How To Manage Stress In Everyday Life

Medically reviewed by Arianna Williams, LPC, CCTP
Updated April 22, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

According to a report released by the American Psychological Association, over a quarter of Americans report feeling so stressed that they’re unable to function. It also indicates that 76% of US adults report having experienced at least one-stress related symptom in the past month, including things like headaches, feelings of sadness, anxiety, and more. 

It’s safe to say that modern life for most people comes with stressors. The body and mind are equipped with systems and processes to help manage stress in the moment, but engaging them often or constantly over long periods of time can lead to negative health effects. That’s why learning to better manage stress in your daily life can be beneficial. Read on for a brief overview of the stress response, types, and symptoms along with strategies you can try to help manage levels of this feeling in your life.

High levels of stress can impact several areas of life

The body’s response to stress

First, understanding how the body responds to stress can help in both recognizing when you’re experiencing it and gaining motivation to address it. The physiological experience of stress is the body’s way of preparing you to respond to a threat or danger. The cascade of physical and mental reactions is commonly referred to as the fight-or-flight response. It includes things like an increased heart rate, increased muscle tension, expansion of airways, higher alertness, and the honing of senses, all triggered by brain signals and hormones such as epinephrine and cortisol. 

This response can be very effective in helping us respond to a true threat, but it’s often an overreaction to daily stressors like traffic jams and work deadlines. If engaged in too frequently, or too consistently over the long term, it can lead to a variety of health problems such as an increased risk of depression, anxiety, personality disorders, eating disorders, stroke, heart attack, high blood pressure, heart disease, gastrointestinal problems, and others.

Types of stress

When working to eliminate stress in your life, it can be helpful to understand the type of stress that you’re experiencing. There are three main types of stress: 

  • Acute stress is caused by a short-term event, such as planning a wedding or preparing for a job interview. 
  • Episodic stress is short-term, but it happens repeatedly. For example, meeting regular, work-related deadlines or getting children to school and activities on time every week can cause episodic stress. 
  • Chronic stress is long-term stress due to major life events, such as a chronic illness or persistent financial troubles. 

Each of these forms of stress can develop from and affect any/all areas of your life, including work, relationships, finances, and health.

Common warning signs of stress

Getting familiar with the common warning signs of stress—particularly chronic stress—can help you take action to cope in healthy ways. Some symptoms of intense stress include:

  • Outbursts of anger or crying
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Fatigue
  • Irritability
  • Low appetite
  • Loss of interest in daily activities
  • Feelings of guilt
  • Feelings of overwhelm, helplessness, and/or hopelessness 
  • Social withdrawal
  • Stomachaches or headaches

If you’ve been experiencing symptoms like these recently and your doctor has ruled out other potential health conditions, it could be stress. Learning to manage it in a healthy way is typically the next recommended step.

Tips for managing stress

The first tip for decreasing the negative impact of stress is to decrease or eliminate stressors in your life where possible. In addition, you can try the following techniques—some in the moment, others regularly over time—to help yourself be better equipped to manage stress that does arise. Remember to consult with your doctor and/or nutritionist before making significant changes to your eating or exercise routines.


Engage in deep breathing

When you start to feel stressed, taking slow, deep breaths can help lower your heart rate and your blood pressure, potentially resulting in a feeling of physical calm that may help you recenter yourself.

Try taking slow, full breaths in through your nose and exhaling heavily and completely through your mouth. If this works for you, you may also want to explore meditation and/or yoga. Both of these typically involve a focus on breathing along with a sense of mindfulness—which has been associated with decreased stress in recent research studies.


When you’re stressed, it can be helpful to have a healthy outlet for your emotions. Journaling is one example. Research suggests that writing about your thoughts and feelings can help reduce symptoms of anxiety, some of which overlap with symptoms of stress. Doing so for a few minutes before bed each night could help you clear your mind of the day’s worries so stress doesn’t interfere with your sleep, for instance.


Research suggests that aerobic exercise may help reduce stress, increase calm, and even boost emotional resilience—both in the moment and over time. This is likely because physical activity can increase your heart rate, lower your blood pressure, and release natural endorphins. 

Remember that going to the gym isn’t the only way you can get exercise. Walking, biking, roller skating, swimming, dancing, and hiking are all activities that can be enjoyable and potentially produce positive health effects as well.

Eat a nutrient-rich diet

Regularly eating foods that are known to be rich in essential vitamins and minerals can enhance mental and physical functioning overall. Certain nutrients may even help you become more resilient to stress. For example, a 2021 study indicates that omega-3 fatty acids—commonly found in fatty fish like salmon and anchovies as well as chia seeds, walnuts, and oysters—may have this property.

Cultivate community

Humans are social creatures, and feeling well-connected to loved ones and community seems to be linked to both physical and mental health benefits. A study from 2021 even suggests that strong social connections may help increase stress resilience. While this isn’t something you can do in the moment when you feel a spike in stress coming on, working to build strong, healthy connections with others over time may help you be better able to face stressors in the future.

High levels of stress can impact several areas of life

How therapy can help you cope with stress

Many people also find therapy to be helpful in their journey toward learning to better manage stress. A trained therapist can provide a safe space where you can process your emotions and frustrations, learn how to reframe distorted thoughts that may be contributing to stress, get equipped with healthy coping mechanisms, and address any symptoms of a mental health condition—such as an anxiety disorder—that you may be experiencing. 

That said, many people who are facing challenges related to stress have busy schedules, making it difficult for them to regularly attend in-person therapy appointments. In cases like these, online therapy can represent a more available option. With a platform like BetterHelp, you can get matched with a licensed therapist who you can meet with via phone, video call, and/or in-app messaging to address the challenges you may be facing. Research suggests that online therapy can help reduce stress-related symptoms, so you can generally feel confident in choosing this method if it’s more comfortable or convenient for you. See below for client reviews of BetterHelp therapists.

Below are a few testimonies that illustrate just how significant the benefits of online therapy for stress management can be. Let’s take a closer look:

Counselor reviews

“Tim has given me some amazing insights to contemplate. He has offered me different ways of viewing my problems and approaching them. He has given me concrete tools to use to manage my stress and improve my depression. He is incredibly responsive and helpful. I'm blown away by how much I like this platform and how helpful Tim has been."

"Lynne is very helpful, kind and knows exactly what you need to get better. She helped me with my stress and anxiety, work related issues, and family relationships."


Stress is becoming a widespread health concern in the modern age, but there are healthy ways to manage certain amounts of it. Some of these strategies include exercising regularly, eating a nutrient-rich diet, journaling, and engaging in deep breathing. If you’re looking for guidance and support on managing the stress in your life, you might consider meeting with a therapist online or in person.
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