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AWARE Stress Technique: A Simple Method for Managing Stressful and Negative Moments and Thoughts

The AWARE stress technique is a powerful tool designed to help you manage stress and regain control of your emotions. In today's fast-paced world, stress is an inevitable part of life, but how we respond to it can make a significant difference in our well-being. There are two categories of stress EUstress and DIStress distinguished by their effects on an individual's well-being and performance. Understanding the difference between these two types of stress is crucial in managing stress effectively and promoting overall health and resilience. Let's explore them a bit more below.


1. Positive Impact: Eustress, also known as "good stress," refers to stress that is perceived as positive, beneficial, or motivating.

2. Enhances Performance: Eustress can enhance performance, productivity, and creativity by providing a sense of challenge and excitement.

3. Short-Term: Eustress is typically short-term and manageable, often associated with situations such as starting a new job, planning a wedding, or participating in a competitive event.

4. Feelings of Excitement: Individuals experiencing eustress may feel excited, energized, and focused, with a heightened sense of motivation and engagement.

5. Promotes Growth: Eustress promotes personal growth and development, as individuals learn to adapt to new situations and overcome challenges effectively.


1. Negative Impact: Distress, also known as "bad stress," refers to stress that is perceived as harmful, overwhelming, or detrimental to well-being.

2. Impairs Functioning: Distress can impair cognitive function, emotional regulation, and physical health, leading to symptoms such as anxiety, depression, fatigue, and physical illness.

3. Long-Term: Distress is often long-term and chronic, resulting from ongoing or unresolved stressors such as financial problems, relationship difficulties, or chronic illness.

4. Feelings of Anxiety: Individuals experiencing distress may feel anxious, irritable, and overwhelmed, with a sense of helplessness or hopelessness about their situation.

5. Negatively Affects Health: Distress can have serious consequences for physical and mental health, increasing the risk of conditions such as heart disease, hypertension, gastrointestinal disorders, and mood disorders.

Key Differences:

The key difference between eustress and distress lies in how individuals perceive and respond to stressors. While eustress is viewed as positive and manageable, distress is experienced as negative and overwhelming. Eustress generally has a beneficial impact on performance and well-being, whereas distress can impair functioning and lead to adverse health outcomes.

Eustress is typically short-term and associated with specific events or challenges, whereas distress may be chronic and ongoing, resulting from persistent stressors or unresolved issues.

Individuals experiencing eustress may feel excited and motivated, while those experiencing distress may feel anxious and overwhelmed. Recognizing the difference between these two types of stress is essential in effectively managing stress and promoting resilience.

The AWARE technique offers a structured approach to dealing with stress in the moment, allowing you to cultivate a sense of calm and resilience. Let's explore how to practice the AWARE technique together.

Step 1: Acknowledge

The first step in the AWARE technique is to acknowledge your stress. Take a moment to pause and recognize that you are feeling stressed or overwhelmed. You might notice physical sensations like tension in your muscles, rapid breathing, or a racing heart rate. Simply acknowledging your stress without judgment is the first step towards managing it effectively.

Step 2: Wait

Once you've acknowledged your stress, the next step is to wait. Instead of reacting impulsively to your stress, give yourself a moment to pause and breathe. Allow yourself to create a gap between the stressful stimulus and your response to it. This pause gives you the opportunity to regain control of your emotions and choose a more constructive way to cope with the situation.

Step 3: Allow

As you wait, allow yourself to experience your emotions fully. It's natural to feel stressed from time to time, and it's okay to acknowledge and accept these feelings. Avoid suppressing or denying your emotions, as this can lead to increased tension and anxiety. Instead, practice self-compassion and kindness towards yourself as you navigate through your stress.

Step 4: Release

Once you've allowed yourself to experience your emotions, the next step is to release any tension or negativity you may be holding onto. You can do this through journaling, deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, or any other relaxation technique that works for you. Imagine releasing stress with each exhale, letting go of any tightness or discomfort in your body.

Step 5: Engage

Finally, engage in a positive coping strategy to help you manage your stress more effectively. This could involve problem-solving, seeking social support, engaging in a hobby, or simply taking a break to do something you enjoy. Choose an activity that helps you feel calmer and more centered, allowing you to regain your sense of balance and perspective.

The AWARE stress technique offers a simple yet effective approach to managing stress in the moment. By acknowledging your stress, waiting before reacting, allowing yourself to experience your emotions, releasing tension, and engaging in positive coping strategies, you can cultivate resilience and well-being in the face of life's challenges. Practice the AWARE technique regularly to build your stress management skills and experience greater peace and calm in your daily life. 

-Dr. Sha'

(Photo: Unsplash)


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