Sometimes, stress can make you feel out of control. When your mind is racing and your pulse is pounding, you may feel like there’s nothing you can do to stop it. But that’s not the case. While nobody can have a stress-free life, you do have tools to help control how you react to stress—and that’s what counts.
Here are 8 things you can do to get started right now:
- Get up and take a walk. No matter how busy you are, try to spare 10 minutes in a day for a walk. Research shows that a brisk walk—or other types of physical activity that get your heart beating faster—can help lower stress and boost energy and concentration.
- Breathe deeply. Deep breaths can help relax your muscles and your mind. Put one hand on your stomach and one hand on your chest. Breathe in slowly through your nose, feeling your stomach expand. Then breathe out through your mouth, feeling your stomach fall. Repeat up to 10 times. You can do this right at your desk or sitting in your car (as long as you’re not driving).
- Phone a friend. Pull out your phone and call a trusted friend or family member for a chat. Getting an outside perspective on whatever is stressing you out may help—he or she might offer solutions you hadn’t thought of before.
- Start setting realistic goals. Trying to tackle too much can make anyone feel stressed out. Use a daily planner or calendar to set out reasonable goals for the next day (or week). Make sure to plan for breaks and downtime. Getting a handle on your to-do list may also make it easier to recognize when you have to set limits and say “no” to new requests. At the end of your day, look back at what you accomplished—and try not to dwell on what you didn’t.
- Try relaxation techniques or meditation. People use relaxation to help reverse some signs of stress, such as slowing down your breathing and heart rate, and lowering your blood pressure. Think about taking a meditation class to learn the basics. You can also look for meditation websites and smartphone apps that will help guide you.
- Get more restful sleep. Make changes to your bedtime routine to help reduce stress and improve your sleep. Taking time to unwind and unplug from technology an hour or two before bedtime may help you avoid the late-night wake-up-and-worry that often goes with being stressed.
- Laugh a little. There’s actually some evidence backing up the old saying that laughter is the best medicine. Small studies have shown that laughter can reduce anxiety and stress in people with chronic health problems and may have other health benefits too. So give it a try. For example, you could reach out to friends who make you laugh, pick up a funny book, or watch a TV show or movie that always makes you chuckle.
- Make an appointment with a counselor or therapist. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by stress or having trouble getting through your day, consider getting help from an expert. A counselor or therapist can help you come up with ways to manage stress and improve your health.
- 1. American Heart Association. Humor helps your heart? How?. Accessed January 6, 2017.
- 2. American Psychological Association. Stress won’t go away? Maybe you are suffering from chronic stress. Accessed January 6, 2017.
- 3. US Department of Health and Human Services. Stress and Your Health. Accessed January 6, 2017.
- 4. Kim SH, Kim YH, Kim HJ. Laughter and stress relief in cancer patients: a pilot study. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2015; 2015:864739.
- 5. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. 5 Things to Know About Relaxation Techniques for Stress. Accessed January 6, 2017.
- 6. National Institute of Mental Health. 5 Things You Should Know About Stress. Accessed January 6, 2017.
- 7. US Department of Veterans Affairs. Relaxation Exercise: Deep Breathing. Accessed January 6, 2017.