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Healthy Lifestyle Actions to Reduce and Manage Stress

Stress is a normal response to dealing with changes and challenges in daily life. In the short term, stress can help you perform better under pressure, but constant stress can pose problems for your health. Stress causes the release of cortisol, the stress hormone, as well as adrenaline, which influences your blood pressure, heart rate, eating habits, sleep patterns, blood sugar levels, fat metabolism and your ability to fight-off illness. Long term stress can also increase your risk of heart attack or stroke and contribute to depression.

These lifestyle actions can help you reduce or manage the stress in your life.

Adopt a Healthy Lifestyle

  • Eat a healthy diet.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Reduce caffeine and sugar.
  • Avoid cigarettes, alcohol and other drugs.
  • Get enough sleep.
  • Take a break.
  • Ask for help.
  • Try Deep Breathing - sit tall and comfortably, breath in slowly through your nose and exhale through your mouth while counting to yourself.
  • Reframe problems - pause, regroup and look at the situation from a positive angle. For example, if you are stuck in traffic, enjoy the alone time.

Avoid Stress

  • Avoid people who stress you out.
  • Avoid topics that get you upset or cross.
  • If there are topics you constantly argue over, such as religion or politics, change the topic or remove yourself from the conversation when it arises.
  • Manage your time and plan ahead to avoid the last minute stress and running behind.

Increase Physical Activity

  • Regular physical activity is an important step in reducing your stress and improving your health.
  • Physical activity can help regulate your hormones and offset the negative effects stress can cause on your body.
  • Aim to complete 30 minutes of moderate physical activity per day on most days of the week.
  • Brisk walking is an excellent way to increase your physical activity.

Think Positively

  • Look for the bright side of the situation.
  • Challenges are opportunities for personal growth.
  • Reflect on stressful situations and learn from your experience.

Learn How to Relax and Have Fun

  • Set aside time for yourself each day.
  • Time to relax, rest and take a break from all your responsibilities.
  • Keep your sense of humour!
  • Connect with others. Spend time with people who have a positive impact on your life.
  • Have lunch or go for a walk with a friend.
  • Do something you enjoy every day.
  • Listen to music you enjoy.

Be Willing to Adapt

  • If you can't change the situation, change your expectations and your response.
  • Be willing to compromise. You may want someone else to change. You will have a better chance of finding a resolution if you are willing to compromise to a middle ground.
  • Look at the big picture. Will it matter in a month? A year? Is it worth getting upset and stressed?
  • Adjust your standards. Perfect may not be possible. Set reasonable standards that can be achieved and learn to live with "good enough".
  • Learn to forgive. Let go of anger and resentment. Accept an imperfect world.
  • Don't try to control the uncontrollable. Some things are beyond our control, focus on the things you can change and the way you react to the situation.

Take Charge

  • While you may not be able to change the situation, you are in control of how you respond.
  • Set a schedule, plan ahead so you are prepared for stressful situations and jobs you need to do.
  • Manage your time to fit in what needs to be accomplished.
  • Take charge of your environment, find a space that inspires you or adapt your work space to be positive and encouraging.
  • Be more assertive. Take charge of your life and make decisions.
  • Delegate to others. Have your children or family help out with chores and jobs they are capable of to reduce your workload.
  • Avoid procrastination. Putting things off only increases the stress later on.
  • Find someone to talk to, talking through problems and challenges can alleviate stress associated with the situation.
  • Learn to say "no". Limit yourself to only what you are comfortable with doing.
  • Limit and prioritize your "to do" list. Sort out the "must do's" and the "should do's". Deal with important jobs right away and delay or drop unnecessary tasks.

Identify the Cause of your Stress

  • Look closely at your habits, attitudes and excuses.
  • Start a stress journal. Ask yourself:
    • What causes you to feel stressed?
    • How do you feel physically and emotionally?
    • How do you respond to stress?
    • What do you do to feel better?
    • How do you cope with your stress?

Last Reviewed: September 2018

© 2016 Province of British Columbia. All rights reserved. May be reproduced in its entirety provided the source is acknowledged. This information is not meant to replace advice from your medical doctor or individual counselling with a health professional. It is intended for educational and informational purposes only.