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Best Ways To Relieve Stress

Which Stress Relief Strategies Are Best For You?

By

Updated August 20, 2014

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

When I tell people I write about stress management, most people respond by telling me that they could use my advice, and ask about the best ways to relieve stress. This is fun for me because I am passionate about the topic of stress, and because the answers I give often depend on the person asking. When I have time for detailed answers, I usually give somewhat tailored responses because different stress management techniques resonate with different people, depending on personality, lifestyle, and other factors. The following are top ways to relieve stress, and tips for determining which would likely be best for you.

Change The Way You Look At Things

Stressed woman at computer
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A shift in perspective can be one of the best ways to relieve stress. This is because the fight-or-flight response is triggered by perceived threat--if we feel that we are in danger (physical or psychological, major or minor), that stress response becomes triggered, regardless of whether an actual threat exists. Because of this, it is helpful to learn to view potential stressors as a "challenge" rather than as a "threat," and change remember the resources we have so that we are less likely to feel we are not up to facing the challenge. Shifting to an optimistic outlook, relaxing Type A and perfectionistic tendencies, maintaining an internal locus of control, and being proactive with stress can all help as well.

Is Shifting Perspective One Of The Best Ways To Relieve Stress For You?

If you find that you are prone to rumination, or if you find yourself spending more time than necessary feeling anxious or angry, you would likely see real benefits to changing the way you look at things. Likewise if you are a perfectionist, a Type A type, or someone who is sometimes your own worst enemy. If you find it easy to shift your thinking, this could be an easy stress reliever for you. However, it takes practice, and even with the best attitude, certain stressors take a toll no matter what. If you find it challenging to change your perspective, you may want to try this strategy, but have others as back-ups. Also, if you have a large amount of lifestyle stress, you may want to make practical changes there as well.

Cut Out Stressors

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We face stress from all areas of life--work, school, relationships; even driving home from a fun day can be stressful! One effective way to relieve stress is by reducing it--minimizing the amount of stressors you face in your life by cutting some things out. This can take many forms, from letting go of a relationship that causes stress, to letting go of commitments that bring stress, to letting go of "stuff" that creates clutter in your space. Examining your life for areas where stressors can be eliminated is an effective strategy, in that it can cut down the total amount of stress you face, so you have more energy and patience to handle the stressors that cannot be cut. Taking a proactive approach to stress can be very effective.

Is Cutting Out Stressors One Of The Best Ways To Relieve Stress For You?

This can be a very effective technique for people who have stress in their lifestyle that can be cut out, but haven't taken the steps to let go or change their circumstances. If you have a cluttered home that causes stress, a frustrating job that could be changed for the better, a relationship that requires some "TLC" or would be better eliminated from your life, or other areas of life that could be changed for the better, this is a strategy to focus on. If, however, you objectively have little control of the stressors you face, or if you are already doing everything you can in this area, other strategies may work more effectively. Not all stressors can be easily eliminated, so, change what you can, and have backup techniques if necessary.

Build Resilience

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Certain habits build resilience toward stress. They do not only help to relieve stress as you are practicing them, they actually can help you to become less reactive toward stress that you face in the future. This can cause an upward spiral of stress relief--when you feel less stressed, you operate from a more healthy place and tend to make more positive choices which, in turn prevent more stress. Resilience can prevent a negative spiral as well. The technique of building resilience takes a while, but is well worth the effort in the end.

Is Building Resilience One Of The Best Ways To Relieve Stress For You?

The question shouldn't be "Would building resilience work for you?" but rather, "What strategy for building resilience would work best for you?" This is because it is so effective to have a stress relief strategy that minimizes your reaction to stress in the moment, as well as stress you face in the future. The key to finding the most effective way to build resilience is to try a few strategies (I recommend meditation, exercise, and journaling to start with), and see what makes you feel best. Then--and this is important--build it into your schedule. (See this article on maintaining healthy habits for more on how to do this.) This will allow you to minimize the impact of stress, whatever you face.

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