5 steps to manage stress and strain

Many health issues would resolve or be easier to manage if life stressors would just go away. Three fourths of the patients treated by primary care physicians have problems aggravated by emotional, social, or behavioral issues.

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woman standing with arms lifted to the sky

As a college graduation gift, I gave a friend’s son a gift certificate to Barnes and Noble Bookseller. He earned a  mechanical engineering degree  and will work as a rocket structural engineer.

He sent me a nice handwritten thank you note (which few people do these days) and said he plans to use it to buy a book that other structural engineers recommend. The book is Roark’s Formulas for Stress and Strain.

Roark's Formulas for Stress and Strain- a book

Wouldn’t it be nice if there were a formula for handling the stress and strain of life?

Many health issues would resolve or be easier to manage if life stressors would just go away.  Three fourths of the patients treated by primary care physicians have problems aggravated by  emotional, social, or behavioral issues.

Life’s  interruptions and disruptions won’t disappear, but you can make them less of a strain on your time, energy, and resources. There’s usually no quick fix but 5 steps can lessen their impact.

I learned the value of these steps when I dealt with the stress of a foot fracture that required surgery to correct it, and a longer convalescence than I expected. For someone who is used to being active, the prolonged inactivity stressed me both physically and emotionally. These 5 steps were already a part of my life, but consciously choosing them helped me cope with what would otherwise cause frustration and sadness.

5 steps to manage life’s stress and strain


1. Create and maintain a routine and schedule.

Having a plan for your time helps you feel more in control of your life.  Resist the tendency to become socially isolated or avoid activities you usually enjoy. 

a smartphone lying on a calendar page with a planner and cup of coffee
from Lightstock.com (affiliate) stock photo site

Times of crisis, loss, or illness may leave you feeling disconnected and adrift, but having a schedule provides structure and connection. When you are busy, you are less likely to feel overwhelmed and hopeless. 




2. Recognizing and reaching out to social supports

Your family and friends are your first line of  support during times of stress and duress. It’s nice if we don’t have to ask for their support, but their lives are busy too, so don’t be hesitant to ask for help if you need it. If they don’t call you, call them.

2 women talking over coffee with open bibles
Conversation over coffee can be therapeutic. graphic from the Lightstock collection( affiliate link)

Other sources for help include your healthcare professionals;  don’t be embarrassed to share that you need social and emotional support. Your doctor can help you identify and get connected with community resources.

Look for help from your or your spouse’s job, your religious community, organizations you belong to, your school, and online resources for support- educational sites, forums, support groups.  Although not as personal as face to face support, these are helpful  if  you are  geographically isolated or mobility is difficult.



3. Reframe by refocusing on the positive rather than the negative.

Recognizing and emphasizing the positive in life makes the problems less overwhelming and distressing. Look for something to be grateful for, or that brings a little joy into your day. It may be as simple as flowers blooming in your yard, your favorite tea and sweet,  a funny story in a magazine.  

balloons-get well IMG_2269.jpg
Balloons are nice, too.

Remembering and observing happy events, occasions, and celebrations can also be sources of renewed joy.

Norma, a woman facing terminal illness, reframed her crisis by finding joy in small things, like jigsaw puzzles, new foods, and a “good perm”. Read more about her at

Driving Miss Norma- a book review
Driving Miss Norma - a book cover




4. Stay active mentally and physically

Physical activity doesn’t have to be a chore, boring, or expensive. Many things can be done at home or in your neighborhood-walking, bicycling, cardio, yoga. If exercise isn’t your thing, try dancing, gardening, swimming. 

If your  physical mobility is limited,  try something stimulating mentally-sewing, crafts, games, puzzles, writing, cooking are just a few possibilities.



Consider a fitness app on your phone like Aaptiv, at this affiliate link (commission to blog if you use)



5. Nurture your inner self

woman with hands bowed in prayer

Sometimes we need to withdraw from outward activities and stimulation for times of quiet rest and reflection.

You may  find help from mindfulness, meditation, prayer, devotional reading, music, journaling,  or a combination of these approaches.

Breathing exercises can lessen anxiousness and tension.

I use the breathing exercises on the Aaptiv Fitness app to relax and unwind after a long day.

These affiliate links may help you deal with stress and strain. (At no extra cost to you, purchases through this link help me fund this blog.)

My Reader Rewards Club is a great way to earn free books and Bibles for yourself, friends, and family! Your journey to earning free faith-based products starts HERE.
(When you sign up through these links, I can earn free books too.)

Join my Reader Rewards Club
READ.REVIEW.REDEEM myReader rewards club

As a member, you’ll have access to inspiring literature, Bibles, special promotional offers, and much more. Earning points is easy—you’ll receive 25 points just for signing up!

RoboForm Password Manager.

You’re likely reading this post on a computer, tablet, or mobile phone, so you visit sites that require a password. How do you remember them all? You don’t have to if you use RoboForm Password Manager.

My husband introduced me to RoboForm years ago and I am glad he did. I have used it continually to remember my passwords so I don’t have to. It syncs to both my computer and my phone so my passwords are always available. It will even generate passwords for me.

Go to this link to try RoboForm Free; if you like it you can upgrade to RoboForm Everywhere version with all the features I mentioned above. With Roboform, you will have one less thing to feel stressed about.

Help with tech stress

If computer problems cause you stress, you may find help at my husband’s tech blog. He’s a computer guy with years of professional experience that he’s now sharing at


Author: Aletha Cress Oglesby, M.D.

As a family physician, I explore the HEART of HEALTH in my work, recreation, community, and through writing. My blog, Watercress Words, informs and inspires us to live in health. I believe we can turn our health challenges into healthy opportunities. When we do, we can share the HEART of health with our families, communities, and the world. Come explore and share with me.

18 thoughts on “5 steps to manage stress and strain”

  1. Thanks for the tips. Many of these steps have become part of my daily life. Most recently, I’ve been focusing on #3, focusing on the positive. The most difficult one for me is #2, asking for support. I don’t know why asking for help is such a difficult thing for so many of us. I’m going to work on that. Thanks for the motivation.


    1. Thank you Christie. We live in a culture that prizes independence and success; asking for help can imply weakness and failure. Instead, I think it often is due to pride and not wanting to feel vulnerable. And it is a risk. But when people step up to help, it blesses them and us. I’m working on it too.


  2. #5 is what has worked best for me–the focus on something pleasurable to do, be it mindfulness meditation or doing a crossword puzzle (my personal “weakness”) or gardening. It helps you “get away” from yourself for a few minutes, and that in itself is calming and offers a fresh pespective..


    1. Thanks for sharing your perspective. I agree. It is probably the hardest for us to accomplish; it can seem like wasting time, frivolous, or selfish. Yet in the long run it can be the most productive thing we can do, investing in ourselves so we can then invest in others.


  3. A great guide to stress and strain..Although I am not a medical doctor I am an advocate for let food be thy medicine even if it is alongside traditional medicine…A nice site 🙂


  4. This is a great guide. Sometimes you have to just take a step back and take care of us. I have been reading Imagine Harmony by Dale Duvall, it’s a real comprehensive read on stress management and so good. He really gives an in depth look into many techniques, and it’s worked for me! I recommend it.


  5. I love your guide to stress and strain. 🙂
    It’s so hard to take a minute to stop to think about our stress. It really does help though.
    Thanks for sharing.


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