Stress Management That Works: How To Be Less Stressed

Medically reviewed by Nikki Ciletti, M.Ed, LPC
Updated September 28, 2023by BetterHelp Editorial Team

While it’s true that everyone experiences stress from time to time, and there are times when it can feel overwhelming.

According to the American Psychological Association, 72% of adults “have experienced additional health impacts due to stress, including feeling overwhelmed (33%), experiencing changes in sleeping habits (32%), and/or worrying constantly (30%).”

However, there are science-backed strategies that may help you significantly reduce your stress. 

Below, we’ll discuss some common signs of stress, evidence-based strategies to mitigate stress, and ways to get help for stress.

Getty/Vadym Pastuk
Stress Can Take A Toll On Your Mental Health

Signs You’re Too Stressed

According to the Mayo Clinic, stress can impact your mood, body, and behavior in a number of ways. While some of these symptoms may seem minor, when left unchecked, they may lead to larger and more severe problems. The following symptoms can be signs that you’re experiencing too much stress.

Some of the physical signs of stress include:

  • Upset stomach

  • Fatigue

  • Chest Pain

  • Headache

  • Muscle tension

  • Change in sex drive

Some of the ways that stress can impact your mood may include:

  • Increased anxiety

  • Irritability and anger

  • Lack of motivation

  • Restlessness

Stress can also lead to behavioral challenges, such as:

  • Social withdrawal

  • Substance use

  • Changes in eating habits

The symptoms above can lead to more serious problems if they’re not addressed. For example, according to the American Heart Association, excessive stress can lead to cardiovascular problems, such as high blood pressure and stroke. Higher levels of stress can also lead to mental health challenges, such as anxiety and depression. These are just a few of the reasons why it can be important to learn how to relieve stress.

How To Be Less Stressed: Techniques And Tips

The following are some strategies that may relieve your stress and keep it from reaching peak levels. You may find it helpful to try several strategies to find what works most effectively for you.

Getty/Inside Creative House

Get To The Root Of Your Stress

When it comes to managing stress, it may be helpful to explore some of the root causes of your stress. Sometimes the causes may seem evident, especially if you’re going through major life changes, such as a change of job or a move to a new city.

However, there can sometimes be smaller causes of stress that can easily go unnoticed. These could include things like lacking time management skills, overcommitting your schedule, allowing bills to pile up, or reacting with fear that is disproportionate to the situation at hand. Recognizing where your stress is stemming from may help you find strategies to overcome it.

Practice Deep Breathing

Stress causes your body to start to experience the . You may find that you start to take quick shallow breaths. This can have an impact on your heart rate and blood pressure. Learning how to practice deep breathing when you feel stress building may help stop this cycle. Research shows that deep breathing can slow down your heart rate and help you feel more relaxed.

Your body is designed to try to keep you safe. When your body thinks that you’re in danger, it typically releases stress hormones. These hormones are part of what causes the fight-or-flight response. When you’re no longer under stress, it can  

Researchers believe this stress response helped our species survive for thousands of years. However, in today’s society we aren’t usually in imminent danger of death being chased by a predator, we usually don’t need our body to react like it’s trying to save us. 

When you feel stressed, it may be helpful to take slow, deep breaths. This may help your heart rate to return to normal and bring down your blood pressure. Also, practicing deep breathing exercises when you’re not under stress may help you stay prepared to use these deep breaths when you feel your stress levels rise.

Change Your Thinking

Research shows that negative thinking can play a role in the stress that we experience. If you tend to think negatively, you may notice that you deal with more stress than those who think positively. According to the Mayo Clinic, there are several types of negative thinking that can affect us: 

  • Catastrophizing: The American Psychological Association defines catastrophizing as exaggerating “the negative consequences of events or decisions.” It tends to involve imagining the worst possible scenario in a given situation.

  • Filtering: Filtering typically involves ignoring the possible positive parts of a situation and exaggerating the negative. For example, if you accomplished some of your goals for personal wellness but focus only on what you didn’t accomplish, this might be considered filtering.

  • Personalizing: If you engage in personalizing, you might attribute occurrences to yourself. For example, if a friend has to cancel plans, you might blame yourself and think that your friend didn’t want to see you.

Making simple changes in how you think about yourself and the situations around you may make a significant difference in relieving the stress in your life. 

Take Control Of Your Schedule

If you look at your schedule, you may find that you’re taking on too much. Having an over-committed schedule can add stress to your life. It may help to look at your calendar to see where you can cut back.

You might take time to establish what your priorities are. Then, if something doesn’t align with your priorities, you may benefit from cutting it out of your schedule. This might help when you have to decide whether to take on new commitments as well.

You may also find that you struggle with an overcommitted schedule because you have difficulty saying “no.” If you’re worried about upsetting people by not doing what they want you to, you may find that you end up with more on your schedule than you can reasonably handle. Learning to address a possible root cause of this issue, such as low self-esteem or a need to please others, may help you learn how to say “no” when you’re not able to take something on or simply don’t want to.

Use The Pomodoro Technique

If you’re feeling overwhelmed with tasks on your agenda, you might try the Pomodoro Technique. This strategy was developed by Francesco Cirillo. He was a college student trying to find out how to finish everything he needed to get done in less time. If you’re feeling stressed about how much you have on your to-do list, you may be able to relate.

There are several free apps you can use that are based on the Pomodoro Technique. All you need to do is set a timer for 25 minutes and then start working. During this time, you focus your attention on a specific task. If you finish that task, then you can move on to another.

When the timer goes off, you take a 5-minute break. This is when you can get up and stretch, refill your water, or do whatever you want as long as it’s not related to work. After your 5-minute break, you reset the 25-minute timer and get started again. Then, you continue working through these work/rest cycles, and when you hit the fourth rest cycle, you extend it to 25 or 30 minutes.

This strategy may help you make wiser use of your time by not getting distracted by things like email and social media when you’re supposed to be focused on a work project. You can also use this method around the house. For example, if you need to clean your house, you can set a 25-minute timer to keep you on task during the “working” part of the cycle.

Stress Can Take A Toll On Your Mental Health

Talk To A Counselor About Stress Management

If you’ve been experiencing a build-up of stress in your life, it may be helpful to talk to a therapist. Sometimes there can be an underlying cause of the stress in your life and a therapist may be able to help you get to the root of it. If you don’t have time for traditional in-office therapy at this time, you might consider online therapy.

With online therapy, you can connect with a licensed therapist from home or anywhere you have an internet connection. This allows you to get help without the stress of commuting to a therapy practice. You can choose the most comfortable way to participate in therapy, whether by audio, live chat, or videoconferencing.  

The Efficacy Of Online Therapeutic Programs

Stress management techniques can be learned in person or online. One study published in Frontiers in Psychiatry explored the effectiveness of a six-week internet-based stress management program on stress, coping skills, and sleep quality. Researchers found that those participating in the program experienced improved coping skills, better sleep quality, and less emotional exhaustion.


Stress can have a number of effects on a person’s mental and physical health, but there are evidence-based strategies that may significantly reduce your stress level. These may include identifying root causes of stress, practicing deep breathing, eliminating commitments that don’t align with your priorities, and reducing negative thought processes, such as catastrophizing. You may also find that it helps to speak with a licensed therapist, whether in your community or online. 

With BetterHelp, you can be matched with a therapist who has experience helping people create a personalized plan to manage stress skillfully. Take the first step toward reduced stress and greater well-being and reach out to BetterHelp today.

Ease stress and mental exhaustion

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