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5 ways to reduce stress right now

A young woman sits in front of her computer, eyes closed, fingers squeezing the bridge of her nose.
A little bit of stress can be useful, but ongoing stress can affect your mental and physical wellbeing.

Feeling stressed? Take ten minutes to try one of the below activities and decrease your stress levels.

1. Exercise

It’s a cliché for a reason: exercise really does prompt your body to release feel-good hormones like endorphins, which can help you to feel less stressed. Stress can also make you subconsciously tense your muscles, which exercise might help to release.

It doesn’t have to be a full workout: walk around the block, do 20 jumping jacks, go for a quick run or find a 10 minute yoga flow on YouTube to follow.

2. Organise

Stress can kick in when you’re feeling overwhelmed by the number of tasks that need to be done or deadlines that must be met. Writing a to-do list or time management strategy can help you focus on seeing each task through to completion.

Sit down and write out everything you need to get done and each step you’ll need to take to complete each task. Prioritise what must be done first and identify what can be left to a later time or what you might be able to assign to someone else. Be realistic about how much time it will take you to complete each task and build space into your schedule to reward yourself for getting the job done.

A woman's hand is shown holding a pen, writing a 'to do' list in a notebook.

3. Breathe

Stress and anxiety can affect how you breathe, which has flow-on effects on how your body and mind feels. Taking a few deep breaths can help slow your breathing and heart rate, relax your muscles and calm your mind.

Follow Anxiety Australia’s guide to slowing down anxious breathing, or head to xhalr.com, which has a visual breathing tool to help you easily calm your breath.

4. Take a time out

You’re not a toddler, but that doesn’t mean a time out doesn’t apply when you’re stressed.

Just like in children, stress can affect our emotions and how we behave, as well as our physical and mental health. Stress might make you become irritable or short tempered, easily upset or agitated.

When you start noticing that stress is affecting how you feel or behave, it might be time to step away and spend a few minutes just focusing on yourself. Do something you enjoy like reading a book or listening to music, or find a trusted friend or colleague that you can talk to about how you’re feeling.

Time outs don’t have to just be reactive: proactively build some ‘you time’ into your schedule each week, allowing yourself to do something enjoyable whilst looking after your health.

A male construction worker takes a break, sitting against a building frame and drinking water.

5. Meditate

If you haven’t tried mindfulness, meditation or relaxation exercises yet, there’s no better time to start. Scientifically proven to help decrease and manage stress, and promote mental wellbeing, these tools are useful for when you’re experiencing stress and as prevention tools in times when you’re feeling well.

There are many programs, websites, books and apps to help you practise these exercises, including the free resources linked below.

This Way Up: Intro to mindfulness course

Smiling Mind

beyondblue relaxation exercises

Why you should decrease stress

While a little bit of stress is normal and can actually help you function more effectively during times of pressure, ongoing stress is not good for your physical or mental health. From causing headaches and sleep loss to affecting hormonal function, blood pressure and relationships, there are many reasons why experts are warning of the ill-effects the current ‘epidemic of stress’ is having on public health.

While it’s not a realistic goal to plan to dodge all stress, proactively doing the activities above can help you avoid unnecessary stress and handle stress better when it hits.

When you should get help

Ongoing stress affects your mental health and can be worth a trip to the doctor. You should see your GP if you’ve been feeling unwell or ‘not yourself’ for two weeks or more. Remember: you don’t need to wait for a crisis situation to seek help for mental health.

If you feel like the situation is an emergency or that your or someone else’s life is in danger, call Triple Zero (000) for an ambulance.

More information

Work/life balance and stress management

Signs of mental illness

Coping with the daily grind

How does stress affect your body?

How to have a conversation with a mate about mental health

5 things you should do, and 1 you definitely shouldn’t, on a mental health day

5 steps for making your mental health a priority this year

Last updated: 6 November 2018