5 Practical Tips to Reduce Your Stress and Nurture Your Well-Being   

5 Practical Tips to Reduce Your Stress and Nurture Your Well-Being

Two women smiling and walking.

November 06, 2023

Clinical Contributors to this story:
Catherine Cunningham, M.D.

Having daily stressors from juggling your job, kids' schedules, and other responsibilities is normal. But if the stress reaches a new level — like you can't sleep at night because of anxiety, you’re struggling at work, or you're isolated from your support network — it can harm your health.

“Stress and mental health often go hand in hand,” says psychiatrist Catherine Cunningham, M.D. “Finding healthy coping skills is tantamount to maintaining your own well-being and mental health.”

You’re so busy — how can you incorporate healthy coping skills into your daily routine? Dr. Cunningham recommends incorporating these five practical stress-busting ideas:

1. Move More Throughout the Day

There’s a reason for the saying “movement is medicine.” Mental health and movement are closely interconnected. Physical activity is one of the most effective stress relievers available. When you move, your body releases endorphins, which are natural mood lifters. 

For stress-relief benefits, you don’t have to find an extra hour every day for a heart-pumping workout. Mixing micro-movements into your daily routine can be just as beneficial. 

Try some of these ideas:

  • Use the stairs: Instead of using the elevator, take the stairs, and walk faster than your usual pace.
  • Stretch: Set a reminder on your watch or smartphone to stretch every so often.
  • Move whenever you can:
    • Do standing push-ups or calf raises as you wait for your food to cook in the microwave.
    • Do squats or hold a plank while watching television.
    • Incorporate lunges, squats, twists, and lifts as you do household chores.
    • Park further away from the store or the entrance to your workplace.
  • Wind down with a walk: Do something active in the evenings instead of watching television.

2. Get Social

Being with others is crucial for health — mentally and physically. It's not just about being around people; it's about doing enjoyable things together with the people we like. That's what makes us feel close and connected to others.

Science shows that loneliness can elevate stress levels. People who are socially isolated tend to experience:

  • Greater stress responses, which can negatively impact mental health over time. 
  • Depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues

Try to spend as much quality time as you can with loved ones and seek social connections. A couple of ways to do this is through:

  • Support groups: Joining local parenting groups or online support communities to find peers facing similar challenges
  • Daily phone calls: Calling one friend or family member each day
  • Local activities: Seeking out local events and clubs that match your interests
  • Gym classes: Attending exercise classes or group workouts
  • Book clubs: Joining a book club to socialize over shared reads
  • Initiating coffee breaks with coworkers
  • Joining workplace committees or groups that align with your interests or causes you're passionate about

“Everyone's idea of wellness and joy will vary,” says Dr. Cunningham. “Having that human connection is going to greatly impact your mood and promote your well-being and mental health."

3. Decompress and Practice Self-Compassion

Taking time to decompress and give yourself grace is a crucial part of having good mental health. Evidence shows that self-compassion and positive self-affirmations can have a significant impact on well-being. Specifically, people who practice self-compassion are less likely to experience anxiety, stress, or depression. 

Taking this approach helps you foster a positive self-image and better cope with difficult situations. To decompress and incorporate more self-compassion into your day, try one of these ideas:

  • Get your day off to a good start with a morning affirmation and positive self-talk.
  • Use a gratitude journal to list your daily blessings for a mood lift.
  • Take a self-compassion break when you start to think negative thoughts.
  • Practice mindful breathing to clear your mind and reduce stress. 
    • Breathe in through your nose for four counts, hold the breath for four, exhale through your mouth for four, and then hold the breath for four. Repeat.
  • Memorize and repeat a positive mantra in your mind.

"Get that time to decompress," says Dr. Cunningham. "[It’s important to] get your thoughts in order before tackling any troubles you may experience throughout the day."

4. Delegate Workloads

Many times stress comes from having too much on your plate. You’re one person — and no one can do it all alone. 

To lower your stress and nurture your well-being, give yourself permission to delegate some of your responsibilities to a loved one who can help support you.

Here are a couple of ways you can delegate your workload:

  • If you don’t live alone, make a plan to share more household tasks and delegate responsibilities. 
  • Talk to your partner and come up with a plan for who can do certain tasks based on each person’s strengths. 
  • Use visual aids like a task board or calendar to help organize responsibilities. 

For example, if you’re the better cook, ask your partner to take the reins after dinner by handling the clean-up. Step away from the mess and allow yourself time to decompress.

5. Rekindle Your Interests

A good way to release stress is to make time for your hobbies. Doing something you enjoy allows you to shift your attention away from day-to-day pressures and toward something pleasurable and rewarding. 

“You can lose sight of the hobbies and the interests that used to excite you, and this can have a negative impact on your mood,” says Dr. Cunningham. “Making sure to rekindle those interests and stay involved in the things that bring you joy will help you manage your stress and have a better outlook.”

Research shows that engaging in fun activities is associated with higher levels of favorable psychosocial states and lower levels of depression. Think of it as a chance to spend some time on yourself and a healthy way to release any tension you feel from the day.

For example, if you used to play piano but you haven’t played in a long time because of your busy schedule, make a commitment to sit down and play more often. Think of it as a non-negotiable part of your day.

How Can Stress Harm Your Health?

The American Psychological Association (APA) reports that around seven in 10 adults (72 percent) have experienced health impacts from stress. And 76 percent said they've experienced health impacts from stress in the prior month, including:

  • Headache (38 percent)
  • Fatigue (35 percent)
  • Anxiety (34 percent)
  • And/or feeling depressed or sad (33 percent)

It's high time we acknowledge the elephant in the room: our well-being is under siege. And there has never been a more important time to treat mental health as part of overall health and wellness. 

You'll be better equipped to take care of other people as long as you're taking care of yourself,” says Dr. Cunningham. “Or as they say, you don't want to pour from an empty cup.”

Next Steps & Resources

The material provided through HealthU is intended to be used as general information only and should not replace the advice of your physician. Always consult your physician for individual care.


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