How do you respond to stress?

The stress you experience can be magnified or minimized based on how you react to it. Next you are going to be visualizing a stressful situation – a traffic jam. And then you’re going to use your experience of the situation to explore some stress management techniques.

Listen to the following audio and imagine yourself a part of it.

At key stopping points, you will:

  • Notice what you are thinking and how you are physically responding to the scenario.
  • Write down your thoughts and reactions below the recording.

When you are ready, begin the recording entitled The Job Interview by clicking on the blue 'I" below. 

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We carry with us at all times one of the most powerful stress-management techniques that exist. It’s breathing.

We all know how to breathe, but most people breathe too shallowly to get the stress-reducing benefits. When it comes to managing stress, a shallow breath doesn’t do enough. To breathe deeply, you need to allow your abdomen (your lower stomach) to expand.

Put your pen down and try it now. And, as you take deep breaths, notice the effect your breathing has on your mind and body.

Here’s what to do:

Take a s l o w, d e e p breath inward  to a count of 4 – allowing your lower abdomen to expand and fill up, as though your breath reaches all the way down to the bottom of your stomach.

Hold for 2 seconds.

Release the breath slowly to a count of 6, and allow your abdomen to return to its normal position.

Once again, take another slow, deep breath counting to 4– breathing all the way down to your abdomen, allowing your stomach to expand and fill up. Hold. And then release it as you calmly exhale to a count of 6. Repeat this deep breath three more times.

It is important to let the exhale be longer than the inhale as this stimulates the relaxation response.

Next try drawing a picture, or use a word or phrase that describes how your mind and body are responding to the deep breath.        

  • Is it a pressure cooker letting off steam?
  • Is it a feather falling gently downward?


It’s difficult for most people to think about strategies to calm themselves down when they are in the midst of a stressful situation. Instead, it’s more common for people to allow negative thoughts to take over. People tend to express these negative thoughts in unhealthy ways by complaining, venting, yelling, worrying, or feeling intense anger and frustration.

We also experience physical sensations in stressful situations such as

  • faster and/or harder heartbeat,
  • tightness in muscles,
  • breathlessness or shallow breathing,
  • indigestion,
  • nausea,
  • stomach ache,
  • tiredness,
  • skin rash,
  • clenched jaw,
  • headache,
  • loss of appetite,
  • increased food craving,
  • sweaty palms and arm pits,
  • butterflies in your stomach, and
  • trembling.

These physical and mental responses affect your health and overall well-being.

Breathing is a proven method for calming down your body’s reactions to a stressful situation. By calming your physical reactions, you can pay more attention to your thoughts.

This gives you the opportunity to turn away from negative thoughts and move toward productive thoughts about how to manage the situation.

To complete this module, answer the debrief questions below

Two Types of Stress