How to Relieve Stress: Short and Long Term Techniques


Looking for ways to reduce stress? These tips can help you relax your body and mind.

Taking your stress level down a notch is easier said than done when you’re overwhelmed. Although stress may seem like a fact of adult life, it’s not something we should simply accept or ignore.

In fact, exorbitant levels of stress can harm your long-term mental and physical health, leading to high blood pressure, lack of sleep, and heightened anxiety. It can also interfere with your productivity and relationships.

While it’s not realistic to eliminate all sources of stress, you can learn to strike a balance between removing stressors from your plate and getting the job done.

1. Perform deep breathing exercises

Deep breathing, or diaphragmatic breathing, is a common and effective stress relief technique.

This type of breathing requires you to use your diaphragm to breathe deeply. This allows your lungs to function fully, which doesn’t happen when you just breathe normally. Your belly, rather than your chest, will expand to engage your diaphragm.

According to a study 2017diaphragmatic breathing can have a positive effect on sustained attention and levels of cortisol – known as the stress hormone – by triggering relaxation responses.

Also commonly known as belly breathing or belly breathing, deep breathing is also associated with lowering your blood pressure and heart rate, which may also be linked to stress levels.

2. Meditate

Meditation is the practice of focusing on your body while focusing on the present moment.

Mindfulness and meditation are effective stress relief methods that can also help improve sleep quality, lower blood pressure, and slow heart rate.

There are many types of mediation, but the simplest form is to sit comfortably, close your eyes and focus on your breathing – gently pushing out intrusive thoughts if they arise.

If you are new to meditation, be aware that distractions abound, but meditation gets easier each time you practice.

Meditation apps like Calm and Headspace can help you get started and make meditation a habit.

3. Practice progressive muscle relaxation

Progressive muscle relaxation (PMR) involves relaxing all the muscles in your body, group by group.

A 2015 study found PMR relieves anxiety symptoms. To practice, you can start with a few deep breaths.

Next, practice tightening and relaxing each muscle group, starting with your forehead and working your way down to your toes.

After each cycle of tensing for about 5 seconds, then releasing completely, pause to notice how that muscle group feels. At the end of this exercise, you should feel the physical tension melt away.

4. Try Guided Imagery

Guided imagery is a type of meditation that helps reduce stress.

This technique involves imagining a place that helps you relax and achieve inner peace. Have one or a few ideas for hangout spots ready to go, so if anxiety hits you, you don’t need to know which spot to shoot.

Guided imagery is more powerful if you can tap into all of your senses. If the beach is your place of happiness, start with a visual, then go through each sense:

  • the smell of salt water and coconut sunscreen
  • the feeling of hot sand between your toes
  • the croaks of seagulls above our heads

A study 2021 has shown that it can work in tandem with deep breathing and progressive muscle relaxation techniques to positively impact your mental health and overall well-being.

5. Move your body

There’s no getting around the fact that getting regular exercise is important for overall health and well-being.

It can promote a positive attitude and help reduce symptoms of anxiety.

The Centers for Disease Control and Protection (CDC) recommends 150 minutes of physical activity per week for adults, which may seem like a lot, but divided by 5 or 7 days, it comes down to just 30 or 20 minutes per day, respectively.

Consider making a morning walk around your neighborhood a daily habit.

6. Bond with your pet

Studies show that spending even a short time with a pet can significantly reduce anxiety levels by lowering cortisol levels. They also help people get out – maybe on that morning walk – and feel happier globally.

If you don’t have a pet, you might consider volunteering at an animal shelter once a week or walking a neighbor’s dog to take advantage of your cuddle time to lower cortisol.

7. Set boundaries and stick to them

Overcommitment is one of the most common culprits of high stress. One way to start prioritizing your mental health is to set boundaries.

For example, you might make it a point to leave work at work and completely disconnect for the night so you can be there when it’s time to focus on your personal time.

Also, try not to be afraid to say no to helping friends and family if it interferes with your plans or if you don’t have the capacity.

8. Get enough sleep

It’s no coincidence that a not-so-good day turns into a terrible day if you haven’t had a good night’s sleep. Sleep deprivation is associated with an increased risk of depression and stress.

The National Sleep Foundation recommends obtaining 7-9 hours sleep at night. A few things that will help you achieve that golden sleep number:

  • go to bed at the same time every night
  • avoid scrolling your phone in bed by leaving your devices in another room
  • limit daytime naps

It is natural to experience high levels of stress at various times in the lives of teens and adults. But that doesn’t mean you just have to accept the overwhelming feelings of tension or anxiety that it can bring.

Science-based relaxation techniques can reduce the amount of stress in your life. By taking control of your mental health and prioritizing your overall well-being, you can find a renewed sense of inner peace and balance.

If you’re still struggling to manage your stress level, consider finding a good therapist to help you.

To learn more about therapy and how it can help you, you can check out Psych Central’s Understanding Therapy resource.


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