Reducing stress

Revitalizing acts of rejuvenating splendor.

Sometimes it seems like no matter what we do, stressful situations have a way of finding us. But, it’s important to remind ourselves that experiencing stress isn’t always a bad thing.

Everyone experiences stress. Small amounts of stress can be helpful to motivate you, but long-term (chronic) stress can have serious consequences for your health and well-being. Preventing long-term stress can help to lower your risk for heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, obesity, depression and anxiety.

Learning to notice when you feel stressed, and to anticipate and prepare for events that can increase your stress, is a great step towards managing and reducing stress. That way, even if the situation doesn’t change, you’ll be in a better position to handle it.

If you think you could be doing more to reduce stress, you’re not alone. 50% of Manitobans believe they aren’t doing enough or could be doing more when it comes to managing their stress (Doctors Manitoba 2023 survey). Below you will find suggestions from doctors about simple steps you can take.

Getting started

  • Talk to someone you can trust. Family or friends can help validate how you’re feeling, reframe your thoughts, and work towards positive solutions.

  • Try relaxation techniques, meditation, mindfulness, or deep breathing, which can help lower your stress levels. 

  • Connect with others. Get together with friends and family, join a club or class, or consider volunteering.

  • Try avoiding or reducing alcohol, smoking tobacco or marijuana. They may seem like they lower stress in the short-term, but your body can rebound to a more stressful state later.

  • Give yourself time for you every day, even just 10 minutes for a hobby, relaxation or to get outside.

  • Enjoy nature. People who spend 2 hours a week in nature report significantly improved health and well-being.

  • Practice gratitude. People who intentionally take time to think about the people and things in their life they’re thankful for can handle stress easier.

  • Plan ahead. Prioritize tasks to do first, but also cut yourself some slack. Try talking to yourself like you would speak to a friend, with kindness and understanding.

  • Try starting a journal. It’s a good way to help you download your worries.

  • Turn your screens off and take a break from social media. Scrolling may seem like​“relaxing time” but instead of helping you cope, it prevents you from dealing with the situation, adding to your stress.

  • It’s ok to ask for help. People around you may not know how stressed you are or what you need unless you ask. And most likely, they’ll want to help.

  • Practice saying no. Commonly people say yes when they mean no to make others around them feel happy or to avoid conflict. Deciding on your boundaries and learning to protect them can help keep your stress low.

  • Connect to your spiritual side. A greater purpose, and connection to a higher power can reframe your life and reduce your stress.

  • You may have access to an Employee Assistance Program through your employer. Speak to your human resources department to find out what services are available to you.

When to call a doctor

Sometimes stress can become overwhelming and it could be important to talk to a doctor. Some of the reasons include:

  • Ongoing stress getting in the way of your work or school, or if you are unable to cope with everyday life.

  • You are having trouble sleeping, your appetite changes, or other physical symptoms that could be the result of chronic stress.

  • You find yourself withdrawn from friends and family.

  • You are finding unhealthy ways to cope, such as relying on drugs or alcohol to make it through the day.

  • If you’re feeling like your stress is too hard to manage, or you feel out of control, anxious all the time, sad, guilty or hopeless most of the time, can’t sleep or eat or you have thoughts about dying.

Key takeaways

  • Even just 10 minutes for a hobby, relaxation or time to get outside can make a difference.

  • It’s ok to ask for help from friends and family, your workplace human resources department and your doctor.

  • There are a number of free resources online to help people manage stress and anxiety.