Life can come at you pretty fast, bringing up stressful things every day that can make it a bit harder to function as usual.
But don’t worry, there are simple ways that you can cope with stress in a healthy manner. Daily practices such as eating healthy, getting sleep, and meditating can be foundations to building stress resilience, while other activities like exercise, creating art, and even deep breathing may help with managing stress quickly.
There are many stress management activities you can do at home, work, or school, that can help support stress reduction every day.
Stress Management Activities You Can Do at Home
You can start experiencing the benefits of stress management at home with a few simple practices.
Body movement is a natural way to reduce stress and anxiety. Every time you exercise, your body releases chemicals such as serotonin and dopamine, which play a part in mood regulation. Research shows a relationship between physical activity and stress reduction, so
aim to find a fun activity that you can do that gets your body moving.
Yoga is an ancient practice that is said to promote the connection between mind, body, and spirit. Multiple studies find that people who regularly performed yoga poses had reductions in stress and improved mood. It’s easy to get into doing yoga in the comfort of your own home with classes or online videos appropriate for your level of practice.
Certain scents not only freshen up a room but can also help lower stress. Studies find that essential oil scents like citrus, lavender, and rosemary may help support stress reduction.[3,4]
To make the most of aromatherapy, you can invest in an oil diffuser, place a few drops of essential oil into hot water, or even add a few drops of essential oil to a cotton ball and enjoy the scent.
The workplace can be a significant source of stress in your life, and the stress that you carry from work has the potential to affect other parts of your day. To reduce your daily stress level, consider these strategies.
Sometimes when things are too stressful, you need to take a moment to slow down your thoughts. Meditation is a great stress management activity to help focus attention, help you get in touch with your breathing, and find a moment of peace during the day. It is something that can be practiced nearly anywhere, and studies find that meditation can support positive mood and stress relief. Whether it is 5 minutes or 20 minutes, these moments of mindfulness can be helpful.
Focus on breathing
Deep breathing is a relaxation technique that helps increase the amount of oxygen that circulates through the body and helps calm down the nervous system. In stressful situations, you may unintentionally take shallow, rapid breaths that can increase your feelings of anxiety, so consciously taking deeper breaths can help reduce stress.
It can be hard to notice the positive things in life when you’re in a stressful situation, which can lead to a downward spiral of thoughts. To keep life in perspective, consider practicing gratitude. This can help you notice the positive things in life and, if you’re expressing gratitude to others, you may improve the moods of others in the surrounding environment.
College is a new environment that can put students under a great deal of stress, so it is important to know how to cultivate healthy stress management routines.
No man is an island. Socializing and finding social support from friends and family members can significantly impact your stress levels. Whether you turn to others to talk through your issues or to blow off some steam, evidence shows that social support with close friends improves stress recovery and stress resilience.
If you’re feeling bogged down because of homework assignments, taking a moment to create something can help relieve stress. Creating art, no matter what its medium, can help release emotions, support focus, and improve mental flexibility and feelings of empowerment.[8,9]
Reassess your to-do lists
To-do lists can be an excellent tool for keeping you organized throughout your day, but they can also be a great source of stress if not done properly. Instead of making mile-long to-do lists for your entire week (or longer), make your to-do lists short, with only 4 to 5 significant tasks and a few minor tasks. Also, consider how realistic your to-do list is – lists filled with impossible or vague goals can be difficult to achieve and may exacerbate stress.
While research continues to examine the link between certain dietary habits and mental health, nutrition is still considered an important factor in managing your stress levels. Studies find that mental and environmental stress can increase how quickly your body uses nutrients, and shortfalls in certain nutrients like magnesium are linked to increased stress levels. †
At school, check out the dining options available to you and eat a varied diet with whole foods like fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds, lean protein, and whole grains.
Long-Term Stress Management Over Time
Stress management is not a one-time event. Instead, we must aim to control our stress over time for both our mental and physical health. Here are some things to consider along the journey we call life.
Eat a healthy diet
There are a variety of healthy eating patterns that exist that you can tailor to your own preferences. The important thing with a healthy diet is to eat a variety of foods, reduce the amount of ultra-processed and low-nutrient foods in your diet, and eat on a regular basis to support your energy levels.
Get enough sleep
The National Sleep Foundation recommends that adults over the age of 18 get 7 to 9 hours of sleep nightly to help rejuvenate their minds and bodies. Having trouble sleeping? Try powering down your electronics at least 30 minutes before bedtime, creating a soothing environment around you, or drinking a calming, caffeine-free tea before bed.
Whether you paint, dance, crochet, or play music, having a creative outlet is great for stress management. Your skill level in your creative endeavors doesn’t matter – the important thing is to have fun and explore sides of yourself you may not get to in your normal routine.
Consider Supplementing with Ashwagandha
Ashwagandha is a traditional adaptogenic herb that is well-known for its benefits in supporting calmness and stress relief. Research suggests that ashwagandha may be effective for reducing feelings of stress and occasional anxiety. It is important to check with a healthcare professional if you have any health concerns or are taking medications.†
Not every stress management plan will look the same. The important thing is to find a combination of stress management activities that work for you. Work on building a solid foundation with habits like healthy eating and sleeping well. But be sure to add a variety of complementary techniques to lower stress into your daily routine.
† These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.
Shohani M, Badfar G, Nasirkandy MP, et al. The Effect of Yoga on Stress, Anxiety, and Depression in Women. Int J Prev Med. 2018;9:21. Published 2018 Feb 21. doi:10.4103/ijpvm.IJPVM_242_16
Agarwal P, Sebghatollahi Z, Kamal M, et al. Citrus Essential Oils in Aromatherapy: Therapeutic Effects and Mechanisms. Antioxidants (Basel). 2022;11(12):2374. Published 2022 Nov 30. doi:10.3390/antiox11122374
Sazawa K, Kawada S, Ogawa Y. Effects of nighttime lavender aromatherapy on mood and physiological indices of stress in healthy young females. J Phys Ther Sci. 2022;34(7):503-508. doi:10.1589/jpts.34.503
Tseng AA. Scientific Evidence of Health Benefits by Practicing Mantra Meditation: Narrative Review. Int J Yoga. 2022;15(2):89-95. doi:10.4103/ijoy.ijoy_53_22
Perciavalle V, Blandini M, Fecarotta P, et al. The role of deep breathing on stress. Neurol Sci. 2017;38(3):451-458. doi:10.1007/s10072-016-2790-8
Løseth GE, Eikemo M, Trøstheim M, et al. Stress recovery with social support: A dyadic stress and support task [published online ahead of print, 2022 Oct 5]. Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2022;146:105949. doi:10.1016/j.psyneuen.2022.105949
Martin L, Oepen R, Bauer K, et al. Creative Arts Interventions for Stress Management and Prevention-A Systematic Review. Behav Sci (Basel). 2018;8(2):28. Published 2018 Feb 22. doi:10.3390/bs8020028
Kaimal G, Ray K, Muniz J. Reduction of Cortisol Levels and Participants' Responses Following Art Making. Art Ther (Alex). 2016;33(2):74-80. doi:10.1080/07421656.2016.1166832
Lopresti AL. The Effects of Psychological and Environmental Stress on Micronutrient Concentrations in the Body: A Review of the Evidence. Adv Nutr. 2020;11(1):103-112. Doi:10.1093/advances/nmz082
Hirshkowitz M, Whiton K, Albert SM, et al. National Sleep Foundation's updated sleep duration recommendations: final report. Sleep Health. 2015;1(4):233-243. doi:10.1016/j.sleh.2015.10.004
Akhgarjand C, Asoudeh F, Bagheri A, et al. Does Ashwagandha supplementation have a beneficial effect on the management of anxiety and stress? A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Phytother Res. 2022;36(11):4115-4124. doi:10.1002/ptr.7598
Markita has an interest in the biological, social, and cultural aspects of eating. She enjoys writing about nutrition and wellness, food justice and policy, cultural foodways, and the psychology of nutrition. You can find her at: www.wellnessandchill.com
Lynn is a Registered Dietitian (R.D.) and is a member of the Medical and Scientific Communications team at Pharmavite. She has over 20 years of experience in integrative and functional nutrition and has given lectures to health professionals and consumers on nutrition, dietary supplements and related health issues. Lynn frequently conducts employee trainings on various nutrition topics in addition to educating retail partners on vitamins, minerals and supplements. Lynn has previous clinical dietitian expertise in both acute and long-term care, as well as nutrition counseling for weight management, diabetes, and sports nutrition. Lynn earned a bachelor’s of science in Nutrition with a minor in Kinesiology/Exercise Science from The Pennsylvania State University. She earned a M.S. degree in Human Nutrition from Marywood University in Scranton, Pennsylvania. Lynn is an active member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Sports Cardiovascular and Wellness Nutritionists, Dietitians in Functional Medicine, and holds a certification in Integrative and Functional Nutrition through the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.