Health Advocate Blog

Coping during times of extreme stress

Life is full of stressors, big and small, and if not properly managed they can affect you both emotionally and physically. Unfortunately, it is near impossible to get through life without some sort of life-changing or extremely stressful event, such as losing a job, the death of a loved one, or a serious diagnosis. If you often have difficulty handling life’s ups and downs, it is possible to transform your reactions, build up your resiliency, and feel better, too. Try these tips.

Use reason, not reaction, when things go wrong. Step back and look at problems logically. This can help you find a solution and use resources to avoid more problems and frustration.

Retrain your “self-talk.” Statements such as “I can’t do that” or “I’m afraid I’ll fail” can clutter your mind and condition it to expect negative results. Telling yourself that you can handle challenges can help set you up for success. Learn more tips to boost your confidence here.

Learn to identify warning signs of stress. A common sign of holding too much stress can be feeling tightness or soreness around your neck, shoulders and back. Stress can also cause headaches, giving you a pounding sensation around your eyes or temples. Stress can manifest itself in other ways, too, such as diminishing your focus or productivity, or making you feel less calm.

Practice self-care. This includes any activities that you intentionally perform to benefit your physical, mental and emotional well-being. Unsure of where to start? Click here or here.

Avoid overthinking. When stressful situations arise, it is common to spiral into a series of “what-if” scenarios as you try to anticipate possible outcomes. These thoughts can be overwhelming and anxiety-provoking.

Learn to say, “hmmm, that’s interesting.” Things not going exactly as planned? Instead of reacting and letting anxiety or anger take over, learn to just observe what you’re feeling, and “greet your emotions with kindness.” This will help you reconnect more with yourself, and by so doing, may help relieve some of the stress.

If you find that the stress you are experiencing is overwhelming or unmanageable, talk to your doctor or healthcare provider.

Other trusted resources for help include:

  • Visit for information about eating disorders, coping with trauma, depression and more.
  • Turn to for information and resources to prevent or handle bullying.
  • Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) website for help and resources concerning substance abuse and other mental/behavioral health concerns.
  • Joining a mental health support group can also help you with coping strategies and give you an opportunity to feel connected to others who truly understand.
  • If you feel you are in a crisis, whether or not you are thinking about suicide, you can call the Lifeline. People call the Lifeline for help with substance abuse, economic worries, relationship and family problems, sexual orientation issues, illness, abuse, depression, mental and physical illness, and even loneliness.
    • Call 1-800-273-TALK