Stressful situations – such as moving, dealing with unemployment or grieving the loss of a loved one – can wear us down psychologically and physically. Often it seems as though you will never be able to get out of the funk that comes with extreme bouts of stress.

Stressful situations – such as moving, dealing with unemployment or grieving the loss of a loved one – can wear us down psychologically and physically. Often it seems as though you will never be able to get out of the funk that comes with extreme bouts of stress.


But there are ways to effectively manage your stress, says Loretta LaRoche, a stress management consultant and humorist. She says one key is to try to focus on what is good in your life and appreciate things like family, friends, shelter and just being alive.


“If someone has meaning or purpose in their life, they are usually less stressed, even in the face of tragedy,” says LaRoche. Here are her tips for managing stress.


Make a list: Write down all the things that are bothering you. Then choose one that you can really focus on and that you can change. For example, if you’re stressed about your finances, you can start clipping coupons or cut back on your daily lattes at the coffee shop. Once you start making changes and seeing results, it gives you hope, which LaRoche says is key to managing stress.


• Set a time to worry: LaRoche says to set a timer. Give yourself, say, 10 minutes, and let your mind worry about whatever it needs to worry about. She says if you do something on purpose like that, it will let your mind focus on what it needs to focus on, but then when time is up, it will give you some distance from the situation.


• Be aware of with whom you surround yourself: You want to surround yourself with people who will sympathize with you, but only to a certain degree. The best people to keep company with are those who will take steps to help you solve your problems, and who may disagree with you at times to help you take action. You don’t want to surround yourself with people who will increase your feelings of hopelessness and join in your “pity party.”


• Give yourself a healthy distraction: Your brain will need a timeout from the stress, so do something enjoyable to get your mind off your worries. Go to a movie, grab dinner with a friend, go for a walk, get a massage – anything that will take you away, even for an hour.


• Laugh: LaRoche says our facial expressions can affect how we feel mentally. Find a reason to laugh, such as watching a funny movie. Or just laugh for no reason. It will help you feel better.


• Seek help: LaRoche says people are conditioned to think they need to “suck it up” when it comes to stress, but there is an appropriate time to seek outside help. She says if you’re having physical symptoms of stress – losing sleep, forgetting things, laughing less, overreacting to situations or just not enjoying life – it’s probably time to seek help.