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Ways to Dial Down Stress

recommended by the Stress Management & High Performance Clinic


  • Breathe!    At a comfortably slow pace, breathe from your waist (the diaphragm) with the breath out lasting longer than the breath in.

  • Set realistic goals and expectations.

  • Laugh!    Watch a funny YouTube video or keep a file of humourous cartoons.  Michael Kerr suggests using a "laugh-line" by phoning a friend who you know will make you laugh and help you find the humor in a difficult situation.

  • Manage time effectively.    Write out your plan.  Build in some flexibility.  Reassess throughout the day.

  • Walk,  Swim,  Bike,  Dance!    Burn the stress chemicals out of your body and clear your mind.

  • Recreation = re-creation.   Break up a work day with 15-30 minutes of something you’re passionate about  –  do it, read about it, or talk about it.

  • Stretch.   Move.   Release tension from muscles.   Smooth your forehead, soften your eyes, relax your jaw, drop your shoulders.

  • Connect  with those who are important to you, who are supportive, and feel good to be with.  A study of 1,648 Harvard students (Achor, Stone & Ben-Shahar) found that social support was by far the strongest predictor of happiness during stressful times - and it wasn't due so much to the level of social support the students received, as to how much they provided. 

  • Pet a cat or dog    (even imagining petting a kitten or puppy has a physiological effect on us).

  • Think of the big picture.    There is so much more to who you are as a person than simply the grade on a test, the pain in your back, or what you did or said in a particular situation.  Cultivate a realistic perspective.

  • Sing!     It positively influences your mood and your breathing.

  • List 12 – 15 things that you appreciate that happened today.   Our brain's negativity bias makes it easy to recall today's hassles.  Balance that out by remembering some of the things that you are grateful you experienced today.

  • Give (and get) a hug.

  • Stop catastrophizing about things.    Take steps on things you can control.  Tell yourself  “I will handle it.”

            “I might not be able to control this situation, but I can control my reactions in this situation.”

  • Get outdoors in nature.

  • Relax!     If your brain/body has forgotten how to relax, learn some relaxation techniques.  It's a skill that gets better with practice!