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17 Ways to Cope With High Stress Levels

High stress is linked to physical and emotional distress. Here’s how to combat it. 

Stressed male in a library with a white shirt and a laptop and coffee


Everyone experiences stress on some level at some point in their lives. Some people experience more stress than others, and everyone processes it differently. Stress isn’t always a bad thing—it can help us make important decisions and warn us when something is wrong—but unmanaged stress leads to declines in physical and mental health.

Learning to manage your stress is a high-stakes skill necessary for navigating the connected and hectic world we live in today. Here are 17 ways to cope with high stress levels in a go-go-go world. Try them out, but remember that not every tactic will work for every person. Finding the best stress-relief techniques for you is key.

1. Deep breathing

Intentional breathing is a proven tactic for relieving stress. Try box breathing: Breathe in for four counts, hold for four counts, exhale for four counts, and hold again for four counts. Repeat as many times as you need to feel centered and calm.

2. Progressive muscle relaxation

This one’s great for people who tend to hold stress physically in their body. Progressive muscle relaxation involves tightening and then slowly relaxing all of the muscles in your body, one group at a time, starting at either your head or your feet. Long term, it helps you recognize when tension develops in your body and teaches you how to release naturally.

3. Meditation

Another scientifically proven stress relief technique, meditation uses breathwork and body awareness to cultivate mindfulness. The idea is to focus on the here-and-now so you can’t ruminate about the hecticness of daily life—a few minutes of respite.

4. Grounding

Science shows that spending time in nature improves mental health and wellbeing. Physically touching objects in nature may enhance the benefits. Grounding can be practiced in many ways, with a common method being barefoot walking or standing. You may want to lie down and let your skin feel the grass beneath you, or use your hands to feel the texture of things like tree bark, sand, or rocks.

Beautiful woman getting a massage in a white towel

5. Massage

Physically releasing tension in your body is a channel for releasing emotional tension, too. Massage therapy has a number of proven benefits, from reduced muscle tension to increased feelings of peace and contentment. With a percussive massage gun, you can access the benefits of massage therapy any time, any place.

6. Walking

Going out for a stroll combines the benefits of being in nature and the benefits of exercise to create the ultimate concoction of stress-relieving endorphins. It also gives you time to think through your stressors and how you might tackle them.

7. Working Out

A bout of intense physical activity, as opposed to something gentle like walking, is a great way to release pent-up stressful energy. It’s also one way to momentarily disconnect from whatever is causing you stress. Over the long haul, exercise is known to reduce stress as well as increase one’s ability to cope with negative emotions.

8. Gratitude

Science tells us that expressing gratitude for the good things in your life can cultivate a sense of contentment and happiness. Giving thanks every day is actually shown to improve physical health along with mental health.

9. Journaling

If you feel caught up inside your own mind, try writing down all the things you’re trying to think through. Seeing your thoughts on paper can make things easier to sort out. In fact, studies show that journaling can help regulate your mood and emotions. 

Elderly woman in a red shirt with headphones and smartphone

10. Limit screen time

Not only does the blue light from screens mess with your body’s inner clock, but the content you’re looking at may have more of an effect on your mental wellbeing than you think. If you find yourself feeling drained after using your phone or computer, consider limiting your screen time or, at a minimum, unsubscribing from channels, newsletters, and accounts that serve up stressful content.

11. Eat nutritious foods

If the body is stressed, so will be the mind—and vice versa. There’s a deep and complex relationship between diet and mental health. Scientists still have a lot to learn, but they do know there’s a correlation between eating high amounts of nutrient-rich foods and improved emotional well-being.

12. Stay hydrated

Dehydration is a form of stress on the body and, in fact, dehydration can lead to feelings of extreme fatigue, irritability, depression, and anxiety. So drink up!

13. Avoid alcohol

A stiff drink at the end of a long day seems to be an easy way to decrease stress. Temporarily, it might be. But as good as a drink makes you feel in the moment, alcohol consumption only adds to your stress long-term. Alcohol is known to cause both physiological and psychological stress.

14. Get creative

For an immediate stress-relief tactic, let your creative juices flow. Activities like painting, drawing, building, putting together puzzles, gardening, and writing get you out of your own head for a while. Plus, you may end up with a creation you’re proud of.

Black and white photo of white male talking with black male

15. Talk it out

Sometimes all you need is a solid vent session. Find a listening ear—someone who won’t judge you for the stress you’re under or the reasons you’re under it—and speak about your stress out loud. The simple act of verbalizing it might make you feel better, and it’ll also help you identify patterns, feelings, or relationships you may not be able to work out inside your own head.  

16. Break it down

Often, extreme stress is the product of many small stressors. Try to separate your stressors and identify which ones you can work on eliminating. Breaking this task down into small chunks may make tackling stress feel more manageable. 

17. Prioritize

If your stress is mostly work-related or otherwise having to do with obligations, take some time to sit down and prioritize your to-dos. Prioritization is a powerful skill that can help you mitigate the anxiety of feeling like you have to do it all, all the time.

This article is for educational and informational purposes only, and is not intended for use as medical or health advice. For any and all health concerns or conditions, please talk to your doctor.

Written by Ekrin Athletics Staff