7 Tips On How To Handle Stressful Situations

Medically reviewed by Andrea Brant, LMHC
Updated November 27, 2023by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Between our careers, relationships, and personal lives, we all encounter stress in a variety of areas of life—and for a variety of reasons. Some of these situations may be small, while others can be life-changing. Either way, they can be challenging to navigate and affect our well-being. According to the American Psychological Association, stress can be detrimental to our physical health in numerous ways, affecting the cardiovascular, endocrine, respiratory, and gastrointestinal systems. However, there are numerous ways to handle stress skillfully and mitigate the mental and physical effects of stress. 

In this article, we’ll cover stress management and discuss seven tips for alleviating stress in demanding situations.

The Importance Of Stress Management

Want To Better Manage Stress?

Stress can be a normal, even healthy reaction in some situations. Scientists believe our ancestors developed a stress response as a mechanism of survival in moments of danger. It can motivate us, excite us, and help us safeguard ourselves against danger. However, excessive stress can negatively affect both your physical and your mental health. Some of the signs of stress in your life could include:

  • Irritability and lack of patience
  • Muscle tension
  • Headaches
  • Change in appetite
  • Difficulty sleeping and fatigue
  • Digestive trouble
  • Feeling overwhelmed

Experiencing these and other signs of stress may indicate the need for effective stress management strategies.

What Are Stressful Situations?

Stressful situations may look different for each person. You may experience stress over life-changing events or over small, everyday problems that add up over time.

Major situations that could cause stress in your life could include things like:

  • Losing a loved one
  • Moving to a new area
  • Changing jobs
  • Getting divorced
  • Declaring bankruptcy

Although the above-mentioned life changes can produce significant stress, everyday stressors can also cause symptoms, particularly when they’re experienced chronically. Some chronic causes of stress may include:

  • Living paycheck to paycheck
  • Experiencing minor but chronic health concerns
  • Having an over-booked schedule
  • Working long hours
  • Fighting with a spouse or significant other

There are myriad other scenarios that may lead to stress, but there are evidence-based strategies that may help with your specific stressors.  The following are seven tips to handle stressful situations:


7 Tips For Coping With Stressful Situations

1. Evaluate The Situation

One of the first things that you may find helpful when facing something stressful is pausing to assess the seriousness of the situation. Stress can sometimes cause us to have a skewed perspective, often making the task, confrontation, or other stressful event seem more complicated than it is. This is not to diminish the presence of traumatic situations, but sometimes our perception may become temporarily altered and lead us to catastrophize. For this reason, it may be helpful to spend time looking at the situation objectively to identify what’s happening. 

You may also find it helpful to talk to people whom you trust to gain some outside perspective on the situation. They may be able to help you see things that you’re missing, such as possible solutions or an alternative way of viewing the problem. In addition to loved ones, a therapist may be able to provide insight into your concerns and help you reframe your thought processes in a way that limits stress in the moment.

2. Learn To Identify Your Feelings

It can be easy to go about a busy day without taking time to identify your feelings. However, learning how to detect and label your emotions may be an important first step in addressing stressful situations. Identifying and naming your emotions may help reduce their negative effects. Once you recognize the emotions you’re experiencing in a stressful situation, you may find that you can address them and move on so that they don’t hinder you without you realizing it.

3. Practice Positivity

Stress can sometimes cause us to view things—such as a given situation and even ourselves—in a negative light. According to the Mayo Clinic, positive thinking may help us manage these stressful moments. It may be natural to feel anger, sadness, and other negative emotions during a stressful situation. However, focusing on the negative can prevent you from finding solutions to the problem at hand or doing things that may alleviate stress.

To practice positivity, it may help to first identify how negative thoughts may appear in your life. There are various types of negative thinking, including catastrophizing, polarizing, filtering out positive thoughts, and blaming yourself.

If you can identify and replace negative thought patterns, you may find that you’re better equipped to navigate stressful moments in life.

5. Be Proactive

Stressful situations can often occur when we find ourselves behind on a task or unprepared for an event. We can feel especially tense and worried when we haven’t planned for a stressful situation. If you often find yourself overwhelmed, you might consider examining the ways you organize your time and prepare for the future. 

There are many productivity tools available, such as online calendars, to-do lists, and productivity apps, that may help you be proactive and complete more tasks. While there may be many situations that are out of your control, taking steps to get ahead of your obligations may have a significant impact on your stress levels.

6. Remember To Care For Yourself

During stressful times, practicing self-care can be particularly important. When you’re short on time or overwhelmed, you may not feel like eating, exercising, or spending time with friends, but these activities may improve your physical and emotional well-being.

Research shows that many self-care activities can lead to reductions in stress. For example, the results of one study suggest that meditation can decrease stress levels in college students. Other practices, such as yoga, a regular sleep schedule, a balanced diet, and exercise, have been linked to lower stress as well. You might consider developing a well-rounded self-care routine with several components, which may help you address several dimensions of wellness.

7. Reach Out For Support

Stressful situations may be easier to handle when you have people who can provide you with care and guidance. Your support network could consist of friends and family, a spiritual leader, a career mentor, or another person you trust. You may also consider participating in a support group made up of people who have gone through similar situations to what you’re experiencing.

If you’d like further support during this time, talking with a licensed mental health professional may be helpful. A qualified therapist may be able to help you identify sources of stress and give you tips for managing it when it arises. 

Getty/Vadym Pastukh
Want To Better Manage Stress?

Navigating Stressful Times With Therapy

If your stress makes it difficult to leave the house for traditional in-office therapy, you might try online therapy. Numerous studies point to online therapy as an effective method of managing stress. In a study on the efficacy of online cognitive behavioral therapy for stress, researchers found that treatment improved the mental health and well-being of the participants, who all fit the criteria for a stress-related adjustment disorder. Cognitive behavioral therapy is a widely utilized method that aims to help individuals identify and replace negative thought patterns that may be underlying maladaptive behaviors, such as those that may lead to or worsen stress.

With online therapy, you can connect with a licensed therapist from the comfort of your home or anywhere you have an internet connection, which may reduce the stress of having to commute to a therapist’s office. You can communicate with an online therapist via phone, videoconference, live chat, or a combination of these methods.


Stress can affect us in a variety of ways and at many different times in our lives, but with the right tools and knowledge, it can be managed. If you’re facing significant stress, you don’t have to face it alone. It may help to connect with a licensed counselor, whether in your community or online. With BetterHelp, you can be matched with a licensed therapist who has experience helping people overcome stress or whatever other challenges you may be facing. Take the first step toward stress relief and reach out to BetterHelp today.

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