Reframe stress

Man laying on the grass looking thoughtful

It’s completely natural to feel stressed from time to time. Discover how to harness the good parts.

We tend to think of all stress as “all bad,” but is it? Feeling stressed can also mean you’re nervous about something that matters to you, excited for something new, or exhilarated and a bit scared, like when you’re on a roller coaster. Stress also revs up the systems of the body, so you’re ready to escape danger. When there is no danger, these effects can actually be energizing and even used to your benefit.

Mindfulness can help you spot when your stress level is rising, and also what your personal reaction to that stress is. For example, say you have a job interview coming up and you’re nervous. Do you think, “I love this feeling: I’m so pumped to do this interview!” Or do you freak out, worrying, “I’m so stressed! This is really bad. I need to get rid of this feeling or I’m going to bomb.”

Here’s a simple, short exercise to help you to re-frame stress the next time your heart begins to race.

  1. Find a place to comfortable sit (or lie down), and close your eyes.

  2. Begin to notice your body. Feel where your body makes contact with the seat, your feet on the floor. If you sense tightness anywhere, can you breathe into it? Start to feel these places relax.

  3. Notice how stress reveals itself to you, for example: heart racing, tingling in your stomach and/or fingers, tension in your neck or shoulders, and short breaths.

  4. Say to yourself, “There’s a positive side to stress. Stress can be energizing and uplifting. In the short term, stress can boost my immune system, improve performance, and help me learn faster.” Allow yourself to smile a bit.

This combination of mental reframing with a smile on your face will help shift the feeling of stress into a more positive, exciting experience.



This copyrighted information is courtesy of and Shamash Alidina.


Reviewed by Kaiser Permanente Clinical Ambassadors, including Mark Dreskin, MD, Sharon Smith, LPC, and/or David Kane, LCSW. September 2018.

Mindful, healthy mind, healthy life

This information does not replace the advice of a doctor.

Not all treatments or services described are covered benefits for Kaiser Permanente members or offered as services by Kaiser Permanente. For a list of covered benefits, please refer to your Evidence of Coverage, Summary Plan Description or other coverage documents. For recommended treatments, please consult with your health care provider.