stress affects physical and mental health

Reduce Stress to Improve Physical Health:

Stress relief is vital for maintaining overall health and well-being, as chronic stress can have debilitating effects on both the mind and body. Persistent stress is linked to numerous health issues, including heart disease, hypertension, depression, and weakened immune function.

Stress triggers secretion of cortisol and adrenaline, affecting our bodily functions, like digestion. Severe stress can suppress appetite however cortisol can increase cravings of fats and sugar-rich foods. Chronic high stress, high cortisol release, and high sugar consumption increases risk of fat build-up around vital organs, thus leading to medical issues like heart disease. Exercise and colorful fruits and vegetables can help offset some of the processes induced by stress.

Stress can tense up muscles, resulting in headaches, backaches, and fatigue. Consider incorporating stretches, massages, or warm baths in your daily schedule to loosen muscle tension. Progressive muscle relaxation is simple and proven exercise to relieve stress, and involves tensing and relaxing each muscle group throughout your body while lying down and taking deep breaths.

Stress during the day can disrupt nighttime sleep, including inducing nightmares. Stay consistent with nightly routines and a sleep schedule. Allow yourself time to unwind, adjust to the lighting, and feel tired before entering bed. Meditation can help relax your body and mind before sleep. Exercise during the day can also be helpful for sleep, even if it’s a 30 minute walk outside or dancing session at home. Avoid looking at screens, as the blue light emitted can hinder melatonin production, avoid alcohol, and avoid coffee several hours before bed time.

Daily Habits to Decrease Stress:

Your perception of a stressor influences how you respond to it. Assess whether you can modify the stress-causing situation by delegating tasks, adjusting expectations, or seeking support, to help manage your stress levels.

  • Reframe your thoughts by exploring worst case scenarios and best case scenarios, evaluate your expectations and reality, and consider accepting what you cannot change. These strategies are important as thoughts have the power to influence behavior and mood.
  • Meditation is a growing technique used to combat anxiety and stress. Meditation does not need to take a long time. Simply dedicate 5 minutes out of your day to sit in quiet and take deep, mindful breaths. Focus on your breath, nonjudgmentally, in the present moment.
  • Take yourself to a green environment or scenic natural setting (e.g. forest, mountains, beach, river, lake), as it has been shown to improve mood and reduce stress. Sometimes looking at trees, flowers, and wildlife in nature can be calming.
  • Do something nice and pleasurable for yourself such as reading a novel or attending a local comedy show or watching music videos online. Life can get overwhelming. You don’t have to earn or deserve an enjoyable moment. Give yourself permission to let go of tension through pleasurable activities. You may even be more productive afterward.
  • Social support mitigates the impact of stress by boosting resilience. Before facing a stressor, take some time to strategize who you may contact in your social network for specific needs. Identify who is a good listener, advice giver, solution generator, practical helps, etc. Sometimes supporting others can also increase positive feelings and decrease negative feelings.

American Psychological Association (Thorn, 2023)

stress relief strategies

Quick Tips for Stress Relief:

1. Refrain from using drugs and alcohol,

2. Fuel your body with a nutritious diet

3. Engage in regular physical activity to promote overall well-being and resilience

4. Relax your muscles to release built-up tension using meditation, deep breathing, yoga, or swimming

5. Engage in prayer or connect with the natural world (e.g. spending time out of the city)1. Develop a relaxation routine

6. Take regular breaks. If your schedule gets busy, schedule your break during the day

7. Stay connected with your support system including friends, family, counselors, doctors, etc.

8. Aim to keep your same routine every day, including when you sleep and wake up

9. Contribute to a cause you believe in through volunteerism and community service

10. Commit to doing something small every day, whether that’s exercising, adding new songs to a playlist, cleaning your room, calling a friend, or dancing to your favorite music

11. Identify a friend who can help you stay motivated and committed to your goals. Sometimes it helps to do fun activities with a friend, such as going to the gym.

(Wale, n.d.; ADAA, n.d.)

For daily or chronic stress, it’s important to seek professional help. At PCI, we specialize in stress relief strategies and burn-out prevention. Our clinicians can help you understand your triggers and recognize core issues contributing to your distress. Read more about our programs to learn about our flexible treatment, or contact us now to speak with a care coordinator.


1. Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA). (n.d.). Tips and strategies to manage anxiety and stress. Anxiety and Depression Association of America.

2. Thorn, B. (2023, October 31). Healthy ways to handle life’s stressors. Psychology Topics.

3. Wale, J. (n.d.). 7 tips to avoid stress. NYC Health + Hospitals.

4. Toussaint, L., Nguyen, Q. A., Roettger, C., Dixon, K., Offenbächer, M., Kohls, N., Hirsch, J., & Sirois, F. (2021). Effectiveness of Progressive Muscle Relaxation, Deep Breathing, and Guided Imagery in Promoting Psychological and Physiological States of Relaxation. Evidence-based complementary and alternative medicine : eCAM, 2021, 5924040.