Simple Skills to Help Manage Stress – by Terri Kolb, Extension Educator

Submitted by: Terri Kolb
Health and Well-Being Educator
University of Wisconsin Madison-Division of Extension Forest and Oneida County



Noticing Positive Events is a skill worth learning. Research with different types of chronically stressed people – caregivers, people with serious illness, people dealing with the loss of a loved one, etc., have taught us that most of the time, even during extreme stress, people can still recognize positive events and to use these positive experiences to help them cope with the stress.

The positive events do not have to be big – they can be very simple, even everyday things.  For example, listening to music, getting a phone call from a friend, watching a funny movie, a good cup of coffee. Small events can have big effects. That song on the radio or cup of coffee may only last a short time, but it can influence your entire day.

According to research studies, being in a good mood even briefly can:

  • Help your body’s stress responses settle down when they’re stuck in high gear.
  • Interrupt you when you’re caught up in negative thoughts that just go in circles.
  • Encourage you to explore, learn things, or reach out to people.

All these benefits can stick around long after the positive event is done. The point is, positive emotions that come with the experience of noticing positive events can provide a momentary break from the stress, they can help you feel replenished so you can return to coping with the stress.

You can increase the benefit of noticing a positive event by practicing another skill called Savoring.

It’s one thing to simply to notice an event, but research participants often did something to extend or amplify the event: They told someone about it, took a moment to stop and savor it, wrote about it, or revisited it in their minds later and re-experienced the positive emotions that came with that event.

You can think of savoring as turning up the volume on a positive emotion, in other words, amplifying the positive event.

Here are just a few of the ways you can savor positive events:

During the event:

  • Slow down and focus on enjoying the experience.
  • Celebrate the experience.

Or after the event:

  • Write about the experience.
  • Tell a friend about it.
  • Create a memento, like a photo, souvenir, Facebook post.
  • Think back on it later and savor those memories.

Practice to benefit from these skills:

Each day, preferably before bed, write down one or more things that were positive, went well, or made you   feel good. It can be something you brought about or something that just happened.  These things can be ordinary and small in importance.  If you can think of more than one, great!  But try to come up with at least one. Then answer the questions:

  • A.) What moods, feelings and thoughts accompanied the event?
  • B.) How did you savor the event?

If it is just not your thing to write down your experiences, you can still benefit by taking the time to mentally go through this practice daily.

This Noticing Positive Events and Savoring practice is just one way of being more aware of the good things that happen to you. And very simple tools you can use to manage your stress. These skills and more are from a UW-Extension program called WeCope.

Why not also put these noticing and savoring practices to use while you are eating. Noticing and savoring the tastes, smells and look of your food can bring so much more enjoyment to your meals and your day.

To learn more about WeCope contact Terri Kolb at  or call (715) 365-2756.

Learn more about Oneida County Extension at or call (715) 365-2750.

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