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  • Q&A with Australian Health Practitioners

    What treatments are there to reduce stress other than medication?

    I'd like to know of any natural or lifestyle ways I could help reduce and manage the stress i experience on a daily basis due to my demanding job and recently difficult personal circumstances.
  • Find a professional to answer your question

  • 1


    Therese Sheedy


    Therese Sheedy is a registered psychologist and Director of Exploring Mindful Moements previously known as Future Directions: Counselling, Consultancy and Training in Melbourne. Therese brings … View Profile

    This is a great question especially as we are now experiencing such high levels of stress and anxiety as a society.  Stress can be addressed many ways and definitely needs attending to before it has major physical and emotional impacts on the system such as fatigue, back pain, ulcers, hypertension, headaches & migraines, sleep disorders, sexual dysfunction, low immunity and of course the general ‘can’t be bothereds'!

    First, things that don't work: Having an alcoholic drink to take the edge off.  This can lead to multiple physical impacts on the system but ultimately it will only lead to drinking more alcohol.  Having a cup of coffee as a time-out.  One cup a day may be ok as a time-release however if you are consuming four or more cups of coffee a day you are putting more stress on your internal organs than you realise. 

    Some people use what is commonly referred to as ‘retail therapy’.  This leads to impulse buying which often leads to financial difficulties and also feelings of guilt.  Overeating is another common inadequate form of stress management.  For obvious reasons overeating leads to major health and self esteem problems.  We often crave sweet foods, such as chocolate or lollies, when we are stressed.  Some research has explained that this prompts the body to release endomorphins which dull pain.  They therefore have the potential to act as a buffer against stress however long term this will cause other health problems. 

    Smoking has obvious detrimental impacts on your health and gambling which is another common form of stress management can lead to financial difficulties as well as interpersonal problems and emotional distress.

    So, what does work.  Firstly assessing what are the major causes of your stress is a good start.  While we can't prevent the demands of our workplace, acknowledging it as a stressor may help you start to look at where you can make changes, tiny changes to start with that might help. 

    Things like giving yourself a finish time at work.  A time when you close the computer down, turn off the lights and actually go home is a big change for some people.  Sometimes looking at workloads and seeing what can be delegated to someone else to do is a good idea. Remember that when you delegate, let go, you don't need to be hovering over someone else to make sure they do it well or the way you would do it.  Otherwise you may as well not delegate.

    Personal or family stressors are common.  Sometimes it is essential to work out what you do control and what you don't control.  Worrying about loved ones especially children is common.  Using a good sounding board like a trusted friend or professional to work out if it is realistic to worry or what strategies you can try to intervene can help.

    There are huge links between physical and mental health and so eating well, drinking water, cutting down on sugars and introducing some form of physical activity is great.  The physical activity needs to be regular and aerobic in nature.  So going for a walk (not a stroll), running, bike riding, swimming can make a big difference.  This exercise should help improve your sleep. 

    If sleep is a problem practicing progressive muscle relaxation techniques before bed helps as well as establishing a regular bed time routine and reducing the number of electrical equipment in your bedroom.  Regular meditation not only relaxes you but also helps you watch your thoughts so that you don't get caught up in thought jumping, or rumination or catastrophising - when your thoughts take to you to the worst case scenario.

    Laughter is a great stress buster.  So get with friends and have a good laugh.  This usually provides immediate relief and can be more beneficial than a massage or a hot bath.  Laughter takes us out of ourselves. Teaching us not to take life too seriously, that life does have a lighter side if we are open to seeing it.  Pets, hobbies and nature can often provide great relief as well.

    The ultimate stress buster is to stay present.  Be aware of when your mind is taking your focus and attention away from what you are actually doing at this very present moment and taking you back to another time that was upsetting or demanding on you.  Practice, or get help, to understand Mindfulness practices that will keep you present and give pleasure to everyday activities and relationships.

    If you find you have consistently applied most of the above and your stress is still climbing you may need to get professional support.  A good psychologist or counsellor will be able to help you unpack what is causing you stress and how to deal with it when it isn't there in front of you but still pushing around in your head.

  • 1


    Dr Alexandra Bloch-Atefi

    Counsellor, Psychotherapist

    I am a qualified holistic counsellor & trained psychotherapist practicing in Melbourne, Australia. I specialise in stress management for women, offering one-on-one counselling sessions and … View Profile

    There are quite a few techniques out there which you can easily apply and integrate into your daily routine.

    Stress reducing tools that I teach my clients are:

    Mindfulness, which is beneficial because

    • It takes us out of an auto-pilot “doing” state
    • Helps us connect with the here and now
    • Builds self-awareness
    • De-conditions our responses
    • Provides opportunity to respond, rather than react
    • Lowers the heart rate
    • Slows and deepens breathing
    • Stops releasing cortisol and adrenaline into the blood stream

    Simple mindfulness examples:
    • Check in with your breathing as you awake, and from time to time through the day
    • Practice abdominal breathing especially before bedtime .
    • Notice physical signs of tension and take some mindful breaths to release tension
    • Pay attention to the present moment

    Here are two simple mindfulness exercises

    Progressive Muscle Relaxation
    During the progressive muscle relaxation exercise (a relaxation technique that was developed by American physician Edmund Jacobson in the 1920s) you breathe in to tense a muscle group and then releasing the very same muscle group on the outbreath.

    For a detailed description click here

    Mindful Meridian Tapping (similar to EFT or TFT)
    You tap on acupressure points to release stress that has been stored in your body. For a short exercise click here

    And last but not least don't forget the building blocks of effective stress management:
    • Eating right (e.g. balanced diet, drink water, Magnesium, Fish Oil, Vitamin C),
    • Reduce stimulants like nicotine, alcohol, sugar, caffeine
    • Sleeping enough
    • Getting moderate exercise
    • Managing your time (get it down on paper to get it out of your system) & prioritising
    • Knowing what you can change (e.g. your response) and what you can't change (e.g. other people)
    Hope that helps,
    Melbourne Counselling, Prahran Counsellor: Alexandra Bloch-Atefi, PhD, VIC
    Find me on Facebook

  • 1




    Often enough, we do not know our own mind. In the process of dialogue with another person, we are able to clarify what we think … View Profile

    Stress is a complex thing that affects us all in different ways - but the good news is that some of the alternative treatments for stress don't have to be complicated - eating well, sleeping well, practising a bit of self-compassion, being kind to ourselves, exercising.. In fact exercise comes up so often in studies as a great stress and anxiety reliever..

    Sometimes, however, we all need to do more, and the right kinds of counselling and mindfulness practices can help you unpack a bit more about stress and you - just what it is that is causing uncomfortable levels of stress - what thoughts and feelings are you having about stress…where is stress located in the body..can you breathe into it, can you be with it for a little while, get to know it in a different way….

    So, it's a great question, and there are many different ways to address, we are all individuals and will respond differently to different things - but yes, there is much more available than medication.

  • Kristen Ross

    Counsellor, Kinesiologist

    Kristen Ross is a qualified Kinesiologist, Counsellor and Sports Therapist.Affinity Wellness is her holistic wellness practice offering a holistic wellness experience by focusing on all … View Profile

    Stress should be looked at from all aspects ie. physical, nutritional and emotional. Reduction of stress will often involve implementing lifestyle changes and better health practices.

    As a kinesiologist I specialise in stress and anxiety reduction and I often find it more beneficial than the counselling services I provide to my clients. 

    You can visit my website for more information on kinesiology for stress reduction. 

  • 3


    Passionate about the counselling field, and how we can constantly improve ourselves to be the best we can be. I have ten years experience working … View Profile

    Stress can be managed, and it starts with identifying the sources of stress in your life. Looking at your habits, attitudes and excuses can help to identify these sources of stress.  Unitil you accept responsibility for the role you play in creating or maintaining it, your stress level will remain outside your control.  A stress journal is a great way for you to start noticing the stressors in your life and the way you deal with them, whenever you feel stressed, keep a track of it, in your journal.  As you keep a daily log you will begin to see  patterns and themes. you can write down:
    .  What caused your stress
    .  How you felt both physically and emotionally
    .  How you acted in response
    .  What you did to make yourself feel better
    Your journal will help you identify how you cope with stress, whether it is healthy or unhealthy or helpful or unproductive?  Unfortunately many people cope with stress in a way that makes the problem worse.  Unhealthy way of coping with stress cause damage in the long run:
    .  Smoking                                      .  Over eating
    .  Drinking too much                     .  Using pills or drugs
    .  Procastinating             
    .  Spending long periods of time
       on the computer or watching tv
    . Taking out your stress on others (lashing out in anger)


    Since everyone has a unique response to stress, no single method works for everyone, try and focus on what works for you.
    Avoid the unnecessary stress by
    .Learning to say no
    .Avoid people who stress you
    .Avoid hot button topics
    .Take control of your environment

    Make time for fun and relaxation

    .Go for a walk                                         .  work in your garden
    .spend time in nature                           . call a friend
    .watch a comedy                                   , take a long bath
    .listen to music
    Do something you enjoy everyday, make time for leisure activities that bring you joy.

    Keep your sense of humour:

    This includes the ability to laugh at yourself, the act of laughing helps your body fight stress in a number of ways.  

    Adopt a healtheir life style:

    . Exercise regularly                                  . eat a healthy diet
    . Reduce caffine & sugar                        . Avoid alcohol, cigarettes and drugs
    . Get enough sleep                                  . Learn muscle relaxation exercises
    Learning deep breathing exercises can be a very helpful and an important skill to learn, it sounds silly, but many people do not breath properly. Natural brealthing involves your diaphram, a large muscle in your obdomen. When you breath in, your belly should expand, when you breath out, your belly should fall.  Over time people forget how to breath this way and instead use thier chest and shoulders.  This causes short and shallow breaths, which can increase stress and anxitey.

    If you find it difficult to implement these strategies, I would suggest you see a counsellor or a psychologist who can assist you in addressing your issues.

  • Brigitte Safrana

    Counsellor, Hypnotherapist

    I created Surfing The Blues and Surfing The Baby Blues Counselling & Hypnotherapy services in order to help individuals and couples restore balance in their … View Profile

    I will not linger into defining stress as it has been done quite adequately and at lengths by other professionals. But to answer your question you need to discriminate bad stress from good stress. Sometimes at work or in other circumstances stress can be productive and indeed some people thrive  and perform better when under stress.
    However, that does not seem to be your case at this time. therefore i would suggest make time for yourself everyday and go for a walk in a beautiful environment, practice daily meditation, enrol in a yoga course, watch some funny movies or enrol in a laughter club(they are all over the country, you can google for location). It may sound strange but laughing is the best antidote against stress at it releases serotonin (the happy hormone) in the blood stream 
    It does not have to be a highly structured plan to start with but if you can make room for some of these activities you will reduce the amount of stress proportionately.
    All the best.

  • Gloria Carlson


    For many conditions, the human body has an innate ability to heal itself without drugs or surgery. Kinesiology combines eastern holistic healing with western science … View Profile

    Stress is a complex issue and has been well delt with in previous posts.  Kinesiology is a holistic approach which addresses you the individual.  A good practitioner will find out what it is that creates this stress in you and helps clear the blockages so you can enjoy a happier life.  I am in Perth  

    If you are elseware I suggest you find a good kinesiology practitioner.  Good Luck

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