Stress and self-assessment

What is stress?

Hans Selye, M.D., is considered the world's leading authority on stress. He defined it as "the body's nonspecific response to any demand made upon it."

In other words, stress is....

What is my stress level?

Follow this link to take an Assessment Quiz by to determine your current stress level.

Stress assessment quiz

Typical stress reactions

Strategies and tips for stress management

  • Within the first 24-48 hours, periods of strenuous physical exercise alternated with relaxation will alleviate some physical reactions.
  • Structure your time - keep busy.
  • You are normal and having reactions - don't label yourself crazy.
  • Talk to people - talk is the most healing medicine.
  • Be aware of numbing the pain with overuse of drugs or alcohol; you don't need to complicate this with a substance abuse problem.
  • Reach out - people do care.
  • Keep your life as normal as possible.
  • Spend time with others.
  • Help your co-workers as much as possible by sharing feelings and checking out how they are doing.
  • Give yourself permission to feel rotten and share your feelings with others.
  • Keep a journal; write your way through those sleepless hours.
  • Do things that feel good to you.
  • Realize those around you are under stress.
  • The Nutrition Almanac recommends supplementing your diet with vitamin C, vitamin B2, vitamin B6, calcium and magnesium.
  • Don't make any significant life changes.
  • Do make as many daily decisions as possible, giving you a feeling of control over your life. ; (i.e., if someone asks you what you want to eat, answer them even if you are unsure.)
  • Hide duplicate keys (keys to the car, house, etc.) in secure areas.
  • Prepare yourself for work the night before (e.g., choose your clothes, pack your briefcase).
  • Drink more water and decrease caffeine. ; Americans tend to be dehydrated, impacting our physical and mental performance.
  • When appropriate, say "no" to requests that place additional demands on your life. ; Examine the consequences (e.g., did your worst fears materialize?).
  • Examine your concerns or worries that preoccupy your mind. ; Ask yourself some of these questions: ; Will I still be worried about this concern in one month? ; When I'm lying on my deathbed, will I still think about this concern?
  • Simplify, under-schedule, stretch, meditate and help others.

Choosing a release

If stress registers mainly in your body, you'll need a remedy to break up the physical tension pattern. ; This may be a vigorous body workout, but a slow-paced, even lazy, relaxation of muscles may be equally effective. ; Here are some suggestions to get you started:

  • Aerobics
  • Rowing
  • Walking
  • Swimming
  • Progressive relaxation
  • Yoga
  • Massage
  • Biking
  • Soaking in a hot tub or sauna (be aware too long or too desirable exposure can increase your blood pressure)


Whether your stress feels overwhelming or already managing it, you can benefit from learning relaxation techniques.

Learning essential relaxation is easy. Relaxation techniques are often free or very inexpensive, pose little risk and can be done nearly anywhere at virtually any time.

Relaxation techniques

Thought-stopping techniques

Self-care tips

"The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another."
-William James

If you have 30 minutes...

Get a massage
Eat lunch with a coworker
Read non-related work literature
Go shopping for something fun
Watch your favorite TV show
Listen to your favorite album
Write a positive letter or email to someone
Have a "walking" meeting where you walk with a colleague rather than meet in an office
Write down your goals and dreams
Volunteer for a cause you feel strongly about
Use transitions to/from work as "sacred space."

Exercise vigorously
Take a bubble bath
Go for a walk and spend time in nature
Practice yoga
Play a game with family/friends
Cook a meal
Discuss self-care, burnout or compassion fatigue at a staff meeting
Attend first Friday concert, view the art at TMC, go to a farmers market
Visit a friend you haven't seen in a while
Spend time with those you love

If you have 10 minutes...

Write in a journal
Assess your self-care
Watch a sunrise or sunset
Listen to soothing sounds
Read something for pleasure
Review the past few hours to list three things you are grateful for and what has been sacred to you
Talk to a friend, family member or coworker about a problem or frustration
Discuss training opportunities with your supervisor
Call or spend time with a friend
Tidy your work area

Draw a picture
Surf the web for inspiring quotes
Eat a meal with family or friends
Take some quiet time to reflect on what you need from others in your life and how you can ask for help
Plan a meeting/celebration to acknowledge an accomplishment or milestone
Take a brisk walk at your lunch break or when you get home from work
Add things to your work area that bring you joy- plants, photos, inspiring or funny quotes

Self-care does not have to be time consuming. As lovely as it would be to take a three-week vacation to a tropical island, most of us do not have the time or resources. ;Below are some tips for effectively using the time you have available.

If you have 5 minutes...

Listen to music
Chat with a coworker
Jot down your dreams
Enjoy a healthy snack
Look at pictures of loved ones
Have a conversation with someone you don't typically work with
Straighten up your desk or work area
Take a brisk walk to drop off something to another department
Think of three things for which you are grateful.
Have a piece of dark chocolate

Have a cleansing cry
Sing out loud
Step outside for fresh air
Check-in with family/friends
Send an email that has been nagging you.
Schedule a team meeting
Massage your forehead or hands
Run in place, do some jumping jacks or touch your toes ten times
Take a spiritual break
Take a quick break from technology

If you have 2 minutes...

Take a few deep breaths
Do some stretches
Share a smile or laugh with a coworker
Look out the window
Let someone know that you may need some time to talk later in the day.
Read or tell a good, appropriate joke
Make coffee
Note a strength or quality you value in someone else and share it with them.
Have a cup of tea, coffee or a refreshing drink

Acknowledge one of your accomplishments
Say no to a new responsibility
Complement yourself
Spend time with your pet
Leave a message or send an email to someone important to you, letting them know you are thinking of them.
Do an "Act of Kindness," no matter how small or humble
Sign up for a training opportunity
Suck on peppermint or a stick of gum
Look at a photo of someone you love

Download this Self-Care: Finding the Time Tips (PDF)