Author: Skylar Hom

Simple Steps to Manage Stress

What is stress?

Stress is a condition of emotional strain. This can be an everyday occurrence and can happen due to a variety of factors. Stress can present itself in multiple ways with unique effects on us, and is something that we all experience differently. Understanding how stress personally affects you, as well as learning some methods to help identify and manage stress, can help improve your resilience.

What can I do to manage stress?

One popular method to control your stress is known as the four A’s. They are as follows:

  1. Avoid
  2. Alter
  3. Accept
  4. Adapt


Although it may not be your first thought, much of what stresses us out can be avoided altogether. There are a few strategies to do so.

One method is to learn to say no. Many times, we will commit to things that we feel uncomfortable doing. An example of this could be accepting an invitation to one too many events and stretching your availability too thin. We all have a myriad of responsibilities to attend to; choosing to say no to ones that feel like too much is very reasonable.

Many stressful situations can be avoided by taking an active step to control your situation. If close deadlines are a frequent source of stress, it may help to create a plan to prevent such situations from occurring.


When stressful situations cannot be fully avoided, they can sometimes be altered to be less stressful. Firstly, one must identify what is causing the stressful feelings. Once this assessment is complete, then steps can be taken to change the situation and alleviate stress.

Good communication can open necessary dialogue with friends and family. Many stressful situations can occur due to a lack of understanding or a miscommunication — for example, a friend may not know that they are causing stress for you with their actions. By explaining your feelings using “I” statements, measures can be taken to prevent such situations in the future.

Establishing boundaries is also important. If a friend asks you to do something you feel would be embarrassing, discussing why you would not like to do that activity helps prevent stressful situations from recurring in the future. More information on boundaries can be found here.


There are many times when stress becomes unavoidable. In such situations, there may be no choice but to recognize that the stress exists. While certain situations can be manipulated to manage stress, the feeling of stress may still linger. This is natural and normal. The concept of acceptance can be found in therapy approaches such as Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) and Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) to name just a few. Read more about these approaches on our Counseling and Psychotherapy page.

Practicing positivity may help with accepting and coping with stress. When you are feeling stressed, it is often easy to become frustrated and upset. Being mindful of mistakes and forgiving yourself for them will ease these emotions.

Talking to others may also help you come to terms with stressful feelings. Although the situation may be unavoidable, confiding in a loved one may help lighten your mood. They may also have some friendly advice for you and can provide a welcome distraction.


Finally, adapting to cope with stress can help you deal with long term stressors.

Reframing your attitudes can help you feel less frustrated in times of stress. Stressful events are often temporary — it may help to remind yourself that the stressful time will eventually pass.

While stress can be avoided and changed, it is often an aspect of our lives that remains as a constant. There will always be something that adds small stressors to our lives, such as responsibilities we have and commitments we must uphold. When confronted with such situations, it is most important to remember that there are ways to manage stress.


Frandsen, Betty. “The 4 A’s of Stress Management”, AANAC. May 13, 2014.

Need stress relief? Try the 4 A’s”, Mayo Clinic.