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Managing Stress: A Checklist for Understanding Stressful or Traumatic Situations

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Publication Number: IS2005
View as PDF: IS2005.pdf

 Living Well.

It is possible to reduce the stress in your life. Here are some helpful tips:

  • Acknowledge your stress.
  • Be open to learning new ways of coping.
  • Stay connected.
  • Help others.
  • Develop an attitude of hope.
  • Find meaning in your life experiences.
  • Know your strengths in coping with stress.
    • What skills have you used in the past that you found worked?
    • How can you use these strengths more effectively?
  • Set goals from the “here and now.” Ask:
    • What are my goals (for today, this week, this month, this year)?
    • What are my assets and resources?
    • What are the barriers that keep me from my goals?
    • Should I plan to overcome those barriers, or do I need o tmodify my goals?
  • Engage in deep breathing exercises.
    • Take a short break and just breathe.
    • Breathe deep, filling your lungs.
    • Let the air out slowly.
    • Do this once—get immediate relief.
    • Do this five times—it’s even better.
    • Repeat as necessary—it’s painless.
  • Be physically active.
    • Even if you are tired from a long day, a nice walk for 30 minutes, a bicycle ride, or even a trip to the gym can be surprisingly refreshing.
    • While a planned, scheduled routine is good, even an impulsive “I need to take a walk” can have significant impact.
  • Maintain good sleep hygiene.
    • Set your sleep routine (bedtime and waking).
    • Create an environment that helps you sleep.
      • Dark and quiet space.
      • Comfortable bed.
      • Use the bed for sleeping and sex only.
    • In bed, think about something relaxing.
    • Pay attention to what and when you eat and drink.
    • Watch out for those “naps,” even when you feel sleepy during the day or evening.
    • If you are restless and don’t fall asleep within 20–30 minutes—
      • Get out of bed until you feel sleepy again (usually within 20–60 minutes).
      • Go to another room.
      • Watch TV, read, or write in a journal about how you are feeling.
      • As soon as you feel sleepy again, go to bed.
      • Repeat as necessary.
    • Remember: It may take days or weeks to reestablish your sleep routine once it has been disrupted.
  • Eat a healthy diet.
    • Good nutritional balance will help you cope.
    • Eat regular meals and controlled amounts at regular times.
    • Watch out for snacks and for eating later in the evening (can impact sleep).

Managing Stress Requires Action Now and a Commitment for the Future

  • Skills help most when used routinely (but it can be hard to remember to use the skills).
  • Practicing will help you get better at managing stress.
  • Practicing bad behaviors will cause you to get better at them, too, so avoid them!
  • If you deliberately practice positive skills, you are more likely to remember you have those tools in your toolbox.

Never be ashamed to seek professional help from a licensed counselor, therapist, or psychologist; he or she may be able to help you build or improve on these life skills.

National and State Resources

National Crisis Hotline

1-800-273-TALK (8255)

Mississippi State Health Department

1-866-HLTHY4U (458-4948)

2-1-1 Mississippi Community Resources

Dial 211 from your phone or 866-472-8265

Local Resources


For more information on stress and trauma, see Extension Information Sheet 2004 Managing Stress: A Guide for Understanding Stressful or Traumatic Situations.

Developed in collaboration with

The COHORT, Coalition of Healthcare Organizations for Resiliency Training. Together We Can Make a Difference.



Information Sheet 2005

By David R. Buys, PhD, MSPH, Extension State Health Specialist, Food Science, Nutrition, and Health Promotion; and Katrina Akande, PhD, Assistant Professor, Human Sciences.


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Portrait of Dr. David Buys
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State Health Specialist

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