Are you dealing with bad stress? Or even the good kind?

These resources can help you deal with either one

Lower legs of a woman wearing jeans walking a Jack Russell terrier on aa leash.

Image caption: Being active will boost your feel-good endorphins and help distract you from your day-to-day stressors.


This content is provided to Johns Hopkins employees through a partnership with CareFirst.

Feeling overwhelmed lately? You are not alone. Now more than ever, many of us are facing challenges that can be stressful, overwhelming, and exhausting. In addition to dealing with the regular stressors of our day-to-day lives, the pandemic has added an additional layer of stress/uncertainty. It is so important to help yourself (and your loved ones) learn how to cope with stress in healthy ways so that both your mind and body can adapt. As April is Stress Awareness Month, now is a good time to make sure your knowledge is up-to-date.

Eustress: The "good" stress

Did you know that not all stress is considered "bad"? While most of us equate stress with negative experiences, the reality is that a little positive stress helps us stay motivated and work toward goals. Moderate positive stress is beneficial because it:

  • Produces feelings of excitement, fulfillment, meaning, and satisfaction
  • Allows us to cope with life's challenges and changes—a result of pushing ourselves outside of our comfort zones in order to grow
  • Helps prepare us for more negative types of stress and usually occurs as a response to a situation that is challenging but achievable

Workplace example: Taking on a new project at work that requires you to both home in on your existing skills and learn new ones.

Distress: The "bad" stress

The opposite of eustress, distress is the negative form of stress that can make you feel overwhelmed physically, mentally, and emotionally. Distress:

  • Suppresses our ability to cope with situations that are stressful and highlights our weaknesses and the ways that we are powerless
  • Can be short- or long-term
  • Feels unpleasant and can decrease performance
  • Is often unavoidable and usually not a positive factor regarding our mental health

Workplace examples: Excessive job demands. Job insecurity.

Let exercise be your stress relief

Being active will boost your feel-good endorphins and help distract you from your day-to-day stressors. Build up your fitness level gradually to 150 minutes of aerobic exercise per week, as recommended by health.gov.

  • Pick an activity you genuinely enjoy, whether it's doing yoga, running, gardening, or taking the dog for a walk.
  • Fit in fitness. Make the time each day to move your body and stick to it; this will help create a lasting habit.
  • Consult with your doctor if you have health concerns before starting a new exercise program.

Manage stress by calming the mind

Check out a few of these tips that research shows not only make us feel good but also put us in a more calm and relaxed state of being.

  • Practice breathing exercises, which are a powerful way to regulate emotions (for example, breathe in for a count of four, breathe out to a count of six or eight).
  • Adopt an attitude of self-compassion. Be mindful of your emotions and what you are feeling without fueling the worry or stress even more.
  • Practice compassion. Performing little acts of kindness for others can boost your well-being tremendously.
  • Foster genuine connections with others and be 100% present. One of our greatest needs is to feel connected with others in a positive way.

Johns Hopkins resources to help you manage stress

mySupport employee assistance program

Through mySupport, JHU employees and their household family members have free access to confidential counseling and referral services for help with stress at work or at home, emotional distress, a difficult life transition, or other challenges. You can reach mySupport 24/7, 365 days a year, by phone at 443-997-7000 or by scheduling an appointment.

Check out these upcoming stress management webinars:

  • Emotional Pain: How Do You Cope? Wednesday, April 27, at noon. Challenges can arise when individuals with emotional pain turn to maladaptive coping strategies, such as alcohol and substances, overeating, or gambling, to "get by" or "cope." Join a mySupport clinician to learn about the connection between emotional pain and substance use, the warning signs, and when and where to seek support. Register here.
  • Ready, Set, Relax. Tuesday, April 26, noon to 1 p.m. Do you know how to calm yourself when you need all your energy to cope? Come to this webinar to fill your toolbox with de-stressing techniques. Register here.

Fitness and mindfulness resources

BurnAlong offers instant access to on-demand and live video classes from hundreds of instructors spanning almost four dozen health and wellness categories. Choose from cardio, yoga, dance, mindfulness, sleep, nutrition, financial well-being, and many other classes. Register for your free account and invite up to four friends or family members to join as well.

Feeling stressed? Tune in to this month's BurnAlong webinar:

  • Habits and Practical Tips to De-Stress. Wednesday, April 20, noon to 12:45 p.m. Join Burnalong and life coach Makaeala Brittain to learn stress management techniques and how you can approach your stress with holistic wellness in mind. You do not need a BurnAlong account to participate. Register here.

Calm app premium membership is available to all JHU students, faculty, and staff for free. The Calm app provides meditation instruction, sleep assistance, videos on mindful movement and stretching, and relaxing music. You can use the app from your phone or at calm.com. Create an account at calm.com/jhu, and then download the app on your devices or use your computer.

For information on all workshops offered by JHU Benefits & Worklife, visit its workshop and webinars webpage.