My approach to the stressors in my life changed during the last semester of my undergraduate education after taking a "Stress and Health" course required to complete my major. Up until that point, I was aware of the stressful situations and events in my life, but I was not mindful of them. I addressed stress with a "look ahead" attitude, trying to rush time just to get the stressor "over with" and behind me. Interestingly, what I learned in the course was that I actually needed to look back, not forward, to tackle the stresses in the present and the future.
The key to managing stress is perception. Your perceptions of the events in your life are affected by the outcome of your earlier experiences. The instructor of my college "Stress and Health" course stated that each one of us has experienced at least 3 or 4 major turning points in our lives which define who we are in the present; and, that we evaluate the potential impact of current stressors based on these defining moments. This can lead to a distortion of the present reality. My instructor stated that by identifying and evaluating the circumstances around our own life's turning points, we could then begin to "reshape" our perceptions of, and reactions to, current and future stressors.
An in-class assignment required us to "take a look back" at those moments in our lives. The reflection involved a problem-solving process devoted to redefining the meaning of those events toward a more positive outlook. We were to "let go" of the emotions associated with events out of our control, and learn from those situations that were within our control. The premise of the activity was that by becoming mindful of the stressors and the circumstances that surround them, you are able to explore your abilities to cope; thus, minimizing your body's physiologic response.
You cannot eliminate stress, but you can change your reaction to it. For those situations out of your control, practice relaxation techniques (e.g., deep breathing, yoga, meditation, aerobic exercise, etc.) to modify your physiologic response. For those events within your control, identify the steps that you need to take to alter the outcome toward the positive. And, don't be afraid to take a look back in order to proceed forward.