12 Ways to Relieve Stress

Learn how to manage and reduce stress.

Stress is a normal and natural part of life. It is the body’s response to outside stimuli, whether emotional or physical. Stress can be caused by many things, such as work deadlines, relationships with family members, or even getting stuck in traffic on your way home from work. These responses can range from mild anxiety to severe depression and long-term health problems like diabetes if left unmanaged.

Stress is a common experience for most people. According to The American Institute of Stress:

  • 33% of Americans feel extreme stress
  • 77% of Americans experience stress that affects their physical health
  • 73% of Americans experience stress that impacts their mental health
  • 48% of Americans have difficulty sleeping because of stress

Here are 12 ways to reduce and eliminate stress.

What Is Stress?

Stress is the body’s natural response to anything we perceive as demanding or pressuring – whether it be a deadline at work, a disagreement with your spouse, or an argument with a friend. What do we mean by stress? The term “stress” can be used in several different ways:

  1. Anything that makes us feel overwhelmed physically and emotionally can cause stress.
  2. Stress is sometimes used to describe the physical effects of such feelings (e.g., tension headache).
  3. A third meaning of stress describes how our bodies respond automatically to demands made upon them. Since your body doesn’t know if you are having a difficult day at work or being chased by a tiger through the jungle, it reacts the same way to both kinds of stress.

Close up view of stressed man sitting on a bench with hand on head.

What Happens to Your Body When You're Stressed?

When you have a “stressful” event happen in your life, your body releases a hormone called cortisol. This is also what happens when your body is forced to adapt quickly to a new situation or feels threatened.

Your brain interprets the stress and alerts your nervous system that there is work to be done! Your nervous system responds by sending hormones through your bloodstream so you’re ready for action. These hormones affect many different parts of your body: they increase heart rate and blood pressure, reduce blood flow from the stomach and intestines (which speeds up digestion), increase muscle tension, and suppress your immune response. In small quantities, these changes to your body make you more alert and give you the energy needed to react quickly to dangerous situations.

Once the stressful event is over, hormones in your bloodstream return to normal levels, and symptoms go away. However, if stress becomes a regular part of your life, symptoms may not decrease or might even get worse.

When we think about relieving stress, we tend to focus on symptoms that can be seen or felt (e.g., pounding heart). But stress affects us on both the inside and outside – it can cause physical changes and mental distress, which can lead to psychological problems later on.

In this article, we’ll focus on how to reduce stress by taking a more positive approach: looking for ways to deal with it and move forward.

Stress and Diabetes

Stress can affect diabetes in a few different ways:

  1. It can make it harder to keep blood sugar levels under control. When you’re stressed, your body releases the hormone cortisol. This hormone makes it harder to use insulin and can lead to high blood sugar levels.
  2. Stress can also lead to emotional eating. When you’re stressed, it’s common to turn to food for comfort. Emotional eating can cause weight gain and make it harder to keep blood sugar levels under control.
  3. Stress can also increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Studies have shown that chronically stressed people are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes than those who aren’t stressed.

How To Handle Stress in Healthy Ways


Group of women exercising together outside.Exercise is a great way to reduce cortisol levels. A good workout will leave you feeling more relaxed and less stressed. Exercise makes it easier for your body to produce endorphins, the “feel-good” hormones that help block pain signals. Endorphins can have a calming effect on your nervous system, so they might be able to override the effects of stress-related hormones like cortisol, helping you feel more relaxed after exercising.

Try to find an exercise or activity you enjoy, such as walking, dancing, yoga, rollerblading, basketball, or rock climbing.

You can also try “exercise multitasking” by finding a physical activity that you’ll enjoy and fits into your daily routine. For example, take the stairs instead of the elevator or walk to your coworker’s desk instead of sending an e-mail.

Take a Break From Work

Sometimes it can be hard to separate yourself from work when you’re stressed out. Work seems like more than just something that needs to get done; it feels personal because it’s part of who we are as people. However, giving yourself some time every day to relax is good for both mental and physical health. It will help recharge your body so you can better handle stress in the future.

Make some time during each day (even if it’s just a few minutes) to relax and take a break from whatever you’re doing. Listen to some music, read a book or magazine, go for a walk or do something else that helps you relax.

Eat Well

Happy father and son in the kitchen making and eating healthy food.Eating healthy is essential for good health – but it’s even more important if you want to relieve stress effectively. When you’re stressed out, your body craves sugar as an energy source because cortisol speeds up our metabolism by releasing glucose into the bloodstream – which is exactly what you don’t need. 

Making sure your body gets foods high in nutrients and low in sugar can help keep your blood sugar levels stable, so cortisol doesn’t have the chance to speed up your metabolism and cause fatigue.

Try some of our delicious recipes packed with nutrients that will fuel your body.

Write It Down

Sometimes it can be hard to put your thoughts on paper, but writing them down can help relieve stress. Studies have shown that writing about stressful events can improve mood by reducing the physiological effects of stress hormones. And sometimes, just getting life’s worries off your chest is enough to make you feel more relaxed and at ease.

Start a personal journal where you write down how you’re feeling every day – generally or whenever something stressful happens. Don’t worry about grammar or punctuation; just let the words flow. Keeping a journal will allow you to look back on past entries and see what patterns emerge so you can anticipate triggers before they become a problem. This way, you’ll be able to plan for stressful situations instead of being caught off-guard when they occur.

Reduce Your Caffeine Intake

Close up of old woman's hands holding a cup of coffee with coffee beans on the table.Many people depend on caffeine to help them get through the day. However, caffeine can increase stress levels and prevent you from getting a good night’s sleep, making stress worse!

If you drink caffeinated beverages every morning, try slowly reducing how much you have throughout the week so your body can adjust to a lower amount of caffeine. Then when Friday rolls around, kick your weekend off with a cup of decaf. You’ll be surprised at how much better you feel!

If you’re unable to eliminate caffeine, work to cut back on how much you consume. In general, it’s recommended adults shouldn’t consume more than 400mg of caffeine per day. This equates to about four 8-ounce cups of coffee.

You should limit caffeine intake six hours before bed to reduce the chance of caffeine affecting your sleep.

Spend Time With Friends and Family

You may think that friends and family are the last thing you need when you’re stressed, but they can actually help more than you might expect. Having support from loved ones lets us know we’re not alone in our struggles, making it easier to deal with everyday stress. Knowing there’s someone on your side who cares about what happens to you can make stressful situations feel less stressful by providing an emotional outlet so things don’t become overwhelming.

Whether it’s meeting for lunch or having a girls’ night, taking some time out of your day to spend with the people who care about you will help reduce stress levels without making too big of a dent in your schedule.

Make Time for Yourself

Woman sitting cross legged with hand over heart practicing self-care and meditation.We all have days when we feel so overwhelmed that even keeping up with basic obligations seems impossible. However, if you want to reduce stress levels, it’s important not to neglect yourself on those days – or any other day for that matter.

Make sure you’re taking care of yourself by getting enough sleep, exercising regularly, and eating a balanced diet – you’ll feel more energized as a result! When your mind is feeling cluttered and chaotic, find ways to clear it out. For example, breathing exercises can help calm the nervous system and improve concentration. If your mind still feels troubled after breathing exercises, do some journaling or spend time with a friend. The goal isn’t necessarily to forget about what’s going on but instead to temporarily distance yourself so you can come back with a clear head.

Focus on the Positive

Your attitude has a huge impact on your stress levels. So when things get tough, remind yourself about all of the good things in your life. Sometimes it’s hard to see what’s right when you’re stuck focusing on what’s wrong – but taking time out of your day for self-reflection will make it easier to maintain a positive outlook and get through difficult times.

Write down five things that went well each day, or take two minutes before bedtime to write down three good things that happened during the day and why they made you happy. If you keep track of these things throughout the week, you’ll begin to focus more on the positive aspects of your day-to-day life. This will help you stay happier and more resilient so stress doesn’t undermine your goals.

It’s OK To Say No

Open notebook with it's ok to say no handwritten in large lettering.Whether you feel like your schedule is too full or there’s too much to do at home, it’s okay to say no. Remember, your mental health and wellbeing are more important than anything else, including pleasing other people. You can’t be a great friend, partner, parent, or employee if you’re stressed out all the time. So when someone asks for your help, and you aren’t able to give it because of a previous commitment, let them know that it’s not a good time. It will make both parties happier in the long run.

Set Realistic Goals and Expectations

When you set goals, it’s important to prioritize to avoid feeling overwhelmed. Setting realistic goals and expectations will give you a better chance of success, which is crucial for reducing stress.

For example, if your goal is to have everything done at work by the end of each month, but that regularly leaves you stressed out and unhappy with your job, try switching things up by asking your boss for fewer assignments per week. Instead of working on one big project each day, you can split it into smaller easier to manage tasks. Then do some extra work outside of work hours or earlier in the day when there is less pressure on you.

Keep this rule of thumb in mind: If you feel like you’re constantly running behind schedule and don’t have enough time to do things, it’s probably a sign that your goals aren’t realistic.

Laughter Is the Best Medicine

When you laugh, it sends a chemical signal to your brain that triggers feelings of happiness and relaxation. It can also positively affect your heart rate, blood pressure, and respiratory function, key factors in reducing stress. So even if things feel bleak at work or you find yourself worrying about things over which you have no control, try watching a funny video on YouTube or taking time out of your day to play with a pet.

If watching a video or using social media for laughter, don’t forget to set a time so that you don’t lose track of time, only creating more stress from not having time to complete important work. These simple actions can help reduce stress levels and improve your mood.

Consider Supplements

Top view of different sized bowls holding different herbal pills and herbal supplements to help with stress.If you are experiencing a lot of stress, it might be time to consider taking supplements. There are several supplements that help promote stress and anxiety reduction.

  1. Green tea – Although green tea is known for its antioxidant properties, it also contains L-theanine, which has been shown to reduce stress levels.
  2. Valerian – Valerian root supplements are usually available in pill form. They work by binding to receptors in your brain responsible for the perception of stress.
  3. Fish oil – Fish oil supplements contain high concentrations of omega-3 fatty acids, which have been found to reduce anxiety and depression. Omega-3 fatty acids are important because they improve communication among cells, play a critical role in brain function, and keep the neurological systems functioning properly.
  4. Lavender oil – Research has shown that inhaling lavender essential oil can decrease cortisol levels, one hormone linked with stress, as well as lower blood pressure and heart rate.
  5. Ashwagandha – This supplement is an adaptogen, which means that it works by helping your body adapt to external stimuli. Studies have found that ashwagandha can reduce stress in adults.
  6. Kava root – The anti-anxiety properties in kava root are said to be comparable to those of prescription drugs but without the same risks. It has been shown to improve mood and decrease anxiety levels in people under a lot of stress.
  7. Cod liver oil – Cod liver oil contains high amounts of omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins A and D, and other nutrients that help with stress management. Vitamin D assists with optimal endocrine function, while Vitamin A helps build resistance against infections.
  8. Taurine – Taurine supplementation has been shown to reduce stress levels and improve cardiovascular health.

Always discuss supplements with your doctor before adding supplements to your diet. This is especially important if you are on any medications, as some supplements can interact with medications and have side effects. Full disclaimer here.

The Bottom Line

Stress is a normal and natural part of life, but it can have negative consequences if left unmanaged. High stress levels can be especially harmful to people with diabetes by making blood sugar levels harder to manage and worsening the disease.

The most important thing to remember is that everyone experiences stress differently, and there’s no “one size fits all” solution for relieving it. Try out a few different strategies and see what works best for you!