16 Effective Stress-Management Activities and Worksheets
The interview is in 10 minutes, yet I want to run away.
Fear and anxiety lead to stress responses – cognitive, physical, and behavioral.
Deeply embedded and automatic, they evolved to provide humans with warnings, guiding present and future behavior while attempting to maintain a relatively stable internal state known as homeostasis (Brosschot, Verkuil, & Thayer, 2016; Varvogli & Darviri, 2011).
However innate these responses may be, there are ways to manage the stress you perceive.
This article offers our favorite stress-management activities and worksheets to help you deal with whatever challenge lies in your path.
Before you continue, we thought you might like to download our three Stress & Burnout Prevention Exercises (PDF) for free . These science-based exercises will equip you and those you work with, with tools to manage stress better and find a healthier balance in your life.
This Article Contains:
A note on stress-management approaches, keeping a digital stress diary with quenza, our 3 favorite stress-management worksheets, 3 activities to help manage stress, stress management within therapy sessions.
- Worksheets for Your CBT Sessions
3 Printable Tools for Children
Top 3 exercises for helping students, for group therapy sessions, a take-home message.
Stress, or rather the perception of stressors, can be managed, and there are ways to do so:
- Preparation increases our sense of control and improves confidence.
- Relaxation reduces anxiety and restores focus.
- Maintaining physical health via a healthy lifestyle, balanced diet, and exercise underpins overall mental wellbeing.
Another way to manage stress is to reframe our perception of it.
Rather than see it as unwelcome and to be avoided, pressure can provide an essential opportunity for development and learning. Viewed as an opportunity to thrive, stress can be the motivation to perform at our very best and adopt a growth mindset (Lee, Park, & Hwang, 2016).
In what follows, we will point you toward a range of useful worksheets and tools you can use to help your clients better manage stress. Most are free, but some of these come from our own Positive Psychology Toolkit© , which is a comprehensive subscription-based resource containing more than 400 exercises, activities, interventions, questionnaires, and assessments you can use to support your clients.
If you’re looking for more ways to grow your coaching or therapy practice using engaging, science-backed tools, be sure to check it out.
Despite the dangers of experiencing prolonged stress, many of us are likely to be tuned out to our body’s signals that we are experiencing stress.
Likewise, we may not have stopped to consider the factors in our lives that are most responsible for causing us stress.
To help strengthen your clients’ awareness of the drivers and experience of stress, consider inviting them to complete a one-week stress diary.
The purpose of a stress diary is to help them look for patterns and insights into the most common causes of stress in their life and their reactions to stressful events. From here, you can help your clients find effective ways of dealing with stress in the future.
For a great, easy-to-administer tool, consider taking a look at the Stress Diary tool available via the blended care app Quenza .
The platform features a growing library of pre-programmed psychoeducational activities, within which is the Stress Diary Pathway. This pathway invites clients to reflect on the day’s stressful experiences for eight days and culminates in an in-depth reflection into the patterns of stressors, as well as the client’s reactions to these across the eight days.
If you’re interested in learning more, you can try out Quenza’s Stress Diary Pathway for yourself by taking advantage of the platform’s no-risk 30-day trial.
Download 3 Free Stress & Burnout Prevention Exercises (PDF)
These detailed, science-based exercises will equip you or your clients with tools to manage stress better and find a healthier balance in their life.
Download 3 Stress & Burnout Prevention Exercises Pack (PDF)
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A 2019 report found that in the UK alone, 12.8 million working days were lost due to stress, depression, and anxiety.
But help is at hand.
Multiple, evidence-based stress reduction techniques have been shown to lower stress levels, “ resulting in a reduction of disease symptoms, lowering of biological indicators of disease, prevention of disease and improvement of patient’s quality of life ” (Varvogli & Darviri, 2011).
Many of these techniques are described below and will help you to manage stress in your life.
1. Breath Awareness
Breathing exercises can be a powerful way to place your body in a relaxed state. Sitting in a comfortable position and drawing your attention to your breath can release tension and offer a method for ongoing relaxation and a tool to use for times of stress.
Breath Awareness was created to help individuals cultivate a mindful awareness of their breathing and the present moment rather than get caught up in their thoughts.
Once comfortable, clients are asked to release any unnecessary tension and tune in to their breath. They are invited to observe the movements and sensations in their body with each inhale and exhale, without trying to change anything.
The exercise can be useful during moments of distress to unhook someone from their thoughts or as a mindfulness exercise.
Try out the Breath Awareness worksheet and practice it daily.
2. Anchor Breathing
Similar to the last activity, anchor breathing involves inhaling and exhaling consciously while focusing on the physical experience. In this exercise, clients are also instructed to imagine a peaceful scene – being on a boat, feeling calm and safe.
Deep breathing techniques have been shown to lead to decreased oxygen consumption and heightened alertness. EEG recordings have also recorded increases in theta wave amplitude when participants engage in certain deep breathing exercises, which is associated with reduced symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder (Jerath, Edry, Barnes, & Jerath, 2006).
By showing patients how combine mindful breathing with calming, peaceful visualization, Anchor Breathing provides an effective relaxation technique, reducing residual stress levels and providing support during acute episodes of stress (Varvogli & Darviri, 2011).
3. The Five Senses Worksheet
Mindfulness can be cultivated by paying attention to what we observe and feel while using our different senses one at a time. During mindfulness practice, distractions are observed, and attention is gently returned to the body part receiving focus.
This exercise works in a similar way to the Body Scan exercise, which helps clients cultivate a mindful awareness of different body parts. Evidence from functional magnetic resonance imagining found that body scan meditation heightens brain activity linked to increased awareness of the present moment, focus, and stress reduction (Sevinc et al., 2018).
To read more about the steps involved, you can view or download The Five Senses worksheet .
If you’re looking for more tools, our free Mindfulness Exercises Pack includes the popular Leaves on a Stream tool and audio meditation, as well as two other mindfulness tools and audio files that you can download for free.
1. Nature effect
The powerful effect of being outdoors has been validated many times and should not be underestimated.
Visitors to a park in Zurich were found to have significantly lower levels of stress, a reduced number of headaches, and a 40% increase in feelings of wellbeing. These positive effects were further elevated in those taking part in sports (Hansmann, Hug, & Seeland, 2007).
While drugs and therapy are often used as treatments for soldiers returning home with post-traumatic stress disorder, the medications and treatment frequently have to be continued for many years without providing a lasting cure. In response, nature-based therapy has begun to receive increased scientific attention.
In a 2016 study, veterans reported that merely being in the garden, often performing mindfulness activities, could improve the symptoms of their post-traumatic stress disorder (Poulsen, Stigsdotter, Djernis, & Sidenius, 2016).
The simple act of getting out into an open space can provide stress relief. We delve deeper into this in our post on Environmental Psychology .
We are all aware of the physiological rewards of exercise, but the psychological benefits are equally impressive and backed up by research.
A seven-week exercise program was found to improve people’s moods ; reduce perceived stress; and increase optimism, self-belief , resilience, and a growth mindset (Cassidy, 2016).
Exercise regimes need not be extreme to be effective. Even modest levels of physical activity if performed regularly provide ongoing support for mental wellbeing, a growth mindset, and reduced levels of stress.
A great way to inspire you to start exercising may be found in our article on Mindful Running and Exercises .
3. Mindful movement
By replacing or combining some of our everyday car journeys with walking, we can become fully present in our day-to-day lives and improve mental health.
Indeed, a trial in 2017 found that combining walking with relaxation techniques is a great way to reduce levels of stress (Matzer, Nagele, Lerch, Vajda, & Fazekas, 2017).
Mindful walking combines the benefits of exercise, nature, and mindfulness.
Its goal is not to reach a destination, but to build an awareness of the moment, using the feet to anchor in the present. Pleasant and unpleasant bodily sensations such as muscle soreness are merely observed without opinion and let go.
3-Minute stress management: reduce stress with this short activity – Therapy in a Nutshell
Many people seek help when stress makes healthy living difficult. Therapy can help address immediate difficulties and work on the underlying causes (Strauss et al., 2018).
1. Anxiety Record
We often feel more vulnerable when we are asked to share what is making us anxious. The Anxiety Record worksheet helps individuals to understand what is causing their anxiety and learn appropriate coping skills.
Using this worksheet, clients can record their anxieties, triggers, and their effects. Afterward, they are guided through a breathing exercise and asked to revisit their answers to the questions.
A few prompts from this exercise are listed below:
- When do you feel anxious?
- What thoughts are you having before or during feeling anxious?
- Do you think these thoughts are realistic?
- What thoughts could you replace them with?
Click to download the Anxiety Record worksheet and give it a try.
2. Biofeedback training
Biofeedback builds on the concept of homeostasis introduced earlier. Using technology to measure and report brainwaves, skin temperature, breathing, and heart rate, the individual learns how to gain self-control over apparently involuntary bodily functions.
A recent meta-analysis of 24 studies confirmed that biofeedback training led to improvements in coping and offers a promising approach for treating stress and anxiety (Goessl, Curtiss, & Hofmann, 2017).
Individuals can ultimately learn to control their heart rate and blood pressure, reduce levels of stress, and even successfully treat high blood pressure and cardiac disease. Performed with a qualified therapist, these changes ultimately persist beyond the therapy (Varvogli & Darviri, 2011).
Worksheet Suggestions for Your CBT Sessions
Many of us experience spontaneous thoughts as images rather than individual words or an internal conversation (Beck & Beck, 2011).
A child pictures an angry parent, and an employee imagines a demanding boss. They can be powerful, representing moments of fear or anxiety, and can be used in Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) sessions.
The following questions can form the basis of a conversation to explore a mental image and the individual’s relationship with it, cognitively restructuring its interpretation.
Imagery can feel as real to the mind as being in the situation, so playing through images in advance can restructure thoughts and emotions and reframe the stress.
2. Daily Exceptions Journal
A journal can be a fruitful way to track life’s ups and downs. Positive CBT encourages monitoring the client’s strengths and the positive outcomes of life rather than focusing on the negatives.
By capturing what went well in a Daily Exceptions Journal, it is possible to identify and record the skills and talents for reuse in other areas of your life.
Subsequently, walking through the journal during therapy reinforces successes, provides praise, and encourages discussion of the problems overcome.
Sensory awareness involves paying attention to a specific sensory aspect of the body. It can be a great way to teach mindfulness to children.
Such activities can also improve focus, increase self-awareness , help regulate emotions , and reduce anxiety.
1. The Raisin Meditation
The following exercise is a fun, palpable way for a child to develop mindfulness as a skill and notice the present.
Work through the Raisin Meditation worksheet following the steps with the child, paying attention to each sense in turn.
Children paying increased attention to their senses can learn to improve their focus and feel calmer.
2. Nature Play
Ongoing research has recognized the importance of playing and spending time outdoors on children’s mental wellbeing (Dankiw, Tsiros, Baldock, & Kumar, 2020).
Practicing underused senses such as sound can heighten a sense of awareness and promote mindfulness. This can be especially true in an unfamiliar environment, including walking through the countryside with family.
The questions can be tailored to the environment. Starting or pausing somewhere relatively quiet may assist the child’s focus more at the start.
Print the Nature Play worksheet here.
3. Anchor Breathing
Anchor breathing can be quickly learned and helps a child to focus their mind on one point.
Such mental training offers a valuable method for gaining perceived self-control and reducing stress.
The Anchor Breathing method also works with hands placed gently on the belly or in front of the nose.
The following three examples, along with the activities described above, can be learned quickly and implemented into a student’s daily routine to help manage both acute and chronic stress.
1. Urge Surfing
Coping with (often self-destructive) urges can be difficult, especially in times of stress. Such behavior can become a crutch, making us feel like we are taking control, when in reality, we are relinquishing it.
The Urge Surfing worksheet is available with a subscription to the Positive Psychology Toolkit© . Backed up by scientific research, mindful self-acceptance can teach individuals to observe their cravings rather than act upon them.
2. Meditation on the Soles of the Feet
Meditation on the Soles of the Feet provides a safe space to work on managing strong emotions and regulating the urge to be aggressive , often a byproduct of stressful situations (Kruk, Halász, Meelis, & Haller, 2004).
The individual is not asked to stop angry thoughts – anger does serve a useful purpose at times – but rather to bring them under control through a shift of focus.
The client, standing or sitting with their feet on the ground, is asked to cast their mind back to a time that caused them to react very angrily. Then they are told to stick with those angry thoughts, letting them flow without hindrance. After that, they shift their attention to the soles of their feet.
Stretching and moving their toes, they feel the texture of their socks, the surface of the ground, or the insole in their shoes. They maintain focus, breathing naturally until feeling calm and in control.
Learning to manage anger more effectively reduces stress and anxiety, and increases feelings of control.
The full exercise is accessible with a subscription to the Positive Psychology Toolkit© .
Working through the Leaves on a Stream and anchor breathing techniques, which are part of our free Mindfulness Exercises Pack , will help students focus awareness on the present moment and acknowledge and accept their feelings, thoughts, and emotions.
Research has identified the benefits of combining mindfulness and group therapy to help manage stress and increase resilience and positivity (Seyyed Moharrami, Pashib, Tatari, & Mohammadi; Babakhani, 2017).
Here is an example of a group exercise in mindfulness.
Walking Down the Street
The ability to observe, rather than react to, thoughts, emotions, and sensations is central to positive psychology.
The challenge is that the event and our thoughts about it are far from being the same.
The steps involved in the following exercise can be performed individually or in a group exercise, where everyone benefits from hearing one another’s thoughts.
Walking through the scene and discussing it in the group can help to develop positive behavioral change by separating thoughts and feelings from impulses and actions and, importantly, shape feelings while breaking a negative cycle of thinking.
Resources from PositivePsychology.com
Building resilience helps clients bounce back from stressful situations and use coping mechanisms to turn them into opportunities for growth.
The Realizing Resilience Masterclass© provides guidance, along with a set of practical tools, to build a more resilient mindset.
If you’re looking for more science-based ways to help others develop self-compassion, this collection contains 17 validated self-compassion tools for practitioners . Use them to help others create a kinder and more nurturing relationship with the self.
Stress does not have to rule us. Stress should not be allowed to prevent us from doing what we want or need to do.
Instead, stress should be an enabler and drive us forward to build what we want and take on challenges that will allow us to grow.
There should be no excuse to hide from stress or become overwhelmed by it.
By using tools for coping and taking control, we can see stress as something natural that can invigorate and motivate us to overcome both planned and unexpected challenges.
These activities we shared will definitely help you manage stress. However, there are many other stress-management techniques to try out too. Identify those that work for you and implement them into your life. You will reap the benefits, especially before the next job interview or presentation.
Thank you for reading!
We hope you enjoyed reading this article. Don’t forget to download our three Stress & Burnout Prevention Exercises (PDF) for free .
- Arch, J. J., & Mitchell, J. L. (2015). An Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) group intervention for cancer survivors experiencing anxiety at re-entry. Psycho-Oncology, 25 (5), 610–615.
- Beck, J., & Beck, A. (2011). Cognitive behavior therapy: Basics and beyond. Guilford Press.
- Bergstrom, C. (2018). Ultimate mindfulness activity book: 150 mindfulness activities for kids and teens (and grown-ups too!). Blissful Kids.
- Babakhani, K. (2017). The effectiveness of cognitive-behavioral therapy group on self-efficacy and quality of life of women with breast cancer. Multidisciplinary Cancer Investigation , 1 (1).
- Brosschot, J. F., Verkuil, B., & Thayer, J. F. (2016). The default response to uncertainty and the importance of perceived safety in anxiety and stress: An evolution-theoretical perspective. Journal of Anxiety Disorders, 41 , 22–34.
- Cassidy, T. (2016). Psychological benefits of adhering to a programme of aerobic exercise. Clinical and Experimental Psychology, 2 (2).
- Dankiw, K. A., Tsiros, M. D., Baldock, K. L., & Kumar, S. (2020). The impacts of unstructured nature play on health in early childhood development: A systematic review. PLoS One, 15 (2).
- De Vibe, M., Solhaug, I., Tyssen, R., Friborg, O., Rosenvinge, J. H., Sørlie, T., & Bjørndal, A. (2013). Mindfulness training for stress management: A randomized controlled study of medical and psychology students. BMC Medical Education, 13 (107).
- Goessl, V. C., Curtiss, J. E., & Hofmann, S. G. (2017). The effect of heart rate variability biofeedback training on stress and anxiety: A meta-analysis. Psychological Medicine, 47 (15), 2578–2586.
- Hansmann, R., Hug, S., & Seeland, K. (2007). Restoration and stress relief through physical activities in forests and parks. Urban Forestry & Urban Greening, 6 (4), 213–225.
- Jerath, R., Edry, J. W., Barnes, V. A., & Jerath V. (2006). Physiology of long pranayamic breathing: Neural respiratory elements may provide a mechanism that explains how slow deep breathing shifts the autonomic nervous system. Medical Hypotheses , 67 (3), 566–571.
- Kruk, M. R., Halász, J., Meelis, W., & Haller, J. (2004). Fast positive feedback between the adrenocortical stress response and a brain mechanism involved in aggressive behavior. Behavioral Neuroscience, 118 (5), 1062–1070.
- Lee, C. S., Park, S. U., & Hwang, Y. K. (2016). The structural relationship between mother’s parenting stress and child’s wellbeing: The mediating effects of mother’s growth mindset and hope. Indian Journal of Science and Technology, 9 (36).
- Matzer, F., Nagele, E., Lerch, N., Vajda, C., & Fazekas, C. (2017). Combining walking and relaxation for stress reduction: A randomized cross-over trial in healthy adults. Stress and Health , 34 (2), 266–27.
- Poulsen, D. V., Stigsdotter, U. K., Djernis, D., & Sidenius, U. (2016). ‘Everything just seems much more right in nature’: How veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder experience nature-based activities in a forest therapy garden. Health Psychology Open, 3 (1).
- Sevinc, G., Hölzel, B. K., Hashmi, J., Greenberg, J., McCallister, A., Treadway, M., … Lazar, S. W. (2018). Common and dissociable neural activity after mindfulness-based stress reduction and relaxation response programs. Psychosomatic Medicine , 80 (5), 439–451.
- Seyyed Moharrami, I., Pashib, M., Tatari, M., & Mohammadi, S. (2017). The efficiency of stress management group therapy in job stress and self-efficacy of nurses. Journal of Torbat Heydariyeh University of Medical Sciences, 5 (1), 42–49
- Strauss, C., Gu, J., Pitman, N., Chapman, C., Kuyken, W., & Whittington, A. (2018). Evaluation of mindfulness-based cognitive therapy for life and a cognitive behavioral therapy stress-management workshop to improve healthcare staff stress: Study protocol for two randomized controlled trials. Trials , 19 (209).
- Varvogli, L. & Darviri, C. (2011). Stress management techniques: Evidence-based procedures that reduce stress and promote health. Health Science Journal , 5 , 74–89.
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What our readers think.
The resources was very helpful. thanks.
Interesting article although I wasn‘t able to open the links as it sent me to a site saying I had to purchase a toolkit in order to access them! I don‘t know why I get sent emails with resources that I‘m unable to access. Shame!
Glad you found the article interesting, and I’m sorry our distinction between the free and paid resources here is not as clear as it could be — I’ll flag this with our editor. Yes, some of the resources listed are freely available while others are available to subscribers of the Positive Psychology Toolkit . However, the three resilience exercises mentioned at the beginning are free and should instantly arrive in your inbox and be available to use.
– Nicole | Community Manager
These will be most helpful with the Native American population I serve
Very practical exercises of relaxation. True we have to rule ourselves not left to unnecessary stress which consequently results in low well being and reduce quality of life. Thank you Jeremy
Very helpful and easy to understand and practice documents. Grateful.
The article was more helpful and am looking forward to read more of this kind.
Hi Moses, So glad you found the resources helpful. Another great tool for dealing with stress is journaling, which you can read up about in our dedicated article here. – Nicole | Community Manager
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Home > Teacher Printables > Stress Management
Were you ever in a situation where you felt sick to your stomach out of nowhere? Maybe you were about to take a test, loaded with homework, or about to start the big game. When we feel anxious or unnerving about something this is called stress. This concern that is on your mind can make you feel a sense of pain. It may be in the form of a headache or feelings of anger or fear. If it carries on for long periods of time, it can have a profound effect on your health. People of all ages experience stress whether it be the stress of making a Little League baseball team or getting that job promotion that you have been working on for a decade.
While we cannot just eradicate stress altogether, there are techniques we use to reduce the affect of stress on ourselves. It starts will focusing on having a positive attitude and look for the good things in life. We need to accept that change is inevitable, and we will need to roll with it. Practicing common relaxation techniques such as meditation or yoga really help a great deal. Exercise has huge benefits for the body and mind as well. Using these techniques is called managing your stress. These worksheets will help students learn to assess their current level of anxiety. Once we get a good gauge, we look at the internal and external factors that are contributing to this. We look at the physical symptoms that we may be experiencing as a result of this constant tension. The students will then progress to understand what is a healthy level of this so that it will not reach a level that is dangerous to their physical or mental health. We encourage students to learn to identify possible coping strategies and how to reach out for social support whether it be from a peer or adult. The goal here is to help students understand that stress is healthy, but too much or too harsh levels are not. We help them ponder how to balance their world and carry these life skills through the remainder of their young lives.
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Printable stress management worksheets, click the buttons to print each worksheet and answer key..
Examine Your Life
What's going on in your life that you think if contributing to you feeling this way?
Internal and External Stressors
What internal and external stressors do you have in your life right now?
What physical symptoms do you experience when under pressure?
Did you experience any physiological symptoms (tension, dizziness, nausea, etc.)?
Why do I perceive this situation as dangerous?
Causes and Coping
Stress is how the body responds to difficult and potentially dangerous situations. Experience of conflict, loss, or overcommitment can invoke the body's physical response.
Developing Coping Strategies
Coping strategies help you to deal with anxiety when it arises. Practicing your coping strategies regularly will keep it from building up over time.
This can cause emotional and physiological response to difficult situations. People experience it in a variety of ways. Emotional responses can include worrying and a feeling of being overwhelmed. Physiological responses can include an increased heart rate, headaches, difficulty sleeping, etc.
Having social support can do a lot to alleviate pressure in our lives. Talking about our problems and connecting with others causes our brain to release hormones that ease it.
Think of a chronic stressor in your life or a recent situation in which you have experienced stress. What emotions did you experience as a result of that stressor?
How balanced is your life? Use a scale of 1 to 5 to assign a rating to each area of your life according to how much attention you devote to it. Assign a 1 to things you devote little to no attention to and a 5 to things you devote a great deal of attention to.
Stress and Self-Care
For each basic need that you have identified, think of steps you can take to ensure that basic need is met, even when you are feeling highly stressed.
The Good and the Bad
There is more than one kind of anxiety. Sometimes it can be good for us, like the kind of stress that comes from playing a game or meeting a challenge. Negative versions, however, like family or relationship problems, health problems, or other situations that worry us or make us feel threatened can take a toll on our mental and physical health.
One of the simplest things you can do to reduce the experience of physical stress in your body is to slow down your breathing. When you take long, slow breaths from your diaphragm, you are telling your brain that you are safe.
Reducing or Eliminating Stressors
Sometimes we can reduce the amount of stress in our lives by using personal management techniques. This means identifying new behaviors or ways of thinking that we can incorporate into our lives in order to reduce stress.