Our Review Process
Our articles undergo extensive medical review by board-certified practitioners to confirm that all factual inferences with respect to medical conditions, symptoms, treatments, and protocols are legitimate, canonical, and adhere to current guidelines and the latest discoveries. Read more.
Our Editorial Team
Shifa Fatima, MSc.
Dr. Apoorva T, MHM.
What is stress?
Stress is a common term that we hear almost every day, many of us feel stressed every day as well. But what is stress? How can we define it? Stress can mean different things to people depending on their triggers, situations, and coping mechanisms. However, stress can be loosely defined as a natural response that the body exhibits when you might be facing a situation that is difficult or dangerous. It can also happen when there are uncertain events in life or big changes that may be coming your way.
Stress is a natural part of life. Some people also believe that stress is necessary as it can help them feel more alert and motivated to put in the effort to make changes or work hard. In this case of eustress (positive stress), you will not notice your work, relationships, concentration, etc begin to be affected. However, the types of stress that affect these aspects, might need stress-buster activities that may help them control it.
Smaller stressors (causes of stress) might accumulate, if not dealt with at the right time. Therefore, it is important to identify and deal with all types of stress even if they seem small and insignificant at the moment.
Table of Contents
What is a Stress Buster?
Stress busters are basically activities and exercises that you can do to deal with your stressors. Any technique that you use to relieve stress would be considered a stress buster for you. Since people respond to stress differently, they may have various activities that can help deal with mental stress and tension. Depending on the type and nature of the stressor and the impact it has caused on your life, you can decide the activities that you would like to engage in. It is also possible that stress can get overwhelming at times and you may not be able to come up with techniques on your own. In this case, it might be a good idea to plan beforehand if the stressor is predictable. If not, and you are unable to deal with it, you can also seek help from a mental health professional as they can help you predict and come up with techniques that may be helpful in the present and the future.
Most common causes of stress
Stress can be caused due to multiple reasons. One major, life-changing event can lead to significant amounts of stress or it can also be a build-up of smaller events that can lead to you feeling overwhelmed. If you are finding it difficult to identify what is leading to your stress, you can try to categorize them under the following umbrella terms and slowly narrow it down:
1) Personal issues
As we enter different stages in life, we may have certain aspects that may worry us. These may be:
- School, academics, and exams
- Presentations and submissions
- Illness or injury
- Health issues
- Facing abuse or trauma, etc.
At times, even everyday tasks, chores, or being stuck in traffic can lead to stress
2) Social life
- Getting married
- Breaking up
- Domestic fights and discord
Stress can also happen when you have too many plans to meet friends but you have work to complete
- Dissatisfaction at work
- Job change
- Losing your job
- Starting a new job
At work, one of the most significant causes of stress could also be burnout.
- Your house
- Lack of security
- Lack of resources, etc.
5) Medical issues
- Diagnosis of a chronic disease
- Side effects of medication, etc.
6) Social and environmental factors
- Poor healthcare system
- Epidemics or pandemics
- Stigma or discrimination, etc.
Stress is often the consequence of feeling a lack of control or uncertainty about the situation. If you are not sure of what is going to happen, you will often find yourself jumping to the worst possible conclusion and feeling stressed. This is something that you would have to work on to release tension, especially if little things stress you out.
What is stress management?
Stress management is as simple as it sounds, learning to manage and finding ways to cope with stress and stressors that may be affecting your life. Finding and adapting healthier ways to reduce the levels of stress may help you lead a healthy and balanced life and would lower the risk of developing any medical-health-related conditions. Since long-term stress can impact the overall quality of life, finding the best stress relief methods that work for you would be vital.
Stress management techniques may broadly consist of:
- Learning certain important life skills such as better decision-making, assertiveness, problem-solving, time management, etc.
- Understanding your stressors and finding techniques to cope with them. Increasing your emotional awareness and control and practicing gratitude
- Relaxation techniques like – deep breathing, yoga, progressive muscle relaxation, etc.
- Better social life and social skills.
Stress management can play a huge role in not only better mental health but also physical health. Once you can learn how stress affects your body and come up with coping techniques, you can make your stress work for you and not against you. Learning and utilizing different stress relief activities would be better so that you can use them in combination or switch the methods to break the monotony.
Top 10 Stress Busters
Stress-buster activities can be plenty. You will have to take your pick from the multiple options that are present and taught to you so that you can have a holistic approach to fight against the various stressors that may bother you.
1. Progressive Muscle Relaxation
This is one of the most effective techniques to deal with stress effectively. It helps you isolate and relax all the muscles in your body in groups. You can start by taking 7 deep breaths and then slowly tighten each muscle group and quickly release them. Start with your forehead and move down to your toes. Hold the tightened position for a couple of seconds. You will be able to recognize the tension in the muscles and make your body put them into a state of relaxation.
2. Deep breathing
Another one of the easy ways to relieve stress would be by focusing on your breathing. Focus on the way you breathe, inhale for 6 seconds, hold for 3 seconds, and exhale for 6 seconds. This can make a huge difference in overall stress levels. It can help calm your body and brain instantly. You can practice deep breathing exercises even when you are in a crowded room or meeting or movie theater.
Walking or brisk walking is a fantastic stress-relieving activity that will also allow you to change your scenery and enter into a different frame of mind. It also brings about the benefits of exercise as brisk walking can help release endorphins. You can decide to take a small stroll in the office campus or on your terrace while listening to music or watching the sunset to deal with stress.
4. Engage in art
Art can be therapeutic for many people as it also promotes catharsis. Many mental health experts recommend picking up a pencil, paints, or some crayons and begin designing something. Creating art as a hobby can also be effective to deal with stress. Recently, filling in the colors in a mandala design is known to help relieve anxiety.
5. Leisure activities and hobbies
When we are stressed, we tend to not engage in activities that we like. This can be counterproductive. A good way to release stress would be to identify things that you like to do and consciously perform those activities, even if it is for a limited time. It can be something as small as having a cup of coffee or video-calling friends or going for a drive
6. Check your to-do lists
In case you have set unrealistic goals for yourself like cramming up a study material worth 20 hours in 15 hours, it may be natural to feel stressed. You can reduce your workload and break down the tasks into smaller targets and set realistic goals for yourself. Hone your time management skills and practice accordingly.
7. Avoid things that add to your stress
Sometimes, it may be possible for you to avoid situations and stressful factors. For example, saying no to a camping trip right before your exams instead of trying to manage both, consuming too much caffeine or alcohol, etc.
8. Have some “me time”
Many of us spend long hours doing our duties like going to school, classes, work, meetings, household chores, etc., and do not spend quality time with ourselves doing absolutely nothing. Setting some time apart to relax, sleep, or do any other activity of your choice is a good way to remove stress
9. Set boundaries
Setting healthy boundaries with people is important. Learning to say no to certain tasks at work, meeting friends all the time, and engaging in constant social activities can help you not feel overwhelmed as there may not be too much on your plate. Say yes to tasks that you can perform within your social bandwidth
A therapist-approved strategy to deal with stress is writing a journal. When you write down your thoughts, make a list of what is bothering you, or just write whatever comes into mind, it is a form of catharsis (release of pent-up emotions). This can help you feel lighter and also feel in control. Journaling can help you stress less as it can help you become aware of what is causing you trouble and identify patterns.
How to reduce stress through Yoga?
Yoga is a powerful combination of physical movements, meditation, light exercise, and breathing. All these techniques are proven ways to release stress from the body. Yoga can help in the short-term and long-term reduction of stress. The more consistent you are with your yoga practices, you will see a consistent change in stress reduction. Since yoga also combines exercise, it will release endorphins that counter the effects of other stress hormones. The variety of physical, spiritual, and psychological benefits associated with yoga can be a great way to reduce and eliminate stress from your life.
How to reduce stress by Exercise?
Physical and mental health are highly linked to each other. An improvement in one can lead to an improvement in the other. Physical activity is, therefore, key to managing stress and leading to better overall mental health. You can engage in many types of physical activities to deal with stress like – joining a gym, going for walks, Zumba, Pilates, hiking, strength training, floor exercises, dance classes, etc. You can choose to switch it up and use different techniques if possible so that your stress management does not feel monotonous and you can enjoy the variety of solutions with their benefits.
How to reduce stress with food?
Have you heard of the terms stress eating or emotional eating? Food has a strong link to mental health and stress. In case you want to use food to reduce stress, you can develop certain healthy habits and engage in the consumption of healthy foods that are known to reduce stress like – foods rich in omega-3 (fatty fish), foods with Vitamin D (eggs), foods that improve mood (dark chocolate), turmeric, yogurt, green tea, etc. A balanced diet that provides all the required nutrients that your body and mind may need for proper functioning is key to good mental health and can be a stress buster. Refined carbs, sugar, etc may not be healthy and cause a spike in blood sugar levels. When the sugar levels crash, you may end up feeling more stressed and anxious. Make sure to snack on healthy food items so that you can eliminate stress and not increase it.
Stress is a common part of life. However, one can learn ways to cope with stress that is best suited for them. The first step would be to understand and identify what is causing the stress and deduce patterns. Once that is recognized, coming up with ways and making a plan to perform certain activities that can help alleviate stressors and the feeling of being overwhelmed will come next. In case you are unable to handle stress, you can choose to talk to friends, family, or even a mental health professional.
1. How to relieve stress for a woman?
Stress management for women can include activities such as – walking, yoga, meditation, expression of emotions, catharsis, journaling, therapy, etc. These techniques may not be gender-defined, however, women are more likely to be open and talk about their emotions as a part of the effective release of stress.
2. How to relieve stress quickly at home?
You can engage in several activities to get rid of stress at home. Exercises, even home exercise like jumping jacks, skipping, high knees, etc for 20-25 minutes per day can boost the release of endorphins. Endorphins are the ‘happy chemicals’ in the brain that can counter the effects of cortisol
3. How to relieve stress and anxiety?
Relieving stress and anxiety may be a process that you will actively have to engage in for it to become a pattern. Since there can be multiple stressors that affect you, identify your triggers and predict them. Use a problem-solving approach to deal with these causes of stress that can affect you. Try yoga, meditation, counseling, engaging in hobbies, etc. as an effective way to destress.
4. How to relieve stress for a man?
Multiple things can work well for a man to be able to stress less – deep breathing exercises, playing a sport, going for a walk/run, engaging in hobbies, etc. These techniques can help lower the levels of stress. For more permanent solutions, identifying the causes of stress, understanding patterns, and dealing with them by changing thoughts and behaviors would be better for both men and women
5. What are the 3 A's of stress?
The 3 As of stress are – avoid, alter, and accept (adapt). Avoid people, situations, surroundings, etc that cause stress. Alter your thoughts, time, behaviors, etc, or communicate when you are in distress. Adapt to the situation or people when you are sure that the stress is coming from factors beyond your control and you may not be able to change them
6. What are 3 stress triggers?
Stress can be caused by several internal and external factors. Some of the main triggers of stress could be – trauma and personal issues (abuse, violence, victims of crime, bereavement, health issues, job and future (uncertainty of job, money, unsuitable work environment, firing from work, etc.); and social factors (socioeconomic status, homophobia, state of the current living conditions, etc.). Stress is multi-faceted and different people can have different triggers.
7. Can stress hurt your heart?
Yes, higher levels of stress are known to be linked to health issues like high blood pressure and cholesterol levels that can pose a great risk of heart issues like a heart attack or stroke. If a person has developed a pattern of smoking when stressed, it can lead to the clogging up of the arteries also increasing the chances of cardiovascular disease.
8. What not to do when stressed?
When you are stressed, you need to make sure that you are not resorting to any unhealthy patterns or habits. For example, it is common for people to smoke or consume alcohol to relieve stress and this slowly can turn into an addiction. Consciously avoid such habits and use healthy coping mechanisms for stress relief.
This website's content is provided only for educational reasons and is not meant to be a replacement for professional medical advice. Due to individual differences, the reader should contact their physician to decide whether the material is applicable to their case.