5 Ways to Relieve Stress

5 Ways to Relieve Stress

For our ancestors, stress was a survival skill during brief, life threatening situations. Once the danger passed, their stress levels lowered. However, in today’s world, we are constantly bombarded by stressors, such as work deadlines, traffic, and family obligations. We rarely get a break long enough to relax and relieve the stress. The over-activation of our stress hormones have been linked to high blood pressure, heart attacks, lower immunity, depression, anxiety, and more.

So how can you relieve stress? Here are five easy stress relievers to get you started.

Eat Well!

According to Dr. Mark Hyman, eating whole, real foods restores balance and reduces the effects of stress on your body. Replacing harmful substances such as caffeine, alcohol, and refined sugars, with clean proteins, fruits, vegetables, and healthy fats helps regulate your hormone levels, including stress hormones. Food As Medicine Education Director Kathie Swift, MS, RDN, LDN, FAND, EBQ cites the connection between the gut and brain in relieving stress. The gut and brain are constantly sending signals to each other, so by keeping your microbiota (the bacteria in your gut) healthy, your brain feels less stressed.

Garlic Honey Mustard Greens
Antioxidant-rich mustard greens are an excellent choice for lowering stress through diet. Attend Food As Medicine to learn more about nutrition and making smart food choices.

Shaking & Dancing

The quickest way to relieve stress is to release endorphins through exercise. An easy way to do this is through shaking and dancing, a form of expressive meditation that loosens your joints as well as clears the mind. It’s one of our favorite techniques to teach in conflict and disaster areas, such as Haiti. Start by standing with your feet shoulder-width apart, knees slightly bent, shoulders relaxed, and shake your whole body for a few minutes (we recommend 7-8 minutes). Then, stop for a minute or two and pay attention to your breathing and physical sensations. Finally, turn on fast music – anything that gets you energized, and allow the music to move you. Don’t feel the need to follow any specific dance moves, just do whatever feels good for you in the moment (it might help to close your eyes). Dance for about 5 minutes, or until you feel satisfied.

Children in Haiti shaking and dancing to relieve stress
School children in Haiti have fun shaking and dancing. We teach this technique all over the world.

Get a good night’s sleep

Sleep and stress tend to cause a vicious cycle – if you’re stressed, then you can’t sleep, which makes you ill-prepared to handle the stressors of the next day, leading to more stress. To relieve stress before bed, try some relaxation techniques (see below) and disconnect from technology as much as possible an hour before bedtime. To ensure the proper amount of rest (7-8 hours is recommended), set an alarm reminding you to go to bed.

Guided Imagery

The body responds in essentially the same way to made-up imagery as it does to real experiences. Positive, relaxing images can be an effective tool for relieving stress. Try it for yourself with this Guided Imagery podcast from our Founder and Director Dr. James Gordon, or check out Dr. Gordon’s book Unstuck: Your Guide to the Seven-Stage Journey Out of Depression for dozens more techniques, including scripts for guided imagery exercises.

Learn more about self-care at one of our Mind-Body Medicine Fundamentals trainings.


We do it all day, every day, and yet we often forget the healing powers of deep breathing. By slowing down your heart rate and lowering blood pressure, breathing deeply relieves stress. Our Soft Belly meditation is our go-to for relieving stress, but any form of slow, deep breathing can help you relax and stay calm.

clouds and rainbow

More Tips

We have compiled some of our favorite self-care techniques in our Self-Care library.

About the Author(s)

Anne Scholle

Anne has a background in graphic design and has been working in communications for 4 years. She has an MSc in Conservation Science and loves to travel.

7 Replies to “5 Ways to Relieve Stress”

  1. Stress, at the beginning, we all need it to work. It is not negative, although one thinks of it. It is the amount of stress that causes worry because it becomes the breeding ground for anxiety. Why ? Because under constant stress, the person develops a chronic adjustment disorder. It can not be effective even for basic things. She quickly becomes submerged even with banalities. Its effects increase insidiously with time to become more and more disabling. It’s Hans Selye, named the father of stress, who defined this permanent stress syndrome.
  2. Thank you for the concept of ‘stress adjustment disorder’. If one is using the DSM5 for insurance purposes then the term ‘disorder’ is understandable. I would like your thoughts on the following: I prefer ‘stress adjustment syndrome’. In terms of how the brain tries to protect us, it is actually ‘ordered’ according to its original basic function. I agree with Dr. Van der Kolk who says that it is a good idea for the client to understand that this is actually a normal though unpleasant biological experience. Then the process of self-soothing and integration can begin on a more positive note. That, and having conversations with the client about releasing and redirecting thoughts and behaviors related to shame and self-dislike that many of us get stuck with. This is a common response to what appears to be an inability to do anything constructive about our self-created fear. To view these ideas and behaviors as mistaken though well-intentioned opens the self-regulating mechanism of the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex and one can pay attention to these thoughts. Then challenge these mistakes in evaluations of self can be changed for the better and the trauma-healing somatic processes can more effectively be learned and practiced.
  3. Thank you, very helpful suggestion. I also tried this infused Tea that a cognitive enhancer that can optimize several systems in your brain, to help improve your concentration, memory, and alertness, as well as reduce stress and mental fatigue.
  4. Thanks so much for this helpful information, I have been trying to many things, yet have difficulties, focusing, relaxing, having a good night sleep, or enjoying the simple things I used to do. Sincerely, Rosa Carranza

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