How Do You Manage Stress?

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BetterUp Studios

10 min

According to author and researcher Kelly McGonigal, stress can be good for you! In fact, you can learn to harness the power of stress for a positive outcome.

The psychological markers of stress, including muscle tension and an increased heart rate, can function as your body’s way of moving you to “rise to the challenge.” At the same time, some of the methods we use to cope with stressful situations can inadvertently cause more stress. Take a moment to audit your stressors and your stress response.


1. Grab your notebook and make a two-column list. In column A write down the stressful situations you’re currently facing. Don’t forget that stressors can also be positive—a recent move, the birth of a child, or even working in a job you love can all be adding to your stress. In column B write down the most common ways you cope with or react to your stressors—both positive and negative.


Stressors Coping/Reactions
Wedding planning Watching Netflix
Work + Exercise
Moving - Procrastination
Relationship challenge + Talking to coach
+ Hanging with friends
+ Time in nature
- Working late

2. Write a “+” or “-” to signify if a strategy feeds you or drains you. Leave neutral reactions blank. Not everyone will react to a coping strategy in the same way. In the example above, watching Netflix is a neutral strategy because it neither significantly reduces stress nor enhances it. Time in nature is marked as rejuvenating.

3. Draw (or imagine) a large circle. Make a pie chart that indicates the percentage of time you utilize positive coping strategies and the percentage in which you make use of negative ones. Also, include the time that you apply neutral coping strategies.

4. Make a specific, achievable plan for if and how you want to substitute a draining coping strategy for one that feeds your soul this week. For example, “At my 4 pm lull at work, I usually reach for an unhealthy snack. This week, I commit to going for a walk at least three of the days, instead of reaching for that snack.”

If you're working with a coach, discuss your plan and your insights with them. For more information on how stress can be good for you, you might want to check out McGonigal's The Upside of Stress. It's a great read.

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