Health & wellbeing

5 instant stress-less strategies

Need some go-to strategies to instantly dial down your stress levels? Here’s a handful of stress management tactics that really work.
Published 27 July, 2023 | Updated 5 April, 2023

Ways to reduce stress levels

Next time you notice your stress levels rising, take action. And don’t worry – you don’t need a lot of time, or highly specialised equipment to combat signs of stress. 

Try these five strategies the next time you want to instantly reduce how stressed out you feel.

1. Create some art

Pull out your pencils or paints and get creative. A 2016 study discovered that engaging in any sort of artistic pursuit for 45 minutes causes your levels of cortisol, a stress hormone, to plummet. Don’t think you’re very artistic? Doesn’t matter! Researchers say cortisol levels fall as a result of having a go at creating art, regardless of artistic talent or how ‘successful’ the end result is.

2. Try the 4-7-8 sleep trick

Too stressed to sleep? A breathing technique, dubbed the ‘4-7-8’ might help. Creator Dr Andrew Weil calls it a natural tranquilliser for the nervous system. Place the tip of your tongue behind your upper front teeth and exhale through your mouth making a ‘whoosh’ sound. Inhale through your nose for a count of four, then hold your breath for seven seconds, then exhale again to the count of eight. Repeat up to four times.

3. Chew some chewing gum

It’s scientifically proven to lower cortisol levels, probably due to the chain reaction that chewing creates, by increasing blood flow to the brain. Researchers say that chewing for just 10 minutes is enough to help you feel less stressed.

4. Get in the garden or outdoors

Having a few plants around the place can help put a stop to soaring stress levels, but for a real stress-relieving hit, get up close and personal. Research proves that the simple act of touching foliage with your fingers triggers a change in brain chemicals that promotes a sense of ‘calm’.

5. Smile more

It might seem like the last thing you feel like doing when you’re stressed, but research proves that when you make a conscious effort to smile in the face of a stressful situation, it reduces your body’s physical stress response. In other words, your heart rate won’t rise as high and your cortisol levels will be lower. The end result? A calmer, less stressed-out you.