Want to reduce stress? 10 things you can do

Stress, at the most basic level, is our body’s way of responding to external pressures. The things that make us stressed and how we reduce stress will vary from person to person.

Signs and symptoms of stress

When we encounter a “stressful” situation, our body produces hormones that trigger a ‘fight or flight’ response, which is our body’s way of preparing us for action. Sometimes, this stress response can be appropriate or even beneficial.

However, there are times when stress becomes excessive, and if this stress becomes overwhelming, it can lead to chronic or long-term stress.

What are the signs and symptoms of stress?

We all know what it’s like to be stressed, but it’s not always easy to explain what it means, or how it feels. Below is a list of emotional, physical, cognitive and behavioural symptoms that you may experience if you are stressed:

Emotional symptoms:

  • Feeling lonely
  • Feeling frustrated
  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Having difficulty quieting your mind

Physical symptoms:

  • Insomnia
  • Headaches
  • Chest pain
  • Low energy

Cognitive symptoms:

  • Racing thoughts
  • Inability to focus
  • Poor judgement
  • Constant worrying

Behavioural symptoms:

  • Change in appetite
  • Nervous behaviour
  • Picking up bad habits
  • Avoiding responsibilities

This is just a small number of the symptoms people may experience when stressed. But what can we do to reduce our stress and mitigate these symptoms?   

10 ways to reduce stress

Here are some key strategies from Caroline Harris, our in-house psychologist, which can help you reduce stress:

  1. Try to identify which situations lead you to experience stress. Can you reduce these situations? If you can’t, how can you manage your response better?
  2. Accept that you will not be able to change or control everything that causes stress in your life.
  3. If you can, improve your time management – this will remove unnecessary stress.
  4. Maintain a healthy, balanced diet – this will help regulate your emotional and physical responses.
  5. If you aren’t sleeping well, you may become more stressed, but if you can get back into a good routine, this will help you deal with the stresses around you.
  6. Getting regular exercise can help reduce stress levels.
  7. Regular relaxation, mindfulness and breathing exercises incorporated into your daily routine will allow you to reset your stress levels.
  8. Sharing your worries with family and friends will help them help you, and they may even have some good suggestions on how you can reduce your current stress levels.
  9. Plan regular breaks, or holidays – taking time out will ensure your overall stress levels don’t get too high.
  10. Build positive experiences into your life – spending time on your interests, hobbies and enjoying social time will allow you to reset.

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take steps to reduce stressThe list above contains a mixture of pragmatic and therapeutic psychological strategies to help you with general stress and provide strategies to manage your stress response.

Taking steps to look after your wellbeing can help you deal with pressure, and reduce the impact that stress has on your life – this is sometimes called developing emotional resilience. Resilience is not just your ability to bounce back, but your capacity to adapt in the face of challenging circumstances.

Seeking professional advice

Remember, if you are struggling with stress and can’t seem to manage it on your own, reach out to a professional. Be open and honest with the GP/Clinician, describe your feelings and keep it factual – you could even keep a diary of your symptoms.

Is stress getting the better of you? Develop coping mechanisms to manage your stress with our Managing Stress & Overload module.

My Possible Self is a clinically-backed mental health app designed to help people tackle early symptoms of stress, anxiety, and low mood. Download the app or sign up online, and try our FREE ‘Building Happiness and Wellbeing’ module today.

Dr Caroline Harris

I’m the clinical lead for My Possible Self with 24 years' as a chartered clinical psychologist in the NHS and other charitable organisations. Everything that we do is clinically backed by me.