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Knowing how to manage stress can help you to be happier and healthier in the long run. Coping with stress is about trying to solve the problems that are within your control and learning to accept the things you can’t change. The next time you’re feeling stressed, ask yourself these four questions to help you decide on your next move.

1. What’s the issue?

It’s easier to manage stress once you know exactly what’s stressing you out. It could be one big thing that’s weighing on your shoulders, or lots of little things that have built up over time. If nothing obvious comes to mind, talk to someone you trust. A fresh pair of eyes and ears can help to shed light on the situation.

2. Can you do anything to change it?

Once you’ve pinned down what’s stressing you, it’s time to think about the problem realistically. Is there anything you can do to change the situation so that it causes you less stress?

3. If so, what?

If you have some level of control over the situation, you can try to use problem-solving skills to reduce the amount of stress it causes you. An example of something you have control over is an exam that’s coming up in a few weeks. One way of dealing with this is to write up a study schedule to keep you motivated and on track. Check out our step-by-step guide to problem-solving for more tips.

4. If not, what can you do to feel better about it?

If the situation is outside of your control, then trying to change it will only make you feel more stressed. An example of something you have little control over is finding out you’ve flunked an important exam. In this case, it’s better to try and change the things you do have control over, such as how you think about the situation, your self-talk, whether you talk to someone you trust and how you treat yourself while you’re stressed out. Being mindful will also help you to feel less stressed when a problem is outside of your control.

What if I'm still not coping?

If you’re still struggling to cope with stress, it’s a good idea to talk to a GP or a mental health professional about what’s going on. Learning how to handle stress can be a long and tough process. You've shown a lot of strength getting this far!

What can I do now?