Work and life create stress for each of us. Why do some people cope better than others? Here are some ideas from researchers who study human behavior.

Before determining how to cope with stresses, take some time to identify priorities. What are the important things in your life? Child rearing, caregiving for elderly parents, buying a home, having time alone or completing education goals are some priorities people have.

Then determine what stress means to you. Stress is unique to each individual. Think about the times you have felt overwhelmed. What were the events which led to your dilemma? Were you tired, hungry, bored or distracted? Reverse those questions and ask yourself what you do for relaxation? What does your body need? What does your mind need?

The greatest challenge of managing stress is taking care of your self. This requires self discipline and limit-setting when others want your attention. Look at the priorities on your list and decide what you need in order to meet them. If your priority is time, you need to protect some of yours. You need enough exercise, rest and healthy food to be fine-tuned.

No matter how well you take care of yourself, you cannot do everything. You need help. The next task is to look at your support network. Your support network can be family, co-workers, neighbors, friends or anyone you interact with on a regular basis. How can you and that person in your support network help each other to meet the needs of both? Many families provide child care for one another. Co-workers frequently help each other accomplish projects at work. Neighborhoods have a giant garage sale to assist in turning items no longer used into cash for families. All the while these interactions give each of you emotional support. Adults need emotional support from each other. Often this support comes from a spouse. Sometimes it comes from a lifelong friend. Think about your support network and identify the sources of your support.

Humans are curious, so another stress-buster may be learning. We can take classes, read books, search the web and join clubs or other groups to feed our need for knowledge. We all have resources in our homes and our communities. Our challenge is to find the balance we each need for meeting our priorities without undue stress. It is an individual journey for each of us.

For more ideas about stress control see the MU Extension publication, Stress Management and the Challenge of Balance (gh6651).