If you’ve searched for “ways to relieve stress” online, you may have found a lot of general advice like “try to sleep more” or “exercise regularly” and “eat healthy.” While these are great things to do every day, I discovered that when I tried to help a very busy client reduce their stress levels, this simple advice didn’t really help them. In fact, it got worse.
For this reason, instead of giving you general advice, I will give you 7 practical strategies that reduce stress immediately and can be implemented in your daily routine without taking too much precious time.
Reducing Physical Stress
1. Manage blood sugar levels
When we eat foods or drinks that contain sugars (20 grams or more) or carbohydrates with a high glycemic index (such as white rice, bread or potatoes), we quickly witness an energy explosion. This is because our blood sugar levels increase. When this happens, the pancreas produces the hormone insulin, which in turn lowers blood sugar levels by storing our nutrients in the bloodstream, whether in our fat cells, muscles or liver. This process leads to a “spin” in our energy levels, as well as when blood sugar levels drop, we are hungry and craved. 
These highs and decreases in blood sugar have been linked to increased pressure. It’s easy to see that when we have a stressful day, fatigue and hunger suddenly won’t disappear our stress levels. On the contrary, in fact, fatigue and eating disorders are obvious symptoms of stress.
In the book “12 Rules of Life”, Dr. Jordan B. Peterson Cave, when he treats patients with stress and depression, always describes them as changing breakfasts and lunches with low-carb options such as eggs, meat and fish. Dr Peterson says this small trick is often as effective as prescription drugs. In fact, most patients will not need prescribed medications and will simply improve because they have settled in blood sugar levels during the most stressful part of the day.
If you’re used to a carbohydrate-rich breakfast such as yogurt, cereal, or coffee with milk or fruit juices, try replacing it with scrambled eggs, bacon, cheese, or steaks. You can do the same for your lunch by eating meat or fish with some vegetables. This small hacking will allow you to have a more stable energy level throughout the working day, in addition, it will give you a feeling of fullness. Reducing hunger and fatigue will definitely help you reduce stress.
2. Drink more water
Drinking water has many health benefits, but when it comes to reducing stress, the most prominent is:
- Improve brain function
- Improving energy in general
- Reduce cravings
A well-watered body allows you to think more clearly and quickly and do more because you won’t feel too tired. Most biochemical processes that occur within the brain require water and minerals. Maintaining constant moisture will improve your brain’s functions and help you do your job better.
Having a lot of things to do, yet feeling unproductive is a big cause of tension between busy people. Something as simple as having a refillable water bottle always with you and drinking every five minutes can have a positive effect on stress levels, health and performance.
3. Exercise the same day / time each week
I have already said that physical exercise has shown that it reduces stress levels (although it is the same metabolic stress) I also said that when you are already stressed, and with little time it can actually have the opposite effect and increase your stress levels.
Spending a specific day and time each week dedicated to exercise (preferably in the morning, before meetings, and calls begin to interrupt your day) is essential if you want to reduce stress.
One of the most useful tricks is to reserve the time blocks that you want to dedicate to practice one or two weeks in advance, before booking business meetings and social events. By doing this, you can accomplish two very important things that will reduce your stress levels:
- Be more consistent with your workout (since you’ll be less skipping your sessions once you book in the early hours of the morning)
- Get rid of the idea that “you still have to exercise” from your head, so you don’t have to think of ways to squeeze your workout for one hour during an already full day’s work. The less stressful thoughts you have in your head, the lower your stress levels.
4. Sleep after your circadian rhythm
We all know that sleep is critical when it comes to dealing with stress. What you may not know is that everyone can benefit from sleeping and waking up at different times.
In the book Why Sleep, Dr. Matthew Walkers notes that some people benefit from the usual sleep pattern (usually from 10 pm to 6 am) while others enjoy better sleep when sleeping late at night. Night and wake up late in the morning (1-2 am to 10 am). This phenomenon is due to the tendency of the body to follow the circadian rhythms (mainly the natural clock affected by the movement of the Earth).
Dr. Walkers noted that when the last group of people had a typical 9-5 function, they were more prone to stress and were more likely to develop conditions such as depression and neurodegenerative diseases.
If you’re an early morning fan, wake up early at 5 a.m. Go to bed at 9 pm This is probably good for your health and will definitely reduce your stress levels, as you will have some extra time tomorrow for your workout or to move forward on your to-do list.
If you are a nocturnal animal and have difficulty falling asleep before midnight, you should try to get at least three sleep time (when you wake up after 9 am) every week. This can be done by taking some late shifts at work and not booking early activities during the weekend.
Reduce emotional stress
Before exploring my favorite ways to relieve stress, I must emphasize the fact that physical stress must be addressed first. This is because emotional stress is often due to interaction with other people or situations outside our control.
You may experience emotional stress because your boss is putting pressure on you or because you have some stress in your relationship. You may also be stressed because you’re worried about things you can’t do much (such as someone else’s health or economy).
Emotional stress is often outside your control area, while physical stress is always a conscious choice that you have complete control over. Simply, you can not change the economy, but you can certainly exercise, eat well and sleep more.
Now that I’ve made this clear, let’s move on to my favorite ways to relieve stress.
5. Plan your week carefully on Sunday night
The only thing that will help you control and reduce stress after taking care of your health is “improving productivity.”
Being able to do more in less time can help you stop feeling tired and let you find some extra time for activities that reduce stress, such as meditation, nature or reading a book. For this reason, spending an hour on a Sunday night to carefully plan your work week, hour by hour, is something you should do. Use this system to increase the effectiveness of this exercise:
- Start by keeping your workout, shopping, and time alone (for any activity not related to the work you want). Give these activities the same priority you would give to a business meeting.
- Once you’ve made a reservation, review your task list and prioritize different sounds, from most important to least important. Book accordingly.
- Be sure to book the least important activities later in the week, so you can reduce the stress burden of the most demanding tasks before you begin to evolve.
- Last but not least, book your bedtime. This may sound fun, but you’re likely to check your calendar more than 20 times a day. Seeing a block of time called “sleep” at a specific moment in your calendar will automatically tell your mind to be ready to sleep at that time.
6. Book large chunks of time just for your most demanding projects
Another critical factor in reducing stress is the avoidance of distractions. Phone notifications, emails, phone calls, and interactions with people can completely interrupt the flow when you’re on a tedious task.
Multiple studies confirm this. Distractions do not only eat time during distraction. They obstruct their mental progress until half an hour later (ie no other distraction appears in that half hour). In other words, those “30 seconds to check Twitter” are not just 30 seconds down the drain; it’s 25 minutes and 30 seconds.
All these deviations not only impair productivity, but also have negative emotional effects. Research has shown that distraction can generate more stress, bad mood and lower productivity.
In Deep Work, Cal Newport explains how the best thinkers in history usually had to isolate themselves for hours (or even days) to fully focus on their most important work. Although you don’t need to move for alternative weeks in a medieval tower without electricity (as Karl Jung used to do), you can certainly find a quiet space where you can indulge in your most stressful tasks.
When you do this, be sure to disable all phone notifications and ask them not to bother you. You will be surprised by the significant impact this exercise has on overall stress levels.
7. Delegate less important tasks
Last but not least, spending time on tasks that you don’t consider important or can be done by someone else can lead to stress. This is due to the fact that he will not devote time to the most important voices in his task list, and thus accumulates emotional stress.
When planning your week, you can spend some time thinking about how to delegate those annoying tasks to a paid professional or someone eager to help you. Don’t be afraid to open your wallet and hire someone like a cleaner or an online assistant. If you get sick due to stress or need a therapist, your bill will be much higher.
Here’s a guide to help you learn the delegate: How to delegate work effectively (step-by-step guide)