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Self-Help Techniques for Managing Stress Levels

Stress can cause havoc in our lives if we don’t take steps to manage the symptoms. Increased levels of stress and worry can affect your body, your thoughts and feelings, along with your behaviors. Each person can experience stress-related symptoms in a different and unique way. It often targets the weakest part of your physiology and character. For example, if you’re prone to acne break-outs, then stressful situations/days can cause a flare-up. If you’re known to be grumpy, stress will only make the matter worse.

Luckily, not all is lost and there are certain self-help techniques that are great for managing stress levels. You can practice these suggestions on your own and see if they bring an improvement. If stress is creating unwanted anxiety that is making your life spiral out of control, it may be a good idea to speak with a psychotherapist. A combination of behavioral therapy and practicing self-help techniques is often the key to unlocking a stress-free lifestyle.

Decreasing Stress Naturally

  • Become aware of your stressors – do certain situations trigger your body’s stress response? By being aware of what triggers you to be stressed out, worried, and anxious, you can learn to manage these feelings and emotions.
  • Learn to reverse the stress response – once you’re aware of what’s happening to your body, you can decrease stress naturally. Try relaxation breathing or meditation. Staying in the “now” is the cornerstone of practicing mindfulness which can bring a sense of purpose and balance into your life.
  • Take care of yourself physically – one of the best natural stress relievers is physical activity. You don’t have to be a professional bodybuilder to reap the benefits. A brisk walk (or jog) in the fresh air a few times a week has endless health benefits, including reducing stress. If you enjoy playing a sport, try doing it more often and begin to feel better from the cardio-based activity.
  • Think positively  – Make an inventory of which areas of your life could use improvement, and which aspects bring joy and happiness. This way, you can figure out if there is a healthy balance, and what you need to work on. The happier you are, the less stressed you’ll be!
  • Meditation – a natural way of calming down and relaxing is engaging in medication and mindfulness. This could be as simple as focusing on your breathing in a quiet environment for ten minutes to as complex as going to the beach and becoming conscious of your surroundings.
  • Music therapy – listening to your favorite songs can have a soothing effect and melt away stress with every note.

These are just a few of the many self-help techniques for managing stress levels that can be helpful. Stress-relieving benefits accumulate over time, so don’t become discouraged if you don’t see immediate results. It’s important to be proactive with your well-being so you can avoid the negative effects of unwanted stress, worry, and anxiety.

When we’re dealing with stress, we can lose control of our thoughts and behaviors and preoccupy ourselves with the stressful situation. This can bring negative consequences and impact your ability to calm down.

You’re Always in Control

Stressors are situations that cause stress to create a negative reaction in our lives. An overwhelming work schedule could be too much to handle and in turn cause an increase of stress levels. If you’re dealing with a rocky relationship and your significant other is always on your mind – that can cause stress and worry. It’s important to remember that you’re in control of your thoughts and behaviors.

When you’re feeling overwhelmed, it’s a good idea to set back and do some breathing exercises or take a five minute break. A quick breather will refocus you on the task at hand and lower the anxiety that is stressing you out. Feelings of dread or impending doom can strain a person to the point of breaking down and this ties in with stress levels as well. If your life is unmanageable because of the anxiety, stress, and worry, it could be a good idea to speak with a therapist.

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In cases where the stress overpowers the ability to function normally, self-help techniques may not be enough to control and manage the symptoms. A popular method for treating stress and anxiety is called exposure and response prevention therapy.

Exposure and Response Prevention Therapy

Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) is one of the most researched and effective treatments for stress and anxiety disorders.  It is based on the premise that if you are afraid of something, you must face that fear in order to learn that you can handle it.  Avoiding what you fear maintains or increases your anxiety and often generalizes to other situations which lead to new fears, anxieties and avoidance.

Exposure and Response Prevention is based on Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT). The concept behind CBT is that there are three contributing factors: the way you think, the way you feel, and the way you behave. While many therapies will focus “only on the way you think and feel,” with Exposure and Response Prevention the behavior becomes the main focus when it comes to an anxiety disorder because behavioral change is the true and most meaningful measure of whether or not a person is still anxious.  It is through learning how to face your fears and practicing  in real-life situations that your anxiety decreases and can eventually extinguish altogether.

Self-Help Techniques for Managing Stress Levels

Irving Schattner, LCSW

As a psychotherapist and licensed clinical social worker with a private practice -- Counseling Center for Growth and Recovery in Delray Beach, Florida -- Irving Schattner, LCSW, specializes in helping persons with Generalized Anxiety Disorders (and other anxiety disorders) overcome their fears to live a life of inner calm, joy, and purpose. Mr. Schattner also offers remote (video) online counseling from the comfort of home.

APA Reference
Schattner, I. (2018). Self-Help Techniques for Managing Stress Levels. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 29, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Oct 2018 (Originally: 30 Oct 2017)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Oct 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.