How To Keep Your Stress Level Manageable

Medically reviewed by Majesty Purvis
Updated February 19, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team
According to the American Psychological Association’s Stress in America Survey from 2022, 27% of Americans reported being so stressed on most days that they could not function.

There are many factors that can cause stress in daily life, from finances and health concerns to work and relationship problems. If you aren't careful, the stress that you face can have a very negative impact on your physical and mental health. However, there are strategies you can employ to lower your stress level on a daily basis. 

Below, we’ll discuss some evidence-based strategies to keep your stress level manageable, which can have a defensive effect on your physical and mental health.

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Want to feel more relaxed? Therapy can help you manage stress

Signs and symptoms of stress

Stress can manifest physically in a number of ways, some of which you might notice, but others may go unnoticed and affect your health silently over the years. The following are just a few of the pernicious effects of stress on the mind and body. 

Feeling tired

When you experience constant stress, you may feel a sense of exhaustion. Your mind may be constantly working on finding a solution for whatever it is you're going through, and that can be tiring both physically and mentally. You may feel like you have no energy to make it through the day.

Difficulty sleeping

When you have a lot of stress in your life, it can lead to anxious thoughts. These thoughts may show up at the worst times, such as when you're trying to fall asleep at night.

Alternatively, you might not have any problem falling asleep but instead experience difficulty staying asleep. You might feel exhausted and fall asleep immediately but then find yourself up in the middle of the night with anxious thoughts running through your mind.

Irritability

It can be easy to become irritable when you’re experiencing constant stress in your life. This may happen because your mind is constantly mulling over situations causing you stress. Your energy and focus may be distracted from the other areas of your life, so if any other issue arises, you may not have the patience to cope with it.

Digestive problems

Studies have found that if you're experiencing high levels of stress, you may also have problems with your digestive system, such as diarrhea or constipation. You could experience feelings of nausea or stomach cramps.

Change in appetite

Some people turn to food to manage their stress levels. They may eat unhealthy foods either because they are convenient or simply because they want to. However, there are also people who lose their appetite with stress. It can be difficult for them to bring themselves to eat anything.

Emotional and mental changes

Stress can also come with mental and emotional signs. It can lead to increased levels of anxiety or feelings of depression. You may be more irritable, have trouble sleeping, or experience difficulty with your memory. You may also find that your decision-making skills are affected by stress. Research published in Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews shows that stress can affect the mechanisms involved in decision-making.

When you know the physical and emotional signs to watch for, you may find that you can monitor your stress levels more effectively. It may be helpful to keep track of how you're feeling each day. By doing this, you might recognize when you are experiencing more stress so that you can take action to curb the negative effects of stress more quickly.

Tips on managing your stress level

Whether you have the assistance of a tracker or you are just paying attention to your stress levels on your own, there are some strategies you can use to manage your stress levels more effectively. 

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Get exercise regularly

When your body is under stress, the "fight-or-flight" reaction typically kicks in. When that happens, your body releases additional adrenaline and cortisol. This was important in the past when stress was caused by dangerous situations that humans needed to be able to respond to. However, in current times, we aren't usually stressed over something that we need to fight or run away from fast. This can cause people to gain weight because they don't have a way to release all those extra hormones properly.

Exercise can help reduce the extra stress hormones so they aren't just staying in your body. Research shows that exercise also releases endorphins, one of the body’s feel-good hormones. This doesn't have to be strenuous exercise; it could be as simple as going for a walk at a pace that causes your body to release endorphins.

Keep a journal

Research shows that journaling can help you manage stress in a few different ways. The first is that it can help to get your frustrations out of your head and down on paper. 

Journaling may also help because you can look back at past entries and identify any patterns that are adding to your stress. You may know that you are feeling stressed but not be able to identify exactly where it's coming from. Journal entries may help you pinpoint the causes of your stress.

Learn time management and organizational skills

Two common culprits of stress sometimes include poor time management and organizational skills. If you experience difficulty in these areas, you may find yourself running behind constantly. You may be late for meetings and appointments or have a hard time finding your keys. You might also find yourself procrastinating on deadlines.

Learning how to manage your time better, set appropriate deadlines, and keep your commitments organized may go a long way in helping reduce your stress.

Don't overcommit yourself

If your schedule is booked and you're constantly running from one place to the next, you may be more likely to experience stress. Sometimes the best thing you can do may be to learn how to say "no" to people and commitments. If you try to give a piece of yourself to everything, you may experience unnecessary levels of stress.

This might mean you have to say "no" to good things and even activities that you might want to do. This may help you set priorities and choose commitments that are the most important to you. 

Choose relationships wisely

Some relationships may trigger more stressful emotional responses. To reduce relationship stress, you might form a plan to limit your time with certain people. Also, it may help to think about which people in your life are positive and make you feel happy and better about yourself. You can choose to spend more time with those people and less time with the people who drain you of your energy.

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Want to feel more relaxed? Therapy can help you manage stress

Talk to a therapist

If you are experiencing stress regularly, it may be beneficial to speak with a therapist, whether in your community or online. A therapist might be able to offer insight and identify where your stress is coming from so that you can reduce and manage it more effectively.

Research shows that online therapy can be an effective way to learn how to manage stress, along with other mental health challenges. Studies have revealed that many types of online therapy, such as cognitive behavioral therapy, are as effective as in-person therapy.

With online therapy at BetterHelp, you can connect with a therapist via audio, video, or live chat at a time that works for you. You can also message your therapist through in-app messaging, and they’ll respond as soon as they can. This may prove to be helpful if you experience stress in between sessions and want to document what you’re feeling in the moment.

Takeaway

Stress can affect your physical and mental health in a number of ways, but there are strategies that may help lower your stress level and mitigate some of the negative effects of stress. You may also benefit from talking to a licensed therapist about your stress. With an online therapy service, you can communicate with a therapist from home at a time that works for your schedule. A therapist may be able to help you identify underlying causes of stress and keep your stress level more manageable. Take the first step toward lowering your stress level and reach out to BetterHelp.

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