10 tips for managing stress – Life Hacks – relaxing at home

10 tips for managing stress

A 5 minute read • Simon Q

Part of our life hacks series. We’ve all been there. The overbearing pressure that makes us feel frustrated, angry or helpless. And then there are the physical effects: headache, digestive problems, aches and insomnia. These are just a few of the symptoms of stress.

This article is provided exclusively under our terms of use. We hope you enjoy it! Please let us know what you think using the feedback form at the end of the article.
But what is stress? The definition that best helps us to explore the sources of stress and its management is this one:

“Stress is a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or demanding circumstances”

While we are used to labelling things and situations as stressful, it’s more helpful to recognise that stress is actually an internal state produced by an emotional response to an external stimulus. One clue to this is that what one person finds stressful, such as a demanding boss or a cancelled train, isn’t the slightest bit stressful to certain other people.

Once we acknowledge that stress is an internal experience we’re much closer to accepting that it’s something over which we have a degree of control. The key here is in managing our emotional response to those external stimuli, or ‘stressors’. If we can train ourselves to do that, the strain and tension we experience can be less unpleasant.

Yes, I know that makes it sound easy, but my goal in this article is to give you a few tools and techniques that will help you to handle stress more calmly and effectively.

What are the sources of stress?

Here are some common sources of stress. It’s a long – yet not exhaustive – list and shows the wide range of stressors we can experience.

10 tips for managing stress

The key to managing stress is first to accept that it is our emotional response to a stressor that produces the stress and that we have more control over our emotions that we realise.

This is not to underestimate the devastating impact of bereavement for example, possibly one of the most stressful life events we experience. But for other stressful situations, remembering that a stressor — and our response — are separate things helps us to better manage our response and bring things back under control.

Here are my 10 tips for managing stress, all of which you can build into your daily routine. A few of them need practice and a high level of self awareness but they are all effective once mastered.

10 tips for managing stress

  1. Keep things in context – many events and stressors do not harm us significantly, so respond accordingly and avoid becoming angry. Remember that overreacting to something (‘catastrophising’) can make it seem so much worse and make stress symptoms much more unpleasant. Above all, avoid losing your temper as this is potentially harmful
  2. Recognise the symptoms – there can be many other reasons for headaches, pains, insomnia and a racing heart, but these are also common symptoms of stress, so always consult your doctor when you have a few of these symptoms at once
  3. Focus on solutions – it’s easy to obsess on problems that you face instead of accepting a situation and/or seeking a solution that works. Stay focused on solutions and avoid re-running the problem in your head, something that psychologists call ‘rumination
  4. Get organised – disorganised people can often be stressy. By being more organised and prioritising what’s important, you are more in control of your life and better equipped to face what it throws at you (see our piece on how to manage your time)
  5. Share the load – if you have too much to do (at work or at home) then ask for help. You’ll be both sharing and lightening the load
  6. Exercise regularly – there are so many reasons to take regular exercise but there’s a mountain of evidence that shows how exercise helps to reduce stress. You don’t need to join a gym or climb your closest mountain; just a couple of 10 minute-long brisk walks every day will help. Or perhaps a dog could help?
  7. Eat well – again, there are lots of reason to do this, but a healthy and balanced diet will help you to manage stress. Avoid comfort-eating sugary foods and drinks as they can cause swings in blood sugar that affect your mood and concentration
  8. Relax and meditate – meditation and mindfulness are in vogue at the moment and can help to moderate stress and improve mood. Sometimes, a few deep breaths or a few hours of time away from people, noise and commitments, can help enormously
  9. Check your sleep hygiene – if you are not sleeping well, check that you are setting yourself up for good sleep: avoid alcohol, caffeine and food late at night, keep a cool bedroom, use blackout blinds to reduce light and use earplugs if you are affected by noises around you (earplugs have saved my sanity on countless occasions)
  10. Talk to someone you trust – just getting your worries off your chest can put things into context and help you get organised, unwind and manage your stress

These are all things that most of us can do without professional help. But there may be times when you feel totally overwhelmed, out of control and find it hard to make decisions. You can ask for help through your doctor, who may recommend you take some cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) sessions, or some other form of counselling.

Follow us for updates:


CBT is sometime called ‘talking therapy’ as it involves discussing your thoughts and reactions with a trained therapist who can help you to retrain your emotional responses to stressors. It doesn’t involve taking medicines and is also effective for a range of conditions such as depression, anxiety and anger management.

And finally

Let us know what you think using the feedback form below. Did we miss anything? If you liked this life hacks series article about how to handle stress, please share it with friends or colleagues using the social media buttons below.

You might also like

How to worry less – Life Hacks – photo of worried face

How to worry less

If you’re a worrier you are not alone. You keep good company. But worrying can be unhelpful and sometimes even harmful to your health. The good news is that asking yourself a few simple questions can help you worry a little less … more

How to handle responsibility – Career Counselling – getting your ducks in a row

How to handle responsibility

Maybe you’ve been promoted at work or perhaps just have new responsibilities. How should you get your ducks in a row to make sure you are successful? … more

How music makes you happier – Life Hacks – photo of violinist

How music makes you happier

Music can raise your spirits and keep you going when things get tough. But how does it work? We look at the evidence and help you get more music into your life … more

How to manage your time better – Life Hacks & Career Counselling – collage of clocks

How to manage your time better – part 1

Whether it’s the pressure of unrelenting demands at work – or just keeping family life on track – managing our time skilfully is one of the best ways of fighting back … more

How to adapt to change at work – Career Counselling – picture of eye changing

How to adapt to change at work

When change is the only constant, how can you ride the wave and grasp new opportunities? Our top tips for making the most of changes at work … more

How to borrow money responsibly – Financial Management – credit cards

How to borrow money responsibly

Most of us need to borrow money from time to time, whether it’s to buy a home or just to get through a lean period. But how can we do it without getting into hot water? … more

How it feels to be a new dad – Life Hacks – photo baby holding dad's finger

How it feels to be a new dad

The idea of becoming a father will instil different emotions depending on your current path in life. New dad Tim describes his experience – and how changing nappies has changed his world … more

How dogs can improve your health – Life Hacks – photo of dog playing

How dogs can improve your health

As any dog-owner will tell you, dogs are great companions and a huge source of comfort to many. But the evidence is mounting that dogs can also have health benefits for those that spend time with them … more


General advice on stress from Mind
About exercise and stress from Mayo Clinic
Healthy eating and stress from Health.com
About CBT from BABCP

Your feedback

How likely are you to recommend this article to friends, family or colleagues?