How To Lower Stress: 5 Practical Everyday Strategies

Medically reviewed by Andrea Brant, LMHC
Updated March 14, 2023by BetterHelp Editorial Team

According to the APA’s 2022 Stress in America poll, around 76% of adults reported that aspects of their lives were negatively impacted by stress, including issues of mental health (36%), eating habits (33%), physical health (32%), and interest in hobbies/leisure activities (30%). 

Not only does stress take a toll on our mental health, but it can also impact our physical health, contributing to serious conditions such as heart disease, high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes, and more.

Despite the considerable impact that stress has on the average person’s life, there are some relatively simple ways we can manage it and reduce its adverse effects.

Stress Can Be Overwhelming

  1. Breathing & Relaxation Techniques

Shallow, rapid breathing is often an unconscious reaction to stressful situations, and many times, it goes unnoticed by the individual. This adversely affects the body and mind in a few ways, including reduced oxygen flow. To resolve this, deep breathing, also known as diaphragm, abdominal, or belly breathing, is an easy way to relax the body and allow for full oxygen exchange.

Practicing deep breathing techniques, especially in highly stressful situations, can be a very helpful method for neutralizing stress. This type of breathing can be done anywhere without any special equipment; it only requires mindful attention to the flow of air in the body. With deep breathing techniques, you inhale gradually through the nose, filling the lungs and abdomen, then slowly exhale through the mouth. This method contrasts with the shallow chest breathing that commonly accompanies stressful situations. 

Other than passing more oxygen through the body and helping create a relaxed response, other specific benefits of deep breathing techniques include reduced heart rate, blood pressure, and salivary cortisol levels. Because of deep breathing's ability to directly address these physiological symptoms in a short period, it is one of the most viable ways to learn how to lower stress.

2. Leisure Time & New Hobbies

It may be challenging to include new, fun activities into a very fast-paced and busy lifestyle, but dedicating some time for yourself to unwind can be extremely beneficial. Scientists who study the effects of leisure time believe that many activities that people find restorative can promote a positive impact on one’s well-being.

Restorative activities are those that interest the person and keep them engaged without expending too much mental energy. These activities give one a sense of respite from the stressful things that occupy the mind. They also "restore" depleted physical and mental resources, which aids recovery. Some examples of hobbies that people frequently find therapeutic are:

  • Enjoying Nature

  • Cooking

  • Museums & Concerts

  • Reading

  • Creating Art

Not every hobby has to consume both your time and finances, and you may choose to do things alone or with others. Socializing with friends and family may be preferable for one person, while doing things alone to reduce stress may be preferred for another. Regardless of what you choose, creating some leisure time to do things that you enjoy can have benefits for both your mental and physical health. 

3. Exercise Regularly

Some people already count exercise as a hobby, but it can have specific benefits for those who don’t as well. Exercise helps release chemicals in the brain called endorphins that are directly related to feelings of well-being. Serotonin, dopamine, epinephrine, and norepinephrine are all examples, and low levels of these neurotransmitters is associated with different physical and mental conditions. 

Aside from biological factors, some find exercise to be an excellent distraction from the stresses of daily life, such as school and work. It can also teach stress relief by building a sense of self-efficacy and desensitizing the individual to feelings of anxiety. 

Finding the motivation to exercise can be difficult for some, especially those experiencing feelings of anxiety, depression, or intense worry. But it may become easier as you experience the benefits of exercise first-hand. Eventually, it may become a hobby and something you look forward to.

4. Effective Time Management

Budgeting time is a common source of stress, but learning and practicing good time-management skills can be effective in alleviating some of the feelings of stress and anxiety many people face every day.

A study involving 441 nursing students with mid-level state and trait anxiety showed that the cultivation of time management skills correlated to academic motivation and performance. Academic motivation is also connected to stress levels, and nursing students frequently experience stressors related to the clinical setting, heavy course loads and learning requirements, relationships with patients and professors, and more. 

There are many strategies, techniques, and apps available to help individuals manage their time more effectively. Many find that using a daily planner is most effective, as it helps you prioritize tasks, allot specific amounts of time for completing tasks, and better remember important tasks and events. 

5. Get Enough Quality Sleep 

Many studies have been conducted on stress and how it affects sleep quality and duration; however, how well you sleep can also impact your perception of stress and how you feel.

Sleep is an important factor in increasing one's quality of life and mental health, but many sacrifice it to prioritize other tasks or make changes in their schedules. The pressure to keep up with life’s demands and missing out on sleep and personal activities can all contribute to stress. Losing sleep can negatively affect one's mood as well and cause high-stress awareness.

Currently, it is recommended that adults aged 18-60 receive 7 to 8 hours of sleep. For some, this is not always possible. For example, a recent study suggests that a significant number of workers get only five hours or less each night because of long overtime hours and late-night drinking. This creates an exhausted workforce, which also puts them at risk for physical and mental health problems. 

Making a conscious effort to improve your sleep habits can begin with something as simple as controlling caffeine intake. For instance, limiting the amount of caffeine we consume in the morning and eliminating it in the afternoon can make it easier to fall asleep and stay asleep at night. Also, since caffeine is a stimulant, it can make stress and anxiety worse by raising your heart rate, blood pressure, and cortisol levels. By cutting back on it or eliminating it, you might notice lower stress levels.

Online Therapy For Stress Management

In addition to regular stress-reduction techniques, many people find it helpful to speak with a counselor about their experiences with stress. Everyone experiences stress differently, and a therapist can help patients isolate and understand the origins of their specific stressors as a precursor to developing a unique strategy for managing them. 

It’s common for people to avoid seeking help because of scheduling difficulties, availability issues, reluctance to speak to a therapist in person, and more. If you’re experiencing heightened levels of stress, these deterrents can seem even more difficult to overcome. 

Online therapy provides a solution that’s proven to be just as effective as an in-person treatment for people who would like to speak with a therapist but are faced with these sorts of barriers. It offers the same level of professional care and attention with the added benefits of flexible scheduling and familiar environments.

Online platforms like BetterHelp can assist by matching individuals with mental health professionals who have experience treating patients with stress-related issues. You can book appointments at your convenience and attend sessions via text, video chat, phone, and online messaging from the comfort of your home or anywhere with an internet connection. 

Stress Can Be Overwhelming


Stress is a normal part of daily life; learning how to decrease stress may take some awareness and practice. Some strategies can be adopted instantly, whereas others might take time to get used to, such as exercise and new sleep habits.

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