Managing Your Stress

Here are 25 strategies that can help you manage stress:

  1. Accept the moment as it is: This prevents you from launching into the litany of “should have’s” that can cause stress. It also helps you problem solve. You see what is actually happening instead of what you would like to see happen or what you are worried could happen.
  2. Plan ahead to remain calm: Use deep breathing as you picture yourself managing a typically stressful situation in a relaxed manner.
  3. Be in charge of your body’s stress reactions: Learn to recognize and release tension in your body. Practice yoga, meditation and breathing techniques to calm your body and mind. Listen to relaxation CDs, guided relaxation, guided imagery, or make your own recording.
  4. Eat healthful foods: Plan to keep track of what you eat for three days. Read the Canada Food Guide for healthful nutrition. Compare this to your food intake and decide what changes you want to make.
  5. Learn stress-reduction techniques: Learn more about mindful relaxation, breathing techniques, use of imagery, and body exercises.
  6. Dance, run, skip, and walk: Regular exercise releases endorphins, our “feel-good” hormones. Then, stretch your body to eliminate pent-up tension.
  7. Try music: Listening to music can soothe and relax you. Singing really can lift your mood! The shower and car are good options for people who think their singing will cause stress for others.
  8. Cultivate a hobby: Whether it be gardening, stamp-collecting, reading, cooking, or any physical activity, hobbies add value to our lives and take us away from stresses.
  9. Use humour: Lighten up a stressful situation. Watch a funny movie, read a funny book, or laugh with your friends.
  10. Spend time in nature: Research says that even gazing out the window at a garden plot or looking at a photo of a natural setting can reduce stress. If you can walk in nature, so much the better. You don’t need to go to a forest, even strolling along a tree-lined street or through a park will do.
  11. Talk to yourself: Instruct yourself not to get hot and bothered about the situation. Tell yourself to calm down, relax, let go. Challenge negative thoughts.
  12. Speak up for yourself: Allowing frustration and anger to linger is very stressful for your body. Think about enrolling in assertiveness training if speaking up is hard for you.
  13. Try aroma therapy: A few whiffs of scents like lavender, rose, and green apple can help tame tension and produce a feeling of calmness.
  14. Have a hot cup of herbal tea: Chamomile or mint tea can be especially calming.
  15. Let go of the idea of a perfect life: Not everything is going to work out perfectly, no matter how hard you want it to.
  16. Find time to play: Many adults have forgotten how to play. Play is defined as active engagement in something you enjoy. It’s not just for kids.
  17. Make time for friends: Organize time to spend with old friends and allow time to make new friends.
  18. Talk to a therapist, counsellor, or spiritual advisor: Talking therapy can help restore a feeling of control when situations are overwhelming.
  19. Get in touch with your creative side: There are many ways to banish the blues through artistic expression -- for example, painting, drawing, making a collage, taking photos, or shaping clay. The important thing is to externalize thoughts and feelings that are causing you stress.
  20. Write your thoughts and feelings in a daily journal: The benefits of journaling include lowering levels of stress hormones, decreasing the numbers of sick days taken, boosting the immune function, and increasing the ability to handle adversity and adjust to change.
  21. Change your environment: Lower the lights, turn on calming music, and open the curtains to let the sunshine in.
  22. Take a mini-break: Close your eyes and take three deep breaths while imagining yourself in a peaceful place — for example, in a garden or a field of wild flowers, or on a beach.
  23. Expect change: When you accept that change is inevitable, it helps you be more flexible (and less stressed) when it does happen.
  24. Take a sedative bath: Taking a bath in water that is close to skin temperature is called a “sedative bath,” or “neutral bath,” and is documented to relieve tension. For muscle soreness or tightness, experts recommend a higher water temperature, but not too hot. You should be able to easily enter the water.
  25. Smile: Research says that there is a powerful link between facial expression and emotion.

(Note: "Strategies for Managing Stress" was adapted from Pearson 2008.)