Strategy & personal development

How to manage stress

If we think differently about stress we can completely remove the need for managing it at all and no longer rely on tools and techniques in the long term.

What is stress

Stress is a completely normal, healthy physiological reaction to a (real or perceived) threat. Sometimes we react beyond what would be considered appropriate to the situation and this is where it can become a problem.

Acute stress is the term for a short-term experience of high stress levels. This could be the result of a dramatic life situation such as a bereavement, a burglary or moving house.

It lasts for a relatively short time and can be rather intense.

Chronic stress is stress that lasts for a long period of time, is constant or keeps recurring. This could be from a high-stress job, being a carer for someone with ongoing needs, or from unmanaged trauma among other things.

Anything that causes us to feel stressed is known as a stressor. Stressors can be anything that lead us to feel a sense of pressure. Deadlines, physical threats, worrying about the future, financial pressures, all manner of things can lead to a stress response.

The stress response

You’ve probably heard of the ‘Flight or Fight’ response. When we encounter a stressor our body prepares us to respond by releasing so called ‘stress-hormones’ such as adrenalin, cortisol and norepinephrine. These prepare the body to spring in to action to keep us safe from the threat (or perceived threat).

This response is a good thing. It’s exactly what we need to manage the situation. The problem is, this response also happens when the stressor is completely imaginary. Our subconscious doesn’t know the difference between reality and imagination, so this can occur in situations where we have no real benefit from it.

It has also been tough for a long time that stress can have a negative impact on our physical and mental health and wellbeing. Which it can BUT it doesn’t have to.

‘Good stress’

Stress can be a really useful thing. One of the best examples of this for me is tidying the house. If I have all day to do it, it will likely take me all day. If I get a call from someone who’s dropping in to visit in an hour, it feels like I can achieve almost as much in that one hour as would have taken the whole day.

We NEED stressors in our life to get us up and taking action. It’s a form of stress that gets most of us out of bed in the morning but it doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Positive stress is also known as eustress (think euphoria) and it’s been recognised as a beneficial thing for a long time.

You can’t manage stress

If stress is a natural response to a stressor then there are two ways to manage stress.

One is to remove all stressors. If there is nothing to encourage stress then you can avoid the stress response completely. This is, of course not really possible. In fact by trying to remove all things that cause stress you are likely to end up more stressed. There are so many things that you can’t control in life. Accepting those things for what they are allows you to refocus on what IS in your control. Attempting to control what you can’t change will ultimately cause you a great deal more stress as you create additional and unnecessary pressure for yourself.

The other way would be to not have any response to stressors. It is a natural human response that is ‘hard-wired’ into us. It’s there for a reason and it keeps us safe. It’s not possible to completely switch off our stress response and neither would we want it to be. Deciding to try and stop that response would also cause more stress. I see this happen a lot with clients struggling with anxiety. Trying to surprise and ignore a natural response causes a much greater reaction which is harder to manage and even more stressful.

However – we CAN choose how we react to that response. We can change how we think about it. In doing so, we can change the results and the outcome of those stressors.

So, it’s not about managing stress. It’s out managing ourselves and our responses to the stress.

Short-term stress shifts

There is actually no need to manage stress but there are many benefits to be gained from managing our response to it. Too many different stressors, too much impact from the stressors and habits built up over time can all make it harder to follow the new way of thinking about stress below. To make it easier, I’ll share with you some tools you can use to adjust your response to the stressors around you and make it easier for you to embrace the final part of this blog.


Stress encourages us to hold more tension in our bodies and in our minds. Breathing (slowly, calmly and deeply) encourages us to realise the tension. The hormones produced when we stop and breathe deeply negate some of the effects of the stress hormones. A Few deep breaths can change everything – it also gives us time to remember the new way of thinking that I keep referring to.

Put it down

If I asked you to hold something heavy with your arm out stretched you probably could but it wouldn’t take long for your arm to start to ache. If I got someone weaker than you to do the same but they were allowed to rest any time they wanted, shake their arm out and pick the weight back up. Who could hold it longest?

Carrying weight is fine in short bursts but when we stop and rest we are able to keep going for longer than if we just push through. It’s the same with stress. Taking regular moments to rest will make it easier for us to keep reacting positively and will give us time to remember the new way of thinking about stress.

Hang it up

When you come home from work, imagine you are hanging up your stress from work on a hook outside the door. Bonus points if you make a physical movement to support this (the body and brain connection will help). The act of physically and mentally ‘hanging up’ the stress of the day will leave you ready to enter ‘Home mode’ and leave ‘work mode’ behind you.

This works in other situations too and it’s up to you to make it your own. It’s really all about creating separation so that the stressors of one area of your life don’t spill over and impact the other areas of your life. It really is a choice and you can do it that simply.

Originally posted 2022-09-06 14:47:25.

Duncan Price
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Duncan Price

The mind is an amazing thing and as humans we can be really creative in finding new ways to use it to hold ourselves back. Through Mind Affinity, Duncan helps people to empower themselves by accepting and understanding their own mind better and using that very same power to achieve more and feel better. Duncan has spent over fifteen years working with people to turn their challenges into the very thing that moves them forward without the need to fight constantly against themselves to get there. Specialising in confidence, anxiety and sleep, Duncan isn’t here to help you, he’s here to empower you to help yourself.

How to manage stress

by Duncan Price Time to read: 4 min