5 Ways You Can Reduce Stress and Improve Your Life

Haley Bass

Stress isn’t always a negative thing. Sometimes a little added stress gives you the adrenaline boost you need to power through a deadline or accomplish a difficult task. But when demands from work and life seem like more than you can handle, stress can feel overpowering.

If you let stress keep a hold on you, it can start negatively impacting your body and mind, and even lead to serious health problems like high blood pressure, heart disease, depression, and anxiety. It’s essential to combat stress before it gets that far. And while binge-watching your favorite TV show or scrolling through social media may take your mind away from life’s problems for a little while, zoning out periodically isn’t going to manage your stress long-term.

Every person experiences stress differently, and everyone needs to manage their stress in a way best suited for them. Here are five different stress management techniques you can try to stay healthy.

1. Take a Break

It’s okay to just walk away from a problem for a little bit. Sometimes, when you focus too intently on one issue, your mind can either make it seem worse than it is, or can only see it one way. Taking a break to focus on another, maybe even happier, activity can give you a new perspective and a moment to breathe. Next time a project starts stressing you out, take a break to walk around the office, get some water or tea, talk to your coworker, etc. - anything to briefly take your mind off the stress.

2. Exercise

You don’t have to go on a 12-mile run to reap the benefits of exercise - even a 20-minute walk or dance session can help improve your mood and reduce stress. Exercise boosts your endorphins (those feel-good neurotransmitters in the brain), shifts your focus from stress to the activity you’re doing, and helps relax your body and mind. And you feel the benefits immediately. It doesn’t hurt that exercise is also important for good physical health.

3. Pursue a Hobby

Having another activity to look forward to beyond work can help you relax and cope with stress. Unlike sitting in front of the TV for a few hours, hobbies offer a break with a purpose. They can also provide a welcoming challenge, exchanging your negative stress for positive. Try a few different hobbies to see what works for you: gardening, knitting, painting, cooking, fishing, joining a book or chess club - anything that you’ll enjoy and look forward to.

4. Meditate

Meditation allows you to refocus your mind and your emotions. Whether you’re practicing yoga, tai chi, or deep breathing, meditation helps relax the mind and body, releasing negative emotions like stress. Taking a moment every morning or evening to meditate can help you better manage the stresses of your life, giving you a new perspective or a more positive outlook.

5. Socialize

Sometimes all you need to do is talk your stress out, or laugh it off. Talking to friends and family, especially people you trust that don’t cause stress in your life, can help you feel understood and validated in your stress. They might also be able to offer a solution you hadn’t thought of, or help you complete a task. Being with people you love can also help you smile and laugh, which relieves tension and improves your mood immediately.

You don’t have to let stress control your life. Whether you’re busying yourself with an activity, or taking a moment to relax, acting to reduce stress is better than doing nothing at all. Try one or more of these stress management techniques and take back control of your life.

The Mayo Clinic
American Psychological Association