How to cope with stress: effective ways

Raise your hand if you’ve ever felt overwhelmed or stressed. You’re not alone – most of us have experienced stress at least once. In fact, 34% of Americans report feeling overwhelmed by stress. With stress being such a widespread issue, developing skills to manage stress is a good idea. So, how can you support yourself when you’re feeling overwhelmed? 

Stress effects on the body

Stress is one of those experiences many of us have felt but struggle to define. In reality, the definition is quite simple. Stress is a state of worry usually caused by particular difficult situations. It can, however, be helpful, as it allows us to respond to danger or make changes to improve our lives. 

Stress affects almost every part of the body. Therefore, learning to manage stress can help us take care of ourselves better. So, what exactly does stress do to the body

  • It may cause us to tense muscles and trigger headaches 
  • It can cause shortness of breath 
  • It may increase heart rate, and prolonged stress may affect cardiovascular health.
  • It can cause us to release stress hormones 
  • It may cause gastrointestinal discomfort
  • It may weaken the immune system

Sources of stress in your life

Stress may come from multiple places in our lives. To manage the stress, we need to understand where the stress comes from. 

Sources of stress can include: 

  • Financial responsibilities, unexpected costs, or ups and downs
  • Things relating to work, such as deadlines, processes, situations and people 
  • Things relating to family life, such as responsibilities, worries about family members or family well-being
  • Things related to health, such as health conditions, caring responsibilities 
  • Poor time management or taking on more than you can handle 

When we combine these with not knowing how to cope with stress, they can spiral into uncomfortable feelings of overwhelm. When you’re trying to find the best way to cope with stress, it’s a good idea to pinpoint where the stress comes from. 

Whether it’s from multiple sources or just one big thing, finding what is causing stress can help you pinpoint a solution. Addressing the source of the stress may help you manage the stress. Sometimes, you won’t be able to take care of the source, and that’s okay. In that case, it’s a good idea to develop stress management techniques to help you. 

Ready to help yourself learn how to deal with stress? Here are some great ideas to get you started. 

Exercise and stress

Do you start skipping the gym when you get stressed? It’s a shared experience – your deadline or source of stress takes priority over everything else. However, exercising when you’re stressed might be just what you need to manage stress. How does it work? 

Exercise can work on multiple levels. First, it’s a great way to remove yourself from the situation. Exercise requires you to stop thinking about the issue at hand and instead focus on the moment. 

Exercise also helps release feel-good endorphins. They can help you feel better after you exercise and reduce stress. 

Therefore, when you’re stressed, get your gym clothes on and move. There are multiple exercise options you can do. Don’t forget your earbuds, too – music is another good way to cope with stress. Might as well hit two birds with one stone! 

Cardio is a great type of exercise to manage stress. Don’t think you must do a multi-kilometer run or an hour’s worth of laps in the pool. You can also include fun cardio, like dancing if you’re so inclined. 

For best results, try doing exercise with others. It can be a class, a group of buddies you play a sport with or someone else who’s happy to join you in the gym. Social exercise has many benefits for our health and well-being, including its ability to lower stress. 

Hobbies and recreation

Your hobbies and interests probably aren’t the first things you think about during a stressful period. However, they can be valuable tools for the management of stress and for promoting overall well-being. 

Leisure activities can affect our health. Recent research suggests that there are over 600 mechanisms through which it can positively affect us. They do so through a variety of general ways, which include

  1. Psychological benefits – they can help us build resilience, support individual growth, and create helpful psychological resources.
  2. Biological benefits – participating in leisure activities can support our hormonal system, our immunity and even our nervous system. 
  3. Social benefits – some people engage in leisure activities that involve others. They can help us form social connections and support networks. They can also help us develop beneficial social skills.
  4. Behavioral benefits – leisure and hobbies can change how we behave, support good habits, and make us pay more attention to cultivating better health.
  5. Health benefits – they can make us more likely to make healthy choices and can support health care. 

What sort of hobby can benefit you when you’re stressed?  

Leisure activities can be anything that brings you joy, including: 

  • Hobbies, such as painting, music, games
  • Participating in creative endeavors like drawing or knitting
  • Taking classes to learn a new skill
  • Reading
  • Socializing, participating in social clubs, or doing something with your local community
  • Volunteering or engaging in causes close to you
  • Engaging in sport 

All of these can be great activities to manage stress. Plenty of options will suit most interests, budgets, and time commitments. Therefore, having one or two hobbies that you can engage in when stressed might be a good idea. You’ll be able to cultivate positive emotions and better cope with stress by engaging in them regularly. 

Remember that the management of stress doesn’t only come in during stressful times. A balanced lifestyle that promotes good mental health is essential every day.  

Time management

One of the most significant issues causing stress is time management. Time management is our decision-making ability, allowing us to better structure and adapt time to changing conditions. Good time management is associated with better well-being and performance. Better time management will enable you to better respond to stress and be able to stay engaged in other areas of life. 

Therefore, learning to manage your time well can go a long way. How can you do that

There are specific techniques that you can use to help you make use of your time well. One of these is setting goals or aims for the day. If you break down your tasks to make them more specific and work out what you need to do them, you’ll be better able to tackle them. 

After your tasks have been written, decide what needs to be prioritized. Which tasks are urgent, and how important are they? Start with those that need to be done quickly and will significantly affect your overall goal. 

If you’re struggling with focus, try techniques like the Pomodoro Method, where you work for around 20-30 minutes and then take a 5-minute break. Alternatively, if you’re struggling to start a task, set a timer for 10 minutes and decide that if you don’t achieve anything in that time, you’ll return to it later. Often, a slight push is key for accomplishing a big task. 

Sometimes, you just bite off more than you can chew. Often, we don’t want to disappoint others, so we agree to additional responsibilities or actions without considering our capacity to take them on. In those cases, learning to say no is a good idea. 

It may seem like you’re being an awful person, but think about it this way. It’s better to decline and have someone else address the request well than take it on and barely pay attention to it due to other factors. Be honest. Don’t budge your boundaries. If it’s something that requires your skillset, ask to re-prioritize other responsibilities if you can. 

It will take practice learning to say no, but it will pay off in the long run. 

Healthy lifestyle

One of the best things you can do for yourself daily and during stress is keeping a healthy lifestyle. You can support optimal function and health by remaining active, eating healthy, and sleeping well. 

Can your diet help you manage stress? In fact, it can. Some nutrients and foods are essential during stress. Eating more fruits and veggies helps us feel like we’re experiencing less stress.

The B-group vitamins, and vitamin B9 in particular, can support our mood and the production of neurotransmitters that play a role in stress. Learn more about the ways these vitamins support mental health in our post

Magnesium is a mineral that is essential in our stress response and gets depleted quickly. Choose foods high in this mineral, or consider a supplement. [DE] Maxler Magnesium Glycinate contains plenty of highly bioavailable magnesium to help you cope with stress. 

Alongside vitamins and minerals, protein is a great help in supporting you during stress. That’s because protein is a source of the amino acid tryptophan. It is needed to make serotonin, which gets used up during stress. Therefore, increasing your protein intake during stress can be beneficial. 

A protein shake can be a good option if you’re struggling to get sufficient protein. Maxler Golden Whey is an excellent source of the amino acid and comes in great flavors. 

Finally, a key micronutrient that supports our ability to cope with stress is omega-3. Omegas can support the body and protect it from the effects of stress


Think pulling an all-nighter will help you meet a deadline? It might, but quality sleep can help you cope with stress better than the all-nighter will. Sleep and stress are connected – often if a stressful event occurs, it affects our sleep. However, for many people, the severity of the effect will differ. Additionally, experiencing poor-quality sleep releases stress hormones. It’s like a vicious cycle, with one thing impacting the other. 

If you’re feeling stressed, getting quality sleep should be a priority. To do so, try addressing your sleep hygiene – the collection of habits that promote sound sleep. Some things you can do include:

  • Ensuring your place of sleep is dark and cool 
  • Limiting exposure to bright lights and screens an hour before bed 
  • Trying to wind down before heading to bed 
  • Staying consistent with bedtime and awakening time
  • Limiting alcohol and caffeine before bed 

For some, if sleep doesn’t come naturally during stressful situations, sleep-boosting supplements can help. These include melatonin, which is a sleep hormone naturally produced by the brain. Taking it can improve the quality and duration of sleep. Alternatively, some minerals and fats can support sleep. Some people find magnesium supplementation helpful. Zinc also plays a role in sleep and may contribute to better sleep. Omega-3s can also support healthy sleep. 

If you’re looking for more tips to improve sleep, consider checking out our learning center. There, you can learn more about melatonin and its connection to sleep

Deep breathing

Breathwork can be a great way to help manage the stress. Breathing slowly is known to affect our nervous system. For example, our heart rate and our breathing are connected, so when our heart starts beating fast during stress, we can help ourselves calm down through slow breaths. Breathing can also affect the way we think and what we feel.  

Slow breathing is a great technique to reduce stress. Different breathing techniques also benefit mood and can be combined with mindfulness practice for better effects. 

What deep breathing techniques can you use? Here are three common ones: 

  1. Equal breathing. To do it, sit comfortably. Breathe in and out through the nose. On your inhale, count to a number, usually 3 or 5. On the exhale, count to the same number. Make sure your breath in and out are of the same length. If you’d like, you can pause between the breath in and the breath out. 
  2. Slow breathing. Find a place where you can sit or lie down comfortably. Take a normal breath and exhale. Then, breathe in slowly through the nose. Fill your chest and lower belly. Breathe out slowly through the mouth or nose. 
  3. Modified Lion’s Breath. Sit comfortably and breathe in through the nose. Make sure you’ve filled your belly with air. Open your mouth wide and breathe out with a “HA” sound. Repeat. 

Breathing exercises take very little time and can be done almost anywhere. It’s a good idea to do them regularly. 

Take it easy on yourself.

Sometimes, you just need a bit of relaxation to help you get through a stressful period. Find a few relaxation practices that will work for you. Common techniques include

  • Focusing on breathing
  • Yoga or Tai Chi
  • Meditation and mindfulness 

Be kind to yourself during times of stress, and don’t forget to engage in self-care.  

In addition to rest, relaxation, and compassion, you can help yourself by learning stress management skills. Sometimes, you may have to take a personal approach to develop techniques that work for you. In that case, you may benefit from counseling for stress management. The professional advice can help you find methods, approaches and routines that work for you.

How do you relieve stress in the moment?

It’s all well to have an arsenal of stress management techniques. However, what can you do at the moment when it all starts spiralling? For example, how can you deal with stress at work?

Alongside general healthy habits, there are quick options to help you address stress in the moment:

  • Try a breathing exercise like the one mentioned earlier 
  • Turn on your favorite song for a boost of positivity 
  • If you can, get outside for a quick walk. The movement and the (hopefully) sunshine can help you take your mind off the stress
  • Stretch or do some yoga if you can 
  • Spend five minutes meditating 
  • Talk to someone 

Stress can seem complicated to deal with in the moment, so it’s a good idea to remember these ways to cope with stress. They can be done almost anywhere and can be an accessible arsenal of techniques for when things get tough. 

Almost every single one of us is affected by stress. But it’s our choice to be overcome by it or learn to manage the stress. You can use plenty of different techniques to address stress in the moment or when you need to. A healthy and balanced lifestyle will also help you better prepare for stress. Use these techniques to become the greatest stress-buster yet!  

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