Stress And Anxiety Management Techniques

Updated April 11, 2023by BetterHelp Editorial Team

In the short-term, stress can help us defend ourselves from danger and it can motivate us to accomplish tasks. However, chronic stress can lead to mental and physical health problems, including anxiety and high blood pressure. 

Chronic stress is very common, with 77% of people surveyed stating that stress impacts their physical health, and 73% stating it impacts their mental health. There are several evidence-based techniques that are shown to reduce stress and anxiety, including meditation, exercise, deep breathing, and tapping for anxiety. If you’re still experiencing overwhelming stress or anxiety, a therapist can help. 

Is Overwhelming Worry Interrupting Your Life?

Are Stress And Anxiety The Same Thing? 

Stress and anxiety are not the same thing, though they are similar. Stress is an emotional response that is often triggered by something external (such as a deadline at school or work, or discrimination), whereas anxiety is an emotional response characterized by worrying that won’t go away even if a stressor is not present. 

Symptoms of stress include

  • Exhaustion 

  • Headaches

  • High blood pressure 

  • Muscle tension

  • Irritability 

  • Trouble sleeping

  • General body aches or pain

  • Weakened immune function

Chronic stress can impact both physical and mental health, contributing to the development of anxiety, depression, high blood pressure, and heart disease. 

Symptoms of anxiety include: 

  • Excessive worrying 

  • Trouble sleeping 

  • Fatigue or exhaustion

  • Muscle tension

  • Difficulty concentrating or making decisions 

  • Irritability 

Oftentimes, anxiety is a short-term response that is related to an external stressor. However, anxiety is sometimes severe or persistent when the stressor is no longer present. If you’re experience excessive worrying that will not go away, it is possible you may have an anxiety disorder. Scheduling an appointment with a medical professional is a good first step. Your doctor can conduct an evaluation to rule out other conditions and provide you with a diagnosis.  

 Healthy Ways To Manage Stress And Anxiety 

Research demonstrates that stress and mild anxiety both respond well to healthy lifestyle adaptations and coping mechanisms. You can try using some of the following techniques as a “spot treatment” when you’re feeling stressed, or you can try incorporating some of them into your daily routine. 

  • Yoga

A 2018 study found that yoga can effectively reduce stress, anxiety, and depression. In addition to the physical health benefits of yoga, it can encourage mindfulness, positive thoughts, self-awareness, and body-connectedness. Additionally, many people find yoga increases their self-esteem and self-confidence.  

  • Meditation

Anyone can practice meditation, regardless of physical fitness or ability. It can be a good free alternative to yoga, and it can be practiced whenever you feel stressed or anxious. Meditation can effectively reduce stress and encourage deep relaxation, which is shown to improve physical and mental health. People who practice meditation often experience a new perspective, improved self-awareness and ability to stay present, more positive thinking, increased patience, and better sleep quality. 

  • Talk With Loved Ones 

Studies show that social support improves our physical and mental health and makes us more resilient to stress. In addition to offering help and advice, loved ones can improve your self-esteem and make it easier to handle stress on your own. 

  • Breathing Exercises

Deep breathing is an effective technique to quickly reduce tension and stress by activating the vagus nerve. There are many types of deep breathing exercises, but you may want to start with belly breathing. 

Try it: Sit down, lean forward, and prop your elbows on your knees, and then breathe normally. This is the sensation of breathing from your belly (rather than your chest), and you can practice a few slow, deep breaths in this position whenever you feel stressed. 

Is Overwhelming Worry Interrupting Your Life?

  • Exercise

Light, moderate, and vigorous exercise can all be helpful stress-management tools. In addition to releasing endorphins that feel good, exercise can provide a healthy distraction from excessive worrying. Long, repetitive exercise (such as walking, jogging, swimming, or biking), can act as an active form of meditation, and it can improve your self-esteem and mood. 

To stay consistent with an exercise routine, Mayo Clinic recommends setting SMART goals (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, time-limited), recruiting a friend to exercise with you, trying different exercises, or breaking up you day with small bursts of exercise. 

  • Establish A Sleep Routine

Stress and anxiety can harm sleep quality. Establishing a routine sleep schedule (even on weekends), avoiding excessive caffeine and alcohol use, using blackout curtains, avoiding electronics before bed, getting enough exercise, and engaging in relaxation techniques (like deep breathing, yoga, and meditation) can all help improve your sleep quality. 

  • Music

Music therapy for stress management is one popular way to cope with a stressful situation. Listening to music you enjoy can help relieve stress, however, to be effective it’s important that you’re present and actively listening to the music.

  • Practice Positive Self-Talk

Negative self-talk (such as blame, magnifying, and polarizing) can make symptoms of anxiety and depression worse. Positive self-talk, however, can reduce stress and general pain, and improve physical health, self-esteem, and life satisfaction.

You can start to shift negative self-talk to positive self-talk by identifying harmful thoughts and asking yourself if you would say that to someone else. 

An example of negative self-talk might be: “I shouldn’t try that because I probably won’t be good at it.”

A more positive thought might be: “I haven’t tried this before, but this could be a good opportunity to learn from others.” 

Get Help From A Professional

If your stress and anxiety is not resolved with self-help strategies, you might want to consider reaching out to a licensed mental health professional. They can work with you to identify stressors and formulate a plan to address your symptoms. 

Studies show that one type of talk therapy, called cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), is very effective at addressing the symptoms of anxiety disorders and general stress. During CBT sessions, therapists help clients identify and reframe unhelpful automatic thoughts, which can improve feelings and behaviors. The goal of CBT therapy is to provide you with the tools you need to manage your symptoms in a healthy way on your own. 

Internet-based cognitive behavioral therapy can be a good alternative to traditional in-person therapy. A 2018 study on chronic stress found that online CBT is effective at reducing symptoms of stress. In a separate study, researchers found that online CBT can effectively reduce generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) symptoms. 

For people with busy schedules, online CBT can be more convenient than in-person therapy. And sites like BetterHelp offer 24/7 in-app messaging, so you can reach out to your therapist whenever you’re feeling overwhelmed.


Most people encounter stress and anxiety in their daily lives. In the short-term, these emotional responses can help you navigate potentially dangerous situations, and they can be good motivators. However, chronic stress and anxiety can lead to adverse physical and mental health outcomes. 

There are several evidence-based strategies that can reduce stress and anxiety, including deep breathing, yoga, meditation, maintaining social support, exercising, getting enough sleep, and listening to music. If you cannot reduce your stress on your own, you may want to consider trying therapy. Research shows that online cognitive behavioral therapy is effective at addressing chronic stress and anxiety, and many people find it more convenient than in-person therapy.

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