10 Real-World Tips To Reduce High Stress (At Work Or Home)

— Reviewed by Dr. Sandip Roy.

Go beyond the usual suggestions to reduce stress. The strategies you’ll read here can produce positive results within a day.

Stress has become our constant companion. The relentless demands of modern living take their toll.

The looming deadlines, constant reports, and notification pings never stop, even on weekends and holidays, leaving us frazzled and drained.

As it is, every interaction with the world is stressful. Experts tell us that stress is a normal reaction to everyday pressures.

Stress that is just enough to motivate us to take action, is called eustress or “good stress.”

But when stress gets constant or excessive, the American Psychological Association (APA) says it becomes unhealthy. We call this stress distress or “bad stress.” It can upset our daily lives, make us gamble, choose recklessly, procrastinate, and even rage out in insubordination.

So, how can you control your distress? These 10 behaviors can help you reduce your stress at work or at home.

10 Best Ways To Cut Down Stress

10 Real-World Tips To Reduce High Stress

Some common ways to handle stress are listening to music, reading a book, watching movies, pampering yourself, going out shopping, going on a holiday, getting good sleep, eating comfort foods, and joining relaxation programs.

We go beyond those usual suggestions. Most of the tips can produce positive results within a day.

1. Take a walk (ideally in a forest area)

A walk can boost your mood.

A 2016 study found barely 12 minutes of walking increased joviality, vigor, attentiveness, and self-confidence. In comparison, those who sat and watched a slideshow did not have those benefits.

Your mind relaxes when you take a 15- to 20-minute brisk walk away from a stressful situation at work.

  • First, because you have removed yourself from a threatening person or situation.
  • Second, when you walk, you increase the transport of oxygen-rich blood to your brain.
  • Third, brisk walking releases feel-good chemicals in your brain, like endorphins, and decreases stress hormones, like cortisol.

A 2017 study found walking sends pressure waves through our arteries that increase blood supply to the brain.


Benefits of shinrin-yoku (Source: Forest Holidays)

Researchers Krizan and Miller found a certain type of walking can add positivity to our mood. Called “incidental ambulation,” it is the kind of walking that gets you from one place to another.

In this, you are unaware of your body movements, as against the kind of walk that you do on a jogging track.

Incidental ambulation also helps cancel out the effects of other emotional events, like boredom and phobia.

A brisk walk can reduce overthinking and improve your memory. Walking and other aerobic exercises refresh our minds by building new brain cells in the hippocampus—the seat of memory in the brain.

The Japanese practice forest bathing, or shinrin-yoku. Shinrin means “forest,” and yoku means “bath,” so shinrin-yoku means bathing in the forest atmosphere.

Studies show shinrin-yoku can boost our immunity by increasing our body’s Natural Killer (NK) activity.

2. Do the diaphragmatic breathing

Take a few deep breaths when a stressful situation appears. It works miraculously.

The American Institute of Stress says focused breathing is the best relaxation response to stress. They call it a “Super Stress Buster.”

Deep diaphragmatic breathing moves the diaphragm (the muscular partition between our chest and abdomen) and stimulates your vagus nerves. Which, then, reverses your stress response, relaxes your body, and quietens your mind.

Another wonderful thing happens when you take a few deep breaths — it allows you a few seconds to process your emotions before reacting. Those seconds let you decide what should be your rational behavior rather than an impulsive one.

You have time to access your higher brain (prefrontal cortex) and ponder your optimal response.

  • Recognize the difference between a stressor (anything that causes stress) and stress (the response). The stressor may not be within our control, but we may control our stress response.
  • We can control how we respond by creating a “space” between “the stimulus and response.”

As Victor Frankl, originator of logotherapy and author of Man’s Search for Meaning, said:

“Between stimulus and response, there is a space.
In that space lies our freedom and power to choose our response.
In our response lies our growth and freedom.”

Space Between Stimulus & Response

The next time you get into an unpleasant situation, pause and allow your thoughts to have a brief space. Use that space to take a few deep breaths.

3. Go the ‘proactive coping’ way

Proactive coping has emerged as a new focus of positive psychology research.

In this, instead of finding solutions to your chronic stress, you avoid stress in the first place. In proactive coping, people have a clear future vision.

Proactive coping people see risks, demands, and opportunities in the far future, but they do not take those as looming threats, harm, or loss. For them, these are opportunities to build up resources. In time, these will give them a better chance to clear out the paths to their goals and growth.

Gan, Yang, et al. (2007) say proactive coping predicts functional independence, life satisfaction, and engagement. Schwarzer and Taubert (2002) hold it is a method of assessing future goals and setting the stage to achieve them successfully.

Those who cope proactively prepare much in advance.

It is a stitch-in-time approach to managing stress. By roughly guessing where the next stress could come from, they take steps to make the situation less likely to happen.

Still in doubt? Okay, how about this:

All of us can reduce stress by simply getting proper sleep, exercise and nutrition, and being optimistic, right? These are proven proactive coping strategies.

Those who cope proactively know that a lack of sleep builds up stress, so, they sleep for 8 hours. They also avoid the stress of potential health problems by not smoking or drinking.

Aspinwall and Taylor (1997) assert proactive coping is a process through which one prepares for potential future stressors and possibly averts them altogether. The five stages of proactive coping are:

  1. Resource accumulation: Gathering the tools and support you might need to handle stress before it even happens. It’s like stocking up on supplies before a big storm hits.
  2. Recognition of Potential Stressors: Here, you’re tuning into what might cause you stress in the future. It’s like spotting dark clouds on the horizon and knowing a storm might be coming.
  3. Initial Appraisal: This is when you take a closer look at those potential stressors and figure out how they might affect you. It’s like checking the weather forecast to see how bad the storm might be.
  4. Preliminary Coping Efforts: In this stage, you start to put some strategies in place to deal with the stressors that you have identified. It’s like putting up sandbags to protect against flooding when the storm arrives.
  5. Elicitation and Use of Feedback Concerning Initial Efforts: You evaluate how well your coping strategies are working and make adjustments as needed. It’s like checking to see if your sandbags are holding up against the flood and reinforcing them if necessary.

Stephanie Jean Sohl and Anne Moyer write,

Aspiring for a positive future rather than preventing a negative one is distinctly predictive of well-being.

10 tips to manage high stress

4. Forgive others, and yourself too

Resentments are storehouses of stress. Chronic anger keeps you in fight-or-flight mode.

Unforgiveness, which is reflected as anger, hate, and resentment, creates stress within a person and in situations when they interact with others.

Several studies show forgiveness comes with more happiness, better mental well-being, improved physical health, and less depression.

Forgiveness is an effective coping mechanism. It can reduce the effects and the feelings of stress linked with an unforgiving state.

McCullough and his team found an increase in forgiveness linked to a decrease in rumination. Rumination is overthinking past events, which can result from stress and lead to anxiety or depression.

A study on 332 young, middle-aged, and older adults over five weeks showed forgiveness could significantly reduce stress. The researchers behind the Forgiveness, Stress, and Health: a 5-Week Dynamic Parallel Process Study write:

Forgiveness may be a form of coping that helps alleviate perceptions of stress that contribute to poor mental health.

It is not always easy to forgive. But forgiving is for your own benefit—to reduce your toxic stress—not for the other person’s sake. When you forgive, you decide to let go of your negative feelings.

Find Out What Forgiveness Is Not (And What It Actually Is)?

Your forgiveness is not dependent on whether the offender deserves it or not. You do not even have to let the person know you forgave them.

Forgiveness is not letting someone “off the hook.” It is freeing yourself—releasing your anger, bitterness, and urge to get revenge.

Forgiveness is a dynamic process.

  • All of your forgiveness does not have to come at one time.
  • You can forgive your offender a little today, and more later.
  • Also, forgiving them today does not stop you from withdrawing your forgiveness in the future.
forgiveness is self-love-Pin

Forgiveness is a choice you are making. And you are the one to get its benefit.

And forgive yourself, too. Self-forgiveness is letting yourself move ahead of your past wrongdoings.

Why It’s Hard To Forgive Yourself? How Can You Do It?

All of us, at least once in our life, have behaved badly and felt guilty later. It might have caused you to dislike yourself, believe you are not worthy of trust or love, devalue your self-esteem, or even suffer a disturbed mind.

To deal with the effects of your previous choices and move ahead, you must forgive yourself.

5. Practice the Stoicism philosophy

Stoicism flourished for nearly five centuries in Ancient Greece and Rome. And the influence of Stoicism has endured to the present day.

Stoicism In A Nutshell: A Short Summary In 500 Words

Stoics hold that peace of mind comes from understanding and giving our attention to only what we can control. They believe we can only control our thoughts, attitudes, and responses. We cannot control what lies outside ourselves.

But if we try to control the external elements, or the outside event itself, we would only waste our emotional and physical energy. This idea is somewhat similar to the phenomenon of ‘cognitive control,’ the belief that you can control your reaction to an event.

According to Donald Robertson, author of How To Think Like A Roman Emperor, most modern forms of self-help are ultimately indebted to the Stoics, as is cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), the leading evidence-based form of psychotherapy.

The Stoics also kept death in their thoughts.

Not to live as if you had endless years ahead of you. Death overshadows you. While you’re alive and able – be good.

— Marcus Aurelius, a Stoic philosopher and one of the greatest Roman emperors

So, remind yourself that you and others, with all the successes and possessions, are ultimately ephemeral. None and nothing will last. Simply ask yourself, “Will it matter in a year?”

You might want to catch our little post on how to be a Stoic in today’s times: Beginner’s Guide To Learn Stoicism.

6. Be mindful for some time today

In modern life, we do not have as many physical dangers as the perceived ones. We no more face fierce predators like tigers or dire threats such as famines. But we still react to non-life-threatening situations with stress.

As soon as our mind gauges any situation as physically hazardous, our bodies jump into stress mode. Mindfulness helps us observe the situation curiously and accept it without jumping to judgments.

Learn to focus on the present moment of your life. For most of our waking moments, our minds are wandering in a state of mindlessness.

Mind wandering takes us to our past or future and often results in unhelpful thought patterns, like regretting or worrying.

Mindfulness brings us to the here-and-now experience, relieving us of stress arising from past or present life events. Mindfulness helps us let go of the stresses related to events that have happened or are yet to happen.

Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), a program developed by Professor Jon Kabat-Zinn, involves becoming an impartial witness to one’s own experience and acceptance of things as they actually are in the present moment.

Researchers have shown that MBSR can reduce anxiety levels by 58% and stress by 40%.

According to Kabat-Zinn, the basis of MBSR is mindfulness—the “moment-to-moment, non-judgmental awareness.”

10 best strategies to beat stress
  • “Feelings come and go like clouds in a windy sky. Conscious breathing is my anchor.” — Thich Nhat Hanh
  • “Few of us ever life in the present. We are forever anticipating what is to come or remembering what has gone.” — Louis L’Amour
  • “Be happy in the moment, that’s enough. Each moment is all we need, not more.” — Mother Teresa

7. Do at least one thing you enjoy

Indulge in a healthy behavior you enjoy. Simply doing something you love doing can reduce the stress of your day-to-day life.

  • Take a walk in the park with your loved one.
  • Thank a person you haven’t thanked in years.
  • Help someone get a little more out of their life.
  • Go to a show at the planetarium to feel the awe of seeing the creation of the universe.
  • Meet a person a few levels below you to tell them how much their work means to the company.
  • Do something that is pure fun, that you would do for no other reason than you would enjoy it (without harassing or harming others).
  • Want to dance like no one’s watching you? Then perform for yourself. By the way, you can increase your happiness with a smile on your face, even if it’s a fake one.
  • Want to make funny faces in the mirror? Go ahead.

Stop stopping yourself from having fun. Do at least one thing today that you would genuinely enjoy.


8. Show empathy towards others

Empathize with people who you think are causing you stress.

Remember, everyone is fighting their own battles. When you see them with compassion, you no longer believe they are stressing you out. You rather find they are doing their best to relieve their own stress.

Empathy takes the stress out of a confrontation. Empathy produces oxytocin, “the love hormone.”

Psychologist Arthur Ciaramicoli in his book The Stress Solution argues empathic listening may be the key to reducing stress in our lives. He says,

“Empathy means seeing human beings as always changing and evolving; so you don’t want to judge and shut the person down.”

Remember, change begins with you. Change your paradigms. Your paradigms are the “lenses” through which you see the world.

Start the change in yourself by treating others with more empathy. Show yourself some self-love.

9. Put down your burden and rest

Keep down your heavy bag of stress and give yourself a break.

If it seems too difficult to put away your worries and anxieties, assure yourself it is only for a little while that you are putting it down. Tell yourself you can pick it up again whenever you want to.

Having to deal with continual stress can become overwhelming. It is especially true when you are dealing with many difficult challenges at home, like juggling kids and work while working from home.

Your body cries for a break at such times. Are you paying attention to it, or are you dismissing it because you are too preoccupied with your worries?

Listen to your body and take a break. Taking breaks refreshes your mind and re-energizes your body. Frequent breaks can help reduce and even prevent musculoskeletal pains and eyestrain.

Taking regular breaks from work can also help you improve your relationships.

Choose a way to let your mind move away from a stressful state, like doing some stretches, exercising for a while, visualizing taking a warm bath, watching a relaxing movie, recalling joyful memories, and playing a sport you love.

Do you know the story of the psychologist who held out a glass of water to his class and asked, “How heavy is this?” Of course, the answers were in numbers—ounces and pounds.

The psychologist finally explained it doesn’t matter how much the glass or the water weighs. What matters, and determines how heavy it is, is how long the person holds it.

If I hold it for an hour, my arm will ache. If I hold it for a day, my arm will feel numb and paralyzed. The weight of the glass stays the same, but the longer I hold it, the heavier it becomes.

how long you hold the glass...

So, stop holding your “total stress load” for a while. Permit yourself to ease your mind off the burden by taking a break, and a rest.

Remember to put down your glass from time to time.

10. Connect with people who care

Staying connected with your friends, family, and community is the biggest and the best predictor of our happiness.

Robert Sapolsky, the world-famous neurologist, says:

The single best predictor of an ability to deal well with stress is how socially connected you are.

  • Reconnect with your friends if you find you have drifted apart. Keep them in the loop about what new things are happening in your life.
  • Plan a get-together with your old friends. Stay connected to each other via social media, email, and messengers.
  • Connect with your family and relatives without work pressures.
  • Arrange a picnic or a party exclusively for them. As you connect, remind yourself to talk openly and honestly. Tell them of your unspoken expectations from the relationship and urge them to do the same.
  • Another part of successful connections is accepting other people as they are. And not forcing them to conform to your standards and judgments of what they should be.

Instead of trying to improve them, or make them someone different, try valuing and loving them.

Studies prove if we have close social relationships, then we tend to have happier lives. Follow the science on this and keep your stress at bay.

10 Ways To Manage Stress

Most Common Causes of Stress At Work

Too much stress can lead to physical illnesses like obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, brain strokes, heart conditions, and Alzheimer’s disease. And mental illnesses like anxiety, depression, insomnia, and burnout at work.

Here is a table of some of the most common causes of stress at work:

Pace of workFeeling overwhelmed by the speed of tasks
Office politicsStress caused by workplace power dynamics
Too much workFeeling burdened by an excessive workload
Too many managersConfusion or conflicting instructions from multiple supervisors
Shift work or overtimeStress from irregular or extended work hours
Bullying and harassmentNegative treatment from coworkers or superiors
Poor support from bossesLack of guidance or assistance from supervisors
Personal life affecting workStress from personal issues impacting work performance
Poor working relationshipsStrained interactions with colleagues or superiors
Unresolved insubordinationDisagreements or conflicts with authority
Inflexible times and deadlinesDifficulty managing rigid schedules or timelines
Emotionally demanding workStress from the emotional toll of job responsibilities
Lack of experience or trainingFeeling unprepared or unqualified for job tasks
Poor pay, lack of money, loansFinancial stress due to low wages or debt
Unreliable performance reviewsAnxiety caused by inconsistent or unfair evaluations
Job insecurity, sacking of othersFear of losing employment or witnessing layoffs
Lack of opportunities for career progressFeeling stuck without chances for advancement
Organizational cultures like favoritism or discriminationStress from unfair treatment or biases
Common Causes of Stress At Work

Stress In Psychology

In psychology, stress is usually the process of interaction between a person and their environment. There are three broad perspectives in studying the stress process:

  1. Response-based: When a person says, ‘I feel a lot of stress,’ they usually refer to their response to an unpleasant situation. This response to a stimulus follows a three-stage pattern, which Hans Selye called the general adaptation syndrome (GAS). Initially, the body defends itself against stressors by activating the sympathetic nervous system and mobilizing the body for the fight-or-flight response. When stress is longer, the person adapts more or less successfully to the stressor. Finally, the person’s adaptation resources have depleted, and a breakdown occurs that leads to illness, burnout, depression, or even death.
  2. Stimulus-based: When a person says, ‘I have a stressful marriage,’ they refer to a trying situation, not to their response to that situation. This point of view says that each crisis has unique demands that uniquely tax the person’s coping resources and trigger an exceptional stress response.
  3. Cognitive-transactional: This paradigm views stress as a continuous process, started and maintained by the cognitive appraisal of demands and resistance resources. This theory emphasizes the ongoing, reciprocal nature of the interaction between the person and the environment. It is the standard paradigm in psychology.

Final Words

Did you notice that reducing stress is about adapting to difficult situations? And this adaptation can start as soon as you decide to change your attitude and expectations.

Let’s end this with a quote from Epictetus, the Greek slave who became a respected teacher of Stoicism, “Men are disturbed, not by things, but the views which they take of them.” Nearly 2300 years later, the Hungarian-Canadian endocrinologist Selye noted, “It’s not what happens to you that matters, but how you take it.

So, our stress is the result of our interpretation and reaction to a threat, not from the threat itself.

Try one of the above strategies today; you will surely feel less stressed. For better results, make some of them a part of your daily lifestyle and see yourself get happier and calmer in the coming weeks.

√ Also Read: How Does Food Make You Happy (Happiest Foods List)

√ Please spread the word if you found this helpful.

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When it comes to mental well-being, you don't have to do it alone. Going to therapy to feel better is a positive choice. Therapists can help you work through your trauma triggers and emotional patterns.