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Techniques and strategies can help reduce the stress in your life during difficult times or in traumatic situations.

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 worked for you in the past?
  • How can you use these strengths more effectively?

Set goals from the here and now. Ask yourself the following:

  • 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 to modify 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, an impulsive “I need to take a walk” can have a significant impact.
  • Use free exercise videos on YouTube or with apps.

Maintain good sleep hygiene.

  • Set your sleep routine (bedtime and waking).
  • Create an environment that helps you sleep.
    • Keep the bedroom dark and quiet.
    • Have a comfortable bed.
    • Use the bed for sleep and sex only.
  • In bed, think about something relaxing.
  • Pay attention to what and when you eat and drink.
  • Watch out for naps, even when you feel sleepy during the day or evening.
  • If you are restless and don’t fall asleep within 20 to 30 minutes, try one of the following:
    • Go to another room.
    • Get out of bed until you feel sleepy again (usually within 20 to 60 minutes).
    • 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 re-establish your sleep routine after it has been disrupted.

Eat a healthy diet.

  • Keep a good nutritional balance. It will help you cope.
  • Eat regular meals and controlled amounts at regular times.
  • Watch out for snacks and eating late in the evening, which can affect sleep.

Managing Stress Requires Action Now and a Commitment for the Future

  • Skills help most when used routinely, but you may find it hard to remember to use these skills.
  • Practicing will help you get better at managing your 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 that you have these 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)

Alabama Department of Public Health

(1-800) 252-1818

2-1-1 Connects Alabama

Dial 211 or (1-) 888 421-1266

For more information on stress and trauma, see Alabama Extension’s “Managing Stress: Guide for Understanding Stressful Situations.”


Katrina Akande, Extension Specialist, Assistant Professor, and Joelle Smith, Graduate Student, both in Human Development and Family Studies, Auburn University; and David K. Buys, Extension State Health Specialist, Food Science, Nutrition, and Health Promotion, Mississippi State University

Reviewed December 2021, Managing Stress: Checklist for Handling Stress or Traumatic Situations, FCS-2336

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