The Do’s and Don’ts of Stress Management

The Do’s and Don’ts of Stress Management

by William Pekrul for

In a seemingly perfect world, we would all lead completely blissful, happy-go-lucky, stress-free lives.  There would be no bills to pay, no personal conflicts, and no professional worries to interfere with our personal happiness.  However, the vast majority of us don’t live in such a fairytale world.  We encounter stressful situations of various types and involving a variety of people.  Knowing how to deal with these situations will do much to change a stressful day into a happy day.  In honor of the stressed people in our lives, which pretty much includes all of us at some time or another, here are a few insights which may help you learn how to cope with stress and lead a happier life.

What To Do

Studies show the following behaviors are positively associated with optimistic individuals and good stress management.

  • Cope with stressful situations in a problem-focused manner.
    • Make a plan of action and follow it.  (Organize and prioritize your tasks and desired outcomes.)
    • Take action quickly before things get out of hand.  (Don’t procrastinate!)
  • Practice positive reinterpretation.
    • Use the stressor as an opportunity to change or grow as a person in a new way. (Think of how accomplished you will feel once you tackle Problem XYZ!  You’ll be a Problem XYZ expert!)
    • Find new faith or some important truth about life.  (You really CAN do anything you set your mind to.)
  • Seek social support
    • Talk to someone about how you are feeling.  (Even if all they can offer is comfort and an “I’m sorry that happened to you.”)
    • Ask someone you respect for advice and follow it.  (Sometimes your parent/teacher/co-worker/friend actually DOES know what they’re talking about.)

What NOT to do.

The following behaviors are associated with pessimism and poor stress management.

  • Don’t blame yourself.
    • Don’t accuse yourself that you brought about this situation.  (It doesn’t matter how you got into the situation, only how you will get OUT of it.)
  • Don’t deny or distance yourself from the situation.
    • Don’t refuse to believe that the stressful situation occurred, or try to forget the situation.  (Ignoring reality will likely lead to additional stressful situations.)
  • Don’t escape through fantasy.
    • Don’t daydream about unrealistic outcomes.  (Of all the people you personally know who have played the lottery, how many have become multi-millionaires because of it?  None.)

Hopefully, these points can help you identify helpful and not-so-helpful practices, which can support you in achieving better outcomes when you encounter stressful situations.  Research in this area has shown that a person’s relative optimism or pessimism plays a role in coping, even showing that optimists tend to do better than pessimists when faced with stressful occurrences.  Specifically, research suggests that the different outcomes which optimists and pessimists experience are a function of the strategies they use to deal with stressful encounters.  Optimists tend to do better because they use strategies that are more likely to pay off.  So, try some of these strategies for yourself and see if they “pay off” by helping you achieve a happier life!

Would you like to educate yourself with more in-depth reading of the ideas discussed here? Please see the following.


Scheier, M. F., Weintraub, J. K., and Carver, C. S. (1986), “Coping With Stress: Divergent Strategies of Optimists and Pessimists,” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 51 (6), 1257-1264.


Perspectives on Personality by Charles Carver and Michael Scheier

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On the Self-Regulation of Behavior by Charles Carver and Michael Scheier

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