healing foundations

Stress Management

How We Cope With Stress

Jesse St. Jean, WellTheory Functional Nutritional Therapy Practitioner (FNTP)

Click here to see Jesse's personalized Care Plan for managing her autoimmune condition.

How We Cope With Stress

Coping mechanisms are the ways in which we handle stress in our daily lives. It’s our way of adapting to the events of daily life, allowing us to navigate difficult times or situations with a bit more ease. One of the best ways to stop stress from taking too large of a physical toll on our bodies is to learn to manage it effectively.

Some stress management techniques will be very helpful “in the moment.” These are actions such as breathing techniques, mindfulness, and reframing. Other strategies may be longer term habits that help us cope with prolonged stressful seasons, as opposed to passing stressful experiences. These habits can look like getting enough sleep, exercise, and regular meditation.

It’s important to note that there are both healthy and unhealthy coping mechanisms. Eating sweets is a way of coping with stress, but there are many options available that are much more health-promoting. A healthier way of managing might be going for a walk or calling a friend. Coping mechanisms are very individualized and what works for one person may not work at all for another, so it’s important to try out different activities and strategies to find what feels like a good fit for you.

How Do You Cope With Stress?

Download your worksheet to understand coping mechanisms.

Take a moment to reflect on the coping strategies for managing stress listed below. Notice whether your coping strategies fall under healthy or unhealthy. This is a judgment-free zone! The spirit of this exercise is to bring awareness to how you are currently coping with stress, and start to identify how you might like to change those current techniques to be more supportive.

Healthy Coping Strategies

Long term coping strategies:

  • getting enough sleep
  • exercising
  • meditating
  • taking time for self-care
  • taking a vacation
  • eating a nutritious diet
  • taking time for rest during the day

Acute coping strategies:

  • going for a walk, yoga or dance
  • breathing exercises
  • reframing
  • listen to a favorite song
  • hugging someone!
  • aromatherapy

Unhealthy Coping Strategies

Long term coping strategies:

  • procrastination or avoidance
  • sleeping too much
  • compulsions such as gambling or shopping
  • isolation
  • romanticizing the past or future

Acute coping strategies:

  • utilizing alcohol, drugs or cigarettes
  • binge eating
  • distraction — TV, cell phone games, etc.
  • drinking excessive caffeine

Now take a moment to reflect on how well these strategies are working to help you manage daily life stress. Do you feel that your stress is under control?

Breathing Exercises

This week, we are going to begin building up your stress toolbox with different techniques that you can begin to utilize in your daily life. Today’s practice is focused on breathing exercises. Mindful breathing is one of the quickest ways to support our bodies in moving from the sympathetic “fight or flight” response to the parasympathetic “rest and digest” state. The great thing about deep breathing exercises is that they work both as a way to calm acute stress, as well as a training tool to rewire your nervous system to remain more in a “calm and rest” state.1

Box Breathing

Breathe in for 4 seconds, hold for 4 seconds, breathe out for 4 seconds, hold for 4 seconds.

4:7:8 Breathing

Breathe in for 4 seconds, hold for 7 seconds and exhale for 8 seconds.

4:2:4 Breathing

Breathe in for a count of 4, holding for 2 and exhaling for 4.

Visualization Breathing

You can combine positive and peaceful visualizations with breath as well. Using one of the breathing patterns above, try visualizing bringing in peace with each inhale. With each exhale, imagine that the stressors of the day are leaving both your body and mind.

Body Scan Breathing

If you have a few extra minutes at the end of the day, this breathing technique can be especially helpful. In this exercise, you will breathe using one of the breathing patterns above. With your first inhale, tense your feet. On the exhale, fully relax them. You will continue to slowly move up the body. Next, tense and relax your calves, then your quadriceps, then your belly. Continue until you’ve reached the muscles of your face. Each time, be sure to fully relax those muscles on the exhale.

Take Action

Download your worksheet on deep breathing exercises.

Choose one of the above exercises to try at least once each day this week. You can also use deep breathing exercises throughout your day to calm your body as stressful moments arise. The important piece here is the consistency!

Recap & Reflection

Congratulations on starting a new health promoting habit this week! That’s a HUGE milestone. Take a moment to thank yourself for just getting started and making yourself a priority. Say that “Thank You” out loud! We’ll wait…

As we kick off this 8-week healing journey, we want to get into the habit of reflecting. Life already moves so fast it can be easy to accidentally let little accomplishments rush by without acknowledgment. At WellTheory, we are all about celebrating the wins, big and small, because these are the motivators that keep us moving forward. We also know that healing is hard work. Remember, we are all about “progress over perfection”! Taking a brief moment to reflect can help us hold space for the things that aren’t going the way we wish they would, learn from them, and start to explore new ways of tackling a problem.

Reflection Time

In this lesson we explored ways of coping with stress. For the next 5 minutes we would like to guide you through a time of reflection.

So get comfy, grab a pen and a piece of paper or journal, and move to a place where you can be without any distractions for 5 minutes. If that time isn’t right now, that’s okay! Do what you can today, or pull out your calendar and block off a different 5 minute chunk of time when you can reflect. Remember, we’re going for progress, not perfection!

  1. What is one win you experience this week? Remember, it can be big or small.
  2. What is one surprising new thing you learned this week?
  3. What is one intention you have for this weekend?

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