Stressed? 4 relaxing strategies to help you manage

Anna Hecht, CNN Underscored
Updated Wed December 13, 2017

Story highlights

  • Believe it or not, there are some stress relief tactics that actually work
  • Here are some tricks, tips and products designed to help you cope

Most everyone deals with stress at one time or another. It can be mild, causing a tinge of daily anxiety, or so intense that it actually manifests itself physically.

According to the National Institute for Mental Health, there are different types of stress which can affect us mentally and physically, and these stressors can be long- or short-term, so their effect on health can vary greatly from person to person.

Stress has been proven to carry serious risks, and its effects tend to build up over time. The NIMH has suggestions for tactics to manage stress, and we've listed some products that may help you alleviate and cope with stress.

1. Recognize the signs

Which habits do you turn to when you're feeling stressed out? Maybe it's drinking, snacking or another indulgence of choice. It could also be that you notice you're sleeping less, feeling angry or have low energy.

When stress triggers us to act out, we should recognize those behaviors for what they are. This makes it a lot easier to know when we should shift our behavior to practice self-care and address our triggers head on.

In order to keep track of your daily routine and assess when you're reacting to tense situations and circumstances, we'd recommend keeping a journal. That makes it easier to recognize what triggers our responses.

When you shop for a dedicated journal, look for one that you like using -- since realistically, you'll be using it on a regular basis. One option is this Knock Knock journal ($12.87; amazon.com), which has a reassuring quote on the front and inspiring quotes inside.

2. Get regular exercise

It's no secret that exercise can help relieve built-up anxiety, depression and stress. But sometimes, when you're feeling stressed, your energy is low and the motivation to hit the gym is nowhere to be found.

Sometimes new workout gear can help perk up your desire to put in the time. We'd suggest a new gym bag, such as this top-rated TLS Companion Duffel ($59.99; ebags.com). Since you'll likely use it daily, we'd consider it a worthy investment.

Another purchase that might motivate you to work out would be a fitness tracker. It's a great way to see how far you've come, and knowing that could keep you from quitting or slacking off. We'd suggest this Amazon best-selling Fitbit tracker ($59.95; amazon.com). For runners, these are our favorite distance trackers.

If that still isn't enough to motivate you, there is a lot of great literature out there on gym motivation. For those looking to ease into a less intense workout routine, there's "Walking for Fitness" (starting at $9.99; amazon.com), which has training programs inside. Then, if you don't have a specific style of working out in mind and you want to focus solely on the motivational side of things, take a turn through "No Sweat: How the Simple Science of Motivation Can Bring You a Lifetime of Fitness" ($13.78, amazon.com). The author, Michelle Segar, walks you through a step-by-step process of staying motivated to exercise and enjoying it.

3. Try a relaxing (and maintainable) activity

The opposite of tense? Relaxed. And that is most definitely the state of mind we want to achieve when experiencing stress.

We all know what we're suppposed to do when we're wound tight. But do we actually do those things? Not always. The usual "Take a walk around the park" or "Meditate for 20 minutes" advice can seem so unnatural to our typical routines that we won't put in the time to give those a try.

The key, we think, has to do with trying out new strategies that won't completely flip our days upside down. Instead, by choosing to take up new habits that fit nicely into our already established routines, we're setting ourselves up for greater stress management success. For instance, think of all the hours you spend per week at your desk. Next time you're feeling on edge, why not try flexing a stress ball in your hand while answering emails or taking a conference call. This simple practice can be done without totally disrupting your day and therefore, it seems like a more realistic approach to handling anxiety.

This option, a Serenilite stress ball ($10.99; amazon.com), comes in several colors. It's designed to help with stress and strength and has therapeutic benefits for those with poor circulation.

For other small fidgety finds that provide a similar release, we'd also recommend trying the or the popular Official Anti-Anxiety 360 Spinner ($5.99; amazon.com), which comes with an ebook.

4. Set goals and priorities

Finally, there's something about setting goals that can help alleviate stress related to feeling lost or unfocused in life. On both a personal and professional level, it's important to take action and work toward what you want most. For many people, feeling as though they have a path and direction in life makes all the difference.

And so, we'd suggest shopping a few helpful products designed to keep you on track. For one, a planner is a great idea when prioritizing your days. This one, the Goals Planner by Progressive Planners ($19.95; amazon.com), comes with features that organize your long- and short-term goal-setting process. Inside, you'll find a 12-month schedule, inspirational quotes, space for monthly reviews and more.

Beyond that, we'd recommend keeping a book on hand that truly speaks to you. If you're looking to build confidence and overcome fear, check out these best-selling books: "The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom" by Don Miguel Ruiz ($7.79; amazon.com) or "The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck" by Mark Manson ($10.57; amazon.com).

These reads fall under the "motivational self-help" genre on Amazon, where both received 4-star ratings or higher from thousands of satisfied readers.

Note: Prices above reflect the retailer's listed price at time of publication.