How to manage stress


Building your toolkit for a positive mindset

One in 5 people in the UK feel stressed more days a month than they don't. But why are we so stressed and more importantly what can be done to manage it? Simple strategies and techniques can make a big difference when it comes to keeping a positive and healthy mindset.

This blog breaks down the common types of stress and offers some tips and strategies to manage it. It will give you a toolkit to turn to and guidance on building a healthy and positive mindset. 

What is stress?

Stress can take many forms and can affect us emotionally, physically, and mentally. It will affect everyone differently at different stages in their life. Experiencing stress may be occasional, frequent, or it may be overwhelming, and it could take form because of your work, financial, health, or relationships, to name a few. It is key to stress here, pardon the pun, that stress can also act as a driving force to motivate and improve your learning. Stress shouldn’t become overwhelming or all consuming and if it is, then action needs to be taken to manage it and take back control. 


What are the main types of stress?

Being aware of what causes stress in your life is really important so you can understand where the stress is coming from and put effective strategies in place to help reduce it. One facet of your life may feel more stressful than others but the most common areas where people often feel high levels of stress include:

Work: According to research by Statistica, 79% of people said they frequently felt stressed because of work.

Finance: 22% cited debt as a stressor in statistics released by

Health: 36% of all adults who reported stress in the previous year cited either their own, a friend or a relative's long-term health condition to cause stress.

What are the affects of too much stress?

Too much stress can lead to feeling depressed or anxious. 51% of adults who felt stressed reported feeling depressed and 61% reported feeling anxious. Consistent stress can also manifest itself physically. The body is not designed to be continuously under threat. When you feel threatened, your nervous system responds by releasing stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol. It’s these hormones which rouse the body ready to take emergency action. They raise your blood pressure, make your heart pound, quicken your breath, tighten your muscles and generally ready the body for emergency action. Over extended periods of time these chemical and physical reactions can cause a whole host of damaging effects on the body. 

So how do we keep stress at bay? Keep reading for some tried and tested methods.

Practicing gratitude

Put simply, practicing gratitude means expressing thanks for everything good in your life; no matter how small it may feel to you. But how does this help reduce stress? And where would you start? You could start by thinking about the people that you value in your life, your personal attributes, your achievements, things you enjoy. It comes down to saying thank you and acknowledging the good that you have received and the role other people play in bringing part of that goodness too.

What is a gratitude journal and what are the benefits?

Establishing a daily routine of writing down what you are grateful for will mean that every day you will be reflecting on the positives. You will also be able to look back at previous expressions of gratitude. Every day, for a dedicated period of time, you will be immersing yourself in thoughts of gratitude which will increase emotions that are positive such as satisfaction, enthusiasm, and hope, thus reducing feelings of stress and anxiety.


How do you keep gratitude journaling daily? 

The first thing to do is to establish a routine for your daily journaling. Choose a time of the day that works best around your schedule and then stick to it. Whether that is during breakfast or part of your night time routine, think about the time that works best for you and then decide how much time is realistic. Even ten minutes is valuable time spent on journaling. Treat yourself to a new journal and pen in your favourite colour to enhance the positive experience.

Movement and time outdoors

Our mental and physical health are very much intertwined - we feel stress both mentally and physically. Headaches and common colds are synonymous with stressful periods in life but stress has also been associated with much more serious illness. 

Jay Shetty, on his podcast On Purpose, has explored scientific ways to reduce stress and one mantra that stands out because of its powerful simplicity and importance is the walk, water, window approach. Jay advocates that by ensuring that you practice this regularly for five minutes every hour that you will keep connected to the outdoors as well as staying hydrated. Enabling you to stay sharply focused and keep your mind clear and calm.


Walk: Moving your body is proven to help relieve stress and release endorphins, in other words positive feelings. It can be easy to sit down for large periods of time, especially if you have a job where you’re sat at a desk all day, but adding just a tiny bit of regular movement into your day can work wonders. It can be as small as walking to the other side of the room and back a couple of times. Moving your body means releasing emotions, having a break from the screen or task, and contributes to reducing health risks and improving fitness.

Water: We need 6-8 glasses or 2 litres of water a day to enable your body to function optimally. Your cognitive and physical performance will be affected if you are dehydrated, meaning you won’t be able to apply yourself to your work and daily activities at your best.

Window: Fresh air gives you energy, boosts your mood, and has health benefits such as boosting your immune system. Staying connected to nature and the outdoors is important as it can help you to feel more relaxed and positive and even improve your capacity for creativity. Not everyone will have access to green spaces such as a park every day, but even stepping out into your garden, walking to the end of your road, or even just going over to and opening your window will help. Five minutes every hour may seem ambitious but why not start with once a day and build up from there.

Check out our Healthy and Hydrated blog for more guidance around keeping hydrated.

Looking after your mind, body, and soul with yoga

Days are often busy and use up a lot of your energy. Yoga breathing exercises help bring calm to your busy day. Yoga breathing exercises have been proven to increase blood circulation and so increase oxygen levels in your body which releases  endorphins. It can help you think more clearly, function better, and feel calmer.

Breathing exercises can be accomplished in a matter of minutes. It could be for just five minutes before your breakfast. All you need is to find a quiet space and work out a time in your day that suits you best.


How does yoga breathing work? 

Some of the most common techniques include breath retention, alternate nostril breathing, and belly breathing. The most simple and most effective technique - when your goal is to achieve calm and an inward focus - is belly breathing or Adham pranayam, as it is often referred to in yoga practice. This requires breathing from the belly whilst focusing the movement of expansion and contraction whilst you breathe. Lie on your back with your hands on your belly, hold your breath in for three counts after your inhale and exhale. The strong focus on the inhale and exhale with your belly will enhance relaxation and inner focus.

If you are interested in practicing meditation and are keen to learn more then check out our blog: Three types of meditation to get started 

How to use affirmations

Speaking of focus, another technique that can be used alongside yoga breathing exercises or separately is affirmations. These are often used as the overall focus of yoga classes to help direct your energy towards a positive place. Examples of affirmations that you could try are ‘connect’, ‘freedom’, and ‘kind’ which are taken from recent classes held online by ‘Yoga with Adrienne’. Focusing on an affirmation that is positive such as ‘kind’ and being in the present moment can bring feelings of happiness, calm, and purpose.

Moving forward with positivity 

Reacting to the stress, not addressing it, or not taking any action towards your wellbeing can lead to unhealthy choices. Using techniques to bring positivity and gratitude into your day can help and offer up a sanctuary from busy daily life as you can take time to focus on cultivating your positive mindset.

How can AXA, Bupa, and Aviva help with managing stress

High levels of stress increases the risk of a range of health issues such as high blood pressure, heart disease, anxiety, and digestive problems.

It is important to seek medical help if you need it. Knowing that you have help available when you need it such as quick access to speaking with counsellors can provide you with valuable reassurance. This is made possible with insurers including the market-leading insurers that Usay Compare are partnered with. We have provided examples below of what is available with AXA, Bupa, and Aviva.

Aviva: Aviva have a Stress Counselling helpline which you can contact and talk to trained counsellors privately about anything that’s been on your mind or is affecting you. 

AXA: Support is available around the clock for members with AXA’s 24/7 Health at Hand service. Counsellors are just a phone call away.

Bupa: Bupa offer quick round-the-clock access to mental health support via the Digital GP app. A specialist mental health team is also available through Bupa.


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