Reducing Stress For International Stress Awareness Day

Medically reviewed by Julie Dodson, MA
Updated April 18, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

This year, International Stress Awareness Day falls on November 1. This day is always the first Wednesday of November. The day is also part of International Stress Awareness Week, which was originally founded by a registered charity, the International Stress Management Association (ISMA), in 1998. Both the day and the week focus on raising public awareness of how too much stress can affect overall health and the importance of managing it. Keep reading for more information on how people can manage stress in their lives.

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What is stress? 

Stress is the body's natural reaction to perceived threats, danger, or emotional pressure. When you’re having a stressful day, your body releases certain hormones in response, including cortisol and adrenaline. These neurochemicals are partially responsible for the "fight, flight, or freeze" response that often results from the experience or perception of fear and/or danger. 

Stress might be beneficial at times. For example, a certain amount of manageable, short-term stress is normal and could help motivate you to improve your workplace performance. However, stress that is ongoing over a long period of time (known as “chronic stress”) or that significantly disrupts functioning on a day-to-day basis can be harmful. Some common causes of bad stress include: 

  • Moving 

  • A breakup or divorce

  • Relationship issues or family conflict

  • An intense, demanding job

  • Chronic pain or serious health problems 

  • Mental health conditions 

  • Loss and grief 

Chronic stress means that the stress hormones continue to be released over time when they’re only intended to be released in short bursts. This can lead to imbalance and inflammation in the body, which can cause a host of physical health symptoms, from headaches and digestive issues to muscle tension and trouble sleeping. Over the longer term, chronic stress can even contribute to serious health conditions such as high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, depression, and anxiety.

How can I celebrate International Stress Awareness Day? 

You can celebrate National Stress Awareness Day on November 1, 2023 and year-round by practicing self-care, promoting stress-free home and work environments, and developing a set of healthy coping mechanisms to help you deal with your own stress levels.

If you’re experiencing chronic stress that’s causing you to have difficulty functioning in one or more areas of life, you might also consider reaching out for professional support. You can learn more about International Stress Awareness Week on the ISMA website or read on for tips on how to reduce stress in your life.

10 stress-reduction techniques for better mental health

Below are ten stress-reduction techniques you can try to help improve your overall mental and physical well-being. 

1. Try deep breathing

Research indicates that some deep breathing practices may benefit overall mental health and well-being. Deep breathing triggers your parasympathetic nervous system, which helps send signals to your brain that you’re safe and that the fight, flight, or freeze response isn’t necessary at that moment. It also allows more oxygen to reach the thinking parts of your brain so you can act out of logic instead of fear or distress. Learning how to practice deep breathing is simple, and you can do it anywhere. Here’s an example of one format you might try:

  1. Breathe in for five seconds. 

  2. Hold your breath for four seconds. 

  3. Breathe out for five seconds.

  4. Hold your breath for four seconds.

  5. Repeat the exercise. 

This simple exercise is an example of "square breathing” or “box breathing", which aims to calm the nervous system and bring maximum oxygen into the body. 

2. Do a guided meditation 

Guided meditation practices are pre-recorded audio or video clips that verbally guide the listener through gradual relaxation, typically via a focus on the breath. These practices can be beneficial if you have trouble maintaining focus on your own when attempting to meditate or if you’re just learning how to do it. There are plenty of free resources available if you’re interested in trying guided meditation.

There’s a significant amount of research supporting the positive effects of meditation on stress levels. For example, one study found that meditation “produced a relaxation response” even in subjects who had never tried it before and that it also “reduced physiologic stress responses without taking away the beneficial effect of stress”—which is improved memory performance.

3. Cultivate a sense of mindfulness 

Mindfulness is simply a non-judgmental sense of awareness of the present moment. For example, you might eat mindfully by focusing on a food's texture and taste with every bite, or you might take a mindful walk by noticing the sound of the birds and the feeling of the sunshine on your face. It can also be cultivated through certain meditation exercises. 

Mindfulness can help you be more aware of when you’re stressed or experiencing constant worry and other difficult emotions. Then, you might be able to release the tension you’ve realized you’re holding in your jaw, for example, or rest when you realize that your body is asking for that after a long day. A 2020 study suggests that “mindfulness-based programs” correlate with reduced symptoms of rumination, worry, stress, psychological distress, depression, and anxiety and can “significantly improve quality of life/well-being”. 


4. Practice yoga

If you are familiar with International Day Of Yoga or if you have been reading about yoga, you might be aware that practicing yoga can have many benefits to the body. Yoga is an ancient spiritual practice with roots in Indian and Hindu cultures that may be helpful in managing stress. While there are many different types, yoga generally involves gentle physical positioning and forming an intentional connection between the body, mind, and spirit through focused breathing. It has been proven to be effective in reducing symptoms of anxiety and depression, which may be byproducts of stress in some cases. 

5. Learn self-soothing techniques

Dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) is a therapeutic method aimed at helping individuals learn how to control their emotions, live in the present moment, and reduce stress as a result. One classic DBT technique for stress reduction is known as self-soothing. As a distress-tolerance coping skill, it may help a person reduce extreme stress or emotional distress levels as they occur. To practice it, think of a simple activity you can do to engage each of your five senses to ground yourself in the present moment. For example:

  • Touch: Wear comfortable pajamas, put on soft bed sheets, use a fidget toy, hug your pet, cuddle with your partner, put on lotion, take a hot bath or shower

  • Sight: Look at photos that make you feel happy, paint, watch sensory videos online, wear a color or fabric you enjoy, watch a sunset

  • Smell: Light a candle, bake bisquits, put on your favorite scented lotion or perfume, take a walk to get some fresh air

  • Taste: Eat your favorite snack, have a dessert, order takeout, practice mindfulness while eating

  • Sound: Listen to your favorite song, put on a soundtrack of calming sounds or white noise, sing, focus on the sound of your breath

6. Practice good sleep hygiene

Studies show that practicing good sleep hygiene is essential in reducing stress and increasing mental wellness. You can do it in the following ways: 

  • Turning off all personal devices before bed 

  • Having a comfortable, quiet sleeping space 

  • Not working in your bed during the day

  • Turning off or dimming the lights

  • Keeping the room at a comfortable temperature

  • Removing clutter or distractions from your sleeping space

  • Not drinking caffeine or sugar before bed

If you think you may be experiencing insomnia or another sleep disorder, consider reaching out to your primary care physician. You may be referred to a sleep specialist or receive information about medications or techniques that could help you fall or stay asleep. 

7. Journal

Some studies suggest that expressive writing, such as journaling, can help people articulate and release their emotions, thereby potentially improving mental health overall. Journaling can be a safe, healthy way to get your thoughts out of your head and onto paper or a computer screen. It may help improve your mood by allowing you to avoid bottling up emotions, which can cause stress, and it may also help you gain a different, more balanced perspective on situations that are causing you stress.

8. Eat healthy meals

According to Harvard Health Publishing, the state of oxidative stress occurs when your brain uses excess oxygen after a stress response. Eating foods that are high in essential vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants is often recommended because they can help reduce how free radicals—which are the potentially harmful result of oxidative stress—affect people's bodies. These types of foods include: 

  • Leafy green vegetables

  • Potatoes

  • Squash and pumpkin

  • Berries

  • Fish that are high in omega-3 fatty acids, like salmon and trout

It’s usually best to consult with your nutritionist or doctor before subscribing to a new diet or significantly adjusting how you eat, as a rapid change in nutrition could also cause digestive stress. 

9. Build strong social connections

Social connection is one of the essential pillars of health for humans. One study found that strong social support may correlate with increased resilience to stress. Finding ways to connect with family, friends, neighbors, and/or community participants may help you safeguard yourself from the potentially harmful effects of stress. 

If you’re looking to expand your social support network, you might try joining a hobby club or sports team, taking a class, or volunteering. It’s also worth noting that a 2018 study found that social support purely virtually through social media sites may also provide some of the helpful benefits that in-person social support can offer.

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10. Speak with a therapist

Although there are plenty of lifestyle changes and at-home methods you can try to reduce stress, you might also benefit from speaking with a mental health professional. If you’re feeling stressed, trained counselors can help equip you with healthy coping mechanisms for stress that are right for your specific situation. A therapist who practices cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), for example, may also be able to help you learn how to identify distorted thought patterns that may be triggering stressful feelings and shift them in a healthy direction.

Many people who are experiencing stress have busy schedules and may not be able to make the time to commute to in-person therapy appointments. Others have trouble locating a provider in their area or would simply prefer to connect with a therapist from the comfort of their homes. In these cases, online therapy may be a viable option for managing mental health challenges while avoiding the stigma that may be associated with it. 

Research suggests that online therapy can offer similar benefits to in-person sessions in most cases, so you can generally feel comfortable choosing whichever option feels best for you. With a virtual therapy platform like BetterHelp, for example, you can get matched with a licensed counselor who you can meet with via phone, video call, and/or in-app messaging to address the stress-related challenges you may be facing.


On International Stress Awareness Day and throughout the year, you might consider paying attention to how stress may be impacting your health. The stress-reduction techniques listed here can help you cope with your stress levels. If you’re still experiencing stress that’s affecting your daily life, you may benefit from professional help from a licensed mental health expert.

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