Most viewed post #4 -5 steps to manage stress and strain

Read the 4th most viewed post on my blog this year about managing stress #stressmanagement

woman standing with arms lifted to the sky

In the 4th most viewed post  I offered  some personal reflections.

I developed the  post idea after reading a medical journal article about ways to help patients dealing with depression with or without medication. The article offered advice helpful to anyone dealing with a crisis, or even the ordinary stress of life.

When I wrote the post, I was  dealing with a personal health crisis, so I had the chance to take my own advice. (We physicians tend not to do so.) Now, the crisis is resolving, but I intend to continue to practice the 


5 steps to manage the stress and strain of life


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’m learning the value of these steps now as I deal with the stress of a foot fracture that is not healing as expected. I’m now facing surgery to correct it, and a longer convalescence than I expected. For someone who is used to being active, this prolonged inactivity stresses me both physically and emotionally. These 5 steps were already a part of my life, but consciously choosing them now helps 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 (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 reviewDriving 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.


5. Nurture your inner self

Sometimes we need to withdraw from outward activities and stimulation for times of quiet rest and reflection.woman with hands bowed in prayer

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.

Free Loose Leaf Tea Filter and Free Shipping with any Mighty Leaf Wellness purchase. (affiliate link)

woman standing with arms lifted to the sky

In this post, a retired nurse blogger uses gardening for both exercise and mindfulness.

The Zen of Gardening 

“But what I like most about gardening is how I can get lost in the moment of whatever I’m doing; whether it’s planting, weeding or pruning. It truly is a togetherness of body and mind.”





Tyndale House Publishers offers spiritual and devotional books.

Try their free Reader Rewards Club  at this link. Come Read with me-Tyndale







Affiliate disclosure; some of the  photos in this post are from Lightstock, a source for photos, videos, and graphics. With a free account, you can get a weekly free photo.

Learn more at this link. 

cheesy-free faith-focused stock photos
Please visit for quality photos, graphics, and videos (an affiliate link)


RoboForm Password Manager. (this is an affiliate link) 

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.

a sketch of various electronic devices
RoboForm Everywhere to manage your passwords

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.



Please share with your friends and

follow Watercress Words as we explore the HEART of HEALTH.  

Thank you. Dr. Aletha 

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.

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