10 ways to cope during stressful times

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S.A.C. Dip (Diet, Exercise & Fitness), Advanced Human Anatomy & Physiology Level 3
Ask Louise

24 March 2021

What are 10 ways to cope with stress?

To help cope with stress, there are 10 things you can do: focus on yourself, focus on small positives, connect with nature, reduce your phone use, use your senses (relaxing smells and sights), spend time with animals or pets, engage in practical activities, smile more, get active and, finally, talk about your feelings.

10 ways to cope during stressful times

Stress is a fairly regular feature in all our lives. Whether you are dealing with work worries or something else, there are many tactics that can help you to cope with stress. So, let's look at my top ten suggestions in more detail:

1. Focus on you

Stress, by nature, can be overwhelming. So, take things one step at a time and try to focus on the things that you can control and that are comforting to you.

Watching a comedy or rom-com, having a relaxing bath or taking a stroll are all some useful tactics for easing stress.

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2. Focus on small positives

Thinking about what you are grateful for teaches the brain to scan for positives in the environment around you. You could try a gratitude journal, a gratitude jar or just stick some motivating post-it notes on your fridge.

3. Connect with nature

In Japan, Shirin-yoku (or forest-bathing) is a major form of relaxation. It involves spending time in the outdoors, such as in a forest or green-space, and taking in the smells, sights and sounds on offer. There's research to show that this can be beneficial for easing stress levels and, interestingly, the more stressed an individual is, the more benefit Shirin-yoku has been seen to confer.1

Shirin-yoku doesn't have to involve trekking through a forest, though. You could sit in a park and, as you settle down, your mind should eventually become more tuned into the sights around you, rather than the worries inside. If this isn't an option, just adding a few more house plants to your home or office may also help to ease stress.2

4. Reduce your phone use

Screen time can be quite stressful. Social media, in particular, can offer up a constant stream of worrying news stories; plus, there's the potential to compare yourself to others which can become a bit demoralising. On top of this, the blue light emitted from phones affects the sleep-wake cycle, contributing to problems like insomnia or trouble falling asleep. These issues may already accompany stress, causing a double helping of symptoms!

Try setting limits on your phone use or keep it out of the room when you are doing particular tasks, such as cleaning or making dinner.

5. Use your senses

Stimulating the five senses can help with stress and create a more positive feeling. Here are some tips:

  • See – fill the space in which you spend most of your time with happy, pleasing colours. Is it time to give the home office a fresh lick of paint or add in some colourful cushions? Plants can also be a great stress-reliever, as already mentioned.
  • Smell – essential oils can be really good at helping to ease stress. Try lavender or chamomile in an oil diffuser.
  • Taste – certain foods can help to ease stress, including anything rich in magnesium like spinach, and foods containing B vitamins such as avocado.
  • Touch – massage, acupuncture and psychosensory techniques can help to ease stress. Even stroking a pet can be calming and help you to feel less isolated.
  • Hear – put on some calming, enjoyable music.

6. Spend time with animals or pets

Petting animals can be a great stress reliever. In research, a group of students with high-stress levels had lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol after petting cats and dogs.3

7. Engage in practical activities

Focusing on the past can lead to increased stress or anxiety. In contrast, honing in on what you can achieve in the present can bring a little more contentment. Practical activities are a great way to make quick, visible achievements. Try gardening, painting, arts and crafts or yoga, for example.

8. Smile!

A forced smile can trick the brain into happiness. Try going for a walk and smiling at the people you meet, or just give yourself a little smile if you are spending time alone.

9. Get active

Stress and anxiety can trigger an increased heart rate. One way to combat this is to deliberately get the heart rate up by participating in some physical activity. So, go for a jog, jump up and down or walk quickly round your garden. The body's recovery processes will then bring the heart rate down naturally.

There are lots of other ways that exercises can help to ease stress, as demonstrated by the image below.

If becoming more active seems challenging, aim to make it really easy to get your body moving. For example, if you aim to go for a lunch jog, pop on your running clothes in the morning so that you're ready to go come the afternoon.

10. Talk about your feelings

As humans are incredibly social creatures, keeping problems to yourself can be really stressful. So, it makes sense to offload some of that stress by talking to others about how you are feeling. Talking about stress can make the feelings less intense; just make sure you talk to someone you trust and who will be non-judgemental towards your issues. There are also many different charities you can contact if you are feeling overwhelmed in any way, including Mind.co.ukThe Samaritans also now have a chat feature on their website, if you prefer to message rather than speak.


1 https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17055544/ 

2 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4419447/ 
3 https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/2332858419852592 

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