We all get stress. The only difference is how we deal with it. Some people shove it aside, others bottle it up and yet others are content to live quietly with stress. How you manage your stress matters a lot. It determines whether you will fall victim to its ugly consequences or rise above and achieve newer goals in life.

The danger of letting stress get the better of you is that it can greatly inhibit your ability to carry out your day-to-day activities and compromise your emotions and health. Of course, not all stress is bad. Some stress is good because it acts as a challenge that prompts you to strive for more and reach higher levels of success.

However, when your emotions and health is compromised by stress, it’s time to hit the brakes and plot out a new course. You may not be able to control your stress completely, but you can manage it effectively. Here are some practical, little steps for less stress you can apply today and, hopefully, feel a lot better.

1.     Accept that there are situations you cannot control.

The first step in managing stress effectively is to accept that you cannot control everything. There are situations that are just out of your control. Rather than worry and be anxious about things you cannot control, focus instead on those things you can control. For example, you cannot control what people do, but you can control your own reaction to what people do. Stop being overly negative about what may be happening in your life. Keep things in perspective and remember this too shall pass. Even the darkest night will end and the sun will shine again.

2.     Go for a walk or swim.

Get out for some fresh air or go for a dip. A good stroll or swim has a soothing effect on the body and mind. It helps clear your mind and get’s your blood flowing, which is good for you. Other activities you can try to clear your mind when you are feeling overwhelmed include, bicycling, jogging, hiking and working out at the gym. Your body and mind fight stress better when you are relaxed and fit.

3.     Get your hands dirty.

Do some gardening. Try planting home-grown vegetables or sowing a flower bed. Soil contains a friendly bacterium call Mycobacterium vaccae that increases serotonin in the brain, which helps improve mood, ease stress and promote a stronger immune system, says researchers from the University of Bristol. Apart from halting stress and enhancing your physical and emotional well-being, gardening is also an earth-friendly way to tap into the gifts of the natural environment.

4.     Get crafty.

Activities like painting, drawing and crocheting can be more than just pastimes. They can also be effective stress busters. “The actual process of making art can alleviate emotional stress and anxiety by creating a physiological response of relaxation,” says Cathy Malchiodi author of The Art Therapy Sourcebook. Grab your tools and get crafty without aiming for flawless end results. Just free your mind and make art. The process when you’re not focused on perfection lowers your heart rate and blood pressure and brings a wonderful sense of calm.

5.     Give a massage.

You’ve probably heard that “It’s more blessed to give than to receive.” This saying holds true even for massages. Researchers have found that when elderly people give massages, they experience less stress and anxiety, have fewer medical complains and, therefore, fewer trips to the doctor than when they receive massages. Give someone a massage for a change, such as a spouse, family member or close friend. Massages reduce stress and anxiety and satisfy the need for nurturing and caring, whether they’re given or received.

6.     Hung out with cool friends.

Studies show that relationships are the cornerstone of people’s overall well-being. When you are with friends, you know you have people looking out for you, who love you and who you can talk to, which is important for resilience. Strengthen those bonds of friendship with cool peeps by spending more time with them. It helps build your self-belief and confidence and ensures you have a strong fortress against stress.

7.     Invite someone nice over to your place.

This has a similar effect as spending time with friends who have a positive energy about them. It makes you feel good, stimulates your brain and helps you nurture a positive view of yourself. Ask that friendly neighbor to come over to your place for a quick cup of tea. Not only will you strengthen your friendship and forge a valuable close relationship with that person, but also broaden your circle of friends.

8.     Laugh out loud.

Don’t hold back on laughter. Laugh at the absurdities of life and find the lighter side of even frustrating situations. Laughter is the best medicine. It uplifts, eases anxiety and relieves tension and stress. Force a laugh or do laughter yoga if you must, but by all means have a good laugh each day. Research shows that apart from increasing energy, lifting mood and relieving tension, a good, hearty laugh – even if you’re not laughing at something funny – lowers blood pressure and strengthens immune function. Charlie Chaplin puts it best, “A day without laughter is a day wasted.”

9.     Sing the stress away.

Rather than use your voice to promote stress by saying negative things like ”Nothing ever goes right for me,” or “I always fail,” use your voice to sing the stress away. Music has a therapeutic effect. And, when you choose inspirational and uplifting music, it can work wonders and bring positivity back into your life. As Don Campbell writes in The Mozart Effect, “Even people who can’t sing well can benefit hugely from doing so.” Sing out loud and free. “Think how wonderful it would feel to use your voice freely—to relax your jaw, express what has not been expressed, overcome your fears, and release frustrations that may have been building up for hours, weeks or years,” urges Campbell.

10.     Get enough rest and sleep.

No need to belabor this point. Make sure you are getting enough sleep and rest each day, especially if you are feeling a little rundown. Your body needs time to rest and recover from stressful events. The National Sleep Foundation recommends seven to eight hours of sleep per night for adults.

Tell us: What steps do you use to overcome stress? Let us know in the comments below.