6 tips on how to relieve stress

Stress can express itself in different ways, which means that recognising your symptoms is vital in understanding how to relieve stress.

Understanding your symptoms

You may have physical symptoms like stiff, tense muscles or problems with sleeping. Your behaviour may change – losing your temper more often or drinking to blot out your cares. You may be overwhelmed by negative thoughts and feelings like anxiety or lack of confidence in situations that other people take in their stride. And, of course, you may experience all three. Read our article on the symptoms of stress to find out more.

How to relieve stress in the way best for you depends on which treatments will suit your personality and lifestyle. If you only suffer from stress occasionally and your symptoms don’t get in the way of everyday life, then we suggest you read our article on seven quick fixes for stress. If, however, you feel very stressed a lot of the time, then you should visit a doctor, as this can seriously affect your physical and mental health. You may be prescribed medication and/or counselling.

If you would like to find out your stress levels, you can take our unique stress test.

We at Stressbusting have researched the evidence for over 30 different treatments and therapies that claim to relieve stress. Some of the most effective are the following:

1. Talking therapies

These involve sharing your problems one-to-one with a therapist and are a good way of dealing with stress if you are willing to open up and talk about your symptoms.

Several therapies will teach you ways of managing stress yourself. They include:

2. Nutritional therapy

This is particularly helpful if you have unexplained tummy trouble or IBS (a range of symptoms including bloating, diarrhoea and constipation) or problems with your energy levels or sleep, which can be diet-related. Nutritionists can also help you understand your triggers for binge-eating or drinking too much alcohol or coffee as a way of trying to cope with stress. Find out more in our article about stress and nutrition.

3. CBT or Cognitive Behavioural Therapy

This is one of the best ways of managing stress and is widely used by the NHS. It helps to change negative thought patterns and assumptions through practical exercises. You can also do a course online without meeting a therapist.

4. Autogenic Therapy (AT)

A set of relaxation techniques taught to you initially by a therapist but which you then learn to use by yourself

5. Hands-on therapies

Therapies like massage and aromatherapy can help to relieve stress, especially in the short term. They are good for physical symptoms of stress like headaches, tension and stiffness.

6. Exercise

There is a lot of evidence that exercise is a good way of relieving stress. Almost any form of exercise helps because it relieves physical tension, releases endorphins  (“feel-good” brain chemicals) and, with regular sessions, can help to get structure and control back into lives that lack both. Gentle forms of exercise such as yoga and tai chi, which include breathing and relaxation techniques, are particularly effective. Laughter therapy is also good for relieving physical and mental tension.

More information on how to relieve stress

If you want to learn more about how to relieve stress, you can take our Therapy Selector tests to find suggestions for treatments to match your symptoms, personality and lifestyle. You can also read our advice on how to choose a therapist.

Hilly Janes

About Hilly Janes

Hilly Janes is an award-winning former health editor at The Times. She has 20 years' experience on national newspapers and magazines and is the author of Latte or Cappuccino? 125 Decisions That Will Change Your Life (Michael O’Mara Books, 2012).

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