Making Stress Work for You

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The negative effects of stress in our society can be very severe (mental illness, major medical illness). Stress can also have a terrible impact on our quality of life. Stress relates to our ability to change. Stress can also help us to grow, to achieve, to develop courage, and strengthen us. Every problem can help us reach our true potential – great people we were meant to be. It’s important to learn where your stress comes from and identify ways to turn negative stress into positive stress.

The Stress Cycle


1. Stressor – the initiating or maintaing of a stress response – neither positive or negative in nature.

  • Physical or environmental – tornado, hurricane, earthquake, rain, extreme heat or cold, traffic, slow elevator
  • Social – coworkers, boss, neighbors
  • Organizational – unclear/conflicting work priorities, can’t achieve things
  • Self-Talk – doing it to ourselves/critical, small voices learned when we were children. Once we become aware of these voices we can begin to make choices


2. Stress Response – physical response. Increased heart rate, increased blood pressure, rapid or shallow breathing, tightened muscles, adrenaline rush, “fight or flight” response.


3. Stress Outcome – short and long term positives and negatives.

  • Short-term stress: poor memory, inability to concentrate, lower self-esteem, irritability, disorganized, poor management of work flow, feel out of control. Physical symptoms such as shortness of breath, shaky hands, acid stomach, heart palpitations.
  • Long-term stress: bouts of depression, forgetfulness, migraines, addictions, ulcers, allergies, cause of major illnesses and stress-related conditions such as body aches and pains, tension headaches, allergic conditions, skin rash, loss of hair.

4. Positive potential of stress challenge – enhanced creativity and thinking, becoming goal-oriented, decisiveness, increased motivation, sense of control, improved interpersonal relations, high energy levels, endurance.


How does one get the positive potential of stress vs. stress-related illnesses?

Healthy Coping Strategies:

– Exercise: sports, yoga, taking a walk away from your work area, stretching in office

– Relax: listen to music, take a bath, schedule alone time, practice deep breathing, meditation

– Connect: talk with loved ones/friends, ask for help, pray


Watch Your Thinking:

What we think and believe ultimately shows up in our life. Our behavior is largely determined by the words we use. If our thoughts about ourselves and our abilities are negative, we tend to overlook the positives and the potential. We actually hypnotize ourselves to behave as we think. Every word we repeat and believe tends to shape what we become. Here are some examples:


  • I don’t have enough time.
  • Nothing ever works for me.
  • I have bad luck.
  • I have a poor memory.
  • I don’t have any patience.
  • I have too much to do.
  • I’m tired.
  • I can’t seem to do anything right.
  • I’m too ____ (insert negative characteristic)
  • I can’t ____
  • I’m afraid ____
  • I’m not as good as others.
  • No one likes me.


Can you identify negative beliefs that you are using? How are they affecting your life? In what way could they be affecting your health? Your success? Your relationships with others?


Essentially, negative thoughts are negative affirmations. Let’s look at how you can use positive affirmations to counteract negative thinking.


Positive Affirmations:

A positive affirmation is an “I AM” statement. It is written in present time and in the positive. They “affirm” something that you desire. This is a simple technique that can change and redirect your automatic thinking if you incorporate them on a regular basis.


  1. Create your own basic affirmations beginning with “I am”, “I can”, “I make”, “I am able to”, or “I have”.
  2. Write your affirmations on a 3 by 5 notecard and place them in a location you will see daily.
  3. Repeat the affirmations out loud to yourself at least 3 times a day!
  4. When repeating an affirmation, seek a relaxed state. Then place the affirmation in your mind, and hold it there for at least 30 seconds.

Some samples of basic affirmations:



Each day I think new thoughts, positive, creative, energizing thoughts.

I am free of fear and doubt.

I am confident.



With every breath I take, I breathe in relaxation.

I am strong mentally and physically.

I am filled with vitality and physical stamina.



I am aware of the good in others.

I am flexible and tolerant in my relationships.

I am filled with friendship, love and forgiveness.


Removing Negative Attitudes:

I let go of all limiting thoughts of anxiety and doubt.

I am free of all _____(fill in the blank – malice, hate, jealousy, rensentment, tension, etc.)

I replace it (above) with ___________.


Write your own affirmations:




Use Humor to Beat Stress:

1. Choose to use humor. Recognize that you do choose your emotional response.

2. Look for humor because it is everywhere. Make it a habit to look for the humorous stuff out there.

3. Focus on the positive. Stop all criticism now! Stop criticizing YOURSELF, others, loved ones, parents, children, administrators, coworkers, random people. Stop criticizing situations. You can find lots of stuff to complain about. On the other hand, there’s lots going right as well. Decide to focus on the good.

4. Practice your laugh daily. Take time each day to “force a smile.” Fake it until you make it!

5. Do something silly. Silly comes from the word, “selig” which means happy, healthy, blessed and prosperous. Not so bad!

6. Cut out cartoons you like and post them where you can see them and catch a smile each day.

7. Celebrate! Look for and celebrate the small daily successes that each and every one of us have. This tool will help keep you motivated, increase your morale and energy.

8. Practice! Having fun to relieve stress can be hard work, but the benefits are worthwhile. Keep practicing.


Stress Management Counseling Services

Houston Therapy can help you get to the root of your stress management issues and find ways to feel better despite the overwhelm. Read more about our stress counseling services. 

To get started now give us a call to schedule an appointment at 832-559-2622 or schedule an appointment online.


Recommended Reading:

houston counselorThe Relaxation & Stress Reduction Workbook (New Harbinger Self-Help Workbook)Health, Mind & Body Books)

Each chapter features a different method for relaxation and stress reduction, explains why the method works, and provides on-the-spot exercises you can do to apply that method when you feel stressed.

houston counselor

Stress Management: A Comprehensive Guide to Wellness

Revised and comprehensive, this invaluable guide helps you identify the specific areas of stress in your life–familial, work-related, social, emotional–and offers proven techniques for dealing with every one of them.

houston counselor

The 10 Best-Ever Anxiety Management Techniques: Understanding How Your Brain Makes You Anxious and What You Can Do to Change It

Everything from breathing techniques and mindful awareness to cognitive control and self-talk are included-all guaranteed to evict your anxious thoughts.


chronic stressEmotional Freedom: Liberate Yourself from Negative Emotions and Transform Your Life

Picture yourself trapped in a traffic jam feeling utterly calm. Imagine being unflappable and relaxed when your supervisor loses her temper. What if you were peaceful instead of anxious? What if your life were filled with nurturing relationships and a warm sense of belonging? This is what it feels like when you’ve achieved emotional freedom.

Rachel Eddins, M.Ed., LPC-S, CGP on Twitter
Rachel Eddins, M.Ed., LPC-S, CGP
Rachel’s passion is to help people discover their personal gifts and strengths to achieve self-acceptance, create a healthy relationship with food, mind and body, and find meaning and fulfillment in work and life roles. She helps people create nurturance and healing from within to restore balance and enoughness and overcome binge eating, emotional eating, anxiety, depression and lack of career fulfillment.

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