Over the last several months, 2020 has brought with it several stressors, both new and ongoing. Stress can easily build up to overwhelming heights. However, a personalized stress plan can help manage and decrease stress.  

A personalized stress plan works with five of a person’s top stressors and their causes. The first part is designed to pinpoint daily stressors and their causes. Then the plan identifies the symptoms of stress the person experiences. Lastly, the plan puts strategies in place to manage and decrease stress. 

According to the American Psychological Association, the top five stressors in 2019 were mass shootings, followed by healthcare, terrorism, climate change, and sexual harassment. In addition to big stressors like healthcare, there are also daily stressors, like running late and finances. 

Take a moment to contemplate and write down what your top five stressors would be in your daily life- what things do you think and stress about the most? Now that each of those five stressors are written down, look at each one of them and think about what stress symptoms they cause, using the top five from each category according to the Mayo Clinic: 

Top Five Behavioral:  

Appetite change, angry outbursts, substance abuse, social withdrawal, lack of exercise 

Top Five Physiological: 

Chest pains, headache, muscle tension, fatigue, nausea 

Top Five Psychological: 

Anxiety, changes in mood such as anger or sadness, irritability, lack of focus, restlessness  

Once those five stressors and symptoms are written down, brainstorm about the causes of each of those stressors. This may be a more difficult question, so it is okay to come back to it.  

Now it is time to build your stress toolbox. Circle (highlight or write down) which of these activities you would be willing to try to decrease stress. 

Meditation Hydrotherapy Yoga Body Scan Senses Check 
Prayer Aromatherapy Deep Breathing Cooking Mantras 
Exercise Creative Writing Humor Photography Counting 
Coloring Guided Imagery Mindfulness Visualization Massage 
Music Journaling Pet Therapy Dancing Pressure Points 
Stress Toolbox

Sample Toolbox 

Meditation 

Exercise 

Body Scan 

Aromatherapy 

Pressure Points 

Meditation helps the mind cope with the sensory overload of the day. Through meditation, you can increase concentration and awareness, allowing for a more tranquil state of mind. During meditation, heart rate decreases as well as blood pressure and muscle tension. Meditation can increase sleep function and reduce anxiety levels. Because of meditation, the immune system improves, combatting the effects of stress which decreases the responsiveness of the immune system.  

Exercise can help work off the stress through releasing endorphins making you feel happy. According to Harvard Health, it also reduces stress hormones, like adrenaline and cortisol. This helps to shed tensions and focus your mind on a single task. Exercise can lower anxiety and reduce anger. Once you begin exercising for one hundred and fifty minutes a week, the National Sleep Foundation said that there was a 65% improvement in sleep. Anxiety, sleep loss, anger, and adrenaline are all symptoms of stress that are proven to decrease through exercise. This can be done through any form of exercise, such as walking, swimming or biking, however, the more vigorous forms of exercise can produce more effective results.  

A body scan uses deep breathing to help focus the mind before focusing on each part of the body individually to release mental and physical tension. According to the Mayo Clinic, each muscle needs to be tightened and the contraction is maintained for twenty seconds before slowly releasing. As the muscle relaxes, if you concentrate on the release of tension for the muscle there will be a sense of overall relaxation. You start with the facial muscles and work down through the body for twelve to fifteen minutes. 

Aromatherapy is a technique involving perfumed scents that help to create a sense of calmness. This promotes relaxation by focusing on a single sense, the olfactory sense. It decreases stress hormones as well as can induce a physiological sense of calmness.  

There are nine main pressure points that help to calm the mind and body. Tapping each point while saying ‘calm, safe, relaxed’ can help recenter and relax the mind. The nine points can be seen below: 

Image from Conscious Calm on Emotional Freedom Techniques for calming the body when stressed.