To manage stress, relax your mind and body

Try these techniques for relieving anxiety, depression, and sleep problems

Relaxed man in outdoor setting


This content is provided to Johns Hopkins employees through a partnership with Aetna Resources for Living.

Take a deep breath. Hold it for a moment, and then exhale. Feel more relaxed? Being relaxed—and breathing exercises are but one way to move you to that state—can help ease stress. It can also relieve anxiety, depression, and sleep problems.

The best way to manage your stress is to learn healthy coping strategies. You can start practicing these tips right away. Try one or two until you find a few that work for you. Practice these techniques until they become habits you turn to when you feel stress.

Ways to relax your mind

Write. Take 10 to 15 minutes a day to write about stressful events and how they made you feel. This process can help you find what may be causing your stress and how much of it you feel. Knowing the cause can help you find better ways to cope.

Let your feelings out. Talk, laugh, cry, and express anger when necessary. Sharing your feelings with friends, family, a counselor, or a member of the clergy is a healthy way to relieve stress.

Do something you enjoy. You may feel that you are too busy, but making time to do something you enjoy can help you relax. It might also help you get more done in other areas of your life. Try:

  • A hobby, such as gardening
  • A creative activity, such as writing, crafts, or art
  • Playing with and caring for pets
  • Volunteer work

Focus on the present. Meditation and guided imagery are two ways to focus and relax your mind.

  • When you meditate, you focus your attention on things that are happening right now. Paying attention to your breathing is one way to focus. Mindfulness-based stress reduction is one form of meditation that is very helpful with managing stress and learning how to better cope with it.
  • With guided imagery, you imagine yourself in a setting that helps you feel calm and relaxed. You can use audiotapes, books, or a teacher to guide you.

Ways to relax your body

Exercise. Regular exercise is one of the best ways to manage stress. Walking is a great way to get started. Even everyday activities such as housecleaning or yard work can reduce stress. Stretching can also relieve muscle tension.

Try techniques to relax. Breathing exercises, muscle relaxation, and yoga can help relieve stress.

  • Breathing exercises include roll breathing, a type of deep breathing.
  • Progressive muscle relaxation is a technique that reduces muscle tension. You do it by relaxing separate groups of muscles one by one.
  • Yoga, tai chi, and qi gong combine exercise and meditation, and you can do them all at home. You may need some training at first to learn them. Books and videos can be helpful.

To view short videos on the relaxation techniques outlined above, go to Resources for Living; username: JHU, password: JHU.

For additional support, read the articles "Resources at Hopkins to manage your stress" and "Feeling stressed? Check out these webinars".

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