50 Ways to Manage Stress
Your well-being impacts every area of your life, from your relationships to your productivity at work and even your involvement with the community. Stress is an inevitable part of life and learning to cope is a critical component of a healthy body and mind. People are facing increased stress recently with our strained economy, divided political environment, and the reality of a global pandemic.
We can learn to flourish even in challenging seasons, so let’s explore 50 practical ideas for managing stress in our lives.
Change Your Attitude and Outlook
There are many things in life we simply cannot control and sometimes acknowledging that lack of control is enough. Other times we must change our attitudes and develop the mental muscles we will need to foster a positive outlook on life. Perhaps this will make the trials easier to move through.
- Stay Positive - Attitude is everything, and often a positive outlook can curb the effects of stress. Look into the field of positive psychology and learn techniques for embracing positive living. You will be amazed at the benefits you experience.
- Adopt a Mantra You Believe In - Consider repeating an axiom, saying or prayer that resonates with your core set of beliefs or values. Write your mantra down and display it where you will routinely be able to view and say it out loud.
- Practice Mindfulness - To live in the moment is to be mindful. The Mayo Clinic describes mindfulness as meditation where the person focuses on what he or she is sensing and feeling in the moment without interpretation or judgement.[i] Instead of focusing on the past or the future this practice makes you keenly aware of the “now.” Incorporate a few mindfulness exercises like deep breathing into your schedule and see a positive difference.
- Reframe Situations - Change your perspective by naming the problem out loud and approaching it from a different, wider angle.[ii] Maybe losing your job is a fresh new beginning in disguise, or a tough day with the kids refined your patience and reminded you of how much you truly love them. Reframing takes a negative thought and replaces it with something more positive. This practice moves the individual to a happier emotional state even when the external stressor is just as intense as it was before.
- Embrace Vulnerability - Learn the beauty of asking and receiving care from others. Expert Brenè Brown explains how “vulnerability is not winning or losing; it’s having the courage to show up and be seen when we have no control over the outcome. Vulnerability is not weakness; it’s our greatest measure of courage.”[iii] Ask your friends to start a sign up and deliver dinner to your family during hard times, invite a friend to coffee and talk through the conflict or take the neighbor up on his offer to help with your lawncare.
Form Healthy Habits to Manage Stress
Unfortunately, we all too often lean into unhealthy habits during times of stress, strain or crisis. To improve your stress-response consider adapting your habits and making them a part of your identity.[iv]
- Set Goals - Focus on your next six months, year and even five years. Albert Einstein tells us if we want to be happy in life then we will tie our purpose to a goal, not to people or things. Where do you want to be? How will you guide yourself to get there? Sometimes writing down our goals for the future diffuses the stress of today. Breaking down big goals into simple daily steps is a pathway to incorporating productive habits.
- Be an Early Bird - Starting your day early provides time for morning routines and rituals. Set a consistent wake-up time and make it a pleasant experience.
- Get Ready for Bed - Establish a nighttime routine that doesn’t involve screen-time, late-night work or eating sugary treats. Try a warm cup of tea, aromatherapy, a warm bath or reading each night before going to sleep.
- Set Yourself Up for Success - Kick bad habits and replace them with healthy, new practices. Start writing down the habits you are forming and the plans you are making. Ask others for input and feedback. Eleanor Roosevelt said that “happiness is not a goal… it’s a byproduct of a life well-lived.” So, what does a well-lived life look like for you?
- Nutrition - We are what we eat. Our nutrition is directly connected to our overall health and our ability to manage stress. Meet with a dietician for advice on your daily diet.
- Change Your Tendencies - Avoid over-commitment and people-pleasing. When these situations arise, address them head-on and consult with a trusted friend or a skilled counselor.
- Hydrate - Drink a lot of water to fight tension headaches and stress. This simple practice is often overlooked, and we walk around thirsty or drinking sugar-packed drinks instead.
- Plan Your Meals - Before stepping into a grocery store, clean out your pantry and refrigerator to get a clear picture of what you have. Then make your grocery list based on the meals you’d like to have in the upcoming days or week. Try to plan in sequence where you can use leftovers. Maybe you have tacos on Tuesday and use any leftover meat in chili on Wednesday, or pasta on Thursday and leftover noodles in chicken noodle soup on Friday. At the end of a busy workday, already having dinner ready is a stress-reliever.
Take Action to Manage Stress
Helping others and forming new connections promotes wellbeing. How can you try something new, put your words to action, or mobilize a group to make a difference in your community?
- Reach Out to Someone - Pick up the phone, send that text, email or card. The power of human connection feeds our stressed-out souls and often takes our eyes off of ourselves and shifts the focus to the needs of others.
- Slow Down - In the book “The Frantic Family”, Patrick Lencioni questions how busy executives in the business world allow their family lives to be so hectic, fast-paced and unplanned.[v] Slow your household down and plan to share a meal around the table, go on a walk together in the evening or sit together on the porch for a good chunk of time. Consider applying strategic planning practices you use at work to your home life and operations.
- Acts of Kindness - If you are able, serve with a nonprofit in your community, virtually or in person. Serving others in your community can help you see beyond your struggles and feel empowered by making a difference. Call, email or check social media to learn more about causes to support and involve yourself with.
- Address Your Bucket List - What activity is on your bucket list that you have always wanted to try? What are you waiting for? Activities like taking a road trip, scuba-diving and joining a sewing circle might just add a sense of adventure to your life and curb the stress. If you can’t get out of the house, try virtual travel by finding documentaries and movies about places you have always wanted to go to. Search for live cams or free virtual experiences as well.
- Live Intentionally - Maybe you need to say “No” more than you say “Yes” or vice versa. What changes do you need to make in your life to live a better life and embrace balance?
- Get Outdoors - If you are sitting at a desk indoors from 9 to 5 add in a consistent time each day to be outdoors. Maybe you walk around the neighborhood at lunchtime or spend a few minutes sitting on the back patio each night after dinner. Form a habit of breathing fresh air and enjoying nature.
- Use Music - Create playlists to tune into when stress hits and watch your mood change! Dance party!
Embrace kindness by organizing a company service project with an online sign up (check to learn how nonprofits are working with volunteers during the pandemic). View an Example
Try Physical Activity to Manage Stress
Moving our bodies is an active form of self-care, health and gratitude. Incorporating 30-60 minutes of physical activity into your schedule will benefit your stress level.
- Stretch it Out - Yoga, Pilates, and Tai-chi are all practices in balance, stretching and slowing your body down. And hey, if you up the intensity level you are sure to break a sweat and make progress toward becoming stronger.
- Schedule Exercise - Plan to take a walk, swim a few laps or bike around the neighborhood on your own or with a group. Use those endorphins to power the rest of your day.
- Take a Hike - Sometimes just being outside is enough to reduce stress levels and climbing a mountain just adds to the fun. You may feel inspired to drive yourself to a scenic spot and hike, climb or just be still. Either way, you will benefit from immersing yourself in the changing seasons and beauty in nature. Find what works for you.
- Housework - Make everyday chores into a physical workout by timing your cleaning, racing a family member or dancing to the beat while organizing your space.
- Choose Activity - Turn daily routines into more active choices by taking the stairs instead of the elevator, walking or biking to neighborhood spots instead of driving, investing in a standing desk, and so on.
Organize a neighborhood walking club with an online sign up. View an Example
Develop Healthy Coping Mechanisms to Manage Stress
Coping practices build your resilience to stress and help you process tense situations. Use these tips to work through the hard things in life that cause stress.
- Discover a New Hobby - Get creative and learn something new and maybe even join a group that centers around that hobby. Having a focus other than yourself can help alleviate stress.
- Meditation - The practice of meditation helps to alleviate stress, anxiety, pain, depression, insomnia and hypertension. Meditation can take a variety of forms so explore and find the ones that work best for you.
- Trauma-Focused Therapy - Address past trauma with a trauma-informed or cognitive behavioral therapist and make peace with the past while learning techniques for managing stress. Adversity and extreme stress in life shapes our brain structures and puts us at risk for stress-related disease.[vi]
- Get a Coach - Hire a life or business coach and give him or her permission to challenge your ways of thinking and behaving.
- Pamper Yourself - Consider using essential oils, a soothing skincare routine or spending extra time zoning out or sleeping in. Give yourself a break and as Tom and Donna from Parks and Recreation would say, “treat yo self” to something exciting.
- Conflict Resolution - If you are in over your head with conflict, work on engaging in helpful resolution techniques or bring in a third party to mediate. Don’t avoid the conflict, it rarely ever goes away on its own.
- Solve the Problem - Sometimes you need to vent about your feelings and other times you need to take action to find a solution to your problem. Ask yourself what you need to reduce your stress and address it directly. Tell others exactly what you need.
- Empower Others to Take Action - Do what only you can do and eliminate or outsource the rest. How can you invite others to participate in your work or community projects and delegate responsibilities to them? Or maybe a messy house isn’t where your focus needs to be, and you can move things around in the family budget to be able to afford to hire a housecleaner.
- Stay Organized - Living an organized life brings calm and serenity. Invest the time upfront to create organizational strategies for running your business, household or other areas of responsibility and set yourself up for success to maintain those systems.
- List It - When you begin to feel stressed, start by writing a list of everything that is on your mind. Creating a to-do list will move the stressors from your brain to a piece of paper, then you can fully apply your prioritizing and problem-solving skills. Journal or draw your feelings and experiences.
- Color - Use an adult coloring book or a printable to sit down and color or draw. As you slow your mind and body down, you will feel stress lessen and your creativity flourish.
Spend more time with friends and challenge your mind by starting a book club. Organize meetings with an online sign up. View an Example
Adopt Value-based Living to Manage Stress
As you strive to minimize stress for yourself and others, look for ways to find inner peace and operate out of your strategic values. Knowing your “why,” communicating about it effectively and living it out is an art form and a necessary part of stress management.[vii]
- Align Yourself - Pay attention to your inner voice when you wake up in the morning, as you move through the day, and before bed. What is your inner voice saying? What can you learn from listening to it?
- Become a Lifelong Learner - Commit yourself to learning more about topics that interest you and your personal and professional growth. If you work or serve in a leadership role, research the benefits of forming a learning organization and serving as a catalyst for others to embrace expanding personal and professional knowledge.[viii]
- Be Honest - It sounds simple but telling the truth will lead to authenticity and exceptional character. Get in the habit of admitting when you are wrong, asking others for forgiveness and being honest with yourself and others. Telling the truth is a lot less stressful than telling lies and needing to keep track of them all.
- Manage Your Time - Your calendar will often reveal your personal values because how you spend your time reveals what is most important to you. Do a calendar audit and evaluate if you are spending your time in ways that align with your values. If you want more fun in your life but don’t see much on your calendar, plan your next adventure or vacation to unplug and experience something new. This will give you something to look forward to when life feels mundane or stressful.
- Create a Financial Plan - Money is often a source of stress so be proactive and hire a financial advisor or meet with a trusted friend who can teach you the basics. Managing your money well can have a ripple effect and alleviate certain stressors.
Improve Yourself to Manage Stress
Mental health determines how we manage the trials of life, engage in relationships with others and make decisions.[ix] Improve the quality of your mental health by investing in practices that reduce stress and promote growth, hope and peace.
- Seek Professional Help - There is never a bad time to start the practice of personal, relationship or family therapy. Psychotherapy takes many forms and often offers something for everyone. Take some time and research professionals in your area.
- Prioritize Listening - Listen to yourself and to others. Research the art of listening and put it to work in your life. You’ll be amazed how it slows down your racing thoughts and facilitates connection with others.
- Set Boundaries - What are your non-negotiables? You can set you and your relationships up for success by establishing healthy boundaries and communicating them well.[x]
- Get More Sleep - It seems like a no-brainer, but getting more sleep will benefit your brain, body and soul. You need time to recharge and sleep is key to reducing your stress levels so you are more resilient when hard things happen.
- Prioritize Yourself - Maggie Smith, Author of Keep Moving, points out how other people can say you’re going to get through hard times but encouraging yourself is essential. She explains how the most important daily conversation is the one we have with ourselves.[xi] Putting the oxygen mask on yourself first will enable you to thrive and have the strength and grit to help others.
- Increase Your Emotional Intelligence - Daniel Goleman, a leading expert in the field of emotional intelligence, explains how we can learn practical skills rooted in self-awareness, motivation, self-regulation, empathy, and adapting in our relationships.[xii]
- Take Vitamins - Do your research and talk to your doctor. What supplements can you add to reduce stress and optimize your energy and health? How can you feed your brain the nutrients it needs?
- Be Creative - Artistic pursuits can reduce stress and move your brain from fight or flight to a state of peace and wellbeing. If you don’t consider yourself an artist, try leveraging a different part of your brain by reading a fiction book, solving sudoku or a crossword puzzle.
- Dream About the Future - Take inventory of your hobbies, passions, life mission and skills, and research how to create a plan for your future that gets you excited and focused. In Japanese culture, the methodology of Ikigai involves a greater meaning — or the reason you get up each day and the things that keep you going in life.[xiii]
Try some of these ideas or your own stress management techniques — small changes can make a big difference in your life. By setting aside a little time for mindfulness and meditation, you can find more joy and remove obstacles keeping you from achieving your goals.
Erica Thomas is a marketing strategist here at SignUpGenius and strives to live a stress-free life.
[iii] Brenè Brown, Rising Strong (First edition). New York: Spiegel & Grau, an imprint of Random House, 2015.
[iv] James Clear, Atomic Habits: Tiny Changes, Remarkable Results: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones. New York: Avery, an imprint of Penguin Random House, 2018.
[v] Patrick Lencioni, Three Big Questions for a Frantic Family: A Leadership Fable About Restoring Sanity to The Most Important Organization in Your Life. J-B Lencioni Series, 2008.
[vi] Nadine Burke Harris, The Deepest Well: Healing the Long-Term Effects of Childhood Adversity. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2018.
[vii] Howard Gardner and Emma Laskin, Leading Minds: An Anatomy of Leadership, New York: BasicBooks, 1995.
[viii] Peter M. Senge, The Fifth Discipline: The Art & Practice of the Learning Organization, New York: Random House, 1990.
[x] Henry Cloud and John Sims Townsend, Boundaries: When to Say Yes, When to Say No to Take Control of Your Life, Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publisher House, 1992.
[xii] Daniel Goleman, Working with Emotional Intelligence, New York: Batman Dell a Division of Random House, 1998.