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Managing Stress

Tips for Stress Reduction

  1. Take a deep breath. Stress often causes us to breathe in a shallow manner. Scan your body for physical tension. Try—for a moment—to slow down and breathe deeply and slowly. Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth. Count slowly as you exhale.
  2. Manage your time. Plan ahead. Make a reasonable schedule for yourself with time built in between classes, appointments, or tasks. If you have a list, do the easy things first. Running from appointment to appointment is more about doing than being. Give yourself more time to simply be.
  3. Connect with others. Being by yourself is fine, but being lonely is different and often causes restlessness, tension, and stress. Seek out activities with others (friends, volunteer organizations, social or activity groups, religious groups). Having even one good friend can relieve a great deal of your stress.
  4. Talk. When you feel something, try to express it. Bottled up emotions create physical tension—the “knot in your stomach,” nausea, butterflies, muscle aches. Talking (or writing) also helps to relieve confusion about what it is that you feel, and why you feel that way.
  5. Practice imagery. If even for a moment or two, consider daydreaming—perhaps imagining a quiet, peaceful, or comforting scene from your life. Sometimes you can not escape from a stressful situation, but you can escape mentally for a few moments, a tool that can relieve some of the physical symptoms of stress.
  6. Monitor your physical comfort. Wear comfortable clothing, sit in comfortable chairs. Be aware of your body—your body provides you with valuable clues to your levels of psychological stress or distress.
  7. Be physical. Exercise, walk, run, swim. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Again, we experience stress physically—as muscle tension, nausea, aches, etc.—and a healthy body will cope with stress better than a weak, sedentary body. Do not let stress accumulate in your body.
  8. Take care of your body. Eat healthy, balanced meals. Avoid sugar and caffeine. If you drink, use alcohol in moderation. Avoid tobacco and other drugs. Get the rest your body needs to feel energized in the morning. Take a short nap, if necessary.
  9. Laugh.
  10. Set some limits for yourself, and stick to them. We feel stressed when things seem out of our control, or when the demands on our time overwhelm us. Learn how to say “no,” and to feel okay about it. Learn how to be more assertive—if you want or need something, push yourself to ask for it. Sometimes, taking a small risk has a huge payoff. Learn how to control who and what surrounds you.
  11. Look for the good in situations. It is easy to think negatively or critically, and our thoughts directly affect our feelings, often in ways that stress us out. Try to find the good in yourself, in others, and in life’s small gifts.
  12. Look for and deal with emotional baggage or unresolved conflicts from your past. If you are upset with a parent or co-worker, consider approaching them to honestly express your feelings. Consider forgiveness. Consider acceptance.
  13. Get organized. Chaos breeds stress (for most of us). Find a system that works for you—a daytimer, PDA, sticky notes. Organize your schedule, and organize your life. Hold onto things that have either a functional or sentimental value. If it does not fall into one of these categories, you probably do not need it.
  14. Seek balance—life at the extremes is stressful. While some of us thrive in the intensity that occurs at life’s extremes, we tend to do so periodically. In truth, comfort tends to occur in the middle.
  15. Recognize that stress tends to be cyclical, especially for college students. We tend to feel most stressed during midterms and finals. Plan ahead—if you know you will be facing a stressful situation, take steps to relieve other stressors that are likely to occur around the same time (for example, complete other assignments ahead of time if you know you will be having a difficult exam in a month).
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