Effective stress management helps you break the hold stress has on your life, so you can be happier, healthier, and more productive.

We cannot control external stressors that come into our life, but we have an influence on how we deal with stress.

The ultimate goal is a balanced life, with time for work, relationships, relaxation, and fun—and the resilience to hold up under pressure and meet challenges head on.

But stress management is not one-size-fits-all.

That’s why it’s essential to experiment and find out what works best for you.

Here are 8 effective activities for better stress management.

1. Get clear on your stress triggers

The foundation for stress management is first acknowledging and managing your stress triggers.

How much stress are you really dealing with?

What is causing it? Are you more stressed in the morning?

When you first wake up? Before lunch? After dinner?

Before heading to bed?

Do you feel stressed during these times?

While these days it’s often said that the biggest source of stress is work (especially when you work too many hours or are overworked), research has shown that long-term stress and anxiety can start much earlier in life. Many studies have shown that children can be stressed for very basic reasons, like how to make a friend, knowing that the lunch line is about to close, or fighting over toys at playtime.

2. Compartmentalize your life

“Trying to tackle too many things at once means you may not be able to prioritize,” says Daniel Sullivan, PhD, a clinical psychologist in London, Ont., and associate professor at the University of Toronto. “That’s because the high levels of activity and change involved in multitasking cause you to mentally switch from one thing to another.” And those mental switches can result in brain cells being burned when there’s no physical movement.

Instead, take small steps and focus on one goal at a time. “If you don’t feel like tackling your to-do list, you probably have other priorities,” says Sullivan. “Even better, be happy about what you’re doing. Spend time with family and friends. Take in a peaceful view of nature. Keep going even when you don’t feel like it.

3. Change your perspective

Many of us are so conditioned to feeling stressed that we don’t really know how to cope with it. And that’s dangerous: A primary cause of stress is not knowing how to deal with it. Instead of seeing stress as something that must be controlled, we should work to learn how to react to it instead.

As you form a perspective on something, consider how it will fit into the overall picture or the bigger picture in real life. Seeing the bigger picture helps us to assess things more clearly, as if we see a maze from above rather than from the ground.

4. Make time for relaxation and fun

Dealing with stress is easier when you have someplace peaceful and relaxing to go.

Whether it’s in a local café, an arts and crafts store, or in a room with a jacuzzi, you can escape the daily bustle for a bit.

Eat mindfully. Mindful eating means you’re focused on your food—and not on your problems. While you’re eating, notice how the food feels in your mouth, smell it, taste it.

The more you pay attention to food, the more likely you are to not only taste it, but enjoy it. Also, eat mindfully to avoid mindless eating.

Do what you love. What’s the point of being a successful professional if you’re not fulfilled? To make sure you’re getting what you need to feel satisfied, start by finding your passion. Passion is an instinctive response to the unique world around us and the people in it.

Get enough sleep. Being chronically tired makes you less productive and less likely to get things done.

5. Watch out for your health

“Stress is the number one cause of heart disease and one of the primary risk factors for suicide,” says Ronald M. Harwood, M.D., chair of the American College of Cardiology’s Society of Cardiovascular Patient Care Advisory Board. “Because stress can cause physiological changes that lead to illness, individuals who have been diagnosed with a heart condition should avoid stressful activities that can lead to additional health complications.”

Maintaining a healthy lifestyle will help your body better deal with stress. That’s why it’s important to practice healthy eating habits, get plenty of sleep, and exercise.

Keep an eye on your blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and blood sugar levels, and speak with your doctor if you have any symptoms of stress or high blood pressure.

6. Keep physically active

Stress increases your risk of getting sick and even pre-mature death. It can also increase your risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease and diabetes.

Staying physically active is the most effective way to manage stress and improve overall health and well-being.

Regular exercise is an excellent way to reduce your stress, improve your mood, and boost your energy. Keeping a journal is one of the simplest ways to assess your stress levels.

You can record your thoughts and feelings in simple words, or use your full vocabulary. A journal can help you to organize and clarify your thoughts so that you can respond more effectively to stressful situations. A journal can also keep you on track to achieve your goals.

7. Practice gratitude and mind-body techniques

Gratitude is one of the easiest ways to relax and make yourself feel better. In fact, it may help to improve your mood when you’re feeling overwhelmed.

Practicing gratitude has been shown to improve happiness, reduce depression, increase resilience, and increase forgiveness and generosity. Mind-body techniques are ways of changing the way you perceive and react to stress.

Meditation is one of the simplest but effective stress management tools. If you find your mind wanders, try focusing on your breathing instead of your worries. According to a research review, meditation has a positive effect on mood, attention span, and memory.

Develop a personal game plan to overcome daily stress It’s vital to set aside time to plan your day.

8. Stress management is not easy, get some help if you need it

If you feel overwhelmed by the world or worried about the future, stress management may seem out of your reach. And that’s not a bad thing—it’s a signal that you’re striving for a better life.

Being overwhelmed by what’s happening around you is a great opportunity for you to reach new levels of strength, happiness, and productivity.

Join a support group. Friends and family can often offer you support, but social support is usually better in smaller doses.

You may also find support in community programs, such as an online support forum, a local meeting, or a group you’ve joined.

You can join my FB Group where I share daily tips, motivations, positive affirmations, and live sessions to help people with stress and emotional eating.

Or better yet, book a quick coffee chat with me, and let’s discuss your stress triggers.

I hope you were able to get a few pointers from this article to help you manage stress effectively!

Keep Smiling!