G.R.E.A.T. way to manage stress.

At times, we all feel stress. Fortunately, those feeling can be short-lived with these G.R.E.A.T. techniques.

by Nashville General Hospital
Man experiencing sunrise

Stress is generally a physical or mental response to a situation. For example, taking a test, arguing with a friend, a critical deadline at work – all of these can make us feel stressed. Once these situations have passed, or been resolved, the stress disappears. 

Whether the stressor is a one-time occurrence or it happens repeatedly over a long time, we sometimes feel overwhelmed. Dr. Krystal Lewis, a licensed clinical psychologist at the National Institute of Mental Health, developed a G.R.E.A.T. way to manage stress:

  • Grateful. Be grateful. Find things each day that make you grateful. For example, your connection with friends, a bed to fall asleep in or a meal you enjoyed during the day.
  • Relaxation. Do things that help you calm down and relax, then integrate those things throughout your day. This can include reading a book, meditating, going for a walk, listening to calming music or simply sitting quietly in your favorite chair.
  • Exercise. There is a connection between physical health and mental health. When you are feeling stressed, do some type of exercise. This can include walking, yard work, riding a bicycle or climbing stairs.
  • Acknowledge. Acknowledge your feelings. Be aware of the many feelings that come with stress and accept them as they occur. Practice self-compassion and give yourself permission to embrace your feelings. Acknowledge they are the result of a stressful situation then take steps – like those listed here – to resolve those feelings.
  • Track. Keep a journal. What situations contribute to your stress? Identify the sources of stress so you can create a plan for dealing with each situation. Also, identify and challenge your negative thinking and engage in helpful, positive thinking. Explore which thoughts are not the most helpful and actively change your thinking patterns so your thoughts serve to help you through a situation. Habitual, negative thoughts can contribute to stress and perpetuate negative behaviors.

In addition to these G.R.E.A.T. tips, other things you can do to manage stress include:

  • Focus on what you can control. You may not be able to control the situation that created the stress, but you can control how you react and the steps you take to move through and beyond the moment.
  • Rethink how you interact with social media. Comparing yourself, or your situation, to what you see in social media is not helpful. What people share online is often carefully curated snippets and does not represent a total picture of their life.
  • Connect with your spiritual leaders, friends and loved ones who can help you cope in a positive way.
  • Plan a pleasant activity or create an enjoyable routine so you have something to look forward to during the day. 
  • Make a good night’s sleep a priority. Give your body and mind time to recover from the day.
  • Limit the amount of caffeine you have during the day. Too much caffeine can interrupt your sleep patterns.
  • Drink less to be your best. Avoid using alcohol to cope with stress.
  • Eat a balanced diet. Fuel your body so it has the resources to manage stress.
  • Practice deep breathing. Deep breathing can help you calm your nervous system and lower your blood pressure. Slowly, inhale through your nose and exhale through your mouth. Focus on your breath and imagine your stress escaping each time you exhale.

If the feelings of stress do not go away or you are struggling to cope, it may be time to ask for help from a professional. A therapist or counselor can help you identify your stressors, teach coping skills and provide emotional support. If necessary, they may also prescribe medication to help.

To find mental health care in your area, call your doctor or visit the Tennessee Department of Mental Health & Substance Abuse Services. Additional mental health resources are available through Nashville General Hospital Foundation’s “Your Guide For Better Choices and Healthy Living” booklet and in Nashville Public Television’s “For Your Good Health™” video series, which is sponsored by the Nashville General Hospital Foundation.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs provides a “Manage Stress Workbook” that includes steps to identify, track and manage stress.

This information is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. You should talk with your primary care physician or other qualified medical professionals regarding diagnosis and treatment of a health condition.