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10 science-backed ways to instantly reduce stress

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Are you feeling overwhelmed these days and struggling to find a moment of peace in your day-to-day life? You’re not alone. No matter what I do, I feel like stress seems to be an unwelcome companion that is following me around like a relentless shadow. But you know what? I’m fed up feeling stressed all the time. It’s not healthy or sustainable. Therefore I put my research hat on and discovered 10 astonishing techniques, backed by science, that can provide us with instant relief from stress. These practices may not be what you expect. However, they have been proven to effectively beat stress and restore tranquility to even the busiest of lives. Are you ready to discover ways to reduce stress and have a calmer mind and stress-free existence?

Why is everyone so stressed all the time?

Whether it’s related to an issue at work, a fight with a friend, or problems with family, everyone feels stressed sometimes.

3 out of 4 Americans describe their work as being stressful and 54% of Americans are concerned about the level of stress in their daily lives.

A man looking stressed and trying to find ways to reduce stress

So you’re not alone.

What’s important is to understand how stress affects you physically and psychologically and identify healthy ways to naturally reduce stress and find immediate relief.

How your body responds to stress

Although we are living in the 21st century, our bodies evolved to be able to respond to attacks by predators, often known as the “fight, flight, or freeze” response.

Essentially our hormones, adrenaline, and cortisol, are pumped into our bloodstream when we’re under stress.

Though today’s stressors are different, our primitive responses remain the same.

When you feel stressed, your adrenal glands release the same adrenaline and cortisol hormones to avoid danger as your ancestors did.

A woman looking for ways to reduce stress

Because of these hormones, your heart rate, and blood pressure increase, and you become more alert. Instead of running away or throwing a spear at the charging lion, you try to cope with the situation in new ways.

If the stressors continue or become too severe, it can result in physical and/or mental health problems like depression and anxiety.

Why do some people respond better to stress than others?

First, it’s important to know that each person copes with stress differently. Some may manage better because of their genetics, past experiences, habits, or social support.

However, I’m sure that all of us can learn better ways to reduce stress and handle it better.

Two important features of coping with stress are what you think, and how you feel and respond to the stressful situation.

Did you know that when you feel more in control of the situation and view it as a challenge, rather than a threat your body has lower amounts of stress hormones?

In addition, having healthy coping mechanisms helps you respond better to a stressful situation. Interestingly, how you think of the stressful situation impacts your body’s reaction.

You can trick your brain from going into a “fight or flight” response.

Doing this takes some time and practice, but the main thing to remember is that it’s doable.

You just have to stay consistent and before you know it, you have found several ways to reduce stress in your life.

10 Little-Known Secrets to Instantly Banish Stress

The 24/7 demands of today’s busy lifestyle are a reason why you need to learn to reduce your stress and integrate stress management techniques into your daily life.

1. Take a deep breath

Our breath is a powerful tool that we often overlook. When we’re stressed, our breathing tends to become shallow and rapid, fueling our anxiety and making it difficult to find a sense of calm.

However, by consciously slowing down and deepening our breath, we can activate our body’s relaxation response.

Various breathing techniques can help us achieve this desired state of relaxation.

My favorite breathing techniques

One of my go-to breathing techniques is deep belly breathing, also known as diaphragmatic breathing.

To practice this technique, simply take a deep breath through your nose, allowing your belly to expand as you fill your lungs with air.

Then, exhale slowly through your mouth, feeling the tension leave your body with each breath.

Another technique that I regularly use and teach my clients is called “box breathing.”

It’s easy to use and conspicuous if you’re concerned about other people noticing.

Lastly, a technique I use at night to help me sleep is called the 4-7-8 breathing technique.

This method involves inhaling for a count of four, holding the breath for a count of seven, and then exhaling for a count of eight.

Repeat this cycle a few times, and you’ll likely notice a significant reduction in stress and an increase in feelings of relaxation.

The beauty of harnessing the power of breath as a stress-relief technique is that it can be done anywhere, at any time.

Whether you’re stuck in traffic, sitting at your desk, or lying in bed at night, taking a moment to focus on your breath can provide an instant sense of calm and relief.

2. Spend time in nature and go on a mindful walk

Short on time and looking for instant ways to reduce your stress?

Go on a mindful walk and spend time in nature.

According to the American Heart Association, studies have shown that spending time in nature can lower cortisol levels, reduce blood pressure, and decrease feelings of anxiety and stress.

The sights, sounds, and smells of the outdoors have a unique ability to shift our focus away from the worries and pressures of everyday life, allowing us to connect with something greater than ourselves.

Whether it’s the sound of rustling leaves, the gentle lapping of waves, or the fragrance of blooming flowers, nature has a way of captivating our senses and grounding us in the present moment.

When we take the time to appreciate the natural world, we can escape the demands of our daily routines and find solace in the simplicity and beauty that nature offers.

It’s a powerful reminder that there is a larger world outside of our worries and stresses and that we are part of something much grander.

Ready to go on a mindful walk and explore the great outdoors?

3. Channel your inner artist

Though I wish I were as artistic as my mom and brother, I have discovered that tapping into creative expression provides a different kind of stress relief.

Whether it’s through painting, writing, dancing, or any other form of art, engaging in creative activities can provide a sense of release and freedom from the pressures of everyday life.

Engaging in creative expression allows us to channel our emotions, thoughts, and ideas into something tangible and meaningful.

A person journaling as part of their New Year's Resolutions

When we allow ourselves to be fully present in the act of creation, we enter a state of flow where time seems to stand still and our worries fade away.

In this state, our focus shifts from external stressors to the expressions of our inner selves. We become immersed in the process, and as a result, our minds can rest and rejuvenate.

By embracing our creativity, we open ourselves up to new perspectives and solutions, which can be applied not only to our artistic endeavors but also to the challenges we face in our everyday lives.

Not sure where to get started?

Here are 6 easy ways to master your inner art therapist.

4. Practice gratitude

I don’t know about you, but it’s hard for me to think about what I’m grateful for when I’m stressed out. If anything, my energy is targeted at the person or thing that is stressing me out rather than what I’m joyful about.

Yet the science-backed research is solid on this one.

Having a gratitude practice changes the neural pathways in your brain and helps lower your stress hormones.

A couple facing a mountain and their hands in the shape of a heart

Rather than being flooded with toxic chemicals, your brain shifts from a scarcity mindset to a focus on the positive aspects of your life.

By acknowledging and expressing gratitude, we create a positive feedback loop that further promotes feelings of satisfaction and contentment.

Want to learn how to start a gratitude practice and change your life?

5. Start exercising

One activity I do religiously to manage my anxiety is to exercise and practice yoga regularly.

It’s not surprising that physical exercise has been scientifically proven as one of the most effective ways to beat stress.

Exercise releases endorphins, which are commonly referred to as “feel-good” hormones.

These endorphins interact with receptors in our brain, reducing our perception of pain and triggering positive feelings in our bodies.

Pantea Rahimian practicing yoga

This natural chemical reaction can create a sense of euphoria and improve our overall mood, serving as an instant relief from stress.

Moreover, physical exercise offers a much-needed break from the constant stream of thoughts and worries that often contribute to our stress levels.

Whether it’s going for a jog, hitting the gym, or practicing yoga, engaging in physical activity allows us to focus our attention on the present moment and temporarily escape the stressors of everyday life.

This respite from our worries can provide us with a renewed sense of clarity and perspective, allowing us to manage stress better.

Pantea Rahimian

Take control. Feel better.

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In addition to its immediate stress-relief benefits, incorporating regular exercise into our routine also helps build resilience in the face of stress over the long term.

By consistently challenging our bodies and pushing our limits, we develop a stronger physical and mental fortitude that enables us to cope with stress more effectively.

This heightened resilience not only helps us endure stressful situations but also minimizes their impact on our overall well-being.

Need some motivation to start exercising?

Here are 10 foolproof ways to boost your motivation and work out right now!

6. Connect with a friend

Have you noticed that you cope better with stress when you talk with someone?

When you have a close friend, co-worker, or family member to process things with, you naturally feel better.

It’s not rocket science and research has shown that having strong social connections can help reduce the production of stress hormones and increase the release of feel-good chemicals in our bodies, such as oxytocin.

Pantea Rahimian and friend in San Francisco

Remember, it’s not about the quantity of friendships you have but the quality.

Building your social network and finding meaningful ways to connect with others is vital not just for your health, but also your survival.

Research suggests that individuals with strong social support networks are better equipped to handle stress and are less likely to experience its negative effects.

By proactively investing in our relationships, we are effectively building a buffer against stress and creating a support system that can help us weather life’s challenges more smoothly.

Looking to strengthen your support network? Learn how to make friends as an adult: 14 expert tips.

7. Have a good ol’ belly laugh

Did you know that laughter truly is the best medicine when it comes to combating stress?

It not only provides a temporary escape from our problems but also has long-lasting physiological and psychological benefits.

As a medical social worker, I work in a high-pressure environment with a lot of demands which can feel overwhelming and exhausting.

However, I know that I’m surrounded by supportive like-minded individuals who can make me laugh no matter how stressed out I feel.

Pantea Rahimian and her husband at the park laughing

When we laugh, our bodies release endorphins, which are natural stress-fighting chemicals that promote feelings of joy and relaxation.

Additionally, laughter improves blood flow, boosts our immune system, and reduces the levels of stress hormones like cortisol.

Remember, laughter is contagious, and being around individuals who make us laugh can instantly lighten our mood and provide a much-needed break from stress.

But how exactly can we incorporate more laughter into our lives?

Try watching a funny movie or TV show, reading a humorous book, or listening to a podcast.

Furthermore, you can incorporate laughter into your daily routine by playing a game, engaging in creative hobbies, or being silly.

This helps you let go of stress and embrace the joy of the present moment.

8. Practice mindfulness

Interested in finding new ways to reduce stress?

Oftentimes when we’re feeling stressed, we are worried about the future.

When we practice mindfulness, we learn to be intentional and pay attention to the present moment, without judgment or attachment.

Mindfulness teaches us to become fully aware of our thoughts, emotions, and physical sensations as they arise. This allows us to observe thoughts without getting caught up in them.

By cultivating a state of mindfulness, we can learn to approach stressors with greater clarity and resilience.

Is it easy to be mindful all the time?

No, it’s not.

Is it possible to cultivate a more mindful way of living?

Yes, absolutely!

You can practice mindfulness through meditation which has show to reduce stress, improve emotional well-being, and enhance overall mental health.

In addition, you can learn to practice mindful walking, mindful eating, mindful breathing, and other activities that help you be more present in your body.

By incorporating mindfulness into our lives, we can develop a greater sense of self-awareness and resilience in the face of stress.

New to mindfulness meditation? Learn all about meditation for beginners and how to get started.

9. Indulge in relaxation techniques

Are you eager to decompress and relax after a stressful day?

One of the best ways to beat stress is to engage in relaxation techniques that can provide instant relief and promote a sense of calm.

My favorite relaxation techniques
  • Progressive muscle relaxation
    • This involves systematically tensing and then releasing different muscle groups in the body, promoting physical relaxation and easing tension. By progressively scanning and releasing the tension in our muscles, we can experience a profound sense of relaxation and relief.
  • Take a warm shower
    • The warmth of the water can help soothe our muscles and calm our minds. Adding essential oils or bath salts with calming scents like lavender or chamomile can enhance the relaxation experience, further reducing stress and promoting a restful state.
  • Read a good book or listen to music
    • Engaging in hobbies or activities that bring us joy and relaxation can also be a valuable way to unwind. Reading a book or listening to music allows us to fully immerse ourselves in the present moment and escape from stress.

Incorporating relaxation techniques helps you cultivate a heightened state of self-awareness and resilience.

As a result, you’re able to overcome your stress more quickly.

10. Seek professional help

So you’ve tried it all and still feel super stressed?

Yup, I’ve been there before and know how you feel.

Whether you’re combating burnout or feeling extremely overwhelmed, seeking professional help is an essential step in your journey toward mental well-being.

As a licensed mental health provider I help individuals navigate through stressful situations and develop effective coping mechanisms. I work in a hospital so it’s not a traditional therapeutic setting.

Nonetheless, I’ve helped individuals identify the root causes of their stress and have provided personalized strategies to address them.

A therapist talking to a client

In addition to being a therapist, I see a therapist regularly.

Since my work is extremely stressful, going to therapy is part of my self-care and wellness toolbox.

The benefits of working with a therapist are that it offers a safe and confidential space to express yourself, gain insight, and learn valuable tools for managing stress and overwhelm.

Need some help finding a good therapist? Check out how to start therapy the right way and get my free tips and resources.

Try going to group therapy

Consider joining a support group.

We often think of support groups like Alcoholics Anonymous but there are a slew of support groups for a multitude of reasons. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) has tons of free support groups you can join.

Support groups offer a platform to share your concerns, learn from others’ experiences, and gain practical advice for dealing with stress.

They can also help you realize that you are not alone in your struggles and provide a sense of belonging.

Consider talking to a psychiatrist

Lastly, if stress is significantly impacting your daily life and overall well-being, a psychiatrist can evaluate if medications or other medical interventions are necessary.

Their expertise and knowledge in psychiatric medicine can play a crucial role in helping you manage stress effectively.

It’s important to understand that seeking professional help is not a sign of weakness, but rather a proactive step towards taking control of our well-being.

Going to therapy is one of the most important ways to reduce stress for some of my clients.

Just as we prioritize physical health by going to a doctor when needed, we should prioritize our mental health by reaching out to professionals who specialize in addressing stress and related issues.


I wish I could figure out a way to eliminate stress. We both know that it’s not possible, but we also know that we can control it.

Learning important techniques like relaxation, deep breathing, regular exercise, laughter, and talking to a friend helps us beat stress and achieve a calmer state of mind.

Moreover, by incorporating these techniques into your daily routine, you can create a sanctuary of relaxation and reclaim control over your life.

However, it’s important to remember that beating stress is a continuous journey.

It requires patience, self-compassion, and consistency.

What has helped me is that I take a daily inventory of my stress level and rate it on a scale of 1-10 (10 being the highest).

Of course, some days are more stressful than others, but I try my best to keep my stress at a low moderate level, like a 3-4.

As you embark on this stress-busting adventure, keep in mind that curiosity is your secret weapon.

Stay open to new experiences, explore different techniques, and discover what works best for you. Remember, everyone’s journey to stress relief is unique.

Don’t wait until your stress is constantly at a level 10 since it’s a lot harder to lower it at that point. Instead, incorporate stress relief methods daily.

What do you do to relieve your stress? What are your favorite ways to reduce stress? Which tools have been effective and help you feel better? What has been less helpful? Please share your stories and comments below.

Now, it's up to you to take action!

  1. Share this article on social media to support me in publishing more high-quality content in the future
  2. Get started now and include what you’ve learned throughout this article in your daily routine
Pantea Rahimian

Take control. Feel better.

Start your Self-care Journey.

Take control.
Feel better.

Start your
Self-care Journey.


24 Responses

    1. Hi there I feel the same way! My mom is my best friend so I feel nurtured, refreshed and relaxed after spending time with her. Happy that you have a supportive group of friends.

  1. I just published a post on this subject and totally agree with you! I can say that in my experience, a supportive circle and mindfulness are key to overcoming stress.

  2. The stress topic is a very interesting one. The fact is that stressors are actually smaller after WWII. Especially in modern days when you have everything that you need for a decent living. The problem is that we, as a human race, are so tucked into our comfort zones, that even the smallest, natural stressors seem like giant problems.

    1. Hey Pedja you bring up a good point that we’re in our comfort zones and small natural stressors can feel like big problems. We each have a different capacity to cope with stress based on early childhood trauma which changes our neural pathways and autonomic nervous system. Some people cope better with stress than others so it’s helpful to find ways that work for each of us.

  3. I know for me I love to workout. Working out makes my body feel so much better and it helps to reduce stress. I also enjoy listening to some good old music that always makes me smile.

    1. Hey Tracy I’m delighted to hear that you’re an advocate of folks seeking professional help for mental health. As an LCSW I’m always pleased when people focus on their mental and emotional health.

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Pantea Rahimian

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