3 Expert Techniques to Stop Stress Before It Gets Out of Control

If you're sick and tired of feeling literally sick and tired, turn to these expert-approved tips to learn how to stop stress from developing in the first place.

Feeling stressed to the max can do a number on your body. In the short-term, it can give you headaches, cause upset stomachs, deplete your energy, and screw up your sleep, making you even crankier than before. But in the long-run, it can increase your heart rate and blood pressure, which can cause serious health problems, such as heart attacks and strokes; lead to irritable bowel syndrome; and even make it more difficult to become pregnant, according to the Office on Women's Health.

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Luckily, you're not totally SOL if you have the tendency to become overwhelmed and on edge with every slip up. Here, experts share the three essential tips on how to stop stress from gaining momentum — and even prevent it from developing in the first place.

How to Stop Stress, According to Experts

Cultivate a Positive Mindset

When stress becomes chronic, it can mess with how well your body is able to fight infection. "The effect of stress on the body's production of different types of white blood cells — which normally is protective against disease — is complicated, but can ultimately result in changes in the immune response," says Ellen Epstein, M.D., an allergist-immunologist in Rockville Centre, New York.

If you're now frantically Googling "how to stop stress," here's your answer: Hone the skill of resilience. "Resilience is the ability to deal with stress, and people can develop protective factors to increase it," says Mary Alvord, Ph.D., a psychologist in Maryland who has created resilience-building programs.

One hallmark of being resilient is feeling like you aren't powerless against challenges — even big ones like, say, living in lockdown. "Don't look at this as a loss. Look at this as a different year," says Alvord. "Think about how you can be creative with connecting. Consider that this is giving us an opportunity to think in fresh ways. We don't always have to do the same old things." (

Find Ways to Combine Friends and Fitness

"The research backs that, in so many ways, social support also helps us live longer," says Alvord. Connection is key in being better able to combat stress, adds Dr. Epstein. "We know that movement also helps our mental and physical health," says Alvord. "I tell people to go outside at least once a day to move."

When it comes to ideas on how to stop stress, Dr. Epstein recommends socializing and exercising regularly. "Just set a daily routine," she says. If you can't meet up, use Zoom or Facebook. If you can't go to the gym, stream workout videos together.

Prioritize Self-Care

Simple basics like a good night's sleep, drinking water throughout the day, and intentional muscle relaxation are key steps in being resilient against stress.

"People who don't sleep well have much higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol," says Brian A. Smart, M.D., an immunology specialist in Illinois. "And if you're chronically dehydrated, it's another source of stress on the body since cortisol levels may be higher as a result."

Wondering how to stop stress in the middle of a hectic workday? For an afternoon reset, try progressive muscle relaxation: One by one, tense each muscle group as tight as you can, then release it. "You'll learn the difference between what your muscles feel like when they're tense versus relaxed, and it also releases tension," says Alvord. And while you're at it, chug some water.

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