How to Reduce Stress and Anxiety

Medically reviewed by Dr. Mark Hrymoc, M.D.

The most recent Workplace in America Survey reveals that 77% of respondents experienced work-related stress in the month before the survey. Common complaints were emotional exhaustion, irritability, anger, and lack of support. Other research found that 50% of Americans aged 18-24, 38% of those 25 to 49, and 29% of those 50 to 64 have symptoms of an anxiety or depressive disorder.

Stress and anxiety may also be underreported by many Americans simply because they may not realize they exhibit the symptoms or think what they are going through is a part of aging. Reducing stress and anxiety leads to benefits to your overall health.

What Is Stress and Anxiety?

It is common to see the terms stress and anxiety used interchangeably in reports. While they are related and affect each other, they are different. Stress and anxiety cause physical and psychological bodily responses. External factors usually trigger stress, like running late for work, not meeting deadlines, and financial issues. 

Anxiety is triggered by thoughts and feelings, or internal factors, sometimes associated with a stressor and sometimes with no association. Stress is a short-term reaction, lasting until the stressor goes away. Anxiety tends to linger even when you are not in danger. 

The American Psychiatric Association reports on a survey of people in 2022 anticipating stress and anxiety in 2023. The sources of anxiety included finances, uncertainty, physical and mental health, relationships, and job security. All of these factors increased from the previous year’s survey.

What Are the Symptoms of Stress and Anxiety?

Stress and anxiety have overlapping symptoms that make it confusing to figure out why you feel the way you do. You can expect increased heart rate, rapid breathing, headaches, tension, high blood pressure, and digestive issues like nausea, diarrhea, or constipation. Other symptoms may include sweating, sleep disorders, and inability to stay focused.

Stress and anxiety also have differentiating symptoms. For example, symptoms of stress include the following:

  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Mood changes 
  • Anger or irritation
  • Lack of patience
  • Racing thoughts

Anxiety symptoms include the following:

  • Feeling of dread or doom
  • Excessive worry
  • Pacing or fast body movements
  • Chest pains
  • Possible panic attack
  • Hives
  • Possible warm flushing sensation

Uncontrolled stress and anxiety symptoms affect every part of the human body, causing long-term damage.

How to Reduce Stress and Anxiety

There are hundreds of ways to reduce stress and anxiety. They are easy and can be done wherever you are. However, learning techniques and methods will not be effective without your commitment to improving your health. Being dedicated to feeling better will help you with the essential steps below.

Assess and Evaluate

Stress and anxiety cause symptoms that mimic the symptoms of other disorders. Therefore, the first step must be to seek a mental health assessment and physical health examination to rule out any other possible causes for your symptoms. A psychiatrist or psychologist can offer a comprehensive biopsychosocial assessment to determine whether your symptoms are related to a mental health disorder. A Psychiatrist can also order lab work and imaging to evaluate your physical health.

Professional Therapies

Depending on the severity of your symptoms, you may consider working with a psychiatrist to see if medications can offer relief. Early in your journey of reducing stress and anxiety, you must be able to learn new skills. If your symptoms are overwhelming, they will interfere with your learning ability. Medication can help you become stable enough to move forward.

Anxiety and stress trigger unhealthy thoughts and feelings, which may lead to unhealthy behaviors. Licensed mental health professionals or therapists can teach you how to change negative thinking so you can achieve positive outcomes. 

They use behavioral therapies, including:

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT)
  • Dialectical-behavioral therapy (DBT)
  • Motivational enhancement therapy (MET)
  • Psychodynamic therapy
  • Trauma therapies
    • Trauma resilience model
    • Trauma-focused CBT
    • Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR)
    • Post-induction therapy for childhood trauma (PIT)

Get More Exercise

If you are feeling too tired to exercise, you likely have stressors. While your first thought may be to sit down and relax in your spare time, exercising will improve your symptoms. If you spend thirty minutes daily engaging in an activity that elevates your heart rate, you will notice positive changes in your physical and mental health.

During exercise, chemicals in the brain that reduce pain and boost mood are released, making you feel good.

Reduce Social Media Time

Several studies show social media can be beneficial if done in moderation. Those who spend long periods on social media platforms aggravate mental health symptoms more than those who limit their time online.

Factors associated with higher stress and anxiety and social media include the following:

  • Being worried about how many likes or followers you have
  • Allowing anybody to see your page other than close friends and family
  • Following pages that spread a negative message
  • Being easily distracted by clickbait can lead down a destructive path
  • Fearing you will miss out on something important
  • Allowing or engaging in cyber-bullying
  • Feeling jealous of other posts
  • Feeling pressure to keep up with others

If you experience any of the above, talk to your therapist about reducing time on social media.

Take Care of Yourself

The term “self-care” is popular right now and for good reasons. You cannot be great at work, home, school, or socially without meeting your mental and physical needs. Self-care includes participating in activities to improve or maintain good health.

Examples of self-care techniques include taking a yoga class, getting a massage, taking long baths, learning a new hobby, going on an adventure, spending time with friends.

The idea is to make yourself a priority. Doing so will automatically reduce stress and anxiety. Work with your therapist to create a list of mindful activities you can start immediately.

If you don’t already have a mental health team to guide you, call the Mental Health Center. We can connect you with the right providers.