13 ways to combat stress


As someone who gets stressed out easily, I have picked up an arsenal of ways to combat stress. The main source of my stress comes from mindless worrying/anxiety and work.  Both are things that are somewhat difficult to change.  My mind naturally worries and we have to work for a living so there you have it – stress!

Why combat stress?

I don’t think many realize the damage stress does. Numerous studies have shown that stress has very negative effects throughout the body. Some even think that it can be the difference between someone who is unhealthy and at risk for death and those who aren’t. Some scientists believe it can cause negative effects to your appearance, such as weight gain, wrinkles, and hair loss. I also personally believe that chronic stress can also leave you at risk for depression.

Ways I have learned to combat stress:

1. Have a glass of wine at night – Wine is considered to be healthy for many people and no doubt you do get a relaxing sensation (for some people – in some it triggers migraines which is stress inducing so not a good idea). However, it can become very easy to become dependent on drinking wine to reduce stress and possibly a substance abuse problem. So sticking with one glass and utilizing multiple methods is your best bet to not becoming dependent.

2. Take a warm bath or hot shower – A warm bath is my first go to for when I feel ill. I don’t even consciously do it. I usually figure out that I have come down with an illness after getting the sudden urge to take a warm bath. I attribute this to baths possibly being healing. It certainly is pain-relieving. While in labor there was a small tub for the mothers-to-be to use for a small period of time and the nurses always had to drag me out of it. I could deal much better with the pain while in the bath but as soon as they took me out it seemed unbearable. If you want to utilize baths for stress relief, add in candles (be careful though that they do not get knocked over and are blown out immediately after you are done!) and soft music. Add bubble bath and fragrant essential oils and a glass of wine for a complete stress buster!

3. Exercise – I have included exercise because many people swear by exercise for stress relief. While I do not find it to be stress relieving, I do find it to be useful for preventing stress. Exercise helps to keep your energy levels up and helps you sleep at night (huge insomniac here – trust me, the more intense you exercise the better you sleep). Having more energy and being more rested may help you navigate your day better and leave you less stressed. I do admit however, that some exercise helped me to ease frustration which contributes greatly to stress. I remember a particular day where I was angry and frustrated with an individual and I took it all out in a kickboxing session. I left that anger and frustration on the bag. Also, I notice that sometimes when I am angry I tend to start cleaning (I am not a natural born house cleaner by any means). It’s actually one of the few times I spontaneously start cleaning. I think anger produces chemicals in our body that is best relieved physically. I know that when I become angry I feel it as a physical sensation mostly and if it doesn’t get released through some kind of activity it leaves my body feeling awful! So my recommendation is to use exercise for relieving anger and preventing stress.

4. Relaxing hobby – Those of us who knit or crochet know what I am talking about: Getting lost in those stitches! Nothing makes the world (and your worries) disappear like knitting or crocheting. The repetitive nature of the task puts you into a sort of trance. Be careful though, because it can become addicting! Obviously there are many activities that would fit into this category – reading a book, working on a puzzle, painting, etc. While I might find those activities stimulating, others might find them relaxing. Reading a book always makes hubby fall asleep, but while I can lose myself in a book, I am more likely to stay up all night reading. Just make sure to choose an activity that relaxes you when you are stressed, rather than one that stimulates you!

5. Breathing – This is another that people swear by that I have not really found to be helpful (mainly because I never think to do it) but because it is so popular, I am including it. I do know that when I get stressed I tend to hold my breath. Perhaps taking a few seconds here and there to focus on breathing might help?

6. Music – I had a job interview once that I was so stressed nervous for. I turned on my favorite Bob Marley song, “Redemption Song,” and listened to it over and over for 20 minutes. You know there are those songs that just transport you to another place of calmness and this is one of those songs for me. It is difficult for me to be stressed out while listening to this song. Actually listening to reggae in general reminds me of recent tropical vacations so I do turn to that genre of music when I want to feel a bit springier.

7. Stop and listen – Sometimes I notice that I am feeling anxious in general. I have found when I stop what I am doing, ask myself “What am I worried about?” I will find that my mind is juggling numerous worries at once and it becomes so much that I just feel overwhelmed. Talking and listening to yourself in this manner isn’t crazy, it’s like pressing a reset button. After I ask myself what I am worried about I listen to the list. Sometimes I think about what the worst thing that can happen for each of those worries, realize that I am never fully in control of anything and life always goes on and then move on. This has been my best method of reducing general anxiety. As I said, it works sort of like a “reset” button. I can usually move on with my work and feel less anxious. An alternative to this and one I have tried before is talking with someone you trust. Tell them you are feeling anxious and just have to vent or get things off your chest. List out the worries plaguing you and be done with it. You might tell the person you don’t need advice (I think it generally makes thing worse because you are extending the focus on your worries when the goal is to addrss them and move on). Give yourself permission to table solutions for your worries at a later time.  “I’ll think about that tomorrow…” – Scarlet O’Hara

8. Massage – During the final weeks before I quit my job, I was getting pedicures on a weekly basis. Not just paint-my-toenails pedicures, but the full deluxe triple massage pedicures! And this was the kind of place that sat you in an industrial massage chair with a glass of wine while they pampered you! I felt like each pedicure was calming me down just enough to deal with the coming week. If you are lucky, you have a partner who gives fantastic massages and loves doing it.  But if you need immediate rescue – book a massage!

9. Put things in perspective – It can be incredibly freeing to realize that what you’re facing isn’t insurmountable. Sometimes listening to another person’s struggles, someone who is facing seemingly insurmountable difficulties, can make you more appreciative of your own situation. Likewise, if you are a spiritual person, or even a scientific person, viewing yourself as a very tiny aspect in something that is much grander can also work to minimize your worries. Sometimes I watch shows like The Cosmos or The Universe and it really reminds me how inconsequential everything that happens on earth is to the rest of the universe.

10. Supplements. There are numerous vitamins and minerals that your body uses to combat stress. I can’t possibly list them all but obviously eating healthy food and a quality vitamin/mineral supplement is a good place to start. There are some herbal preparations that some people swear by that I have not tried. One that I am particularly interested in is Holy Basil. I have seen very good direct reviews on this herb all over the internet for helping to relieve stress. If I find myself to be in a particularly stressful period, I will probably try it.

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11. Do something good for someone or something else – Assisting an elderly neighbor, helping a family that is needy, rescuing a kitten…. it will make you feel so good that you will forget about any worries, at least momentarily.

12. Accomplish something big – There have been a few times in my life where I worked hard for something and I rode the wave of that accomplishment for quite some time. It’s times like those when you are strengthened against worries and stress. So if you are feeling a bit down and daily stress feels like it is taking over your life, try to accomplish something that will make you proud. Maybe it is getting an A in a class, a certification, a degree, completing a big project, making or building something, competing athletically, doing something you never thought you could accomplish or do… It will make you feel good, for a long time!

13. Major life change – Sometimes the source of your stress is really a situation in your life that needs to change. Unfortunately, making major life changes almost always comes with a little stress and more worries and other things that are not so great. For instance, when I quit my job to become a freelancer I did it primarily to reduce the stress in my life.  I spent months debating the decision and worrying about it, but I’m happy to say I knew almost instantly that I made the right decision. If you know the source of your stress and anxiety is a specific situation, just know that most people don’t regret getting away from those things that cause contstant stress and anxiety. Most of us never look back!

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Things NOT to use to combat stress

1. Binge drinking – I’m not talking about drinking socially here. More than a glass or two used for relaxation is a sign that something needs to change. I’ve certainly been guilty of it before and later realized that it wasn’t the greatest coping mechanism for stress.
2. Shopping – If you find yourself buying more and more “things” to relieve stress you may end up heaping more stress upon yourself later. Look at the list above and find a substitute!!!
3. Hanging with negative people – Sometimes it is tempting to hang with someone who wants to complain all the time. Misery loves company. While it is great to have a friend to vent to, eventually you want to become unstuck in a situation and move forward. Venting helps temporarily but it won’t solve problems. Try finding someone you can bounce solutions off and someone who will encourage you to move forward.
4. Eating – If I have ever been guilty of managing stress with something that I shouldn’t it is this. Let’s face it, like alcohol, food (especially sweets) gives us a temporary sense of pleasure and can make stress disappear instantly. But it almost always comes back to you worse than before. If you are a stress eater, it’s in your best interest to work very hard at finding a replacement coping mechanism!!
5. Fighting with those you love – Taking a bad day out on someone is inevitable, but if you find yourself arguing with your kids or significant other frequently, stop and examine if your stress could be the culprit. Stress can make you less tolerant than you otherwise would be. I can tell you that dealing with someone who is chronically stressed and copes by pushing other people away can be very wearing. For your sake and the sake of your important relationships, you really need to learn to manage stress in healthy ways.

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