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National Stress Awareness Day: Self-care Techniques to Reduce Stress Levels

Considering the COVID-19 pandemic and the greater demands in our current day to day lives, it is important we shine a light on a familiar enemy: stress. Stress, by definition, is “a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or very demanding circumstances”. Everyone reacts to, handles, and processes stressful situations in a variety of ways. Certain individuals can endure high levels of pressure and stress at work due to the nature of their job, such as certified public accountants during tax season. Whether it is rooted in work, financial issues, family and personal relationships, or health concerns, everyone endures varying levels of stress and has different coping mechanisms. However, stress becomes problematic when the emotional, physical, and psychologic consequences on the individual are not properly addressed. Unmitigated stress can lead to several serious health problems such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, anxiety, depression, addiction, and a weakened immune system. As we celebrate National Stress Awareness Day, let’s explore ways we can reduce our stress levels, maintain healthy lifestyles, and reduce our risk for stress-induced health issues.

Yoga & Meditation

Medical literature has shown a correlation between elevated levels of cortisol (aka “the stress hormone”) plus inflammation and high levels of stress. Techniques that have been around for millennia include yoga, mindfulness, and breathing techniques. Yoga, mindfulness,and breathing techniques aim to achieve a union of mind, body, and spirit. The purported mechanism behind these techniques of reduction in stress is manipulation of the sympathetic and hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal system, which are responsible for cortisol regulation, according to Pascoe and colleagues in a meta-analysis in 2017 that included 42 studies found here. The researchers found that yoga reduced cortisol, systolic blood pressure, heart rate, heart rate variability, fasting blood glucose, cholesterol, and low-density lipoprotein (aka “bad cholesterol”). Ultimately, more studies and research need to be done to further validate these findings. However, the results are promising and shed light on a simple and accessible tool to help reduce stress. The next time you find yourself in a stressful situation, try shifting your attention on a simple 2-minute breathing technique, Nadi shodhana, found here.


Although to date, the research and evidence is not clear on the relationship between exercise and stress reduction and the exact mechanism behind it, many individuals experience improvement in mood and well-being with exercise. The working theory is that exercise serves as a “time-out” from the stressor and modulates the neurotransmitters that affect mood, including dopamine and serotonin. Furthermore, when we exercise, the body releases endorphins, a hormone that produces euphoric effects. Runners often refer to this as a “runner’s high” due to the large release of endorphins they experience during their runs. Not able to find the time in your busy day for some exercise? Try starting off your day with a morning walk to prepare for your day or break up your workday with a walk on your lunch break to clear your mind. Any level of activity, including walking, is beneficial and can help mitigate stress.

Spa Day

Treat yourself to a spa day and let someone else pamper you! Relax your body and mind as you receive a massage or facial to keep you calm, energized, and balanced. A 60-minute massage or facial will help relieve any tension in your body and refocus your attention and energy on the positive things in life. Although there is no evidence in medical or scientific literature, a massage and hot steam is a great way to recharge your batteries and reduce your stress. For those who may find it challenging to head to the spa, check out the following links below on how to create your own spa at home.

Stay Connected with Family & Friends

Again, although not supported by evidence, it’s clear when we surround ourselves with positive people, our stress levels decrease. Whether it’s grabbing a cup of coffee or a bite to eat or simply spending quality time with loved ones, eliminate your stressors and spend time with the people who bring you joy and happiness. Laughter is the “best type of medicine” so why not carve out some time to visit with a friend or family member, reminisce, and laugh about the fun memories you created.


If you can take some time away from work, schedule a vacation. Your vacation getaway need not be extravagant and involve flights and expensive lodging, as travel planning can be stressful, too. A nice retreat nearby at a bed and breakfast or cabin in the woods can be just as relaxing as a luxurious trip overseas. According to the American Psychological Association’s annual Stress in America survey, the number one stressor for individuals is work-related stress. Why is that? We spend most of our day working so it’s not surprising that work is a main contributor to our stress levels. Whether it’s upcoming deadlines or not seeing eye to eye with your manager, work can create unnecessary stress for individuals. Take the time to unplug and use that vacation time. After all, you worked hard to earn it!

Seek Professional Help

In some instances, activities such as yoga and meditation or exercise won’t be enough to properly address the emotional, psychological, and physical toll on an individual. At this point, stress may cause significant impairment in the ability to function, and it is at this point individuals may need to seek professional help in managing their stress. Speaking with a licensed counselor or therapist may be necessary for individuals with high levels of stress that cannot be managed with self-care techniques to prevent further complications, such as depression or anxiety. Prescription medications may be needed to help reduce anxiety and depression. Please speak with your healthcare provider if you find your stress levels are difficult to manage with self-care techniques.


  1. American Psychological Association:
  1. Yoga could slow the harmful effects of stress and inflammation:
  1. Yoga, mindfulness-based stress reduction and stress-related physiological measures: A meta-analysis:

About the author:

Stephanie Hyslop, PharmD, MBA is a licensed pharmacist who received her PharmD from Purdue University in 2012 and her MBA from Butler University in 2020. Prior to joining Illuminate Health, Stephanie worked in both the retail and hospital settings for nearly 10 years. She has a passion for ensuring patients understand their medication regimens and the importance of taking their medications as directed. She strives to improve overall health outcomes for her patients, and her recent transition into the healthcare tech sector provides an innovative avenue to do such. Stephanie resides in Indianapolis with her husband Alan, son Amos, and beagle-mix Ernie.

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