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5 Simple Tips to Manage Stress

By John Leyva / April 7, 2018

We all know that stress can build up quickly and cause health problems ranging from decreased energy levels to impeding weight loss.

The good news is that ultimately stress comes from within and we can take specific steps to help manage stress. When the world feels like it’s caving in on you, these 5 tips can go a long way toward helping you relax, find some inner peace, and improve your health and well-being.

A few of the following 5 tips to manage stress are easy to implement, whereas others may take a little bit more planning. At the end of the day, the more you can incorporate into your life, the better your odds of managing stress for the long-term.

1. Switch out Coffee for Green Tea

Both contain caffeine (allowing for a release of cortisol), but green tea also has an amino acid theanine, which is the precursor to the calming neurotransmitter, GABA. In other words, not only will you have a small energy boost, but you should also have an increased calming effect from drinking green tea over coffee.1

2. Deep Breathing

Taking 10 Deep Breathes helps stimulate a nerve that connects to the calming centers in your brain. Typically, taking 10 breathes at a rate of 4-5 seconds in, holding for 4-8 seconds and breathing out for 5-10 seconds can stimulate that nerve and cause an overall calming effect.2

3. Workout Consistently

Working out helps to both control the increased inflammation from stress while also helping to improve your cell’s receptors for both insulin and leptin. In addition, working out helps to burn all of the extra fatty acids released from cortisol’s release. 3 If you can’t get a full workout in when stressed, sometimes going for a walk will help to burn off some energy and clear out your thoughts. Every little bit helps.

4. Be Prepared with Healthy Food

The easiest way to control your blood sugar, especially when you’re overly stressed, is to have healthy food and snacks ready to go on a moment’s notice. By doing so, you help to break the insulin/cortisol cycle while helping regulate your brain’s neurotransmitters. By controlling your brain’s neurotransmitters, you allow your body the opportunity to better control your stress over the long-run. Typically, meats and protein-rich foods help to form the foundation of dopamine and acetylcholine (attention and focus) neurotransmitters, while healthy sources of carbs, such as fruits, vegetables and sweet potatoes help to create serotonin, which has a calming effect.

5. Start a Grateful Log

Recent research has shown very positive results with starting a Grateful Log. A grateful log is relatively easy to do and simply requires you write down 5 things you’re grateful for, every day. By doing so, you allow yourself focus on the positive in your life, which helps to lower your overall stress levels and realize you might not have it “too bad.” You can start with things, such as your health, the ability to see, your family, a roof over your head, access to this article 😉 and anything else you can think of. Try not to repeat anything for two weeks straight and you might start seeing that “I have it pretty good.”

At the end of the day, these are 5 suggestions that have been shown to help decrease stress levels, but what’s more important is finding something that helps you to relax and control your stress levels.

Hope you enjoyed the article and were able to learn something that you can apply to your own life.

Do you have any tips that help you manage stress? Leave a comment!

Show 3 References

  1. Shilo L, Sabbah H, Hadari R, Kovatz S, Weinberg U, Dolev S, Dagan Y, Shenkman L. The effects of coffee consumption on sleep and melatonin secretion . Sleep Med. May;3(3):271-3. 2002.
  2. Hayama Y, Inoue T. The effects of deep breathing on ‘tension-anxiety’ and fatigue in cancer patients undergoing adjuvant chemotherapy . NCBI. 2012 May; 18(2):94-8.2011.
  3. Sharma A, Madaan V, Petty, F. Exercise For Mental Health . J Clin Psychiatry. 8(2): 106. 2006.


  • Marc Perry, CSCS, CPT says:

    Hey John, I really like this follow up to your first article about stress. One thing that helps me manage stress is cleaning my apartment. If things are all over the place, it stresses me out, even if I don't realize it. Same goes for my desk/workstation; cleaning up papers etc. makes me feel a lot better.

  • uncadonego says:

    Thanks for the helpful tips. I've noticed that since I've switched to green tea and been working out consistently, and also having healthy foods readily available, my overall outlook has improved like crazy, and I don't get fazed by the little things as much. I'm going to try adding #2 and #5 tips as well. Thanks John!

    • John Leyva says:

      @uncadonego - Glad to hear those things are working for you. Let me know how adding the other tips go for you.

  • Patrick says:

    Great article! What is your recommendation for 'repairing' your body's natural diurnal fluctuations of cortisol or just the whole circadian rhythm process in general? In other words if you are already lean and exercise consistently what can you do to quickly get your body back on track and ultimately release yourself from unrelenting grip of caffeine and all of its undesirable adverse effects. Also, is there a specific range of carbs that you recommend staying in or what works for you..do you swear off bread and milk like so many other fitness enthusiasts seem to do? I'm 6'3" and fluctuate at a pretty lean 188-193 and look much more defined if I eat under 200 carbs but find that I am unable to sustain this for a very long duration :/

    • John Leyva says:

      @Patrick - There are a lot of things I can recommend for "repairing" your body's natural diurnal fluctuations, but the most obvious would be three things:
      1 - Try to get to bed earlier, especially during the fall/winter months. Getting more sleep overall will be your best bet for fixing it.
      2 - Make sure you eat breakfast. Intermittent fasting is popular and has shown some results for people, but for those with low cortisol, skipping breakfast can be more problematic. Ensure that your breakfast has a source of healthy carbs (think piece of fruit) with some high quality protein.
      3 - Slowly cut back on your caffeine/coffee intake. Going cold-turkey with regards to caffeine can cause headaches, so ensure that you're drinking enough water and do it slowly. Order a smaller cup of coffee, brew less, etc.

      As for your other question, there are whole books on the subject and I can't recommend what I do because I'm constantly experimenting with my body. Every person is unique when it comes to their carb tolerance. If you look better at a lower carb intake and have issues sustaining the lower carb intake, you may look into two things:
      1 - If you're eating lower carb, higher protein, you also might be eating low fat. If you're doing both low carb and low fat, it will be harder to maintain that eating style over a longer period of time.
      2 - You may also consider carb-cycling, with a couple days of higher carb (usually spaced 2-3 days away from each other on days when you will be having a harder workout) with lower carbs the other days of the week. This is more advanced way of eating than most people would need, but in your case (with increased knowledge of how your body is reacting to specific carb intakes), it may be worth looking into.

  • maria says:

    thanks a lot for the article from Spain. I found it very useful. I think you should add some music and dancing for women. I wonder if it also works for boys?

  • Fran Sterling says:

    For me the trick is I had to first bring to my own awareness how often I was caught up in thinking and emotions. I checked in every hour to see how far into that world I was, noticing it. My path was to find a spiritual teacher who finally revealed how to come instantly into the present moment rather than simply talk about it. Once I "exercised" noticing and being aware I was not present, I took one minute to bring myself fully here with my pen, my breath, my fork and then returned to what I was doing. After awhile I was able to come into that quiet place at anytime, even during stressful times. It became the difference of managing my stress vs. resolving the stress in my body. Now I can be present without stopping as you have suggested. Present with the movement of each exercise and each breath to sustain a weight. Thanks for your great articles and the jump start in my 60's to begin a weight training/strengthening program. I love that you change up and evolve with everything you are doing and pass the info onto us!

    • Kristin Rooke, CPT says:

      Thanks for sharing your experiences! It sounds like you've discovered a really effective technique to manage your stress and focus on the present moment. I'm glad to hear we've inspired you to start a strength program, and that you're gaining value from our content. Keep us posted on your progress!

      -Kristin, BuiltLean Coach & Managing Editor

  • Jillian says:

    Listening to music and singing in my car everyday, on my way to and from work, is a great natural stress reliever. Some days I rock out and some days I listen to classical music.

    • Kristin Rooke, CPT says:

      That's awesome! Music is definitely a fantastic tool for managing stress, and it sounds like you've found ways to make music work for various situations and moods. Thanks for sharing!
      -Kristin, BuiltLean Coach & Managing Editor