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The 4 A’s of Stress Relief

Coming out of a pandemic and returning to normal life with all its demands, responsibilities and expectations may feel like there are not enough hours in the day to get everything done.

Survivors of domestic abuse often have the extra stress of starting again, managing a new life and potentially sharing the parenting of your children with an ex. Too much stress can make regular tasks feel even more difficult and become a heavy weight on our shoulders. Taking steps to reduce our stress can help us increase our ability to cope.

The Mayo Clinic has written about the 4 A’s of Stress Relief.

Avoid, Alter, Accept, Adapt


  • Plan ahead - by planning ahead you can avoid frustration. Do you need to get somewhere for a certain time? Plan your journey the night before, know the timing and directions or public transportation links you need to take.
  • Take control of your surroundings - designate a space in your house as your quiet workspace or listen to a peaceful podcast while commuting.
  • Create distance between something or someone who causes you stress - this can relieve tension in your day.
  • Learn to say No - know your limits and say ‘no’ when too much is asked of you - you don’t have to attend every social or participate in every committee.
  • Manage your tasks - prioritize your to-do-list into ‘must do’ and ‘could do’ - leave the ‘could do’s’ for another day that is less busy.


If the stressful situation can’t be avoided you could try to alter it.

  • Respectfully ask others to change their behavior. Respectfully ask someone to alter how they are treating you. Remember to use "I" statements when addressing someone about how you feel.
  • State your limitations in advance. For example, you can say, "I only have five minutes to talk."


Accepting the situation can ease much of the stress when avoiding and altering doesn't work.

  • Talk with someone about how you are feeling. Call a friend, get coffee with a family member. In some circumstances finding a professional therapist might help to talk things through.
  • Practice positive self-talk. Negative thoughts tend to feed off each other, creating additional negative thoughts. One negative thought can lead to another, and you can soon spiral. Positive self-talk can reduce stress and help maintain your objectivity. Instead of thinking, “Things never go right for me” try, “This was a bad day but I have had many good days and tomorrow will be better”.
  • Learn from your mistakes. Mistakes are inevitable and should be used as teachable moments rather than create feelings of self-loathing.


Adapting often involves changing your standards and expectations, which in turn, lowers stress levels.

  • Don't strive for perfection. Deciding that achieving a ‘good enough’ level is absolutely fine - this can lower your stress immensely.
  • Practice stopping bad thoughts. Refuse to replay stressful situations over and over in your head. Actively replace a negative thought with a positive one and soon this will come to you more naturally.
  • Reframe the issue. Looking at situations from a different viewpoint is often helpful.
  • Practice gratefulness. Make a list of the good things in your life, previous happy experiences, or situations. Looking back on this list during a stressful situation can help calm your mind. Focus on the good things in your life.
  • Look at the big picture. Figuring out if something will matter in one year or in five years is important. If it won’t, letting it go can relieve stress.

Other professionals add an extra A.


Remaining Active can help to reduce stress.

  • Being active supports your memory, mood, and sleep and can reduce tension and worry. Even a 10 minute walk a day could reduce your stress.
  • Other strategies to stay active and reduce stress can include meditation/praying, stretching, cooking, dancing, singing, or listening to or playing music. Finding a hobby that brings you joy can help to turn around your day.