Managing Stress

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Everyone goes through times of uncertainty when they have higher levels of stress in their lives, whether it is dealing with occupational uncertainty, health uncertainty, financial uncertainty, significant life changes, or another aspect of life that is causing ambiguity (Hutchison, 2020, March 18). While there is no way to completely alleviate stress when in an uncertain situation, these options can help reduce some of the stress. Seeking social support, reframing the situation in a positive way, and remaining hopeful have been shown to be effective coping mechanisms for managing stress (Park et al., 2020). Establishing meaningful relationships and repeatable self-care and reflection practices have been found to have a positive impact on individuals’ ability to manage stress (Thacker & Freeman, 2020). On a further note, continue to take care of yourself and maintain as much of your normal routine as possible. Continuing to eat, sleep, maintain your hygiene, exercise, or whatever taking care of yourself looks like for you, maintaining your health is most important (Bradbury, 2020). This includes your mental health—use the strategies that work for you to keep your mental health up during hard times. Overall, greater education on how to manage stress benefits employees in navigating both workplace and personal life stress (Thacker & Freeman, 2020).

At a Glance

Times of uncertainty can cause higher levels of stress. Greater education on how to manage stress benefits employees in navigating both workplace and personal life stress.

Potential causes:

  • Occupational uncertainty 
  • Health uncertainty 
  • Financial uncertainty 
  • Significant life changes
  • Other uncertainty in your life 

Ways to reduce stress:

  • Establish meaningful relationships and seek social support 
  • Reframe the situation in a positive way and remain hopeful
  • Create repeatable self-care and reflection practices
  • Continue to take care of yourself and maintain a normal routine 
  • Keep eating nutritious foods, sleeping, exercising, maintaining your hygiene, and doing whatever else is self-care for you 
  • Be kind to yourself 
  • Try not to add additional stress by being hard on yourself 
  • You may not react to the situation as you expect yourself to or in the same way that others are reacting 
  • Everyone’s reactions are valid, no matter how different they may be 
  • Try to think positively; practice gratitude and look for silver linings 
  • Distract yourself; read a good book, talk to a friend, enjoy a project or hobby
  • Ask for help

Resources on Campus

  • Many resources are focused on managing the stress itself, not fixing the uncertain situation causing stress. Nonetheless, these resources can still be accessed to reduce reactions to the uncertain situation 
  • Employee Assistance Program 
    • Offers free, confidential, short term counseling (six sessions) for MSU employees, their spouses or partners, and their children 
    • Also offers counseling on work and employment situations, as well as stress reduction classes and emotional wellness classes 
    • Visit for more information 
  • Health4U 
  • MSU Extension 
  • WorkLife Office 
    • Professional staff offer one-on-one consultations to help employees deal with many issues, including stressors at work and at home
      • See the introduction page of this guide for information on how to request a consultation


Bradbury, K. (2020, March 15). Coping during a crisis. Psychology Today.  

Hutchison, J. (2020, March 18). Taking care of yourself in times of uncertainty. Michigan State University WorkLife Office. 

Park, A. L., Velez, C. V., Kannan, K., & Chorpita, B. F. (2020). Stress, functioning and coping during the COVID-19 pandemic: Results from an online convenience sample. The Behavior Therapist, 42(6). 210-216. 

Thacker, Russell S. & Freeman, Sydney Jr. (2020). Managing Stress in a Time of Increased Pressure: Perspectives from University Presidents. The William & Mary Educational Review, 7(1).

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