Has life got you feeling a little overwhelmed? Don’t worry, it’s normal! Here are some tips for managing stress.

Stress is something that most people will experience and can come in a variety of forms from a range of sources. Sometimes stressful situations can be beneficial for motivation, but if stress levels reach a certain point then it may be more problematic

As life begins to return to normal, you may feel that being stressed is somehow less valid – I mean if we can cope with the increased stress of multiple lockdowns, what can’t we do?! But this isn’t necessarily helpful rhetoric. One definition of stress is the reaction to a perceived threat to the maintenance of a complex dynamic equilibrium – in other words, our ‘comfort zone’ or ‘normal’. Many of us have come to find some level of comfortability in working, socialising and relaxing from the safety of home, so as things begin to change again, there will undoubtedly be some feelings of stress cropping up.

We are now all carefully observing an evolving landscape, trying to figure out what measures are here to stay, and what our new normal is going to look like. It is easy for this, partnered with the return to our busy social lives that things can begin to get on top of you, or make you feel a little overwhelmed. This is why we feel it is important to take a step back to remind ourselves of some useful stress management techniques we can use when things get a little too much.

Stress management techniques to try

Whether you use these techniques in the moments when you feel overwhelmed, to begin to practise them as a regular stress management and prevention routine, here are some scientifically proven ways to reduce stress.

Progressive Muscle Relaxation

One method of stress management that has been proven to reduce cortisol levels, reduce generalised anxiety, decrease blood pressure and heart rate, as well as reduce severity of headaches is Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR). This is a technique which aims to relax the muscles in your body, reducing the physical tensions that accompany anxiety by alternately contracting and relaxing certain muscle groups.

To practise PMR, all you need to do is close your eyes and focus on tensing your legs, then your abdomen, chest, arms and face in sequence for 10 seconds each, before relaxing each of these muscle areas for 20 seconds. It is important to try to concentrate on the difference between the feelings of tense, tight muscles, and the relaxed, released muscles. After repeating a couple of times, you should start to feel more aware of where you were holding tensions due to stress, and can allow your body to begin to relax these muscles. As you become more experienced using this technique, it becomes a very quick and easy way to reduce stress levels.

Diaphragmatic Breathing

No doubt you will have heard about the benefits of breathing exercises for reducing stress, however this specific technique focuses on the manipulation of breath movement by expanding the abdomen rather than the chest when breathing. Deep breathing techniques such as this one have been shown to reduce anxiety and blood pressure by slowing the breath, reducing oxygen concentrations in the blood which then in turn reduces heart rate. 

To start using this technique, simply try to notice the difference between breathing deeply into your lower belly rather than inflating your chest. Try to inhale slowly and deeply into your abdomen for a couple of minutes until you start to feel your body calm. As this technique is so subtle, you can do this while you are out and about if you need to recenter yourself.

Transcendental Meditation

This technique is super simple and can be learned very easily, however it is helpful to build this activity into your daily routine in order to be able to utilise it fully in times of stress. 

Fundamentally, this technique requires you to repeat a chosen mantra in your mind – 

“a meaningless sequence of sounds specific to each individual, to promote a natural shift of awareness to a wakeful but deeply restful state”. What mantra you choose is totally up to you, it doesn’t even need to make sense, what is important is the focus on the repetition of your chosen phrase. This has a similar effect to other meditative practises, but rather than clearing your mind, you just calmly concentrate on the line in your head.

Regular use of this technique has been shown to have an impact on a broad spectrum of physical and psychological symptoms caused by stress and anxiety, such as reducing anxious feelings, pain, and depression, and can help to lift mood and self-esteem.

Why is stress management important?

The World Health Organisation has proposed that stress is one of the most frequent health problems and there is significant research linking the negative impact of stress on multiple health related problems such as cardiovascular health, mental health, obesity and infertility.

This is why – alongside reducing the negative experiences that stress can cause in the moment – incorporating stress management techniques into daily life, as well as utilising them as a tool in times of overwhelm can be a beneficial practise. 

Let’s stress less

Easier said than done – we know! But by being proactive about your stress management, you will reduce the chances of health related issues caused by high levels of stress further down the line, whilst also making your day to day a little calmer. So, what’s to lose? 

Take the challenge




Mental Health and the Covid-19 Pandemic. Betty Pfefferbaum, M.D., J.D., and Carol S. North, M.D., M.P.E. 2020

Stress Management Techniques: evidence-based procedures that reduce stress and promote health. Liza Varvogli and Christina Darviri. 2011.

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