These simple strategies can help you keep your cool when you feel stressed to the max.

By By Ysolt Usigan
April 20, 2012
Photo: Shutterstock

Whenever you ask someone how they're doing, it's common to hear two things: "Good" and "Busy...stressed." In today's society, it's almost like a badge of honor-to feel like there's so much on your plate that you might crack at any minute.

But that kind of stress doesn't work well for everyone. "Some people handle stress well, but for others it can be devastating," says Margaux J. Rathbun, certified nutritional therapy practitioner and creator of Authentic Self Wellness. "Stress can cause fatigue, chronic headaches, irritability, changes in appetite, memory loss, low self-esteem, withdrawal, teeth grinding, even cold hands. All of these symptoms can have an extremely negative effect on your quality of life, health, and can ultimately lead to a shorter life span." (Related: How Your Mental Health Can Affect Your Digestion.)

To help you reduce stress and improve your life, follow these expert-backed tips today.

1. Drink tea

"Chamomile tea is a gentle relaxant that acts as a nerve tonic and a sleeping aid," says Rathbun. "If you experience a long day and can't seem to calm down, brew yourself a nice cup of chamomile tea with some added honey for a boost of nutrients." While you're at it, stay away from coffee if your mental health has gone a little haywire. Caffeine can contribute to nervousness and mood swings, says Rathbun, so you may want to lay off that three-cups-a-day strategy until you're feeling more like yourself. (Related: The Truth About Detox Tea Cleanses.)

2. Avoid processed foods

Processed foods like artificial sweeteners, soft drinks, fried foods, fast food, sugar, white flour products, and preservatives can create stress on the digestive system, says Rathbun. Instead, it's best to focus on fitting in as many whole, nutrient-dense foods as you can. Bonus: Grab these stress-reducing foods next time you hit the grocery store to pull double-duty.

3. Eat ginger

"The next time you are feeling stressed or tired, reach for some ginger-there is nothing like a little spice to perk you up," says Rathbun. Seriously: Because it works to improve blood circulation and blood sugar levels, consuming ginger-be it through a creative dinner recipe or a healthy juice shot-can reduce fatigue. (Related: You Can Also Score These Health Benefits From Ginger.)

4. Add flaxseed oil to your smoothie

Flaxseed oil has been found to help improve moods and boost brain function, says Rathbun, which is why she adds it to her morning smoothies. (Need smoothie ideas? Try These 8 Fruit-Based Recipes.) Plus, it provides a boost of omega-3 fatty acids. Look for a brand that's been cold-expeller pressed, which Rathbun says keeps all the mood-boosting nutrients you want in tact. Her favorite: Barleans Organic Flax Oil.

5. Just breathe

Janel Ovrut Funk, a Boston-based registered dietitian and blogger of, suggests breathing exercises to help reduce stress. "You can do it anytime, and anywhere-when you're stuck in traffic, working on a massive project, or plowing through an extra-long to-do list," she says. "Deep breathing instantly calms you down, and sometimes imagining that you're blowing out any stress or negative feelings helps." (These 3 Breathing Exercises for Dealing With Stress Can Be Particularly Helpful.)

6. Unplug

That includes your phone, Kindle, tablet, laptop, and TV. "While these are all great inventions, they make us feel like we always have to be plugged in, responding to messages as soon as we receive them, or browsing the Twitter/Instagram/Pinterest/Facebook updates," says Ovrut Funk. "Even unplugging for 30 minutes a day can help reduce stress." (Did You Know There Are Perks to Going Unplugged During Your Workout?)

7. Get moving

"[Exercising] sounds counterintuitive since it's the opposite of relaxing, but I find working up a good sweat helps me sleep deeper and feel more relaxed at night," says Ovrut Funk. "Even a few stretches before bed can help you relax and fall asleep quicker." She's right: Research shows that exercise can help you reduce stress, so try these 7 Cardio HIIT Exercises That Burn Fat and Reduce Stress or these 7 Chill Yoga Poses before you hit the hay.

8. Take a day off

Taking a personal day or even a half day can do wonders to reduce stress. "Giving yourself an occasional day off-particularly a weekday-helps clear up room to really relax on the weekend," says Katie Clark, a registered dietitian in San Diego and blogger of "How often do you find yourself clamoring to get everything done in a weekend and before you know it, it's Monday morning again? An occasional day or half-day off gives you an opportunity to get some of your personal errands and tasks out of the way so you can truly relax on the weekend."