How to reduce stress or anxiety quickly

Are you caught in a moment that feels like it won't end? Is your anxiety through the roof, and you don’t know how to calm your nerves? There are several ways to manage stress. In this article, I will provide tips to bring your stress levels down a notch or two almost immediately.


Measuring stress

The first step is to ask yourself, "What is my current level of stress or anxiety right now on a scale of 1 to 10?" and write down your answer. This will help you assess how the exercises in this article are helping you.

Physiological changes

You may be about to give a performance, go in for an exam or a work review, have been in an argument, or worrying about the health of a loved one. Whether you are in a stressful situation right now or your mind and thoughts are in overdrive, your brain is likely being triggered to release stress hormones that produce a range of physiological changes. It might be worth noting what you can feel in your body right now. Is your heart pounding? Has your breathing become faster and more shallow? Do your muscles feel tense and tight? Are you sweating? Do you feel on edge? Maybe your face feels flushed?

Fight or flight response

These reactions are also known as the fight-or-flight response, as they evolved as a mechanism to ensure our survival in the face of danger, such as being chased by a tiger. Your situation or persistent stressful thoughts send the information to the amygdala, which sends out a distress signal to the hypothalamus. The hypothalamus communicates with the rest of the body through the autonomic nervous system to prepare the body to fight or flee. The autonomic nervous system has two components:

  • The sympathetic nervous system: Triggers the fight-or-flight response, providing the body with a burst of energy.
  • Parasympathetic nervous system: Promotes the "rest and digest" response that calms the body down.

In the face of danger/stress, the sympathetic nervous system is activated, and adrenaline is pumped into the bloodstream. This brings about physiological changes such as a faster heartbeat, increased pulse rate, elevated blood pressure, or rapid breathing. If the brain continues to perceive something as dangerous, other hormones are released that trigger the release of cortisol. This keeps the body on high alert. The parasympathetic nervous system needs to be activated to counter the stress response.

Activating the parasympathetic nervous system

Activating the parasympathetic nervous system can help you counteract the physiological effects of stress and the fight or flight response activated by the sympathetic nervous system. This can be done by means of relaxation techniques. Here are a few techniques. Try some or all and measure your stress levels after each to see what works for you. The more you practise these techniques, the easier it becomes for your body to activate the parasympathetic nervous system the next time around.

4-7-8 breathing

The 4-7-8 breathing technique, a part of pranayama, involves breathing in for 4 seconds, holding the breath for 7 seconds, and exhaling for 8 seconds. This breathing pattern works wonders in reducing anxiety quickly. The only tip here is to continue doing this for a few minutes before you check your anxiety levels. You may feel slightly lightheaded after doing a few rounds if you have not practised deep breathing before. It’s advisable to try this technique while sitting or lying down comfortably.

Progressive muscle relaxation

In progressive muscle relaxation, you focus on slowly tensing and then relaxing each muscle group. This can help you differentiate between muscle tension and relaxation. You also start to become more aware of your physical sensations. Start by tensing and relaxing the muscles in your toes, then ankles, then calves and gradually work your way up to your head. This is best done sitting in a quiet corner or lying down. Tense your muscles for about five seconds and then relax for 30 seconds, repeating as needed.

The Benson method

This method, also known as the relaxation response, focuses on eliciting a deep state of relaxation by employing a simple repetitive phrase, word, or prayer alongside passive disregard for intrusive thoughts. By engaging in this practice for just a few minutes each day, you can activate the body's natural relaxation response, leading to reduced stress levels. To practice, sit quietly in a comfortable position, close your eyes and start relaxing your muscles (as mentioned above). Breathe in through your nose and as you breathe out, say the word "one" (or any other relaxing word) silently to yourself. Continue doing this for 5-10 minutes.


Gentle movement, like a walk or yoga poses, may help you feel calmer. If you can push yourself to continue exercising for a bit, you will start noticing the difference. Exercise reduces levels of the body's stress hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol. It also stimulates the production of dopamine and endorphins, chemicals in the brain that are the body's natural painkillers and mood elevators.

As you familiarise yourself with relaxation techniques, you'll become increasingly attuned to your body's responses to stress, including muscle tension. Once you start to learn how to recognise the signs of stress, you can employ a relaxation technique before your stress becomes difficult to manage. It's important to acknowledge that mastering relaxation requires practice, much like any skill. If one technique doesn't yield the desired results, don't hesitate to explore alternatives. 

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Hypnotherapy Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

Share this article with a friend
Richmond TW9
Written by Chinmai Gupta, BA, MSc, Dip Cognitive Behavioural Hypnotherapy
Richmond TW9

Chinmai is a Cognitive Behavioural Hypnotherapist. Her approach is deeply empathic and practical and she can help you to:

• Manage and overcome problems related to stress, anxiety, confidence and self-image
• Perform better
• Find your voice
• Improve your relationships
• Find happiness
• Manage fears and phobias

Show comments

Find a hypnotherapist dealing with Anxiety

All therapists are verified professionals

All therapists are verified professionals