3 ways to beat stress

by Kaiser Permanente |
Person in workout clothes jogs outside

Stress is a fact of life — but it doesn’t have to set you back. You can’t control what worries, concerns, or annoys you, but you can control how you react. And you can be prepared for stress by finding ways to stay calm in the moment and understanding what’s causing it.

What’s stressing you out?

Everyone experiences stress in different ways and for different reasons. But there are some causes that almost everyone can identify with. Some common sources of stress include:1

  • Money and finances
  • Relationships
  • Health issues
  • Current events

Effects of stress

Too much stress can take a toll on your body, mind, and behavior. Some symptoms you might experience can include:

  • Feeling tired and drained
  • A sense of being overwhelmed
  • Anxiety (including panic attacks)
  • Hopelessness
  • Loneliness
  • A lack of motivation or focus
  • Trouble controlling your emotions

Excess stress is linked to physical conditions, too, such as an upset stomach, headaches, and trouble sleeping. It can also weaken the immune system, making it harder to fight illness. And those with a pre-existing condition might find that stress makes symptoms worse. Long story short — too much stress is bad for your health.

Simple ways to address your stress

It’s normal to feel overwhelmed sometimes. While you can’t avoid every stressful situation, you can learn ways to handle stress when it comes up. These healthy habits can help you stay cool under pressure, even when you’re pressed for time.

Work that tension out

Symptoms of stress can create a vicious cycle between your mind and body. Stress can make it difficult to sleep, which can leave you feeling exhausted and unfocused. Stress can also cause your muscles to tense up, which can lead to pain and soreness. And that can lead to even more stress.

Break this vicious cycle by working out. Regular exercise has been proven to improve sleep — and being well-rested can leave you better equipped to handle stress.2 Meanwhile, the endorphins released during exercise act as natural painkillers, fighting some of the body aches and tension caused by stress.3

Take a break to breathe

Meditation can be an effective tool for battling stress and anxiety. It can slow the heart rate and calm the nervous system. Plus, meditation helps you be more mindful. By focusing on the present moment, you’re shifting attention away from any disruptive thoughts.

You don’t need to meditate for long to notice the effects. When uncomfortable emotions start to build, try a few minutes of deep breathing. Breathe in for a count of 5, hold for 5, and exhale for 5. Repeat 10 times or until you start feeling calmer and grounded.

Unplug to recharge

Your phone needs time to recharge, and so does your brain. Too much screen time has been linked to sleep issues, which can make stress worse.4 And simply having your device nearby makes it difficult to focus.5

If difficulty focusing on tasks is causing you stress, put your phone away. Spending lots of time on your devices, such as scrolling social media, can also distract from what’s happening around you. Try unplugging for a while and focus on reconnecting with loved ones instead.

More stress-fighting strategies

It’s normal to have stressful moments — but these simple strategies can help protect your health from the effects of stress. For more inspiration, check out our wellness resources — including self-care apps to help with stress, sleep, anxiety, and more.

American Psychological Association, “Stress in America,” accessed August 2, 2022.

Yi Xie et al., “Effects of Exercise on Sleep Quality and Insomnia in Adults: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials,Frontiers in Psychiatry, June 7, 2021.

Stephen Bruehl et al., “Are Endogenous Opioid Mechanisms Involved in the Effects of Aerobic Exercise Training on Chronic Low Back Pain?: A Randomized Controlled Trial,Pain, December 2020.

Qiyu Chen et al., “The Impact of Screen Time Changes on Anxiety During the COVID-19 Pandemic: Sleep and Physical Activity as Mediators,Sleep and Biological Rhythms, June 16, 2022.

Adrian F. Ward et al., “Brain Drain: The Mere Presence of One’s Own Smartphone Reduces Available Cognitive Capacity,Journal of the Association for Consumer Research, April 2017.