High on stress and in need of proven, quick ways to reduce stress naturally? If you said yes, then you’re in luck because I’m covering 20 effective ways to reduce stress naturally and quickly.
All of these techniques are simple (yet powerful) and can be used when short on time. Most can be utilized anywhere, including at work.
And the best part is that they aren’t just natural stress relievers but will also help you keep stress levels low in the long-term.
To help you out further, be sure to download 5-Minute Stress Solutions, a free resource that will take you step-by-step through proven mindset and stress management strategies for less stress, more emotional control.
There’s lots to cover, so let’s get started.
Table of Contents
Why Quick, Natural Stress Reduction Strategies Are So Important
It seems as though most Americans are high on stress these days. Unfortunately, the data backs up this feeling.
According to a 2014 study conducted by the American Psychological Association, 77% of adults in the United States regularly experience physical symptoms of stress and 73% encounter psychological symptoms caused by stress.
What’s Causing So Much Stress?
Let’s face it: work demands are getting worse. You’re expected to do more and work harder – with even tighter deadlines.
And if you’re anything like my ambitious clients, you set high standards for yourself (which creates internal pressure, stress and anxiety).
Additionally, your life is jam-packed with personal obligations that constantly pull at you. This always-on-the-go lifestyle leaves little time for personal renewal.
So, how can you juggle it all yet stay positive and relatively stress-free? What you need are simple, effective strategies that work quickly to naturally reduce stress, get you back on track and keep stress levels low.
Stress Management Isn’t Just About Stress Relief (Here’s Why)
Here’s the thing: learning how to reduce stress won’t help all that much if you can’t keep stress levels low for the long-haul.
Stress has a ripple effect (both within your body and mind). The key to effective stress management is to help reduce (even prevent) much of this ripple effect. That will ultimately help you to remain calm, think rationally and respond appropriately so that you can more quickly bounce back (called stress resilience) instead of allowing stress to take control of you and emotionally react.
And that’s what control is really all about. Controlling your thoughts and emotions. You can’t be in control of your life if you don’t first learn to manage your stress levels.
[Related Reading: How to Avoid Stress (5 Unusual Stress Management Strategies)].
20 Simple + Quick Ways to Reduce Stress Naturally
Effective stress management strategies should help you to naturally and quickly:
- Calm your mind,
- Refocus and be more present,
- Be aware of your thoughts and feelings,
- Gain control of your emotions (instead of being emotionally reactive), and
- Stay positive in the face of challenging and stressful circumstances.
This is what enables you to take back control. Luckily, the natural stress management strategies below all help with one or more of these areas.
Here are 20 easy and effective ways to reduce stress naturally, bounce back quickly and keep stress levels low:
#1: Take Breaks
There’s a reason you feel drained and frazzled at the end of a marathon work day. Although it’s easy to get caught up in work and push through without breaks, it’s not productive.
Working more isn’t the same as working better (or best).
Similar to your muscles, the brain gets tired if overused. And that means that you must take regular breaks throughout the day to stay fresh and be most productive.
Regular breaks help you to focus and think more creatively. They also help with memory recall and to restore motivation. That means that even though you’ll be working less (from a time perspective), you’ll be more productive and effective.
How Often Should You Take Breaks to Keep Stress Levels Low?
To be most productive, it’s recommended that you take breaks every 50-90 minutes for about 15-20 minutes in length. And I know what you’re thinking. . .
Heather, I don’t have time for all that!
But the voice inside your brain is lying to you. Breaks will increase your presence and productivity.
If you have trouble fitting in such long breaks so often, start with 10-minute breaks every 90-minutes to 2 hours (and build from there). I’m certain that you’ll not only enjoy them, but will reap big benefits from them (leading you to extend them over time).
What should you do when taking a break? Get away from your phone and computer, move around and stop thinking about work.
The point of giving yourself a break is to shift your attention and use a different area of the brain. Meditate, talk with co co-workers about the previous night’s football game, or read something fun for a few minutes.
And don’t forget to take longer breaks on weekends and via regularly scheduled vacations!
Tips for In-The-Moment Stress Breaks
Instead of pushing through when you’re stressed and overwhelmed, be mindful to take a break from it all. Getting away from what you’re doing for a few minutes will help you regroup, refocus and think more clearly.
If you’re at work, get up from your desk to get a cup of water, coffee or tea. If you’re in a meeting, excuse yourself for a few minutes (pretend to go to the bathroom). Find a way to break free.
#2: Physical Activity
You know that physical activity is good for your physical health. But did you know that it also benefits you psychologically?
Physical activity naturally reduces stress by:
- Decreasing your body’s stress hormones while increasing your brain’s feel-good neurotransmitters (known as endorphins),
- Forcing your thoughts to concentrate on your movement (and hence acting as a form of movement-based meditation),
- Decreasing physical tension in the body,
- Increasing feelings of positivity and self-confidence levels,
- Improving your ability to sleep, and
- Increasing self-confidence and putting you into a more positive mood.
The best part is that you don’t have to go for a long run or commit to a long workout session to benefit from physical activity. You just need to get moving!
As a stress prevention measure, exercise regularly. And think outside the box – be creative about how you fit physical activity into your life. All of the following count:
- Riding a bike or playing soccer (even tag) with your kids,
- Walking briskly with your dog,
- Running up and down the stairs for 5 minutes a couple of times per day, or
- Using one of your daily breaks to do some jumping jacks or take a brisk walk around the block (yes, you can combine the two).
It doesn’t really matter what you do, so long as you get up and get moving.
#3: Simple Breath Meditation
By now you’ve likely heard that breathing slowly and deeply reduces stress levels. But how often do you actually do this?
Next time you feel stressed, immediately breathe in and out slowly and deeply through your nose. This simple act helps to counteract the stress response going on within your body.
The best thing about this is that you can do it anywhere and for however long you want. It’s perfect for when you need to quickly calm a chaotic mind by reducing your adrenaline response, yet are short on time.
I recommend setting a timer for at least a couple of minutes and counting each breath as a focal point. Any time you feel your mind wandering, bring it back to your counting.
And take it even further by trying the following technique:
- Slowly inhale through your nose for a count of 4,
- Hold your breath for a count of 8, and
- Exhale slowly through your mouth for a count of 7.
#4: Write About Your Stress (aka Journaling)
Writing about your stress and how you feel is therapeutic. And it helps you to organize your thoughts and how they’re affecting you so that you can better understand what’s going on inside your mind.
Moreover, your increased awareness (and organized thoughts) will help you to identify the most effective, healthy solutions.
To de-stress using this method, start by setting a timer for at least 5 minutes (although I recommend 10 minutes if you can swing it). Get a journal or piece of paper out and begin writing.
Write about what’s going on, your feelings and the beliefs you have around your situation. Get curious about how you could be exacerbating your stress. Ask what you want to do about the situation (if anything) – and write about that.
Once your timer goes off, make a choice to let go.
#5: Tune Into Your Body
When you feel stressed or overwhelmed, take a few minutes to perform a mental scan of your body.
Pay attention to where the stress is manifesting. Is it in your shoulders? Or perhaps in your back? Maybe even within your head (in the form of a headache)?
Performing a mental scan of your body forces your brain to slow down, which counteracts your body’s negative stress response. It also helps you to become more familiar with how stress manifests within your body, enabling you to identify stress more quickly in the future.
To perform a mental scan, do the following:
- Sit or lay down comfortably.
- Close your eyes and slow your breathing while counting to 20.
- Begin scanning your body. Start with your feet and pay attention to how they feel – and your sensations only within your feet. Give yourself 10-15 seconds and then move up to your calves.
- Keep going until you reach the top of your head.
Although the purpose is to perform a scan of your body, this practice can have the added benefit of helping to relax your muscles.
#6: Apply Physical Pressure
Massage therapy reduces the stress response and increases the feel-good hormones of dopamine, serotonin, and oxytocin – even when you do it yourself!
Purchase a Lacrosse ball or use a tennis ball to help massage your feet, hands, back and shoulders. Apply gentle pressure to various pressure points on your body, such as on your inner wrist and between your index finger and thumb.
For more about how to self-apply massage therapy and use pressure points, review this article at WebMD.
#7: Use Your Senses
Using your senses (of touch, smell, sight, hearing and taste) is a quick, natural method for stress relief. It forces your brain to focus on something specific that’s unrelated to your stress (and uses a different part of your brain too).
Here are a few ideas on how to reduce stress naturally by using your senses:
- Tune into a favorite, upbeat song (and if no one can see you, dance to it). This will help improve your mood and increase your self-confidence levels.
- Use aromatherapy to help relax and rejuvenate you. Try lemon or lavender oil, which are known to help with stress and relaxation.
- Chew gum to quickly reduce stress. It’s believed to work because of the chewing motion and also because of the flavor and smell of the gum.
- Look at images that make you feel calm and relaxed or that make you feel happy.
When using your senses, be mindful of what you hear, see, smell, taste and/or feel. Focus on that and identify what it is that you’re sensing.
Re-framing is when you stop intensifying the negative aspects and instead focus on the positive (or at least non-stressful) aspects of an event or circumstance. By changing your perception, you’ll be changing how you feel (and hence lowering your stress levels).
To properly re-frame:
- Ask how else you might look at the situation (from a more positive light),
- Look for any long-term benefits, and
- Connect to what you’re learning and how you’re growing from the situation.
Just about every experience provides opportunity for growth and learning, so find it! And even if you don’t see a clear positive, there’s something to be gained (even if it’s just that there’s an end in sight).
For example, instead of focusing on an upcoming deadline that’s got you feeling anxious start thinking about the benefits of getting the project done.
Note that re-framing isn’t about just thinking positively, ignoring the negatives or creating a silver-lining that doesn’t exist (which doesn’t work, by the way). It’s about changing the story you tell yourself about your situation based in REALITY.
There’s more about how to re-frame properly in 5-Minute Stress Solutions, so be sure to download your copy here:
#9: Be Grateful
Practicing gratitude regularly is powerful. If practiced consistently, it retrains you to think more positively and increases your resilience to stress. That’s because it forces you to look for things to be grateful for.
Imagine how your entire outlook on life (and those around you) can change from that!
But here’s the thing: you need to practice consistently, be specific (not too general) and not be repetitive.
I recommend keeping a daily gratitude journal and writing down at the end of each day at least 3 specific things that you’re grateful for that day. My best tip is to focus on the little things, such as: the warmth of your morning shower, the smell of freshly baked bread, or the belly laugh of your daughter.
#10: Challenge Your Beliefs
One little-known way to reduce stress naturally is to challenge your own beliefs.
Your thoughts are what create your emotions and the responses you have (which are a big part of where stress originates from). And your thoughts are rooted in core beliefs about yourself, other people and how the world works.
The problem is that your beliefs aren’t truths, yet your brain treats them as such. And many of them are negative or limiting, which then keeps you stuck and creates stress. That’s because they’re often created to protect you based on past difficult experiences.
The next time you feel overwhelmed and without choices, challenge your beliefs by:
- Asking what you believe to be true about what’s going on, your options and what’s limiting you,
- Writing down all the reasons why your beliefs could be wrong, and
- Imaging what would be true if you chose not to believe them.
#11: Face Your Fears
When challenging your beliefs, you might find that they relate to fear. Fear of change, of the unknown, of what others might think, of not belonging, of being loved, of failure, and even of success (and that’s just a few of the common ones). Obviously fear creates immense amounts of stress and anxiety.
What can you do about it? Confront your fears head-on.
There’s no such thing as having no fear (at least, I don’t believe that). But fear need not paralyze you. You have the ability to face your fears and act despite them.
Get started by using the following simple practice:
- Step 1: Write down your fear. Give it a name.
- Step 2: Identify the thoughts behind your fear.
- Step 3: Look for facts to rebut these thoughts. This helps put your fear into perspective.
- Step 4: Ask how you (and others) would benefit from acting despite your fear.
[Take It Further: get more fear-busting and confidence-building tools with 5 Effective Tools to Stop Living in Fear and Worry].
#12: Laugh (a lot)
Laughter really is the best medicine, at least when it comes to naturally reducing stress and anxiety. Laughing induces beneficial short-term changes in your body that help you to ultimately feel more relaxed by:
- Stimulating your heart and lungs, thereby increasing your oxygen intake,
- Increasing blood circulation, which relieves muscle tension,
- Decreasing cortisol and adrenaline within your body, thus lowering your body’s stress effect, and
- Increasing endorphins (your feel-good hormone).
Regular laughter also helps improve mood by increasing positive thoughts and can strengthen bonds between people.
And laughter is contagious. The more you laugh the more likely others will laugh too. These longer-term effects have obvious stress management and prevention benefits.
How to Laugh More
How can you laugh more often when life seems so serious? Humor can be cultivated (and you can choose to not think so seriously about everything).
Don’t worry, I’m not suggesting that you stop giving respect to serious matters. Instead, prioritize behaviors and activities that will further develop your sense of humor.
Here are a few easy activities to incorporate into your life that will help you laugh more often:
- Regularly watch your favorite comedy shows and movies.
- Increase the amount of time you spend with people who make you laugh.
- Read the funny papers every morning.
- Watch funny cat videos every few days (this has been shown to reduce stress).
- Create a goal around how much you want to laugh each week (and fulfill it).
It’s time to intentionally bring more laughter into your life!
#13: Listen to Music
When my son Noah was a baby, he cried every time a sad song came on (just like Snoopy in It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown). Music affects your mood. But it doesn’t have to just make you sad (it can make you happier and relieve stress too).
The right type of music has been shown to reduce your body’s stress response, relax you and positively affect your mood. Just be sure you’re listing to music that makes you feel good and (if needed) calms you down.
How to Use Music for Stress and Anxiety Relief
Here are a few easy ways to reduce stress naturally through music:
- Listen to your favorite music on your way to work (instead of the news, talk radio or sports). Consider belting out the tunes! This will help create positive energy and put you into a better mood.
- Play music in the background when doing household chores. This is a favorite in my family (especially when cooking).
- When feeling stressed, turn on an upbeat (happy) song and DANCE to it. Move your body to the music and have fun.
#14: Physical Touch/Contact
Human beings crave physical contact. Touch is a way to bond with others. But there’s more to it than simple social bonding.
Studies show that human touch has a host of physical and psychological effects that relieve stress and anxiety. A friendly pat on the back can increase feelings of belonging and self-confidence. And a hug from a friend creates positive feelings.
Positive physical contact reduces cortisol levels and increases oxytocin. Oxytocin creates feelings of well-being and happiness and even increases feelings of trust and compassion when interacting with others.
Moreover, physical touch increases dopamine and serotonin, which are known stress-reducing and mood-regulating neurotransmitters.
What does this mean for you? By increasing the amount you touch loved ones, you’ll be happier and less stressed.
Here’s a list of simple ways to get you started:
- Hug friends and family members often.
- Hold hands and snuggle with your partner when watching movies and/or television.
- Give (and receive) a massage to/from your partner regularly.
#15: Catch Some Rays
Ever notice that you’re happier when the sun is shining (and that you’re more likely to feel depressed and anxious during long periods of cloudiness)? There’s a reason for that.
Exposure to sunlight boosts serotonin levels, which is known as the happiness hormone. And sunlight makes you calmer and more alert.
The problem is that most of us see very little sunlight (other than through our office window). When I practiced law, I would often go to work before the sun would rise and come home after it had set. How often do you do the same thing?
It’s time to make a concerted effort to get outdoors. Obviously, you can do this on the weekends. But that’s not enough.
Find ways to get outside during the week too, even if just for a few minutes during one of your daily breaks or by walking (or riding an outdoor bike) as part of your exercise regimen.
#16: Practice Muscle Relaxation
When stressed, your muscles get tight. To help you relax and relieve this build-up of tension, practice progressive muscle relaxation. I recommend combining this with a body scan (discussed in #5 above).
Here’s how to progressively relax your muscles:
- Close your eyes and breathe slowly and deeply through your nose. I recommend laying down, but you can do this sitting comfortably in a chair too.
- Slowly tense your feet for 5-10 seconds. Then relax this tension slowly.
- Keep progressing upward from your toes to your head until finished.
[Take It Further: Read How to Relax Without Guilt (Even if You’re an Overachiever).]
#17: Eat Real Food
Real food has obvious physical benefits (that I’m sure you’re well aware of). But it also has a direct affect on your mood, stress levels and mental health. It provides you with energy and helps you feel good about yourself and your choices.
What is real food? Think fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes and unprocessed meats. Real food is food that’s unprocessed and in its natural state (or as close to its natural state as possible).
Here are some simple rules to apply when following a real food diet:
- Eat fresh fruits (including unsweetened dried fruits), vegetables and legumes. When fresh fruits and veggies aren’t available, frozen fruits and vegetables work too.
- For protein, eat seafood and healthy lean meats (such as chicken, pork, and beef) in moderation.
- Include dairy (if you don’t have an intolerance or allergy), such as milk, unsweetened yogurt, (real) cheese, and eggs.
- Eat seeds, nuts, and even popcorn as snacks (and add to other meals).
- Stay away from fast food and boxed/prepackaged foods that have more than 5 ingredients or include ingredients that you’re unfamiliar with or can’t pronounce.
- Limit sugar intake. And only as needed (and in moderation), use natural sweeteners.
#18: Change What You Drink
What you drink can have both a positive and negative effect on you. And sometimes it’s more about how much of something you drink.
For example, moderate caffeine intake increases attention and cognitive function. It’s even associated with mood elevation. But high doses of caffeine can induce and exacerbate anxiety.
And unfortunately, I need to burst the bubble around alcohol. It’s time to STOP using it as your go-to form coping mechanism for stress and anxiety. I’m not saying that you can’t drink, just that it’s not a healthy way to de-stress. Abstinence from alcohol is actually associated with a lower risk of depression and anxiety.
Luckily, you can naturally reduce stress and anxiety by drinking certain types of decaffeinated teas. For example:
- Chamomile tea is a known relaxant and has been shown to reduce anxiety,
- Peppermint tea contains menthol, which helps relax your muscles and is commonly considered a natural stress-reliever, and
- Decaffeinated green tea reduces stress and improves sleep.
#19: Practice Mindfulness
One of the biggest complaints I get from my clients is that they’re unable to be present in the moment.
When they’re at work, they worry or think about personal issues. When they’re with family and friends, they think about work. This results in guilt and lots of stress and anxiety.
That’s where a mindfulness practice comes in.
Mindfulness is about purposefully focusing on the present moment and accepting it without judgment. A regular mindfulness practice will help you retrain yourself to be more aware of and focused on the present moment.
Most people think that mindfulness necessarily means meditating.. Although meditation is one way to be mindful, it’s not the only way. Try mindful eating by slowly chewing and savoring your food while also paying close attention to the taste, smell, look, and feel of it.
And go for a mindful walk by focusing on what you hear, see, smell and touch while on your walk. Identify the colors, textures, shapes and patterns before you. Describe the sounds that you hear and what you smell.
There are many ways to practice mindfulness (it’s not just about meditation).
[Take it further: Learn 3 Effective Stress Relief Exercises (When Overwhelmed By Work Stress)].
We talked above about how limiting negative beliefs are and how they cause stress and anxiety. But you don’t have to live with them (and sometimes it’s difficult to challenge them outright).
One way to change these beliefs is through self-affirmation. But note: you must do this correctly to work (saying positive things to yourself over and over won’t be effective).
Here’s how to self-affirm the right way so that you can change your thoughts and beliefs about yourself and your abilities:
- Start with where you are and describe what you’re doing to get to where you want to be. Set it up as a script – a timeline that shows where you are, the journey you’re taking and where you’re ultimately going.
- Be realistic and specific. And change the script as you develop.
- Keep your language neutral instead of overly positive.
- Be honest about the highs and lows of the process of getting to where you want to be.
Instead of saying “Every day I become more confident in myself and my abilities”, turn it into..
“I’m doing the work needed to grow my self-confidence. Some days are better than others and I feel great, yet other days I don’t. But no matter where I am in the process, I continue to work on this for improvement. I’ve had better days than today and I’ve also had worse. Today, I’m okay.”
This may sound too-good-to-be-true or a bit “woo” for you, but I encourage you to give positive affirmations a chance. These science-backed ways aren’t woo at all. They’re just simple.
It’s Time to Commit To Yourself (for the Long-Haul)
Stress and anxiety doesn’t have to be in control of you… and it’s definitely not the norm. That doesn’t mean that you’ll never feel stressed. On the contrary, life is messy and stressful things happen.
But you CAN manage stress and anxiety, be more resilient to stress and even prevent much of it.
Take back control of your life by implementing the above practices so that you can naturally relieve and prevent stress. And be sure that you’re consistent with your practices (they work best that way)!
And if you’re serious about decreasing your stress levels, don’t forget to download 5-Minute Stress Solutions for proven mindset and stress management strategies that will decrease stress, increase resilience and help you take control of your thoughts (and your life).
Grab your copy here here: