Ways of Managing Stress

Learning Outcomes

  • List healthy ways of managing stress that fit your current lifestyle

As mentioned previously, sometimes stress can be good. Kelly McGonigal, a health psychologist and author of The Upside of Stress, shows that how we perceive stress can affect its impact on us. She believes we can reevaluate stress and see it as a sign of personal progress. Creating personal meaning about stress can help us to cope with it more effectively. Watch McGonigal discuss how to turn stress into an advantage. She concludes by stating, “A meaningful life is also a stressful life. . . . Something you care about is at stake. . . . Trust that you can handle the challenge.”

Some of the best ways for managing stress are by taking care of yourself in the following ways:

  • Avoid drugs and alcohol. They may seem like temporary fix to feel better, but in the long run they can create more problems and add to your stress instead of taking it away.
  • Manage your time. Work on prioritizing and scheduling your commitments. This management will help you feel in better control of your life, which, in turn, will mean less stress.
  • Find support. Seek help from a friend, family member, partner, counselor, doctor, or clergy person. Having a sympathetic listening ear and talking about your problems and stress really can lighten the burden.
  • Connect socially. When you feel stressed, it’s easy to isolate yourself. Try to resist the impulse to isolate and stay connected. Make time to enjoy being with classmates, friends, and family; try to schedule study breaks that you can take with other people.
  • Slow down and cut out distractions for a while. Take a break from your phone, email, and social media.
  • Take care of your health.
    • Eat a healthy, well-balanced diet.
    • Exercise regularly.
    • Get plenty of sleep.
    • Try a relaxation technique, such as meditation or yoga, or treat yourself to a massage.
    • Maintain a normal routine.

Try It

The following video features a progressive muscle relaxation meditation for you to try. There are many, many other meditations available on YouTube and elsewhere.

You can view the transcript for “Body Scan Meditation” here (opens in new window).

If the self-care techniques listed above aren’t enough and stress is seriously interfering with your studies or life, don’t be afraid to get help. The student health center and college counselors are both good resources.

Student Story: Stress and the Pandemic

This student story was written as part of Lumen’s College Success Student Contributors project. The student stories are written in collaboration with real college students and college graduates to reflect real student experiences.

COVID has definitely put a lot of stress and pressure on me and everybody around me. We’re all suffering from a collective trauma here, and every big eventful thing that comes up in your life just seems so much more amplified. This year I got rejected from grad school and had a long-term relationship end. I’ve gone through some mental health stuff and felt like I couldn’t take care of myself a few times. All these things seemed so much bigger than they probably are. Maintaining the façade of just coming to class every day was hard, I felt like I couldn’t show up to class but I still did it.


This entire year of school was done online due to the pandemic. It was all over Zoom before the vaccines were rolling out. Even now, I wouldn’t want to have study sessions with people in person because of the pandemic. I did thrive more when I was able to study with other people. It breaks up the monotony of only seeing people in class and only being able to talk about class. In study groups, you can have other types of conversations.


When you’re having class remotely, it’s harder to admit to yourself and your professors that you need a mental health day. Just a few weeks ago, I had surgery and I asked for deadline extensions from my professors and they were all very kind about it. For one class, I had to leave ten minutes early for my post-op responsibilities. I told my professor and she ended up being very understanding. It felt good because someone other than me was seeing that I was trying. It was validating and refreshing that I didn’t feel like I had to fake anything because instructors are people, and they have lives outside of class and grading, too. When I received that support from my professor, it was really grounding. I didn’t feel like I was letting anybody down or that I was deficient in any way.