STRESSED? Here are 3 simple techniques to overcome it! 

STRESSED? Here are 3 simple techniques to overcome it! 

Did you know that 46% of people experience intense pressure or stress at work in Europe? From the same survey (OSH Pulse, 2022) 30% have reported a health complication related to stress, such as fatigue, muscle pain or headache. Also, did you know that 50% of chronic stress employees have a risk for heart disease? It sounds crazy to think that long term stress can actually destroy our bodies. Here you have some simple techniques to overcome and avoid it.

Have you ever experienced a stressful situation at least once in your lifetime or possibly – every day? Perhaps you just think about stress all the time. The feeling of overwhelming rush just fogs your mind and you feel the whole world just go blank in a moment. So what do you do in those situations? 

My name is Anna and I am a psychologist graduate doing an internship in Training Experience as an HR assistant. I want to share with you some science based stress relaxation management techniques and tools (with references). These methods have helped me to calm my nervous system, and perhaps this will be something you will start to apply in your life and can apply at your workplace for a more healthier place. 🙂

1) Box Breathing 

Time: 3-5 minutes

Position: standing or sitting

Tools: none

Benefits: reduce chronic stress, migraines; improve sleep quality; may help with gastrointestinal disorders and asthma

There are dozens of breathing techniques, specifically Box Breathing can help you to relax. Why is breathing linked to stress you may ask? By taking deep breaths, we get more oxygen in our lungs and eventually in our blood, body and brain. This allows our stressed (aka sympathetic) nervous system to get the state of stillness (aka parasympathetic). The best part is that you can use this exercise everywhere and whenever you want to – both in a busy and calm environment. 

How to do it? 

  1. For 4 seconds take a deep breath through your nose
  2. For 4 second hold your breath 
  3. For 4 seconds breath out through your mouth
  4. For 4 seconds hold your breath 
  5. Repeat it for few times till you start to feel calm

Note: If 4 seconds are too long, you can adjust to 2 or 3 seconds for every step. 

2) Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR)

Time: 10-20 minutes

Position: sitting or sleeping on your back

Tools: none

Benefits: reduce stress and anxiety, help with insomnia and digestive issues, relief headache and high blood pressure

I would say this has been one of the most helpful techniques I have used. PMR shifts your focus from your stressful thoughts to your present state and breathing. The author is Edmund Jacobson who described the link between physical and mental relaxation. So you may conclude already – this exercise focuses on tensing and relaxing muscles and breathing at the same time. 

How to do it?

  1. Find a comfortable place to sit or lay down. 
  2. Before the start, take 3 deep breaths, by expanding your abdomen. 
  3. Start to tense one muscle group, e.g. by curling your toes. While at the same time continue taking a deep breath through your nose. 
  4. Hold your tensed toes and your breath for 5 seconds.
  5. Then slowly release your muscles and breathe out through your mouth for up to 10 seconds. Direct your focus on releasing tension.
  6. Repeat this process for the second time with the same muscle group.
  7. Continue the same process with the next muscle group, e.g. calves & repeat for the second time as well. 
  8. Repeat the process (from step 3) with each muscle group in your body, starting  from your toes to your head (e.g. toes, legs, calves, quads, glutes, stomach, shoulders, arms, palms, face etc.).
  9. When you are done, focus and absorb your body’s sensations.

3) Guided Imagery 

Time: 3-5 minutes

Position: sitting or laying down

Tools: none

Benefits: reduce stress and anxiety, and improve sleep quality

Based on a Cognitive Behavioral theory, our emotions are directly linked to our thoughts and beliefs. Therefore, if we often think of worst case scenarios, no wonder why we feel stressed and anxious. Guided Imagery technique can help to shift focus from our stressful thoughts to the present moment by giving attention to all our 5 senses. 

How to do it?

  1. Take a seat or lay down comfortably on your back.
  2. Close your eyes and remember a day where you felt safe. Where was it? Now imagine that specific environment (e.g. your room, forest or a coffee shop). If you can’t think of anything, don ‘t worry, just imagine what would be the most peaceful place where you want to be now. Now elicit all kind of elements from this place, by applying every sense
  • What do you see? (e.g., few trees, a lake, a painting, people)
  • What do you hear? (e.g., birds singing, people chattering)
  • What do you smell? (e.g., a fresh coffee, a candle smokes)
  • What do you taste? (e.g., a pastry, an aftertaste of berries)
  • What do you feel? (e.g., wind blowing on your skin, comfortable chair)
  1. Keep imagining this place till the time when you start to feel calmer. While doing this exercise, try to breathe slowly and deeply, by expanding your abdomen. Do you feel how calm you have become now in this environment?

Note: Don’t worry if you get distracted or it’s hard to do it the first time. Try again and focus on how your body calms down. Maybe change the environment with less distractions or the picture you imagined.


How do you feel now? Can you feel the sensation of relaxation in your body and mind? There are also plenty of other methods out there to help you manage the stress you experience. I would recommend you to not stop at the first time of trying them out, as research suggests that you will start to feel the benefits and results after a longer time of using these techniques. 

Was this helpful? Let me know!

Share what method you use to calm yourself down! 


APA. (2017) What is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?

Europe PMC. (2018). Europe PMC.

Hamasaki, H. (2020). Effects of Diaphragmatic Breathing on Health: A Narrative Review. Medicines, 7(10), 65. 

New EU survey reveals that workplace stress is on the rise in Europe since COVID-19 | Safety and health at work EU-OSHA. (2022). 

Onieva-Zafra, M. D., Parra-Fernández, M. L., & Fernández-Martínez, E. (2019). Benefits of a Home Treatment Program Using Guided Imagery Relaxation Based on Audio Recordings for People With Fibromyalgia. Holistic Nursing Practice, 33(2), 111–120. 

OSH Pulse – Occupational safety and health in post-pandemic workplaces | Safety and health at work EU-OSHA. (2022).

Psycho-Physiological Correlates of Slow Breathing. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 12. 

Stöppler, M. C., MD. (2005). Progressive Muscle Relaxation for Stress and Insomnia. WebMD.

Tavoian, D., & Craighead, D. H. (2023). Deep breathing exercise at work: Potential applications and impact. Frontiers in Physiology, 14. 

Toussaint, L., Nguyen, Q. V., Roettger, C., Dixon, K., Offenbächer, M., Kohls, N., Hirsch, J. K., & Sirois, F. M. (2021). Effectiveness of Progressive Muscle Relaxation, Deep Breathing, and Guided Imagery in Promoting Psychological and Physiological States of Relaxation. Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 2021, 1–8. 

Zaccaro, A., Piarulli, A., Laurino, M., Garbella, E., Menicucci, D., Neri, B., & Gemignani, A. (2018). How Breath-Control Can Change Your Life: A Systematic Review on Psycho-Physiological Correlates of Slow Breathing. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 12.