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Tips for Reducing Stress

July 1999

  • See your health care provider to discuss stress and how it affects you.

  • Talk about it. A friend or family member may help you sort out your feelings and get a new perspective on problems. Join a support group.


  • Exercise.

  • Get enough sleep. Most people need about six to nine hours of sleep at regular times. Often, people under stress give up sleep to finish more work, or cannot sleep because they are thinking about their stressors. If you have trouble sleeping, try the following strategies: Make a mental list of all the things you have to be thankful for; exercise during the day; don't drink alcohol or caffeinated beverages in the evening; take a warm bath before going to bed; go to bed at the same time every night.

  • Take a break and treat yourself.

  • See a therapist or counselor. Counseling can help you work through problems and make decisions in a non-threatening environment.

  • Practice hypnosis, biofeedback or massage to relieve tension. For example, massage can aid in increased blood circulation and lower blood pressure, reduction in fatigue, increased restfulness of sleep, increased sense of well-being and elevated mood.

  • Listen to music. Quiet, soothing music alone or with relaxation techniques such as meditation, deep breathing, or visualization may help you relax.

  • Watch what you eat. A healthy diet can help you handle stress. Eat breakfast, cut back on caffeine, watch sugar intake, and stick to a regular meal schedule.

  • Remind yourself of your accomplishments.

  • Look positively at change, instead of fearing it. Change may bring benefits you don't expect.

  • Look back on a crisis as a learning opportunity. This will help you respond better to similar problems in the future.

  • Ask for help. If stress and its effects get out of hand, consider contacting your health care provider, mental health centers, employee assistance programs, and other professionals such as clergy, social workers, counselors and therapists, nurses.

    What are your warning signs?

    You will be able to manage stress better if you recognize the symptoms. Check the symptoms you frequently feel when you are stressed. It is always important to tell your doctor about any uncomfortable symptoms that you feel since some of these symptoms may have causes other than stress (e.g., side effects of medications, effects of HIV). See your health care provider if symptoms are severe or persistent.

    Physical Symptoms

    a change in appetite
    back pain
    high blood pressure
    chest pain
    clammy hands
    a cold
    racing heartbeat
    muscle tension
    sleeping problems
    Other _______

    Emotional Symptoms

    denial of a problem
    difficulty making decisions
    feeling powerless
    feeling rejected
    feeling trapped
    feeling unhappy for no reason
    being easily upset
    worrying frequently
    Other _______

    Behavioral Symptoms

      increasing use of alcohol, tobacco or other drugs
    neglecting appearance
    arguing with friends or partner
    avoiding tasks and responsibilities
    difficulty concentrating
    crying easily
    being late to work
    overeating or undereating
    snapping at people
    watching more TV
    withdrawing from family and friends
    Other _______
    The worksheets were adapted from Stress Management: Self Care Handbook by Channing L. Bete Co., Inc.

    This article has been reprinted at The Body with the permission of AIDS Project Los Angeles (APLA).

  • This article was provided by AIDS Project Los Angeles. It is a part of the publication Positive Living.
    See Also
    Guide to Conquering the Fear, Shame and Anxiety of HIV
    Trauma: Frozen Moments, Frozen Lives
    More on Coping With Stress and Anxiety