6 Tips for Managing Stress

woman grimaces with headache pain

Stress is a natural part of our daily lives. It can be triggered by any demand, from filing income taxes and commuting to work, to serious life changes such as death, divorce, and illness.

When you face a stressful situation, your pulse quickens, you breathe faster, your muscles tense, and your brain uses more oxygen and increases activity.

In the short term, it can boost your immune system. But if the stress response lasts too long, it can damage your health.

You can’t always avoid the stress in your life, but you can learn to better cope with it. The National Institutes of Health recommends these steps:

  1. Set priorities: Decide what must get done and what can wait, and learn to say no to new tasks if you are overwhelmed.
  2. Stay in touch with people who can provide emotional and other support. Ask for help from friends, family, and community or religious organizations to reduce stress due to work responsibilities or family issues, such as caring for a loved one.
  3. Take time to do relaxing activities you enjoy, such as reading, yoga, or gardening.
  4. Avoid dwelling on problems. Focus on what you have accomplished, not what you have been unable to do.
  5. Exercise regularly. Just 30 minutes per day of moderate walking can help boost mood and reduce stress.
  6. If you feel like you are using drugs or alcohol to cope, or are having suicidal thoughts, see a mental health professional.

Keeping Well in Mind, Body, and Spirit

If you’re a cancer survivor or caregiver, take a free American Cancer Society I Can Cope® class and learn practical tips about keeping well in mind, body, and spirit.

The American Cancer Society medical and editorial content team
Our team is made up of doctors and master’s-prepared nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as journalists, editors, and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.


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