5 Decisions That Dramatically Cut Your Stress

Medically Reviewed by Arefa Cassoobhoy, MD, MPH on March 24, 2023
3 min read

We all have our own ways of dealing with everyday stress, like getting a little more sleep, working out, or maybe even just blowing off some steam with friends. Stress can make you miserable, but it’s usually manageable.

But when it’s not, it can build up and become more than you can handle. When it becomes chronic stress, it can do real harm to your body, and cause emotional and physical problems, including:

All of these stress-related problems can, in turn, make you withdraw socially and maybe try to cope through drugs, alcohol, and overeating -- all of which cause their own serious complications.

If you’re at a point where stress is wreaking this much havoc in your life, it’s time for some major changes. Of course, change itself is stressful, so it won’t be easy. But it is necessary.

When a trip to the gym or another hour of sleep won’t cut it, here are 5 ways to reboot your life and seriously reduce your stress.

This is a big change, and yes, it’s easier said than done. But the workplace is the biggest source of stress for Americans. If your job is causing you mental and physical harm, you should take the leap and find a new one if the problems at work simply can't be fixed.

Yes, you can (and should) first try to make adjustments in your job to cut stress. But when that doesn’t work, the best course of action may be to leave.

Whether the problem is a commute that’s too long, a boss that’s terrible, an out-of-control workload, or too little money, a new job might be the only answer. It might create more anxiety for a while, but in the long run it’ll be worth it.

When you’re stressed out, adding something new to your life might seem impossible. But there’s a big case for exercise as a stress reducer. It makes your body produce endorphins (“feel-good hormones”), boosts your mood, and makes you concentrate on physical movement instead of on daily worries.

If hard-core cardio workouts aren’t your thing, yoga and tai chi -- any kind of exercise, really -- will have the same effect. Just make it a regular part of your routine instead of a once-in-a-while thing. If you make a real commitment to getting your body in shape, your mind will follow.

Adults need an average of 7 to 9 hours of sleep a night. If you’re stressed out, you’re most likely getting way less, and it’s probably pretty low-quality sleep. This -- you guessed it -- will cause you to be even more stressed.

So, you need to make a serious commitment to going to bed earlier and getting more restful sleep. Your new yoga or meditation program could do wonders for your sleep. Before bed, wind down by turning off your various devices and reading instead of looking at a screen.

The people you deal with every day have a huge effect on your mood and stress level. If interacting with any given person is creating drama or ongoing stress, you need to figure out how to erase it.

Sometimes this can be as simple as ignoring an annoying co-worker or not taking a nosy neighbor’s calls. But when that toxic person is an old friend or a family member, you’ll have to face it head-on. And you might have to end the relationship in no uncertain terms.

Like many big changes, this could be extremely nerve-wracking, but necessary for your long-term health.

Many of us feel like we have to handle stress on our own. But there’s no shame in getting professional help when stress starts to take a toll on your mental and physical health.

Beyond being a friendly and knowledgeable person to talk to, a therapist can assist you in making the major life changes on this list. A psychologist or counselor can coach you through a career switch, advise you on how to handle toxic people, motivate you to start that exercise routine, and even teach you how to meditate.