Lesson 3 What strategies can you use to manage stress

  • Strategies for reducing stress are often called coping strategies. Coping strategies are any planned approaches that you choose in response to your own needs and the situation at hand.
  • Consider how you can create a coping strategies “tool box” to help you manage stress. This tool box is any real or virtual collection of strategies that you have in place or want to try.
  • What works to relieve stress for someone else may not work for you. Choose strategies that work best for you.
  • Recognizing and Changing Unhelpful Thinking can be useful in reducing stress. Recognizing an unhelpful thought-behavior-emotion cycle is the first step toward making positive changes.
  • Take a break. Allow yourself 20 minutes to step away from the stressor and do something else to take care of yourself. Even mini breaks are helpful. Stand up. Stretch. Look away from your computer or phone.
  • Choose healthy responses. Exercise. Eat a nourishing diet. Get ample sleep. Avoid responding to stress with food, alcohol, or other unhealthy choices. Try yoga or meditation. Sleep. Make time for your favorite activities.
  • Smile and laugh to relieve the tension in your face and body.
  • Get social support. Talk with or exchange messages with a friend or someone you trust and who helps you feel validated and understood.
  • Learn how to relax. Develop and practice skills to help you relax, such as meditation, deep breathing, and mindfulness.
  • Track your stressors. Try journaling for a week about your stressors, thoughts, and feelings. Reflect on your notes to find patterns that you can address.
  • Establish work-life boundaries. Set limits for your availability, e.g., work email and phone calls. Recharge and replenish. Take time to focus on non-work activities.
  • Explore ways to manage identified stressors. Solutions might be oriented toward learning new skills (e.g., professional development on time management), the environment and volunteering.

Reflection exercise 2: My Wellness Wheel

This wellness wheel exercise can help you better reflect on your overall wellness and how you cope with stress.

Objective: You should aim to have a well-balanced wheel, so it rolls smoothly.

  • Financial (e.g., Balance present-day spending with saving for the, prepare for short-term and long-term needs, set realistic financial goals, take steps to live within my means and feel in control of my finances).
  • Physical (e.g., I am generally free from illness, eat a balanced, nutritious diet, get adequate sleep and regular exercise, minimize risky behaviors such as alcohol and tobacco consumption).
  • Social/Family (e.g., I am able to deal with or resolve conflicts in my relationships, am aware of and able to set my own boundaries and respect other’s boundaries, have a sense of belonging and am not isolated, have satisfying connections and interactions with others, have supportive social networks).
  • Emotional (e.g., I am able to adapt to change, I am able to comfort or console myself when I am troubled, I am able to feel and label my feelings and express my feelings appropriately, know when to ask for help and am able to ask for help).
  • Spiritual (e.g., I am able to trust and forgive others and myself , express compassion toward others, have a general sense of serenity, have a sense of meaning and purpose in my life, practice gratitude and self-reflection).
  • Intellectual (e.g., I am able to think critically, reason objectively, and make responsible, commit time and energy to professional and self-development, have positive thoughts (a low degree of negativity and cynicism), have specific intellectual goals and participate in mentally stimulating and creative activities).


  • Starting at the center of the wheel, color in each section the percentage of your level of wellness. For example, if you feel you are 50 percent well in the physical dimension, start in the center and color out to the “50 percent” line in the physical section on the wheel. If you feel you are 100 percent well in the physical dimension, color in that whole section.
  • Once you’ve assessed your wellness in each section, draw a circle around the outer edge of the colored areas. This will create a new outer edge for your wheel. How round is it? Which sections have the most color? Which sections have the least color?

Remember: each person is unique. There is no “right” or “wrong” wheel. Use your wheel as a source of feedback to help you understand your life’s balance—to appreciate what in your life contributes to your wellness and to identify and set goals for dimensions you’d like to strengthen.

Remember: Your wellness wheel is a snapshot in time. Periodically review and update your wheel to maximize the tool’s usefulness.

Source: This exercise is taken from https://childcareta.acf.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/public/training_guide_ccsubsidystaff_09_0.pdf (National Center on Parent, Family, and Community Engagement)