5 Simple Ways to Cope With Stress

You can’t control every stressor. But with these smart strategies, you can influence how they affect you.

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Medically reviewed in October 2022

Updated on October 7, 2022

It’s no secret that being stressed most of the time can take a toll on your body and mind. In fact, chronic stress may lead to or worsen muscle pain, headaches, gastrointestinal troubles, cardiovascular problems and immune system issues, not to mention anxiety disorders and depression. 

While you may not be able to control your stressors, you can take steps to better deal with them—and help protect your health in the process. Try these strategies for easing everyday tension.

Pinpoint what stresses you out
We all have triggers for stress, whether they're events, tasks, or even people. The Sharecare app (for iOS and Android) can help you identify those stressors. It offers an easy way to track your experience with stress and help you figure out what makes you most anxious. 

You can also write a list of your triggers and devise problem-solving strategies for the things you’ve itemized. For instance, if you repeatedly lose your keys or your phone, keep a checklist handy for every time you leave a location. Taking an extra minute to scan your surroundings can save you a morning of stress.

Take care of yourself 
Me Time isn’t necessarily spent in solitude, apart from others. Instead, it’s often simply taking time for activities you enjoy and organizing your life around your personal priorities.

To help this along, try writing a list every morning of five positive things you can accomplish during the day. One may be finishing a reasonably sized task. Another may be completing your workout. Make sure to include at least one or two items you really enjoy that are easy to accomplish, like spending 30 minutes with your significant other or chatting with a friend.

Have a coping mechanism you can access quickly
There are a range of simple tactics you can try to reduce stress. Some of those recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) include limiting time spent reading news headlines and social media feeds and using that time instead to connect with loved ones and/or community or faith-based groups.

It can also help to focus on things that nurture your body, because a healthy body can help put your mind at ease. That may include:

•    Eating healthful food, whether a full meal or a snack
•    Building exercise into your daily routine
•    Practicing relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing, meditation, yoga, or tai chi

It may take a little trial and error to find a method that works for you and that you enjoy. But once you have a few techniques in your tool kit, you can develop a quick version of these coping mechanisms to access whenever you need a pause. For instance, a few stretches may not give you as much relief as a full yoga routine, but the mini version can be done from your office chair between meetings or at home between errands.

Address the physical causes of stress
We think and react better when we feel physically well. Sometimes, we’re stressed out because of unmet physical needs that are actually in our grasp to fulfill. These may include getting more sleepeating a balanced diet, or exercising more.

To help you get the recommended seven to nine hours of shut-eye per night, think about why you’re not drifting off—and take steps to improve. Are you eating too close to bedtime? Could you play calming music or read a book to quiet your mind? Would turning your phone or television off help you fall asleep?

Rather than overhaul your entire routine, make smaller changes until you find behaviors that work for you—and then repeat them until they become habits.

Reach out for help from others
Talking to friends and family when you have a problem can provide a new perspective and even help you find a solution. For example, if work is stressing you out, check in with coworkers to discuss fine-tuning your process. 

If the problem is more complex or you suspect you may have an issue like anxiety or depression, you may want to seek additional help. A mental health professional can help you learn new coping techniques or determine if medication may benefit you.

Stress affects all of us. But with a few simple coping mechanisms, you can live a happier, more relaxed life.

Article sources open article sources

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Shields GS, Spahr CM, Slavich GM. Psychosocial Interventions and Immune System Function: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis of Randomized Clinical Trials. JAMA Psychiatry. June 2020.
Liu M-Y, Li N, Li WA, Khan H. Association between psychosocial stress and hypertension: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Neurol Res. 2017;39(6):573-580.
Labanski A, Langhorst J, Engler H, Elsenbruch S. Stress and the brain-gut axis in functional and chronic-inflammatory gastrointestinal diseases: A transdisciplinary challenge. Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2020;111:104501.
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