healing foundations

Stress Management

Troubleshooting Challenges & Setbacks

Stephanie Papadakis, WellTheory Health Coach

Building Stress Resilience by Reframing

You’ve come a long way since the beginning of this course! Even so, there may be times that all the tools in the world aren’t helping you feel calm or manage the challenges popping up in life. When we can’t get rid of the stressors of daily life, we have to learn to think about them in a different way. This is resilience: our ability to rise above and continue to function through the stressors of daily life.

In reframing, we are working to view stress through a different lens. For example, you may feel your heart pounding before a large work presentation. Rather than feeling the pressure of this event, reframe it by reminding yourself that this is a normal and even healthy stress response.

Your body is recognizing this is an important moment and it is rising to the occasion.

That small shift in how you think about this event can change not only your body’s physiological response, but also your own feelings about the event. Try it and see!

Kelly McGonigal is a health psychologist who researches the effect of how we think about stress on the actual physiological outcomes of stress. If you can set aside 15 minutes, watch the TED Talk below! It’s amazing and will open your mind to a new way of thinking about stress. You could also listen to this on your car commute or take it with you on a quick walk!

To highlight a few of the most important points:

  • How we think about our stress is the most important factor that influences whether or not stress has a negative effect on our bodies.
  • Small changes can make a big impact! Breathing exercises and taking small moments to reframe can change the physiological effect of cortisol on the body.
  • We don’t always have to “get rid of stress.” Sometimes that isn’t possible, and that’s okay.

One important thing to note is that reframing doesn’t mean ignoring stressful situations or covering them up with a happy facade. It’s important to fully feel and acknowledge your emotions of stress. Your feelings are valid, no matter how happy or fortunate your life is. The goal here is to see stress through different lenses, not to sugarcoat it.

How Do I Reframe?

Find Value

Take a few moments and think of the things that are most important to you in life. Now do your best to keep those at the front of your mind as you proceed throughout your day. Studies have shown that connecting your values to life events allows you to more effectively cope with stress.


  • Driving your child to school in stressful traffic. Connect to your larger “why.” Remember that you do it because you love your children and care about their education.

Tend and Befriend

We all know about the fight or flight response, but do you know about the tend and befriend stress response? Rather than turning inward, finding ways to engage and support others in times of stress will guide your body in the direction of tend and befriend. The tend and befriend response releases oxytocin, gives us courage and supports social connection. It epitomizes the meaning of being human — that we support each other when life gets hard.


  • You have a big event coming up at work. You feel like the outcome sits on your shoulders alone. You can choose to continue to bear the brunt of this stress alone… or you can reach out to coworkers for help. Try reaching out by encouraging and mentioning the strengths you know they can bring to the project. This will create a sense of camaraderie and guide your body towards a tend and befriend stress response.

Welcome Stress as Wisdom.

Studies have found that those who experienced a moderate number of stressful life events actually had more positive mental health, better health outcomes, and greater overall well-being than those who had few stressful life events. What does this tell us? Just as time makes us wiser, so does our life experience.


  • Write this on a post-it note and stick it somewhere you’ll see it regularly: “Stress makes me stronger!” The more you see it, the easier it becomes to rewire your thinking and help you see stress as life experience and wisdom for the future.

Take Action

Download your Worksheet

Take a few moments to assess your list of obligations and priorities. For each of them, ask yourself, “How can I reframe this situation to help me see things with a new perspective?”

Here are a few examples:

  • You are experiencing a loss and feeling grief. Your body is tired and emotions are high. You can choose to reframe your statement from:
“My body is broken” to “my body is healing.”
"My body hates me” to “my body is giving me feedback or information.”
  • You are the mom to young kids and life feels chaotic all the time. You can work to reframe daily annoyances or frustrations to feel more empowered.
“I can never feel better” to “I can actively work to feel better.”
“If I can’t do it perfectly, why should I do it?” to “progress is better than perfection.”

Commit to revisiting this exercise once each morning this week for 5 minutes. This will help set you up for success in noticing your thought patterns and reframing them in a more useful light. Reframing is a practice. The more you do it, the easier it becomes.

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