Thinking of eliminating stress from everyday life is impossible, but you can learn to maintain your balance and well-being through science-recommended stress management techniques. It may be the spice of life, but when it’s too much, it’s not good, which is why knowing stress management techniques is useful for everyone. Study deadlines, work deliveries, even pleasant commitments that turn into tiring experiences: in today’s life, it is increasingly difficult to be able to maintain a balance in the rhythm of every day.

What Is Stress Exactly?

For science, stress is a physiological condition (ie normal) unless it becomes excessive, therefore pathological. By definition, “stress is a reaction that occurs when a person perceives an imbalance between the stresses received and the resources available“. 

More precisely, the term stress, introduced for the first time by the biologist Walter Bradford Cannon in 1935, indicates an organic condition. The flight or fight response, also called the “acute stress response” was first described by Walter Cannon in the 1920s as a theory that animals react to threats with a general discharge of the sympathetic nervous system. The response was later recognized as the first stage of a general adaptation syndrome that regulates stress responses among vertebrates and other organisms.

In this article, we will discuss six of the best stress management techniques, along with examples and tips to help you take control of your stress levels.

1. Practice Mindfulness and Meditation

Mindfulness and meditation are powerful tools for managing stress and promoting relaxation. These practices encourage you to focus on the present moment, which can help you gain perspective on your stressors and cultivate a sense of inner peace. Here are some tips for practicing mindfulness and meditation:

  • Set aside time each day for mindfulness or meditation, even if it’s just a few minutes.
  • Find a quiet, comfortable space where you can sit or lie down without distractions.
  • Use guided meditation apps, such as Headspace or Calm, to help you get started.
  • Focus on your breath, body sensations, or a simple mantra to anchor your attention in the present moment.
  • Be patient with yourself, as it takes time and practice to develop mindfulness skills.

2. Engage in Regular Physical Activity

Physical activity is an excellent stress reliever, as it releases endorphins (the body’s natural “feel-good” chemicals) and helps to clear your mind. Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise most days of the week. Some examples of stress-relieving physical activities include:

  • Walking or jogging
  • Yoga or Pilates
  • Swimming or water aerobics
  • Dancing
  • Gardening or outdoor activities
  • Team sports or group fitness classes

3. Establish a Healthy Sleep Routine

Getting sufficient sleep is crucial for managing stress and maintaining overall health. Aim for 7-9 hours of sleep each night, and establish a consistent sleep routine to help regulate your body’s internal clock. To improve your sleep quality, consider the following tips:

  • Create a calming bedtime routine, such as reading or taking a warm bath.
  • Limit screen time before bed, as the blue light from devices can disrupt sleep.
  • Keep your sleep environment cool, dark, and quiet.
  • Stick to a consistent sleep schedule, even on weekends.
  • Avoid caffeine and alcohol close to bedtime, as they can interfere with sleep.

4. Connect with Others and Build Social Support

Strong social connections can help buffer the effects of stress and provide a sense of belonging and support. Make an effort to maintain relationships and engage in social activities that bring you joy. Some examples of ways to build social support include:

  • Joining clubs or community groups that share your interests
  • Volunteering for local organizations or charities
  • Reaching out to friends and family regularly through phone calls or video chats
  • Participating in group classes or workshops, such as cooking, art, or exercise classes
  • Engaging in online forums or support groups for people who share similar experiences or challenges

5. Practice Deep Breathing and Relaxation Techniques

Deep breathing and relaxation techniques can help activate the body’s relaxation response, counteracting the effects of stress. Some examples of deep breathing and relaxation techniques include:

  • Diaphragmatic breathing: Place one hand on your chest and the other on your abdomen, then breathe deeply so that your abdomen rises and falls with each breath.
  • 4-7-8 breathing: Inhale for 4 seconds, hold the breath for 7 seconds, and exhale for 8 seconds, repeating this cycle several times.
  • Progressive muscle relaxation: Tense and relax different muscle groups in your body, starting from your feet and working up to your head.
  • Visualization: Imagine yourself in a peaceful, relaxing environment, such as a beach or a forest, and focus on the sights, sounds, and sensations associated with that setting.

To practice these techniques:

  • Set aside a few minutes each day for deep breathing or relaxation exercises.
  • Find a quiet, comfortable place where you can sit or lie down without distractions.
  • Focus on your breath or the sensations in your body as you practice each technique, allowing any thoughts or worries to pass by without judgment.

6. Develop Effective Time Management and Problem-Solving Skills

Learning to manage your time and effectively address problems can help reduce stress by giving you a sense of control over your life. Some tips for improving time management and problem-solving skills include:

  • Prioritize tasks and break them into smaller, manageable steps.
  • Set realistic goals and deadlines for yourself, and track your progress.
  • Delegate tasks when possible, and learn to say no to excessive demands on your time.
  • Practice effective communication and assertiveness skills to express your needs and set boundaries.
  • Approach problems systematically, identifying possible solutions and evaluating their pros and cons before making decisions.

In conclusion, stress can be an ugly beast, but if you know how to deal with it, it will become the spice of your life. When you manage to maintain a state of balance between external factors (potential stressors) and your psycho-physical resources, it means that you know how to adapt healthily to the outside world. 

In this way, we speak of “eustress“, that is, of physiological “good stress”. Stress management techniques serve precisely to prevent this condition from becoming pathological, of “distress“.