’t always obvious, and it’s all too easy to overlook your own stress-inducing thoughts, feelings, and behaviours.

Apply the 4 A’s of stress management

Apply these 4 rules to the stressors you have identified in your life

The four A’s of stress management

  1. Avoid the stressor
  2. Alter the stressor
  3. Adapt to the stressor
  4. Accept the stressor

1. Avoid unnecessary stress

Not all stress can be avoided, and it’s not healthy to avoid a situation that needs to be addressed. You may be surprised, however, by the number of stressors in your life that you can eliminate.

2. Alter the situation

If you can’t avoid a stressful situation, try to alter it. Figure out what you can do to change things so the problem doesn’t present itself in the future. 

3. Adapt to the stressor

If you can’t change the stressor, change yourself. You can adapt to stressful situations and regain your sense of control by changing your expectations and attitude.

If you can’t change the stressor, change yourself. You can adapt to stressful situations and regain your sense of control by changing your expectations and attitude.

Try to view stressful situations from a more positive perspective. Rather than fuming about a traffic jam, look at it as an opportunity to pause and regroup, listen to your favorite radio station, or enjoy some alone time.

How you think can have a profound effect on your emotional and physical well-being. Each time you think a negative thought about yourself, your body reacts as if it were in the throes of a tension-filled situation. If you see good things about yourself, you are more likely to feel good; the reverse is also true. Eliminate words such as “always,” “never,” “should,” and “must.” These are telltale marks of self-defeating thoughts.

4. Accept the things you can’t change

Some sources of stress are unavoidable. You can’t prevent or change stressors such as the death of a loved one, a serious illness, or a national recession. In such cases, the best way to cope with stress is to accept things as they are. Acceptance may be difficult, but in the long run, it’s easier than railing against a situation you can’t change. Many things in life are beyond our control – particularly the behaviour of other people. Rather than stressing about them, focus on the things you can control such as the way you choose to react to problems. As the saying goes, “What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger.” When facing major challenges, try to look at them as opportunities for personal growth.

How do you currently cope with stress?


We all have behavioural, emotional and physical habits that we adopt when we deal with stress. Be honest with yourself and pay attention to your own behaviour. What is your attitude to your workload? Do you feel that you constantly have deadlines and worries at work no matter what you do? Even if you have a heavy workload, it’s your attitude that makes it manageable. 

Bad habits

We all have bad habits that we use to ‘cope’ with stress. For example, drinking, smoking over/under eating, watching too much TV, using pills or drugs to relax, isolating yourself and procrastination.
The way we approach our stressors can dramatically change our mental and physical health.                         

TIP: Keep a stress journal. As soon as you notice that you are getting stressed write it down and try and figure out exactly how you are reacting and what was the cause.

Find alternative, healthy coping methods

If your methods of coping with stress aren’t contributing to your greater emotional and physical health, it’s time to find healthier ones. Take an active role in your physical, mental and emotional health. Take up a healthy activity, improve your diet, go for a massage, practise yoga, talk to somebody, and get enough sleep! There are many healthy ways to manage and cope with stress, but they all require change. We all know that breaking bad habits and keeping good ones is a challenge but reducing stress in your life will lead to a longer, healthier and happier life.

De-stress yourself with yoga

Try our stress-reduction yoga classes

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Myrthe WielerMyrthe has been a massage therapist for almost two decades. Staying informed with new knowledge about movement anatomy and how it integrates with the different systems of the body and mind remains a passion. Myrthe is an ITEC qualified holistic therapist and an ITEC qualified lecturer in Anatomy and Physiology and massage therapy.