Effective stress management is a challenge for many adults, whether you’re a busy professional juggling meetings and clients, trying to find the balance between work and family, or a parent who manages your household on a day-to-day basis and coordinates your children’s activity schedules, PTO meetings, and volunteer projects, it seems no one is exempt from stress in today’s fast-paced world.
While stress is inevitable, it is manageable for most people with the right coping techniques and management strategies. We’ve searched the far corners of the web to compile this comprehensive list of 50 top stress management tips from experts, psychologists, coaches, and other professionals who have learned the most effective methods for keeping stress under control.
Jump to a specific section by clicking a link below:
- Manage Stress by Thinking Outside of Yourself: Environmental Tips, Giving Back, and More
- Meditation, Visualization, and Other Mind-Focused Stress Management Tips
- Physical Activities and Methods for Managing Stress
- Techniques for Preventing Stress
Manage Stress by Thinking Outside of Yourself: Environmental Tips, Giving Back, and More
1. Do something to help others. In times of stress, we tend to turn our focus inward and dwell on the challenges that are creating negative stress. But the opposite is also true: “As you might expect, getting support from others can cool down the stress response. Butgiving support and helping others is also remarkably effective. Researchers (link is external) found that providing support to others—even in small ways, such as opening the door for someone—can reduce stress and increase a sense of well-being.” – Meg Selig, 11 Easy (and Unexpected) Ways to Reduce Stress, Psychology Today; Twitter: @PsychToday
2. Delegate tasks such as house cleaning, or hire a personal assistant. “If a clean house makes everything in your world better, why wouldn’t you take care of yourself and your family by hiring a housekeeper? You can take your children on an adventure to do something fun outdoors, teach them a new skill and come home to a tidy house. You will no longer feel pressured to do both while feeling unfulfilled because neither one received your full attention. It will also create space for you to enjoy your children.
“When my daughters were 14 and 8, I hired a law student. The interviewing process was intense because I was looking for someone who could love my girls while doing tasks with them that needed to be done. Ashley would pick up the girls up from school, take them to the park, teach them new skills, prepare healthy meals with them and enforce rules like cleaning their rooms, respecting others and practicing violin. I would text her my list of tasks before she picked up the girls from school, then they were off — laughing and giggling while taking care of family business. This was healthy for all of us and we added a new family member. The girls had a new big sister figure, Ashley made some cash and when I came home, I was able to enjoy the girls without feeling anxious about tasks that needed to be done. But she is on to them — not letting them get away with too much and setting boundaries because she loves them. She is my right-hand lady and friend.” – Tara Campbell, 6 Stress Management Tips for Moms, Huffington Post; Twitter: @PHGrowers
3. Spend time with a pet. If you don’t have a pet, consider adopting one. “Pets are loving and adorable creatures that can counter the negative effects of stress. Dogs especially can be caring and spontaneous in their affection for you. Cuddle them or take them for a walk and you’ll experience a feel good factor that can take away the blues.” – Top 20 Stress Management Activities to Instantly Reduce Stress, Unstress Yourself; Twitter: @unwindyourself
4. Ask yourself what you’d say to a close friend who was in a stressful situation similar to yours. “‘Self-compassion is one of the most important sources of emotional resilience we have,’ says Kristin Neff, Ph.D., author of Self-Compassion. It means, simply, treating yourself with the same kindness you’d treat a friend who was going through a hard time. ‘Most people critique themselves and tear themselves down when they’re stressed. They go straight into fix-it mode and don’t give themselves any comfort, care, or support,’ she says. Instead, she recommends imagining a friend coming to you with the problem you’re dealing with, and saying to yourself what you’d say to her. ‘When you treat yourself with self-compassion, your levels of stress hormones like cortisol decrease and your levels of feel-good hormones like oxytocin increase, instantly making you feel calmer and more capable of dealing,’ Neff says.” – Kristin Neff, Ph.D., author of Self-Compassion, as quoted by Mirel Ketchiff in 5 Simple Stress Management Tips That Really Work, Shape; Twitter: @Shape_Magazine
5. Try color therapy to create an environment that supports calmness and relaxation. “Have you ever heard of Colorology? Well it’s the theory that color and light can be used to balance energy wherever a person’s body is lacking, whether it’s mental, emotional, physical or spiritual. If you are feeling overly stressed, you can use color as a stress management tool. Different colors have different effects on the brain, so envisioning certain shades or even carrying a little patch of a certain color with you throughout the day can make you feel better and more in control. For example, painting one of your finger nails a color that calms you can remind you to relax and take a deep breath whenever you catch a glimpse of it during your day. Pink, yellow, blue, and green are considered to be particularly calming!” – Kaila, Ten Unique Ways to Reduce Stress, Healthy Helper; Twitter: @Healthy_Helper
6. Create a toolbox of stress-management techniques. “One stress-shrinking strategy won’t work for all your problems. For instance, while deep breathing is helpful when you’re stuck in traffic or hanging at home, it might not rescue you during a business meeting.
“Because stress is complex, ‘What we need is a toolbox that’s full of techniques that we can fit and choose for the stressor in the present moment,’ said Richard Blonna, Ed.D, a nationally certified coach and counselor and author of Stress Less, Live More: How Acceptance & Commitment Therapy Can Help You Live a Busy Yet Balanced Life.
7. Rely on your supportive relationships. “Draw strength from friends and family members. You may have some friends who help you to make decisions, to feel loved, and to feel hopeful. Call them. Talk to them. Tell them how you feel. You may have some friends or family members who make you angrier or sadder. It might be good not to talk to them when you feel stress. Anger makes stress worse.” – Stephen F. Duncan, Ph.D., former MSU Extension Family and Human Development Specialist, 50 Stress Busting Ideas for Your Well-being, Montana State University Extension; Twitter: @MSU_Extension
8. Create something. “Doodle, paint, crochet or craft. Creating something unique and beautful can relax your mind and your body.
“One of my favorite ways to de-stress is to art journal (read more here). I enjoy combining photos, writing and artwork to express my thoughts and feelings of the moment, and I have a visual map of where I’ve been.” – Kimberlee Stokes, Blogger, The Peaceful Mom, How to Deal With Stress: 5 Fun Activities to Help You Unwind, Huffington Post; Twitter: @HuffingtonPost, @thepeacefulmom
9. Fill your environment with soothing aromatherapy scents. “Studies suggest aromatherapy can be a good way to relieve stress. Certain aromas (like lavender) have been consistently shown to reduce stress levels.” – Kate Morin, 23 Science-Backed Ways to Reduce Stress Right Now, Greatist; Twitter: @greatist
10. Fix something unrelated to the stressor. “If you’re having problems in one area of your life, it can be therapeutic to fix something in an unrelated area. It can be anything, from a leaking faucet to other minor home repairs, or even a relationship with someone that’s been a bit rocky lately. It’s a way of proving to yourself that you can solve problems and mend things, and when you return to your original problem you’ll find that you have new clarity and confidence and can come up with a more creative solution.” – 105 Simple Ways to Stress Less & Live in the Moment, Bembu.com
11. Learn to recognize when stressors are truly problems worth addressing. This is especially important for those with a tendency to avoid anger. “‘Women in particular are told over and over again to be nice no matter what. Get angry and you could lose your reputation, marriage, friends, or job,’ says Potter-Efron [Ronald Potter-Efron, Ph.D., an anger-management specialist in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, and a coauthor of Letting Go of Anger]. If you grew up in a volatile or abusive home, you may not believe anger can be controlled or expressed calmly.
“The damage: The primary function of anger is to signal that something is amiss and encourage resolution. By ignoring that warning sign, you may end up engaging in self-destructive behaviors (overeating, excessive shopping). You’re also basically giving the green light to other people’s bad behavior or denying them the opportunity to make amends. How can they apologize if they don’t know you’ve been hurt?
“How to Turn It Around
- Challenge your core beliefs. Ask yourself, ‘Is it really fine for my employees to leave early whenever they want? For my partner to go golfing every weekend?’ If you’re honest, the resounding answer to these questions is probably ‘You know what? It’s not fine.’ Recognizing that something is wrong is the first step to setting it right.
- Step outside yourself. Imagine that a friend is the one being abused, overworked, or neglected. What would be the appropriate way for her to respond? Make a list of actions she might take, then ask yourself why it is OK for her, but not you, to react that way.
- Embrace healthy confrontation. Someone ticked you off? Tell the person―in a positive, constructive way. Yes, he or she might be surprised, possibly even (gasp!) angered, by your words. And you know what? He or she will get over it. ‘Avoidance often does more damage to families and friendships than any expression of anger,’ says Potter-Efron.” – Jenna McCarthy, What’s Your Anger Style?, Real Simple; Twitter: @RealSimple
Meditation, Visualization, and Other Mind-Focused Stress Management Tips
12. Visualize calm and peaceful situations or settings. “It sounds New Age-y, but at least one study, done at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation, has found that it’s highly effective in reducing stress. Dr. Cooper recommends imagining you’re in a hot shower and a wave of relaxation is washing your stress down the drain. Gerald Epstein, M.D., the New York City author of Healing Visualizations (Bantam Doubleday Dell Press, 1989), suggests the following routine: Close your eyes, take three long, slow breaths, and spend a few seconds picturing a relaxing scene, such as walking in a meadow, kneeling by a brook, or lying on the beach. Focus on the details—the sights, the sounds, the smells.” – 37 Stress Management Tips from the Experts, Reader’s Digest; Twitter: @readersdigest
13. Change your emotional response. “Managing stress doesn’t mean eliminating stressors from your life. It means developing positive strategies for dealing with stress to avoid negative consequences. Think about stress as your reaction to an event, rather than the event itself. This makes it easier to identify healthy ways to manage stress. Even though you can’t control some of the stressors in your life, you can control your response to them.” – Mayo Clinic Center for Integrative and Complementary Medicine, 8 Proven Ways to Manage Stress: Tips from Mayo Clinic, Gaiam Life; Twitter: @Gaiam
14. Practice daily relaxation. “Relaxation is more than sitting in your favorite chair watching TV. To relieve stress, relaxation should calm the tension in your mind and body. Some good forms of relaxation are yoga, tai chi (a series of slow, graceful movements) and meditation.
“Like most skills, relaxation takes practice. Many people join a class to learn and practice relaxation skills.
“Deep breathing is a form of relaxation you can learn and practice at home using the following steps. It’s a good skill to practice as you start or end your day. With daily practice, you will soon be able to use this skill whenever you feel stress.
- Sit in a comfortable position with your feet on the floor and your hands in your lap or lie down. Close your eyes.
- Picture yourself in a peaceful place. Perhaps you’re lying on the beach, walking in the mountains or floating in the clouds. Hold this scene in your mind.
- Inhale and exhale. Focus on breathing slowly and deeply.
- Continue to breathe slowly for 10 minutes or more.
- Try to take at least five to 10 minutes every day for deep breathing or another form of relaxation.” – Four Ways to Deal with Stress, American Heart Association; Twitter: @American_Heart
15. Learn to recognize the things you cannot change. “Accepting that you can’t change certain things allows you to let go and not get upset. For instance, you cannot change the fact that you have to drive during rush hour. But you can look for ways to relax during your commute, such as listening to a podcast or book.” – Learn to manage stress, Updated by: Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team, Medline Plus; Twitter: @MedlinePlus
16. Write down your feelings. “Often we don’t just censor what we say, we censor what we think. Sometimes we won’t even admit to ourselvesthat we’re feeling overwhelmed, lost or stressed. As a result, we keep things ‘bottled up’ and they stay on our mind, elevating our heart rate and blood pressure in the process.
“Talking to someone can help to externalize this stress and lighten the burden. And failing this, writing down your problems in some kind of journal can be just as effective.
Think this is just a nice idea? Actually, it’s backed up by quite a lot of evidence. In one study it was found that people who had lost their jobs were actually more likely to be find employment sooner if they wrote down their feelings (1). The reason presumably is that they became more positive and thus performed better in subsequent interviews and opened themselves up for more opportunities.
“In other study, it was found that writing about stressful events could help individuals to see the positive ‘silver linings’ of those situations (2). Another concluded that ‘FEW’ (focused expressed writing) could act as a useful substitute to therapy for those unwilling or unable to receive it (3). Expressive writing has even been found to help reduce the symptoms of asthma (4)!
“Seeing a professional therapist is likely to still be more effective than expressive writing alone as therapists can provide feedback and insight and teach useful coping strategies and techniques. That said though, writing is a highly effective alternative and could be especially effective when used in combination with psychotherapeutic intervention. Cognitive behavioral therapists in fact do recommend journaling for the treatment of many conditions.” – Keith Hillman, How Writing Down Your Feelings Can Combat Stress, Journal of Stress Management
17. Practice mindfulness. “For many years Buddhists and other contemplative traditions have known that paying attention to the present moment is deeply relaxing as anxieties about the future and worries about the past disappear.
“Mindfulness recently has been tested by U.S. and UK universities as a way to reduce stress, anxiety, and depression, and is being adopted by the British National Health Service. To experience it and reduce your stress, simply bring your attention to your senses. Notice your breathing. Whatever it’s doing is fine, watch it go in and out. Feel the sensations of your body: yourself on your chair, the feeling of your clothes, your feet on the floor. If your mind wanders (this is what minds do), simply come back to the present moment. Repeat for three minutes.
“Mindfulness breaks are great stress reduction tools and can be taken as one would take cigarette breaks at work for three minutes at a time. Also bring the principles to daily work activities: doing one thing completely at a time. This will also make you more efficient as you will not waste time swapping between activities. Avoid interruptions wherever possible by only checking your e-mail twice a day, for example.” – Mark Walsh, Stress management tips for better work/life balance, AccountingWeb; Twitter: @AccountingWEB
18. Find something to laugh about. Laughter is a great stress-buster. “‘Laughter re-enchants daily living,’ says Paul Pearsall, Ph.D., author of The Heart’s Code (Broadway Books). Healthy laughter comes from Bill Cosby’s gentle kind of humor that eases little annoyances. Research shows that we experience about 30 of these ‘heart hassles’ every day, stressing the heart both figuratively and physiologically. On both counts, humor is healing.” – Ziona Hochbaum, 10 Stress-busting Tips for Busy Moms, Parenting; Twitter: @Parenting
19. Learn (and practice) the three essential steps for relaxation. “Relaxation skills are basic to stress management. It’s how our bodies and mind are able to release tension and slow down. You can easily learn to relax, to slow down, even appreciate and embrace stillness.
“There are three basic elements or results of any effective stress management approach:
- A here and now awareness – being in the present moment.
- Slowing down of the mind and body
- Suspension of judgment about one’s experience and one’s self” – Dan Darnell, Ph.D., Anxiety and Stress Management Training Session, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; Twitter: @UNCHealthyHeels
20. Try meditation, a form of guided thought. “Meditation is a form of guided thought. It can take many forms. You can do it with exercise that uses the same motions over and over, like walking or swimming. You can meditate by practicing relaxation training, by stretching or by breathing deeply.
“Relaxation training is simple. Start with one muscle. Hold it tight for a few seconds then relax the muscle. Do this with each of your muscles, beginning with the toes and feet and working your way up through the rest of your body, one muscle group at a time.
“Stretching can also help relieve tension. Roll your head in a gentle circle. Reach toward the ceiling and bend side to side slowly. Roll your shoulders.
“Deep, relaxed breathing by itself may help relieve stress (see the box to the right). This helps you get plenty of oxygen and activates the relaxation response, the body’s antidote to stress.” – Written by Family Doctor Editorial Staff, Stress: How to Cope Better With Life’s Challenges, FamilyDoctor.org; Twitter: @familydoctor
21. Tap into the power of music. “Are you a music lover? Or a nature lover? Experiment with the following:
- The right music can lower your blood pressure and help you relax. Keep the music that works for you on your phone, computer, iPod, or play it in the car when traffic has you stressed.
- No music at hand? Trying singing or humming a favorite tune.
- Tune in to a soundtrack of nature, such as crashing waves, wind rustling the trees, birds singing. If the real thing is on your doorstep, even better.
- Buy a small fountain, so you can enjoy the soothing sound of running water in your home or office. When stress hits, close your eyes and take a few minutes to focus on the calming trickle.
- Keep the recorded voice of a loved one on your mobile phone. Just the sound of someone special’s voice can help ease tension.” – Jeanne Segal, Ph.D. – Helpguide Co-Founder, Step 2: Master the Skill of Quick Stress Relief, HelpGuide.org; Twitter: @helpguideorg
22. Don’t make mountains out of molehills, and spend 80% of your time focused on the solution. “One of the best ways to make your day and life easier, lighter and less stressful is to not build mountains out of molehills. To not create extra drama, overthink or create a problem out of something that doesn’t matter much. Or just out of air.
“So how can you handle this bad habit?
“Well, when a big problem is starting to build in my mind I first say something like: Hold on now…
“This helps me to pause and become more receptive to change my line of thinking. Then I ask myself:
“Will this matter 5 years from now? Or even 5 weeks from now?
“Those two steps have helped me to build a lot less mountains in my life.
“Spend 80% of your time focusing on a solution.
“And only 20% of your time on dwelling on your non-molehill issue or problem. Instead of taking a common path and doing it the other way around. You’ll live a much more action-filled life and feel less pessimistic and powerless if you do.” – Henrik Edberg, How to Deal with Stress: 33 Tips That Work, The Positivity Blog; Twitter: @positivityblog
23. Wear a rubber band around your wrist. “It’s the latest fashion trend! Well, maybe not, but it can reduce stress. Similar to training a dog, you can actually train yourself to feel stressed less often via operant conditioning. Let me explain. Every time you are feeling stressed, lightly snap the rubber band around your arm. Eventually, you will theoretically associate feelings of stress with a pinch, and you may subconsciously strive to avoid the feeling. Some people might say this one is a stretch (pun intended), but it has a solid rationale behind it. Psychologist B. F. Skinner developed operant conditioning by first testing the theory on rats. He would place a rat in a box, and if the rat accidentally nudged a lever within the box, he would be rewarded with a treat. Eventually, he would intentionally nudge the lever. In this instance of reducing stress via a rubber band snatch, punishment is used instead of reinforcement, so the idea is that we withdraw from a behavior or emotion in order to avoid an unpleasant stimulus.” – Mandy Crouse, 10 Weird ways to reduce stress, SheKnows; Twitter: @SheKnows
24. Read books that nourish the soul. “Books containing positive affirmations, daily meditations or uplifting stories will help you to feel better and restore your belief that life can be good.” – Adrian Bryant, 100 ways to reduce stress, NowLoss.com; Twitter: @inshape4u
25. Use problem-solving techniques. First identify and clearly define the problem, then brainstorm solutions. “Now that you have a well-defined problem, it’s time to think about solutions. Think of all the ways in which you might solve your problem. The sky’s the limit. Now isn’t the time to judge whether one solution is better than another. Not sure where to begin? Try these tips:
- Recall past problems that you were able to solve. Could a similar solution work for this problem, too?
- Ask friends, family and people you trust for advice.
“If you’re still having trouble, perhaps your problem is too complicated. In that case, try to divide and conquer. Break the problem into smaller parts you can more easily tackle.
“Remember, consider everything that pops into your head — even ideas that initially seem silly. Your stress-reduction plan may include a little zaniness. Maybe taking a salsa dancing class after work a few days a week will help you to unwind better than would quiet meditation.” – Mayo Clinic Staff, Problem-solving techniques for stress management, Mayo Clinic; Twitter: @MayoClinic
26. Take instant vacations. “Sometimes the best way to de-stress is to take your mind away to a more relaxing place.
- Visualize. Have a favorite place where you can imagine yourself relaxing. The place should be beautiful and calm. When you’re stressed, sit down, lean back, take deep breaths, close your eyes, and imagine yourself in your calm place.
- Take time out for yourself. Everyone deserves time for themselves —a bath or something that allows time to think and de-stress. Try a warm bath with your ears just underwater. Listen to yourself take deep, slow breaths. Take your pulse and count as your heart rate goes down.
- Enjoy hobbies or creative art as an instant vacation.
- Look at the beauty around you and get pleasure from the small things you may have stopped noticing.
- Take mini-vacations. Sometimes we forget that the park around the corner is a great place to hang out. A walk outside can be a mini vacation if you choose to forget your worries.
- Reading a good book is an escape from reality. You have to imagine the sights, sounds, and smells—you are somewhere else for a while.” – From Ginsburg KR, Jablow MM. Building Resilience in Children and Teens: Giving Kids Roots and Wings. 2nd ed. Elk Grove Village, IL: American Academy of Pediatrics; 2011, Creating Your Personal Stress-Management Plan, Fostering Resilience
27. Turn problems into opportunities with a positive shift in thinking. “The optimistic person, however, knows how to manage stress in difficult situations and soon moves beyond this disappointment. He responds quickly to the adverse event and interprets it as being temporary, specific and external to himself. The optimist responds with a positive attitude, knows how to manage stress and counter the negative feelings by immediately reframing the event so that it appears positive in some way.
“Since your conscious mind can hold only one thought at a time, either positive or negative, if you deliberately choose a positive thought to dwell upon, you keep your mind optimistic and your emotions positive. Since your thoughts and feelings determine your actions, you will tend to be a more constructive person, and you will start moving forward and more rapidly toward the goals that you have chosen.
“It all comes down to the way you talk to yourself on a regular basis. In our courses of problem solving and decisions making, we encourage people to respond to problems by changing their language from negative to positive. Instead of using the word problem, we encourage people to use the word situation. You see, a problem is something that you deal with. The event is the same. It’s the way you interpret the event to yourself that makes it sound and appear completely different.
“Even better than situation is the word challenge. Whenever you have a difficulty, immediately reframe it, choose to view it as a challenge, and start moving forward. Rather than saying, ‘I have a problem,’ say, ‘I have an interesting challenge facing me.’ The word challenge is inherently positive. It is something that you rise to that makes you stronger and better. It is the same situation, only the word that you are using to describe it is different.
“The best of all possible words to maintain a positive attitude and manage stress is the word opportunity. When you are faced with a difficulty of any kind, instead of saying, ‘I have a problem,’ you can say, ‘I am faced with an unexpected opportunity.’ And if you concentrate your powers on finding out what that opportunity is—even if it is only a valuable lesson—you will certainly find it. As the parable says, ‘Seek and ye shall find, for all who seek find it.'” – Brian Tracy, How To Manage Stress And Overcome Difficulties: 4 Ways To Maintain A Positive Attitude And Keep Moving Forward, Brian Tracy International; Twitter: @BrianTracy
Physical Activities and Methods for Managing Stress
28. Avoid drugs and alcohol. “They may seem to be a temporary fix to feel better, but in the long run they can create more problems and add to your stress—instead of take it away.” – Managing Stress, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC); Twitter: @CDCgov
29. Take a break from acute stressors. “It may seem difficult to get away from a big work project, a crying baby or a growing credit card bill. But when you give yourself permission to step away from it, you let yourself have time to do something else, which can help you have a new perspective or practice techniques to feel less overwhelmed. It’s important to not avoid your stress (those bills have to be paid sometime), but even just 20-minutes to take care of yourself is helpful.” – Five tips to help manage stress, American Psychological Association; Twitter: @APA
30. Implement time management strategies. “Your workload can cause stress, if you don’t manage your time well. This can be a key source of stress for very many people.
“Take our time management quiz to identify where you can improve, and make sure that you use time management tools such as To-Do Lists, Action Programs, and Eisenhower’s Urgent/Important Principle to manage your priorities.
“Then use Job Analysis to think about what’s most important in your role, so that you can prioritize your work more effectively. This helps you reduce stress, because you get the greatest return from your efforts, and you minimize the time you spend on low-value activities.
“Also, avoid multitasking, only check email at certain times, and don’t use electronic devices for a while before going to bed, so that you use this time to ‘switch off’ fully.” – Mind Tools Editorial Team, Managing Stress: Create Calm in Your Career, Mind Tools; Twitter: @Mind_Tools
31. Calendars and schedules are helpful for ensuring that you don’t over-commit yourself, which is a common stress-inducing scenario. “Good time-management skills are critical for effective stress control. In particular, learning to prioritize tasks and avoid over-commitment are critical measures to make sure that you’re not overscheduled. Always using a calendar or planner and checking it faithfully before committing to anything is one way to develop time-management skills. You can also learn to identify time-wasting tasks by keeping a diary for a few days and noticing where you may be losing time.
“For example, productivity experts recommend setting aside a specific time (or multiple times) each day to check and respond to email and messages rather than being a continual slave to incoming information. Banishing procrastination is another time-management skill that can be learned or perfected.” – Medical Author:
Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR, Stress Management Techniques, MedicineNet; Twitter: @MedicineNet
32. Engage in low-pressure, enjoyable activities. “Get crafty (art, scrapbooking, writing/journaling), listen to music, get physical (walk, run, dance, do yoga), get outside, or just give yourself a few minutes off from what you are doing to do simply nothing. Don’t be afraid to take a break when you are studying or writing a paper. Schedule it in! A 20-minute power nap can re-energize you for hours and a brisk walk around the block can help to clear your head and put your thoughts in order.” – 10 Stress Reduction Tips, University of New Hampshire Health Services; Twitter: @UNHHealth
33. Regular exercise can be an effective way to both prevent and manage stress. “For the biggest benefits of exercise, try to include at least 2½ hours of moderate-intensity physical activity (e.g. brisk walking) each week, 1¼ hours of a vigorous-intensity activity (such as jogging or swimming laps), or a combination of the two.
- 5 X 30: Jog, walk, bike, or dance three to five times a week for 30 minutes.
- Set small daily goals and aim for daily consistency rather than perfect workouts. It’s better to walk every day for 15-20 minutes than to wait until the weekend for a three-hour fitness marathon. Lots of scientific data suggests that frequency is most important.
- Find forms of exercise that are fun or enjoyable. Extroverted people often like classes and group activities. People who are more introverted often prefer solo pursuits.
- Distract yourself with an iPod or other portable media player to download audiobooks, podcasts, or music. Many people find it’s more fun to exercise while listening to something they enjoy.
- Recruit an “exercise buddy.” It’s often easier to stick to your exercise routine when you have to stay committed to a friend, partner, or colleague.
- Be patient when you start a new exercise program. Most sedentary people require about four to eight weeks to feel coordinated and sufficiently in shape so that exercise feels easier.” – Tips to Manage Anxiety and Stress, Anxiety and Depression Association of America; Twitter: @Got_Anxiety
34. Spend time in nature. “Going outdoors helps to relieve your stress naturally, with research showing levels of the stress hormone cortisol lower in those who live in areas with the most green space, as are their self-reported feelings of stress. Even five minutes in nature can help reduce stress and boost your mood.” – Dr. Mercola, 8 Stress-Busting Tips from Experts, Mercola.com; Twitter: @Mercola
35. Find positive behavior coping strategies. “There are both positive and negative coping strategies that people use. Some people may drink or smoke because of stress but these are obviously negative coping strategies. Some positive coping strategies are writing goals to tackle the problem, writing ‘to do’ lists, exercising, or doing the things that increase eustress (good stress). Writing goals and lists help to organize thoughts and actions so that you know how to fix the problem or possibly remove the stressor if possible. Exercise increases endorphins in our body or gives us the ‘runner’s high’ while also releasing the tension in our body and feelings of anxiety, depression, anger, and frustration.” – Aaron C. Moffett, Ph.D., Stress Management Tips for Good Health, Association for Applied Sport Psychology; Twitter: @AASPTweets
36. Eat a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables. “‘Stress eating’, in the form of over-indulgence or trips to the vending machine or drive-through, may seem like a great idea when you’re feeling anxious. But the fact is that you’ll feel better in the long run if you reach for an apple instead of a bag of chips when you have the urge to munch. Get more healthy eating tips.” – Women and Stress Management: 7 Essential Tips, Guadalupe Regional Medical Center; Twitter: @GRMCHospital
37. Get active by gardening and take advantage of the stress-busting effects of plants and flowers in your environment. “Research has shown that having plants and flowers in your presence can elicit a positive mood and reduce stress levels. Connecting with the Earth by sticking your hands in the dirt and tending to the plants yourself even further imbue you with an energy of calm. If you don’t have a garden yet, start with our How to Go Green Guide to Gardening.” – Laurel House, Planet Green, 8 Fun Ways to Manage Stress, Care2; Twitter: @Care2Healthy
38. Learn progressive muscle relaxation techniques. “Progressive Muscle Relaxation is meant to help you resolve any tension in your muscles and body. The idea is that you first tense and then relax all the muscles throughout your body to reach the ultimate state of relaxation. For more information and exercises on PMR (Progressive Muscle Relaxation) check out these articles: Health Hint: PMR , Doing PMR, How to Perform PMR.” – How to Deal with Stress, Creative Market; Twitter: @CreativeMarket
39. Play with Playdough. “No kids with Playdough at home? No problem, here is a simple recipe to make some play-dough or go buy some at the local dollar store. It’s time to get physical!
- Allow yourself to really play with the playdough like you did when you were a child.
- Feeling sad or anxious? Pound the playdough flat with your fist or palm.
- Shape the playdough into a ball and throw it at the floor to see what happens.
- Make snakes, towers, rocks, flowers, whatever inspires you! Allow yourself to play for 15 to 30 minutes.
“This type of tactile experience is a great way to relieve stress, anger, frustration or disappointment. When we allow ourselves time for self-care, we are better able to manage stress. The more time we give ourselves to play freely, the closer we can come to eradicating stress from our lives.” – Kelly Galea, 3 Creative Ways to Relieve Stress, 3 F’s of Life and Business; Twitter: @kellygalea
Techniques for Preventing Stress
40. Identify the sources of stress in your life and take steps to avoid them. “We sometimes create our own stress because of habits and traits that can have harmful effects that can be reduced using cognitive restructuring techniques such as behavioral modification, assertiveness training, time management and stress inoculation. Others turn to smoking, alcohol or drugs to relieve their stress but these short-term solutions eventually cause even more stress. Long-term use of prescription medications can result in dependency or adverse side effects and some supplements can have similar problems or interact with other drugs. St. John’s wort has been shown to interfere with numerous medications and kava kava is banned in the UK because of liver damage.” – Stress Management Tips, The American Institute of Stress; Twitter: @AIS_StressNews
41. Use planning and lists to create a sense of mastery over your important daily tasks to avoid stress. “Make a list of the important things you need to handle each day. Try to follow the list so you feel organized and on top of things. Put together a coping plan step by step so you have a sense of mastery.” – Lynn Ponton, MD, 20 Tips to Tame Your Stress, Psych Central; Twitter: @PsychCentral
42. Keep a stress diary. “Note down the date, time and place of each stressful episode, and note what you were doing, who you were with, and how you felt both physically and emotionally. Give each stressful episode a stress rating (on, say, a 1-10 scale) and use the diary to understand what triggers your stress and how effective you are in stressful situations. This will enable you to avoid stressful situations and develop better coping mechanisms.” – Dealing with Stress | Ten Tips, Skills You Need; Twitter: @SkillsYouNeed
43. Set realistic expectations. “Being busy is sometimes inevitable, but regularly taking on more than you can manage can cause unwanted and unwelcome stress. Tell yourself that it’s okay to say no to activities at your child’s school or to extra projects at work — you are not obligated to accept every request made of you. Additionally, don’t take on more financial responsibilities — such as a new car or a bigger house — if you think they’ll be a stretch. Being realistic about your finances is an important strategy for managing stress.” – Diana Rodriguez | Medically reviewed by Niya Jones, MD, MPH, 8 Tips for Managing Stress, Everyday Health; Twitter: @EverydayHealth
44. Prioritize and set limits. “It might feel nice to rattle off all the non-profits you volunteer with, and you may feel good about filling your calendar with bake sales and charity events. But at the end of the day, you may be stretching yourself too thin.
“Set priorities around the groups you’re most passionate about, and only dedicate your time to those. Learn to say no when you absolutely cannot take on anything else, and don’t look back. You’ll be healthier and happier for it.” – Written by the Healthline Editorial Team, Medically Reviewed by Brenda B. Spriggs, MD, Preventing Stress, Healthline; Twitter: @Healthline
45. Reflect on your day at the end of each day using intention and reflection. “When you can, take time to reflect at the beginning and end of each day. In the morning, you may want to think about how you want your day to be. Your intentions can be something you want to accomplish or ‘do,’ and they can also be about how you feel, or how you want to ‘be.’ For example, you might tell yourself, ‘I want to respond to my child with greater patience,’ or ‘I will be less critical of myself and others.’ Try to hold onto this intention and return to it throughout the day. You may even want to write it down and put it in a place where you might see it during the day.
“At the end of your day, take a few minutes to reflect on your day. Do not use this as a time to judge or criticize yourself. Instead, pay attention to what went well. It may often feel as though there is no time for this type of activity, that your days are filled from the moment you wake until the moment you fall into bed. But making this time a priority every day, whether for one minute or 10, can have a profound effect on your sense of well-being and on how you respond to the stressors in your life.” – Kristin Reinsberg, MS, LMFT, Stress Management Tips: Developing a Mindful Approach, AbilityPath.org; Twitter: @abilitypath
46. Plan and prepare for situations and events that you know will be stressful. “Prepare ahead of time for stressful events like a job interview or a hard conversation with a loved one.
- Picture the event in your mind.
- Stay positive.
- Imagine what the room will look like and what you will say.
- Have a back-up plan.” – Manage Stress, Healthfinder.gov, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; Twitter: @healthfinder
47. Learn to recognize stressors and signs that you’re experiencing stress. “When you feel stress setting in, observe your body and learn where it hits, what happens first. The earlier you can recognize stress signals, the easier it is to change your behavior and stop the progress of the stress.
“When you are stressed, choose fight or flight. Hiding your anger is more stressful than expressing it but choose your fights. Make sure it’s worth it.” – Tips for Managing Stress, Texas Tech University Support Operations for Academic Retention; Twitter: @TTU_LC
48. Don’t ignore the warning signs that stress is taking over your life or beginning to pose health risks. “If you are feeling stressed out, or if you relate to any of the symptoms above, don’t ignore it. Many live in denial and cease to do anything about the state of stress they are in. People may not even realize how stressed they really are. I didn’t. It wasn’t until I allowed my body to recover and went on a journey of self exploration that I came to terms with how stressed my body was. I feel I escaped an early death or long term disability. Don’t keep putting off those warning signs. Check in with yourself and do something about it. Learn stress management skills and get to the bottom of your stress before it gets worse.” – Anjelica Smilovitis, 10 Ways to Manage Stress So It Doesn’t Make You Sick, Lifehack.org; Twitter: @lifehackorg
49. Create effective stress rituals that work for you. “Make sure you take stress breaks. Get up from your desk and walk around, or get outside for some fresh air. Do some deep breathing, shoulder shrugs, or just close your eyes for one minute. Taking a mental or physical break is an important strategy for dealing with day-to-day stress.” – Center for Creative Leadership experts Vidula Bal, Michael Campbell, Joan Gurvis and Sharon McDowell-Larsen, Stress Busters: Tips for Dealing with the Stress of Leadership, Center for Creative Leadership; Twitter: @CCLdotORG
50. Stay well-hydrated by drinking plenty of water. “We all know and understand that a vast percentage of our body is made up of water. It therefore makes sense that water would provide you with the support you need to handle stress more effectively. In fact, making sure that you stay hydrated throughout your day is essential as it will boost your levels of energy and enable you to work through circumstances with more vigor and persistence.
“Another important liquid/herb that will help you to control your levels of stress is green tea. Green tea provides the body with a natural antioxidant boost. Antioxidants fight free radicals that tend to ravage a body under stress, therefore promoting a greater sense of health and well-being.” – Adam Sicinski, How to Manage Your Stress, IQ Matrix; Twitter: @IQmatrix