Stress-Busters That Are Backed by Science

At one time or another, everybody will deal with stress. Whether from an argument between friends or having too much work, stress can leave us feeling overwhelmed and exhausted.

Unfortunately, there is no way we can completely prevent stress from cropping up. Still, there are several ways that a person can better cope with stressful feelings. If you have been struggling with dealing with stress, here are some techniques and tips that have some scientific backing to their effectiveness.

Get frequent and moderate exercise

The University Of Maryland School Of Public Health carried out a study in which they found that moderate exercise can help people cope with stress during and after their workout. (i)

Although the benefits of exercise on mood have been well-documented, physical activity’s benefit on our long-term emotional wellbeing was a surprising finding of the research. The researchers found that moderate exercise helps to create a buffer against emotional stress.

For example, hitting the gym or going for a run will decrease your anxiety and give you shielding from the stress that crops up from future emotional events.

Have a stick of chewing gum

It might sound strange, but having a stick of chewing gum might be an effective way of lowering your levels of stress. Researchers at Swinburne University discovered that chewing gum can reduce stress and anxiety while multitasking in a stressful situation. (ii)

The study is supported by another paper published in the Physiology and Behavior journal. Researchers found that chewing gum during severe stress can improve a negative mood while reducing stress hormone levels. (iii)

Despite not knowing the underlying cause of gum’s stress-relieving properties, researchers suspect it has something to do with increasing blood flow to the brain.

Take deep breaths      

Whenever someone is under a lot of stress, their body goes into the “fight or flight” stress response. The “fight or flight” stress response is excellent for surviving dangerous situations and helped our ancestors evade sabre-tooth tigers. However, the stress response becomes a severe problem when it activates during our day-to-day lives and can leave us feeling awful.

Breath control can be very effective at calming the body and counteracting the effects of our stress response. According to Harvard Medical School, deep, controlled and slowed breathing from the diaphragm (the band of muscle just below the ribcage) combats many symptoms that we experience when stressed. (iv)

Deep breathing techniques can help you achieve something called “the relaxation response”, a state of rest and relaxation. One way of doing this involves sitting comfortably, eyes closed, before inhaling deeply through your nose and counting to one. Afterwards, exhale whilst focusing on the word “relax” in your head. Keep repeating this until you count all the way to ten. 

Spend some time in the great outdoors

According to research by Stanford University, more than 50% of people are living in urban areas. In less than 30 years, the proportion is expected to be as high as 70%. Although scientists are not sure of the underlying cause, people living in urban areas are more likely to suffer from mental illness. (v)

One study about the positive effects on our mood from spending time in nature looked at two groups of people. One group went for a 90-minute walk through a natural environment, the other group walked through an urban environment. The research found that a stroll in nature can help to reduce rumination, where a person spends time thinking about sad or dark thoughts. The 90-minute walk also decreased activity in the brain area that is linked with risk for mental illness. (v)

The study shows that spending more time around nature can help to reduce stress and improve your mood. For example, going for a hike, bike ride or walk with your dog can be great for your mental wellbeing, especially if you enjoy the activity.


  1. Umd.edu. (2012). UMD Study Shows Exercise May Protect Against Future Emotional Stress | University of Maryland | School of Public Health. [online] Available at: https://sph.umd.edu/news/umd-study-shows-exercise-may-protect-against-future-emotional-stress [Accessed 14 May 2021].
  2. EurekAlert! (2008). New research finds chewing gum may help reduce stress. [online] Available at: https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2008-08/epr-nrf082908.php [Accessed 14 May 2021].
  3. Scholey, A., Haskell, C., Robertson, B., Kennedy, D., Milne, A. and Wetherell, M. (2009). Chewing gum alleviates negative mood and reduces cortisol during acute laboratory psychological stress. Physiology & Behavior, 97(3-4), pp.304–312.
  4. Harvard Health. (2015). Relaxation techniques: Breath control helps quell errant stress response – Harvard Health. [online] Available at: https://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/relaxation-techniques-breath-control-helps-quell-errant-stress-response [Accessed 14 May 2021].
  5. Bratman, G.N., Hamilton, J.P., Hahn, K.S., Daily, G.C. and Gross, J.J. (2015). Nature experience reduces rumination and subgenual prefrontal cortex activation. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, [online] 112(28), pp.8567–8572. Available at: https://www.pnas.org/content/112/28/8567.abstract [Accessed 14 May 2021].

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